Friday, August 31, 2012

PHOTOGRAPHY - My Camera History Finale


Being spoiled by the results I saw of photos taken from full frame cameras, I made the big decision to dispose my Nikon DX system.  I wanted to stay with Nikon but its FX system is just too pricey for a casual shooter like me.  And by this time, Canon just released 2 major DSLRs in the likes of Canon EOS 5D Mk2 and Canon EOS 7D.

It was a tough decision to go back to Canon but it provided the best line-up of FF lenses for my budget. What was a tougher choice is deciding among the 2 cameras.  I went with the latter as its features are just too good to pass up and the money I saved, I invested on full frame L lenses.  It was a short term solution for a long term goal of going full frame.

My wife and kid...taken with a Canon 7D
and 24-105 with ambient lighting
Current Digital Gear List

Canon EOS 7D
- high ISO capability, rugged body, top notch AF system, this camera offered so much features it swayed me to delay my investment on a full frame body
- all the improvements it has over my past cameras make this more than enough of a camera for me...and as one reviewer said, "best APS-C camera Canon has ever produced!"

Canon EOS 5D
- my strategy was to invest on lenses that will serve me in the long run and I already have the 4L trinity lenses...yet I still lack an ultra wide angle lens
- instead of getting a Canon EF-S 10-22 f3.5-4.5, I saw it best to just get a full frame body within my budget
- for some reason, I find my photos from this camera having more "pop" into them than the Canon EOS 7D
- it's like hitting two birds with one stone...I get another body and I get to try full frame

Carcar church taken with a Canon 5D, 17-40 and Hoya CPL

Canon EF 17-40 4f L
- best valued L lens in the market
- this was a no brainer as I bought this as a landscape/ all around lens...and with this type of shooting I can live without the f2.8

Canon EF 24-105 f4 L
- my all around lens and a staple part of my Canon EOS 5D
- it was a tough decision to either get this or a Canon EF 24-70 f2.8 L but in the end, each lens has its own purpose
- with my type of shooting, the extra reach outweighs the faster opening

My sister's wedding...taken with a Canon 7D and 70-200

Canon EF 70-200 f4 L IS
- another tough decision between this or its 2.8 counterparts
- looking back at my Nikon line-up, while happy with my Nikon AF-S 70-200 f2.8 VR, its weight was a major reason I didn't use it that much
- as a portrait lens, this lens can manage to deliver pleasing bokeh and sharpness...given this is my purpose, I bought this instead of the 2.8

Canon EF 300 f4 L IS
- bought this as a birding lens...which unfortunately I still haven't fully utilized, so much so that this is the only gear in my entire line-up that I am set on selling
Backyard birding...taken with a Canon 7D and 300 + 1.4x TC
- performance wise, output is top notch but matched with a tele-converter, it deteriorates a little

Kenko PRO 300 1.4x Tele Converter
- bought this together with the Canon EF 300 f4 L IS as a birding combo
- while IQ deteriorates, output is still very good
- only caveat is the lens AF tend to hunt when you do your initial focus but I found a work around to this by focusing manually at first, then fine tune it using the camera's AF

My kid at 7 mos...taken with a Canon 5D,
24-105 and 2 Speedlights

Metz 58 AF-1
- I was really hesitant to purchase a Canon 580 EX 2 as I have no use of its extra features and is way too expensive at the time
- I chanced upon this flash at a bargain price and Metz has always been a highly regarded brand for flash units
- having a secondary flash that serves as a fill-in light when you do bounce flash is a welcome and major advantage
- for P15K, no question I would get a brand new unit of this instead of a used Canon 580 EX 2

Canon 580 EX
- with Metz flashes being hard to come by, I looked for used copies of this flash for strobist work
- I bought this flash mainly as a strobe light and backward compatibility with my Canon EOS 5D

ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive Backpack
- with my gears growing, so does the need for a larger bag
- looking back at my past camera bags, ThinkTank proved to be the best performer and with the release of their StreetWalker series, decision was easy
- lightweight, laptop compartment and better design was just icing on the cake...what endears me to this brands is their harness system which fits me well

So here it is, my Perfect Camera System.  As with my motto in life, it all boils down to priorities and having an appreciation of what you have.  I am lucky wherein my talent/ knowledge of photography is below the level of what all my gears has to offer and this is what I wish to share.

Self portrait shot of me and my son taken with a
Canon 7D and 17-40
Before you spend all that hard earned money on a new body or lens, think how much it will help you in your photography.  Throughout the years I saw how my photography improved (not in the level that I can compete professionally but more on my personal expectations).  And its not because I have better equipment.

I knew this when I am more satisfied with a photo that is not super sharp but have a deeper meaning and appreciation from my peers/ viewers rather than a super sharp/ contrasty photo which comment is "is this photoshopped?" or "where was this taken?"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PHOTOGRAPHY - My Camera History 3


While the Nikon D2H has served me well, I was not that happy with regards to its low light performance (gearhead is never satisfied).  Nikon then released a new model and created a lot of fuss as well with the release of it's first DX long zoom lens.  So here we go again...
Photo from

Third Digital Gear List 
Nikon D200
- a superiorly upgraded Nikon D100...this was the only selling point I need
- if there was a disappointment for me, it's the high ISO performance
- it was an improvement compared to the Nikon D2H but I was expecting more on the range of 800-1250

Nikon AF-S DX VR 18-200 f3.5-5.6
- the ultimate all around and travel lens
- I almost never took it off my D200 as it covered 95% of my needs...unfortunately, its IQ and distortion issues on the wide/ tele end was a huge let down for me.

Taken with Nikon 20-35 f2.8 coupled with Hoya CPL
Nikon AF 20-35 f2.8
- not being that happy with the IQ of my Nikon AF-S VR 18-200 f3.5-5.6, I bought this as my lens for "professional" work
- I was surprised with the IQ of this lens...very sharp and contrasty
- only issue was it's limited reach specially on the wide end on a DX body

Nikon AF-D 50 f1.8
- another lens I got for "pro" work (my excuse to buy it)...never got to use it much though as I was too lazy to switch lenses not to mention I got a 2.8 zoom a few months later
- this lens is indeed a true bargain...very sharp and bokeh was much better compared to its Canon counterpart

Nikon AF 85 f1.8
- another lens I got for "pro" work (my excuse to buy it) with the Nikon "nifty fifty" I never got to use it much
- another reason I bought this lens is to replace the Nikon AF-D 80-200 f2.8 that I sold
- overall it's a keeper except for the fact that I upgraded to a Nikon AF-S 70-200 f2.8 thus making this lens redundant (yup...I know the meaning of the word).

Bird photography at our backyard using the Nikon 80-400
Nikon AF VR 80-400 f4-5.6
- it was a back and forth decision but I finally decided to sell my Nikon AF-D 80-200 f2.8 for this
- I had the chance to go birding (for the first time) in was a good thing I enjoyed bird photography!
- IQ wise it is very good...not 2.8 good but very close to it
- my main issue with this lens is the super slow focusing and flimsy tripod collar
- unfortunately, upon seeing photos taken with 500 - 1000mm lenses, my appreciation of the bird photos I get have diminished
- this is a popular lens for wildlife but it also delivers the good in portraiture providing a pleasing bokeh specially at the 300-400 length

Nikon 80-400 at 400 cupled with Hoya ND400
- having developed interest with landscapes done with long exposures, I got myself a Hoya ND400 and upgraded my cheapo CPL to a Hoya HMC Circular Polarizer

Thinktank Airport Antidote V1
- got this to replace my shoulder bag
- this bag will not win any design awards nor will make you look sexy but it does the job
- when we talk about quality and beats the hell out of Lowepro and Tamrac

More of a Photographer than a Gear Head
It took me almost 6 years to really consider myself more of a photographer than a gear head.  Having used all those lenses, I now have a firm grasp of what to shoot, how to go about it, and most importantly the gears I need...NOT WANT.  Thus again...

Taken with 17-55 and Graduated ND plus Hoya CPL
Fourth Digital Gear List
Nikon D200
- yup this one remains

Tokina 12-24 f4
- built as tough as its Nikon counterpart with comparable sharpness/ color
- I always made it a point to stay away from 3rd party brands but this is an exception...and I was not disappointed

Nikon AF-S DX 17-55 f2.8
- got this for a bargain and even if I didn't, I wouldn't be sorry
- perfect lens for me...good range, sharp, good bokeh, metal body...only took it off my camera when I need to shoot telephoto/ tight portraits

Ambient light with a Nikon 70-200
Nikon AF-S 70-200 f2.8
- every Nikon user's dream lens...until the 2nd version came along
- it was close to complaints except for the weight

- as I travelled more, it came to the point that I'm leaving behind my tripod due to its weight thus I upgraded to a Benro Carbon Fiber tripod...and what a difference it made!
- I got myself as well a  Nikon SB28 for some strobist lighting
- my purchase of the Nikon AF-S 70-200 f2.8 came with a Kata 3N1 22 which proved to be just perfect to house all my camera gears...only issue is the lack of a laptop compartment.

Preview to Final
Just as I'm settling in with my photography and gears, full frame was building its momentum.  During a couple of shoots I took part of, I saw the results of a Canon EOS 5D and man what a difference!  There is just something about it that makes it standout.

When Nikon released its FX line-up, it was a big disappointment for me.  The body and lenses were just way too expensive and not to mention my favorite lens, the Nikon AF-S 70-200 f2.8, have some serious compatibility issues with FX cameras.  Then the "white" troopers came calling...

Monday, August 27, 2012

PHOTOGRAPHY - My Camera History 2


With the lack of option on Canon consumer models and budget for its pro models, I looked at it's Nikon alternatives namely the Nikon D70 and Nikon D100.  I was actually set to buy the former but having the chance to hold and use the latter, I fell in love!  And just like that, I am now part of the dark side...

Photo from
Second Digital Gear List
Nikon D100
- if we talk about my all-time favorite cameras, this has got to be it
- pound for pound it was the best camera of its generation and its ergonomics has no equivalent
- I had to replace it due to a tear on one of its shutter blades which scratched the sensor as well

Nikon D2H
- being used to the semi-pro features of the Nikon D100, the Nikon D70 didn't appeal much to me thus I decided to get this despite a lowly 4MP sensor
- the low MP didn't matter much as the images that came out of it just have that "pop" to it which I didn't see in my former camera bodies...the built was something to behold as well
- this unit made me realize that it's not all about MPs if I want the best IQ

Taken with a Sigma 10-20...had to do some heavy duty
correction of distortions though
Sigma EX DC 10-20 f4-5.6
- talk about ultra wide!
- it served me well on my trips to Europe and our adventure trip in Cagayan/ Bukidnon but surprisingly, I utilized it where it is not really intended to be used...architectural photography.

Nikon AF-D 18-35 f3.5-4.5
- ever since I made the decision to jump to Nikon, this was my "must have" lens and it delivered
- paired with my D100, it became my all around lens
- looking back, it performed as well as my more expensive really have to pixel peep to see the difference

Nikon AF-S G 24-85 f3.5-4.5
- my supposed all-around lens but it's range was just not that ideal in a DX format
- it has decent optics though and the AF-S was a welcome experience back then
- this lens, while having decent IQ, became an expensive paper weight for me

I was only able to do macro as this insect is dead.
Nikon AF-D 60 f2.8 Micro
- my first macro lens...super sharp and is everything I could ever want in a macro lens
- only issue is that I found the range to be too short (my excuse to the fact that I don't have the patience for macro photography)

Nikon AF 70-210 f4-5.6
- as i splurged my budget on the Nikon D100Nikon AF-D 18-35 f3.5-4.5Nikon AF-S G 24-85 f3.5-4.5 and Nikon SB800; my budget for a telephoto zoom is now pocket change
- I bought this thanks to Ken Rockwell who Nikon should regard as the best salesman for this lens
- optics is not that bad and the push-pool zoom barrel was a welcome focus speed leaves a lot to be desired though

Photo of my dad taken with a Nikon 80-200 f2.8
Nikon AF-D 80-200 f2.8
- as with me getting the Nikon AF-D 20-35 f2.8, I got this lens to replace my Nikon AF 70-210 f4-5.6
- WHAT A LENS! super sharp...amazing bokeh...I loved it!
- if I wasn't short on cash when I needed a super telephoto lens I would've kept this

Nikon AF 105 f2.8 Micro
- since my Nikon AF-D 60 f2.8 Micro is too short for Macro, I got this lens
- it was as sharp as it's shorter sibling...really nothing to complain about except for its built that is quite plasticky
- unfortunately, I didn't find macro photography to be that much easier even with this lens...I just had to accept that fact that this is not the field for me

Nikon AF 300 f4
- I got this lens because it was offered at a good price and what a pleasant surprise!
- super sharp...amazing bokeh...only issue is it's focusing speed and minimum focusing distance
- this lens together with the Nikon AF-D 80-200 f2.8 was just too much for my back...and I don't have much use for it.

Ambient lighting and SB-800 mounted on my D2H
Nikon SB800
- my first proprietary flash unit
- coupled with the Nikon D100, it was like hot pandesal and coffee...unfortunately Nikon made this almost obsolete to use with the later models.

Tamrac Pro 8
- with my gears rapidly increasing in number, I had to find a bag to fit them all and provide easy access
- my experience with a backpack bag swayed me to get a shoulder bag instead
- it served it's purpose in terms of housing my gears but portability wise, it's not the most ideal

Film Again!?
With my lust for gears and some nostalgia settling in, I invested on a Nikon film camera and a couple of AIS lenses.  It fulfilled my lust of playing with a high-end (make that semi) classic manual camera but that's just about it.  After taking it on a trip to Batad-Bangaan I immediately sold it.

Photo from
Nikon FM3A
- one of the rare times I can say classic yet sexy in one sentence
- if I have a lot of cash to spare I would've kept it as a collection

Nikon AIS 25-50 f4
- a very rare and capable lens
- output from the camera is so-so but I would blame it on the developer (yeah right!)
- used on a D2H, results are not that good...reason why I'm blaming the developer

Nikon AIS 135 f2.8
- was expecting better bokeh but then again, the film developer screwed my photos
- used on a D2H, it's super sharp...bokeh is not bad but not great either.

Bridge Camera
As I am still an avid outdoorsman during this time, I noticed that I cannot bring my camera and lenses as the weight of my outdoor gears is heavy enough as it is.  Instead of streamlining my equipment, I invested on a point and shoot with a long optical zoom lens.  It was probably the best decision I made as this made me realize that I need not have all these gears with my way of shooting.

View from the peak of Mt. Ugu 
- it was the most highly regarded bridge camera at it's time and it certainly lived up to the hype
- image quality up to iso 800 is workable and the long optical zoom is a big plus
- only issues i had with it was the long "lag" in reading/ processing images and a foreign raw file that can only be converted using Fuji's proprietary software

Preview to Part 3
Strobist lighting became the in-thing and I got married.  Something has to give...or does it?

PHOTOGRAPHY - My Camera History 1


I chanced upon a topic in a photography forum wherein a guy shared his take on building the perfect camera system.  This prompted me to look back on my gear line-up and how I came across it.  I always believe that the best system is the one that serves your photography needs and doesn't necessarily mean being limited to the f2.8s or the Ls (for Canonites like me).

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting if I share a history of the camera gears I used and how I went about having the "perfect system"...

I don't have plans to go into a debate whether what I shared is accurate or not as these are all based on my personal experience.

I am proud to say that I went through the process of shooting with film prior engaging in digital.  My interest in photography actually started with a love for gears; photos being secondary.  Being an avid outdoor enthusiast, I loved outdoor gears as much as going outdoors.  Same goes for my passion in photography.

On a rafting trip I organized last January 2003, I already have interest in pro cameras but always thought of it as a sophisticated and "soft" hobby.  What caught my attention during that trip was the Lowepro bag our photographer was using.  I thought it was a knock off of Lowe Alpine but was surprised to find out that it is a brand on its own and is actually ideal for the outdoors.  The lure of being an outdoor photographer was just something I cannot resist.

A month later during Photoworld Manila, I took the plunge...

Photo from Pentax Forum

Film Gear List
- a fully manual camera with auto exposure
- it was a dream to hold as a first time user but as I got to know it better, it was just too crippled of a camera 

- the everyday's cheap but build quality is not that bad...only let down is the plastic mount

- stupid enough, I bought the tele zoom first as I got sold on the longer reach of the lens
- same comment as with the former lens in terms of built quality.

- I got myself a cheapo flash and tripod which brands I cannot remember and a Lowepro beltpack similar to the current Outback 100 albeit smaller and cheaper.

I was able to use this on a trip to Baguio, hike of Mt. Ugu and covering an event in Cebu.  I wasn't able to get any spectacular photos with it but this was what got me started in serious photography.

First Digital Gear List
Canon EOS 300D
Photo from Canon UK

- a few days after it was introduced in the market, I immediately got myself a unit...even applying under time just to secure the unit reserved for me.
- auto focus, spot metering (albeit 10 deg), DIGITAL...I was in photography heaven!
- it was the perfect camera for me until the Nikon D70 and Canon EOS 3 came along.

- as I progressed, I was feeling the limitations of my Canon EOS 300D so I invested in a pro body despite it being a film camera
- it was a bad decision as not only did I get spoiled by it's pro features/ built...I only shot 2 rolls of film with it!

Stopped down the kit lens can deliver surprising results.

- first time I looked into the viewfinder of my 300D "WOW" was just the word as I now have a true wide angle lens!
- as with my 300D, it was the perfect lens until I found out about those damn L lenses
- this kit lens is now at it's 4th version and is now dubbed Canon EF-S 18-55 f3.5-5.6 IS II...other than the IS, built has been improved so if you think you have it bad, think of the version we got before!

- lusting for L lenses and being limited by my kit lens, I invested on this cheaper alternative 
- first thing I noticed was the much better built compared to the kit lens but that creaking sound it make as it focuses was just irritating.  
- was it better than the kit lens? My answer to this is yes it is f2.8 and in the range of 56-70.

- everyone says this is a must have so I got one without any idea how to use it as it was dirt cheap (selling for only PHP 3,500 then)
- it was a great lens for product shots and has a matter of fact served me well as my first commercial shoots were done using this lens.
Macro feature of the Sigma ain't that bad.

- I was hoping to buy the Canon EF 70-200 4L but a lack of budget made me buy this lens instead...not to mention it sports a red ring just like an L lens! ;)
- it opened my eyes to the photo opportunities of a long telephoto lens and IQ is very good but the length the length the lens barrel extends make this quite a challenge to use on a tripod.

- manual flash for a fully automatic camera...well, at least it was an improvement compared to the flash I bought for my Pentax system
- it has no TTL and is very much limited to Automatic when used with cameras right now so you can pretty much cross out this model in your "to buy" list
- it has resurfaced though with the growing interest of strobist lighting
- I just have to add that the old school adjustment settings/ knob of this flash is so cool to use!

- One investment I got right was a sturdy tripod and head combo with the Manfrotto 055 Pro B and Manfrotto 486 RC2.  This set-up served me well for 6 years and I only sold it as the weight has caught up with me.
- I invested as well on a bigger and sturdier topload zoom bag with the Lowepro Toploader 70 AW which I'm using until today.  I got as well a Lowepro Mini Trekker to house my 2 Canon bodies and multiple lenses but the harness system was just not right for my lean frame.  It caused quite a strain on my shoulder during a trip to Japan thus off it goes to the FS section after one use.

I am both proud and regretful in being there when digital photography went mainstream.  Proud that I learned photography the old school way and cherished more the small stuff like auto focus, spot metering and seeing my photos right after I press the shutter.  My regret?

It's not really me spending my money on those stuff I never got to use.  It's me paying P5,000 for a freaking 512MB card which brand is not even the best! ;)

Preview to Part 2
Given all the so-called "limitations" (or excuse to upgrade) of my camera, I decided to sell my whole system and upgrade it.  I was eyeing a Canon EOS 10D but there was just something wrong with it's ergonomics.  Then came the call from the "dark side"...