Telephoto Lens Cap for Canon & Nikon Camera Lenses

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How to save enough money to buy a Canon 5D Mark III (or a Nikon D800)

Canon 5D Mark IIIThe Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 are two of the hottest cameras of 2012 for professional and serious amateur nature photographers; many serious amateurs and pros in other fields of photography would love to have one too. While not outrageously expensive in terms of camera bodies, they’re not cheap — the $3000 you’ll spend for the Nikon D800 and the $3500 you’ll spend for the Canon 5D Mark III is hardly chump change. If you’re a budget-minded hobbyist or aspiring pro or if you are simply a budget-savvy full-time pro, there are some easy ways to save money on key gear and software choices.

Please note that I’m well-aware that trying to buy cheap can sometimes end up costing more money in the long-run. Believe me, I’ve been down that road many times when I was starting out in photography. I’ve learned, however, that there are times when buying the most expensive option may not be necessary.

Here’s why I don’t always buy the latest and greatest and most expensive gadget or service. As a full-time working pro photographer, I look at new gear and software as a business expense. That means three questions for me. Does this new gadget/product allow me to do things I couldn’t do without it? Are those things I could now do going to make a difference in the quality of my work and thus my income? And is there a cheaper but equally or sufficiently good alternative to the new gadget/product that would still allow me to do what I want now and in the future?

In this little article, I offer a few digital photography-related purchase choices that could add up to enough savings for one of these beautiful new camera bodies from Canon or Nikon and perhaps even leave you with enough cash left over for dinner.

 Read the full article here

Don Zeck Lens Cap

 MEET THE AUTHOR

Greg Basco

Like many nature photographers, I started my career doing something else. A political scientist by training, my research focused on the politics of the environment in Latin America. I researched environmental politics and ecotourism in Costa Rica and worked here for a number of years as a conservation professional, having first come to the country in 1992 as a Peace Corps volunteer. I now dedicate myself full-time to my own photographyand my Costa Rica photo tour company. I work out of my home office in Costa Rica’s central highlands, where I live with my wife, twin boys, our dogs and cats, and various hummingbirds and songbirds that visit our backyard feeders.  

 

 

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My D800E Story (And I’m Sticking to It)

I received my Nikon D800E camera body in July of last year, so I’ve had it for nearly nine months now and I think I’ve used it enough at this point to share my thoughts.  Just to be clear, this isn’t meant to be a formal review or a recitation of the camera’s features; there are plenty of both of these scattered all over the Internet (a search engine is your friend).  My intent is simply to muse on my thoughts about how well the camera has met my expectations and perhaps discuss some of the anticipated (and unanticipated) consequences of moving to this camera body.

Nikon Camera D800E

The Nikon D800E Camera Body

The Back Story

First, some background.  My primary camera body prior to purchasing the D800E was the Nikon D700, which I had used since late 2008.  (The D700 remains in my camera bag as a backup body.)  The most important difference between the two cameras is found in the sensors, principally the number of pixels.  The D700 sensor had 12 (and change) megapixels; the D800E has 36 (and change) megapixels.  That’s a big difference.  The D800E also does an end run around the anti-aliasing filter that the vast, vast majority of digital SLRs possess, as a means to reduce digital artifacts that are inherent in the capture process with cameras using Bayer sensors.

Illinois Canyon

Autumn’s Remains, Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

The camera cost me more than $3000; I had to think very long and very hard about whether to commit that kind of money to replace a camera (the D700) that I was basically satisfied with.  What was the new camera giving me that I didn’t already have?  Pixels, mostly, and a whole lot of them.  And a breathtaking amount of dynamic range.  (The D700′s DR is impressive; the D800 series is even better.)  I print quite large, at times; I’ve had orders up to 24×36″ for conventionally oriented images (i.e. those with a 2:3 ratio).  For images with a lot of detail, that’s beginning to really push it for the D700′s files.  (In fairness, though, I had a commercial client who was thrilled with 20×30″ prints that were produced from shots I took with the D200 and its 10 MP (and generations old) sensor.  To some degree, this how-large-can-you-print matter is very much in the eye of the beholder.) I also often occasionally push the envelope in terms of dynamic range with my shooting.  I knew I’d use every bit of the alleged 14 stops of DR that the 800 series has at base ISO, and then some, from time to time.

I was ultimately able to get myself to pull the trigger by telling myself that the D800E might well be my “last camera.”  Let me briefly explain what I mean by that.  It doesn’t mean that I’d committed myself to never buying another camera, ever.  What it meant was that, barring some incredible path breaking new capability that I can’t even imagine coming down the pike some day, I saw nothing in the way of incremental improvements that would have me lusting over another camera if the D800E lived up to its billing.  Not more pixels; not more dynamic range, not any other features.  This was it…and it was, without question, the first time I had ever thought this since I first started shooting with a DSLR back in 2003.  With the purchases of each of my previous cameras–the D100 in 2003; the D200 in the spring of 2006; and the D700 at the tail end of 2008–I’d bought in fully knowing that there were existing cameras (sometimes produced by Nikon, sometimes by other manufacturers) that had capabilities that I wanted myself.  I’d never purchased a digital camera thinking “this is it.”  But this time was different.  Had I not felt that this very well could be “the last camera,” I wouldn’t have pulled the trigger.

The $64,000 question was–would I still feel that way after actually using the camera?

Matthiessen State Park

Giant’s Bathtub, Matthiessen Sate Park, Illinois

Camera In Hand

When I received the D800E last summer, I immediately conducted some controlled (but relatively informal) tests with the camera and my lens lineup, and compared the results with images shot with the D700.  What I expected–and discovered–was that, when pixel-peeping (looking at images at 100% magnification in Photoshop), the effects of diffraction barely became visible at f/8, and were increasingly visible as I stopped lenses down further.  By f/16 they were quite apparent when pixel peeping.  In other words, all other things being equal (which they rarely are, but I digress), it was best to shoot the camera at f/7.1 or below.  (This is not always practical, to put it mildly, in the real world; more on this below.)

I also noted that–again, when pixel peeping–the camera revealed every optical flaw in my lens lineup.  As a refresher, I shoot almost entirely with high(ish) end zoom lenses–the Nikkor 14-24/2.8; the Nikkor 24-70/2.8; the Sigma 70-200/2.8; the Nikkor 80-400/4-5.6.  I also shoot with one prime lens, the Nikkor 200mm micro.  The 80-400 is the weakest optic in my quiver; the 200mm micro is the sharpest, by far.  I saw no obvious flaws with the prime lens, even when I was scouring around looking for them.  With the others, there was some corner softness visible in all of them, with the 80-400 being the worst offender (as expected).  Without careful viewing, all were perfectly acceptable, but images shot with this camera and these lenses, if upsized enough, would reveal the flaws, even at fairly reasonable viewing distances.  How much of an upsizing was “enough”?  That depends, both on the lens in question and the personal opinion of the viewer.

Sunset Volcano

Sunflowers, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

Reviews of the camera that I’d read prior to pulling the trigger on the purchase consistently discussed what needed to be done “to get the most out of the sensor,” including avoiding shooting at f/8 or above and exclusively using high end prime lenses.  I pretty much knew that I wasn’t going to do either of these things, particularly the latter.  Maybe it’s laziness on my part, but I really like the convenience of carrying an assortment of zoom lenses that cover all of the focal lengths I’m likely to shoot; I like being able to minimize the amount of lens changing I engage in as well.  I’ve already touched on the aperture part of the matter above.  So I was pretty much acknowledging that I wasn’t going to be getting “everything” there was to squeeze out of the sensor in terms of image quality.  The operative question was whether I was going to be getting enough out of it to justify the purchase of the camera.  My speculation was that the answer was yes, but the proof would be in the pudding.

And what about the huge files that the camera produced?  I was looking at 1/3 as many shots per memory card compared with the D700, not to mention (obviously) longer write times.  The D800E has two card slots, one for CF cards and one for SD cards.  I’d never had a camera that accepted SD cards, but given the file sizes I was looking for, I felt that a card upgrade was in order.  I found a sale at Amazon and picked up a 32 GB SD card and a 16 GB CF card which allowed me approximately 600 shots without card swapping (significantly more than I’d ever had with the D700–my biggest card for that camera was an 8 GB CF).  I also spent some time experimenting with file downloads and image processing.  Needless to say, both were significantly slower than what I was used to with the D700 files.  This, too, was anticipated, but could I deal with the added wait times when I had a bulk of files, from multiple days worth of shooting?  I would soon find out.

In the Field/On the Road

I shot with the camera outside in the field a couple of times, and at a botanical garden in Indianapolis, before taking the camera on its first “road trip” to northern Arizona for a workshop in August (which was chronicled at length beginning here).  This was when the pedal hit the metal, so to speak.  I would be dealing with the camera (and the resulting images) all day, every day.

Banana Tree Leaf

Banana Tree Leaf, White River Gardens, Indiana

As an aside, it’s worth pointing out, I suppose, that I shoot off a tripod at least 99.99% of the time.  (Literally every one of my images that has appeared on this blog was produced with a tripod-mounted camera.)  As a result, handheld ergonomics have never been a particularly important issue to me.  Also, as followers of this blog know, roughly 95% of my imagery can be classified as landscapes/scenics, with almost all of the remaining 5% closeup work (mostly of plants and flowers).  In other words, I’m rarely shooting moving subjects (other than running water and blowing foliage), so a camera’s operational quickness isn’t a prime consideration for me either, particularly given my circumspect (some would say “plodding” or “sluggish”) photographic style in the field.

So, how did the camera perform?

The answer was quite well, thank you.  There were a few differences in the camera’s controls, compared to the D700, and with the menus as well, but the similarities greatly outweighed the discriminating points.  It wasn’t a difficult adjustment to go from one camera to the other, particularly given the sloth-like nature of my in-the-field workflow.  I did notice that the D800E was, on occasion, a bit slower to complete the card-writing process than the D700, but that was to be expected and it really wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.  And the dynamic range was absolutely breathtaking.  Even with scenes possessing an exceptionally wide contrast, it was often necessary to underexpose images–often by several stops–to produce silhouettes of objects against bright dawn or dusk skies.  In fact, I stopped trying, with the full knowledge that the effect could easily be teased out in postprocessing.  So using the camera wasn’t a problem.

Monument Valley

Mittens Dawn Silhouette, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

What about the image quality?  That was always the main issue.  Was I seeing a meaningful, real world improvement over shots from the D700?  The short answer is, yes.  Regardless of the lenses I used, apples-to-apples comparisons of images (i.e. when D700 images were up-sized to the equivalent of D800E shots or D800E images were binned to the same size as D700 photos) revealed that the shots from the D800E held more detail–period, end of report.  And they should; 36 MP really ought to trump 12 MP, particularly when the former is of a newer generation than the latter.  The point of obtaining the D800E was to up the ante when it came to printing large, and based on some tests I did after returning from Arizona, that holds up.  I up-sized a detail-filled D800E shot to the equivalent of 24×36″ and printed a cropped 8×10 section of it; I did the same with a D700 shot.  (Both were taken with the same 24-70 lens.)  The D700 version was actually pretty decent; not phenomenal, but quite good.  But the D800E shot…it was almost as though it hadn’t been interpolated at all.

What about the lenses?  Given my options, how had images held up?  It was essentially as expected.  Shots with the 200mm macro (i.e. micro, in Nikon-speak) held up from corner to corner, even when pixel peeping.  Shots with the other lenses still held up very nicely, even when enlarged.  Yes, the corner degradation could be spotted when pixel peeping, but large prints, seen at a normal viewing distance, were immaculate.

Grand Canyon

Wildflowers, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona

And the aperture issue?  I had decided to shoot for the needed depth of field and live with the incumbent diffraction, even if that meant f/16 (though I didn’t often need to go beyond f/11).  This paid off, in my opinion.  With adjustments made to postprocessing sharpening techniques, the effects of diffraction were mitigated to the point of effective irrelevance.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I concluded that this may very well, in fact, be my “last camera” (in the sense described above).  I’m extremely happy with the performance; I’m completely satisfied with image quality, even with the limits of my current lenses (though I may end up replacing the 80-400 with Nikon’s recently announced new version of that lens, if it pans out in real world tests and if I can get past the price!), and I didn’t even have to compromise my in-field shooting choices with regard to aperture selection.  File sizes and computer requirements will become non-issues as I naturally upgrade hardware over time (though I hasten to add that, despite shooting with the camera for the better part of a year now, I’m still using computers that are 3-5 years old).

This is more camera than most people need; if you don’t have the intention to print large, you really have no need for it, in my view.   It’s arguably more camera than I need myself.  If the D3X had come with the same price tag as the D800 when the former was released four-odd years ago (instead, it cost $8000!), I might well have bought one and, if I had, I’d almost certainly still be using it, even though that would mean leaving 12 MP on the table.  (The D3X has a 24.5 MP sensor.)  But if you’re going to buy your “last camera,” you may as well give yourself some headroom, I think, and that’s what the D800E gives me.  Would have I been satisfied with the non-”E” version of the D800?  Almost certainly, yes.  But again, I gave myself a bit of extra sharpness, particularly when I use my macro lens.

Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona

I look forward to having the camera with me during a planned trip to the Smoky Mountains in mid-April.  During my last extended trip there, six years ago, I was still shooting with the D200.

The D800E won’t make me a better photographer–that was never part of the consideration–but it will allow me to print larger with considerably more effectiveness.  Since that was my hope when I bought the camera, I couldn’t be more satisfied with the purchase.
Don Zeck Lens Cap 

Kerry-LeibowitzHi, my name is Kerry Leibowitz.  I’m a Midwest-based (I split my time between the Chicago and Indianapolis areas) photographer with a particular propensity for the landscape.  

You can read my other blog posts at my website Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog and see my photo galleries at Lightscapes Nature Photography

The entire contents of my web site, images and text, are the copyrighted property of Kerry Leibowitz and may not be duplicated or reproduced in any form without express consent.  Image rights may be purchased; please contact me to make arrangements.  Images may not be hot linked.

copyright Kerry

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Canon or Nikon?

Canon and Nikon CamerasI guess I kind of left you all hanging on what I decided; staying a Canon girl or crossing to the dark-side? Life has just been moving right along and then someone brought it up on FB a few weeks ago…. I giggled and said, “ Oh yeah, I forgot to tell everyone.” If you have missed the debate of my long agonizing quandary about switching systems, take a moment to read through this past post.

I used the Nikon D4 in the Mara this past August, thanks to Borrowlenses; so I know I can take sharp images! I loved the D4 and the low light capabilities and it felt great in my hands. As a woman, I find the Nikon lenses are a little sleeker, making them easier to hold.  The desire to possibly make the shift has been there for many years. However, the practical side of me needs a huge reason to make both the investment of time and money.

When the 1DX was released the reviews were good. A few wildlife photographers that I highly respect were raving over it. I wisely decided it would be foolish not to test the 1DX before making the jump.  Once again, Barrowlenses, came through for me and I took the 1DX for a spin. My prayers were answered, giving me the perfect horrible shooting conditions for the ultimate test. I went to Bolsa Chica wetlands to photograph the lightening speed, grey, pelicans, diving into the grey water, on a grey day. I thought to myself, it will never get sharp images in this scenario and I can make the switch guilt free. I was wrong.

When I saw the below images on my computer, my jaw dropped open! Sharp images of a moving subject from a canon camera …revolutionary!! I had not experienced this since my 1DMark II and my 20D… yes that means about 5 years ago. Well…. not exactly true, my 5DMark II is great, but I use this mostly for people and not wildlife.

I am not one that gets super technical. I don’t get into the mico-technical issues of why one brand is better than the other. My philosophy about photography that is that it should be an expression of how you experience and see the world. The creativity of that vision is what makes a compelling image. Of coarse you must have the technical knowledge to correctly capture your vision, but without the artistic side, you are just turning dials and pushing buttons.  Almost everyone can study long enough to technically master photography, but it is the photographer that creates a stunning image, not the gear.

I share this because someone will make the comment wanting a list of all the technical comparisons, but I did not have a long list of technical problems and there are plenty of these type reviews already available. My biggest complaint over the past several years is the flawed AF system and the way Canon did not stand behind their products.

I have heard enough, to believe Canon is getting back in the professional game. However, if this new camera creates soft images when I have technically done everything right…..lets just say I will roar loud and clear until Canon does right by me this time. Then I will switch with no regrets, but for now, I will remain a Canon girl.

My 1DX canon body arrived yesterday :)

Purchased from Hunts Photo – give Gary a call if you need anything photographically, you will get the best service worldwide!

All images were shot at F8 and a shutter speed over 1,000

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professional photographers
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don zeck lens cap

 

PiperMackayPiper Mackay is a world, wildlife and cultural photographer, based in Long Beach, California. She believes compelling visual images help to protect what is right in the world. Her work takes her to very remote locations, living cross culturally in the villages and environments that she is documenting.

Her work is heavily concentrated on the African continent, a land she fell in love with when she first touched foot on it’s rich red soil. Her passion for the natural world has grown into a lifelong commitment to inspire others to explore, respect and preserve the beauty of our fragile planet.

She believes compelling work comes when you invest time, living the stories you are trying to tell. It is important to interact and gain the trust of those whose stories you are telling, especially when sensitive and complicated. The world has enough images of poverty, pain and disaster, much more needful is imagery that reveals the beauty and dignity of the communities that are, except by their geography and circumstances, very similar to our own. Powerful images help shape the view of the world and play an important role in disseminating how cultures and wildlife are coping with the rapid changes happening in the developing world.

Piper’s images have been displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Museum of History and industry, and  The Art Wolfe gallery, as well as local galleries.  Her work has been featured in Nature and travel publication through representation of several photo agencies, including Rangefinder, Nature’s Best, Birders, and the World Wildlife Fund.  She is an independent photographer and available for assignment work.

Her prior career in the fashion industry, where she was deeply involved with combing color and texture, has greatly enhanced her approach to the unique look and feel of each culture and photographic subject. This also gave her a strong background in business and marketing.   Please visit Piper’s website at www.pipermackayphotography.com. 

 

 

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Wacom Intuos5 Review

In today’s world of photography, post-processing of digital images is an absolute necessity.

In the old days of film photography one would spend hours in the darkroom dodging and burning, working with filters to increase contrast, and pushing development times to achieve better exposures. We were limited.

Now there are tools which can greatly enhance one’s processing. Enter the world of digital tablets. At the top of the pyramid of this class are the Wacom Intuos5 Tablets.

My friends at Hunt’s Photo sent me one to review and test.

Wacom Intuos5 Review

 

After opening up the package and plugging the tablet, I set about becoming familiar with how it works. It is amazingly complex with a vast array of ways to program the tablet to suit one’s needs.

There are basically two interfaces one can use with the table. The pen, with lots of choices of brushes, or one’s hand using gestures. I soon had a photo loaded in photoshop and set about using dodge and burn, saturation, masks, and curves to get the photograph to look like what I wanted it to do.

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What I found myself doing was using my hands for controlling the various Photoshop Tools. It was a new experience for me, something I had never done before. Gone was the mouse and its limitations. It seemed inuitive.

I was interacting with the computer in a way I had never experienced before. I felt a sense of creativeness, much like a painter who individual brush strokes bring a canvas to life. It was the freedom of it, smooth, simple, so very easy to adjust the foreground saturation, change the warmth of tones in the distance forest, sharpen only what needed sharpening. Yes, indeed, after a few hours of working with the Wacom I had discovered a new world of human/technology interface.

For most users, who do have a bit of desk space, I would recommend the medium sized tablet.

Dimensions (W x D x H): 380 mm x 251 mm x 12 mm
Active area Pen (W x D): 224 mm x 140 mm
Active area Touch (W x D): 224 mm x 140 mm
Weight: 990 g
Multi-touch Support: yes
Wireless Accessory Support: yes
Resolution (per point): 0.005 mm (5,080 lines per inch)
Tilt sensitivity: ± 60°
Maximum reading height with pen: 10 mm
No. of ExpressKeys: 8 capacitve keys
Touch Ring controller: 1

The tablet can be used as a large touchpad for simple navigation.  It uses some standard universal (Apple-like) gestures. There are some custom gestures that you can assign macro commands for use in your favorite post-processing software.

There are options to adjust touch settings, like pointer speed, scrolling speed, pointer acceleration, double-tap time, or completely disable the touch input. While I would not replace my mouse, I must admit that using the tablet one could very well consider this idea after using the device for an extended period.

Standard gestures include: tap to click, two finger tap to right click, two finger drag to scroll, pinch to zoom/rotate, three finger swipe left-right to navigate, four finger swipe left-right to switch application. You can disable any of them.

The tablets come in three sizes. I recommend the medium sized unit, especially if one has limited desk space. If one spends a great deal of time using the keyboard, I recommend the small unit. At $229, today’s price, it’s a bargain.

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Customizable gestures include: three finger tap and hold, four finger swipe up/down, five finger tap and hold, and five finger swipe up/down.

In other words, the tablet had almost unlimited ways to set it up to your liking.

What is difficult to explain is the feel of the tablet surface, not too slicky, not too rough, just right, especially for those of us who have lots of finger grease. :-)

One thing I do want to emphasize is that cheaper is not better. There are lots of digital tablets out there, those designed for the consumer market aren’t what a serious photographer should consider. After all, if one has spent $15,000 on cameras and lenses, why would one buy a cheap tablet with severe limitations?

If you are serious about trying this fantastic new human/technology interface, I strongly suggest that you consider buying one from Hunt’s Photo Video. Why? Because the company has an incredible reputation for quality support services. I have used Hunt’s for years, they are always willing to assist me. One example was my desire to be among the first to get a Nikon D800. I got one within a week of asking, most other vendors said it would be six weeks!

I also recommend that one visit Wacom and plunder around. One can download the manual for the Wacom Intuos5 and have a good read before ordering.

In sum, even old dogs like me can find a new toy to use. Life is about learning new ways to do old things. The Wacom Intuous5 is a splendid example.

 

Don Zeck Lens Cap

Bill LockhartBill is a retired Courts Administrator of one of the largest trial courts in the United States. He is also a retired Lieutenant Colonel, US Army National Guard, in which he served for 30 years.  He holds a BSJ from the University of Florida School of Journalism, is a Fellow of the Institute for Court Management, a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College, and the US Army Inspector General School.

His photographic experience spans four decades; his photographic awards are too numerous to list, but include well over 100 photographs of the day, photographs of the week, and photographs of the month, at many Internet forums.

He travels extensively throughout the world, his most recent trips include journeys to South Africa, Tanzania, Alaska, Scotland, the Farne Islands, Poland, the American North West, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Slovenia, and Orkney.  From the jungles of Panama and Honduras, to the mountains of Europe, to the awesome islands of Scotland, to the islands of the Galapagos, from the coastal regions of Alaska,  to the intense heat of tropical Africa, Bill constantly searches for the “light that dances.”

Bill and two other photographers recently created Photo Travel Review, a website for those who love travel and photography.  Bill enjoys interacting with other photographers, please feel free to contact him.  You will find more articles by Bill at his blog Bill Lockhart

All photos and content Copyright © 2013 Bill Lockhart Photography, all rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication of photos and content is strictly prohibited.

 

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Don Zeck Telephoto Lens Cap Review

Don Zeck Lens Cap After purchasing the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VRII lens, I couldn’t help but feel nervous about having the front-most glass element of this investment exposed to the world.  The  black bag-cover thingy that Nikon provides with the lens,  is bulky and I find myself not wanting to lug it around and keep up with it when I am out shooting.  Plus it takes too long to take off and put back on again in a pinch.  So I looked online for a product to solve this problem and found the Don Zeck Lens Caps at http://donzecklenscap.com/.  I read a few positive reviews about these Don Zeck lens caps and since there are not a ton of options in this particular market, I decided to take a chance.  I bought mine on B&H website at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/.  I will be honest that I was a bit reluctant to spend over $50 on what I assumed would be a flimsy plastic lens cap….boy was I pleasantly surprised!!

The lens cap arrived and I was immediately impressed by the thick and durable, though still lightweight (2.9 oz), construction of the plastic cap.   The handle is securely attached and I even gave it a few firm tugs to make sure it was properly fixed to the cap.  You can see this sturdy handle in the photo above.  The lens cap surface that faces the len’s glass has six round soft-plastic/rubber O-Rings that securely hold the cap in place (seen below).  No worries about these O-Rings, as they do NOT touch the surface of the lens glass when in place.  As mentioned the lens cap fits the end of the lens (make sure to get the correct size for your lens) and is easily removed.  The best quality about the lens cap besides the construction, is the fact that it fits on the lens even while the lens hood it on.  This is extremely convienent if you leave the lens hood on and facing forward the majority of the time (like I do).  All you have to do if reach in to remove or replace the cap….take only a couple of seconds.   Overall I am very satisfied and feel that the lens cap was well worth the investment!   Highly recommended!

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don-zeck-lens-capThank you Kyle for the wonderful review!   Be sure to visit Kyle’s photography blog for ideas, tips, and tricks at http://ksqphotography.wordpress.com DZLC

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Canon 135mm of Pure Joy

 

Canon 135mm f/2L

Canon 135mm f/2L


After over a year of waiting and much debate, I decided to order a Canon 135 f/2L lens. Being primarily a landscape/wildlife photographer, this lens wasn’t on anywhere close to my future purchase shortlist (I was holding out for a 17 or 24 tilt/shift) for quite a while. Reviews of this lens are nothing short of rave. On every merchant website I visited this lens never scored below a 4 out of 5 and the vast majority of those reviews were 5s. I have never seen any product that didn’t have at least 1 bad review since usually, there’s one or two people out there ready to throw out a bad review for any little thing. This lens had none of that and there were literally hundreds of reviews.

So what were the main motivating factors that pushed me towards this lens?

  • As my portraiture picked up, I needed a lens with a fast autofocus (lots of fast kids).
  • Compatibility with Canon teleconverters, both the 1.4x and 2x support autofocus on all Canon cameras (making it a 189 f/2.8 and a 270 f/4 lens).
  • I needed a lens that allowed me to capture a greater rate of in-focus photographs in lower light.

The 135 arrived on Friday so I spent the weekend field testing it. As I am not into photographing brick walls, looking at charts, or studying diagrams I am going to include my subjective thoughts and observations into today’s posts. If you need charts and graphs, feel free to look at the hundreds of sites dedicated to that. Frankly, it gives me a headache and keeps me from shooting.

I’ll begin by what I expected. Since this lens is at the top of every portrait photographer’s list and is recognized for its sharpness, I expected to receive a lens that was sharp, provides a good working distance between my subject and I, and gave excellent bokeh, color, and contrast. When I finally had it in my hand and attached to a camera I found that I was wrong on 4 counts. The lens is extremely sharp, has incredible bokeh, fabulous color, and phenomenal contrast. In short, the lens exceeded my every expectation (well, except my working distance one, I guess, but how do you improve on that?).

Next, I’ll mention how it compares to what I already own. In the normal and short to long telephoto arena I currently own a 70-200 f/4l (Non-IS), 300 f/4l (IS), and a 50mm compact macro lens. The “fastest” lens I had owned previously was the 50 which opened up to 2.5. This lens gives me some great depth-of-field, and it has some good bokeh associated, but the autofocus is horrendous and the working distance was a tad close. The lens is primarily meant to be a macro lens with the primary mode of focus being manual so it often hunts to obtain focus. This makes this “fast” lens not so fast when it comes to snapping portraits, especially of constantly moving children.

My 300 f/4l focuses quickly and was my sharpest lens. Not great as a general-purpose human portrait lens (as opposed to animal portrait), but it has great bokeh. This was the sharpness benchmark that I expected the 135 to exceed.

The 70-200 f/4l covers the 135 focal range and was the primary reason I held off on purchasing this lens for so long. I have owned this lens longer than any other and I use it frequently for portraits. The focus is fairly snappy, however, this lens lacked when it came to focusing inside and was not as fast as I needed more often than I was willing to admit.

Finally, I’m going to post some photos. These exemplify the beauty of this lens. My focus rate was extremely high and I used various focus points. Really, I felt like I was holding a whole new camera, the autofocus was that fast! The sharpness of the lens and the way that the rest of the image melts away from the area in focus is simply superb. All photos below were taken with a Canon 5d (Original flavor) and 135 f/2L.

Taken at f/2.5

Taken at f/2.5

Taken at f/2.8

Taken at f/2.5

Taken at f/2.5

Extending the Possibilities

Adding to the versatility of this lens, this is the shortest telephoto lens in the Canon lineup that allows for the Canon teleconverters to be added. Wanting to get the best bang for my buck, I went out and field tested the performance with the second iteration of the Canon 1.4x.

Below are two sample images from the Canon 135 f/2L with the Canon EF Extender 1.4x IImounted to an original Canon 5D. This is the shortest lens that allows this combinations and my experience with this was quite good, excellent, in fact. The autofocus continues to be snappy, most of my photos achieved focus quickly, perhaps not quite as fast as without the teleconverter, but the difference was barely noticeable. Image quality is excellent, the sharpness and bokeh are still very good. Additionally, this combination maintains the minimum 2.8 aperture, which provides for the extra sensitivity on the diagonal cross type center focus points on most Canon DSLRs. I have no hesitation in using the 1.4 teleconverter in almost any situation if I found myself a little more distant from my subject.


Shot at f/2.8


Shot at f/2.8

This lens is great for portraits, but how is it for other purposes?

Wildlife

Since the 135 f/2l is super sharp and fast, shooting wildlife might be a good use for this lens. As I wanted to try this, I went out to a local wildlife conservatory and shoot some critters. Here are some samples, all shots were with a Canon 5d (Original Flavor), the 135 f/2l and a Canon 1.4x Extender II and all shots were captured at f/2.8.

As is evident, the lens with the teleconverter was great at capturing these wolves clearly and easily. The focus was achieved quite effectively allowing me to get some action shots. Because of the wide aperture of this lens, I was also able to open up wide to blur out the fence between the wolves and me, rendering it invisible in almost every shot. In the wild, I certainly would not want to be as close to these guys as I was here. Overall, the lens worked well for this purpose, but I doubt I would want the short distance I had here when capturing shots of wildilfe (I was about 12 feet away). Besides encroaching on their personal space, they would either run away or see me as a threat! I think I’ll stick to my 300 and 1.4tc for most shots of wildlife.

Macro

While researching this lens, I read several posts of individuals utilizing it as a macro lens. Since I dabble in the macro quite often I was very interested in seeing what I could do. Spring in Nebraska brings some wildflowers, but most tend to be small, delicate, and can be difficult to capture. While hiking through Platte River State Park, I came across some examples of a white fawn lily.


Shot at f/6.3

Using the lens by itself, the flower was too far to focus on. In order to get a closer shot, I placed a 1.4x teleconverter and a 25mm extension tube on the 135 and even then, I wasn’t as close as I would have liked. This example shot is about a 65% crop of the image that was captured. Even so, the flower is sharp (as expected) and the bokeh is very nice. Not horrible for macro, but I would say if macro’s your thing to get a dedicated macro lens, otherwise, be sure to have a few extension tubes and a teleconverter handy. A crop camera would be beneficial here as well.

So, the end result is that the camera is adequate for other work, but would not be the ideal lens for wildlife and macro shooting. Still I always like pushing my lens into other areas than what is considered the “norm”, partially because I like to see what I can do, and partially because when one spends that much on something it’s nice to be able to use it in diverse ways.

Lastly, this lens begs to be used at wide-open apertures. It’s sharp, got excellent bokeh, versatile, and did I mention sharp? If you have any reservations about this lens, cancel them now and order.

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Derrald_Farnsworth-LivingstonWhile growing up, Derrald’s parents took him on several trips across the United States to numerous national parks. It was on these trips that Derrald grew a love for the outdoors which we wished to explore and share with others. Photography was a natural result, an endeavor that Derrald began at a young age and continued to explore in years to come.

While pursuing a Bachelors degree at Creighton University, he enrolled in all of the photography courses. With these courses he learned the fundamentals of chemical darkrooms, light, balance, and exposure. After college he continued to explore the art and develop his own technique and style and choose to focus on nature and scenic photography as his primary subjects, although he is not hesitant to point the lens at anything.

Amongst the images of majestic mountains and the crashing waves of the ocean, one can find photographs of the prairies, lakes, and wetlands of the American Great Plains and Midwest. Some of these images are the artist’s favorites as they show the expansive heartland of the United States and the subtle beauty of the area surrounding his home. Through the right balance of subject, composition, and light, Derrald strives to transport the viewer into the composition.

Derrald has won numerous awards and exhibited in several solo and group shows regionally. His work has also appeared in several regional and national magazines, calendars, websites, and postcards. He continues to live and work in Omaha with his family.

Visit Derrald’s website Journey Of Light Photography http://www.journeyoflight.com/blog/ to read his other articles.   His images may be ordered from his store at http://store.journeyoflight.com.

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I choose the iPhone

IMG_11461For weeks you have been wondering about my experience with the Nikon D4 and if I have decided to make the change from Canon to Nikon. I honestly have not had the time yet to get my hands on the 1DX Canon, which I must test first, before making a fair decision. However, on my recent trip to the Omo Valley I almost decided to go with neither and just use my iPhone.

One of our last stops was at a Konso village, a world heritage site. The area is unique as the villages are at the top of the hills and the Konso have created a beautiful  terracing system to grow their crops. The villages are very dense with a labyrinth of  very narrow stone wall pathways. I had been there before and knew that even in the best lighting it was a very difficult place to photograph. I was tired and decided it was not worth the trouble of grabbing my camera’s but instead threw my iphone in my pocket.

Louise Porter was on the trip and brought an infrared camera. The images on the back of the camera looked amazing and were very inspirational (yes I am thinking about doing some infrared going forward!). The village, with the stone and use of wood was very neutral in color. With the thoughts of the infrared images in my mind, I was thinking the best way to capture this would be in black and white or cepia to capture the ancient and timelessness of this place.

We came around a corner and there sat this elder man along the beautiful stone pathway and I just had to take a photograph. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Not wanting to miss this opportunity or the others below, I whipped out my iPhone and did what came natural. It was pretty exciting to see the results when I downloaded the images and processed them in NIK silver efex 2.

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PiperMackayPiper Mackay is a world, wildlife and cultural photographer, based in Long Beach, California. She believes compelling visual images help to protect what is right in the world. Her work takes her to very remote locations, living cross culturally in the villages and environments that she is documenting.

Her work is heavily concentrated on the African continent, a land she fell in love with when she first touched foot on it’s rich red soil. Her passion for the natural world has grown into a lifelong commitment to inspire others to explore, respect and preserve the beauty of our fragile planet.

She believes compelling work comes when you invest time, living the stories you are trying to tell. It is important to interact and gain the trust of those whose stories you are telling, especially when sensitive and complicated. The world has enough images of poverty, pain and disaster, much more needful is imagery that reveals the beauty and dignity of the communities that are, except by their geography and circumstances, very similar to our own. Powerful images help shape the view of the world and play an important role in disseminating how cultures and wildlife are coping with the rapid changes happening in the developing world.

Piper’s images have been displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Museum of History and industry, and  The Art Wolfe gallery, as well as local galleries.  Her work has been featured in Nature and travel publication through representation of several photo agencies, including Rangefinder, Nature’s Best, Birders, and the World Wildlife Fund.  She is an independent photographer and available for assignment work.

Her prior career in the fashion industry, where she was deeply involved with combing color and texture, has greatly enhanced her approach to the unique look and feel of each culture and photographic subject. This also gave her a strong background in business and marketing.   Please visit Piper’s website at www.pipermackayphotography.com.

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Sources Of Inspiration

To kick off the new year, I’ve decided to launch a blog category dedicated to sharing sources of inspiration. We live in a time where technology allows us to connect with so many people throughout the world as well as discover so many different sources of information. We are extremely lucky that through online networks and communities we can share images, critiques and ideas with each other with the sole purpose of helping push our creative boundaries further.

I’m constantly amazed by the amount of optimistic attitudes that are present in the photography community and the willingness to help others advance their craft. On a daily basis, I come across things that inspire and drive my photography career. This could be a certain photographer’s images, a specific article, podcasts etc. Through these blog posts, I hope to provide you all with a source of inspiration.

Alister Benn – Available Light Images

Alister Benn – Available Light Images

 

For today’s post, I want to share a set of podcasts by a photographer named Alister Benn; they are sure to help educate, inform and inspire you. Alister is a talented photographer of Scottish descent, who specializes in images of the Tibetan region. He is also known for his impressive night photography work, his excellent e-books and is also one of the co-founders of whytake.net. Alister runs harvestinglight.net, which is a website focused on educating other photographers through articles, e-books and podcasts. I came across Alister’s podcasts a few months back and spent a good part of the day listening to all three. Alister couldn’t have chosen three better subjects to start with. Each interview touches on its own individual points unique to the photographer; everything from creative vision to processing. 

In my opinion, there isn’t anything much more interesting than listening to experienced photographers speak about their craft, including their approach, style, and technique. So hop on over to Alister’s website and have a listen, you won’t be disappointed: http://harvestinglight.net/podcasts/

Also, while you are there, make sure you take the time to have a look at Alister’s other work. There is plenty of inspiring material to keep you busy for days. 

 

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kmcdougall

Kyle McDougall is a landscape photographer/workshop leader based out of Ontario, Canada.  He specializes in creating fine art images that touch on both a visual and emotional level.  When not outside exploring the land you can find Kyle online sharing his images and helping others through his instructional articles.  In 2012 Kyle was chosen by Photolife Magazine as one of Canada’s Emerging Photographers.  To view more of his work please visit his website: www.kylemcdougallphoto.com

 

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