Category Archives: Gear

A clean camera is a happy camera…

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I made it back from the photography workshop in one piece and with some great pics. More details will be coming later on the workshop itself, but I want to share one little tip that I picked up while I was there that will help you keep your camera and lenses cleaner and possibly save you a lot of money in the process. šŸ™‚

Lens cloths are a necessity in keeping your gear clean and you can never have too many of them. I find a couple of problems with the ones you get at the camera store, though–they’re often too small, not providing you with enough surface to clean your gear sufficiently.Ā Their too-small size also makes them easy to lose. When you do lose one, that means you have to go out and buy a new one, which can be expensive if you keep losing them. I have a solution, though…

This solution actually comes from Lori Kincaid, our workshop leader. She suggests taking an old and much-washed t-shirt and cutting it up into rags; how big or small you want the rags to be is up to you. After cotton knit has been washed a bunch of times, it develops a smooth lint-free finish to it that’s perfect for cleaning the glass on our lenses. Before putting those rags to use, make sure that you wash them first, but leave out the fabric softener. Since I also had some wool hiking socks that needed to be washed by hand, I opted to wash my cleaning rags with them in the kitchen sink using Woolite and cold water. As I write this, both the rags and socks are out in my laundry area air drying. Not only are you saving money, you’re also recycling a t-shirt that might otherwise go into the trash. šŸ™‚

Woolite and cold water in the sink also works great for camera straps, especially the neoprene ones. If you live in a warmer climate like I do and tend to get hot and sweaty while out shooting during the summer, this is a great way to get your strap clean. Once you’re done washing and rinsing your strap, just roll it up in a towel to absorb excess waterĀ and then hang it up to air dry.

Keep an eye out for more postings and pics from the workshop. While I’m not done editing the pics yet, I have already gone ahead and uploaded a few of the finished ones to my Flickr page–click here to take a look at them.

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Which DSLR system?

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On a personal level, being in the process of switching systems (see my last post for the details) hasĀ gotten me to start thinking again about the process that I’ve gone through twice now in choosing a DSLR system.Ā  If you’re in the position of either choosing your first DSLR or have been using aĀ DSLR, but Ā contemplating switching systems, here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

First of all, no one DSLR system is going to be right for everybody; each system has it’s strengths and weaknesses. Companies like Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sigma all make great cameras and lenses. You just need to figure out which system will best meet your needs as a photographer.

While this list of questions you’ll want to ask yourself isn’t exhaustive, for sure, I think it’ll start to point you in the right direction of which system will be best for you.

1. What is your experience level with photography and cameras? How important is ease of use to you? Do you want just a basicĀ camera to get you started, or do you want aĀ camera you can grow with?

2. What type of photography do you intend to do with this camera? Kid pics? Great vacation pics? Specialized types of photography like flash photography or macro photography? As I mentioned before, different systems have their strengths, so choosing a system that will allow you to best do the photography that you want to do will save a lot of frustration in the long run.

3. Ā Where do you want to go with your photography? Are you content with just getting great snapshots of your kids and vacations or do you plan on making this a serious hobby beyond just the snapshots? If you’re already a hobbyist photographer, do you have thoughts of someday going professional?

4. What kind of budget are you looking at to start with? Even if you’ve done your homework and have planned out what you want to have in your camera bag, but feel a little down because you can’t afford to buy everything you want right away, don’t fret. All you need is one body and one lens to get started; you can add more lenses and accessories as you get the money. Also, keep in mind that you can save some serious cash by buying gently used bodies and lenses off of reputable dealers and individuals. On the other hand, just because you have a bunch of cash to blow on your new DSLR and lenses doesn’t mean that the most expensive ones will be the best for your situation, either.

5. Relating to question #2, once you’ve figured out where you want to go with your photography, as you look at each system, what types of lenses and accessories does each offer? While having a wide variety of lenses and accessories to choose from is a good thing, that alone should not be theĀ main determining factor. While more serious enthusiasts andĀ professionalsĀ may need to have a wide variety of lenses and accessories at their disposal, family snapshooters don’t really need that; any of the DSLR systems offer good quality basic lenses and accessories that will do the job.

Now you may be thinking–where do I go to learn more about DSLRs and figure out what it is thatĀ I really want or need? Excellent question–I’ll give you some resources below that will get you started.

If you’re debating on whether or not you really need a DSLR to begin with, Adorama has an excellent article that will help you determine whether or not you’re ready for a DSLR. Once you’ve determined that you do need or want a DSLR, they have another excellent article with suggestions for starter DSLRs.

Seeing about picking up or subscribing to some photography-related magazines, as they are good sources of informationĀ forĀ gear information and reviews. Out of the major ones, Popular Photography is my favorite general photography magazine.

Since you’re already on the web reading this, go check out some photography-related forums. Almost every brand has a specific forum covering their gear. Browse, read, sign up, and ask questions. Photographers tend to be a pretty friendly bunch and are willing to help newbies. Here are some that I know about:

AĀ few good general ones for all brandsĀ include:

For reviews, I like:

Another excellent resource is the people you know. Look around in your circle of family and friends–do you know anybody who is currently using a DSLR? If so, talk to them and ask them about what they like and dislike about their own gear. If you’ve got a local photography club in your area, that’s another excellent source of information, as you’ll generally have a wide variety of people doing all different types of photography with different cameras and systems all in one place.

While this list of resources isn’t anywhere near exhaustive, hopefully it’ll be enough to get you started on your search to finding the best DSLR system, camera, and lenses to fit your wants and needs.

The story behind the big switch…

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For those of you who aren’t already aware, I’ve made the decision to switch from the Pentax system to the Canon system. This is how I’ve explained it to people in the Pentax community…

The 40D vs. the K20D–in a nutshell, I have to say OH MY GOODNESS!!

What really got this going was that on Monday of this week, my husband and I were in a small local camera store looking for some old extension tubes for the Pentax among the store’s used gear for sale. As it turns out, the salesguy and I got into a conversation about how hard it is to find accessories for Pentax (either OEM or 3rd party). He mentioned that he had a very gently used (maybe 100 shots) 40D and asked if I would like to take a look at it. Out of curiosity, I opted to. He mounted a EFS18-200 onto it, let me have it to play with and it was then that I was hooked. What hooked me was the much faster AF speed (I used it indoors, under so-so lighting), how quiet the AF was (even though 18-200 isn’t a USM lens), and how quiet the shutter was. Even though I really haven’t had a real need for it thus far, I was really impressed by the burst mode (6.5fps) Other than messing a little bit with my dad’s XSi (since replaced with a T1i), I really hadn’t played with a Canon DSLR before, so it wasn’t like I really had anything else to compare my Pentax to before then. The salesguy wanted to sell it to me right then, but it wasn’t like I had the $629 they wanted for it lying around. I went home with a copy of Canon’s Spring/Summer catalog and started doing some serious thinking, including figuring up how much I could get for all of my Pentax gear. Tuesday evening, I had a conversation with my dad (in Tennessee), sharing my excitement about my experience with the 40D and hashing over my plans to possibly switch. Needless to say, he was very excited about the whole prospect.

I’ve had fleeting thoughts about switching before the, but a couple of weeks ago or so I got the latest issue of PopPhoto and was perusing through it and found out that Nikon had just come out with a dedicated hot-shoe mounted GPS system for under $250. That got me to at least give a little more thought about switching then. Even though Canon doesn’t have anything equivalent at this point, I’d be surprised if they don’t eventually come out with their own dedicated GPS to keep up with Nikon. Besides OEM accessories, there is so much greater choice in 3rd party accessories with either Canon or Nikon than with Pentax and it’s been frustrating to get all excited about a new gadget that I read or hear about, but discover that they don’t make it for Pentax.

The story gets even better. Wednesday, after getting home from work and eating dinner, I get a phone call from my parents, as I’m doing the dishes. They called me to inform me that they called down to that local camera store I was at on Monday and bought that 40D for me!! It was so unexpected and so generous of them. I’m planning on going back to the camera store tomorrow afternoon to pick up the camera. It doesn’t come with any lenses, so that’s why I’m pushing to get my Pentax gear sold, so I can buy some great lenses for it.

Another reason that prompted me to consider switching is that there’s more of an upgrade path with Canon than with Pentax. I have a long term goal of eventually going FF and most of the lenses that I’m planning on buying for the 40D are also FF-compatible. Pentax has basically more or less said that they don’t intend to produce a FF body and I know I won’t be able to afford the 645D when it does eventually come out + I’d have to buy a whole new set of lenses for it even if I could afford it. For the long term, it really does make more sense for me to switch to Canon.

Originally, I was thinking of making the switch starting around Christmastime, but Mom and Dad’s unexpected gift threw that whole idea out the window. I’ve got another photography workshop in Tennessee in October that I’ve signed up for, so I need to get going on building my Canon kit and getting familiar with it before then. There’s also an advanced photography class through the Continuing Education program at the local college that’s supposed to be starting towards the end of August and that’ll be a good opportunity for me to get to know my new gear better, as well.

In a way, switching does make a lot of sense, but at the same time, I’ve come to regard you folks like an extension of my family and that’s the hard part about it. You’ve been so helpful and I’ve learned so much from you over the over 1.5 years that I’ve been reading and posting here. Once everything is sold, I still plan on stopping by every once in a while to see how everybody’s doing.

Even though I feel that Canon will be a better path for me in the long run, I will still continue to be a cheerleader for Pentax. I really do hope that Hoya can really make something of Pentax and attract even more attention to it and the great value that it really is in the DSLR world. To people who come to me and ask about buying their first DSLR, I will still continue to recommend Pentax as a viable option.

For those of you out there that are contemplating your first DSLR and are leaning towards Pentax, don’t take this as a sign that you shouldn’t choose Pentax. Do your own research and buy into the system that will best meet your needs in the long run. For many people, Pentax will be that best system, and for you, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

In the near future, I’ll be following up with posts further detailing the experience of my transition to Canon. Stay tuned!