Category Archives Photo Gear

Earlier this week I was in Las Vegas at the WPPI show (the big Wedding and Portrait Show), and I was honored to be asked to give a talk in Canon’s booth on any topic I’d like (that’s me during one of my talks on Monday â” photo by Brad Moore).

While the name of my talk was “Photo Recipes” a big part of the talk was about lenses, but not the standard lens demo stuff (use this lens for weddings and this lens for sports, and the like), but thinking about lenses in the bigger picture (no pun intended there, but I wish it had been): from the fact that the moment you pick up a lens and put it on your camera, you’ve already made your first composition decision, to why so many people aren’t happy with their lens (and it’s not about sharpness or clarity, weight or price).

Here’s the condensed version
It was a 45-minute presentation so I can’t fit it all in here, but one topic I did touch on (with lots of examples) was why so many folks tell me they think their photos either look like snapshots or are just “nothing special” and I think part of that can be attributed to their lens selection. In particular, I feel (just my opinion here, but I’m not the first one to say this), that there’s a lens range that I consider kind of a “no-man’s land” for lenses because it’s where most of the worst photos are taken â” when you’re first starting out. That range, when you’re a beginner, is where your worst shots are made (stay with me here), and then you get better and leave those behind.

One of my favorite quotes ever
It comes from Bresson and it’s so right on the money:

He’s right, ya know. Now, let’s think about which lenses most photographers these days start out with. Usually, a kit lens, probably an 18-55mm. You can opt for other kit choices, like a 24-105mm or another popular one is the 18-135mm. But most beginner’s photos are going to be taken within that no-man’s land range of anywhere from 18-135mm with lots of shots at 50mm, 70mm and maybe the 100mm range. The reason I don’t really like a 24-70mm on my full-frame camera is that it’s fairly equivalent to an 18-55mm on a crop sensor camera. That range makes an awful lot of average pictures for people just starting out. It’s the beginner’s range of choice.

So, am I saying you can’t take a good picture with an 18-55mm or an 18-135mm?
Absolutely not. I am not saying that at all â” a lot of folks take amazing pictures with an 18-55mm. But a whole lot more, don’t.

So what are you saying?
Most folks that are new to photography are playing the middle ground when it comes to focal lengths. Using the average, standard default focal lengths they have with kit lenses. They live and die in that beginner’s range because they haven’t bought their first “2nd lens” yet, and here’s why this matters:

(1) They can shoot a wide angle shot, but not super wide. Just “average wide.” Like everybody else.
(2) They can shoot a telephoto shot, but not nearly tight enough to really bring you in close to see detail, like the pros do.

I think that’s one big reason they’re unhappy with their shots â” and why I feel they often describe their own shots to me as “average.” They’re comparing their images to the ones they see the top pros make, and their shots just don’t look like that. They’re not that wide. They’re not that close. They’re not that “something” and they probably don’t realize what it is, which makes it all even more frustrating. That average kit focal length definitely makes it harder (not impossible, but certainly harder) to create really compelling images because it’s harder to “stand out from the crowd.” At those focal lengths, you’re producing the same types of shots everybody else with a kit lens does. That’s before we even get to the sharpness issues, which is a post unto itself.

So, what is super wide and why does it matter?
My go-to lens for the past year has been Canon’s 16-35mm lens, and quite honestly, I could just tape the barrel down at 16mm â” I rarely ever shoot it at anything but 16mm, because when I go wide, I don’t want to go “a little wide” â” I want the image to have a chance of looking epic. Of looking big, and sweeping and just flat-out different the instant you see it. I certainly don’t always hit that goal. In fact, I rarely hit that goal, but at least I know it won’t be because of my lens choice â” it will be on me; what I’m shooting and how I composed it. Those alone â” I’m not limited by my lens.

But I want to go wider!
Wider is better, and I just started shooting Canon’s 14mm lens after Brad tried one out shooting a concert and was raving about it’s sharpness, but beyond that it’s just the “look” you get when you get that wide. It brings something different to the table â” something that instantly captures attention. That’s the kind of lens I want to be using (I don’t care that it’s a prime â” I’ll zoom with my feet).

Soon, I’ll be able to go even wider
My dream lens was just announced by Canon, and as soon as it ships, I’m picking one up (that’s a heads up to B&H â” please keep one for me, and can I get free overnight shipping?). It’s an 11-24mm zoom. I haven’t seen one yet. I haven’t shot it, but I know it’s going to bring me the opportunity to take even wider shots, and show a view most folks aren’t already used to seeing day-in, day out. It’s still on me; choosing the subject and composition, to make the shot, but I know at least with a lens that wide I’ll be starting on 2nd base.

For just two shots from each shoot, I want to go even wider. I want to go “fish”
Last year I started using the Canon 8-15mm fisheye zoom, and I absolutely love it (but I don’t use it at anything other than 15mm fish, so I get the full fish effect but without blacking out any of the edges or turning it into a full circle at 8mm). That lens creates really captivating images, but I’ve found that when you show someone a fisheye shot from a shoot, I don’t care if it’s a wedding or a bowl game, they’re like “Wow! That is really cool!” When you show them a second fisheye shot, they’re like “That’s cool” and if you show them a third it’s like “Uh huh.” It’s a special effect lens, and while it has real wow factor for one or two shots, (it tends to get old real fast, like highly processed HDR), so I know going in to the shoot that I’m only going to show one or two shots from it, but those one to two I show will have a huge impact, and knowing I’m going to get two shots that nobody else has, and that they’re going to have a big impact, well, that’s money in the bank where I come from.

Go long or go home
Dave Black said that to me once about shooting the same semi-long lens at a football game everybody else is shooting, but I think his advice extends way beyond just football. I think this is the other side of the coin that beginners are struggling with â” going beyond that 135mm telephoto focal range, and bring something special to the party. 200mm is a great focal length, and there’s so much you can do with it. My Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 is my workhorse lens. I use it for every sport I shoot, I use it for most every portrait, I use it at weddings, I’ve used it for travel, if I was stuck on a desert island and could only choose one lens, it’d be this (or a 28-300mm for full frame, I’m kinda torn). 200mm is a great focal length for sure. Ya know what’s even better? 300mm. Better yet? 400mm. These are ranges beginners rarely capture, and by shooting at 400mm you’re bringing something different, something special, something with impact to the party â” something that separates you from the crowd.

This past year I shot an Eagles/Titans NFL game using nothing but one lens, Canon’s updated 100-400mm f/4.5 to f/5.6 IS II lens. It cost less than my 70-200mm, but I was in tight at 400mm, and churning out shots for the first time at a pro or college game without using a Monopod. It was a revelation, but without that monopod I was (ahem) unprotected in front and took direct contact down south with the business end of a bullet pass and wellâ¦I saw stars for a few minutes there, but it was still an amazing experience, and one that was financially out-of-reach for a lot of folks, but now is in a lot of shooters’ ballpark (no pun, but come on, that would have been a good one), and that puts them in a better chance to make some magic than they would have in kit land. Again, not that it can’t be done â” there are some amazing kit lens shooters out there â” you just have to be really, really good.

Don’t take all this the wrong way
I know when I write an article like this that it’s natural for people who have, and love, and have maybe gotten great results in what I called a “no-man’s land” focal range lens to get defensive when they read this, and write defensive comments. Please don’t take it that way. I had all those same kit lenses, too. One of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken was taken with the kit lens on my first DSLR, the original Canon Rebel, so I know good shots can be taken with inexpensive lenses. This isn’t about the price. It’s about what lens choice means to your composition, your images, and your impact.

What I hope to do with this article, and what I hoped to achieve with my talks for Canon earlier this week out in Vegas, was for photographers, especially new shooters who are frustrated with what they’re getting, to realize that part of their problem might be partially focal length based, and I want folks to know how important lens selection is to the type of image you’re about to make. I think it’s the starting point of every shot â” the first composition decision â” and why we need to really give some thought to which lenses we use and why we use them, because I truly believe it makes that big a difference. When that realization hits you, you can’t look back. This is important stuff, and I hope this helped, at the very least, to get you thinking seriously about your lens choice next time you’re out shooting, or when you’re deciding on which lens to get next.

I’m off to Sacramento!
I’m there on Monday for the final stop of the most fun seminar to teach I’ve ever taught.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I hope to see you back here on Monday.

All my best,

Going really wide and really long (stop snickering)

Hi Gang: Lot’s of new stuff today:

Above: Here’s the Canon EOS 5DS model.

Above: Here’s the 5Ds R model.


Canon Announces a Full Frame 50.6-megapixel high-resolution DSLR

There are actually two versions : the Canon EOS 5DS and the 5DS R [“with the sensor’s low-pass filter rendered neutral. By cancelling the effect of the filter, the 50.6MP sensor is enabled to deliver an even higher resolution with more intricate details.”]. These are the highest resolution DSLRs out there (well, they’re not quite out-there yet â”  B&H’s page on the cameras says “expected availability” is around June).

The prices are pretty amazingly low for that high a resolution camera: The 5DS is $3,699 and the 5Ds R is $3,899.

Here’s a list of the specs (from Canon):

> Newly designed 50.6 Megapixel full-frame CMOS helps deliver ultra-high resolution images for large-scale printing and extensive, creative cropping, while Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors enable spectacular image quality and processing speed.

> EOS Scene Detection System features a 150,000-pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor for excellent precision.

> 61-Point High Density Reticular AF including up to 41 cross-type AF points and EOS iTR allows for high precision autofocus.

> Advanced mirror control mechanism and new user-selectable shutter release time lag helps suppress camera vibration for reducing image shake.

> Anti-flicker helps compensate for flickering light sources and provides consistent exposure and color during continuous shooting.

> Built-in intervalometer and bulb timer helps deliver expanded creativity.

> 1.3x and 1.6x crop shooting adds superb flexibility, while still delivering high resolution images required for demanding applications.

> Intelligent Viewfinder II with approximately 100% viewfinder coverage.

> Full HD 30p movie capability and Time Lapse Movie function, which takes still photographs at set intervals and combines them into a Full HD movie file.

> High-speed continuous shooting up to 5.0 fps allows you to capture fast action.

> 3.2-inch ClearView II LCD monitor, 170° viewing angle, 1,040,000-dot VGA, reflection resistance with multi coating and high-transparency materials for bright and clear viewing.

> Customizable Quick Control Screen allows you to quickly change frequently used camera settings and functions.

> Support for USB 3.0.

I haven’t had a chance to take this baby out for a spin yet, so at this point I can’t tell you much more than the specs you see above. With those crazy-high megapixel specs normally usually only seen on Medium Format cameras, it looks like the camera will be aimed at the serious landscape photographer, commercial photographers, and portrait photographers that need to make really, really large prints. So basically, the medium format crowd, but at prices that are around $25,000 less (I know resolution alone doesn’t make a medium format camera, a medium format camera, but it’s a good place to start).

You can read the official press releases here.

Canon Announces new 11-24mm zoom lens for Full Frame bodies
OK, this one I am totally drooling over. I already contacted Canon begging to do a field test on it, and if this puppy is as sharp or sharper than my Canon 16-35mm, this will be the next lens I’m buying. I’ve been dying to go wider than 16 with a zoom without going all the way to a fisheye (I already have the 8-15mm fish), so this lens is so right up my alley. Can’t wait (here’s the link to Canon’s press-release).

In Other Friday News: My New Lightroom Tethering and Lightroom Mobile Online Class is Now Available
This new class just went live, and I take you through how to set-up to shoot tethered directly into Lightroom (including how to troubleshoot when things get wonky), and I take you through how to incorporate Lightroom Mobile into your portrait photography workflow. If you’re a KelbyOne subscriber, you can check it out right here.

If you’re not a KelbyOne subscriber, it’s time to get on board (you’ll super-dig it). Here’s the link with details on how to become a member and get access to all our huge library of online training classes on Photoshop, Lightroom and Photography.

OK, it’s after midnight, I’m hitting the sack.

Hope you guys have an awesome weekend!




A few weeks back I got a chance to try out a pre-production model of Canon’s new 100-400mm f/4.5 – f/5.6 USM II lens shooting on the sidelines for an NFL game (Eagles vs. Titans) up at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly, and I thought I’d deliver a field report here in a quick Q&A format. It’s not a technical look or in-depth review, just my initial thoughts after shooting it for a game. Here ya go:

Q. How is the physical size of the lens?
A. It’s really close to the size of Canon’s 70-200mm. It’s just a little bit wider but I was surprised to see it’s actually a little bit shorter than the 70-200mm. However, with the large lens hood attached, it definely looks beefier than the 70-200mm.

Q. How was the weight compared to the 70-200mm?
A. If I handed you the two lenses, you’d think they weighed about the same, but I think technically the 100-400mm weighs about 2 or 3 ounces more.

Q. Which other lenses did you use during the game?
A. None. I shot the entire game using just this one lens.

Q. What was it like shooting with just one lens?
A. It was absolutely awesome!! I cannot tell you how sweet it was using just one body, just one lens, no monopod needed and so lightweight compared to what I’m usually lugging along the sidelines (two camera bodies, a 400mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a monopod). Shooting on a monopod definitely limits you, and affects your shooting angles, so it felt like it does when I shoot my 70-200mm, so that was really nice.

Q. Did the lens get heavy to hold up as the day went on?
A. Not at all. Like I mentioned, it’s about the same as size and weight as my 70-200mm (which I shoot quite often, and it’s usually on my 2nd body at games anyway) so the weight wasn’t an issue.

Q. How’s the overall sharpness of the lens?
A. I felt it was a very sharp lens (especially for the money). It was super-crazy sharp at 300mm and under, and only slightly less at a full 400mm, but I was using a pre-production model on loan (just for that one game) so it didn’t have all the final tuning and adjustments the shipping model will have, but even at that it was still very crisp. I called a buddy of mine who is one of the tech gurus at Canon and he said that the Canon engineers internally are saying the final shipping version of this lens is really close in overall sharpness to the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 (which I think is one of the sharpest lens ever made by anybody), and for a 100-400mm at this price, that’s saying something.

Q. When is it supposed to ship?
A. I believe B&H Photo is shipping their pre-release lens orders today, so I’d say “any day now.”

Q. How was the overall “feel” of the lens?
A. Well, in the first quarter of the game I was surprised how tight the zoom barrel was on this lens (the older version of this lens was a push/pull lens â” you didn’t rotate a barrel to zoom â” you pulled the lens outward or pushed it in). Luckily, between quarters I saw a circular adjustment that lets you set the exact amount of tension you want, so I set it right then to how I like it (which is a looser zoom than the default setting).

Q. Did you use it on a full frame or crop sensor body?
A. I shot on a full frame Canon 1Dx, which is why I could get away with using just that one lens all day.

Q. So, is there a downside to using it on a cropped sensor body?
A. I wouldn’t say it’s a downside, because you gain something but you also lose something â” it’s more of a tradeoff. On a crop sensor body, you’d gain 60% reach, so your 400mm lens suddenly has the reach of a 640mm lens on a full frame body, which is awesome (especially if you’ve ever priced a 600mm lens). However, that means when you zoom all the way out to 100mm, on a crop sensor that’s the equivalent of a 160mm and that would be too tight once the players get close to where you’re shooting from. So, if you’re shooting on a crop sensor body, you would want to have a 2nd lens to switch to for when the team gets inside the 20-yard line (something like a 24-70mm would probably be ideal).

Q. How did the auto-focus perform?
A. I was impressed â” it was pretty snappy! I’m used to shooting some really high-end lenses and this one still felt pretty quick overall.

Q. Who is this designed for lens for?
A. I’d say it’s really designed for daytime sports photographer and for wildlife photographers, but of course it will take a picture of whatever you aim it at, so you’ll see everybody from wedding photographers to portrait photographers using this same lens, especially at its size/weight and price (B&H Photo has it for $2,199).

Q. Is it a Daytime only lens?
A. Well, it’s like this: it’s an f/4.5 to f/5.6 lens, so unless you’re shooting a body with really great high-ISO (low noise) performance (like the 1Dx I was shooting at this game) you’re going to have some really noisy images after dark, or inside a gymnasium or an arena. For wildlife photographers, this probably won’t be much of a problem, but for sports photographers this is something you have to consider, which is why I say it’s a daytime lens. During daylight, it rocks! I set my f/stop to f/4.5 and didn’t change it all day. I had Auto-ISO turned on and set it so the slowest shutter speed it would ever take would be 1/1000 of a second, so the ISO would climb as high as it needed to get that shutter speed. It worked awesome. It would be less awesome (at f.4/5 to f/5.6) at night or indoors.

Q. How did the f/4.5 to f/5.6 range affect you for this game?
A. At first, at the 1:00 pm kick-off it didn’t at all, but later in the game some cloud cover rolled in and my shutter speeds started dropping. Then the game ran long (lots of penalties) so by around 4:30 pm it looked like dusk and the stadium lights were on, and my Auto ISO started climbing. Take a look at the shot up farther on this page â” the shot where Titan’s Lineman Mike Martin is pulling on Sanchez’s jersey  â” that was shot at 1,600 ISO and it’s just 4:41 pm in the afternoon. Lenses with these higher f/stops make you shoot at higher ISOs when it’s not bright sunshine â” it’s that simple, and that’s why I call it a daylight lens. Just my take on it.

Q. Wasn’t there (ahem) an “incident” during this game? Something to do with a bullet pass?
A. Next question, please.

Q. Did you sharpen any of these images?
A. Of course. Every image you see from a pro game is sharpened (I applied an Unsharp Mask filter with these settings: Amount: 90; Radius 1.5, Threshold 0 – to the full-sized images). I didn’t think it would be a fair comparison to put un-sharpened sports images from any lens up against the sharpened sports images you see every day.

Q. Can’t you post an unsharpened image?
A. Sure. Here ya go (below) â” this is an un-edited, un-cropped, tilty, unsharpened, JPEG shot straight out of the camera that needs straightening, brightening, cropping and sharpening. Still looks nice and sharp, but outside of this blog post I would never post ANY sports image without, at the very least, applying sharpening first.

Q. Did you shoot in RAW or JPEG?
A. I shoot all my sports in JPEG, so these are all JPEGs. 

Q. Anything else strike you about it?
A. Not really. I think Canon did a nice job with this lens, and I think at this price, it will make a lot of people happy (especially since the old version was introduced about 10-years ago). What was most memorable for me about shooting with it was just how awesome it was shooting an entire game with just one lens. Shooting without a monopod gives you a big advantage, so that was a big thing, and not ever having to switch bodies or lug all that gear was a real plus for me. I took all my gear to the game, and was expecting to switch to my regular much (ahem) high-priced lens for the 2nd half, but I was enjoying the freedom, size, weight and results so much I decided to just stick with it, and I was really happy with the results.

Q. By the way, who won?
A. The Eagles won 43-24.

(Above: Although I was shooting for the Titans that day, my buddy John Geliebter shoots for the Eagles and I snapped this one of him during a time out. After the game he drove me to the airport in record time to catch my flight, so I owe him several beers next time I see him). 

(Above: That’s my buddy Donn Jones, Titan’s Team Photographer and just one of the greatest guys out there. However, I feel like his iPhone is outdatedâ¦wellâ¦especially since my 6-plus just came in last night. I’m not sure Donn and I can be friends any longer). ;-)

This weekend off I’m to shoot with the Falcons on Sunday for their home game against the Steelers. Might do a few remotes (you know I love that!). I have some shots from the game next week. :)

Hope you all have a great weekend (#gofalcons, #riseup) and we’ll see you back here on Monday.




Welcome to my "9th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide" (yes, last year I brought the "Gonzo" back after a brief break because just calling it a "Holiday Gear Guide" lacked that certain, I dunno, "gonzoness.") So, I now bring you the blog-version of my "Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide" (which appears in the current issue of Photoshop User magazine, seen above) whose light burns brighter than a thousand suns (insert dramatic pause here), featuring an unbridled collection of 100% absolutely necessary gear that there's no way we can see clear to live another minute of our hopeless, desperate lives without. (I gotta tell ya, you have to search far and wide to find any holiday gear guide that uses the terms "hopeless" and "desperate" in the opening paragraph, which is more irrefutable proof that this guide truly stands alone.)

Before we get to the list, remember that the holidays aren't about which gifts you get. They're about how many gifts you get, and the person who dies with the most gifts wins. (By the way, you can now add "dies" to "hopeless" and "desperate," making this the most riveting of all gear guides ever!) Okay, folks, watch your Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung, because here we go!


These are my self-imposed guidelines for which products make it into the guide. It's just two rules actually. First, to be listed here they have to be products that I use myself, and that I absolutely love, and now can't live without (well, I could live without them, but I wouldn't want to). Second, if a product makes the guide, it has to be one I would recommend to a close friend without hesitation, especially if my friend is a personal injury attorney (kidding).

Gear Guide Categories:

In sacred Gonzo tradition, I'm breaking things into three distinct categories:

1: Stocking Stuffers (You can also use these as actual holiday gifts if you're not that crazy about the person.)
2: Great Value Gear (Stuff that's a really good deal for not a lot of money, but he or she will totally dig it.)
3: Cha-ching! (Stuff you buy for the doctor/lawyer/rap mogul on your holiday gift list. This is the stuff that makes them burst into spontaneous tears of joy. Well, at least I would.)


Really Nice Photo Paper

If the photographer on your holiday list has a printer, this is a gift she will truly love because you can never have enough paper (or ink for that matter). Recently, I saw some absolutely beautiful papers from Freestyle Photographic Supplies when I was at Photoshop World in Vegas. You can get an Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy for $11.99. Sweet!

Starting at around $11.99

Remote Shutter Release (Wireless or Wired)

This is one of those gifts that every photographer at one time or another will need, but it's one of the last things we think to buy, which is what makes it such a great gift. You'll need to know the make and model of his camera so you get the right type of connector. Prices start at around $18 for a Nikon or Canon wireless release. Sadly, the better DSLR he has, the more the cable release that works for that camera costs, so just hope he has a lower-end model.

Starting at around $18

Spare Battery

I love this stocking stuffer because even if he has a spare battery, he would still love another one. It's one of those can't-go-wrong stocking stuffers. They're usually fairly inexpensive (from around $40-60), unless of course, he has a high-end camera like a Canon EOS-1Dx ($165) or a Nikon D4s ($149), in which case this gift may test the limits of your friendship. Just sayin'.

Starting at around $40

Collapsible Rubber Lens Hood

This is a really great stocking stuffer because your photographer will love it. They're awesome because they save space while protecting her lens from damage and lens flare, and it looks like it costs a lot more than it did. They start at $4.95. Of course, the price depends on the size of her lens measured in millimeters. For example, a typical 70-200mm lens uses a 77mm size lens hood, which is still only $19.95 at B&H Photo if you buy the B+W brand, and less than half that if you buy the General Brand lens hood.

Starting at $4.95

Some Cool Books

He will love Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Gabriel Biderman and Tim Cooper (around $16 on Amazon), or how about Matt Kloskowski's awesome eBook Landscape Photography Workflow Using Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 on Amazon. (It's an eBook for Kindle or the Kindle app on your tablet or smartphone.) Hey, he might like my new book, part 5 of my The Digital Photography Book series (just $15.80 on Amazon in print or $9.99 for the eBook version), or if you want to splurge a little (and he shoots portraits), get him Picture Perfect Posing by Roberto Valenzuela (around $30 at Amazon).

Starting at $9.99


Macphun Tonality Pro

The king of black-and-white conversion plug-ins had always been Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro (now part of the Nik Collection by Google), and it's still a great plug-in, but there may be a new king in town. Macphun has created a killer black-and-white conversion tool at less than half of the price of buying the Nik Collection. The Pro version is $69.99 and it totally kicks butt! If your photographer is into black and white, this will become her new tool of choice. (The only caveat is that it's Mac only, so make sure she uses a Mac first.)


Think Tank Photo Airport Roller Derby

It's a four dual-wheel roller camera bag that she will absolutely go bonkers over! It holds a ton of gear, and it glides through the airport like it's on rails. Lots of room for lots of gear, and a very well-thought-out bag all the way around (plus, it fits in the overhead bin with no problem). However, fabulous eight-wheeled bags don't come cheap: it's around $390. Give it to someone you love, or someone you want to love you who doesn't yet, but will after you give her this.


MagMod Modular Flash Modifiers

There are a lot of great flash modifiers out there, and MagMod is a new player in this market, but I gotta tell ya, their magnetic system of flash modifiers is so incredibly easy to use that you'll be a hero when the photographer on your list uses this system for the first time. The MagMod Basic Kit is $89, which comes with the MagGrip, MagGrid, and MagGel (magneticâ”it just pops on and off) but then you (or he) can buy accessories fairly inexpensively like $19 for the Creative Gel Set or $25 for the MagGel 2 Slot Kit. Cool stuff!

Starting at $89

BlackRapid CURVE (RS-7) Strap

I learned about this strap about four years ago on one of my photo walks and I've been using one ever since. The strap wraps across the body (great for safety since a thief can't just grab it off your shoulder and take off), and the camera hangs upside-down at the side ready to slide up the strap and shoot at anytime. Really can't say enough about 'em. Around $62 at B&H. Totally worth it.


Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver V5

These are so inexpensive it probably should have been listed under stocking stuffers, but don't let the low price fool youâ”these puppies work amazingly well. They're used for firing your flash or strobes wirelessly and they do a great job of it, even if they're not the prettiest wireless units out there. A set of two is around $75 (and yes, he'll need twoâ”one goes on top of his camera in the hot-shoe mount, the other attaches to the flash itself).

$74.95 for two

SmugMug Portfolio

It's never been more important to have an online portfolio, and SmugMug's gorgeous, newly designed templates have taken the world by storm. If the photographer on your holiday list doesn't have an online portfolio yet (or if she does and she has dreamed of selling her work online), this is the ticket. Their Basic plan is just $40 for a yearâ”so get her a year plan. She'll love you for it!

Starting at $40/year

3 Legged Thing Punks - VYV Magnesium Alloy Tripod & Airhed

I started using one of these British tripods this year and I really love it, and the photographer on your gift list would totally love one, too! It makes an awesome travel tripod and it comes with a ballhead. It has reversible legs so it folds up really small, and it's super lightweight, but amazingly sturdy. B&H carries it for $199. You'll get lots of love in return.


Battery Grip

This is one of those gifts that he will love you for forever because it's so handy, and it will make his camera look and feel more like a high-end pro camera. It also gives him a second battery holder and a shutter button for when he's shooting vertical. They start at around $50 for a third-party grip, but if you buy a Nikon or Canon brand, expect to pay at least two to three times as much, so give the Vello brand at B&H a serious look. You'll be a holiday hero for this one!

Starting at $49.95

MPIX Modern Metal Print

Want to really make a photographer lose her mind? Gift her one of her own images printed on metalâ”it's like seeing her image in HD for the first time. Just remarkable! (By the way, this isn't metallic paper; this is printing on actual metal.) MPIX rocks at these metal prints and you will rock for giving them. They start at $33.99 for an 8×10 (the 12×18 is a good deal at $59.99).

Starting at $33.99

B&H Gift Card

Not sure exactly what to get him? Yes you do. Get him a B&H Gift Card. I don't know anyone who doesn't want something from the greatest photo store on earth, plus this way he can get whatever he wants (within the limit of how much you put on the card, of course). You can order them directly from the B&H site. They send a card and a catalog so it looks pretty substantial.

Starting at $20

Westcott Zeppelin

While this isn't nearly the most expensive gift in this gear guide, it's the biggest, so it may have the most physical impact. It's quite properly named because this mammoth softbox will give you maximum impact as it slowly casts a shadow over the studio space. Okay, I may be overdramatizing the size, but not the impact. Through a clever design, this new softbox allows you to focus and shape the beautiful light by sliding the actual strobe inside the softbox. She will love you for it. Westcott Zeppelin lights cost $399.90 for the 35″ model; $499.90 for the 47″ model; and $699.90 for the 59″ model, which looks like it's the actual size of the Goodyear Blimp when you see it live.

Starting at $399.90

Lightroom + Photoshop CC Photography Bundle

For around $120, you can get her a one-year subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography Bundle where she'll get the latest versions of both Photoshop and Lightroom, plus Lightroom mobile (for iOS), as well as some other goodies. Love will rain down upon you for this gift!



Profoto B1 500 AirTTL

Every photographer who shoots studio strobes on location dreams of two things: working on location without hauling around a battery pack, and shooting Profoto gear. The new Profoto B1 500 AirTTL fills both dreams at once because the battery is built into the sleek body (so no hauling a separate battery pack around). Profoto is the cream of the crop for performance, and they're gear is built like a tank (which is why most rental houses offer Profoto as their main line). But the price of the B1 500 AirTTL isn't for just anyone at $1,995â”definitely for pros or for the Wall Street insider on your holiday gift list.


Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) Backup

This is a very important and powerful gift because this will house your holiday photographer's entire photo collection in a safe, rock-solid storage system (the same one I use myself), plus it will give her access to her images no matter where she is (via the Web). I've been looking for a kick-butt backup and archive system for years, and this is the one! A totally mind-blowing gift. Use their NAS Selector to find out which one is right for the photographer on your list. This may be one gift where you tell them up front, "I'm getting you a Synology NAS," so you get the right one for her needs (and the outpouring of unconditional love may start before the actual holiday does).

Starting at around $380

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

I know I've been something of a cheerleader for this camera since Canon announced it in late September, but it's because I think Canon did something really special with this camera aimed at sports and wildlife shooters. They put pro specs into an affordable camera body, so you no longer need to have NFL-sideline-quality gear just to get great photos of your kids' high school sporting events. With 10 frames per second, a 20.2-megapixel sensor, and much improved high-ISO noise performance over the older 7D that it replaces, I think it's an amazing camera at a brilliant price. He will follow you around like a puppy for the rest of his life if you buy him this.


Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-f/6.3 Di VC PZD (for Full-Frame DSLRs)

This is the lens I use as my all-around travel photography lens. It's lightweight, compact in size, and you can't beat the price as far as value goes. Will it be the sharpest lens in his bag? Nope. Will it be the lens he turns to again and again because it covers everything from wide-angle to super-telephoto? Yes it will. Will you be showered with affection for giving a lens as a gift? Yes you will.


DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Copter

The popularity of these DJI copters is exploding because, quite simply, they let your camera fly in the air for stills or video, and photographers have absolutely flocked to them in the past year. This isn't just photography, this is fun! It's $1,229 with a spare battery, and it's worth every single penny. This may be the coolest gift ever.



A One-Year KelbyOne Membership

Wanna give him a gift that he'll remember all year long? How about world-class online training on everything from Photoshop to Lightroom to photography? It's $249 for an entire year (with 24/7 access to literally thousands of lessons), or just $25 a month. Not only will he love you for it, so will I.

$249/year; $25/month

Corey Barker's Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers, Volume II

The name says "for designers," but since just about every project in the entire book starts with a photo, it's really a special effects book for designers, photographers, or anybody who wants to learn how to create amazing effects in Photoshop.


Treat Them to a Live Seminar

Buying someone a ticket to one of these full-day seminars would make an awesome gift. My "Shoot Like a Pro" tour, Matt Kloskowski's tour for learning Lightroom, or Joe McNally's "The Power of One Flash" tour are among the choices.
Starting at $89; $79 per person for groups of five or more

Treat Them to Photoshop World Vegas

Give him a full conference pass to the Photoshop World Conference & Expo. It's a three-day Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography love-fest. If you buy it for him now, you can get $100 off with the Early Bird discount. If you want to get a one-day pass instead, it's just $249.
Starting at $599
Well, there ya have it — hope you find it helpful for your Holiday Gear Gift Shopping! :)



Hi gang: This weekend I got a chance to take two Canon 7D Mark IIs out for a real world field-test shooting two football games: On Saturday the Tennessee Vols vs. the Florida Gators, and on Sunday the New York Giants vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Met Life stadium in New Jersey. (Note: the two camera bodies I used were overnight loaners from Canon of pre-production demo units â” they are not the final shipping cameras â” so they’re not quite finished yet, but they’re far enough along that I could at least test them and give you, and Canon, feedback).

I’m posting some high resolution samples here (below), but make sure you watch the video above because we tackled all the important stuff you’d want to know about (of course, we talked a lot about high-ISO performance), plus we took loads of questions during the broadcast (I’m joined by RC Concepcion and Brad Moore in the studio). It’s really kind of “three guys sitting around talking about a camera” type of show and I show lots of my photos (not just sports stuff) taken with the 7D Mark II.

Above: Specs: Shot as JPEG image. 640 ISO. 1/1000 of a second at f/5.6. 560mm (400mm with a 1.4 tele-extender). If you click on this low-res preview, it will take you to the full high-resolution image you can download. I cropped-in a tiny bit to fix composition and I brightened the image 1/2 stop, but it’s still a bit under-exposed [I was shooting JPEG and used Exposure Compensation to overcome some highlight clipping I wouldn’t have even worried about if I had been shooting in Raw]. No sharpening, noise reduction, vibrance or any of that type of stuff in post. By the way, it’s killing me to post a non-sharpened image. Just sayin’.

We Covered a Ton!
We covered what worked, what I wish were different, and literally just minutes before we started taping a tech-rep at Canon called in and helped out by showing how to fix my #1 complaint about the camera for shooting sports (which we show how to address during the show above). I still had to whine about a few things (I hope Canon is listening), but I covered the stuff it did right as well. We really tried to cover all the questions we’d been hearing on social and here on the blog as best we could.

Above: Shot in JPEG mode (we explain why on the video). This one’s at 1,000 ISO at 1/1250 of a second. Same lens as above. Cropped in a bit. We also show a large print of this on the show. 

RC Totally Scores!
My favorite part of the broadcast comes around the 2/3 to 3/4 mark when RC absolutely nails why this camera is so important, and he really articulated what I’ve been trying to say about the 7D Mark II since the official announce. You’ll know when it happens because I literally high-fived him for stating it in a way I wish I had, because he really put it all on context.

Above: I used Auto ISO to shoot in the locker room before game time. That image you see above? That’s 16,000 ISO. Click on it to get the high-res version (no noise reduction in post â” and that was shot in JPEG mode). It’s shot at f/2.8 at 1/1000 of a second using a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. You definitely do see noise on the full res image (heck, you see noise on a 1Dx at 16,000 ISO), but I was still pretty amazed that a crop-sensor camera could get this kind of performance at 16,000 ISO. 

I’ll be around today to try and answer any questions we didn’t cover during the broadcast (if you’re going to ask about noise, please watch the video ’cause we covered it to death), so just leave me a comment here and I’ll do my best (Note: I just did a field test â” not an in-depth lab report, so if you ask me pixel-peeper style in-depth techie stuff I’m probably not the right guy to answer those, but I might be able to find someone at Canon who can answer those types of questions).

Above: I thought I should at least post one image actually taken at 100 ISO, so here ya go. This is uncropped, un-anything; shot in JPEG mode. Again, click on it to see the high-res version. 

Anyway, hope this helps, and here’s wishing you your best Tuesday yet!



P.S. We’re only four days away from my 7th Annual Worldwide Photo Walk. If you haven’t registered to join the local walk in your city this Saturday, it’s not too late. Here’s the link.