Tag Archives: Lenses

Buying Lenses – a quick guide…

Buying lenses

Buying lenses is not as straight forward as it seems. There is a lot to consider.

Critical features to consider when buying lenses

The key to buying lenses is knowing what you want to achieve with your purchase. It is also important to have a clear idea of your budget. However, there are a whole range of other things that have an impact too.

There are a wide range of photographic lenses to buy for most cameras. Each has their own characteristics. A lens can easily cost more than your camera. Take care with your choice. The wrong decision can leave you with a lens that is not suitable to your interest.

Getting started on buying lenses

First of all sit down and write down all the reasons you want a lens. Also, write down all the possible things against buying lenses (of any sort) at this time. Try to convince yourself you really don’t need to buy. In most cases of purchase-fever the buyer gets things they don’t want. So, when spending lots of money you should be careful. Buying lenses is a big investment. If you make the right choice then your purchase may last you through a number of camera bodies. So think carefully and make the right decision up front. That way your money will not be wasted.

I have purchased about thirty lenses over the years. Of those, five were bad purchases. Four were impulse buys – not suited to my needs. In another case, a hasty decision meant I bought a poor quality lens. From this experience I have compiled the list below to help you when buying lenses in future.

Some of the basics for buying lenses

1. Focal Length:

  • a. Measured in millimeters.
  • b. Smaller Focal lengths provide wider angles of view.
  • c. Longer focal lengths show less of the scene and tend to magnify the view.
  • d. Distortion may be found at the extremes of focal length.

2. Aperture:

  • a. Measured in f stops (eg.f2.8 [wide open] f5.6 , f16 [small aperture]).
  • b. Wide aperture lets in most light – faster shutter speeds possible (eg. F2.8).
  • c. Small aperture lets in less light – requires longer shutter opening (eg. F22).
  • d. Wide aperture provides short depth of field.
  • e. Smaller apertures gives sharpness throughout the depth of the picture.
  • f. Zooms – Aperture size gets smaller with increase in focal length.

3. Stabilisation:

  • a. Slow shutter speeds mean more chance of camera movement, which makes blur.
  • b. Stabilised lenses typically give one or two f stops smaller aperture without more blur; the stabilisation compensates for movement.
  • c. Cost is higher if the lens is stabilised.
  • d. Canon = IS (image stabilisation); Nikon = VR (vibration reduction); Sigma = OS (optical
    stabilisation); etc…
  • e. Stabilisation may be in the camera rather than the lens.
General considerations when buying lenses

1. Optical characteristics

  • a. Glass optical quality varies with the production process and ingredients.
  • b. More lens elements/groups reduces light able to pass through the lens.
  • c. High quality optical glass does not reduce light as much as cheap glass.
  • d. Each manufacturer has a specific type of glass for higher quality lenses.
  • e. Optical aberrations come from low quality optical glass.
  • f. Lens optical coatings reduce aberrations and flare.
  • g. Distortions are caused by specific groupings of lenses.

2. Motors/drives:

  • a. Used to drive the aperture control; stabilisation and auto-focus.
  • b. Sometimes noisy – not desirable for wildlife shots.
  • c. Adds a lot of weight to the lens.
  • d. Not necessary on manual-focus prime lenses.
  • e. Some cameras have them only for auto-focus.
  • f. Older lens models have slower, sometimes heavier, often noisier motors.

3. Weight:

  • a. Often forgotten attribute. If you can’t carry it, then it’s no good for you!
  • b. Weight often increases with wider apertures – fast lenses may be too heavy for you.
  • c. Weight will tend to increase the amount of hand-shake movement.
  • d. Stabilisation motors put a lot of weight on the lens too.

4. Sensor optimisation

  • a. Lens focal lengths are usually stated for full-frame cameras (quoted for 35mm sensors).
    But…
  • b. A cropped sensor will still have the same focal length lenses as a full-frame, but image size will multiply it by the crop factor. (See: crop factor).
    So,
  • c. Cropped sensors increase the lenses’ magnification. Eg. Canon APS-C lenses are optimised for the Canon cropped sensor. The crop factor is 1.6. So a 100mm lens on a Canon 450D is actually equivalent to a 160mm focal length on a canon full frame camera like the 5D.
  • d. Different crop factors apply to different manufacturers and cameras.
  • e. Some optimised lenses will not fit different sensor sized cameras – APS-C – check the fit and crop size in the specification for the lens.
More specific issues affecting you when buying lenses

1. Zoom vs. Prime

  • a. Zoom lenses give you a variable focal length; you control magnification.
  • b. Prime lenses have fixed focal length. Move nearer/further to change the angle of view.
  • c. Zooms give you focal control over the framed view.
  • d. Primes tend to be higher quality lenses, sharper, faster (wider apertures).
  • e. Primes more compositionally challenging.
  • f. Primes – colours and exposure control more realistic.

2. Why you want this lens…
Make sure you know why you are buying lenses. Consider these points below:

Fisheye lenses (8 – 18mm on cropped sensor; 14 – 18 mm on full frame)

  • Introduces central focus with peripheral distortion.
  • Highly creative focus provides extreme visual views drawing the eye to the centre.
  • Used primarily for highlighting specific subjects or attributes of the scene.
  • Ideal (according to some) for full-frame sensor work for portraits.

Zoom lenses (long focal lengths 50 to 600mm)

  • Sometimes dubious quality in some parts of the zoom.
  • Flexible for many purposes, but especially wildlife photography at longer focal lengths.
  • Ideal for getting ‘into’ the shot.
  • Creativity related to the placement of the subject in the frame; angle of view variable.
  • Extreme zooms (350 – 800mm zoom ranges)(Very long range lenses greater than 800mm available).
  • Extreme expense – (expect cost around £5,000 for the 800mm sort of focal length).
  • Excellent for specialist wildlife and long range work.
  • Angle of view very limited at extreme end.
  • Very heavy – absolutely requires tripod for longest ranges.
  • Really only supportable for specialist work (professional wildlife photographer).
  • Cheaper to hire for the odd trip.
  • Macro (from around 35mm to 200 mm) (sometimes achieved using extension tubes).
  • Used to get close-up shots of very small subjects.
  • Focal length is artificially extended to magnify for close-up work – aim to get 1:1 or larger result.
  • Can be used for longer views; tends to be at restricted apertures for non-macro work.
  • Great for magnification shots.
  • Great creativity scope.
  • Tilt and Shift.
  • Specialist – for control of where to place sharpness in the depth of field OR how to deal with
    converging parallels (lines in the road or converging verticals in buildings).

Wide angle lenses (16 – 24 mm on cropped sensor) (24 – 35 mm on full frame sensor)

  • Used for getting wide views of the subject; sweeping view across a scene.
  • Some optical distortion at the very wide end accentuates central subjects.
  • Tend to be used by landscapers; often capable of very small apertures (f22 – f36).
  • Standard zoom lenses (35mm to 200mm of varying focal lengths).
  • Provide great flexibility because can change from wide angle to magnification.
  • Quality often highly price dependent.
  • Optical quality variable with change in focal length.
  • Very long focal lengths often have high f-stops (eg. F5.6).

Standard prime lens (50mm)

  • Sees approximately what the human eye sees (full-frame sensor cameras).
  • Slightly wide angle for cropped sensors.
  • Usually good low light performance because of aperture size is usually wide.
  • Approx.. 80mm for cropped sensors – good for portraits.
  • Creativity allows for the same flexibility that the eye sees.
  • Controlled angle of view is determined by photographers position (no zoom control).
  • Standard prime lens (80mm).
Ultimately it is about image quality

When you are buying lenses consider what you are going to get. If you buy a cheap lens you will get a poor picture.

Most modern camera bodies are going to produce pretty good pictures. But if you stick a poor quality, budget lens on a camera it will give you a poor result. A top quality lens will serve you for many years. It will swap between bodies of the same manufacturer. It will produce quality pictures from your body.

On the other hand a poor quality cheap lens will degrade the ability of the camera body. Which will devalue your overall investment. It is pointless upgrading a body to a higher specifications if your lenses are not up to the same performance standard. Buying lenses is about setting your aspirations. Buying lenses of poor quality is about limiting your potential, for now and for years to come.

Buying lenses – checking the various options

The sheer number of lenses available is daunting. Try starting with a lens finder. This great Lens finder on Amazon.co.uk makes buying easier.
Note:
USA users may not be able to get the above “Lens finder on Amazon.co.uk” link. See below…
Link version for USA users: Amazon.com Lens Finder
Please report problems with these links.


If you are buying lenses enter the important factors for your lens choice. It returns a list of the lenses to suit that purpose. I find this an invaluable tool for helping to me to find a range of lenses from which to make my ideal purchase.

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion) - Author of Buying Lenses

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

A quiz about lenses… what do you know?

• Lenses • Lens quiz

• Lenses •

Lenses are a wide ranging subject…

and there is a lot to know. It is very easy to make mistakes. So finding out the basics is important. In this lens quiz I will give you the links to resources so can find the simple answers which is also essential information… have fun!

Lens Quiz Questions…
  • Q1. Why do you use a lens hood?
  • Q2. Name the phenomenon that causes light to bend when it hits a lens surface?
  • Q3. How does the optical path differ from the optical axis?
  • Q4. What is another name for an individual glass lens inside a photographic lens?
  • Q5. Is the focal length of an optical lens the same as the focal length of a photographic lens?
  • Q6. How many lenses in a lens group?
  • Q7. Describe what “chromatic aberration” looks like in a picture.
  • Q8. What is projected onto the sensor plane from the lens?
  • Q9. What is the diaphragm in a photographic lens?
  • Q10. Can the focal length be greater than the measured length of the lens body?
  • Q11. What would you normally use a macro lens to do?
  • Q12. Does a wide aperture have a low ‘f’ number or a high ‘f’ number?
  • Q13. Is the shutter in the lens or the camera?
  • Q14. Which is the fastest lens an f1.2, f5.6 or f4.0?
  • Q15. What controls the depth of field?
Where to find the answers…
Answer sheet

You can download a copy of an answer sheet so you can write the answers while looking at web pages.

Our answers…

We will give you our answers on Monday 05th August 2013. In the meantime, have fun!

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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Do you know what street photography is? A look behind the scenes

• Lady in black •

Click image to view large
• Lady in black • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
The street photographer looks to expose life as it is on our streets and much more…

What do we really mean by street photography?

The concept of street photography covers a lot of ground and means many different things to the people who do it. Simple descriptions of street photography might include things like:

  • Candid photographs taken in public places
  • Portraits and depictions of ordinary people out and about
  • Pictures telling the stories of people living their lives
  • The normal behaviour of individuals seen in public
  • Extraordinary scenes in ordinary places
  • The street environment with or without people
  • Things which catch the eye photographed in public places
  • Extraordinary sights amid people going about their daily lives
  • A micro-social documentary through a still photograph
  • The drama of an event in the every day lives of people on the street

Street photography is a broad spectrum subject. Mostly, street photography is about the sights and significant micro-events that attract the eye of the photographer in urban places or other popular places. The idea of “street” means where people can be seen. Or, where they “may” be seen. It is not absolutely necessary to have people in the scene. Although people usually provide the focus of interest.

In fact, beyond these simple descriptions of the craft there are other things. The need to have sympathetic framing, simple backgrounds, good composition and excellent timing go without saying – these are a part of photography in general. Beyond those there are other themes underlying the term “street photography”…

The environment

The ‘street” environment is as important as the people themselves in that it provides a context. The environment and the people together makes the scene interesting. Background provides the cultural context for the shot and so it is important to include it. Nevertheless, many street photographers will work to minimise the impact of the surrounding scene so they can focus the viewers eye on the behaviour of the people of interest. The choice to show the wider scene or to focus right in is both an aesthetic one and a contextual one. You have to consider what would make the picture as visually pleasing as possible and at the same time make sure you are able to show the subject in the best possible environmental context. Difficult choice – but an essential part of working the street scene.

Because the environment is important street photographers often prefer to work with lenses that give a wider angle than other DSLR users favour. A wider view captures the scene as well as the subject person. A common lens for street photogs would be a 35mm or 50mm fixed prime. These lenses tend to give you a more immediate correspondence with the scene you are in. They are close to the focal range and angle of view that the eye sees. They reduce distortion and give the impression of the scene through the photographers eyes. Street photography is a unique and real experience for the photographer. The best of them try to convey that experience in a very real way to the viewer too.

Black and white or colour

Most of the well known names in street photography worked with black and white film. Perhaps for this reason today’s street photographers tend to work in black and white too. It emulates an era of the past with a stark reality and a retro-cultural look about it.

Some street photographers dispute the (cynical) view that black and white is the medium of choice because it promotes a ‘retro’ atmosphere and see that as an insult, a cheapening view of their work. Instead they’d argue B&W street pictures have more impact.

It has often been argued that when you take colour out of a photograph it almost purifies the picture. Certainly much of the distraction is taken out. Colour does draw the eye. A Canadian photojournalist was once quoted saying…

“When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”
Ted Grant

There is much to be said for removing colour to see the inner person. However, it is not obligatory to work in black and white for street photographers. Your choice is part of the way you present the scene you are photographing. There are merits in colour and in B&W media. Making the right choice for your picture is a part of the success of your final image.

• Green girls •

• Green girls •
Click image to view large
• Green girls • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
Sometimes pictures simply don’t work in black and white. You have to make the choice. There are no rules that say you must do street photography in monochrome.

Cultural context

Street photography is a worldwide phenomenon. However, there are undoubtedly cultural contexts that tend to make certain places more interesting. That is especially the case when the viewer is seeing something they consider exotic or out of the ordinary. Street photographers take pride in finding the ‘unusual’ in otherwise ‘everyday’ places. So where possible street photographers will search out the poorer environments, the degenerating places and the places that their viewers would not go themselves. On the other hand they may find interest in the very essence of modern culture and how that actually contrasts with local way of life there. In this way they can help their viewers see another culture, observe different behaviours, see another way of life or shock their viewers about how others live.

Seeing other cultures and other places in the world is part of the wider scope of the art. You may choose to travel to far away places. However, street photography is found everywhere. In your local town, urban area or event space you can find interesting and captivating scenes everyday. Watching your fellow citizens is great sport. It’s funny, serious, interesting, frightening and enlightening. Showing your culture in all its facets is interesting. It requires a strong sense of place, character and understanding of your subjects and where they are.

It is often the deep contrasts that make a street photograph successful. The ordinary and unremarkable are the things that are not celebrated because of our familiarity with them. After all they are in our daily view. Strange or culturally contrasting situations draw the eye. It is a part of the street photographers observational skill to isolate and therefore to highlight these inconsistencies in our view of the world. It is not about travel, getting around the world, but seeing into our own locality and monitoring the differences between each of us and the others who share our streets.

Taking this alternative look at our own cultural space is one of the really difficult things about street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson, sometimes referred to as the father of street photography, once said…

To interest people on far away places… to shock them, to delight them… it’s not too difficult. It’s in your own country – you know too much when it’s on your own block. It’s such a routine… it’s quite difficult… in places I am in all the time, I know too much and not enough. To be lucid about it is most difficult… But your mind must be open. Open-aware. Aware.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

In his strong French accent, he was trying to express the difficulty of overcoming the ‘ordinary’ view and seeing the extraordinary things about our culture that are in plain sight.

Street photographers are the ultimate people watchers and observers. They look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. They are able to articulate culture through the medium of the very people they sit next to on the bus. They are in the scene and a part of the picture they are creating with others around them. At the same time they are documenting it and living it, but bringing out the things that other people miss.

Origins

Much of the body of street photography was generated in the 20th century. During the 19th century the film speeds were low and exposures too long for effective fast capture of people going about their everyday lives.

There is currently a huge resurgence of interest in street photography. It has come about partly as a response to a renewed interest in photography. It is also partly due to recent significant collections of work from street photography artists being published around the world. A whole genre has developed from the interest of key individuals from photographic history. Some of the great street photographers we recognise today worked in the years from around 1900 through to the 1980s. Some of the well known names are…

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Diane Arbus
  • Vivian Maier
  • Alfred Eisenstaedt

There are many more (See: Category: Street photographers  External link - opens new tab/page). These bodies of work are of key interest today to many people. Academics, street photographers themselves and ordinary people all have an active interest in the past and particularly of places they know. Their photographs offer a unique insight to both the time and place – but also of the photographer themselves.

Today’s street photographers are providing an insight for future generations into the way we live now. It is the ordinary and extraordinary things that happen in ordinary lives that street photographers want to search out. Diane Arbus, working in the middle of last century, is famously quoted as saying…

I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.
Diane Arbus

Her interest and focus was on people who were different. She called them freaks. Often they were on the fringes of society as well as hidden from the eyes of the ordinary person. Today we are slightly more tolerant of the type of people she photographed. Nevertheless, we still label people who live differently by describing them in a “politically correct” manner. In effect that is a euphemism that is more damning than a direct label. Street photographers can open up the difficult lives that some people live – help them to become a part of a wider scene, a more tolerant world.

• All Smiles •

• All Smiles •
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• All Smiles • By Netkonnexion on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page
Truly candid street photography is about bringing out the inner essence of the people you photograph.

Celebrating the rich diversity of people and the things they do is important. It makes human beings so different to the animals. We can and do respond so differently to each other and the situations we find ourselves in. It’s a cultural cliché that almost defines us.

Successfully seeking the essence of the person being photographed is an expression of the photographers vision and an exposure of a culture. It is another tiny revelation about ourselves as humans and as members of society at large.

Respect and communication, doing and being

One of the hallmarks of street photography is to be excited and invigorated. The situation may even make you nervous. This is right and proper. Representing people in a photograph makes you a conduit for who they are. You must respect them. Holding a camera is a responsibility and a communication. You are saying something to the people who see you working the scene. So don’t ‘do’ street photography as if there is a bad smell under your nose. Be a street person who happens to be engaging with people while holding a camera. Then you will be a part of the scene. With respect, and contact with the people you photograph, you become a part of the life you are depicting. Not only an observer, but a participant. Then you will see more clearly, the spirit of the people you want to document.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Lenses and designations? Confused? An easy guide

• Lenses •

• Lenses •
Buying lenses optimised for your sensor is confusing.

Lenses are a big investment…

It is difficult to know which lens is optimised for your digital image sensor. There seems to be so many different designations. Here is a guide to which lens designation you want.

Explaining the differences

Brands like Canon and Nikon have their own lenses range. Third party manufacturers, like Sigma, Tokina and Tamron etc. manufacture lenses for brands like Nikon, Canon and others. if buying lenses the third party manufacturers have lenses which are equivalent to the Camera brand manufacturer or possibly better. Look around at online reviews to see what standard of lenses and prices are available.

Make sure you buy lenses fitted with the correct lens mount for your camera. Older models of cameras may have the correct mount but some of the more recent lenses might not be suitable to work with the camera. So check the mount and camera are compatible before buying.

Why are lens mounts specific to brands? It’s mainly historical – the development paths of the manufacturers differ. However, they also want their customers to stay loyal to the brand. This unfortunate situation means you have to reinvest in a new range of lenses if you change your camera body. Hmmm! Expensive.

There are two types of camera sensor. There are cropped sensors – which is a small size. These are more often referred to as APS-C format.

The other sensor format is full frame sensor. These are the size equivalent of the old film SLR frames on a roll of film.

Full frame digital sensors are less common than cropped sensors. The cropped sensors are easier and cheaper to manufacture. However, in recent years we are seeing an increase in full frame releases of new cameras. The higher resolution (more pixels) and potentially bigger print sizes are attractive to consumers. As full frame format gets cheaper they are likely to become more common.

The full frame sensor size is the same size as a 35 mm (36mm ×24mm) film frame in old SLR cameras. Because of the historical significance of the 35mm format modern DSLRs are based on the same standard. Lenses are normally designed to fit either the full frame format or the cropped format.

Lenses designed for the full frame sensor have an image circle that covers the whole 35mm sensor. These lenses tend to be more expensive because they need a wide circle of light thorough them to cover the sensor. They have bigger glass elements as a result.

Full-frame sized lenses are able to fit a camera with the same mount and a cropped sensor. The image circle from the lens remains constant. The smaller sensor size (APS-C) is therefore only able to process the light from the centre of the circle – the rest of the light spills over the side of the sensor. The resultant photograph is like a zoomed-in crop of the image that would have otherwise been taken with a full frame sensor.

This image-cropping effect of smaller sensors is known as the “crop factor”. It represents the ratio of the size of the full-frame 35 mm sensor to the size of the smaller format. The apparent zooming effect also gives rise to an alternative name – the “focal-length multiplier”.

The ratio of full-frame to crop tends to lie in the range 1.3–2.0 for most cropped sensor DSLRs. You might say that a 100 mm lens on a camera with a 1.5 crop factor creates an apparent zoom multiplying the focal length by 1.5. A 100mm lens would then appear to produce the same picture as a 150mm lens. This is not a true magnification since the focal length of the lens is the same on both cameras. Instead the cropped sensor is likely to produce a lower quality result than than the full frame sensor while revealing a closer result.

You can use lenses designed for full frame sensors on cropped sensors. It does not work the other way. A lens designed for a cropped sensor creates an image circle smaller than the full-frame sensor. It would create a circular image with very strong vignetting around the sides. Manufacturers recommend not using lenses designed for cropped sensors on full frame cameras.

Designations

To ensure that buyers purchase the correct lenses for full frame or cropped sensor manufacturers designate them with specific marques. Here is the breakdown of the most common designations…

 Manufacturer  Full frame
(and APS-C)
 APS-C
(cropped)
    Canon           EF pEF-S
    Nikon          FX DX
    Sigma          DG DC
    Tokina          FX DX
    Sony     Various‑incl.
3rd party mounts
DT
    Tamron          Di Di-II
    Samsung   Not available‑2013 NX
    Pentax Check manufacturer
specification
DA
  Konica‑Minolta Check manufacturer
specification
DT
Other related sources…

Lens manufacturers (Wikipedia) External link - opens new tab/page
Photography equipment manufacturers (cameras, lenses etc) (Wikipedia)  External link - opens new tab/page

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Can you write? Of course you can!
Write for Photokonnexion...

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Ten simple ideas to improve your photography (and a fun quiz)

Ten Tips

Ten Tips and 12 fun quiz questions.

Simple things help you…

We should all take a step back and think about the basics sometimes. It helps us remember essential techniques and keeps us on our toes. Here are the basics with some fun quiz questions too.

The simplest techniques in photography are often the most important ones. In this post we make sure we don’t forget them…

10 essential things to know; 12 fun quiz questions
  1. Not knowing your camera: This is really bad news. If you are hoping to improve your photography make sure you learn what every lump, bump, dial, screen, lens and twiddly bit does. Read your manual regularly. Practice with each function until you have got it right. Then practice it in the dark so you can do a night shoot.
    Quiz Question 1: How many lenses are there on a camera? Answers at the end!
  2. Poor stance: Most people when starting photography don’t realise that the way they stand and hold the camera creates all sorts of problems and poor performance. If you are a keen photographer a good stance can contribute to improved sharpness (hand-held shots), better focus, more steady hand and better shot timing. Learn to stand properly right at the start and you will save yourself lots of re-training time later.
    Quiz Question 2: At what point in the breath cycle is it best to take your shot?
  3. Not using a tripod: classic mistake. Tripods save you lots of time and give you pin sharp photographs. They give you an opportunity to set your camera up properly and ensures that your are ready for your shot.
    Quiz Question 3: A monopod has one leg, a tripod has three legs. What is, and how might you use, a bipod?
  4. Not giving the camera time to focus: When you press the shutter button halfway down it causes the auto-focus to cut in which focuses the camera. But if you punch straight through that to the shot the focus has not had time to do the full focus. This normally happens on the first focus attempt when the focus is right off. After that the lens in nearly focused and will adjust more quickly. So don’t make your first focus attempt too close to the shot or it will be blurred.
    Quiz Question 4: Why do you have two rings on a modern auto-focus/zooming photographic lens? What do you call each of them?
  5. Taking pictures against a bright light? Cameras don’t like very bright lights. Especially if there are also very dark spots nearby. Shooting indoors while looking at a window out to a bright sky will cause a strong white spot. This is very distracting and draws the eye away from the subject. Not good. There are Light and Lighting resource pages on Photokonnexion for you to learn more.
    Quiz Question 5: How many stops of light can healthy human eyes see (20:20 vision)? How many can the camera (rough generalisation) cope with?
  6. Relying on flash (especially pop-up flash): Pop up light has a very small concentrated source. It discolours faces, washes out colours, creates harsh, sharp-lined shadows and is badly placed (too close to the optical axis) creating nasty highlights on faces. Try to use natural light more. It is much more forgiving and does not produce such harsh shadows most of the time.
    Quiz Question 6: What is often the result of using pop-up flash with respect to two parts of the face?
  7. Dead centre subject: If you put the subject of your picture in the centre it will usually be boring. If you off-set your subject the eye will be looking to see why the symmetry is broken. That keeps the eye hunting around the screen. Learn about the “Rule of thirds” and other Composition principles. That will help you make the shot more compelling to the eye.
    Quiz Question 7: What type of compositional perspective would you be working with if you want to promote a three dimensional feel to your picture composition?
  8. Horizon control: Make sure your horizon is level, especially if it is a seascape. If you leave it on an angle the picture will be ruined because it will look like the sea is sliding off the page! Horizons also induce mid-picture viewer-stupor. Make a decision. Either shoot for the sky in which case place the horizon in the bottom third of the picture. Or, shoot for the ground in which case the horizon goes in the top third of the picture. An off-set horizon is more dynamic and keeps the viewers eye moving.
    Quiz Question 8: If your main choice is to shoot for the sky, where would you take your exposure from? (Where would you point your viewfinder focus point?) a. The sky? b. The ground?
    Quiz Question 9: Describe autofocus hunting and why it happens?
  9. Simplify, simplify, simplify: The most effective way to show a subject to your viewer is to de-clutter the picture. Take out of your composition everything that is nothing to do with the subject. The more you make the viewers eye go to the subject the more effective your shot will be.
    Did I mention that you should simplify your shot?
    Quiz Question 10: What is it called when you paint out something from your picture in post processing to simplify a shot?
    By the way, did I mention that you should work really hard to simplify your shots?
  10. Go manual: Auto-modes on your camera are really best guesses about what the manufacturer thinks will be suitable for the average shots most snappers will take. Buy you are a keen photographer. To get the camera to do exactly what you want, and to make discerning choices about your images you should work on improving your manual control. Your understanding of photographic principles will improve, your skill at exposure will improve and you will find yourself making informed choices about how you want your picture to come out. You will turn from a snapper into a photographer.
    Quiz Question 11: What does the ISO control do? a. Adjust the sensitivity of the digital image sensor or b. Change the aperture size?
    Quiz Question 12: Does ‘shutter speed’ or ‘aperture’ control movement blur?
Answers to quiz questions
  • Quiz Question Answer 1: I am talking about any camera that has a lens, not just DSLRs. the number of lenses is a matter of variation. If you are discussing photographic lenses then only that one will count (but read on). Some people think of each glass element in the photographic lens as an independent lens. Technically that is not true. They are optical lenses or glass elements, not photographic lenses. However, if the photographic lens (and elements if you included those) were all you counted you would be wrong. Here is a short list of Possible lenses on a camera of any sort…

    There may be others.

  • Quiz Question Answer 2: You should take a shot at the full inhale point or full exhale point before inhaling or exhaling in the next part of the cycle. You can choose which is best for you. All you do is delay the next part of the cycle while you take a shot. This is the point in the breath cycle when there is least movement of the shoulders/chest. Read more about it in Simple tips for a good stance
  • Quiz Question Answer 3: A bipod is photographically uncommon. Understandably, it has two legs. Find out more here… Definition: Bipod
  • Quiz Question Answer 4: The two rings on an auto-focussing photographic lens allow one ring to focus the image – the focus ring. The other ring is for zooming the lens. The latter changes the focal length and is called the focal length ring.
  • Quiz Question Answer 5: Human eyes can see about 18 to 20 stops of light when healthy. However, by contrast the best commercially available cameras have to operate with a dynamic range of 8 to 12 stops of light. Research is pushing the boundaries but there is still a big gap to meet the dynamic range of the human eye (in 2013).
  • Quiz Question Answer 6: Pop-up flash is very likely to cause red-eye.
  • Quiz Question Answer 7: To make things look three dimensional in your image you should be working with three point perspective. Look for lines in your image that promote cube-like structures. For example buildings, walls and other objects with lines and shapes that have a solid feel in real life. This will trick the eye into believing that there is a solid object in the picture. Read: Simple ideas about perspective in photography and: Definition: Perspective
  • Quiz Question Answer 8: If you shoot for the sky you will need to be taking your exposure from the sky as that is the brightest point. This will leave the ground darker in your exposure than you would see it with your eye. You can use one of a number of techniques to correct that later.
  • Quiz Question 9: Auto-focus hunting is when the auto-focus in the lens cannot focus and will keep going up and down the focus range trying to get a focus. This is a common problem at night, in darker conditions, low contrast conditions and clear or totally grey skies. You can read more about it in: Auto-focus ‘Hunting’ Definition: Hunting, Auto-focus

  • Quiz Question 10: when you paint out something from your picture in post processing to simplify a shot? You normally use a cloning tool. You can find out more in: Definition: Cloning; To Clone; Cloned; Clone Tool.
  • Quiz Question 11: What does the ISO control do? It adjusts the sensitivity of the digital image sensor allowing you to work in bright light (low ISO setting) or low light (high ISO setting). There is an article on ISO here: ISO.

  • Quiz Question 12: Shutter speed controls movement blur. Aperture controls blur (bokeh) created by the loss of sharpness outside the zone of acceptable sharpness. This is traditionally known as the depth of field. More reading on: Definition: Exposure and related to aperture: Definition: f number.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

How to buy a new camera…

Buying a new digital camera

Buying a new digital camera

Buying is a big decision.

Photographers should be wary of the simple answer. Buying a camera is a deeply personal matter and a big investment. You live with the consequences for a long time. Look carefully at considerations that really matter to you and your performance as a photographer. Impulsive buys may spoil your photography. If you’re comfortable with your buy you will be more likely to get to know it, use it and have fun with it.

1. Work out what you need

Impulsive buying means something will not match your need, then you won’t get the use you want. The points below will help refine your thoughts. Write down your ideas to ease your research later.

Budget: Fix a budget – it may define the type of camera you can buy. So write down what you want to spend before starting. Change your mind later, but start with an idea to guide initial research.

Usage: What type of photography will you do? There are broadly two types of photographer…
The ‘point-and-shooter’:

  • Interested in recording fun, family, events and memories.
  • Love things they do when they have a camera around.
  • Take pictures as reminders. (Holidays, family, fun, action, friendship).
  • The camera is an accessory to the activity.
  • The camera is easy to use, probably in auto mode.
  • Simple controls – lighter, lifestyle-type design.
  • Less interested in the art of photography, more the style of life.

The ‘photographer’:

  • Take pride in every shot.
  • Indulges other passions through photography.
  • Wants more equipment.
  • Interested in “functions” and “controls” – technical cameras/DSLRs.
  • Camera is an essential part of the activity. (Landscapes, macro, action, nature, still-life, fine art…).
  • Loves photography for its art, technology, skills and techniques.
  • Documents passions and communicates interests through photography.
  • Take pride in camera control.
  • Enjoys the technical aspects of the capture as much as the images.

Each has an associated type of camera. A heavy DSLR is not well suited to the carefree life of the point-and-shooter. A compact, colourful, wrist-strap camera is not suited to landscape shots and large prints. Preferences and lifestyle should be shorted out early on. Are you are a point-and-shooter or a committed photographer (DSLR style)?

Conditions: Indoors/outdoors, weather, underwater, holiday, abroad, air travel? The situations in which you use the camera affects what you buy. Consider protection, travel, camera size and special equipment needs.

Experience: Skill level affects purchase – your aspirations for your future photography will too. If you’re just starting out, buying a camera with a bewildering range of functions is daunting. Take simple steps. Entry level DSLRs provide for years of growth into your hobby and produce great images. This allows you to develop skills without confusion.

Features/flexibility: Spending more on a camera means more features and flexibility. However, while this gives more control it increases cost for relatively little increase in picture quality for starters. Don’t waste your money. Focus on what you need, not “feature bloat”.

Physique/fitness: When buying you don’t get a feel for using a camera. Little, disabled, or not very fit people may find big cameras unusable. Fit, but not shooting daily? You might struggle to hold up a big camera for long periods. Buy a camera you can hold steady and use all day (if necessary). I know people who bought great cameras and had to sell them again to buy another great, but lighter, camera. Also ensure you can grip it properly and comfortably. Can you reach all the buttons easily?

Size of prints: More megapixels is NOT a better camera today. Good quality cameras have sensors to produce great images. High megapixels are only necessary for high resolution pictures – mostly for large prints. You pay a lot of money for top-megapixel cameras. Only buy them if you frequently do big prints in high definition. Don’t worry about megapixels in the market mid-range.

Lenses: To a committed photographer lenses are key. Buying the right lenses is more important than a camera body. Lens investment pays you back for a lifetime, or many camera bodies. Spend less on the body than you intended and save money for better quality lenses (not more lenses). Consider retaining at least half your budget for lenses.

Other equipment and accessories: New cameras require other items affecting your budget. Consider…

  • Lenses (Wide angle, Zoom, macro etc)
  • Camera/equipment bag
  • Tripod
  • Spare batteries (two)
  • Light modifiers (diffusers), filters, reflectors
  • Specialist equipment for specific interests
  • Memory cards (at least two – eg. 2×16 Gb not 1×32 Gb – cheaper and more secure)
  • Off-camera flash (pop-up flash is rarely useful)
  • Remote trigger to fire the flash/camera

There may be other things too.

Compatibility: Is your existing equipment compatible? Buying a camera could mean buying those extras again, straining your budget. Consider the camera brand you want to buy. That may affect the other equipment you buy later. Lenses are a particular consideration. Top brands make good lenses, but other brands may not. That could be important for your buying strategy.

Picture quality: Quality digital cameras produce great picture quality. However, large, high resolution images (especially for printing) may need larger digital-sensor size (cropped or full frame?) and type of lens and lens quality. Buy up-market lenses as far as you can. For a point-and-shoot camera consider the quality of zoom. ‘Optical zoom’ is best, the lens does the enlarging. The quality will be better with a good optical zoom. With a large digital zoom component expect lower quality prints. Digital zooms crop the picture in-camera to make the picture appear bigger. You will see more detail, but the picture may be a lower definition/resolution.

More after this…

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2. Research

Now look at what is available. examine a range of reviews on different websites. Check out what’s popular around the web and get a “best fit” camera to your specification from above. Talk to experienced photographers. Join a club. Leave questions on Internet forums. Ask in shops.

Be prepared for this stage to take quite a long time. You may be committing to a brand for a quite a few years, or your career. Take it slowly so you can understand all implications. Keep notes and be prepared to check definitions and learn about features.

3. Try it out

Once you have identified your dream machine, see if you can try one out. Beg, borrow or hire. You will be unlikely to try everything but spend a weekend or week with it to really get a feel for it. That will help you to feel confident about your ideas or start new research. Ensure you are on the right track.

4. The purchase

From a shop: Local camera shops often have deals and committed staff. They will have knowledge and experience too. Remember they are on commission and a different focus to you. So go to a shop with a really good knowledge from the above before you buy.

Online: There are some great deals but also a lot of scam artists. Consider…

  • Who you are buying from.
  • Does the site cover losses?
  • Is delivery and packaging good?
  • Delivery times?
  • Are there proper cancellation and returns procedures?
  • Transit/purchase insurance (the company or your credit card)
  • Is the online store reputable and well known?
  • Do not click from email ads to the site – insecure.
  • Check with friends to see which online stores they used.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A reputable company will have protections built into the purchase and made clear on the site.

When you are ready consider negotiations. Lots of websites will do deals. Shops will too. Make sure you get the right deal, but don’t compromise security or safety.

5. After purchasing

Check your purchase properly – has everything arrived? Retain all paperwork and orders for future reference, returns and insurance. Test to see that it works properly. Get signed receipts and correct paper work for returns, delivery shortages or damage.

Satisfied you have the correct equipment and it works? Put it through its paces in a logical way. In Getting started with a new lens I show how to work through testing and getting to know new lenses. Many of the principles apply to the purchase of a camera and help you get to know your camera properly.

Other ideas?

Please share your other ideas, tips or experiences on buying a camera with us below in the comments…

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Reverse Rings

Bubble Wrap

Green bubble wrap shot with Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens reversed.
Hand-held to the camera body.
• Bubble Wrap • By Archaeofrog on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page

Anyone can use reverse rings.

Close-up or macro photography is something every photographer should try. However, a macro lens can be an expensive investment. This series covers inexpensive ways to get great close-up results. The first article “Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – close-up rings” discussed using close-up lenses that attach to your existing photographic lens. A second way to achieve close-up results, surprising as it may sound, is to reverse your DSLR camera’s lens by mounting it on backward.

It is possible (but awkward) to simply handhold your lens backwards against your camera body, as in the top photograph. I don’t recommend it, as it can allow dust or other debris into your camera that may affect the sensor. The inexpensive alternative is to purchase a reverse ring camera mount adapter that fits your lens (based on its diameter) and the make and model of your camera body.

Canon Reversed Lens

Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens attached backwards to a Canon T1i body using a reverse ring. The depth of field preview button is visible underneath the lens release button.
Click image to view large
Canon lens attached in a reversed position by Archaeofrog (Flickr) External link - opens new tab/page

How to use the reverse ring

First, remove any filters you have on your lens. To use a reverse ring, screw the ring securely on to the front of your camera lens filter thread. Hint, it is easiest to screw the ring on while the lens is in the camera body. After attaching the reverse ring to the lens, remove the lens from the camera body. Now reverse it and fit the lens-mount side of the ring into the camera body and lock it in place. You will no longer be able to use the autofocus function of your camera or adjust the aperture of the lens once it is reversed, but you will be able to adjust the shutter speed and ISO. Your camera may display an aperture value of F00 or other default. I recommend that you change the shooting mode on your camera to aperture priority or manual. In aperture priority mode, the camera will calculate and set the shutter speed for you, while in manual, you will set it yourself. Now you are ready to use the lens.

Origami Crane

• Origami Crane •
Click image to view large
Origami paper crane folded from a bite-sized Hershey wrapper.
Captured with a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens
Origami Crane • By Archaeofrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

A reverse ring gives better results when used with a prime lens rather than a zoom lens. Prime lens are often faster, which means that they have a wider maximum aperture and can use a faster shutter speed, even in lower light.

You can use any type of lens, although light lenses are recommended. Very heavy lenses may damage the reverse ring mount adaptor or the lens filter thread.

Using a zoom lens, particularly when fully zoomed out, can be awkward to support. Because the lens is reversed, zooming the lens requires you to be further from the object you are photographing and does not give such a close-up view of the subject. The working distance (distance from the lens to the object in focus) is about five inches with the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens reversed. Using my Tamron 18-270 mm zoom lens at 18 mm, I have to be within about two inches to get an object in focus, while it is greater than six inches at 270 mm.

Adjusting the aperture

When your camera lens is not attached to a camera, its default position is to be open to its widest aperture. So, for the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 that would be f/1.8, which results in a very shallow depth of focus. In the crane picture above, the neck of the crane is in focus, while the beak and tail are not. When I reverse this lens on my camera, the aperture will still be f/1.8, and I will be unable to adjust the aperture value after the lens is reversed on the camera. But there is a work-around.

Most DSLR cameras have a ‘depth of field preview’ button. The purpose of this button is to allow you to look through the viewfinder and see exactly what your camera will see at the aperture that is set. When you press that button, the blades inside the camera lens close down to the selected aperture. This will allow you to set the aperture for your lens. (Please note: not all DSLRs have a depth of field preview button).

Carnation at F22

• Carnation at F22 •
Click image to view large
Carnation at F22 By Archaeofrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Here is the procedure. Using aperture priority or manual mode on your camera, dial in the aperture that you want to use for the shot. Next, depress and hold the depth of field preview button. While still holding down the button, press the lens release button and remove the camera lens. Then you can mount it on your camera body using the reverse ring. The camera lens will maintain whatever aperture you had selected. If you want to return to the default position or change the aperture again, simply put the lens back on the camera the regular way and repeat the process. Tip: if working outside, you may want to set your aperture first and reverse the lens indoors, to avoid dust getting into the camera body and on the sensor.

Advantages and limitations of reverse rings

The reverse ring is a fun and easy way to experiment with close-up photography. The ring itself is very inexpensive, usually less than $10 USD (around £7-£8 UK), and is small enough to fit in a purse or pocket. Depending on the lens that you reverse, you can get very close to macro-level results.

Ruler

• Ruler •
Click image to view large
This photograph of a ruler demonstrates the scale of a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens, which gets down to an image of about an inch and a quarter wide and has a working distance of about five inches.
Ruler • By Archaeofrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Like other close-up techniques, using a reverse ring does require you to be physically close to the objects you are photographing. Depending on your lens and your comfort level, however, you may still be able to capture detailed shots of slower moving insects, such as the bee below. A reverse ring is also ideal for indoor shots or other stationary details.

Bee

• Bee •
Click image to view large
Bee photographed using a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens.
Bee • By Archaeofrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

You will lose some of the automatic functions of your camera, including autofocus, with a reverse ring. The electrical contacts that normally carry signals to the lens are not in contact with a reversed lens. This is not that much of a disadvantage. Generally, with close-up shots, you get better results when using manual focusing.

While you can adjust the aperture (on some cameras), there is an additional step of setting the aperture using the ‘depth of field preview button’ before reversing the lens.

As with any close-up or macro technique, the depth of field (area in focus) will be very shallow. You can maximize sharpness by keeping the camera lens parallel to the object being photographed. In the photograph of the bee, above, the body of the bee is parallel to the camera lens and stays in focus. The flower is perpendicular to the lens and falls out of focus quickly.

Another technique to maximize sharpness is to use a smaller aperture like f/22, but this may require a longer shutter speed than you can easily hand-hold. You can solve this problem by using a tripod for stationary objects, which allows you to use a longer shutter speed to achieve the desired sharpness.

All close-up techniques benefit from the additional stability of a tripod. Although, as you can see from the shots above, you can get effective results from hand-held techniques.

A flexible option

Overall, a reverse ring is an inexpensive and portable way to use your existing lens for close-up photography. Depending on the lens you reverse, there is enough working distance to photograph insects, flowers, or any other small subjects that interest you. There is flexibility to adjust the aperture value before reversing the lens, which gives you a little control over the depth of focus. It is an inexpensive option to get you started in the tiny world of close-up photography.

Buyers guide

The inexpensive nature of these rings makes a quick purchase worthwhile. Remember that you will need to buy the ring that suits your specific camera mount (eg. Canon, Nikon etc). The size of the filter thread on your lens is important too. On the following link you can find a range camera mount types as well as thread sizes…
Reverse ring camera mount adapter products  External link - opens new tab/page

A great lens for doing close-up work is a 50mm prime lens. More information on buying 50mm prime lenses including product links can be found in…
Are your pictures distorted? Considered a 50mm?

For general reference: 50mm Prime lens product listing  External link - opens new tab/page

Lego

• Lego •
Click image to view large
Lego explorer mini-figure.
Using a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens at f/1.8.
Lego • By Archaeofrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Articles on Close-Up and Macro Photography
by Katie McEnaney

Part 1 of this series focused on using close-up lenses. Part 3 will cover extension tubes, and Part 4 will bring all these techniques together with a range of close-up ideas and tips.

Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – close-up rings
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Reverse Rings (this article)
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Extension Tubes
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Tips and Tricks

By Katie McEnaney (contributing author)

Katie is an elementary school teacher in Wisconsin, USA. She is an avid photographer with wide interests. She is always interested in learning more and growing in her photography. Katie is in the third year of her 365 project as ArchaeoFrog (profile)  External link - opens new tab/page. Her 365 project can be found at 365Pproject.org  External link - opens new tab/page and she has a growing body of work on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page.
By Katie McEnaney :: Profile on Google+

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