Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lens Selection Anecdote


My friend Pat recently came to me for some lens selection advice, so I thought I would do the right thing and pass it along here. He'd just purchased a new Canon 60D, but he did the smart thing and bought it body-only. His brother had recently purchased a Nikon D3100, and he was disappointed with the kit lenses that came with the camera. I had also advised him against the kit lenses since there are so many great lenses out there that are better suited to particular tasks. In Pat's case, he wanted a good low-light lens, a good portrait lens, and a good travel lens, all for about $1200.

He'd already ordered the 24-105/4L IS and the 50/1.8. While I'm definitely a fan of both of these lenses, but I had to explain that the 24-105 simply wouldn't be wide enough for travel photography with the 60D's cropped sensor. Also, being an f/4, it's not the greatest portrait lens. His counter argument was that he could just get a wide prime later for travel. While this was true, it would also have all kinds of drawbacks:
  • You're traveling, so it's essential to keep things light and simple; don't take two lenses when one will do.
  • Two lenses at the wide end will usually result in many lens changes when traveling. This means you're going to hold up your tour group and/or miss the shot.
  • Every lens change when you're out and about just gets more dust on you sensor.

Luckily he'd ordered the lenses from B&H, so the return policy for the 24-105 wasn't a concern. Now we just had to figure out which lenses he did need. The new EF-S 17-55/2.8 was tempting, but it just didn't seem like it would be quite long enough, plus it would have blown his budget if he still wanted to get a portrait lens. After a bit of discussion, he ended up going with the EF-S 18-200/3.5-5.6. Even though I'm generally not a fan of lenses with variable apertures, I think this was a good choice. My Nikon friends seem to get decent shots out of their equivalent DX 18-200 lenses, so Canon should at least be able to match that (don't worry, I have a soft spot for Nikon as well).

With the travel lens decided, we now had to figure out a portrait lens. This was actually an easier choice, since Canon has always had many great USM primes to choose from. Back in college I used to drool over the 100/2 prime. This would have been a bit on the long end for his cropped sensor though, so I ended up recommending the 85/1.8. It should compliment the 50/1.8 nicely for outdoor vs. indoor portraits.

So in the end, Pat will have a great Canon travel and portrait kit started with a 60D, 18-200/3.5-5.6, 50/1.8, and 85/1.8. I'm looking forward to his pictures.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Return to Summit Point

WERA Pirelli Sportsman Series

I've been to Summit Point more times than I can remember. It all started with my friend Chuck and his 300,000 mile Mazda Miata that still ran like a champ after 15 years. He told me that the great thing about Summit Point is that there's no one there that isn't into the actual racing. This isn't NASCAR, where the people go to get drunk, listen to a country concert, and watch horrible wrecks. Here it's about breaking, acceleration, consistent lap times, and just having fun. You can even walk through the pits and paddock and talk to the actual mechanics and drivers; no need for a pass or special ticket ($15). Of course, in this environment, the Mazda is an extraordinarily popular car for amateur racing. Just go to one SCCA event and you'll see a flotilla of Miatas going around the track (there are other great classes as well, like Formula Atlantic). Great stuff.

On this particular trip, last weekend, I was there to get pictures of the WERA Pirelli Sportsman Series motorcycle races. It was also a chance to dust off my 1D Mark II and make sure it was still in good working order. Sure enough, it lived up to its pro-level design and worked like a champ. There were only two incidents where it gave me Error 99 problems, and I think it was due to the CF card. Popping the battery out and back in cleared the problem immediately. I also had my concerns about the batteries still being able to hold a charge after so much time on the shelf. Ni-MH is dated technology, but I blew through well over 400 frames without the battery showing any signs of running low.

All in all, a great day. By the way, you can get a good, used 1D Mark II for about $850 these days.

WERA Pirelli Sportsman Series

WERA Pirelli Sportsman Series

WERA Pirelli Sportsman Series

WERA Pirelli Sportsman Series

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Uncommon Places

I've hinted about Uncommon Places in some of my flickr comments, but I've been meaning to post about it for a while now. I finally received it as a gift this past Christmas (I try to resist buying photography books for myself). I remember the first time I saw it at Borders. I was instantly captured, and I don't think I've looked at spaces in quite the same way since. On top of that, Stephen Shore actually makes you want to get in a car and go to middle America. Quite an accomplishment. Pictures on the computer screen don't do it justice either. For example, this picture seems like nothing to write home about when viewed online, but it's one of the first pictures in the book, and it blows me away.

Related: America