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Gear – camera and lenses Aug 30

Update: I have made several great purchases in the past few months since this post, including the 40D mentioned below. I also have a few more strategic purchases for 2009 that should genuinely increase my ability to capture fun and memorable images.

What photographic gear do I use, and why? I get this question frequently from people that have at least dabbled in photography. Here is a rundown of what I currently use for my camera and lenses, later I’ll describe my lighting and some accessories.

Camera – Canon 400D XTi
Although this is a consumer level camera, it is a strong performer with 10.1 megapixel output, useable ISO1600, and 3 frames per second. I shoot absolutely everything in RAW format so I have the most control possible of dynamic range, white balance, and exposure. I recently added the Opteka battery grip, largely for ergonomic purposes after experiencing some discomfort from shooting a wedding all day holding the small camera body. I plan in the near future to upgrade my main camera to either the Canon 40D or just announced 50D and moving this 400D to my 2nd camera. In the meantime, my friend Nate has been kind enough to let me borrow his 400D to use as a 2nd for one time events such as weddings.

Main Lens – Tamron 17-50mm f2.8
This lens spends the most time on my camera as it provides an excellent zoom range, large aperture, and great image quality. Canon has a similar lens, their 17-55 2.8 IS, that I would love, but at twice the price for only slightly better features, I am very pleased with this Tamron. One of the main things that makes this lens stand out from cheaper lenses, like the kit lens which I had for about a week, is the large aperture. The aperture is represented by that “2.8” number, and means this lens pulls in a lot of light providing for great shooting in low-light, and can give a very narrow depth of field making for some artistic opportunities to have a foreground or background in sharp focus and the other completely blurred out.

Prime lens 1 – Canon 100mm f2.0
I love fast lenses, which means I love primes. A prime lens is one with a fixed focal length (in this case 100mm), rather than a zoom range. Although it can be inconvenient as your framing must be done by moving around rather than twisting a zoom lens, the benefits of huge apertures and incredible image quality make it worth it. As mentioned above, the aperture is represented by the number following the “f”, with the lower the number being the larger the aperture opening, and the larger the aperture opening the more light the lens can collect and send to the camera sensor. This lens doesn’t seem to be terribly popular, at least not compared to it’s 85mm twin, but I had very specific reasons I chose this one. The main reason is that this is the longest focal length available that is at or below f2.0 while still being under $500. Sure, I’d love a 135mm f2.0, but at over double the price those extra 35mm don’t seem too important. And I’d really love a 200mm f2.0, but that’s $6,000!! This lens works incredibly well for tight wedding shots, sports, and portraits when you have some room to work with. I love carrying two camera bodies, one with this lens and one with my 17-50.

Prime lens 2 – Canon 50mm f1.8 MkII
This lens, commonly known as the “thrifty-fifty”, is a must have for all Canon SLR owners, at about $80 there is just no reason not to. Not only is this lens only $80, but it’s actually really good! Like the 100 described above, it is a prime lens with a fixed 50mm focal length (great for portraits) and a large aperture. The cost can be seen in the build quality, but the optics are great. This lens really doesn’t get used a whole lot, mostly for extremely low light, but at such a bargain there is no reason not to have it in the camera bag (unless maybe you have the 50mm f1.4).

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