The Gear

Yes, after all these advances in technology we're back to rangefinder cameras with screw-in lenses :)

As a boy, I had a neighbor who was a shooter for the local paper. I babysat his kids and devoured his library of photo books. He reminded me: "it's not about the equipment, it's about the people." He's gone on to become the photo editor of National Geographic, so he must have known what he was talking about!

Straight Down As they say, buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer, it makes you a Nikon owner. Still, you need to be in control of your gear if you want it to make the images you desire.

The Essential Extras:
Lens Armor
More than 16MB Compact Flash memory
External strobe
Filters: Closeup Diopters & Polarizer (& adapter, for G1)
CDRW or similar mass storage device (for all those RAW files)

Lens... Armor?

The G2 and G1 have identical lenses, and those lenses are frightfully exposed to the elemnts, fingerprints, and worse.

I have the Canon-made 58mm adapter for G1, Canon's wide-angle lens and a couple of 58mm filters. But the adapter is really only used for that one lens. Instead, I almost always leave a Kenko 52mm adapter tube on the camera 24 hours a day. Both are is a straight metal tubes that will screw onto the front of the G1 or G2 (but not, sadly, the G3) and allow you to connect filters and accesory lenses. That's its supposed use — but it's real purpose is to protect the lens and lens barrel.

(Tiffen also makes a similar adaptor)

(Of course, Pro 90 users can just ignore this — their lenses are "pre-armored" and already come with a filter thread)

With the Kenko, I can use all of the 52mm filters, closeup lenses, and other little gizmos that I've collected over the years for use with my Canon and Nikon 35mm cameras. The lensmate is normally capped with a Nikon L1Bc "skylight" filter. I put the little Canon-supplied "slip-off" lens cap at the bottom of my camera bag and replaced it with a nice pinch-on 52mm Nikon cap that won't fall off or hang dangling in my shot when shooting straight down, as in the self-portrait photo at right. Armoring rules!

Also, and this is an important consideration, the tube lets me hold the G1 by the lens. Cradling the camera and lens on top of the hand is the standard way to shoot using highend rangefinders and SLR cameras and is much more stable than the "point and shoot" style apparently favored by the G1's original designers (appropriate for the micro-sized Elph, but just wrongheaded for a camera the size of the G1).

Holding the camera this way lets the left hand do all the camera aiming and frees the right hand to do all the extra work the camera's design requires be done by the right hand — menus, settings, focusing, and firing the camera. It's also a stronger grip — crucial when handholding the camera and an external strobe.

The tube is "armor" for the camera. It means the camera is less pocketable, but far, far more durable.

Before I had the Kenko, I used a LensMate 49mm adapter with a 52mm stepper ring. Now, the lensmate (with a 55mm stepper) is dedicated to use with an Olympus B-300 telephoto lens. So I actually have three tubes — on for everyday use, one for the tele, and one for the wide angle... each a different size.

Bogen distributes Metz strobes and Manfrotto tripods in the US. Manfrotto gear is heavy but fabulous. I have several of their heads and large tripods and they are made wisely and well.

For the G1, I have two tripods — a light "normal" tripod (the Bogen/Manfrotto 3405B "Junior," with a shoulder strap for easy toting), used when I think I'll need heights of over a foot; and a tiny tabletop model. At least a small tripod is vital to have with the Powershots, since the ISO 50 sensitivity can mean a lot of long exposure times. I carry the tabletop tripod in my bag at all times. You can see it in action on this page.

Metz Mecablitz & Promaster strobes are the only non-Canon systems I know that support Canon's E-TTL metering scheme — sadly, the Metz version of E-TTL doesn't seem to work with the G1/Pro90/D30 just yet.... in late April 2001 they announced a new adapter — the 3102 — let's hope it does the trick!

If you've read my strobe page, you know I like Sunpak strobes — I have a few of them in my kit. The strobe I used to carry around on a daily basis was an old Canon Speedlite 199a, but it was finally upstaged by a Canon 550EX along with Canon's ST-E2 wireless transmitter. I'm also pretty keen on Photoflex, though to tell the truth I'm equally fond of saving $$ and building my own lighting gear out of whatever I see lying around — omni strobe heads made out of styrofoam cups or ice chests, reflector panels made from silvered auto window shades, sheets of cheap plexi lighting panels picked up at the hardware store, etc. As Billy Bitzer used to say: "The light is different every day."

16MB is too small. The 340MB Microdrive is a little slow, but it was good to me — for a month or so before dying. I hear the 1 GB edition is better, but I've replaced the drive with a more-durable Lexar, & I'll sometimes even still use the (slow!) 16MB CF card that came with the Powershot. The high capacity of the microdrive (apprehensiveness about dependability aside) makes it particularly amenable to shooting in RAW mode — more work and higher storage, but shooting in RAW will definitely give you better control over the final image color.

Album To Go I've heard dealers and others say that the Powershots need a circular polarizer. I have both linear and circular polarizers, and don't see a difference. The expensive circular polarizers would be needed if the Powershot meters used beam splitters and complicated optics — like the metering systems in SLRs like the EOS and F100. But they don't. A simple linear polarizer should do the job just as well, and at a far lower cost.

The little IR remote provided by Canon is terribly cute but it looks flimsy to me. Fortunately, it works with any sort of "learning" remote control, just like a TV or stereo. It can also be emulated by the Palm Pilot using OmniRemote. OmniRemote can also be used to build remote-control macros for your camera, if you lean that way — you can tell the camera things like "zoom out and shoot once then zoom all the way in and shoot again and do this every 3 hours."

Speaking of Palm Pilots, if you have a Palm Device I heartily recommend Album To Go — it'll let you save images and keep them as little slide shows on the Palm. Tip: crop to a square format before converting.

Finally, and a key bit of kit here in the tropics: lots of Silica gel. This is Hawaii, after all, and the varieties of camera-eating fungus are a sight to behold. Fungus is bad. I've purchased silica commercially, but I also collect the bundles from Japanese and Malaysian snack foods, and use them to line the bottom of my camera bags. Did you know you can microwave gel packs to free captured water? Just put them in for 15 seconds or so, open the door to vent the vapor, give em more if they need it. Some packs even change color to indicate their ready state (Shooter Tan Pong Heng from Singapore has written to remind me that fungus need calm and warmth to grow — boxing camera gear tightly, even with gel, is not the way to go! Instead, keep the gear shaded and with good air flow, to deprive the fungus of their desired habitat. And yet other sources have said that sunlight (at least occasionally) can also stave off fungi, since they can't tolerate it — so sun bathing your lenses is a required practice...).

Hopefully, with not film doors or interchangeable lens ports, digicams will be less susceptable to another scourge I've experienced — ants. I recently picked up my medium-format body, and saw an ant climbing along one edge. I popped open the finder — hundreds of ant, carrying... eggs! I opened the film back and hundreds more were revealed. Some time during the three weeks the camera had been unused, the ants had not only moved in, they'd launched a thriving colony... ouch!

Nuuanu Pali Lookout
This could be the surface of your lens

Had your techno-fix? Now forget about equipment and see this page to remind yourself of some true basics.

©2001 Kevin Bjorke
Rev 16 Sept 2001

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