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My Cameras & Lenses

Photographers want to talk about gear, as if the cameras and lenses are the main reasons why some pictures are great, while others are not. Some "experts" say the camera and lens do not matter, because it's always the photographer behind the camera that counts. I'd like to believe them. But more often than not, the photographers who say so have far better, more sophisticated, and more expensive equipment than you have. Me, I buy the best cameras and lenses I can afford. Which means that with my economic state I can only buy the cheaper ones. It's okay. I simply follow the commandment "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's camera" and invest my time instead in improving my photographic skills, knowing my equipment well, and pushing them to their limits. I still follow developments in the digital photography world every single day, just to see what's new and what's the latest. But that's it; I can only say my ohs and ahs with the latest cameras out there, but sorry, I'm not buying. Maybe only when my equipment stop working, and when they cannot be repaired anymore. And if I'd buy, I'd probably buy the same old models I'm used to.

So, here's what I shoot with ...

Bodies

Canon EOS Digital 350D and its American version, the EOS Rebel XT. So I usually have two camera bodies in the bag. They are the same cameras, just different names depends where you buy them. They have 8-megapixel sensors. They were first announced in February 2005, then released to the market a few months later. They're Canon's entry-level dSLRs at the time I bought them, the cheapest in their lineup. (They're obsolete now, already long out of production.) So, why use a Jurassic, less capable camera? Because they're more than enough for my needs. In fact, when I moved to digital, I was hoping I could get a cheap body that will let me use my old manual-focusing Canon FD lenses, any camera that will let me control focus, aperture and shutter speed. I don't need the other features. Unfortunately, there was no such camera.

So when it was time for me to buy my first digital SLR, I opted for the cheapest available at the time -- the Canon EOS Digital 300D, aka Digital Rebel, the first dSLR that became affordable, at under $1,000 for the camera body. Many of the pictures here were taken with this camera. Such a simple camera, but it was more than enough for my needs. For me, it has one major flaw -- too slow when writing to the CF card, especially when shooting RAW, so you'll miss some photo opportunities when you shoot fast-moving subjects, like Mindanao's colorful festivals. The 350D solved that problem, so that's why I'm still using the 350D up to now. My old 300D is now with my son Arkay.

If you notice, my camera bodies' exteriors are made of plastic. Others say they're not strong enough to withstand professional use. I've brought them to the extremes of climates (even in freezing temperatures abroad), out in the sand, in the dust and in the rain, dropped them on concrete a few times, and they're still functioning perfectly.

Lenses

When I moved to digital, I bought the cheapest camera body. I invested my money in lenses, which I know I'll be using for the rest of my life, if I can take care of them properly. For me, I can have a lemon for a camera body. As long as I have good glass, then I'm okay.  

Canon 17-40mm f4 L. This is my favorite lens. I can go out the house to shoot with just this one lens and I'm okay. As any of Canon's L-series professional lenses, this lens is sharp, and reliable. Along with my camera bodies, I dropped this lens a few times on concrete, and it's still working after nearly five years of abuse. This is actually the poor professional's wide angle zoom lens, because rich photographers would rather get the 16-35 f2.8 L, at almost double the price.

Canon 70-200 f4 L. Again, this is the poor professional's telephoto, as this is the little brother of the famed 70-200 f2.8 L and its stabilized (I.S.) version. But I like this lens for its smalller size and lighter weight, a big plus when I'm walking out there in Mindanao's far-flung areas. Just as sharp as its bigger brothers.

Canon 50mm f1.8. Every Canon user (poor, that is) should have this lens. Sharp as an L, light as paper, yet among the cheapest lenses out there. If you're rich, get the f1.4 version; if richer still, then the f1.2L.

Canon 24-70 f2.8 L.  I did not plan to buy this big, expensive lens. But it crossed my path as I was looking for my first L, being sold at half the price, used, by an American photojournalist. I grabbed it right away. I used it extensively at first, but it's just too bulky and too heavy for me. And the focal length isn't ideal for my 1.6x APS-C sized camera sensor. So this is my least used lens now, staying in the dry box most of the time. I use this usually for portraits in a studio setting, which I do rarely coz I'm an outdoors guy. But I'm keeping this lens, hoping that some day, full-frame cameras like the Canon 5D will become cheap (especially now that the 5D MkII has been announced!). Then the 24-70 would be the ideal walkaround lens. This is my most expensive lens; it's so expensive that my wife almost divorced me when she learned how much I paid for it.

[If you notice, except for the 24-70, all my lenses are the "budget" lenses by professional standars. It's mainly just a question of economics. Had I been richer, I'd buy the faster, more expensive lenses.]

Flash

I have two, both old models already out of production, the Canon 550EX and the 420EX. Ops, I mean, I have four. I still use the ever reliable, tough-as-a-tank Vivitar 283 every now and then, as well as the Sunpak 383 Super. These were my flashguns when I was still shooting film.

Film cameras

Before going digital, I was using the Canon T90 and the Canon A1, both feature-rich manual-focusing cameras. A few of the pictures here were taken with these cameras. My Canon FD lenses for these cameras -- 20mm f2.8, 28mm f2.8. 50mm f1.4, 70-210 f4, and, during the twilight of my film days, the 35-105mm f3.5. The 28mm was my favorite, most used, lens.

Digicams

Before my final plunge into the digital world with dSLRs, I first experimented with point-and-shoot digicams. My first digicam was the Olympus Camedia C3000z, which I got used from an ebay auction. It only has 3 megapixels and a 3x zoom lens (about 32-96mm equivalent), but has all the controls I need. I used it for over a year, from 2002 to 2003, and so many of the pictures here, especially the festivals, were taken with this camera. In fact, I got a year-long contract shooting Mindanao's festivals just with this little camera. I even shot sports with it. In August 2003, I upgraded to the 5-megapixel Minolta DiMage 7Hi with a 28-200mm (equivalent) lens. But I used it only for a few months as I got my first dSLR in December 2003.