Hands-on Review of the Canon 7D Mark II

There are lots of reviews of the Canon 7D Mark II¬†that lean heavily into its specs, but that’s not what you’ll find here. I shoot photos and videos primarily to indulge my interests. It’s a hobby, and I make purchases largely based on emotion. These are the primary forces that drove¬†me to buy¬†this beefy camera.

After years of looking at images from other photographers, I found that always appreciated and desired the punchiness of photos shot with pro-level Canon DSLRs, Canon L-series lenses, and high-end Canon flashes. I wanted to use these creative tools myself, so I grabbed them. Continue reading Hands-on Review of the Canon 7D Mark II

The best film scanners in 2017

It would be nice to tell you “Hey, this specific film scanner is the very best one you can buy in 2017. No doubt about it.” However, this isn’t possible. People have different needs. In order to determine the best film scanner for you, we’ve got to figure it out first.

Let’s take a journey¬†through this buying process, all the way from “What’s the cheapest thing I can get?” to figuring out the best product that suits your needs. Continue reading The best film scanners in 2017

Youth is Restored to My 2011 Camera: Hands-on Review of the Eye-Fi Mobi

If you were instructed to visit an electronics store and purchase a smartphone that didn’t have the ability to shoot HD video, you would have a tough time. This feature was only found on select high-end phones a few years ago, but now it’s nearly universal. The same rule now applies to digital cameras and built-in Wi-Fi. If you’re a manufacturer and you’re releasing a new camera in 2014 that doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, you’re taking a big risk.

Continue reading Youth is Restored to My 2011 Camera: Hands-on Review of the Eye-Fi Mobi

Pancake Too Thick? Hands-On with the Olympus BCL-1580 “Cr√™pe” Lens

As much as I love my Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, I wish it was even smaller. This is the story of modern photo gear: we’ve got amazing cameras built into our mobile phones, now we just need amazing lenses that are somehow miraculously compact. Recently, the Olympus BCL-1580 came to my attention. It’s compatible with my trusty (and discontinued) Panasonic GH2, and it’s only $50. Plus, it’s drastically smaller than my 20mm f/1.7. Game on! I needed to try this thing. Pancake schmancake. I’ve been wanting a “cr√™pe” lens, and it seemed like it was finally here.

Continue reading Pancake Too Thick? Hands-On with the Olympus BCL-1580 “Cr√™pe” Lens

Riding the GIMP: My Photoshop-Free RAW Workflow

I committed to shooting strictly in Manual Mode at the beginning of the year, because I could see an improvement¬†in the image quality of my photos, and I felt more of a bond and sense of ownership over my work (you can read about this process in this post). In order to push the quality of my work further, I knew the natural thing to do was to start shooting in the RAW format, however, my ancient copy of Photoshop CS3 was incapable of processing these files. I didn’t own post-production software that allowed me to shoot in this mode.

Continue reading Riding the GIMP: My Photoshop-Free RAW Workflow

Hands-On Review of the Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro Lens for NEX

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro Lens on a NEX 5 mirrorless camera. I only had access to this camera and lens for a short period of time, but it was long enough to get a basic feel for it. I figured I’d share my thoughts and a few pictures I snapped.

Continue reading Hands-On Review of the Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro Lens for NEX

Beware of Dusty Lens Caps

Cleaning a lens may seem like a pretty cut-and-dry operation, but when you start researching for the best information on how to do it properly, you can uncover lots of contradictory advice. It quickly becomes a game of deciding which information source you trust more, even when you’re not actually familiar with any of them.

Continue reading Beware of Dusty Lens Caps

Hands-On Review of the Singh-Ray Vari-ND Filter

To kick off this review, I’d first like to provide a quick lesson about ND filters. Basically, an ND filter acts like tinted sunglasses for your lens. They dim the amount of light that comes in, so you can open up your aperture when shooting in bright sunlight. Shooting with a maxed out f-stop in a bright environment lets you achieve creamy, blurred backgrounds by selectively focusing on your subject. You can also shoot longer exposures than you would have otherwise. Without the tinted filter in front of your lens, employing these techniques would leave you with overexposed images. That’s why ND filters are a great creative tool for both video and stills.

Continue reading Hands-On Review of the Singh-Ray Vari-ND Filter

Respecting the Lumix 20mm f/1.7

Several months before I purchased my Lumix GH2, I eagerly handed over a pile of money for a 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. Buying a lens before you have a compatible camera is torturous. Opening the box is a cruel tease. I cracked the factory seal, whiffed the intoxicating scent of virgin hardware, freed the gloriously diminutive little lens from its protective wrappings, removed the caps and stared. Moments later I packed it all back together, and stashed it away in my gear locker. Pretty dull stuff when there’s no camera to attach.

The Best Gear List

bullseyeIt’s difficult to decide what piece of equipment to buy, because there’s usually¬†more than one good choice. I created this post to make your decision painless. Below you’ll find a list of equipment that I’ve determined are the very best choices in their categories. The only decision you have to make is if you should get the low-budget or high-budget option.

 

I will do my best to update this list any time a better option becomes available. Let’s go:

Photography and Video

The Best Hybrid Video and Still Camerasgh3_smallish
Low budget – Panasonic GH4
High budget – Sony a7R II

The Best Prime Lenses for Micro Four Thirds for Stills + Video (for use on a tripod)
Low budget – Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 S.S.C. (adapter required)
High budget – Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 Nokton

The Best Lenses for Micro Four Thirds (for use on shoulder-mounts for shooting video)
Low budget – Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 with Power O.I.S.
High budget – Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 with Power O.I.S.

The Best Lenses for Nikon Full Frame DLSRs
Low budget – Nikon 50mm f/1.8D
High budget – Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED

The Best Lenses for Canon DLSRs
Low budget – Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
High budget – Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L

The Best Action Cameras
gopro_hero3_black_ed
Low budget – GoPro HERO5 Session
High budget –¬†GoPro HERO5 Black

The Best Compact Cameras
Low budget – Canon G7X
High budget – Sony RX100 V

The Best 3.5mm Mini-Plug Shotgun Mics for Camera
Low budget –¬†Sennheiser MKE 400
High budget –¬†Ambient TinyMic

The Best Variable ND Filter
Low budget – Light Craft Workshop Fader ND
High budget РSingh-Ray Vari-ND (read my hands-on review here)

Sound

The Best Portable Digital RecordersTascam DR-70D camera in out jacks
Low budget РTascam DR-70D (read my hands-on review here)
High budget – Sound Devices 633

The Best Wireless Lavalier Mic Systems for Video
“Low” budget –Sennheiser G3 ew 112-p
High budget – Lectrosonics UCR411

The Best XLR Shotgun Mics for Camera and Boompolerode_ntg2_on_5d
Low budget РRode NTG-2 (but I recommend saving up for a Rode NTG-3)
High budget – Sanken CS-3E

The Best Hyper Mics for Booming Interior Dialog
Low budget – Audix SCX1/HC
High budget – Schoeps Colette MK41

audix_scx1hc_small

The Best Computer Audio Interfaces
Low budget – PreSonus AudioBox USB
High budget – Universal Audio Apollo

The Best Over-the-Ear Headphones
Low budget – Sony MDR7506
High budget – Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

The Best In-Ear Headphones
Low budget – Thinksound
High budget – Shure SE535

Computers & Mobile

The Best Laptops
macbook_air_small
“Low” budget – 13″ MacBook Pro Retina (2015)
High budget – 15″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The Best Hard Drives
Low budget – G-Technology G-Drive
“High” budget – Glyph GPT50

The Best Tablets
Low budget – iPad Mini 4 32GB Wi-FiiPhone 6
High budget – 9.7″ iPad Pro 128GB

The Best Smartphones
Low budget – iPhone SE 64GB
High budget – iPhone 7 256GB¬†…seriously, pay extra for the 256GB. It’s worth it just to avoid the hassle of running out of space, and needing to delete photos, apps, etc.¬†

Home

The Best Coffee Makers
Low budget – AeroPress
“High” budget – Cuisineart EM-100

Okay, so a coffee maker isn’t a piece of creative production gear, but good coffee is vital to the process. Life is far too short to drink crappy coffee.


 NOTE: Last updated on December 4th, 2016.