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Behind the Scenes of Apple’s “Dark Universe” Video Shot on iPhone 12 Pro

Behind the Scenes of Apple's "Dark Universe" Video Shot on iPhone 12 Pro

In a video commissioned by Apple, Donghoon and James of Incite Design show off some incredible visuals captured by the company’s latest smartphone, the iPhone 12 Pro. The two show how they did it in this 5-minute behind-the-scenes explanation.

“We were enamored with the idea of trying to create a fictional universe,” Donghoon said. “In the past, we weren’t able to get the look that we wanted. I really had to fight the darkness.”

Donhoon continued, “We had to contend with, ‘How do you film darkness?’ What are the parts that build up this fictional universe?”

“With the iPhone 12 Pro, we were able to shoot so much better in low light,” James said.

The duo used a combination of plasma, different colored lasers, as well as different materials to produce a mix of visual effects. The behind-the-scenes video also shows how the two used different liquids to produce a flowing “clouds” effect.

The number of different ideas, machines, and techniques that Donhoon and James talk about in this video come in at a rapid-fire pace, and perhaps more impressive than the final visuals are the interesting ways that the two created desired looks. In one clip they show how they dropped the phone directly into rocks that they had fired upwards using a piston, and in another, they use magnets and iron filings with the camera very close to the surface. One step further, they use ferrofluid to create rapidly flowing ripples that flow wildly on camera.

The final video is definitely worth your time to watch after seeing the methods the two used to create it:

If you have ever been curious about how creators make some of the most interesting practical effects, even this short video will hit you with a large number of outstanding ideas that are worth considering. Though Apple warns “do not attempt” in the behind-the-scenes look, it’s likely more to prevent someone from damaging their phone than it is a warning about experimenting with different materials and lighting.

If you’re interested in what Incite Design has done here, you can follow them on Instagram for more examples of their outstanding effects work.

(Via ISO 1200)

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The Trouble With Camera Reviews (With A Brief Cameo By The Nikon Z 7 II)

The Trouble With Camera Reviews (With A Brief Cameo By The Nikon Z 7 II)

Today, I’d like to review, well, reviews. Since gear and gear reviews are something all of us, including myself, spend a bit too much time obsessing over, it’s worth taking a step back to think about what they do and do not have to offer.

First, I should start off by saying that it’s not a crime to read gear reviews or to enjoy them. I rather enjoy them myself. I’ve even written one or two. So, it’s probably also good to point out up top that this essay is not meant to be a declarative explanation of how a gear review should be written. I’m hardly the best reviewer on the planet or even this site for that matter. Rather, this is more a rumination on the usefulness of gear reviews and how I, as a consumer, find them to be most of the use.

This is all brought up by the recent announcement of Nikon’s latest round of mirrorless cameras, the Z 6 II and Z 7 II. Regardless of the effectiveness of either tool, frequent viewers of gear reviews will have noticed certain trends whenever this brand or other brand releases a new product. I say “regardless of the effectiveness,” as I find that to often be the missing ingredient in most gear coverage these days. There’s a lot of talk of specs and what’s trending. Whatever new product announcements are trending on Twitter are sure to get more clicks, thus more coverage, thus even more clicks. That’s just how the internet works. But there are usually only a handful of real-world unfiltered practical reviews of how the gear performs on the job. There seems to be a big push towards mirrorless away from DSLRs, considering any non-mirrorless release to be a catastrophe, despite the fact that the majority of pros are still shooting with DSLRs. And while we are discussing “pros,” there is a lot of the usual hyperbole about what features you absolutely have to have in your camera to call yourself a professional photographer. Of course, this is odd, since,according to the dictionary and the IRS, I always thought being a professional means that you derive the bulk of your living from a profession, not that you have two card slots or shoot with a certain brand of camera.

Not that those things can’t be important. And those types of things are of interest when viewing gear reviews and deciding on whether a piece of gear is right for you. Specs do matter. Maybe just not as much as we think they do.

The Trouble With Camera Reviews (With A Brief Cameo By The Nikon Z 7 II) 1

It reminds me of a time back in college when I was walking through the mall’s food court with my roommate. I won’t say how long ago this was as it might encourage the mathematically inclined among you to start counting my gray hairs. But, let’s just say I was quite a bit younger then. Young enough and hormonally prone enough that there was really only one thing I was realistically going to spend more than five consecutive minutes thinking about: girls. At the time, my roommate was just beginning to date the woman who would eventually become his wife. She’d previously been his older sister’s best friend, which had led to many a sleepless night in the dorm listening to him pine on and on for her and proclaim that one day he would marry her. That dream was finally coming true at the time of our walk through the mall as they had just gone on their first few dates.

I, on the other hand, was deeply in love with the first woman I had seen on my college campus, literally the first woman I had seen. I moved into the dorm early the summer before my freshman year. I was a football player then, and the early arrival was due to my desire to join the team for summer practices in advance of the new season. My godfather had driven down from Maryland to help me move into the dorm. So, while I was off at my first summer practice, he stayed behind in the dorm to take a nap and get into trouble. Part of that trouble was striking up conversations with whomever happened to be passing along the hallway at the time and reliving his own college experience for the afternoon as he waited for me to return. Eventually, he apparently snagged someone to talk to. I learned this when I returned to the dorm after practice, opened the door to my own room, and was surprised to come face to face with one of the absolutely most beautiful girls I had ever seen. I can’t really say whether I was speechless as a result of my not expecting a stranger to be in my room or because her eyes were a very specific shade of brown that, to this day, I still hold an image of in my mind. Needless to say, I spent the bulk of my freshman year and a good bit of my college career trying to win her heart. Sadly, for me at least, I was only ever able to gain the most tenuous hold on her affection. So, our relationship faded in and out. Think Ross and Rachel style but with a less romantic ending. Yet still, at that moment in the mall, she was front and center on my mind.

The Trouble With Camera Reviews (With A Brief Cameo By The Nikon Z 7 II) 2

We will call my roommate’s girlfriend Sharon, and we will call my crush Eve. These are neither of their real names, but we will use these names as stand-ins. Sharon and Eve couldn’t have been more different. Both were smart and beautiful. Both were honor students. Both were genuinely good people. Both were locals, whereas my roommate and I were both from big cities and far away from home. But that’s pretty much where the similarities ended. Sharon was much taller than Eve, although, to be fair, most women exceeded Eve’s sub-five-foot stature. Sharon had a chocolate complexion, while Eve was more caramel. Sharon was more interested in politics. Eve was more interested in the marching band, which is why she was on the campus that summer afternoon in the first place.

As my roommate and I walked in the mall, discussing our romantic pursuits, he turned to me and said something that I admittedly thought to be a bit uncouth, but nonetheless honest. He said that he simply didn’t understand what I saw in Eve. He just didn’t get it. He looked at her and didn’t see why anyone would ever think she was beautiful. Passive-aggressive, right? What he was really trying to do was proclaim how much more beautiful his girlfriend was than mine. Naturally, I strongly disagreed. Not that his girlfriend, now wife, wasn’t beautiful. Sharon was and is stunning. But, I could also say with certainty that I genuinely had no interest in dating her myself. The thought never occurred to me. She was just another student to me, whereas Eve, in my eyes, was the most beautiful woman on the planet.

Now, of course, it is good that two roommates don’t pine after one another’s significant others. If we did, that might have made for some awkward nights. But, it was also an early lesson in understanding the power of a personal perspective. My roommate might have been a bit callous when he said those things about my dream girl, but from his vantage point, he wasn’t lying. From his perspective, he just didn’t see the attraction. Likewise, from my perspective, I simply couldn’t understand how anyone could not see her as the most beautiful woman on campus.

Aside from likely learning more than you ever wanted to about my collegiate heartbreak, you will probably also have understood the metaphor. Desirability is a matter of perspective. This applies both to the woman or man you find attractive as well as to the brands we choose to associate ourselves with as professionals. I found Eve to be the most attractive because she instantly fulfilled all the criteria, both conscious and unconscious, that I was looking for in a mate. When we are making a choice of camera system, the decision is equally personal.

The Trouble With Camera Reviews (With A Brief Cameo By The Nikon Z 7 II) 3

So, knowing the subjectiveness of gear value, what is the best way to both review gear and/or consume gear reviews? Personally, I find some things far more useful than others. As I mentioned earlier, basic spec information can be helpful, although I find this to be less useful than it might seem. For starters, pretty much any camera produced in the last five years is capable of producing incredible results. Even the least expensive and least popular camera on the market is likely more than capable of handling 90% of professional jobs if in the hands of a photographer who is up on his or her craft. And if a particular spec really is important to you, then when you go to purchase a camera, every website is going to have a tab for specifications. So, we can learn things like megapixel count, sync speed, and available autofocus points fairly easily. Those things may or may not be dealbreakers for me. But what I’m far more likely to want to know about is the hands-on experience and how that applies to my specific shooting needs.

There’s an old adage in sports that you don’t win games on the stat sheet. Sure, the other team might be taller and have timed faster in the 40-yard dash. Or they have won this many games and this many championships in franchise history. But on game day, the only thing that matters is how they play at the moment. When it comes to gear, I’m less concerned with numbers and more concerned with feeling. How does the product perform in the field doing the job it was intended to do? If it’s a high-megapixel camera, for example, purpose-built for detailed portrait sessions in the studio, I don’t need to hear complaints about its low frame rate for documentary work. Likewise, if you are in the market for a low-light beast capable of shooting in the dark, but your job very rarely calls on you to make physical prints of your images, then deeming a camera bad because it has a low megapixel count is equally useless.

Don’t get me wrong. I do see value in comparing camera models. For example, comparing the Nikon Z 7 II to the Sony a7R IV and the Canon EOS R5, seems like a valid topic. All three hold a similar position in their own brand ecosystems. If someone were buying into a camera system in a vacuum and was trying to decide which to go with, this information would be helpful. But of course, consumers are rarely shopping in a vacuum, which makes the job of making camera recommendations all the more challenging.

The Trouble With Camera Reviews (With A Brief Cameo By The Nikon Z 7 II) 4

Simply because it was the most recent to be released, let’s take the Nikon Z 7 II as an example. Were you to watch all the YouTube reviews, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Nikon had just given up on the camera business, produced the photographic equivalent of “Ishtar,” and might as well just go out of business and save us all a lot of trouble. Many of these reviews will also be accompanied by dire prognostications that Nikon’s lowly place within the mirrorless market is a sure sign that the company is going out of business and it would be foolish to buy any new products from them, especially since the new product being offered didn’t reinvent the very idea of a camera and instead, they had simply listened to customer concerns and addressed the issues present in the first generation. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure why addressing customer concerns is considered a bad thing. Sure, there’s nothing so new in the release that it will transform the camera industry. But, if the bar we are expecting is for a company to completely revolutionize the market with every release, I think we may be setting the bar just a little too high.

But, among the doom and gloom prognostications, the same reviews are also unlikely to point out Nikon’s strong position within the DSLR market. Yes, I know DSLRs aren’t sexy anymore, but when accounting for total camera sales, not just mirrorless, you won’t take long to see that Nikon is not nearly in as bad shape as one might think, at least not relatively speaking, as you would also see that the entire camera market is dropping in revenue. This is challenging news for all the camera companies, not just Nikon, and needs to be taken into account.

What also needs to be taken into account, far more than relative sales figures, is who the potential customer for a certain product really is. Again, let’s take the Z 7 II as our example. The original Z 6 and Z 7 were Nikon’s first foray into the mirrorless market. I know, I know, I’m ignoring the Nikon J1 and V1. Let’s just say the Z series was their first serious entry in the mirrorless market. While very decent performers, the original models had a few design issues that loomed large over their reputation, namely the single card slot, unavailability of a functional vertical grip, and lackluster autofocus performance (since then greatly improved through firmware). I may not have had an issue with any of those things personally, but they were legitimate concerns for many working photographers.

Due to these concerns, many existing Nikon shooters, already content with their world-class DSLRs, chose to sit out the first wave of the company’s mirrorless cameras and stick with their tried-and-true DSLR camera bodies. They didn’t flee the company in droves. They simply decided to wait until Nikon produced a product more in line with their business needs. Listening to the drumbeat of customer complaints, with the second generation of bodies, Nikon has decided to directly address these issues. They’ve added a dual card slot configuration similar to that present in the D850. They’ve announced an upcoming battery grip. And they’ve announced an improved focusing system, which includes the ability to use eye detects in conjunction with area autofocus modes. Whether this will be better in actual practice or not is still yet to be seen, but they are clearly aware of the issue and have taken strides to address it.

The Trouble With Camera Reviews (With A Brief Cameo By The Nikon Z 7 II) 5

Does this bring Nikon’s autofocus capabilities on par with Canon or Sony? Maybe, maybe not. I have yet to see a review with a full production version of the camera yet, so it’s too soon to tell either way. But truthfully, how much does that matter outside of the vacuum? Even if Nikon’s newest AF system still trails Canon and Sony by a small bit, it’s not like it’s going to be unusable. In 2020, there are very few products on the market that aren’t strides ahead of what was available even five years ago, and people have been able to keep images in focus for decades now even without the latest tech. Even if we assume that Nikon’s AF will still be just a hair slower than Canon, is this likely to be a reason to ditch a life’s worth of investment in Nikon bodies, glass, and accessories just so you can autofocus a millisecond faster? What happens in a couple of years when Nikon continues to improve and suddenly, they have the best autofocus on the market? Are you going to completely overhaul your system again? That could all get pretty expensive.

Again, I’m not saying that is useless information. And if you didn’t own a camera and were starting fresh, it might make a big difference. But the bulk of Nikon’s strength as a company comes from existing Nikon users, those shooters who have brought Nikons to work day in and day out for decades, those customers who didn’t upgrade to the mirrorless cameras because they didn’t yet meet the stringent standards established by their DSLRs. Those are the customers who the Z 6 II and Z 7 II are designed for. They ironed out all the complaints from the first generation and eliminated the main barriers their existing and still most potent potential buyers had in trying out their mirrorless system. Does that make the Z 7 II a better investment than the Canon R5? I don’t know. That’s a personal decision, which is kind of the entire point of this essay. If you are an existing Nikon shooter, either a DSLR user hesitant to switch or an early adopter looking to improve on the first generation, this release might just hit the nail right on the head. Does it instantly leapfrog the competition and become the best mirrorless camera on the market? Probably not. But the combination of price, feature set, and a user’s existing workflow might just make it the best choice for certain photographers in terms of value, even if it might not be the current flavor of the month. 

The Trouble With Camera Reviews (With A Brief Cameo By The Nikon Z 7 II) 6

Obviously, it is impossible for a camera reviewer to share the exact perspective of everyone reading or viewing the review, just like my college roommate and I had incredibly differing opinions on the definition of beauty based on our own experiences and instincts. So, it’s silly to expect a reviewer to see the world or a piece of gear in exactly the same way I would. But what I personally appreciate most in a review is a deep dive into how the tool serves the purpose and the audience for which it is intended. It’s important when sharing our opinions, either in review form or in comment sections, that we acknowledge that not everyone is approaching the endpoint coming from the same direction. And until the day when a camera company finally releases that holy grail on one camera to rule them all, it’s more useful to consider each gear release based on its own specific use case.

We can’t allow ourselves to review cameras based on the spec sheets. Nor can we base our reviews on other people’s reviews. At that point, it’s not really a review, but rather an exercise in mob mentality. Just like no matter how good or bad a movie is, it’s unlikely the reviews will be unanimous. Same with cameras. So, the one red flag that does get raised for me is when I see one aspect of a camera release, usually a fairly insignificant feature to actual workflow, get blown out of proportion and suddenly become the lead item in all reviews going forward. Okay, so what if Camera A has the AF switch in an awkward position? Does that nullify everything else the camera does well? Is that button placement really going to have a real-world effect in the first place? Sure, it’s good to mention. But if every review leads with the button placement, that starts to be less useful to me as a consumer. Nor do I want the review to be mostly about the company’s financial position. I don’t want to know whether or not someone declares it the best camera ever made or if someone personally deems it “professional” or not. I want to know, for the market and end-user for which it is intended, it this tool helps me to do my job. What job is this piece of gear best suited to serve? Is there a better alternative, either on the market or even sticking with an older model, than investing in this product to serve its intended purpose? The bottom line, does purchase it improve my business? 

As I stated at the top of this essay, I don’t mean to suggest that camera reviews aren’t both fun and worthwhile. I watch and read them myself and will continue to do so. But, while doing so, I also remind myself that cameras are purpose-built for the specific jobs they are meant to perform. So, we need to take into account the circumstances it will be faced with in order to give a complete review. And even then, there is a limit to trusting someone else’s opinion. The only real way to know if a camera is right for you or not is to actually use it yourself. As much as I like to hear in-depth descriptions of other’s personal experiences with a camera, there is no substitute for holding it in my own hand and putting it into the field. At the end of the day, that’s the only way you are really going to know if a piece of gear gives you that slight flutter in your heart, just like that day back in college when I opened my door to find the girl with the brown eyes.

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Sony a7S III vs. the iPhone 12 Pro: An Unfair Comparison?

Sony a7S III vs. the iPhone 12 Pro: An Unfair Comparison?

Lee Morris of Fstoppers has uploaded a 6-minute video where he pits the iPhone 12 Pro against his Sony a7S III. You would think this comparison wildly unfair, and it is, but there are some surprising results from his findings.

First, one thing needs to be made clear: though the YouTube video title states that the test is a “4K HDR test,” it actually is not. While Morris does show what HDR footage looks like when imported to a non-HDR timeline in Adobe Premiere and he also shows what the footage looked like on his iPhone, the video shared here is not in HDR and was not edited in any HDR mode. So, in short, HDR is not tested.

Aside from that, Morris does show that in ideal conditions (bright a bright, sunny day), the iPhone 12 Pro does surprisingly well when viewed side-by-side with the a7S III footage at 100%. In order to see a real difference, Morris needed to zoom in considerably on the footage to 400%. Additionally, while the a7S III does look better when pixel-peeped thanks to its larger sensor and better optics, the bitrate of the footage also plays a significant role. The lower bitrate of the iPhone 12 Pro results in severe artifacts appearing in footage with motion.

Sony a7S III vs. the iPhone 12 Pro: An Unfair Comparison? 7

Though the iPhone 12 Pro did not stack up well against the a7S III when it came to autofocus, it did significantly outperform the Sony in footage stabilization.

Morris also noted that of the three cameras, the main camera is the best, the telephoto is also quite good, but the wide-angle lens was in his opinion “really blurry.”

All in all though, the iPhone held up well when it came to quality versus the dedicated video camera. So while it was likely an unfair comparison to make, the results weren’t nearly as far apart as some might expect. That said, Apple’s process for extracting files off the iPhone isn’t particularly easy. Morris spends nearly the last two minutes of the video showing how irritated he was with that particular process.

You can watch more from Lee Morris on the Fstoppers YouTube channel.

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How to Take Corporate Portraits with One, Two, Three, or Four Lights

How to Take Corporate Portraits with One, Two, Three, or Four Lights

Corporate portraits can not only be shot in a number of different ways, but they are often required to be shot in different ways by your clients. Here are four different lighting setups, depending on how many lights you want to use.

I have shot, quite literally, thousands of corporate headshots. I’ve always loved portraiture, so I expected to not enjoy corporate shoots as they’d be too “dry” creatively speaking, but that ended up not being the case; I thoroughly enjoy them. There is something satisfying about developing a style of headshot for a company, and then recreating it over and over again. Consistency is one of the most difficult aspects of any skill, and corporate headshots — particularly for large companies — require it absolutely.

In this video, wedding and portrait photographer, Jiggie Alejandrino, goes through different options depending on how many lights you have or want to use. I love the low-key look to corporate portraits but I haven’t had many opportunities to shoot them as many like the clean white background. With a mid-gray backdrop, the options you have for lighting increase as you can add a more obvious separation between subject and backdrop.

How do you shoot corporate headshots? How many lights do you use?

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Tips On Photographing Detail In Graveyards

Tips On Photographing Detail In Graveyards

Tips On Photographing Detail In Graveyards 10

Photo by David Pritchard. 

 

Leading up to Halloween you may like to spend some time in your local graveyard… you will find plenty to photograph and much of it will be in the detail. You should remember that graveyards are, by their very nature, places that should be treated with respect, but don’t let that put you off: as long as you behave yourself you shouldn’t get into too much trouble.

 

A zoom lens with close focusing capabilities will be useful and a tripod will certainly improve the quality of your pictures. If you fancy doing something a little more dramatic you could also consider using some ‘off camera’ lighting, either a flash or even a torch.

First, look around for interesting details, there shouldn’t be any shortage of these. They could be stone, lichen or moss, text on the gravestones, sculpture, ironwork, trees or the flowers left on the graves. When you have found something that interests you, look at it carefully and decide how best to make a picture out of it. Consider where the light is coming from, what angle will best suit the subject and how tight you should frame it. It is these decisions that will make the pictures ‘work’ or not. If you are getting in really close then try using different apertures: isolating the detail by shooting wide open or stopping right down to get the subject sharp from front to back. 

Graveyard

 

 

When you are looking at detail, it is usually best to try and frame in such a way that there is no distraction in the foreground or background – unless you are making some specific use of them. To do this, you may need to get right in close. If your camera then struggles to find something to focus on, try switching to manual, focus as close as the lens will permit and then move the camera to get the subject sharp.

 

You can also get some spooky results by waiting until it is dark and then shooting with the camera on a tripod and ‘painting’ with a torch. Get the camera focused on what you want to photograph, a gravestone for instance, set the ISO to around 200 and the shutter to ‘B’ then do a test, open the shutter and ‘paint’ with your torch. With digital cameras, you can see the result straight away so review the picture and adjust the amount of time you take to do your ‘painting’. If your torch is not bright enough you might start to get problems with noise, but it is easier to get subtle shading if you have a little longer so don’t use a super bright torch. It may take a while to get it right, but it’s very rewarding when it works.

Graveyards are full of interest; they represent local history, artistic taste, social position, tragedy, scandal and pride. They are also pretty much on your doorstep and they offer a rich source of material to a photographer.

 

Article by Ben Boswell of Minute Film.

   

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Parody Video Pokes Fun at the Tragically Artistic ‘High School Photographer’

Parody Video Pokes Fun at the Tragically Artistic 'High School Photographer'

If you need a bit of comic relief on Monday evening, this short parody by YouTuber MasterChiefin1 has you covered. It’s an ode to “the high school photographer,” that one person who “thought they were put on this Earth to take photos and think deeply.” Given our audience, there’s a good chance a few of us were this person.

The video doesn’t need too much by way of introduction. As Jacob (AKA MasterChiefin1) explains:

The High School photographer is the person in high school who thinks they are destined to take great photos and they snap photos of things that they think are deep. They share photography quotes on their Facebook or Instagram and proclaim no one understands them because they are such a deep being and they take photos to express that.

From chain-link, to railroad tracks, to bags drifting in the wind, and more. They act is if they see the world in a different light from the rest of us and they express that through their photos. For a photo speaks a thousand words.

This could honestly apply to any young creative who is apt to cross the line between “artsy” and “insufferable” from time to time. Even calling them “young” is probably a stretch. Regardless, whether you knew someone like this or you were someone like this, check out the full video up top for a quick chuckle.

(via Reddit)

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7 Filter Combinations for Different Landscape Photography Scenarios

7 Filter Combinations for Different Landscape Photography Scenarios

Here are some filter combination recipes for different landscape photography scenarios.

Filters for landscape photography allow the photographer to infuse different effects and textures that can improve the overall visual design of the image. The proper use of filters can help one balance the exposure in a dynamically lit scene, and help put more emphasis to certain parts of the frame and lead the eyes of the viewers. Though there are many different variants from many different manufacturers of filters, the choice on which filters to use should always depend on what the photographer intends to do with the scene. The presence of moving elements such as clouds, water, people, or vehicular traffic can be used to create unique long exposure images to complement the main composition in the frame.

There is no such thing as a filter combination that works for every shooting scenario and learning, understanding, and mastering the use of filters come with a lot of practice, experience, and mistakes. This video gives some templates of combinations that beginner landscape photographers can try out when facing different lighting and environmental conditions and make use of them to come up with more compelling outdoor images. This video is a follow-up to the recent landscape photography filters crash-course video that I shared previously to help beginners understand how filters work and when specifically to use them. 

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Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020

Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020

Don’t let the term “budget lens” fool you. Affordability and quality aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, there are plenty of lenses around or below a $1,000 price tag, yet they deliver when it comes to performance, features and image quality.

While major manufacturers’ legacy lenses have been well established for decades, available options for photographers keep expanding thanks to third-party companies such as Tamron and Sigma. At the same time, lens development for the growing number of mirrorless camera models is responsible for most of the new lenses on the market this year. This trend will likely continue as manufacturers work to create a full line of mirrorless optics equal to or exceeding that of their legacy DSLR lenses.

It’s no surprise that we’re seeing lenses shrink in size and weight to match the more compact mirrorless camera bodies. In addition to smaller, lighter and faster lenses, there are a few unique models that were announced this year.

Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020 11
Canon RF600mm F11 STM
Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020 12
Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM

Canon’s F/11 Super Teles

Super telephoto lenses don’t get much more affordable than Canon’s new RF600mm F11 STM lens, designed for its full-frame, mirrorless EOS R-system cameras. At a mere $699, this prime lens with a fixed ƒ/11 aperture is less than 1/10th the price of its EF ƒ/4L counterpart for Canon DSLRs. But it’s not just the price that’s impressive. The lens weighs only 2.05 pounds and measures 7.85 inches in length when retracted (you need to unlock and extend the lens barrel to shoot).

At that weight, the lens can be handheld with a fast-enough shutter speed. But given the magnification of this super-telephoto lens, you’ll need to engage the lens’ image stabilization, which promises up to five stops of compensation. IS should be even better when paired with the Canon EOS R5 or R6, which both have in-body image stabilization. Featuring a stepping motor (STM) for smooth AF, the lens’ customizable control ring can be programmed to adjust exposure compensation, shutter speed, aperture or ISO for quicker access to those settings.

If you need more than a 600mm reach, the lens is compatible with Canon’s new 1.4x and 2x RF lens extenders. Keep in mind, however, that without the extenders, the closest focusing distance at 600mm is about 14.7 feet, but if you’re photographing wildlife, it’s unlikely you’ll need—or want—to get closer than that to your subject.

For even greater telephoto reach, there’s the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM. Ideal for wildlife photographers on a budget, this lens is affordable, compact and lightweight for a super-telephoto lens. And, like its 600mm sibling, it’s a fraction of the cost of its faster EF equivalent.

The RF800mm lens has the same features as the RF600mm, including a customizable control ring, STM AF and compatibility with the new 1.4x and 2x RF extenders. Its image stabilization effectiveness drops to four stops, and its closest focusing distance is about 19.6 feet, but the lens weighs only 2.78 pounds and measures about 11.09 inches long when retracted. That’s a lot of reach for such a relatively small lens.

The Canon RF800mm F/11 IS STM has a list price of $899. The Canon Extender RF 1.4x and Extender RF 2x are priced at $499 and $599, respectively. Contact: usa.canon.com.

Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020 13
Nikon NIKKOR Z 20 f/1.8 S

Fast, Wide Prime For Nikon Z

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Canon’s super telephoto ƒ/11 lenses, the NIKKOR Z 20 f/1.8 S lens is super wide and offers a fast maximum aperture—a perfect combination for an extensive range of subjects and shooting conditions. Designed for Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless Z cameras, the lens weighs about 17.9 ounces with a diameter of 3.4 inches and measures 4.3 inches in length.

There’s no image stabilization built into the lens, but you do get up to five stops of stabilization when you pair the lens with a Z camera that offers in-body vibration reduction. Videographers will appreciate the silent AF, minimal focus breathing and the ability to change the aperture quietly via the customizable control ring. Alternatively, the control ring can be programmed for exposure compensation or ISO.

A new multi-focusing system promises fast, accurate AF. Sealed against the elements, the lens is dust and drip resistant for extra durability when shooting on location. List price: $1,049. Contact: nikonusa.com.

Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020 14
Olympus M.ZUIKO ED 12-45mm f/4.0 PRO

Ultra-Compact Standard Zoom For Olympus

The Olympus M.ZUIKO ED 12-45mm f/4.0 PRO is a petite lens that’s a perfect complement to Olympus OM-D system cameras, measuring just 2.49 inches (diameter) by 2.75 inches (length) and weighing just over half a pound. Given the 2x magnification factor of Micro Four Thirds cameras, you get a highly useful zoom range of 24-90mm in a very compact lens, perfect for street and travel photography, environmental portraits and more.

Although the lens lacks image stabilization, all Olympus OM-D cameras offer excellent in-body stabilization. At the wide end of the zoom range, the lens has a minimum focusing distance of just 4.7 inches, so its close-up capabilities are an additional plus. List price: $649. Contact: getolympus.com.

Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020 15
Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6

Standard Zoom For L-Mount

Designed for full-frame L-Mount cameras like the LUMIX S series, the Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 offers a standard zoom range for everyday shooting. Thanks to its minimum focusing distance of 5.9 inches, the lens functions well for close-up photography and wide-angle portrait compositions with the subject in the foreground. Measuring 3.03 inches (diameter) by 3.43 inches (length) and weighing 12.3 ounces, the lens is very portable.

The optical design includes a UHR element that minimizes aberrations, and the lens also promises minimal focus breathing and quiet performance for video capture. It’s also dust and splash resistant. List price: $599. Contact: panasonic.com.

Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020 16
Ricoh HD Pentax-D FA 70-210mm F4 ED SDM WR

New Tele Zoom For Pentax K

Pentax K-mount DSLR users will appreciate the Ricoh HD Pentax-D FA 70-210mm F4 ED SDM WR telephoto zoom’s focal range whether the lens is paired with a full-frame model for a 70-210mm reach or taking advantage of an APS-C sensor crop, extending the 35mm equivalent focal range to 107-322mm. It’s equipped with a two-step focus limiter that, when set, speeds up autofocus by restricting the distance at which the lens will focus.

At 3.1 inches in diameter and 6.9 inches in length and weighing 28.9 ounces, the lens is relatively compact and lightweight for this focal range. Pentax has always done a good job with weather-resistant (WR) cameras and lenses, and the 70-210mm is no exception. You won’t have to limit your outdoor activities when the weather turns a little nasty, or you want to head to dusty environments like the beach or desert. List price: $1,099. Contact: us.ricoh-imaging.com.

Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020 17
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C

Affordable Tele Zoom For L-Mount & Sony E-Mount

The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C, available for L-Mount and Sony E-Mount full-frame mirrorless cameras, offers several features designed for a better shooting experience. In addition to up to four stops of optical image stabilization, the lens complements your camera’s in-body stabilization with pitch and yaw correction. The AFL (AF lock) button can be programmed from the camera for various functions, providing quick access to settings right on the lens barrel. A focus limiter allows users to constrict the AF range for optimal AF performance, and you can lock the lens barrel to prevent the lens from extending while wearing or holding the camera in a downward position.

For this tele zoom range, the lens is relatively lightweight and compact. It weighs 40.9 ounces and measures 3.4 inches in diameter and 7.8 inches in length. A tripod socket collar is available separately to help balance the lens on a tripod or monopod. List price: $949. Contact: sigmaphoto.com.

Best Budget Lens Options Of 2020 18
Sony FE 20mm F1.8 G

Wide Prime For Sony

The Sony FE 20mm F1.8 G is a great wide prime option for compact Sony E-Mount bodies. Landscapes, interiors, street scenes and night skies are only a few of the subjects this versatile lens can capture. Add great bokeh and low light compatibility with the ƒ/1.8 aperture for a winning combination.

At 3×3.4 inches (diameter/length), the lens won’t take up much room in your camera bag, and it weighs only 0.8 pounds. It’s dust and moisture resistant, too. And with a minimum focusing distance of 0.63 feet using AF or 0.59 feet focusing manually, you can get up close and personal with your subjects. List price: $899. Contact: sony.com.

budget lenses
Sony FE 28-60mm F4-5.6 zoom lens

Sony’s Diminutive New Standard Zoom

The Sony FE 28-60mm F4-5.6 zoom lens introduced as the kit lens with the new Sony a7C full-frame camera this fall won’t be available on its own until early 2021, but if you want to travel light, it’s a great option. A real featherweight at 5.9 ounces, the dust and moisture-resistant lens measures just 2.6 inches in diameter and 1.8 inches in length when retracted.

In addition to being a great all-around, go-anywhere zoom, with its minimum focusing distance of about a foot at the wide end of the range and 1.48 feet at the telephoto end, it can double as a close-up lens. List price: $499. Contact: sony.com.

budget lenses
Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 Di III RXD

“All-In-One” Zoom For Sony

The Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 Di III RXD is a new lens in the company’s Di III series for Sony E-Mount, combining the flexibility of a 7.14x wide-to-telephoto zoom range and a fast maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 when shooting wide. From scenics to portraiture and more, this one lens can capture a variety of scenarios.

Lightweight for this focal range and speed, the 28-200mm weighs 20.3 ounces and measures 4.6 inches long. A zoom lock switch prevents the barrel from extending when transporting the lens, and it’s sealed against moisture and dust for worry-free outdoor shooting. Quiet AF and a minimum focusing distance of 7.5 inches (at 28mm) add to this lens’s versatility. List price: $729. Contact: tamron-usa.com.

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Atmospheric Autumn Stag Landscape Wins ‘Photo Of The Week’

Atmospheric Autumn Stag Landscape Wins 'Photo Of The Week'

A beautiful seasonal photo featuring a stag and all of the ingredients you need for the perfect Autumn capture has been crowned our ‘Photo of the Week’.

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Competitions

Stag in Autumnal scene

 

A misty Autumnal morning at Dunham Massey is the subject of ePHOTOzine’s ‘Photo of the Week’ (POTW) and what a cracking photo it is!

Captured by ePz member Alffoto, ‘Shadow Lands‘ has everything a great Autumn themed photo needs, including a majestic stag of which your eye is immediately drawn to. 

We love the tones and feel of this shot with the mist softening the background and diffusing the light so pockets of autumnal shades can be picked out amongst the foliage while the tree and foreground act as a clever frame for the stag whose strong shape is amplified thanks to the silhouette which is particularly prominent on his antlers. 

 ‘Shadow Lands’ – the perfect welcome to Autumn in the UK! We really do love it. 

All of our POTW winners receive an EVO Plus 64GB MicroSDXC card with SD Adapter courtesy of Samsung. To be in with a chance of becoming our next POTW winner, simply upload an image to our gallery where you’ll also find all of our past POTW winners.

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It doesn’t cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.

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Get great shots with vintage lenses

Get great shots with vintage lenses

We spend thousands of pounds on brand new high quality lenses that are pinpoint sharp, and for good reason, but there’s also a world of vintage lenses out there that can be had from as cheap as a few quid, and can produce extraordinary results. For this feature we’ve gathered six of the best vintage lens shooters, from professionals in the field to enthusiast photographers who love their vintage collection, to showcase six alternative vintage lens options.

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Vintage lenses won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. For starters, you’ll have to manually focus, adapt how they fit onto your camera body, and generally they can be a bit clunky and well old and vintage! However for those who enjoy adding a creative twist to their images or discovering gorgeous blur and bokeh shapes, then vintage lens shooting will be for you. When it comes to vintage lens shopping there are many places you can purchase them from – from charity shops and car boot sales to online marketplaces like Ebay. It’s best to try before you buy if you don’t know the history of the lens, however we know this isn’t always possible in the second-hand market so do your research first.

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Sean Parnell
Sean Parnell is a hobbyist photographer who enjoys collecting vintage lenses. When it comes to subject matter there is nothing Sean doesn’t enjoy exploring and he shoots everything from portraits to landscape and the occasional macro image. Sean got his Asahi Pentax Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 from eBay for £135 and tells us this is the lens that got him interested in vintage lenses. ‘Its sharpness, bokeh, colour rendering and build quality are fantastic. It’s got a nice bokeh and shallow depth of field quality at f1.4, which is always good for portraits.’ Sean shoots with his Asahi Pentax on his digital Fuji X-T30 but also uses it with 35mm film on a Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP camera.

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Sean has only recently been converted to vintage shooting after a YouTube video sparked his interest, however he has lots of sound advice when it comes to purchasing one. ‘As with all vintage lenses they can have internal issues such as fungus, haze, oil on the aperture blades and so on, which can be cleaned but not always – so do your research, ask questions and, if you can, inspect before you buy. But I also find it part of the fun to open and clean the lenses to bring them back to life.’ One of the trickier aspects with vintage shooting is the focusing issue, and Sean was no different when it came to this. ‘At first I found focusing a bit tricky but after a while you get used to it. Most modern digital cameras have focus peaking that makes it much easier; now I hardly use my modern lenses.’

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Asahi Pentax Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 (8 element version) made between 1964 and 1966

He continues, ‘Vintage lenses are a great way to expand your knowledge on photography and using manual focus can force you to take your time. As an advantage vintage lenses are of course also much much cheaper than their modern equivalent, and the image quality can be great!’ Learn more on Instagram – fstop_vintage

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Rose Atkinson
‘The Schneider Cinelux 95/2 is a rather unique vintage lens,’ creative photographer Rose Atkinson tells us. ‘Originally a projector lens, it has a permanent f/2 aperture with no aperture blades and it has been adapted for camera use by adding a helicoid to enable focusing.’ Rose bought the Schneider Cinelux 95/2 privately from a vintage lens enthusiast who also did the custom adaptation. ‘At £115 it’s been my most expensive vintage purchase but it’s a pretty rare beast.’

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For those who are interested in the Schneider Cinelux 95/2 Rose says finding one could be a challenge! ‘It’s not a cheap purchase as far as vintage lenses go, however there are other projection lenses available which also might be worth searching out.’ Regarding shooting with the Schneider, it is fitted with a helicoid to enable focusing. ‘This rotates fully three times around the barrel from the longest to shortest focusing distance which takes time to do,’ she continues. ‘It doesn’t focus to infinity, so it really makes me think about how I want to use it.’ When asked what subject matter Rose likes to shoot on the Schneider Cinelux 95/2, she replies, ‘Close-ups of flowers, although it was a lockdown purchase and I’ve not actually used it anywhere other than in the garden!’

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As for general advice when it comes to purchasing old lenses Rose says vintage lenses are definitely addictive and it’s very easy to start acquiring a collection. ‘You can buy fast prime lenses for very little money and it doesn’t matter what camera system you have as you can get a mount adapter to fit pretty much any lens on any camera, but there are some limitations and exceptions so do your research before you buy.’ Asked what she likes about vintage lenses, Rose replies, ‘Vintage lenses have bags of personality. They sometimes have characteristics that might be considered optically imperfect, such as edge distortion, flare, soft focus… but these can offer great artistic potential and add something to the look of your images.’ See here for more

Get great shots with vintage lenses 26
Auke Hamers
Professional freelance filmmaker and photographer Auke Hamers is somewhat of an expert when it comes to vintage lenses. He has a large collection of old lenses in his kit bag including a Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8, Super-Takumar 135mm f/2.5, and a Konica 40mm f/1.8 pancake to name only a few. His images pictured here are from a series called ‘Open Hearts’, which he took using his vintage SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 lens on his full-frame Sony A7 III.

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The portraits show participants of the Naropa summer retreat offered at Trimurti in the Czech Republic, and the dream-like quality of the SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 reflects the openness, loving characters and energy of the subjects in the images. ‘If you look closely, this open quality is visible in the eyes,’ Auke says. As for his SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 lens Auke loves the character, flaws and the razor-thin f/1.2 depth of field this lens can produce. ‘It captures real depth,’ he says, ‘and has a certain magic. The lens captures a smooth bokeh and film-like quality.’ Auke bought his Pentax 50mm f/1.2 from Marktplaats (the Dutch equivalent to Craigslist or eBay) for about €100. He tells us this is an excellent deal considering it goes for four to six times as much on eBay.

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When it comes to the technical flaws Auke reveals the SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 suffers from longitudinal chromatic aberration, and can also be on the soft side. ‘I can correct the softness in post production, but the chromatic aberration is more difficult. Luckily in the case of this lens I like the aberration, as it’s blue coloured! I don’t want to see magenta or green fringing, but the blue glow is magical to me. It gives my images depth and it’s only visible in the out-of-focus areas.’ It’s not just personal projects Auke uses his old lenses for; there is also a professional market for vintage lenses. ‘I recently started to use my vintage lenses for specific magazine shoots,’ he says. ‘Given the right topic, for example homeopathy, the vintage lens brings in another unique element.’ www.instagram.com/aukehamers and his website

Get great shots with vintage lenses 29
James Fisher
James Fisher is from Port Huron, Michigan, in the USA and in his vintage lens collection he loves to shoot with his Canon 50mm f/1.4 SSC. ‘I like the sharpness of this lens. It has a soft, yet sharp rendering wide open at f/1.4. Stopped down, it’s tack-sharp with excellent contrast.’ A keen photographer since the 1970s, James recently purchased a mirrorless Fujifilm camera and started using various vintage lenses with inexpensive adapters.

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‘The new mirrorless digital cameras have rescued these vintage lenses from the trash pile,’ he says. ‘The analogue film-like rendering can add a new beauty to your images.’ He purchased his Canon 50mm f/1.4 SSC from a private individual and paid $40 for a bundle deal with some other lenses and a Canon 35mm. ‘I sold the other lens and the body on eBay for more than the total purchase price!’ As for shooting with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 SSC, James says the greatest challenge he faces is how it flares with any side or backlight. ‘I reduced this effect by ordering a vintage Canon lens hood for the 50mm SSC.’ James has already a long history with manual focusing. ‘I learned photography by focusing lenses manually. Autofocus didn’t even exist in the 1970s and early 1980s! I don’t like focus peaking,’ he reveals. ‘Instead, I use the magnification feature on my camera, as the magnification in the EVF allows me to accurately focus.’

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James ends by saying, ‘Vintage glass needs a slower and more deliberate approach. Enjoy taking the time to carefully craft the image.’ www.instagram.com/vintagejim61 and his Flickr page

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Sylvia Slavin
Vintage lens expert Sylvia Slavin (ARPS) has always had an interest in photography, and bought her first DSLR in 2007. ‘I first discovered alternative lenses in 2015 when I fell in love with the Lensbaby Velvet,’ she says. ‘At around the same time I also started using vintage lenses, with my first being a Helios 85mm.’ Throughout the years Sylvia has used a variety of vintage lenses and in her vast collection she has the Meyer Optik Görlitz Trioplan 100mm f/2.8. ‘I’ve had this lens for about three years, which was a birthday present from my partner. It’s one of the more expensive and older vintage lenses out there,’ she informs us. Sylvia loves getting back to nature and her preferred subjects to shoot with the Meyer Optik Görlitz Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 are flowers and woodland.

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To mount the lens onto her Sony camera Sylvia explains her setup. ‘This particular lens came with an M42 mount and I bought an adapter (from K&F Concept) to use on my Sony camera. Sony is the most versatile camera to use for vintage lenses because of the size of its mount. Most vintage lenses can be adapted to use on it.’ When it comes to shooting tips Sylvia says to get that desired bokeh effect it’s best to shoot with the aperture wide open or near to wide open. ‘The Trioplan is well known for its bubble bokeh effect producing circular areas with a pronounced outer edge where there are out-of-focus highlights,’ she specifies. ‘The best results I’ve found are when there are small bright highlights in the background and shooting into the light. For example against trees both with and without foliage. In dappled light the circular areas intersect and create a very unique look in the out-of-focus areas.’

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‘I had a Helios 44-2 version and loved it but fancied doing a modification to create amazing bokeh. I got another Helios lens second-hand. There are YouTube videos showing how to take the front retaining rings off – once the front comes out, turn it over, then put the lens together again. The already swirly bokeh becomes wild. It’s very difficult to see exactly where the point of focus is because the image looks so blurry through the viewfinder. So I shoot wide open, get the focus approximately and then rock to and fro gently until the point of focus looks as sharp as possible.’

Learn more about Syliva’s work on Instagram – sylvia_slavin

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Jo Stephen
Jo Stephen from Dorset is a trained ecologist and a self-taught photographer. ‘I’ve been using vintage and second-hand glass since I bought my first DSLR about 15 years ago,’ she tells us. ‘In fact, I chose the Sony Alpha system as it was compatible with the old Minolta lenses. As I was working with a really small budget it meant I could afford to get a few lenses to complement the kit lens that came with the camera.

Get great shots with vintage lenses 36

To this day I have not bought a new lens.’ Her favourite lens from her vintage collection is the Helios 44-2 and was the  first vintage lens she purchased. ‘It has a bit of a cult following and can still be found on the front of old Zenith cameras in charity shops and second-hand websites,’ she explains. ‘I love the light leaks, soft focus and the distinctive swirly oval bokeh that this lens can produce. If the front element is removed and reversed the bokeh becomes psychedelic and super swirly.’ Jo uses her photography to communicate nature conservation, sustainability, and wellbeing through nature connection. ‘I find the Helios 44-2 is best suited to botanical photography, especially where the subject can be separated from the background as it is then the softness and bokeh are most effective.”

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As for its quirks, Jo reveals her lens isn’t 100% accurate but she doesn’t mind its flaws. ‘My Helios 44-2 won’t give me a sharp image, because it isn’t in the best condition, however I like the soft and unfocused creative photography it can capture.’ When it comes to shooting tips, Jo says the swirly bokeh is best created if there is some distance between your subject and the background. ‘Shoot into the light, and use live-view. Play around with your distance and the focus until you capture the swirls.’

Jo says: ‘You will probably think I have lost my marbles, but I’ve taken the front element of the Helios 44-2 off and filled the lens with marbles, I then taped the front element back on. I wondered what might happen! The best thing about old lenses that are not in the greatest condition is that you can play with them in a way you wouldn’t dream of doing with an expensive piece of glass.’

Learn more at twitter.com/JoAnnunaki and www.instagram.com/JoAnnunaki/ and Jostephen.photography

Further reading
Readers’ used lens bargains
Expert guide to manual focus photography

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