View of the Drew | Andrew Halpern Photography

My Equipment

Camera

Xsi

Canon Xsi/450d

This is my main camera body.  I got it in 2008 and it’s been with me ever since.  The benefits of an SLR (Single-Lens-Reflex) over a compact camera are many.

Size matters

In a DSLR, the sensor size is many times larger versus that in a compact camera.  Why does this matter?  Well, in many ways the sensor on a digital camera is very much the same as the size film we used in analogue cameras.  The larger the film/sensor area, the better response to light, and the more detail it can capture.  Additionally, the greater the sensor or film area size, the more freedom a photographer has with controlling depth of field.  Small sensor cameras such as compacts have very deep depths of field which is why it is so difficult to blur out the background with a compact camera but much simpler to do so with an SLR.

With digital cameras, there is another major benefit.  Larger sensors are less prone to noise (grain) at high ISO ranges.  My Xsi has a sensor that is approximately 1.6x smaller than 35mm film.

Last but not least, all DSLRs are capable of shooting a file format known as ” raw” rather than JPEG.  The biggest difference is that raw format can capture much higher dynamic range than jpeg.  Dynamic range refers to the difference between the lightest section of a scene and it’s darkest section.  The more range your camera can capture, the easier it is to avoid dreaded blown highlights.

Lenses

I don’t have many any expensive lenses.  Here are the ones I have so far:

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

This lens is my main one.  The zoom range is equivalent to 28.8mm-88mm in full-frame terms.  It is stabilized (IS) and the stabilization works very well.  It is a kit lens however, the image quality is actually very good considering how inexpensive it is.  It’s main issue is focusing speed and limited range.  I would also like it to be a bit wider at the wide end.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS

This lens works as my telephoto.  It can get some decent shots, although focusing isn’t the fastest.  The IS however, is phenomenal, and I’ve been able to get some shots that I’d normally would think would be impossible without a tripod.  It’s very inexpensive as well.  Worth picking up if you want an inexpensive telephoto.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

This is a crazy little lens.  It goes by a variety of names including, “The Nifty Fifty” and “Plastic Fantastic”.   This is one of the cheapest lenses you can buy from Canon.  It definitely looks the part, like some kind of baby’s toy.  The focusing is very slow, and there is barely a manual focus.  However, when it works, it is quite amazing.  Notice how wide the aperture is on this lens… f/1.8. (For those unaware, lower f/ numbers = wider aperture.  An easy way to remember this is that it is a fraction, so just like ½ is larger than ⅛, it is the same with apertures).  A wide aperture makes it easy to blur the backgrounds.  This lens is also incredibly sharp when it’s focused correctly.

Accessories

Bag

I’ve never found a bag I really like.  Bags designed for cameras are always super bulky… although they do give very nice protection.  It’s not so bad to use a bag that isn’t designed for cameras.  At the moment I am using an Eddie Bauer man-purse style bag.  One important feature I really like, is the bag has a water bottle holdster.  During my photo-walks I can get pretty thirsty, so it’s always good to have water at hand.

Lens Hoods

Lens hoods are good because they block unwanted light from creating a glare on your shots.  Most importantly though, they protect your lens from bumps and scrapes when it doesn’t have a cap on.  I’m very much against using UV protectors unless there is lots of sand, or saltwater or something.  It’s better to just use a lens hood.  Canon is a cheap-ass when it comes to providing lens hoods with their lenses.  I refuse to spend $30 on a piece of plastic, so ebay is your friend when it comes to lens hoods.  Just look up the correct model number, and you should be able to find a generic.

Circular Polarizer

A Circular Polarizer will make your colors pop, decrease glare, reduce reflections, and make the clouds pop out of the sky.  It is one of the only lens filters that cannot be replicated in Photoshop or Lightroom.  I highly recommend buying one of these for your lens, most of my beautiful skies are taken using a polarizer.  If the sun is shining really brightly and you are squinting, chances are that a polarizer will make your photos look a lot better.

One way to save money on a Circular Polarizer (because they can be pricey)  is to buy one for the largest filter size lens you own (or will own), and then use step-up rings to attach that polarizer to other lenses.  You might also need to buy some more lens caps.   Also a reputable Hong Kong website for accessories like this is MaxSaver.net.  Their prices are much lower than the States or Europe.

Cleaning tools

For cleaning my lenses, I use a few things.  First I have a microfiber cloth.  A nice one to get is called Spudz, because it is attached to it’s own pouch and has a clip on attachment.  Another tool I use is called a Lens Pen, this can quickly clean smudges and also has a brush to clean dust.  I also carry a small bottle of Lens Cleaner.  You can pick this up at a pharmacy, any will do… as long as it’s good for eyeglasses.

Rocket Blower

Giotto-Blower

This looks like a sex toy but it isn’t.  You’ll need something like this for quick cleaning of dust off your sensor or lens or etc.  It’s very important not to use canned air, otherwise you will get propellant inside your delicate camera.

 

 

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