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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Build A Landscape Kit On Any Budget


Great photographs don’t always depend on the price of your equipment. OP takes a look at the advantages and disadvantages of entry-level, midrange and top-tier gear.

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Clik Elite Jetpack
3 Midrange Landscape Accessories. With a midrange budget, you can get a carbon-fiber tripod, which will be lighter, yet sturdier than lower-priced aluminum models. More expensive tripods also start to come with perks, like weatherproof leg locks and removable center columns for taking macro shots of flora along the way.

You also can get a good ballhead, one rated to hold the weight of the camera and lenses you’ll use with it. Most landscape photographers prefer ballheads because they can position the camera as desired by unlocking a single knob, then lock the camera there by tightening the same knob. Most ballheads also offer 360 degrees of rotation, so you’re not locked into horizontal or vertical framing.


Hoodman 4 GB RAW CF

Kingston 32 GB SDHC
Besides a polarizer, a midrange landscape kit should include a graduated neutral-density filter—clear on one half, dark on the other half. You can position the dark half over a bright sky area in a landscape image, reducing the brightness range enough to record detail in the sky and in a dark foreground. Grad ND filters come in a range of strengths, and a two-stop filter with a soft gradation is a good general choice. You also might consider a warming polarizer instead of a regular polarizer; this adds a pleasant warm cast along with the polarizing benefits.

For memory cards, higher prices get you bigger capacity and faster read/write times. With street prices starting at about $20 and up, you’ll be able to afford 4 GB capacities and up with faster transfer speeds. These step-up cards are handy for shooting sequences, especially important in rapidly changing conditions.

A good photo backpack lets you carry your whole landscape kit into the wilds and allows you to keep your hands free, handy on rough terrain or should a photo op suddenly turn up. Bags in this range also include space for laptops, as well as weather sealing and rain covers.

Also Consider

There’s a variety of midrange cameras that offer incredible potential for landscapes.

Canon EOS 7D
Canon’s top midrange model offers a category-leading 18 megapixels. Other features of interest to landscape photographers include vignetting correction, a dual-axis electronic level, Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority to handle tough contrast. The EOS 7D can shoot full-res still images at 8 fps, great should a wildlife action moment occur while you’re out there.

Canon EOS 50D
The EOS 50D features 15.1 megapixels, a 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot live-view LCD monitor, lens vignetting compensation and AF fine-tuning, quick AF, a sensor-dust remover and more for two-thirds of the price of the 7D, but no video.

Nikon D300S
The 12.3-megapixel D300S adds 720/24p HD video capability, an electronic virtual horizon and a slot for an SD/SDHC card to accompany the CompactFlash-card slot. Other features include excellent 51-point AF, full-res shooting at 7 fps, your choice of 12- or 14-bit RAW recording and the ability to use the full range of full-frame and DX Nikkor lenses.

Nikon D90
The first DSLR to feature HD video, the D90 offers excellent 12.3-megapixel image quality and surprisingly good AF performance at a very good price, along with a sensor-dust remover, a 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot live-view LCD monitor and more.

Olympus E-3
The E-3 is Olympus’ flagship camera, but its aggressive price puts it in the midrange category. The E-3 has a rugged dust- and splashproof body, a free-angle tilting/rotating LCD monitor with live view, slots for CompactFlash and xD-Picture Cards, Olympus’ pioneering Super Sonic Wave Filter sensor-dust remover and super-quick autofocusing with Olympus SWD lenses. Like all Four Thirds System cameras, the E-3 has a 2x focal-length factor, which is great for taking landscapes at the tele end.

Olympus E-30
This midrange model actually features more pixels than the E-3 (12.3 vs. 10.1), a larger free-angle LCD monitor with added live-view capabilities and six creative Art filters. It shares the E-3’s dual memory-card slots, but not the E-3’s pro-rugged splashproof body.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A550
The DSLR-A550 features a 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, a tilting 3.0-inch, 921,600-dot live-view LCD monitor, sensor-shift SteadyShot image stabilization with all lenses, effective five-level DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer) to handle high-contrast scenes, two-shot in-camera Auto HDR that works even in handheld operation, and slots for both SD and Memory Stick Pro media.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A500
Essentially an A550 with a 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, the A500 shares most of the same features, but has a lower-resolution tilting live-view LCD monitor (230,000 vs. 921,600 dots).

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