My Gear and New Addition ~ Take 2!

It wasn’t long ago that I posted about my current gear and a new addition of a Canon 7D. After a large amount of discussion between my partner and I, we ultimately returned the camera. We were well within the returns period and we had come to the decision it wouldn’t suit my purposes. My photography varies in subject and location and the feature set from the Canon 7D were no less impressive, but simply not appropriate for me. I did a brainstorm about my photographic needs and a few of the key points that came to light were:

  • Travel – Lightweight and weather sealed
  • Indoor event photography – Good Low Light Performance (High ISO performance, ability to focus in low light)
  • Night Photography – Good Low Light Performance
  • HDR – >3 Auto Bracketing
  • Panoramas – Custom Function Settings (For ease of setup and expedience)
Canon 7D Camera Body

Canon 7D Camera Body

The Canon 7D is built like a tank and features included high burst frame rate but ultimately was better suited for those doing wild life or sports/action photography. This is especially so when you pair the high burst frame rates with a good zoom lens like the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II on a 1.6x crop sensor! The added rumours of a Canon 7D Mk II in the works also means for those who care about getting the “latest & greatest”, the Canon 7D is soon to be a superseded model (though bargain hunters should be on the look out when prices for these drop to clear stock for the Mk II!).

My search continued and I finally decided that the Canon EOS 6D seemed to hit all my criteria. A definite upgrade from my existing Canon EOS 400D (a.k.a Digital Rebel XTi and the Kiss X for American and Japanese readers!).

 

Canon 6D Front

Canon 6D Front

The 6D is touted as being excellent at low light photography and is my entry into Full Frame cameras. It’s not as heavy (nor as expensive) as the Canon EOS 5D Mk III which makes it far more likely I’ll bring it out! (A camera left at home doesn’t make for good photos! Well… unless you’re doing the whole time lapse thing perhaps!).

Though getting a full frame camera also meant I would also have to replace my Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 lens as it is for APS-C sensors only! I wanted an excellent everyday lens with a similar zoom range and ended up choosing between the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC (Vibration Compensation) and the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II Lens.

The Tamron was essentially half the price of the Canon ($~1000 vs $2000 AUD as at June 2013) and also had the added benefit of the Vibration Compensation, which is an awesome feature when shooting in low light conditions or when I simply forget my tripod! I was actually really stuck on this decision but ended up forking up the extra cash for the Canon for the edge to edge sharpness as I do enjoy landscapes. Most likely this will be one of those things I see on paper but would be relatively hard for anyone other than pixel-peepers to see in the photos!

 

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II L Lens

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II L Lens

 

I was able to get an excellent EOFY deal on the Canon 6D, Canon 24-70mm f2.8 II L Lens and two Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB cards from Domenic, Chris and Saul at Camera Electronic and left so happy I walked out of the store the wrong way and had to double back to my car!

So I’ve got a few more posts on gear to come and here’s hoping to posting more photos!

 

 

 

Black Diamond – Storm!

I have slowly been building up this urge to explore the outdoors and really get out and get some good landscape & especially star trail photos! Part of that requires a certain amount of preparedness and I had been eyeing this item for a long time. It came as a gift from my most awesome cousins and hopefully I’ll be taking them out camping sometime in the future!

The Black Diamond Storm is a headlamp that takes 4 AAA batteries and has a suite of functions such as:

  • a spot beam (up to 70m),
  • spread beam (both beams with variable intensities),
  • red LED mode (to preserve precious night vision),
  • water proof to 1m for 30 mins (so definitely good in the rain)
  • Tilting (allowing it to light up something far away, or perhaps just down at my feet, or a map in my hands!)
  • Lock mode (preventing accidental activation when stored in a backpack)
  • Weighs only 110 grams. (Light, light baby~)

This baby is going to be a lifesaver for keeping me working in the dark!

_MG_6410-Black_Diamond_Storm _MG_6431-Black_Diamond_Storm_Package_Front _MG_6428-Black_Diamond_Storm_Package_Back _MG_6427-Black_Diamond_Storm_Package_Side     _MG_6414-Black_Diamond_Storm_Spot _MG_6415-Black_Diamond_Storm_Spread_MG_6416-Black_Diamond_Storm_Red_LED_MG_6422-Black_Diamond_Storm_Tilt_MG_6419-Black_Diamond_Storm_Lock_MG_6412-Black_Diamond_Storm

 

 

My Gear and New Addition~!

Whilst I am a firm believer that the photographer is the artist and the camera equipment are simply tools, it’s the marriage of both to be able to capture fantastic images!

As a previous comment asked what sort of equipment I’m using, matched with the fact of a surprise early birthday present from my partner, I thought I should list what I own and use. This also gives me an opportunity to play with a DIY lightbox (made roughly following instructions from strobist)

My current kit include:

  • Canon 400D Camera
  • Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-5.6 Lens
  • Canon 50mm f1.8 Lens
  • Canon 580 EXII Flash unit
  • Benro C2682TB1 Travel Tripod 
  • Benro MPU-105 Universal L Bracket
  • Black Rapid Strap RS-7
  • Aputure Remote & Intervalometer
  • Hoya Circular Polarising Filter

I have been currently using my Canon 400D (bordering on 5.5 years now) with a Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-5.6. Purchased with my first two paychecks doing vacation work no less. This setup was my original everyday kit but within the last year I’ve been taking a greater interest in landscapes and panoramas leading to getting my new tripod, the L bracket and I’m eyeing off an Acratech GP-ss ball head.

I had also been waiting for my 400D to finally kick the bucket with every intention to replace it with a higher model camera like the Canon 7D. Perhaps I had been wishing too loudly; whilst my 400D is still working fine (well past its rated actuations!) my partner gave me an early birthday present of a brand new Canon 7D!

Canon 7D Camera Body

Canon 7D Camera Body

Tripod Hunting: Optex T165 to Gitzo 2541EX to Benro C2682TB1

I have been on the hunt for a new tripod after my first one lost a fiddly screw that attached the head to the legs.

My first ever Tripod was a cheap Optex T165 that was ~$65 and suited my needs brilliantly for years. At the time it allowed me to explore a new world of photography with sharper landscapes, panoromas and my first foray with long exposures (I’ll have to find one of my first long exposures) and light painting. It has been to Malaysia and Japan with me, carefully bundled up with clothes in my check-in luggage.

In hindsight upon looking for a new tripod I have come to realise my trusty old Optex was actually more suited for video than photography. It has a 2 way pan head and a brace between the legs, give-away signs now, but in my earlier years simple meant “INDEPENDENT CONTROL” and “STABILITY”.

Losing the screw within days of a photoshoot, I borrowed a mate’s Gitzo 2541EX for and the differences were stark. The jump in quality was almost mind blowing. Independent legs that were able to be angled and locked in any position, serious heft for stability, carbon fibre construct, ball head with multiple levels. Definitely had me drooling. This thing was a tank.

Unfortunately I came to realise that my Optex had two things even whilst broken that ultimately led me to using it for the photoshoot over the Gitzo.

  1. It still stabilised my shots
  2. It was light enough to pack and not worry about it.

Doing some research and asking for advice from fellow photographers I have been looking (and lusting) over some good gear out there but decided I needed to make a list of specifications on the tripod for me whilst also upgrading my previous experience with tripods.

  1. Cost less than $1000 all up – Really Right Stuff and Gitzo gear sure do add up fast. I want high quality and medium price.
  2. Be light and travel friendly – so that I’ll actually pack it. The worst kind of tripod is an expensive one you leave at home!
  3. Extend to my eye height – something my Optex was unable to do, leaving me hunched over for periods
  4. 3 leg sections preferable (4 if necessary.) – I don’t enjoy huge chunks of time setting up if I’m moving around a lot
  5. Centre column hook – If the tripod is light, having a centre column hook to hang my bag off will help increase stability.

With these specs in mind I have settled on the Benro C2682TB1 Travel Angel suggested by my fellow photographer Ze Wong.

Benro is a Chinese brand that is rumoured to have close relations with Gitzo’s manufacturing factories in China. This has led to Benro models being resemblant of Gitzo’s tripods. In my research, “85% of Gitzo’s quality at 50% of the price” was a phrase that stuck in my mind referring to Benro’s standing.

The specs of the Benro C2682TB1 meets everything and more:

  • Price: ~$350 AUD
  • Weight: 1.77kg including the Benro B1 Ball head
  • Folded Height: 460mm – easily packable into luggage or my backpack
  • Max Height 1645mm with column extended
  • 4 leg sections with twist lock – I prefer flip locks but I will probably get used to this.
  • Centre Column Hook
  • Able to be converted into a Monopod
  • Interchangeable Rubber and Steel Spike feet

I’m eagerly awaiting this and will post an update once I receive it, but I’m sure you can tell I have high hopes! Whilst this will be my first time using a ball head I’ve left options open in the future to upgrade this to a RRS BH-40 or BH-30 and possibly get an L bracket to go with it.

For others wanting to get a Tripod and serious about photography; Thom Hogan’s article “Serious Support” is a fantastic insight and will hopefully save you some cash in the long run. Even if I decided to head down a slightly different path!