Archives for Photo Equipment category

I am not a user of Leica cameras and lenses, but I still think it is worth mentioning Leica’s recent launch of a new image hosting website,

Screen Shot of the search is a free online gallery for hosting photos captured with Leica gear.  That does limit it a bit to a very specific niche photographer for posting images.  But there is no reason the rest of us can’t oooh and ahhh at the work produced by these very high end and high quality pieces of photography equipment.  The site is rather advanced as well.  It features search functions that allow you to search for an image taken by a specific lens or camera, by focal length, photo age, aperture as well as predefined categories.  This is great for both the Leica enthusiast looking for examples of work done with the equipment they own as well as someone researching the potential purchase of a Leica camera or lens.

Here are a few more features of courtesy of Leica.

  • Remember Photos – Keep track of photo you like. No more forgetting where you once saw that photo.
  • EXIF Editing – If your photo was scanned or no EXIF data is in the file, you can set and customize the EXIF data for the uploaded file.
  • EXIF Search – You can search for photos by clicking on EXIF data. Doing so will show you photos with the same EXIF data.
  • Personal Lens List – Build a personalized list of lenses you own or have used. This makes assigning them to photos a breeze.
  • MTF Data – View MTF data for a lens. When you view a photograph, the EXIF data will show the specific lens used. To the right of that lens description is an icon representing a pdf file. If the data is available, Clicking on this icon will display the MTF data sheet for the lens.
  • Follow the photographer – If you want to be kept up to date when a specific photographer uploads new photos simply add that photographer to the “My Following List”. You will then receive email notifications when the photographer uploads new photos.
  • Slideshow – View a slide show. Whenever you see the Silde Show icon, clicking on it will present you with a slide show. This may be for a specific photographer, today’s photos, category or collection.

Does the equipment make then photographer? I do not believe that fancy equipment, in and of itself, makes someone a better photographer.  The ability to use that equipment and an artistic eye are what make good photographs.  However, there are some pieces of equipment that really can make all the difference between an adequate photograph and a good or great photograph.  The tripod is one such piece of equipment.

My case in point is these two photographs.  They were both taken at about the same time of day (although on different days) from about the same vantage point.  The one on the left was taken with a hand held camera and the one on the right was taken with a tripod mounted camera.

The biggest issue with hand held shots at these light levels is camera shake.  Even the Sony Alpha DSLR’s Steady Shot feature is not going to be able to correct for the shake that can occur at the shutter speeds necessary to accomplish this image.  So without the tripod (left) I needed to get a long enough shutter speed to capture the image in low light while not making it so long that all I got was a blur from movement of the camera.  In order to decrease the length of time I needed the shutter open I could have used a larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) and/or increased my ISO.  For the image on the left, without the tripod, I used the widest aperture available on the lens I was using (a prime 50 mm), which was f/1.7 along with an ISO of 800.  This allowed me to use a shutter speed of 1/10 second and get a good exposure.  But 1/10 of a second is really still too slow for hand held photography.  Anything longer than 1/60 of a second is likely to cause you problems.  If I had bumped up my ISO any higher (the Sony Alpha 850 can go up to 6400) the noise would have been distracting.  Even at 800 ISO at larger sizes the noise in this image is noticeable.

So that takes us to the image on the right, the one taken with the camera mounted on a tripod.  The sure footed-ness of the tripod allows me to take camera shake out of the equation.  So now I have more options for a more crisp image with less noise.  For this image I used an aperture of f/5.0, an ISO of 200 (less noisy) and a shutter speed of .8 seconds.  This combination of settings resulted in a photograph that, when viewed at high resolution, is cleaner and far less blurred.

So although the tripod alone was not responsible for these images.  The right equipment combined with a little camera know-how and a bit of an artistic eye can combine together for much better photography.

Photo of a Sony Alpha 850 Full Frame DSLR CameraMy initial reasons for going with a Sony DSLR over the generally more popular Nikon or Canon were based almost exclusively on practicality.  I had (and still do in fact) a Minolta SLR film camera and several lenses when I started shopping around for a DSLR.  At the time Sony and Minolta had partnered to develop a new line of digital SLR cameras with the Minolta lens mount.  That meant I would not need to invest in lenses in addition to the camera body.

However, when I did my research I did take a few other factors into consideration.  I knew I wanted image stabilization in whatever camera I bought.  At the time, the Sony Alpha line of cameras had this feature built into the camera body whereas most DSLRs have that have this feature have it built into the lens.  The in-camera option means I have stabilization regardless of the lens I use.  Combine that with the fact that I already owned a few non-image stabilizer lenses from my Minolta and there were two pluses in favor of the Sony.

Price was also a big factor of course.  At the time I bought my first Sony Alpha it was a new line from Sony and the Alpha 100 was their first release.  Sony’s pricing model was (and still is) to present feature rich cameras at a price that opens the DSLR market to more consumers.  So the pricing worked and sealed the deal.

I used my Sony Alpha 100 for about 3 years and had been very happy with the features and performance so when I went to upgrade I stuck with Sony for pretty much the same reasons that brought me to Sony the first time.  Only this time, the additional features of the newer Sony models that had been released since I first got my a100, such as the 24 mp full frame sensor of the Sony Alpha 850, basically kept me from even looking at the competition.

I have used the Sony Alpha DSLR cameras for several years now, first the a100 and now the a850, and have been very happy with the cameras’ features as well as the image quality.  I feel Sony produces a quality camera and would definitely recommend them for both first time DSLR users and more experienced photographers. is an online photo gallery dedicated to images taken with Zeiss equipment.  Zeiss lenses are touted as some of the finest quality photography equipment in the world and although I unfortunately cannot speak from first hand experience they are known to capture spectacular images (with the right photographer behind the lens of course).

In celebration of the Zeiss lenses, is sponsoring their first annual photo contest.  The theme of the photography contest is “As Seen Through Your Eyes.” Participants can submit up to three images in each of five categories; Landscape, Glamor, People, Nature and City/Architecture.  One caveat however, the images must have been taken with a Zeiss lens, makes sense given it is a site dedicated to Zeiss equipment.

First prize is a Zeiss 50mm Planar in either ZF2, ZE or ZS mount (Note: Although I do not have a Zeiss lens, my 50 mm prime lens is, hands down, my favorite lens to shoot with)

Second place – Lowepro camera bag.

Third place – An 8 gig Compact or SD card.

If you are lucky enough to own a Zeiss lens be sure to get your best images submitted for a chance to win these prizes and check out for some spectacular photography.

I have been using my new Sony Alpha 850 DSLR for about a week now and I love, love, love it.  This is more than a step up from my Alpha 100.  More like a giant leap forward.  Here are some of my first observations.  These are neither pros nor cons, just some things worth pointing out that you might want to keep in mind if buying one.  And if you are considering buying a Sony Alpha 850 the more you know before buying the better.

  • Weight – The Alpha 850 is not a light weight.  Without the accessories it weighs 1 lb. 14 oz (almost 2 lbs).  Add on the lens, flash, and battery and you will get a workout.
  • Battery – The battery is the NP-FM500H.  If you are jumping from the Alpha 100 to the 850 like I did you’ll want to keep in mind that they use two different batteries.  The NP-FM500H for the 850 allows for the remaining charge left in the battery to be displayed on the LCD as a percent.
  • File Size – At 24.6 mega pixel when you shoot in RAW you end up with a large file (but a very clear image file).  You might need to invest in a larger memory card, but its not a bad trade off for the image quality you get.
  • Noise – The sound kind, not the grain.  This has been reported in almost all the reviews, but the shutter sound is louder than I would expect from a camera of this level.  Not  deal breaker by any means however.

Overall one week impression – wow!

If you need a gift for a graduating photography enthusiast or soon to be professional photographer there are a ton of options out there.  Here are a few congratulations gifts in a wide range of prices that would make great gifts to any graduate who has a love of photography.

Photo of the Canon EOS Rebel T1iGifts On the High End

To get the obvious out of the way first, how about a Digital SLR Camera?  Prices can vary widely as do the quality and features of each camera.  Expect to spend around $500 on the low end all the way up to several thousand dollars for the most feature rich advanced professional cameras.  You generally can’t go wrong if you start with the three top brands, Canon, Nikon or Sony and then get the features best suited to your photographer’s level and ambitions.  Here are a few good choices:

$500 – $1000 Range

Canon EOS Rebel T1i with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Len

Sony Alpha A230 Digital SLR with 18-55mm & 55-200mm Lens

$1000 – $2000 range

Nikon D90 SLR Digital Camera Kit with Nikon 18-105mm VR Lens

Sony Alpha DSLR- A850 Full Frame Digital SLR Camera

$2000 and up

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera Kit with Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM AF Lens

More Middle of the Road Gifts

If the camera itself is out of your budget, there is no need to worry.  The options for photography gifts for graduates are plentiful.  So for those more middle of the road gifts here are a few options:

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 – The essential software for digital photographers.  Help the aspiring photographer give their images a final polish by giving them this software package.

Lenses – The prices of lenses vary significantly but you can almost always find something for at the mid-range budget level.  When lens shopping keep a few things in mind: quality can vary as much as price; know the camera brand you are buying for, there aren’t too many “universal” lenses (if any); if you are in doubt go with the old standby photography gift card.

On Camera Flashes – Even though many DSLRs have built in flashes, a on-camera flash attachment can make a big difference in lighting a subject.  A decent flash unit can be had for reasonable prices.  Be sure check the compatibility of the flash to the camera you are buying it for to make sure the two will work together.

On a Budget

Don’t let money stand in the way of getting your photography enthusiast graduate something they can use as they pursue their photography.  Here are several options that will not cost you much at all.

Magic Lantern Guides – These in depth guides are like a camera manual on steroids.  They go in depth on every aspect of almost all the major digital SLR cameras.  Even if your photographer has had their camera for a while a Magic Lantern Guide can be a valuable resource.  And for under $20 you can’t go wrong.

Photo of a DSLR Camera BatteryBatteries – A spare battery is a critical accessory for any photographer.   There is not too much worse than to be out shooting and have your battery die with no fully charge spare in your camera bag.  Find out the make and model of the camera your graduate is using and pick up a spare battery to make sure they never miss a shot.

Camera Bag – They may already have a camera bag, but my philosophy is you can never have too many and if you don’t have a Case Logic SLR Camera Holster Case then you don’t really have a camera bag.  This bag is versatile and extremely functional.  For about $30 your graduate will definitely thank you.

Photo of a Sony Alpha 850 Full Frame DSLR CameraI have been shooting with a Sony DSLR even since I switched from a film SLR to a digital SLR.  I had two main reason at the beginning for getting my first Sony Alpha 100.  The first was mostly practical and economical,  my film SLR was a Minolta so the lenses I already had would fit the Sony line of DSLRs.  This would save me from having to buy all new lenses for a Canon or Nikon had I gone that route.  The second reason was the features of the Sony DSLR line of cameras.  The image stabilization, Steady Shot, was built into the camera itself, meaning it would work with whatever lens I had.  The mega pixels were right at the time.  Everything lined up and I have been very happy with my purchase of the Sony Alpha 100.  This was the camera that I spent time with learning the fundamentals of photography.  So when I started considering an upgrade I really only looked at Sony models.  I saved up for a new big investment and my new Sony Alpha 850 Full Frame DSLR came yesterday.  The initial assessment after only about an hour of shooting is that I love it.  As I read the manual and get more time with the camera I will post more thoughts and a review in more detail.

Photo of the lake at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve

The First Shot
f/5.6 – 1/80 sec ISO 100 – Focal Length 50 mm

Case Logic’s SLRC-6 SLR Camera Holster Case

Photo of the Case logic Sling Camera BagI think I am up to 4 camera bags now and am either becoming a collector or obsessive.   I wrote about my Lowepro Fastpack 250 a while back and still love this bag.  But for some shooting situations it is a bit big and all the equipment it can carry is not necessary.  But at the same time my Tamrac Zoom 16 Camera Bag does not hold much more than the camera with a lens attached so it can be a bit small for slightly longer excursions.  So in a Goldilocks sort of way, for photography trips that require more than just one lens but don’t require the whole arsenal of equipment, I have found a middle of the road bag that is a very good fit for many outings.   The Case Logic SLRC-6 SLR Camera Holster Case is a medium size sling bag measuring about 10 x 6.5 x 18 inches and weighing just over a pound.  This bag has several great features aside from its ideal size.  Here are some of my favorite features of the Case Logic Sling Camera bag:

  1. The Sling – This was an ingenious invention that allows for quick and easy access to your camera without ever having to take the bag off your shoulder.
  2. Flexible Configuration – I haven’t counted but the padded Velcro dividers in each compartment make for countless possible configurations.  You can move them around to make separate compartments for each of your accessories from lenses to flashes.  My only complaint about these is that the Velcro sticks very easily to all the bag’s surfaces.  So as you are reconfiguring it takes some maneuvering to get it just right.
  3. Compartments – With six compartments (some hidden within others) this bag has more space than it looks like it would offer.  The aforementioned dividers turn those 6 into many more giving you a secure spot for just about everything.  I have managed to get 3 lenses in addition to the one on the camera, a teleconverter and a flash unit fit very nicely and then filled in the rest of the space with my smaller accessories.
  4. The Price – At under $40 this bag is a bargain.

the new Sony Alpha 450 being released in February 2010Sony has announced the upcoming February 2010 release of yet another DSLR camera in their already impressive line up. The A450 is touted as an ideal camera for photographers new to digital SLRs. But it is an introductory camera with all the bells and whistles including a 14.2 effective MP sensor, up to 12800 ISO, a 2.7″ LCD screen, HDR mode and much more.

I have been using a Sony Alpha (the first generation 100) for a couple of years now and have been very satisfied with the features and performance.  I’m sure the A450 will not disappoint.

Read more about the new Sony A450 to be released in February 2010 at Photography Monthly.

The deadline for holiday shopping is getting closer.  For anyone who has an amateur photographer on their shopping list here are 5 gift ideas under $50 that any amateur photographer.

remote-shutter-release1) Remote Shutter Release – For anyone taking night photographs or long shutter exposures a remote shutter release is a great tool to have in their camera bag.  It allows the photographer to release the shutter button without actually touching the camera.  This cuts down any any excessive movement of the camera that may blur the image.  If you are buying one as a gift you will want to make sure it is compatible with the camera your gift recipient is using.  Whether you are buying a Remote Shutter Release Cord from or someplace like  B&H Photo they all list which cameras the remotes are compatible with.  Prices range from $10 – $20.

2) digital-camera-batteryBack Up Battery – I always keep a fully charged extra battery in my camera bag.  There is not much worse than being out shooting and seeing the low battery icon flashing with no fresh battery on hand to replace it.  Like with the remote shutter release you will need to know what make and model of camera is being used to make sure you match the battery to the camera.  There are no universal options with this one.  But again some quick online research will get you what you need to know.  You can find digital camera batteries on and often on eBay.  Depending on the brand and where you find it they can range from $25 to $50.  If you are finding them much higher than that you can consider a generic version, just make sure it is compatible with the camera.

compact-flash-memory-card3) Memory Cards – A supply of memory cards is essential especially when going on longer photography outings where you may not have the opportunity to download your images often.  If your photographer is shooting in RAW format the cards can fill up quickly.  Once again you are going to need to know what type of camera is being used because you must get the card format that is compatible with the camera.  Card sizes range from 1 GB all the way up to 64 GB now.  The higher the capacity generally the higher the price.  But you can get a good mid-range card with 4 to 8 GB of storage for about $20 – $30 if you shop around.  You might even find some great sales on higher capacity 16 GB cards for that same price range.  Check digital camera memory cards at, electronics retailers like or in brick and mortar stores like Target or Costco.

UV-Filter4) UV Filter – Digital cameras don’t generally need filters for the lens as the effects of a filter can be done with camera settings or post-processing on the computer.  But a standard UV filter placed on the lens will protect lens from scratches, dust and weather without impacting the result of the image.  When selecting the filter the specific camera or lens brand does not matter but the diameter of the lens will determine which filter you need to buy.  You can get this information from the front of the lens.  There will be a size in millimeters preceded by this symbol: “ø”.  For example ø55mm.  Keep in mind that if your photographer has multiple lenses they may not all be the same diameter.  You can get UV filters from good old as well as any online or brick and mortar camera or electronics retailer. They range from $7 to $20 each so you can easily get one for each lens and stay within budget.

camera-bag5) Camera Bag – I am of the thought that you can never have too many camera bags.  Depending on the “assignment” you will want to bring different equipment.  For a long weekend shoot the big guns may be required so you can bring multiple lenses and equipment.  For a short day trip you might just need one lens and the camera itself.  A mid-size bag makes a great gift.  It allows for the photographer to bring just what is needed and easily tote it around for the day without too much baggage.  I love the over the shoulder “slingshot” type bags, but there are a lot of options in the $30 to $50 range.  As with most everything now the design options are expansive and you are sure to find something that matches your photographer’s tastes and style. is a great source for those $30-$50 camera bags and you guessed it you can always go back to for a great selection of camera bags.

These are just five of many options for amateur photographer gifts for the holidays or any time.  Simple equipment, how-to books, gift certificates to photo printing sites are all things they are sure to love and can put ot good use for their hobby.  Happy shopping and Happy Holidays.