Monday, September 26, 2011

Remote flashing

Some of my favorite items in my bag are my speedlights (flashes). When flashes first emerged, they were nothing more than a literal explosion right in front of the subject. A little dangerous… Since then, we have come a long way. Now I can remove my flashes from my camera and fire them remotely. This allows for some amazing shots with minimal effort. With my Nikon sb600 and sb700 I simply switch them to remote mode and start shooting. My on camera pop-up flash actually sends my speedlights instructions on how bright to flash so I can change my exposure settings from my camera without having to walk over to the actual flash. There are many uses for off camera flashes, I will show you a few of my favorite.

Dramatic effect- Place a flash to the side of your subject for a dramatic effect. This is very simple and always produces interesting results.

Stop motion- Set up a flash or two and close up your aperture so you don't catch any ambient light and you can stop pretty much anything in motion.

I took these pictures just for this blog, it took about 15 minutes to set up, shoot, then clean up my mess before my wife found out I used her coffee beans and spilled water everywhere.
For more, look on our Facebook page

Back lighting. Put your flash behind the subject to get a silhouette with a slight "glow" around them.

Along with lighting from the back, you can also light the background with fun (and cheap) gel filters :)

If you are an emerging photographer, you might not have several hundred dollars to spend on flashes, but that is ok, you can still get these amazing shots!! You can buy a flash online for less than $50 and you can buy a remote trigger for less than $5. With these amazing little gadgets, you can fire your flash off camera! Simply mount your flash to the hot shoe, use your camera flash, and get amazing results, all for about $50!

The drawbacks of this method is that ANY flash will fire the flashes! Which means if you try and use this method to shoot a wedding or event, every time ANYONE uses their flash, they will trigger your flash! Also, you have to adjust the flash output on the flash not from your camera.

Experiment with your flash off camera and see what happens!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Really Nikon? A Mirrorless camera?? J1 and V1

Nikon just announced their new mirrorless camera today…Following suite of Sony and a few others. Canon is expected to release theirs soon also. With this sudden outbreak of“advanced” cameras, it got me thinking… why?

It’s not a point and shoot… or an SLR. It’s not for stay at home moms shooting pictures of their 5 year old’s crafts… but it’s not for the professional wedding photographer either. It’s the awkward middle schooler that smells bad and has acne.

The “J1” and “V1”, as they are so cleverly named, are basically a small point a shoot camera, with not so small removable lenses. I like point a shoots because you can put them in your pocket or purse, pull the mount, take a picture, put them back, and be on your way. My DSLR that I used for all our professional work is a little more cumbersome than a point and shoot,but I need to use different lenses and accessories. This camera will not fit in your pocket but it does not produce the results like my DSLR will. It’s just awkward. There is no mirror (hints mirrorless) so you preview the image on an LCD screen rather than through a viewfinder like DSLRs. This means you are sucking up A LOT of battery to keep the image sensor and the LCD powered all of the time rather than just when you take a picture. On the subject of the image sensor, REALLY Nikon?!? Sony’s awkward mirrorless camera at least has the same size image sensor as an APS-C DSLR, which means it does better with higher ISO’s… Nikon, for whatever reason,decided to go with a smaller sensor about 3 times as small as a normal sensor.One good thing is that there IS an adapter for Nikon F mount lenses which means you can use your Nikon lenses on this camera…. But like I said before, the image sensor is smaller so now your 50mm lens is almost a 150mm. (see my image sensor size article.) I havnt figured out who this camera is for yet. Is it just a gimmick?? Who are they targeting?? They went with a simplistic design which means you can not easily change your shutter speed, aperture, or ISO… so it’s not for pros. It’s not for every day shooting because it’s too big and expensive… If you’re going to go through the trouble of attaching lenses and carrying your gear in a bag, why not get a Nikon 5100 which is an excellent camera for just a little bit more money? If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, get a Coolpix camera, it’s portable and not as complicated…

What do you all think? Who is actually going to buy this?!

What makes a camera professional... and expensive?! Is it worth it??

The Nikon D3000 is less than $500.00
The Nikon D3 is more than $5000.00
That is more than 10X more expensive!! What makes a camera worth that much more you ask?!
Well, here is a short and simple list :)

Physically the camera looks and feels different.
-First of all better, cameras are physically bigger, this make them a little easier to manage with bigger lenses and flashes attached. Also, it is easier to hold a bigger camera more steady because your hands have more to hold on to.
-More expensive cameras are usually made of magnesium alloy, this makes them a lot lighter than other metals and stronger than plastic.
-They are weather sealed, which means they can be rained on or snowed on and survive (this DOES NOT mean water proof) Also, it helps protect against dust and dirt.
-There are more buttons, dials, and knobs on full frame camera. This makes it easier and faster to change your settings. You don’t have to go “menu diving” to change your white-balance or ISO for example.
-The LCD screen is bigger and a higher resolution so that you can examine the exposure and composition better.

The sensor and the image processor is what really makes the difference
-The first thing is that nicer cameras are full frame. A bigger sensor doesn’t necessarily mean better pictures, but generally full frame sensors have the following characteristics...
-The image processor is faster, which means that instead of shooting 3FPS (frames per second) you can shoot 9 or even 11 frames per second!
-The sensor has a better dynamic range; which basically translates to images that have more contrast and are sharper.
-Another huge advantage of a nice camera sensor is that you can turn the ISO up higher and shoot in less light without as much noise. A cheaper camera might be able to shoot at an ISO of 1600 where a nicer camera can shoot with an ISO up to 12,800 without losing image quality.
-There are more auto focus points, which means that the camera can focus on things that aren’t directly in the middle of the frame. My first Nikon has 3 auto focus points while the D3 has 51!
-Notice that I said NOTHING about megapixels! There are some point and shoot cameras with nearly 20 megapixels but one of Nikons best cameras has only 12! The reason for this is that the more megapixels, the lower the ISO has to be and the less frames per second. Megapixels are not that important unless you plan on printing your pictures to go on highway billboards!

Is it worth it?

Not everyone needs a $5000.00 camera, honestly, not everyone needs a $500.00 camera either.
If you don’t know how to use all the bells and whistles on an expensive camera and you're not shooting in the rain or near darkness everyday, then you are just fine using an easier to use, cheaper, and smaller camera.
If you are going to shoot on auto all the time, you probably don't even need a DSLR at all.
Just because your cameras lens can be removed does not mean your pictures will be better.
Before purchasing any camera, you need to think about what you will be using it for and do some research. Many point and shoot cameras are much more practical and take just as good of pictures if you plan on shooting in auto all the time.

What lens should I buy?

This is a question that I get asked all the time and I never have a simple or straight forward answer for. I always end up asking more questions than the person asking me!

What is your budget? I’ve bought some old manual lenses for old film cameras for $15.00 and they work great on my new digital cameras as long as I shoot in full manual mode. There are also many lenses that are thousands of dollars. Most new autofocus lenses are a couple hundred dollars; so if you are not planning on spending that much, you might want to save up a little more unless you are comfortable shooting on manual exposure mode and manual focusing.

What will you be using it for? I categorize lenses into 4 categories. Portraits/low light. Sports/wildlife. Wide angle/landscape. All around zoom lenses.

Portrait/Low light. I put portraits and low light lenses in the same category because most people want nice “bokeh” or a blurred background when shooting portraits and a big aperture helps with decreasing your depth of field and giving you nice bokeh. A big aperture also helps in low light because it captures more light than a smaller aperture. Here is an example of a nice blurred background caused by using a big aperture compared to using a much smaller aperture (reminder, a BIGGER number means a SMALLER aperture)

The most popular portrait lens is the 50mm F/1.8. With an aperture of 1.8 this lens has a nice smooth background. I also have an 85mm F/1.4 which has an EXTREMELY shallow depth of field. Remember that the more zoomed in you are, the shallower your depth of field is also.
Drawbacks of big aperture lenses- Neither one of the lenses listed above can zoom, but that is alright for portraits because usually you can move closer to the subject. If you want a nice zoom lens with a big aperture such as F/2.8 be prepared to spend over $1000.00. The Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8 is over $2000.00. That lens is often used for weddings to get nice bokeh without having to get distracting close to the bridal party. You may have noticed that 70-200 does not have that much range, that is because it has such a big aperture. Big aperture lenses don’t cover much focal length so be prepared to switch lenses while shooting weddings.
So if you are looking for a portrait lens or a lens to use in low light. Look at the 50mm F/1.8. It is only around $100.00 for Nikon and Canon and it is great for portraits. Other options are the 35mm and the 85mm both at F/1.8. They are usually around $300.00. Want a lens with a big aperture that can also zoom? Nikon has a 24-70 and a 70-200 both at F/2.8 but they are well over $1000.00! All of these lenses also work great for low light because of their big apertures.

Sports and wildlife lens- These lenses are known for having a large focal length. Most of the time a sports or wildlife lens is anywhere from 200mm to 500mm or bigger. These lenses are used to zoom in far so you do not have to disturb wildlife to walk out onto the playing field. Since the majority of the time you will be outside and since you will already have a shallow depth of field because of the long focal length, you do not need a big aperture. Nikons 70-300 lens has an aperture ranging from F/3.5 to F/5.6. Nikon also has many very large and expensive fixed focal length telephoto lenses such as the 500mm F/4. A cheap telephoto is Nikons 55-200. If you want a little more range and better glass,look at the 70-300.
The drawback of these lenses is that they do not work so well in low light or indoors in general. If you wanted to take a picture with a 300mm lens, you and the subject couldn’t even fit in the same room unless you just wanted a picture of just their eyeball.

Wide angle and landscape- These lenses are the least popular because most zoom lenses are pretty wide and super wide angles are not usually needed. These lenses are used most often for landscape and architecture. These lenses allow you to take a picture of an entire room from the doorway or an entire building from the sidewalk right outside. These lenses are so wide that you sometimes shoot your feet! Most standard kit lenses zoom out to 18mm which is already pretty wide and sufficient for most everyone. There are some super wide lenses such as an 8mm that allow you to see 180 degrees. My favorite is the 14mm F/2.8. This lens has a big aperture and is really wide so I can shoot an entire bridal party from the front row. You usually don’t need a big aperture with a wide angle lens because you want a large depth of field to capture landscape and architecture.
The only drawbacks of this lens are obvious, you don’t use it for a whole lot of things and most kit lenses are plenty wide for the average photographer.

All around zooms- These lenses are the most popular of all lenses. They have a very wide zoom range. Some popular zoom lenses are 18-55 and the 18-105. These lenses are for people who don’t want to bother changing lenses or don’t have time to. I use my 18-270 during weddings to get a variety of shots from very wide angles of the entire bridal party to a close up of the rings. These lenses are convenient and easy.
There is also many drawbacks to these zoom lenses. The most obvious and common is the small aperture. My 18-270 lens can only go as big as F/6.3 at 270mm which is extremely small. I have to use a flash or a very high ISO when shooting indoors. Because of the small aperture, the depth of field is bigger, which means the bokeh is not as good and the background is more distracting for portraits. Another drawback is these lenses usually aren’t as sharp and they have more problems with the glass such as vignetteing and chromatic aberration. For these reasons, they don’t make good portrait lenses and are better suited for outdoor use such as sports or wildlife.
This is a best lens for the common photographer. It has a wide zoom range which means you can survive with only one les. They are also cheaper and more widely available.

Other things to think about-
Some more things to think about are overlap, which means, do you already have a lens covering that focal length?? If you have the 55-200mm I would not get the 70-300mm just for the extra 100mm. You would have about 200mm of overlap. It doesn’t make sense financially or when trying to carry it all around. If you have a 18-55 the 55-200 would be a great choice because there is no overlap. Overlap is ok of you are getting a portrait lens such as the 50mF/1.8. You would use your 18-55 or 18-105 for pretty much everything except portraits.
What about off brand lenses or old manual focus lenses?? I have quite a few off brand lenses. Off brand lenses are almost always cheaper than name brands. My 18-270 is one of my favorite all around zoom lenses but it is a tamron lens. I got this lens because it was sharper and covered more focal length than the Nikon 18-200. My lens is autofocus and has VR just like Nikon’s lenses. Some off-brand lenses do not autofocus, which means you much focus it by turning the focus ring on the lens. Some older lenses (even old Nikons) do not autofocus and some will not even work on cameras unless its exposure mode is set to manual. Since I shoot in manual all the time anyway and I don’t mind manually focusing, off brand lenses are a great value because they are cheaper (sometimes 75% cheaper!) My 14mm lens is made by Samyang (Japanese company; Nikon also makes their lenses in Japan) was about $300.00. I have to shoot on manual exposer (which I do already) and I have to manual focus but Nikon’s 14mm lens is $1700.00… Autofocus is not worth $1400.00to me.
Something to watch out for is a lot of off brand lenses are not as sharp or clear. You really have to do your research and look at reviews to make sure that the lens is good. The 14mm I have is actually sharper than Nikon’s lens but many lenses are not. I have a vivitar 70-210mm that I got for $15.00 and it is extremely blurry. I would never use it for portraits but it is a fun and cheap telephoto lens.
You must also make sure that the lens will fit your camera. Sigma and Tamron are two popular third party lens manufacturers. They make lenses for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, and more. You have to make sure that the lens you are buying is made for your camera brand.

With hundreds of different lenses and hundreds of different brands, it is hard to choose which of the thousands of lenses to buy.

DX? FX? Now even CX?

FX vs. DX (CX at bottom)

Digital SLR cameras are split into two categories, DX and FX.

Those two terms refer to the sensor size of the cameras image sensor.

I am not going to explain why one sensor is better than the other in this article because there are numerous variables to determine which size sensor is really "better." I am simply going to explain the relationship between DX and FX sensors and DX and FX lenses.

A FX camera (or more specifically, the sensor in the camera) is often called a full frame camera or 35mm.
When film was used, the film size was about 35mm so a full frame (or FX) camera sensor is about 35mm.

Most cameras today use an image sensor that is slightly smaller, often called a DX camera.
A DX camera is also called a crop frame or APS sensor.
To most beginning photographers, FX vs. DX will not affect them at all.
It is not until one ventures away from the kit lens that FX and DX matters.

We will start with a picture

A DX sensor is smaller than an FX sensor.
Both DX and FX lenes produce an image just big enough to fill their sensor.

If you put a DX lens on a FX camera, the DX lens will not produce a big enough image to cover the FX sensor.
It would look like this.

If you put an FX lens on a DX camera, the image produced by the lens would be a lot larger than the sensor. The way this affects you is that since the sensor only sees the about 75% of the image produced, the image seems to be more zoomed in than if the same lens was on a FX camera.

Here is a picture showing what a DX and FX sensor would see with a FX lens.
A full frame sensor would see all of the image produced by the lens.
Since the DX sensor is smaller, the image seems more zoomed in.

Here is everything laid on top of each other (just to confuse you)

Pretty much, if you use a DX lens on FX sensor, the lens doesn’t make a big enough image so the corners will be black because there is no image there.
If you use a FX lens on a DX camera, the image will definitely cover the frame. You won’t even be able to tell the lens is a FX lens while looking through the view finder. BUT a 50mm FX lens will look like a 75mm lens because of the “crop factor.” This means the image produced by the FX lens is cropped by the DX sensor. This is useful sometimes because that means a 300mm FX lens on a DX camera looks like a 450mm lens. More zoooooom :)

With Nikon's new V1 and J1 mirrorless camera, there is a new sensor size in the Nikon Market. This sensor is almost 3 times smaller than a full frame camera, 2.7 times to be exact. What that means for you is if you have the new Nikon V1 or J1 with the F mount adapter, your 50mm FX lens will be almost a 150mm!!