photography equipment

I got the camera bug from my father and grandfather. It started with my first 35mm, a cheapo Konika, and has continued to grow with my D40 and collection of lenses. Here’s a summary of my equipment and a description of some of the photos available on the site.



My current lineup of equipment includes (spring 2014):

Canon EOS 40D (10.1 MP)
Canon EOS 20D (8.2 MP)
Lumix DMC-LX7 point and shoot (10.1 MP)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
Canon EF 28-135/3.5-5.6 IS USM (second copy)
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM & ET-65B hood
Canon Speedlite 550EX
Neewer Macro Ring LED Light
Aputure Amaran Halo AHL-H100 LED Ring Flash Light
Canon RS-80N3 Remote Switch
Neewer BG-E2N Battery Grip (2)
Manfrotto 190XPROB 3 Section Aluminum Pro Tripod
Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head Short

I’ve been a proponent of using Canon’s “in-between” lenses – not plastic consumer junk, but not super-expensive “L” series.  I’ve been really happy with my prime lenses, with the 85 mm 1.8 being my favorite lens.  The 100 mm macro is by far the sharpest lens I own, but it’s indoor low light performance is limiting.  I do have an assortment of zoom lenses that provide flexibility for walk-around purposes.  The 70-300 IS is known around the house as the “dog lens” allowing for those great close up action shots.  There’s a link to the right called “selected photos”; you can find some of my favorite shots there with descriptions of the equipment. I put together this plot of my lens coverage:


I use the Lumix when I don’t feel like hauling around my EOS equipment. The Lumix is pretty good when going out to dinner with friends or keeping a camera in your pocket to capture impromptu events. It has great low light performance and captures nice HD video. I’m very pleased with all these lenses – they each serve a specific purpose and yield great results. Here’s my list of equipment I no longer use:

Canon EF 28-135/3.5-5.6 IS USM (1st copy retired, fell off a tripod)
Canon EOS D30 (3 MP, 7 years, trigger broke)
Sigma 28-80mm 1:3.5-5.6 II Macro (3 years,  AF broke)
Sigma 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 DL Macro Super (5 years, AF broke)
Sigma 170-500mm f/5-6.3 APO Aspherical (AF too slow, not compatible with 20D/40D)
Canon EF 35-80mm f/4.0-5.6 (20 years, still works but I’ve moved on)

I went with Sigma lenses for quite some time and they served me well. I especially enjoyed having macro lenses – this was my first exposure to them and they proved to be very versatile. I did not use the 500mm very often. I purchased it for wildlife photos, specifically bird watching. I used it in conjunction with a monopod and had mixed results. The AF capability of the lens was terrible, so I often found myself dropping to manual focus to avoid losing a shot to the Sigma hunting for focus.

Unfortunately the Sigma macros did not last as long as my single, old standby Canon 35-80mm that I had been using for over 15 years. Both the macro lenses broke after 5 years of heavy use. You could argue that I got my money’s worth, but it does bug me that the AF went out. I guess I can’t get past the idea that I should be able to use a lens forever. Back to pure Canon equipment for me. My original SLR was a film camera:

Canon Rebel XL
Canon EF 35-80mm f/4.0-5.6
Canon Speedlite 300EZ


4/1/2014 – beware of MAP

Canon started strictly enforcing its Minimum Advertised Price policy. I’ll leave it to the economists and lawyers to try and convince you this is not price fixing and it does not harm consumers, but I can say this is the pricing trend I have seen on one lens that I was monitoring:

  • 2008-10-20 – $340
  • 2014-03-28 – $360 (5.8% higher than what I originally paid)
  • 2014-04-01 – MAP instituted
  • 3014-04-06 – $419 (23.2% higher than what I paid, 16.4% over pre-MAP pricing)

At a price increase of 16% to 23% I certainly feel harmed as a consumer. This is maddening enough to make me rethink my commitment to Canon. Pricing on camera bodies are just as maddening, with a 60D now firmly stuck at $699, when it was as low as $499 to $599 this holiday season.

Canon’s non-competitive small scale specialty retailers should rethink their business model to provide a compelling service to camera enthusiasts rather than trying to simply compete on fixed pricing. Aggressive and simple rental models, try before you buy, free classes along with your purchase – what can they do to drive people to their store. This is not a unique problem for the camera industry, but a wider trend as consumers become more connected and smarter about their shopping practices. The camera industry needs to reinvent itself, much the same as the music industry is attempting to do. There’s an interesting data visualization somewhere in here showing the effective price increases with this policy in play.

In the meantime, consider buying used equipment. I’ve put off several big upgrades in bodies and lenses indefinitely until this MAP business is either stopped or outlawed. If neither happens, my 20 years of shooting with Canon SLRs will likely end when my existing equipment wears out.


Managing a photo library

I’ve been looking into a variety of ways to manage our photo library.  Currently we store >20,000 images on a network file server.  I wanted a way to manage those photos while keeping them in place on the network.  I started working with iPhoto which is a great application for sorting, organizing and uploading very small numbers of images.

However, there’s a fundamental design flaw in how iPhoto manages it’s library; by default iPhoto stashes a copy of the “original” imported image and a copy of the image that can be manipulated.  This approach allows iPhoto to keep a working copy and an original in its database.  That’s 2 copies stored in iPhoto, and the original on the NAS.  There is an option to create a reference library in iPhoto which eliminates the storage of the “original” file, but it still creates a full copy of the original.  That reduces the overhead from 200% to 100%, but that still stinks.  All I want is a simple way to create a thumbnail index of my library and the ability to sort photos on my remote photo library.  iPhoto was out.

Enter Picasa.  Though it strays pretty far from OSX standards, it does provide the functionality that I need.  It indexed all 20,000 photos and created thumbnails in less than an hour.  It maintained my directory structure as the main hierarchy.  It also created unique “faces” views of the libary.  There are touch up tools built in that I have not tested yet, but overall, it has fully met my key requirements.