I hear from many people about how good the web is and how much they learn by “Googling something” and I do agree that many things are found out on line. But so many of them are wrong that it is amazing. I belong to a number of Facebook groups as well as I am on blogs that cover a wide array of subjects and boy is there ever a lot of information that is wrong and or misleading. From small things like a business hours are posted different than what they are to major things like sure you can take #@##$#% and you will be fine (when the product is actually deadly). I have said this many times PLEASE check things out thoroughly before doing anything. Some of this advise is dangerous that is out there.
Some things should not be so difficult. As I mentioned in another post I am looking at a bigger lens, yesterday on my way through Lethbridge I stopped at a camera store (I am sure everyone knows the one I am talking about). I went in to see what they had for big glass. The guy comes up to me, someone that I have never seen before and I am sure had no idea who I was and asked “Can I help you”, I told him I was looking for a lens over 600mm. His suggestion, which was a good one, was the Tamron 150 – 600, I told him that I was hoping for something larger as I already had the 150 – 500 Sigma. His response was “Oh a lens bigger than that is hard to find and that it is going to be REALLY expensive and VERY heavy”. No asking what camera system, no asking what my budget was nothing. I replied that I knew the cost and I was more concerned / interested to see one for the weight at this time. His response again was “anything that big will be expensive”, no other comment than that. Finally he asked what size I was hoping for and I mentioned that I was interested in the Canon 800 or the Sigma 300 – 800 and his response was “Oh yah they make one like that, we could order one for you if you like”. So much for help. In his defense I do think I interrupted his time on the computer so I excused myself and left. Time for a road trip to Calgary I guess if I want any more information!
I often get asked to describe the lenses that I use and to let people know what I think of them so I will do an update on my lenses. Not a lot has changed in the past year for the lenses that I carry but I have found out a few things that changed the way that I use some of my lenses.
My wide angle lens is a Sigma 10 – 20 F3.5 and I love this lens for so many things. I bought it to use shooting a project and fell in love with it the first day that I used it. I missed the wide angle lenses that I had in years past and this lens made up for a number of other lenses that I gave up when I went to digital. It is sharp all the way from 10 – 20 and really worth the investment if you are looking for a wide angle lens. One note is that Sigma makes this lens in a F3.5 or a F 4 – 5.6 for the price difference for most photographers stay with the F4 – 5.6
Medium range lenses are the work horses of the studio. Christmas eve saw the sale of one of my camera systems that was the backbone of the studio for years as it was replaced by the Canon 18 – 135 that came with the 70D that I bought a year ago. The 18 – 135 is one of the best kit lenses that I have ever seen. I would rate it as a pro lens if this would not offend a number of the photo techies out there. It is sharp, fast and has a great range for shooting in the studio and out of the studio. I have not found a draw back to this lens and currently am thinking of another one for the location bag that I carry.
Another medium range lens that I have and love is the Canon 70-200 F4L. I love this lens, and use it both in the studio and on location. It is also sharp and fast. It is not a IS (image stabilizing) lens and really I find very few times that I need it or would want it.
The only fixed lens that I carry is a throw back to my film days and that is a Canon 100 F2. A GREAT lens, sharp, fast and nice and bright. With the cropped sensor that I use it is actually a 160mm F2 and works great. Amazing for those times that you need a low light lens and with enough reach to keep you out of the action in weddings, sports and news photography.
For big glass I currently only have one lens and that is the Sigma 150 – 500 5.6 – 6. I bought this lens as I wanted a good quality lens that was above the 300mm that Canon offers as a add on to many of their packages. I was not happy with the Canon 300 at 300 as it seemed to be soft and the versions that I tested were really slooooooooow and very soft and I was nervous about there L series that it would not be much better. I heard about the Sigma and after trying it in store I got it for a trial and never took it back (I did pay for it 🙂 ). I love the 500mm range and the F6 is a good aperture. It is pretty sharp for the size and price and when it is on the 70D I am able to program the focus to make it even sharper using the focus fine adjust. If there is a draw back it is that I find it soft at the minimum aperture settings, to beat this I have started setting the aperture at F 8 or 9 and it is so much sharper. Another drawback when using a big lens is the time to adjust focus from close to infinity, so to beat this I have started to set the focus at infinity when I am out shooting wildlife (this is with any larger lenses so really not specific to the Sigma).
So as of today that is what I have and I am using. Is there anything that I would change? If I was buying today I may change the 70-200 to the 2.8 but I really don’t know as the difference is so small I really don’t think it is justifiable for me for the price difference. Only in the big lens have I been thinking seriously of making a change and again this is so hard to decide on. I have heard some good things on the Tamron 150 – 600, I read a really good review on it and at the end he compared the Sigma to the Tamron and decided that it would not be worth the difference to upgrade so that did not help me. Sigma is coming out with their own 150 – 600 and early reviews say it is amazing but this is not everyday users so I am VERY nervous to do any updating based on this. I want to see some real reviews from everyday photographers before I am going to spend $2000 on this lens. As well I have finally saved enough to add a Canon 800 F5.6L to my arsenal but even with the money I cannot justify it (yah I know I should just do it and get this lens). I figure the size and the cost and I would probably leave it in the vehicle a lot of times, like today when I had to walk on ice covered walkways and one slip would not be good for me or the lens. I have heard a lot of great reviews on it but the size, cost and the fact that it is a fixed focus and I just cannot bring myself to get it, maybe when it warms up. REALLY would like to see Canon get into some better zoom lenses like a 200 – 600 F4 or F 5.6 L series that would take the 1.4 or 2 x converter as I know that the market is there if they could keep the price around the $3000 – $5000 mark.
For those of us that look forward to winter bird season or any bird season. I thought that I would give you some tips to make your shooting a little more productive and fun.
Before you get to your location set you lens on infinity. Many of your subjects will be either at or close to the infinity setting. There is no reason in having your lens focused on 5 feet. It will take way too long to go from 5 feet to infinity. Many times I will leave my lens on manual focus at infinity. I know that my subjects will be at that distance so why have the camera do any focusing.
Set your ISO to a higher setting. Don’t try to shoot a moving subject with a low ISO. Most times you will be getting blurry images. Better to get a sharp image and a little grainy, than a blurry image without grain. With newer cameras 1600 is actually pretty grain free and even 3200 is not hat bad.
If you are using a big lens, 300mm or above, then try shooting in Shutter Priority. Keeping the shutter speed above the lens maximum MM’s. (300mmlens use at least 1/300 of a second. Another trick is to use Aperture Priority and set your lens one or two stops slower than your lenses best aperture. For instance if you have a lens that is a F4 then shoot at F5.6 or F8. Each will give different results and only by trying will you find which one works for your style of photography. Also you can try using auto ISO in manual mode, I have seen some cool shots doing this.
Be patient. Some days will be very productive and others will be a wash so take it one day at a time.
Get comfortable for shooting. This is not a survival test. The other day was so cold I was on the ground with a thick sleeping bag & a heavy winter coat. I was nice and warm, maybe not a fashion statement but warm. I could have shot for several more hours but ran out of light.