Monday, July 30, 2007

Putting the Camera Gear Into Use

Now that I've used the 30D along with my set of lens I can better comment on whether my purchase decisions were good or bad. My reason for purchasing the 30D was because my existing point-and-shoot were simply too slow to capture the baby pictures. The 30D was well rated and capable of shooting very quickly. Canon's lenses are also known to be very good. The Rebel line of camera, while relatively inexpensive, seemed to leave my friends wanting to upgrade to the 30D after they got more experience with photography. The 5D, a full frame professional camera, is out of my league given my amateur status. :-) There is no need to talk about the Mark series...

Starting with the body, I'm very happy with the 30D. I feel that I made a good purchase here and it is the sweet spot of bodies for someone like me who takes pictures of family and friends, vacations, and occasionally tries to dabble in trying to do something artistic. The body alone doesn't make the camera so let's discuss the lenses.

I started out with the 50mm f/1.8 II which is what every beginner can feel comfortable starting with (unless you bought a kit with the lens). At under $80, it is fast, easy to use and produces good pictures. For indoor baby pictures, this can be pretty sweet as it lets you get some good close-ups so this is definitely a good buy.

My other prime lens is the EF 28mm f/1.8. Again, a solid fast lens that is great for indoor pictures of the baby. It does require you get closer to the baby if you want the close-up which can distract the baby from what he's doing and is what you were trying to get a picture of, but the quality and speed of the lends is excellent. If I didn't have this lens, I'd be happy with the 50mm because I tend to like to take real close-up shots, but for typical indoor shots of people and objects, I like this lens. I've noticed that indoors it's getting closer to 50/50 whether I have the 50mm or 28mm on the camera. I don't have much desire for the 24mm or 17mm lenses. Conclusion? Based on the growing frequency that I'm using the lens, I'd say it's a worthwhile purpose.

For my versatility camera, I picked the EF 28-105 f/3.5-4.5. When I'm on vacation or just out-and-about, I seem to have this lens on 90% of the time. It lets me take pictures of closer objects when I want to and gives me the flexibility to zoom in on stuff not too far away while being relatively quick (does require me to up the ISO sometime). I got some great shots while on vacation with this lens. I tend to like smaller social gatherings so that mean I'm usually fairly close to the subjects I'm shooting. The times I really feel the lens falls short are at events like weddings where I'm not always close to the main subjects (i.e. bride and groom) and I want to capture their expressions or when I'm trying to shoot pictures of the entertainment from my seat. Then I would wish that I had a 200mm lens. So, thumbs-up on this lens.

My final lens, the EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6, is the only one that I can't say definitely that it's a good purchase. The 100mm range means that it's not well suited for shoot close-ups (100mm means that the object size in the picture is about the size that your eyes see) and while the 300mm gets you close to the action it isn't as versatile as something that goes from wide-angle range to zoom range. In other words, this might have to be a secondary lens and that means when it is not convenient to switch lens then this one might not get used. I'm planning to spend more time using this lens and see if my particular style of photography and the subjects I shoot will eventually make this lens a fit.

Now, let me review my other accessories. I got the battery grip and I'm really happy with it. It adds to the solid feel of the camera (but also weight) and it makes the camera look darn cool. It does add bulk and camera bags might not be designed to fit it so keep that in mind. Some people also feel that it makes the camera feel too heavy but I like that solid weight feeling it adds to an already solid body. Besides, it looks cool! :-D

The canon camera bag I got is not bad. I was able to configure it to fit the body with one lens attached, all my other lenses, cables, manual, lens caps, adapters, and a point-and-shoot. The problem I ran into happened when I got the flash and the battery grip. It took a bit of re-working the configuration to get everything to fit without things falling out when I open the bag, and now that I got everything in the bag is very heavy. I wouldn't want to walk around on vacation with the bag and all the gear inside. So, basically it has become a good storage bag and not as good to travel around with.

I needed a flash and have no complaints about the 430Ex. I've not used the 530EX so I can't compare but the ability to point the flash where I wanted instead straight on the subject with the built-in makes the flash worth it although it also makes the camera heavier and bulkier.

So where does this leave me...? I'm pretty happy with everything I've gotten. The lens and body I picked suits my needs very well. I think my lens collection covers 95% of my needs. I do occasionally wish for a greater zoom then 105mm so that I can just stick with one lens for my normal travel needs. This has made me look at the 70-200mm L lens which is one of the higher rated lenses especially the new f/4 version that is smaller and lighter and supposedly have super good image quality. The other lens might be the 28-300mm lens which covers the whole range that I'd probably use but is said to be very heavy (3.7lb to my already heavy body+battery pack) and the images might not be as sharp as the 70-200mm. Given the versatility of having 1 lens do it all, it might not be a bad trade-off especially since the images still seem to be pretty good given the reviews I've read. At $2000, though, I might go with the safer f/4 bet which runs at around $1000 (still pretty expensive...).

Traveling around with a baby means having a backpack is pretty much a necessity, but a backpack that can hold a notebook, baby gear AND a camera is what I sorely want. I'd like to be able to fit in my body+lens combo, flash and maybe one prime lens when walking about town on vacation and not have something stabbing at my back when I shove the camera in.


  1. The 70-200 f/4 IS is a fantabulous lens. Another option you may want to look at besides Canon's 70-200 and 28-300 is the newly available Sigma 18-200 OS. OS is Sigma's IS and while probably not as effective as Canon's, it's better than nothing. Especially at 200. =) Reports from the field is that while it's no L lens, it works reasonably well for its range and price. I would have tried out one if I hadn't gone full frame.

    As for backpacks, I like my Crumpler Sinking Barge. Unfortunately when you start looking at backpacks that can fit a laptop, camera gear plus more, the results are not lightweights. The Sinking Barge is probably the smallest of the class.

  2. Finding a good laptop+camera backpack is surprisingly difficult. The Crumpler bags looked really good and the reviews were excellent. It's a bit pricy at nearly $200. I found one by Lowepro called the CompuDaypack which seems to fit the bill also and can be found for around $50.

    I went to the store to take a look and it's pretty roomy with some more organizing compartments then the Crumpler. It might be a little more rigid then the Crumpler because of the compartments but it felt light on my back.

    I ordered it online and will post a review when I get it.