Thursday, 12 August 2010

Wish List

I don't think there's a single photographer I know who wouldn't get extravagant with their gear if cost wasn't an issue -- even those who have expensive equipment already. Long-term goals for me would include a full-frame camera and expensive lighting setups, but I also have shorter-term desires which I hope to be able to afford within the next year or so.

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

I've always felt like I prefer the close-up style of shooting. There's something about being close enough to really *feel* your subject that appeals to me. The latest outdoor shoot I did has strengthened that feeling. Bottom line is, I'm an amateur, and as enthusiastic as I am, I'm only shooting for myself. I sometimes think I should challenge myself to do something different like landscapes, but then I think -- feh, as long as I enjoy what I do it doesn't matter if it's challenging or not.

This lens has some great reviews and while performance-wise it still falls a little short of the similarly-priced-and-focal-lengthed Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens, well, I don't have a Canon camera, and the Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro is generally reviewed as having very similar results to the Sigma, but costs almost £200 more.

Cost: £300 from Onestop Digital
Timeframe: Short-medium term depending on whether I can save up or clear some space on my credit cards
Level of desire: HIGH, damnit.

Photoshop Elements 8

Given that the full version of Photoshop CS5 costs somewhere in the region of £600 and is intended for professional graphic artists and photographers, Adobe also have a "lighter" version of the product for amateurs and non-commercial users called Elements.

Now, I currently use GIMP for most of my photomanipulation and I won't lie -- it's awesome. However I am a lazy, lazy person, and a feature that's available in both CS5 and Elements is something called "Actions" -- essentially from what I can gather, you hit record, do a bunch of edits, then hit stop and you can save that process as a preset Action to use again with ease. GIMP utilises a similar system with written scripts, but as it's opensource the creation of said scripts seems to be a little geeky and codey, and way beyond my capabilities. The best part about the Elements actions is that they can be saved as a little data file which you can then share with other users. GIMP also has this feature but looking at the script registry they just don't seem to float by boat all that much, and the ones I have used have been lacklustre at best.

Yeah, so essentially I want Elements so I can take edits other people have done and apply them to my own work. Whateva! Some of the actions you can get out there look fantastic and again, I'm not a purist -- if they make me happier with my shot then I want to use them.

Pioneer Woman has a bunch of actions available for free on her site which I think look really, really cool. And luckily for me, Elements 8 is totally affordable, so I can justify the cost. Anything that Elements can't do (rumour has it there are no layer masks?) I can run through GIMP, and as I understand it Elements has a built-in RAW converter which will make my whole process much easier.

Cost: £56.90 from Amazon.
Timeframe: Virtually immediate -- probably as soon as I get paid this month.
Level of desire: Extremely high -- I can't wait to see if I can make something of some of my more "blah" shots by running an action or two over them.

Sony HVL-F42AM External Flash

I have posted before about on-camera flash and how much I detest it. My hatred has until now left me feeling completely underwhelmed about any flash setups, but a little research goes a long way, and I know now that a simple external flash would be extremely useful in the long-run. I don't see myself ever getting into expensive and elaborate lighting setups just for a hobby, but I think one versatile external flash with all the necessary accessories will end up in my kit in the not-too-distant future.

Cost: - Less than £200 from Amazon.
Timeframe: Medium-long term. It's cheap enough that once my higher priorities are out of the way I can make a decision about it and not have to save extensively.
Level of desire: Medium. I haven't yet been at a point where I've gone "oh MAN I wish I had a decent flash" but I suspect as I start to branch into macro photography I will start to feel the need for it more (simply put, if I stick my lens really close to a subject, just by sheer physics there won't be as much light coming in, so a softly diffused flash may prove useful).

Neutral Density/Graduated Neutral Density Filters

A bit of a mixed bag this. These types of filters typically go hand-in-hand with landscape photography, especially the graduated ones. In short, neutral density filters allow you to slow your shutter speed without blowing out the shot; they stop a certain amount of light coming into the camera, so in order to achieve a properly-exposed shot one has to slow the shutter speed right down. This can give some stunning motion captures like the waterfall in the above link.

Graduated ND filters are filters which have the grey, light-stopping effect at the top of the filter, which graduates to clear at the bottom. They typically come in a square shape and have to be attached to the lens with a filter holder (the whole setup is then known as a "filter system" such as the Cokin brand sell) and thus can be moved up and down to suit the composition of your shot. They are used for landscapes. When shooting landscape typically DSLR cameras do not have enough dynamic range to expose the sky and foreground both correctly -- if you expose for the foreground, the sky will be too blown out and bright, but if you expose for the sky, the foreground will be dark or almost black. In some instances this can create a great silhouette effect, but if you are going for a dramatic landscape shot, ND Grad filters are really the only way to achieve this.

Personally as I've decided not to venture into landscapes for now, my desire for filters has decreased somewhat. Screw-on filters like a standard ND come in a set size and without really knowing what I'd use it for, there's no point in me buying one to fit my 18-55mm kit lens if I'm eventually going to swap it out (they aren't cheap!). As for ND Grads -- as you attach the holder to the lens, the adapters themselves which come in different sizes are very cheap and you don't have to replace the filters -- but there's just no point for me right now.

Cost: Ranges from around £50 for a standard ND screw-on, to £200 for a full filter system.
Timeframe: Longterm.
Level of desire: Medium-low -- not completely low purely because I know I want to try landscaping at some point in my life at which point I will want filters with a passion.

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 wide-angle lens

For landscapes. If I start to shoot landscapes this is the lens I want -- it has great reviews, is highly popular and in the affordable price range.

Cost: Less than £340 from Onestop Digital
Timeframe: Longterm.
Level of desire: Medium-low.

Obviously aside from the above, if money were no object I would probably ditch all my current lenses and camera body and would buy a Canon 5D MkIII full-frame camera (and all the lenses again) and a really expensive, heavy-duty tripod. But the above items are all ones I believe I will be able to buy myself within the next couple of years at least. :)


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