Here are impressions of my photography equipment after a few months of use. I am a rank beginner.
Canon Powershot Pro90 IS
I love this camera. It can take some stunning pictures.
- 10x optical zoom. I don't know how anyone lives without it.
- Swivel/tilt LCD makes for much easier composition of shots where it is difficult or impossible to get the camera and one's head in the right place relative to the subject. Before I bought the camera, I thought this feature might be useful 5-10% of the time. I have found that it is actually useful about 90% of the time (I have been mostly shooting plants and animals outside).
- Loads of ability to adjust/override automatic settings. I was surprised to find how often I use these features!
- The Image Stabilization - wonderful when you are in the mood for handheld shots (or when there's no time for the tripod).
- The camera looks way cool.
- 10x optical zoom.
- 10x optical zoom - oh yes.
- Startup is slow.
- Autofocus can be slow.
- Manual focus is a pain since the adjustment in large-ish increments rather than continuous, and are no numbers displayed to indicate distance. That is why I added a Macro Rail for use with my close-up lens.
Gitzo Explorer (aluminum)
Totally awesome. There is a picture of it at http://www.bogenphoto.com/feature/rightscreen.php3
- The slight twist required to loosen or tighten the legs for extension is wonderful. No sore fingers here.
- The ability to lock the legs at any angle between 0 and 90 degrees is wonderful, especially on uneven terrain. And the leg angle locks are very easy to work.
- The center post can tilt from vertical to horizontal (and points in between). All this adjustability makes it possible and even easy to get at shots that would otherwise be a real pain.
- The aluminum version is about $200 - well worth the price.
- The price of all that adjustability is weight. The aluminum version is about 5 lb., and the carbon fiber versions aren't much less.
Giotto MH 1001Medium Ball Head
Overall, fast and easy to use.
* So far, it operates smoothly - I was afraid it might not after reading how so many people think that Arca-Swiss is the only way to go. I've never seen and Arca-Swiss, and I am not sure that I want to, given its large price tag and weight.
* The separate pan control is nice.
* The tension control actually works, although a slight rotation of the knob causes a large change in tension or resistance to motion.
* The price is right.
The farther the ball head position is from vertical, the more tendency there is to drift a bit after tightening knobs. I'm not sure if the ball is slipping, or if the whole support system is deflecting a bit under the load. Anyway, it is fairly easy to account for the drift by overshooting the position a bit and then letting it drift into place.
MICRO POSITIONING PLATE a.k.a. Focusing Rail or Macro Rail
- Smooth motion, either fine or fast positioning available
- It takes up its fair share of space (and weight) in my beltpack, but I don't see any way around that.
QUICK RELEASES (QR)
Bogen 3299 Adapters (female part) with 3266 Plates (male part)
My support system is stacked up like this (in this order):
1) Camera with QR plate
2) Macro Rail with QR plate on bottom and QR adapter on top (so that I can easily swap the macro rail in or out of the stack)
3) Ballhead with QR adapter on top
4) Tripod legs
- The plates are smaller than many I have seen.
- Secure (at least until the spring-loading part breaks)
- They still seem heavy relative to the other gear.
Canon 500 D Close-up lens --> AWESOME
Heliopan circular polarizer --> very nice
Hoya UV filter to protect the Pro90 lens
LowePro Orion AW Beltpack
- You can really "load up" and still be comfortable. Having the lid open away from you means easy access and a nice work surface for switching lenses, etc.
- A lot of thoughtful and useful details.
- I wish it had a second set of hip adjustment straps like my MountainSmith lumbar pack does to help prevent "flopping" when you walk.
- AC Delco 511 replacement battery and charger --> no panic when the camera displays the low battery symbol
- Hama Zoom Lens Hood --> really nice. It collapses for use at wide angles
- Flash (420EX or 550EX or)
- External storage like the Minds@Work Digital Wallet, Iomega FotoShow, Nixvue Digital Album, Sima Image Bank, Sanyo DMA-100 Digital Photo Album or
I would appreciate input to help me choose a flash and/or storage.