Low End DSLR: digital photography on a budget

April 04, 2008

Classifying lenses: the telephoto lens

This is part of an ongoing series of short articles about lenses and how they are used on Digital SLR cameras. The series currently contains the following articles:


These lenses have focal lengths that are longer than normal. Wildlife and sports photographers favor the longer versions of these lenses (200mm and up) as they allow you to get in close to the subject while still shooting from a distance.

Many portrait photographers like the shorter telephoto lenses such as 85mm or 135mm. These focal lengths make it easier to create a shallow depth of field, blurring the background and isolating the subject.

portrait taken at 200mm showing the blurred background that helps to isolate the subject

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Posted by Mark in: Equipment | Lenses | Tips-n-Tricks | Tutorials

April 03, 2008

Classifying lenses: the wide angle lens

This is part of an ongoing series of short articles about lenses and how they are used on Digital SLR cameras. The series currently contains the following articles:

Wide angle

Lenses with focal lengths that are less than normal are refered to as wide angle lenses. These lenses are best suited for capturing large areas and are preferred by landscape photographers who desire to capture stunning vistas. As lens manufacturing technology has improved, extremely wide angle lenses have been created, as well as fish-eye lenses that give a nearly 180° field of view. The wider a lens is, the more noticable the barrel distortion that these lenses create becomes. Many photographers use this distortion to artistic effect (whether you appreciate the art is another matter).

Wide angle lenses create images that have a lot of depth to them - they exagerrate the apparent distance between foreground and background. This tends to introduce distortion into images in a couple of ways.

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Posted by Mark in: Equipment | Lenses | Tips-n-Tricks | Tutorials

Classifying lenses: the normal lens

This is part of an ongoing series of short articles about lenses and how they are used on Digital SLR cameras. The series currently contains the following articles:

What is normal?

A normal lens is one that creates an image that is very close to how our eyes perceive the world. In other words, images made with these lenses “look normal.” There are no distortions introduced, or apparent compression of space that you might get with other lenses.

What is normal for a given camera depends on the size of whatever is doing the imaging. The formal definition is a lens whose focal lenght equals the diagonal of the image size. So a view camera with a 4" × 5" back has a diagonal of 154mm (96 × 120mm), and therefore a normal lens would be a 150mm lens. A large format 8 × 10 camera would have a 300mm normal lens.

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

Classifying lenses: the crop factor

This is part of an ongoing series of short articles about lenses and how they are used on Digital SLR cameras. The series currently contains the following articles:

Crop Factor

Most digital SLRs use sensors that are slightly smaller than the size of 35mm film. Film has an image diagonal of 43mm, while these smaller sensors have image diagonals of 27mm. The lenses they use are still designed to create an image on a piece of 35mm film. What happens is that the image that is created is effectively a crop of what the image would have been if it were a full frame or film camera. The ratio of full frame to the smaller sensors comes out to 1.6, and many times these cameras are referred to as having a 1.6 crop factor.

The image above should help make this clearer. This is Tunnel View looking east over the Yosemite Valley toward Half Dome. The circle is the image that is projected on the back of a 35mm camera. The red rectangle represents 35mm film, or the area of a full frame sensor. Note that the circle is a bit larger than that area, and in practice probably has even a bit more overlap.

The yellow rectangle represents the area of a 1.6 crop sensor. Notice that nothing about the projected image has changed. The smaller sensor simply records a smaller area of the image, like a croppped area of the image.

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Posted by Mark in: Equipment | Lenses | Tips-n-Tricks | Tutorials

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

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

July 05, 2006

iPhoto RAW Workflow

The “low end” in Low End DSLR extends to the software that I use for editing photos. Up until recently, that was Photoshop 7, since I have not upgraded to either CS version yet, along with the File Viewer Utility and Digital Photo Professional software from Canon (both included with the camera). I used the Canon software to view the RAW files and make my selects for additional editing in Photoshop after exporting them.

While this worked, it wasn’t anything approaching an optimal workflow. In fact it was too frustrating, slow and awkward to really be called a workflow, more like a work bottleneck. Add to this that I was doing this on an 867MHz 12-inch PowerBook G4, and you can see where much of the frustration came in (not to mention the lack of USB 2.0 for importing the photos onto the PowerBook to further add to the bottleneck).

With the acquisition of a G5 iMac (reasons for purchasing that are detailed at iBlog), the workflow has improved. Included in the iMac is the latest version of iLife, including iPhoto 6. This update to iPhoto has greatly improved RAW support and handling, along with an increase in the number of photos it can handle, and the speed with which it deals with them.

After having worked with the software for some time, I have begun to fall into some patterns of use that can reasonably be called a workflow. I’m sure this will be refined as I continue to discover new ways to work with the software, and my even be replaced at some point in the future should I upgrade Photoshop or even to Lightbox or Aperture. But for now this is a good low end workflow.

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Posted by Mark in: Software | Tutorials | iPhoto

July 04, 2006

While I’ve been away

Some sites that have been keeping me busy the last few weeks:


David Hobby is a photographer for the Baltimore Sun newspaper. In his spare time he blogs about how to use small flashes to greatest effect. Well written and fun to read—don’t miss his Lighting 101 and On Assignment series. you’ll also want to take a look at his “Starving Student Off Camera Light Kit,” at a cost of about $160 or so depending on what you already have on hand (and if you buy a used or new flash). And finally, you’ll want to check out his Lighting Boot Camp. Great stuff!


John Watson of Lightproofbox and Flickr Toys has put this site together to share what he has learned (and is continuing to learn) about photography. Great tutorials and a growing database of lens reviews from folks who have used them. He’s got a good community growing.


Twice a week a new do-it-yourself project to try with your photographs. My favorite so far—DIY CD Jewel Case Wall Frames.

Radiant Vista

Daily Video Critique, Weekly Photoshop Workshop video, Video Tutorials and more. These guys are giving away great content.

Posted by Mark in: Tips-n-Tricks | Tutorials

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