If you’re getting started in digital photography, or have just picked up your first DSLR/mirrorless camera, your first purchase should be OLD lenses.
Vintage manual lenses take as good (often better) images than newer lenses, particularly on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Search eBay, Goodwill, Craigslist, and thrift stores for old SLR gear. My favorite lens is a Asahi Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 — it sells for around $100 on eBay, and probably much less in a local shop. The quality of the lens blows away the cheap “nifty fifties” you can buy new. That’s just one example of dozens if not hundreds. It’s an affordable way to learn about focal lengths and image quality.
But much more importantly, shooting with vintage manual lenses forces you to THINK about your photography. Having to focus each shot and choose an aperture has made me a much better photographer. You can’t fire and forget and hope the camera made a good choice for you. That’s the real value of shooting with manual lenses.
That brings us to the cool tools in question — how to mount old lenses on new cameras. On my Sony A57, my Takumar lenses are mounted using a $6 adapter from Fotodiox. It’s as simple as it gets — screw the adapter onto the lens, mount the lens on the camera. I also use a Fotodiox adapter on a manual Nikon 70-200 f/4 zoom.
Fotodiox makes adapters for just about every camera system in existence. They range from less than $10 to hundreds of dollars. Some adapters come with focusing glass, which you may need to focus to infinity depending on the lens-to-sensor distance on some cameras.
I’ve dealt with Fotodiox for nearly two years, and they’ve been a great company with great service — when one adapter shipped with a missing screw, they quickly shipped a replacement, no questions asked.
I am a news photographer that moonlights as a wedding photographer. In my line of work I need to get the image fast and I often don’t have time to change lenses. For years I would carry 3 cameras around my neck with different lenses attached so I could get the image I wanted. Especially on long wedding days, this left my back and neck hurting.
The Spiderpro holster system utilizes a plate with a pin that attaches to your camera base and connects with a slot on your belt to hold your cameras on your hips. This gives your cameras freedom of movement at your hips and allows you to carry them comfortably without having weight on your shoulders for extended periods of time. This also makes crisscrossing straps unnecessary, and is much more streamlined looking as well, for the discerning wedding photographer.
Cameras lock into place each time they’re returned to holster. In the lower position, locks keep cameras secure for longer-term carrying and in upper position, locks disengage for quick and easy access.
The adjustable belt fits most waists, but being more portly, I contacted the company about a larger size, and my request was honored quickly with an extender that works perfectly.
I’ve purchased plates for all of my DSLRs and the belt takes the weight with ease, I never have felt like a camera would drop off. The company makes lighter duty holsters for point-and-shoots as well.
I travel a lot for my work, and every time I leave, my young daughter says “take pictures!”. I was a serious photographer for a number of years, so the thought of putting my name to substandard cell phone photos brought out the photo-snob in me. I just couldn’t do it.
No more. With my iPhone 5s and this tripod (along with the Glif from Studio Neat), stunning pictures are possible any time of day or night. The tripod is sturdy, with a removable ball head and a standard size tripod screw mount. The kit comes with an extendable riser and a quality leather case. If you are tight on space or budget, the tripod alone (Model 209) can be had for about a third of the price. The quality on this item is what you would expect from this venerable German name.
The Magic Arm is just that, a magic arm to hold your camera, lights, bounce, flag. I use it with the camera bracket on one side and Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp($25, photo below) to turn a staircase railing, or the railing of a scissor lift, into a camera support. You could use it similarly to mount a camera to a bicycle handlebar.
I also use the Magic Arm with a Super Clamp at either end (the camera bracket is detachable) as a brace. For video and photo projects, the uses are extensive.
There are similar products, but this is by far the best. I’ve had two in my grip bag for more than a decade.
Photographs are up for grabs on the Internet. Post a picture anywhere — on your personal Web site or Tumblr, via Twitter, on Facebook or Instagram, or anywhere — and it’s possible it will be appropriated without permission. Or, if you’ve marked a photograph as being available for use under a Creative Commons license, it often pops up without the proper attribution or under the right circumstances (used commercially with a non-commercial license).
The iPhone and iPad app Marksta lets you easily watermark photos with visible text as well as add embedded metadata as a method of informing and deterring those who might use your image inappropriately.
Because many people may not have mastered the vagaries of copyright law (and why should they), having a visible mark could ensure that your image is passed along with your notes intact. Software like this abounds on the desktop, or one can use image-editing software to add text labels, but this app lets you snap shots, label them, and then post them all on the device.
For those who might take the effort to erase your watermark through a rubber-stamp tool or “healing” brush, Marksta’s marks makes it an easier matter if you wanted to pursue having an image taken down, obtain compensation, or even sue, as they would have engaged in a purposeful effort to hide ownership. For most of us, we’re looking for credit where it’s due: an acknowledgement of whose image it is and a link back to wherever it came from. Marksta can help with that.
From an aesthetic standpoint, a nice element of the app is that you can create quite lovely labels, copyright aside. The app lets you pick fonts, colors, placement, and other details, and then store the choices for reuse.
Most tripod and camera quick release systems stink. The majority of them are bulky, clumsy and weak. Except for the Really Right Stuff System. Yes, the name is a bit off-putting.
Attaching a camera to a tripod by screwing it on doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but for a professional it severely inhibits mobility. The cam lever with the RRS system eliminates any excuses for not mounting a camera onto a tripod when you know you should. The ease in switching between horizontal and vertical is life changing.
The beauty of the L-plate is that in the vertical position, it keeps the weight of the camera directly over the tripod – not hanging overboard.
I have been using a Really Right Stuff system for about 15 years. I still own my original tripod lever release and I have acquired new L-plates for different cameras over the years.
Be certain, these items are pricey but they will last several lifetimes.
I use my iPhone to shoot video because the quality is excellent and I like the many different inexpensive video apps available for the iPhone (such as stop motion apps). I also like being able to email iPhone videos or upload them to YouTube directly from my phone instead of having to first transfer them to a computer.
The main drawback with using the iPhone to shoot video is that you can’t put it on a tripod — you have to hold it in your hand or precariously lean it against something. The best iPhone mounting solution I’ve found so far is the Glif, a tiny hard-rubber clip with a metal 1/4″-20 thread that attaches to any tripod mount. Simply slide the iPhone into the Glif’s slot and you’re ready to go. (The Glif was one of the first breakaway hits on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, taking in almost $130,000 more than its $10,000 goal in late 2010.)
The Glif has one other function: it’s a “kickstand” that lets you use your iPhone as a mini-display on your desktop or airplane fold down tray.
If you want to use the Glif when you’re on the move, pay the extra $10 for the Glif Plus, which includes a separate plastic piece that locks your iPhone onto the Glif so there’s no chance of it falling off.
More and more cameras, especially compact ones, have no viewfinder other than the LCD screen on the back. I find using the LCD as a viewfinder to be ergonomically awkward. Additionally, in bright light it is nearly unusable. There are other workarounds. Some cameras offer an external electronic viewfinder (EVF) that fits in the hot shoe. These tend to be expensive, and an additional electronic gizmo that could potentially break. There are also add on hoods to shade the screen from glare, but these do nothing for shooting awkwardness.
Enter the ClearViewer. This little device attaches to either the tripod mount or hot shoe of the camera and holds a high diopter lens about 2 inches from the LCD screen. You hold the camera so that your eye is right up on that lens, much like you would hold a camera with a traditional viewfinder. This makes the LCD display fill your entire field of view. Additionally, since your eye is so close to the screen, the brightness is adequate even in bright sun.
When you aren’t using it, it folds flat against the camera. If you want to use the screen, you simply fold the lens out of the way. It is not the most attractive camera accessory ever made. But it is very useful, and, at $35 (or $53 with a “premium plano-convex lens”, which is recommended for larger LCD screens), it is pretty inexpensive compared to EVFs.
When I buy a new camera one of the first things I do is affix a GGS glass screen protector over the LCD screen. I did this even on my prosumer digital SLR despite its scratch resistant glass screen. The reason why is that while they may be scratch resistant, they also feature anti-reflective coatings that simply do not last the life of the camera. And as that slowly wears away the screen begins to look like it’s lost a battle with sand paper. Not to mention that scratch-resistance does not equate to scratch-proof.
I’m always amazed at how many people buy plastic-film screen protectors (commonly seen on touch sensitive smartphones) that do little if anything to protect the screen. More often than not they occlude the screen as they quickly become scratched. They offer little to no protection from hard objects, and they frequently need replacing (especially given how easy it is to trap air bubbles beneath them).
GGS screen protectors, on the other hand, are different as they are made out of optical quality glass. They are thin, sturdy, and affix tightly to the back of the camera. Once on, they almost appear built into the body (this is where careful application is key). They don’t scratch easily as they are made of glass, and when they do you know you’re investment has been justified.
I’ve personally scratched and shattered a GGS screen protector, and I know without it I would have been left with a potentially ruined screen instead of a cracked $8 investment. The only downside is that when the GGS screens shatter glass shards can fall off despite being laminated. Removal of the broken screen is simple: slide a credit card (or other rigid plastic object) under a side and slowly work your way around until it pops off (if it’s really stuck, warm it with a hair dryer). Depending on how long it’s been in place the adhesive may leave a sticky residue that is easily removed with nail polish remover or a Goo Gone equivalent.
Other brands of glass screen protectors exist, and some even feature anti-reflective coatings that cost 5-10 times more. But none that I have tried are as consistently well reviewed, as minimally invasive, or as affordable as the GGS models. It’s the rare case where the best also happens to be the cheapest.
[These glass protectors are NOT meant to be used with capacitative touch screens.--OH]
I’ve been an amateur photographer for over a decade now, and in recent years my collection of gear has grown a lot. Back in 2008 I was planning a trip to Europe and needed to get a good camera bag that could handle my dSLR, lenses, my laptop and various bits and bobs. Recommendations from friends led me to the Lowepro Fastpack series. They hold a ton of stuff, and have a unique side-loading system for your camera. It allows you to keep the backpack on one shoulder and swing it around to get your camera out without having to put it down.
I bought the 250 model, and fell in love with it. It traveled all over the world with me for the last four years: Europe, Mexico, Burning Man and more. It’s extremely light when unloaded and roomy enough to hold a massive amount of gear when full. The laptop sleeve and camera chamber both have enough padding that my camera, lenses and laptop have survived a few terrifying falls when the bag was knocked off to tables, cars, etc.
Recently the plastic logo on the shoulder strap came apart, leaving a hole in the shoulder strap. I emailed them asking about it, since their website says they have a lifetime warranty. They asked me to send them a photo of the damage, then shipped me a brand new one without having to send back the old one. Awesome customer service!
List price is $129, but it sells on Amazon for less. I was hesitant to spend that much on a camera bag, but after seeing $5000 worth of gear come out of it unscathed after a nasty fall on to a concrete floor, I am glad I did.