Tripod Business

Over the past few weeks I’ve been slowly buying the last pieces of the photographers jigsaw puzzle. After much searching and reading of reviews I settled on a Manfrotto tripod a couple weeks ago, that while not as compact or light as some of their models (but by no means the worst performer) would more than suit my needs now and into the future, eliminating potential future upgrades. The model is the MT294A3, taller than me fully extended, sturdy aluminium legs and able to hold 5kg of camera.

This was only the start though, as the next part took a lot more head scratching. There are many tripod head systems, that will affect how you can pan and tilt the camera, but also bulkiness when packed up. It’s an important consideration. There’s also a few different systems for connecting the camera to the head… gone are the days where you’d screw it in each time you wanted to use the tripod, instead you now keep a plate permanently attached to the base of the camera that enables quick release.

I already use a Joby sling that connects through the base of the camera to keep my camera snug and easy to access on my body, so any system I chose had to be able to work with that, as it’s a very nice system.

Ultimately, I chose to head down the Arca-Swiss quick release system, as it’s used by many professional products, and if it works for them, it should for me too. First up this meant choosing a plate for the base of my camera, and that lead to me splurging on an L-plate. A piece of metal that forms the shape of the letter “L” around the camera, allowing me to attach the camera in portrait or landscape, forget even bothering with tilting the head to switch orientation. Really Right Stuff have good reviews, so I went with them and had something shipped from the US. It adds a little extra bulk, but weight practically nothing.

Next was the bit in the middle. I chose a ballhead because they’re recommended, and did want to buy a Really Right Stuff model, but I’d have needed to sell a kidney. As luck would have it, a Vanguard BBH-200 popped up on eBay for a good price right as I read a good review on it, and it seemed to fit that I should get it from there. The BBH-200 can hold camera equipment up to 20kg.

My EOS-70D

Roughly 9 months ago I received my first DSLR in a long while – the EOS-M – starting my road back into SLR photography after many years of point-and-shoot and iPhone photography.  Initially I enjoyed it very much, but soon found limitations, such as bright sunlight on the screen and no viewfinder to overcome it.  It’s a great camera, but eventually I tended to use the very old 5D FF (full frame – equivalent to 35mm film) camera almost exclusively.  The problem with this, is that camera is coming up to it’s 9th birthday soon! So today, I start on a new adventure, with a camera I initially downplayed when choosing the EOS-M (it had just been announced, not even released), the EOS-70D.

Unboxing the new EOS 70D
Unboxing the new EOS 70D, #BadSelfie

To start with, it feels great in my hand.  It’s a nice size without being massive, feels solid, and has a ton of features I’ve read about in a few reviews since  ordering it.  There’s plenty of time to learn how to best use it, but so far, in Aperture priority and Scene Intelligent Auto it’s doing great.  The AF (auto focus) is superbly fast!  I’ve tried out live view, using the vari-angle display and it works great for shooting with the camera held above my head.

The photos are turning out great, helped by the great sensor in it with the highest pixel density in the DSLR lineup.  I had initially thought that I would travel with 2 camera bodies and 2 lenses… but it’s leaps and bounds ahead of the 5D, so I don’t know right now.  Plenty of time to flip-flop over the issue.

As you can see from the sample images I took today, the IQ is right up there and the colour looks pretty good in all the images.  I usually have to enhance or boost the colour on the 5D, but that wasn’t the case on most of the images today. I hope to get some more samples tomorrow at the airport after class.

Easter Shenanigans

Easter has passed for another year, and now we approach Anzac Day, and winter.  This long weekend I had Tae come down from Brisbane to stay, and as Tae was over, so was Chilli, who was a great companion until yesterday when she decided eating grass and dry plants around the house was a good idea.  Luckily I blocked off carpeted areas, knowing the signs, and she only spewed on the wooden floors.

Moving on from that unpleasantness, the weekend was decidedly lazy, mixed with some important study as I worked to complete a late assignment for ‘Indigenous World-views’.  Ultimately, I submitted that last night, with just over half the required words, but I could do no more.

I’ve done a lot of reading up on camera gear, as I work to firm up the gear I use and travel with.  I currently have two main lenses and two main camera bodies.  My beloved 100mm F/2.8L Macro, which I’m using more and more as a general purpose lens as it’s my longest lens.  I also have a 40mm F/2.8 “pancake” that’s been suggested as the lens I should use in a general purpose role.

My biggest issue right now however is deciding two things.  Firstly, if I need to expand to a Wide Angle or Ultra Wide Angle lens to supplement the 40mm.  This would allow more content to be ‘in frame’.  But as I look at those sorts of lenses, I start to wonder if I should take things right to the limit and choose a fisheye instead.  I’m not looking for distortions specifically, and certainly not keen on the ‘circular effect’, but have seen many examples on the web of mildly distorted images that work really well for land- and cityscapes (like I’ll encounter on holiday).  On that note I have been recommended the Samyang 8mm F/3.5, manual lens, as it’s cheap but of good quality, to save me the expense of the Canon 8-15mm F/4L, but I really need to have a play rather than judge it based on no real-world use.

Secondly, I quite like aviation and wildlife photography, something you can’t get too close to.  Having tried a cheap 75-300mm F/4-5.6 and experienced the CA (chromatic aberration – a failure to focus colours, generally at the edges of objects in images) and lack of IQ (image quality)  I know that you have to pay for quality.  The lens I’ve been looking at is the 300mm F/4L IS, rated as the best telephoto lens for the price.  Yes, a zoom would give better range, but similar zooms cost more and offer less extended range, which is what I think I need.  Do I need it?

I guess my main agenda should be to equip myself appropriately for my holiday, as I’m not going bird- or plane-spotting while on holiday.  After that, I can consider developing that other aspect of my photography.

In other news, no more flights till the end of May for me… I’m not sure how I’ll survive!  Haha.