My new camera.

Good afternoon, you.

It’s been a while since i threw anything up here, but i will do my best to post more stuff as and when it comes up. Probably.

Well over the last couple of weeks i have been quite interested in trying out some film photography. Being only 23, i was pretty much born in to the digital age, so never went through the film phase. I for one think this is a shame. You read about a lot of people discussing shooting in film, and how it makes you a ‘real’ photographer.

I guess this is true to an extent, as film cameras are pretty much completely manual, and you don’t have the luxuries that we take for granted with digital. For example, i’ll rifle off several shots of a subject/scene and look for the best of the bunch. I’ll also experiment with some settings, as well as play back the image once it’s been taken. All things which could not be done with film.

Anyway, back on track. I have gone and bough myself a film camera. Now this is definitely the cheapest, and obviously not the best film camera available by any means. However, i thought with it being very basic it would serve to improve my skills further. Also, at the price it would have been stupid not to take it. That price – 99p.

So, i have got myself a Centon DF-300 along with a 50mm f1.8 lens. This camera is apparently a direct copy of an old Minolta camera, that was made to be sold in Jessops.


There seems to be nothing wrong with the camera or lens, beside some scratching. However, i haven’t put any film through it, so we have yet to see for sure. I will do my best to get something through there soon, and as long as i can find somewhere to develop the film, i’ll get some shots up here. However, i’m expecting them all to be awful and out of focus, but hey ho. It;s all about learning isn’t it.

T.

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Canon 7D Review

Good evening, you.

Just a quick few thoughts on the latest camera i have been using. And you know what, i like this. The7D is the first Canon i have actually like. It is a vast improvement over the 5D mark II, and actually makes me think Canon could be as good as Nikon. Maybe.

I have been using it for a couple of weeks now, and a large amount of that has been along side it’s biggest rival – the Nikon D300s.

A large amount of what i hate about Canon DSLRs is that their button placement is not all that great, making simple controls difficult to adjust. Where as the 7D isn’t perfect, it is definitely a lot better.

It also feels a lot nicer in the hand, and some of the controls can now be reached using one hand. It is still irritating needing a second hand to turn the camera on, as well as needing to press two buttons to adjust the focus point. Speaking of which, the newer 19 point focusing system is a dramatic improvement over the old 5D’s. However, the focus point set up is still rather annoying, as i found myself wanting to get in to the corners of the frame, which i couldn’t.

The quality of the shots are excellent, as you’d expect. And i will have some test shots coming up soon from both the cameras and the recent air show.

As much as i do enjoy using this camera, i still can’t help but look at the D300s as a superior camera. It has more professional kit on it, and pulls its weight as a semi-pro camera. Where as the 7D just seems like a good camera, but not one i’d choose for any pro work.

So yea. As much as i don’t like some of this camera, it is the first Canon i have liked. And if you have spoken to me about cameras for more than 2 minutes you will know what a huge appraisal that is from myself.

 

T.

Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR – First Review

Good afternoon, you.

Well I have been using the Nikon 80-400mm lens this week, and what sort of person would I be if I didn’t let you lovely people know what I thought about it?

Not a very good one, that’s what.

Ergonomics

Well let’s get started then. This lens is very big, that much should be obvious before you actually get your hands on it. It completely dwarfs many cameras, and is not light at all. So be aware that you will probably want to build up those muscles before you spend a day with this thing. It actually weighs in at over 1.3kg.

To be honest, I didn’t find this a problem at all. You know what you are getting yourself in for with a lens like this, so if you complain of size and weight then you are the one to blame.

Because of this lens’s size and weight, it is incredibly well built. It feels like you could drop it many times and it would just soak it up. Even the inner barrel is made of metal.

While on the subject of the ergonomics, I have to talk about the manual focus setting. The actual focusing is absolutely fine, no problems with that at all. It is switching this damn thing on to manual focus which really gets to me. It is not a simple switch on the side, but a button to press down, while you rotate a small focus ring. This is not so difficult to do normally, but when you are composing a shot and want to switch focus modes, it is near impossible.

In Use

I have been using this lens with the Nikon D300s, which is an excellent camera. However, I have only had the chance to test it while out taking wildlife shots.

The main, well-known flaw of this lens is it’s AF speed, so this was probably not the best place to test this lens. I was hopeful for some animals that would like to stay still for more than a second, and I think I got some good shots. However, this is just not the lens for the job. It doesn’t grab focus quick enough, and it was almost impossible to track fast moving animals and get a decent shot. The focusing is actually very reminiscent of the cheap and cheerful 70-300mm zooms from Tamron and Sigma.

Never mind, I fully expected this.

I will hopefully be taking this lens out for a nice test later on this week, but it will be at an air festival. So instead of animals going 10mph, it will be jets flying at 1000mph. Good idea, right? Well hopefully I will be able to take some shots of more static attractions, and maybe some candid portraiture.

At the same air festival, I will also have the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 which I reviewing recently. I should therefore be able to return with a direct comparison of these two lenses, showing the benefits of each, and the downfalls.

The focusing issue really isn’t that much of a problem if you know the limits of this lens. The same can be said about any lens, but this one can produce some excellent photos when used in its comfort zone.

The 400mm reach came in very useful for getting close-up portraits of many of the animals, and when used with the crop sensor of the D300s, it is effectively 600mm. While on this little shoot, I was with another photographer, who was using a 300mm lens on his full frame body. So I had double the reach he had, which really showed in some of our comparative shots.

This lens has a maximum aperture of 4.5-5.6 as you go up the zoom range. This is not so bad, but it is far from great. Obviously to get a wider aperture, or a constant one, you’d probably have to double the cost of this lens. But for a lot of situations I found I wanted that extra stop, that extra speed, and some more light in to the camera. For a lot of the shots I was boosting the ISO right up to around 1600, which although is no real problem for a higher end Nikon, but it did mean I had to be careful when it came to processing shots.

Now on a side note, there is also a very slight chance that I will be able to test the D300s against the Canon 7D while at this air show. These are direct competitors, so using them both simultaneously could be interesting. Now it is obvious that I am a Nikon man, but I already think the 7D is better than the 5D mark II, so the bias is already dwindling, and I hope to give a fair test.

Both cameras have their strengths, and I fear the 7D’s 8FPS shooting may put it ahead for this little test, couple that with the fact it will have the Tamron 70-200mm lens, where as the D300s will have the 80-400mm.

I shall report back with more soon. But for the time being, here are some shots taken with the 80-400mm.

Test shots

Final Verdict

This lens definitely has the ability to be very sharp, and produces some great photos, especially when stopped down a little. Now I know I was testing this in the wrong setting, but I will continue to test it and will add to this review. However, it is already clear that speed and low-light are not this guy’s friend. However, I have no doubt that lighter conditions and still subjects will be a home away from home for this lens.

T.

Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro Review

Good morning, you.

I was going to try and avoid doing too many reviews on this blog. But it is probably a good idea that I do them on some bits of kit, especially third party lenses. These are often discarded as inferior in quality compared to the big guns from Canon and Nikon. So the odd review, good or bad, should be a welcome addition to the interwebs.

Now I’m not a die hard fan of any lens manufacturer. I own Nikon lenses and a Tamron lens. I have used mostly big brand lenses, but my future lens purchases will more than likely steer away from these for a number of reasons.

This lens has a quality feel to it, much like a big brand lens. It doesn’t feel cheap, although is made of plastic. It is also fairly compact and lightweight. It is available for under £350, which is quite frankly ridiculous, especially because the Canon and Nikon equivalents are around twice that.

This lens is a dedicated macro lens, capable of producing 1:1 macro images. This is very important for taking true macro photos, allowing reproduction of subjects at life size. It has a fixed focal length of 90mm, which is a great length for macro. The 105mm from Nikon is possibly a little better, as that extra little reach really helps. But 90mm meant this lens was also brilliant for portraits, which I used it for a lot.

This lens has a constant 2.8 aperture; meaning when stopped down it was very sharp. The 2.8 was excellent for portrait shots, but not ideal for macros. Anyone who has used a macro lens and gotten really close to the action knows that such a wide aperture will create an unusable depth of field.

Much like most Tamron lenses, the focusing is switched using the large focus ring on the front. Using the manual focus is very necessary with macro images, and this was a delight to use. It is easy to focus precisely and without much creep.

One point to mention here about this lens is that the barrel extends. Most macro lenses do not have extending barrels, but simply internal focusing. This is not necessarily a problem when it comes to portraits, but for very close macro shots it can be irritating. I did have a number of occasions when I was focusing the lens, and managed to knock a leaf with the end of the lens. Just being aware of this before hand should stop this though, I’m just clearly not intelligent enough for such sophistication.

Optically, this lens is brilliant. It produces excellent photos, in all shooting situations. As with any lens, stopping it down to around f3.5 brings out its sharpest images, but 2.8 was still excellent for portraits.

Many others will agree to this testament of mine, and the 90mm Tamron is definitely a popular macro lens to choose.

Yay, a happy ending!

Anyway, here are a couple of macro shots I took with this lens. Check out my recent posts, Winspit and friends and Macro, macro man. All of the photos in these posts were taken using the 90mm.

 
T.

Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 Review

Hello, you.

Well the weekend just gone I had the chance to test out a lens I have had my eye on for a while, the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8. Lets get this in early, it is a quality lens, with a constant aperture, and can be had for around £500.

Now I have developed quite an interest for portraits recently, and think I could see myself doing more of them in the future. Natural, location based photos, rather than forced studio nonsense.

Right, so I had this lens mounted on the 5D mark II. See the previous post for my opinion of this. I set out to take whatever photos I could, but knowing I’d want it for portraits.

The first thing you notice is the size of this lens. I have used a lot of lenses, from beginner to pro (see my camera gear page), and this is bar far the largest. It has a diameter of 8.9cm and a length of 19.4cm, with a weight of 1.3kg. Mounted on the camera it looked very large, and dwarfed even the 5D.

I’m not ashamed to say that I am attracted to the larger lens. I think it is my childishness, or the sheer impressive look of them, but a big lens always has my attention. And, it seems, the attention of the general public. Many a person decided to comment, and I had hundreds of old men perving on it (you know they do it).

The impressive size of this lens is replicated in its build quality. It definitely feels like a pro lens, and the weight is easily forgiven when you feel the sturdy construction. I’d have no problems using this lens in a number of weather conditions, and without having to worry I’d knock or damage it.

Now on to the insides of this lens. It is designed to go up against the big boys of Canon and Nikon with their own 70-200 f2.8 lenses, as well as compete with Sigma’s entry, which is more reasonably priced. I have not tested any of these lenses, however, I am sure the Nikon and Canon are superior. But that is not the point here. These two lenses are over twice the price of the Tamron, and I’m pretty certain they are not twice as good.

Check out DP Review’s basic comparison here.

The optical quality of the images definitely have the wow factor. I have used some great optical lenses (namely the 85mm f1.4 G), and this impressed me just as much. Viewing the photos on screen and on camera showed great contrast, and sharpness pretty much throughout the range. I found stopping the camera down a couple of stops brought out the best results, but f2.8 was still excellent.

Here is one of the shots i took of the day. Not the best, but i blame the camera for this.

This lens has the one main flaw, which is the auto-focus. Yes it is slow, and yes, it can be noisy. But in normal, every day conditions, I didn’t notice it at all. It is obviously not the fastest focusing lens I’ve used, but considering what this lens can do optically, and its price, I’m just happy it focuses at all!

I did have problems with the 5D I was using, so switched to the manual focus for most of the portraits I took. Changing to manual is very easy, and I found the manual focus to be very easy and precise.

May as well chuck this shot up of me. If nothing else, this kind of shows the lens is not too big or heavy for smaller hands.

So after a weekend with the lens, it is now on my to buy list. I was originally looking to get a replacement for the kit lens, but I think this lens will be much more useful, especially for portrait shots. I will be putting it through further tests soon enough, but for now I’d highly recommend this lens to absolutely anyone and everyone, even if you don’t have a camera.

T.

Canon 5D Mark II

Good morning, you.

This weekend I had the ‘pleasure’ of getting my hands on what seems to be the most popular camera in the known universe.

Why?

Now it is plain to see that I am a Nikon man. Always have been. I believe their entry-level cameras are vastly superior to that of Canon, but I always maintained that when you moved up the spectrum to the pro-level cameras, Canon caught up.

So I was keen to finally get my hands on the 5D Mark II. It seems that everyone uses this damn thing, and now I’m just not sure why.

Before I go any further in to this little rant, I will freely admit that the image it takes are truly excellent. I have no problems with them at all. It is just being able to get these photos that baffles me. Why does it have to be so difficult?

Turning the camera on should be the easiest and most simple action ever. I also maintain that it should be able to be done with one hand. Now I have relatively big hands, but I cannot do it due to the placement of the switch. Fair enough, not sure a big deal I guess.

Switching settings should also be one of those natural, easy, fluid motions. But how can it be when the dials aren’t where your fingers are? The top mounted finger dial is ok, but it is cumbersome to use. Nikon use the front and back scroll wheel, which sits perfectly under your thumb and index finger.

Changing the focusing so that I could select the AF point got me very frustrated. I could do it on the rear LCD, or on the top panel, but not when looking through the viewfinder. Is it possible to do this? I don’t know, or care anymore. I resorted to manually focusing most of my shots because of this. Oh and on the same lines, 9 AF points? Really? I know that Nikon use 51 in their similar level cameras, which is possibly too many, but 9 just is not enough for this level of camera.

I was also quite disappointed with the viewfinder. It seemed perfectly fine, but for a full frame camera I wanted more to be honest, something brighter, and more pleasing to use.

The first big gripe I had when I got hold of this camera though, was it’s built quality. Most of it was hard and strong and chunky and fine. But the memory card door. Cheap, cheap cheap plastic that felt worse than the one on my old Nikon D50. Surely for this sort of money we should be getting more than that.

Oh and while I remember, protecting the images. It took me a long time to figure out how, mainly because I didn’t think something like that would be buried in the menu. Surely it is something we need straight away, but no.

Sorry Canon fans. But this camera is truly bad. I was hoping to really like it, because it seems ever popular for some reason. Like I said, images are excellent, and maybe that is why. Or maybe it is the megapixel one-up-manship that has taken hold of everyone.

Now it is possible that i am being too harsh. I’m sure if i were a Canon user i’d have taken this camera and simply loved it. But even when i gave the 5D to a non-camera user, along with a Nikon D300s, the instant favourite was the Nikon. This was simply because it was easier to use. However, after a few hours with it i was able to coax out the photos i wanted. And these are brilliant quality.

Anyway, enough of me. I actually took some good photos with this camera, and shall be posting something up about them soon enough.

I will also do a short write up and review about the lens i used with the 5D – the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8.

T.

Winspit and friends.

Hello, you.

Well on Sunday I went out with a camera as usual. Big surprise right? Except this time I had company, which is unusual for me. My twin brother was visiting along with his girlfriend, and they suggested we went for a nice wonder in the Sunday sunshine. Of course I wasn’t going to let myself be the awkward third wheel, so I decided to bring along my own girl, the ever-cute Danielle (sorry, I know I am sad).

Right, the next dilemma was where to go. We had decided on the purbeck region, where I had visited alone a couple of weeks back. We made the journey in a brand spanking Fiat 500. Excellent little car, even if the engine cutting off when in traffic scared the hell out of me. Anyway we reached our destination without much hassle, and yet again we ended up at Worth Matravers, with a final destination of Winspit in our minds.

I didn’t mind coming back, because it is truly an amazing place.

For this little day out I hadn’t intended on taking too many photos, but for me that means keeping it down to about 200. I was able to take the D300s with the 90mm macro lens, perfect for some portraits.

However, the very first photo I managed to get was of this little guy. He was hitchhiking a ride on my tshirt, and was nice enough to pose for a photo. If I ever see him again I’ll get him a copy.

Actually, that was a lie I just told. Sorry. This was actually the first photo I took. It is my brother and his girlfriend making the long walk down towards the coast.

Once we got to our destination we began to explore the pitch black darkness of the caves. They go very deep, and I had to keep firing the flash of the camera to see where we were going. Some very interesting photos came out of this, plenty of blackness and out of focus faces.

Just so you get an idea of the place, even though I have shown it before, this is the main section of Winspit. Behind me are the caves, and some old ruins, but this is the view out to sea.

After much exploration, especially around the ruins, Paris decided to jump in to a hole and frankly allow me to produce the best photo I ever have. Honestly.

We continued to act like children and generally have some fun, until I found a lovely little beetle. This little guy saw me coming, and immediately buried his head in the ground. He decided to do this for a long time, and after lying in front of him for 5 minutes I decided to try and get his attention. I did this by simply tickling his back with a blade of grass. I don’t know if he was happy with this, but he looked at me and allowed me to get the shot I wanted of him, so thanks!

Me and Danielle then proceeded to the edge of the cliff where we could sit and watch the swimmers below. I didn’t get any photos of them, because they were a bit uninteresting, instead I got this amazing shot. Second place to Paris’ portrait in the best photos I have ever taken.

I retreated a few feet to try and get some more photos of Danielle, looking very beautiful as she always does. This is my favourite shot of her to date, even though it is nothing technically special (just look at those eyes!). There is something about unplanned, unposed, candid portraits that make them a little more special.

After a wonder around the surroundings and visiting the home of the largest bat in the country (of which we couldn’t actually see!) we set off for the car. It was in the final field of the walk that we came across a herd of cows blocking our way. This wouldn’t be so bad, but there were some very young calves, and very big bulls. So in the interest of staying out of trouble we walked a long way round them. I did get this portrait of the youngest calf though, who proceeded to follow us for a little!

Well this ended the days journey, exciting I know. I shall be back with more nonsense and generally bad photos soon enough, you just wait and see.

T.