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Photography Equipment From A Pro's Perspective #38535
04/02/12 12:18 PM
04/02/12 12:18 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline OP
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Jim Garvie  Offline OP
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Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Admittedly, just this one pro but I thought it might be helpful for recreational shooters to hear what goes into my thinking when I'm purchasing equipment for the business. Let me start off by saying that I love photo gear: cameras, lenses, lighting, etc. I've been "playing" with this stuff for over 40 years and I can get as excited about that new camera or new lens as anybody.

However, when I consider the purchase of a piece of equipment for my business, I refer to it as a "depreciable asset". That asset has to be something I need for the business and it has to pay it's way. That is, it has to provide me with a return on investment and it has to provide it quickly. For example, I just purchased a Canon 70-200mm F4L IS. I should point out that I have previously owned the non-IS version of this lens and sold it a few years ago to purchase primes: the 85 F1.8 and the 200 F2.8L. Why? Because the primes were more appropriate for what I had booked at the time. Recently, I've been shooting more Herding Trials and I've rented the F4L IS for those events and loved how it handles and the IQ. I also have some Dog Shows booked for the Fall and a couple of weddings. There's no question that a zoom works better in those situations for show candids and wedding coverage.

So, how did I like the primes? Loved them!! They were sharp, fast and a joy to use. But they were not as useful for what I currently am shooting so I used their market value to help finance the purchase of the F4L IS. That's one other key point for me from a business perspective: when I went into business in 2000, I made a fairly large capital outlay for my gear. Over the years, I've traded, sold and recycled my gear to acquire new stuff without ever having to rely on investing more capital. Now, I've spent a ton on computer gear and software over the years so I've had an annual capital budget. But I've been able to keep my actual photo gear within the original cash outlay. That's important to me.

The other thing that's important to me is not buying something that is more than I actually need. I decided on the 70-200 F4L IS after testing it thoroughly against the F2.8L IS VI. I did not even consider the VII F2.8L IS because it's out of my budget and much too heavy for me to hand-hold, which is how I shoot ring candids and weddings. My testing confirmed that the F4L IS is at least as sharp as the V1 F2.8 and is actually slightly sharper with a 1.4 Telextender.

I also bought a used lens from KEH. I've had excellent luck with used lenses over the years and have always made back my investment in full when I've sold them. Most folks getting rid of a F4L IS are looking to move up to the 2.8 version so you can find some excellent quality lenses at very reasonable prices.

The big question for me -- like many of you -- is whether the loss of one stop of speed from the F2.8 was going to be an issue. I tested that at the AKC Eukanuba Championship and was able to get decent moving shots (action-stopping shots) at F4 and ISO 3200 with my 7D. The 7D produces decent images at ISO 6400 so I know I have a bit more room in really dim environments. I concluded that for 99% of my shooting, the F4 will work just fine. If I need something faster for a particular event, I'll rent it.

So, my approach to equipment is not so much what I want; it has to be what I need. It has to be able to produce a return on investment. It has to be functional and it has to fit my style of shooting rather than asking me to adapt to it. Does that mean that my gear is all about being cerebral and without any fun-factor? Not at all!! My first test will be to head off to the Orlando Wetlands Park for a wildlife shoot with the new lens and my 1.4 Telextender. I'll make up some sort of excuse about having to test the lens out thoroughly but, frankly, it'll be all about having fun with my new toy. Uh, new depreciable asset. grin

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Photography Equipment From A Pro's Perspective [Re: Jim Garvie] #38537
04/02/12 10:24 PM
04/02/12 10:24 PM
Joined: Feb 2005
Manhattan, New York, New York
James Morrissey Offline
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James Morrissey  Offline
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Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Feb 2005
Manhattan, New York, New York
"So, my approach to equipment is not so much what I want; it has to be what I need. It has to be able to produce a return on investment. It has to be functional and it has to fit my style of shooting rather than asking me to adapt to it. Does that mean that my gear is all about being cerebral and without any fun-factor? Not at all!! My first test will be to head off to the Orlando Wetlands Park for a wildlife shoot with the new lens and my 1.4 Telextender. I'll make up some sort of excuse about having to test the lens out thoroughly but, frankly, it'll be all about having fun with my new toy. Uh, new depreciable asset. grin"

LOL, well said, Jim. I try very hard not to buy anything that does not have a real value-added benefit. The exception to this is the 5diii, which I am buying because "it was time" to get a new body for my 5dii. Like you, I am enjoying my new...depreciable asset. :P

James

Re: Photography Equipment From A Pro's Perspective [Re: James Morrissey] #38540
04/03/12 05:49 PM
04/03/12 05:49 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline OP
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Jim Garvie  Offline OP
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Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
If the decision process is logical and cerebral, the process of making sure the product is up to snuff is at least equally so. The lens arrived today and I took about an hour to test it out in a "real world" environment. Now, I can and do shoot newsprint at various focal lengths and apertures in the back yard to test overall sharpness and focus accuracy. I have a 7D. It has micro-focus adjustment. I'd be crazy not to test out every lens to see if they need any adjustment.

However, there is more to a great lens than the ability to resolve newsprint at 50 yards. There are things like color quality, micro contrast, bokeh. And the other things like ergonomics which is very important for a lens that will be used for action photography. So, today's test was to see how well the lens handles and what the overall images look like. I went to one of my favorite places, The Orlando Wetlands Park. There are all kinds of wildlife there: birds, mammals, flowers, insects and, uh, other kinds of wildlife as well.



Now, I shot the sign for its overall humor but it also makes a great subject for testing sharpness at f5.6. I shot another sign at F9 for the same reason.



I didn't see any Alligators on this visit but I did see lots of other wildlife. But, first, here's a wide view of a section of the wetlands.



Right at the beginning of the trail, I spotted an Ibis and took a portrait of him.



I usually see many more birds of prey than I was able to spot today so I started looking -- and shooting -- small. Here's a Butterfly I spotted.



And here's what I refer to as a living Biplane.



And, finally, a Thistle with a resident pollenator.



I did not use any extension tubes nor did I use my 1.4 Telextender today. My intention was to test the lens at various focal lengths and at all apertures. Tomorrow, I'll do the scientific (not to mention dull) stuff. But, so far, the lens has met or exceeded my expectations. Oh, and it handles like brand new.

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Photography Equipment From A Pro's Perspective [Re: Jim Garvie] #38545
04/05/12 07:38 AM
04/05/12 07:38 AM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline OP
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Jim Garvie  Offline OP
Addict

Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Three more images from a "real world" test of the lens: I like to use the 70-200 focal range for portraits if and when I have enough room. Yesterday, my wife, Linda, asked me to take a "quick portrait" of her for an article she's written for Working Dog Digest. Now, you need to understand that Linda absolutely hates having her picture taken. She feels that cameras steal your soul wink. So any time we do a portrait session, there's nothing "quick" about it. So while she got dressed and did hair and makeup, I got Sundance spruced up a bit. I figured since the article was about Rottweilers, it made sense to have one in the picture and Sundance is a great model. Plus, he'd relax Linda.

So, we went into the back yard and I used the new lens @70mm, F8, 1/20 second, hand-held, right hand only, squeeky in the left hand. Here's what I got.



Later, I had the dogs out in the yard and it was time to bring them back in so I spotted the puppy, Scamp, way in the back of the yard and called "Scamp, Come!" Here's what it looked like when he started his recall.



He is getting to be such a cute kid!

And, finally, as I was walking around the yard, I spotted one of the Dragonflies that have started visiting us recently. Here's a semi-macro shot -- no extension rings; no telextender. Just the lens.



These are the types of things I typically shoot: portraits, action shots of dogs and macro or semi-macro for my own pleasure. The lens has to be able to do those things well. And, based on my first two days of testing, it does them very well indeed.

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Photography Equipment From A Pro's Perspective [Re: Jim Garvie] #38593
04/15/12 09:23 PM
04/15/12 09:23 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline OP
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Jim Garvie  Offline OP
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Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
One last test of the new lens is how it works with the 1.4X Telextender. Today, I headed off to the Orlando Wetlands Park for a nice, relaxing walk and an opportunity to test that combination with some of the wildlife that lives in the park. Saw about a kazillion alligators and took some pics of them. But my main objective was the birds that are in such abundance in this great habitat. I managed to capture some very nice images of the usual suspects but also found a few species that I've never seen before.

Early in the walk, I spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk cruising overhead having just caught its dinner.



A short way farther up the trail, I spotted an Ibis unlike any that I have seen before. This is a Glossy Ibis and its wings and back are positively iridescent in the sunlight.



Around the next bend, I saw another Ibis that I had not seen before. This guy -- a White-faced Ibis -- was hanging out with several Black Bellied Whistling Ducks which are very rare here in Central Florida.



Next, a Little Blue Heron.



A lovely Sand Hill Crane who let me get very close.



And a Yellow-winged Black Bird.



And, finally, a Great Blue Heron preening in a tree at water's edge.



So, what's my conclusion about the lens and, specifically about the lens with a 1.4X Telextender? Fabulous! Would I love to be shooting wildlife with one of the "super telephotos" that is in Canon's lens lineup. No question. But I need to be able to justify my equipment based on whether it can pay for itself in my business. I don't sell nature and wildlife photos. And so for me, my lens needs to be able to shoot dog show ring candids and Herding Trials as well as shoot wildlife and create images that are acceptable. The Canon 70-200mm F4L IS, whether separately or combined with the 1.4 Telextender, fits the bill. How would it work with a 2X Telextender? I really don't know but, personally, I have some hesitation combining a relatively slow zoom lens with a 2X extender. Lots of glass. Maximum F-stop of F8. No autofocus with the 7D. Just doesn't make much sense for me.

Anyway, testing done and I'm delighted with the lens. It's sharp, versatile and it'll pay for itself in one Herding Trial. I'm a happy guy!

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Photography Equipment From A Pro's Perspective [Re: Jim Garvie] #38603
04/18/12 08:23 AM
04/18/12 08:23 AM
Joined: Oct 2009
Wisconsin
Welshfilly Offline
Tracker
Welshfilly  Offline
Tracker

Joined: Oct 2009
Wisconsin
Hi Jim,

I enjoyed your posts and viewing all the images, how fun to have so many lovely birds to photograph.

Polly


Re: Photography Equipment From A Pro's Perspective [Re: Welshfilly] #38607
04/18/12 05:43 PM
04/18/12 05:43 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline OP
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Jim Garvie  Offline OP
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Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Thanks Polly. Believe me, I say a silent "thank you" every day for the birds, flowers, insects and other flora and fauna which we have in abundance here in Florida. I seldom have to travel very far to find great subjects to photograph. Including my own family right here in our own back yard. Glad you like the images.

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz

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