Category Archives: Photography

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Decrypting Horrible Camera and Lens Terminologies

Lately, we all get confused over the zillion *horrible* lens and camera terminologies present in the photography arena out there. Canon, Nikon, Sigma… all have their own lingo when it comes to naming their cameras and lenses. Frankly, when I was a newbie in this phenomenal world of photography, I really got mad over such huge types of cameras and lenses available in the market. How the hell was I supposed to know about all those cryptic lens and camera terminologies? How would I’ve known what does an EFS stand for and what does USM means? But then, I studied *a lot* about all this stuff and with the help of some great friends, I can now safely assume that I’ve attained a slightly better level in understanding of all these terminologies. So this post is all about that. Here we go:

Brand Lenses

Most major camera manufacturers offer their own line of lenses. Such lenses tend to follow the most stringent quality guidelines, and often come with a price premium.

Canon Lenses

Canon lenses use the following terms to indicate features of each lens:

  • Common
    • XYZmm: Focal length
    • f/x.y: Maximum aperture
  • Focus/Mount Type
    • EF: Electronic Focus
    • EF-S: Short-Back Electronic Focus
    • TS: Tilt-Shift
    • TS-E: Tilt-Shift Electronic focus
  • Features
    • IS: Image Stabilization
    • USM: Auto Focus Type: Ultrasonic Motor
    • (Mark) N: Version of lens (Mark II = v2, Mark III = v3, etc., word Mark may not be present)
    • DO: Diffractive Optics
    • L: Luxury series
    • Macro: 1:1 magnification

Examples

  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens
  • Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
  • Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Nikon Lenses

Nikon lenses use the following terms to indicate features of each lens:

  • Common
    • XYZmm: Focal length
    • f/x.y: Maximum aperture
  • Lens System
    • DX: Digital, Short Back
    • FX: Full Frame (film or digital)
  • Lens Mount
    • AI: Automatic Indexing mount (includes metering sensor)
    • AI-S: Improved Automatic Indexing mount
  • Focusing System
    • AF: Auto Focus, built into camera
    • AF-S: Auto-Focus Silent (Silent Wave Motor, required for bodies without focus motor)
    • AF-I: Auto-Focus Internal
    • AF-N: Auto-Focus (improved version, rare)
  • Features
    • SWM: Silent Wave Motor
    • N: Nano-Crystal Coating
    • NIC: Nikon Integrated Coating (multicoated lenses)
    • SIC: Super Integrated Coating (multicoated lenses)
    • VR: Vibration Reduction
    • ED: Extra-low Dispersion Glass
    • ASP: Aspherical Lens Element
    • IF: Internal Focusing
    • RD: Rear Focusing
    • Micro: 1:1 magnification
    • G: No aperture ring (automatic aperture only)

Examples

  • Nikon AF-S DX 16-85mm VR f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED
  • Nikon AF-I 600mm f/4D IF-ED
  • Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED

Olympus 4/3 lenses

  • Common
    • XYZmm: Focal length
    • 1:x.y: Maximum aperture
  • Features
    • ED: Extra-low dispersion glass elements
    • SWD: Auto Focus Type: Supersonic Wave Drive Motor
    • N: Version of lens (II = v2, III = v3, etc.)

Pentax lenses

  • Common
    • XYZmm: Focal length
    • f/x.y: Maximum aperture
  • Focus/Mount Type
    • K, M: Manual Focus, Manual/Aperture priority metering
    • AF: Early AF system with AF motor and electronics in lens that works only with ME-F body.
    • A: Manual Focus, supports Shutter priority and Program exposure metering
    • F: Adds Auto Focus to capabilities of A lenses
    • FA: Adds ability to communicate MTF to body to capabilities of F lenses
    • FAJ: Removes aperture ring from capabilities of FA lenses
    • DA: Same capabilities as FAJ, but with reduced imaging circle for digital cameras with APS-C sized sensor
    • DA L: Same capabilities as DA lenses, Lighter construction
    • D FA: Same capabilities as FA lenses, usable on both film and digital cameras
  • Features
    • AL: Aspherical elements
    • ED: Extra-low dispersion glass elements
    • SMC: Super multi coating lens coating
    • PZ: Power Zoom
    • SDM: Auto Focus Type: Supersonic Drive Motor
    • IF: Internal focussing
    • WR: Weather Resistant (when matched with weather resistant
    • Limited: High quality (primes)

Sony/Minolta Lenses

Sony lenses, previously Minolta lenses, have similar features to Nikon and Canon. Their notation is as follows:

  • Common
    • XYZ/x.y: Focal length/Maximum Aperture
  • Lens Mount Type
    • Alpha: ? Type Mount
    • E: E Type Mount
  • Focusing System
    • SSM: In-Lens Super-sonic Motor
    • SAM: In-Lens Micro Motor
  • Features
    • G: Gold Series (highest quality)
    • (D): Distance Encoding (supports ADI feature of some Sony bodies)
    • DT: Digital Technology (optimized for digital cameras)
    • APO: Apochromatic correction using AD elements
    • HS-APO: High-Speed APO
    • AD: Anomalous Dispersion
    • OSS: Optical Steady Shot (E-mount only)
    • T: High-performance Coating

Examples

  • Sony Alpha 70-200/2.8 G
  • Sony Alpha 28-75/2.8 SAM
  • Sony Alpha DT 18-250/3.5-6.3
  • Sony E 18-200/3.5-6.3 OSS
  • Sony Alpha 100/2.8 Macro

Off-Brand Lenses

Many off-brand lens manufacturers make lenses that fit many types of bodies, including Canon, Nikon, etc.

Sigma Lenses

Sigma lenses use the following terms to indicate features of each lens. They differ slightly in how they denote aperture:

  • Common
    • XYZmm: Focal length
    • Fx.y: Maximum aperture
  • Compatible Body Brands
    • Sigma
    • Nikon
    • Canon
    • Minolta/Sony
    • Pentax
    • Kodak (extremely limited)
    • Fujifilm
    • Olympus (limited)
    • Panasonic (very limited)
    • Lecia (very limited)
  • Features
    • HSM: Hyper-Sonic Motor
    • ASP: Aspherical lens element
    • APO: Aphochromatic (low-dispersion) lens element
    • OS: Optical Stabilizer
    • RF: Rear focusing
    • IF: Inner focusing
    • CONV: Teleconverter compatible (APO Teleconverter EX)
    • EX: Professional lens body finishing
    • DG: Supports full-frame cameras
    • DC: Supports cropped-frame cameras (lightweight construction)
    • Macro: 1:1 magnification

Examples

  • Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM
  • Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
  • Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro

Tamron Lenses

Tamron lenses use the following terms to indicate features of each lens. Tamron offers a considerable degree of functional features and lens types, particularly lens types that affect chromatic aberration:

  • Common
    • XYZmm: Focal length
    • F/x.y: Maximum aperture
    • AF: Auto-Focus
  • Compatible Body Brands
    • Nikon
    • Canon
    • Minolta/Sony
    • Pentax
  • Features
    • Lens Elements
      • XR: Extra Refractive Index Glass (lighter, smaller lenses)
      • LD: Low Dispersion (chromatic aberration reduction)
      • XLD: Extra Low Dispersion (advanced chromatic aberration reduction)
      • ASL: Aspherical (improved focal plane convergence)
      • LAH: LD + ASL hybrid lens element
      • AD: Anomalous Dispersion (improved control over chromatic aberration)
      • ADH: AD + ASL hybrid lens element
      • HID: High Index, High Dispersion Glass (minimizes lateral chromatic aberration)
    • Functional Features
      • VC: Vibration Compensation
      • USD: Ultrasonic Silent Drive
      • SP: Super Performance (professional line)
      • IF: Internal Focusing System
      • Di: Digitally Integrated (optimized for use with full-frame digital cameras)
      • Di-II: Digitally Integrated (optimized for use with APS-C digital cameras)
      • ZL: Zoom Lock (prevents undesired zoom lens barrel extension)
      • A/M: Auto-focus/Manual-focus Switch Mechanism
      • FEC: Filter Effect Control (controls filter direction when lens hood attached, i.e. for Polarizing filters)
      • 1:1 Macro: 1:1 Magnification

Examples

  • Tamron SP AF17-35MM F/2.8-4 Di LD Aspherical (IF)
  • Tamron AF18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF)
  • Tamron SP AF180mm F/3.5 Di LD (IF) 1:1 Macro

Tokina Lenses

Tokina lenses use the following terms to indicate features of each lens:

  • Common
    • VW~XYZmm: Focal length
    • f/x.y: Maximum aperture
    • AF: Auto-Focus
  • Compatible Body Brands
    • Nikon
    • Canon
    • Minolta/Sony
    • Pentax
  • Features
    • AS: Aspherical Optics
    • F&R: Advanced Aspherical Optics
    • SD: Super Low Dispersion
    • HLD: High-Refraction, Low Dispersion
    • MC: Multi-Coating
    • FE: Floating Element System
    • IF: Internal Focus System
    • IRF: Internal Rear Focus System
    • FC: Focus Clutch Mechanism (allows switching between auto & manual focus)
    • One Touch FC: One-Touch Focus Clutch Mechanism

Again, this is not a complete list. If you find something that should be here, please let me know by dropping in a comment and I’ll definitely add it to the list 🙂

5 Tips On How To Take Killer Macro Shots

Macro Photography is a whole new world to photographers. Macro shots portray life in such imaginative and beautiful ways that you’re left spell bound and speechless. Taking killer macro shots is not easy. It’s an art. And you can also master this amazing art by following tips and tricks. Here’s how you can induce that killer instinct and X-factor to your macro shots.

Aperture

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This is the most important thing when it comes to macro photography. First of all, always set your camera to the macro mode (every digital camera has a dedicated macro mode which is marked by a small flower symbol). After selecting the exclusive macro mode, make sure that you have the largest possible aperture size set for your shots. This helps in two ways:

  1. It helps to capture all the available light across your macro subject so that the photographs come out to be crystal clear.
  2. It helps in retaining a smaller area of field in your shots so that only the subject is in focus. That makes your macro shots even stronger when finished.

Focus

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Obviously, one of the most important aspect of any photography technique Is perfect focus. Now a days, almost all the digital cameras offer automatic focus. However, I won’t recommend you using automatic focus for macro shots. Speaking from my personal experience, 9 out of 10 times I have used automatic focus in shooting macro objects, the camera has failed to focus correctly on the subject. The reason for that is, the camera sensor is not smart enough at the macro levels to differentiate between the focus of subject and the background. That’s why I’m recommending you to keep a manual focus and adjust the pin-point sharp focus at your subject manually.

Depth Of Field

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The DoF (Depth Of Field) is another important aspect of macro photography. As explained earlier, it’s the aperture that controls the depth of field. However, the Depth Of Filed also depends largely on the combination of aperture and subject’s distance as well as the background distance from the subject being photographed. Having a correct combination of all these only will ensure that you have amazing macro shots every time you try to get them.

Say No Internal Flash

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In macro photography, using the in-built camera flash is not recommended. The reason for this is, the built-in camera mount flash just ruins the macro shots to an irreversible level. Since the flash is neither placed correctly to be fired on macro subjects, nor does it have that soft touch, the use of internal flash is not recommended. However, you can use external soft flashes with one or more reflectors if you really want to shoot at low light conditions.

In a time when pretty much everyone has access to digital cameras and can take half decent photos, being able to take great macro shots is something that can separate you from your average photographer.

And once you’ve built up a nice collection of stunning macro shots, a great way you can share these photos is via services like www.lulu.com which give you the option to design and create your own photo books and send them directly to yourself, or to friends as a unique and creative gift.

Camera Review: Canon S90

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Point shoot releases are so many and so mediocre that it’s easy to fall for a under rated cameras in the market. Serious enthusiasts know that the higher resolution sensors on the new cameras are not really worth it. Cramming 14 million pixels on the same 1/2.5 inch sensor is not going to improve picture quality. Worse, it brings annoying noise issues. My cousin was kind enough to lend me his Canon S90 for review. Re launching the long abandoned S series, Canon has given point and shoot photography a big leap (and other companies a run for their money) with this tiny shooter.

Full Review Below

Canon S90: Black Beauty

Canon S90 is an attempt by Canon to revive the Sxx series due to the increasing popularity of performance point and shoot cameras. S90 uses the same 1/1.7″ sensor used in G10/G11 and is optimized for low light photography instead of  a higher megapixel count. It’s a lot slimmer than Panasonic LX3 and packs quite punch too. Let’s get it through the paces.

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Build

The body is mostly metal with plastic used only for the top and bottom panels. The buttons are well placed and tactile. One thing the previous S cameras couldn’t pull off well was size, they were too bulky for pocket use. This camera changes all that, with an impressive Ixus like body that is both strong and pocket able. The minimalist styling may not got go down well with some people but the discerning enthusiast should have no issues with the all black, no frills body. The screen is a healthy 3 inch in size and one the best ever. The lens has wider f2 aperture for low light photography but useless at the telephoto end. The glass is pretty good though.

Features

Apart from offering full manual control with the PASM dial, the S90 gains an edge over other comapcts by offering RAW mode, allowing post processing and better pictures. Another impressive feature is the control ring around the lens which can be customized for changing aperture, shutter speed and ISO. There is another ring around the D- pad itself which makes navigation a breeze. Handling is a bit like a dSLR, one hand holds the camera while the other can be used to set the control ring. There’s also a nifty little pop up flash to the left.
The interface is silky smooth and intuitive. There’s a display at the bottom showing focal length while the shutter speed and aperture are displayed at the top along with IS and ISO information. The scene mode offers customized settings for shooting low light scenes, kids, fireworks, sunset etc.

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Performance

Now for the interesting bit. I took a few pictures at home and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it metered the shots. In auto mode though, the ISO was pushed a little too far leading to noise. In daylight however, the pictures were clear and color reproduction spot on. The lens covers a focal length of 28-105mm which is not much compared to the superzooms of today. But the f2 aperture at the wide end and the clear optics make it a winner nonetheless. The picture quality is very good up to ISO 800 after which things start going downhill. ISO 3200 is pretty much useless. The aperture slows down at the telephoto end and the limited focal range itself might not appeal to some.
Overall this camera holds its own when it comes to performance.

Economy

Launched with an initial price of about Rs22, 000 the price has now come down to a much better 14k. It’s cheaper if bought abroad. For its performance, this camera offers the best value even outperforming some of its overpriced counterparts from other companies.

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Service

Canon has always focused on after sales service, and with the steadily growing sophistication of photo devices, service has now become even more prominent. With hundreds of service centers in India with several centers in metros Canon is sure not to disappoint in after sales service.

Conclusion:

In the crowded and saturated market of point and shoot cameras this is one camera that will blow most of the competition out of the water. The lack of a viewfinder may be missed by some and some may find the focal range limited but overall this is one sweet deal.

Pros:

  • Superb Image quality up to ISO 800
  • Fast aperture at the wide end.
  • Control ring
  • Ease of use

Cons:

  • No optical viewfinder
  • Limited focal range
  • Noise above ISO 800
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Taking Better Photographs With Rule of Thirds

Creativity never depends on any kind of rules. It’s a free bird that only looks good when not bound by any kind of rules. However, the rule of thirds is one of the oldest and best known principles of photography. Applying it to your composition can dramatically improve your photography. But what exactly this rule is all about?

Wikipedia explains the rule of thirds as:

“… a compositional rule of thumb in photography …The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The four points formed by the intersections of these lines can be used to align features in the photograph . Proponents of this technique claim that aligning a photograph with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the photo than simply centering the feature would.”

First, how exactly does the rule work?

The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. While photographing a subject, you have two ways of doing this. One is with your LCD viewfinder and other is internally within your mind. With this grid in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ now identifies four important parts of the image that you should consider placing points of interest in as you frame your image.

Breaking the so called rule in simple language, it’s just an extension of human vision psychology (if you can put it that way). Our eyes tend to go to the edges first and then to the center of the frame. This rule exploits the same theory by giving a thumb rule of not placing the subject in the dead centre of frame but rather on the intersection point of the grid lines, ideally.

How to Apply the Rule

There are 2 basic principles to the Rule of Thirds.

1) Place points of interest where the grid intersects. Please note that I’ve used the term “point of interest” here and not “subject”. The reason for that is, the point of interest can be more specific than the subject itself (like subject’s eyes, etc.). You can place the point of interest on any of the many intersection points you have in the grid system.

2) Line up the natural lines in your photos to match the lines on the grid. When shooting images with natural lines (like horizons, buildings, etc) try to match the natural lines in your photo to the lines on the grid pattern in the rule of thirds. When shooting a portrait, try to place the eyes (a natural line in the photo) along one of the lines in the grid. Again, this will add emphasis to the aspect of the photo along the line.

Learning By Examples

Now I’ll tell you how I Implied this rule in my real life. Here’s a photograph of one of my friend Anurag which I shot one fine day. As you can see, in the following photograph, I have ignored Rule of Thirds and placed his face in the dead centre of the frame.

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Now let’s reframe the shot by following the Rule Of Thirds

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Spotted the difference? The second photograph looks more awesome. Isn’t it? Here’s yet another example of another friend of mine

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Conclusion

The Rule of Thirds is just a theoretical form of how our eyes perceive and process the images. It’s more of a mind game rather than a photography trick. Use this rule wisely to make your photographs even better. And yes,as they say, rules are made to be broken 😉

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How To Make A Super Macro Lens From Canon 18-55mm Lens

If you’ve just upgraded your camera arsenal (like I did), with a new DSLR and are having the default kit  18-55mm lens which comes boxed with majority of SLR cameras and you’re missing your old macro lens of point and shoot, this is for you. Macro photography has ever been one of the most fascinating region to explore in digital photography. And with  amazing examples like the Pictures Of Insects Covered In Water Droplets, one really should try out his/her hands on macro photography.

But you don’t have a macro lens and neither you have a budget to get one exclusively. What to do now? Well, here’s an amazing and very detailed video on how you can make your own macro lens out of the default 18-55mm kit lens of your DSLR camera. However, we won’t recommend you to try this with your brand new kit lens. Instead, you can get a very cheap used 18-55 lens to try things out.

Disclaimer: It’s an extreme engineering video which involved explicit scenes of tearing apart a lens. If you are a camera lover, you might get a heart attack. We will not be held responsible for that 😉


Well, to me, that was indeed scary! Do share in your thoughts and what all you have to say about the video by dropping in your comments below.