30 2015 Sep

Selecting the Perfect Camera Lens.

In an earlier segment I stated that your first additional investment into your DSLR or interchangeable lens camera would likely be a great telephoto lens. So let’s take a look at some alternatives.

When selecting an additional lens of any type, don’t worry about an overlap or a small gap between the focal length ranges of your lenses. An overlap is a positive attribute, and can mean fewer lens changes. A small gap of 15mm – 30mm, while not a positive attribute, is not a big issue. Your top priority should be selecting the right lens for each use.

Your telephoto lens is the one that you will pull out for portraits, events, sports, wildlife, landscapes, the beach, and many more opportunities. So a 70-200mm focal length range lens is considered by many to be best for this lens.

If you are using a camera from Canon, you have several choices in this range: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens, Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens, Any CanonL Prime Telephoto Lens, or Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens. We will discuss each of these choices, in more detail, beginning with the next segment.

Until then, Happy Shuttering!

29 2015 Sep

Selecting a Great Digital Camera.

Now that we have covered the many features to look for when selecting a great digital camera, I would like to begin presenting side-by-side comparisons of some popular quality digital cameras and apply what we’ve learned thus far to them. If I were looking for a new digital camera, I would begin with the quality brand names that have been around the longest like Bell & Howell, Canon, Emerson, Panasonic,  and Sony. These brands would not be around today if they had not been producing a great, durable product.

Let’s say I am looking for the out-of-the-box simplicity of a great point and shoot camera. I might consider the Sony Cyber-shot (DSC-RX100), Sony Cyber-shot II (DSC-RX100 II), and Sony Cyber-shot III (DSC-RX100 III) for comparison.

Sony Cyber-shot (DSC-RX100)

The Sony Cyber-shot (DSC-RX100) boasts a one inch image sensor that helps produce high quality images and probably contributes greatly to its $649.99 MSRP. It also sports a 3.6X zoom lens that opens up to f/1.8 on the wide end, and the whole package will fit into your back pocket.

This camera doesn’t include any bells and whistles like GPS or Wi-Fi, but does carry PCMAG.COM’s Editors’ Choice award for high end compacts. Although its picture quality does not match that of high end DSLRs it is well worth the price. Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

28 2015 Sep

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

So now that you have an understanding of the basic components of a camera tripod and the different variances of those components, you should have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for in your own camera tripod. Remember, you must also keep in mind the type of photography you will be using your tripod to capture. In the next few segments, we’ll explore some tripod recommendations.

Manfrotto Compact Advanced Aluminum Tripod

Available in Black or White ($100 new or $70 used), this tripod is an excellent choice for either the beginner or advanced photographer who is looking for fairly lightweight (3.1 lb) and versatile all-in-one camera support. It will support up to 6.6 lb and is best used with compact cameras or DSLRs using lightweight lenses. Compact at a minimum height of 17.5″, a maximum height of 65″, and folding down to 17.3″, it still extends high enough for most photographers. Its 3-way pan/tilt head is perfect for people who shoot both stills and videos, while also enabling 90° rotation for portraits. The center post on this tripod lowers fully, so that the head sits on the tripod pedestal, eliminating wobble and comes with rubber feet, which will suit most photography situations. Included with this tripod is a quick-release plate and padded carrying bag.

One potential drawback I see is the clamps that lock the tripod sections in place. I would want to test these before purchasing this tripod. Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

25 2015 Sep

How to Choose Photo Editing Software?

If you’re looking to do quick photo edits on your phone, there are lots of apps for that. Most well known are Instagram and Flickr, but there are also some lesser known (and mostly free) apps such as; Aviary, Photoshop Touch, iPhoto, Snapseed, and Lightroom Mobile that provide more tools for image corrections.

To spruce up your photos with overlays, retouch them, add retro effects, or combine multiple photos for a mini-collage, there are options as well. Apps like Repix handle overlays with gusto, and there’s no shortage of apps that give you the ability to retouch your picture or give it nostalgic effects. Along with Instagram, there’s Hipstamatic Oggl, EyeEm, Instant (Polaroid look), Wood Camera, and VSCO Cam. These apps make it easy to share images from your phone to your favorite social networks. For collages, turn to Picture Collage Maker, PhotoCanvas, and Pic Stitch.

For a mobile phone or tablet, save your photos to the cloud as you shoot them with Adobe Revel, Dropbox, and Flickr apps. Or just use the mobile operating system’s built in way to do this, via Apple’s iCloud, Android’s Google+, and Windows Phone’s OneDrive.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

24 2015 Sep

Selecting Digital Cameras for Action Video.

Here are a few of the more important considerations when looking at using a video capable digital camera as an alternative to a camcorder.

Clip Limits

A main disadvantage while using a digital camera to shoot movies is the short recording times available for HD video. Nikon limits a single clip to 5 minutes while Canon and Panasonic limits one to 29 minutes, 59 seconds. The latter limitation is due to the different import duty rates for digital and video cameras.

This may seem like a handicap, but in reality, how often would you need to shoot a sequence for longer than a couple of minutes? A 4Gb memory card will only store 12 minutes of 1080p video from a Canon 5D Mark II, so you may never hit the 29 minute limit.

The only time you might need a longer recording time is in the case, for example, of shooting an entire wedding ceremony or sports event. In a situation like this, a camcorder may be a better option.

So if you are buying a video capable digital camera with the intention of replacing a camcorder for convenience sake, you should consider keeping that old camcorder around for awhile, for those special occasions.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

23 2015 Sep

Selecting the Perfect Camera Lens.

There are also specialty types of lenses. These are more likely to be used by advanced photographers and are more expensive than most. So I’ll just briefly mention a couple of them here.

Macro Lens

The macro lens allows a photographer to focus on an object that’s incredibly close, even closer than the human eye can see. This type of lens might be used, for example, in time-lapse photography of a flower opening its petals for the first time. In this case you would be able to see the minute details of each petal as it unfolds to  your view.

Tilt-shift Lens

This type of lens allows a photographer to focus on a select area of an image. It also creates a miniaturization effect on the selected area.

These and other specialty lenses can be a lot of fun to work with, for the experienced photographer. But they are expensive and add complexity to the process of capturing an image. So it is best to start with the basic lenses and master their use. You will know when you are ready for a specialty lens when you reach a point with your regular lens that, try as you will, you still can’t get that special effect that you want. Enjoy the new lens (or lenses) you choose, and have fun pushing the limits of their possibilities.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

18 2015 Sep

How to Choose Photo Editing Software?

I said in our last installment that we would get into a more powerful photo editing software toolkit, with a better user interface today. So let’s get right to it!


Paint.net was originally created as a student project at Washington State University. It has since evolved into a photo editing software toolkit whose power is comparable to GIMP (and perhaps even Photoshop), while sporting a user interface that is a dream to work with for any Windows user.

Paint.net provides full layer support and offers many of the essentials found in GIMP and Photoshop, such as; a clone tool, magic wand, and all basic photo editing tools.

Its individual toolbars and property windows, each relegated to specific areas of the screen, are easily interpretable by Windows users. They are clearly labeled for users and only those tools deemed essential are displayed by default, allowing for custom personalization of your software.

Paint.net does not currently sport as many tools as GIMP or Photoshop, but it is still relatively new to the market and growing. It is well worth a try, especially if you find GIMP or Photoshop difficult to use.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

17 2015 Sep

Selecting Digital Cameras for Action Video.

It’s appealing to dream of a combined stills / HD movie camcorder (especially when it offers all the photographic possibilities of an interchangeable lens SLR). However, there are some important disadvantages to a dedicated camcorder, especially with the high end semi-professional and professional models, with which better movie quality and more advanced video and audio controls are offered.

While the quality of still pictures is much better on a video capable DSLR than on a camcorder, the video quality is not as good as the best camcorders. You will experience a faster focus with stills on the DSLR than on a camcorder, but autofocus while filming video is more limited with a DSLR.

You will normally find that your clip duration is limited on a video capable DSLR, as compared to that on a camcorder. There is no high capacity built-in storage (such as a hard disk) on a DSLR. The audio capabilities of most DSLRs are not as good as the best camcorders. We’ll look at some of these advantages and disadvantages in the next segment of this topic. Until then, Happy Shuttering!

16 2015 Sep

Selecting the Perfect Camera Lens.

Last time we covered the Fisheye, Wide Angle, and Standard lens types. So let’s continue on.

Telephoto (100 mm – 300 mm)

If you would like to get closer, but can’t physically do so, it’s time to grab a Telephoto lens. However, while allowing you to get closer to your viewpoint without physically moving, the Telephoto lens also flattens your depth of view to a point where it may look surreal. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you do need to take it into account before using this type of lens.

Optical stabilization is important when using a Telephoto lens because every small detail (including very slight body movements) is amplified while using it. So be sure to buy a Telephoto lens that includes this feature. Otherwise, you may end up with a lot of unintended blurry images.

Super Telephoto (300 mm or more)

To shoot something that is really, really far off, like the moon or an elk standing on the next mountain top, you will need this type of lens. The Super Telephoto lens will exhibit the same characteristics of the Telephoto lens, but to a much higher degree. Since Super Telephoto lenses flatten space to a greater degree than any other lens, fantastic special effects are possible. Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

15 2015 Sep

Selecting a Great Digital Camera.

The type of autofocus employed also comes into play when selecting a digital camera. Most DSLRs employ Phase detection, which is considered to be a superior system. Mirrorless cameras and point and shoot cameras more often than not use contrast detection.

Contrast detection isn’t usually as good for tracking moving subjects, but it may still be fast enough for general purpose shooting. Hybrid systems are occasionally employed on mirrorless cameras offering very fast focusing.

Some cameras are advertised listing how many AF points they have. A higher AF number is better. Face and eye detection, if available, is good when shooting portraits.

Does the digital camera have a view finder that you can actually put your eye against? Believe it or not, many cameras do not have these anymore. This could be an issue to consider.

The whether-proofing on the camera may be of concern to you, especially if your shuttering takes you outdoors a lot. You will want to think about resistance to water and dust. Many cameras now are listed with a safe depth at which they will resist water, for underwater photography.

Wi-fi and GPS are also available on some digital cameras. In fact Wi-fi has become standard on many cameras. GPS, however, is only available on the more costly cameras, due to the high cost of supporting this feature. Until next time, Happy Shuttering!