The Chinese Lens Rip Off Series – Overpriced, Low Quality Camera Phone Lenses

The ads started showing up on FaceBook all the time. They talk about wonderful lenses that will turn your smart phone into a camera that is better than a DSLR costing thousands of dollars. They brag about German engineering, a NASA optical formula, or the testing that proves their lenses are better than expensive lenses from Nikon, Zeiss, Leica, or Canon. The names of the companies change on a regular basis, but the scam is the same. Sad to say, a lot of people actually fall for this nonsense.

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Satellite Communicators: The GPS Messaging Devices That Can Save Your Life

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ with built in text messaging.

You need help. You can barely move. You are far enough from the trail that no one can hear your voice. You have no cell phone signal. What do you do?

Every now and then you hear tragic stories about people who lose their lives simply because they didn’t have a cell phone signal and couldn’t call for help in an unexpected emergency. A $260 – $340 satellite communicator would have saved their lives.

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The Best Film and Flatbed Scanners

Plustek Film Scanner, Epson Flatbed Scanner

If you have precious slides, negatives, or prints that you want to scan, you have come to the right place. Choose wisely from the scanners that are available or you could get burned. A scanner that might be just fine for one person will be totally unsuitable for the next person. When it comes to scanners you need to know what you are getting and, just as importantly, what you aren’t getting. That is what this article is all about.

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Review and Introduction: the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i

Andromeda Galaxy in the Constellation Andromeda, photographed with a DSLR camera and 70-300mm lens mounted on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer.

I just purchased the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i. I read several comparison articles before making my choice. I put it through its paces and decided to write a review with a basic introduction as to how to use it. Not only does it work, it works very well. This photo of the Andromeda Galaxy was taken on my first night out with clear skies.

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“How To” Series: Astrophotography with the iOptron SkyTracker

Camera and telephoto lens mounted on an iOptron Sky Tracker and iOptron ball head.

Camera and 70-200 telephoto lens mounted on an iOptron SkyTracker and iOptron ball head.

You would love to take beautiful, long exposures of the night sky, but even with a 24mm wide angle lens the stars start to streak with exposures longer than 20 seconds. And with a 300mm lens the stars start to steak after just 2 seconds. Not that long ago it would cost you well over $1,000 to buy the equipment that would follow the stars and allow you to take longer exposures.

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The Best Incident Light Meters

Digital Incident Light Meter, Sekonic L-358

Incident Light Meter, Sekonic L-358

There’s no question that in some complex metering situations, an incident light meter can be quicker, faster, simpler, and more accurate than the meter in your camera. Many incident light meters can also measure light from an electronic flash, a huge bonus when you are using a flash in the manual mode.

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A High Quality, Compact RØDE VideoMic for Your DSLR and Smartphone

RØDE VideoMicro in use at Acadia National Park.

Let’s face it. While many recent DLSRs, ILCs and smartphones can give you excellent visual quality in the videos, the sound quality of the built in microphone leaves a lot to be desired. For a modest amount of money you can bring the sound quality up to par with the visual quality. That is why video mic sales have exploded.

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The Best Panorama Gear: Living in Panorama Heaven

180° Panorama: Yosemite Valley at Night. Eagle Peak, Yosemite Point, and North Dome. Yosemite National Park. Right click to see a larger version.

Really Right Stuff makes an excellent, simple to use panorama set up that won’t take up a lot of room in your camera bag. After using bigger, more awkward panorama gear, switching to Really Right Stuff’s set up was like being in panorama heaven. It is compatible with the Arca-Swiss-System.

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Tripod Head Recommendations: Some of the Best of the Best

Two ball heads and two 3-way heads.

A good tripod head will save you lots of frustration. For still photography I recommend two types of tripod heads. If you do a little of everything you will want a quality ball head for the quick and easy aiming of the camera. If you only do landscape or architectural photography and you want precise separate controls in each axis of motion, you will want a 3-way head.

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The Best Closeup Photography Equipment

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

There are several ways to do closeup photography. Closeup filters, extension tubes, and macro lenses are the most commonly used options. The best gear for you depends on your preferences, how you want to work, the subjects you are after, how much stuff you want to carry, and how much you want to spend. I cover your best options.

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Get Sharper Images By Using The Best Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

A lot of photographers have discovered their almost sharp lens was actually a very sharp lens once they tweaked the micro-adjustment settings. You will get sharper images if you adjust the settings for your specific camera and lens combinations. You do this using the micro-adjustment settings in the camera menu along with a lens calibration tool which you can buy or make yourself.

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GoPro: Amazing, Small, Inexpensive, HD Video Cameras

GoPro HERO12 Black. Click image for a larger version.

Looking for a small, mountable, “ideal for sports and action”, inexpensive, high definition video and still camera with a waterproof housing and image quality that Lucasfilm (the Star Wars people) calls “amazing”? This camera will go anywhere and mount just about anywhere. Prices range from $279 to $399 (which is a lot less than your typical DSLR with HiDef video).

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Inexpensive Gifts (Starting at $8) for Photographers

Flash adapter and umbrella for an shoe-mount electronic flash.

Flash adapter and umbrella for a shoe-mount electronic flash.

There are a lot of practical and inexpensive (more or less) gifts for photographers. Here is a nice list of items starting at $8. To make it easy to track them down, these items are individuality linked plus most of these items can be found in the Misc Goodies section of my photography store which has direct links to Amazon.com. Prices are current as of the date of this post, but prices do fluctuate. Some items can be temporarily unavailable. These items are not listed in order of price.

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Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs, and More

Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 75 articles it is one of the most comprehensive buyer’s guides on the web.

I get lots of photo questions, and many of them begin with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from photographers or someone who is shopping for a photographer.

My “best of the best” series recommends the best photo gear, accessories, software, books, DVDs, online photo labs, and a whole lot more. Thanks to the information in these articles I get emails from photographers thanking me for saving them time, frustration, and a lot of money.

This article is published annually in November with regular updates. Most recent update: November 17, 2023.

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The Starscope Monocular, It Is The Same Old Scam

Starscope Monocular Telescope ad.

We’ve been down this road before (see the first link at the end). The scam works like this. Pick an inexpensively made product from China, jack up the price, make up ridiculous and false claims about the quality of the product and what it can do, and sell it on dozens of web sites using ads thinly disguised as articles. Go to the internet and grab professional photographs created with high dollar professional camera gear and put the photos in the ads to give the impression the photos were made with the Chinese product. And for good measure, say in the ads that the product was designed by American or German engineers and manufactured in the U.S. or Germany. Create fake customer reviews to go in the ads, and for good measure, create fake reviews sites to endorse the quality of the product.

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Don’t Fall for This Scam!

Seriously, do you really believe you can see something “miles away like you’re standing next to it”? We’ve been down this road before (see the first link at the end of this article). A $47 monocular is not better than a $3,000 telescope, but thousands of people who know nothing about optics fall for scams like this. This screen capture is from the top of a long ad on the internet.

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How to See and Photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight

Perseid Meteor photographed from Rose Hill Cemetery west of Lamoni, Iowa. 4:55 am CDT, August 13, 2018. Cropped from the original image.

Tonight, August 11-12, is the predicted peak night of the Perseid Meteor Shower this year. But you can also look for the next few nights. This article will tell you what you need to know to see and photograph the most popular meteor shower of the year.

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Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More

Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 75 articles it is one of the most comprehensive buyer’s guides on the web.

I get lots of photo questions, and many of them begin with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from photographers or someone who is shopping for a photographer.

My “best of the best” series recommends the best photo gear, accessories, software, books, DVDs, online photo labs, and a whole lot more. Thanks to the information in these articles I get emails from photographers thanking me for saving them time, frustration, and a lot of money.

Continue reading