If you want to take decent dragonfly photos a point and shoot camera, even the top end ones, simply isn’t good enough. Sure, you may be able to get a few snaps of dragonflies however they are more than likely to comprise a tiny dot in the middle of the frame, which is not good. The bottom line is point and shoot cameras have no place in dragonfly photography.
Mirrorless cameras have come a long way over the last few years, and they are very capable cameras but they are still not quite there for dragonfly photography as they aren’t quick enough to capture frame filling shots of these fast little critters. Mirrorless cameras are great for portrait photography and landscape photography, but not for dragonfly photography.
If you want to take photos of dragonflies there is only one camera to use and that is a dslr camera. Arguably, you can use a full frame or crop sensor dslr camera to take pictures of dragonflies although I would always recommend using a crop sensor camera.
The focal length of the lens you use on a crop sensor camera automatically “increases” which means you get closer to the subject. Using a 100mm lens on a Canon with a crop sensor gives an effective focal length of 160mm, and when it comes to taking photos of subjects that are likely to fly off if you get too close you need every millimetre possible to get a fame filling shot.
Affordable full frame cameras typically have slower processors and lower burst rates. To put this in to perspective my Canon 6d full frame camera has a burst rate of four frames per second, whereas my Canon 7d has a burst rate of 8 frames per second. The higher the burst rate and faster the camera the greater the hit rate. There are full frame cameras that are as fast (and even faster) than my 7d, like the Canon 1DX, but these cost several times more and are several thousand pounds (i.e. not within the budget of most people).
Affordable full frame cameras typically have few auto focus points and less sensitive auto focus points. To put this in to perspective my Canon 6d has 11 auto focus points whereas my 7d has 19 auto focus points. The 7d is a lot quicker to find the subject and lock on than the 6d too. The auto focus points on the 6d are less sensitive than that of the 7d. When shooting small subjects, like dragonflies the more auto focus points the better, and the more sensitive the auto focus points the better too. Once again the really expensive professional grade full frame cameras have numerous (and sensitive) auto focus points, but you do pay for these.
The image quality of full frame cameras is superior to crop frame cameras but this doesn’t mean the image quality of crop sensor cameras is poor or unacceptable. The image quality of crop sensor cameras is exceptionally good and not that far off more expensive full frames. If you compare normal size prints the difference is barely noticeable. If you compare large prints (think poster size and bigger here) and the difference is a little more apparent. If you go pixel peeping on the computer (which is something only anal photographers do – and not the paying customer) you will see a difference in image quality between a crop sensor camera and a full frame camera.
If you want to take pictures of dragonflies you need a camera that is fast, has a high burst rate, has the most number of auto focus points possible and has the most sensitive auto focus points as well. Unless you have loads of money available to spend (and I mean thousands of pounds to available to spend) the crop sensor camera is the way forward for dragonfly photography. In addition to this you also need to get as close to the dragonfly as you can without spooking it, so the crop factor effect is very useful.
THE CAMERA I USE FOR DRAGONFLY PHOTOGRAPHY
"My dragonfly photography camera of choice - The Canon 7d"
The camera I use for taking photos of dragonfly is the Canon 7d, and I have to say it is the perfect tool for this type of photography. The canon 7d is “built” for taking photos of moving subjects. It has fast processors so it has a high burst rate (8 frames per second). It has numerous auto focus points (which makes it quick to focus on the subject). It has sensitive auto focus points (which means it stays locked on).
The Canon 7d has a magnesium alloy body and it a rugged camera that is tough and durable, which is essential for being out in the wilderness taking photos of dragonflies. The 7d is a proper sturdy camera that I can only describe as bomb proof, and whilst it is a weighty bit of kit it isn’t so heavy it becomes uncomfortable or painful to use after a few hours.
The 7d is a user friendly camera with a logical and intuitive menu system, but this is the same with all Canon dslr cameras. The setting buttons are logically laid out, all the settings I need are close to hand and I can quickly change the required setting whist looking through the view finder. The point I am trying to make is that it is a nice camera to use.
The image quality of the 7d is superb, and whilst it may not have as many pixels as my full frame 6d the difference in image quality is barely noticeable. If I go pixel peeping on the computer I can notice the difference, but when comparing normal size prints the difference is so slight it is barely noticeable. In the real world no-one goes pixel peeping, and since I have sold many prints taken with my canon 7d (and had many repeat customers) I can only assume the paying public can’t tell the difference either. I have no complaints about the image quality of the 7d.
The Canon 7d really is an awesome camera and, still now, I struggle to see how Canon can charge such little for such a great camera especially when you consider the build quality and the image quality of it.
Buy the Canon 7d from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Since the Canon 7d MK2 was released the Mk1 has been discontinued, and as such the price of used and second hand 7d MK1s have gone through the floor. If you want to get the biggest bang for the buck you need to consider buying a used 7d MK1. When buying used cameras there is only one website to go to and that is eBay, where there is always a lot to choose from. If you want to see the current range of used MK1 7d cameras currently going on eBay use the search box below.
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There is a common misconception that a macro lens is the best lens to take photos of dragonflies. Sure, you can use a macro lens for dragonfly photography, and when I first started taking dragonfly photos that is what I used.
Most of the time dragonflies are very active and dart around all over the place at high speed. Sure the dragonflies occasionally stop and hover, but these moments are short lived and if you blink you’re likely to miss it. You have to have to be real quick when trying to take photos of active dragonflies, and using a macro lens (i.e. a lens which requires you to be up close and personal to the subject) is not the best tool for the job. I did manage to get a few photos of dragonflies like this but my hit rate was very low and I got so frustrated I was almost ready to give up.
Dragonflies are less active first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon and this is the time of day when you’re most likely to see them sat on a reed head or bit of grass. Taking photos of dragonflies when they are like this is easier, but they are still timid and often fly off as you approach them with a macro lens. Once again, I managed to get a few shots but my hit rate still wasn’t as good as I wanted.
The best lens for photographing dragonflies is a super zoom lens period. Using a super zoom lens enables you to locate the dragonfly, point the lens at the dragonfly and get it in the frame and then zoom in nice and close for a frame filling shot, and all without moving from the spot. Being able to do this without moving towards the dragonfly is less likely to spook the dragonfly, which means it is less likely to fly away, which means you are more likely to get the shot.
Zoom lenses don’t record as much detail as macro lenses, but then does it really matter? Seeing individual leg hairs, the hexagon pattern on the eyes or seeing the dragonfly’s beard is pretty cool and amazing………. But only for five minutes. Once you’ve seen a macro or extreme close up photo of a dragonfly once there really is no need to see it again, and these type of shots have very limited uses.
A long reach zoom lens is by far the best lens for taking photos of dragonflies, and if you use one I guarantee you will see your hit rate increase no end.
THE LENS I USE FOR TAKING PHOTOS OF DRAGONFLIES
The lens I use for taking photos of dragonflies is the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens. Being an L series lens the Canon 100 – 400 is made from the best materials, making it tough and durable which is essential for outdoor shoots. I tend to give my camera lenses a bit of a hard time, yet my Canon 100 – 400 has managed to deal with everything I have thrown at it over the years. As well as being tough and durable the Canon 100 – 400 is also weather sealed. This is also another essential feature since it not only keeps the water and moisture out but also the dust, dirt and debris I come across when I am out in the field taking pictures of dragonflies.
The image quality of the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens is simply superb and I have no complaints at all. Read any review about this lens and you will struggle to find any negative comments about the image quality.
What I like about using the Canon 100 – 400 for taking pictures of dragonflies is the fact I can zoom in nice and tight and isolate specific parts of the dragonfly or I can pull back a bit and include the entire dragonfly plus a bit of background for context. The 100 – 400 won’t capture “macro” shots but in my experience the extreme close up and macro photos of dragonflies haven’t been good sellers and there seems to be no market for them. Photos taken that include the entire dragonfly though (i.e. the types of photos I can capture with my Canon 100 – 400L IS lens) sell pretty well and I have managed to generate a nice level of income with them.
The Canon 100 – 400 has a push/pull zoom which is an excellent system, and one I prefer over the conventional twist action. With the push/pull zoom I can zoom in or out to compose the shot, and then press the shutter button in a split second.
If you want to go out and take photos of dragonflies and shoot a Canon camera the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens is a lens you should take a look at. It is an excellent lens and since I bought mine it is my go to lens for dragonfly photography.
Buy the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens).
Since the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens MK2 has been released the MK1 has been discontinued, and as such the cost of used and second hand MK1 lenses have gone through the floor. If you want to save yourself a ton of money and get yourself a real bargain a used 100 – 400L IS lens is the way to go. If you’re looking to buy a second hand lens the go to site has to be eBay, and there is always a large choice of lenses available. To see the current Canon 100 – 400L IS lens offers and deals currently on use the search box below.
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If you want to capture different and individual flash photos you need to take your flash off camera and position it elsewhere. Moving the flash around the subject allows you to light it from different positions, angles and viewpoints, which gives a lot more scope for different lighting effects and creativity. If you want to take your flash off camera there are two ways to make sure it fires when you press the shutter button to take the shot:-
The first way of firing the flash is to use an off camera flash cord, and whilst this is the cheapest method, doesn’t require any batteries, has no chance of failing and also easy to set up this method is cumbersome, awkward and the trailing wires often get in the way.
The second way of firing the flash is to use some wireless flash triggers, and whilst this is more expensive, requires batteries and is a little more awkward to set up it is by far the best method.
Wireless flash triggers relies on a lot of technology to work, and there was a time when this technology was damn expensive. Well, things have moved on, technology has moved on and it has also become a lot cheaper. Back in the day, when the technology was new Pocket Wizards were one of the few wireless flash trigger manufacturers – and Pocket Wizard triggers were stupidly expensive.
Even though the cost of the technology in wireless flash triggers has significantly fallen, Pocket Wizard triggers are still damn expensive, and now too expensive. There are some new players in the market making wireless flash triggers that are far more affordable and within the budget of most photographers.
Whilst looking for some wireless flash triggers I stumbled across the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers which are Chinese made flash triggers, and I have to admit that I was a little skeptical. I mean there was a time when Chinese made goods and products were cheap, nasty, inferior and not fit for purpose.
Despite my reservations the cost of the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers were so cheap I had to take a punt and ordered some to test out. After trying out the 622 flash triggers it soon became clear that times have changed and whilst Chinese made goods and products are still cheap, they are far from nasty, definitely not inferior and more than capable of doing the job they were intended for.
When I first opened the box and looked at the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers the first thing that struck me was the build quality, which was superb. The triggers felt well made, looked well-made, and now I have had a chance to use them I can confirm they are well made. I have been using the 622 triggers for a few years now and they are still working as good today as the day I bought them.
The 622 flash triggers are super simple to set up and since each unit can be a transmitter or a receiver, you don’t even have to keep the trigger for the camera separate for the trigger from the flash. Simply attach one 622 trigger in to the hot shoe, push the switch to tx (transmit), attach the other 622 to the bottom of the flash, push the switch to rx (receive) and you’re good to go. Now how simple is that.
The Yongnuo 622 flash triggers support manual flash and also TTL flash, which makes them perfect for any situation. A lot of my flash photography is done using TTL mode, therefore it was crucial any flash trigger I used supported this feature. The TTL mode is reliable and works on each and every shot. I had read some wireless flash triggers had misfiring issues, however I have never experienced any problems with my Yongnuo 622 triggers misfiring, and I mean never.
I am now a total convert to Chinese made goods and products, and I now firmly believe that Chinese made goods and products now offer the best bang for the buck, and the big boys and major players in the market need to be careful.
"The cheap and cheerful Yongnuo 622 flash triggers"
Buy the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Alternatively, you may want to head over to eBay and check out the current deals on Yongnuo 622 flash triggers and you can do this using the search box below.
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I have to admit that there was a time when my go to camera was a dslr, and the decision to take my full frame Canon 6d or crop sensor Canon 7d depended on what I was going out to shoot. My circumstances have changed a bit and I now have a new go to camera for street photography, and that is a mirrorless camera. The mirrorless camera hasn’t replaced my dslr, far from it in fact, it’s just when I go out on to shoot street photography I take the mirrorless camera instead.
Mirrorless cameras are great for street photography and there are many advantages including;-
Mirrorless cameras are lightweight
A mirrorless camera and prime lens (such as a 35mm which is one of my all-time favourite focal lengths for street photography) is light set up you can use all day long and not feel any adverse effects. Lugging around a pro-spec dslr camera and a heavyweight prime lens is going to take its toll on your neck, shoulders and arms however a lightweight mirrorless camera won’t.
Mirrorless cameras are discreet
Unlike dslr cameras, which tend to stick out like a sore thumb, mirrorless cameras are discreet and go unnoticed which makes them perfect for candid shots and paparazzi type photography. With a mirrorless camera you can snap street photos all day and no-one will bat an eyelid, which is great for those photographers, much like myself, who don’t like being stared out when taking photos.
Mirrorless cameras don’t attract as much attention
Dslr cameras look expensive and people (even non-photographers) know how much they cost and what they are worth. There are a lot of scum bags out there only too keen to relieve you of your possessions and a photographer is an easy target. You may think that it doesn’t happen, but believe me it does and it is a bigger problem than you probably realize. For example, on a trip to Europe last year there were three people who lost some of their expensive photography kit to some thieving scum.
Mirrorless cameras are smaller, mirrorless cameras look cheaper (even though they are damn expensive) and many people mistake mirrorless cameras for point and shoot cameras. Mirrorless cameras don’t attract as much unwanted attention as dslr cameras and when you carry a mirrorless camera you are not such a prime target for a thief.
Mirrorless cameras are easily hidden
Because of their small size mirrorless cameras can be quickly hidden from view and stuffed in a bag or a coat pocket if needed. If you end up in the “wrong” part of town, i.e. those places that are off the tourist trail and not very friendly to strangers, being able to quickly hide the camera is very useful. In the past I have ended up in places where tourists really shouldn’t go with my dslr camera and encountered quite a few issues, including being shouted at for taking photos, being accused of taking pictures of minors (something I totally don’t agree with and wouldn’t do) and being threatened for invading privacy. Had I been using a mirrorless camera I could have snuck it away, and carried on through and out of the area (to a nicer location) trouble free.
Similarly, there are many places that prohibit cameras and photography, and I have had issues with these in the past whilst carrying my dslr camera. Even though the camera was tucked away in a bag (which was easily identifiable as a a camera bag) I was sternly told cameras were banned, taking photos was prohibited etc. etc. I had no intention of using my camera but I was still given the third degree and “told off” – it was like being back at school. Had I been using a mirrorless camera that day I could have put the camera in my jacket pocket or the better half’s handbag and avoided the embarrassment (and hassle) of the situation.
It is the small size, lightweight and discreetness of mirrorless cameras that make them the perfect tool for street photography. Mirrorless camera technology has evolved and come on in leaps and bounds, and there are some exceptionally good mirrorless cameras out there that, if used correctly, will produce images of the same quality as a dslr.
THE MIRRORLESS CAMERA I USE FOR STREET PHOTOGRAPHY
"The Canon EOS M"
I wanted (and bought) my mirrorless camera solely for street photography, even though I had a dslr camera and had owned one for several years. Over the years I have invested in, and built up, a selection of lenses (many of which are L series lenses) and I couldn’t justify investing in a totally new camera and suite of lenses (not to mention other accessories) therefore I ended up buying the Canon M camera. I knew the Canon M was not the best mirrorless camera, and it isn’t the most desirable either but given I was only going to use it for street photography, and perhaps a backup camera it was the obvious choice.
Like all Canon camera the M series camera is tough, durable and very well made. Like all Canon cameras it is user friendly, intuitive and the dials and controls to change the poplar settings are close to hand. The Canon M’s menu is logical, which is the same as all other Canon cameras. With its 24MP C-MOS sensor the image quality is very good, especially when you stick a decent lens on it, and noise etc. is well controlled.
Even though the Canon M wouldn’t be my first choice of mirrorless camera I have to say that I am very happy with it and the photos I have managed to capture with it.
Would I recommend the Canon M camera? If you already shoot a Canon dslr camera, have invested in some expensive lenses and want a mirrorless camera as a backup or street photography (like me in my situation) I would highly recommend the Canon M camera, and it is a great bit of kit.
Alternatively you may want to spend some money and get a used EOS M .If you want to do this there is only one website to go to and that is eBay. Use the search box below to see the current Canon EOS M camera deals on eBay.
What are you waiting for? Go and grab yourself a bargain
Motor sports is fast actioned, fast paced and you (and your camera) have to be quick to record the action. Point and shoot cameras, even the top end models, are a total waste of time for motor sports photography, as are the all-purpose bridge cameras. If you want to take photos of racing cars or racing motorcycles with these camera types the vehicles have to be stationery. With this in mind you may be okay on the start grid of a race but once the race begins you may as well sit back and enjoy the action as a spectator because you won’t be able to take photos of it.
Mirrorless cameras have come a long way, and whilst these superb cameras are more than capable for photographing many different subjects the technology isn’t quite there for motor sports. This may change in the future, but as it currently stands a mirrorless camera is not up to snuff for motor sports photography. Trust me, I have tried (as did my better half) with the Olympus PEN mirrorless I own but after a few laps of many missed shots I gave up and got the dslr out of the car.
A mirrorless camera is okay for taking photos of the vehicles on the grid, taking photos of mechanics and engineers working on the vehicles in the garages, taking photos on pit walks, taking photos of grid girls and brolly dollies and taking photos of the wining drivers on the podium etc. but when it comes to taking photos of the action on the race circuit it is time to put the mirrorless camera away.
If you are serious about motor sports photography there is only one camera to use, and that is a dslr camera.
The ideal camera for motor sports has:
As well as being “fast” a motor sports photography camera needs to be well built, i.e. tough and durable, and also weather sealed. Motor sports photography involves a lot of time outside and the camera is going to be exposed to the elements. Weather sealing ensures any mist and rain can’t penetrate the camera and damage it. At the other end of the spectrum weather sealing also prevents sun and heat damage. As well as keeping the weather out the sealing also keeps out the dust, dirt and debris of race circuits, and as all motor sports fans will know race circuits are notoriously dirty places.
Motor racing is popular and as well as the other motor sports photographers milling around you will encounter numerous spectators. At busy race circuits your camera is going to get knocked in to and banged around, therefore it needs to be tough and durable to deal with this, and make sure it comes out the other side unscathed.
The image quality of crop sensor cameras isn’t as good as that of full frame cameras, but it is still exceptionally good, and plenty good enough for taking photos of motor sports. In reality you will never need the superior image quality of a full frame camera when taking motor sports photos because the vehicles move so quickly the additional pixels of a full frame camera make little difference.
If you are a professional motor sports photographer who relies on selling motor sports photos and prints to pay the bills and put food on the table you may disagree with me on the above point, but for the semi-professional photographer or the enthusiast photographer a (very) expensive fast full frame camera (such as the Canon 1DX) is not really necessary and a bit of an overkill, unless you just fancy owning a top end motor sports photography camera of course.
Now you know the features to look for in a camera suitable for motor sports photography it’s time to answer the difficult question of “what camera to buy?” Unfortunately, only you can answer this one but I guarantee that if you go for any of the top end branded fast cameras you will be able to capture great motor sports shots and you won’t be disappointed with the image quality.
THE CAMERA I USE FOR MOTORSPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
"The camera I use for motor sports photography - the Canon 7d"
Since I shoot Canon (I always have done and probably always will) there were two cameras available to me for motor sports photography, being the top end Canon 1DX or the pro-sumer level Canon 7d. I always strive for the best image quality and even though I need the Canon 1DX for this, I don’t have the budget for such an expensive camera and even if I did save up for one I would struggle to justify the price tag. Consequently, I opted for the Canon 7d and whilst it is still a pricy camera it is a fraction of the cost of the Canon 1DX.
I have to say that I am very happy with my Canon 7d and it does everything I want it to and some. Whilst the image quality is not as good as the Canon 1DX it is still exceptionally good and I have no complaints at all, and based on the motor sports photos I have sold I can confirm the image quality is plenty good enough to take commercial motorsports shots and earn a bit of money too.
The Canon 7d is built for moving subjects and has all the features a motor sports camera needs, i.e. it has fast processors, it has a high burst rate, it has plenty of autofocus points and the auto focus points are sensitive too. In addition to this the 7d has a magnesium alloy body that is tough, durable and sealed too.
The Canon 7d is an excellent camera for sports photography (among other things) and it is one I would definitely recommend to anyone looking to capture motor sports shots.
Buy the Canon 7d from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Since the release of the 7d MK2 the price of a used 7d MK1 has gone through the floor and there are loads of bargains to be had. A used 7d MK1 will save you a ton of money, and if you don’t mind buying used lenses you may want to buy used. There is only one site to go to when looking for used camera lenses and that is eBay – where there is always a big choice and loads and hence loads of deals to be had. If you want to see the current Canon 7d MK1 deals on eBay use the search box below.
What are you waiting for? Go and grab yourself a bargain.
ANOTHER CAMERA I USE FOR MOTOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
"My other sports photography camera - the Canon 6d"
As well as my 7d I also take my full frame Canon 6d when I go to motor sports events. I don’t use the 6d for taking action shots, oh no it’s too slow for this – besides that’s what the 7d is for. I use my 6d to take photos on pit lane walkabouts, on the starting grid and at the winner’s podium. As well as action shots I like to take photos of engineers and mechanics fixing/repairing the race cars and bikes, I like to take photos of drivers and riders preparing for the race, I like to take photos of the post race celebrations and I like to take photos of the start grid. The full frame 6d is perfect for these type of shots.
I could use the 7d for these type of shots but I prefer to use the 6d, which is smaller and more discreet than my fully gripped 7d. Another reason I use the 6d is so I don’t have to keep changing lenses on the 7d (the 100 – 400 I use for racing isn’t that good for the walkabout shots for a number of reasons). I don’t like changing lenses at race circuits because they are dusty which means dirt can get in the camera, and they are also busy which increases the risk of the lens being knocked in to and damaged.
Buy the Canon 6d from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
The most cost effective way to buy a Canon 6d is to buy a used or second hand model, and the go to site for this is eBay. There is always a lot of choice on eBay and with some much to choose from and so much seller competition you could save yourself loads of cash. To see the current Canon 6d deals on eBay use the search box below.
See just how much you could save
If you are serious about motor sports photography the first lens you have, and I mean have, to buy is a long reach zoom lens. Health & Safety has ruined motor sports, and with all the legislation in place race circuits are now required to fence of large areas between the circuit and the spectators, which means you need a long reach lens to get up close and personal to the racing cars and bikes and get frame filling shots.
I regularly find that I am shooting at focal lengths of 300mm plus (although I do take some motor sports pictures at shorter focal lengths – albeit not many) so I would consider a lens of this focal length essential.
There is the age old argument that prime lenses are sharper and have better image quality than zoom lenses, and whilst this is true, the image quality of the top end modern day zoom lenses is exceptionally good and to see any different in image quality you are going to have to go pixel peeping on the computer, and no-one does that in the real world. The difference in image quality between a top end zoom and a prime lens is negligible nowadays, so you should never be put off buying a zoom lens.
In my experience of motor sport photography I would say that prime lenses are the inferior lenses. With a prime lens you need to be able to physically move closer to, or further away from the circuit to change the framing and composition, and if you tucked up tight against a safety fence with a crowd of spectators behind you this isn’t going to happen is it? With a zoom lens you can zoom in and out, without having to move so you can get a variety of different shots. With a zoom lens you can zoom right in nice and tight or you can pull right back and go wide to include the racing car/bike and a bit of background too.
80mm – 400mm or 100mm – 400mm zoom lenses are ideal for motor sports photography. There are some 150mm – 600mm zoom lenses available on the market but the range of focal lengths it simply too much for good image quality. The image quality of these lenses is acceptable, and if you only want to post your photos in low resolution to websites, social media sites and the like these lenses are suitable. If you want to capture high quality motor sports photos to make money with the 150mm – 600mm lenses simply aren’t good enough – period.
As well as a long reach zoom a more general purpose lens is needed for pit lane walks, taking photos of mechanics, taking photos of drivers etc. When taking “environmental portrait shots like this you don’t need a lens with a very wide maximum aperture because you will need a depth of field sufficient to identify what is going on in the background. Shooting at f1.2 or f1.4 is simply too wide, and I usually find I don’t shoot any wider than f4 - f5.6. Arguably you can use a prime for these type of shots, however race circuits are busy places and space is often restricted. Because of this I would always recommend a zoom lens to make framing and composition easier. Some photographers would call this lazy – I call it common sense and I would prefer to use a zoom lens and get the shot than be pig-headed about it and miss the shot because I “only shoot with prime lenses”. At the end of the day it is your choice though.
The ideal lenses for motor sports photography need to be tough, durable and also weather sealed. Mother Nature can be (and often is) nasty at race meetings and will provide terrible weather, and it is important the lens can withstand this. A weather sealed lens also keeps out the dust and dirt, and we all know what dusty and dirty places race circuits can be.
Race circuits are busy places and with a lot of spectators, as well as other photographers, milling around your camera/lens is likely to take a few knocks and bangs. Cheap and inferior lenses will not withstand a lot of abuse so you need to get good quality lenses for motor sports.
So, when buying a lens for motor sports photography you need:
Now you know what features you should be looking for in a lens for motorsports photography the hard part is now choosing which one to buy, and only you can tell what is going to be the best lens for your circumstances.
THE LENSES I USE FOR MOTOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
"Just one of the lenses I use for motor sports photography - the Canon 100 - 400L IS lens"
The first lens I use for motor sports photography is the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens, and I think it is the perfect lens for taking motor sports photos. The Canon 100 – 400 lens is tough, durable and weather sealed, making it perfect for outdoor use in all weathers. I can use the 100 – 400 in the rain (which is an exciting time and hence creates plenty of photo opportunities) safe in the knowledge I am not going to damage anything. The weather sealing also helps keep out the dirt and dust, and race circuits are notoriously dusty.
The image quality of the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens is superb. Photos are sharp, bright and vivid. Distortion is well controlled, as is fringing. I have no complaints over the image quality of this lens, and since I have managed to sell many motor sports prints taken with this lens I can only assume the paying public have no complaints either.
The Canon 100 – 400 is a versatile lens that allows me to take a variety of different shots, and this is one of its best features. With this lens I can zoom in nice and tight and isolate specific parts of the cars/bikes, I can pull back to include two or three cars/bikes fighting for track position or I can pull right back and capture several vehicle plus some background and even spectators.
The Canon 100 – 400L IS lens isn’t the fastest of lenses, and this is the biggest drawback of this lens. When the light levels start to fall it is necessary to push the ISO to keep the shutter speeds fast enough for sharp shots. This is not too much of a problem since modern day cameras are very good at dealing with noise, and it is possible to shoot at pretty high ISOs and still not suffer excessive noise and grain.
Buy the Canon 100 - 400L IS lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Since the release of the Canon 100 – 400L IS MK2 lens the Mk1 has been discontinued and the price of used and second hand versions have gone through the floor, which means you can capitalise on this and save yourself a ton of cash. If you want to buy used and second hand lenses the go to site has to be eBay, where there is always a big choice. If you want to see the current deals on the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens use the search box below.
Go find yourself a bargain
"Another lens I use for motor sports photography - the Canon 16 - 35 f4L IS lens"
The second lens I use for motor sports photography is the Canon 16 – 35 F4L IS lens. I don’t use this lens for capturing the racing action, instead I use it for taking photos of mechanics and engineers working on the race craft, photos of cars and bikes on the starting grid, photos of race winners on the podium and photos of drivers and riders mentally preparing before going out on the circuit to race.
The 16 – 35 is a wide angle lens, and I find it gives the perfect field of view for the types of shots I want to take. F4 may not seem very wide, and it isn’t, but it gives the depth of field I want in my photos. I don’t want photos where the background is totally out of focus and instead want photos where you can tell what the background is. I want the viewers to know that the mechanics are in a garage, I want the viewers to know drivers are on the starting grind and I want viewers to know the race winner is on the podium. The only way of telling the story I want to tell is to use a slightly narrower aperture, and f4 – f5.6 is perfect for this.
Being an L series lens the Canon 16 – 35 f4L is tough, durable and well made, and also contains top grade glass. The image quality of this lens is superb, and I have no complaints in that department. The 4 stop image stabilisation is useful for taking sharp shots at slower shutter speeds, and means I don’t have to push the ISO very often. The Canon 16 – 35 f4L IS lens is a great lens for capturing these types of motor sports shots and it is a lens I definitely recommend.
Buy the Canon 16 – 35 f4L IS lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Alternatively you may want to pick up a used Canon 16 – 35 f4L IS lens and if you want to buy used there is only one site to visit, and that’s eBay. To see the current Canon 16 – 35 offers and deals and eBay use the search box below.
So what are you waiting for? Go and grab yourself a bargain.
An alternative wide angle lens for crop sensor cameras
"The Canon 10 - 22 is an alternative wide angle for crop sensors that gives the effecitve 16mm - 35mm focal length"
The 16mm – 35mm focal length is perfect for the “reportage” type motor sports shots and if you shoot a crop sensor camera the 16 – 35 lens will give an effective 26mm – 56mm, which I don’t think is wide enough. Fortunately, there is another lens for crop sensor cameras that give the effective 16mm – 35mm focal length, and that is the Canon EFS 10 – 22 f3.5-4.5. Before I bought my 6d I used a crop sensor camera for the pit lane walkabouts, starting grid, winner’s podium shots and I have to say it is a great lens. This lens is small, discreet and lightweight. The image quality is exceptionally good, and if you shoot a crop sensor you won’t go too far wrong with it.
Buy the Canon EFS 10 – 22 f3.5-4.5 lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
If you want to save yourself some money on the Canon 10 – 22 lens take a look at eBay and see if there are any current used or second hand deals going using the search box below.
You could end up saving yourself loads of money.
When taking close up and macro photos of insects the working distance, i.e. the distance between the lens and the subject, is reduced which restricts the light and reduces it. Because of the reduction in light a flash is required to provide a burst of extra light to get the correct exposure. Many photographers like to use natural light only, and I do as well, but insect photography is one of those times when you will struggle using just natural light.
Some cameras have a built in pop up flash but these are not sufficient for insect photography. The inbuilt flash is plenty powerful enough to illuminate insects (you’re going to be very close to them when taking photos of them) but you can’t control the direction of the light or easily modify and soften the light. An external flash or speed light is, therefore, essential for insect photography.
Whilst a speed light is ideal for general flash photography it is not suitable for insect photography. Speed lights are too powerful, even when the power is dialled right down to its minimum, and you will find the colour washed out in your insect photos.
The other problem with using speed lights is that when left in the camera’s hot shoe they struggle to illuminate the shadow the lens casts over the frame, and if the insect happens to be in this shadow you’re not going to see it. You can take speed lights off camera (and use radio triggers or an off camera flash cord) to overcome this problem but this is far from ideal. Whilst you sort out the shadow problem the power issue is still there and unless you have an assistant to hold the flash a good distance from the subject there is little you can do about it. Do you have access to an assistant to do this? I know I don’t.
The best flash for insect photography is the ring flash. Note I said “ring flash” and not ring light. Whilst it is tempting to buy and use the cheaper ring light I would advise against it. Ring lights are either off or on, and approaching insects shining a ring of lights in their ace is likely to spook them and make them scarper before you get the chance to take the shot. I have tried using a cheap ring light in the past and I have to say my hit rate was terrible. If you’re shooting captive insects in the studio ring lights are fine. If you are shooting insects out in the wild you will struggle with a ring light. The ring flash is a strobe light, which means it only fires when the shutter button is pressed. This reduces the chances of spooking the insect and also increases the hit rate.
The ring flash is low powered (most have a guide number of 14) which makes exposing much easier and washing out the colours a thing of the past. You also have total control over the power of the ring flash and can have it at full power or rein it right in when up real close and personal to the subject.
The ring flash is screwed in to the filter thread at the end of the lens, which eliminates the lens creating a shadow in the frame.
THE RING FLASH I USE FOR INSECT PHOTOGRAPHY
"The excellent, and affordable Yongnuo YN14 ring flash"
The ring flash I use for my insect photography is the Yongnuo YN14, which based on the popular (and very expensive Canon MR14EX). The build quality of the Yongnuo ring flash is very good, although it isn’t up to the same standard as the Canon MR14EX. That said, I have had my Yongnuo ring flash for several years now and it still works as good today as it did the day I first opened the box.
The Yongnuo YN14 ring flash not only has manual mode but also TTL mode as well. TTL flash is essential when the flash to subject distance keeps changing and also when the subject won’t wait for you to set the flash power manually, both of which are frequent when taking photos of insects. When it comes to insect photography manual flash is a faff and is not something I would recommend.
There are two tubes in the Yongnuo ring flash that are independent of each other, and since you can set each light at a different power you can get creative and have different lighting ratios for different lighting effects.
Compared to the Canon MR14EX and the Sigma ring flash the Yongnuo ring flash is cheap, and I am stunned how Yongnuo can sell them so cheap. Is this company actually making money on the sale of these? Whatever, if you want a ring flash that is well built, full of features, does everything a ring flash is supposed to do and is also affordable the Yongnuo YN14 is something you should take a look at. I am very happy with mine and it is the best value for money.
Buy the Yongnuo YN14EX ring flash from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
First things first, if you are serious about taking photos of insects a point and shoot camera is not good enough, even the top end point and shoot cameras. A point and shoot will capture a photo of an insect, but it is likely to be a tiny “dot” lost in a vast background which is not what we’re after here.
If want to capture good photos of insects you need an interchangeable lens camera, and whilst you may choose to use a mirrorless I would always use, and also always recommend, a dslr camera. You can use a full frame or crop sensor camera for insect photography, but I think the crop sensor camera is the best choice and it is the type of dslr camera I would recommend to anyone serious about taking great insect photos.
It may seem strange recommending a crop sensor camera over a full frame camera, however there is method in my madness and I do have my reasons:-
Using a crop sensor camera means whatever lens you use instantly has a longer (effective) focal length. This means if I use a 100mm on my crop sensor camera it is like using a lens with a 160mm focal length on a full frame sensor. Most of the time you need all the focal length you can get when insects are the target, so this is a good thing.
Crop sensor cameras usually have higher burst rates than full frame cameras. There is a lot of information/data to transfer using a full frame camera which slows the processors down which leads to a lower burst rate. To put it in perspective my crop sensor 7d has a burst rate of 8 frames per second whereas my full frame 6d has a burst rate of 4.5 frames per second. The higher the burst rate the more photos I can take per second. The more photos I can take in succession the higher the chance of a sharp shot and the higher my hit rate.
Most dslr cameras that are made with moving subjects in mind are crop sensor cameras, and since insects are live moving subjects it makes sense to use a camera designed with moving subjects in mind, i.e. a crop sensor camera.
THE CAMERA I USE FOR INSECT PHOTOGRAPHY
"My camera of chice for insect photogrphy is the Canon 7d"
I have crop sensor dslr cameras and a full frame dslr camera at my disposal and whenever I go out to specifically target insects my camera of choice is one of my crop sensor cameras and the one I choose is my Canon 7d.
The first thing to note about the Canon 7d is the build quality. The magnesium alloy body is tough, weatherproof and also weather sealed, The Canon 7d is one tough cookie, which makes it perfect for getting out and about in the field where the wilderness attacks the camera and Mother Nature throws the elements at it too.
The image quality of the Canon 7d isn’t as good as that of my full frame camera, which is to be expected, but it is exceptionally good. I have never had any complaints over the image quality of my 7d, and since I have sold several photos taken with this camera I can only assume the people who like and buy my work have no issues with the image quality either.
The Canon 7d has fast processors (which means a high burst rate) and a high number of sensitive autofocus points, which makes it perfect for shooting moving subjects, like insects, creepy crawlies and mini-beasts. With the 7d I can quickly focus on the insect, retain focus and track it and then fire off plenty of shots in quick succession. These two features alone have increased my hit rate/keeper rate no end, however they have also meant I have had to spend more time in front of the computer sifting through more photos. The increase in post capture time is a bit of a faff, but it is worth it when I look at the shots I manage to bag as a result.
How about this for a bargain camera for insect photography?
Since the release of the Canon 7d Mk2 the second hand and used prices of the Canon 7d have gone through the floor, and there are loads of bargains to be had, if you don’t mind buying used lenses that is. Buying used could save you a ton of cash, and if you want to buy a second hand lens there is only one site to visit, and that is eBay. If you want to see the current range of used Canon 7d cameras currently available on eBay use the search box below.
What are you waiting for? Go and grab yourself a bargain
Most photographers would say there is only one lens you need to take decent photos of insects, and that is a macro lens. In most circumstances I would agree, however there are times when a macro lens is not the best choice of lens for taking insect photos, and that is when the subject is dragonflies and butterflies, which are insects.
In my experience butterflies and dragonflies are timid insects that seldom sit still for very long, and when they are resting on something they won’t let me get close enough to take a frame filling photo with a macro lens. I find the working distance of a macro lens too short to consistently get close up shots of dragonflies and butterflies. Sure, I get the odd one or two but not that many and a session with the macro lens photographing butterflies and dragonflies is very frustrating. My lens of choice for photographing dragonflies and butterflies is a long reach zoom lens, and I use the Canon 100 -400L for this.
When taking photographs of other insects, the majority of which are a lot smaller and also less timid, a macro lens is the best lens to capture frame filling shots of them. Macro lenses are typically available in focal lengths of 50mm, 60mm, 100mm, 105mm and 180mm.
The wider macro lenses, i.e. those with the smaller focal lengths, are the cheapest and even though they are well built and have good image quality they are not suitable for insect photography. The working distance of the wider macro lenses is simply too small and you will struggle to get close enough to the subject to get a good shot. Even if you do get close enough to the insect you will have problems with light, which is restricted when the lens is so close to the subject.
The longest focal length macro lenses have larger working distances so you can be further away from the subject and still get a frame filling shot. The problem with the longer length macro lenses is they are big, heavy and camera shake can be an issue. If you shoot insects in captivity and can set the camera and lens on a tripod 180mm macro lens is a good buy. If you are out in the field taking handheld shots the 180mm macro lens is not a good buy.
The 100mm and 105mm macro lenses are, in my opinion, the best macro lenses. These macro lenses are the best compromise between size/weight, working distance and also cost. There will be times when you can’t get close enough to the subject without scaring it off (this is all part and parcel of insect photography) but you will find the hit rate with a 100mm macro lens is pretty good.
There are a few 100mm and 105mm macro lenses to choose from, and there are a few manufacturers who make them. None of the macro lenses are bad, but some are (obviously) better than others. Choosing what macro lens is easy – The 100mm or 105mm macro lens. Choosing what 100mm or 105mm macro lens to get is a little trickier.
THE MACRO LENS I USE FOR INSECT PHOTOGRAPHY
"My lens fo choice - the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens"
The macro lens I use for all my insect photography is the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS lens, and it does everything I need it to and more. Prior to the L series macro lens I used the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens, which was very good but when the L series model (with image stabilization) was released I had to have one, and boy am I glad I did.
The 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens is simply brilliant. Like all L series lenses it is made from the best quality materials which means it is tough, durable and also weather sealed which makes it perfect for outdoor use. The image quality of the L series macro lens is stunning and the photos are crisp, super sharp, bright and vibrant but not overly saturated. Fringing and distortion is never a problem. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with the image quality of this lens.
The reason I traded up to the Canon L series macro lens was for the image stabilisation, and I have to say it is brilliant. When scrabbling around on my hands and knees in the dirt looking for insects to take photos of a tripod is next to useless and I have to rely on the steadiness of my hands. The image stabilisation means I can shoot at slower shutter speeds (i.e. I don’t have to push the ISO and deal with noise) and still get sharp shots.
If you want a macro lens for insect photography and use a Canon camera, this lens should be top of your list. Okay, it is expensive and there are cheaper macro lenses out there but this lens is worth every penny. This macro lens is an investment and will provide years of trouble free service, providing you look after it of course.
Buy the Canon 100mm f2.8 L IS macro lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
"The Canon 100mm f2.8 lens still gives excellent image quality"
If the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens is out of your budget may I suggest the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens (i.e. the model before that does not have the red ring or image stabilisation)? I owned this lens a few years ago and I have to say it is an exceptionally good lens and one I managed to capture some (what I thought were) very good macro photos. This lens produces images that are sharp, bright and vivid. You will not be disappointed with the image quality of this lens.
Since the release of the L series macro lens the price of this lens has fallen through the floor and there are loads of deals and bargains to be had in the used and second hand market. If you don’t mind buying second hand you could get a killer macro lens for little money. The best place to get a used macro lens is eBay, and if you want to see the current selection of used and second hand Canon 100mm macro lenses available use the eBay search box below.
What are you waiting for? Go and get yourself a bargain.
If you are serious about taking photos of birds there is only one type of camera you should use, and that is a dslr camera. Point and shoot cameras, even the top end ones, simply aren’t up to snuff and whilst you can take photos of birds with them, they won’t be any good. Many photographers argue mirrorless cameras are the way to go, however I am not so sure. Mirrorless camera technology has come a long way and they are very good, but not for moving subjects. The only type of camera you should use for bird photography is a dslr camera. You can, arguably, use any dslr camera for bird photography however I would recommend a crop sensor camera every time.
I have a full frame dslr camera and a crop sensor dslr camera and I have to say that when I want to go out and take some photos of birds I instantly reach for the crop sensor camera. This may seem strange given full frame cameras have superior image quality but I do have my reasons. Besides, the image quality of my crop sensor camera is still exceptional and you’ll only see the difference in image quality between my full camera and my crop sensor camera is if you go pixel peeping on the computer, and no one does that in real life!
Cameras with a crop sensor have the “crop factor” effect which is very useful. Using the crop sensor camera effectively increases the focal length of my lens by 160%. This means the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens I typically use for bird photography has an effective focal length of 160mm – 640mm, which is really cool, especially since there are times when you always need a little more reach.
My crop sensor camera has faster processors than my full frame camera, which means it has higher burst rate and I can fire off more shots in quick succession. The higher the burst rate the greater the chance of getting a sharp shot, the greater the chance of getting a different type of shot and the higher my hit rate. To put it in perspective the burst rate of my full frame camera is 4 frames per second whereas the burst rate of my crop sensor camera is 8 frames per second.
My crop sensor camera has more autofocus points, and also has more sensitive autofocus points than my full frame camera. The greater the number of autofocus points, combined with their increased sensitivity, means I can lock on to the birds quickly, efficiently and stay locked on them too. My crop sensor camera is built of moving subjects, whereas my full frame camera is slow and struggles with moving subjects therefore it makes sense to use the crop sensor camera.
The camera I use for bird photography
"The awesome Canon 7d - An excellent bird photography camera"
The camera I use for bird photography is the Canon 7d, and I have to say that it is awesome and does everything I need it to, and more. The Canon 7d has a magnesium alloy body and is weather sealed, which makes it super strong and more than capable of being able to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at it. The 7d has super quick processors (for a high burst rate), super sensitive auto focus points (for super quick focusing) and the image quality is superb. The Canon 7d is an excellent tool for bird photography and the only camera I would use instead would be the Canon 1d, which is several times more expensive and something I would never own because it is way over my budget.
If you think the Canon 7d MkII is out of your budget have you considered the Canon 7d markI? This camera has now been discontinued and because of this the price of used and second hand models have gone through the floor, which means there are loads of bargains to be had. If you want to buy a used Canon 7d (and I would seriously consider it) there is only one place to go and that is eBay, where there are loads of deals and bargains to be had.
If you want to check out what used Canon 7ds are currently available on eBay try using the eBay search box below.
What are you waiting for? Go grab yourself a bargain
Even the biggest birds are small creatures, and if you want to capture frame filling photos of birds you are either going to have to be extremely close to them or have the ability to get close to them. Getting close to birds, even tame garden birds is difficult and more often than not they scarper and fly off before you get a chance to take a photo. Consequently, the only way to get close enough is to use a long reach tele photo lens. Even if you can get reasonably close to the birds I wouldn’t recommend a lens any shorter than 100mm because less than this the field of view is too wide and the bird will get lost in the background.
We have established we need a long focal length for bird photography, but the question is just how long a focal length do we need? Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer here and the focal length needed for frame filling shots of birds will vary. There will be times when 100mm is all that’s needed, there will be times when 150mm is all that’s needed, there will be times when 300mm is needed…… and there will be times when even an 800mm lens isn’t long enough for a frame filling shot. Choosing the best lens for bird photography isn’t easy.
One option is to have multiple lenses for bird photography to cover a variety of focal lengths, but unless you have multiple cameras you will have to keep changing the lens which is not ideal. Changing lenses takes time, during which the birds may fly off resulting in a missed shot. Another issue with changing lenses is that every time you do this the camera’s internals are opened up to the elements increasing the chances of dust entering the camera, and the lens, which will ultimately ruin the photos.
Rather than having multiple lenses I would recommend using a single lens for bird photography. There are lenses available with a focal length of 150mm – 600mm, which is vast. This does sound awesome on paper but in reality it is a different story. These lenses are slow, they are soft and the image quality is simply awful. The focal length range is too vast on these lenses for them to be any good.
Fortunately there are compromises and these lenses are cover focal lengths of 28mm – 300mm, 100mm – 400mm and 80mm – 400mm. These lenses don’t have the same reach as the 150mm – 600mm lenses but these lenses are faster and have far better image quality. Using these shorter lenses you can capture high quality sharp photos that are good enough to sell and make money with.
If you want a lens for taking photos of birds please don’t touch the lenses with super long focal lengths, unless you are spending several thousand bucks on them of course, and instead opt for the lenses with slightly shorter focal lengths. It is worth remembering 400mm on a crop sensor camera has an effective of 640mm, which isn’t too shabby at all.
THE LENS I USE FOR BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY
"The awesome Canon 100 - 400L IS"
The lens I use for bird photography is the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens, and I have to say it is perfect for my needs. Before I bought the Canon 100 – 400L lens I also considered the Canon 400mm prime, but zoom lenses are more versatile and zoom lenses allow for different framing and composition, which is very important. With a zoom lens I can zoom in nice and tight and isolate a specific part of the bird or I can pull back and include not only the bird but also some of the background too.
The Canon 100 – 400L lens is made out of the best materials and is also weather sealed. This makes it tough, durable and pretty much bombproof. It also means this lens can deal with anything Mother Nature has to throw at it, which is crucial for outdoor photography.
The image quality of the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens is superb and I have no complaints there whatsoever. Photos taken with this lens are sharp, crisp, bright, vibrant and vivid but not overly saturated.
The Canon 100 – 400L lens has image stabilisation technology and whilst Canon claim it is 4 stop, I am not too sure about this. I have never managed to reduce the shutter speed by 4 stops and managed to get sharp shots. On a good day I can get a 3 stop advantage, however I consistently get 2.5 – 3 stops, so it’s pretty cool. The image stabilisation of this lens is very good and I have no complaints at all.
Overall the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens is a great lens for bird photography and one I highly recommend.
Buy the Canon 100 - 400L IS lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Since the launch of the Canon 100 - 400L IS MKII the used/secondhand cost of the Canon 100 - 400L IS MKI has gone through the floor and there are loads of deals and bargains to be had. If you don't mind buying used lenses (and there is nothing wrong with this) you could save yourself a ton of money if you buy the discontinued Canon 100 - 400L IS lens. The best place for used and secondhand lenses has to be eBay. If you want to see the current selection of used and secondhand Canon 100 - 400L IS lenses use the search box below.
What are you waiting for? Go grab yoursef a bargain.
If you want to capture stunning professional quality photos with your Canon camera but don’t have the deep pockets or the funds available for the professional grade lenses it is still possible. You read that right – you don’t need professional spec lenses to capture professional looking photos since there are budget lenses available that will do the job.
Here are my top three inexpensive and budget lenses for Canon cameras that will capture high quality, sharp, bright and vibrant photos. And the best bit is none of them will break the bank.
Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens
There was a time when the first lens on this list of inexpensive lenses would have been the Canon 50mm f1.8, however since buying the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM pancake lens as a discreet and take anywhere lens the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens is now off the list.
Even though I had the Canon 50mm f1.8 (and it was, and still is, a very good lens) I wanted a budget lens that was smaller and lighter but had at least the same image quality, or better if possible. After a bit of research and hitting the internet forums I discovered a lens that kept coming up tie and time again, and that was the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens.
All the reviews I read were positive, all of the sample photos I saw looked pretty good, and all in all it seemed a good lens. There were, of course, some negative comments about the lens but fewer than I would have expected about a budget lens, which could only be a good thing. The Canon 40mm f2.8 lens is only a few pounds more expensive than the 50mm f1.8, so I thought it was well worth a punt and ordered one from Amazon.
When the 40mm f2.8 STM lens was delivered and I took it out of the box I have to say that I was surprised about the build quality. Owning the 50mm f1.8 (another Canon budget lens), I was expecting a plastic and cheaply made lens but the 40mm f2.8 isn’t like this. The 40mm f2.8 lens felt strong, sturdy and well made, so it was off to a good start. The other thing I instantly noticed was the size of the lens and how tiny it was. The 50mm f1.8 (which is a small lens itself) dwarfed it, so I was very happy with the physical size and dimensions and knew it would be ideal as a take anywhere lens.
The image quality of the 40mm f2.8 STM is far superior to that of the 50mm f1.8. Images taken with the 40mm f2.8 are sharper, crisper, brighter, more vibrant and better all round. The 40mm f2.8 doesn’t have the f1.8 aperture of the 50mm but then I have never found this to be a problem as I often found the depth of field at f1.8 to narrow to get everything I want to in focus. I guarantee you will not be disappointed with the image quality of the 40mm f2.8 STM lens.
There was a time when I believed the Canon 50mm f1.8 was the best value for money lens, however my thoughts on this have changed. Now I own the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens I think this is the best value for money lens for Canon cameras period.
"The tiny Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens"
Sample images using the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens
I was so impressed with the Canon 40mm f2.8 STM lens I decided to buy the Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM lens for my 7d. This lens gives an effective focal length of around 40mm, and it is identical to the 40mm f2.8 lens in every way. With the Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 lens crop sensor users can also benefit from, and enjoy a true 40mm focal length lens.
Canon 100mm f2.8 macro
Next on my list of inexpensive lenses for Canon cameras is the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens. This is not the L series macro lens with image stabilisation.
I bought the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens several years ago (before the L series IS version was released) and I was instantly stunned by the image quality and sharpness of this lens. Photos taken using this lens were tack sharp and second to none, and it was easily the sharpest lens I owned.
The build quality of the lens was very good, and whilst it wasn’t up to the same standard as the L series lenses I owned, it still felt tough, sturdy and well up to the job. Now I have owned this lens for several years, and given it quite a bit of abuse during those years, I can confirm it is a tough and sturdy lens that provides years of trouble free service.
When the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens was released the cost of the 100mm f2.8 macro lens went through the floor, as did the value of used/second hand copies so there are plenty of bargains to be had.
When the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens was released the thought of a weather sealed lens and a lens with image stabilisation was too good to miss. I like to get out in the wilderness and take photos of insects, so the weather sealing and image stabilisation would make my life a lot easier. As you’ve probably already guessed I bought the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens, and also tested it against the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens as well.
There’s no doubt about it the build quality of the L series macro lens is superior and the image stabilisation is awesome, but given the extra cost this is to be expected. The image quality of the L series macro lens isn’t that much different to the non L series lens, which surprised me somewhat.
If you go pixel peeping you can see the image quality of the L series lens is slightly better but if you look at a print it is virtually impossible to tell the difference in image quality. In the real world no-one goes pixel peeping so no-one would ever tell whether an image was taken using the L series macro lens or this lens.
The awesome Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens
The Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens is an excellent lens and one I highly recommend. You obviously can’t buy a brand new one but there are plenty of used copies about that are worth a look. Try searching eBay using the search box below.
Event photography is one of those scenarios when the superior image quality of the Canon 6d is not needed. The image quality of the Canon 7d is exceptionally good and more than capable of capturing photos that are good enough for what the event organisers want. Whilst the image quality of the Canon 6d is better than that of the Canon 7d the difference is negligible and you have to go pixel peeping to see it, and no one does this in the real world. I have no issues with the Canon 7d’s image quality for event photography whatsoever.
In addition to being tough and durable, and having great image quality the Canon 7d has fast processors (for a high burst rate), lightening quick autofocus, and a crop sensor (giving a little extra reach) making it ideal for photographing events. The only real criticism I have with the 7d is that it is bigger than the 6d, especially when I add the Canon battery grip (one of the most useful camera accessories I have ever bought from Warehouse Express), which makes discreet candid shots a little tricky. Al things considered the Canon 7d is a great camera for event photography.
Event photography equipment - lenses
If you want to capture great event shots you need to get up close and personal to the action, which requires shorter focal length lenses. When taking event photos it is often necessary to shoot wide, to make sure you can get everything in the frame, which once again requires lenses with shorter focal lengths. If there’s one lens you should have in your event photography equipment bag it is a 16mm – 35mm zoom lens.
The 16mm short end is wide enough to get a lot in to the frame (groups of people, couples and a bit of background etc.) but not so wide distortion is an issue. 16mm is the widest you can use before you have to think about distortion and also think about how to sort it out/deal with it in the digital darkroom, i.e. editing the images. The 35mm long end is a useful (and very popular) length for single portraits and is a favourite focal length with many photographers.
A zoom lens is ideal for event photography because it is versatile, allows for many different framing opportunities and can also use the zoom facility to change the composition. Prime lenses do have slightly better image quality than zoom lenses, but the difference is negligible and you have to go pixel peeping to notice it. The 16mm – 35mm lens loses out to prime lenses when it comes to size and weight (the 16mm – 35mm lens is bigger and heavier).
The 16mm – 35mm lens I use for event photography is the Canon EF-S 10mm – 22mm f3.5 – 4.5 USM. Okay, this lens says 10mm – 22mm but the 35mm equivalent (taking the crop sensor in to account) is 16mm – 35.2mm on my Canon 7d. This lens isn’t as tough and durable as the L series 16mm – 35mm lens (the 16 – 35 f4L IS (which I bought from Warehouse Express and use for landscapes on my 6d) or the 16 – 35 f2.8L) but it is still a sturdy lens. The image quality of this lens is exceptionally good, and whilst it may only open as wide as f3.5 (at the short end) to f4.5 (at the long end) I have never found the need to go any wider. When taking event photos I like a depth of field that has a level of sharpness throughout the image rather than intentionally blurring the background out of all recognition. The Canon E-S 10mm – 22mm f3.5 – 4.5 is an excellent event photography lens and one I highly recommend.
Event photography equipment – Speed light
ETTL (automatic) flash is the only way to get consistently good event photos using a speed light because the flash to subject distance constantly changes, making manual flash virtually impossible. You may strike it lucky setting the flash power manually, and grab a couple of correctly exposed shots, but I guarantee you will miss way more shots than you actually hit.
There is a lot of skill involved in using a flash in ETTL mode correctly so you will need to practice. You need to know about flash exposure compensation, know when flash exposure compensation is needed, know whether you need positive or negative flash exposure compensation, and also how much flash exposure compensation to apply. It isn’t as easy as turning on the flash, setting it to ETTL mode and then start snapping away.
The speed light I use for event photography is the Godox Ving, which is a budget speed light that is powerful, packed full of features (it has ETTL mode, manual mode and HSS mode), user friendly and intuitive to use (I didn’t need to look at the user guide at all) and has a single cell battery (which means no AA batteries laying around all over the place). I bought the Ving on a whim when I needed a speed light for a shoot but broke my Canon 600EX and didn’t have much spare cash laying around. I was sceptical ordering the Ving, I mean it seemed too cheap to be true, so when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, the Ving wasn’t as well built as the Canon 600EX but it wasn’t too bad. This was kind of expected, especially since the Godox Ving is a fraction of the price of the 600EX. If you’re interested here’s a review of the Godox Ving speed light you may want to check out.
Event photography equipment - Flash triggers
Whenever I take my flash off camera at an event I use wireless flash triggers. Wireless flash triggers are a little bigger and bulkier than an off camera flash cord, but the additional weight is negligible and it is something I am more than happy to live with since I can move the flash wherever I want to (providing it is no more than arm’s length away of course) and not have a coiled up springy cord getting the way. Off camera flash cords are super cheap but, once again, I am more than happy to pay the extra for some wireless flash triggers.
The flash triggers I use for my event photography shoots are the Yongnuo 622s and the accompanying transmitter (master controller that sits in the camera’s hot shoe). When I was on the search for some flash triggers it seemed there were either the mega expensive top end Pocket Wizards (the cost of which horrified me) or the stupidly cheap unbranded Chinese made generic flash triggers (I found many forum posts warning people not to buy these) and little in between.
After a bit of research I found the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers and the reviews and articles I read about them seemed pretty positive. There were good comments about the reliability (i.e. no misfires), how easy they were to set up and use, how good the off camera ETTL modes was, and also how affordable they were. On the flipside there were negative comments about the build quality. After weighing everything up I decided to take a punt and ordered a pair to test out.
When I received the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers I was impressed – I was expecting a very poorly made product, but it actually wasn’t too bad. Sure, they didn’t feel as sturdy as the Pocket Wizards but considering I could buy five Yongnuo flash triggers for the cost of a single Pocket Wizard this is no big surprise. After testing the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers I found them to be very easy to set up and use, very reliable (they fired every time I pressed the shutter) and perfect for what I wanted. If you want are looking for some affordable flash triggers I highly recommend the Yongnuo 622 triggers, and if you are interested you may want to check out this review.
Event photography equipment - Other equipment
Taking loads of photos requires lots of memory and also power, therefore it is important to make sure you plenty of memory available and spare batteries. I don’t use the huge capacity memory cards because I don’t like the thought of losing an entire shoot if the card becomes corrupt. I know modern day memory cards are exceptionally reliable, but there is always that small chance the card could become unreadable, and I don’t want to leave myself open to that.
Rather than using a single high capacity memory card I use several smaller memory cards, typically 8GB, to make sure that I always have some photos of the event should the sticky stuff hit the fan and a memory card (or two) becomes corrupt.
You should always carry plenty of spare batteries (for both the camera and the flash) to make sure you can keep shooting during the entire event. I keep an eye on the battery power I have left and if it appears I am unlikely to make the end of the event (because I have gone too wild at the start of the event) I will slow down, take fewer photos and conserve the power so I can get photos right up to the end of the event. In my experience it is better to have fewer photos throughout the entire event than loads of photos to, let’s say for arguments sake, halfway through the event.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.