Tripods, monopods and bits of string

Digital Photography School have finished their series on tripods and monopods by listing some alternative products and ideas. I have three tripods, two are bulky, one of those is fairly heavy and the other is a small 6 inch high one that fits in my camera bag. The small one gets the most use as the other two are either at home or in the car when I need more stability.

He forgot one alternative, the string tripod which is assembled from a length of string and a bolt small enough to fit the tripod mount socket on a camera. It’s also called a chain tripod. Simply screw the bolt into your camera, stand on the other end of the string and hold the camera to your eye making sure the string is taut. Sources say you’ll get 2 stops extra or shoot at 1/8 sec which is quite impressive. What’s more, it’s a lot more portable than any other tripod or monopod. I really must do some testing and see just how well it works.

Further reading

  • String tripod – extend it with two strings to each foot for extra stability.
  • Close up shots of the nuts and bolts of the string tripod.

The rest of the DPS tripod series is worth a read too:

Shooting panoramas el cheapo

112588_panoheadcamera2.jpg If you’ve ever tried stitching photos together to create a panoramic photograph you’ll be more than aware of the awful distortion between one frame and the next. That’s one reason why it’s recommended that frames overlap by at least a third.

There is so much distortion because the camera is rotated around using a normal tripod or worse still, handheld. The axis around which the camera is rotated is centered on the camera body usually, but a panoramic tripod is different. The center of rotation should be the lens of the camera, specifically the “nodal point” of the lens where light paths cross before hitting the camera’s film or sensor.

Make Blog links to a tutorial on building a panoramic tripod head for $10! That’s a lot more reasonable than what you’d pay for a head from Manfrotto or manufacturer. It probably isn’t quite as portable or nice looking though and you might have to invest in some tools to cut the wood and build it but it would be an interesting project.

If that’s too complicated, you can build a battery using a bit of wire, a screw and a magnet!

Sigma 10-20: going wide

I splashed out on Monday afternoon on a Sigma 10-20mm F4.0-5.6 EX DC HSM in O’Leary’s Camera World. Prices are good at around 499 Euro, comparing well with those I found at Pixmania and elsewhere online. Sigma are based in Bandon, Co. Cork and I guess that helps to keep distribution costs down.
First impressions? It’s wide! It’s also distorted but that’s to be expected. Chromatic aberration is kept to a minimum although I haven’t looked too closely for it. It produces nice crisp images and saturated colours!
While walking around town I found that 10mm is almost too wide. I can be almost on top of my subject before shooting which can be a little nerve wrecking considering the loud click of the 20D! I have captured some great street shots with it already, some of which I’ll post over the next few days.

I couldn’t find many reviews but a number of print magazines have reviewed it and given it glowing recommendations. This thread by Jamison Wexler points to a gallery of example images. This picture reminds me that it’s great for taking self portraits when you really don’t want to ask someone to take the photo!
Now, if only my Sigma 18-200mm was a real 18-200..

While on holiday in Lanzarote I found a shop that sold this lens for 389 Euro. The shop is Visanta and is listed as the main Sigma dealer in the Canarys. You can’t trust all the small electronic shops selling fakes, but Visanta are ok. There are dodgy looking guys hanging about outside the tourist traps but Visanta staff were very helpful and professional.
Unfortunately they didn’t have the lens in stock. Of course, if you buy over there, you should declare it when you get home. The islands are a duty free zone but you’re only allowed to bring home goods below a certain value without paying that duty AFAIR.

The Canon 30D is finally here

This is a bit of a let down to be honest. The new 30D looks nothing like the leaked photo I found a while back. There are a couple of new features, most notably the bigger LCD screen, spot metering and a much bigger buffer but I don’t see any point in upgrading from my 20D. I was looking forward to seeing the ADAMS MODE button but alas, it’s probably not going to see the light of day for some time yet.
The really good news is that it’s the same price as the 20D which should force the price of existing 20D bodies down. Look for discounts at your favourite online retailer. If you see it at a bargain price, buy it! (via and every other photography news site)

On a related note, I weighed my Canon 20D and Sigma 18-200 lens. It’s a monster 1.25kg (or almost 3lbs)! No wonder I hurt my back last year. Carrying that amount of weight around one’s neck is a sure fire way of getting to know your physiotherapist better!

Welcome members of Dropzone.com! I hope you’ll look around and enjoy the photos!

Leaked Canon 30D Photo

Wow! I thought the 20D would do me for a couple of years, but after seeing this photo of the upcoming Canon 30D I want one! Looks like it’ll do everything but make the coffee for you! (via)

www.onlinephotographers.com.jpeg

Later… Looks like the real Canon 30D is out. I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy it as it appears to be only a minor upgrade. More here!

Why DSLRs trump Digicams

Or to put it more clearly, why entry level digital SLRs are better than their similarly priced competition in the bridge camera range.
As usual, Paul writes very well on a topic that will probably have many people juggling with choices this Christmas: buy a DSLR or an SLR look-a-like digital camera.
I have to say, I think I have the best of both worlds, in my Panasonic FZ5 I have a small camera that fits neatly into one hand, can be sneaked into concerts, is light enough that I can bring it everywhere and is perfect for taking photos for web publication. My Canon 20D is a bigger beast but nonetheless is never at home but rarely goes into a pub or anywhere dangerous! (Well, almost never!)

Go read his article if you’re contemplating a purchase.

Canon EOS 20D Lens Advice

Darren lists the lenses he uses on his Canon 20D. I’m very tempted by the 50mm f/1.8 as it has got some great reviews and is relatively cheap. Unfortunately with the 1.6 multiplier of the reduced size sensor in the 20D you’re left with the coverage of an equivalent 80mm lens. Maybe I should lock my lens at 50mm and shoot with that for a day to get the feel for that size.
What lenses do I own? Nothing outstanding, yet. Only consumer grade lenses so far:

  • Canon 18-55 kit lens. Perfectly usable, lovely and light.
  • Canon 75-300mm IS. Hell of a zoom at a good price. Tends to hunt when zoomed in, but manual focus fixes that.
  • Sigma 18-200mm. Great general purpose zoom lens. I miss the image stabilizer of the 75-300mm especially as it’s quite slow at f3.5-f6.3.

* Slow here means that the lens doesn’t let in much light when zoomed fully, which in turn means that you need to take a longer exposure, resulting in shaky photos. The only way to alleviate this is by using a tripod, or increasing the ISO sensitivity of the sensor, but that causes noise.
Here’s a simple rule: always be sure that the exposure time is is 1/zoom seconds.
ie. If you have zoomed to 200mm then your exposure time should be at least 1/200 sec.