Canon EOS 30D

I purchased this camera in August of 2006. I was debating what would be the next addition to my collection and after playing with a friends 10D I realised how much better these 'semi-professional' models were. This swayed me almost immediately and soon after a 30D was the head of my collection, replacing my old 300D. Having used this camera for a while now I am getting used to the features available and this is resulting in some fantastic shots. I am also seeing the benefit of the 8.2mp sensor which allows me to stretch my prints to a reasonable A1.

Another benefit of the 30d is the 5 frames per second shooting mode. This is especially useful at sporting event or photographing wildlife in action although I have stopped using this feature so much these days to try and increase the lifespan of the camera, which has an estimated shutter life of around 220,000 photographs.

The camera itself feels much better quality than my previous 300D. Its magnesium body gives a pleasent texture when holding and also makes it seem more robust.

If I was to make any criticisms of the camera it would have to be the fact that the accessories I invested in when I had the 300D don't fit, such as the battery grip and the shutter release. Apart from this I would strongly recommend this camera.

For more information on this camera visit the Canon website here.

Canon EF 100-400mm (L)

This monster lens has been one of my more extravagant purchases. I bought this lens to help with my sport and wildlife photography. The zoom distance is excellent and the clarity of the pictures it creates are brilliant. It comes in a high quality, heavy duty case and includes a lens hood. When closed this lens is easy enough to transport but once fully extended it really shows its size. Add the lens hood and, at full zoom this thing is a beast!

For hand held use this lens is a bit of a handful. It is quite heavy and if you want to guarantee a crisp shot at distance it really needs to be mounted on a sturdy tripod or monopod. It was for this reason that I purchased the Manfrotto Monopod.

It has a minimum focusing distance of 1.8m which means that, at full zoom you can get a similar picture to a macro lens, blurring the background as if it were a much lower f-stop. There are many other additions to help this lens be useful. It hame a two mode image stabiliser, one for still shots and another for panning shots, which takes the lens movement normally associated with single mode IS out of the frame. The closest focusing distance is also adjustable between 1.8m and 6.5m to help the auto focus aquire its subject quicker. There is a ring around the case that stiffens up the zoom so that it doesn't slip when facing up or down and the focus can be fine-tuned even when auto-focus is active.

The 77mm filter size means that attachments aren't cheap but with such a lens all you really need is a UV filter to protect the front element.

Ok, it does have the inherant problems of zoom lenses in that the extents of the zoom can produce a slightly worse image than the centre zooms but the fluorite and Super UD-glass elements help to minimise this. Another issue is the 4.5f minimum stop, which means that low light images can be an issue when photographing fast moving objects but on the whole this lens funtions flawlessly and I would strongly recommend it.

For more information on this lens visit the Canon website here.

Canon EF 24-70mm (L)

This was my latest purchase. I needed a lens that would enable me to take high quality portrait photography. After some deliberation I decided to take the plunge and buy this lens. It wasn't cheap but the quality of the photographs shows why! It has a low f-stop of 2.8 and a large 77mm lens diameter. This enables it to take the sharpest pictures in relatively low light.

Its weight makes it feel like you've got high quality glass attached to your camera but does mean that your arm gets tired after prolonged use.

This lens has turned out to be the one I use the most, except for when I'm photographing sports events. I have to say that I am more than pleased with it...

For more information on this lens visit the Canon website here.

Canon EF-S 10-22mm

I bought this lens especially for my visit to the Maldives. I thought that if I was going somewhere so beautiful I needed to have a lens to help me take great landscape pictures.

The lens has a 77mm optic which enables me to swap filters with my 100-400 lens. Looking at the front of this lens almost makes you think that it's a fisheye lens and in all honesty it's not far off! Moving the zoom to 10mm produces breath-taking images with amazing clarity.

When looking to purchase this lens I was also considering the Sigma 10-20mm lens. After reading several reviews I opted for the Canon. Not only did I want all my kit to be Canon but I found out that, although winning a couple of reviews the Sigma lens can suffer from inconsistant manufacturing meaning that the results could vary on different lenses. On this basis I took the safe bet and opted for the Canon - I wasn't disappointed!

Be warned though, this lens only fits Canon EF-S cameras. I believe there is a way of filing something off to make it fit other cameras but after spending a fair chunk of money on it I wouldn't recommend it!

You can see the results of this lens in the Travel section if you want to see how well it performs.

For more information on this lens visit the Canon website here.

Manfrotto 055PROB and 460MG

Although these items are purchased seperately they aren't much use without each other. When buying a Manfrotto tripod it comes without a head so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. I opted for the 055PROB tripod and the 460MG head.

I chose the 055PROB for its sturdiness and quality. It is a heavy duty tripod with so much adjustability that it can be set a few centimetres above the ground or around 1.8m in the air.

The 460MG head was a choice I made for two reasons. It has a load bearing capability that would hold my 100-400mm lens and it was relatively inexpensive. This head has a 360 degree spirit level which helps to set up for a perfectly level shot. There are three knobs to move to set the angle, some of which can be quite fiddley. It also has a quick release plate for changing to hand-held within a second or two.

My overall impression of this kit is that the tripod is fantastic. It is easily adjusted and has a great range of set up options. I will be replacing the head in the near future to one that allows a bit easier degree of movement, such as the 322RC2. Of course, weight will always be a consideration regarding the head but if I don't get anything heavier than the 100-400mm this head will last me for a while.

For more information on this tripod visit the Manfrotto website here.

Manfrotto 681B Monopod

Based on my experience with the Manfrotto tripod I opted to get the 681B Monopod. This has proven to be an extremely useful purchase that I use on many occasion. Attaching this to the adapter on the 100-400mm lens allows me to take photos at a lower f-stop and still get sharp images whilst still retaining a great degree of movement. I use this monopod mainly for sporting events, or anywhere else where I need to use the large lens.

It became such an important part of my setup that when I accidentally left it propped up on the side of my car after the World Superbike Championship at Donington and drove off I ended up buying another one exactly the same! Lesson learned - look after it better!

For more information on this tripod visit the Manfrotto website here.

Sony CyberShot DSC-W50

I bought this camera for my ex-girlfriend as a birthday present. She wanted a camera that we could take out to social events. Obviously I couldn't take my 30D and phone cameras are pretty useless so this was the best solution. Personally, I've never been interested in owning a compact digital camera. The fun for me is in SLRs and their adjustability. So, quite to my amusement, it came as a bit of a shock to actually like this camera.

Ok, so it does suffer from a bit of shutter lag (the delay between pressing the button and the picture being taken) and, in low light it can have a problem focusing but those aside it's a cracking little camera - there I said it!

Add to this the fact that for sixty quid you can get an underwater case for it and you've got a pretty good, all round camera that will also take videos.

The user interface on it is very easy to understand and even the most amateur snappers will be taking great shots in no time. The screen is bright and clear but can be difficult to see in very bright sunlight and the 6.1 mega-pixel output is suitable for printing up to A4 at high quality.

Would I consider one for my collection? Well, yes, I think I would. With digital compacts as they are today I would personally choose a higher mega-pixel version, such as 10 or 12 but as for the quality of the photos it can take, I'd strongly recommend it.

For more information on this camera visit the Sony website here.

Sony CyberShot Waterproof Case

With a holiday of a lifetime coming up I decided to get serious with my photographic kit and went and bought an underwater case for the Sony CyberShot DSC-W50. At 60 it wasn't exaclty cheap but compared to the alternatives available for the Canon 30D it was a drop in the ocean.

And that's exactly what I did with it! How do you test that your new waterproof case is actually waterproof? Well you chuck it in the water and hope it floats!

Much to my relief it did. So after checking the case for leaks inside I set about using it.

So was it any good? It is! Framing a subject was a bit awkward when you've got a face full of diving mask but once you get the hang of it everything works well. The buttons can be a little fiddley, the mode selection on this camera is a wheel so selecting the right mode for use can slow you down. Add this to the fact that the main lens cover needs wiping regularly to remove obstructions and not all of the shots will work. However, for a beach holiday I would strongly recommend getting one. We could leave the camera on - or in the sand without worrying about it getting damaged. To clean it, all you have to do is put it under the shower for a minute (you should always wash it in fresh water before removing the camera anyway.

The camera is approved to 3m or 10ft. I got the camera to about 5m and it still remained water-tight. Don't take my word for it though. If you bought one of these it might not have been made as part of the same batch as mine and may not cope with the pressure so well. Saying that though, you may be able to push yours further. Let me know if you do!

So, how did the shots turn out? Suprisingly good. Most of the images came out with a turquoise cast on them but a little 'photoshopping' solved this. I think the price of this case is mainly down to the glass in front of the lens. It appears to be ultra-clear so it doesn't have much of an effect on the image and it does this well. The turtle shot in the Maldives section is one of the images I took with this camera. There are others on this site too - see if you can find them...

For more information on this case visit the Sony website here.

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