November 2012

Cleaning the Lens of your Camera

How often do you clean the lens of your camera? What do you clean it with? Are you scratching or damaging the surface of your cameras lens?

I often see people taking photos with their dSLR or Compact Cameras with dirty lenses. I have done photography at weddings where I have cleaned the lenses of a number of guests camera as I know how a dirty lens can affect image quality. I have also seen people use the strangest things to clean their lenses and in many cases the result is a scratched lens. Here is a video in which I explain how you can clean your lens effectively without causing damage to the lens surface.

Your digital SLR camera WILL die

It is true that your digital SLR camera has a life expectancy. If you are a casual shooter you probably shoot around 100 photos per month, so your camera might last you 10 years before it dies. Why? Because all digital SLR cameras, even mirrorless designs like the SONY SLT series, have a crucial moving part called the shutter. The shutter is that part which opens up the sensor to exposure of the light. The shutter is that click, besides the mirror flipping up, you hear every time you press the button on your dSLR. Though technology has made shutters very reliable, they are a moving part without which your camera cannot function.

How long do shutters last?

In general manufacturers design shutters for around 100 000 actuations (opening and closing of the shutter). This is variable and differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. I am happy to say that my backup camera, a SONY Alpha 230 (or a230 as it is commonly called) has done a little over 150 000 actuations without problems, but I know it will die eventually. Higher end camera bodies can do 300 000 – 500 000 actuations, but these are more expensive and casual photographers will never buy one. Most people settle for entry level dSLR cameras which are readily available from local electronics stores and probably will never experience a shutter death.

Why is this important?

With entry-level cameras becoming really cheap many people purchase one for themselves or receive one as a gift and try their hand at making some money with it. They charge very low rates as they do not consider the camera as a product which can fail. Then one day you hear a horror story… a wedding shoot the photographer did without a backup camera and they experienced a dead shutter during the ceremony! What to tell the bride and groom? They cannot continue the shoot and the bridal couple is left without those beautiful memories of one of the most important days of their lives! They push and push the button, but there is no click, or the click sounds a little strange and when they get home to check the shots they have a black line (usually skewed) across the top or bottom (half a shutter break).

A 100 000 shutter actuations will last me a lifetime!

Yes, if you shoot just a couple of photos a month, but not if you get into doing photography as a profession. I shoot an average of 8000 photos per month so I have to make sure I am ready to replace my main dSLR body every 18-24 months. I use a higher-end dSLR (SONY A55v) which is generally good for at least 200 000 actuations, but I prefer to be ready to replace the body before it reaches the safe limit even though it may continue working for years after that. The cost of replacing a body can be high and this needs to be added to the cost of photo shoots you do. If you are doing professional photography (ie. you do photography for a living) you must be ready for camera body replacement every 18 months. If your dSLR experiences shutter death today, will you be ready to replace or do you have a backup?

Even though I have only once experienced a shutter death on a SLR (old Minolta 300si film camera after many many shots over its limit) I have a backup camera to keep me going in case it should ever happen again.

Sigma 90mm Macro Prime f/2.8

I received this lens on 20 December and went out to do a couple of test shots. I am very happy with this lens as it is sharp and clear with great contrast. This lens will be primarily used for detail work at weddings such as photos of the rings, jewelry, decorations and other detail items, but it does make a great portrait lens as well!
See more sample photos here:

A horse enjoying a graze – Sony A77 sample

Why I bought the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8

As those of you who follow my Facebook Page will know, I recently bought myself the Tamron SP AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro Lens. I posted some samples on my Facebook page and some photos of the lens. After seeing this (fairly large) lens some people thought it is a super zoom lens, but it is not. It has a range of 70mm to 200mm which isn’t far for a zoom lens, yet it is fairly large (and heavy, but lighter than other makes in the same class). Many photographers, even non-professional or amateurs, usually own a 70-300mm lens which has 100mm more reach, so why would I want this specific lens which is big, heavy and reaches only 200mm?

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 sample

Though I can cite many reasons why I chose this lens I will only give the main ones.

1. It is a “Fast” lens

With a constant f/2.8 wide aperture it helps to take photos in low light at faster shutter speeds and lower ISO which improves quality of photos. Since I do professional wedding photography in the North West Province of South Africa I needed another fast lens for weddings which also gives me more reach. I already own a Sony 28-75 f/2.8 and a Minolta 50mm f/1.7, but they just don’t quite have the reach for some situations. Situations where I sometimes find I need a longer reach is during the ceremony which sometimes is in a church with low lighting. To get those close-up tight shots of the bride and groom normally requires me to move in close to the couple which can interfere with the people attending. I try to be as invisible during a ceremony as possible so those present can enjoy the proceedings without the photographer getting in the way. Using a 28-75 lens just doesn’t get you very close to things as they happen. Using a 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 lens does not cut it either as it forces slower shutter speeds and the use of high ISO which really degrades the quality of the photos.

2. It is a quality lens

There is a misconception amongst many people that Tamron, Sigma and other after market lenses produced by manufacturers other than those of your camera make are not good, but this is untrue. Like Canon, Nikon, Sony and other camera manufacturers Tamron has entry level lenses for beginners and amateur photographers which are good enough for certain applications, but cannot be considered professional grade. Tamron does, however, produce excellent professional grade lenses and this is one of them. using Low Dispersion (LD) glass and high quality optics ensures you get clean, crisp and quality light through to your camera sensor. These lenses are way more expensive than the entry level lenses, but the cost is worth it.

3. Control of Background (Bokeh)

Though Bokeh (blurring of the background) can be achieved using virtually any lens it is just so much easier with an f/2.8 lens. Using this lens I am now able to blur the background even with a full length photo of a subject in a landscape shot.

Sony A77 with Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 Landscape Sample

The ability to blur the background on a full length landscape shot brings focus to your subject. Though you may not always want this it is there for those times you have a background which you prefer to blur out slightly. Some people try to do this in editing afterwards, but this always produces an unrealistic looking image. Bringing your subject to halft-length shots creates even more bokeh as in the below example:

Sony A77 with Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 Half-Length Sample

Since my subject is now close to the lens the depth of field shortens (or becomes shallower) which produces larger Bokeh circles for your background. This now completely separates your subject from the background. This is an advantage when you shoot in situations where you cannot always control what appears in the background. Since the background is now so far out of focus it almost doesn’t matter what is in the background as it will hardly become distracting. This is not only great for wedding photography, but also model and portrait photos. When bringing the subject even closer for head and shoulder shots the Bokeh effect increases even more.

Sony A77 with Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 Head and Shoulder Sample


So there you have the main reasons for my decision to purchase this lens.

If you are interested in this lens or something similar then head over to SACamera where you can find the best professional photographic and studio equipment at the best prices.

Photography Quotes

I have heard some great quotes related to photography and have decided to start a list which I will update from time to time as I come across more. Some of these quotes may not even be by photographers or directly related to photography, but I will try to keep them a close to the subject of photography as possible. There are MANY quotes about photography out there, but I am only going to list those I like here



  • You cannot rely on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus – Mark Twain
  • A true photograph need not be explained nor can it be contained in words – Ansel Adams
  • If you keep your cool, you’ll get everything – Elliott Erwitt
  • Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field – Peter Adams
  • It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see – Henry David Thoreau
  • You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper. – William Albert Allard
  • You do not think of your feet when you walk. Likewise, become so accustomed to your camera that its function becomes an extension of yourself. – Anonymous
  • Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph. – Matt Hardy
  • What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce. – Karl Lagerfeld
  • You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn’t waste either. – Galen Rowell (died in a plane crash in 2002)
  • You just have to live and life will give you pictures. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

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