Today someone from my work saw some of my photos and asked me what kind of camera I take photos with. I hope the question was due to the fact that he liked my photos, rather than the other way around. That prompted me to think that talking a little about my gear could be of some interest.
My camera is a digital SLR (single lens reflex) EOS camera by Canon, specifically the XSi (450d). I’ve had it since July 2008, it replaced my EOS Rebel (300d) and I’m very happy with it. I’m in pretty good company as evident by Flickr’s camera finder. As of May 25th 2009, there are 38 million images taken with this model on Flickr with an average of 5000 daily users. Its currently the 2nd most popular camera on Flickr (after the iPhone 3G, ugh).
Looking at the people I know, and what camera they use, I find myself somewhere in the middle (price wise) and very near the top (quality wise). Most of the people I know have point&shoot cameras, which are very convenient, fairly cheap, and horribly bad. The few people I know who shoot with DSLR cameras, usually have more expensive gear (cough cough my dad cough). My decision to remain with an entry-level DSLR camera was quite conscious, as I think the leap in quality from point&shoot to DSLR is much much smaller than the difference between my camera and the Canon EOS 5 mark II (god I want that camera). I’ll forgo the discussion on why DSLR cameras are so superior. For those interested I refer you to this very interesting blog – petavoxel
I prefer to spend my money on lenses. A good lens is worth its weight in gold, and it allows you to bring out the best in your camera. Lens can be categorized in several ways
- By quality – there are companies known for their quality lenses and some not so much. And even within the same company there are better series of lenses (Canon L lenses for example), and consumer oriented cheap lenses.
- By angle – ranging from ultra-wide (fisheye) to wide (capture as much as possible) to standard (more or less what you can normally see) to tele (what you’d use to photograph in a safari)
- By type – Zoom lenses cover a range of angles, some of them even covering from wide to tele. Zoom lenses are pretty convenient, but you’re usually giving up quality for convenience. As a rule of thumb, the more zoom you get, then either you get so-so photos, or you’ve paid a lot of money for your lens. The other type is prime lenses, where the angle is fixed. This usually allows for much better behavior aperture-wise. These lenses aren’t as convenient (you need to get off your ass), but I love them.
So what do I carry?
The first lens I bought for my XSi is the Canon 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. Its a zoom camera obviously (17 which is pretty wide, to 85 which is not quite tele). It boasts pretty crappy apertures (4-5.6) which means I need decent light to take a photo, or carry a tripod. And finally its IS (image stabilizer) which means I can shoot in worse light than I otherwise could. I don’t use it that much, its ok, but I’ve grown addicted to my prime lenses.
I have two prime lenses. One is the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II which is super cheap (100$ or so), and is a bit too zoomed in for my taste (on a digital APS-C camera). Still, it was worth the price (I paid 60$), and is good for close-up portraits. My favorite lens though, is my Sigma 30mm f/1.4. It costs around 400$ and has seen a lot of use in the last two years. Its 1.4 aperture setting allows me to capture photos with a very shallow depth of field which creates great portraits, and allows me to shoot in very low light conditions. When you have kids, you tend to shoot a lot of photos inside (bad lighting conditions) with moving subjects. Having a fast lens is a must unless you want to blind your kids with a flash (which tends to uglify photos anyway).
I have both a regular (cheap) tripod, and an SLR gorillapod to stabilize my camera when I take low-light, HDR or panoramic photographs. I have a micro-fiber cloth for cleaning my lens and camera (pretty important), and I have a bunch of very fast SDHC 4GB cards. I also own a Canon Speedlite EX580 II (external flash) which I don’t use enough.
This probably deserves its own post, but I’ll just list what I use (legally of course!)
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 – best photo organizing software ever, a complete digital darkroom.
- Adobe Photoshop CS4 – For specific photo editing tasks.
- Topaz suite of plugins – I just recently bought this to help me denoise images, and apply special effects, its pretty nice.
- Photomatix – Combine several exposures to create a tone-mapped high-dynamic range (HDR) image
- Flickr – My online portfolio and backup solution
Whew, that’s it.