Tag Archives: gear head

N00bism #2

Welcome to the second installment of the N00bism series. This time I will tackle probably one of the most highly debated aspect of digital photography. Note that I am very specific about “digital” here and you will see why in the next few blocks.

The topic I am about to discuss is the use of UV FILTERS.

Let me tell you right now that this is probably the biggest scam in the history of photography. Every sales person would sell an unsuspecting buyer a UV filter together with the entry level DSLR and kit lens. Sometimes they would even make them feel that they just made the greatest bargain by giving them a free UV filter after they sold the last remaining stock of last year’s entry level DSLR model.

Well actually, let me take that back. This is not the scam. The scam is when a buyer is forced to feel that they need the most expensive UV filter to pair with their very expensive lens. Let’s see: you already spent thousands of dollars on that lens so why ruin the image quality by screwing a cheap UV filter?! Doesn’t make any sense, no? So you buy each of your holy trinity of lenses the best UV filter you can find. Now THAT makes a lot of sense.

Or does it?

Back in those days when the word photographer actually meant something — back when people shot with film — a UV filter was part of the arsenal. Film is sensitive to UV light and that actually made the photos look cold and hazy without them. Photographers used UV filters because they do help make the photos look clearer. Not so with digital photography. Digtal cameras are corrected against UV light. Yes, your DSLR has a built-in UV filter. You do not need another UV filter.

But wait, UV filters are meant to protect your lenses!

Ok, so now you know that it’s useless as the accessory it was meant for so let’s discuss this positive side effect of doubling as a lens protector. Does it really protect your lens?

Let’s put this in proper context. What kind of protection do you expect from it? Protection against impact? Please consider the fact that a UV filter is just a very thin piece of glass bound by some metal screw mount attachment. Even a very light knock will scratch or break it because it is what it is: a very thin piece of glass. A serious knock will break the glass AND bend the metal mounting and ruin the thread of your lens’es screw mount. You’d be lucky if you can still unscrew the broken filter from your lens without further ruining your lens. It’s not really much of a protection, no? Use your lens cap and/or hood if you want real protection.

So how does the front element of your lens compare to a UV lens in terms of toughness? Firstly, it is so much thicker so it won’t break that easily. Glass is actually a very tough material. To cut through glass, you need the world’s toughest natural substance: a diamond! In the very unfortunate circumstance that you do break the front element, a UV filter would have not been able to save it either. If you do break the front element, expect that something in your lens’es internals would be broken as well due to the force of impact. The point is, don’t be stupid.

How about minor scratches? Front elements are quite tough buggers. You would think that lens manufacturers would consider fortifying this most exposed part of the lens, yes? And even if you do scratch it, you would have to scratch it very very badly before the effects would even start to show in your photos. I’m serious. If you don’t believe me, then check THIS

What about dust? Doh?! Just clean your lens with a cloth. If dust gets on your lens then surely a UV filter will get dusty too so what’s the deal? Even dust INSIDE your lens won’t affect your photos. I have a few old manual lenses with dusts in them but they still make very good shots.

Allow me to summarize those points: a UV filter does not provide enough protection. Your lens is way tougher than any UV filter. Minor lens blemishes do not affect image quality.

So enough with what a UV filter does NOT do. What does a UV filter do really? Unfortunately, nothing but negative 😦

Firstly, it causes flare. Some have lesser effects than others but when subjected to point light sources, UV filters will cause flare in images. This is especially true when shooting at night with light sources coming from different directions.

Secondly, with UV filters glued to your lens, you can’t attach other filters (that do matter) without causing image degradation. Stack a CPL and/or an ND filter in there and you will have bad vignette.

Thirdly, you are just supporting the scammers by buying expensive UV filters.

And that’s it folks! So now you have another method of detecting n00bs — they are the ones with UV filters on their lenses.

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On Ken Rockwell

Why oh why would I even write about Ken Rockwell?

He is easily one of the most hated in the industry. That’s why.

If you haven’t read or heard about him then you are one of the lucky few. It probably means you are out there shooting instead of lurking in forums and hurling shit at other “photographers”. Some forums even have strict rules of “no KR discussions”. Some “togs” are very quick to tell n00bs not to read Ken Rockwell.

But WHY?!

Here’s my own conclusion based on common observation: Those who hate him are primarily jealous gear heads who can’t stand the blunt opinions of KR.

Hey, Rockwell isn’t perfect and some of his views are kinda outrageous. Consider his opinion on not using tripods for example. I’m not sure if he is just masochistic but I will bet my unused Nikon D700 that I can take better photos than him if we go on a one-on-one photoshoot contest on the same location as long as he doesn’t use a tripod. I can guarantee that I will have more keepers and more interesting shots than him. Does that make me a Rockwell hater? Far from it. Have a read on his other articles especially those that tackle composition and FARTing and why your gear does not matter. Every newbie should read them. If you visited Rockwells page and totally missed his excellent tutorials then there is no denying that you are a gear whore. Yes, Rockwell is a gear head. What differentiates him from other gear heads is that the guy can shoot. Compare him with FroKnowsFoto or Kai of DigitalRev (if you don’t know them then consider yourself lucky for the second time). Compare him with those “photographers” who hate him. If you don’t believe me then check out his gallery at 1x.com. Now try submitting your own shots to that group and see if you can even get one image approved by their expert curators. Gear whores, on the other hand, think that Rockwell can’t shoot. Guess what, he owns everyone’s dream gear. So if you think that he can’t shoot then truly gear does not matter if you suck at photography. So touche. Every gear whore who hates him is shooting himself on the foot. Gear heads hate him because they can’t beat him. Rockwell is everything a gear whore wants to become but can’t. Rockwell can buy any gear he wants yesterday. Heck he could probably get any camera before they are even released. I said BUY. Not borrow. Kai or Fro don’t even own the gear they “review”. Rockwell BUYS his gear. He buys them and make very blunt reviews about them. Fan boys will kill anyone who makes blunt criticisms about their chosen brand. That’s why they hate him. Gear whores feel like Rockwell just told them that their mothers are ugly. They feel that it’s cool and that it makes them more credible if they hate Rockwell. They can’t accept the fact that after they upgraded to the latest and greatest camera and acquired the holy trinity of lenses their photos still suck. Rockwell was right after all!!!

I’m not saying that Rockwell is God but some say he is the Chuck Norris of photography. If you have not read about that then consider yourself unlucky. It’s easily one of the funniest posts I have read.

I’m not saying you should believe whatever Rockwell says but he is more credible than any other “photography” magazine when it comes to gear reviews. It’s quite funny because there won’t be Rockwell haters if they did not visit his website frequently. How could you hate someone at first glance? You have got to be a frequent visitor to develop a hatred for the guy. These same gear whores keep coming back for more! And rightly so. Rockwell is easily one of the most honest reviewers out there unlike magazines who are scared to say something bad for fear of being abandoned by gear manufacturers.

So you really hate Rockwell? Then I would like to see your photo gallery.

Upgrades

Q: What is more shocking than the release of the iPad 4?

A: The thousands of angry iPad 3 owners.

Unbelievable! Why would somebody get angry at Apple for releasing the iPad 4 within just six months of the iPad 3’s release? Will the iPad 4 suddenly render the iPad 3 a useless paperweight? Heck, my old iPad 2 still works like the day I bought it. What has the world become?!

I have several theories but my best guess is that the iPad 3 does not really mean anything to these owners. The gadget has absolutely NO VALUE to them. It’s just bling.

An item of value is something that you will keep and use until it breaks or until you have outgrown it. It’s not just the Apple iDiots but “photographers” are on the same spectrum of gear whoring. A new camera suddenly renders the old one unusable and so an upgrade is a must. Unfortunately, there is no stopping this insanity. It will only get worse.

How NOT to Look Like a Terrorist

There had been several incidents where an innocent photographer is confronted by police for taking photos in public places. The police are just doing what they are told to do: stop any potential terrorist activities.

So to avoid becoming the next suspect follow these very simple rules:

1. Never use a tripod. That’s a dead give away. Terrorists use tripods to mame law enforcers.

2. Never use a DSLR in public places. If you are a poser or a gear whore and could not help bringing your D3X and 70-200/2.8 lens during a simple holiday trip, make sure that …

3…. you never use the viewfinder. Hold your camera with outstretched arms and compose your shot using the LCD like any ordinary terrorist, I mean, tourist. I know it’s difficult to do it with gigantic lenses but *your* image is everything.

4. Like any other list of rules, the last one always tells you to break them, so break the rules but don’t blame me. So there!

Fighting GAS

Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or GAS, is a non-seasonal disease that affects hobbyists. The symptoms are more pronounced in the male species although not rare in females especially if they are of the geeky kind. The disease is very contagious, affecting the lives of new comers to the hobby and becoming chronic over time. It is characterized by very strong fanboyism, deadly obsession for gear quality, loss of money and severe degradation of real output.

I still have some symptoms of the disease but I am coping quite well. Before my obsession in photography, I almost completely surrendered my self to guitar playing. There was a time when I became so engrossed in computer upgrades. In all cases, I have managed to heal myself naturally from the disease because I found a very potent cure:

INSPIRATION.

Allow me to tell you about how I managed to cope with this disease in my other hobbies. I remember myself practicing the guitar six hours a day and actively playing in a band. We played originals and even started making an album. When I changed jobs that required me to travel a lot I had to quit the band. I had no more time to play the guitar but my gear doubled! How did I stop buying guitar equipment? By finding inspiration. Bryan May of Queen played only ONE homemade guitar for 30 years! He plays way way better than I do and has managed to produce several albums with a guitar that was made of household stuff. So I stopped my obsession on guitar gear.

Computers. This was even worse. I got so hooked on computers ever since I got my hands on an old 286 machine in high school. I learned several programming languages and even created my own virus from scratch while teaching my self how to code in assembler. I taught my self how to run Linux and was tinkering with the kernel during my first two hours of playing with this new (1997) operating system. Then came the addiction. I was totally obsessed with building new computers all the time. The upgrades never stopped. I bought and sold laptops every year. I thought it would never stop until I found inspiration in the creators of UNIX. My laptop is a gazillion times faster and better than a PDP-8 but I have not managed to produce anything closer to even a simple operating system. That was an eye opener for me.

Now let’s talk about photography. I had several P&S cameras before I even started getting serious with this hobby. My first digital was an Olympus 1.3Mp. It got replaced by a Fuji then a Canon then a Kodak then back to Canon. I was just taking snapshots. Then I got my first DSLR from Thailand which was a Nikon D60 which got upgraded to a Canon 40D then a got a backup Sony A700 and replaced the 40D with a Nikon D700 and the Sony with a Pentax K5. Seriously, THAT is so much gear whoring. I had real intentions on why I made those purchases. After the Sony A700 I realized that I had to simplify. The D700 can share the old lenses from my old Nikon film cameras but it sucked in landscape photography so I got a K5. Yeah, right. I knew it had to stop.

Where did I find the inspiration? From the old greats. There’s Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson, to name a few. They had crappy cameras and yet …. If you want modern photographers, go to 1x.com and you’ll be shocked at how bad your photos are. I have contacts in Flickr that have lesser cameras yet their photos look absolutely fantastic. Truly, it is not the camera.

I’m not saying stop buying new gear. What I’m saying is that make sure that you have maximized your equipment before thinking of getting a new one. Only you can make that decision but you have to be really serious about getting better. I hate my D700 for landscape so instead of letting it gather dust, I looked for situations in which I can make good use of it. Portraiture is an example, although certainly it’s not my favorite type of photography. Forcing myself into doing something I am not familiar with takes the boredom away while at the same time making full use of the errant purchase.

Go find your own inspiration. Just a tip: you probably won’t find it in “photography” forums.