Monday, November 26, 2012

What is Bokeh

Bokeh as described by Wikipedia is "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light". Different lenses render out of focus objects differently. Getting a lens with a very large aperture (same as very low f value) is essential for good bokeh.

Notice the out-of-focus areas in the following photos. That's bokeh.

I have a 50 mm 1.8 that is the most affordable lens and one of the best lens one can have. This is a must-have lens even for a beginner.

I have another 85 mm 1.4. This lens is excellent. But, be prepared for some manual focusing.

105 mm lenses are also available and some of the costly lenses are awesome ! However, you can get awesome results with the first 2 lenses I mentioned. So, buy this if you have lots of money.

Notice that all the lenses listed above are f/2.0 or less. Also, usually, the higher the mm, the more the bokeh. (As long as the main subject that's being focused is sufficiently close and the background significantly further).

All the lenses listed above are prime-lenses.  This means you can't zoom-in or zoom-out while taking the photo. You will have to move. This is hardly a problem, once you know prime lenses will give you the best results.

<pj>And then there is bookeh</pj>

What Lenses Should I Buy

After you have chosen whether to buy a full-frame (FX) or cropped-frame sensor (DX) body, you need to start off with a few lenses.

This is the million-dollar question in photography and even if you have that kind of money you have to be smart about which lens to use when. Also, I strongly recommend renting lenses before buying them (specially if they are expensive). The reviews below are for Nikon lenses, but there is always an equivalent Canon lens.

Most camera bodies come with a kit-lens. This is a general purpose lens that lets you get started. These lenses are ok, but almost always never great. My camera (Nikon D7000), came with a 18-105 mm lens. While I am still quite happy with the D7000, I find myself trying to avoid the 18-105 as much as possible and shoot with the other lenses that I bought subsequently.

I am splitting my lens reviews based on what you would like to shoot. A general purpose lens will let you do almost all that these specialized lenses will let you do, but the results are much-better most of the times with the specialized lens.

People Photography :

   To take close up photos of a single person or a couple, you will need a portrait lens. Portrait lenses usually produce great bokeh . Point and shoot lens will not produce Bokeh. This is the number #1 reason to get a DSLR. DSLRs produce outstanding photos of your kid, loved one.

   List of lenses that I recommend for people photography :

   Nikon 50 mm 1.8 prime
   Samyang 85 mm 1.4 prime
   Samyang 35 mm 1.4 prime (review coming soon ..)

Sports Photography :
   Unless right next to what or who you are shooting, you will need a fast zoom lens.

   List of lens I would recommend for sports photography :

   Nikon 70-200 mm f /2.8
   Nikon 70-300 mm

Landscape Photography :

  You can buy a dedicated landscape wide-angle lens. However, I've done most of my landscape photography with a kit lens and that also gives good results. Some photos that I've taken on a recent trip :  landscape photography. Landscape photography also requires the use of filters. (A polarizing filter is a must-have for landscape photography). Using polarizing filters makes for sharper photos and richer colors. I cannot emphasize the usefulness of polarizing filters for landscapes enough. Having these filters is more important than having the best wide-angle lens.

  Most landscape lenses are average-to-good and you can pick almost any one for good results. But for excellent results I would recommend the Nikon 14-24 mm (or so I have heard). If you just getting started and don't want to spend that kind of money, pick any lens that fits your budget that gives you 14mm focal length or less on the lower side. Lens less than 10 mm focal length are called fish-eye lenses and produce rounded images because of the angle of exposure. You will need a fish-eye in very rare cases, so you can pass on getting one right away. The kits lens that I have gives me a 18-105mm range. At 18 this is wide enough to take great photos (as long as I used the right filters).

Wildlife Photography :

  You will need a good zoom lens. Sometimes, what you are shooting is pretty close. Often 300mm zoom may not be enough as you may be quite some distance from the subject. Pick something that goes upto 400mm. (if not more).

Samyang 500 mm f/8 mirror lens (review coming soon ..)

Macro Photography :

  You will need a macro lenses for this (eg. taking a photo of an insect, but really close up). Other techniques like using a reverse-ring can also make a normal lens behave like a macro lens.

Night-time / Low Light Photography :

  You will need fast-lenes for this and sometimes a stand. The key is to either get a fast lens, or increase the ISO setting on your camera or both.

  I recommend any of the fast lenses below for good shots at night :

 Nikon 50 mm 1.8 prime
 Samyang 85 mm 1.4 prime
 Samyang 35 mm 1.4 prime (review coming soon .. )

Now that you have all the gear, read the beginner's guide to great photos.

Which Camera Should I Buy

The first question that needs an answer when one starts off as an amateur photographer is "Which Camera Should I Buy" ?

At this point in time  (Nov 26, 2012):  DSLRs produce the best results, in terms of picture quality. Mirrror-less cameras are taking off as well, but lack the breadth and quality of lenses that are available for DSLRs. Some point-and-shoots are good general purpose cameras as well, but there is always a combination of DSLR frame and lens that will produce a better image quality than a point and shoot for every shooting situation.

Among DSLRs,  there are several blogs/articles which talk in length about buying a Canon/Nikon/Sony/etc. While its worthwhile reading these, there seem to be a fairly equivalent choice of lens and frames on Canon and Nikon. You can buy either of these and not go wrong.

Choosing between a DX (cropped-frame) or a FX (full-frame) will be the next question. This depends purely on your budget. If you are just starting out and have money to spare, buy the FX. If you have been using the DX for a while and really like photography, buy an FX. For all other cases, get a DX camera. DX camera these days have enough pixles to have sufficient resolution in the images. The only limiting factor with a DX camera is that it crops the image that's produced by the lens. So, for the same lens with focal length "m" on an FX frame, the effective focal length on a DX frame will be approximately 1.5 times m. This means you will not get as wide an angle with DX frames as you will with FX. On the flip side, the same lens on a DX frame will give you more zoom automatically. If you are getting confused and don't understand what I just said - just buy a DX frame or just re-read this paragraph and then decide.

Remember : The lens matters more in the type and quality of the photos. So if you have cash to spare, get an FX, if you'd like to learn photography or save some money, get a DX camera.