Fixed Lens or Interchangeable?

Point shoot cameras with built-in superzooms offer an alternative to long lenses

At this point in the development of digital photography, there is a camera for every buyer . In selecting which camera is right for you, one of the basic considerations will be whether to get a fixed lens or camera that lets you change lenses.

These days the question is not as clear cut as it was a few years ago. In the old days, you wouldn’t think of taking portraits with a zoom lens. You would have had a case of prime lenses and probably picked one in the 85mm-135mm range. Today zoom lenses are much better. Computer controlled milling machines, advanced optical coatings, and robot assembly means zoom lens quality is no longer an issue.

Now there are “superzooms”, also sometimes called “travel lenses” with incredible zoom ranges that make changing camera lenses a rare event. A few years ago you might have been carrying a small case full of lenses, today, even for a commercial shoot, you’ll likely only be packing two or three.

Modern consumer cameras with fixed lenses are still able to offer an impressive zoom range and most will work for 90 percent of the shots you will probably ever want to take. It’s that last 10 percent that separates photographers. Specialties that positively need to change lenses are serious bird watchers, sports, and wildlife photographers.

If you’re taking pictures for a living, or think you will, interchangeable lenses will be a capability you want. You may not have a lot of lenses at first, but you’ll pick them up over time.

Even if photography is just a serious hobby, I’d still get interchangeable lens capability if it’s in your budget.

But if you’re getting a camera to take pictures of the kids, for a family vacation, or occasional get together then the zoom range in most point and shoot cameras are just fine.

If you’re thinking about your kid’s soccer game, cameras like the Canon SX30 IS, the Nikon CoolPix 500, and Fujifilm Finepix HS20 with a built-in long zooms can put you right in the action, even from the sidelines at a price less than you’d pay for a decent long lens.

Getting Silky Looking Water In Stream Photos

flowing water
Slow shutter speeds are necessary to get this whispy look to water - by baaker2009

We’ve all seen the photos of rivers and waterfalls where the water looks silky smooth, almost a blur. Well, it’s not almost a blur, it is a blur. Not because the water is moving particularly fast, but because the shutter speeds are very slow.

To get those silky smooth blurry water shots, you’ll need to get familiar with your camera’s shutter priority settings. That would be the “Tv” setting on your Canon dial and the “S” mode on Nikon.

There are many instances where you’ll want to use Shutter Priority, it’s handy for a lot of different types of shooting. It’s probably the program mode I use more than any other besides CA (Creative Auto) on my Canon. You’ll use either Shutter Priority or Manual for most strobe lighting situations, unless your external flash is compatible with your camera’s eTTL system. It’s also the setting you’d use when photographing objects moving very fast at air shows or racing events. And it’s the setting to use for getting blurry water shots in a stream.

You’ll need a moving stream will a little bit of fall and a tripod. Once you have your scene framed, select a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second or faster, if you want the freeze the water. For the blurry effect, start with a shutter speed of an ⅛ or ¼ of a second and go longer from there, all the way up to two or three seconds.

Surprisingly, an object doesn’t have to be moving very fast to get the blurry background effect. If you’re trying to make a car look like it’s going fast, it doesn’t have to be moving much faster than a slow walk to make a car look like it’s speeding along with a slow shutter speed.

Just like with water in a moving stream, you can get the blurry effect with ocean waves. When done right it actually looks really cool, almost like mist over the ocean, but that takes some really long shutter times, three or four seconds. For many modern DSLRs that means working right up until it’s almost dark.

Canon Offers $100 Off Rebel T3i For Holidays

Canon t3i
Canon is offering $100 discount on the Rebel t3i in time for the holidays.

Just in time for the holidays Canon is offering $100 off the Canon t3i kit. B&H Photo and Amazon are showing the adjusted price as $719.00 with the 18-55mm kit lens. That’s not bad.

It appears the pricing only applies to the package with the kit lens. If the discount was available on the body only, it would be tempting to pick one up as a spare body.

The Canon T3i is a good camera for beginners and advanced hobbyists with an 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor coupled with the Digic 4 image processor.

The Rebel T3i also features full 1080 HD video at 24 or 30 fps, so shooters using their Canon DSLRs for video will find their lenses will work with the T3i. That would let video shooters clamp a t3i on a boom for a high, wide shot or as a B camera. The T3i also has the “video snapshot” feature which records either a two, four or eight second video clip and the digital zoom works while shooting video.

One of the features I personally like about the Canon T3i is the pivoting LCD screen.  That’s great to have when working outdoors and especially when shooting video.

Normally, a Rebel t3i isn’t that tempting, but with a $100 off it seems oddly compelling.

Compare to:

Canon T3i compared to Nikon D5100

Canon T3i compared to Canon 60D

Canon T3i compared to Fujifilm Finepix HS22

Top Six Lenses Given As Gifts

You gotta love statistics. It gives you the ability to slice and dice data and make discoveries of interesting trends, like the top six lenses that are purchased as gifts, as compiled by Amazon.

1) CanonEF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS

Canon EFS
Canon EF-S 55-250mm

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6-IS lens is designed for the consumer market with EF-S mount cameras, primarily APS-C models. This model will not work well with full frame cameras like the Canon 5D MKII. The big selling point is having a long zoom range with built-in image stabilization.

This lens has received some criticism for feeling like plastic, but overall gets good marks from users.

2) Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens

Canon 50mm f/1.8
The Canon 50mm f/1.8

The Canon “Nifty-Fifty” 1.8 lens is a must for any camera bag.  It’s small, sharp, fast and inexpensive.  A great lens for any kind of general shooting duty, including portraits and walking around.

Has been criticized for feeling like plastic and noisy focusing motors, but what do you expect for $100?


3) Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6

Canon EF 75-300

A very light and inexpensive lens for the focal range. While the build quality is mediocre, the lens generally gets decent reviews from users.

Criticized for being soft at the wide end at lower f-stops, the clarity improves as you stop down. Focusing speed is okay, but not fast.




4) Nikon Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6

Nikon Nikkor 55-200mm
Nikon Nikkor 55-200mm

A lens criticized for the plastic mount, but praised for high quality optics and excellent clarity. Considered by many to be the telephoto lens deal of the decade.


Handling does take some care not to chip the plastic mount.


5) Nikon NIkkor 35mm f/1.8

Nikon Nikkor 35mm
Nikon Nikkor 35mm

This inexpensive hero from Nikon is frequently the one that gets left on cameras the most often. Fast focusing and versatile, this lens gets high marks from Nikon shooters.

Criticized for feeling like plastic and being a little slow on the focus.



6) Nikon Nikkor AF-S 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 55-200
Nikon Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm

Another Nikkor lens that gets high marks for clarity, light weight, and optics but criticism for the build quality. Another point of contention is the noisy autofocus. A lens popular with many weekend sports enthusiasts.

How The Pros Do It – Portable Lighting For Wedding Photography

Ac 3
The PocketWizard AC3 paired with the MiniTTL for Canon

My nephew got married recently, an event I was unfortunately not able to attend, although my high tech family managed to send me pictures of the event. One picture that made my teeth grind was one with the wedding photographer in the background, trying to light a dress shot with a dinky external flash.

This was the photographer with a killer web site that my future niece felt she was lucky to get, but there was no way the results displayed on the web site were captured with the camera and flash combination in that photo. Judging by the pictures I’ve seen so far, she was duped by a slick web site with, at best, a tenuous connection to whoever took the promo pictures displayed there.

To contrast the difference between that lighting setup and the real pros, I went to see Karl Leopold at Images4Ever near Melbourne Beach, Florida. Karl has been shooting weddings longer than most photographers working today have been alive, has won more awards than I can list here, and is the president of the Atlantic Professional Photographers Association. I wanted to see a real pro lighting setup and wasn’t disappointed.

Karl builds his portable lighting kit around a pair of Canon 580 EX ii Speedlites, pairing those with a PocketWizard FlexTT5  for Canon. The trigger on the camera is a combination of the MiniTT1 matched up with an AC3 Zone Controller for changing the power settings on any of the flash units on the fly wirelessly.

“I can change the power by 3 stops on any of the flash units right from here,” Karl explains, dialing back the power with the AC3. I watched him flip through the power settings while shooting nearly continuously, much faster than making the change through the camera menu.

The arrangement provides the flexibility to mount the fill flash on a monopod and let an assistant adjust the location and height to fit the situation. If he’s working alone he can mount the remote on a light stand and adjust it himself. Instead of being tethered to the camera, he can also move the key off the bracket handle if the situation calls for it.

Lighting set up
How it all comes together - One Speedlite on a standard bracket, the other a remote that can be mounted on anything

It’s all about speed, reliability and flexibility, with added bonus of being able to light the world.

“The big advantage is you can put a light behind the subject for those nice, bright highlights,” Karl explained. The radio triggers work around corners and even when concealed behind foreground objects.

Equipment isn’t the only factor separating the pros from the posers, but having the right gear is definitely a bonus.

In the days to come I’m planning to work with Karl and Images4Ever on more articles on studio lighting, exposure, and working with models on commercial shoots. Stay tuned.