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Vele's Digital Photography Equipment

An inventory of my photo equipment

My Equipment

This section has

Photo Equipment



  1. Canon 28-70L f/2.8 USM lens
    This is basically my workhorse lens. It is on all the time and used primarily when traveling. It is a very bulky and heavy lens for the zoom range. Also, it is a one incredibly sharp lens and well constructed motherf***er, I mean lens. It has taken so much use and it can be annoyingly big and heavy. Open wide at 28mm, it blocks the built-in flash on the D30, but I haven't regretted the purchase a single day and I wouldn't replace it for anything else.

  2. Canon 70-200L f/2.8 USM lens
    This is an excellent zoom lens. Ranks as one of the best zooms in a variety of reviews. I use it mainly when the 200mm is enough, and especially for family photos and portraits. It is long enough to compress features on a face, and short enough to be safely used in a home or an apartment.

    The long rumored IS version of this lens is out already, and my prediction is that it will retail at about $1600-$2000 at good dealers such as B&H Photo Video in New York City. BTW, if you ever need equipment, these guys have usually the best prices and the most professional service. Almost everything here was bought from them.

    Well, the lens is out now and it retails for about $1899 at B&H. Not a bad prediction, but still a very high price.

  3. Canon 100-400L f/4.5-5.6 IS USM lens
    This is my long range zoom that also has image stabilization. Despite it's 4.5-5.6 aperture, it is a very sharp lens. The IS works extremely well. My Bronx Zoo photos were shot entirely with this lens. I have some successful shots at 1/15 handheld. Almost all of the speed boat photos were also taken with this lens while handholding it. The versatility and sharpness is unmatched. It makes a great travel lens if you can bring in a second lens. Ideally, if budget suits, this and the Canon EF 28-135 IS lens make a great combination for beginning photographers in the Canon EF lens system.

    On extended trips I typically rent the lens below. In New York City, I highly recommend Lens & Repro. They are very well stocked with equipment and very professional.

  4. Canon 17-35L f/2.8 USM
    This is very good lens for its range. Photographers have typically had some mixed reviews of this lens. Many people use it w/o a single problem, while some complain about its sharpness, or it not reaching the level of the other L-lens like the ones above. I can't particularly complain since I rent it on extended trips. I can't say that I use it often, but when you need it, you need it. This is true especially for the Canon D-30 with 1.6x focal length factor. The CMOS chip inside the D-30 is smaller than the size of a 35mm film. This results in effectively cropping the frame size and adding about 60% extra zoom. So, 17-35 becomes effectively 27mm to 56mm zoom. Not as wide as you think.

    I have seen photos with the equivalent Sigma lens and I can't complain about its sharpness. At under $500, the Sigma lens is a very good deal. My only complaint on the Sigma is the filter size. All of the Canon lens above are 77mm in size, so I only buy 1 filter size. The Sigma is a staggering 82mm. For rare uses, I don't feel like spending on this kind of lens yet.

  5. Canon 14mm f/2.8 USM
    I have used this extensively, although I can't say that I have many "keeper" photos with it. It is more of a novelty than anything pressing. It is well constructed and very sharp at 14mm. It compensates for the 1.6x factor on the focal length of the D30 by giving me wider range. But when you think about the fact that 14mm lens is really 21mm, then you truly wonder what a true 14mm is like. I can't say that this has had much use though. Even if it did, at over $2000, I couldn't possibly afford it. A similar Sigma lens is almost as sharp and at a third of the price. Here are some samples using this Canon lens.

  6. Canon 1.4x Teleconverter
    The extender is a great addition to a good zoom lens, particularly the L-lens from Canon. Most photographers don't recommend going beyond the 1.4x teleconverters because they inevitably reduce contrast and sharpness. The combination of a 1.4x TC with a good f/2.8 or f/4 lens however is very useful. I used the 70-200 zoom with this 1.4x TC for most of my San Diego Zoo photos. The closeness of the Zoo allowed me to use the sharpest lens with the greatest zoom range.

    I have successfully, although very rarely, used this TC with the 100-400L lens above. This is at the edge of usability since the max aperture for the lens is already f/5.6, while the TC pushes it to the next stop at f/8. On the D-30 this shuts off the Auto Focus system because it doesn't have enough light. If you stop the lens down 1/2 to a full stop, you can get good sharp photos. Some people have found ways to put a tap on some of the contacts of the TC and fool the camera into thinking it's using a regular lens and still run the AF. I haven't tried this yet, maybe next time.

Other accessories

  • Canon Speedlite 420EX flash with a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce diffuser. For correct flash photography and natural skin colors, a diffuser is a must. It bounces the light all-around a box, reducing the direct light into the object and removing the typical deer-in-the-headlight look that we all get. The only caveat is distance and size of room. You have to be careful and try a few test shots in the room to see if the diffuser is not reducing the light too much. Otherwise, you can remove the diffuser and tilt or pan the flash away from the object. It took me a lot of trial and error but now all of my flash and portrait photos are near perfect. For indoor use, I recommend always Manual, 1/60sec and f/5.6. This will cover about 90% of your requirements for indoor photography.
  • Remote release RS-80N3. This is a must for anyone serious about landscape photos. It lets you trigger the camera without jerky push that will reduce sharpness and introduce bluriness, especially on those long-timed, tripod exposures.
  • Tiffen filters (in order of use): circular polarizer, 0.6 ND grad, sky-haze UV filter, 0.3 ND. I only use the polarizer and hardly ever the other three; I wish I never bought 'em. The polarizer is critical for mid-day shots, reducing sunlight reflections and giving you that deep blue sky and green/blue water color. It's also excellent for those waterfall shots to reduce the reflections and brighten the rocks or underwater elements, adding depth to the water. I use them successfully on skyline shots at dusk to control for the light depth. It creates valuable effects. The ND filters are generally useful, but cheap ones aren't worth it, and nowadays, with bracketing your photos you can combine the photos digitally, creating the same effect of extreme bright and light situations on 1 photograph. It requires practice, but is very doable.
  • BG-ED3 battery and vertical grip. This is very helpful for tripod and for handling the camera in portrait mode. Without it, many times I think I have the verticals aligned, but I end up rotating portraits in Photoshop to correct for vertical alignment.
  • Gitzo G1348 tripod with G1321 leveling base and Arca-Swiss B1 ball head and plates from Kirk and Really Right Stuff. TIP: If you are in the US, definitely buy the Gitzo/Bogen tripods and A-S ball heads from Robert White Photography in the UK. They are substantially cheaper than even B&H Photo, shipping is typically 2-days with UPS, and if you are lucky you won't pay any customs. However, supply issues always prevail, so you may wait upwards of 4 weeks for delivery.

  • Computer Hardware and Software

    Photo printers today have evolved tremendously. You can buy a new 7-color Epson R-800 and print not only perfect color, but beautiful black and whites. Since mid-2001, I have used one of the best consumer ink-jet printer that can print at and even surpass traditional methods for photo prints -- the Epson 1270/80/90. Reviews aside, I am still amazed at the quality of the prints that come out of this printer. If you can find the 1270 cheaply and you are interested in photography, by all means get one. You can settle for the 1280, but for a little more. This isn't so much limited to photos produced by a digital camera. Any photo in your PC can be printed with incredible quality on this printer. The only thing that truly sucks is the lack of a good continuous flow system for this printer. Epson is definitely making a killing on the inks here. The best I have managed is an average of about 15 letter size photos with 1 color ink cartridge.

    Some updates on the Epson. I have been able to squeeze about 4-5 letter size photo prints from a color cartridge after a manual reset following a notice of an empty cartridge. This is a risky operation since you could run out of ink and ruin the print head. But it shows you how flawed Epson's estimation system is. I heard and have seen reviews of continuous ink flow systems, but there remains an ink matching issue. Some of these are not bad if you are willing to correctly profile your system.

    There are numerous reports on the Internet regarding the longevity and orange shift concerning this printer's ink and some papers. All I can say is that I haven't had any shifts whatsoever on my prints. I have photos that have been framed for months now with no difference. I also have dozens of them in clear, archival plastic sheets, and dozens more sent out to family and friends, and I have yet to see any problems. I am waiting to try out the new and improved ColorLife paper from Epson that's supposed to have better longevity and coating for protection from atmospheric contaminants, while retaining the glossiness of the Premium Glossy Photo Paper which has been associated the most with the orange shifts.

    For Software, what can I say: Photoshop 6.0. There's simply no substitute for this. I used it on my vintage Dell circa 1998 with PII 333mhz and still use it on my 2001 home-made AMD Athlon machine with 1GB RAM. For photography, disk space and tons of memory is a must. Always backup, make CDs or DVDs, two of them. You never know.

    For do-it-yourself printers like me, monitor calibration is another caveat. I can't say that I have a 100% calibrated system, but I can say that the printouts are 99% of what they look like on the monitor. My monitor for the past 2.5 years is ViewSonic P95f. It's a great monitor, with very good controls for self-calibration. Unfortunately, I have had a couple of issues so far. It had to be replaced after less than 1 year because of discoloration on the edges that was unfixable. Recently, it stopped responding to the PC signal and had to be refurbished. It is a great monitor with high resolution and high frequency, but these problems are worrying me more and more. I'd love to move to an Apple Cinema Display, but need $$$.

    My only calibration issue has been with the new ColorLife paper from Epson. This paper has similar texture and look to the Premium Luster Photo Paper. It has supposedly better lightfastness, but according to some reports, it needs 1 day to dry because it has very low resistance to water. Even after exploring all options, the prints on this paper have been mildly cooler than on the other papers. I have been able to make some minor changes by lowering the magenta to -7 on the color controls option with better results. But for now, this paper has remained in the box.

    Finally, what's a self-respecting digital photographer to do without BreezeBrowser. It's the perfect tool for managing tons of images. Lightweight, fast and indispensable image browser that can turn proofs (I don't use them) and websites fast. I highly recommend it to anyone even dabbling in digital photography. And finally, I have to recommend this because it's well thought out, but I use it sparingly: JAlbum. It's a java based standalone web-gallery tool. You have fully customizable templates shared by people, and it cranks things fast. The result can be ftp-ed to your site. It's a great tool. I don't use it often because it won't sharpen the images like I do with BB above.