Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tribute To A Faithful Friend - Goodby To The Canon 50mm Lens

The Last Photo
(taken with my Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens)
If there is one lens every photographer needs, it is a Canon 50mm lens. I have had more than one in my camera bag.

My research is complete (I hope) and conclusive. You can't bounce a Canon 50mm lens off the conrete and expect it to perform well afterwards.

The story is depressing.

I knew early on that I needed a 50mm as part of my kit, but price was a concern, so I purchased an f/1.8. You may be familiar with that one. It is extremely inexpensive at about $100. Granted, it is constructed of plastic, but it still gives excellent performance. I planned to take good care of it, so plastic was not a concern for me.What happened could have happened to anyone. In fact, I had read of a similar incident only a few days BEFORE my own accident. I simply picked up my camera case and threw it over my shoulder. Except I had forgotten to zip it shut. My treasured lens went flying, landing on the concrete walk. I went into mourning over the loss of a dear friend.

But my grief was assuaged by the purchase of the Canon 50mm f/1.4 model. The cost was quite a bit more than the first one at about $350. Part of the reason for buying the better model was for the better lens construction. The plastic lens had shattered, so I figured the metal casing of the f/1.4 model would provide better results in case of another accident.

Things were great. The new lens was doing its thing, taking quality shots. But then, my world was again shaken by the demise of a 50mm lens.

This time, the accident was not quite the same as the first one, but the results were just as devasting. I picked up my camera (with 50mm lens attached), and the camera strap caught on something, pulling the camera out of my hand. It hit the concrete of the garage floor. I was horrified. However upon inspection, there was no apparent damage. That is until I tried to use the camera to take a picture. That's when I discovered the lens no longer worked. Something happened to the focus mechanism in the lens, and it would not work. It wouldn't even focus manually. I am still in mourning.

In spite of my grief, I feel compelled to comment on the goodnes of 50mm Canon lenses.

My experience with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens has made a believer out of me. It is an amazing photographic tool. Since I have not used the F/1.2 model, I can't comment on that one, but this one is a fine lens that will satisfy either an enthusiastic amateur or a professional photographer.

One of the virtures of the f/1.4 is an extremely wide aperture. It can be used in very challenging light situations to provide excellent photos. I have used it at concerts where flash photography is prohibited with great results.

Another advantage of this lens was (its now past tense) when using it as a portrait lens. The Bokeh is awesome. Even though it is not the lens of choice for professional portrait shooters, it does a really nice job.

I discovered another use for a 50mm lens just recently, although I have not had time to try it. A friend was taking pictures with her new Canon 7D at a high school basketball game, and she was using a 50mm lens. She explained that she liked it better than her other lenses (one of which is a Canon 70-200 f/4) for a couple of reasons. The first reason was the really wide aperture. An f/4 lens was to slow to get the action without blur. And secondly, she felt like the 70-200 was too much in focal length. The 50mm lens gave her more of the action rather than just focusing on one player. I had not considered the f/1.4 lens a sports lens, but in that situation, it was the perfect match.

Whether I will replace the lens is not the question. It is a given. I just have to choose the right time and place to convince my "better half" that this is the right thing to do.

You can see the entire 50mm Canon lens line-up at http://www.canoneoslenses.org/50mm-lens-for-canon/.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Which Travel Camera Rules The Ratings -Nikon P100 or Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

This is the Nikon P100

Travel lends itself to a very specific type of point and shoot camera, don't you think? Have you been trying to decide between a Nikon P100 or a Canon SX20 IS? That is exactly what I am doing as I look for a new every day camera that will allow me to not carry a heavy backpack with digital SLR gear all day when traveling. It will also double as a back up my digital SLR.

When I was buying that first DSLR, I faced the exact same dilemma. Canon or Nikon... Nikon or Canon... which one is best.

I am focusing my attention on the top two manufacturers in this situation, even though there are other good cameras in the travel category. By the way, these digital compacts are also known for their "super zoom" capabilities. Panasonic also has a very good model, the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ40, but I will restrict this discussion to the Nikon or Canon choice.

Find a complete list of Point and Shoot Cameras at the Amazon Marketplace

It's true, these two camera makers have a lock on the market. They can swager into any digital camera expo with confidence. There are a couple of good reasons for this, too.

First, they have good cameras. Their engineers and designers apparently listen to their camera buyers' feedback, as well as doing their best to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to new technology. They usually put forth excellent products.

Second, they both have excellent marketing programs. And usually, the cameras they promote do what they say, so there is trust in the products.

The Competitor - Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
Cameras that are considered for the travel camera category can also be found in the super-zoom category. That is because of the ability to take pictures at wide angles as well as from a distance in the "up close and personal", or "zoomed to catch the whites of their eyes from 100 yards" mode. Simply said, they can get a huge range of focal length shots.

Now, let's have a gander at these two cameras: Nikon P100 and Canon SX20 IS. They are quite similar when you look closely at the feature sets. In fact they are so close in many areas, I will not even bother to point those out, because if one camera has a certain element, you can pretty much count on the other having an identical one.

So here are the differences.

The Nikon P100 has a higher capacity video recording system, with the ability to record 1080p at 30 frames per second. It also has the better LCD screen with 3" vs 2.5" and twice the number of dots per inch for better viewing in tough light situations. It has a higher zoom ratio at 26x (26-678mm) vs 20x (28-560mm) and higher ISO range.

The Canon SX20 wins in fewer categories, but they are important ones. One factor that is not as important as it used to be is the sensor size. The Canon SX20IS has a 12.1-megapixel sensor as opposed to the 10.3-megapixel sensor of the Nikon. The key factor for the Canon is that it has a higher Star rating on Amazon, and it has a win in the DPReview "Compact Super-Zoom group test." This test takes all aspects of camera performance and image quality into consideration. Of course, the Nikon was the runner-up, so it is still a tough call.

So, the Nikon-Canon or Canon-Nikon competition rages on.

Oh Yeah, did I mention that my mind is settled on which camera that I, personally, will get? You can see the "Bottom Line" at the "Best Travel Camera" web page at http://digital-photographic-resources.com/cameras/travel-compact.html.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nikon Coolpix P7000 vs Canon PowerShot G12

Colby, up close and personal..
Not taken with a Nikon P7000 :-)

There was an add during the basketball game tonight. It was one of the Ashton Kutcher Nikon adds.

This one was for the Nikon S8100. Based on the add, I was about to go online and order one.

Reason kicked in before my credit card made it out of my wallet, and I did some checking for the ratings. In the commercial, there was a short line that said more serious photographers should look at the Nikon P7000, so after finding out that the S8100 was not at the top of the "users' favs", I headed over to the P7000 Amazon page.

This looks like a serious competitor. In fact it looks a lot like the Canon G12 in almost every aspect. Since I love the Canon/Nikon debate, I thought it might be a good idea to compare the two. How I got from the Nikon S8100 to a comparison between these two "almost pro" digital compacts is still kind of fuzzy, but there I was.

To set the record straight, I am the owner of a Canon digital SLR, which I dearly love. However, I am in the market for a good compact, simply because carrying all that camera stuff 24/7 is not very convenient. I want something that I can carry with me no matter where I am.

My process for evaluating cameras has evolved into a rather predictable pattern. First stop is DPReview to see if an expert review has been written. Then I head over to Amazon to read the customer reviews. Final place to check is the B & H Photo store online where there are also some valuable user reviews.

I actually prefer these user reviews to the expert's articles because these are real people like me and you who are giving their honest opinion about the cameras. They don't get anything for their $.02 worth of opinion. But in my eyes, it is worth so much more than that.

In the Nikon P7000 vs Canon G12, there are about 40 user reviews for each, so it is a fairly reliable resource. They are pretty close in evaluation. Too close to call, in fact. And as mentioned, the features of each camera are also very close to identical. Both will give the advanced photographer all the control necessary to take charge of the final image results.

If one feature could push the decision, it would be the articulating LCD screen on the Canon G12. This is very handy, especially when shooting in unusual positions or capturing video.

However, the overall evaluation is at a standstill for right now. Maybe this doesn't help you if you are trying to decide on one of these cameras, but here is something else I came across in my research, and it is this: neither one of these two great cameras are the top choice of shoppers in this "almost pro" category. Nope, the evaluations didn't even get them into the "Top 5 Point and Shoot Cameras" list.

Lucky for you, there is such a list at: Top 5 Point and Shoot Cameras.
The web address is http://www.squidoo.com/top-5-point-and-shoot-cameras. Check it out.