Flashes Links Tips

Can you use your old flash with your DSLR?

A good number of first time DSLR buyers used to own film SLRs with a dedicated hotshoe flash. Most flash guns built during the film SLR days cannot take advantage of the various advancements in flash photography like Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) and Canon’s ETTL (Evaluative Through-The-Lens) and ETTL-II. However, a more important (and potentially dangerous) note is that most old flashes have extremely high trigger voltages. The electronics in digital SLRs like the Canon EOS 400D/Rebel XTi can be destroyed by old flash guns with these high trigger voltages. This article explains this issue quite well:

Why Are Newer Cameras in Danger, but not Old Ones?

Once upon a time, all camera shutters were triggered mechanically. The flash switches were mechanical switches, made of metal. Cameras from the 1950’s-70’s even have two different flash settings, each with minutely different timings: “X” for strobes, and “M” for flashbulbs (which needed an extra 1/250th of a second or so to ignite).

Modern electronically-controlled cameras use a thyristor capacitor, a solid-state device that switches according to voltage potentials. It switches on and off much more quickly than mechanical switches, making it excellent for electronic control, especially of short durations. But it’s also susceptible to problems that weren’t present in the previous generations of cameras.

So how do you prevent yourself from ruining your 800 dollar camera? This comprehensive listing of flash trigger voltages over at (from the same source as the previous link) will help you identify problem strobes and flashes. Just identify the flash you’re using and check its details in the table provided; it also contains specific notes from fellow users with first–hand experience with specific models of flashes.

This information can be very helpful for people experimenting with flash photography, especially now that it’s on the rise and greatly inspired by the strobist blog.

Links Techniques Tips

A Better Bounce Card

If you’ve been shooting with a lot with a hot shoe flash, you’ve probably encountered light diffusion gadgets like the Stofen OmniBounce, the Flip-it, or the magical Lightsphere. These attachments were designed to provide good light using flash guns and avoid direct flash at all cost. However, these items don’t come cheap.

A solution for budding amateurs often involves little bounce cards that work in certain situations, though not as versatile as those mentioned above. Enter Peter Gregg’s “A Better Bounce Card” which is meant to be a DIY project. This is something you can do on your own, at home, with just a few dollars worth of materials you’d typically find in art shops. Watch his tutorial video and try this one yourself, I think it holds its own against the popular (and expensive) alternatives.

Lenses News Product Announcements

Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC Macro

Sigma 18-50 mm F2.8 EX DC Macro

Around two weeks ago in Photokina 2006, Sigma announced the Sigma 18-50 mm F2.8 EX DC Macro which appears to be an updated version of its original Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC from more than a year ago.

This new lens now has the “macro” designation, with an increase in filter size from 67mm to 72mm. This change resulted in a minimum focusing distance of 20cm/7.9in, very similar to that of the popular Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro that has been selling for several months now. I really think that this new lens is a hybrid of the older 18-50 and the new 17-70, combining the better attributes of these two good lenses.

I just got the Sigma 17-70 a few months ago but this new lens has me thinking again, though I don’t think I’m buying it soon. If you have the older Sigma 18-50 F2.8 or the Sigma 17-70, buying this one doesn’t make much sense unless you need both the F2.8 max aperture and the macro focusing. Now imagine this: what if Sigma combined all the best qualities of the lenses mentioned above without compromises, like a 17-70 F2.8 with macro and optical stabilization to boot? I know I’d be in line for them right away. Let’s hope the OS technology from the newly announced 18-200 OS dwindles down to their other lenses, as well as their progress in making consumer zooms with constant F2.8 max aperture at relatively cheap prices.

Links News Software

Apple Aperture 1.5 released

Just a quick note for our Mac–based readers: if you’ve been doing your workflow with Apple Aperture, version 5 was just released. As reported by our favorite DPReview:

Apple has announced the latest release of its Aperture photographic workflow application. Major improvements include a much improved RAW conversion engine, better performance and compatibility, image manipulation and adjustment, improved IPTC metadata handling as well as scripting either as AppleScript or Automator.

Link: Apple Aperture 1.5 @ DPReview

Lenses News Product Announcements

Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS

Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS

Sigma has just announced the new Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS, similar to its previous 18-200 offering but now with its optical stabilization technology, simply dubbed as “OS”. Quite obviously, this lens is just a refresh of the 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC it had for some time now. This move is definitely targetted at Nikon’s relatively new wonder lens, the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED released almost one year ago.

The addition of optical stabilization surely makes the 18-200mm all–in–one combos seem useful now, making it the APS-C equivalent of the 28-300mm of which Canon has an L version. Considering that the digital SLR market is now opening up to snapshot hobbyists as a result of ever–cheaper prosumer models, long zooms will certainly appeal to a percentage of shooters longing for a single lens solution.

Nikon’s 18-200 VR is one good lens since it has been known to be sharp throughout its range, making both ends of zoom range very usable. The addition of Nikon’s VR technology made it very usable even at maximum telephoto. Ken Rockwell raves about his 18-200 in his review, and Thom Hogan seems very happy with it as well. The big question: will the Sigma 18-200 OS be anywhere close to the Nikon 18-200 VR? If it rates at 80% of the Nikon, the Sigma will sell. Of course that’s assuming their OS technology is as good as Nikon’s VR or Canon’s IS.

For more details on the lens, DPReview has coverage just as the Sigma website. For comparison, here’s DPReview’s page for the Nikon 18-200 VR.

Photo Samples Reviews

Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM full size samples

We recently wrote about the new Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM and we were fortunate enough to come across a fellow Filipino photographer who managed to shoot with the lens just recently. Since our readers have requested for full size crops or samples of the images, Randy Tamayo sent us original files of two of the photos we featured in our earlier post. Click on the thumbnails for the full size image:

Sample #1 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Sample #3 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Once you’ve viewed the images, please save them to your computer to inspect further. Help me conserve my bandwidth! :)

Like my previous comments, I think the Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM is a very good lens and would perfectly fit the needs of professionals looking for a good 50mm for the EOS mount. Price would be a factor, though there aren’t really other alternatives for this focal length. Besides, pro shooters can easily justify acquiring this lens since their jobs will be paying for it anyway. Hopefully, we can now buy cheap pre–owned 50mm f/1.4 from other users. ;)

Links News Reviews Tips

Canon EOS 400D Reviewed @ pipho

Canon EOS 400D Reviewed at

Remember the first few photo samples and initial impressions we posted a few weeks ago on the Canon EOS 400D/XTi? Regie Fernando now has his complete review of the new Canon body on the pipho forums. It was actually published several days ago, and it seems several enthusiasts are now shooting with this camera.

If you’re a fellow Filipino shooter lurking in the pipho forums, you might want to take advantage of this wonderful offer provided by Henry’s Camera: Canon EOS 400D for 46,000 pesos, with a two–year warranty, an extra battery, and several other freebies. This is a good deal and seems a bit cheaper compared to other Hidalgo shops. Some are reportedly selling the 400D body only, for 42,500 pesos — a very tempting deal. Once prices drop below the 40k range, the temptation would be too hard for me to resist. ;)

Lenses Links Photo Samples Reviews

User Review: Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

Red Lady

Peter FranzĂ©n is a regular reader of this weblog who discovered it by chance as he was searching for details regarding Canon’s EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM. He is in Sweden with his website at After shooting with the crappy 18-55mm kit lens, he upgraded to the new EF-S favorite and uses it regularly for his automative shoots.

Red Lady

He wrote us an email to strongly recommend the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM and help potential buyers make a solid decision. The photo shown below is a good demonstration of the lens’s image stabilization advantage, with the photo taken handheld at a shutter speed around 1/20 at ISO 200.


Posted below is another one of the cars he shoots regularly and I can’t help but drool at the wealth of photo oppotunities he gets with these wonderful machines.

Ford Mustang

Lastly, here’s a comparison of the Canon 18-55mm kit lens against the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM:

Canon 18-55 compared to Canon 17-55

Same as before, I think this lens is an excellent performer though priced steeply. At the same price, you can get the workhorse 24-70 f/2.8L though without IS. If you have the money, I have no reservations recommending this lens if you’re an EF-S shooter intending to stay in the 1.6x APS-C format. If you’re going full–frame soon, you might want to pass on this one for now.

Bodies Links News Product Announcements

Sigma SD14

Sigma SD14

Ever heard of Sigma’s new DSLR? They’re building up the anticipation until the actual launch on the 26th of September in Cologne, Germany. The Sigma SD14 is expected to use a new iteration of the Foveon sensor that touts better color capture capabilities. However, is this a case of too little, too late? With Canon, Sony, and Nikon fiercely battling it out in the consumer level, this new body better be catered to a more pro–inclined market. Sadly, this market is also Canon’s and Nikon’s turf. But with their supposedly revolutionary advantages, we should know in a few more months if they manage to get a good part of the digital photography pie. And if all else fails, they can always still sell value third–part lenses that are favorites of bargain shooters like me. :)

Links Tips

Most Popular Digital Cameras of August 2006

Ever wondered what cameras are selling like hotcakes these days? Digital Camera Review has compiled the most popular cameras for August 2006. If you’re buying one anytime soon, you should consider this list. However, be aware of cameras that were just made available this month, like the Canon EOS 400D/XTi.

Some quick tips for camera buying: be sure to hold one for size and ergonomics! If you’re spending several hundred dollars on a piece of gadget, or anything for that matter, be sure you can actually use it. Some cameras are notoriously small, or simply too hard to use. Another tip: avoid buying last season’s models unless you know your stuff. Believe me on this, get the most out of your money by doing online research and finding the camera for your needs that’s within your budget.

Happy shopping!

Commentary Lenses Links Photo Samples

Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM sample photos

Sample [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Just how good is the recently announced Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM? Filipino photographer Randy Tamayo was lucky enough to play with the Canon EOS 400D with the new Canon 50mm wonder lens attached during the consumer body’s Philippine launch two days ago. He comments how the new lens manages to take a backlit photo in low light and produce a good image without flare, as shown above. Looking at how hot those lights are behind the subject, I guess the lens was designed very well, reducing lens flare to a minimum. Contrast is still very good, something I don’t think the nifty–fifty (50mm f/1.8) can produce in the same lighting situation. We were able to get permission to share resized versions of his shots, and we have them below, linked to 500 X 700 pixels images.

Sample #1 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Sample #2 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Sample #3 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

Sample #4 [Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM]

He describes how he was able to play with the new lens and body in this pipho thread:

I was at the EOS400D launch earlier tonight and somehow I managed to wrangle an EOS 400D off someones hand. It so happens that the lens attached to it was an EF 50mm F1.2L.

So I took off the guys 580EX flash from the camera, as well as his CF card and replaced it with mine. I then ran off to the models ( him running after me, realizing I just took off with his baby :))

I managed to fire some shots. All available light. 50mm F1.2 full open. ISO200 (the ISO100 images were on his CF now I realize :(

From these samples, I think the Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM is one nice piece of glass. Expectedly so, because it is designated as an L, Canon’s label for its pro lenses with excellent build and quality. Unfortunately though, we cannot comment on the expected popularity based on a few sample images, but I personally believe this will be a good seller especially if it sells for a street price lower than 1000 USD.

Thanks for the sample photos Randy!

Lenses News Product Announcements

Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

Along with the release of the new Nikon D80, Nikon has released a Nikkor lens, the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED. DPReview reports on the major features:

  • Offers a broad 18-135mm focal range (7.5x zoom) for use in a wide variety of situations (equivalent to a 27-202.5mm lens in the 35mm format).
  • ED glass and hybrid aspherical lens elements minimize chromatic aberration, astigmatism and other forms of distortion, while ensuring high resolution and contrast
  • Incorporates a compact SWM (Silent Wave Motor) for quiet focusing
  • Delivers high-level optical performance, specially designed for use with Nikon DX format digital SLRs.
  • Employs a seven-blade rounded diaphragm opening that achieves a natural out-of-focus blur.
  • Two focus modes, auto[A] and manual [M], with manual override in auto mode.
  • Enables focusing from as close as 45cm (17.7 in.) from the subject through the entire focal range
  • Internal Focusing (IF) design enables compact size and eliminates front element rotation, enabling the use of circular polarizing filters
  • Flower-shaped Lens Hood HB-32 (provided) greatly reduces image degradation from stray light

Ken Rockwell has reviewed the lens and rates it fine, though questions its value for the price its currently selling for. Still, if getting a Nikon body with this as an option for a kit lens instead of their 18-55 or 18-70, the 18-135 is the lens to pick.

Links Tips

Hongkong photo gear prices

Most of the time, we look for the best deals on photography equipment. This is typically the lowest price possible without sacrificing quality. For us shooters here in Manila, when Hidalgo can’t get us what we need, we resort to buying it outside of the country, or have someone buy it for us. Hong Kong immediately comes to mind as it can give the cheapest price in the region.

Now to get an idea on the price of photo gears in Hong Kong, YG Billy’s World of Photography is one great resource. He lists several well–sought lenses and bodies for most SLR systems, including most popular accessories. Even included is the name of the shop he got the lowest price quote on! Next time you’re Hong Kong shopping, you know you’ll be getting a good price.

Links News

Improved grip on the 400D

350D (XT) grip compared to 400D (XTi) grip.

Did you know that the 400D has an improved hand grip? We are referring to the much maligned grip on the 350D which has always been the complaint of shooters with larger hands. The addition of the BG–E3 vertical battery grip somehow makes things bearable, but the standard grip used to be just a bit too small. On the Canon EOS 400D, the camera specification shows that the change has been minimal, equivalent only to 1mm. Yes, 1 millimeter.

400D rear and grip area compared to 350D.

Looking closely on the photos though, you would notice that despite the almost negligible adjustment in dimension, the grip appears larger than it was before. The rear part has been made thicker by extending the CF card cover, and the front part has a small bulge in the middle but tapers at the bottom. Our observations should be correct, as early reviewers have reported better handling with the new body, as reported on Imaging Resource as well as Tekgik’s insights. Will this help in making the camera appeal more to a larger audience? What do you think?

Links News Photo Samples Reviews

Canon EOS 400D Hands On

Canon EOS 400D

As Canon’s update to its entry level digital SLR slowly makes its way to the worldwide market, we now see a surge of opinions and reviews on the new camera. The Canon EOS 400D/Digital Rebel XTi is still very much like the previous models, though packs a few surprises and still keeps photography enthusiasts very excited.

Just as we have posted links to sample photos from this camera, the camera is now officially here in the Philippines and sent for review to media people as well as prominent Canon users. One lucky guy is’s Regie Fernando who has just posted sample photos and his initial insights on the camera in this thread and on his weblog.

The sample photos appear to be very inspiring, though it is worth noting that he used the Canon 17-40 f/4L USM and not the included kit lens. We (yes, including me!) are eagerly waiting for his in–depth review to know if the 400D is really worth the money, as I might just get one as soon as prices stabilize.

Links Photo Samples

Canon EOS 400D/XTi Samples

If you’ve been following the news on the Canon EOS 400D/XTi and other new Canon products, I’m sure you’ve been eagerly awaiting the first stream of sample photos online. Being a regular reader (lurker?) of the Canon boards on the forums, we were able to snag a link to a member gallery trying his brand new XTi. Another photo sample on the forum was shot at ISO 1600 and was just as good as the 350D/XT and 20D/30D. Rumors of a noisier sensor may not be exactly true, and if indeed there is added senor noise, I’m sure it is negligible to most users.

The Canon Digital Rebel XTi has reportedly been seen in Best Buy branches across the US, and us Canon enthusiasts here in the Philippines are restlessly waiting for our stocks.

Commentary Links News

Flickr Top 10

A big chunk of the digital photography market is composed of today’s typical geeks, the ones that take their photography online almost instantly. Flickr has been one of the better photo–sharing sites for several months now, so any marketing trends related to this service is valuable information to digicam makers and consumers alike. If we were to take their data as an authority, which camera should you buy? Yahoo’s shopping blog answers this for us:

  1. Nikon D50
  2. Nikon D70
  3. Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT
  4. Canon EOS 20D
  5. Canon EOS 350D Digital
  6. Nikon D70s
  7. Cybershot
  8. Canon PowerShot S2 IS
  9. Canon EOS Digital Rebel
  10. Nikon D200

Look at the trend: The list is 80% DSLR! Digital SLR photography is definitely the way to go now, with prices falling sharply as newer products are introduced. Notice the Canon EOS 350D/Rebel XT making it on the list twice, suggesting how strong its sale must be worldwide. The Nikon D50 takes first place for being a good value–for–money camera, one that makes the film to digital transition affordable and simple. Also worth noting is the Canon Powershot S2 IS, which at number 8 is the first among non–DSLR cameras. Cybershot at number 7 probably refers to several Sony models being counted as one, maybe because they produce inadequate EXIF tags making them difficult to count individually. A significant conclusion from this data is that entry–level DSLR photography is a huge market. This explains why Sony is now joining the fun, and Canon just released an equally interesting response in the Canon EOS 400D/XTi.

For a continuously updated tally of the top cameras on Flickr, this list can be very helpful.

Bodies Lenses News Product Announcements Rumors

New Canon products confirmed!

Canon EOS 400D with the 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Yesterday’s news of new Canon products are almost officially confirmed as of this hour. We now have a live link for the Canon EOS 400D we mentioned yesterday at the Canon Australia website. They also have a running story on their new products which also includes the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM and the Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM. Rob Galbraith also have coverage on the new consumer body and the new L lenses.

With these new leads, I’m definitely sure these three products are good as real. The next question is: Does Canon have a few more surprises?

Lenses News Product Announcements Rumors

Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM

Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM

On the list of Canon products set for announcement, the new Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM is one special lens. This will be the first 50mm in years to be designated an “L” after the discontinued 50mm f/1.0L, Canon’s mark of excellence for its lenses. The f/1.4 and f/1.8 version of the 50mm has long been available but neither has been perfect, so the clamor for a 50mm L never died.

This new lens will have a ring–type USM providing accurate and silent autofocus performance, and at the same time allowing for full–time manual focus override, negating the need for toggling an AF/MF switch when the need for manual focus suddenly arises.

One possible drawback for this lens could be price. If you recall the recently new 85mm f/1.2L USM MkII, what used to be a 1500 USD lens crossed the 2000 USD barrier after being revised. We could see the 50L above the 1000 USD point, making it not too affordable for everyone. If they sell it at slightly above twice the price of the 50mm f/1.4, it will still be in the 750-900 USD range — fairly affordable. They should sell it at that price and see it fly like hotcakes, like the 17-40 f/4L which happens to be in the same price range.

Lenses News Product Announcements Rumors

Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Along with the recent news leak revealing the Canon EOS 400D, there will be a new lens to be announced with the new body, the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM.

The original 70-200mm f/4L USM is one of Canon’s best–selling lenses, it being one the most affordable while delivering excellent performance for a variety of uses. A good percentage of the Canon shooting population have long dreamt of an image–stabilized version of the lens which makes it a worthy alternative to the 70–200mm f/2.8L USM without the weight burden. Now, the dream walkaround telephoto zoom is here for real. Since this is based on the non-IS original, sharpness and details should be just as good.

The addition of IS will allow for hand–holding at slow shutter speeds, which makes me think that this lens is aimed more towards the amateurs toting 350D and soon 400D bodies. A good percentage of people shooting with these bodies are typical weekend hobbyists, the type that do not prefer to carry bags of gear and almost always do not have a tripod while shooting.

Right now, no price details are available but this lens expected around the 900 USD range. Any higher and it eats into the 70-200mm f/2.8L (non–IS) territory, cannibalizing sales of that great lens. Significantly lower will also put it in direct competition with the original 70-200 f/4L (non–IS), unless they decide to discontinue the old f4L and give us a cheap IS–powered telephoto zoom! At any rate, this will still be a very good lens.