Auto ISO .. Nikon or Canon

Of course one of the most irritating things with Canon cameras is the way they set their auto ISO speed which is something you use all the time .. In Nikon it is the logical choice .. auto ISO tries to get a shutter speed >= 1/focal length with a pre-set minimum .. so if I use a 200mm it is 1/200+ .. if I set the minimum as 1/60sec and I use a 16mm lens then it won’t drop below 1/60 to 1/20 for example .. in Canon it is not the case .. they use an obscure algorithm and so it is very random and has no relation to the focal length you are using which is absolutely crazy and goes against all photography rules .. but Canon users have got used to living with it by setting a maximum and minimum ISO and minimum shutter .. this obviously is not good because if I set a minimum 1/60 for a 70-200mm lens I may end up with 1/60 at 200mm because the camera thinks so ..


Something else Nikon does well with auto ISO is that it sets Auto ISO to be up to 2 stops either quicker or slower than the focal length .. i.e. if you have VR and want a slower shutter speed than 1/FL you can have 1/100 @ 200mm or the opposite 1/400 or 1/1000 at 200mm if you are shooting something moving .. this doesn’t exist in Canon .. you have no control over what Auto ISO is at all and that is a major flaw that people keep moaning about all the time ..


The third thing is that inspite of Auto ISO .. if you are in A or S modes you can still vary the other variable i.e. A in S or S in A just by turning the main dial to vary the ISO without having to press any ISO buttons as well .. so it is the opposite variable on the opposite dial always .. and that is very useful and quick because you don’t have to take your eyes off your target you just turn one of the dials and hey presto the other variable changes .. so if I am at f4 and the speed according to Auto ISO is 1/200 and I want it to be 1/1000 I just turn the dial and I have high speed .. this is not in Canon either .. so Nikon cameras have better practical controls that you use all the time .. they are extremely user friendly once you go deeper than the shell or the skin as they say ..


Also, if you use Manual Aperture and Shutter then Auto ISO sets in to keep the exposure right for the set A/S .. i.e. if it becomes cloudy or sunny during the shoot yet I want all the pictures to be f4 and 1/60 then the ISO varies to keep the exposure right for these settings as much as possible .. of course if you set it in cloudy weather and becomes suddenly sunny or the opposite then you will have to change your basic settings .. but it is important if you are shooting a group of photos and want them all to have the same DOF and speed for the same look and effect .. Canon does not do that in Manual .. in manual you have to set your ISO as well .. So whether 6D, 5D or 1Dx they are all the same irritating settings .. baseline I would like to have a Nikon camera with a Canon L lens ??

Philosophy of Lenses for Amateurs

Amateurs get a raw deal when it comes to lenses .. There are the professional built-like-a-tank big, heavy and terribly expensive lenses .. and there are the cheap consumer lenses .. In-between, most lens manufacturers make some amateur lenses .. So amateur lenses are probably double the price of consumer ones, and are better built in that they are weather sealed, have full-time manual focusing, silent ultrasonic wave motors and metal mounts.

Beyond that .. Amateurs have to think of the range .. a wide angle, a standard zoom and a tele-zoom, plus a macro lens.

In full-frame an example would be the Canon 17-40 f/4 L, 24-105 f/4 IS L and 70-200 f/4 IS L. In Nikon the equivalents would be the AF-S 16-35 f/4 VR, 24-120 f/4 VR and 70-200 f/4 VR or 80-200mm ED. I would also add a 50mm f1.8 of sorts and a 100mm f2.8 macro ..

To me the main and most important lens is the walk-about 24-105/120 lens, which I use 80% of the time .. I do cityscapes, landscapes, still life and portraits.

Those who do sports, racing, or wild-life may find this setup very short or slow for them .. I envy those photographers who do only one type of photography .. like a macro hobbyist only needs a 100mm f2.8 macro .. !!

How to choose a photo printer

I did a lot of research to decide which photo printer to go for.

A4 or A3+. I decided that an A3+ printer would be ideal, especially as prices of A3 printers have gone down.

Dye or Pigment ? I understand that for Glossy paper dye is better, while for Matte, pigment is better. However in the real world I personally prefer the dye gradations to the contrasty pigment inks. I went for a dye + second pigment black. If you use CISS (continuous ink system) or re-fillable cartridges, you can obviously vary the type of ink, although I understand you have to then use some cleaning cartridges between type changes. I have never personally used an ink type (dye and pigment) that is not recommended by the manufacturer, and I do not know whether that voids the warranty.

How many inks. Most have CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Some have two extra lighter cyan and magenta. Some have Red and blue, and others have different blacks or greys.

Droplet size makes a difference to both gradations of colour tones and resolution, and they vary between 1-5 picolitre, with most new printers between 1-3. Type of paper makes a big difference to result though, and one has to use recommended or original papers or paper from long-standing manufacturers using standardised  products.

What resolution. Most photo inkjet printers nowadays have enough resolution to print very high resolution prints on up to A3+, and the resolution is also very much dependant on the droplet size and the print algorithm. I still lean towards the higher resolution machines for a more natural print.

Epson, HP or Canon. The three big players in photo printers. Epson use Peizo-electric heads, with a longer print cycles than the bubble or thermal heads used by HP and Canon. On the other hand, HP has head in cartridge, so every cartridge change includes a new head, and therefore more expensive. Canon has a very accessible and removable print head that can be easily changed, and costs about one third the price of the printer. Here the choice is difficult, although I personally tried all three.

Wi-Fi and network connection or not. This is now getting to the practicalities. I have 10 USB ports on my computer, and therefore went for the cheaper option of USB only, but for some, go for the network connection (Ethernet or Wi-Fi) if you need it.

Glossy or Matte paper. I prefer Matte for artistic effects. I also like textured paper and canvas. But for many users (portraits, weddings and the like) glossy is a better option.

Original or compatible cartridges, or CISS. For serious work I prefer original ink and paper to get the best results, although compatibles and CISS (continuous ink systems) are good for proofing and draft work.

Printing is a very serious business, if it is to be done properly, and requires a lot of calibration of equipment and standardisation of inks and paper, at least to get a consistent result.


How to use a Tripod

This may sound daft .. everybody knows how to use a tripod of course ..

What I meant was how to really get yourself to use a tripod in practice ..

I have 3 tripods and a monopod .. they have different heads, although I am more into ball-socket heads these days ..

My problem was not using them indoors but carrying them about in travel

I therefore decided to go for a travel tripod of good make that is lightweight and carries up to 2-3kg of gear .. and believe me there are a few out there .. plus buy a new gear bag with a tripod attachment

When I came across the Cullmann Nanomax 230 T with CB 6.1 I thought it will probably be a small useless tripod, but decided after reading its reviews to try it out.

I was in for a real surprise .. here was a very sturdy travel tripod .. very modern look and build .. carried my Nikon D7000 + 18-300mm VR lens easily .. Max height 103cm, Min height 23cm , most important – Packed dimension 30cm, Height with central column down 85cm, Max. tripod leg 20mm, Carrying capacity 3kg, Weight 790 g. Very versatile legs, head and central column and many accessories available. I would have given it 5 stars if it came with the Cullmann Cross Ballhead CB7.3 with CX440 (quick release base) which I bought separately and which is a must for this tripod unless you are prepared to keep screwing and unscrewing the tripod from the camera using the standard CB 6.1 head.

I also bought the Lowepro Pro Runner 300AW Photo Backpack that has a tripod attachement ..

So now I have a tripod that I actually use !

Full-Frame or not

The ultimate in photography is not full frame sensor cameras of course .. they are the medium format or large format cameras .. However, for all practical purposes and as the 35mm full frame sensor cameras are the mainstream format and are still affordable albeit expensive .. our discussion will be between 35mm full frame sensors and smaller sensors in DSLR’s and other smaller interchangeable lens cameras.

Full frame has many advantages .. cleaner pictures especially in low light due to lower noise ratio .. higher image quality .. usually higher megapixel count all compared to similar cropped sensors .. and the ultimate is a more blurred out-of-focus background (Bokeh) compared to smaller sensors using the same focal length and aperture which in some cases can not be matched by same lens/focal length/aperture .. They also allows using smaller apertures (larger f number) before diffraction sets in and softens the image, although on cropped sensors you don’t need to go really small to get the same DOF  .. and less wide lenses for the same angle of view (a 10mm lens would be equivalent to 15mm on a cropped sensor) ..

Advantages of smaller (cropped sensors APS-C, 4/3 etc) .. less expensive  .. longer focal reach for same focal length (smaller sensors have a crop factor x1.5, x1.6, x2 etc) more useful in wild life and nature shots .. deeper Depth of Field (DOF) more useful for cityscapes and landscapes .. smaller bodies and more importantly less glass .. so smaller, lighter and less expensive lenses .. also using full-frame lenses on a cropped sensor means you get the sweat central spot of the lens in action and discard the soft periphery ..

So what do you go for .. I would say if you have the money you need both .. two bodies, one each .. if you are on a budget then a cropped sensor body .. and add the full frame in the future .. simply because the full frame gives you higher IQ, better low light performance and shallower DOF