Photo Equipment Review

Playing with a Lensbaby Composer

Winchester Highstreet A little over a year ago I got a Lensbaby Composer (on Amazon). For Christmas this year, I was given the Creative Aperture Kit 2 (On Amazon). Given the inactivity on this website I figured I should give a run through of the sorts of images this Lensbaby could produce and a few samples of how the creative apertures can help enhance them.

When I first got the lens I experimented a little indoors and outdoors. One of the first things you'll notice about the photos is that not everything is in focus. The focal plane (ie the bit that's in focus) is curved due to the type of lens. So if everything is set up straight, the middle of the photo will be in focus and as you get towards the edges it'll become more out-of-focus. This can obviously be manipulated by tilting the lens in a particular direction in order to move the in-focus area around the photo.

This can allow your attention to be directed easily to a particular part of the photo.

 

Some other samples

CupcakesMini (2004 model)Winchester Highstreet

 

Using the Creative Apertures

RC Car with Christmas tree backgroundThe way you change the aperture with this Lensbaby is with a small supplied magnetic arm (ie manually). This also allows different shapes to be added which will change the way your image looks in an out-of-focus areas. There is one kit that allows you to literally make you own shapes (On Amazon). The kit I have comes with 9 pre made shapes. Once dropped into the lens, the first thing you'll want to do is take some out-of-focus photos of fairy lights! Thankfully at Christmas these are not usually far away. The photo on the left was one of the first few that I took showcasing the star aperture.

I've included a few more samples below showing the other shapes in use. I just wanted to explain the last one though. For this one I wanted to enhance the fairy lights in much the same way as an out-of-focus shot would have done, while still retaining the detail of an in focus one. I considered multiple exposures then 'photoshoping' then but, after some trial and error, managed to get it on a single exposure by adjusting the focus mid-shot. The result is weird and interesting... not unusual for any photo taken with a Lensbaby lens.

If you want a cheap lens for your regular photos this is not it, you cannot get 'normal' photos due to manual everything and the curved focal plane means you're only going to get half a photo in focus at best. However if you want a (relatively) cheap lens that you can have some fun with, then this is for you. The photos have a distinctive arty look which after a little practice, can produce Instagram beating photos with full DSLR quality straight from the camera.

 

More creative aperture examples

Greetings card Presents around the treeFocus effect Christmas tree

Playing with IR photography

I recently bought an IR filter in order to experiment with IR photography. The Green.L 760nm IR filter from amazon marketplace. Today with the sun out, I decided to give it a go.

What makes IR photography different?

By blocking visible light with the lens filter, you allow the camera to pick up normally invisible Infra-red light. This 'new' light makes grass and leaves show up bright white explaining the snowy appearance of the photos. As a result of blocking all the blue, green and almost all of the red light, the photos are technically monochromatic (one hue). The images appear red and white directly from the camera.

With channel mixing you can swap the red and blue making the images look a little more natural. Alternatively you can go down the faux colour route, making up your own colours for everything!

Gallery

I created some Adobe Lightroom presets for the two faux colour shots, Lightroom IR Presets.

Gallery also viewable on Flickr.

Sony DSC-WX10

My parents got this camera a few weeks ago. Despite having access to this camera for a while, I've only just got round to taking some 'real' photos with it. I've already tested it in poor lighting conditions on full auto (green) mode here. On that page I show how this camera has a nice wide angle lens with good zoom capability and strong low light performance.

In summary, it takes good photos with no effort. One thing you notice straight away when using the WX10 is that the build quality is not as good as it's predecessors. My W7 had a 'metal-alloy' shell and the W300 a titanium one, the WX10 is plastic and the buttons feel cheap too. Do I think it'll fall apart? No, but it is a step backwards.

The WX10 is packed full of features I personally have no use for, like HD video recording and 3d panorama sweep. Both great features to have (so ideal for my parents) but I couldn't be bothered to test them out here. There was one feature I wanted to share and that is the built in HDR within the scene selection. It works well and will make a huge difference to holiday shots in cathedrals and other 'difficult' light environments.

Built in HDR demonstration

Testing built in HDR

Clear improvement with the HDR mode

The camera was positioned pointing predominantly at the sky for both shots (as seen) and metering set at default (multi position). The shot of the left was taken on full auto (green) mode and on the right on HDR mode (via SCN). 

I'm impressed at the results, the camera only took a second or two to save the picture. A lot less time than it takes to edit a RAW shot from a DSLR to get the same end photo. The detail on the under side of the trees is much more clearly visible.

Worth noting that these photos, other than being aligned and cropped, are untouched. 

 

Sony DSC-WX10Sony DSC-WX10Sony DSC-WX10

 

I rushed taking these photos and unfortunately due to the dim light, the photos are all a little fuzzy. Although tempting to blame the Canon 450D for sucking in low light, it was because I was meant to be catching a train so didn't get the flash out! Anyway, you get the idea...

Quick Stats

  • 16.2 Megapixels
  • 7x Optical Zoom
  • 24mm (35mm equivalent) wide angle
  • ISO 3200
  • Continuous Shooting for 10frames at 10Hz or 2Hz
  • Sweep Panorama
  • 1080(50i, Interlace) Video Recording (& 720p 30fps)
  • Carl Zeiss lens

Sample Images

Also on Flickr in original sizes.

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Canon 450D

The Canon 450D is my first and only DSLR camera. Despite this, I feel I know how to use it and do use it well enough to complain when I want more 😛 . My only real complaint is the poor handheld low light performance.

In short, I love the camera due to it's easy controls, small size and all the extra bits I have for it (see equipment).

The 450D has been upgraded 3 times from Canon (500D, 550D and most recently the 600D) the main upgrades are the addition of video recording and the improvement of sensor's sensitivity up to ISO6400 (on the 600D). When compared to the mere ISO1600 of the 450D, this is a vast improvement. The 450D is only capable of ISO1600 when set manually, in the same way the 600D is actually capable of ISO12800! There is more to it than just the numbers such as noise levels at a given ISO level but these improve with technology updates. If I were to buy now I'd definitely get one of the 500's for the additional low light help, the 600D is usually priced higher than the 450D ever was. I found a nice comparison between the 600D and 450D over on snapsort.com.

Canon 450D

 

Quick Stats

  • 12.2 Megapixels
  • ISO 800 (ISO1600 when set manually)
  • 3.5fps
  • EF-S Canon lense system (also accepts EF)
  • Plastic
  • SD card (SDHC compatible)

Example photos