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Old Jan 20, 2005, 11:33 AM   #1
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Hi!

I just got my Canon Digital Rebel Black EF-S 18-55m kit about a month ago. I also got the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.0, and the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5/6 IS lenses with it and I got UV filters for all four lenses.

For low-light concert shots, I've been most happy with the 100mm f/2.0 lens for facial shots. The 50mm f/1.8 is still to close for whole-band shots in most cases, but I am able to get half-body shots with it. For whole-band shots, I've been using the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 with the flash or at f/3.5 with a really slow shutter speed and high ISO (1600 or 3200).

One problem I've had is that I think I have my LCD brightness cranked up so the pictures appear more exposed on the camera than they actually are. This throws me off because the pictures look bright and great on the camera but then when I transfer them to the computer, they're really underexposed. I'll try cranking down the LCD brightness to see if that helps me properly expose the concert shots...

I borrowed a Vivitar speedlight last weekend and I really liked the effect of bouncing the flash off the ceiling in these clubs while maintaining somewhat natural light on the musicians. With the flash, I've been using the "flash" setting for white balance. Without the flash, I've been using the "tungsten" setting for white balance.

So...my questions... First, I'd really like to get a speedlight for the Canon Digital Rebel and I was wondering which one you guys recommend most. Secondly, for nature photography (especially birds), I'm going to need a lot more zoom than the 28-135mm IS lens is giving me. I'm thinking I could start with a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter lens. Which ones do you recommend most and which lenses are they compatible with? Thirdly, I'm thinking I will want to get either a 70-300mm lens or a 100-400mm lens. Which ones would be inexpensive but still give good image quality?

I see some 1.4x and 2x teleconverters for a little as $67 (Tamron, Kenko, Vivitar, Tokina). I see some speedlight / flash attachments for as little as $41 (Vivitar 728 AF TTL). I see some 70-300mm lenses for Canon EOS for as little as $125-150 (Sigma, Tamron, Phoenix, Quantaray). I see some 100-400mm lenses for Canon EOS for as little as $199-$230 (Phoenix and Vivitar).

So...I'm looking for your recommendations for affordable but still good quality stuff. (i.e. I can't afford the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L EF IS lens or the Canon Zoom Telephoto EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM AF lens).

Thanks...

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Old Jan 20, 2005, 11:58 AM   #2
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Don't use LCD to judge your shot's brightness, you the histogram.

For flash, get the 550ex, around $320.

For birds you need to spend the money, no way out of it. I have the 100-400L. Sometimes I use 1.4x TC (from tamron) but only for still shots in very good light. Cheaper options compared to 100-400L would be sigma 50-500, canon 400f5.6, canon 300F4 with 1.4xTC. All these closer to $1000. Another would be 2x on old Canon 80-200F2.8. Don't forget to add money for good tripod and other accessories. So as I said, there's isn' cheap way to get into bird shots using a dSLR.
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Old Jan 20, 2005, 12:35 PM   #3
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Wow...what's wrong with the Vivitar speedlight and Vivitar 100-400mm zoom? How can I tell what lenses the teleconverters are compatible with?

About the histograms...I'm not clear about how to read them. I know you don't want any peaks at the left or right and that you want an even distribution, but I'm not sure what to expect with low-light concert shots... Since the musicians are playing in dark clubs, I'm seeing histograms with a lot of "mountain" clustered around the left of the histogram no matter what I do.
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Old Jan 20, 2005, 12:46 PM   #4
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YourFace wrote:
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Wow...what's wrong with the Vivitar speedlight...
Nothing as long as it has an auto mode... My Metz 45CT-5 works better most of the time than my 550EX in Auto!
It's just not E-TTL that's all... and sometime that's good :?

An alternative is the Sigma EF500DG Super - This flash has all the features of the 550EX (and almost the same power) for much less (the price of the 420EX or the ST-E2) and is fully E-TTL compatible including all the wireless mode.

... and it can wireless sync to studio slave which none of the Canon can!
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Old Jan 20, 2005, 1:04 PM   #5
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I see that Vivitar has several models...the 728 AF TTL, the the 730AF TTL, and the 850 AF TTL. These are all relatively inexpensive. What's the difference? They're all TTL, so what's E-TTL? They also have a 560D, which says it's for manual focus cameras so I'm not sure what that means.

That Sigma EF-500 DG ST TTL and ST E-TTL are $150 and the Super E-TTL II is $189. What's the difference? And what does wireless sync to studio slave mean?

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Old Jan 20, 2005, 1:34 PM   #6
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There are several issues at workhere:
  • The Canon and Sigma TC's have a protrusion on them that prevents mounting to non compatible lenses. They are designed only for the high end Canon L and Sigma EX series lenses. [/*]
  • The Generic TC's will mount to any lens but if the final aperture of the combined lens and TC goes beyond F5.6 the camera will not auto-focus. [/*]
  • Image quality with the cheap TC's is really not good. I bought a cheapie 75$Tamron 2x TCand after testing, I found the image quality was worse than using the lens alone and up-sizing the image in PhotoshopCS.
[/*]
Peter.


YourFace wrote:

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How can I tell what lenses the teleconverters are compatible with?
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Old Jan 20, 2005, 2:35 PM   #7
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You seem to have a decent set of lenses. I don't know about the Vivitar 100-400 in detail, but know enough from experience to stay away from really cheap zooms, esp third-party ones. To a degree, you do get what you pay for. Good lenses aren't just expensive because Canon and others like to milk us (they do, but competitive forces control that to some degree).

(That said, sometimes there are great bargains like the 50 1.8. The 18-55 is not in its league optically, but is definitely a lot cheaper than its wide-angle alternatives, and is not a really bad lens in comparison for the money.)

I've heard people being very happy with the Canon 75-300 f/4-5.6 IS. The cost is less than the 70-200 f/4, and the reach and IS is better. The optics aren't quite as good, but are often good enough, and with the IS, sometimes the resultant image is better.

The version without IS is cheaper still. I'm not sure about the optics, but you can check this via the MTF graphs, etc., on Canon's pages.

If you can afford a f/2.8 lens, I'm sure that in your dark areas you'd find that helpful. If you can't...
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Old Jan 20, 2005, 2:51 PM   #8
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YourFace wrote:
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I see that Vivitar has several models...the 728 AF TTL, the the 730AF TTL, and the 850 AF TTL. These are all relatively inexpensive. What's the difference? They're all TTL, so what's E-TTL? They also have a 560D, which says it's for manual focus cameras so I'm not sure what that means.
TTL refer to "Though-The-Lens" metering in 'most' case. ie you can put an ND filter on the lens and the camera will still expose the flash properly - E-TTL is 'Canon' proprietary method on their newer cameras including all digitals...
The Vivitar I was refering too are the ones with Auto-Thyristor circuitries built-into the flash - The flash measures the exposure and not the camera, theses are not as accurate or fully featured, but they work fine mostly and is dirt cheap



Quote:
That Sigma EF-500 DG ST TTL and ST E-TTL are $150 and the Super E-TTL II is $189. What's the difference? And what does wireless sync to studio slave mean?
FYI - http://www.sigmaphoto.com/Html/Flashes.htm



Also the Sigma EX teleconverters will work on both Canon and Sigma lenses, but the Canon teleconverters will only work on Canon's 'L' lenses - their protrusion is slighly longer (too long for some EX)
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Old Jan 20, 2005, 4:13 PM   #9
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For bird photography, which is basically all I do, you don't have many lens choices. The list bobbyz put forward is correct. Look them up and pick on price.

300mm is really the minimum for bird photography. If you go with the 300mm f4, get a 1.4TC. AutoFocus will still work. And if you go that route, don't worry. Get a good 300mm and you'll keep it and use it even if you buy something bigger. Say you suddenly want to photograph butterflies. A 400 or bigger mm lens probably won't do that well but a good 300mm will do just fine. See what I mean? It will still get good use.

And again, save money for a tripod once you break 400mm. Birds have fine feather detail. Really fine. To get it, you need very sharp pictures. Most people can't hand hold over 400mm and still get sharp pictures. Yes it can be done, but not many can do it.

Your deciding factors should be something like this:
1) Cost. Good lenses cost money. Unless you have an infinite budget, figure out how much you are willing to spend.
3) Understand how picky you are. Think about it. Do you need the absolute best there is? Are you willing to accept less for less money? (For example, I have very high standards where I think it counts and I save money elsewhere. for example, I buy the best lenses I can afford, but only "good" CF cards. If they are fast enough, that is enough.) This is a HUGE factor in how much money you spend.
2) See what you can get for that much money and look for pictures taken with that lens. Ask the person who much they like it. Does it have problems? That kinda stuff. And ask several people. This is hard, but try to figure out if they are as picky as you are. Someone might slam a lens that you would like. Its not the lens's fault that they are highly picky and you are relaxed and just having fun.

Also, don't forget weight and size. You'll have to carry it around. I carry around a HUGE lens to some crazy places (up small mountains.) Most people don't do that.

Here is what I do about the LCD brightness. Take a properly exposed picture of something, anything. Load it on to your computer. Put the CF card back into the camera. bring up the picture on the computer and camera. If your monitor is adjusted properly, then just adjust the brightness on the camera to match it. Once I did that, I got much better results.

Eric
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Old Jan 20, 2005, 6:14 PM   #10
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I read that SIGMA site about their flashes. It sounds like that "EF 500 DG Super" is really feature-rich. Am I understanding correctly that it automatically adjusts the angle of the flash to match the focal length of the lens? How important is that? With the Vivitar I used the other night, I adjusted the angle of the flash manually, which I didn't mind, but it did require some trial and error. I guess you can still do that with the Sigma? It appears to be $180.

So what about the differences between the different Vivitar models? It sounds like the 850AF also automatically adjusts the angle of the flash for the focal length. The 730AF you have to manually adjust, I think, but it also swivels left and right if you want to adjust that way. This would seem to be useful for shooting with the camera in a vertical position. The 728AF also seems to be manual but you apparently can't swivel left and right. So...the Vivitars are a LOT cheaper than the Sigma. The 850AF is $104 if I need that auto angle adjustment. The 730AF is only like $62. And the 728AF is only $45. Do I need one that automatically adjusts the flash angle? I'm wondering if the 730AF might be sufficient for my needs?

As far as the teleconverter is concerned, am I correct that the Tamron 1.4x AF14C-700 ($70) or AF14PC-700 ($80) would work with most lenses I'd want to use? And these teleconverters don't sacrifice image quality and contrast too much whereas the 2x converters (such as Vivitar 248641) ($88) do?

As far as zoom lenses, it looks like I could get the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III AF lens for $150, which is affordable. The IS version of that lens is $550, which is out of my price range at this time. The rest of the lenses that bobbyz mentioned are really out of my range at this time, especially since I just dropped $1800 on the camera and the 4 lenses I got.

There appear to be a bunch of 300mm zoom lenses for under $200 from Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and Quantaray:

* Sigma Zoom Telephoto 100-300mm f/4.5-6.7 for $95
* Tamron 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 LD for $110
* Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 LD Macro AF for $140
* Sigma 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 DL Macro Super AF for $115
* Quantaray Tech-10 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 for $170

What about all those? I read a very favorable review of the Tamron AF 70-300 f/4.0-5.6 LD Macro lens. I also read a very favorable review of the Sigma AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 DL Macro Super APO lens. I'm thinking one of them with the Tamron 1.4x teleconverter might be an affordable solution for bird photography as long as I have enough light and a tripod. Also, I like that they both have Macro, which I could use for photographing flowers or butterflies or whatever...

The Canon 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 USM III AF lens is also getting some decent reviews but I've also seen some complaints about poor build quality, poor contrast, vignetting, very slow AF, rotating front element, etc... One review also said the Vivitar 100-400mm lens is cheap crap, but I guess that's all you can expect if you're paying $230 for a 400mm zoom?
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