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Posts Tagged ‘Purchase’

How to Evaluate and Purchase Your Next New Lens

15 Jun

It’s a day that comes for of us all at one time or another. You have to take the plunge…the big leap…go all in, take a chance. The decision can make or break you and your photography…or at least it can seem that way. It’s the day you invest in a brand new lens or one that’s new to you. Regardless, purchasing a fresh piece of glass can be confusing, frustrating, and painstaking. I’m here to tell you that we photographers who operate on limited funds (most of us) share in your anxiety when it comes to laying down what is usually a lot of money on something that we hope will improve our work and help us transcend to the next level.


How do you make the right choices? How do you choose the right lens to fit your particular needs? Well, there is both good and bad news for you. The bad news is that only you can finally determine the right lens to fit your own craft.

The good news, though, is that there are many ways you can lessen the anguish of lens buying and make sure that you find the right investment. In this article, you will learn how to look beyond just the obvious when shopping around for that new lens, so that you can ensure you make an informed and hopefully less painful decision. Lens reviews can become confusing in their own right. While there are infinite considerations, following these guidelines will help to make more sense of all those lens reviews.

Optical Performance

Sharpness

This is one of if not the most often encountered reasons for buying a new lens. We need better sharpness. But that sharpness, of course, comes at a price. So when evaluating the sharpness of a new lens it’s important to consider all the elements of the equation.

Are you looking for a lens that zooms or does not zoom? Prime lenses (non-zooming) are often cheaper and faster (have a larger maximum aperture) than zoom lenses of the same speed (more on this later). So, ask yourself if you need a lens that can change focal lengths quickly, such as for events or sports shooting? Or do you need a lens that can cope with more static scenes such as landscapes or posed portraits?


Sharpness is so subjective that it often takes looking at many sample images to see the actual results from real-world tests. Be sure to note the camera each image was made with and the source of the sample. Pay special attention to the entire frame especially at the corners to judge the overall sharpness. Speaking of corner sharpness….

Edge Softness

When we talk about edge softening the reference is to the deterioration of sharpness at the corners of an image. This is brought about by many variables but usually, it is due to the composition and quality of the glass elements within the lens. As you approach the wide or short end of the aperture range of your particular lens this softening almost always become more apparent.

Shot with the Rokinon 14mm at f/2.8. Note the more prominent loss of sharpness at the far edges and corners of the frame.

While shopping for a new lens, of course, you want the least amount of “softening” at the edges of the frame. Make a point to inspect the aperture at which each test photo was shot because different apertures carry with them inherent differences in edge sharpness. If you know you will be shooting wide apertures (low light, shallow depth of field) or small apertures (landscapes, large depth of field) pay special attention to test photos shot towards the wide or narrow f-stops.

Lens Distortion

Lens distortion is fairly self-explanatory. It is anything that alters the spatial appearance of lines within the frame. There are two main forms of distortion; “barrel” and “pincushion”. Barrel distortion is common with wide-angle lenses and appears as a bulged effect; with the straight lines within the images appearing to bend outwardly.

An example of “barrel” distortion often encountered with extremely short (wide) focal length lenses

Pincushion distortion is the exact opposite of barrel distortion. This type of image distortion occurs most often when telephoto lenses are zoomed to their maximum magnification. The appearance is a slight bending inwards of the photo towards the center. However, it’s not nearly as apparent (hardly perceivable at times) as barrel distortion.

A case of uncorrected pincushion distortion…

…and now corrected. As I said, almost in-perceivable….

If you’re in the market for a quality wide angle lens, make it a point to find one with little or relatively little barrel distortion. Keep in mind that the shorter the focal length the more prevalent barrel distortion becomes, even in high-grade lenses. The same is true for pincushion distortion. The higher the telephoto range the more often you will encounter pincushion distortion at long focal lengths.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is a technical term for the unsightly discoloration that sometimes occurs around high contrast areas in a photo.

It is evident to some extent in all lenses no matter the quality, but it is more perceivable at wide or small apertures. The key thing to look for is the least amount of chromatic aberration present at the extreme ends of the aperture range. Much like edge softening, aberrations can be controlled albeit not eliminated.

Autofocus and what is Image Stabilization anyway?

Autofocus

Ah yes, autofocus. Having the ability to focus on subjects by merely pressing a button is a gloriously underappreciated benefit modern photographers share. You probably owe your camera and lens a long overdue “thank you”. Go ahead and thank them…I’ll wait.


However, the question remains, how important should autofocus (AF) be to you? It all comes down to what type of photos you will likely be shooting. Back when I did location wedding and event photography, I could not have imagined operating without a fast and accurate AF lens. Now that I shoot primarily landscapes and nature photography, AF has become less of a priority for me.

That’s not to say that AF doesn’t have its uses even now for me and my work. The reason I share this is to demonstrate the priority that you should place on the quality of AF in whatever lens you might be looking at buying depends on your own needs.


If you shoot sporadic, fast-moving, or otherwise unpredictable subjects, place a fair amount of emphasis on AF performance in the lens you seek. However, if you’re a landscapist, shoot still lifes, or otherwise find yourself making photographs of static subjects, AF becomes less important.

That being said, if you find yourself requiring AF, look for a focusing system which consistently focuses accurately and is able to lock onto a subject. Granted, the type of camera you use plays a key role here as well.

Image Stabilization

There’s somewhat of a split in opinions when it comes to image stabilization. Some shooters swear by it, some say it isn’t worth the trouble. As for me, I’m a blend of the two factions.

For the majority of my work, which involves a tripod and slow moving/non-moving scenes, I seldom use a stabilizer even when it’s available. Still, there are times when I find myself saying, “Man, this stabilizer is awesome!” So as with many aspects of choosing a lens, it depends on you and your needs.


The truth is that the longer focal length lens you use, the more image stabilization will come in handy. It provides an exposure “cushion” when shooting handheld. I’m happy to say that the technology seems to be improving each year. If you shoot the majority of your photos without a tripod, for whatever reason, you will have the use of a stabilizer. The very bottom rung of modern image shake reduction systems can give you two to three stops of exposure latitude (to be able to use slower shutter speeds and maintain sharpness) which can go a long way depending on your camera.

Some final thoughts on lens evaluation

Hopefully, with any piece of gear you buy, you choose to analyze and find every scrap of information you can before taking the plunge. The tips here come from someone who has reviewed, tested, and used camera lenses from virtually every leading manufacturer on the market today. These lessons are simple, applicable, and most importantly, easy to understand so that you can make an informed choice.

Today we find ourselves fortunate to be able to select from a pool of increased quality when it comes to our camera lenses. Unfortunately, this means choices are nearly infinite. Be smart and be savvy. Don’t spend time and money on new glass that does more or less than what you need.

The post How to Evaluate and Purchase Your Next New Lens by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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The Most Important Purchase

26 Aug

What is the most important Purchase?

Some sort of Data Backup, any sort!

This is an educational announcement, no inspiration here just wisdom.  If you already have an automatic backup system in place skip this blog post and look at my gallery instead.  If you don’t have an automatic backup system then keep reading.

I just purchased this one week ago after my 1TB version was all filled up.  This won’t be a technical review of hardware… so if you’re looking for that look elsewhere.

So why is this the most important purchase?

You will suffer a hard drive failure at some point in your life, unless you’re ridiculously lucky.  When it happens it will either be the biggest stress that you’ve faced in a long, long time or it will be a minor inconvenience… YOU get to decide what it will be RIGHT NOW!

Common Types of Backup Available

  1. Online Backup Sites (like Carbonite or Intronus or Mozypro)
  2. Internal Raid (duplicate harddrives with mirrored data)
  3. External Harddrive (Using Apple Time Machine)
  4. Manual backup onto CD/DVD/Microdrive

So of all those I opt for option 3. External Harddrive.  Is it as secure as other backup options?  Well it does not always protect data in the case of rare events like war, floods, hurricanes, or Dick Cheney hunting accidents… things like that, but it does protect against a much more common form of data loss – unexpected and unannounced harddrive failure.

Backing up with a Mac is about the easiest thing you’ll do in your life.  To start automatic backups all you do is open your system preferences, click on time machine, select the backup drive, turn the BIG switch from Off to On.

You’re finished.

You can tweak the settings if you want but the backup starts immediately, once backed up it continually updates the backup file.  And it really does work like a time machine, you can open a folder and choose whatever version of a particular file you want to back up to within the last several days… distance of time in the past depends on the size of backup space available.

Why do I Use G-Technology?

I like these external hardrives from G-Technology for a couple reasons.  Not only do they look sleek they also run nearly silently, they are pretty durable (I haven’t broke one yet) and work right out of the box with Mac (and work well).

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know a ton about hardware… but this is my third or fourth drive from G-Tech and I’ve had no problems with any of them.  They also get good reviews… if you find a better external harddrive I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

In the mean-time do yourself a favor and pick one up… here’s the one I bought (August 2010), you may need much less or much more space than me… look around and find a solution that fits you!

G-Technology 4TB G-Raid External Harddrive Array

Whatever you do, don’t wait until you learn the hard way!

Once the first backup of all your data finishes and you have two copies of everything you will sleep much better at night… trust me.


Jake Garn Photography

 
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