BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Archive for the ‘Equipment Reviews’ Category

Protect Your Gear with Camera Armor

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I can be terribly abusive to my photography equipment. Although I try to be gentle with my gear, I guess I’m just a klutz.

But now, I can worry a little less thanks to Camera Armor. Camera Armor is just what it sounds like … a silicone-based system that protects the camera and lens from bumps, scratches, dirt and drops. Although not fully waterproof, the system also does well protecting against moisture. Think of it as the bulletproof vest for your camera.

Camera Armor system for the Canon EOS 1D/1Ds Mark III.

Camera Armor system for the Canon EOS 1D/1Ds Mark III.

The system comes with 4 parts: the Body Armor, the Lens Armor, which fits a 49mm-84mm physical diameter lens, the LCD Shield and a Lens Cap Leash. Although it completely covers the camera, all controls are accessible.

The system is designed specifically for certain camera models. For Canon, there are Camera Armor systems for the following bodies: Canon XTi, XSi, 40D, 30D, 20D, 5D, 1D Mark II and the 1D Mark III. For Nikon, there are systems for the: D40, D40x, D60, D70, D80, D2x, D200 and D300. There are also systems for the Fuji S5, Sony A100, Pentax K10D, Pentax K20D, and the Olympus E-410.

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Must Have Equipment: Gorillapods

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There are only a few pieces of photo gear that I get excited about and the Joby Gorillapod is one of those items. It’s a photographer’s dream because it’s simply built and highly functional.
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Unlike traditional tripods, the Gorillapod doesn’t require a level surface – you level out the camera yourself. The device is composed of multiple, fully-articulating, ball-and-socket joints that allow you to bend, twist and fold the Gorillapod into any shape necessary to get the perfect shot. Rubberized feet and soft rings between the ball-and-socket joints prevent slippage even in the toughest environments.

There are 5 versions of the Gorillapod: The Go-Go version for phones, MP3 players and compact cameras; the Original for compact cameras and point-and-shoots; the SLR model for prosumer-style cameras; the SLR-Zoom to support SLRs with long lenses and the Focus style, which can hold a whopping 11 pounds, for pro-model SLRs.

There are also a host of accessories for the Gorillapod including spikes for the feet – great for outdoor photography and photography in mud or snow; a level and a flash clip to support off-camera strobes.

This is a must-have piece of equipment especially if you do macro photography or mount remote cameras. Also, Gorillapods work great if you’re doing tabletop photography and/or fine art work. The units are well-priced with the SLR-Zoom model priced at $54.95 and the Focus model priced at $109.95.

Sigma’s Super Zoom

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This Website is intended for photo-newbies, photo hobbyists and students and I try to include information that is relevant to that audience. But Sigma’s APO 200-500mm f/2.8 / 400-1000mm f/5.6 lens is way too cool to not mention.

With a price tag of $34,000 MSRP – yes, thirty-four THOUSAND dollars- it’s a lens out of reach for most hobbyists. Heck, it’s out of reach for most professionals too. So, why would someone want this lens?
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Because sports and wildlife photographers often need a long-range zoom lens and with a f/2.8 maximum aperture at 500mm, this lens is hard to beat.

According to the Sigma Website, this ultra telephoto zoom lens can be used to create amazing image expression with various types of photography such as astrophotography, portraits, wildlife, sports. Special Low Dispersion glass and three Extraordinary Low Dispersion glass elements provide excellent correction for all type of aberrations. The super multi-layer coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides high image quality from the extremely large aperture. The lens hood, designed exclusively for this lens, blocks out extraneous light. A 72mm filter can be inserted at the rear of the lens, and a circular polarizing filter can be used in situ thanks to the ingenious internal rotation mechanism. The dedicated Li-ion battery BP-21 is used to power the zooming and AF operation. This battery is built in the lens barrel. For the convenience of the photographer, focusing distances and focal lengths can be viewed on the lens’ built-in LCD panel.

I guess we can all start saving our pennies now for this high-quality, well-made lens. Good luck and keep shooting!

Sigma announces the launch of the new 10mm f/2.8 EX DC Fisheye HSM lens

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

This autofocus fisheye lens is designed for use with digital SLR cameras equipped with APS-C size image sensors. The Nikon version produces a diagonal angle of view of 180°(154° for Sigma, 167° for Canon).
The diagonal field of view of this fisheye lens produces striking images with exaggerated perspective and distortion. The minimum focusing distance of 5.3 inches, and maximum magnification 1:3.3 allows subjects to be as close as 0.7 inch from the lens’ front element.

Sigma's 10mm f/2.8 EX DC Fisheye HSM lens. (Photo Credit: Sigma Photo)

Sigma's 10mm f/2.8 EX DC Fisheye HSM lens. (Photo Credit: Sigma Photo)

This close focusing capability allows close-up photography and also it is possible to make use of large depth of field that covers wide range of subjects. The Integral hood blocks out extraneous light and the Super Multi-Layer Coating minimizes flare and ghosting, creating superior image quality. The HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) ensures fast and quiet autofocusing and allows full-time manual focus override by rotation of the focus ring. This lens is supplied with a gelatin filter holder at the rear.

The lens is now available for Sony/Minolta digital SLRs, and Pentax digital SLRs.
The street value of the lens in about $1,000 US.

Equipment Profiles: Nikon’s AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D lens

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Nikon’s AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D lens is the perfect portrait lens for any serious photography hobbyist. This lens provides very sharp images in a lightweight, well-constructed design.

Nikon's AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D lens. (Photo Credit: Nikon USA)

Nikon's AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D lens. (Photo Credit: Nikon USA)

Who Needs This Lens?
This lens needs to be in the bag of every serious amateur photographer. This lens will allow you more creative freedom to explore photography with its fixed and super-fast f/1.8 maximum aperture. The focal range on this lens is perfect for portrait work.

Where Will I Use This Lens?
The wide aperture setting will really allow beginning photographers and advanced hobbyist the ability to achieve a shallow depth-of-field, thus giving portraits a professional look. Furthermore, with its f/1.8 maximum aperture, photographers are able to shoot quality images in low-light situations. The lens is also perfect for indoor sports photography, especially capturing images at basketball games.

By the Numbers
Lens: Nikon’s AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 D
Minimum Focus Distance: 2.8 feet
Focusing: Auto and manual focus.
Weight: 13.2 ounces
Price: About $450 US

Domke: The Camera Bag You Should Own

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There are a multitude of camera bags to choose from and it seems that most people just grab the first one they see on the shelf or they buy the bag that matches their camera. (“Hey, I bought a Nikon and look, there’s a Nikon bag!)
That’s too bad, too. Camera bags protect the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars you spent on your camera, lenses, flashes and other gear. It just stands to reason that you want a bag that can withstand a little wear-and-tear.

One of the best-made camera bag systems – yes they are “systems” – comes straight out of the photojournalism trenches. It’s a Domke bag and these bags are worth every penny they cost.
The bags aren’t cheap. If you want one, expect to spend about $150 US. But if you get one, you’ll probably have it for life.

My Domke bag has been through a rough life and even though it doesn’t look the best, it’s still a durable as the day I bought it.

The bags were created by Jim Domke, a photojournalist and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In the 1970s, the Inquirer changed the way it allocated work cars. Before, each photographer had his own private work car so the trunk became the camera case. Then, the Inquirer decided to go to a car pool, meaning the photographers had to switch their gear from car to car.
The problem was, there were no portable camera bags available. Camera storage was mostly large metal boxes that were no where near portable.
So Domke, with the go-ahead from the Inquirer, started designing camera bags that would fit the bill for photojournalists. Thus, the Domke bag was born.

Domke bags are made of canvas. Durability has never been a factor – these bags can withstand the day-in-day-out life of a photojournalist so I have no doubt they can withstand the abuse from a student photographer or a photo hobbyist.

Find your nearest Domke retailer and give one a look. Even better, buy it. You’ll be glad you did.

Written by jeremyparce

February 23, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Equipment Profiles: Canon’s EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens

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Canon’s EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens is the photojournalist’s workhorse lens. Because of its zoom range, 70-200mm, and it’s wide maximum aperture, photojournalists have relied on this lens as the de facto lens of choice. This lens provides razor-sharp images in a well-constructed design.

Canon's EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. (Photo Credit: Canon USA)

Canon's EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. (Photo Credit: Canon USA)

Who Needs This Lens?
Obviously, this is the lens of choice for working pros. Students should seriously consider saving up their pennies to purchase this piece of equipment, especially photojournalism students and those considering sports photography. Finally, serious photo enthusiast, especially those of you who have children in sports, should consider making the investment in this lens.
This is an ideal lens for sports photography because of its zoom range, it’s large maximum aperture and because of the Image Stabilization (the IS in the camera’s name) technology. The IS technology provides three-stops correction for camera shake.

Where Will I Use This Lens?
This lens is heavy (it weighs a little over three pounds) and most people – especially those not used to heavy, pro-grade lenses, will find it uncomfortable as a walk-around lens. If you’re a photo hobbyist and have children in sports then you should absolutely consider owning this lens. It’s ideal for all sports and with the f/2.8 maximum aperture, even crisp images of indoor and night sports are possible.

By the Numbers
Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
Lens Construction: 23 elements in 18 groups
Focusing: Auto Focus and full-time manual focus even in AF mode.
Price: $1,200-$1,900 US