Happy Spending

I noticed as I was wandering around the past few days with my new telephoto lens that I was taking a lot of macro shots, or at least attempting them, which got me thinking: perhaps a macro lens is another purchase I need to make. Need might not be the best word to use, but I’m going to go with it for now, because obviously it’s a type of photography I’m interested in as I was so drawn to taking those photos with my new lens, and hey, I’ve come this far, so why not keep throwing my money down the photography hobby-drain?

I could keep attempting to take macros with the telephoto, or give my 50mm a go now and again, but they are not ideal for such photography and are incredibly persnickety to use. Plus, I can’t get too close to a subject with them because they simply cannot focus, so I lose a lot of shots I’d like to take and have to settle for less than stellar results. Believe it or not, there’s a LOT closer I could be getting to some of these subjects if I had a lens that could focus at such a close distance – the ones I have simply turn to mush and can’t find anything to latch onto until I back up or get incredibly lucky. So today I hopped on the information superhighway and researched what might be a good macro lens for me to try out.

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Pixlr’ed to disguise poor focus and lighting. Also I love it that my blog readers know what it means to be “Pixlr’ed.”

Now, I could go with something low-end like one of Canon’s S-series lenses that doesn’t work on a full-frame body, but my level of satisfaction with a cheaper build-quality lens isn’t going to take me very far. And with the few shots I’ve managed to pull off using the lenses I have, I can tell I’d get a lot of use out of a higher-quality version, so I’d at least like a mid-level range macro lens to start if I’m not willing to shell out for L-series glass right off the bat (which, of course, starts around a grand as usual). After all, neither my 50mm nor my 85mm are L-series but I am happy with them for now, and when I exchanged my S-series 50mm for the mid-range version I definitely saw improvement.

So, what to buy: I’ve landed on the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens for now. There’s a pricier L-series version, but as you can see there’s a big jump in cost, and I can get the mid-level model for about $450 off eBay if I play my cards right. Obviously I am not making this purchase right away, as I just spent a lot on the telephoto lens, but this one is definitely on my radar now, and I bet I get my hands on one sooner rather than later. I may suck it up and sell some stuff on eBay to help pay for it, when I get some time to do that.

Lord knows what I’ll decide I need next. I’m usually happy plodding along with what I have, but I guess adding to my boredom with taking self-portraits and jump shots comes the desire for more gear as I take different types of pictures. I’m happy to purchase higher-quality stuff at this point too, that can add to my growing collection of gear. I’m getting quite a nice little arsenal built up, so overall I don’t mind having a few less pair of Uggs as a tradeoff (plus it’s warming up here, so I’m not wearing my Uggs as much now).

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What will I decide I need next? Probably a new camera body! The idea of buying a Mark III hasn’t left my head, and sometime soon Canon should be introducing a IV or some other upgrade that drops the price lower on the III (and by “lower,” I  mean, still quite high) and makes it the right time to buy. Going from a cropped sensor to a full-frame would involve a learning curve, for sure, but it’s my next logical step and I’m sure I’d love the results (don’t ask me for specifics on what exactly a ‘full-frame’ camera is vs. a ‘cropped’ one, because aside from cost I barely know myself. Except that math in involved). Plus, all the lenses I currently own will work with full-frame cameras, so yay to paying a little more for quality – buying a new camera body won’t suddenly deplete my gear collection! Hear me justifying the purchase already? But seriously, it’s not gonna happen soon. I’ve got a lot to learn with all the new equipment I’ve acquired, and I really do want to wait until a newer version comes out and the price goes down. $3400 for a camera is a huge chunk of change, and I’m not up for it right now – but it does make $450 for a new lens look downright reasonable in comparison. 🙂

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This is a wall. You’re welcome.

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Lens Room

You know what I’m gonna say about that title already. You’re welcome.

I got an email while at work today that my new Canon EF 70-200mm f4 telephoto zoom lens had been delivered to my mailbox, and I immediately felt like Steve Martin getting the phone book in The Jerk:

Of course I had to wait until the end of the work day to try it out, but as soon as I got home I ripped into the box to give it a go. I have to hand it to the seller I purchased this from on eBay: the lens shipped within two hours of me paying for it, arrived quickly, and was packaged conscientiously. I don’t have the box or the manual for it, but it did come with both lens caps and the carrying case – and most importantly, the lens is in great working order. A top-notch eBay experience all around, which definitely isn’t always the case.

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Comparison between my two L-series lenses: the 70-200mm on the left, and the 17-40mm on the right

One advantage to this particular version of Canon’s 70-200mm lens is that this one is surprisingly light for its size; it wasn’t too much heavier than the 17-40mm and was not difficult to carry around at all; although once I added the Speedlite flash to my camera and tried to take photos indoors, my arm grew tired rather quickly. I don’t see this being my go-to lens in low-light situations anyway, so that probably won’t matter.

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The first thing I wanted to see, since numbers mean absolutely nothing to me, was just how much zoom I could get out of this thing. I did this in my usual manner – by comparing it to shots taken with other lenses. In this case I compared the 70-200mm to my 85mm, which is the longest lens I had until buying the new one. Here’s a few collages of both lenses compared by standing in the same exact spot using each one and focusing on the same exact thing. This first collage was taken standing right outside my back door while focusing on some bottle brush blooms:

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You can see I’ve got quite a nice zoom at 200mm, but I’m sure you can also see the problem here: the resulting photo was blurry. One way I saved so much money here is that I bought an older version of this lens that does not have IS (image stabilization); but I researched it pretty heavily before I bought it, and most reviews claim this lens can take tack-sharp, crystal-clear photos – when used properly, that is.

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Clearly, I was not using it properly in these first collages, but a billion lens reviews can’t be wrong, so I know I just need to play around with the thing in order to improve my results. In fact, I wasn’t surprised at all by these blurry shots; I quite expected it to happen. Since I knew the first photos I took with the lens would be blurry crap, I paid little to no attention to anything beyond snapping out some comparisons.

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Also taken while standing in the same exact spot – 85mm on the left, 200mm on the right

Once I got my comparisons done, I decided to try out some techniques to make the pictures more focused; I do want to get a monopod to use with this lens as I think that will be the most convenient; obviously a tripod will work as well, but I wasn’t in the mood to set it up this time. I really wanted to wander around the backyard and take shots, so I worked with upping the ISO and changing the shutter speeds to get better photos. I also switched from single shooting to low speed continuous so I could pop off a lot of shots at once, in the hopes that at least one of them would come out clear – that really helped me get some decent ones.

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One of my favorites so far

As has always been the case for me with photography, once I got into working with the equipment at hand, I found so much in my own backyard that was fascinating, and begging for my attention. As I say all the time, since discovering photography I am never bored. I supposed it’s true that with digital cameras photography has become so easy everyone can do it, and therefore it’s no longer impressive; but as long as it keeps me entertained and puts a smile on my face I’m happy.

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There wasn’t a whole lot of foliage in the backyard, as we haven’t yet spruced things up from the cold winter, but I made do. As always, I love shooting into the sun and catching lens flare, so for now, I’ll close out this post with this one:

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Lots more to come from my first foray into the back yard with my new lens; this is all I had time to process for now!