Tag Archives: dx format


 (Bill Ferris)

r Late on a summer day while finishing a long hike from the South Rim of Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and back, I stopped along South Kaibab trail to capture this image. Twilight bathes the inner canyon, rendering the temples and buttes ghostly silhouettes. This photo was taken with a Nikon D70 and Nikkor AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G lens. (Bill Ferris)

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Canon and Nikon won’t tell you this but, as fantastic as their high end professional lenses are, you don’t need them to take great photographs. The kit zoom lens that came with your entry level camera body is perfectly capable of taking a great photo. So, if you’re just getting into photography or are about to make the transition from shooting film to shooting digital, don’t let smug comments about amateurish kit lenses deter you.

Canon and Nikon are the dominant manufacturers of digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. Amazon.com updates their “Best Sellers in DSLR Cameras” list on a daily basis. Canon and Nikon are typically the only two companies in the top 20. In the Under $700 category, Canon’s EOS Rebel T3 and T3i, and Nikon’s D3100, D3200 and D5100 are top-selling DSLR’s. All come with 18-55mm kit lenses. Of course, you can purchase just the camera body or substitute another lens. However, there is a strong case to be made for getting the kit lens with your entry level camera body.

Let’s look at the specs for these optics. Canon’s kit lens is the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II. The Nikon variant is the AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR. On paper, both offer the same focal length range, aperture range and built-in image stabilization technology. Designed for use with crop sensor bodies, the effective 35mm zoom range for the Canon lens is roughly 29mm at the wide end to 88mm at the long end.  Nikon’s DX format sensor is slightly larger than Canon’s. The Nikkor 18-55mm delivers a 35mm zoom range of 27mm to 83mm. Both are street priced under $200, offer good optical performance and excellent value.

These mid-range zooms offer versatility that will meet the needs of most photographers. You’ll be able to shoot everything from wide angle scenics to portraiture. Their plastic construction means these are not rugged lenses. They’ll crack or break, if treated roughly. And they’re not weather sealed. If it starts to rain, you’ll want to stow the camera until the sun comes out. But these high value optics are also lighter and more comfortable to wear around the neck all day than professional grade zooms.

What are the hallmarks of a professional optic? As already mentioned, professional lenses offer more rugged construction with metal parts and tighter seals to protect against the elements. They’re also optically faster. At the wide end, the above-mentioned kit zooms operate at f/3.5. In other words, the focal length is 3.5x the aperture (opening) of the lens. Professional lenses typically offer focal ratios of f/2.8 or faster. In other words, the lens aperture is larger.

Why is this of value? Well, the larger the aperture with respect to the lens focal length, the shallower the depth of field. So, if you simply must have a lens allowing you to shoot portraits with super sexy bokeh (out of focus background) or freeze the action during an outdoor athletic event at night, you should invest in fast optics. But if you do most of your shooting during the day, if you enjoy crisp landscapes, or if you’re satisfied by modest soft focus in your portraiture, the kit lenses Canon and Nikon package with their entry level DSLR bodies are more than up to the task.

On the evening of March 11, 2005, the Moon and Mercury set together shortly after the Sun. This photo, taken from Sunset Crater National Monument just north of Flagstaff, captures the event. (Bill Ferris)

The Moon and Mercury hang in a twilight sky cradled in the branches of a silhouetted tree.. This photo, taken from Sunset Crater National Monument just north of Flagstaff, was made with a Nikon D70 DSLR and Nikkor AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G lens. (Bill Ferris)

Back in 2004 when I made the move from a classic Nikon F3 35mm film camera to the highly regarded Nikon D70 DSLR, I purchased the AF-S DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G kit lens. In 2010 when my D70 body was damaged beyond repair during a backpacking trip in Grand Canyon, I upgraded to the 12MP Nikon D90. But I kept the 18-70mm kit lens. It’s been a good performer for me, as evidenced by the above images. I have added two lenses to my kit in the last couple of years. They are a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 Pro DX wide angle zoom and a Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR telephoto zoom. Both compliment the old, trusty 18-70mm and the thee-lens set delivers an 35mm equivalent zoom range from 18mm to 450mm.

Now, I’m not here to blow smoke up your tailpipe. I’ll admit it, I covet the so-called holy trinity of Nikkor glass: 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. All are AF-S, f/2.8 zooms delivering images so sharp they cut glass. This covetous condition is a common malady affecting many photographers. However, not having these lenses has not stopped me from doing photography or from capturing the occasional great image. Would these lenses allow me to take photos for which my current stable of glass is not suited? Yes. Do kit lenses and affordable third-party lenses render one incapable of doing great photography? Absolutely not!

Get out and shoot.

Bill Ferris | August 2013


Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon National Park basks in the warm glow of sunrise on a mid-summer morning. It is amazing to me that places such as this, with its deeply rich natural hues, can be found on this earth. (Bill Ferris)

Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon National Park basks in the warm glow of sunrise on a mid-summer morning. It is amazing to me that places such as this, with its deeply rich natural hues, can be found on this earth. (Bill Ferris)

Too loud. Garish. Unnatural.

These are words some critics use in lamenting the presentation of bright, bold colors in high dynamic range (HDR) photography. Personally, I like richly saturated hues in my photos. That said, I acknowledge and respect your right to enjoy and celebrate the photographic styles that touch you. After all, photography is deeply personal. There should be room for a wide variety of perspectives and a multitude of forms of expression within the medium.

If asked to describe my HDR photographic style, I suppose the phrase I would choose is, deeply natural. It’s a simple phrase, just two words, but conveys far more about my taste in photography than meets the eye. I’ll begin with the second word, natural. I like my photos to have a natural appearance to them. A natural-looking image is inviting. It’s a whisper saying, step a little closer and have a good look. Natural is something you want to touch, to linger over and sit with. Natural welcomes a long visit.

To preserve that natural quality, I tend to back off on the depth of the processing…just a touch. I mean, let’s not kid around, my HDR is clearly HDR. It’s got that look but it also retains enough of the subject’s inherent beauty to have a natural look. It’s not landscape porn. It’s the landscape next door.

Which brings us back to the first word, deeply. As mentioned at the outset, I like deep rich hues in my photos. These aren’t colors as they appear to my eye. Rather, they’re the colors seen by my soul. When a scene touches and inspires me to pull out the camera and tripod, it comes alive in a way that goes well beyond what can be seen with the eye. It reaches deep inside. The details get a little sharper, the sky a little bluer, the colors brighter and richer.

Bryce Point at sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon National Park basks in the warm glow of sunrise on a mid-summer morning.

Bryce Canyon National Park is truly an American gem. What makes this place so magical are the amazing colors in the stone. They are both totally real and completely unnatural at the same time. For an HDR photographer, the unique quality of the color makes Bryce Canyon heaven on earth.

Occasionally, nature does the work for me. The gorgeous, slightly more intense than life quality comes baked into the scene. That above photograph is a perfect example. Those electric day glow colors are totally natural. Catching the early morning light, this is how Bryce Canyon looks. It’s more than the color of reflected light. It is as though the stone hoodoos and rock layers are powered by an inner rainbow glow.

Is it loud? Garish? Unnatural? Maybe so. But that is Bryce Canyon, one of the most unnatural looking wonders on the planet. Bryce Canyon is a place that has to be seen to be believed. It’s like candy to an HDR baby.

So, where is your naturally amazing wonder? Where do you go to find inspiration? Keep that thought in mind. Grab the car keys, and get out and shoot!

Bill Ferris | July 2013