Gear

Canon 5dmkII to mkIII: Upgrade or Not Upgrade???

So, finally the 5D mkII was announced and I got to say I'm feeling a little let down! Not because the mk III is not a good camera but mostly because I feel like I have been going around in circles in terms of camera bodies....... I'll explain a little of my back story.

I started off as a Nikon Shooter! My first camera was a Nikon D80 and I totally love that camera and it was a great place to start. After about a year and a half with the D80 I decided to go all the way and get a full frame camera when the D700 came out! So I sold all of my FX lenses except my 50mm and upgraded to the D700 and got a 24-70 f2.8 and a 80-200 f2.8. That was all I had for another year and half and I was super happy with it. The D700 was rouged, weather sealed, had amazing low light capabilities, and had perfect auto focus! It was a wonderful camera!

When the mkII came out I got sucked into the idea of having amazing video capabilities built into a stills camera! Being a cinematographer at Dreamworks this was a win win for me giving me the freedom to be a photographer and film maker all in the same package! So I switched...........

What I got in the mkII was a BEAUTIFUL sensor! I LOVE IT. It takes rick beautiful images that I actually love more then my D700!.......
 
BUT

what I got was a less robust body, no weather sealing, HORRIBLE auto focus compared to the D700, less awesome low light( but decent enough to be ok), and ok HDR/AEB. In a lot of way I took a step back as far functionality to get good video and a wonderful sensor. It was a risk but I took it.

Now the mk III has been announced and I got to say I'm really happy that they basically fixed everything I gave up in my D700. I'll have a more roughed body, better auto focus, better low light, and more stops for HDR. Awesome!!!!!!

So basically I'm just upgrading to pretty much what I had 2 years ago in the D700??? right.....

Ugggg.........I pretty sad about that! Is anyone else feeling the same or is it just me?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

http://www.digphoto.org/content/canon-5d-mark-ii-vs-canon-5d-mark-iii-vs-nikon-d800/71710331

Canon 70-200mm f4L IS Review

Very rarely (if ever) do I write lens reviews but after spending a day at Disneyland were I got to borrow my brothers Canon 70-200mm f4L IS lens I had to blog about it out of sheer photography bliss!

Its been such a long time since I have had so much fun walking around taking pictures.  Normally I have a bag full of prime lenses and a tripod that I carry and that covers me for the majority of my night photography and works great when your staying put waiting on the light to get good. I started shooting with primes because, A- they are often sharper, B-they are better in low light getting down to apertures of f:1.4-2.8,and C- they have the most depth of field potential for portraits and other things.

The biggest problem with primes lenses is that you have to switch lenses to use them!  Lets face it folks, Its a real pain to switch lens when your walking around all day in a place like Disneyland! I ran into this problem a lot while walking around Europe. You can check out my blog post about what I learned from that here. Bottom line, its heavy and cumbersome to carry all that gear around with you in any situation where your just walking around.

So for the first time in a long time I resolved to take just my 5DmkII, my Black Rapid Sport camera strap, and this one Lens for the day and see what I thought of it!

Camera Setup: To get a good idea of what this lens could do Depth of Field wise I set my 5D to aperture priority and set my f stop to F4 and left it there the whole day! The only thing I changed throughout the day was my ISO depending on how low the light got on dark rides/rooms. Here is what I discovered!

I love ZOOMS: Its so wonderful after months of only prime lenses to be able to compose a shot from the position I'm standing from. Often times you don't always get the choice to move your legs or change positions (in the case of being in line for a Disney ride) to get the shot. Having a zoom to be able to compose just the way I like it on the fly was so much fun! It was refreshing and freeing and made for an awesome day.

5DmkII + 70-200mm F4L IS = Not that heavy! I walked around the whole day with that combination on my shoulder plus a sweatshirt tied to the strap, and didn't notice the weight AT ALL! This was not the case in Europe walking around with a shoulder bag full of primes, and a camera on the other shoulder. I was in agony almost everyday due to the weight on that trip. To put it another way, the day before I competed in the Malibu Triathlon and walked around Disneyland all day the next day and I barely noticed the weight at all! It made for one of the most enjoyable photography days I have had in a long time! (I'm curious how the 70-200mm f2.8L II IS compares weight wise)

IS(Image Stabilization) is AMAZING! There were times when I had my 5dmkII set at ISO 6400 and I was still able to take a picture at 1/6 of a second at 70mm and still get the shot! Now its not the most sharp picture I have ever taken but I got the shot nonetheless and without IS there would have been NO way. I have never experienced the power of IS until that day and I was impressed with how much it really did help. I'm a total believer now.

DOF Is excellent! If you notice from some of the pictures from this post you can see that I'm getting excellent DOF at f4. I'm sure at f2.8 I would get even more but honestly f4 is really perfect for most situations. There were times when having just a little more light in the lens would have really helped in dark rooms but for the most part I'm really happy with it! I'm not sure spending an extra $1000 to get the f2.8 IS would really be worth it after using this lens and if its much heavier I would really think twice. Sharpness is Awesome: As you can see from the photo's I had no trouble getting super sharp and crisp images. The glass is flawless and wonderful.

Overall the bottom line is that I had more fun walking around with a camera then I have had in a long time! I would highly recommend this lens to anyone who wants a good all around walk-about lens. The 70-200mm focal range is perfect for almost all situations, especially detail oriented shooting, and compresses the frame in such a pleasing way.  Hope you all enjoy the pictures!

Check out the gallery below to see this awesome lens in action!

Gear Review: Post Europe

Me with all my photo gear. Photo credit Jennifer Gunther

Camera Strap, Camera Bag, Tripod

I thought it would be good to share some of my thoughts about my gear after traveling Europe for two weeks. I spent so much time in the pre-planning that I wanted to share what worked and what didn't work so maybe some of you would benefit from the information and I can better remember it myself for future trips.

Just to get us all on the same page its probably good to give some context and explain that this trip to Europe was a vacation with my amazing wife Jennifer.

The reason I'm explaining that is that I don't want to give the false impression that this was a photography trip or that I went to Europe solely for photography.  It was a vacation, first and foremost, and a chance to spend some quality time with my wife to celebrate our first year of marriage together. Lucky for me, my wife is amazingly supportive of my photography, and encouraged me to take time during our trip to do what I love most, which is taking pictures. I'm so blessed to have that support and I know that many of us fight to keep a good balance between both picture taking and our loved ones. I know I struggle just as much as anyone.....More on that subject later......

With that said though it provides an opportunity to explain how well I did with carrying around all my gear while still trying to enjoy site seeing like in typical touristy fashion

 

Me setting up at shot outside Buckingham Palace. Photo credit Jennifer Gunther

Camera Bag, Tripod, and Camera = heavy: I carried one camera shoulder bag(with three prime lenses) on one shoulder, a black rapid strap with a 5D and Lens on the other, and hand carried a carbon fiber tripod in my left hand and I was amazed how heavy this all was. After months of sitting in front of a computer walking around with camera gear all day was a real change. My back and neck both struggled the first few days getting use to carrying all this on my shoulders.  It took several days for this to become tolerable and eventually I didn't notice it as much. Even after getting used to it I was amazed at how uncomfortable this two shoulder bag/strap setup is and I think I might go back to a backpack setup to take the extra stress off my shoulders.

Carrying a Tripod: Even with a super light tripod, (mine is about 4.8 pounds without camera, 8lbs with), It still was pretty cumbersome and a pain to carry around. The 24L RRS is a little longer then I thought it would be and just a little too long to be able to lay it sideways on my shoulder bag and it be comfortable.  I did use it everyday which justified carrying it but I wasn't as happy as I had hoped. I did figure out a way to hang it off my camera bag so I didn't have to have it in my hands all the time but that put just a little too much extra weight on my shoulders then I liked. Overall there were times when I wished I didn't have to carry it and times when I was so thankful for it. I think every photographer deals with this dilemma.  If I had my choice I would have left it at the flat during the middle of the day when the light is bad and had it with me from golden hour on. Problem is that when your site-seeing you never know where and when you will be somewhere. So....it was with me all the time and when I used it I was glad I had it.

Me shooting by Tower Bridge : Photo credit Jennifer Gunther

Looking like a photo tourist:This did bother me a little bit. I had so much gear around my body that I was a little self conscious of how touristy I actually looked. It also didn't help that my wife also had a camera and was stopping to take pictures as well so we definitely drew several looks our direction. Usually I like to keep a lower profile and be more like a photo ninja then tourist but sometimes you just have to go with it and enjoy what you love and not worry about what other people are thinking. However my photo touristy look did pose a little bit of a problem in some places where I really wanted to do some HDRs with my tripod but feared being harassed by security knowing that pictures were not allowed. Feeling like I stuck out like a sore thumb prevented me from being a bold as and I wanted to be sometimes.

Gear I didn't use: I purchased "the green pod" a bean bag tripod that I thought I would use in situations where I couldn't use a tripod. Unfortunately I didn't end up using it at all and it sat in my bag the whole trip. The other piece of equipment I got was an LED video light that I thought I would use while taking pictures at night for either portraits or to light up objects during long exposures. I didn't end up using it on the trip but plan to use it for other projects in the future so it wasn't a total waste of money. I also didn't switch lenses as much as I thought I would. I did use every lens at least once but I mainly had my 16-35mm lens on most of the time. I did use my 50mm more then I expected on this trip and also my 135mm f2 to capture people or closeups when I started to get bored of the 16-35mm. Overall I think using a backpack will be better next time since lens changes weren't very often.

Things I used all the time: My Black rapid camera strap! This was a big hit for me since I was able to use my strap and also keep on my RRS L bracket on at the same time. The strap was comfortable and easy to use. I love it! Everyone should own one of these.

Things that saved my butt:Rain covers! It did rain a little bit while on the trip. I was really glad that I packed rain covers for my camera and bag. They came in handy on the really rainy days when it was totally down pouring and there was nothing we could do but get wet. The camera covers I have are glorified plastic bags that were $5 at the camera store and work great. Plus they are small enough to not take up any extra room in the camera bag and are easy to carry around.

Things that went wrong: My favorite lens, the 16-35mm f2.8, broke a few days into the start of our trip. Luckily we were in a big city (London) and I was able to find a camera store that could take a look at it. It was a bit out of the way but easy to reach by "tube" and I was able to make it there without taking too much time out of our day. The store took a look at it and noticed that a screw had come loose and was locking up the auto focus system. Within 5 minutes the screw was glued back down and the lens was fixed much to my happiness. It is never a good feeling when something breaks at the beginning of a long trip especially your favorite lens. I'm really thankful I was able to get it fixed so quickly. The other thing that went wrong was that I lost one of the rubber feet to my tripod while site seeing in the "Tower of London". This was really frustrating since the tripod was brand new and with a missing foot getting the tripod level was going to be much harder now. I had some grip tape with me and was able to tape the bottom of the leg to prevent any scratches or damage with using it without the foot and made it through the trip like that. When I got home I was able to call up RRS and get some replacement feet for $8 each and I'm back in business now.

One of the few times I was really bold!

Photo credit Jennifer Gunther

Things I would do differently next time: Thinking back on the trip, I wished I didn't worry so much about getting in trouble for taking pictures.  Being in an unknown country I often worried about having a run in with security over trying to take a picture. Often I would see really cool HDR opportunities but wouldn't get the tripod out because I was worried about getting in trouble. I just didn't want to deal with that. My wife had a camera and not hearing as many stories as I have was much more bold and got away with a lot more pictures then I did. Next time I'll try and be more bold and go after the pictures I want until someone tells me other wise.

I still felt like I had too much gear. Its the boyscout in me I'm afraid but all in all I actually felt like I did better then I ever had before in this department. The extra planning really did payoff and going from place to place with all my gear really wasn't all that bad.

Next time, If I'm blessed to be going solely for photography, I might try to arrange a "Fixer". Sometimes trying to get the picture you're after is easier if you have someone who lives there helping you with the inside track. They can arrange photo permits or clear things with security before hand, or drive you to locations only locals know how to get to. Next time I might try this approach and see if it helps.

Overall it was a very successful trip and I had a blast. I'm still dreaming about French cafes, good espresso, macaroons, beautiful architecture, and the sound of French accents all around me. I miss London and the wonderful people and the beautiful tower bridge. I can't wait to go back! Hopefully it won't be too long of a wait!

Walking around Europe with lots of photo gear?

As I continue to prepare for our trip to Europe I have been trying to think of as many creative ways I can think of that will make the hours of walking around the streets of London, Paris, and Lyon as comfortable as possible with all of the photo gear I'll need. I won't need every ounce of gear all the time so the best plan is to actually take two separate bags. One big bag for traveling from place to place and one smaller bag for walking around with. I'll give you a description of what I have come up with for both.

SMALL BAG:SwissGear - ZINC Messenger Digital SLR Camera Bag - Black

In the past I have carried around a back pack but because I'm mainly shooting with Prime Lens now I needed something that I can easily and quickly reach into and make lens changes quickly. I searched high and low and the bag I settled on is a simple over the shoulder bag from Swiss Gear (and its cheap). Its small enough to fit comfortably in front of me but big enough to carry all three of my lenses with room to spare. It also looks a bit more low profile then most bags.

IN THE BAG: Lenses, Memory Cards, Shutter Release. THAT IT- trying to be as minimal as possible, any extra weight will get old really fast

CAMERA STRAP: Black Rapid Sport

In an effort to keep a low profile, I want to use a different camera strap then the one Canon provided.  It has always bothered me that the camera strap broadcasts the model to everyone who can see me from 20 feet away. The last thing I want is to attract thieves who are looking to score some gear to know what camera I'm carrying around my neck. I may actually tape over my model number as well just for extra coverage.

The camera strap I went with is the Black Rapid Sport! This is an awesome camera strap and is really comfortable walk around with and should work out great.

I'll also be walking around with a tripod which I'll either just keep in my hand or I'll attach it to the shoulder bag in some way.  I bought a simple shoulder strap that I'm hoping to attach to the tripod so I can carry it around my neck as well but I'm not sure its going to work.

 

 

 

 

 

My Travel BIG BAG: Think Tank Airport Acceleration (Backpack)

This is the bag that I'm going to travel through airports, trains, and hotels with. Its big enough to carry everything I could possible need as well as carry some of the just in case items that I might or might not use along the way. This bag will also carry my macbook pro, miscellaneous snacks, power cords, chargers, converters, books, and other items.

One of the things I love about this bag is that it has great security options. There is a built in lock for my computer as well as zipper lock rings so that I won't have to worry about people getting into my bag without me knowing it.

MY GEAR LIST:

  1. Canon 5DmkII
  2. 16-35mm f2.8
  3. 50mm f1.4
  4. 85mm f1.8
  5. 135mm f2
  6. 3 memory cards
  7. Shutter Release
  8. Tripod. 
  9. Extra Battery
  10. LED Video light (Can be used as a flash or light for night shots)
  11. Macbook Pro
  12. Power cord, Canon Battery charger, Iphone charger
  13. 250gb Hard drive- flash card BK
  14. CF Card Reader
  15. LED Headlight (I take it everywhere....its really useful at night!)
  16. Camera Rain Cover/ Bag Rain Cover (you never know)

NEW GEAR EXPERIMENTS:

There are a couple items that I'm hoping to try out for the first time on this trip. These are items I have never used before that I'm hoping will turn out to really useful.

LED VIDEO LIGHT: Instead of carrying a flash with me, I'm hoping to carry this inexpensive video light instead. Because I mainly do night photography as my primary focus, having a video light like this can be really useful. First of all its dimmable. Without having to deal with remote triggers or TTL I can very quickly adjust the light level up or down. This makes it quick and easy for portrait work or just adding a little extra light to a scene if needed.  I can also use this during long exposures as well. For example to light different foreground objects or to do some creative light painting with gels and what not.  I'm hoping it will be pretty useful.

THE GREEN POD: The last time I was in France the use of tripods for photography was sometimes prohibited. This happened often in churches and some museums. For this reason I'm hoping to use this bean bag tripod in place of my big tripod. Hopefully by placing it on a chair or the floor I'll still be able to do some bracketed exposures for HDR in these type of situations. We shall see how it goes. 

 I'm hopeful that I'm fully prepared for any scenario, photography wise, I might encounter on this trip. If anything, all of this prep work has put my heart at ease knowing that I'm ready for anything. Now all I have to do it relax and prepare for two weeks of awesome vacation.

Best Travel Tripod 2011: What to get for Europe Part 3

This has probably been one of the harder posts for me to write. Mostly because I feel so conflicted about the money side of gear choices that I have been wrestling with while on my search for the right tripod for Jenn and I's trip to Europe. Gear for me has always been a hard struggle, because like most new photographers, price has always been an issue and I have often choose the cheaper option only to get burned later when my gear starts to fall apart . Its gotten to the point where I'd much rather spend the money and purchase things I'll have forever then go through the pain of replacing it a year later. Even with this attitude its still hard to justify certain purchases. It often becomes a big mental battle trying to figure out what the right thing is to do. After my last post, I had left Samy's camera after returning my first choice, the Gitzo GT1531, leaving me without a tripod. Because a tripod is such an important part of my photography at this point I have had to start looking for a plan B. This brings me to a company called "Really Right Stuff".

For those who aren't familiar with this company, they are regarded by many photographers as the best tripod company in the industry. I have heard their name many times before and haven't heard one negative thing about them......

......well except their prices!.....

When your the best I guess that means there is always a catch. Many photographers talk about Really Right Stuff as the holy grail of tripod equipment and that if you really want the best, you go with them. So maybe its worth it if it will last me.....I guess I'm willing to take the risk to find out!

Really Right Stuff is like most tripod companies with a lot of big differences. The first is that all of their stuff is made in the USA. In fact made not to far from me in San Luis Obispo, CA. Also all of their tripod parts are machine milled rather then metal cast so the quality and tolerances of their products is incredible high. Also they pride themselves in making the best carbon fiber legs in the industry and have scientific tests that suggest their strength to weight ratios beat all others. Also their vibration reduction properties of their tripods are better then anything on the market.  This is probably the most important thing to hear since vibration is one of the biggest concerns with HDR image capture. Their tripods are very quick to setup with the use of quick release leg locks which I always prefer over the leg clips. Also something that is really unique to RRS is the use of customized L bracket camera mounts for use on their ball heads. This allows the user to very quickly switch the camera into a vertical position without having to adjust the ball head or move the tripod. That is a huge advantage for speed! So with all that being said....I'm hooked!....Wait how much is it?  I'll let you guys head on over to the site to check it out for yourself.  Ouch.....

TVC-24L

Anyways, after calling and talking at length over what to pick, I decided to order the TVC-24L Tripod with BH-40 LR Ballhead. This is actually a new model at RRS. Its the same size as the TVC23 folded up, but it has an extra leg section that brings it up to 66.75 inches tall when fully extended. This is fantastic since I'm 6'1" tall so this model will work much better for my height.

Only problem is....Its not out yet......AND......it may not be out before we head to Europe!

Uggg.....Ok this tripod search is getting annoying. Even after finding the perfect tripod I might not even be able to get it. So in the mean time I have been looking for a plan C just in case I can't get this one. I have to get my hands on something before we leave.


Pros:

  1. Best carbon fiber legs in the industry
  2. Best vibration reduction
  3. Highest quality machine-milled parts
  4. Best ball heads in the industry with use of L bracket camera mounts
  5. Largest leg support weight- 40lbs (others I looked at only 17lbs)
  6. Really light weight- under 5 pounds including the Ball Head!!
  7. Rubber twist legs locks
  8. Ratcheting angle leg stops
  9. 5 Year Warranty
  10. Made in the USA

Cons:

  1. High Price
  2. Doesn't Include center column (Extra)
  3. L bracket not included (extra)
  4. Bag or carrying case not included (extra)

RRS Is not for everyone. I'm not even sure if its even for me totally. Spending that much on a tripod has been really hard for me but I'm hopeful I'm making the right choice. I only want to do this once and all the other tripods I have looked at haven't lived up to my expectations. Hopefully this will be the last tripod I'll ever need.

Wish me luck!

Pre-Travel Photography Fears: Will I get good shots???

.....I immediately felt a huge sense of insecurity wash over me. "If I can't go out in my own backyard and shoot good photos how am I possibly going to get good photo's while I"m in Europe?".....

Last night, after a wonderful Easter Sunday,  I noticed that the skies of LA looked amazing and that it would be a perfect night to head downtown to shoot some LA photos. My wife asked me if I wanted to shoot for a bit.  At first I said no, feeling a bit tired after a full days activities. That tired feeling didn't last long though before my excitement completely overwhelmed me and I just had to get out there and burn off some of this stored up pre-Europe excitement.

It was a beautiful night and I managed to find a great spot to shoot and enjoyed several hours of clicking off frames. I came back home feeling alive and super confident that if a night in LA was going to be this fun, Europe was going to be even better!

I quickly downloaded them into Lightroom and began editing. After about an hour, much to my disappointment none of my shots seemed to be turning out. I immediately felt a huge sense of insecurity wash over me. "If I can't go out in my own backyard and get good photos how am I possibly going to get good photos while I'm in Europe?"  Its a feeling I'm sure every photographer has felt right before a big photo shoot, photo assignment, or photography trip. That ever present fear of failure. To be honest its been a hard feeling to shake today.

But in the mist of feeling down there are always a few things that I try and remember that always help put a day like yesterday back into perspective.....

  1. #1 thing to remember while your on vacation is be present in the moment!!! That far out ways getting a good photograph! If I spend the whole trip just trying to chase the shot and miss out on special moments with my wife it will be a wasted trip! Living the trip rather then photographing the trip is key!  
  2. Shoot by the numbers! Even the best pro photographers don't nail it on every shot. More often then not a photographer will take hundreds if not thousands of shots for a handful of really amazing ones to take home, so try not to sweat it if something doesn't work all the time. Just keep shooting
  3. Gear isn't everything. You can try and be prepared as much as you can but when it comes down to it that extra piece of "just in case" gear will just be extra pounds you have to carry around. Try your best to only take what you need. 
  4. Remember that its a vacation! Its ok to put the camera away and just kick back and enjoy yourself! Sometimes I put so much pressure on myself to get out there and do something amazing I forget that my photography is about fun and the enjoyment of it. Thinking about it in any other way is just going to turn it into work....which is what I'm suppose to NOT be doing right now!
  5. Always remember that if your having fun you will take better photographs. Sometimes trying too hard puts too much pressure on yourself and it can totally ruin your photography. The nights I have been out there just having fun have been the nights that have always turned out well. Just go out there and see what happens. Worrying about it too much will take all the joy out of your experience.

Keeping these things in mind helps me focus on whats really important.... Having FUN!!!!

Best Travel Tripod 2011: What to get for Europe Part 2

Ok, so we left off with me explaining the various models I have been looking at in the hopes of finding the best travel tripod I could find. There were several great models to choose from and one that kept standing out in my mind as the better investment. "I picked the Gitzo GT1531...but there is a catch"

I choose the Gitzo GT1531

So on a Saturday afternoon I headed down to Samy's Camera to make my final choice.  I looked at a few of the models again and after a lot of back and forth I decided I would purchase the Gitzo GT1531 Tripod. It is most expensive of the models I was looking at but when you factor in that 90% of my photography these days is being done on a tripod and the time spent with cheaper gear that has fallen apart, I decided the Gitzo was the best investment. This tripod would last the longest and be the most comfortable to walk around with.

So after a quick transaction and a good hand shake I headed home in nervous excitement to start this new journey with a brand new tripod......well so I thought.

After arriving home I said hi to my wife, gave her a quick kiss, and headed to the living room to explore this new equipment. I had decided not to purchase a gitzo ball head since I already had one from my old tripod (Manfrotto 488RC2) that I was comfortable with and decided it should be fine for now. I was already looking at maybe investing in a Really Right Stuff ball head since I have seen/heard several recommendation from around the web that they are by far the best. Using my old ball head would give me a little bit more time to think through maybe going with them.

With tools in hand, I got to work removing my old ball head. It took a few minutes unscrewing the old set screws that permanently attached the ball head to the old tripod but with a little care, and my tongue sticking out, I managed to get it off. I then examined the instructions from Gitzo on how to attach a ball head to their tripods and much to my surprise there really wasn't much information except for a few pictures of a hand twisting a plastic plate to the top of the main shaft, which was already there. After scratching my head a little, I kept thinking that there most be a more secure way to attaching the ball head then just screwing it on by hand? I jumped on my computer and did some searches and nothing? So I decided to just try it. I twisted my Manfrotto ball head onto the top of the gitzo. Twisted hard and that was it.  Hmmmm, I guess that was easy.

Now that the ball head was on the tripod I tried to loosen the main lever that controls the ball and quickly the ball head loosened from the tripod. Hmmm that doesn't seem right I thought. So I tightened it back on and tried again and sure enough after several attempts the Ball head kept coming loose from the tripod. Big problem here guys. If I can't lock the ball head to the tripod there is a chance that my camera may fall off while walking around. NO BUENO!!! not to mention the frustration of having to always worry about it coming loose.

So I called Samy's Camera back to ask them if there was any way I could secure the ball head more permanently.  My old $80 tripod legs had set screws why doesn't the $600 one have them? Seems to not make a lot of sense does it? Samy's didn't seem to know either but suggested I bring it back to the store and we could look at it.  Frustrated I hung up and decided to go back tomorrow and get it checked out.

The next day I stopped by Samy's after church and we looked at my tripod. The verdict, after asking several people, is that Gitzo only uses friction on this level of tripod to secure their ball heads. The sales person quickly suggested I return it I guess understanding that there was no way I could walk around Europe with a ball head that might come off and within fifteen minutes I was out of there with a return receipt.

So NO tripod and totally disappointed!

TOTALLY Back to square one folks!

Ugh. So more research and more blogging to follow as I try and figure this out before we leave for Europe.  Stay tuned!

Best Travel Tripod 2011: What to get for Europe Part 1

My old tripod on the left, New hopeful on the right

Now that the tickets are bought and my wife Jenn and I are officially going to Europe my brain has gone into overdrive trying to think about all of the things I'll need photography wise to get ready for our trip. One of the first things on my list is a new tripod!

My old tripod (left) which has served me well up to this point has started to fall apart and is frankly just too heavy and cumbersome to carry around Europe for this trip. I'm pretty sure it weighs around 15 pounds. Not to mention that I have lost all the rubber feet off the bottom and the hook from the main support tube broke off a couple months ago.... You have been a good friend my old faithful tripod but its time to go.

So I have started an in depth search for the best travel tripod I can find for a price that I hope doesn't break the bank. Here is what I have found out so far.

Number one thing I'm looking for- Carbon Fiber Legs. The reason I want to go with carbon fiber is for a few reasons. Its really light weight, really strong, sturdy, and pretty indestructible. The last thing anyone wants to do is carry around a heavy tripod for miles while taking in the sights which is why many people end up leaving it in the hotel room. Its my goal to be happy with, heck, even excited, to carry this tripod around and to get some great use out of it.

The only downside, of course, to carbon fiber is the price. It is expensive but I feel will be a better investment in the long run. (Trust me, just spend the money once and avoid the struggle I have been through replacing crappy gear with what I should have gotten in the first place. Not going to do that this time).

So here is the breakdown of the models I'm looking at. All of them are pretty similar for the most part, but are distinctly different in many ways which I'll explain in a second.

Starting from low to high price wise these are the ones I have been looking at.

The Induro CT214: About $400.00 at time of writing.

Induro is a pretty new company. As far as I understand it they are still trying hard to establish themselves in the industry right now so they often offer more to try and grab new customers. This tripod actually looks like a great deal. Its the cheapest of all the carbon fiber tripods I have looked at. Its a little heaver then the others coming in at 3.3 pounds. It has three sections on the legs vs the two section on the Gitzo and 5 on Benro. It advertises really strong carbon fiber using a special 8 layers of crisscrossing which the company says makes it really strong. My only hesitation is that often the cheapest is not necessarily the best.  And I did notice that even though the legs are really strong, all the support materials are either made of plastic or magnesium alloy which isn't too bad but I wonder how long they will last. Overall its a good place to start.

The Benro C2691T: About $536.00 at time of writing.

The Benro series of tripods has been really intriguing to me. The advantage of these guys is that they started the movement of actually folding the legs backward against the main shaft to save space. This tripod folds up to a length only 17.7" including the ball head which is awesome. It also includes a ballhead as part of the price and a cool feature of being able to convert it into a monpod if desired. I love multifunctional creativity so thats a real plus!

Some of the downsides that I can see is that tripod has 5 leg sections. Great for conserving space but if I really want to use this as my main tripod having 5 leg sections is really going to cut down on stability. Not to mention that it takes a bit of extra effort to expand all those sections. The last thing you want is to take extra time setting up your shot. Particularly for Europe you want to quickly setup your tripod, take your shot and quickly tear down and move on, hopefully not making your wife wait too long :O). Speed is everything when your on foot particularly with your loved one. The other thing is I'm not sure how good the ball head is. I messed around with it in the camera store and it seems pretty good but I wondered how it would do long term.

Gitzo GT1531: About $612.00 at time of writing.

Ok now we are talking. The Gitzo tripods are regarded by most as the "top of the line". Their carbon fiber legs are super strong and light. The "Spider" is made out of compressed aircraft grade aluminum and from what I can tell every piece on the tripod is built to last. Its by far the lightest of all three at 2.2 pounds and just feels solid. It also has only three legs sections which makes it the fastest to setup of the three. The only downside to this it that its the longest when folded up. Its also the most expensive and comes with the least amount extras. All others come with a bag, strap, and sometimes a ballhead, ect. With Gitzo its legs only and thats it. Furthmore, this tripod looks like it would last forever and really would be the only one I would only have to buy once.  This is probably my top contender at this point. The downside. I'll need to either buy a Gitzo Ballhead or something simular to really take advantage of the choice. The Gitzo ballheads are not cheap and could possibly add another $200 or so dollars to this choice. Even more if I go with a Really Right Stuff ball head which I hope to explain to more about in my next post.

So which one did I choose????........Stay tuned for my next post and hear why I also returned it the next day sending me back to square one....

Nikon D700 to Canon 5D mkII! I have crossed over to the dark side!

Well folks, I have officially crossed over to the dark side!....I have begun the switch from Nikon to Canon. Well more specifically, from the Nikon D700 to the Canon 5D mkII......

I read a lot of photography blogs everyday. Mostly because I often have downtime while my work computer is rendering playblasts or I'm waiting on renders to get back from the DW renderfarm so I have managed to stay pretty current on whats going on in the Photography world over the last two years. I have become increasingly curious to this new movement rocking the photography world right now known as HD-DSLR video. Being an animation Cinematographer, anything to do with visual storytelling peaks my interest so I started to do a lot of research on the subject. As I dug deeper and deeper into the subject I have been amazed with what canon cameras can do with HD video these days...with short films, commercials, and now even TV shows! In fact most recently the season finally of House was completely shot on a canon 5D mkII and this is only the beginning folks....

Well after a lot of artistic sole searching I decided that this new media was too exciting to not jump at the chance to play around with and possibly,(gulp) make a short film myself! Possibly in the next year or so if everything goes right.

So in order to make this dream a reality, I needed to switch companies......:O( Snif Snif.....I love you Nikon!)

So a couple weeks ago I sold my D700 and purchased the 5D mkII. Its been a bit rough of a transition with several drawbacks to going with the 5D that I'll list in hopes that it helps anyone else who might be thinking about it themselves. Overall I have been totally impressed with the camera 5D mkII and the video features everyone has been talking about. The above video is is actually something I shot in about an hour to get a feel of what this camera can do and I have been way impressed!

Pros for switching
5D- HD DSLR Video Rocks!
5D- Lighter Body Construction
5D- Easier navigation of menus
5D- Wheel on the back is pretty sweet

Cons for switching
D700- feels tougher, stronger body construction, you feel like your getting more for your money.
D700- Weather sealing is better
D700- Better ISO performance
D700- Better FPS shooting rate
D700- overall better for photography so far. If your only a photographer you can't beat nikon.
D700- Has built in Interval Timer for Timelapse photography. 5D doesn't
D700- Has Built in Flash- Great for Triggering other flashes- 5D Doesn't

I'll try to update this list as I get a better feel for the differences but to be honest I miss my D700 a lot. The video features are pretty awesome and I'm having a blast with it but Nikon quality is a hard one to give up in my mind, but I could be biased since its really all I have known.

Anyways I hope you enjoy the video..... MORE TO COME :O)