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Equipment for Nature Photography

a beginner's guide by Bob Atkins, 1998


For someone who wants to get into nature photography for the first time there is a bewildering amount of equipment available. Which body, lenses and accessories to chose is the question most heard from beginners. This page will attempt to answer those questions:

First of all though, read the Nature Photography Guide for a broad overview. I'm going to try not to recommend any particular brand names (but I will fail in that attempt). Whether "A" or "B" is "better" frequently turns out to be a subject for endless (and often pointless) debate. Check out the reviews on photo.net for one set of opinions.

I'm assuming that a beginner isn't going to want to spend many thousands of dollars to get started. The suggestions made here assume a budget of around $1000, which I think is the minimum amount (if you are buying new equipment) needed to get started on the right track. You can do it for less, but unless you really had to, you wouldn't want to.

Camera Body

You need a body which allows full manual override of any automatic function. You must be able to use manual focus, even if it's an autofocus camera. You must be able to set exactly what shutter speed and aperture you want, even if it differs from what the camera's built in light meter says. You also really need some kind of provision for a mechanical or electronic remote release.

It's very nice to have a depth of field preview function, mirror lock-up, an auto-winder, a viewfinder display that shows exposure information, multiple exposure capability, manually setable film ISO, exposure compensation and so on. These are not absolutely essential, but if you can get them, take them. You don't have to use all the functions, but if you need one and it isn't there, you'll miss it.

You can probably find all the essentials on the mid range models of most camera manufacturers. The extras are available on some mid-range models, but not on others, so check the camera features carefully. Canon tend to provide more features on their mid and low end models than other manufacturers do. You don't need the top-of-the-line body, but you should probably avoid the bottom-of-the-line model too. Your budget will decide which exact model, but as long as it has the basic functions mentioned above, it will be just fine. For a current AF camera, the cost will probably be in the $300-$500 range.

If you ever intend to get really serious about photography, you should probably think hard about going with either Nikon of Canon. Though other camera makers make excellent products, the Nikon and Canon systems are probably best tuned to the needs of the serious nature photographer.

Lenses

For someone starting out who wants the best "bang for the buck", I'd recommend two lenses. A wide angle zoom and a telephoto zoom. The wide angle should start at 28mm and go to somewhere between 70mm and 105mm. It need not be too fast (= expensive). A typical lens would be a 28-105/3.5-4.5 or something similar. 28mm is wide enough to be a real wide angle (35mm isn't). The second lens would be a telephoto zoom, starting out between 70mm and 100mm and going out to 300mm. Again, this will not be a fast lens, probably something like f4 or f4.5 at the short and and f5.6 at 300mm. 300mm is just long enough for wildlife work, but don't expect the ultimate in sharpness from a mid range zoom like this. The total cost of this pair of lenses will probably be in the $400-$600 range. If you can find two lenses that have the same filter size (58mm would be typical), it will make life easier for you.

I would not recommend starting out with a 28-200 zoom. Though such a lens covers a lot of ground, it has a number of problems. First, 200mm isn't really long enough for wildlife work. Second, it probably won't focus very close at 28mm (you need this feature for those "everything in focus" landscape shots). Third, the optical quality of such zooms isn't that great.

I would also recommend sticking with the camera manufacturer's lenses rather than buying cheaper 3rd party lenses. They will hold their value better and probably function better (especially on complex, all electronic cameras like the Canon EOS system). There are, no doubt, exceptions to this. Some 3rd party lenses are quite good - just be careful.

Tripod

You will need a tripod. If you don't have one you might as well not bother trying to do any high quality work. Most of your images will not be sharp, and since you don't have premium optics to begin with you can't afford to lose any sharpness at all. You might say that some great photographers never used a tripod. Quite true, but they weren't trying to do nature photography.

With a basic lightweight body and zoom lens outfit like this, you can get away with a fairly light tripod (say 3 or 4 lbs). I'll break my "no brand name" rule here and suggest looking at Bogen and Gitzo tripods and the small Bogen ball heads. With Bogen this should cost about $100, with Gitzo probably $200+. Be aware that if you get really serious, you will be buying another, bigger, heavier, more expensive tripod and head. You can buy it now, if you think you will be prepared to carry it around!

Accessories

  • A copy of John Shaw's book "The Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques". This is #1 on the list for a reason!
  • A high quality, two element, close-up diopter to fit the telephoto zoom for macro work
  • A remote release for the camera
  • A polarizing filter (a circular polarizer for all AF and some MF cameras)
  • A warming filter - 81A, 81B or 812
  • A UV filter (maybe - you can probably use the warming filter instead)
  • Lens hoods for each lenses
  • A bag to carry it all in

You will now have spent something like $1000+ to get a good basic outfit that should be capable of excellent images if you use it right.

Specific recommendations

I know, people just hate generalizations. They want to be told what's best. Here then is my own personal pick of items for a low cost introductory camera system. You may well have other opinions (that's what the comment server is here for, see the bottom of this web page). You can also check out the photo.net equipment reviews.

  • Camera Body - Canon EOS ElanII - best "bang for the buck" in my opinion.
  • Wide Angle Zoom - Canon EF28-105 USM - If the EF24-80 USM becomes available. it might be an equal or better choice, depending on quality and price (both unknown right now).
  • Telephoto Zoom - Canon EF100-300 USM, or EF75-300USM depending on your budget. Optically there is nothing to chose between them. The 100-300 USM is nicer to use and has a non-rotating front element.
  • Tripod - Bogen 3001 or 3021, depending on how much weight you are prepared to carry and how tall you are.
  • Tripod head - Bogen 3226 or 3055 Ball Head. Both are cheap ($40 or so), both work fairly well, neither is great - but you don't get a great ball head for $40!
  • Filters - Tiffen and Hoya are fine. Multicoated filters are desirable and not that much more expensive than uncoated filters. Coated polarizers are hard to find though.
  • Where to buy it all - I like B&H Photo. They are not perfect, but they are less likely to try to screw you than any of the other mail order discount stores I've ever dealt with and they have decent prices. Also see Where to buy a camera on photo.net.

Alternate Views

There is a certain school of thought along the lines that all "consumer grade" lenses are inferior, and you might as well start out by buying the "pro grade" lenses from the start. There is some truth here, but not so much as to make this line of thought "the one true way". John Shaw (and many others I assume) have pointed out that an average lens used with excellent technique can produce remarkable (and marketable) images, while the best lenses used with sloppy technique just waste film. So sure, if you have lots of spare cash and don't mind the weight, buy the really expensive 28-70 and 70-200 f2.8 APO lenses. It will increase the basic system price though, from around $1000 to maybe $2500-$3000 (if you stick with manufacturer's lenses).

You can also, of course, buy used equipment. This can either be current AF bodies and lenses, or older, manual focus equipment. If you plan on expanding your system then it's probably wise to stick with current equipment systems (e.g. Canon EOS) or a system that allows use of older, MF, lenses on current bodies - basically this means Nikon. Used equipment typically sells for between 65% and 80% of the current discount price (i.e. the price B&H Photo advertise) depending on age, condition and desirability. The downside is that you don't get warranty protection. The upside is it costs less, and will probably hold 100% of its value (it may even increase in value if it's a high quality item) should you ever sell it.

Looking to the future - what comes next?

What comes after this outfit? Well, most wildlife photographers would want to add a longer lens. If you are still looking for the cheapest (but still decent) way to go, that's probably a 400/5.6 APO lens from one of the 3rd party lens manufacturers. This will cost somewhere in the region of $600. Know that if you get really serious about wildlife work, you won't be happy with this lens and you will want a longer and/or faster and/or sharper and (but not or) much more expensive lens to replace it. Note that it's actually cheaper to buy it now than first buy the lower cost lens, then sell it at a loss, then buy the lens you really wanted in the first place!

If you are a landscape photographer you might want to add a really wide angle lens, which, on a budget, probably either means a 20mm f2.8 lens or something like a 20-35mm f3.5-4.5 zoom. Expect to pay $300-$500 for either one. The fixed 20mm will probably be faster, have less flare, be smaller, lighter and take smaller (=cheaper) filters. The zoom will give you more flexibility. Your choice.

If you get hooked on macro photography, you might want a macro lens that focuses down to 1:1 (life size image on film) without adding a close-up lens. A 100mm macro is a good choice since it allows more working distance than a 50mm macro. Expect to pay from $200 to $500 for a decent macro lens.

If you get really hooked, you will want to start collecting "pro" series lenses. Big, fast, expensive glass. Be warned that photography can become a large bottomless pit you shovel money into if you reach this terminal stage.

[ | Q&A Forum ]


Article created 1998

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Quang-Tuan Luong , February 18, 1997; 04:54 P.M.

"You might say that some great photographers never used a tripod. Quite true, but they weren't trying to do nature photography."

What about Haas ? "The Creation" has one of the most imaginative nature photography i have seen !

Bob Atkins , February 24, 1997; 07:21 P.M.

I'm not familiar with "The Creation". Are there any images from it on the web?

I was thinking more of the work of Ansel Adams, John Shaw, Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, John Sexton (to name but a small few) when I suggested that all nature photographers used tripods. I'm sure that for some creative, fine-art nature work that a hand held camera could be used to great effect. However suggesting to beginners that the use of a tripod isn't essential is probably bad advice. While there are times when the use of a tripod is either impossible or undesirable, these are special cases rather than the "norm".

Don Baccus , February 27, 1997; 08:04 P.M.

When I first decided to get serious about bird photography and bought a Sigma 400/5.6 APO lens, I also bought a decent, used 2x converter.

The resulting 800/11 was as bad as you might imagine, yet I learned an awful lot about bird photography while using it. I viewed it as in investment in learning at a time when I could not afford a fast, long telephoto.

Amazingly, I've sold one image of a snowy plover I took on Kodachrome 200 with that doggy combo twice. For peanuts and small reproduction (once to my local daily, where quality doesn't count :), but more than paid for the converter! I made 'em print from a dupe, too! Of course, snowy plover are endangered in much of their range and photos of them are a bit hard to come by...

I guess my point is that one shouldn't entirely discount the use of cheap converters with lesser quality lenses, if one is aware of the (very serious) limitations, particularly while learning.

My second point is one that many people overlook. Learning to become a good nature photographer involves learning about nature, as well as photography. I'd add field guides to the list of accessories.

Fred B. , July 21, 1997; 11:09 P.M.

I checked out John Shaw's book "The Nature Photographers Complete Guide To Professional Field Techniques".

This is a wonderful book! His pictures are beautiful! He has great suggestions for equipment.

This is the first photography book that has ever made me enthusiastic about any specific form of photography.

I live in SE Florida, and many people say there are not many pictures down here. But my 400mm and macro lenses have opened up a new world of nature for me.

Fred B.

Piaw Na , August 22, 1997; 04:38 P.M.

I've been using a 24-85 for about 3 months now. Yes, it's a good lens, and the extra 4mm on the short end was for me, worth the extra $100, since I didn't have to go out and buy the 24mm prime.

Having said that, I think as I get more serious, I'm likely to switch to an all-prime system, with the 24mm, 100mm, and 200mm lenses, + a TC.

Jason C. Golden , September 29, 1998; 01:45 P.M.

I have been using my old A-1 system for the last 20 years with good results. I decided I needed to get with it, advance to autofocus. I did alot of research and ended up with an Eos 5 (A2e) with a 28-135 image stabilized and 75-300 image stabilized with filters for @ $2000. I have been blown away with the results! I recently took pictures of pelicans skimming the surf at 300 mm and they were perfect, without a tripod.

Jeff Jackson , February 13, 1999; 10:13 A.M.

You mention the cost of filters. I purchased the filters that fit my biggest lens and then step down rings to fit the smaller lenses. I've seen people carry 2-3 various sized filters and it didn't make sense to me.

Ben Jackson , May 30, 1999; 03:35 A.M.

So sure, if you have lots of spare cash and don't mind the weight, buy the really expensive 28-70 and 70-200 f2.8 APO lenses.

Or for about the same price as the 28-70/2.8, get a 17-35/2.8 (or 20-35/2.8, if you're talking used or non-Canon). You'll probably have a fast 50 (like a 50/1.8 or a 50 macro) to cover the ground between 35 and 70.

Vitaly Boyko , November 13, 1999; 05:41 P.M.

Does anybody have any experience to share with, using both Sigma 400 mm /f5.6 APO Macro HSM lens versus Canon EF 400 mm f/5.6 L lens ? Is Canon lens much better compared to Sigma ones as the difference in price as much as $500.00 ?

Thank you much,

Vitaly

Erick Lamontagne , February 05, 2000; 10:16 P.M.

Since a 75-300 is more likely to be used at the longer end for wildlife , I'd suggest a 300/4 instead. It's fairly cheap, has wonderful optics and can be used with a 1.4X converter as a good 420/5.6. Most 28-105 have close-focus capabilities and, with the addition of a close-up lens, macro work can be done with. Also, I'd like to second Ben on his comment. I don't think you need to cover every millimeter, a 17-35 or 20-35 is probably more useful than a 28-70, espescially if you already have a 28-105. The gap between 35 and 70 is not very wide and if you really need a faster lens, you can buy a used 50/1.8 for next to nothing.

Christian Deichert , March 26, 2001; 12:29 P.M.

Want the best bang for the buck? As long as you're not dependent on autofocus, the Minolta manual focus system is the best deal you can find. I have 2 modern (electronic) bodies; 2 all-mechanical backups; 9 fixed focal length lenses from 16mm fisheye to 300mm telephoto, including 100mm macro, 35mm Shift CA, and 58mm f/1.2; a motor drive, a flash, and various other accessories; all purchased used. Had I bought Canon AF as recommended, I guarantee you I'd have less than half of the above equipment for more than twice the price. And despite Minolta's undeservedly inferior reputation when compared to Nikon and/or Canon, my images haven't suffered a bit.

And if 35mm is too small for you, go with a Mamiya C330; your negative grows but you still get interchangeable lenses. You can use the money you saved on your Minoltas. I continued to be amazed at the difference 56x56mm film makes over 35mm, especially when using higher-grained films such as Ilford Delta 3200. I have three lenses for my Mamia, the 55mm f/4.5 (equivalent to a 35mm lens in 35mm format), 100mm f/3.5 (=68mm), and 180mm f/4.5 (=110mm). Also available: 65mm, 80mm, 135mm, and 250mm.

Simon McDowell , April 26, 2002; 07:18 P.M.

A word about 3rd party lenses

I bought my first SLR (EOS 500 or Rebel in the US) as an impoverished student about 8 years ago. The deal included a Sigma 28-70/f2.8-4 lens. I've taken some fantastic, pin-sharp (at 11x16) photos with that lens. Sometime later I bought an Elan IIE with Canon 28-80/f4-5.6 USM. The Sigma's still better, despite being cheaper and older.

I accept that primes / L series equivalent lenses will be better, and more expensive, than the equivalent focal length of a third party lens. For a beginner, however, who might not want to shell out too much for their first system, most 3rd party lenses beat OEM consumer zooms on a pound for pound basis. The idea is to learn technique and enjoy shooting photos, not get too excited about the equipment!

Hope this helps,

Simon

Chris Siewert , January 21, 2003; 09:17 P.M.

I agree with the previous post except for the Elan 7.I have all Canon gear and wouldn't trade any of it.But the lack of a spot meter in the Elan 7 would make me pass on this body.A photagrapher would be better served with a used (now discontinued)EOS 5 or ideally a EOS 3(the true mirror lock up,repositioned remote socket and improved remote release on my EOS 3 make it a huge improvement to my EOS 5).I just think there are to many tricky lighting situations in outdoor and nature photagraphy for evaluative metering. Just my 2 cents

Chris Siewert

A. GoldenEagle , February 03, 2003; 06:09 A.M.

 


 

Here's the concisest short-list I can give, for them-of-us wanting to not spend months digging into gear-research, but definitely wanting the straight stuff:

Work through ( rather than merely "read" ) The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain ( Betty Edwards, PhD ). She worked out exercises
( in years of study of brain-research and years of teaching )
that directly counter our trained incapability to know totality-meaning ( a mode of knowing, or mode-of-Mind ). Nothing I can offer you compares to what one can gain in gaining one's total Mind. I tell you this after having gone decades without even knowing that more-than-one mode of Mind existed.

A quote I swiped from it:
"You have two brains: a left and a right. Modern brain scientists now know that your left brain is your verbal and rational brain; it thinks serially and reduces its thoughts to numbers, letters and words? Your right brain is your nonverbal and intuitive brain; it thinks in patterns, or pictures, composed of 'whole things,' and does not comprehend reductions, either numbers, letters, or words."
From "The Fabric of Mind" ( scientist/neurosurgeon Richard Bergland )

Please try also John Shaw's ( John Shaw's Books ) "Nature Photography Field Guide" ( updated version of his older book, that ) instead of the ( outdated ) original mentioned in the article.   His "Closeups in Nature" is also very recommended, it's on the same pag

Try an Elan 7e -- review here -- ( very high user-satisfaction, but remember to "blank" the eye-controlled focus when you acquire the camera, or everyone who tried it before you ( in the store, ferinstance ) will have their eyes [ahem] in the thing's computer -- also remember the conditioning of eye-focus is cumulative, so do it again and again, beginning-of-day/end-of-day with tired eyes, dark/bright, smooth-background/contrasty background. . . ) and a Tokina 28-80 AT-X Pro f/2.8
( close as you can get to the Canon's quality at about half price ) for an ultra-basic starter.

I don't know if the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 HSM's build-quality is so off that it isn't worth the price, but it costs drastically less than a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 Image Stabilized version: so I'd be less expecting it to take 30-years to get my money's worth from it, eh?   Cost-effectiveness's first half is 'cost', so I'd be quite willing to go with it ( unless in tropical humid-heat, where I've read the lens-cement becomes non-transparent!, but with that Sigma EX/HSM lens, it's the only major complaint I know of. Hence my recommendation ).   Of course, if critter-photography is more your thing than nature-portraiture, then the Sigma 100-300mm f/4 HSM lens would probably be better, same link above...

Also, a 1.4x TC or TeleConverter to turn the 70-200 f/2.8 into a more-telephoto 98-280mm f/4 would be useful, or for creature-over-there photography a 2x TC, but that'll drop ~ 20% of image technical-quality and turn the lens into a f/5.6, which is rather dim...
Sigma and Canon both have 'em, the Canons cost more and reputedly are optically better...

Also mentioning the Vivitar 100mm f/3.5 Macro, since it's really cheap compared with the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro ( $150 US vs $470 US, at B&H ) - 100mm's about perfect for portraits, too, so it'd be a good dual-use lens for the price.

Kenko has a macro-ring set that costs drastically less than the Canon equiv, you put one ring between the body and the lens and the unit focuses closer, and the set includes a 12mm a 20mm and a 36mm, so you get real macro close-ups with 'em.

Where to see about getting different/more lenses?
Photodo tests & gives a MTF rating ( basically combined contrast/sharpness, if I'm not mistaken ), and PhotoZone.de's got reviews, tests, FAQs, and the Performance Surveys, a short-cut to the EOS section.
Consider BOTH sources of information, they judge different things, so choosing does mean thinking.

Consider trying all the carbon-fiber tripods B&H's got ( lighter than aluminum - for hiking, and deader too - less "ringing" or bounce as the camera flips-up the mirror & fires the shutter, and B&H is the trustworthy retailer for photo, both new and used, with MidWest Photo EXchange being, for second-hand, comparable ), and remember lighter-but-too-annoying-to-work-with isn't better, please.   Also, READ REVIEWS AND COMMENTS on the specific ones you're considering!   Discovering after getting a $700 tripod that you can't use it in marshland because it's made-with cardboard washers...

If lugging 'round a tripod while hiking isn't going to happen for you, then at least use a monopod. Davis and Sanford have a very popular TrailBlazer monopod, and with a Bogen/Manfrotto 234RC ( 3229, in the US ) monopod quick-release-and-tilt head, and a couple of QR plates for your cameras, you're good-to-go.   You will find that the QR plates don't stay straight, unless you get either the "architectural" version ( has angle-metal on it to hook the edge of the camera so when you move the camera the plate doesn't shift beneath it ), OR get some Linen Cloth Tape with its permanent adhesive ( can be removed with white-gas ), and stick a rectangle of that onto the bottom of the camera ( cutting a hole for the QR-plate's screw ), and never be bothered with that damn swing-camera-and-have-plate-slip problem again.

Kirk Enterprises's now got a BH-3 mini-ballhead, lighter than the original - just for hikers - and it looks to be the excellentest working unit ( of the Arca-Swiss type ) around.

For sitting in one place, photographing the birds and butterflies ( what marvelous creatures! ) around, a Wimberly Sidekick ultra-light gimbal device: it should make your longer lens 'float' and be solid, too, with the Kirk ballhead.

John Shaw ( and many others ) recommend a graduated neutral-density filter for limiting bright sky's burning-out of the highlights, and many maintain that the only non-colour-cast excellently precise ones are made by Singh-Ray, so glance at 'em Here.
John Shaw uses a 1-stop and a 2-stop, but I don't know if he uses soft-edge ones or hard-edge ones.   Galen Rowell ( the excellentest recent photographer/philosopher ) used a basic-set of 2-stop hard and 3-stop soft... and got comments like ~don't tell me which shots have the grad-ND filters in 'em, you over-do it~, so I'm recommending a 1-stop hard and a 2-stop soft, if of the Singh-Ray brand ( which are harder-transition than everyone else ).

If ( stronger than the one built-in to the camera ) flash is needed to get good results in the style of photography you're practicing, consider the Sigma clone-unit, the 500 Super. It may not be as robust as the Canon ( I simply don't know, but Sigma's reputation isn't as good as Canon's ), but is sooo much cheaper it'd allow one to buy useful quantities of film...
It gives the same E-TTL ( Enhanced Through The Lens flash-metering ) smarts as the Canon 550EX, but at less than $180 US.
Update: got a comprehensive comparison, between the Sigma and the Canon, over at PhotoNotes.org.
Read it, before buying, as there is more going-on in the choice between 'em than I'd thought...

To "pop-up" wildlife, or to put sparkle in their eye, then also recommended best-of-breed is either ( for around the 200-300mm range, possibbly a bit longer ) The Walt Anderson Better Beamer, or for longer lenses Synergistic Visions Photography's Flash X-Tender.   The Better Beamer gives about 2-stops concentration of the flash, the Flash X-Tender about 3, so light-fall-off at the sides would be more noticeable at wider-angle lesser-telephoto lengths.

Consider, if macro-flash is more meaningful than critter-in-distance flash, a LumiQuest bouncer, or perhaps an ultra-soft, to make the close-ups look much nicer. Also good for diffusing: grab a sheet of "design vellum" or "drafting film" ( frosted plastic paper ), and use a piece of that as a diffuser. Stick some 'round your flash with elastic-bands. . .
Also, if macro's the thing, get an off-camera extension-cord ( Shoe Cord 2 ) for the flash.
Hold the flash yourself while firing the remote-shutter-release for the camera, or improvise a bracket to hold it.

Filters?
I stick a Strong UV filter on every lens, for 3 reasons:
1. Because film is "hazed" by UV that I can't see, so to photograph what I'm seeing, I have to stop that.
2. Because this is cheap insurance for the front lens-element, and for the multi-coating on the front-element. Better to scrag the filter than the front-element of the lens, and yes I've read about { door-knobs, spraypaint, thrown rocks ( think car driving by on gravel, or armed & playful/irritated squirrel ), being clumsy because of over-exertion induced braindeadness after hiking etc. Also, try leaving a plain drinking-glass outside in your back-yard. For a long time. Let it experience acid-rain a more-than-few times, and tell me that this can't affect our lenses because we won't be in rain or acid-smog/acid-haze for more than a short-while over the years we'll own the lens. . .
    : ]
3. More reliable metering: UV is more energetic than normal light, and if the film is more sensitive to it than I am, so is ( usually ) the electronic sensor(s) doing the metering-reading. Try metering a "blacklight" in a dark room ( without any filter ), just for kicks, and then tell me the UV spraying 'round the sky ( and punching through overcast ) isn't going to modify the metering. . . ( I remember working with a guy who discovered that the reason for erratic results on a potato-shoot was that one of his background-cards was fluorescent in UV.. . )

Also, consider a Kaesemann Circular Polarizer.
Circular Polarizer to remove reflections ( not metallic-reflection ), like water, shiny-leaves, etc, without really scrambling the metering-system built-in to the camera ( as opposed to a Linear Polarizer, which would ) and to intensify colours and to darken ( gives some more useful exposures in extreme mountain/winter scenes ), and Kaesemann because it's sealed against self-destruct of the polarizing-foils from humidity ( though I gather that these are made with thinner, more precise glass, and the "thinner" part may be camping-significant ).
"Coated" is required ( Hoya says 9% of light hitting plain glass gets turned into reflection/flare, 3% for single-coated, and 1% or less for multi-coated, if I remember aright ) - you wouldn't undo optical quality of good lenses with crap glass in front of 'em, right?
B&W and Heliopan are excellent, and here's a neat trick:
if you need a "slim" filter, for a wide-angle lens, and the "normal" filter costs drastically less, then get a piece of plate-glass ( flat ) and some reasonably fine wet-dry paper, and water, and some patience, and soak the paper, put it on the glass, keep it wet ( no flying abrasive near expensive filters ), and gently sand away the FRONT ( receiving-end ) threads from the filter, until there's only a millimetre or so left, and voila - a "slim" filter for up-to
half off!
    ( no pun intended : )

Finally - "Why Do I Recommend Canon?" ( rather than Nebbish-brand OR Nikon. . . )
Simple:
1. Kaizen ( Japanese concept: "pervasive continuous improving" ). Some off-brands don't have this culture/religion.
2. They're big enough a keiretsu to be cost-effective in producing excellent products ( some other companies are more slip-shod, or can't afford the R&D to consistently develop excellence, or don't have the culture/religion "kaizen" ).
3. They're more cost-effective than Nikon, generally ( less Name/Institution, more product-based price, if you see what I mean ).
4. They embrace innovation more entirely than Nikon does ( electronic-focus lenses mean that Canon lenses can autofocus with a Novoflex Macro Lens-Reversing-Ring, Nikon's refusal to break-with-the-past ( when electronics got invented/common ) means their system cannot do so. This is in addition to the detail that electronic-focus lenses each have exactly the right-sized motor within 'em and the Nikon's are muscled by the body. This is also in addition to the quite significant Image Stabilized lens technology.   If Canon innovates quicker, then Canon shooters benefit from developments quicker than others...
5. Globally servicable ( not a comment in relation to Nikon, but in relation to the littler brands ).

Finally, consider the LowePro Street & Field system, carrying your camera on your chest.   this means having one's backpack free for carrying food & extra clothing... ( I'll fill in the links later )

Right: that's all, folks, if I'm rong, append amendments, please. . .

        -me

Forest Wander , July 01, 2009; 10:30 A.M.

I started out with beginner equipment and have worked my way up. Still I would like to have several other lenses, but that will come in time. But I started out with a canon powershot a50 and now I am using a Canon 5d Mark II, which I really like a lot. If you have passion for something you will keep at it. Now I sell Nature photography equipment through my site and I enjoy taking pictures and video with the equipment I have and sharing my outdoor adventures and experiences with the world. ForestWander Nature Photography Adventure Gear


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