Tag: canon

Lessons Learned

Thursday night was the best to try and view the Perseids meteor shower. I’d not tried the Canon at night – in fact I’ve not done any night shooting before. I’ve always wanted to take pictures of the moon, stars etc but been let down by two things. Firstly, having a camera and lens that could take good clear pictures. Secondly, and most importantly, is the light pollution in Glasgow. The orange glow from streetlights is only managed by that of the fake tan parlours in Partick.

So with that myself and Shakeel set off off for…where could we go to escape the light pollution. We ended up heading to Whitelees where we knew it would be dark and also we could have easy access to an open space. This was the first mistake of the evening – missing a glorious sunset. If we’d got there a half hour earlier we would have had some great pics…instead we missed the sun but still saw the fiery sky left behind.

Sunset

We then waited for the sky to get dark which took another hour or so. I’ve picked up a remote trigger but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to work so I had to give up on that and use the normal shutter button. Frustrating as it introduced a bit of vibration and I wanted to use bulb mode on the camera, which keeps shooting as long as I hold the shutter button. For a couple of shots I wanted to have exposure lengths of 2 to 3 minutes but that just wasn’t practical without the remote. More frustrating – I realised the next day that I had the cable between the camera and receiver the wrong way round. Lack of preparation had let me down.

Night Sky, low Iso

So the pictures we were getting were good but didn’t seem to be picking everything up that we could see with our eyes. Asa test we then tried capturing one of the turbines by increasing the ISO while keeping the exposures long. That gave us some pretty dramatic shots.

Turbine, high ISO

We then used the higher ISO settings on the sky itself. This seemed to give better shots when reviewing them on the camera screen but with hindsight the lower ISO settings would have given a clearer shot of the sky so should have varied that a bit more. Looking at the shots I managed to get of Perseids meteors, they are pretty faint against the not so black night sky. A wee bit more patience would have paid dividends here. I should have reviewed the pictures on the iPad to see more clearly the shots I was taking.

Perseids

Compare that to these shots on Flickr – I’ve got a lot to learn. Another important lesson is location. We waited patiently for the last remnants of the sun to go but there was still a glow from Glasgow. Despite being well outside Glasgow the glow from the streetlights was getting in the way of some of the pictures. Wispy cloud that we couldn’t see appeared as orange streaks in our photo’s which was disappointing.

But let’s not be too negative. It was my first attempt, I did manage to get some shots of the meteors and it was a good learning experience. In fact I’m really pleased to have tried night shooting as we are planning to visit Galloway Park which is one of only a handful of dark parks around the world. We’ll visit during winter as it’s dark a lot earlier. I also plan to hire out a large lens to make the most of the visit. At least this time I’ll have a remote trigger that will work and also understand the impact of ISO settings a little better. Practise makes perfect.

Canon EOS 550D

As hinted in my previous post I’ve finally done it. I’ve bought a Canon EOS 550D. This is my first DSLR and quite a step up from Panasonic TZ5 point and shoot I currently use. Since the first reviews came out I’ve been pretty convinced about the camera. Great stills coupled with an excellent video mode made it a fairly straight forward choice.

One issue was that friends are all Nikon users so I could borrow lenses but this quote from DPReview sums up my feelings on the 550D.

With all this taken into account, it is hard not to recommend the EOS 550D. Quite simply, taken as a whole, it is the best camera of its class that we’ve ever seen, and one of those rare cameras that won’t look out of date in a couple of years’ time.

The Nikon vs Canon debate is like Mac vs PC. Timeless with no clear winner and no doubt banter for the next few years between me and Shakeel. For me the camera body was the easy bit. The real difficulty was in choosing a lens. So much choice, and prices ranging from around £100 to a few thousand. I’ve been trying to decide for a few weeks now. One choice I did make early on was to pick up a ‘nifty fifty‘, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. This is a cheap lens with low build quality but is optically very good. My first pic with the lens was Ollie the Twitterrific mascot.

Ollie

I was pretty chuffed with this as my first picture. I think the lens will turn out to be a great purchase. The real difficulty was sorting out a lens that would cover all other bases. So many choices, so many reviews, so many opinions. I started off looking at lenses around the £900 mark but I had no real idea if the lens would be good for me, suit the majority of my shots. So I dropped my budget and ended up with something a bit more affordable, but with some compromises – Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. Not too hot indoors but the nifty fifty will cover that, has some barrel issues but overall is a great lens for walk about purposes which is going to be the majority of my shots, at least in the next few months.

Got a few other things to sort now. A bag, tripod, maybe some filters if I get totally hooked (which probably means a yes) but most of all I’m looking forward to getting out and about and experimenting with the camera. Happy days.

Camera Thoughts

Over the last 9 years I’ve owned three different digital camera’s. A Fuji FinePix 6800, a Sony DSC-P200 and my current camera, the Panasonic DMC-TZ5. Each has seen an increase in quality and features and I still love my current camera. Compact but takes a great picture on a hill walk. But I’ve got an itch. That itch is the Canon EOS 550D.

I’ve said for quite a while I had no interest in getting a DSLR. Bulky, expensive and while I liked taking photo’s it wasn’t enough to make me invest. So whats changed? The hill walking has got me out and about a lot more than I used to. I’ve loved taking the photo’s as we visit different places around Scotland. I also think back to mine and Shak’s little tour around London just over a year ago. Again, I really enjoyed the photo taking and also getting the most out of the images via Lightroom. Final reason – video. Current camera takes video and at 720p but the quality isn’t the best so I’ve been thinking about getting a dedicated video camera. The video quality of the 550D looks to be excellent.

So, thats it then. Decision made. Mmmm, not quite. I’m still swithering. The cost is one reason. Once the camera is bought there’s the little matter of lenses. There’s a bewildering range from Canon, never mind the third party offerings. I’ve spent the last few days trying to pick my first lens or two and I’m no closer to settling on anything. Then there’s all the other little things – memory cards, bag and tripod plus all the other little things that I’ll get sucked into buying. I’m even struggling with how best to carry the new gear, if I get it, on my walks. Probably another 1-2 kg’s of weight and need to work out where best to carry it to make it accessible but keep it safe.

Despite my grumblings, no doubt I’ll post in a few weeks time about how impressed I am with the new camera. Once my mind is 90% there then that’s usually enough. One thing that Shakeel did mention was the number of stories around photographers being stopped by police and asked for details under section 44 of the terrorism act. I had seen a video by a Paul Lewis, a Guardian journalist, from last year of how the police challenged him using Section 44. I’d also heard of I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist which was setup to chronicle and fight the growing fear that photographers were being tagged as terrorists. As I dug a little bit more I was shocked by the growing number of photographers who were being challenged by police.

For example student Simona Bonomo was arrested, held in a cell and fined for photographing buildings in London. While you might think this a London only problem Robert Norbury from Leeds was challenged for filming buskers. One of the worst examples I found was Bob Patefield who refused to give his name and was arrested as police said picture he took at Christmas in Accrington town centre were suspicious and amounted to anti-social behaviour. Wow.

Media reporting on this topic has been sending out mixed messages. Back in Dec 09, The Independent reported that the Association of Chief Police officers had sent out a statement saying:

“Everyone… has a right to take photographs and film in public places. Taking photographs… is not normally cause for suspicion and there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place.”

Sounds good. Then on Jan 12, the BBC reported that the European Court of Human Rights rules that it was illegal for the police to use anti terror laws to stop and search people without suspicion. Sounds great except that the UK government is likely to appeal the decision. There’s a great article in The Times today that covers all the points so far and gives out some tips on what to do if you are stopped. Hopefully if (when) I do get the new camera’s it’s advice I’ll never need. We live in scary times.

Inkjet Blues

I love my inkjet. It’s a Canon 5300 and it’s been a great buy. Good photo’s, fast and can print to cd’s as well. In just under two years it hasn’t failed me once. There is however one problem.

It’s an inkjet.

Which means there comes a time when you really need to print something and you run out of ink. Grrrrrrrrr. No problem though. Pop down to PC World and pick up the cartridge required. Except it costs quite a bit of money to replace the cartridges. The best price I could find for genuine cartridges was £51 (to replace all the cartridges). Ouch. A new Canon printer that offers better print quality, a couple of new features and a slightly sleeker design could be had for £80. What a waste though. However I was really tempted to order the new printer rather than pay through the nose for the ink cartridges. It was then I decided to do something different, for me anyway.

I’ve ordered a set of third party cartridges that have picked up great reviews online for only £16. According to the reviews which I always take with a pinch of salt as there is no way of verifying them, the quality of output is indistinguishable from the genuine ink that Canon supplies at over three times the price. They should arrive this week and I’m hopefully they will be ok. It’s the worst aspect of inkjets – the price of ink is a damned disgrace. Anyway, I’ll be sure to pass on results of the printing this week and also the supplier of the ink – good or bad!

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