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Phil Steele Training

30 August 2012, Thursday

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-D

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 review

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 D.

The Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-D is on sale for $294.00 brand-new at Adorama, gray market. (The USA model is still only $329.00.)

It works perfectly with every manual and autofocus Nikon made since 1977, and all DSLRs with a built-in AF motor like the D7000 and better today, and older ones like the D100, D70, and D50.

Of course it's great on the D800 and D4 and D700.


SanDisk price drops

Adorama just dropped the prices on a ton of SanDisk cards.


29 August 2012, Wednesday

D7000 price drop

Nikon D7000

Nikon D7000.

The Nikon D7000 is now down to $996.95!

I paid $1,200 for mine, and love it. The D7000 is clearly Nikon's best-handling DSLR of all time; the D800 and D4 regressed from the D7000! Can you say devolution?


Canon FTb  Review

Canon FTb and FD 50mm f/1.2 L.

NEW: Canon FTb Review.

The FTb is a better than expected mechanical camera with a super-smooth shutter, great meter and works perfectly with Canon's hottest FD L lenses like the FD 14mm f/2.8 L, FD 24mm f/1.4 L, FD 50mm f/1.2 L and FD 85mm f/1.2 L.


28 August 2012, Tuesday

ISO 25,600!

Goodness; I shoot what I shoot, and it looks swell at ISO 25,600.

Only after I get back to the lab and look at the ISOs my camera pulled in AUTO ISO do I have any idea how often it pulls all the way to ISO 25,600 to shoot shots like this in dim light with slow zooms:

Ryan Benihana 27 Aug 2012 ISO 25,600

Ryan enjoys two bowls of ice cream. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-105mm USM II at 96mm, f/4.5 at 1/100, AUTO ISO 25,600, 6 sharpening, 0 saturation, AUTO WB A4.) bigger.

Sorry if you hate kids; artists respond to what's around them, and my kids are always around me. I find them much cuter than test charts, and this is my play website.


27 August 2012, Monday

Take Your Vacation!


Torino, Italy, 2003. 10,000 pixels wide. (Mamiya 7, RVP50.)

Take the vacation you've earned and take pictures!

My wife and I were just comparing notes from when we each worked for huge corporations.

In all cases, your bosses do their best to try to shame you and I into not taking the vacations we've already earned.

If you get three or four weeks a year, take them! Only a moron lets himself get bullied by the boss into not taking all his vacation, and if you want to take it all at once, do it!

I had a boss who tried to shame me into thinking I was doing some sort of a bad thing "for the team" by blowing off for three weeks to make a Southwestern USA Road Trip. It was the best thing I ever did: waking up each morning and asking myself where I wanted to go each day — and I did it all in the company car!

A year week later, I bailed for two weeks in Italy, and for Christmas, again The Man tried to make me think that for some reason I wasn't entitled to enjoy my vacation I had earned. Screw The Man, I went home for Christmas, and it was a good thing I did, because it was the last time I ever saw my father again. Sure, like I really would remember today whatever it was that I would have done at work those weeks, and I worked in movie studios in Hollywood to which others paid money to see the tours!

My wife had the same thing happen. A pal invited her on a two-week sales award trip to Italy, and her boss at her big drug company tried to shame her into staying at work. She asked her mom (long before she met me) who asked her to ask herself what would she remember more in ten years: an extra two weeks at work, or two weeks in Italy. She went to Italy and had a blast!

It's your boss' job to keep you working every day. Did you know that when I left my big Fortune 500 company, they pulled a fast one and only paid me for half the unused vacation time I had, claiming that I was only entitled to half because I was only on half salary (the other half was commission). Don't bank on your job ever cashing you out on your accrued vacation: take it while you can.

A good boss always makes you think that what you're doing is urgent. I had a very smart coworker once who was onto that game. They always tried to get him to work late and weekends, promising that as soon as this terribly important project was done, that things would calm down. He'd figured out that bosses always lie like that, and it never calms down. He didn't let them pull that one on him.

Guess what? Things are always tough in the real world. It's always an emergency, but why is it that they need you so much that they won't survive if you leave for two weeks in a row (or at all), but when it comes time to ask for a raise, that your work suddenly isn't appreciated that much?

Banking your life for retirement? Don't plan on it. One of my wife's colleagues at the huge drug company spent his entire career working like crazy for the company, all for his retirement. When he finally retired, he was out no more than a month, got cancer, and went to the hospital to die fast. Did any of the bosses who worked him to death over the decades come by to pay their respects to him? No.

Screw the boss, take vacation. You earned your vacation; they owe it to you — not the other way around. Your job will be there when you return, and more importantly, you'll show them that you can think for yourself; a leader and not just another sheep to lay off next week.


Local NYC Gig

Henry Pelzman needs to hire someone to shoot a 4x5" Ektachrome of a painting. Right now, he really needs Ektachrome, but that might change.

Henry's in NJ, and can bring the piece into the city, too.

That's all I know, and that I don't have time to fit this one in my schedule, so email Henry for details if you can do this job.

(Hint: Adorama has Ektachrome in stock in 4x5" slide dupe film, and Ektachrome 100G in stock in 8x10" you can cut down.)


Junk Formats

Some people are confused when I call formats like micro 4/3 "junk" formats.

Yes, micro 4/3 and 126 Instamatic (1960s point-and-shoot drop-in cartridges) and and 110 (same as 126 but less film) and APS and Kodak Disk other consumer formats are all junk formats. Even 35mm is an amateur format, appropriate only for casual snapshots, news and sports, but never serious work where quality matters.

120 (2-1/4" medium format) is borderline, having been invented over 100 years ago as a consumer format and later adopted as a quick-and-dirty professional format for weddings and other practical purposes.

Sheet film and glass and other plate formats are the only formats suited to serious photography.

Micro 4/3 just happens to be the same size as 110, the smallest of the junk formats, which is still much bigger than the tiny sensors of the Sony RX100 or Fuji X10. (Hint: want a good compact with a big sensor? Get the X-Pro1, the G1 X or the X100 which really do have significantly larger sensors and worlds better performance than the RX100 or X10.)

Many people enjoy posting digital pictures online, but that's not art. It's not art until it's printed, mounted, matted, framed and hung where people can see it. Here in Manhattan we have our local Met, The Frick and MoMA and much more, and by you, there are also places you ought to show your work. Just don't show in coffee shops — that's not art.

Many of you come from the computer world, and most of the "photo" website out there come from people with computer and technology backgrounds, but that's not me. I'm all about making serious art, not chatting about file formats and pixel pitch.

Some of you reading this don't know me personally, and therefore take me way too seriously. Yes, junk formats are junk formats, but that doesn't mean they ought not be used. Junk formats are fun, and fun is good! There's nothing wrong with junk formats. You folks who don't know me just don't know when I'm kidding — which is 100% or the time. Junk is good; just don't take those formats any more seriously than I take myself.

I use junk formats all the time. Heck, I shot 110 in Yosemite in 2010, and it looks swell. I still owe you guys those images; I haven't gotten around to it yet. I owe you guys a lot of photos, but the nerds have all been asking more loudly for gear reviews.

So who cares if I call something junk? From me, that's a compliment. Long live 110 and APS! I have Canon 110ED and Canon IX Lite APS SLR reviews on deck for you serious artists.


26 August 2012, Sunday

28-300 VR or One Lens: Which Is It?

One day I explain that fixed lenses take the best pictures, and the next day I gush about how my Nikon 28-300 VR replaces all my fixed lenses.

So which is it?

It's both!

I try to be precise in my language. These facts are all true.

Fixed lenses usually do take the best pictures. I never said my zoom takes the best pictures. My zooms are just more fun, and I like fun.

My 28-300 really does replace all my other lenses, and I have more fun and it's far easier to shoot all day with my 28-300 VR than having to swap lenses for each shot and carry them all day. I prefer my 28-300 over the bag of primes or single-range zooms I used to carry.

The key point is that my 28-300 makes me lazy. Laziness begets boring photos. Precisely because it's easier, it lets me wimp out of paying as much attention to my shots as I should, so the images I make with it tend to be weaker. Did Ansel ever use a zoom for any memorable photo? Never.

Why do I take a better percentage of better pictures with my 4x5" camera than with smaller formats or "digital?" It's not because of the unlimited resolution (about a quarter gigapixel per snap) or the universal ability to correct perspective and depth-of-field at full-resolution in 4x5;" it's simply because it's such a pain to set-up for each shot that if the shot isn't epic, I don't bother making the shot.

It is precisely because fixed lenses force us to move that gets us thinking, and great photos only happen with the application of human thought. I call it FARTing.

If you don't think before you take your picture, you'll probably ask yourself when you see them later "what was I thinking?" when you took all these awful, boring pictures. (Thinking about what's in the the image is all that counts; distractions like ISOs and apertures and file formats and AF settings and etc. are all distractions.)

Therefore, yes, the 28-300 is a lot of fun to shoot. Every time I feel like I see something to shoot, (that's the F in FART), I just twist the zoom ring, and bingo!, Take the completed photo (that's the T in FART). I completely skip the most important parts: A, Asking what about the scene makes me want to take that picture, and R, Refining the image to show only what's so compelling that it made me want to take the picture in the first place. Make sure your photo shows exactly and as big and strongly as possible whatever it was that made you want to stop and take the picture.

If all you do is take the picture when you're drawn to it, the lack of having any stated idea about what precisely it was that drew you to it, and the complete lack of ensuring that your photo emphasizes as strongly as possible whatever that thing was that stopped you, ensure that your photos will be boring when made with easy zooms.

The 28-300 is fun, but precisely because it's so fast and easy it lets all of us fall into complacency (laziness). When I shoot with a camera that takes a little bit of attention but doesn't distract, like the LEICA M3, I get better results.

You want a camera that requires a little, not a lot, of attention, and that attention should all be image-based. Digital SLRs often require a lot of attention, but that attention is more distracting than helpful because it's distractions away from our image with haphazardly designed menus required just to get the camera to go, not about things that actually matter to improve your image. 4x5" cameras make the best images because they are the slowest, and because each and every of their manifold adjustments are all directly image related.


25 August 2012, Saturday

Chose One Lens

Much as after 20 years of shooting and buying gear when I wanted to enter a photo contest, looked at my work, and realized I had made good, but never any genuinely remarkable pictures because I had spent that 20 years worrying about my equipment and following rules instead of just worrying about my pictures (that was in 1990), one day a couple of years ago I sat down and looked at my best work, and tabulated what lenses I had used to make them.

I discovered that while I always carry a full quiver of lenses (or a single Nikon 28-300 VR instead today - hah, Canon makes nothing like it!), most of my favorite shots were made around 20mm, some were at around 50mm, and none of my winner shots were made with teles.

Aha! So why bother with teles anymore?

Just as I shoot all day to keep active, but my winner shots are usually during that short 20 minutes when day turns to night or back again (when everyone else is usually relaxing at the hotel before dinner), I shoot with all lenses, but the winners are usually made with wides and normals, and rarely with teles.

We all see differently, but I my best shots aren't made with teles. Recognizing this, it makes some sense that I not even bother to carry a tele, and just focus my attention on shooting with a fixed 20mm lens and possibly 50mm lens all the time. (Photography is a competitive sport; there is no time to waste trying to "improve" what I do poorly when I can invest that same time into doing what I do muchbetter.)

You might want to try focusing on shooting with just the lens with which most of your best shots are made. While we all shoot with everything, it might be worth spending more time with what produces our best results.

If you shoot "digital," it's easy to sort your shots by focal length in most software (I use Media Pro). Do this, and you may be as surprised as I was when you discovere that your favorite shots probably strongly favor one range of focal lengths.

Of course the different age-old suggestion just to shoot with one lens each day always holds. If you're going out for the day, just take whatever one lens you want. When I do this, be it with a fixed 14mm lens or a fixed 180mm lens, I see much more clearly and bring back better results than when I'm distracted with a bag of lenses or a zoom. See Why Fixed Lenses Take Better Pictures.


24 August 2012, Friday

Japan's Big Week

Whew! We got off easy; only a few point-and-shoots announced.

Obviously the good stuff is being saved for Photokina in Germany in the Fall.

We'll see.


Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM Review

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM.

NEW: Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Review.

Tiny size, small price and huge performance!


Canon 18-135mm STM Review

Canon EF 18-135mm IS STM.

NEW: Canon EF-s 18-135mm STM Review.

The best overall do-everything zoom for Canon's 1.6x cameras.


Deal: Refurbished Canon 7D: Reg $1,199 special $1,049.00.

Canon 7D Review.


23 August 2012, Thursday

NEWS: 5D Mark III Sale!

Adorama has blown-out the price of the 5D Mark III and 24-105L kit to a trifling $4,098 for the set.

You know you want it.


SALE: Sony MDR-V6 headphones on sale at Amazon for $68.

I just ordered another set for myself, and I got a set of these extra-fluffy earpads for the wife.




LEICA M9 mit LEITZ SUMMILUX 50mm f/1.4.

The world's two best digital cameras, the LEICA M9 and the LEICA M9-P, are now $500 and $1,000 off, respectively.


Blow-out: DSLR Shoulder Rig

Adorama is blowing out these $700 shoulder rigs for $140. They only have about 30 of them, so get yours while you can. They're clearing out their stock.


Sony RX100

Everybody is asking about the Sony RX100 small-sensored point-and shoot, and it's no big deal. Sony is very deceptive about its sensor size; it's not much bigger than other compacts and nowhere near the size of a DSLR or even micro 4/3 sensor.

The RX100 sensor is only 8.8 x 13.2mm (15.8mm diagonal or only about a half-inch), or a 2.7x crop factor from full-frame 24x36mm (43mm diagonal). In other words, this RX100 sensor has less than one-seventh the area of full-frame.

Pop Photo magazine just tested the RX100 (page 80, Sept 2012 issue), and high ISO performance is horrible, with only an ISO 400 maximum acceptable speed. Forget it if you were mislead into thinking the RX100 has a DSLR sensor, it's just a little sensor with a big marketing campaign behind it.

The line between DSLR sensors and point-and-shoot sensors is drawn at a 2x crop factor, which is micro 4/3. Smaller sensors like the RX100 are just tiny sensors, and bigger are DSLR grade.

Personally, I own and shoot the Fuji X100 with a 15.8 x 23.6mm (28.4mm diagonal) sensor with only a 1.5x crop factor. For me, Sony is all about audio; I just bought a set of MDR-V6 headphones on sale at Amazon for $68 yesterday, for instance.

If you want a posh point and shoot for $650 with a small sensor, get the Fuji X10 for $100 less with far better mechanics, much faster zooming and handling and a faster lens (Sony markets as "f/1.8," but the RX100 lens is only f/4.9 at the long end):


Fuji Rebates

Fuji X10

Fuji X10.

Fujifilm X10, 12 MP semi-large sensor, 28-112mm equiv. f/2-2.8: Reg $599.00 Special $549.00.

Fuji X10 review.

Fujifilm XS1, 12 MP, 24mm-624mm equiv, f/2.8-5.6: Reg $699 Special $599.


Tripod deals

I just got an amazing Dolica ZX600B300 carbon-fibre do-everything tripod that's on sale for just $124.95 with free shipping. It's got a nice ball head, pads on the legs, a great case included, legs that easily lock at a few angles, non-rotating legs and more, and it's super light and super solid.

As I explained at Don't Buy Anything You See Advertised, Dolica puts our money into making better tripods, not on buying advertising space in magazines or paying famous-name photographers to pimp tripods for them.

Personally I usually prefer to carry my flyweight $30 Dolica AX620B100, whose price has dropped from $35 to $30, including a really nice case! I rarely use tripods, so I carry as little as possible and prefer to throw this one in my trunk.

My Dolica ZX600B300 carbon-fibre has more features and advanced design than my other two real Gitzo tripods. (Gitzo of France no longer exists, even though the name survives for marketing; they got bought out by tripod conglomerate Vinten and now are merely just another Vinten brand made in some other factory.)

I bought my original Gitzo 1228 carbon-fibre in 1995 and a smaller metal G106 Gitzo in 1997 for travel, both of which have legs that rotate making them harder to lock. My new Dolica ZX600B300 has legs that do not rotate.

My Dolica ZX600B300 has a spring-loaded center-column hook that retracts automatically (my $500 Gitzo carbon-fibre hook doesn't retract, and is broken anyway), and the Dolica is extremely solid, much more steady than my smaller metal Gitzo G106 that weighs more!

Not a bargain, but I use my existing Novoflex Mini Magic Ball I used to use on my Gitzo G106 on my Dolica ZX600B300. Quick releases are a pain; I prefer the instant access and simplicity of my MagicBall. I use it for travel, and I use a huge Bogen Manfrotto 3275 410 Geared Head on my big Gitzo 1228 in the studio sometimes.

Also the $400 Slik DST-33 big video tripod is on sale for $199.95.

All in all, my now $30 Dolica AX620B100 is all I carry with me if at all, and I use it with its included head. Done. For you guys who want a nicer tripod if you actually use tripods, the $124.95-on-sale Dolica ZX600B300 is the new standard.


22 August 2012, Wednesday


Japan's Big Week continues:

Three new point-and-shoots from Nikon today. Maybe a DSLR or new lenses tomorrow.


NEW: Nikon Coolpix P7700

This is the new "good" compact from Nikon.

12 MP.

7.1x f/2-f/4 VR lens (28-200mm equivalent).

3" flippy LCD.

September 2012, $500.


NEW: Nikon Coolpix S800c in black and in white.

It's an Android phone without the phone, but with a better 16MP, 10x zoom camera with 3.5" OLED screen.

You computer guys will love this.

September 2012, $350.


NEW: Nikon Coolpix S01

Tiny touchscreen camera in four colors.

No buttons, 2.5" touch screen only.

3x zoom.

September 2012, $180.


Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 L Review

Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 L.

NEW: Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 L Review.


Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 L Review

Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 L.

NEW: Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 L Review.

These are just "mini" reviews.


Own It, Learn It, Love It

A reply I realized applies to everyone who writes me asking for advice on what new camera to buy, or if they just made the right choice, is just that: Own It, Learn It, and Love It.

The most important thing is to learn it. It never matters what camera you have, but it always matters if you know how to use it.

We'd all take much better pictures if we'd pay attention to using and appreciating what we already own, instead of wasting time trying to figure out how to throw away more money.

I realize it's much easier for most people just to throw money at a problem instead of spending the time to learn something new and complex, but buying more gear usually results in worse pictures because the mental effort you wasted on researching a purchase should have been spent on learning what makes a great picture instead.

It's exactly how watching TV or YouTube or Facebook makes you stupid: they make you stupid because other people are getting smarter while you're simply entertaining yourself. You're the same, while your competitors are getting ahead of you.

The people who focus on their pictures are the ones who make great pictures, while the people who focus on their cameras just wind up owning better cameras. It's never your camera.

Want to learn the hard stuff about how to see a good picture? Read Bruce Barnbaum's book; it will be the best $25 you ever spent on photography. Understand that book and you'll make great shots with anything, but keep throwing thousands of dollars away every few years on the latest gear will keep you making exactly the same photos.

I had a blast shooting this weekend with a 1971 Canon FTb. What a hoot; it just shoots, and uses the very inexpensive and optically superb Canon L lenses like the 24/1.4 L, 50/1.2 L and 85mm f/1.2 L in FD mounts.


21 August 2012, Tuesday

Not much yet from Japan's Big Week, but here's the first of it:


NEW: Canon PowerShot SX500 IS and PowerShot SX160 IS ultrazoom cameras.


SX500 IS: 30x optical zoom

Canon SX500 IS

Canon SX500 IS. bigger.

Canon SX500 IS

Canon SX500 IS. bigger.

24mm ~ 720mm (equiv.) optical zoom.

New "Zoom Framing Assist" feature to help us find stuff at long zooms if we lose it: press the " > [] < " button on the side of the lens and it quickly zooms back out, with a rectangle on the screen for where the zoom is set. (It's sort of like a LEICA rangefinder.) As soon as you've found the subject again, let go of the button, and it zooms right back in to where we were. This works faster than if we used the zoom lever, and of course knows right where we were when it returns.

16 MP.

HD video.

3" LCD.

September 2012.


More information.


SX160 IS: 16x optical zoom

Canon SX160 IS

Canon SX160 IS. bigger.

Canon XS160 IS

Back, Canon SX160 IS. bigger.

28mm ~ 450mm (equiv.) optical zoom.

16 MP.

HD video.

3" LCD.

Dedicated movie button — and these point and shoots already focus much better than DSLR video like the T4i.

AA-cell powered.

Black or Red.

September 2012.


More information.


More 5D Mark III Love

Good luck finding the menu option on any camera to disable the external flash from firing, but if you can find it, it lets you leave the flash turned on to use its infra-red AF assist beam for night-time landscape or people shots, but not fire the flash for the photo.

Disable the flash in the menus, but leave your external flash ON, and its barely-visible red assist beam still works — even though the flash itself won't fire.

On my 5D Mark III, this is now my setting in my C1 (landscape) mode, where I rarely use flash. This way I can focus even faster in crappy light without flash, and when I need my flash, it's magically active again in my C2 and C3 modes.



Made in the USA

My kids are loving the smiley-face pancakes we're making in our new Smiley-Face Pancake Pan, and it's MADE IN USA! Whoo hoo, the Vikings at Nordic Ware prefer to make a superior product in Minnesota than to export manufacture to the lowest bidder overseas.

It is the Vikings, specifically Leif Erikson, who discovered America in the first place.


Bad Times

Chase Jarvis shares that some photographers spend more than twice as much time on a computer than they do making pictures.

If you're as unfortunate as the "photographer" shown in this pie chart, you waste 40.9% of your time on a computer (28.4% computer + 8.7% blogging about it + 3.8% fixing the computer), and only spend less than an eighth of your time making photos.

Don't let that be you. Computers are time-suckers. Get out and shoot. Live the dream.


18 August 2012, Saturday

Canon T4i Review

Canon T4i and 40/2.8 STM.

NEW: Canon T4i Review.

Much improved for video, but still not as good as a real camcorder.

Let me know if you have any questions that I didn't answer.


Tesla Museum

The whole world's been going off on something I showed y'all back in 2009: raising funds for a Tesla Museum at His lab on Long Island.

See it here and here. I sort of brushed it off since I dislike seeing my Granddad's name mixed with profanity, but it seems like it's working.


Are you ready for this Tuesday?

Next week is Japan's "Big Week" when half of the coolest gotta-have-it new photo junk gets announced.

Tuesday, 21 August, and Thursday, 23 August, ought to be the biggest days.

Think I'm kidding? This is what got announced these same second-to-last Tuesdays and Thursdays of August in the past:

The Canon 5D came out that date in 2005. The 5D is the world's first affordable full-frame camera.

The D80 came in 2006.

The D3, D300, 40D and 1Ds Mk III came in 2007.

The D90 and 50D came in 2008.

The D3100 and 60D came in 2010.

All these came in the second-to-last week of August in those years, and yes, the world's first Digital Rebel (a.k.a. the EOS 300D) was announced the 20th of August, 2003. It was the world's first DSLR for normal people.

I doubt the D600 will drop, unless Canon drops something first, especially seeing how Nikon still has backorders on the D800 and especially the D800E.


16 August 2012, Thursday

D800 Finally In-Stock!

Nikon D800

Nikon D800 and 50/1.4G.

Adorama is the first to have the D800 in-stock, ready to go.

They won't last long at all.

The D800E has been shipping to folks who ordered it since March, but it's still not in stock anyplace.


Canon EOS 3

Guitar Lessons

Bath time! (Canon EOS 3, Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM, bounced Canon 540EZ flash, Fuji Velvia 50, NCPS process and scan.) bigger.

My film from this past weekend's trip ought to be back today. This snap was from my first test roll through the EOS 3 I just bought over eBay. Works great, with a much better mind-reading AF system and finder screen than any Canon today. Hah!


Canon T4i

My T4i focuses better than other DSLRs for video, but still nowhere near as fast as it does for still shots via the ground glass. At least video autofocus is now smooth and refined, if slow, and not all jerky and confused as are other DSLRs trying to focus for video.

The 18-135 STM is sweet and smooth and near silent, with near-instant autofocus for still shots.

The 40/2.8 STM doesn't focus as fast as regular EF lenses, and it's not that much quieter either.

Both have manual focus by wire, which is bad because there is a very slight time delay between turning the ring and the lens moving.

This STM stuff is great for video, but not good for still shots.

The 40/2.8 STM is an EF lens, and fully compatible with all EOS cameras. I tried it on my EOS 3, and everything worked exactly as it does on the T4i.


15 August 2012, Wednesday

Canon T4i

NEWS: My Canon T4i just arrived today, the same day Canon has recalled some of them for a bizarre potential for an allergic reaction to the chemical used in its grip.

The recall only affects some serial numbers.

I bought mine from Adorama, and since the serial number is on my printed invoice, I don't even have to touch it or try to find and read it off the box.

I read my invoice, and mine is fine. Whew!

As usual, most of the people who have shifted focus-points, dead-pixels or other "widespread" problems seem to have been people who tended to have bought locally at retail. I've never had any of these problems buying from Adorama, B&H or Amazon, but when people call me wondering why my phone number is in their camera, these have been people silly enough to have bought at a huge electronics chain. (Someone loaded my settings file into a camera, and then the store resold it as new, at full price.)

When buying via the big guys, no one ever unboxes my camera to show around, then puts it back in the box to sell as "new" next week. Local dealers don't get free cameras to show, they have to open new ones. Where do you think those demo cameras go when they're put back in the box? Mars, or to the next retail customer paying full price?

Adorama and B&H are still family owned and operated, and each have only one single retail store, and each of those stores is made of real New York City brick-and-mortar. Their warehouses from which our online orders ship are separate from their stores; no one opens anything before it goes out the door to us. This is why I've been ordering from them even back when I was a kid in the 1970s. They've always treated me right, not just because a few more people know me now that a few decades have passed. (Amazon's only been around since the 1990s; they're still new, and so far, still good.)

Your experiences may differ, but with over 30 years as a customer at each of the Big Two, I have yet to have a problem with either. That's why they've grown, while the crappier NYC stores have evaporated.


Canon 1D X Shutter-Life Counter

Added: My 1D X has a shutter counter that can be conjured up in the menu system.


Nikon's best professional DSLR

Nikon D3X review

Nikon D3X and 50/1.4G.

I've only complained about its price before, never its performance. My favorite Nikon pro DSLR of all time is the Nikon D3X, now on sale for a mere $6,899.

The D4 is nice — for shooting video, the D3S is better for still photography since it has real AF controls and the D800 rules for consumers who need a lot of resolution, but for professional portraits, nature and landscape where resolution matters, it's always been the Nikon D3X if you're shooting Nikon.


14 August 2012, Tuesday

More specials

Do these ever stop getting better and better? Oh well, no time like the present to get a 5D Mk III if you don't already have one, or of course having a spare so you never have to change lenses is good, too:

Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 24-105L IS and Lexar 64GB Professional 600x SDXC UHS-I Memory Card and B + W 77mm UV (Ultra Violet) Haze Multi Coated (2C) Glass Filter — and Canon 200-DG Digital Gadget Bag: Reg. $4,451.85, Special $4,299.01!

Are you paying attention? This is the 5D3 and the 24-105L, with a $70 filter and a $135 memory card thrown in for free, and a Canon digital bag thrown in, all for free, with free shipping! Not only that, but the $4,299 price is a deal by itself for just the camera and lens, which sell for $3,465 and $950, or $4,415 bought separately, all at NYC discount prices.

Heck, I paid full price ($3,500) for my 5D Mark III and didn't get anything free.

If you need the 17mm TS-E:

Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 17mm TS-E -: Reg $5,763.00, Mail In $400 Rebate, Total $5,363.00


13 August 2012, Monday

Southern California Trip

San Clemente Tiolet

Toilet, San Clemente. (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM, f/3.5 at 1/10 at ISO 400, hand-held.) bigger.

Whoo hoo! Our trip to Southern California was a success. As I snapped this shot of a toilet, incredulous onlookers gasped "he's taking a picture — of a toilet!"

It didn't look that interesting in person, but I knew the orange low-pressure sodium lamp would look brilliant orange against the very blue sky, since at twilight, the sodium light and blue of the sky would be the same brightness, and retain color in both.


Our friend in the photo business

My friend Jacob at Adorama has offered to help us with special discounts on some of the hottest items, like the 5D Mark III and Canon and Nikon gear, that are rarely discounted. No, he can't get us any better delivery on unavailable products, but if it's shipping, email him with what you want, mention I referred you, and he probably can get you a deal you or I can't get anywhere else. Just remember to mention I sent you so he knows what's going on.


Canon Rebates

Who hoo! Canon instant rebates are back. These are always when I get all my new Canon lenses.

These instant rebates are really just price drops: there are no forms to mail in or UPCs to cut out of your boxes; the price is just lower:

Canon Ultrawide and Fisheye Zooms instant rebates

Canon Midrange EF-S Zoom instant rebates

Canon Telephoto Zooms instant rebates

Canon Wide-Angle Lens instant rebates (including the 20mm lens I used for the shot above, which I suggest as a great lens at an even better price compared to the 17-40 or 16-35 lenses most people buy for two to three times the price.)

Standard and Short Telephoto Lens instant rebates

Canon Macro Lens instant rebates

Canon Flash instant rebates

Canon Teleconverter instant rebates

Canon Tilt-Shift Lens instant rebates


09 August 2012, Thursday

America Conquers Mars

We launched our ship last November. It's been flying for over eight months, and arrived last week.

We landed a few days ago on the planet's surface.

As with America's conquest of the Moon: probes today, men tomorrow.

Here's a movie showing just the planning behind the landing. It's got a full stereo music and rumble soundtrack, so be sure your stereo subwoofers are fired up on your computer. (I'm playing with the new self-powered Focal XS Book on my desktop right now, review coming):


Here's NASA's web page where you can see much more.


NEW: Nikon 1 J2 and a slew of new Coolpix just announced.

Do I care? No, but you might. There's a reason Nikon makes 85 different kinds of cameras.


Nikon 1 J2

10 MP, 3" LCD, $550 with 10-30mm lens, September. Comes in plenty of colors for the ladies.

More: Nikon's press release. Nikon's product data. Get yours.


Nikon 1 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6

smaller than 10-30mm, comes in black or white (USA) or all six colors (Japan), $190, September.

More: Nikon's press release (scroll down) and Nikon's lens data. Get yours.


WP-N1 underwater case

For J1 and J2 with 10-30mm lenses, rated 130 feet (40m), comes in black or white, $750, September.

Nikon's press release (scroll down) and Nikon's WP-N1 data. Get yours.


Coolpix L610: 16 MP, 14x VR optical zoom, AA batteries, red, black or silver, $250, September.

Nikon's press release (scroll down) and Nikon's L610 data. Get yours.


NEW: Canon 28-105mm USM II Review.

Canon 28-105mm USM II Review

Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM II.

An inexpensive, lightweight and ultrafast focusing lens for full-frame and 35mm EOS cameras.

I've been shooting a lot of this lens; it's my favorite family lens for my Canon 5D Mark III.


08 August 2012, Wednesday

Wait-Listed: Southern California Beach Photo Tour

We're full for the grand Southern California Photo Tour starting this Saturday the 11th.

Call or email Dave Wyman at (323) 377-7565 or davewyman@imountainman.com if you'd like to get on a wait list, but we're full as of this writing.

Thanks and see you there!


NEW: Canon 28-200mm Review.

Canon 28-200mm Review

Canon EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM.

An inexpensive, lightweight do-everything lens for full-frame and 35mm EOS cameras.


5D Mk III, 24-105 and and Grip Deal

NEW: Get the 5D Mk III, 24-105L and the BG-E11 grip for just $4,299!


This is a steal:

5D Mk III: $3,464.

BG-E11 grip: $309.

24-105L: $950.

Total: $4,723.

SALE: $4,299!


07 August 2012, Tuesday

Someone please change the channel!

I was shooting my 5D Mark III last night in the dark with 30-second exposures, and realized another reason I prefer it to my Nikons:

The 5D Mark III has a rear red tally light when the shutter's open. The ACTIVITY LED stays lit while the shutter is open, so I can walk away and know from a distance when my exposure is complete.

My original Canon 5D (2005-2008) makes fantastic images, but its ergonomics and LCD suck. I still own mine, but rarely used it even in its day. I shot Nikon instead.

My 5D Mark II (2008-today) was a huge improvement over the original 5D. I preferred to shoot my 5D Mark II on vacations with the family, since it has the multi-mode instant recall dial, while I shot Nikons for my other work.

Now with the even more improved 5D Mark III, I use it for everything. I use my Nikons today mostly for historical reminiscing, shooting old lenses.

While Canon has steadily addressed all my petty whining with each new model, Nikon has ignored us, and in fact, the D800 is an ergonomic step backwards from the D700, with a poorer LCD.

Nikon is walking backwards, while Canon moves forwards.


Rockwell's Cheating!

San Juan Capistrano Zebra Bars

Parallel Zebra Bars, San Juan Capistrano. (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 28-105mm USM II at 105mm, f/25 at 1/50, ISO 100, 6 sharpening, +3 saturation, AUTO WB A4, and then split-toned in Photoshop) bigger.

I got back from Tokyo last week (that was the teppan grill fire shot), and now the family and I are visiting Southern California again, since we wanted to see family, and I'm helping lead a photo outing this coming weekend.

I visited San Juan Capistrano this past weekend, and already made this snap above. Am I cheating, not waiting for the official outing?

Hope to see you this weekend!


To ISO 10,000 and Beyond!

Ryan likes to change batteries

Ryan likes to change batteries. (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 28-105mm USM II at 28mm, f/4 at 1/125, AUTO ISO 10,000 [actually pushed a little further, to about ISO 16,000, in Photoshop CS6], 6 sharpening, 0 saturation, AUTO WB A4.) bigger.

I didn't even realize for this snap that my 5D Mk III pulled itself up to ISO 10,000 with my slow zoom, and it looks fine.

It's actually closer to ISO 16,000 after I pushed (lightened) it in Photoshop.

Of course the corners are softer; they're not in focus. This is where the IFC (Intelligent Field Curvature) of the Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM would have come in handy.

Oh yeah — this was cropped a bit, too.


NEW: I added HDR comments to my 5D Mark III Review.


AF Tracking

Katie Swinging

Katie Swinging. (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 28-105mm USM II at 68mm, Canon 220EX flash, Program Auto and AUTO ISO chose f/18 at 1/200 at ISO 400, STANDARD Picture Style with 6 sharpening, 0 saturation, AUTO WB A4.) bigger. more.

Here are snaps of Katie on a swing at very fast rates, tracked by the 5D Mark III's AF system. It even tracked her on the crazy seahorse-on-a-spring ride!

I've never gotten any of my Nikons to do this; the Nikon lenses just can't focus as fast as most of Canon's USM lenses like the 15-year-old Canon EF 28-105 USM II I used here.

This photo stopped most of the action; Katie was going so super-fast that I could hardly keep the camera pointed at her, much less have focused.



I was in Tokyo last week, and my camera-designer friends confirm that full-frame autofocus is coming.

Full-frame autofocus is a feature I created some years ago. It means we'll have AF sensors all over our entire frame, and not just in the central area as it is today. Do I really care if I have 61 sensors all in the middle when I still have to lock focus so I can put my subject on the left side?

I don't know about you, but it's high time we had AF sensors for things at the tops, bottom, left and right of our frame where our subjects are, not just the central 25% of the frame as is the case today.

Likewise, we're hoping mind-control focus comes back. Canon perfected this in the EOS 3, which moved the AF sensors all by itself based on what you were thinking, not where the camera tried to guess with image recognition. How did Canon do this? Simple: the camera looked at your eyeball, and activated the sensor depending on where you were looking. After using the mind-reading EOS 3, having to select sensors by hand feels as primitive as it is.

Canon calls this "Eye-Control" focus, and since your eyes move automatically, you don't even have to think and the EOS 3 magically puts the sensor wherever you wanted it, magically. Canon pulled this feature out of their digital SLRs so they can have something up their sleeve when things get slow.

Likewise, Nikon's D600 may be nothing more than a warning to Canon not to think that Canon could introduce a lower-priced full-frame sensor DSLR and take the market away from Nikon, because Nikon has the D600 ready to go if Canon, the inventor of the full-frame DSLR, tried anything.

I doubt either will try to lower the market for full-frame cameras. Full-frame is a luxury feature for which they charge a premium today, so it's far more likely we'll see pimped-out 1.6x and DX DSLRs than inexpensive full-frame DSLRs anytime soon.

I was in Tokyo catching up with friends, and previewing whatever may or may not get announced in two weeks when Japan traditionally announces all the hot new cameras for fall.


06 August 2012, Monday

Don't Buy Anything You See Advertised

NEW: I just added this section to How to Afford Anything.


Macro or Micro?

NEW: I just added an explanation of Why Nikon Calls Its Macro Lenses "Micro."


05 August 2012, Sunday

AF or AF-D?

Nikon 50 1.4 review

Nikon 50 1.4 D.

A reader asks after yesterday's 50/1.4D suggestion, if it's worth updating from his original 50/1.4 AF, made 1986-1995, to today's AF-D version, made since 1995 (and made in China since about 2000).

The "D" stands for distance. The D lenses couple the focus distance to the camera. All Nikon lenses introduced since about 1993 are D.

The only thing the "D" feature adds is to improve flash exposure accuracy if you're shooting something very dark, very light or into a mirror, or if there are things at multiple distances from the camera. If there are things at different distances, "D" lenses help the camera make the correct flash exposure for where the lens is focused. Likewise, D lenses prevent the camera from being fooled by shooting into mirrors, or white or very dark objects.

Additionally today, lenses with the D feature allow the newest cameras with automatic distortion correction to correct the distortion, while the older, non-D lenses won't.

Personally, I've never bothered to replace or update my non-D lenses, if D or not-D was the question. I still use my non-D 20/2.8 AF, which for the things I shoot with an ultrawide, doesn't care about D.

For the lenses with which I use fill-flash, like all my family shots, I'd want D, which all recent lenses are.

All AF-S, all AF-I and all G lenses are D. Everything sold new today is D.

All this alphabet soup and more explained at Nikon Lens Terminology.


04 August 2012, Saturday

D700? Yes!

Nikon D700

Nikon D700 and 50/1.4D.

I love my D800E (and I love my 5D Mark III even more), but when normal friends ask if they ought to get the D700 or D800, the answer is always "just get the D700."

I use this stuff all day, every day, so to me, price doesn't matter. I prefer my 5D Mark III over my D800E and don't want to carry the fat versions of either, the D4 or 1D X.

If money matters at all, the D700 is a bargain, since it's the same as the D800, but with a much better LCD and better image quality, and with better ergonomics since the D700 adds full, direct AF controls sorely lacking on the D800.

Why does the D700 have better image quality than the D800? Easy: the D700 has accurate colors, while the D800 has a nasty green/yellow shift that needs M1 White Balance shift to correct. It doesn't matter how many pixels you have if they're not the right color.

The D800 is just the video version of the D700; for still shooting, if price matters, duh, get the D700.

Likewise for the 50mm f/1.4 AF-D, which is a top pro lens for just $330. Sure, the 50/1.4G has instant manual-focus override, but that will cost you $150 extra. I'd get the gray-market version of the 50/1.4D for just $294 (what is Gray Market?); I doubt the 50/1.4D will ever need service.


Amazon Instant Video Finally Works!

I joined Amazon Prime years ago since I order everything from Amazon all the time. I'm Prime to get free second-day (and often next-day) shipping on every order.

Prime members get tons of free Amazon Instant Videos, but I've never figured out how to play them. They didn't used to play on my iPad, so who cared? I was never able to figure out how to get them to play; too many clicks and so I lost interest.

Well, I was right: they didn't used to play on iPad, but now they do!

Amazon just released a free Instant Video Player app, and with this app, it all works great on my iPad.

Whoo hoo! Get the free video app.

It loads and plays even faster than Netflix used to. Quitting Netflix just put another eight bucks in my pocket each month (times are tough for all of us), and since I'm already Prime, all these new Instant Videos are free!

The new Amazon Instant Video App just came out Tuesday. I'm surprised it took Amazon this long to figure out that they need to play on iPad; it was probably their own internal silliness hoping the iPad would go away.

Hint: don't waste your time looking for the SEARCH box; there isn't any. Amazon expects you to search and add items in an Internet browser, and then finding those once you return to the App.


01 August 2012, Wednesday

Man like fire

Ryan likes fire

Ryan LOVES fire! The ladies, less so. (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 28-105mm USM II at 28mm, Program Auto and AUTO ISO chose f/4 at 1/125 at ISO 3,200, STANDARD Picture Style with 6 sharpening, 0 saturation, AUTO WB A4.) bigger. more.

Just a snap from a real teppan grill. Chain restaurants like Benihana no longer play with fire, so forget them.

This was an easy shot, I just put my 5D Mark III's AF sensor on Ryan's face, and it took care of the rest at my usual C2 instant-recall setting. It puts most of the exposure emphasis on the sensor, so the flames don't distract it. My cheap used 28-105mm USM II works great; no way I'd carry the big 24-105 IS everyplace we go, and with the super-ISO capacity of the 5D3, no longer do I need anything faster than f/4 or f/5.6. Image Stabilization serves no purpose with people or action like this; IS is for still-lifes only.

All I did was place the sensor, everything else was on my usual AUTO settings, and my fifty-three did the rest. I so love my 5D Mark III: point and shoot.


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If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

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