Sunday, December 13, 2009

Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 5 – Lenses

Woot! I've made it all the way to five whole episodes in my photography series, and still more to come. Either scroll down below to watch episode five, or check it out in HD by clicking here.

Next week I'll be discussing exposure value (EV) and how your camera determines the right (or sometimes wrong) exposure.

Now in regard to episode five, I don't have a whole lot more to add unless I start getting into specific lenses and camera manufacturers. Simply said, too many factors are dependent on the makers, and this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what a photographer might need/want in terms of lenses. Bottom line is, by now you probably have a particular camera that came with a couple of average lenses, and you may be at the point where you want to explore other possibilities (e.g. super-telephoto or macro photography). The goal of the first section of my video was to get novice photographers acquainted with some lens terminology, so that when they're discussing things with a salesperson, they'll hopefully understand better what they're looking at.

Now for the crop factor segment of episode five, the one thing I would like to add is that depth-of-field (DOF) is also affected by the sensor's size. I believe one of the links I've added below discusses this quite well, but the gist of it is that a smaller sensor will produce a larger DOF. So you may be asking yourself, is a good or bad thing? Well it can be seen both ways. If you do a lot of close-up or macro photography, then it's actually nice to get more of your subject in focus. But if you do, let's say, portrait photography where backgrounds are often heavily blurred, then you may have to more carefully consider which camera with what sensor to choose.

Using my own camera as an example, an Olympus E-3, its fairly small four-thirds sensor actually makes it somewhat difficult to achieve blurry backgrounds unless I use a very fast lens, like the Zuiko 50mm f2 (remember from my first episode, fast lens means small f-number and a large aperture). Another technique I've also employed is to use one of my telephoto lenses and remain as close as possible to the subject when shooting. But anyway, the point here is that fast lenses are generally more expensive and if you're going to need small DOF for your style, consider your options carefully. The only other tip that comes to mind at the moment, is that you might also be able to adapt an old but fast film lens to your digiSLR. For example, I've been able to find a four-thirds adapter (through Fotodiox) for an old Carl Ziess 50mm f1.4 lens my father has. Even though it's a completely manual lens, it does wonders for getting those pleasantly blurry backgrounds.

So that now leaves the macro photography segment of episode five. For now, I'm really leaving this one for later, because I'd like to discuss macro photography techniques in a future video. The goal here was understanding the terminology; those ratios and how they translate into the photograph you take. Although the ruler photos certainly aren't that remarkable, they beautifully and simply demonstrate that if you have a macro lens capable of producing life size or 1:1 ratio images, then the thing you're taking a photo of will be more or less exactly the same size on the sensor of your camera. Oh, I should at least add that in order to get 1:1 photos with a macro lens, you generally need to set the focus at the lens' most extreme position. In my example shots, I set my lens to manual focus and turned the focus ring as far as it would go, until the lens barrel could no longer extend. Then I lowered my camera (on a tripod) closer to the ruler until it was in focus.

So there ya have it. I think that starting with my next episode I'll be asking you wonderful viewers out there to submit particular photography related questions you would like to have answered. Then I'll select a few and hopefully provide some useful answers on future videos. So stay tuned and remember to subscribe!

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  1. Your videos are excellent and very much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge.

  2. Hi, Andy. You're very welcome and thank you kindly for your comments!


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