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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Shift Your Perspective

It is a universally acknowledged fact that we, as people, love to document the places we visit by means of photograph. This travel tradition isn’t just limited to checking out new states or countries.

No, no, we do this all the time now, thanks to social media. We can post our “Hi mom!” pics from anywhere, even our favourite coffee place up the street.

Because we’re all a little guilty of using our phone cameras more than our actual cameras, we’ve probably noticed a difference in the field of view between the two. If this annoys you, there are solutions to help you capture more of what you’re seeing.

One of them is wide angle lenses. They don’t have to be extreme to get the point across, either.

Essentially, they let you fit more into your field of view which can lend to better, more expansive looking skies and landscape shots. If you’re travelling, this is a nice little option.

Another significant feature is that they can make small spaces look bigger or truer to life. This is a much better way for real estate and interior photographers to capture a broader, more realistic view of an entire room for clients.

These are the kind of photos that get people interested in visiting your space or inspecting your properties, so that’s really something to keep in mind if you provide these services.

As a comparison, we shot the interior of a car because that’s nice and cramped.

On the left, 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens vs a 12mm f/2 wide angle lens on the right

We shot on an APS-C camera with a common kit lens and a wide angle prime. While the difference doesn’t seem like much on paper, you can see it in the pictures. The wide lens makes things look more spacious or further away. For a more dramatic comparison, here’s what a 28mm f/2 looks like next to the same 12mm f/2.

 Left: The 28mm f/2 lens becomes closer to a 42mm on APS-C.   Right: Still the same 12mm f/2 as above.

Yeah, this is way more noticeable. You can see that, even from the same angle in both photo sets, the space changes quite a bit as your field of view increases.

With this increase, however, there’s a conundrum; wide angle distortion.

This becomes very obvious when photographing humans with these lenses. Let’s just say they’re not ideal for portraits and leave it at that.

Most often, you might notice distortion around the edges of your image, especially when taking photos of things like buildings.

The nature of their optical design is such that, when pointed up or down, wide angle lenses can cause make vertical lines appear to pinch in at the top or bottom of the frame depending on how your camera is angled.

This is due to the convex curves of the glass elements. Light can’t enter the edges of a lens the same way it enters at the centre. So in exchange for the increased view, you lose a bit of clarity around the edges.

Enter the tilt shift lens.

These highly specialised lenses are all about perspective and sharpness. They come in a range of focal lengths, including wide angles.

Dang, is that lens broken? Nah, it’s just a Tilt Shift lens doing what it does best.  

As the name suggests, you can physically tilt and shift the optics within the lens, meaning you can setup your camera and make what seem like physical adjustments without actually moving it.

The shift function provides up and down, or side-to-side movements while keeping your sensor and focus planes parallel with the vertical object you’re trying to shoot.

If you’re wondering what the heck that looks like, don’t worry, we’ve prepared a diagram.

On the left, both focus and sensor planes are not parallel to the vertical buildings. On the right, they are.  

As you can see on the left, the sensor and focal planes are not aligned with the vertical rise of the buildings.  The top of the building could be distorted by the top part of the lens.

On the right, both planes are parallel with the buildings, but lens has been shifted upwards to put the buildings in frame using the sharper, central part of the lens.

So instead of composing your image by moving your camera around, you can do this by aligning it with the horizon and just shifting the optics up or down to get your ideal framing.

Once you dial in the perfect amount of adjustment, you’ll notice corrected vertical distortion and better edge-to-edge clarity. This means you can take advantage of the wide angle field of view to capture large structures in their entirety with better accuracy and sharpness. 

Here are some photographs we took with a tilt shift lens to show the difference it can make.

You can see what all of this looks like in the above images. The one on the left seems fine until you add some handy lines that show the verticals are actually at an angle. If those red lines were long enough, they’d eventually converge.

On the right, the lines are straight up and down. This was achieved by using the shift function on our Canon 50mm f2.8L Tilt Shift lens. Side by side, the difference is pretty significant.

Where these lenses truly shine, however, is in creating large scale prints of architecture or cityscapes. They let you capture beautifully sharp photos of buildings and structures without distortion to distract from your overall result.

Now, as you may have guessed, the shift function is only half of what these lenses can do. Stay tuned for our next instalment where we explore the strange and amazing tilt feature!

Want to talk tilt shift with us? Drop us a message on our social media pages

Facebook: Digital Camera Warehouse
Instagram: @dcwarehouse

Monday, February 12, 2018

An Introduction Binoculars and Why They’re Cool

Binoculars are one of those things that people find really fun and cool, but sometimes don’t know what to do with. Or what all the numbers mean. Or what all the weird terms are. Why do I even need these?

Well, for certain kinds of photography they can be incredibly important. For example, if you want to take pictures of wildlife, you have to find it first and binoculars can help with that.

First, let’s dissolve some of the confusion and give you a clear view of why these gadgets are so handy.

What’s with the numbers?

When looking at binoculars, you’ll notice there’s numbers everywhere like they’re supposed to mean something. Well, they do.

These numbers, like 8 x 42 or 10 x 50, aren’t just multiplication. They represent the amount of magnification the binocular provides and the diameter of the front objective lens which is responsible for gathering light.

Magnification x Objective Lens Diameter - So for 8 x 42 binoculars, you know you’re getting 8x magnification, with a 42mm objective lens to capture light and transmit the scene to your little eyeballs.

Obviously, a larger objective lens can gather more light, meaning you’re able to view a brighter image. But bigger doesn’t always mean better. Remember, you have to carry these things around.

Great, got it. Now what?

Now we’ll get into a few other terms you might encounter when searching for the perfect pair of binos. Yes, there’s more than just magnification and objectives, so strap in for a quick breakdown.

Field of View – Exactly what it sounds like. It’s how much of the scene you can see when looking into the eyepieces.

It’s good to note that as the magnification increases, the field of view decreases, so going with high magnification isn’t the be-all and end-all.

If your main use will be general viewing or spotting good locations and wildlife, having a wider field of view is ideal. It’s also better for tracking faster-moving animals which are challenging enough to catch in the first place.

We’ve all noticed this little bright dot when we hold up a pair of binoculars.

Exit Pupil – A virtual aperture that light passes through to reach your eyes. Just like a lens with a camera. Except in this scenario, the camera is your head.

If you’ve ever held a pair of binoculars away from your face, you’ve probably noticed a little bright dot in the eyepieces. That’s the exit pupil and yes, there’s maths to calculate its size.

Objective Lens Diameter ÷ Magnification
Example:  8 x 42 binoculars would be 42 ÷ 8 = 5.25mm exit pupil.

Cool, why does this matter? Well, just like some lenses are better in low light, the same is true for binoculars. Wider exit pupils send more light to your eyes which is better in dim lighting. It isn’t as much of a factor for daytime use, but at dawn or dusk, a larger exit pupil will help.

Bonus fact:  Because human eyes dilate in darker conditions, they’re able to make better use of the amount of light transmitted by a larger exit pupil so your image looks brighter. #suddenlyscience

Pretty easy to spot the difference between Porro prism binoculars (left) and a pair with roof prisms (right).

Prism Type –Binocular optics use either roof or Porro prisms. Usually, you can tell by how they look; if the eyepieces and objectives lenses are in a straight line, they’re roof prisms. If the objectives are wide-set and not aligned with the eyepieces, the binoculars are Porro prism based.

In the past, Porro prisms were the way to go for image quality as they could reflect more light and provide a much clearer, brighter image. Their design, however, makes them a bit heftier, so they’re not always the most portable option.

Roof prisms are positioned in parallel with the lenses and eyepieces, meaning the body size can be more compact. The downside of this style was that it used to reflect less light, so image quality wasn’t the brightest.

Nowadays, the choice mostly comes down to cost. With the introduction of lighter weight materials and more reflective prism coatings, both styles can perform similarly. If you’re looking to save a few bucks without compromising on image, grab a pair of Porros and for portability, look into some good roof prism based models.

Phase Shift – This applies to roof prism binoculars. If you’re leaning toward this style, make sure you look for phase correction coatings.

When light enters the optics and reflects off the prism’s multiple surfaces, the light becomes partially polarised and splits into two misaligned beams.

Without corrective coatings, overall image quality will suffer from lower contrast and clarity, so you definitely want to make sure your chosen pair has the right coatings for a better and more accurate viewing experience.

Image Stabilisation (IS) – Some binoculars have image stabilisation to minimise the appearance of shakiness and movement. This is a really great feature if they’re going to be used every day for critical viewing applications, like rescue spotting or even just to help reduce fatigue.

Of course, some binoculars have a tripod thread, but if you’d rather go handheld, IS will make a world of difference.

If you’re planning to go down this route, Canon has some of the best options available. We were lucky enough to get our hands on some and let me tell you, we spent a lot of time peering out our office windows and whispering “Wow…” when the stabilisation kicked in.

In the above video, you can clearly see the huge difference it makes. Both the view and movement get much smoother and easier to track. The subject, on the other hand… kinda suspicious looking.

To understanding what is happening internally with image stabilisation, Canon have put together this demonstration video of the moving parts inside of one of its binoculars.

And now, young grasshopper, you’re ready

You may have noticed a common theme in the above terms and features. Much like cameras, some binoculars are more suited to certain applications than others. Choosing the right pair depends quite heavily on what your primary use will be, so it’s important to determine that before buying.

A compact pair of roof prism binoculars, 8 x 32 or 8 x 40, is a reasonable starting point for the casual observer. These are easily portable and can be found more cost effectively while still offering a good amount of light transmission, magnification, and field of view.

There are more purpose-built options out there, but that depends on you. Binoculars aren’t a requirement for any kind of photography, but they can sure as heck make it a lot easier to suss out good shooting locations or track and spot photogenic wildlife.

Hot tip for all you astro-photographers out there! Binoculars make a great celestial object spotting tool.
Of course, binoculars aren’t just for spying on animals. Certain models work well for other cool hobbies, like stargazing, and make an awesome companion for a telescope or camera.

A photographer’s arsenal can seem endless, but once you make the jump towards a certain style, you start finding the little things that can make a big difference to your images.

Hopefully this has helped demystify binoculars a little bit and given you a few reasons to think about getting some for yourself!

If you’re up for more binocular chat and tips, give us a shout on our social media channels!

Facebook: Digital Camera Warehouse
Instagram: @dcwarehouse

Monday, February 5, 2018

Top 5 Macro Tips - How to Get Better Close Up Shots

Macro photography encourages you to get up close and personal to your subject, whether it’s an eight-legged, hairy arachnid or a cute little bumble bee covered in pollen. The word macro means big, which is kind of ironic because the subjects are usually tiny, but macro photography is about making images with extremely fine detail that reveal the microscopic world right under our noses.

It can also be a fun way to slow down and explore your own backyard, and I don’t mean pack a camper van and set off for a nice coastal drive, I mean literally go out into your backyard and take pictures of bugs and caterpillars.

Before you delve into the world of macro photography though, there are a few things you should consider. We’ve put together a list of the best tips and tricks as well as some hints to help you make the most of the little things in life.

A stunningly vibrant macro shot with a Ladybird beetle captured by Jill Heyer.

How Close is Too Close?

Once you find a subject that would make a good macro shot, the first thing you’re going to want to do is get your camera as close as possible, right? Macro is all about capturing an image that fills the frame with intricate detail and this is where a tiny bit of lens knowledge can help avoid blurry shots, missed opportunities and general macro-related sadness.

Every lens has a physical limitation called a minimal focus distance, which is a technical way of saying “This is as close as you can get and still focus on your subject”. You may have seen this number printed on the side, front or bottom of your lens. It might look like the highlighted part of the lenses below.
A comparison of different places you might be able to check to find your lenses minimal focus distance.

The part you’re looking for is the measurement in metres. So, for the first lens it is 0.28m or 28cm, for the second it’s the number in the middle, so it is 0.185m or 18.5cm, the top number on this lens is the magnification ratio (we’ll get into that in a bit), and the bottom number is the distance in feet, and finally the last lens has a minimum focal distance of 0.19m or 19cm.

If your subject is closer than the minimal focus distance of the lens, no matter how much you spin the focus ring it just won’t look sharp. If you’re using autofocus (which is not really recommended for macro) you'll hear the autofocus motor hunting back and forth trying in vain to focus. By simply moving your camera further back you should be able to focus and get the shot.

Fun Fact: The minimal focus distance is measured from the sensor plane and is indicated with this symbol “Φ”. In camera talk this is called the focal plane mark or the film plane mark. Feel free to annoy your friends and family with that priceless piece of trivia information.

A macro shot of the focal plane mark on an A7r Mark III mirrorless camera
Check the specifications of your lens to find out how close you can get to your subject and still focus properly. You can also buy specific Macro lenses for a range of different camera mounts like Canon, Micro-Four Thirds, Sony and more that have a closer minimal focus distance and something called a 1:1 magnification ratio.

Keep in mind Nikon call their macro line-up micro lenses, which is technically accurate, even if it is more confusing for everyone else.

Another thing to note is that some manufacturers refer to a working focus distance rather than a minimal focus distance. What is the difference? Well working distance is measured from the end of the lens, where focal distance is measured from the focal plane, or in other words from the sensor.

1 to What? – Magnification Ratios

Many lenses claim to have a macro ability but only those with at least a 1:1 magnification ratio can be considered a “true” macro lens.  So, what is a 1:1 ratio and what does it mean? Is it a made-up term to make us buy more expensive lenses?

Short answer? No, having a 1:1 ratio lens allows you to get significantly closer and still get the shot in focus, making them super useful for macro shooters. Get your hands on a macro lens at any of our stores and you'll quickly realise how much closer you can get with a 1:1 lens. 

A 50mm lens focused at 19cm with a 1:2 ratio compared to being focused at 16cm with a 1:1 Magnification Ratio

Long answer? Okay you asked for it, if you’re still reading this I’m going to assume you want all the gritty confusing details. If you’re happy to know the “why” without knowing the “how” why not skip ahead to the next tip.

A 1:1 magnification ratio means that your subject will be projected onto your sensor at the exact same size as real life. For example, if you have a 1-inch sensor and you take a picture of a ruler you will be able to fill the frame from left to right with 1-inch of the ruler and be able to get the shot in focus as long as it's at exactly the minimum focal distance.

This means with a 1:1 lens you're creating a shot with a 1x magnification, but there are lenses with a greater magnification ratio. The Lawoa 60mm Ultra-Macro Lens has a magnification ratio of 2:1 meaning it projects an image twice as big as real life onto the sensor while the Canon MP-E 65mm has a massive 5:1 magnification ratio making it more microscope than lens.

Steady as it Goes – Using a Tripod

One of the things you’ll notice shooting macro, is that the depth of field is shallow, and we are talking crazy shallow with a tiny sliver of focus that can bounce around every time you inhale. This ultra-blurry depth of field makes it almost impossible to shoot handheld.

But wait a second, can’t I just close down my aperture to like f/16 or f/22 and get the whole scene in focus? I like your enthusiasm but unfortunately at these magnifications, even using higher f-stops you’re going to struggle to get the whole shot in focus. Not to mention that by stopping down you’ve just made your shot darker, which doesn't help your cause.

Most Macro shooters will shoot at these large f-stops as a standard but if you want to bend the law of physics to get wild in focus shots with a very deep depth of field I would recommend reading our Introduction to Focus Stacking Blog, you will still need a very important extra piece of kit though to get really steady shots.

A shot of a tripod, admittedly pointing in the wrong direction for macro. Photo by Andre Hunter

The trusty tripod is used by most macro photographers to remove vibration and control their composition. So, which one is best for macro? Essentially any tripod will work but one with a centre column that can be set horizontally like the Manfrotto 190 Go or the 290 Series are best. Some tripods like the Vanguard VEO 204AB offer 180° of movement to position the centre column, allowing your camera to get into more weird and a wonderful positions than a yoga teacher showing off.

Hot Handheld Hint: If you don’t really want to shoot with a tripod, you can try shooting with a fast drive mode like continuous burst combined with a fast shutter speed of at least 1/200th of a second to reduce blur from hand shake. A fast shutter might cause the shot to become darker, so you may need to raise the ISO, which could result in grainier images but you’ll have an improved chance of getting a sharp shot. Also a fast SD card is essential when shooting in “Spray-and-pray” mode to ensure you can keep taking photos without waiting for the camera to offload your shots.

Get Focused and Stay Focused

If you’re all about getting your lens as physically close to your subject as possible, and let’s be honest who isn’t when shooting macro, you’ll want to lock your focus ring at your minimal focus distance setting. But how do you change your focus if you can’t change the lens settings?

Well, you need to move the entire camera closer or further away from your subject to focus. Sounds annoying, right? Well it is, but there are some nifty tools called Focusing Rails like the Kiwifotos FC-1 that allow you to make ultra-fine adjustments to your camera position in order to adjust focus and framing.
The Kiwifotos Focusing Rails in use capturing an image of a rose.

Lighten the Mood.

The microscopic world is infinitely interesting, with a never-ending list of subjects to capture, but unfortunately there is one finite resource that you'll discover is in short supply, and that is light.

Shooting with stopped down apertures to help achieve a deeper depth of field, or using Extensions Tubes to hack your minimal focus distance all have a downside and that is a dramatic reduction in the amount of light that hits your sensor.

This means you’re going to end up with darker shots unless you can find a way to effectively combat the loss of light. Luckily in this modern age adding extra lighting to your shot is easier and more cost effective than ever before. There are a wide range of Macro Flashes, Ring Lights and LED Lighting available for almost every type of camera.

There are some really specific macro lighting tools out there, for example the Laowa KX-800 is a flexible twin flash with a built-in LED focus light that allows you to position your lighting exactly where you want it.

It is a manual flash, so keep in mind that the final shot will look different to how it looks through the viewfinder and keep your shutter speed slower than 1/250 for most camera models. Whack it onto your camera and you even might start to feel a slight affinity for some of your subjects.

The Laowa KX-800 flexible flash look like something out of a bad 80's horror film but can add extra light to your shot.

Want More?

There is often more than meets the eye with macro photography, and like any skill the more you do it the quicker you will level up and improve.

The tips and tricks we mentioned are by no means comprehensive, there are a lot of complexities with macro and even more specialised gear top understand like tilt-shift macro lenses, Canon lenses with built-in LED lights, or even macro lenses for your mobile phone.

February is Macro Month at Digital Camera Warehouse. If you want more information about macro photography techniques pop into one of our stores because we have exclusive offers, hands on demonstrations and more.

If you’re up for an extended chat about macro photography or looking for some extra tips, give us a shout on our social media channels.

Instagram: @dcwarehouse

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Infographic Comparison: Panasonic GH5 vs GH5s

So how does the Panasonic Lumix GH5 compare against the Panasonic Lumix GH5s?
We have had a go simplifying the comparison between the two with our latest Infograph

With the release of the Lumix GH5s, Panasonic now have two flagship GH series cameras, designed for video shooters but which one is right for you?

The GH5 is perfect for run-and-gun filmmakers who need the flexibility of hand-held shooting with in-body stabilisation and the ability to shoot high resolution stills. In comparison, the GH5s is aimed squarely at professional cinematographers looking to combine the faster frame rates and dual native ISO low-light performance with a gimbal, slider, jib or other movement tool for complete cinematic control.

Watch the latest video to check the dynamic range & low-light performance of Lumix GH5S.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018: New Year, New Photography Resolutions

Hello and welcome to 2018! It’s safe to say the festive season is officially over. No more frantic trips to the shops, the number of family gatherings has dwindled, everyone’s disappeared back into the woodwork until next time.

For some, this time of year is a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Getting back to the familiar routine of your daily grind can almost feel calm in comparison...almost.

That said, a new year means a fresh start. A chance to really jump on the goals we shoved to the backburner in all the hectic celebrating. New Year, new me, am I right?

Come January 1st, resolutions are being made with reckless abandon as most of us are itching to do something new, something different. This could be anything from DIY projects, to hitting the gym, to learning how to make a cracking Pavlova. 

But for those of us that love taking photos, why not tackle a project more relevant to our interests?
Something like a 52-week photo challenge, perhaps?

Snapping 52 photos in one year doesn’t sound like a lot, right? Challenge accepted!

The 52-week challenge is exactly what it sounds like; one new photo every week for a whole year. No big deal, right? Didn’t think so.

Let’s face it, we could always take more photos. For some of us, it’s a hobby, for others it’s something more, but when it comes to shooting for fun, we all find ways to just… miss out.
Taking on a challenge can seem daunting, but it can also be revealing and very fulfilling. All you need is your camera and a little accountability.

There are so many challenges readily available on the internet, even 365-day ones, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You want to ease back into this ‘taking photos for fun’ thing nice and gently and a 52-week challenge should do exactly that.

This exercise is primarily about learning and enjoyment. It’s a great opportunity for novice photographers to push their skills, as well as a chance for veterans to brush up on the simple stuff.
The idea is to just get out there. Take photos for yourself or just for the sake of taking them at all.

Doing your homework always pays off. Spend a little time looking for themes and ideas online before starting.

You might be wondering how to get started right about now. Well, there are a few things you can do, but first things first; dust off your camera, mate.

Next, start thinking about what you can shoot. Taking one photo per week doesn’t sound like a lot, in theory, but it can be challenging to keep coming up with new and creative looking images as the months stretch on.

That’s where themes come into play.

A little research and preparation can save you from becoming demotivated down the line. Before pressing the shutter, try finding some themes you can use as inspiration, rather than just hoping you’ll find something new and interesting to shoot each week.

There’s plenty of existing photo-based challenges, theme sets, and mood boards online already, so be take the time to check them out for ideas.

If you’re going to come up with your own themes, try and aim for at least 10 at a time. That gives you a good buffer to work with and also makes the amount a little more manageable.

When borrowing existing themes and challenges, have a look through the whole thing beforehand to make sure they’re achievable with the gear you currently own. 

This is important for those just starting out as you don’t want to take the wind out of your sails by picking a theme set that involves very specific or advanced techniques.

At the same time, you don’t want to make things too easy. It is a challenge, after all, and pushing yourself to try new things is kind of the whole point.

Staying motivated isn’t exactly the easiest, but with a bit of help and preparation, you’ll nail this challenge!

Just like any other resolution, you might find yourself getting a little less enthusiastic about this whole endeavour as the weeks wear on. Sure, when you first started, everything was fine, you were gung-ho, all guns blazing.

But now you’re busy with work and the weather’s been garbage lately anyway…
No dramas, we’ve all been there so here are a few little tips to keep you motivated!

First off, don’t let yourself make excuses. They’re a lot like a packet of chips; you often can’t stop at just one. If you do have to miss one week, don’t skip the theme, just do two next time.

Battle temptation by making sure you celebrate the little wins. Completing a whole month deserves a little celebration. Maybe buy yourself that new camera strap you’ve been eyeing for a while. 

Acknowledging your achievements will go a long way in helping you get all the way to week 52.
Think about why you decided to do this in the first place. Was it to hone your skills, or just relax and do something fun? Maybe you’re doing this to ‘earn’ your next big piece of gear.

Having an end goal in mind when you start can help keep you focused along the way. Sharing your work on social media sites like Instagram is an excellent and easy way to track your progress. Not to mention, your followers will also be around to nag you if you’re late with your weekly update.

Speaking of other people, make it a group effort! Everything is more fun with a friend and this challenge is no exception. Whether you’ve got a photo-loving pal or significant other, get them involved. It’s a great way to boost your creativity while also giving you the bonus of a second set of eyes to critique your shots. 

Armed with some handy tips and inspiration, what else is left but to get started on this year-long adventure?

We all have different reasons for picking up a camera and snapping a photo. We have different styles, viewpoints, and imaginations. The best part of taking pictures is that there are no real rules. You capture the memory or feeling you envision and it’s not supposed to be the same as anyone else’s.
The same applies when embarking on photo challenges. Even though you may be taking on the same topics as several other people, it’s your individual perspective that makes each photo unique. Different interpretations of a common theme are part of what makes these challenges so exciting.
It gives us the opportunity to grow and change and see things in a new light. And really, that’s what makes a challenge worth doing. 

At DCW, we’re hosting our own 52-week challenge to get our friends, and ourselves, back on track.
If you’re interested in watching the story unfold, check out and follow our Instagram @dcwarehouse for cool photos and a few little surprises.

Want to participate in the DCW 52 Week Photo Challenge? Of course you do! Be sure to follow us because we’ll be dropping new themes every Wednesday.

Just use #dcw52 to tag your photos so we can find you and give your pics some love! 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Get Out Of Town

It’s that magical time of year again. No, I’m not talking Christmas, I’m talking aftermath. The rush is over, the presents are unwrapped, and you’ve made it through the questionable parties and family dinners. Still working your way through the leftovers, but hey, there’s still time.

No, my friends, I’m referring to annual leave. Post-festive season is a popular time to get out of town for most people. Work’s end of year rush has slowed and you’re no longer bombarded by a million holiday induced stressors.

Your dream destination is set, accommodations are booked, and you’ve requested the time off, but you’re faced with one last thing; how to capture it all?

I mean, where do you even start? Your phone has a camera, right? That’s fine, right? But what about all the amazing stuff you’ll see? Will a phone really do it justice? The last camera you owned was a Polaroid, help?!

No worries, mate! We’ve got you covered, but there are a couple of things you need to think about.

First things first, what kind of holiday are you planning? This may seem like a strange thing to consider, but it’s definitely not, we promise.

Think about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing for most of the trip. Are you going to be watching lakeshore sunrises from a big wooden deck chair with a hot cup of tea? (Please take me with you if so.) Or maybe you’re going surfing in Hawaii or zip-lining across a foggy mountain top.

The point here is that there can be a different camera for every type of adventure and it really helps to have the right gear with you when the perfect photo opportunity presents itself.

As a first camera, or just a first new camera in a long time, point-and-shoot/compact cameras are an excellent combination of great image quality and the convenience of a small form factor that fits easily in your day pack or carry-on luggage. They’re super easy to have at the ready so you can snap a few shots nice and quick, plus they also fit well in small hands making them kid-friendly too.

If your vacation is all about the R & R and taking family photos, then a compact camera might be your best bet. Nowadays, these cameras come in a range of different options from super basic to advanced manual controls so there’s really something for everyone.

Some great examples: Canon Powershot SX620 HS, Panasonic Lumix TZ90, or the Sony RX100 series (Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV, and Mark V)

For others, though, a holiday might be about cramming in as much action and as many new experiences as possible. If you’re going backpacking around Europe or headed anywhere with a beach or resort, there’s bound to be a plethora of activities on offer. From hiking rainforests to snorkelling to even just hanging out on a boat, this is where your needs might change.

At this stage, it might be better to think about an action camera or another waterproof offering. Gone are the days when choosing a ‘tough camera’ meant sacrificing performance and features. No, no, that’s well and truly behind us now, as evidenced by the GoPro action cam. Bring one of these with you and you’ll never have to worry about keeping your camera dry or out of the sand again.

A lot of these cameras also have various photo sharing options, whether it’s Wi-Fi or App based. You can send video and images to your friends and family right away which can honestly be quite comforting especially when you’re on an extended trip so far from home. 

If action is your game, check out the GoPro HERO selection, the Panasonic Lumix FT30, Olympus TG-Tracker, or the Garmin VIRB 360.

Of course, there’s more yet. A lot of times, we go away for the simple feeling of escape. To get out of the cities we know, to break free of our routines, to go off and see something different and breath taking. These are the moments you just want to keep forever and, never fear, there’s a camera for that too. There’s a lot of stuff for that, actually, but we’ll stick to the basics.

If you’re hoping this kind trip will help turn photography into a new hobby, you might want to go for something a little more involved from the start, like an advanced compact or mirrorless camera. This will give you a chance to get familiar with manual controls and really grow into your camera or even change lenses as you gain more confidence.

The real benefit of choosing the mirrorless option is the ability to swap lenses to suit the different scenarios you might face which gives you a lot more creative freedom. Compact DSLRs work too, but I lean a little more towards mirrorless for travel as they do tend to be smaller and more discreet. This also makes them easier to pack and conceal if you’re not keen on having people check out your gear.

Another advantage is a more advanced feature set and the ability to get experimental with things like long exposures, time lapse, and even 4K video. When going down this road, you might also want to take a good look at the accessories you’ll be taking with you.

Do you have enough memory? What about power options? Can you spare the space for a compact tripod? With this style of camera it’s worth going a little overboard on the extras, especially if you’re planning to pursue this hobby once you get back home.

Perfect beginner cameras to grow into include the popular Sony a6000, the Olympus E-M 10, the Canon EOS M6, or the Fuji X-A10.

Each camera has its own set of benefits you might find useful or convenient, but what matters most is that you’re confident using the gear you’ve got. It’s well worth spending the time to get familiar with your camera because, at the end of the day, you don’t want to miss out on capturing something really special.

Of course, where you go with your photography (pun intended) is up to you. That’s the beauty of photography, really; the fun doesn’t have to stay on vacation even though you might want to.  

If you’re struggling with all the options out there, don’t be afraid to reach out! Our in-store and contact centre teams would love to hear about your holiday and help you pick the right gear to get you sorted before departure day. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Gift Shopping for Photographers: A Cheat Sheet

Photographers are a picky bunch, that much is true and I don’t think any of us can deny it. As such, we tend to buy a lot of our own gadgets as we realise a sudden need for them. Of course, every photographer does have that epic wish list of items they’d love to own one day, but those things can be a little on the pricey side. Well, mostly a lot on the pricey side.

All these factors combined can make it pretty tough for our loved ones to shop for us, be it for birthdays or the holiday season. (Sorry, fam!)

To most people, it can seem like we’ve literally got everything, but there’s a bit of a trick to shopping for the fully armed photographer, it just takes a bit of sleuthing to come up with a few ideas.

For example, if they’re a working professional, think about what type of photography they specialise in. Do they shoot weddings, products, models? This could be a good indicator of the type of accessories they might be using, or might even appreciate having some spares of.

Avid hobby photographers are a whole other beast as you’re never quite sure which bits and pieces they do and don’t have at this stage in their evolutions. Finding out what their favourite subject matter is or what style they’re hoping to master can be a good place to start looking for ideas. 

Lucky on the left, Peak Design on the right. Both come in different colours to suit #mood and #aesthetic.

I like to think you can’t really go wrong with a quality camera strap of some kind. Sure, most pros and enthusiasts already have one, or they’re using the one that came with their camera, but a nice strap is always appreciated. Plus, we might like to switch things up a bit, depending on the occasion. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.

Brands like Lucky or Peak Design are a good starting point. Lucky offers Australian made classic-looking genuine leather straps in a range of colours to suit almost anyone. Peak Design’s straps are more on the modern side with a modular aspect for easy removal or swapping from one strap to another.

Both are very appealing with a premium look and feel, but are different enough in style and features to give you some options.

Finding memory cards floating around the bottom of your bag is cringe-worthy. Storage is the answer!

Memory card storage is a great option for shooters at enthusiast level or beyond, since we’ve all got several cards in rotation at any given time. Most camera bags have pockets for memory cards, but they often don’t provide much in the way of security and are sometimes a bit of a tight fit which makes it hard to access the cards.

At this point, a memory card wallet or case might be a great choice. Photographers won’t mind having multiples of these in their arsenal because they’re always incredibly useful. There’s soft, wallet-style options as well as waterproof hard shell cases, so it won’t be hard to find something that works for your friend and your budget.

We all need a little help keeping our gear neat and tidy. A cleaning kit top-up would be deeply appreciated, thanks.

It may sound boring or strange, but for avid photographers, a cleaning kit is like gold. A lot of these kits contain consumable odds and ends that need to be replaced over time, like lens pens, cleaning wipes, and tissues. This is something that kind of falls by the wayside as we tend to forget about these items until we desperately need them.

A good cleaning kit with a quality air-blower and lens cleaning fluid would be a welcome gift for any photographer at any stage of their journey.

Nothing beats having some pretty prints to dress up your desk, office, home, etc, etc, etc.

If you’re aiming to get something a little on the bigger, more epic side, you might want to think about a dedicated photo printer. These things aren’t your typical home or office printers, no, no. They’re designed and specialised to deliver high-quality prints with some even offering up to A2 print size options.

If you know your special someone loves or just wants to get their photos printed, this could be the perfect gift. Being able to print your photos offers a very satisfying sense of completion, like you’ve finally seen your work through from start to finish with something tangible to hang onto in the end.

These printers do require proper photo paper, so even if your photographer friend already has a printer, some good quality paper could be an excellent stocking stuffer. 

ONA on the left, with a soft leather shoulder bag. Peak Design on the right with a sweet sling.

Going with some kind of storage solution can be tricky, but it can also make you a hero gifter. Bags or backpacks are pretty personal and most photographers will have very different wants and needs from any bag they deem worthy of their gear.

If you’re planning to go down this path, consider something like a premium quality bag or even a hard storage case.

For bags, check out ONA, Peak Design, and Think Tank for some ideas. They all have some great options, some of which don’t even look like typical camera bags.

For hard cases, look at HPRC and Pelican. Both have foam inserts for easy customisation. These things are also airtight and can handle a fair bit of punishment which makes them perfect for travel.
You might be thinking “Yeah, great, but my bestie already has, like, two camera bags.”

That may be true, however, ask yourself how nice those bags really are. Fancy bags are things we tend to want, but not buy in favour of more practical options that can fit everything we own.

If you’re going to be buying a ‘secondary bag’ for someone, go with something on the smaller side, like a messenger bag or sling. These are perfect for day trips and encourage a more minimalist kit. As an added bonus, they tend to be a little more budget-friendly, too.

When photography is life and all you want to do is take pictures forever.

If you’re feeling uncertain about buying actual photo gear, you could always go with something that will fit easily into everyday life, but is still no less clever a gift idea.

Things like photography-themed T-shirts or coffee mugs are fun and subtle little nods to your friend or family member’s awesome hobby or profession.

Let’s also not forget that a coffee cup shaped like a camera lens is a truly excellent office prank and ice breaker, so you’d basically be doing your pal a favour.

The holidays are a tricky time to shop for anyone, let alone someone with very specific interests and, while the internet is extremely helpful, sometimes it’s best to take what you know and ask some camera-nerds for advice. Like the staff at DCW. We’d love to tell you what we… I mean, what your friend… might like for Christmas.

Come see us in-store or give our contact centre a buzz, we’d love to talk you through some gift ideas this silly season.