Low End DSLR: digital photography on a budget

March 20, 2008


One of the key reasons for owning a DSLR is the ability to change lenses to suit a particular subject. There are zoom lenses and prime lenses. And there are wide angles, normals, and telephotos. And there are specialty lenses like macros and tilt/shift lenses.

When shooting people, you can use any of these lenses depending on what type of image you want to create. For portraits, the most flattering images typically come from normal to the short end of a telephoto lens, somewhere between about 50mm to 100mm. Several zooms cover that range, and both Canon and Nikon have primes aimed at the portrait photographer. Canon’s 85mm f1.2 L is considered by many to be the ultimate portrait lens, but costing nearly $1,800 it is a subject for another site to cover.

The 50mm lens is another sweet spot, particularly for those of us shooting on cropped sensors, as that puts the effective field of view at 80mm for a 1.6 crop factor. Canon sells three versions of a 50mm lens — the $1300 f1.2 L, the $300 f1.4, and the $90 f1.8.

All of these lenses have pluses and minuses. The f1.2 takes fantastic pictures with wonderful bokeh, but is big, heavy and expensive. The 1.4 is reasonably priced and fast, with some pleasing images, but can be soft around the edges. And the f1.8, or nifty-fifty, or plastic fantastic, is cheap, light, sharp and fast, but is slow to focus, especially in low light, and has the least pleasing bokeh of the three. But did I mention it is cheap? It is a great lens for the photographer on a budget (and Nikon sells a similar prime).

After a while, however, you might find yourself wanting a better build quality that is more responsive to your focusing needs; something like the f1.4, but that is sharp from edge to edge.

Enter Sigma. They appear to have recognized this particular need and recently announced a new 50mm lens. The specs look great (from their site):

  • Standard lens with large maximum aperture of F1.4.
  • It creates sharp images with high contrast and ensures superior peripheral brightness.
  • Incorporates molded glass aspherical lens, perfectly correcting coma aberration and creating superior image quality.
  • Super multi-layer lens coating reduces flare and ghosting.
  • Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) ensuring silent, high-speed AF.

Now we wait to see if the lens lives up to expectations, and to see how expensive it is. If they can hit these sweet spots, Sigma may just have a hit on their hands.

(Thanks to Derrick Story for the heads-up on the new lens.)

Posted by Mark in: Canon | Equipment | Lenses | Comments (0)

March 19, 2008

Toothbrushing Illustration How-to

I recently published a life-hacker style post about my toothbrushing routine on another blog. I decided it would help to have an illustration, and figured, I’m a photographer, I should be able to provide just what I need.

I visualized what I wanted in my mind, and then thought about how to achieve that image. I decided a shot of me, toothbrush in hand, mouth full of toothpaste, grimacing into the bathroom mirror would be just the shot.

But mirrors are notoriously reflective, making it very difficult to get shot of one without also seeing the camera, off camera flashes, etc. And bathrooms tend to be lacking in spaciousness. Not to mention that the shot I was visualizing shows me face on, looking directly into the mirror, something like the picture below:

me, brushing my teeth in the mirror

Continue reading “Toothbrushing Illustration How-to”

Posted by Mark in: Canon | Equipment | Flash | Lenses | Photos | Photoshop | Tips-n-Tricks | Tutorials | Comments (1)

March 18, 2008

Photography blogs

Time to update the list of photography blogs that reside in my newsreader:

  • Anonymous Photo Editor
    No longer anonymous, Rob Haggart, former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine, blogs about the business of being a photo editor.
  • Annual Report Photographer David Tejada “The f-Stops Here”
    Dave often posts helpful tutorial style videos about his photo shoots, many in the Strobist style (see below).
  • Chase Jarvis
    Amazingly cool and generous pro photographer who really understands the value of giving back to the community, Recently sponsored four photographers to attend the ASMP’s Strictly Business 2 conference in Chicago. Two received full tuition, airfare and hotel, two runners up received tuition only. Did I mention Chase is cool and generous?
  • Complete Digital Photography
    Ben Long’s blog with a mix of reviews and tutorials covering equipment and software.
  • Dan Heller’s Photography Business Blog
    Unconventional thoughts about the business of photography, from someone who’s studied both sides extensively.
  • Inside Aperture
  • Inside Lightroom
    I don’t use either of these apps yet, but am interested in how they are used. These two O’Reilly blogs feature a number of bloggers — pros and advanced amateurs — who post their experiences with these apps.
  • Joe McNally’s Blog
    Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed American photographer and long-time photojournalist. McNally is known worldwide for his ability to produce technically and logistically complex assignments with expert use of color and light.
  • Photo Business News & Forum
    Washington DC photographer John Harrington, author of Best Business Practices for Photographers.
  • Photodoto
    Tips, tutorials, concepts, gear, software and more — in plain english.
  • Photojojo
    Fun tips and tricks, DIY projects and more for photographers.
  • Photoshop Inside Blog by Scott Kelby, editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Layers magazine and President of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.
  • PopPhoto Flash
    Popular Photography has a blog, and this is it!
  • Strobist
    David Hobby shares tips on using off camera flash. Another photographer who loves to give it away.
  • The Digital Story
    Derrick Story, author of The Digital Photography Companion, and other books, hosts this blog, podcast and more.
  • What the Duck
    Fun photography on-line comic strip. Aaron posts a new strip each day, and readers submit titles in the comments section. When he posts a new strip, he also posts the title he selects for the old strip.

Have fun reading these — I know I do.

Posted by Mark in: Site

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