Saturday, September 16, 2006

A closer look

I had a feeling this photography thing was going to be expensive, but I'm exercising some restraint.

Since I got my camera a week ago Thursday, I've been researching zoom lenses and can now report that one could easily go broke buying equipment. One can spend thousands - yes, thousands - on a good lens. But half that will buy you a good one, and around $250 - $300 can get you an entry level Canon EF 75-300mm, which is what I ended up buying yesterday. At Best Buy, for $251.34, tax included.

I could not wait to get it home, but alas I had to because I had to pick John up, run to the fabric store and do various and sundry other little errands that whittled away at my time. It was around 6 p.m. when I pulled into my driveway, but still light so as soon as I got the kids indoors I put the new lens on my camera. Larry came in to check out the new hardware and suggested I put the polarizer on, which I did.

And outside I went to take pictures and quickly became one disappointed photographer. The lens seemed to have a real problem focusing and the shots looked out of focus in the viewfinder and even worse on the display screen. I came inside and tried shooting in a brightly lit room. No better.

I went online and re-read the reviews, which - as for any lens - are mixed. The negative ones came mostly from people who'd bought a $250 lens and expected it to perform like a $1,500 one. I didn't put a whole lot of stock in the criticism. I wasn't expecting spectacular pictures, but I didn't expect them to suck as bad as they were sucking on my initial shoot. The favorable reviews said it was a good entry level lens, and some experienced photographers praised it as an excellent bargain. So what was wrong? I figured my problems - and the negative reviews - had more to do with the operator than the lens.

One of the biggest criticisms of this particular lens is that it doesn't perform at its best in low light. So this morning - early - I got up and went outside to shoot. Again, it was a major letdown. The pictures were soft and the ones that had some clarity lost it upon being magnified. I came back in and put on my thinking cap.

On my second cup of coffee it occurred to me that the problem might not be with the lens, but on it. Could the polarizing filter be reducing the light so much that it was throwing off the focus? I took the polarizing lens off and started shooting again. And this time, I started to get really good pictures.

I shot the picture of the corgis playing across the yard at 300mm and was pleased with the result, although some reviewers said getting decent action shots or even stills at 300mm was impossible without a tripod. I shot stills of the horses from across the paddock that were so clear they picked up small knots in my Haflinger's mane. When I came in, I shot from the kitchen into the playroom, the zoom enabling me to get some candid shots since the kids didn't even realize they were being photographed.

The lens still has deficiencies in low light, and shots taken in deep shade, at dusk or in dark interiors - even with a flash - aren't going to meet my standards. But for the price of this lens I'd highly recommend it and am really looking forward to taking it on our family photographic outing scheduled for tomorrow.

Now, you may be wondering why a post about photography contains no photos. I'll tell you why. Because Blogger is being a fickle bitch tonight and won't let me upload. But take heart. After my outing tomorrow I shall post some on Photobucket and provide the link.

So there you go. My unillustrated story about the travails of photography.


thimscool said...

Harsh words for Blogger! Have you tried another polarizing filter?

Morgan said...

No. The polarizing filter works just fine on my 18 - 55mm lens, just not on my 75-300mm. We spent the day at the zoo and I was very pleased with the quality of the photos. For a low end Canon lens, it performed very, very well. The camera has an excellent function that automatically adjusts for depth of field on the A-DEP setting. Today it made the bars "disappear" when I was shooting several animals. Amazing.