Why Do You Need a Fast Prime Lens?

A colleague of mine recently came across some pictures I’d taken during my 52 week project and was interested to know more about prime lenses.

I bought my ‘Nifty Fifty’ some time ago and so far its the best investment I’ve made for my camera.  I’m sure you’ll find tons of reviews and reams of information about the 50mm primes from both Nikon and Canon online but this is an  article of my own about these amazing lenses.

Why do you need a fast prime?

1. Let there be light!
A fast prime is the 50mm f/1.8 or 35mm f/1.8 is your best friend in low light situations. Where other lenses  struggle to bring enough light to your sensor at f/3.5 or f/5, you just need to dial it in to f/1.8 and you suddenly have enough light to get a faster shutter speed and a lower ISO. Both of which contribute greatly towards a sharper and cleaner image.


From Darkness

2. Keep it simple
Lenses with variable focal lengths may be versatile but they contain many glass elements and stabilizing mechanisms that add to the cost and complexity of the lenses. With a prime lens you’re getting a lens that’s made for a specific purpose and thats to get as much light as possible onto your film/sensor. A great prime lens doesn’t have to be expensive. In Kuwait you can get a Nikon 50mm 1.8D for as low as 31 KD or a 1.4D for 83KD.


Size matters

3. No distortions or aberrations
With my cheapo 18-55mm kit lens there’s a fair bit of distortion at the widest setting but when using my 50mm I’ve yet to see any purple fringing or distortions. It can best be described as what you would see with your own eyes.

Iftar Canon

4. Learn new ways to compose
With a fixed focal length lens you’re constrained to a certain angle of view and for me in most cases I take a few steps back or forwards to get what I want in my frame and take the shot. In some tight areas you’ll try to find a way to take the best possible within the space limitations and you’ll figure out new ways to compose your images.

R8 nose

5. Learn the basics!
Now this point is for some of my friends who’re afraid of manual lenses. Don’t be afraid of manual focus.  I too was initially aprehensive but once you get the hang of manual focus there’s no stopping you from taking great shots. Most cameras have a built in range finder or focus meter that will help you find the correct focus for the point that you’ve selected. Now when I use my 50mm 1.8 I hardly ever worry about getting an out of focus shot.

Waiting for a chance

If there was only one reason I’d go for a prime, it would have to be Bokeh and that’s all. Prime lenses with rounded diaphrams give a beautiful blur to backgrounds and out of focus areas. You can get the same effect with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens but that beauty will set you back around 600 KD minimum whereas the prime is less than 50 KD.

Driving with Ganesh

Finally here’s a video on the subject by Mr. Kai

Kodak CX7300 Digital Camera Review

Kodak CX7300
I just got my first digital camera today, the Kodak CX7300. It wasn’t as expensive as the Sony Mavica I had in mind and since there was a promotion at G.K Vale this month I took the plunge and splurged about half my monthly salary on this purchase. The Kodak CX7300 is the latest in a series of entry level digital cameras that are aimed at the beginner/casual photographer market. After discount the camera was listed at Rs 8,300 including taxes and they didn’t give any freebies. I thought long and hard at the counter wondering if I’d have enough money at the end of the month to buy a pitcher of draught KF at the local pub if I went ahead with this deal.

Unfortunately for me it’d been less than 6 months since I joined the company and my credit card was stil under processing so paying cash upfront was the only option. Still, being a bachelor with a decent job in an MNC and taking home around RS 200,000 (sounds unbelievable now) per year so I had some cash to spare.

Lets get the tech specs out of the way first;
Sensor: 3 Million pixels.Wow this shit is awesome!
Internal Memory: 16 Megabytes. My buddy with the Mavica would need more than 10 3.5 inch FDs to match that capacity
Display: Live view and playback  on 1.6 inch LCD
Storage: SD and MMC cards supported, the guy at the counter said I can buy cards with capacity of up to 512 Megabytes
Video: Shoots 320×240 silent video in .mov format
Connectivity: Supports USB 2.0 data transfer

Whats in the box:
2 AA Kodak batteries
USB Cable
Wrist strap
Instruction manual
Software installation CD
Dock adapter

Shooting experience:
My previous camera was a 35mm fixed lens Yashica automatic film camera and compared to it this Kodak is amazing. I can take a shot and review it instantly on the LCD. I’ll never have to worry about some idiot room mate opening up the film compartment and exposing the reel or have to wait till the roll is over to process the film.

The camera response is pretty good too, it just take a couple of seconds for the camera to switch on and then you’re ready to go. I took it along with me on a couple of office trips and it was very popular with the guys since they could all share the pictures on their computers and email it to their friends back home.

Picture quality: The output images are in JPEG format and can be used for prints up to 11 inches. I print most of mine in 4×6 size so its more than adequate. Pictures taken in broad daylight are sharp and detailed but performance in low light conditions is really bad but the guy at the Kodak Color Science Lab (he even wore a white lab coat!) reduced the noise in the prints after working his magic. Here’s one I took when I visited Delhi in 2006;

Gateway to the Taj

The next month I bought a 128 Megabyte Multi-Media Memory Card (MMC) which upped the storage capacity of my camera to insane levels. I also decided to spend some money on an imported camera pouch. I found this brand called Caselogic which came from Singapore or Taiwan. It cost Rs 499 but is high quality stuff and protects my camera from rain and dust while I’m riding my bike on weekend trips.

This is probably what I would’ve posted in my blog back in 2004 if I had an internet connection in our bachelor accommodation in Bangalore. I dug up this camera from my closet during the Eid holidays, did some cleaning and popped in a new set of batteries and it still works like a charm after more than 8 years of service. Hope you enjoyed the review as much as I enjoyed remembering it and writing it down.

Panasonic Lumix GX1 – My New Companion

After a long time of indecisiveness I finally took the plunge and bought myself a Micro Four Thirds System camera, the Lumix GX1. To say that this is an impressive camera would be an understatement. The GX1 packs in quite a number of features in such a small package that you’ll love it from the get go.

Now this is not an extensive review on the features of the camera itself, for that you can check out the detailed report on DP Review [link].  My first option was the G1X from Canon but then went with the GX1 as I like the freedom of interchangeable lenses. Having a compact camera with SLR-like capabilities was my requirement and this fit the bill perfectly.

Check out the size comparison below  with my Nikon D60 and 18-55mm lens.

Here’s a list of what I liked about the camera;
1. Compact size, metal body and buttons
2. Interchangeable lens options
3. Great ISO performance (check out my Geely launch and Jade Garden posts, all photos were taken in really low light)
4. Fast Autofocus
5. Four customizable function buttons
6. Responsive touch screen and easy to use menu
7. Shoots RAW + JPEG

Here’s some more information about the Micro Four Thirds platform [link]

Photo Lenders – Renting camera equipment in Kuwait

Just a couple of days ago I had posted about my wishlist and then I found out about Photo Lenders from 248am, talk about crazy coincidence! They offer both lenses and lights and prices are a little on the higher side so I’m gonna think twice before renting something over the weekend. Right now their options for Nikon is less than Canon but hopefully they’ll bring more lenses in future. I also hope they offer full frame bodies like the D3s and D3x so that I can get a chance to shoot like the pros.

Summer is fast coming to an end and I was hoping to attend a few football matches in the next few months and got my eyes on a 70-200mm f2.8 VR. It should work quite nicely in blowing out the background and fast enough for action shots. I’ll post about the renting procedure and other details once I decide on when to get it.

Photo Lenders [link]
Phone: 50225512

My wishlist

I’ve always had a camera wishlist and each year it needs to be updated coz of the new models that keep coming now. Here’s whats I would buy if I win the Al Danah millionaire jackpot.

Nikon D300s (waiting for the D400 replacement)
Nikon D300S - Front View

Ok cue the Hallelujah music , here’s Nikon’s Holy Trinity
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
Nikon 24-70mm f.2,8
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Nikon's Holy Trinity

Nikon 85mm 1.8
Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 AI-s

A pair of SB900’s and SB700’s
Nikon SB-900

Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod with a magnesium ball head
Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head

I think that’s about it for now. I’m not that greedy.

Case Logic SLRC201 Camera Bag – First Impression

A few days ago I was with a friend of mine picking up some camera gear from Ashraf & Co. and I saw that they had the Case Logic holster bags in stock. I was looking for something small to hold my camera on short trips or when I’m just carrying the body and a single lens. This seemed like a good option and they were selling it for less than the price on Amazon!

Continue reading “Case Logic SLRC201 Camera Bag — First Impression”

Nikon 80-400mm VR – A hands on experience

Size matters

Last weekend I borrowed my friend Cajie’s telephoto lens to shoot the moon and man this is one big mother^%$% of a lens. My D60 has a crop factor of 1.5 so in effect I get a maximum of 600mm zoom from this lens! Since it lacks AFS or fast aperture I used it only to shoot the moon on that particular night but thought I’d have some fun comparing it to my other lenses.

In terms of size and build quality this beats the AFS lenses in my kit by a long margin and I’m beginning to like the solid feel of these older lenses. Carrying this thing around on a normal photo-walk maybe difficult if you’re not gifted with large biceps like me and it might be a good idea to invest in a solid tripod so that it doesn’t sway around when you’re shooting.

Here’s Cajie’s first impression post and pictures on the awesome zoom range of this lens. [link]

Uglifying your camera

I found a couple of Flickr albums of people who’ve ‘uglified’ their cameras as theft deterrent. What they do is apply layers of masking tape over their cameras and then use grease, pencils or turmeric powder to give it an aged worn look. That should hopefully prevent people from stealing your expensive equipment when you’re on vacation. Heres a couple of examples;

Thewaystation [link]

connors934 [link]

Theft-proof ugly camera- article [link]

World Photo Co. – Shuwaikh

I found out from Mark’s blog that World Photo had relocated to Shuwaikh and by coincidence a friend of mine wanted a replacement lens cap for his Sigma lens. It wasn’t too hard to find the place since we got there before 10 AM. Just follow the directions on 248am.com and you’ll be ok

We got a lens cap for 2.5 KD and they have a 50% off sale on Tokina lenses but sadly none of them were Nikon mount so I didn’t bother looking much further. They also have a nice collection of monopods and lights.

Among other things they have light setups, filters, diffusers and also a couple of wireless flash triggers. They also sell some reconditioned Camera bodies as well as some lenses.