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A New Toy

So I'm now the happy owner of a new DSLR. Based on a combination of Internet research and some scuttlebutt from people "in the know", I ended up getting a Canon Rebel T2i (also branded as the 550D). It's a brand-new camera model, just released in the last few weeks, and it has essentially the same guts as the 7D. In fact, it's so new that neither Apple nor Adobe has released a RAW compatibility update yet - I found this out the hard way because I automatically set the mode to RAW when I got it, but wasn't able to import the pictures when I got home. Thankfully, the Canon software that came with the camera will export a TIFF and thus tide me over until the vendors catch up.

So a couple days later, I went out to capture the early spring.


Sharp-lobed hepatica at Standing Cedars.

Opening bloodroot at Falls Creek SNA.

One of the main selling points for this camera, for me, was the fact that it also takes 1080p30 video in H.264/MOV format, and instead of CF cards, uses SDHC cards, of which I have quite a few. I tried out the video the day I got it - mounted on a tripod - and it records at an amazing 4 MB(ytes) per second, which even leads Canon to recommend the less common class 6 cards. So the video quality will be superb, especially in controlled circumstances.


Buttermilk Falls.

The T2i, like most of Canon's prosumer-level cameras, has a 1.6x cropped sensor. That offers both advantages, and disadvantages, compared to the full-frame models like the 5D Mark II. It depends on what you're trying to do. Full sensors, at 24x36 mm, have an advantage for both wide-angle shots (less precision is required of the lens optics), and for low-light situations (the larger sensor elements increase the SNR). But I'm primarily interested, at least right now, in shooting with zoom and tele lenses in daylight-to-twilight conditions. And an advantage is that the smaller sensor size effectively increases the focal length of the tele lens, so a 200mm on my camera is roughly equivalent to a 300mm on a full-frame. Not to mention the fact a full-frame costs 2-3 times as much.

So of course, that means I had to get a tele (200mm fixed, f/2.8) to start playing with, so that implies a tripod, and a remote shutter control... but it's worth if I can get pictures like this without even trying:


Leftover fall leaves at Buttermilk Falls.

A certain gnome finishes the course at Terrace Oaks last weekend.

Trout lilies near Cedar Bend on the St. Croix.

Although I've got some great equipment to work with now, of course I have a "round 2" shopping list as well. High on that list is a graduated neutral density filter. This is a glass filter with one half clear, grading into a tinted half (thus, "graduated"), but in a way that doesn't affect color transmission (thus, "neutral density"). It's used to darken the sky in landscape shots, to reduce the dynamic range demanded of the camera's sensor. The clear part is placed over the landscape, the transition over the horizon line, and the tinted area over the sky. Tiffen makes a very nice 4"x4" square filter, and I'm inclined to go for that type because a threaded filter, with or without an adapter, restricts both the orientation and position of the dividing line between foreground and background. I've been bothered in the past by pictures with an overly bright sky, and it's the eminently sensible professionals' solution.