Thursday, February 25, 2010

Special Offer on Canon’s new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II

Click to order

Over 19,000+ readers (and counting) have visited this blog to read about the amazing new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens, and now I am very pleased to announce a special offer created just for readers of this blog. My good friends at not only rent lenses, but they also sell new (not used or refurbished) camera gear as well.

I purchased my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV from and they’ve informed me that they have an order in the system for these lenses. If you mention this blog they may also provide you with special offer to get one of these lenses for only $2449 (a price $50 below what others have been offering it for on the web) plus free shipping (while supplies last, offer subject to change or cancellation).

To take advantage of this special offer, you must order using this link and you MUST mention this blog when placing your order. NOTE: Their shopping cart will say that they are out of stock, but place your order anyway. There’s no penalty to cancel your order so you should get in the queue ASAP.

Afraid to order from

I don’t blame you, I was at first too. Of course, after having a great rental experience with them and seeing their amazing score (9.96/10 lifetime) it was hard to pass up the fact that they were cheaper than everyone else for the hottest pro camera by Canon. I ordered and every thing went very well. In fact, they even upgraded my shipping at no charge to get it to me faster since Canon took so long getting these out to the channel – now THAT is customer service!

Sure, you can preorder from big shops like Adorama, but you’ll pay more and be in a much larger queue. For me, I got my gear way faster than my colleagues who ordered from Adorama and B&H plus I have a warranty that is just as good as if I shopped with the big boys. Feel free to send mail to them if you have any questions and join me in ordering your lens from these guys.


I get a commission if you order from which helps to support this blog. The commission is smaller than what I get from my bigger name partners like Adorama and B&H, so my biggest incentive here is to help a great company succeed. Whatever you decide to do, please use my links to help support this blog so I can continue to bring you more great content!

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Courage Defined – Joannie Rochette

I had the pleasure of photographing Joannie Rochette at a press conference recently. The courage she showed on the ice tonight in light of her mothers sudden death 2 days ago was amazing. Join me in routing for her to take home a medal after such a tragic loss!

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Congrats Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

I had the pleasure of attending a press conference with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Olympic Gold Medalists for Ice Dancing. The above shot is a Photoshop enhanced version of a image I took using my 1D Mark IV and a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens. Scott is a funny and confident young man, and that served him and Tessa very well tonight as their skate was flawless. As a United States citizen, I was hoping our home team would win, but I feel the best team won tonight and their performance was certainly gold medal worthy. Congrats Scott and Tessa!

I took this shot personally while working at the Photo Media Centre at the Vancouver Olympics. The camera settings were 1/160 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 4000 at focal length of 115mm.

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is a faster Compact Flash card worth the extra money?

SanDisk 16 GB Extreme Pro CF90 Compact Flash Memory Card

Many people are aware of Rob Galbraith's CF performance database, and if you are the scientific type you can draw some conclusions from it which might cause you to buy one card versus another. However, I don’t think that the information on that site is really relevant for “real world” scenarios as most CF cards tend to perform better than the camera they are inserted into can handle anyway!

I spent some time at the Olympics with Canon, Nikon, SanDisk and Lexar representatives and gear to do a performance test of 4 cards (shown above) in two camera bodies - the Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3s. The purpose was to determine if the more expensive cards really worth the money when shooting. The results surprised all of us, and I believe they will surprise you too. Now to be clear, a big performance improvement of these cards can be experienced in fast CF drives like the upcoming Lexar Professional ExpressCard CompactFlash Reader (886x or about 84 mb/sec sustained read/write speed from our informal speed tests on a Lenovo W510 here).

Camera settings for the tests

Both camera bodies were set to manual mode, with manual focus using lenses without IS/VR turned on and the lens cap attached. The purpose for testing this way to was to get a consistent image for all of the test results as images will vary in size depending on the content, so this was the only fair test to get identical results. The camera settings were f/7.1 @ 1/200 sec (randomly started with the Canon, so used with the Nikon) at the minimum normal ISO (100 for the Canon, 200 for the Nikon).

We shot RAW images, and in the case of the Nikon (which has a smaller file size due to a lower megapixel count) we shot at full frame. The Nikon also had Active D-Lighting, and Noise Reduction turned off with the images at 14-bit lossless compression. Since I’m not a Nikon shooter, I had the Nikon techs choose the best performance settings for RAW and that is what they selected.

We formatted the cards before each test and these results are subject to some human error, but the generalizations drawn from it were pretty unanimous from the camera representatives involved.

Write performance in burst mode

The Nikon D3s has a 12.1mp full frame sensor versus the Canon 1D Mark IV’s 16.1mp 1.3x crop sensor, but both are the state of the art bodies from each maker. In doing a test where he shutter release button was held until a pause was detected, and my finger was lifted. The Nikon D3s recorded exactly 40 RAW images on all 4 cards tested, despite us trying different testers and adjusting the camera settings. This would imply that there’s some internal limit that it is hitting as it is hard to believe that the results would be so identical on different performing cards. Roughly 450MB of data was written, versus roughly 1GB from the 1D Mark IV, so it seems that in addition to the file size difference the lossless compression on the D3s might have a better algorithm.

The Canon 1D Mark IV was able to write 33 RAW images on the Lexar cards but only 32 on the SanDisk cards, so there wasn’t a significant difference no matter what card or brand was used here. The moral of the story ends up being, for actual shooting the write performance in-camera will pretty much be the same no matter which card you are using. There may be a performance advantage for video, but this test was purely based on photography so it doesn’t really matter which card you get.

Buffer flush performance

Another more interesting test is “how long do I have to wait before the camera buffer is fully flushed” (or when is it ready for another full burst mode again). The answer to that question was even more surprising in the case of the Nikon D3s which seemed to favor the slower / smaller cards, but the Canon 1D Mark IV had a clear advantage with the faster cards. Here’s a table of the results:

  Nikon D3s Canon 1D Mark IV
Lexar Pro 16GB 600x (90mb/sec) 11.1 sec 6.2 sec
SanDisk Extreme Pro 16GB  (90mb/sec) 10.3 sec 6.0 sec
SanDisk 8GB Extreme 60mb/sec 9.2 sec 9.6 sec
Lexar Pro 8GB 300x 45mb/sec 10.5 sec 7.0 sec

The way these figures were determined was with a stopwatch which was started at the first pause and stopped when the camera indicated that all files had been written to the CF card. Despite the larger files, the Canon had a faster flush time and it favored the larger faster cards as you might expect. However, the Nikon D3s was very odd in that it seemed to favor the smaller cards from SanDisk and Lexar.

What does all of this really mean?

Before making too many generalizations, remember that there’s more to a CF card than in-camera performance. Unless you hook your camera up to your computer to download the images, the CF reader you use for image transfer may benefit significantly from the true speeds of these cards. You also may find that if you have an old camera that you’ll get identical performance from all of these cards as your camera may not support UDMA or the latest UDMA version, so don’t use these results to draw conclusions against your camera as your results may be significantly different.

You should also be aware that all cards aren’t created equally. For example, the SanDisk Extreme cards have that name because of their weather and shock resistance, not because of their performance. The internal controller is encased in silicon and they can handle extreme temperatures, so depending on your needs you may find this to be the right card for you. Lexar is also known for its reliability and has its Professional Series which is endorsed by a large number of famous pro photographers.


It’s clear that the Canon 1D Mark IV has the latest and greatest compact flash drive built into it (a fact that SanDisk confirmed as well), so it seems to get the buffer flush performance benefits you’d expect at getting the better cards. The Nikon D3s doesn’t seem to see a huge benefit from the faster cards. For the the D3s it seems that you can save your money, unless you have a strong desire to have the best performance when taking your card out of your camera and uploading them via a fast reader attached to your computer.It is also worth mentioning that the cards that show the faster flush times will probably perform better for video, but I’ve found that even my lowly SanDisk 8GB 30mb/sec card performs equally well without interruption. Both brands are great brands and they stand behind their products, so unless you are using a camera that can take advantage of UDMA 6 based cards then let price be your deciding factor.

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Look: Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II – Perhaps Canon’s greatest lens!

I had the good fortune today to get my hands on a pre-release copy of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. This lens features improved glass elements, faster auto focusing and amazing image stabilization improvements. It’s crazy here at the Olympics so I don’t have much time, but this is a case where a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

I present to you images taken handheld from a man with carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis on my Canon 1D Mark IV using this amazing lens: (click for originals as these screen shots are low res samples with compression artifacts)

Click for original image 
Screenshot of a 100% Crop (200mm @ 1/60 sec ISO 400 – no flash)

Click for original image
Screenshot of a 100% Crop (200mm @ 1/15 sec ISO 100 – no flash)

Click for original
Screenshot of a 100% Crop (200mm @ 1/15 sec ISO 100 – no flash)
Click for original
Screenshot of a 100% Crop (200mm @ 1/8 sec ISO 50 – no flash)

These photos were shot as RAW and ZERO post-processing has been done on them. I simply exported them (without cropping or alignment) as JPEG from DPP (provided by Canon USA on site) from a Lenovo W700ds (replaced by the W701ds – the best photography computer in the world) and uploaded them to Smugmug. What you see is as raw as it gets, and the screenshots from Lightroom above shouldn’t be judged too harshly as they are low quality representatives of the originals.

In my online gallery, I’ve even included some shots where people were blinking to prove that these weren’t static subjects – they were indeed talking, breathing, blinking, etc… There are no monopods, tripods, or support used for these shots – simply freehand point and shoot in manual mode with auto ISO. IS was on and set to mode 1 and I used non-center AF points for most of these shots.

The 1/8 sec image probably impresses me the most given the fact this is nearly a 10 pound setup being hand held, and I have a result that can EASILY be sharpened to perfection. In fact, if I didn’t have to go down to ISO 50 (which is interpolated rather than a true ISO 50), I think the results would have been better. The images at 1/60 were clearly phenomenal and at least 2 stops better and several times sharper than what I would get with the original 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM.

More to come when things aren’t so crazy. Time to eat! :-)

While you are here, take a look at the great discount coupon codes and other great articles on this blog.


If you have the 1D Mark IV then I recommend you check out my Canon 1D Mark IV New Users Guide / Shoppers Guide. I am still in love with my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and feel it is the best lens Canon has made under the $5000 price point. It’s just an amazing piece of glass that was made to go with the Canon 1D Mark IV!

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Day 1 at the Olympics in Vancouver

Well day 1 is in the books. I didn’t get in until late, so I didn’t have much of a chance to shoot, but I’ll share a few shots. Keep in mind that these shots are not processed using my normal workflow, so they are pretty much out of the camera with a little Lightroom 2.6 love, but no noise reduction (and most are ISO 6400 or higher – no flashes allowed). All are taken with  Canon 1D Mark IV and today only with a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens on loan from Canon USA has been kind enough to clean my gear for me for free, but didn’t provide replacement loaners as my accommodations weren’t on their list, so I’m without a good chunk of my gear until tomorrow morning!

Media Press Centre

This is the building that houses the Photographers Press Center, and the rings above are in the hall to where I'm stationed. The “sails” that you see in the background on the NBC coverage is of the building I’m in, and at night they are lit up with some cool images on them.

Photographers Press Centre

This is where I am working during my Olympic visit for 6 hours each day. I have lots more to show, but little time to get it to you right now. This guy was definitely different from the perception that some people have of pro photographers today as he had both Canon gear and a Dell computer!

The shot above is the cool TV display area that you see when you enter the area where I am located. I hope to get some better shots of that soon.

International Broadcasters Centre

This is where the TV broadcasters work, and it is one seriously cool building! More on it later, but I thought I’d share a ISO 1600 shot I got of it that is pretty raw right now.

Press Conference with Maelle Ricker and Guy Napert-Frenette

Definitely the highlight of my day was going to my first press conference with the first Canadian woman to win a Gold medal on home soil. There actually were not many photographers there, so she kept looking at my camera’s 70-200mm lens! I felt bad and put my camera down a few times so she’d focus on the live video broadcasts! Silent mode on the 1D Mark IV was very useful here!

Canon Presence

As you are aware, I am a Canon shooter so I made my way to the Canon booth to get my gear serviced for free, and I've been keeping an eye on the number of Canon shooters. So far I'm seeing more Canon shooters than I expected, but also a hell of a lot of D3 and D3s shooters too. It's still too early to call, but so far its looking like a dead heat.

Here's a picture of a photographer during the Ricker press conference, who just so happened to be a Canon shooter (shooting 1D Mark III's from what I could tell). There's actually been more 1D Mark III's and IV's from the people I've been up close and personal with, which was a big surprise to me. Perhaps Canon's limited availability hasn't impacted just normal consumers, but pros too!

More to come, but that’s it for now. Looking forward to a more exciting day tomorrow!

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DSLR Photography on a Budget (a.k.a., Lessons Learned) – Updated February 10, 2009

One of the biggest complaints I get about my most popular article entitled Which DSLR should I buy? is that many people can't afford my recommendations. (NOTE: This is the "Volume II" of the Which DSLR should I buy? article, so read both if you have time or only this one if you don't.)

Believe it or not, I can understand your plight because when I finally bought my first DSLR camera on February 27, 2007 I had given myself what I thought was a huge budget of $2000. However, when the final total in my cart at B&H showed up, I was horrified to realize I had actually spent $4000.05, and that was just the beginning!!!! Continue reading to understand that when you enter the world of DSLR photography, there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to actual expenses you’ll face in this exciting activity.

NOTE: If you are short on time, jump here to get to the recommendations and they are a fraction of what I spent!

Beware the lure of the $675 camera

Little did I know when I started in this expensive endeavor that it is much like buying an ink jet printer - only exponentially worse. You know, you get a printer for $79 and then you buy the paper and replacement ink a few weeks later and before you know it you've spent $300!

Well, in digital photography this business model has been taken to new levels, so when I set out to buy my first DSLR - a Canon Rebel XTi - its $672.95 price tag (at the time) was just the beginning. I was new, so I bought the "starter" camera but before I knew it my cart was filled with $3327.10 of other items besides my camera and this "starter camera" would continue to drain my wallet like a Vegas casino for the next 22 months.

How could this happen? I'm not going to do that!!! (a.k.a, see how a $489 camera equals $2000)

Ah, yes, this is what we all say before we get the photography bug but without awareness and incredible self control, you too can fall victim of its tempting allure. To explain, I'll start by demonstrating how I got from $672 to $4000 in a pattern that is all too common.

When I set out to buy my camera and first lens I asked my good friend Leszek (my trusted Photography expert at the time) about which camera I should get. He quickly (and accurately) suggested that I invest my money in good lenses and spend the remainder on a less expensive body. He recommended this because bodies change frequently, but lenses last for decades.

This made good sense to me, so he suggested that I buy a Canon Rebel XT as it had been replaced by the XTi, and could be purchased for roughly $400 at the time. He also suggested I get the body only and use the remainder of my $2000 budget on getting a good general purpose lens and a good telephoto lens, so he suggested the following as a way to spend my first $2000 in Photography (shown with 2/07 prices - NOT RECOMMENDED for 2010):

This nicely designed package was fairly modest and came in at $2046.10 before shipping, so it fell pretty close to my budget. Take note that the camera itself was only $489.95, but with some basic accessories and two modest lenses that my whole $2000 budget was spent!

The Devil is in the Details

Leszek is a smart guy who knows his camera and electronic gear very well, so I asked him tons of questions and did more and more research. The more I researched, the more questions I had. I quickly discovered that everyone who owns a DSLR (like those who own computers) believes they are an expert and are happy to share their strong opinions with you based on they have learned. As a result, I started forming some opinions based on a combination of others opinions as well as my own research on the web. My questions were typical of what you've probably asked yourself:

  • Nikon or Canon?
  • Canon EF-S/ Nikon DX lenses versus Canon EF lenses / Nikon FX lenses?
  • Is Canon IS / Nikon VR worth an extra $500 on a lens?
  • Pro versus Consumer level lenses?
  • Do I need a hood?
  • Why isn't the built-in flash good enough?
  • What about lens filters?
  • How do I learn more about all of the lenses Canon offers?
  • Why is this stuff so expensive?
  • What do I keep all of this stuff in? (i.e., case –vs- backpack)
  • What about a tripod?
“I just want a starter kit, but I don't want to waste money on something I'll want to upgrade 3 months later”

I subscribe to the philosophy that you get what you pay for, so don't buy something that is crap to save money because you'll end up spending more money in the long run. I also have a critical eye, so I struggle to settle for mediocrity, so after reading reviews I came to the following conclusions to my questions listed above (which were my opinion at THAT POINT IN TIME):

  • Canon was the technology leader of the time and most pros used Canon, so my desire to only buy the best meant Canon was my only choice (this was before the release of the Nikon D300/D3)
  • The XT was a bad choice because the new enhancements in the XTi were worth a couple extra hundred dollars (it's just a couple hundred so why not? :-))
  • EF-S lenses wouldn't work with a higher end body like a 5D (which my friend Leszek owned and I lusted after) so why invest in something I will have to replace when I upgrade my camera?
  • Image Stabilization (IS/VR) means fewer blurry pictures (something I hated about my Sony DSC-H1) so I've gotta have IS
  • Buy a pro lens now and I'll never have to replace it, so it is a safe long-term investment
  • Hood's prevent flare and protect the lens, so why not get it - and pro lenses come with hood's so that's proof positive a hood is a must
  • Unanimous research suggested that the built-in flash was garbage, and high end bodies didn't even have a built-in flash so an external flash was a must
  • It was clear that you can't live without a circular polarizer filter and UV filters offered lens protection, so I needed them. I also realized that you don't put cheap filters on expensive lenses, so if you get good lenses then you need top quality filters.
  • Canon "EF LENS WORK" III guide book was the definitive resource on all of Canon's lens offerings so I could learn more and plan my strategy for lenses in the future ($$$ - proof positive the bug had bitten)
  • Quality costs, so you get what you pay for - spend more now so you don't have to rebuy in the future
  • Gosh, this is getting too expensive so let's just get an inexpensive backpack from a name I trust - Canon
  • Man, the expenses are killing me and tripods are expensive and bulky - let's just get a monopod which is great for sports too!

With all these things in mind, my new "starter kit" ended up looking like this (February 2007 prices) along with some thoughts:

There ya have it, $4000.05 after the $77.05 in shipping from B&H Photo - unanimously listed as the most trusted place to buy your photography gear. A entry level camera, a couple good lenses that I'll never need to replace, some filters to match the quality of the lenses (which fortunately fit on both lenses), and some bargain accessories from Canon that were MUCH cheaper than what everyone else was telling me I should get for hundreds more.

Ugh, I've spent twice my budget - and that was just the beginning

While I've been very fortunate financially speaking for about 10 years of my life (1997 – 2007), I grew up poor and I've worked since I was 10 years old (making $2.50/hr then). In fact, I have records that prove I was fully vested in Social Security at age 22, so growing up poor made me very frugal when it comes to spending. Despite that I was disgusted with myself for spending twice my budget, but when I looked at all of the cool gear that was on the way I felt confident that it was an investment that would pay off in the long run. I'm pleased to say that is true, but I'm sad to say that my first $4000 was only the beginning. I was a long way from recovering the cost of my gear in my semi-professional endeavors, so don't go into this field expecting to make a profit. A vast majority of DSLR owners will never recover the cost of their gear from photography related activities, no matter how talented they are.

As I got my gear and learned how to use it, I quickly discovered that there were many things that I didn't have that I "needed". There were things I bought that saved me money in the short run (i.e., backpack, monopod, flash, and cleaning kit) that ended up costing me much more in the long run. In fact, that damn backpack nearly ended up costing me thousands of dollars!

Over the month of March of 2007 I'd end up with 5 more orders from B&H for over $2300 and I'd returned my 100-400 lens for a EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM that everyone said was better. Of course, I ended up buying that 100-400 again down the road and still own it to this day!

Without knowledge comes indecision and buyers remorse, and that always spells more $$$!!!!! Read-on to minimize your losses!

Okay Ron, so you're a dip shit - so how are you going to help me from making the same mistakes?

So three years, and well over $20,000 later I've had my share of lessons learned. There are definitely places where you can try to save money, but  you'll cost yourself a fortunate in the long run (i.e., backpacks and tripods). There's also other places where you can accept the reality that you can't buy top of the line now and make some cost savings.

With all of this information in mind, I'll make some recommendations for both the Canon and Nikon buyer as to what I think a starter kit should look like. I'll start with how to spend the first $1500 (roughly) on gear and the accessories section will guide you as to where to spend your next $500 and up. Other articles like Which lens should I buy? will help you with where to put the rest of your money.

As I explained earlier, everyone in Photography claims to be an expert, myself included, so the ultimate decision is yours based on your own research. However, this is what I would do if I was starting over today.


I'll present several options including going with older camera bodies as well as the latest camera bodies. Of course, there's also the option of buying used gear, but that is hard to quantify in a blog so I'll leave that as an exercise for you. I'm wary of buying used gear myself, so if you go that route then be sure to buy from a trusted source (like Adorama’s used department) and ideally get gear that is still under warranty. Remember, buyer beware.

You'll also notice that I'm going to recommend some kits, even though I don't have those lenses listed in my Which lens should I buy? article. This is because the Which lens should I buy? article is targeted at providing advice on what I believe to be are excellent lenses for the long term, so price isn't a consideration. With only one exception that I know of (the 5Ds' 24-105mm lens), most kit lenses are going to be easy to grow out of, and their quality will be mediocre. Accept this reality now and you can stay within budget and buy more when you are in a better place financially later. This will give you time to learn if DSLR photography is right for you before making a huge commitment.

A word about pricing and exchange rates

The strength of the US Dollar against the Japanese Yen has not been good over the past couple of years, so it has caused Canon to raise its prices once (just recently) and Nikon multiple times. Generally when prices go up, they don’t come back down (although favorable exchange rates might result in a rebate program). This means that digtal SLR’s are getting more and more expensive as time goes on (by about 20% since my first version of this article a year ago). This means the prices here may vary wildly from the underlying links at some point, so use the configurations as the guide and the price figures as estimates.

For my large following in Europe, your in even worse shape. Generally speaking, it sure seems like Canon and Nikon simply take the digits used for the US price (i.e,. 1999.95) and put a Euro or British Pound symbol in front of it which results in an astronomical price difference from the US prices. My best advice for you is to buy from the US used market. This will mean you won’t have a warranty, but for roughly 50% off, who cares!

Canon Recommendations

I'm a Canon shooter so I consider this to be good advice based on everything I've learned up until today (and I'll update this article as things change). The prices are subject to change (including seasonal rebates that come and go) and are provided ONLY as a guide. For exact prices, you must click the links.

Option 1 - Latest Entry Level Gear (About $1700)

Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D) Digital SLR Kit w/EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens ($749.95) - Here you get a nice state of the art camera and a 29 - 88mm (effective mm is * 1.6 crop factor) with image stabilization that has done well with reviewers. (NOTE: When the T2i is available for sale, it will replace this recommendation)

Canon EW-60C Lens Hood for 18-55mm ($23.95) - Unless you run into a problem when using your built-in flash, you should ALWAYS have a hood on your lens whenever you take a shot.

Canon Zoom Telephoto EF 70-200mm f/4.0L USM Lens ($639.00) - The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM is the #1 choice of the pros and the 70-200 f/4 IS USM is the sharpest of the 70-200's (until the new EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II is released in March 2010), but those lenses will blow your budget so this is a good lens to start off with for that all important telephoto. You'll have a lot of fun with this lens, just realize that you'll need a fast shutter speed (1/200 sec or greater) and/or support (i.e., tripod/monopod) for the best results with this lens.

Canon 430EX II Speedlite E-TTL II Shoe-Mount Flash ($280.00), but if you can possibly afford to get the Canon 580EX II Speedlite TTL ($445) then I'd HIGHLY recommend it instead. Now conventional wisdom would argue that the 430EX II is the better choice because it is cheaper and it provides sufficient light for the average indoor use. However, the 430 is so easy to outgrow once you start doing off-camera flash work (which you will likely do if you get a passion for photography) that it is better to pay the extra money now for the long term savings.

Option 2 - The Rebel Body with Better Flash but no big telephoto (About $1200)

Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D) Digital SLR Kit w/EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens ($749.95) – See above. When the T2i is available for sale, the T1i will still be recommended here but its price should be lower by then making this a more affordable option.

Canon EW-60C Lens Hood for 18-55mm ($23.95) – See above.

Canon 580EX II Speedlite TTL ($445) - Flash photography is hard enough, but this flash evens the playing field just a little bit more by making the damn thing a little bit easier to use. When paired with a newer body you can control it via the camera which makes operation a snap. This is a flash you won't need to replace and it will serve you well.

Option 3 – Rock Bottom ($760)

This option is only for those who can’t possibly afford anything more and are willing to make a major sacrifice in performance (highly ISO noise primarily).

Canon EOS Rebel XS with 18-55mm Lens ($499.95) - Based on the outdated XTi, but with some minor improvements, this is a fun starter camera. Upgrading to the XSi would cost a bit more, but its a nice upgrade from this camera. If you can swing it, do the T1i as its high ISO noise performance is exceptionally better and you’ll understand how important that is within the first month or two of camera ownership.

Canon EW-60C Lens Hood for 18-55mm ($23.95) - See above.

Canon 430EX II Speedlite E-TTL II Shoe-Mount Flash ($280.00) - See above.

Don't forget about the accessories

Before you decide which option is for you, think about what accessories you are going to want to invest in to complete your kit. Little things like extra batteries, memory cards, etc... add up (usually AT LEAST $500) and are required so plan accordingly.

Nikon Recommendations

Nikon gear is more expensive than Canon, especially when it comes to lenses. The budget conscious types might find Canon a better value in the long run as Nikon has also had more price increases over the last 18 months than Canon (as of the time of this writing).

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a Nikon shooter, so my opinions are only based on research I've done when I've considered switching to the Nikon camp. It is also based on observations of other Nikon users I known and their personal opinions. I consider it to be less accurate than the Canon advice, but better than you'll get from most people who have been shooting with Nikon for less than a year. I'll probably outrage plenty of Nikon bargain hunters with my suggestions, so I'll update this list as I find compelling arguments to do so.

Option 1 - Latest Gear ($1749.90)

D90 25446

Nikon D90 SLR Digital Camera Kit with 18-200mm VR II Lens ($1749.90) - This is a tough because with just a body and lens you blow most of your pre-accessory budget, but in this case you are investing in a great state of the art camera which is arguably as good as (and some say better than) its D300 sibling. The 18-200mm kit lens has great range (27-300mm effective range when considering the 1.5x crop factor) and it includes 4-stop Vibration Reduction. It is well reviewed as an excellent starter lens. Sure, you'll eventually ditch this lens for better lenses, but it is a great place to start and the zoom range is hard to pass up.

Option 2 - Latest Body but less lens range for a great flash ($1660.90)

Nikon D90 SLR Digital Camera Kit with Nikon 18-105mm VR Lens ($1199.95) - Same great body as above, but with a little less range on the lens. You still have  great range for typical photography, so this is still an excellent starter lens. You'll eventually lust after better lenses and I think this lens will probably hold its value when purchased with the kit (since you get $100 off the MSRP of the lens) so you may be able to sell it or trade up from here.

Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight i-TTL Shoe Mount Flash ($464.95) - Some will scoff at this recommendation and say save the money to get the cheaper SB-600. Photography is all about light and a state of the art flash like this will give you better results. Let's face it, flashes are already hard enough to use so take advantage of all of the technology you can get to make the process as easy as possible. Scott Kelby and Joe McNally (of National Geographic fame) swear by the SB-900 as being a great advance over the legendary SB-800. If you want to save even more, try to get your hands on a used SB-800 as it has a solid reputation.

Option 3 – Rock Bottom ($736.85)

Nikon D60 SLR Digital Camera Kit with 18-55mm VR Lens ($499.95) - This is comparable to option 3 from Canon with the biggest deficiency being the fact that the D60 only has Auto Focus when paired with AF-S or AF-I lenses due to its lack of a built-in focus drive motor. It is also inferior to the Nikon D90 and Canon T1i on several fronts, but it offers a good value for a starter camera.

Nikon HB-45 Bayonet Lens Hood for 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (All Versions) ($16.95) - Got a lens? - Get and always use a hood - period. The other suggestions above don’t list hoods simply because Nikon gear is so darn expensive.

Nikon SB-600 Speedlight i-TTL Shoe Mount Flash ($219.95) - While it is hard not to recommend the SB-900, this option is about spending the least amount of money so go with this flash now knowing that you'll outgrow it and either turn it into a slave flash or likely replace it all together - IF you really get into photography. If you are just a casual shooter that never upgrades then this will serve you well.

Again, don't forget about the accessories

If you skipped the Canon section above, then I'll be sure to say this again because it's very important.

Before you decide which option is for you, think about what accessories you are going to want to invest in to complete your kit. Little things like extra batteries, memory cards, etc... add up ($500 isn't unusual or extraordinary) so plan accordingly.

Accessories You Should Own

Whether you shoot with Canon or Nikon, there's some gear that you'll need that is common for both platforms. It's expensive, and its a lot, but its is also the place where you can waste the most money by purchasing stuff you don't need or buying the same thing over and over again (i.e., ESPECIALLY backpacks and Tripods).

Compact Flash or SD Card ($60)

That new camera of yours is useless without storage for the photos. With megapixel counts being what they are these days, you are going to want at least a 4GB but realistically an 8GB Compact Flash (most cameras) or SD card (some Canon's). I've not found any real world difference between the two formats other than physical size to suggest that one is better than the other, but it seems that CF cards popularity results in a better price when shopping online.

Rob Galbraith has a good database of CF/SD card performance, but I've found that more times than not the camera itself is the bottleneck - not the card's read/write speed - at least until the latest generation of cameras with UDMA support came out. Even still, I have a hard time spending or budgeting more than $100 for a memory card, so I say get the best you can afford for the $75 - $100 range.

Currently, my personal favorites are:

UDMA enabled cards offer greater performance and you’ll want them in speeds of 30mb/sec or faster. Check your camera though, because if it doesn’t support UDMA then don't waste your money as you’ll see zero benefit.

Most of my cards are Transcend cards which have worked without failure, and I've got a Kingston that has been reliable too, but many people swear by SanDisk. My latest SanDisk 30mb/sec UDMA card is fantastic so I make my recommendations for that brand without hesitation. Personally, I’ve also never had a card fail on me (knocking on wood), and products like PhotoRescue can be used to test the cards as well as recover your images should you accidentally format (not low-level format) the card before removing your pictures (and video). 

Camera Bags(~$150)

When all is said and done, you'll likely $2000 or more on your new DSLR kit. Don't store your gear in a crappy bag only to have it damaged. Furthermore, don't trust that just because Canon makes bags that they are good for your camera - they aren't. Don't believe me, then read my story and learn why camera bags are so important.

When I first got into DSLR photography I read a statistic that the average photographer has at least 4 bags, 3 of which are rarely (if ever) used. I can't remember the source anymore, but I scoffed at it when I first read it. Years later I find myself with 6 bags and I know countless others who have at least 3 or 4 bags. Of course, there's a simple reason for this though - finding a great bag is difficult and no one bag will likely meet all of your needs as your collection of gear grows.

With that said, I think I've found the closest thing to perfection in bags you can get with Think Tank Photo bags because they are designed by pro photographers and built for all photographers. They are slightly more expensive than other popular brands that allege quality such as LowePro and Taramac, but personally I don't believe those brands are even close to being in the same league as Think Tank Photo. What's more, these bags don't look like camera bags so you aren't walking around with a steal-me sign on your backpack. However, I recognize this paragraph will start holy wars amongst people loyal to other backpack brands, so be sure to do your own research and decide what is best for you.

My recommendation is to start with the Urban Disguise Series or Streetwalker Series as your all-in-one day bag. You may grow into something larger for your travel or big shoot bag, but these are nice bags to start with and for some they will be all you ever need. They are also great for hiking. I DO NOT recommend you just get “a case”. That works for your point and shoot, but the reality is you’ll be carrying a lot more than your camera with you so a simple case just doesn’t cut it.

Books ($50)

To get the most of your camera, you should invest a little money in some good books (or at least borrow them from the library). My minimal recommendations can be found in my article entitled Which Books Should I Read?, which links to my Photoshop book recommendations in the What Photoshop Books Should I Read? article. I also do private training and classes (rarely) for a fee.


Books could be written about this subject, but the best article I've seen thus far is here (READ THIS). For starters, I recommend that you DO NOT attempt to buy a tripod until you've been shooting with digital photography for at least 3 - 6 months. Why? Because you are 99.9% guaranteed to make a poor decision on what can be one of the most important pieces of equipment you use to make a great picture. In addition, the reality is that quality costs so you can easily spend another $1000 on a quality setup (INSANE! – I know), and cheapo setups are more likely to either not perform very well (generally people buy heads that aren't strong enough to support the weight of their body and heaviest lens) or they will be top-heavy and present a hazard when used in the wind or on uneven terrain. Once you understand how you shoot and what you are shooting you'll be better prepared to make a more intelligent decision (i.e., you'll probably get the head or the legs right - but still not both :-).

Don't get me wrong, tripods and heads are super important but you're better off saving your money for now. If you must do it though, then start here for your best value / performance combination and recognize that video heads aren't the best choice for photography and don't forget that you need something that can support your camera (with batteries - x2 if using a grip) and your biggest lens - with a little fudge factor (i.e., if your total is 6 pounds, get a setup that can support 8 pounds - both the legs AND the head!).

Software & Services ($300 - $340/450)

So you've taken your pictures - now what? You will want to download them onto your camera, make quick edits to make them look much nicer, and then upload them to the Internet for either printing and/or sharing with friends. This process is called a Digital Workflow, and the best solution for this is to use Adobe Lightroom. I also prefer to use Smugmug as my online photo storage solution and it also serves as an outstanding place to get high quality prints at a reasonable price. With the pro account, you can even sell your prints online!


Like a tripod, this is something you should hold off on buying until you've had time to digest all of your initial purchases because a polarizer is a very important purchase. In addition, most people think a polarizer is a polarizer, and when you've faced initial purchase fatigue your tendency will be to cut corners and bypass the $150 polarizer for a $50 version. However, doing so would be foolish because your lens is only as good as the last piece of glass on it. 90% of what you pay for in a lens are the glass elements in it, so it makes no sense to put a piece of garbage on the end of expensive glass.

I've read that when budgeting for a polarizer, you should consider a budget of rough 10% of the cost of your lens for a quality polarizer. My polarizer cost $172 ($187.35 today) and I was screwing it on to a $1799 lens, so that was pretty close to that 10% rule of thumb. In fact, if I had to do it over again, I'd probably get a B+W Kaeseman Circular Polarizer Multi-Resistant Coating (MRC) Slim Glass Filter (be sure to get the right size) which until recently cost $245!!!! At this point, you've probably got no clue why you'd buy a $245 filter when Tiffen makes one for only $68.95, so until you TRULY understand the difference you are better off saving your money. That Tiffen might be fine for a $500 lens, but if you are using quality glass then you should understand what those more expensive filters give you for the extra cost and make an informed decision.

Other Useful Accessories

Lens Cleaning Cloth ($10) - For the love of God, please don't clean your lens with your shirt or kitchen towel! Paper towels and napkins suck too because they can can be abrasive enough to leave micro scratches. Pony up the $10 and get yourself a proper lens cleaning cloth and ONLY use it for cleaning glass surfaces (i.e., your lens, LCD, viewfinder, etc...).

Lens Cleaner ($13) - If a quick wipe won't do the job, then you need some lens cleaner. I love the way this unit will make a tiny directed mist so you avoid getting too much fluid on your lens and risk having it leak into your body.

Giottos ROCKET AIR BLOWER 6.6" ($14) - When changing your lens (especially outdoors), it isn't uncommon to get some dust on your sensor. If you have a self-cleaning camera then that will help, but not 100% so this is a good solution. If this doesn't work, then you'll need to clean your sensor, which a task better left to the pros if you don't follow directions very well.

Flash Diffusers/Bouncers ($17) - Never point a flash directly at your subject without some sort of diffuser or bounce. The Sto-Fen Omnibounce is a good place to start for the flash that you've purchased. A simple white one is a good place to start, but you can get away without it by building your own or using the ceiling (or other object) to bounce indirect light onto your subject.

Delta GRAY CARD 4x5" ($2) - If you shoot JPEG, instead of RAW (CR2/NEF), then it is important to get a proper white balance, so a Gray Card is a good investment. A better choice is a Photovision 6" Mini One Shot Digital Target, which are great for Photoshop curves adjustments, but the delta gray card is a good minimum starting point. Like many things in photography though, you can spend $100 on an ExpoDisc, but now isn’t the time for that.

Pantone HUEY ($65) - If your monitor isn't calibrated regularly, then what you see on your computer screen isn't likely to look like what your printed image will look like (or what your camera really captured). This will frustrate you to no end if your monitor is oversaturated and set too bright (which most monitors are from the factory because that sells monitors). While there are better solutions, and more expensive versions for dual monitor support, this one will suite most people's needs and is WAY better than nothing at all.

Pearstone LP-1 Lens Pen ($9.95) - Some people like to have these in their pocket for doing a quick cleaning of their lens (NOT SENSOR) without having to get the cleaning cloth and/or cleaner out. I love mine, but it doesn't mean you don't need a cleaning cloth and cleaner, so get those before you get this!

Extended Warranty or Insurance?

A common question I get from people is "should I buy an extended warranty on my camera"? In general, I say no because rarely are they worth the paper they are printed on, but I DO recommend getting your camera insured with State Farm. My policy cost me very little (about 1% of the cost of my gear – per year), but saved me hundreds when my Canon backpack failed and damaged my gear. Few extended warranties would have covered that - especially since it happened in China on what could be argued was a business related assignment.

How to Avoid Spending Thousands More

The sad truth is that if you want to avoid spending thousands more then you need to stay away from others who have already done so. This means avoid discussion groups or forums where people will continuously make you feel that you were an idiot for what you have purchased and how you'll get 10x better results if you just spend another $2000 on X, Y, and Z. There's ALWAYS a way to spend another $2000 in photography even if you are like me and you've already spent $20,000. I know that even if I spent $100,000 that there's still be tons of cool stuff that I'd want and it would make my pictures look so much better. It's much like playing golf where there's always a better driver and putter that is going to change your game and turn you into the next Tiger Woods - for just another $1000.

So, with this in mind after you buy your gear then get some good books to read so that you actually know how to use your gear, READ YOUR MANUAL, and go have fun using your gear. If you need more information, then choose a blog or two like this one to learn about some new things as you are ready to digest the new information.

Man I don't want to live in a bubble - Forums are great!

Okay, then just don't say I didn't warn you. The more you know the more disappointed you will become with your choices and the more you will lust after gear you don't have. No matter how hard it is to spend money without your significant other knowing and beating you to a pulp, you'll find a way. It's an addiction like gambling so when you find yourself ordering without telling your spouse or lying about how much you paid for something then recognize that you've gone overboard and get away from it. Enjoy what you have and move on, and recognize it takes lots of money and education to get those killer pictures you'll see others post online.

This is expensive, how can I pay for all of this?

I’ll tell you a little secret, even when I had the cash to buy a $2000 lens without giving it a second thought I didn’t do it. Instead, I used Bill Me Later which is available just like a credit card option from most online retailers. What this allowed me to do was get 3 to 6 months same as cash deferred payment so I could spread the cost out. This meant that instead of skipping on the Image Stabilization, which I’d regret later, I could just go ahead and get it and save money from my upcoming pay checks to pay for it. I never have and hope I never will carry a balance on a credit card, but this option is like borrowing someone elses money for free – IF you pay it on time (otherwise its like going to your local loan shark). If you pay your bills on time and know that you can save the money (or have some bonus or stock vesting) then this is a great way to get what you want now. I do almost all of my photography gear purchases this way!

Closing Thoughts

Whew, that's a big one - thanks for hanging in there and reading it all (you didn't skip - right?). With all this said, Digital SLR photography can be very rewarding (and very expensive), but few who get into it regret it. Sure, the critics of your work will be harsh (but you don't have to be), but at the end of the day you must remember that YOU are the only critic you need to please (well maybe your spouse if you are married :-). If you are happy with a shot, then enjoy it even more by sharing it online or printing it or putting it on a digital frame. You'll be amazed at how wonderful your shots will look compared to even a high end point and shoot like the Canon G11, and you'll be sure to impress your friends and family.

Feel free to contact me if you are struggling on the final details of your purchase, but if you do I ask that you use a link on my blog when purchasing. I earn a commission when you use my links and that is what funds this blog so that I can bring you all the great articles it provides. Sadly many people over the last year have chosen to use my advice only to buy elsewhere, and that is putting the future of this blog at risk. If you can’t (for geographic reasons) or don’t want to use my links, I ask you to use the donate link and contribute an amount that you think is fair (commissions are generally 3% or more of the purchase price).  Using my links are the best way though because your price is the same, and I get the commission so we both win! Thanks for your support!

Happy shopping and welcome to DSLR Photography!

Postscript on February 10, 2010

Of all the gear I originally purchased, the only items I still have to this day are the following:

Cameras will come and go, but GOOD lenses will last you for many years. In addition, the good lenses that I did buy were sold for within $50 of what I paid for them thanks to the rising cost of gear (mostly due to exchange rates). That would never be true for a kit lens where hundreds of thousands of people have them that don’t want them anymore. Think about it – was a $500 lens worth $200 on the used market a better deal than a $1650 lens that I kept for 2 years and sold for $1599?

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Canon announces the Rebel T2i

Image courtesy of Canon USA


Canon has announced a killer new entry level camera into its line up. If you read my review from yesterday about “Where do I rent cameras and other gear”, you know that I’m a big fan of the Rebel series. It’s also my recommended entry level camera in my highly popular “Which DSLR should I buy?” article. So when I read the specs for this camera and see that it’s like a mini Canon 7D, I’m blown away!

The Rebel series always pack lots of state of the art features, ease of use, and great value so if you are just getting started this is a great camera to begin your journey into the Digital SLR camera world.

New features:

  • 18 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC 4 processor with ISO 100-6400 (Expansion to 12800)
  • Continuous shooting at 3.7fps
  • Full HD movie recording with manual control and selectable frame rates
  • 7.7cm (3.0”) 3:2 Clear View LCD with 1,040k dots
  • iFCL metering System with 63-zone Dual-layer Metering Sensor
  • Quick Control screen to change shooting settings
  • Exposure compensation +/-5 stops.
  • Select maximum value for Auto ISO
  • External Microphone socket
  • Movie crop function
  • Eye-Fi connected functions compatibility

Preorder Now from Adorama (or Amazon)

Learn More

At Canon USA or DPReview.

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Monday, February 8, 2010

Where do I rent cameras and other gear accessories?

Camera Gear Rental

Back when I did my Lens Rental Review Series, I strictly focused on renting lenses. However, some of the companies featured, like also rented equipment. During that review series was kind enough to let me rent some gear – quite a lot in fact – so I could report back to you about my experience. So with an open invitation to rent gear on someone else’s dime, I did what any camera geek would do - I got a truckload of cool stuff!

Here’s a picture of the gear I rented and my order form: (click for a larger version)

In case you are having trouble with the images, here’s what I got:

* = For use with a 400mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens I was renting from 

The good folks at have a huge selection of gear to rent, so you can literally put together a full kit from them if you are in a pinch.

In my case, I pretended that I needed to equip my assistant with a bunch of gear for a photo shoot. However, the people at don’t just blindly fill my order. They are there to help make sure your shoot will be successful, so they looked through my list and asked if I really needed the 52mm Drop-In Circular Polarizer (for a 400mm lens) as well as the heavy tripod and Gimbal head with a simple Rebel T1i. They also reminded me that the body didn’t come with a lens and wanted to find out if I needed any lenses.

Initially I was put off by this call because I knew what I was doing, but then I stopped for a minute and realized – what if I were noob – wouldn’t I be pretty disappointed to find out that the camera didn’t have a lens or that the tripod and head I got was for a big lens and not for my camera? didn’t know that I had a 400mm f/2.8 lens in my possession, so it was a reasonable courtesy call. In addition, I've never used the Quantum QFlash system before, and I had forgotten to order the digital transceiver, so they pointed this out and corrected my order. In the end, you can say I was a noob and they saved me from renting $134 worth of Quantum gear that would have been useless, so score one big one for the support staff!

Here’s how my order arrived, in two boxes due to the size of the tripod:

Naturally, the experience was just as excellent as I had reported previously in my last article.

How’s this for customer service?!!!!

The day before my order was to arrive, I got a call from the order fulfillment team informing me that they did not have a Battery Pack returned on time, but that they had already ordered B&H to drop ship a brand new one. As a result, the next day I got all of my gear from in two boxes (above) plus another box from B&H that had my brand spanking new battery back – sweet! These guys didn’t make excuses about stock – they just did what was necessary to make sure my order was fulfilled! Now THAT is customer service baby!!!

Shots with the Canon Rebel T1i

As a former owner of the Canon Rebel XTi, I have a soft spot for the Rebel series as I find them to be a great value and very easy to use. When I started seeing comparisons of the Canon Rebel T1i out performing the Nikon D60, I took note and was eager to get my hands on one. While I loved my XTi, it wasn’t very useful past ISO 400 (800 in a pinch) in my opinion, so I wanted to have a little fun with it. All of the shots below are unprocessed beyond cropping from their in-camera JPEG originals taken from the Rebel T1i shown above (which you can see arrived in mint condition). The last shot in the bottom right corner shows that it performed admirably at ISO 3200, which is a big improvement from my old XTi! The Rebel remains a charming and easy to use body that gets the job done for the photographer new to the world of Digital SLR’s. If you are wondering if it can meet your needs, I highly recommend you rent it from and with the lens of your choice. (NOTE: The first shot below was shot with the 24-105mm, but all of the other shots were shot with the 50mm f/1.4 prime which is very reasonably priced, yet produces outstanding results). 

1/1000 sec @ f/4 ISO 100 24mm

1/60 sec @ f/2 ISO 250 50mm

1/50 sec @ f/2 ISO 200 50mm

1/160 sec @ f/4 ISO 3200 50mm

The Wimberley System and Gitzo Tripod Legs

For this review I chose to get a Wimberley Gimbal head (shown above mounted to a Canon 100-400mm lens), which also requires a quick release plate for your lens (not your camera – big lenses mount to the tripod head directly) mounted to a Gitzo G-1410 Pro Studex Tripod (not shown above). Here’s the exact items I rented:

As you can see in the above picture (taken by my wife on her first day using her new Canon G11 Point and Shoot), the 400mm f/2.8 fits quite nicely on the Gimbal head and is very well supported by it. Despite the tremendous weight of this lens (11.7 lbs), I was able to keep it rock steady even for long exposures. Here’s a couple shots that turned out super sharp thanks to this great support system and the 400mm lens: 

This setup is a perfect rental setup as it would have cost nearly $7800 to purchase it all, but you can rent the lens and the head and plate for only $280! After having this lens for a week, I also realized that this isn’t a beast you want to take out unless you have a damn good reason! It is also no fun to store this monster lens and the behemoth tripod legs it requires. This setup used to be on my dream list, but now it’s permanently on my “rent only” list as it is too impractical to own for most of us. The other funny thing is that just recently Canon announced an update to this lens, so even if had bought it – I’d already be lusting after its replacement! Renting was definitely the way to go here!

Lowepro CompuTrekker Plus AW Backpack [Rental Link]

Sadly, I neglected to take stand alone photos of the Lowepro CompuTrekker backpack when I had it in my possession.

I liked the fact that this bag had lots of pockets and was fairly light weight, but my love for it ended right there.

I was very disappointed with the straps and found them to be very uncomfortable when it was loaded with half of the gear I typically put in any of my Think Tank Photo bags. I have a bad back and shoulders from a 1999 car accident, so if I bag doesn’t feel good then I usually can feel it within minutes. In this case, despite it bothering me I gave it a half hour before I cried Uncle and took it off. I also didn’t care for the dividers which were thin and less rigid than what I am used to, so I didn’t like that feature either. However, the show stopper for me was the crappy zipper which appeared to be exactly the same as the zipper that failed me in China.

I know that there people out there who swear by their Lowepro bags, but this is another case where  Lowepro bag has disappointed me so for now I’ll pass. I’ll stick with my Think Tank Photo bags any day! For current users or shoppers of this bag, I’d encourage you to consider the Think Tank Photo Airport Acceleration® V2.0 or Airport Antidote® V2.0. To see my reviews on Think Tank Photo bags, click here.

Quantum QFlash & components [Rental Link]

I did not test these items during my rental period. When I had discovered that had drop shipped me a new flash battery (mentioned earlier in this review), I felt it was my duty as a reviewer to inform them that I wasn’t a typical paying customer so I blew my undercover status. I assisted them in the return of the item to avoid any unnecessary expense, and skipped this part of the review. While they were willing to let me test the unit and eat this expense, I couldn’t do that in good conscious.


I learned a lot by this rental, and ultimately saved myself a lot of money by NOT buying gear based on what I learned. Sure, one could argue that the cost of rentals might be quite step for some items like the T1i, but in that case it makes more sense to rent a camera for a emergency situation or for an assistant, than it does to buy equipment that might not be fully utilized. What’s more, you can charge your clients for the rentals (and in theory, you should be charging them already for your own gear).

Special Offer


As readers, you are entitled to receive 5% off your TOTAL order amount, no matter how large or small. Simply visit using this link and enter the coupon code RM5 during the checkout process. Contact support if you need assistance.


This gear was rented under my wife’s name (who has a different last name) and email so this company would not be aware I was renting from them. This blog was reimbursed for the rental charges after this order was completed (gear returned). If you place an order using this links from this article, like this one, I will get a commission – thank you for supporting this blog!

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity