Photography Tips 4: My Equipment

Canon Digital Rebel XT with 18-55mm kit lens
My first real photography purchase was my original digital SLR. The current version of the Canon Rebel is the XSi or the soon to be released T1i. This was a great camera to start with, it allowed me to learn how to shoot in manual and control my shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focus, exposure, it let me learn to shoot in RAW and to start building up my collection of Canon lenses. You can see images shot with this camera in my flickr stream. I am a firm believer that it is the photographer not the camera that makes good pictures, but better equipment does give you more options.

Canon 70-300mm IS
One of the first places I took my camera was a horse show at a local park in CA, while I was there I realized that I needed a lens with more reach. I picked this lens because it had the longest reach in a zoom lens, was under $1000 (this was before I started to buy L lenses, and I knew that it likely wouldn't get a lot of use), and had IS built in which I knew would come in handy at 300mm. You can check out some shots I have taken with it in my flickr stream. The IS saves me at least two stops in my ability to handhold this lens. When I used it at 300mm on my XT I should have had a shutter speed of at least 1/500, but I could easily get away with a shutter speed of 1/160 and get a sharp image. I really should do some experiments with the IS on and off on my 5D and see how much it really saves me.

Canon 20mm f/2.8
The first big vacation we took after I had my XT was our 1 year anniversary/honeymoon trip to Hawaii. While my 18-55 lens went pretty wide, I wanted a sharper wide angle lens, so I bought my first prime lens (boy did that confuse Mike while we were in Kauai "how do you zoom with this?" "use your feet"). I didn't realize how much better the image quality would be from this lens compared to my kit, it kind of blew my mind. You can see several shots from Kauai taken with this lens on flickr. This lens sort of got pushed to the back of the pile later as the next lens I bought was much better for indoors, and I discovered generally I like zooms more than primes. However since I upgraded to a full-frame camera this lens is getting a lot more use. It gives just enough distoration to make things interesting, especially for architectural photos.

Canon 50mm 1.8 II
Somewhere in the dark hours of my first winter trying to shoot with an SLR indoors without flash I realized that my kit lens wasn't going to cut it in terms of letting light into my camera. I did some reading and the 50mm f/1.8 came up all over the place as a great affordable option. I ordered this lens right before we left for Kauai, thinking it would come in handy at the luau we went to. Would have been better if I had really known what I was doing with it, but I got some lucky shots.

If you want to see some more shots taken with this lens you can check out the ones I have up on flickr. My copy of this lens did seem to have a bit of a focus issue, I think it front focused a bit but I have heard that is pretty easy to get fixed if you send it in to Canon.

Canon Speedlite 430EX
Also during the dark winter I realized that I needed a flash that I could have more control over in terms of power, direction etc so I bought a speedlite. Honestly it took quite a while before I was really making much use of my flash. I think how I use this deserves its own post, it's a bit more complicated than the lenses.

Canon 100mm macro
One of the subjects I have always wanted to photograph was flowers, I have never really been a portrait person but macro photography just calls to me. I knew that my other lenses wouldn't let me get the kind of shots that I wanted so I started to look into different macro lenses. Canon actually makes quite a few.
EF 50mm f/2.5 - doesn't do 1:1 without an adapter
EF-S 60mm f/2.8 - wouldn't work on a full frame camera
EF 100mm f/2.8 - great reviews, good price, lightweight
EF 180mm f/3.5L - more expensive, heaevier would really need a tripod.
MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x - I didn't really look into this one at the time, but I am thinking more about it now.
I choose the 100mm because it got great reviews overall, especially for the price, and I wasn't ready to shell out for a tripod (though it is next on my list now). I have been really pleased with this purchase. It is a sharp lens, great for macro work and it also makes a good portrait lens, especially for newborns. You can see a mixture of shots from it on flickr.

Canon 24-70 f/2.8L
I finally started to realize that this hobby wasn't going to go away, and I hated the results I could get from my kit lens compared to my prime lenses, but I also felt trapped by not being able to zoom. After a LOT of research and saving I settled on the 24-70L as my replacement. I think this lens was one of the best purchases I have made, it is sharp, has amazing color, great bokeh, fast autofocus, I just adore it. Honestly I saw a huge improvement in my photography once I attached this lens to my camera, you can see a lot of shots with it here. When I did my little study on what lenses I use the most, this one blew all the others out of the water. If my apartment was burning down and I could only grab one lens, this would be it.

Canon 5D Mark II
While my XT served me really well for a while, eventually I started to run into some roadblocks with it. Lots of noise even at ISO 800, inability to go above ISO 1600, crop factor, I even made a list in February of 2008 of all the things I was looking for in a camera body upgrade. While the 5D Mark II doesn't meet all of them, it comes very close. I feel like this camera has allowed my photography to grow in ways that I never could have with the XT. There have been so many situations that this camera has allowed me to capture that I could not have before. I adore it. Again you can check out about a million shots with it on flickr.

Canon 50mm f/1.2L
Having tasted the beauty that is an L lens, I just had to get some more of them. I knew that my 50 1.8 was a lens that I used a lot, but I had some frustrations with it, it wasn't as sharp as my 24-70L, the colors were not as saturated and it hunted for focus a lot in low light. Instead of buying new lenses, since I felt pretty happy with my lens selection I thought I would upgrade one instead. I had a bit of an issue with the first refurbished copy I ordered from adorama being really really soft, but the second copy I got is much better. Though not perfect. It does focus a lot more easily, and the colors are great. I haven't shot a lot with it yet, but you can see some here.

PS Writing up these posts takes far longer than regular blog posts, I am spent!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you thank you thank you for taking the time in writing these past posts!!!!

I wanted to let you know that you have totally made my last week!!!!!



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