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Hey! You got video in my DSLR!

Personally, I’m really excited about the Nikon D90, not only because it looks like a great camera and a nice upgrade to my trusty old original D70 (I must like odd numbers), but because it’s got this great high-def video feature. I’ve always liked video but I’ve always hated video cameras. I have a Panasonic DV camera around here somewhere… probably on the floor gathering dust. Too big. Transferring video from tapes. It’s a chore. But video in my DSLR? That can be recorded without the use of disposable media? At 720p? In a device I have with me everywhere already that can also record 12 megapixel stills? Heaven!

Of course, Canon announced video capability in their new Canon 5D Mark II. They’ll undoubtedly include it the next generation of their Rebel line as well. The Mark II is also a very nice camera and does 1080p. It’s just a bit pricier, though.

I can think of a bunch of fun things to do with a video camera with interchangeable lenses. I almost bought one today on impulse, the kit with the new 18-105 VR, but I had to stop and remind myself about the tax check I recently sent to the IRS and pesky details like my health insurance bill and my mortgage payment… Soon…

So what’s your take on this whole DSLR with video shenanigans? For or against? Excited or grumpy?

Get a free 2-week lens rental from BorrowLenses.com

Update: BorrowLenses has chosen a winner!

I’ve been renting lenses online for a few years now (click here to read some of our lens rental service reviews). A macro here, an out-of-my-budget 2.8 there. It’s a great way to get just the lens you need when you need it without having to plunk down thousands of dollars to own it. Renting lenses has saved me money in another way too. By renting first, I’ve discovered there were a couple of lenses I thought I wanted that I didn’t really like after all.

What better way to get acquainted with online lens rentals than with a free rental? BorrowLenses.com contacted me over the weekend and generously offered Photodoto readers a chance to receive a free 2-week lens rental. Here’s all you have to do:

  • Leave a comment describing which lens you would like to rent and why you want to rent it. Leave a valid email address so that we can contact you if you win (your email address will remain private and is used for no other purpose).

That’s it! (Except for a few conditions, below.) The comments will remain open until Tuesday September 23 at midnight. After that, BorrowLenses.com will choose a winner and we’ll announce it here. Good luck! And a big thank you to BorrowLenses.com for sponsoring this giveaway.

Conditions of entry:

  • You must be in the U.S. to enter.
  • The winner will need to place an order online with a valid credit card number to receive the rental. The card will not be charged but is required to ensure that the lens is returned. BorrowLenses.com is a reputable business but if you don’t feel comfortable with this condition please don’t enter.
  • The offer excludes super telephoto lenses and camera bodies.

Photographing Children

the culprit If you get it right photographing your children can produce pictures you’ll want to treasure for years to come, whether it’s snaps of their tenth birthday displayed in a professional coffee table book or the embarrassing shot of Timmy wearing his underpants on his head that you choose to keep lovingly displayed where all your visitors can see it. But it can be a frustrating process, children are rarely still for any length of time and as they get older often get either camera-shy or obsessed with making that face that involves rolling their eyes back into their head and sticking out their tongue.

If you’ve got little ones you want to photograph here are a few tips to help you avoid those blurry, monster-face shots being the only thing in your memory book.

1. Make it fun. This is the golden rule of photographing little ones. If you want to have photographs of your children having fun, smiling, looking happy and adorable then you will need to let them have fun while you’re photographing them. Standing still for ages while you tell them how to pose is unlikely to appeal to them as fun. If you want posed shots make a game out of it, encourage your little one to dress up in different outfits and play model, let them make up some poses of their own too. If you don’t want posed shots let them engage in their favourite activity while you photograph them. Make it easier for you to get good shots by setting up the activity outside in good light if possible. For example if your child is an avid finger painter set them up with their paint and paper outside on a sunny morning or evening (when the light is generally better for photography than the middle of the day).

2. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, especially several of them, you may have difficulty keeping them in one place. One option is to put them in a small space, for example a laundry basket:

It sounds ridiculous but the kids will view it as a game and you’ll have them one spot for 5 minutes!

3. Get down to their level. If you photograph from your height chances are most of your shots will show not much more than the top of their heads and make them look really short. Get down on their level and photograph them there. Having said that, there is of course an exception to the rule. If you’re photographing a small child standing directly above them and having them look up at you it can make a nice composition. Just make sure the eyes are in focus.

phands pdandelion

4. Take lots and lots of shots. Often what you think will be an outtake will be an instant favourite and what you think will be the best shot of the day will end up being deleted. If you have a digital camera there’s no reason not to take a lot of photographs and have plenty to choose from, just make sure you do go through and delete some or your hard drive will soon be overflowing! And remember to be patient, the photo you’re really hoping to get may be the 150th photo of the day not the first.

5. Focus on the details. Of course you’re going to want whole body shots and close up face portraits of your child but as your little one grows to be not so little you may find that you appreciate shots of those little fingers and toes, eyes and ears. Get up close and personal and photograph the details of your little one.

swingin' shoes and shadows Peeling Paint

6. For the camera shy child choose a location they are comfortable and familiar with so they won’t be upset by their surroundings as well as the camera. Let them get into an activity before you start photographing and don’t get too close. If you have a child who seems to be permanently camera-shy you may want to invest in a zoom lens so you can photograph them from a bit of a distance. Try and stay away from instructing camera-shy youngsters to “look at the camera!” or “smile!” Similarly if your child always pulls silly faces for the camera play down the cameras presence and try to photograph them when they’re engaged in something else or from a slight distance.

7. When your subject is racing around wildly try putting your camera in sports or action mode, if you’re using the automatic settings. If you’re going manual turn on continuous shooting, choose a reasonably high ISO and a fast shutter speed. Make sure your batteries are charged, there’s plenty of space on your memory card and you have the lens you want on the camera. You’ll miss the action if you have to mess around changing batteries, memory cards, and lenses.

8. As your little one turns into a not so little one don’t stop photographing! As your baby turns into a teenager they may be less enthusiastic about having their photo taken but chances are you’ll both want some memories of this period of their life in ten years time. They’re also now at an age where they can have fun modeling for you. Let them choose the location and spend an hour together taking some photos, encourage them to bring along some of their close friends – in a few years time they’ll be trying to remember who their best friend was when they were 12.

Jump, Baby, Jump

9. Don’t forget the everyday. Photograph in the places you visit everyday, record the moments that make up the routine of your day-to-day life. Think about the composition a little bit and you’ll probably find that photographing the everyday from the right angle makes an artistic picture, and they’ll be some of your favourite photos years from now when you’ve forgotten what life was like when Timmy was only two.

riding through the neighbourhood bookworm hotchocolate

10. Look for inspiration. Look on Flickr, look at photos of your friends kids, look through photography books at the local library. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a photo someone else has taken of a child and trying that pose/location/idea with your own child. Just don’t take the credit for the idea yourself!

And if you have any tips for getting good photographs of children please share with the rest of us in the comments.

Review of Canon Zoom Lens EF 100-300mm

To be honest I bought this lens because it was on sale for $100 in my local camera shop and the longest lens I had was 85mm. My main requirement in a zoom lens was that it let me capture some reasonable wildlife and landscape shots while I was on my travels through some of the National Parks of the American Midwest and Western Canada. I knew the likelihood of it getting broken before the end of the 6 weeks of travel was fairy high (as a combination of road-trip and backpacking it wasn’t exactly gentle travel) so there was no way I was going to spend several hundred (or even thousands) of dollars on one of the high-end lenses.

The Canon EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM Telephoto Zoom Lens (as it is called on the box) usually retails for between $250 and $300 so I figured if I could pick one up for $100 it would be worth it even if it only lasted a couple of weeks. But I didn’t exactly have high expectations which might be why I’m so happy with this lens. First off it has proved to be a hardy little bugger, I don’t have a camera bag large enough to hold extra lenses so I used a spare toiletry bag which was waterproof but offered little else in the way of protection. The lens held up brilliantly and through a variety of bumps, bangs, and TSA-inspections has not a scratch on it and remains in perfect working condition.

Performance wise it’s done remarkably well too. The lens uses ultrasonic motor focusing and has full-time manual focusing as well, it uses rear group focusing (so the front elements of the lens never rotate when it’s focusing which keep filter effects in tact). Although the manual focus is a bit fiddly (at least until you’ve had a bit of practice with it) the autofocus functions well. It features an 8-blade aperture so it’s not really a fast lens and at 300mm a tripod is preferable to get blur-free shots (although having said that I did manage some decent daytime shots at 300mm without a tripod). The lens measures 121.5mm and weighs 540g, so while not lightweight it is easy to fit in a daypack and take on a hike.

280mm, f/5.6, no flash, indoors with no tripod

300mm, f/5.6, no tripod but rested lens on beanbag on fencepost

100mm, f/4.5, no tripod

Overall this lens proved exceptional value for money (at $100 but I think I would have been happy had I paid the $250 price), a practical, easy to use, sturdy zoom lens. I would definitley recommend this to someone who wants to own a zoom lens but perhaps isn’t going to be using it particularly often or is on a limited budget. Definitely a lens that travels well too, mine survived the trunk of my car, the overhead bin of an aeroplane, and the onboard locker of an Alaska state ferry – you can’t ask for more than that!

If you have experience with this lens (or other comparable lenses) please share in the comments section.

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