Lenses

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Now is the time to buy the favored trinity of Canon lenses – very likely the three most popular L-series lenses for professionals, semi-professionals, and aspiring professionals:

Why? Because they are all on sale at B and H, and you can save a grand total of $700 on the trio! (sale price should be shown at checkout)

Canon lens L trio trinity
A trio of Canon L lenses

If you’ve become serious about your photography, or are attempting to make the leap to being a pro shooting, you have likely realized that – as painful as it may be to your wallet – you pretty much need all three of these, or at least one or two of them and a slightly cheaper alternative for the others (such as the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM for the wide angle and the EF 70-200 f/4L IS USM version of the 70-200mm).

You can learn more about each of these lenses and the various alternates in my post about the best Canon lenses here.

Be sure to follow the price trends of the lenses on Canon Price Watch here.

 

 

 

 

 

A few days ago Reuters published a collection of the Best Photos of the Year 2012. This collection, similar to the Atlantic’s 2012: The Year in Photos, is a sometimes inspiring, often depressing look back at the events of the past year. The content and subjects of the images aside, they are both excellent presentations of some of the best in photojournalism and image making for the year, and I encourage you to not only look through the images, but to analyze the ones that you like or that move you, and determine what it is about the images that makes them so powerful. Look at the position and point of view of the camera, the aperture settings used (shallow depth of field vs. deep dof), the composition including wide vs. tight and what was put in the frame and what may have been left out, how the elements, forms, and colors in the image relate, the moment captured, etc.


Reuters photographer Joseba Etxaburu is knocked down by a wild cow during festivities in the bullring following the sixth running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 12, 2012. Etxaburu suffered some scratches on his right elbow but was able to continue shooting afterwards. Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, lens 70-200mm, f3.5, 1/640, ISO 500. http://blogs.reuters.com/fullfocus/2012/11/30/best-photos-of-the-year-2012/#a=1

In an interesting exercise, someone has compiled the type of cameras and lenses used for the photos, and the exposure settings, and then put it all into easy to read pie charts. To turn this information on its head, it seems that to have the best chance of make an interesting image, what you need is a Canon 1D Mark IV with a 16-35mm lens (likely the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L), set your aperture at f/2.8, shutter speed at 1/320, and use 200 ISO.

But to look seriously and more in-depth at the information compiled and presented in the charts, one can learn a lot about how photojournalists in the field operate:

They seem to prefer Canon dSLR cameras, with Canons used in about 90% of the images* – or it perhaps merely shows that Reuters provides, supports, and/ or encourages Canon equipment. (For example, they likely have a collection of Canon bodies and lenses at their offices for the photojournalists to use or to supplement their equipment when they need a specialized lens.) The top camera used, the Canon 1D Mark IV is a very rugged and reliable professional camera, which is interesting to note has “only” 16 megapixels (though it has a much higher quality image sensor than consumer cameras). It has recently been replaced with the more current Canon 1D X.

Prime lenses were used (rather than zooms) in about 55%* of the images, and the most common favorites were nearly equally divided over the 24mm, 50mm, and 16mm (each used about 8% of the time overall when including all lenses*).

With zoom lenses, the wide angle 16-35mm (EF 16-35mm f/2.8L) was used most often (about 19% of the time overall with all lenses*), followed by the 70-200mm (likely the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS version I or II). (The lens links here are for Canon lenses – I’ll try to get back to this and add similar Nikon lens links.)

(*these numbers may be off, as the numbers on Reddit seem to be inconsistent/ incomplete)

What this tells us is that wide angle lenses really are the “bread and butter” lens of the photojournalist, used to capture a wide scene or to place the subject or the action into a larger context – which is often important in telling a full and accurate story in a single image. It also means that the photographer was typically very close to the subject, right in the middle of the action. Sometimes however, a close-up portrait or detail best tells the story, or a photographer can’t get as close as desired, and that is where the 70-200mm comes in.  It is interesting to note that when I did extensive research into choosing lenses at the start of my professional career, I followed many working photographers’ advice and settled first upon these exact lenses – the 16-35mm and 70-200mm. You can do a lot of great travel and photojournalism work with those two lenses alone. One problem you will run into if you are only using one body, however, is that you sometimes have to quickly switch to the other, and that is where the more versatile 24-105mm f/4L or 24-70mm f/2.8L lenses can be more practical.  And you can see that these mid-range zooms were two of the other, lesser used zooms in the chart.

After some time with the zooms, most people want to try their hand at a prime lens – to increase image quality, help them work a bit more at composing and framing, and to provide even shallower depth of field. And as you can see, the wide primes are the most popular among photojournalists. The 50mm f/1.2L or the more affordable 50mm f/1.4 will give you a field of view approximating your normal vision (hence they are called “normal” lenses. The 24mm f/1.4L and 16mm focal lengths are much wider. These also show that the photographers were right up in the action.

The photojournalist’s expression used to be “f/8 and be there” but based on this data, it will obviously have to be modified to “f/2.8 and be there.” The most common aperture setting in these images was f/2.8, used in about 29% of the photos, followed by f/4, f/1.4 (which is possible with some of the prime lenses), and f/3.2. What this means is that they are most often using a very shallow depth of field, usually in an attempt to visually separate the subject of the image from the background, and to call attention to exactly where in the image they want the viewer’s eye to fall. Plus the wide aperture lets in lots of light, which may help them be able to use the fast shutter speeds and low ISO settings they desire.

The “f/8 and be there” expression has been interpreted in a few different ways, but what it seems to say is have your camera ready, and then just be at the scene. The camera settings aren’t nearly as important in photojournalism as simply being there to capture the action.  It also shows that with f/2.8 (and other wide apertures) being used as the most common aperture setting today, photography has likely made a shift over the past few decades where shallower depth of field is much more common.  This would be interesting to investigate, but it could be the result of autofocus systems, allowing a photojournalist to be much more sure of their focus and able to use shallow dof – where as before they had to quickly manually focus and a slightly deeper dof allowed some focusing lee-way. It could also have to do with lenses now being sharper at wider apertures.

The most often used shutter speeds were 1/320, 1/250, 1/800, and 1/640. A photojournalist is often capturing action or precise moments, and thus a fast shutter speed is desired. The best thing to do in these types of situations – especially if working in Aperture Priority Mode so that you have full control over your depth of field – is to set an ISO speed (based on the lighting of the scene) that will allow the camera to select appropriately fast shutter speeds. The best shutter speed depends on the situation and how fast/ what direction the subject might be moving, but from these results it shows that anywhere from 1/250 to 1/800 can work for many scenes – although 1/1000, 1/2000, or faster will be needed for sports and fast action. So set an ISO speed that will result in this shutter speed range when your aperture is set around f/2.8 or f/5.6 (or whatever aperture range you plan to use). The results show that the photojournalists seem to choose the lowest ISO possible for the situation (based on the lighting), as this will result in the least amount of digital noise – interestingly the most used ISO settings actually went in order from 200, 400, 800, to 1600. The fact that ISO 100 came in next, but at a much smaller percentage seems to say: don’t risk it with 100 ISO – just use 200 ISO so that you don’t inadvertently use too slow of a shutter speed when the lighting level decreases but you aren’t paying attention to the exposure settings. The noise and sharpness difference between 100 and 200 is pretty negligible for most current cameras.

Don’t quite understand all these settings and the terminology?  Have a look at my Full Stop dSLR camera guides, such as Canon 5D Mark III Experience and Nikon D600 Experience, which cover not explain the functions, features, and controls of Nikon and Canon dSLR cameras, but more importantly how, when and why to make use of them in your photography.

full stop dslr photo photography camera manual guide for dummies canon nikon

 

There is a lot of exciting news today, and not just with the US Presidential election but also on the dSLR front. Nikon has announced the new Nikon D5200 upper-entry-level dSLR and Canon has announced the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens.  Yes, a 24-70mm with Image Stabilization! Plus they announced  the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens.

The Nikon D5200 is a pretty big leap for an upper-entry level camera in that not only does it boast the 24 megapixels of the new Nikon D600, it also incorporates the 39-point autofocus system of the D7000 (and D600).  This is a sophisticated, complex AF system that was challenging for many experienced enthusiasts to learn, so it is going to be an interesting challenge for those with much less dSLR experience. A very interesting move by Nikon.

Nikon D5200 dslr 39 point autofocus AF

The new Canon 24-70mm F/4L IS, with Image Stabilization, is designed to be the kit lens for the upcoming Canon 6D, though it will also make a great lens for any other Canon dSLR. It is going to create a very difficult decision for photographers who will have to weigh the pros and cons of the 25-105 f/4 IS (with Image Stabilization too), the original 24-70 f/2.8L or newer 24-70 f/2L II (both without Image Stabilization), and the brand new 24-70 f/4L IS – which adds Image Stabilization.

Canon 24-70mm lens ef is image stabilization f4 f/4

The original 24-70 f/2.8L quickly became my main walk-about lens immediately after obtaining it, so I can say that it is a wonderful lens and a great focal length.  Have the additional reach of the 24-105mm f/4L IS would be great, but I didn’t want to give up the wide f/2.8 aperture which creates even greater background blurring. Now people are going to have to analyze the Image Stabilization vs. the f/2.8 or f/4 aperture vs. the additional reach of the 24-105mm (especially on a full-frame camera) vs. the price vs. image quality vs. size and weight.  Not an easy decision! Perhaps when I get a chance, I will try to break it down and try to help with the decision.  Just know, before you lose your mind analyzing the pros and cons of each element, each of these lenses has amazing performance, built, and image quality.  You really can’t go wrong with any of them. Just pick one and start shooting!

And perhaps most exciting, Canon has introduced the Mark II lens caps! Finally, a center-pinch cap that can easily be accessed inside a lens hood.  I know you had to copy Nikon to do this, but thank you Canon!

Canon lens cap center centre pinch new

Canon has just announced an updated, improved version of it’s high-quality EF 24-70mm f/2.8L standard zoom, called the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.  (To understand what all the notions mean, please see my Canon Lens Notations post.)

Some would call this the full frame standard zoom, though as an EF lens it can also be used on non-full-frame cameras such as the 7D, 60D, and T3i/600D.  The difference is that on non-full-frame bodies, it will act more like a 38-112mm focal length lens due to the crop factor of the smaller sensors.

Canon 24-700mm f/2.8L II lens new updated improved
New Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM – (image from Canon USA)

Many, including myself, had hoped for – or even expected – this update to incorporate image stabilization, but this was not included.  The image stabilization would have made it an even tougher decision between the new 24-70 f/2.8L II and the 24-105mm f/4L IS, which offers a similar focal length plus image stabilization, but has a minimum aperture of “only” f/4.0.

Canon states that the lens has been completely redesigned, and in addition to still offering great weather sealing like the original, the same .38m / 1.25 ft. minimum focus distance, and improved durability, it also now “features completely redesigned optics to provide outstanding clarity, image quality and durability. A compact design makes it ideal for carrying on every shoot, and a range of optical enhancements provide improved performance – capturing greater detail across the frame while reducing distortion throughout the entire zoom range, particularly at the maximum 70mm focal length.

With a redesigned optical system that includes two Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) and one Super UD aspheric elements to minimise chromatic aberration and colour blurring, the lens delivers consistently sharp, high-contrast images. Each lens element also features Canon’s optimised Super Spectra coatings to reduce ghosting and flare and ensure excellent colour balance. Additionally, a fluorine coating minimises the amount of dust, dirt and fingerprints that adhere to the front and rear of the lens, helping to maintain superior image quality.”

The original 24-70mm f/2.8L lens included “the use of two different types of aspherical lens elements and a UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) glass element for obtaining sharper image quality.”  (quotes from Canon press releases)

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L original lens
Original Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – (image from Cburnett, Wikipedia, GFDL license)
PLEASE do not put a cheap Tiffen filter on an L lens – use a high quality multi-coated B+W MRC filter

There are some significant differences in the design of the new lens vs. the older version.  They both have ultrasonic motors for autofocus and full time autofocus (you can override the AF by turning the focus ring without switching to manual focus).  And they both use an external zoom mechanism, meaning the lens extends as you zoom in and out.  However, the original lens extended as you zoomed toward the 24mm wide end, which is “backwards” from a typical zoom lens.  The new version acts as a more typical zoom, extending as you zoom towards the 70mm telephoto end.  They both include a lens hood, though the older hood attached to the main section of the lens and the lens extends inside of the hood, thus working more effectively as a hood throughout the entire focal range from wide to tele.  The hood of the new version attaches to the extending section, and thus is a smaller tulip style lens hood typical of most lenses.  Perhaps the new coatings and lens elements make up for any internal reflections that might have resulted from this less effective hood.  The new lens offers a lock switch for when it is retracted, though L lenses typically zoom so smoothly and tightly that they don’t tend to creep.

The sizes of the lenses are similar, though the new version is slightly shorter and lighter but wider.  Due to the changed design, the new lens boasts a larger 82mm filter size.  And the prices at this point are dramatically different.  As far as the image quality, it is certain that the new 24-70mm is going to demonstrate dramatically improved image quality, especially when paired with the new Canon 5D MkIII (Canon 5D X?) when it comes out, as it is rumored to boast 30+ MP, which is going to require excellent glass to fully take advantage of.

24-70mm f/2.8L
3.3″ x 4.9″
2.1 lbs (950 g)
77mm filter size
$1,269 at B&H
$1,299 on Amazon

24-70mm f/2.8L II
3.5″ x 4.4″
1.77 lbs (805 g)
82mm filter size
$2,299 at B&H available for pre-order, expected in mid-April

Canon is running more Instant Savings Rebates on the EOS 60D, body only or with a variety of different lenses or lens combinations.  There are also rebates on several desirable lenses – including great wide angle, telephoto, and macro lenses, the nifty 50, and even tilt-shift lenses.  Plus Speedlite flashes.

It’s a great time to get a pre-holiday gift for yourself or those on your list!

Have a look at the options below, and head over to Amazon, B&H, or Adorama to start shopping – click these store links, or the logos at the left of the page, to shop at these stores and help support this blog!. Thanks!

Have a look at the Canon rebate site to see the details of the offer.

Just in time for summer vacations, safaris, and baseball there are new instant save rebates for some of the Canon telephoto zoom lenses.  You don’t need to do anything for the rebate or send anything in, it is an instant savings built into the sale price.

Canon lens rebate instant save telephoto zoom

EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS
EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS
EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III

Click on the lens names above to see and purchase them from Amazon, with the sale price.

All of these are pretty basic quality lenses, but if you are looking for an affordable telephoto zoom to give you more reach for those sports, wildlife, and travel, now is a good time to buy.

If you are going to purchase any of these, I would suggest going with the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS.  With any lens, you get pretty much exactly what you pay for, so pay a little more for better image quality, color, contrast, and image stabilization.  You can learn much more about lenses in the Lens Category of posts here.

Here is the information on the Canon instant save rebates.

If you are looking for a high quality zoom, consider one of the Canon L lenses such as:

70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II

70-200mm f/4L IS USM

70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS  USM

Click here to jump down to Nikon (Nikkor) Lens Notations

Canon Lens Notations

You have probably noticed that Canon lens descriptions have numerous notations, and may be wondering what some of those letters and numbers mean.  For example EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS is the full name of the kit lens that you may have purchased with the camera.  A lens with a somewhat similar focal length, but which is much more expensive, is the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens.  Each of those notations is significant, and all are important to know and understand when you are researching additional lenses to buy for your camera.  And since I have a hard time remembering them all, I have also added a quick reference to the end for Nikon lenses and a link to a more thorough site.

Canon lens notation letter number mean meaning
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II

EF and EF-S are two different Canon lens mounts.  EF lenses can be used on any Canon dSLR, while EF-S lenses are designed for, and can only be used on Canon dSLRs with 1.6x cropped sensors, including the 60D, all Rebels such as the T3i, plus the 7D, 50D and others, but not the full frame 5D or 5D Mk II.  The rear of EF-S lenses reaches further into the camera body, and thus will damage the mirror of the 5D cameras if you attempt to attach it.  These lenses are optimized for the 1.6X cropped sensor cameras, and have a shorter back-focus distance which gives them the ability to be more effective as wide-angle lenses on the cameras with smaller sensors.  EF-S lenses are mounted by lining-up the white square on the lens with the white square on the camera.  EF lenses match red dot to red dot.  If you someday plan to upgrade to a full-frame camera, such as a 5D Mk II or its eventual replacement, or if you suspect that in the future full-frame cameras will become much more affordable and replace most cropped frame cameras, you shouldn’t invest in too many EF-S lenses.

18-135mm or 24-105mm is the focal length of the lens.  These are both zoom lenses, which cover a range of focal lengths.  There are wide-angle zooms – typically within the 10-40mm range, standard zooms – typically within the 17-135mm range, and telephoto zooms – typically within the 70-300mm range.  See this page for all of Canon’s lens offerings:

http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup

A Prime lens has only a single focal length, such as 50mm or 85mm.  It will not zoom in and out, and thus you have to “zoom with your feet” as they say.  However, without the additional mechanisms required by zooms, you generally get more quality for the price with a prime lens, plus typically very wide apertures for great low light use and blurry backgrounds.

f/3.5-5.6 or f/4 indicates the largest maximum aperture.  See my post Fixed Maximum Aperture vs. Variable Maximum Aperture for more information on what this means and why one lens has a range of numbers and the other lens just has one.

L lenses are Canon’s top of the line lenses, identifiable by the red band around the front end of the lens.  L lenses are generally higher quality lenses than the standard lenses in just about every way possible.  They typically offer:

  • Better sharpness throughout the full range of focal lengths and apertures, as well as better sharpness, color, contrast, and image quality across the image frame from the center to the corners.  They accomplish this in part by precisely and accurately resolving all the light wavelengths (colors) on the sensor plane.  (Think of a cheap printing job you’ve seen where the colors don’t all align and thus the words or images always look out of focus.  This is an exaggerated example of what a lower quality lens might do.)
  • Higher quality and stronger construction, durability, and seals for increased dust, water, and weather resistance.
  • Higher quality glass (or even fluorite crystal) and coatings to prevent flare and internal reflections.
  • Larger maximum apertures and fixed maximum apertures.
  • Image stabilization.
  • Higher quality, quieter, and faster auto focus mechanisms and full time manual focus (ability to override auto-focus for manually tweaking focus while remaining in AF).
  • Internal zoom mechanisms, meaning the lens does not extend when you zoom, which also allows for better weather sealing.
  • Metal lens mounts (the part that attaches onto the camera) for better durability, sealing, and electrical connections (less expensive lenses sometimes have plastic mounts that wear and then the lens wobbles and loses electrical connection).

However, several non-L lenses, including some EF-S lenses, have many of these features and characteristics too, and some approach the L lenses in terms of quality.  One thing to keep in mind with lenses is that you almost always get what you pay for.  More expensive lenses offer higher image quality, construction quality, and features.

IS means image stabilization, and allows you to hand-hold your camera at slower shutter speeds and still obtain an in-focus image.  The IS system in the lens monitors vibration and moves the internal lens elements to counteract camera movement, which might normally cause camera-shake to blur the resulting image.  A lens with IS allows you to use a shutter speed up to 4 stops slower than normally possible when taking an image while hand holding the camera.  Image stabilization isn’t critical to have for wide-angle and standard focal length lenses, but becomes pretty important when working in the 150mm, 200mm or 300mm focal lengths.  This is because those lenses are typically longer and heavier, and because you are often zooming in on something further away and a slight movement of the lens translates to a large movement over that distance (think of trying to hold your view of a distant bird steady while looking through binoculars).  Image stabilization does not correct for subject movement, but rather for camera movement, such as from an unsteady hand.  You need to use a fast shutter speed to freeze subject movement.

USM stands for ultrasonic motor, and means the lens has a high quality, precise, rapid, and quiet motor for auto focusing.

II means it is the second version of that lens.  For example the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens was recently replaced with a new version which now has a II in its name.  Most often, the second version of a lens boasts improvements in quality and construction.

Have a look that this other post to learn the difference between Fixed Maximum Aperture vs. Variable Maximum Aperture.

And the little “circle with a line through it,” found on the front of the lens, indicates the filter size that will fit on the lens, such as a protective UV filter or a circular polarizing filter.

Purchasing: If you plan to purchase a new lens from Amazon, or any other equipment, I encourage you to do so by clicking on the Amazon logo below (or on the links of the lenses mentioned above). If you purchase through this link, Amazon will give me a little something for the referral, which will help support my blog. Thanks, I appreciate your support!
Amazon.com

If you are in the UK, you can click here for the UK Amazon referral link.

For those interested in purchasing through B&H Photo, Adorama, or directly from Canon, I have set up affiliate links with them as well – find them on the left side of this page.

Renting Lenses: If you wish to first try out a lens before buying it, check out LensProToGo, where you can get great prices on short-term rentals of any lens as well as the latest Canon and Nikon dSLR bodies.


Nikon (Nikkor) Lens Notations

Here are some the most common Nikon (Nikkor) lens notations of current lenses that you will run across, many of which deal with a lens’s ability for metering, aperture control, and autofocus:

F-Mount – This is the Nikon bayonet-type lens mount that was introduced in 1959 and is still in use on Nikon dSLR cameras today.

AF – Auto-focus:   Although these lenses are capable of autofocusing, they do not have a built-in autofocus motor in the lens.  They require a camera body with a built-in autofocus motor in order to fully function, such as a Nikon D7100 or D610.  These lenses will not autofocus with Nikon dSLRs that do not have an internal autofocus motor, such as the D5200, D3200, and D40. You will need to use and AF-S lens with those cameras if you wish to autofocus.

AF-S – Auto-focus with an integrated silent wave motor:  The autofocus motor is in the lens and thus not required to be in the camera body.  You can use these lenses with any Nikon dSLR, but know that you need AF-S lenses in order to autofocus with a camera that lacks an AF motor in the body, such as the D5200 or D3200.

CPU – CPU lenses are autofocus lenses that can communicate information with the camera, such as the aperture setting, via electronic contacts.

AI – These lenses have an Ai coupling system that makes use of a small lever on the camera’s lens mount to communicate the aperture setting between camera and lens.

AI-S

Non-AI (also called A or Pre-AI) –

D – Distance:  The lens communicated the focus distance to the camera, so for example that info will be part of your image metadata and assists, I believe, with the flash metering.

DC – Defocus Control:  Allows the photographer to change the degree of spherical aberration in the out-of-focus areas to provide for better bokeh (background blurring).

DX – Made for non-full-frame (crop sensor) cameras, such as the D7000, D5100, D3100.

ED – Contains extra low dispersion glass elements, which helps to reduce various optical aberrations.

G – No aperture ring on the lens.  Since an aperture ring is no longer required with a dSLR, most common current lenses, with the exception of a 50mm for one, are G lenses.

IF – Internal Focusing:  Focusing movement occurs inside the lens and so no external lens elements are moving during focusing (well, other than the focusing ring of course).

N – Nano coating:  A crystalline coating on the lens elements eliminates internal lens element reflections, helping to reduce ghosting and flare.

PC – Perspective control:  Used to correct perspective (converging horizontals) such as for an architectural photographer.

VR or VR II– Vibration Reduction:  Image stabilization incorporated into the lens, which corrects for camera movement (but not subject movement!).

A more thorough list of notations, including older ones, and detailed explanation can be found here: http://www.bythom.com/lensacronyms.htm

It’s finally here!  Well, not here yet, but it’s been announced:  the Nikon (Nikkor) AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G lens – the nifty fifty WITH an autofocusing motor built into the lens!

This means, unlike the previous version of the Nikon 50mm f/1.8, you can use it with the D5100, D3100, and older versions of those models that don’t have the autofocusing motor built into the lens.

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8 nifty fifity 50
Product image from Nikon


Sample image from Nikon using the new AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G

This fixed focal length (prime) normal lens will give you those dreamy out-of-focus backgrounds and great low light performance that will make it wonderful for portraits, indoor use, and as a walk-around lens that will challenge you to really develop your eye and compose your frames since you won’t be able to zoom in and out.

It should be available in mid-June 2011 for about $220, and is already available for pre-order on Amazon right hereHere is the press announcement, and here it is on the Nikon website.

See the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G on Amazon

In some of my posts, such as the one about the Best Lenses for Travel and Humanitarian Photography, I venture to suggest a good single lens for travel. My recommendations have typically been the Canon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 or the more expensive Canon 24-105 f/4L. Both offer a useful focal length range for travel, image stabilization, and excellent image quality (relative to their price, of course – the professional L lens is of much higher quality). The 24-104mm also boasts the fast and quiet USM focusing motor.

One lens that I have previously failed to mention is the unique Canon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens. Its broad focal length range, image stabilization, and USM focusing motor with full-time manual focus* are all appealing features. (*you can over-ride or tweak the autofocus with a twist of the focus ring without switching to MF.) But what makes it a potentially great travel companion is its size and appearance. Due to its use of Diffractive Optics (the DO in its name) the lens is relatively small and light. And in addition, its exterior is black rather than the white of the L lenses. Thus it becomes a much more portable and much less obtrusive lens than the big, white 70-200mm and 70-300mm L lenses.

Canon 70-300mm DO lens diffractive optics
The unique green band of the Canon 70-33mm DO lens

The 70-300mm DO declares its uniqueness with a green band around the front of the barrel, where the red band of the L lenses sits. Diffractive Optics is a technology developed by Canon to reduce lens size while maintaining image quality and eliminating chromatic aberrations, and currently only two Canon lenses use DO. This lens has been around since 2004, and has overall received excellent reviews. For a professional photographer it will never quite replace a 70-200mm or 70-300mm L lens due to its slightly lower image quality and sharpness, and lack of the f/2.8 or f/4 maximum aperture throughout its full range, but for those just a little less demanding it could be the perfect travel companion for photographers not wishing to carry around a larger and more noticeable white lens.

Canon 70-300mm DO lens diffractive optics

There are mixed reviews on its sharpness. Some users claim it is sharp as can be, some say it loses sharpness at certain focal lengths and apertures, and other say with standard post-process sharpening there is virtually no difference between it and an L lens. One complaint that can’t be denied is its propensity for lens creep. Due to the weight of the lens elements and the fact that it zooms externally (unlike the internal zoom of the 24-105mm or the 70-200mm lenses) the zooming barrel will move on its own when pointed up or down. The lens has a locking switch for storage or for walking around, but otherwise it is going to creep. This DO lens also does not have a rubber weather-sealing ring at its mounting base, which is disappointing for a lens in this price range.

Optically the 70-300mm DO displays a couple unique characteristics as well. At certain apertures a hazy, often described as dreamy, outline will appear around bright out-of-focus areas. And due to the concentric circles of the DO optics (visible in the lens just by looking at the glass at an angle) out-of-focus spots of light also contain concentric circles, or “targets,” as shown in the image below. These rings also appear in areas of flare, so it is best not to use this lens if you are a fan of shooting into the sun to achieve purposeful lens flare.

Canon 70-300mm DO lens diffractive optics bokeh target bullseye
The interesting bullseye/ target bokeh of the 70-300mm DO lens, pronounced when at narrow apertures (f/16 here) – click image to view larger on Flickr.

The above image is a crop from the one below. Notice that in addition to the concentric circles, the bokeh of bright light spots becomes hexagonal at narrower apertures (like f/10 or f/16) as shown below, but it is nice and circular starting at f/8, without the targets being so pronounced at wider apertures (like f/5.6).

Canon 70-300mm DO lens diffractive optics bokeh
Canon 70-300mm DO lens – hexagonal bokeh with bullseye targets seen at f/16 – click image to view larger on Flickr.

So if you are looking for a high quality lens for travel with an exceptional telephoto zoom range, you may wish to consider the 70-300mm DO. It is not everyone’s ideal single lens for travel because its focal length starts at 70mm and thus lacks the wide angle range, but for those who like to zoom in close and capture faces and details, it could be a lens that stays on your camera much of the time. And even for those who already have a big, white 70-200mm lens, this could come in handy in many situations which you wish to be a little more discreet or even appear less intimidating to your subjects. Go to the store and play with one, and I think you may find that you love the size and feel of this lens, and can envision its great travel potential.

See and purchase the 70-300mm DO lens at Amazon.com

Have a look at some other reviewers’ posts to learn more about this lens, its technical specs, and its performance, as well as see images comparing its size to other lenses:

Review and description with size/ weight comparisons at The-Digital-Picture.com

Review focusing on image quality at Photo.net

Field test and very technical review at Luminous-Landscape.com

Canon’s explanation of Diffractive Optics

Word on the street is that there is going to be a 5% price increase for many Canon lenses and Speedlites starting February 1, 2011.  Here is one list showing potential increases ranging from 1% to 11%.

Canon lens price increase
(I always find it a bit silly and obsessive when photographers take photos of their own gear but, well, I needed an appropriate image!)

So make that decision now and buy that awesome new lens you’ve been desiring, before the prices go up!  Don’t know which lens(es) to buy?  Be sure to check out one of my most popular posts, Best Lenses for Humanitarian and Travel Photography to get the run down on several recommended lenses (which also applies to general and everyday photography).

If you decide to purchase from Amazon.com, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links on that post, or use this link to enter Amazon and make your purchases!  Amazon will give me a little something, which helps to support this blog.  Thanks!

I suppose I should join the photo blogger holiday tradition of putting together a holiday and Christmas gift guide for photographers or those who are shopping for the photographer in their life! If you plan to purchase any of these items through Amazon.com, I you can use the product links I set up throughout this post, which will bring you right to that product’s page on Amazon. (Amazon will then reward me with a small referral reward for my effort, which will help support my blog. Thanks! If you are in the UK or wish to purchase from B+H, see the end of this post for link information.) And now on to the shopping:

The first thing you are going to need is the Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens Mug or Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens Mug to drink your hot cocoa or hazelnut coffee as you are unwrapping the rest of your gifts. These extremely popular and awesomely realistic mugs, complete with rubber ring grips, have a wide f/4 or f/2.8 opening which enables them to take in copious amounts of liquid just as your lens takes in all that light. The lens caps protects your beverage when not in use – no UV filter needed.
Canon lens mug 24-105mm f/4 Nikon Lens 24-70mm f/2.8 mug

The best gift of the season for most photographers would most likely be a brand new digital dSLR camera to upgrade what they are currently shooting with – one with a few more megapixes, improved autofocus system, faster continuous shooting speeds, and some new bells and whistles.

For many photographers this will be the new Canon EOS 60D body only or the Canon 60D with 18-135mm kit lens. The EOS 60D has continued Canon’s tradition of ease of use, great ergonomics and controls, fantastic image quality and low light performance, plus added a swiveling real LCD screen. And full HD video with more frame rate options than the competitors.
canon eos 60d
For Nikon shooters the best choice is the brand new, highly sought-after Nikon D7000. The Nikon D7000 body only or D7000 with 18-105mm lens cost a bit more than the 60D, but they provide the additional features to justify the higher cost: faster continuous shooting rate, partial magnesium body, more advanced and customizable autofocus system, and two SD memory card slots to save all those shots and HD movies. Either one makes a excellent camera that is capable of producing high quality images.
Nikon D7000
Of course you are going to want some new lenses to go with these cameras. Why not step up to the professional quality lenses to see that immediate improvement in image quality, color, contrast, as well as lens and autofocus performance? For Canon this means the L series of lenses. Expand your focal range or fill in some gaps with a high quality wide angle zoom, standard zoom, or telephoto zoom.

For wide angle zooms, look at either the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM or the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

For standard zooms, which make for a great “walk-around” lens, consider the Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L USM or EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM


And in the telephoto zoom range, look at the EF 70-200, f/2.8L II IS USM or the much less expensive and lighter EF 70-200, f/4L IS USM

One of these lenses in each pair will be both more expensive AND heavier, so be sure and handle them first before you decide on one.

This may also be a good time to start experimenting with prime lenses. Their extra wide maximum apertures will allow you to use them in much lower light, and will create great, smooth background blurring for awesome portraits. Depending on how closely you like to work to your subject, a few to consider are the Canon 35mm f/2, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II for about $100, Canon 50mm f/1.4 (a little more costly 50mm), or the Canon 85mm f/1.8.

An extremely fun lens to work with is the Canon EF 100mm f.2.8 Macro USM. It is incredibly sharp, has dramatically narrow depth of field at f/2.8, and works as a great portrait lens too. If you have never used a macro, go try one out and experience what makes them so cool. The 60D and D7000 images just above were taken with this lens, as well as the cool close up shots of the following post comparing the Nikon D7000 vs D90 vs D300s.

If you need just one versatile lens for everyday use or for travel, the three lenses to consider are the EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM in the L series lenses, or else the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS or EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS.

Of course with any of these lenses, be sure to protect them with a clear or UV filter, preferably a high quality, coated B+W brand UV filter. You can read a lot more about these lenses and how to choose between them in my earlier post, Best Lenses for Everyday and Travel Photography.

Possibly the most comfortable way to carry your camera around all day, especially when using a larger, heavier lens, is the BlackRapid RS-7 Camera Strap. I highly recommended this strap, and I use the older RS-4 version daily. They have made some steady, welcomed improvements on them, including the curved shoulder pad of the RS-7, the quick release strap, and the improved connecting hardware. The base that screws into your camera is a lower profile, stronger single piece, and the securing screw surface on the clasp ring is smooth rather than knurled so that it will no longer scratch up your camera bottom. The strap is comfortable, easy to use, quick, strong, and rugged. I often use it in conjunction with wearing a backpack, and although the straps fight for space against each other on my shoulder, it still works fine. There is also now a version designed for women, the RS-W1 plus a new woman’s version in just black. They are also introducing 2 different pieces of hardware which will allow you to attach your camera to a tripod without removing the R-Strap’s base that is already attached to your camera.

You are going to need something to carry all this equipment around in. My current favorite is the Lowepro Compu Trekker AW backpack, which is now called the Lowepro ProRunner 350 AW. I use this as both my airline carry-on and my working bag during the day. The size works perfectly for both needs. It easily fits the airline carry-on size, including smaller international requirements in some regions, yet fits more that it would first appear. With careful configuration of the interior dividers, I can fit 2 Canon bodies, three lenses, a 580EX II flash, its diffuser, 2 external hard drives in cases, a couple memory card cases, and some filters. In the outside pocket, I have a couple battery chargers, extra batteries, medium Rocket Blower, miscellaneous cords, caps, and accessories. In the rear pocket designed for a laptop, I easily fit a 32″ 5 in 1 reflector. The pack is extremely comfortable, has tons of padding on the straps and the back so that its weight never bothers me and I don’t feel the reflector in my back. I often wear it for hours a day while working, and it is never a problem. The Pro Runner 450 AW might be a better carry on size so that you could carry more gear on the plane with you (if it fits the airline’s requirements) but it would be too big for daily use. There are also rolling versions of these, with an “x” in the name, thought the retractable handles and wheels add weight and size to the bags.


For adventure videographers, the item of the year is the GoPro HD HERO Cam, which you attach to your helmet, head, mountain bike, snowboard, skateboard, motorcycle, or whatever to shoot professional quality, point of view video. It comes in a variety of packages with different mounts. Film and share your adventures in full HD video! Click the image to see it on Amazon or click here to learn more and but direct at the GoPro website.


And to save all those images you are taking, memory cards will make great stocking stuffers. I like Sandisk Extreme 16 GB SD cards. If you still use CF cards, be sure to get the SanDisk Extreme 16GB CF cards. Use a Sandisk card reader to upload the images to your computer, rather than from the camera directly, in order to save the camera batteries. This Sandisk Card Reader is for the CF cards, and the 5 in 1 reads SD cards.

And for some basic stocking stuffers, here are a few simple but essential items for keeping your camera and lenses clean:

Giottos Medium Rocket Blower in the medium or large size. Always have it handy for getting dust off lenses in a hurry, because blowing on them – no matter how careful – leads to spittle on the lenses 5% of the time when it doesn’t matter and 95% of the time when you are in the most critical situations.

Pearstone LP-1 Lens Pen – Works great for cleaning off mysterious spots, smudges, and fingerprints that always appear on the lens (this is why I always use UV filters) as well as that a-fore-mentioned spittle. There is a retractable brush on one end and a cleaning head on the other end. Twist the cap to load the cleaning tip with the carbon based cleaning material, then remove the cap and use. Please read the instructions and visit the LensPen website to fully learn how to use it properly.

For more photography equipment and accessories like those above, be sure to see this previous post Equipment for Travel (and Everyday) Photography.

To edit and save all your photos, you are going to need some hard drive space and some software:

External Hard Drives – The Iomega Ego 1TB and a Lacie Rugged USB 1TB work great both at home and when traveling. There is a FireWire version of the Lacie Rugged 500GB also. Both are built solid and sturdy, and each fit perfectly in the Case Logic Portable Hard Drive Case made for these types of drives. Get the cases in different colors so you can quickly differentiate your different drives. For storage at home, consider a couple Western Digital My Book 1TB External Hard Drives.

Post-Production – After taking all these wonderful images with your new equipment, you are going to need to organize, edit, and work on all your photos. And for that, of course you are going to need Adobe Photoshop CS4 and/ or Adobe Lightroom 3. You can start off with the trial versions that you can download from the Adobe site, but sooner or later you are going to have to get the real versions. Use that student discount if you can!

Also be sure to consider all the great photo books to help you learn to use your equipment, improve you images and compositions, and be inspired. I’ve put together a post of several of my favorites that you can read here. The most recent addition to the bookshelf is:

The Photographer’s Mind: How to See and Shoot Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman
Every time I read Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye, I lament, usually aloud, “why doesn’t he have more books like this?” Well, my wishes appear to have been answered. His next book The Photographer’s Mind has just come out.

And don’t forget the eBooks I put together for setting up and learning to use you Canon dSLR:

Your World 60D – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation with the Canon 60D – an eBook user’s guide and tutorial I wrote to help get you up and running with the 60D, quickly and competently. You can learn more about it at this post here. In addition to the PDF version, which also looks great on the iPad, it is also available in a Kindle edition on Amazon.com here and a Nook verion on BarnesandNoble.com Plus, for the Rebel T2i / EOS 550D, I have written T2i Experience – a similar guide for Canon T2i / 550D users.

Purchasing: If you plan to purchase cameras, photo equipment, books, or anything else from Amazon.com I encourage you to do so through any of the Amazon referral links I’ve set up. Just click on the equipment name or book title within this post and you will be taken to that Amazon page. Or click here to go directly to Amazon or click on the Amazon.com logo below, and start shopping. Thanks, I appreciate your support!

If you are in the UK, you can click here for the UK Amazon referral link.

For those interested in purchasing through B&H Photo, Adorama, or directly from Canon, I have set up affiliate links with them as well – find them on the left side of this page.

Happy Holidays, and I hope you get everything on your list!

This weekend I followed my own advice, and rented a lens to try out before deciding whether or not to buy it. As I suggest in my post Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens, if you are considering purchasing an expensive lens or want to compare a couple similar lenses to decide which one to go with, rent one or both of them for a day or a weekend, and see how you like using them. Check with camera stores near you, or look into online lens rental sites that mail the lens to you, like LensRentals.com. I went to Calumet to rent, since there is a store near me and it’s pretty cheap for the weekend rate.

(click on any product links in the text to view the lenses on Amazon.com)

I rented the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L since I’m curious how it compares to the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS. While they have a similar focal-length range and can each serve as a great walk-around lens for everyday use, they have some differences that make it difficult to choose between the two. The 24-70mm is larger, significantly heavier (2.1 lbs. vs. 1.48 lbs.) and extends externally as you zoom. The 24-105mm has an internal zoom mechanism, and also has image stabilization (IS). But a major difference is the maximum aperture: f/2.8 vs. f/4.

side by side bokeh
click here to view these images larger on Flickr – from the garden at the Longfellow House, Cambridge, MA

The wider maximum aperture of the 24-70mm makes it a “faster” lens, allowing it to be used in lower light, although the IS of the 24-105mm can make up for that shortcoming. Visually, the wider maximum aperture allows for shallower depth of field (dof) which provides more dramatically blurred backgrounds, or bokeh. While I have resisted using the term bokeh in my writing, I can’t really avoid it in this discussion because the difference between f/4 vs. f/2.8 is all in the bokeh. The above image demonstrates what that means. It refers to the “circles of confusion” of the out-of-focus areas of an image – their size, shape, edges, and quality. Both of the images are taken with the 24-70mm lens – at f/4 on the left, and f/2.8 on the right. You can see that while they both demonstrate dramatically shallow depth of field and background blurring, the image taken with the aperture set at f/2.8 shows a smoother blend of the background colors and contrasts. The images are from the garden of the Longfellow House in Cambridge, MA.

When I got my Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens, I chose the f/4 version rather than the f/2.8 IS version because it was smaller and significantly lighter, and I knew I would not dread using it on a long day of shooting as I feared I would with the 3.24 pound f/2.8 IS version. Three and a quarter pounds! (According to the Canon website. I’m not sure if that is right – Amazon says it is 2.9 lbs.) Anyway, that kind of weight might be an important consideration for someone traveling with a lens or using it for consecutive full days of shooting. I know it is a consideration for me. So, even though I got the f/4, I’ve wondered what I have been missing image-wise by not being able to open up to f/2.8. So I took these two images with the 24-70mm to see the difference, and it is more considerable than I had thought it would be.

I was very pleased with the 24-70mm. I had been concerned that I would want more range on the telephoto end, and I did end up with a lot of images taken at the 70mm focal length, but I didn’t usually feel like I needed or wanted to zoom in any closer. It really is a great range for everyday use. It is a big lens, but other than the weight, it feels great and is comfortable to use. You can’t deny its image quality, the bokeh is wonderful, but the weight is still a consideration and may dissuade me in the end.

Here is a great site at The-Digital-Picture.com to compare lenses, side by side. You can compare test images taken at various focal lengths and apertures. I will leave all the pixel peeping and debating of the merits of the 24-70mm vs. the 24-105mm to the forums, and just share a few photos I took with the 24-70mm at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the adjoining Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. All the images are hand-held, without flash, in very low lighting. The leaves and flowers in the images below are from the world renowned glass flower collection. Yes, they are made entirely of glass! Even those fall leaves. It is mind boggling, especially when viewing them in person.

If you are considering buying any of these lenses from Amazon.com, please use the links above, and I will get a little something for referring you. Or use this link to go directly to Amazon.com. I appreciate your support!

HMNH cat

HMNH bird-hawk

HMNH bird-dove

HMNH autumn leaves
glass leaves above, glass flowers below. yes 100% made of glass!
HMNH purple flowers

HMNH snake

HMNH fish fossil

HMNH Peru map

HMNH Mayan stones

HMNH Indian diorama

HMNH Indian diorama 2

This post is the second in an occasional series in which I describe the making of a photograph, from both a technical and artistic standpoint.  I’ll go through the camera settings and why they were chosen, as well as the thought processes going through my head regarding composition and the creation of the image.  These types of posts will be concrete examples of a previous post of mine called How Pros Photograph, which describes the various decisions that may be going through a photographer’s head as they work a scene and make photos.  The first post in this series can be read here.

This one can be called the Shutter Speed Edition, as you will learn below.  For those looking to learn about Depth of Field, please also view Deconstructing the Shot post 3, the Aperture Edition.

Douglas J. Klostermann Photography
Canon Rebel XT, 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II at 50mm, ISO 100, f/14, 1/20s

The Photo: The photo I’ve selected for this example (seen above) is one I took in Pucallpa, Peru in July 2008.  Pucallpa is a town located along the Ucayali River, a tributary of the Amazon.  Though it is a relatively small town, it has a bustling (though undeveloped) port which receives food and goods from deeper in the Amazon region.  The streets of Pucallpa buzz with the constant traffic of moto-taxis, the motorcycle rickshaws found in much of Peru and the developing world.  I had a few days before hopping on a slow boat to Iquitos, so I roamed the town looking for photo opportunities.  I’ve created some strips of photos to show a selection of images as I worked this particular scene:

Pucallpa Series 1

The Process: I wanted to capture the ubiquitous motion and activity of the traffic in the streets of Pucallpa, which is dominated by the moto-taxis.  The best way to do this, I decided, was to capture the blur of motion as the traffic sped by.  I was using a Canon Rebel XT with a 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II lens.  I selected a busy and interesting intersection and set the camera to Shutter Priority mode (Tv on Canon, S on Nikon).  This is so I could control the shutter speed and set it to a slow shutter speed so that fast motion would become a blur.  I initially chose a shutter speed of 1/50, but that wasn’t resulting in enough blur, so through quick experimentation, I settled on 1/20.  This shutter speed, 1/20 of a second, is very slow for hand-holding.  While the motion will blur, it is difficult at this shutter speed to hold it still enough (without a tripod) so that the background will remain sharp and not cause unwanted blur due to camera shake in the in-focus areas.  I now actually recommend using 1/30 as a starting point for creating motion blur.  But even with 1/30, you have to pay attention to holding the camera very still.  I selected ISO 100 since it was a very bright, sunny afternoon, and because I atypically needed to work in a slow shutter speed range.

I initially took some images of the traffic crossing the intersection, trying to capture many vehicles at once to accentuate my idea of the busy traffic.  However, I soon decided to face directly across the street and capture the moto-taxis as they crossed my field of view.  I set the Drive Mode to continuous so that I could fire off a series of photos each time the light turned green and the traffic crossed my view.  The Rebel XT has a slow maximum rate of 3 frames per second (fps) but many current cameras will allow a more useful and faster frame rate of 5 or 6, or even 8 fps.  White Balance was set on Auto, though Sunny setting would have worked well too.  Metering was set on Evaluative.  However, since the lighting and the scene remained relatively consistent, it would not have been a mistake to determine the best exposure then switch the camera to Manual mode, M, and set that exposure for all the photos.

In Shutter Priority mode, you choose the shutter speed and the camera will choose the aperture, based on the ISO setting.  The aperture setting for this photo wasn’t too important to me.  Since the foreground was going to be a blur of motion, it was best that the background was relatively in focus.  So a narrow aperture providing relatively deep depth of field, such as f/11 or f/16 would be fine.  Based on the ISO and the amount of light, the camera was selecting apertures ranging from f/8 to f/22 for various images, with most of them somewhere in the middle of that range.  Also, since the subject was going to be a blur of motion, there was no point in trying to focus on it.  The motion would most likely confuse the auto-focus system anyway, so I switched the lens to MF, Manual Focus, and focused on the sign post directly across the street from me.  Though I may have zoomed slightly in or out with the lens at first, I settled on a focal length of 50mm and left it there.

Pucallpa series 2

While the subject of this composition is the blur of the vehicles, the background also comes into play, and as with every image, can not be ignored.  The street and trees beyond created a nice background, both showing the urban context of the scene and blocking out what could have been a large area of dull, light sky.  The yellow sign post, where I focused, added a nice element of color.  You can see that the yellow post and the curb of the far side of the street lie near the “rule of thirds” lines.  This isn’t an accident, and they were consciously placed there to help create an interesting composition.  This was done through squatting or kneeling in order to place myself at the desired point of view and still capture most of the vehicles from top to bottom.

I took a series of 59 images over a period of nearly 8 minutes, with 48 of the images being the straight-on images in a period of just 2 minutes.  I used a horizontal composition since that worked best with the blur of motion of the traffic.  I typically just held down the shutter button as the traffic started to go by, just after the stoplight changed.  By doing that I captured a variety of interesting images, with the moto-taxis blurring by in all types of configurations.  In a situation like this, luck and chance play a big part.  The photographer must control all the elements they can through composition, framing, and camera settings, and then allow the scene to play out in front of them.  So I would actually call this controlled chance.  There were a few very nice results, and I settled on an frame from the middle of the series, IMG_3306, as my chosen image.  In addition to showing the blur of the moto-taxi, it also captured some pedestrians across the street and fully showed the one-way sign, which I thought were nice additions to the image.  With these added elements, it becomes more of an overall “portrait” of the city streets of Pucallpa rather than just an image about motion.

The Post Process: To create the final image, I adjusted the color and contrast in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and in Photoshop (PS).  As you can see by the unprocessed images, the color and contrast is quite dull and lifeless straight out of the camera.  The original file was a JPEG file, and the Picture Style was Standard (I hadn’t started using RAW yet).  In ACR, the Blacks were increased to 10 to give it the nice deep blacks, which helps to make the bright colors pop even more.  A Fill setting of 10 was used to lighten up the foreground moto-taxi a bit, and Clarity +15 and Vibrance +10 were used to give it some, well, clarity and vibrance.  In Photoshop, the contrast was increased with Curves using a setting probably close to Medium Contrast.  I typically don’t make the blacks so black and purposefully lose detail in the shadows, but I was experimenting with this look and it seemed to work well here.  The image was sharpened using Unsharpen Mask, probably at Amount: 85 or 100, Radius: 1, and Threshold: 4.  Now I would try being more aggressive with the Amount and Radius, but I am not sure the 8MP JPEG file from the Rebel XT would withstand much more without starting to degrade.  Somewhere along the way, either in ACR or PS, the color temperature was also changed to warm it up a little, which is more in keeping with the afternoon sun of the Amazon region.  I didn’t crop the image at all, as you can see.  It is best to try to get the framing you want when you capture the photo, but I am somewhat surprised myself that I did it so well.  I once had a photo teacher in college who complimented me on my ability to capture the frame and not need to crop.  I just thought that was the way one was supposed to take a photo!  Thankfully I still sometimes demonstrate that ability.

The Final Image:

Douglas J. Klostermann Photography
Canon Rebel XT, 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II at 50mm, ISO 100, f/14, 1/20s

The Lesson: We should always learn from our photos, so that next time we are in a similar situation, we can create an even better image.  Some improvements I could have made to this image include using a neutral density (ND) filter or a polarizing filter.  This would have given me more control over the range of aperture settings that the camera selected and allowed for a wider-open aperture so that the far distance became more of a blur.  A polarizing filter would have also helped to darken the bits of sky that appear.  And as I mentioned above, a shutter speed of 1/30 would have still created the blur, but would have been slightly easier to hand-hold without creating unwanted blur in the background due to camera shake.

This image was chosen to be used on the cover of the programs for the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Nuevo Latino Festival in 2009.  Incredibly, the near square crop of the image works really well too:

Douglas J. Klostermann Photography

So hopefully you can see from this explanation and from my previous posts that photographs don’t necessarily just happen.  They are created through a combination of thought processes, a series of decisions, and the application of camera settings based on these decisions and on the situation at hand – plus some controlled chance!

See the Related Posts section just below for links to parts 1 and 3 in this series.  And learn more about how to take control of your camera and the images you create with my Full Stop e-book camera and photography guides.

Full Stop photography e book camera user guide Nikon Canon dSLR

I responded to a comment on one of my posts, and my response ended up being the size of a blog post, so I’m just going to turn it into one! Please note that the title of this post should actually, technically be “Fixed Maximum Aperture vs. Variable Maximum Aperture,” as I will explain in a second.

If you are getting into dSLR cameras and lenses, you may have noticed that some lenses have a fixed maximum aperture, while others have a variable maximum aperture.  This is spelled out in the name of the lens.  For example, the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens has a fixed maximum aperture of f/2.8 at all focal lengths, while the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM has a variable maximum aperture which ranges from f/3.5 to f/5.6, depending on which focal length you are using.  (the EF vs. EF-S means that EF lenses can be used on any Canon dSLR, while EF-S lenses are designed for, and can only be used on Canon dSLRs with 1.6x cropped sensors, including all Rebels, 50D, 60D, 7D, T2i/550D, but not the full frame 5D.  IS means image stabilization.  USM means ultrasonic motor, and means the lens has a high quality, rapid, and quiet motor for auto focusing.) The term fixed aperture usually does not mean that the lens only has one aperture setting you can use, but rather that is a common way of saying it has a fixed maximum aperture. So you can change the aperture of a “fixed aperture” lens and set it anywhere from its maximum aperture, possibly f/2.8, to its minimum aperture, perhaps f/32.

Barbes drummer face
Barbes, Brooklyn, NY

With variable aperture lenses, the largest, maximum aperture you can choose when you zoom to the telephoto end will not be as wide open as the largest aperture you can choose at the wide angle end. For example with the 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6, with the lens set at the focal length of 28mm (the wide end), you can use the f/3.5 aperture setting. But with the lens zoomed to 135mm, the widest aperture you can use is f/5.6. This will slightly affect the amount of background blurring – or foreground blurring in the image above, and will decrease the amount of light entering the lens.  Wider, larger apertures like f/2.8 or f/3.5 blur the background the most, which helps to create dramatic images.  The reason not all lenses have fixed apertures is that they require more sophisticated internal parts and mechanisms, such as more lens elements, which thus makes them very expensive (and heavy), so variable aperture is a compromise in order to offer more reasonably priced lenses.

Barbes sax hands
Barbes, Brooklyn, NY

Also, the wider apertures (f/2.8, f/4) are best for low light situations because they allow more light to enter the camera and thus allow you to select a fast shutter speed that won’t blur the image while hand-holding the camera. If you are typically working outside, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern, but if you work indoors or in low light, lenses with wide apertures like f/2.8 or f/1.4 are desirable.

Now, why is f/2.8 called a large aperture and f/22 a small aperture?  2.8 seems like a smaller number than 22, right?  No, f/2.8 and f/22 are fractions.  So if f were to equal 1, a slice of pie that is 1/2.8 of the pie is a bigger piece that a slice that is 1/22 of the pie, right?!  So f/2.8 is a large aperture, which means a large opening, which lets in lots of light all at once, but which then causes objects not in the plane of focus, such as the background, to be blurry.  f/22 is a small aperture, a small opening which lets in just a little light.  But everything from near to far is in focus, like when you squint to see a street sign clearer!  (The letter f in the fraction stands for the focal length of the lens.)

Please leave a comment, ask a question.  Let me know what has been helpful, and what you’d like to read more about.

For additional posts about lenses see Best Lenses for Travel and Humanitarian Photography and Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens.

Purchasing: If you plan to purchase any of this equipment, I encourage you to do so by clicking on the links of the lenses listed above, which will take you to that page on Amazon.com. Or go directly to Amazon using this link or click on the Amazon logo below. If you purchase through these links, Amazon will give me a little something for the referral, which will help support my blog. Thanks, I appreciate your support!
Amazon.com

If you are in the UK, you can click here for the UK Amazon referral link.

For those interested in purchasing through B&H Photo, Adorama, or directly from Canon, I have set up affiliate links with them as well – find them on the left site of this page.

When I began my work in travel, culture, and humanitarian photography I spent a great deal of time scouring websites, reading forums, checking reviews, making lists, and agonizing before I finally settled on which lenses were best for my needs and my work. So hopefully all my effort can help you save some time and assist you in your research in selecting which lenses are best for you. In addition to travel, humanitarian, and photojournalism work, much of this advice will apply to general photography as well. After you’ve learned all about lenses here, you can have a look at this other post to see what other camera gear and accessories you might want.


Open Windows, San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala

The easy answer to the question of which lens is best for travel photography, right up front, is: an all purpose zoom that goes all the way from wide to telephoto, like an 18-200mm, or a standard zoom like a 24-105mm. See the Standard Zoom section and the One Lens For Travel sections of this post for more information about these. The more difficult answer to that question is addressed in detail by this post. The most difficult answer to this question is: it depends. It depends on you. It depends on your level, interests, and goals as a photographer. It depends on what you most enjoy taking photos of and what type of images you aim to capture. Hopefully this post will help you figure that out, and I’ll address this most complicated answer more at the end of the post.

The primary sources for me in determining which lenses to choose were looking at the websites and blogs of other photographers who do similar work, since they often list and discuss the equipment they use. The initial and most helpful source for me was Karl Grobl, since his work as a humanitarian photojournalist is closest to what I do and what I aspire to do. But some of the other ones I can recall looking at include David duChemin – (who is a travel, art, and humanitarian photographer – he seems to have moved or deleted his “Gear” page), plus Nevada Wier and Bob Krist – both dedicated travel and cultural photographers. Oh, and the books and advice of the ever-enthusiastic Rick Sammon helped out along the way. I then applied what I learned from them to my specific photographic interests, preferences, and tendencies (which can be summed up with the fact that I typically like to zoom in close). In other words, if one of them favors a 50mm prime lens but you know you prefer the versatility of zooms, then adapt what they say to your needs.

For me and many others the ideal combination is a wide angle zoom, a standard (or middle range) zoom, and a telephoto zoom. (If you are interested in just one lens for travel, have a look at the Standard Zoom section, and then also jump down to the bottom of this article for the One Lens for Travel section.) I’m going to stick to the professional level lenses and compare the Canon L lenses first, and discuss other Canon lenses in the One Lens for Travel section below. I’ll try to keep it short and simple, and let you conduct further research on the countless sites dedicated to equipment and reviews.

Click on each lens below to link to its page on Amazon.com. If you plan to purchase any of this equipment from Amazon (or other equipment, accessories, or anything else), I encourage you go to Amazon.com by clicking on the links found throughout this post, and then Amazon will give me a little something for the referral, which will help support my blog. Thanks!

If you wish to first try out a lens before buying it, click on this link to go to BorrowedLenses.com, where you can get great prices on short-term rentals of any lens as well as the latest Canon and Nikon dSLR bodies (as well as video, audio, and lighting equipment).

If you are in the UK or wish to purchase from B&H, Adorama, or direct from Canon see the information at the end of this post for those links. The lenses I chose, which work best for my needs, are indicated by (Y). I apologize to the Nikonistas out there, since all of these lenses are the Canon variety. However, Nikon typically has an equivalent lens for each of these. Just search for the same focal length and have a look at the aperture and price to determine the comparable Nikon (Nikkor) lens. For example here are some equivalents:
Canon 16-35 f/2.8L to Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8
Canon 24-70 f/2.8L to Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8
Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS to Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR

Check out this post to better Understand Canon Lens Notations – the significance of all the various numbers and letters in a lens name.

Wide Angle Zoom
As humanitarian photojournalist Karl Grobl says, this is the “bread and butter lens” of the photojournalist. This is used for up-close-and-personal shots, for environmental portraits or photos, and for “story-telling” images which include multiple subjects or a larger context.


Open Windows, San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala

EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM (Y)
pros: slightly wider on the wide end which is good for cropped sensors (7D, 60D, Rebels), larger maximum aperture (“faster”) for use in low light situations or for more dramatic depth of field
cons: high price, heavier in weight
notes: get the slim UV filter to avoid vignetting, especially if using a full frame camera like the 5D
filter: 82mm slim filter fits this lens.
notes: The above two images of this post were with this lens. This is the wide angle zoom I chose because I wanted the “faster” f/2.8 aperture to be able to use it effectively in low light situations.

EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
pros: more zoom on the far end, lighter in weight, much lower price
cons: f/4 maximum aperture not as “fast” and slightly less dramatic for shallow depth of field, not quite as wide on the wide end
filter: 77mm slim filter fits this lens.

Standard Zoom
This is a great “walk-around” all purpose lens, especially for travel or everyday photography. If you want to head out on the streets with just one lens, this is the one to take which will serve you well in most situations you encounter.


Panajachel, Guatemala

EF 24-70 f/2.8L USM (Y)
pros: larger maximum aperture (“faster”) for use in low light situations and more dramatic depth of field
cons: heavier in weight, higher price, less zoom range, no image stabilization
filter: 77mm multi-coated filter or 77mm coated filter fits this lens.
notes: a great all-purpose walk-around lens, though relatively big and heavy. I discuss using this lens, with several photo examples, in this post here.

There is a new EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM lens plus the new EF 24-70 f/4L IS USM lens, both with the same focal length as above.  The first one just listed is an improved, lighter version of the 24-70 f/2.8L, and the second one listed adds Image Stabilization but has an f/4 maximum aperture rather than the f/2.8 maximum aperture of the other 24-70mm lenses. Adding these two new lenses into the mix makes this an even more challenging decision in the Standard Zoom category!

EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM
pros: lighter in weight, image stabilization which will help you gain 2 or 3 stops in speed vs. hand-held non IS (*see below), more zoom range, lower price
cons: f/4 maximum aperture not as “fast” and slightly less dramatic for shallow depth of field
filter: 77mm multi-coated filter or 77mm coated filter fits this lens.

* this means for example, if the proper exposure of a scene is 1/60 at f/5.6, and you want to hold on to that f/5.6 aperture for compositional reasons and not have to sacrifice your chosen depth of field for a faster shutter speed, you could capture it without blur, whereas without the image stabilization (IS) the hand held image may have been blurry.

Telephoto Zoom
This is a great lens for portraits, close ups, details, ability to zoom in and capture something far away, sports and action shots, and ability to create dramatic depth of field or blurry backgrounds. There are four versions of the Canon 70-200mm lens – either f/2.8 or f/4, each with or without image stabilization (IS). Oh wait, there are now five versions, with the recent Mark II version of the f/2.8 IS. I think with a lens this long and heavy, you need image stabilization if you are going to be hand holding it, so I will ignore the non-IS versions.


Solola Market, Guatemala

EF 70-200, f/2.8L IS USM
pros: larger maximum aperture (“faster”) for use in low light situations and more dramatic depth of field. The Mark II version of this has a closer minimum focus distance and improved optics
cons: very heavy, very large, higher price, especially the new Mark II version
filter: 77mm multi-coated filter or 77mm coated filter fits this lens.

EF 70-200, f/4L IS USM (Y)
pros: lighter weight, smaller, lower price
cons: f/4 maximum aperture not as “fast” and less dramatic for shallow depth of field
filter: 67mm multi-coated filter or 67mm coated filter fits this lens.
notes: This is the telephoto zoom I chose. I sacrificed the one-stop of aperture for the much more manageable size and weight of the f/4. And since I primarily use it outdoors, and because it has image stabilization, the f/4 aperture only really affects the extent of background blurring. There are several example photos of this lens in action in this post here and also more nice example photos in this post here.

I haven’t used each of these lenses in the field, though I have briefly tested most of them, so my decisions and my pros and cons are sometimes based on my research and from what I’ve learned from others who use them. Consider them starting points for issues you want to consider in your selections. And while there are endless discussions and comparisons regarding image quality, sharpness, sweet spots, etc. for each pair above, I will stay out of that discussion and tell you there are highly regarded professionals who use each of these, that any Canon L series lens is professional quality, that price and/ or largest maximum aperture will often indicate the one that is generally considered “better,” and that you will never regret your choice based on these concerns. Note that many L-series lenses are sealed against and dust, water and weather. Sometimes a front filter is required to complete the weather sealing, such as with the wide angle lenses. I suggest always using a clear, protective UV filter with any lens, preferably a high quality, multi-coated B+W brand filter. If you don’t want to spend that much, at least get a high quality single-coated B+W filter rather than a cheaper Tiffen filter.

When making your choices, I highly recommend going to a store with your camera and actively testing and comparing each pair. The difference in size and weight, and even feel of the lens in your hands, is often dramatic and may help you make your decision. If you are still undecided, rent one for the weekend and work with it. And don’t think that you have to immediately get three lenses in order to do your work. Karl Grobl uses just two of them in his work, and that hasn’t limited him in either humanitarian or travel work. Consider your primary needs, and buy one or two based on that, and combine them with less expensive non-L lenses for now.

If your budget or needs don’t call for L-series lenses, see the One Lens for Travel section below, or look for the closest equivalents of the above lenses in other Canon or Sigma or Tamron, etc. lenses (or in the Nikon lenses if you are over in that camp).

Prime Lenses
Many photographers rave about prime lenses (lenses of a single focal length, that don’t zoom) for many reasons, including image quality, the purity and simplicity of working with them, and their large maximum apertures (as wide as f/1.2) for very dramatic compositions through use of shallow depth of field. The focal lengths I see used most often are (these are obviously Canon examples):

Canon 35mm f/2
Canon 50mm f/1.8 II (high image quality for about $100!)
Canon 50mm f/1.4 (Y) (a little more costly, but higher quality 50mm)
Canon 85mm f/1.8

Take into consideration if you have a full frame or a cropped sensor, since with a cropped sensor 7D , 60D, or 550D the field of view of the 50mm lens will be closer to an 80mm lens on a full frame 5D camera (or a 35mm film camera), so the field of view of a 35mm will be closer to a 50mm on a full frame or 35mm film camera.


San Miguel Dueñas, Guatemala

One Lens for Travel
I know a lot of people are interested in finding just one lens that is good for travel photography. As I mentioned above the best option is typically the standard, mid-range zoom. Look above for info on the Canon L-series lenses. My choice would be the EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM. For something less expensive Canon offers a couple other great options. For each of these lenses, I would highly recommend getting the optional lens hood (the hood comes with L-series lenses). It helps shade the lens to prevent unwanted lens flare (although lens flare can sometimes be used for a great effect when desired), helps protect the lens from bumps and drops, and makes you look cooler and more professional! And of course always get a good quality, coated B+W brand UV filter for protection – or at least a cheaper Tiffen filter. However, there is a significant difference in the clarity and lack of reflectiveness of a coated B+W filter vs. a standard Tiffen filter, which you can see if you look through them side by side, so those who are concerned about image quality should go with a coated, or better yet multi-coated B+W filter (designated MRC). Also, note that non-L-series lenses are not nearly as well sealed against dust, water and weather as most all of the L-series lenses are.

EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
pros: less expensive, lighter weight, image stabilization
cons: less zoom range on the telephoto end than the 18-200mm, not a constant minimum aperture like the L-series lenses (the f/3.5-5.6 means your largest aperture at the 18mm wide end will be f/3.5, while the largest aperture at the 135mm telephoto end will be a less dramatic f/5.6), not higher quality USM focusing motor, EF-S means this lens can only be used on cameras with the APS-C sensor, or non-full-frame sensors, so it can be used on all Digital Rebels, 20D-50D, and 7D, but cannot be used on a Canon 5D. However, that means it is optimized for those cameras, especially for the wide end.
Lens hood EW-73B fits this lens, and a 67mm coated filter or 67mm filter.
This is currently one option for the kit lens for the Canon EOS 60D, and is a good choice if you are debating between the kit lens or not.

EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
pros: more zoom range on the telephoto end, image stabilization, better image quality than the 18-135mm lens.
cons: more expensive, heavier weight, not a constant minimum aperture like the L-series lenses (see above lens), not higher quality USM focusing motor, EF-S for APS-C sensor cameras only (see above lens).
Lens hood EW-78D fits this lens and a 72mm coated filter or 72mm filter.
This is currently another option for the kit lens for the Canon EOS 60D, and is an excellent choice if you are debating between the kit lens or not.

EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
This is an older lens that seems to have been replaced for the most part by the two lenses above.
pros: less expensive, image stabilization, USM means a faster, quieter auto-focusing motor and full time manual focus (which means you can override the auto-focus by turning the focus ring without having to switch the lens to MF manual focus), EF so can be used with both APS-C and full frame cameras too if you have or wish to upgrade to a 5D.
cons: not a constant minimum aperture like the L-series lenses (see above), less range on both the wide and telephoto ends.
Lens hood EW-78BII fits this lens and a 72mm coated filter or 72mm filter.

It Depends
The actual answer to the question of which lens is best for travel photography is: it depends. As I said above, it depends on you – on your level, interests, and goals as a photographer. It depends on what you most enjoy taking photos of and what type of images you aim to capture. If you are a photography novice, or just want to be able to capture all or most situations, the all purpose zoom or standard zoom might serve you best. But if you wish to capture more of a certain type of photo that you like, photos that match your specific visual ideas and preferences, you need to reconsider. Do you like sweeping vistas and all encompassing environmental portraits? Do you typically want to capture the entire scene in your shots? Then perhaps a wide angle zoom will work better for you than a standard zoom. Certainly, you will be limited and not able to frame certain shots the way you might want, but you will capture more of the types of images you like, and might simply have to move in closer than usual to get some the other images. Do you like extreme close-ups of people’s faces with dramatically blurry backgrounds, architectural details on buildings, the look of compressed perspective? Then a telephoto zoom rather than a standard zoom will help you capture more of those images you like. Sure, you will not be able to get the wide angle view of spaces, but you might succeed in capturing many more of the dramatic photos you like. Or perhaps you best work like a classic photojournalist and want to capture scenes and portraits more closely to how you see them. Then a single prime lens like a 50mm or 85mm might be the one lens that is perfect for you.

The Best Lens for the Canon 60D
A lot of people ask, “Which is the best lens for the Canon 60D, (or the 7D, or the 550D/T2i or the 5D)?” There isn’t a specific lens that is best for a specific camera. I hope you’ve already learned that from reading this post! A lens will perform exactly the same on each of those cameras or any other camera with an APS-C size sensor. The effective focal lengths will be different with a full frame sensor dSLR, such as the Canon 5D, but they will still be wide angle zooms, medium zooms, etc. The best lens for your camera is the one that is best for you, your work, and the types of photos you take. That being said, the kit lens that Canon has paired up with the 60D, the EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS is an excellent choice for an all-purpose everyday and travel lens. See the EOS 60D with the kit lens on Amazon here.

For related posts, check out other entries in the Lenses Category, the Humanitarian Photography category, and my posts about Fixed vs. Variable Aperture Lenses and Choosing a Lens beyond the Kit Lens, as well as my discussion and recommendations for gear for travel photography.

Purchasing: As I mentioned above, if you plan to purchase any of this equipment, I encourage you to do so by clicking on the links of each of the lenses listed above, which will take you to that page on Amazon.com. Or go directly to Amazon using this link or click on the Amazon logo below. If you purchase through these links, Amazon will give me a little something for the referral, which will help support my blog. Thanks, I appreciate your support!
Amazon.com

If you are in the UK, you can click here for the UK Amazon referral link. If you are in another country, click on one of my Amazon links, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on your country for your local Amazon.

For those interested in purchasing from B&H Photo, Adorama, or direct from Canon, please click on their logos on the Gear page. Thanks!

Renting Lenses: If you wish to first try out a lens before buying it, click on this link to go to BorrowedLenses.com, where you can get great prices on short-term rentals of any lens as well as the latest Canon and Nikon dSLR bodies (as well as video, audio, and lighting equipment).

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