Category Archives: Random Thoughts

I like to ramble on about random things. Sometimes they will be related to photography, other times they will not be.

R.I.P. Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

It’s a sad, sad day. Last night I finally got around to testing my new tripod (which I will write a review on at some point this week) and there was a terrible accident. Here’s what went down…

All of the ball heads I’ve used to date have had some sort of safety release mechanism that requires you to press a button or pull a lever to actually detach the camera once you have loosened the mounting plate. Yesterday, I learned that the Benro Travel Angel A-169 does not have this feature. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. Without going into great detail, my 5D and 50mm took quite the tumble. Luckily (I guess) the 50mm took the brunt of the fall and my 5D was spared any damage from what I can tell. If I had dropped any of my L glass I would probably still be screaming and swearing.

Sorry to see you go 50mm, you were by far my favorite lens. Luckily, you were also my cheapest lens so it won’t break the bank to replace you.

Advertisements

More From the Tracks

Hi all,

I’m back again with some more photos from the tracks. Honestly, I don’t like these as much as the first two that I posted, but these have a different feel to them. Both of these shots where taken with my 5D and 70-200mm f/4 IS.

Rust

Abandoned Tracks

Other News

– I’m stilling waiting to pickup a new tripod…I’ll probably wait until after Christmas to grab one. Once I get a new tripod I hope to get some good night shooting done in the city.

– I picked up a Canon S95. Yes, ANOTHER toy. I’m going to compare this to the GF-1 to see if it can keep up. I love the GF-1 but it’s not pocketable which means it stays at home more than I’d like. I should have a review up of the S95 soon.

My Review of Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Micro Four Thirds Camera with LUMIX G 20mm/F1.7 Aspherical Lens

Originally submitted at Adorama

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 13.1 MP Micro Four Thirds mount Digital Interchangeable Lens Camera with LUMIX G 20mm/F1.7 Aspherical Lens

Perfect Travel Camera for DSLR Users

By mpouliot from Boston, MA on 10/5/2010

 

4out of 5

Pros: ControlsMenu Setup, Small / Compact, Good in Low Light, Good Image Quality, Large Clear LCD, HD Video

Cons: Noise above ISO 400, Dymanic Range

Best Uses: When DSLR is too much, Travel, Family Photos, Indoors/Low Light

Describe Yourself: Photo Enthusiast

Was this a gift?: Yes

I think the best way to start this review is to explain why I bought the camera. I was looking for something that was close to a DSLR in IQ, controls, and features, but in a smaller and more travel friendly package. I wanted something I could toss into a jacket pocket or small backpack and not have to worry about weight, size or carrying a bunch of lenses.

I started off my search by looking at advanced point and shoots (e.g. G10, LX-4, S90, etc.) but the weak ISO performance and slow lenses forced me to drop them from my list. From there, the next step was to look at Micro Four Third (M4/3) and compact ASP-C setups. Along with the GF-1, I looked at the Olympus EP-1, EP-2, EPL-1 and the Sony NEX-3/5. I tested all of these and narrowed it down to the GF-1 for the following reasons:

• Controls: The GF-1 just felt like using my 5D. The dials, menus, and controls are very intuitive and the settings/functions you need to change frequently (ISO, metering mode, aperture, shutter, exposure comp., etc.) are just a button push or dial turn away. The Olympus required a little more digging and performance was a sluggish compared to the GF-1. The Sony wasn’t as bad as people make it out to be, but it does get old shuffling through menus to change simple things like the ISO. Supposedly, Sony is going to release a firmware update to remedy this issue in the near future.

• Speed: The focus speed of the GF-1 with the 20mm vs. any of the Olympus models is noticeably faster. This makes a huge difference for street photography which is important to me. The NEX was just as fast (if not faster) but the GF-1 was fast AND accurate…the Sony missed it’s mark quite a few times.

• Price: I’ve invested a significant amount of money into building a DSLR setup that works for me and to invest even more money into a camera that I will only really use when traveling was not an option. When I finally decided on getting a M4/3, the EPL-1 was the cheapest of the bunch and it looked like my only option at that time. I was going to settle for this as I had a limit that I didn’t want to exceed. Luckily, two weeks before my trip, the price of the GF-1 with the 20mm lens dropped to a price where it made the GF-1 a no-brainer.

• Lens Quality: The 20mm is a fantastic lens. Distortion is undetectable (with in camera correction) and color and contrast are excellent. Sharpness is also excellent between the f/2-f/6.3 range. Images produced wide open are still very good. Olympus has some good offerings at decent prices, but I think the 20mm is THE lens to have for M4/3 bodies. The Sony lenses just could not compare which is a real shame. I probably would have purchased the NEX if it had a prime lens in the 20mm area that could compare to the Panny’s 20mm.

• Picture Quality: I thought my initial test images were good but after using this as my only camera for two weeks in Europe, I have to say that I am truly impressed with the GF-1. While I did miss my 5D on occasion, I never really felt like I was in a position where I was limited because I had the GF-1 instead of my 5D. Color reproduction and AWB accuracy is VERY good. I usually shoot RAW and I’ve only had to make minor adjustments which is always nice.

• Battery Life: I’ve been getting close to 400 shots on a full charge which seems pretty good to me. I’ve had point and shoot cameras in the past that have had awful battery life. There’s nothing worse than having a nice small camera to put in your pocket but then you have to put two extra batteries in your other pocket to make it through the day. Defeats the purpose of the small camera.

I’ve also discovered a few cons with this camera. No deal breakers or anything significant enough to make me want to get rid of the GF-1…just a few gripes.

• Noise: Starting at about ISO 400, noise becomes very noticeable. Sadly, ISO 800 is about the max I will use with this body. I have gone higher and had “OK” results, but the images will be chocked full of grain. Luckily, Lightroom’s noise reduction is very good.
• Size: Don’t get me wrong, this is drastically smaller than my 5D with a 50mm but it’s still not really a “pocketable” camera. I have some fall/winter jackets with larger pockets that may be able to hold the GF-1, but that’s about it. It does however fit into my wife’s purse quite nicely 🙂

Overall, I’m very pleased with this camera. It’s by no means the holy grail of cameras but it is a very capable setup that is compact and fun to use. The GF-1 will definitely be coming on more day trips and vacations where the 5D would be too much camera.

A few recommendations for potential buyers…

I ended up buying the EVF (electronic view finder) which has come in handy when working in bright sunlight as the back LCD gets washed out quite easily. It also has less draw on the battery than the big LCD. It’s a little pricey and small, but I think it’s worth the $.

If you can live without image stabilization, I HIGHLY recommend picking up the GF-1 with the 20mm instead of the zoom as it makes the kit more compact and it really is an excellent piece of glass.

I picked up a B + W UV filter for the 20mm but I ended up taking it off. I was getting some nasty flare in bright daylight. After taking the filter off, the flare is gone. This seems to be a common problem with this lens (pancake style) so I would say hold off on the filter…but that’s just me.

(legalese)

Below is a straight out of the camera shot from the GF-1. I know that I complained about the ISO noise, but this is one of the cleanest shots I got at ISO 800. Again, this is straight from the camera…no post processing at all. I probably should have cropped it to get the wooden frame out of the shot but I wanted a “pure” image to show what this camera/lens is capable of producing.

100903_P1010543.jpg

New Weapon in the Arsenal

If you read my last post, you know that I recently go married. Luckily, we have the funds to take a nice honeymoon which means new places to photograph! In order to pack light and not have to worry about my big/expensive camera equipment, I’ve decided not to take my gear. This was a really tough decision for me. I love photography and taking pictures in new places is always so much fun but in the end I decided it probably wasn’t the best idea, here’s my reasons why:

1. I’m a worrier. If I took all of my gear with me, I would constantly worry about it. I would always be checking my bag to make sure it was closed and I would have the DEATH grip on my camera at all times. I would feel uneasy about leaving things in my room too. Also, walking around with the big white Canon L lens is just like shouting “Someone please, MUG ME RIGHT NOW!”. I don’t want to call any unnecessary attention to me or my wife while on our trip.

2. This stuff is HEAVY. I’ve walked around all day with my gear before and it’s not SUPER heavy, but it’s not exactly light either. Walking around every day for two weeks straight with all of my gear doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience to me…maybe I’m just a wimp.

3. Time. I feel like people that have caught the photography bug like I have will relate to this one. When I find something interesting, I want to take as many photographs as possible. I want to take shots from different angles, try different apertures, distances, etc. This all takes time. While we are going a way for two weeks, we only have a short time in each place so we do not have that much time to burn.

4. My wife. Honestly, I’m afraid that if I brought all of my gear, I would end up spending too much time dealing with photography instead of spending time with her. Not cool…it is our honeymoon after all 🙂 Luckily, I have an awesome wife that knows how much photography means to me so she (and my family) decided to get me quite the birthday present…see the section below.

Enter, the GF-1. I’m not sure if you’ve read up on the GF-1 or the Micro 4/3rd movement, but this little camera is pretty impressive. For those you that don’t know, the type of camera falls somewhere between a DSLR and a point and shoot…although I would say that the GF-1 is more like a DSLR with it’s controls and feature set. I’ve only had a chance to play with it for a an hour or so but I have to say, I’m pretty impressed. I opted to get the kit with the 20mm f/1.7 (which ends up being 40mm with crop factor) as I use my 50mm 90% of the time on my 5D. This is a pretty sweet combo. The camera is small enough to fit inside a jacket pocket but packs quite a punch. I think this little guys is going to be the perfect fit for our trip. The performance of a small DSLR with the size of a point and shoot. I should have pictures to share soon!

My Favorite Photography Sites

One thing I’m constantly in search of is information. I spend hours each week reading about photography. Anything from technique to postproduction tricks, it’s all gold to me. I spend a good deal of time just finding sites that are worth reading so I thought to myself, why not make a nice little list for everyone. So, that’s exactly what I did! Below you will find a list of my favorite photography websites. I visit all of these sites several times a week. There is so much good information at these sites that I keep coming back for more! I hope you find these links helpful and informative.

Gear Reviews and Information
the-digital-picture.com – This is really the only place you need to go if you shoot Canon. This site is absolutely amazing. I mean, they have ISO 12233 resolution chart sample crop comparisons for hundreds of lenses. Brilliant!

fredmiranda.com – A great place to find user reviews for most of the popular gear on the market. This is also a great place to buy used gear.

Photography Communities
digital-photography-school.com – If you are just starting out in photography or if you have basic photographic needs/questions, this is a great site. I personally feel that most of the posts are geared towards the beginner level photographer, there is still a good deal of useful info to be found and the community is very friendly.

opensourcephoto.net – Unlike the site listed above, OSP is geared towards serious/pro photographers. While the site isn’t exactly pretty to look at, the available information is endless.

photo.net – This is a huge community of photographers that come together and talk ALL things photography. If you can’t find the answer to a photography related question on this site, the answer doesn’t exist. I’ve met several extremely kind and generous photographers through this site. Well worth a look.

Pro Photographer’s Personal Websites/Blogs
pixelatedimage.com – This is David deChemin’s blog and this has to be my favorite site. His posts are always insightful and engaging. If you are in the market for books or eBooks, you MUST check out David’s work; he is hands down my favorite author on all things photography.

chasejarvis.com – Chase is one of the most popular photographers at the moment and he is very passionate about giving back to the photographic community. He has worked with other photographers to setup creativelive.com which shoots live photo classes for free. I’ve attended a few and they are definitely worth checking out.

Educational/Informational Sites
thelightroomlab.com – I love Adobe Lightroom. This program has replaced about 90% of my need to go into Photoshop. Thelightroomlab.com has made me love this program even more because they not only explain how to use it, but they explain how to use it properly.

x-equals.com – I stumbled upon this site last week and I’ve been hooked ever since. The people that run Thelightroomlab.com actually mentioned this site in one of their posts about .dng files and I’m sure glad they did. X-Equals has a little bit of everything including tutorials on Lightroom, Photoshop, workflows, and much more. Between Thelightroomlab.com and this site, I think I’ll be set for awhile.

picturecorrect.com – This site has a new post just about everyday. They are usually short and sweet but they are helpful nonetheless.

craftandvision.com – Craft and Vision is home to eBooks from David deChemin along with other photographers. These eBooks are usually under 100 pages (some are more) but they are wonderfully written and the imagery is amazing. The best part is they are all just $5!

strobist.blogspot.com – If you want to know anything about flash photography, go to this site. PERIOD.

photofocus.com – This is another good blog that I visit several times a day as Scott is a very active blogger. His post are usually short and sweet but he has years of experience to pass along to the masses.

I’ll be sure to update this post as I find more sites so make sure to check back for new additions!

Camdapter.com – New Toy on the Way

Photo from http://www.camdapter.com

I haven’t mentioned this before, but I HATE traditional camera straps. They are great for security and quick access to your camera, but I rarely just walk around with my camera hanging from my neck…too touristy for me. I usually end up wrapping the neck strap around my hand a few times which is not ideal but it gets it out of the way and provides some security. I’ve had a neck strap on my camera for a while now but I decided to take it off a few months ago. I was sick of constantly fighting with the thing. It would either bother my neck or it would get in the way when taking portrait shots. Off with the neck strap!

So how as life been without the neck strap? Well, it’s been better but now I’m constantly worrying that I’m going to drop my precious 5D. This is just another one of those situations where a solution to a problem just creates another problem…bummer. What I was really looking for was a HAND strap. I just wanted something that would provide some support (to prevent fatigue) and more safety/security than simply hand holding the camera. Luckily, I think I may have found the solution.

After doing some digging, I found camdapter.com. You can read his story on the site, but Jim Garavuso has created a product that seems to be exactly what I’m looking for. His solution consists of two things. The first is a plate that is secured to the camera by the tripod mount on the bottom of your camera body. The second piece is a hand strap that secures to one of your camera’s traditional strap loops and the other end attaches to the plate. Brilliant! Jim has pretty much thought of everything with this solution. Below is just a small list of things I like about this setup:

  • You can connect the hand strap AND a neck strap if you so desire. No need to remove the plate if you really miss your neck strap.
  • He makes special plates that work with Manfrotto and Arca type tripod heads
  • Provided you buy the correct plate for your camera, the plate does not need to be removed to access the battery door

I’m sure there will be more to list once I’ve had some time to use the Camdapter in the field. I literally just ordered this from his site so I’ll write a followup post once I receive my new Camdapter.

A Shout-Out to Lowepro

I remember my grandfather telling me stories about how things used to be back in “the good old days”. One of the reoccurring themes was how businesses treated customers. (Stay with me here…I’m actually getting to something photography related.) They would go out of their way to make you happy. This makes sense to me. A happy customer is likely to tell their friends of their experiences and they will most likely return in the future. Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel like in our current day in age most companies could care less about about how you are treated or what your experience was buying their products; they are happy as long as the $ is coming in from the masses. This has been my mindset, until a few weeks ago…

Like most people hooked on photography, I have a small obsession with bags. I have more bags than I do lenses. I feel like I’m on a never ending quest to find the “perfect” bag. I’m 99% sure it doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t stop me from trying…and spending tons of $ in the process. I’m getting sidetracking again…I know. Anyway, if you have been reading my blog you know that I recently reviewed the Lowepro Primus AW backpack. I got an AMAZING deal on this bag and I really wanted it to work for me, but the camera section of the bag was less than ideal for my needs. So what did I do? I ended up taking all of the extra inserts from my other camera bags and I tried to make a “custom” setup for my gear. I figured out a design that would work for me, but the inserts that I had did not fit exactly as I had hoped (I get picky about certain things). I was pretty bummed at this point. I REALLY did not want to return the bag, but I didn’t want to keep a bag I would never use even if it was a steal. As a last resort, I decided to shoot a note to Lowepro seeing if they would be able to help me out. To my surprise, they responded the next day!

I spoke to a very friendly person at Lowepro that was eager to help me with my current situation. He asked me about the bag I was using then he asked for the dimensions and fabrics for the inserts that I needed to make my custom setup. I went back and forth with him for a couple of days while he looked for exactly what I needed. About 3-4 days later, I received an email saying that he had found what I was looking for and he wanted to ship them out to me. I asked about cost and he said why don’t you see if they work out for you. If they do, then we just ask that you cover the cost of shipping. I was blown away. Now THAT is customer service baby! I received the inserts about 3 days later and I couldn’t have been happier. My custom setup worked great!

In the end, I ended up selling the bag on craigslist.org because was just too heavy when loaded up (the bag is over 6lbs. empty) but Lowepro now has a loyal customer for life. Great products + amazing customer service is definitely a winning combination.

About a week after selling this bag I picked up the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW at my local camera store’s annual sale. This is a great camera bag that I was able to setup to fit my current needs. I couldn’t be happier! While at the store, I made a point to speak to the Lowepro reps about my experience with their customer service…they weren’t surprised by my story. I have a feeling they hear stories like mine quite frequently.

So if you’re in the market for a quality camera bag and a company that will stand behind their products and strive to make their customers happy, I’d start with Lowepro.