Q and A: How can I keep my camera and lens dry in the rain?

Question

We’re getting a lot of rain and wet snow this spring, so I’m wondering how that will affect my new ultra high-tech digital SLR. Would the camera be damaged by moisture? If so, what should I do if it rains every weekend? I really want to get outside and start experimenting. K.W.

Answer

Well, that depends on the camera – as well as the lens – that you’re using. The vast majority of equipment does need protection from moisture, particularly rain. Some DSLRs and certain lenses are weather-resistant as discussed in the features chart for such products on the manufacturer’s web site. These include Nikon and Canon’s professional products, the high-end Pentax DSLRs and a few lenses of various brands. No flash unit (including a built-in flash) is weather resistant, however. Even the most hardy pro-equipment should not be used for extended periods in heavy rain, of course.

If you are primarily interested in experimenting with camera features, you might consider shooting from your car; open the window but make sure the camera/lens will not get wet. Dry off any dampness thoroughly with a clean, absorbent cotton cloth; for the lens use a large microfibre cloth. But if you’ll be shooting outdoors, you’ll need a rain cover accessory. Regardless of the one you buy, read the manufacturer’s instructions re: correct installation (and any warnings) to get the most effective protection.

You can find inexpensive products – similar to clear plastic bags – such as the Op/Tech or Ewa Marine Rainsleeve (about $22 from Amazon; about $17 from B&H).

These may be OK in drizzle but for longer outings in rain you’ll want at least a Kata Elements Cover such as the E-702 for a DSLR with short lens (about $60 from Amazon; about $60 from B&H).

Kata also makes accessories for protecting a longer lens and an external shoe-mounted flash unit. Visit B&H or Amazon for information on the Kata products.

Kata's Elements Covers, such as the E702, are the most popular among the affordable accessories. Two sleeves allow access to camera controls and a transparent back allows for viewing the LCD screen and viewfinder.



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Q and A: What are the pros and cons of the super high capacity SDXC memory cards?

Question

I read a blurb on the Internet about the new Class 10 SDXC cards in several brands. This type of memory card sounds perfect: super fast and tons of capacity at 64 gigabytes. Why would anyone want to use any other kind of SD card, except for the high price of the SDXC card? G.R.

Answer

That was certainly interesting news, and the first Extended Capacity cards will be available sometime this spring: Panasonic’s Gold SDXC and SanDisk’s Ultra SDXC. (Other brands, in various speed classes will follow.)

Do note, however, that the Panasonic cards boast a Class 10 speed rating while the SanDisk SDXC cards are Class 4 rated, or not as fast. The SanDisk  64GB card is less expensive however, approximately $350 versus $600 for the Panasonic product.

The new 64 gigabyte SDXC cards are impressive but the SDHC cards are available in Class 10 speed too (in several brands) and in capacities up to 32 GB, plenty for most photo and video enthusiasts.

The new 64 gigabyte SDXC cards are impressive but the SDHC cards are available in Class 10 speed too (in several brands) and in capacities up to 32 GB, plenty for most photo and video enthusiasts.

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Q and A: What is the best type of tripod to use when shooting in video mode with a DSLR camera?

Question

What kind of a tripod do I need when shooting video clips with my new Nikon D300S? The old tripod that I own is too small and I’m sure I need something better. I’d want one that’s also useful when shooting regular photos but I’d prefer not to pay more than $150. Dawn K.

Answer

That’s a good question, Dawn, but you should also be wondering about the type of tripod head to use. Granted, you may buy a tripod kit that includes a head, but it will probably be a conventional pan/tilt or ball head. Either is perfect for taking still photos but neither is ideal for shooting movies, as I’ll explain in a moment. So, you will probably need two tripod heads; perhaps your old one will be adequate for some purposes.

Start by finding a rigid tripod that is tall enough – without extending the centre post by much – so you don’t need to bend too far down. Extending the centre post too far will really minimize rigidity. Regardless of the size, look for one that is rated for supporting at least 8 lbs. of weight. [Read more…]

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II Lens Review: Field Test Report

Peter Burian tests this improved lens, one of the very best available in the “fast” telephoto zoom category

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The preferred “workhorse” among many professional photographers since 2003, Nikon’s AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR model was also my favorite lens in the Nikkor series. It was just about perfect in all aspects, except for some slight corner softness at wide apertures with a full-frame digital SLR. Some reviews also mentioned less than ideal flare control, but frankly, that was nit-picking. In any event, Nikon has replaced that earlier model with a new VR II-designated version boasting a superior optical design, more effective VR stabilizer plus some other benefits.

Nikon's latest 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is pricey, but it's a professional-caliber product in all aspects, including the latest optical design, an incredibly effective autofocus system, and unusually rugged build quality. (Nikon D300s; ISO 400; f/7.1; Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race, Milton, ON).  © 2010 Peter K. Burian
Nikon’s latest 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is pricey, but it’s a professional-caliber product in all aspects, including the latest optical design, an incredibly effective autofocus system, and unusually rugged build quality. (Nikon D300s; ISO 400; f/7.1; at the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race, Milton, ON). © 2010 Peter K. Burian

An f/2.8 lens is desirable for several reasons. The very wide maximum aperture allows for faster shutter speeds than the more typical f/4.5-5.6 zooms. That’s valuable in low light or action photography, allowing us to use lower ISO levels for superior image quality. A maximum aperture of f/2.8 also allows more light to reach the AF sensor for faster autofocus. And AF is maintained even when a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter is used. Granted, this 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is very large and heavy, but it’s built to tolerate pro-level abuse and it’s also dust- and moisture-resistant. [Read more…]

Q and A: Why does my camera produce severe underexposure in dark locations?

Question

Can you help me solve the exposure problem with my new digital SLR camera? It’s fine when I use the fully automatic modes. But I tried taking photos in a church during a wedding (without flash) and all my photos were underexposed. I was using ISO 400 and set the shutter speed to 1/500 sec. in Shutter Priority mode to make sure the photos would be sharp. But they are all too dark. D.M.

Answer

This is also a common problem among students in my BetterPhoto courses when they first try night photography. The answer is simple, but you need to fully appreciate how this semi-automatic mode works. [Read more…]