37 out of 52

Can anyone guess the significance of the post title right off the bat?  Any takers at all?  For those that could, cool!  For those that can’t, 37 is a reference to the last podcast for 2009!  Episode #37 (Longevity of Lenses) is now available for your listening pleasure in iTunes and with the folks hosting the show directly on the web at Personal Life Media.  It might be an hour or so actually before the show is available for download on iTunes, so hold off for a little there before downloading – you might get the previous episode!  It does take a look at the subject of lens longevity much along the lines of the previous post here on the blog, but it also speaks to things like depreciation, and considers the business element of lenses too – so there’s always more in the podcast for blog readers to enjoy!

I can’t guarantee I will have a post ready for tomorrow, so this could also be the last post for 2009 as well.  It’s always fun to look back and review the year this close to the end.  I’ll have some more details trickling out once we’re into 2010, including the always popular “Best Blogs”.  There does seem to be a trend as in 2007 I posted my “Top 7 of ’07”, followed by the Top 8 of ’08, and most recently, the “Top 9 of ’09”.  Can you guess what is coming soon in January? 🙂

Here though, it seemed appropriate given that the podcast was released today, to note that it is episode 37 of the show.  That means 37 episodes in 52 weeks – that’s more than one every other week.  I am not sure what the average show length is, but am guessing it is in the 30-45 minute realm, which means some people out there have spent at least 26 hours (over a day!) listening to me talk about photography!  Got another day available for 2010?

I hope so because we’re going to have a lot more fun and cool stuff coming up in the podcast, and on the new radio show for newcomers over at WebtalkRadio!  More guests, more articles, more tips and tricks, and yes…more contests!  These shows and articles and contests though really are here for you, the listener and reader though, so if you want me to cover anything specific, please feel free to let me know in the comments of the blog or via email!

Anyway, enough of the “back story”.  Here’s the show notes:

Photo News:

Listener Q&A

Which Lens?

  • EF-S 15-85 f3.5-5.6 IS USM          (=24-136)
  • EF-S 18-135 f3.5-5.6 IS                 (=28-216)
  • EF-S 18-200 f3.5-5.6 IS                 (=29-320)
  • EF-S 17-85 f4-5.6 IS USM             (=27-136)

Scripting Resources:

There you have it!  Enjoy!

Last but not least…don’t forget the contest deadline is rapidly approaching – tomorrow midnight is your last chance to get your favorite Giving photo into the Flickr thread to be eligible for the prize bonanza!  Lots of stuff is going to go to some lucky participant, so get it up there and good luck!  Happy New Year one and all, and we’ll see you next year here on the blog/podcast/etc.!  Happy Shooting!

The Life of a Lens

Yesterday we looked at things to consider when getting a new camera body…while the idea is all well and good, lenses are another story, and since we are likely to invest more in glass than in cameras (Have you seen the costs of some of the really good glass lately?), the life of a lens is something worth considering.

In all things technology-related, there is a principle called Moore’s Law which states that technology will advance at a rate of re-doubling roughly every two years.  While this principle was developed primarily for computers, we can draw similar analogies for digital photography too, with the sensor being analogous to the transistor.  The rate of increase has not quite been on par with re-doubling every 2 years, but the increases can be noted pretty impressively going from a mere 4 in 2001 to a current rate of  21 MP per frame for DSLR cameras (I am only looking at the Canon line-up here:

  • Canon 1Ds Mark III = 21MP (2007), Retail
  • Canon 1Ds Mark II = 16 MP (2004)
  • Canon 1Ds = 11MP (2002)
  • Canon 1D = 4 (2001)

Lenses aren’t like that though – focal lengths don’t change that much.  Instead, technology has allowed lenses to become faster at the longer end of the given focal lengths.  We’ve also seen the introduction of image-stabilization technologies.  The addition of new technologies in lenses does not necessarily deprecate previous generations – it merely antiquates them!  This means your lens may not have the bells and whistles of future generations, but it should work indefinitely if treated properly.

Keep in mind though that there is a distinction between full frame and crop sensor cameras here though, because Canon has two lens lines, the EF line and the EF-S line.  The EF-S line is intended for the crop sensor cameras and cannot be used on the full frame mounts – if you try to use an EF-S lens on a full frame body, the mirror could slap down and shatter the back element of the glass, so avoid this scenario if at all possible!  (There are some converters on the market that will extend the gap between the mirror and the element to avoid this, but I’ve not used them.)

Lenses are also different from camera bodies because there are no moving parts that can fail.  Well, that’s not entirely true because zooms do have moving parts when you rotate the lens, and these can fail. * However, because the lens is always a closed item, the susceptibility of a lens to parts failure is not as high as it is for camera components.  Shutters, for instance, have a certain lifespan for which they are rated, (usually somewhere between 50,000-150,000 actuations).  Lenses don’t fail after a certain number of focal adjustments (assuming you are handling the lens correctly), and in the case of fixed focal length lenses (primes), this is even less the case.

So, a lens can literally last for as long as the vendor makes a body that will accept the mounting mechanism, and in the case of most vendors, I don’t see that changing any time soon.  I’ve had my kit lens from Canon when I got my first Rebel XT back in 2004 and it still works great on my 40D – it may not be in the lineup anymore (neither is my 40D either, but I digress…), but any EOS body will accept this lens and the image quality has not deteriorated at all over time!  Lenses can last forever!

How long have you kept your lenses?  Do you have any “go-to” lenses in your bag that you anticipate will always be there?  Let me know your favorites!

On a blog administrative note, don’t forget that there’s still a little time left in the Flickr Giveaway thread for December, so if you have any shots (the holidays are good times to capture those “Giving” themed photos), make sure to get one in for a chance to win that $400= prize package!  Happy Shooting and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

*ETA:  Special thanks to Marco for pointing out in the comments that there are quite a few moving parts in even fixed focal length lenses.  In addition to the focusing ring, there is also the diaphragm that moves which closes down the aperture to the correct setting for every actuation of the shutter, so there are moving parts in any lens, including fixed focal lengths.)

I Got a Camera for Christmas – Now What?

With the major holiday of the year behind us, many are proudly wielding new cameras…but many are also asking questions.  The most popular question I am getting via emails is something along the lines of:

“I got a new ______ for Christmas.  Now What?”  (Insert your own camera make/model in the blank)

The answer to this really depends on what, if anything, you had before the new item made its way into your hands.  For simplicity sake, I’ll break the response down to 3 different categories:

1.  This is your first “serious” camera, and you are making the foray into digital photography.  Right off the bat, let me say Congratulations! Joining the digital revolution of photography and imaging is definitely exciting, and the onslaught of information can be intimidating.  A couple resources are better in this case over a huge amount of information overload.  In this case, I would recommend doing three things:

  • Read the Manual!  Seriously – it may not be the most well-written thing, but it can give you insights as to what all the buttons, dials, and knobs do.
  • Learn the basics of exposure – The Digital Photography School offers a great page that goes over the nuts and bolts of how exposure works in cameras – very helpful!
  • Learn the basics of composition – There are so many resources on this, but I like Wikipedia because it links to many others and thus I would deem it very reliable and unbiased.  The one linked here is the article on the Rule of Thirds.  Many other sites cover this too (including mine), but this is just a superb starting point.
  • Make an inventory – if this is an SLR, it means you should now be including it on an inventory of “high ticket” items in your house, and a home inventory is always a good thing to have in case of disaster!
  • Get out and shoot, practice, then shoot some more!  Trial and error is an important part of the learning process, and by learning what doesn’t work, you will be one step closer to learning what does work.  So, don’t be afraid of getting out and shooting!

2.  This is an “upgrade” from a previous digital camera, and you are simply adding more features.  In this scenario, you are probably already armed with the basics, and are looking to expand your creative efforts with the increased features of faster shutter speeds, larger MP counts, etc.  Here, there’s only three things instead of the five above:

  • Read the manual – there are many more options, custom functions, features, buttons, dials, knobs, and menu options.  Reading this will help get all this sundry stuff down quicker so you can…
  • Get out and shoot – the tried and true rule of practice, practice, and more practice is what will gain the most in terms of comfort and ease of use for you whether it’s a new camera or an upgrade!  It also will give you an opportunity to see and note the differences between your previous body and test for things like sharpness, functionality, and all that sort of stuff while you are still in the important warranty period.
  • If you already have an inventory of gear, be sure to add it here, making note of the serial, registration, purchase date and (if available) location of purchase.  If you don’t have an inventory of gear – the new addition should be motivation enough to ensure that you do get one together.  You may also want to consider your insurance situation: Do you have coverage? Do you have enough?  Call your agent to find out.

3.  Here, you are an established photographer, and this is simply adding another item to your tool belt.  In this scenario, you are likely adding another body for redundancy purposes, or to relegate your other one to a backup role.  Nevertheless, there are some important things to consider doing as you move forward:

  • Use it!  Check for compatibility with all your current lenses – that everything works as expected, that there are no cracks, chinks, nicks, or other things that you should be concerned about.
  • Add the gear to the list of inventory that you likely already have – make note of the serial numbers, the date of purchase, and if your gifter doesn’t mind, the place where purchased.  All this can be very helpful in keeping records current and up to date.  Check with your insurance agent and make sure you still have enough coverage for your gear – see that they get all this information too.

There you have it, some key points to keep in mind for you and your new camera.  Congratulations on the new gear, and don’t forget to get creative, because while the gear is fun – it’s really just a tool in your creative tool belt!  Did I miss anything?  Are these categories sufficient enough for most?  Do you fit into one of these categories or is another one needed for your situation?  Any other ideas for what to do with a new camera purchase?  Got any specific questions?  What kind of camera did you get?  Share your own questions, feedback, and stories below, by sounding off in the comments!

Last, but not least, don’t forget about the December Giveaway over on FLickr. Over $400 in prizes including books, prints, papers, and software that are great for any photographer!  Thursday the 31st is the last day to enter, so make sure you get your best “Giving” themed photo in before the deadline!

Happy shooting all, and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!