Mark Sincevich
Mark Sincevich: Photography Expert

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Mark Sincevich is Executive Director of the Digital Photography Institute (DPI). The mission of the DPI is to educate consumers and photography enthusiasts in order to become better photographers and to help them both save and make money. Mark is also Chief Perspective Officer of his company, Leading with Focus, and he is the founder of Staash Press.

Mark has always had a knack for photography and computers. In addition to receiving a Bachelor's degree in Economics and a second Bachelor's in Psychology from the University of Maryland at College Park, he spent 13 years working in the computer field in sales and marketing for such companies as Apple Computer, Silicon Graphics, and BakBone Software.

The methodology that Mark teaches and has written about in his book, Snap: The Ultimate Guide to Digital Photography for the Consumer, was inspired by his experience of taking complicated technical subjects while in the computer field and making them more understandable in front of a non-technical audience. Mark specializes in four areas of photography: architectural, editorial, event, and travel. He creates fine art images mostly from his personal travel photography archive and has sold them to collectors all over the world.

Mark was an official photographer at George W. Bush's second inauguration, and he is frequently quoted in the media by such organizations as the Associated Press (AP), MSNBC, PC magazine and Spirit (Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine). His photography and writing have been published all over the United States in such places as the Washington Post Magazine, AAA World magazine and Washington SmartCEO magazine.

Mark is an adjunct professor at American University, a member of the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers), a former instructor at the Washington School of Photography and a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Mark believes in the power of photography and its ability to increase perspective and awareness. He incorporated his photography background and the experience of working for other organizations to create the Staash Perspective System (SPS). The SPS teaches that simplicity leads to more powerful communications and leadership. In fact, Mark works with organizations to develop leaders with more focus and creativity, and he uses a unique photography angle in his speaking programs and writing.

Some of his customers include Bank of America, Sheraton Hotels, Iceland Air, the Arthritis Foundation, SAIC and the Greater Washington Initiative. In between his photography and speaking assignments, Mark can be found spending time with his family outside the Washington, DC area or writing in cafés with character.

He can be reached at his website.
REVIEWS
  • Best Digital Rain Gear
    Reports abound about consumers dropping their digital cameras in the toilet, in swimming pools, or spilling water or another liquid on them. Besides a drop from a table or chair, there is no greater danger to your digital camera than water. Sure, if you have a top of the line DSLR (digital single lens reflex) with the proper weather seals, you can minimize the interiors exposure to water.

    However, all digital cameras will stop working with only slight water exposure. The best thing you can do is to protect your camera and lenses from the rain, snow, and moisture by investing in the proper gear beyond grabbing a plastic bag when you get caught in a downpour. Protecting your DSLR camera from the elements really comes in two phases.

    First, you need to protect your camera, lenses, and accessories from the elements, so there are protective cases highlighted from such manufacturers as HPRC and Lowepro. These cases are designed so your camera doesn’t get wet when you are traveling from one location to another. The Best of the Best Rain Gear for your digital camera is the HPRC 3500DK ‘hard shell’ backpack. It is virtually indestructible and will keep your digital camera investment safe and secure. The Lowepro takes the idea of a hard case a step further by allowing you to use the interior contents in two ways. You have the option to use it as a belt pack or a shoulder bag and can accommodate a minimum of two SLR camera bodies, lenses, and accessories.

    The second phase of protection for digital camera rain gear is when you take your camera out of its waterproof case and decide to use it in the field. Beyond the proverbial plastic bag, you need something that helps to prevent the camera from being besieged by constant downpours and snowstorms. A good choice would be the Kata E-702 Elements Cover with the Kata E-704 Lens Sleeve Kit. These products feature a waterproof cover with adjusters and pull cords and are easy to store. For more extreme weather, consider the AquaTech SS-300 sport shield allowing photographers to work in downpours.

    When you combine a waterproof case with a waterproof sleeve or cover, you are assured your digital camera will be protected from the elements, most notably water and moisture. Please note the Best of the Best section for Rain Gear is designed for DSLRs while the Best of the Rest is designed mostly for consumer digital cameras.
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  • Best Fashion Camera Cases
    You finally have your high-end ultra-compact digital camera small enough to fit into your clutch or into the jacket of your expensive suit. However, you are smart enough to know your digital camera is still a sensitive piece of electronics. In the past, you had to keep your camera case in your car for fear of it clashing with your outfit. No longer!

    The sports car red Lowepro Napoli 10 Camera Pouch is stylish enough to still protect your ultra compact digital camera and sleek enough to fit inside your garments. The Best of the Best Fashionable and Slim Camera Case features Fine-grain Nappa Leather with a Suede Interior. Like most of the Best of the Best cases, it has room for extra accessories. In this case, it is one memory card.

    All Best of the Best Fashionable and Slim Camera Cases have a hidden magnetic enclosure and many of them allow you to attach the camera to your belt or to your wrist with a removable strap. Many of these leather cases come in other colors such as black, purple, chocolate, teal or tan.

    If you would prefer your camera case to be a little less noticeable, but still have style, you need to investigate the Lowepro Napoli 5 Camera Pouch. The Best of the Best cases are mostly from Lowepro, and this company is known for their quality and dedication to photography.
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  • Best Color Monitor Calibration Systems
    Having a color management strategy or system comes down to this piece, having and generating consistent color throughout your digital photography system. You want to have the image seen match the final print or image posted to your photography blog. Without the benefit of having a constant of some sort (I often use a 35mm slide as my color comparison constant), you must have some sort of color management in your system to make sure that the image you just imported from your memory card looks correct on your computer monitor. Also the resulting image on your display needs to match the final output from your photographic printer.

    Whenever you power up your computer monitor, whether your monitor is an LCD (liquid crystal display), a CRT (cathode ray tube) or is part of your laptop, you should be in the habit of recalibrating your computer display at least once every 30 days. While your operating system has built-in software, such as Apple’s ColorSync Software, you definitely need a USB dedicated display-measuring device to correctly calculate your unique monitor profile. Every single monitor is slightly different and by measuring your monitor specifically, you can take ambient room lighting and other lighting factors into consideration.

    The longer monitors are turned on, the more that their colors ‘leak.’ This is not only true of your computer monitors, but it is also true of your television, LCD projectors and even your digital cameras. For example, over time the navy blue you are used to seeing may change slightly to a lighter navy blue and this will affect how you see the images on your screen. And, more importantly, this is why you might print something that looks different from what you see on your monitor.

    Once you create a custom monitor profile called an ICC profile, it will allow more of your devices to communicate with each other and allow you to generate more of a color constant from image capture to the final print. Your goal is to have ICC profiles for all of your display devices, your digital cameras and certainly your photographic printers.

    All of the top three Best of the Best products are from Pantone, the same company that started out with its infamous Pantone color wheel for correct color matching. They have teamed with GretagMacbeth to provide for proper display device calibration. The absolute Best of the Best product, the Pantone GretagMacbeth Eye-One XT can measure spot colors for the exact color needed for RGB, CYMK displays, or for ANY device. This product is intended for the photography professional or independent color lab. When you want the assurance of having the same image color from capture to print, you will definitely need a reliable monitor calibration system or device.
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  • Best Online Photo Sharing and Printing
    If you’re like most people, you want to know the best on-line photo site to satisfy all of your photo sharing, printing, and product ordering needs. All on-line sites are not created equal and you will see that certain sites might specialize in community forums or social networking with a photography angle while another site might be more geared to professional photographers.

    Nearly all of the sites offer some sort of image storage although you might have to purchase either prints or products at least once a year to keep this storage feature active. I would prefer to pay for the ability to archive my images as this helps to ensure that the company hosting my photographs will continue to be a viable business, and I won’t be bombarded with advertisements.

    However, even some well-known sites like Yahoo Photos and Sony’s Imagestation have gone out of business. This means you have to take ultimate responsibility for the proper backup of your photographs and not exclusively rely upon any of these sites listed for backup. In order to qualify for this review, each site needed to have the ability to share, print, and create products with your photographs.

    While you might have a photographic ink jet printer for some of your printing needs, many photography enthusiasts want to share their images with others – even those images based on specific criteria like photographs of England or photographers who like taking images of trains. Most of the sites listed allow you to join communities, read blogs, and even have your own website (listed under the main online site).

    Also, if you have a new addition to your family, (canine, feline, or human), and want to send out 4x6 prints, then it is not cost effective to print all of your images at home or at the office. You will need to employ the services of one of these sites. Many of the sites offer efficient uploading of your images (mostly in JPEG, but a few allow TIFF), vibrant color prints, and excellent turnaround for delivery. Some sites, such as Shutterfly, allow you to pick up your prints at participating Target stores while the Kodak Gallery site enables you to pick up at various pharmacies. Expect to pay as low as nine cents per print on a pre-paid plan and 29 cents if you are going with a more professional lab. One lab, Adorama, hand inspects each print to ensure you ware getting the best color matching and quality.

    The Best of the Best online photo sharing, printing and product site is PhotoWorks. They have a robust online photo community, produce excellent prints, and have a wide variety of products such as photo books, panoramic poster cards, and photo appointment books. They even allow you to import images from Flickr and Webshots. If you want a wider variety of products that can incorporate your images, then I suggest looking into Shutterfly or into the Kodak Gallery site.

    Remember, you when displaying images in public spaces, you will always want to protect your copyright. You can add a copyright or even a watermark to your images and a few of the sites will allow you to do this online. As you get more involved with any of these online sites, you might notice the quality of your photography improving. Why? Because you are paying attention to your images and how to share, print, and make products with them.
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  • Best DSLR Cameras
    DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras have the ability to deliver professional-quality photographs due to better optics, a larger image sensor and often times more MP (megapixels). Essentially you get more control over the people, places and objects that tickle your photographic fancy. And you get more control over the light. Light is what separates an average photograph from an exceptional one. However, the more control comes with caveats – the size of your camera is going to be larger and you will spend more for the DSLR camera body. There is also going to be more to learn and to remember.

    All Best of the Best DSLR cameras listed are dominated either by Canon or Nikon. These two companies comprise the vast majority of the DSLR market and are used by more entry-level and mid-level professional photographers than any other DSLR camera. The Best of the Best DSLR Camera is the Canon EOS 5D. It is extremely well made featuring a ruggedized magnesium body and has a full-frame image sensor. This means if you put a 50mm lens on your 5D, you will get a photograph from a 50mm lens. It uses a 1x multiplication factor.

    What do you think is the most expensive piece of gear for a photographer? It’s going to be the camera lenses. When you take a total cost of ownership and holistic view of your equipment, then you will change your paradigm for buying your camera body and accessories. I definitely want you to take as many accessories with you to the next DSLR camera body that you can such as memory cards, rechargeable AA batteries and most importantly your lenses! Remember to never purchase a camera ‘kit’ as these almost always include an inferior lens. Always purchase your DSLR as ‘body only.’

    From where does the multiplication factor come? It relates to the sensor size of your DSLR. And let me make it clear that the sensor sizes of DSLR’s are of much higher quality than there consumer cousins and they come in two flavors, CMOS and CCD. The DSLR sensors will allow you to capture more vibrant images (together with using better optics). This is really where the industry is headed. Most DSLR’s will contain a full-frame DSLR sensor, so you can use the most expensive pieces of your photography investment, your lenses at the size(s) listed on the lens.

    All DSLR cameras reviewed can take photographs in either RAW or JPEG format, accept the professional CFII (compact flash) cards (with the exception of the Nikon N80), have a hot shoe for an external flash gun or other lighting, can accept rechargeable AA batteries in external (called vertical shutter) grips, and have sophisticated electronics. Also, the vast majority are ruggedized, so there is less of a chance for the camera to be damaged when in use.
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  • Best Photo Paper
    Now that you picked your ideal photographic printer with pigment-based inks for your Epson, HP, or Canon inkjet printer, you will need to pick the proper paper. For the most part, always use the manufacturer’s paper that is made for your printer. If you have an Epson printer, purchase Epson photographic paper and the same holds true with Canon and Hewlett Packard Printers. There is a very good reason for this. Each printer has multiple printer (called ICC) profiles that relate to the various kinds of paper that are used. I normally use two types of Epson paper for general purposes, the Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster and the Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte. For each of these papers, you will have a specialized ICC profile that is designed to provide the optimal ink coverage for that type of paper. These printer profiles are so specialized there is a difference between the Epson Premium Glossy and the regular Epson Glossy paper.

    You should always check with your printer manufacturer’s web site under "drivers and support" for the latest printer drivers. Typically your printer drivers will be updated when your computer’s operating system software goes through a major system update. As a rule of thumb, check the manufacturer’s website about every six months. The exception to this rule of thumb is when you want to use a high-end archival quality specialty paper made by Hahnemühle. The Hahnemühle company has been making archival paper for nearly 425 hundred years and is the most preferred paper by museums and galleries for its archival qualities.

    If you use this type of paper for your Epson Pigment-based ink printer such as the Epson Photo R1800, then you will definitely want to download the specialized ICC profiles directly from the Hahnemühle site. The recommended Hahnemühle papers also work with the archival inkjet printers with pigment-based inks from Canon and Hewlett Packard. However, I would steer clear from third-party office supply store brand photo paper from such places as Staples and Office Depot. The quality of the output is sub-standard and equally important, the final result will not be archival quality. To investigate a printer’s ink and paper combination for its lightfastness (archival nature), see the Wilhelm Research Imaging website.

    The Best of the Best photographic paper period is the Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl archival paper. It has an ISO (International Standards Organization) Brightness of 105%, so it is ideal for black and white as well as color photographs. It is triple-coated, lignin- and acid-free, and has a surface similar to sliver gelatin double-weight photo paper. The weight of paper is measured in a metric system, gsm (grams per square meter). Normal typing paper is about 80 gsm, so the Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl archival paper is four times this thickness or 320 gsm.

    Printing Tips:
    Make sure you use Print Preview with your Adobe Photoshop software (available on version 7.0 through CS-3). This feature allows you to select your paper size (done in the Page Setup area) and to see if your image fits on the size paper you select. You can select the color profile too by using the best default setting, Adobe RGB (1998). Turn on black point compression and make sure relative colormetric is selected.

    You should always store your prints either in a clear plastic bag made for matted fine art photographs or behind UV coated glass. Your prints ought to be stored at a relative humidity between 35 – 65% and a temperature of 10 – 30 degrees Centigrade (50-86 degrees Fahrenheit), and you want to avoid direct sunlight. To increase the protection of your images, investigate the Hahnemühle Protective Spray. The spray seals the printed surfaces and protects them from dirt, fingerprints, and moisture. It also increases the water-resistance of printouts and protects images from fading caused by UV rays.
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  • Best Photo Printers
    With the latest photography printers on the market, you have the ability to create better high-quality archival images right in your home or small business compared to a traditional photo lab. It’s a very rewarding experience when you can make a digital image and then professionally reproduce it in minutes right before your or your client’s eyes. Also, having the correct printer with pigment-based inks will mean long-lasting prints that will resist fading.

    The Best of the Best Photo Printers and even the Best of the Rest Photo Printers are dominated by the industry leader, Epson. Every printer reviewed in the Best of the Best uses pigment-based ink. When selecting the photo printer that is best for you, consider the type of ink, select the most individual ink cartridges and go for the highest image resolution.

    Select the Best Type of Ink:
    There are two types of inks available for ink jet printers, dye and pigment-based ink. Pigment-based inks are much more stable, the colors are more vibrant and most importantly, they are qualified as museum or archival quality lasting upwards of 200 years! In order for this to happen, you will always need to use the manufacturer’s professional paper with your printer (Epson printer + Epson professional paper). The Best of the Best Photo Printer is the Epson Stylus R3800. It has significant advancements in black and white printing with a three-layer gray technology and also reproduces stunning color prints up to seventeen inches wide.

    Select the Most Individual Cartridges:
    The main reason for selecting a printer with individual ink cartridges is you will only pay for the colors that you use. If you printed a few stunning images of the Greek Islands, cyan and light cyan will be supplying most of the ink. Not using more separate cartridges will add to the cost per print and is very wasteful for the environment. I would never recommend a printer with anything less than six individual cartridges and if you can, purchase a printer with at least eight individual cartridges. The Epson R1900 has a cartridge called a Photo Gloss Optimizer sprays a surface evening resin when needed.

    Image Resolution:
    Once you select your more color stable pigment-based printer and the maximum number of individual cartridges, the next item for your awareness is the nozzle size of the printer head. While the particle size of the pigment inks allows for sharper images, the smaller droplet size, measured in picoliters, gives the printers faster operation. In addition to the droplet size, you will be faced with the printer’s actual resolution. Resolution is measured in DPI or dots per inch. The more dots that a printer can fit in one inch, the higher the resolution and the sharper the image, so you should always opt for at least 1,440 dpi. Printers, like scanners, are listed with two numbers as in 5,760 x 1,440 dpi, so only the second number has any value. In this case, you will be purchasing a printer capable of reproducing an image with a minimum resolution of 1,440 dpi. You can certainly print at double the resolution, or 2,880 dpi, but this will also cost you double the ink cost.

    When you select the best pigment-based inkjet printer with the highest number of individual ink cartridges, have a minimum resolution of 1,440 dpi, a small droplet size measured in picoliters, and use the printer manufacturer’s professional paper, you will be assured your beautiful photograph will provide a lifetime of appreciation and beyond. You will have furthered your fine art abilities and have an additional backup of your family memories.
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  • Best Professional Class Digital Cameras
    Hasselblad dominates the Best of the Best Professional Digital Cameras, but Leica with the introduction of its S2, is putting pressure on the front runner. Hasselblad makes cameras in the medium format category and this means you will get more megapixels (MP), a larger image sensor and better optics. The bottom line is when you use the Hasselblad medium-format digital cameras, you will capture the best quality digital images period. Nearly all digital cameras in this category are predominately used by fashion and advertising photographers.

    With digital cameras in the medium format category, you get more control over the people, places and objects that tickle your photographic fancy. However, the more control comes with caveats – the size of your camera is going to be larger (medium format is larger than a 35mm DSLR) and you will spend more for the medium-format camera body. The Best of the Best camera in this professional digital category is going to be the Hasselblad H3DII-39. It features an extremely large image sensor, which is over twice as large as ones on a DSLR, 39 MP and superior optics. Most of the Hasselblads have a full-frame image sensor so there is negligible lens size distortion.

    Also, the medium-format digital cameras aren’t as ruggedized as the professional digital cameras from Nikon or Canon, because they are used primarily in a photo studio. The Leicas are also ruggedized as it’s meant to be used as a creative and photojournalistic digital camera. While the lenses are almost always the most expensive part of a photographer’s gear, this is only true for the Leica and the Canon cameras. The steep entry price of the Hasselblad’s makes the lenses seem like a bargain.

    All Best of the Best Professional Digital Cameras reviewed can take photographs in a combination of RAW and TIFF format or RAW and JPEG format, accept the professional CFII (compact flash) cards (with the exception of the Leica M8), have a hot shoe for an external flash gun or other lighting, and have sophisticated electronics. The Best of the Best Professional Digital Camera is the Hasselblad H3DII-39. It has a sensor size of 36.7 mm x 49 mm and captures 39MP of information.
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  • Best Nikon Digital Camera Lenses
    You’ve picked your Nikon DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera or your Fuji Finepix DSLR digital camera and you would like to know the best lens or lenses to accompany your purchase. Let me start by saying it’s not if you are going to purchase another digital camera, its when. Digital cameras will last about three to five years, but your lenses can last fifteen to twenty years or more as long as you take care of them. Furthermore, your lenses are your most important investment in your photography business or hobby. I like to think of camera lenses like speakers for a stereo system. It always pays to get great quality speakers, as they will allow your stereo to sound better. And when you have great quality lenses for your DSLR, your photographs will be sharper and more impressive.

    Nikon manufactures each lens listed in the Best of the Best category. They call their lenses Nikkor lenses; so don’t be concerned if the lenses don’t say Nikon specifically. I arranged the lenses as the top five you would want to have if you were a professional or an aspiring amateur wanting the best equipment. There is a tie for the Best of the Best Lenses. The Nikkor AF-S Zoom 17-35mm f/2.8 IF-ED is going to be one of your most widely used wide-angle zoom lenses for events and for scenery. It is a super-fast lens (i.e. the low number aperture) has Nikon’s silent motor providing silent auto focus operation. In fact, you always want to get the fastest lens (i.e. the lower number aperture) you can afford. The best is when your aperture is the same low number throughout the range of operation. This makes a huge difference in low light situations, which is where you often make the best photographs.

    The Nikkor AF-S Zoom 70-200mm f/2.8 VR IF-ED is the lens that ties with the Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8. This is a great zoom lens for events taking place further away such as those on a stage or when you are in the audience and away from the action. The addition of the VR (vibration reduction) minimizes the effects of camera shake, allowing handheld shooting at up to three shutter speeds slower than what otherwise would be possible. This allows for a higher percentage of sharper images (without noticeable blurriness). However, you still need to hold the camera steady in low light situations with either a monopod or better yet, a tripod. A few lenses in the Best of the Best category have Internal Focusing (IF) design. When a lens has the IF designation, it allows for faster and smoother auto focusing. It also eliminates barrel length distortion so you will have consistent handling. The 70-200mm lens offers a natural viewfinder image even during VR operation and also detects automatically when the photographer pans. The ED designation on a lens means Extra-low Dispersion glass elements for superior sharpness and color correction.

    You will notice I have not recommended any Nikkor DX (digital-only) lenses for the Best of the Best category. While these lenses are lighter than the ones listed, they do not work in Nikon film cameras and in my opinion, Nikon is moving away from digital only lenses with the introduction of its first full frame sensor digital camera the D3. Plus, in extreme conditions, you will want the flexibility of using a film camera and any one of these lenses will work very well. Remember when you use any Nikon DSLR or Fuji DSLR that accepts Nikkor lenses, you will be faced with a lens multiplication factor of 1.5x (except on the Nikon D3). Therefore, the Nikkor 60mm Micro lens for close up work will become a 90mm lens. Also, never ever purchase a kit lens as these are not made well and are never a good investment.
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  • Best Canon Digital Camera Lenses
    You’ve picked your Canon DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera and you would like to know the best lens or lenses to accompany your purchase. Let me start by saying it’s not if you are going to purchase another digital camera, its when. Digital cameras will last about three to five years, but your lenses can last fifteen to twenty years or more as long as you take care of them. Furthermore, your lenses are your most important investment in your photography business or hobby. I like to think of camera lenses like speakers for a stereo system. It always pays to get great quality speakers, as they will allow your stereo to sound better. And when you have great quality lenses for your DSLR, your photographs will be sharper and more impressive.

    Canon manufactures each lens listed in the Best of the Best category. I arranged the lenses as the top five you would want to have if you were a professional or an aspiring amateur wanting the best equipment. There is a tie for the Best of the Best Lenses. The Canon Zoom Super Wide Angle EF 16-35mm f/2.8L is going to be one of your most widely used wide-angle zoom lenses for events and for scenery. It is a super-fast lens (i.e. the low number aperture) has Canon’s silent motor providing silent auto focus operation called USM. All of the "L" lenses deliver optical performance equal to similar fixed focal lengths lenses. In fact, you always want to get the fastest lens (i.e. the lower number aperture) you can afford. The best is when your aperture is the same low number throughout the range of operation. This makes a huge difference in low light situations, which is where you often make the best photographs.

    The Canon Zoom Telephoto 70-200mm f/2.8 IS EF-USM is the lens that ties with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8. This is a great zoom lens for events taking place further away such as those on a stage or when you are in the audience and away from the action. The addition of the IS (image stabilization) minimizes the effects of camera shake, allowing handheld shooting at up to four shutter speeds slower than what otherwise would be possible. This allows for a higher percentage of sharper images (without noticeable blurriness). However, you still need to hold the camera steady in low light situations with either a monopod or better yet, a tripod. A few lenses in the Best of the Best category have Internal Focusing (IF) design. When a lens has the IF designation, it allows for faster and smoother auto focusing. It also eliminates barrel length distortion so you will have consistent handling. The 70-200mm lens has a special feature that turns off the image stabilization when connected to a tripod. The ED designation on a lens means Extra-low Dispersion glass elements for superior sharpness and color correction.

    You will notice I have not recommended any Canon (digital-only) lenses for the Best of the Best category. While these lenses are lighter than the ones listed, they do not work in Canon film cameras nor do they work in Canon full-frame sensor digital cameras such as the 5D. Plus, in extreme conditions, you will want the flexibility of using a film camera and any one of these lenses will work very well. Remember when you use any Canon DSLR; you will be faced with a lens multiplication factor of 1.6x (except on the Canon 5D and the Canon Mark II and III bodies). Therefore, the Canon 50mm normal lens will become a 80mm lens. Also, never ever purchase a kit lens, as these are inferior lenses.
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  • Best DSLR Memory Cards
    SanDisk and Lexar dominate the market for memory cards, but Kingston is creeping into the space. Kingston has long been known for their high quality computer memory. However, more professional photographers use SanDisk and Lexar cards than any other. They have unique features that are not usually present in other memory cards such as a higher capacity, faster operation and the ability to operate under extreme conditions. When looking for memory cards, you need to consider these options along with selecting the correct type of memory card.

    Card Type:
    Memory cards come in three main types CFII (compact flash II), SD (secure digital) and XD (extreme digital) and one minor type, Sony Memory Sticks. The majority of digital cameras on the market use either the CFII or SD while the XD cards are only used by Fuji and Olympus. All of the memory cards reviewed in the Best of the Best section will be CFII. Also, CFII cards are used exclusively in medium format and professional DSLR cameras. However, Nikon is starting to make some of their entry-level DSLR’s SD only. While this is good for somebody migrating from the consumer level, it is not ideal for those photographers in the DSLR space. Plus the small size of the SD cards makes them easier to misplace or loose. I recommend you purchase your memory cards separately and never in a kit with your camera. The ‘kit’ memory cards have a lower capacity, are slower and might be an older model.

    Most memory cards are rated to last over 10,000 uses and they can usually withstand an accidental dunk in the pool or the full effects of a high-powered washing machine. However, you always need to have a backup card in case you fill the main one to capacity, if it gets damaged or if you loose it. While some people like to purchase the largest capacity card possible, I don’t think it’s the best idea. This means you will be putting all of your images in ‘one basket’ and if you loose the card, you loose your assignment.

    Capacity:
    For example, it makes better sense to have four different 4GB memory cards than one 16GB card. Again, this spreads the risk and allows you to have backups. However, if you are set on having high capacity memory cards, then you need to exercise a certain amount of discipline. This means transferring the contents of the cards on a regular basis after your assignment or vacation, which could mean after 2-3 GB. Remember you don’t want to wait for the card to fill to capacity.

    File Types:
    Another way to think about the intended size of your memory card is to consider which types of images you store, RAW, TIFF or JPEG. All DSLRs and a few specialty consumer based digital cameras store RAW and JPEG. TIFF is also an option on some DSLRs, too. The RAW and TIFF files take up more room and thus a larger memory card is needed. JPEG takes up anywhere from 2-4MB per file, so a smaller card is ideal for these types of files.

    Speed:
    In addition, you want to purchase the memory card with the appropriate speed for your camera. The fastest memory cards (266x – 300x) measured in read/write speed or in a factor of ‘x’ are ideal for medium format cameras or professional DSLRs. Medium speed cards (133x) are best for mid-level DSLRs and the slower speed cards (67x – 133x) are good for entry-level DSLRs or consumer based digital cameras. The winner for Best of the Best memory card is the SanDisk 16GB Extreme IV CFII. It has a capacity of 16GB, nearly the fastest speed on the market, 40-45 mb read/write speed or 266x-300x, and can operate in temperatures ranging from -13 to +185 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 C to +85 C).
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  • Best DSLR Camera Accessories
    Just as in the consumer digital photographic accessory matrix, the Best DSLR Accessories revolve around light, camera protection and camera stability. The added bonus of having a DSLR is you can experiment with some optional accessories. The Best of the Best DSLR Accessories will delve into lighting and a two of these optional accessories. Again, I am going to assume you already own a flashgun specific to your camera manufacturer. By owning a Canon flashgun for a Canon DSLR for example, you are better able to take advantage of the improved communication and the ability to use something called evaluative TTL (through the lens) functionality on some models. In short, the meter readings you get with your manufacturer’s flash will be reliable and give you something of a constant.

    Light:
    The ‘Best of the Best’ DSLR accessory is the Gossen DigiFlash Portable Digital Incident, Reflected & Flash Light meter. With the Gossen DigiFlash, you will never be fooled again by your camera’s built-in light meter. Taking a portrait next to the available light of an open window requires a hand-held meter and manual camera settings. And one of the best ways to improve the color accuracy of your photographs before you get them into your computer is to use the ExpoImaging Expo Cap White Balance (WB) Aid and the Hoya brand circular glass polarizer will reduce or eliminate the harsh light of the midday sun.

    Other Best of the Best Accessories:
    One of the disadvantages of digital is the small LCD screen. You take a photograph and think you ‘got’ the shot when you review your images. The real truth comes when you review your images later on your computer. To ensure a few more photographs before you leave the scene, try the Hoodman Professional LCD Screen Loupe. It fits over your DSLR’s LCD screen, provides 2x magnification and will ensure you achieved proper focus detail, especially in low light. However, if you want to play with the focus in your scene, then you absolutely need to get the Lens Baby 3G Special Effects Lens. It allows you to lock in a focus sweet spot in a scene and then perform fine focus adjustments to create creative and very unusual effects. The lens comes in a 50mm variety and you will need to get the wide angle and zoom attachments for different lens sizes.

    When you pay attention to the quality of your light, properly protect your camera and lenses, and provide for the stability of your camera, you will ensure great quality photographs. It’s time that you included a few “Best of the Best” items in your photography gearbox. These items will add to your photographic skill and can be used with the next generation of DSLR’s.
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  • Best Consumer Digital Camera Accessories
    While there are techniques you can use to increase the quality of your photography (such as photographing in the Magic Minutes of the early morning or late afternoon), there are a number of ingredients or accessories designed to help you make a better photograph. They revolve around light, camera protection, and camera stability. Most of the Best of the Best accessories recommended will help you to increase the quality of light while the accessories recommended as Best Value focus more evenly on the light for your digital camera as well as camera protection and camera stability.

    Quality of Light:
    The light is either from the sun, reflection, and ambient room lighting or the light from a camera’s flashgun. The challenge with the built-in consumer digital camera flash is its power consumption. While it supplies a small amount of light, it will drain your batteries faster than showing a few of your friends all of your photos via your camera’s LCD. The Best of the Best accessory for your consumer digital camera is to get the Metz 28 CS-2 Booster Flash. It allows you to have an off-camera flash and increases the power of your flash by a factor of four! The great thing about this accessory is you can use it from one consumer camera to the next. Another way to improve the harsh light encountered on many a photographic outing is to add a polarizing filter to your camera bag. The Sony VF-25CPKS 25 mm kit contains a circular polarizer that is small enough to hold in front of your camera’s lens. It cuts the suns glare and intensifies the blue in the sky.

    Camera Stability:
    You will need to keep your camera steady. During the Magic Minutes, the light is soft, but it also means you don’t have a lot of it. Your flash won’t be necessary, as you will want to take photographs with only the available natural light. As you turn your flash off, you will be faced with the resulting photograph being out of focus. The best way to counteract camera shake and less-than-sharp images is to use a tripod or a monopod. A monopod can also be used when you are taking product photography.

    Have you recently cleaned out your attic and found some small and medium-sized items you would like to sell and need photos of them? When you use the Sharpics D-Flector briefcase, you will have a 24 x 18 inch white product background for your photography. You can even use it to create creative still-life photographs for your newsletter or blog.

    Think of making photographs being like following a recipe - adding a few must-have and savvy accessories will certainly spice up your photographs by improving the quality of your images.
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  • Best Consumer Digital Cameras
    Leica, and its partner in the consumer realm, Panasonic, dominate the Best of the Best consumer digital cameras reviewed. These cameras share many of the same features as their best value brethren, but take the best category to the highest level with a combination of high-quality optics, a small sensor size and a good MP (mega-pixel) count. You need to look for consumer digital cameras that have the best optics, (the larger optical zoom the better), the smallest sensor size (measured by the smallest number denominator), and the largest MP count for your budget. Plus, these cameras in the Best of the Best category have additional valuable features for your investment.

    All Best of the Best cameras have the enhanced ability to capture images in RAW format for more flexibility than standard JPEG. Many of these cameras have a hot shoe attachment so you can use external flashguns and attach the camera to other light sources. More lighting options will give you the ability to take better quality photographs. The Canon PowerShot G10 has the added ability to accept both wide-angle and tele-photo lenses allowing for even more flexibility and better optics. Keep in mind that if you are selecting a camera with an optical zoom above 6x, you will typically get a larger camera – mostly in the lens area.

    The challenge with digital cameras is that sensor sizes vary depending upon the manufacturer and the price point. The cameras in the Best of the Best consumer digital category have slightly smaller sensors, so just because you are looking at two different 12 MP cameras, the sensor size will tell you more about the quality of the images then the camera’s MP count.

    If you want to get the Best of the Best Consumer Digital Camera, then you need to purchase the Leica V-Lux 1. Leica is considered the ‘Rolls Royce’ of cameras and this digital model has the added ability of setting the aperture at f/11, which is much higher than any other consumer model listed. This larger range in the depth of field will allow for sharper landscape images throughout the photograph.
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  • Best Camera Tripods
    The absolute most important photography accessory is a well-constructed tripod. In fact, nearly all of the Best of the Best tripods are made of carbon fiber materials for use in extreme hot and cold conditions. They also are light in weight. Every tripod reviewed comes with a ball head except for the Gitzo and the Giottos. Before you purchase your first tripod or upgrade to a new one, there are three things you need to consider: magic minutes, tripod height and weight, and the quick release feature. Having the best tripod for you will help you to achieve the greatest impact with your photographs. A tripod will also help slow down your photography by allowing you to think.

    Magic Minutes
    If you really want to achieve greater impact as a photographer, then you will need to continually pay attention to the quality of light around you. Early morning light or late afternoon light is soft and pleasing to the eye and typically lasts for minutes or what I call the ‘magic minutes.’ While consumer digital cameras are getting more automated with features such as vibration reduction, higher ISO values and automatic face recognition, they will not be able to give you better photographs during the magic minutes without the help of a solid tripod. If you want to take a pleasing landscape photograph of a building for example, then you will need the highest F-stop possible mixed with a very slow shutter speed followed by the lowest ISO value.

    Tripod Height & Weight
    You will want a tripod with a maximum height of at least 61 inches. The reason for this is taking portraits. One of the best ways to make an impromptu portrait is to have your subject sit on a stool while you affix your camera to your tripod. It’s better to get a tripod with as much maximum height as possible relative to the folded height. The weight of your tripod is also important. If you are simply carrying your tripod in its padded case from you house, to your car, and then to the spot where you are going to take photographs, a few pounds of weight probably won’t matter too much. However, the weight of your tripod will become a big deal when you are carrying it into the woods, hauling it around the city or packing it into your luggage. And you’ll want to hang a counterweight underneath to prevent your tripod from blowing over in a strong wind.

    Quick Release
    Let’s say you are taking the portrait I talked about earlier, and you spot an interesting character on a bicycle riding past. You probably want to capture this person, so you need a quick release feature with your tripod. With the flick of your thumb, you will be able to unsnap your camera and take the action photograph. Plus, a quick release feature is very helpful if you are often changing lenses on your tripod from a zoom lens to a wide-angle lens. Remember, many zoom lenses will allow you to affix the quick release pad to the lens while the camera will need one separately when used with a wide-angle lens.

    All of the tripods reviewed have something called an Independent Leg Spread. This means you can separately bend one leg backwards and balance it on a set of stairs while the other two legs are balancing the tripod below. When you are faced with a tight or crooked optimum photography area, each leg of your tripod can contort separately to help give you great photographs. Another small accessory related to your tripod is a tripod level. If you carry one of these with you, it will ensure that your tripod and then your resulting photograph is even. I highly recommend the Gitzo carbon fiber tripod with the Gitzo G-2272M Magnesium 3-way Pan/Tilt ball head.
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