It was never my intention to try to become yet another amateur Internet camera gear reviewer and try to cover every single piece of new equipment that appears on the market from every single manufacturer. There are far too many of those already.
Every piece of equipment in these pages is something that I own and use, or have owned and used. Some of these items I have owned and used for many years.
Most items are made by Canon. Other manufacturers also make very good equipment, but I started with a Canon A1 in 1982 and this made such a good impression on me that I have always stuck with Canon. I don't dislike other brands, but for cameras and lenses I have a preference for Canon.
There are also some items made by other manufacturers that Canon don't make, such as tripods and ballheads, etc.
I have steered away from the standard review format and thus you won't generally find a lot of technical information. I concentrate more on the user experience and sample images.
Besides, numbers, charts and technical information don't always tell the whole story. When I was very enthusiastic about audio gear many years ago I had a friend who was obsessed with frequency response charts and would judge loudspeakers from these charts.
I used an old pair of Quad Electrostatic ESL63s. The frequency response chart for these speakers was terrible, but the actual sound they made was immensely superior to most other speakers - even those ones with impressive frequency response charts.
With camera lenses you can obsess over and compare MTF charts until the cows come home, but sometimes it's actually a lot easier just to look at some sample images.
My Photography Background
I received a Canon A1 (plus FD 50mm f/1.8 lens) for my 21st birthday in 1982. I was hooked.
At that time, the technology used in the Canon A1 was almost miraculous. I remember being in awe just thinking what was happening inside the camera.
Over a number of years I added a 70-210mm f/4 zoom, a wide angle 28mm f/2.8, a 300mm f/4, a 1.4x extender, a 135mm f/2, a 500mm f/8.0 mirror lens, flashes, and other bits and pieces.
My last manual focus acquisition (for a safari trip to South Africa) was a Canon T90 - an absolutely remarkable camera.
For my 40th birthday I received a Sony digital point and shoot. This was one of the first digital cameras available, and also my first venture into digital photography. It was expensive and the technology was very basic.
However, I started to get hooked on the convenience of digital.
At the end of 2003, I moved from the UK to Thailand. I took very little with me (deliberately) and deciding what camera gear to take was something of a dilemma.
I took a small laptop, and I didn't want to mess around with negatives and film. I had no desire to use film and then get scans made to import into my computer. In the end I just decided to take the Sony point and shoot, and I left all my film SLR gear in the UK.
The Sony was fine for a while. I started to build other parts of this web site and being able to make my own jpg files was extremely convenient.
However, I soon started to miss having an SLR. The Sony was an autofocus camera but it wasn't possible to select an AF point. I couldn't control the focus or the exposure how I wanted, the long shutter lag started to annoy me, and after a while I started to notice that the image quality wasn't actually that good.
Up until then, digital SLRs had been very expensive but around 2003/2004 they started to drop in price.
I have always been a Canon user and I wanted to keep it that way. At the time, Canon made the 300D and the 10D. The 300D was the right price but it felt like a plastic toy coming from an A1 and T90.
On the other hand, the 10D felt good ... very good. It was more expensive than I wanted to pay but I knew that if I bought a 300D I would regret it later. I bought a 10D and a 17-40mm f/4L lens.
It was a great combination.
Again, though, after a while I became a little frustrated with some performance aspects of the 10D. Its buffer could fill quite easily, it was slow doing certain things, and the LCD wasn't great.
The 20D was announced weeks after I bought my 10D and it was too soon to upgrade. The 30D didn't seem to offer much over the 20D, but when I saw the 40D I knew it was time to upgrade.
The 10D was a great start but the 40D fixed all the problems the 10D had. Since then, I've gradually been adding lenses and accessories. The 7D looks to be a very nice camera and I think the extra pixel density will help my macro and telephoto shots of small subjects.
That will probably be my next camera body purchase, unless something better is announced in the meantime.
These pages are simply to write about my impressions of various gear, and to provide sample images where appropriate.
User Impressions And Sample Images
How useful are lens reviews?
When we make a purchase, we all want to ensure we are buying the best gear for our money. In most cases, different lenses will meet our personal requirements. Often we are not sure which one to go for, so we check forums and read user reviews.
I've been down this path and all it does is confuse me.
I've looked at sample images on pBase taken with the same lens. Some are brilliant, but some are awful.
I've read reviews. For a certain lens (not a cheap one), one reviewer described it as a complete waste of money - the most expensive paperweight he owns. Other reviewers described it as 'tack sharp' and an amazing lens.
Who is right?
A common theme with forum postings and user written reviews is that in most cases there are no image samples to support their claims.
For that reason, I have tried to pay more attention to actual sample images rather than MTF charts, technical specifications, or subjective views. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
By doing this, I hope it will make the lens buying decision a little easier.
Some Books On My Bookshelf
I like to read in order to get inspiration and ideas from other people. Here are a few books I have picked up along the way.
Some of these books can be downloaded. I own a Kindle but I wouldn't recommend, or consider downloading, any of these titles in e-book format.
With the subject of photography you need to be able to see images as they were intended to be seen by the photographer and the only way to do this is by looking at them printed properly on quality paper.
E-book technology may reach this stage later but for the time being my Kindle hasn't replaced my collection of books, and neither does it threaten to any time soon.
The Studio Photographer's Lighting Bible by Calvey Taylor-Haw
This book isn't quite as authoritative as the title (bible) might suggest, but there are lots of useful tips and it inspires the reader to experiment with different lighting set-ups.
The author draws on many years of real-world experience and talks about business aspects of studio photography as well as the technicalities.
Regarding technical information, there is very little. Most, but not all, image samples have a diagram showing the lighting set-up but the tools of the trade are only referred to generically. For example, snoot, linear strip light, soft box.
For people contemplating setting up their own studio, a buying guide with actual product information would have been useful, along with details of essential and optional equipment.
Photoshop CS5 The Missing Manual by Lesa Snider
I would guess that most people using Photoshop (regardless of the version) probably only use a few percent of its overall capability. I am certainly guilty.
This book is in the appropriately named 'missing manual' series (The book that should have been in the box). It's quite comprehensive and even earns an endorsement from Scott Kelby.
I have discovered things I had no idea about and found out more information about the functions I did know about.
Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3 by Stephen Laskevitch This isn't as comprehensive as the Lesa Snider book, but it covers some different topics and with an application as complex as Photoshop you can't have too many reference books.
I never took to Lightroom. It seems to be a very useful application if you take a lot of photos and need to make the same adjustments to a large batch.
I have never worked that way. I don't take vast numbers of photos and don't work in batches. I work on photos individually and can do I want to do with Bridge, Photoshop, and some Photoshop plug-ins.
Mastering Digital Photography by Michael Freeman.
Michael Freeman is a prolific author.
In this tome he has attempted to cover absolutely everything related to digital photography. It is such a vast subject from start to finish that of course it cannot be done in one book.
As a result, each topic has a very small write up. If you know nothing and want a general overview of a very complex subject it is sufficient.
If you already have some knowledge and require some in-depth knowledge of certain topics, this books falls short most of the time and leaves you wanting more.
It covers too much in too little detail.
The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman
Composition is an essential skill for photographers and it is the subject that Michael Freeman covers in detail in this book.
Covering just one subject in depth is, in my opinion, more useful and productive than trying to cover everything, which is my criticism of Michael Freeman's 'Mastering Digital Photography.
It's a useful book and encourages the reader to think. The author discusses different lens focal lengths and gives examples of photos taken of the same scene from different perspectives.
In other examples he provides different crops of the same photo and explains why he chose the crop he did.
Perfect Exposure by Michael Freeman
Michael Freeman concentrates on exposure in this book, as he does on composition in the book above.
Again, discussing one subject in depth is a lot better than trying to cover everything. As he does in the book above, in this one he gives examples of the same scene taken with different exposure settings.
He discusses Ansel Adams' zone system and debates whether it is relevant for today's photography. He concludes that it isn't for digital shooting in colour.
He also discusses the post-processing options we have now for changing the exposure (including HDR), in addition to exposure decisions at the time of capture.
I have found 'Perfect Exposure' and 'The Photographer's Eye' to be far more useful than the same author's 'Mastering Digital Photography'.
Digital Photographer's Handbook by Tom Ang
I picked up a used copy of this book in good condition from a second-hand book shop for very little money. It is a weighty tome that looks professional and it said 'Fully Updated Edition' on the front cover. My mistake was not looking inside to see when it was published.
When I started to read it, some of the advice sounded ancient and the book talks about 'A new era of photography'. I then saw that it was published in 2002.
Digital photography has moved on so much since then, this would be the equivalent of wanting to find out about the latest car technology and picking up a manual for a Ford Model T.
The author has updated this handbook several times and I'm sure that the latest version will be fine. Just don't make the same mistake as me. If you come across any used books on digital photographer make sure you check when they were published.
The technology moves so quickly that anything more than a couple of years old probably won't be of much use, apart from describing the fundamentals of photography that don't really change.
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand