Home Cameras SLRs How To Build A Camera System
Monday, September 15, 2008

How To Build A Camera System

Selecting cameras, lenses and accessories for your favorite subjects

Labels: CamerasDSLRs

Nikon AF-S VR Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF

Close-Up Photography
Close-up fans need some means of focusing on very close subjects. The best is a macro lens. A macro lens will focus close enough to provide a life-sized image on 35mm film ("larger than life" on a typical APS-C digital sensor), and it's designed to perform well at such close shooting distances. You also can use a macro lens for normal photography because it focuses out to infinity.

Macro lenses come in three basic focal lengths: 50mm or 60mm, 90-105mm and 180-200mm. Longer macro lenses produce a given magnification at a greater shooting distance, handy when photographing skittish or dangerous subjects, or when you want to include less of the background in the frame. The greater working distance also gives you more room for your lighting setup and reduces the chances of casting a shadow on the subject, but it also flattens perspective.

Macro zoom lenses focus closer than standard zoom lenses, but produce less magnification than true macro lenses, are less sharp than true macro lenses and, in some cases, focus close only at a certain focal length. That said, macro zooms can be handy for lower-magnification close-up work such as flowers and larger insects.

The big problems in close-up photography are camera and subject movement, and depth of field. Image blur due to camera shake or subject movement is magnified, and depth of field is extremely limited. So you need a brief exposure time and a small aperture. Close-up pros use electronic flash because its brief duration minimizes blur caused by camera or subject movement, while its great intensity at close range lets you stop the lens down to maximize depth of field.

Sigma EF-530 DG Super

As with landscape photography, a tripod will hold your camera steady and lock in your composition so you can study it without accidentally changing it as you squeeze off the shot. A remote control or cable release will prevent jiggling the camera as you trip the shutter, and a camera with a mirror prelock also will help reduce camera shake. Remember, any camera shake will be magnified along with your close-up subject.

Ring lights are flash units with circular flash tubes that surround the lens and produce pleasant, even shadowless, illumination for close-ups. Some manufacturers also offer macro flash systems that employ several flash units and thus allow directional illumination, which can be more dramatic than the flat illumination of a ring light.

An ideal close-up setup would be a D-SLR with Live-View capability, a macro lens and a macro flash setup. However, any D-SLR works well for macro work, and the conventional TTL viewfinder shows you almost exactly what the image sensor sees. For odd-angle shooting, look for an angle finder, which attaches to the camera viewfinder's eyepiece and lets you do low-angle shooting more comfortably.

Pentax 600mm f/5.6 ED IFOlympus Ring Flash Set (SRF-11)Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14 EX

Night And Indoor Low-Light Photography
If you want to shoot handheld in low light, you need fast lenses and a D-SLR that produces good image quality at higher ISO settings. Currently, higher-end Canon and Nikon D-SLRs produce the best image quality at higher ISOs and longer exposure times.

When shooting at high ISOs or long exposure times, it's best to activate the camera's noise-reduction features. Some D-SLRs provide both long-exposure and high-ISO noise reduction, and you'll get better image quality if you activate them when using long exposures and high ISO settings. You also can reduce noise using noise-reduction software after the fact.

Another great feature for low-light photography is image stabilization. Many of today's D-SLRs employ sensor-shift stabilization, which moves the image sensor to counter camera shake. Because it's built into the camera body, sensor-shift stabilization works with all lenses; the drawback is that it stabilizes only the recorded image, not what you see in the viewfinder.

Other manufacturers offer stabilized lenses, which sport the advantage of being optimized for the specific lens and focal length, and stabilizing the viewfinder image as well as the recorded one-but you have to buy the stabilized lenses to get the feature. As with close-up work, a remote control or cable release let you trip the shutter without jiggling the camera.

Pentax K20DSamsung D-Xenon 12-24mmSamsung GX20

Extras For Everyone
No matter what type of subjects you shoot, these three extras will make your photography more enjoyable and productive.

1. Spare batteries. D-SLRs can shoot from 500 to more than 1,000 images on a full charge, but it's always a good idea to have at least one spare set of batteries. If your charge is low, switch batteries. Don't risk the problems that can occur when your battery runs out during capture.

2. More memory. As with batteries, take spares. When your card is near full, replace it. Do this if you capture that "shot of a lifetime," too. While rare, card failures do occur, and it would be a shame to lose a great shot that way.

3. Comfortable camera strap. Your camera will probably come with a strap, but they're typically not very good. There are more comfortable and durable straps available (UPstrap, for one).

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