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Need to clean a lens?


If you're looking for a good tip on the basic maintenance that is cleaning your lenses, our own very own Jeff "JJ" Johansen has been interviewed by local business reviewer Angie's List on how to do exactly that for a how-to guide they have posted today. Go ahead and give them the click to check that out and learn how our rentals manager (who sees more than his share of dirty lenses) recommends caring for your gear.


Buying Gifts For Photographers (When You Aren't): Part 1, Canon and Nikon Lenses

Well everyone, it's getting on into that time of the year again. Holiday shopping! And as you might expect, around this time of the year a lot of the orders we're getting are gifts for people other than the ones buying them. And in a technical market like photography this sometimes leads to a problem: how do you buy a gift for your photographer friends and family, people who know what all these cryptic names and numbers mean, but you don't? Well, we can't realistically teach you everything you need to know to ease those woes in the short shopping season, but we can give you a few easy pointers that might help make it less terrifying.

Today we're going to talk about lenses for "the big two:" Canon and Nikon. While these certainly aren't the only brands on the market (I have myself shot Olympus, my future brother-in-law shoots Sony, and there's Leica, Pentax, Panasonic, Fuji, and oh so much more too), they do account for a very large chunk of the market. The odds are in your favor that your photographer friend uses one of the two of them, and especially if they're just getting going a cheap lens like a 50mm or 35mm prime, or a nice used one might come up as a gift idea. And they are! But, there are a few pitfalls you as a loving gift giver and savvy shopper would like to avoid, and without burdening you too much with the technobabble behind them we'll help point out a couple here real quick.

1. DSLRs have different size sensors.

Unlike pretty much every film camera you've probably seen someone using, that all took the same 35mm film, DSLRs actually commonly have one of two basic sensor sizes. Cheaper ones will have a smaller one often called a "crop" sensor, and many more expensive ones (though not all of them) will have one the same size as 35mm film called "full frame." The reason you need to know this is because there are some lenses made only to be used with the smaller sensor. These "crop" lenses can be made smaller, and smaller means cheaper, and cheaper means they're likely to be tempting gifts. And that's great so long as your giftee has a crop camera. So, step one is to figure out if you're buying for a "crop" or "full-frame" camera. You could always just ask them, most photographers will certainly know. If they don't but you can find out the model of their camera you can also very easily look up whether they have a crop or full-frame sensor.


Once you know whether or not they have a crop or full-frame sensor, here are your handy tips:

  • Lenses made for full-frame sensors can be used just fine on both full frame and crop
  • Lenses made just for crop sensors will be specially noted right in their names
  • Canon crop lenses will have "EF-S" in the name. The -S is the key part. Think of it as "EF-Small"
  • Nikon crop lenses will have "DX" in the name. If you don't see a DX, it can be used for either full frame or crop.

Tamron's 18-270mm Is a Popular Lens Available For Both Canon and Nikon

But, wait! What about third party brands, like Tamron and Sigma, who make some excellent (and honestly more affordable) lenses for Canon and Nikon? Their names look different, and I don't see an EF-S or DX in any of their names! How do I know which ones work with these "crop" and "full-frame" cameras you're talking about?

Good question! These brands also note whether they're for crop sensors, but for copyright reasons they use different terms.

  • Tamron crop lenses will have "Di-II" or "Di II" in the name
  • Sigma crop lenses will have "DC" in the name (for "Digital Crop" actually)
  • Just like with the brand Nikon and Canon lenses, if you don't see either of those terms in the name it'll work on both full-frame and crop bodies

2. Nikon Autofocus

This is just for the Nikon people, and mostly just if you're shopping used lenses. A lot of modern Nikon DSLRs cannot autofocus older Nikon autofocus lenses. Without having to know the technical stuff there is once again a super-easy way for you to know if you're getting a lens that can autofocus on any camera. Nikon's universal, new autofocus system is indicated by an "AF-S" in the lens name. Older ones will only be called "AF" without the important "-S". All new Nikon lenses are AF-S anyway, you'll only run into this worry when you start looking for used.

To further help you, here is a list of the Nikon DSLRs that require the use of an AF-S lens for autofocus: D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, and D5200. All of the other Nikon DSLRs can use the old AF lenses just fine, if your budget is tight.

3. Canon EF

This one is just for the Canon people, and again really just if you're buying used. Canon has had two different lens mount systems in its time. The original one all those Canon AE-1's in your closets used back in the 70s was called FD. Any Canon camera with EOS in the name uses the newer EF (or EF-S, if crop) mount. It is important to know that the old FD lenses absolutely won't work on EOS digital cameras. They physically cannot be mounted. This is a pretty common mistake and we want to help steer you away from it right now. Be sure that the lens you're buying for your friend's and family's digital Canon have an EF somewhere in the lens name and you'll always be OK.

4. Buying With Confidence

We know the stuff we sell is highly technical, and highly specific. We don't want you to be afraid to gift it because of that. Leave a gift message on anything you buy from us until Christmas Eve and we'll extend the exchange period on it until January 10th! If it's not right for your giftee, or they need something slightly different, we'll take care of them. We'll make sure one way or another that your gesture of love and thoughtfulness ends with them having the item they want and need for their specific kit. So, even if you do get a bit buried under all the technobabble and alphabet soup, we've got your back. No worries.

Have you checked out our starter's list of 30 gift ideas for photographers all under $200? It's a great place to start...


Focusing the Nikon D750...

Recently I had an incredible opportunity to hang out with someone whom I have admired in the world of photography for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately I must leave you in the dark about exactly who it is (Hint, it's a Nikon Ambassador), but something important that came out of the conversation was this particular individuals thought that the New Nikon D750 having the same autofocus system that the Nikon D4 or D4s cameras has would have the same Autofocus performance. I'm not going to lie, the possibility of a $2300 camera that equals the autofocus performance of my $6500 Nikon D4s is simultaneously exciting and disheartening. I did after all pay $6500 for the D4s, so if it's just as good should I sell it and buy three D750's instead? It's complicated, but to illustrate my answers I took the Nikon D750 on a sports assignment with me. Not a set up event, but an actual sporting events coverage assignment that I had for USA Today at the University of Notre Dame.


(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 24-70F2.8N@70mm. 1/40th@F4. Shot after my assignment while on the way to the car. Wish I had a tripod with me, but I didn't)

One of my contracts since leaving the Indianapolis Star is with USA Today shooting sporting events. I've always loved shooting sports and this was a great addition to the other projects I work on since it allows me to mix my schedule up a bit. This year I haven't shot anywhere near as many sporting events as last year, but that's ok as I haven't exactly been sitting around at home either. That said, basketball season usually has me floating around to quite a few different places and teams. When the D750 experiment came up thanks to my friends at Roberts Camera, I could think of no better way to truly test the metal of the Nikon D750's autofocus than a bonified sporting event. In this case, the NCAA Basketball game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the Coppin State Eagles.


(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 200-400F4VR@300mm. 1/640th@F4)

So before we get going. I need to explain a few things. First off, I was not paid to do this review by Nikon or Roberts Camera. I was paid by USA Today to shoot the images as news coverage, and the images were not photoshopped other than some cropping or basic color correction and brightness depending. Secondly this is NOT a full review of the Nikon D750. There are lots of really neat features that this camera has that I won't even talk about. Things like the WiFi or the tilting screen? Didn't even try them. What is important? It's sheer functionality. Can someone get a D750 and take it out to a high speed fast paced event and rely on it? How does it indeed compare to the D4s that Nikon sells for almost three times the price?


(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 200-400F4VR@350mm. 1/640th@F4)

My theory for shooting basketball is to primarily use two bodies alternating. (I do have a third body at the ready, but it rarely gets used during the game; it just has a wide angle on it for "just in case"). The bodies and lenses I generally shoot Basketball with are the Nikon D4 with the Nikon 200-400F4VR lens attached for the far end of the court, and the Nikon D4s with the Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2 for the close end of the court. It's a pretty potent Combo. I dig it. I generally put my faster camera on the closer end of the combo because it's more difficult to keep up with the stuff moving very quickly so close. The closer the action, the faster it moves. So while this particular Nikon Ambassador has been my Photography idol for a long time, I wasn't quite ready to throw caution to the wind on a paid job so I mounted the Nikon D750 to my Nikon 200-400F4VR and started shooting. My theory was simple. The theory was that if the camera couldn't keep up I would just put the D4 back on the lens and be done with it. But then something interesting happened.


(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 200-400F4@400mm. 1/640th@F4)

Not only did I use the D75o the whole game, but by the end of the game the 70-200 was on it shooting the close end of the court. No kidding. Why did I put it on to shoot the close end of the court? Because like the D4s I normally use, it didn't even flinch at the action through the long glass. Now with the 70-200? Same thing. I was easily able to shoot almost as I do with the D4 or D4s. The images were incredibly sharp and clean, and honestly other than having a different resolution it was otherwise unknown that I was using a different camera than normal; which for a $2300 camera is kind of astonishing if I do say so myself.

Now wait.

I just said I was able to shoot almost as I do with the D4 or D4s. That's correct. You may ask, if the images were as sharp and the camera was keeping up then why would I say almost? This is easy. The Nikon D750 is a $2300 camera and it feels like it. The Camera is smaller than the D800 or D810 without it's grip, and very much smaller than the Nikon D4 or D4s (which has the grip built in). It also as more of a Hybrid interface than any other Nikon camera I have used to date. Hybrid interface meaning that it's definitely a bridge between the interface on the Entry Level Nikon D3200, and the Nikon D800 in terms of buttons and setting changes. There is a small LCD on the top of the D750, but the back screen lights up with pertinent information when you are changing settings as opposed to forcing you to decipher the information on the tiny upper one. It's an interesting system and I'm not against it as it provides quite a bit more information (like very intricate white balance info), but in some cases I think it's a bit overkill as I found it not as fast as changing settings on my D800 or D4s. The camera's small size does have it's advantages though. For example, the D750 can easily fit into my Nikon 200-400 soft case while attached to the lens. This is something my D800 and D4 bodies can NOT do.


(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@105mm. 1/800th@3200ISO)

Something else I noticed about the D750 is that the viewfinder information wasn't the normal Nikon green which strangely enough; I really liked. I'm not sure why exactly, but it seemed easier to look at I suppose. The camera's autofocus was fantastic, and it was incredibly responsive. If it wasn't I wouldn't have put it on my short end shooting basketball. The body was a bit small for my liking, but it was incredibly capable. Is this a camera that I would trade my D4s for? Nope. While it matched the Autofocus Accuracy, it did not match the D4 or D4s in general Professional standards. Examples of things that the D750 did not match in terms of the D4 and D4s are little things like the backlit buttons on the back, or even things like the having the option to use the function button to set the Aperture and Shutter lock. (Things that football shooters use pretty regularly to keep from changing the shutter and aperture of their cameras as they run up and down the field). The other complaint that I have is that the Autofocus Points are closer together inside of the viewfinder. I didn't find that it made a difference when shooting horizontally, but when shooting vertically I often found that things would easily move outside the AF point's cluster, which was annoying. This could be me just complaining about nothing, or it could be something. Take it as you will. I would venture to guess without any research, that the points are about 10% closer together, which means there is 10% more frame without focus point coverage than my D4s, or D800.


(Nikon D750, 2500ISO, Nikon 200-400F4VR@220mm. 1/640@220mm.)

Overall though, I am very greatly impressed with Nikon's D750. I would not hesitate in the least to carry one into almost any job on any day. It's still not enough for me as a full time pro to replace my D4s over, but if you're someone who is looking for that next step up, or a first step into Full Frame the D750 is a huge win. If you've got a D600 or D610 this is also the case in terms of an upgrade. The 24 megapixel files were great, and the camera was incredible responsive. If you're the photographer that's been waiting for the Long awaited D700 replacement but aren't quite sure this is that, then let me reassure you. THIS IS IT. It's an incredible camera for an incredible value and should not be overlooked by enthusiasts or pro's alike. To say I was impressed is modest. I was blown away, and can see the direction that Nikon is moving with it's next bodies. When the D5 comes out I can only imagine what it'll be like after handling this thing now. If they can put this much technology into a $2300 camera, imagine what they will be able to do with their normal Pro Budget. More Soon.

If you're looking to buy one, make sure you check them out with my friends at Roberts Camera here in Indy. Call, email or phone. They are there for you, and will answer questions! (including unrelated ones)

Body Only

Body with 24-120.



Sports Workshop Followup...

Last weekend was my third run at doing a Sports Photography Workshop for Roberts Camera's Education program. This time around we went and shot the NASL Indy Eleven soccer team, which was a blast! The class consisted of 7 people, and we started out talking things like autofocus, focal length, and even how pro sports can be very predictable as compared to amateur sports. In fact several of the attendees even commented that they started to see patterns in that whenever a ball was in the air, it was likely going to be a header. It was a ton of fun.


(Photo by Mike M at downshift photo, using a Nikon D600)

The attendees were also introduced to my friend Trevor who is the team photographer for the Indy Eleven. You can see Trevor's photos from that night here, in fact you can see almost the exact same moment above framed slightly differently in Trevor's shots as well). Trevor is easily the best soccer shooter I know, so it was awesome that he took a minute to say hello to everyone and give one or two words of wisdom before getting started.


(Photo by Bill H using a Nikon D800)

Equipment ranged all over for the workshop. There were some D800's, a D600, Canon 5D3's, at least one 70D and a D7000. Lenses all over the board too from rented 400mmF2.8's and Nikon 80-400mm lenses, to 70-300's and 70-200's with extenders. It was a really wide range of glass, skills and photographers which is always one of the best parts of the night because nobody sees the same shots the same ways, so getting a variety together to shoot always yields some awesome results!


(Photo by Mark W).

Overall I would say the workshop was a great success. Lots of photos for people to be proud of and that's great. Everybody seemed to have a great time, and even enjoyed experiencing lenses that a few had rented for the occasion. I even shot a few frames of the game, but I was shooting using a 400mmF2.8 and a 2x Extender because... well.... ok so I don't have a good reason but even I got to shoot a few frames!

Indianapolis Eleven(red) vs Carolina RailHawks(blue)

(Photo by Rob B at Senna Photo with a Canon 1Dx)

After the workshop everybody seemed happy and there it seems as though there is a large interest in having another workshop. I'll do them as long as people are interested, because I love it. There has been a request to see if we can get a football workshop together, which I would love to do honestly. In fact, it came up because I shot the Purdue vs Iowa game right before the workshop which meant that the photography scheduling gods were on my side as any number of things could have gone wrong and would have made my day miserable on the scheduling front. Instead, however I just had a 7 stories of stairs to get to the top of the Purdue Pressbox at one point in order to file my images because the elevator was shut down. Carrying 3 bodies and 5 lenses (including a 400F2.8) definitely even made me feel like I Played football the next day, but I digress. There is discussion of a football workshop for in the future and I really hope we can get it together, but we shall see. Keep your eyes opened here, and at the Roberts Camera Education page. Until then though. More soon.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Purdue(Nikon D4s, 250ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR2 with TC14eII extender making 550mm. 1/1250@F4.5)


Barrel Racing Recap....

Last weekend was a very exciting opportunity for workshop attendees, as well as myself as I held a sports photography workshop with Roberts Camera Education here in Indianapolis centered around Barrel Racing. What is barrel racing you ask? I'm glad you asked. Barrel racing is a rider attempting to take a horse in a clover leaf fashion around a set of barrels in the fastest time. What is a good time? Somewhere between 15 and 16 seconds at the level we were shooting, which was the National Barrel Horse Association State Show at the C Bar C Expo Center in Cloverdale Indiana.

_M4S9139(Nikon D4s, 11,400ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR, 1/640th@F2.8)

Workshops like these can be really great, because they help lay the foundation for shooting any sport while in most cases gave them an opportunity to shoot something they are unlikely to photograph otherwise. The attendees at this workshop did a great job, and really showed that they took to heart what I said early on about filling the frame, composition, and timing. Sometimes when shooting sports you have to set up and just wait for the shot as you can't be everywhere at once. A lot of times when shooting on lights that's what you have to do as your lights sort of determine what you can and can't shoot when using them. Unfortunately I wasn't able to set up any lights for the workshoppers (or myself) to use at this event, but I could see some really cool possibilities that I think even my friend Andrew Hancock would have been pleased with. Andy is a great sports shooter and is big into shooting Horse racing and related events. Either way, despite the very dark lighting, the workshop attendees put their best lens forward (see what I did there?) and produced what I consider to be some outstanding results! As I did with my Hockey Workshop earlier this year, I requested the participants email me their favorite shot from the day by the following evening (in this case Sunday 6/29), and that's what the rest of this blog will be made from.


(Photo by Karl Zemlin taken with a Nikon D800E)

Low light didn't stop the workshop participants, but it did inspire them. Lots of questions about panning came about to go along with stopping the action in the low light and I am really impressed with the images that the participants have sent me for the purposes of this blog post. Some are action related, and others are detail oriented which is great considering it means that the participants did take the opportunity to walk around and see the sights!


(Photo by Rob Baker with a Canon 1DX)

The event is a great one to shoot as every few runs they pause to groom the track. Anybody I know who has ever covered a Kentucky derby has described it as 4 minutes of horse racing between 45 minutes of track grooming and this takes a similar pattern except the track is a lot smaller. It's great though because you essentially get a few minutes every few runs where you aren't missing anything to switch positions in an effort to try something new and the participants took full opportunity to look for every angle they could find.


(Photo by Deborah Shahadey with a Nikon D7000)

Overall I feel like the workshop was a success and it appears as though the after class Survey's concur. Unfortunately I didn't have all the images from everyone by the time of this writing on Sunday Evening, but that's ok as the images I do have in here are a good selection of what the class got in the low light of the arena. It's too bad we were only there for a few hours and not longer as it it really was a very neat event to shoot. If anyone here reading this was at or participating in the event and looking to order images, be sure to, check out the hired photographer's photo's from the event. The workshoppers were more involved with trying new things and shooting to know who they photographed or what run it might have been. Brent has got every run up on his website where you can order prints and a video of your Run. Thanks again to all the folks that came out to the workshop, and also thanks again to Roberts Camera for putting it together. Make sure you keep an eye on the Roberts Camera Education page for some very cool future events and workshops. More Soon.


Roberts Sponsors Winona School

Roberts Camera is proud to sponsor Winona School of Photography 2014 in Brown County, IN this June 22-25! Winona is an affiliate school of Professional Photographers of Indiana and Professional Photographers of America.

Winona School Indiana | The Winona Experience
2014 Instructors Dennis Hammon, Woody Walters, Bridget Harmon-Smith, Michele Gauger, Kevin Hudson & more!


Hot! Deals!

Shooting Small with a BIG Impact.

If you're selling something on Ebay or Craigslist, the pictures can be the difference between someone passing through or stopping for a longer look.

The normal process for shooting these types of pictures is to setup a white or black sweep on a table, add some lighting on the sides, dial in your exposure and Bingo Bango you have a salable item in queue.  It works.  And if your shooting pictures of baby grand pianos or a Honda CB750 this is still an appropriate method.  However, most items posted for sale online are smaller than the family dog.  For those items you will want to use a light tent.  And the best news is that it is the EASIEST shooting scenario you have ever seen.  A light tent will drastically increase the quality of your product images.

If you have a bright, sunny day, a light tent on its own can be a powerful aid to making better pictures.  Unfortunately, I don't live in a tropical climate with eternal sunshine so adding lighting is a must for me.  In its simplest form, a light tent kit with constant lights is a valuable tool.  This kit is excellent for small subjects but generally requires the use of a tripod.

Look for these items to be our Hot Deals in the coming week!

We're always looking for those little extras in our shopping experience.  Want to hear the icing on the cake?  When you shop at Roberts, you learn at Roberts.  How's that for value?!

Hit the link to subscribe to our newsletter.  (Hint: It's how you're going to see our "Hot Deals")




Its Back to (Photography) School Time!

Now that kids are back in school and the semester is in full swing,  its time to schedule a class or two for yourselves.  Along with our regular event schedule of camera operational classes we offer beginner and advanced courses and fun photo walks!  The "City at Night" event w/ Jarrid Spicer is an opportunity to try your hand at night photography in downtown Indianapolis.   We have an introductory course to help you refine and improve the quality of your pictures.  If you're ready to take your lighting to the next level, take look at our Advanced Speedlight class with John Scott.   And last but not least, the always tough situation of "Low light and Fast Action" will be covered in an upcoming class.

Roberts is committed to an excellence in education.  Let us help you make your next great image.

Happy shooting and happy learning!


How To: Fireworks Pictures

It's been said that fireworks are beautiful in that they have to disappear.  I'm paraphrasing, of course, and, respectfully, I disagree.  I think it would be grand if they would stay for a little while.  Oh, wait....let's just take a picture and keep that memory forever.  What?! You don't know how to take pictures of fireworks?  Never fear.  I'll tell you.  It's actually quite a lot easier than you might imagine.

read more


Everything but the Kitchen Sink Lighting Class

We have locked in the dates for a new class.  A Guide to Understanding Light is a comprehensive and fundamental instruction in all things lighting.  This means everything from better understanding light that exists in a scene so you know how to make the most of it to breaking out the big studio strobes to completely engineering your own creative vision. 

Whether you are family shooter, hobbyist, amateur or pro, everyone will benefit from this course.  We will be using a variety of products in the second and third sessions including some of my favorite Westcott products from the Apollo line and the uLite series from the Photo Basics line.  The latter are some of the best entry level constant light kits currently available.  I just purchased the Apollo Orb with the Orb Grid for a lightweight on location portrait lighting system and absolutely love it.  

Come join us for three great evenings in April.