Hidden Gems – The Canon 400mm f/5.6L

Hidden Gems – The Canon 400mm f/5.6L

Here’s something that’s going to make Canon shooters looking to get started in wildlife or sports photography pretty darn happy. For years, Canon has made this often-overlooked piece of glass that, as the headline for this blog entry suggests, is a true hidden gem. Presenting: The Canon 400mm f/5.6L USM lens.   One of the things I like doing as a hobby is photographing birds. That’s quite apart from my usual genre, so I don’t really own any gear that appropriate for photographing birds. I usually end up renting something, but those large super-telephotos (like the 600mm and above optics) aren’t exactly cheap (though they are way more affordable to rent than own). After a bit of research, I stumbled onto the Canon 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. Surprising small and compact, it’s thinner and lighter than Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens, while being about the same size. It’s got an integrated metal hood that collapses down over the lens when not in use, and, when paired with a body like Canon’s 7D, equates out to be a 640mm lens. That’s the combo that was used to make the image above. The neat part? It’s only $42 to rent for three days. Compare that with, say, Canon’s 400mm f/2.8L, which is $300 for three days. You get an extra two stops with that lens, which is pretty handy for sports shooters shooting in stadiums (just ask Scott Kelby), but if you’re just starting out, or even if weight is a concern, the 400mm f/5.6 is a fantastic, razor-sharp lens for a fraction of the cost. In fact, it’s...
Small Cameras with Big Impact: Traveling Light without Compromising Quality

Small Cameras with Big Impact: Traveling Light without Compromising Quality

Don’t get us wrong – we LOVE our big cameras, especially those pro bodies with huge, high-quality glass. Lugging it around, however, is not so ideal – especially while on vacation or during situations where there just isn’t a lot of room to shoot. High-quality sensors are coming in smaller and smaller form factors, which is good news for globe-trekking photographers or for those who simply need to pack lightly. These small cameras are perfect for: Hiking to get that great sunrise/sunset shot from a high vantage. Inconspicuously taking candids out on the street. Using auto or fully-manual settings on a simplified system. Here are 5 recommended small cameras with incredible image quality: Sony RX1 & Sony RX1R These full frame cameras sport 24 MP sensors and fixed 35mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss lenses. They shoot full HD 1080p video and have incredible low-light performance. The “R” version lacks an optical low-pass filter, which is ideal for catching extra detail in landscape shooting. The only bummer about these? You’re stuck with that lens. However, on the full frame sensor the 35mm is a great walking-around focal length and the all-metal Zeiss construction is top notch. Another great small-form-factor offering from Sony is their NEX series of mirrorless cameras (with some sample images here). Olympus E-P5 This retro-looking, handsomely-built micro four thirds camera does full HD 1080p video and shoots stills up to 9 FPS on its 16MP sensor. It is very slim and yet still accepts interchangeable lenses, like the fast 17mm f/1.8 M.ZUIKO. Many of our street photographers extol the virtues of this camera. Fuji X100s Another retro beauty, the X100s comes equipped with...
Learning To Leave The Matrix – A Tip On DSLR Light Metering

Learning To Leave The Matrix – A Tip On DSLR Light Metering

With our dependence on LCD screens to give us immediate exposure feedback, knowing how to meter light is at risk of quickly become a fading skill. In this guest blog post you will learn how your DSLR meters light and what that means for your photography. This is a great intro for beginners as well as an easy reminder for the more seasoned shooter. Learning to Leave the Matrix by Jay Cassario, reprinted with permission. In photography, light is everything. Understanding how your camera reads light and determines correct exposure is the most important thing your camera does, yet it is also one of the most misunderstood. Your camera has different ways that it reads light by using an internal light meter and, depending on which metering mode you have your camera set on, it determines the correct exposure. For the most part, the metering mode is untouched and buried in the camera settings because, when you’re in the Matrix, life is good. Matrix is the default metering mode for all modern Nikon DSLR camera bodies (Evaluative Metering for Canon) and is often never changed. Actually, it’s recommended by many that you not change it because it works so well–but that’s not always the case. I’m going to explain a little bit about leaving the Matrix default mode and why you would want to such a crazy thing. First, I’m going to do a quick explanation about what metering is. Metering has everything to do with exposure and understanding how your DSLR meters will help you understand a little bit more about how your camera determines the correct exposure when taking a picture. All...
The Best Lenses for Night Photography: A Case for Rokinon Primes

The Best Lenses for Night Photography: A Case for Rokinon Primes

David Kingham is a landscape photographer who focuses (pun intended?) on the night sky. He set out to find the best astrophotography and night photography lenses for their price point. Discover why Rokinon lenses may transform how you shoot. The Best Lenses for Night Photography by David Kingham Prime vs Zoom What do you want in a lens for night photography? The most important factor is how much light a lens will let in so that we can shoot at lower ISOs– this means apertures of f/2.8 or greater (f/1.4 being preferred). Most zoom lenses only go to f/2.8 and, while they are perfectly okay for night photography, they are not the ultimate lenses to use. Enter the prime lens! A prime lens is a fixed-focal-length lens that is designed to have much larger apertures. If you have looked into the major manufacturers’ primes (Nikon, Canon, Zeiss) you may be thinking I’m crazy right now because they are expensive (unless, of course, you rent them)! I went on a search for lenses with the ultimate quality-to-price ratio. Rokinon Lenses In this search I’ve become a huge fan of Rokinon brand lenses. These are also branded under Samyang, ProOptic, and Bower. They are all the same lenses, just with different names. Rokinon seems to be the more common name in the US. The following lenses are relatively cheap compared to the pro-series Nikon or Canon lenses: Rokinon 14mm 2.8 (also available in Canon mount) Rokinon 24mm 1.4 (also available in Canon mount) Rokinon 35mm 1.4 (also available in Canon mount) Rokinon 85mm 1.4 BorrowLenses.com has the following Canon cinema lenses available to...
The Poor Man’s Tilt-Shift: Freelensing Your Way to a Specialty Lens

The Poor Man’s Tilt-Shift: Freelensing Your Way to a Specialty Lens

While we’ll never condone the wanton destruction of a lens (especially one of ours), sometimes a little home reverse engineering can do wonders–or at least make for a fun weekend project. This is exactly what photographer Jay Cassario did over at Lightshop. He took a $120 lens and converted into a tilt-shift, saving himself about $1,000. Of course, he could have just rented a tilt-shift lens from us but that is not the point! Read all about Jay’s quest to break a lens and have it be reborn into a tilt-shift. FREELENSING – The Poor Man’s Tilt-Shift by Jay Cassario, reprinted with permission. Freelensing is a relatively inexpensive way of getting the similarly unique affect of an expensive tilt-shift lens, where the focus plane is thrown out of whack with the added bonus of natural light leaks. No, this isnt anything new, and the look that an expensive tilt-shift lens gives has been around for a while, but I wanted to share with you my experience with it and how I did it. Yes, I did purchase a brand new Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D lens from B&H only to break it and take it apart the minute I took it out of the box…but that was the reason I purchased it. I had tossed around the idea of spending the money on a tilt-shift lens that would easily cost me over $1000, but after reading about the freelensing technique from Sam Hurd, I figured I would give it a try. At the end of the day, it’s the unique look that I’m going for, so if I could get that by...