Prime Time

In the past week, both The Online Photographer and The Talk Show podcast, featuring a discussion with James Duncan Davidson, made the case for using a “normal” fixed focal length or prime lens rather than the ubiquitous zoom lens. You can follow the links to read / hear the detailed arguments.
Normal, fixed focal length lenses (loosely defined as a 50mm lens on a 35mm film or full frame sensor camera your mileage will vary on reduced sensor cameras) offer good speed, usually superior optics when compared to their zoom counterparts and are often genuine bargains. As a lesson in seeing I suspect most everyone new to photography could benefit from such an experiment. I’ve seen far to much photography done by standing in one place and letting the zoom do all the framing.
I would like to add a second variable to the above experiment. If you are new to all this and out shooting landscapes (and if you aren’t then why aren’t you) use a tripod for every shot. Spot weld, super-glue, use the tape of your choice or just use the 1/4 x 20 threaded hole in the bottom of your camera and bolt the camera to three legs.
Combining a fixed focal length lens and a tripod is bound to really slow down your picture taking. Repeatedly setting the tripod, fiddling with the tripod head, framing the scene, fiddling with the tripod head again, framing some more, only to discover that your framing sucks is going to get frustrating.
However, as you lose spontaneity, you gain precision. Eventually, framing will become tighter. Shutter speed becomes less important and depth of field is now yours to control. If little else comes of this, you may (finally) learn to marvel and appreciate the effort and the skills of the folks who use view cameras…

A Quick Look – The Visible Dust Sensor Loupe ™

Juxtapose the product name, Brite Vue Sensor Loupe ™  with the company name, Visible Dust(tm) and then reposition just a couple of the words in the resulting sentence and you will have worked far to hard to describe what this device does. The Sensor Loupe ™ does indeed make dust visible. Specifically, it makes dust visible on the sensor of a DSLR. As a photographer with two DSLR’s and an aversion to floaters in my skies I expected to find this handy. At the risk of spoiling your further reading. The Visible Dust Brite Vue Sensor Loupe lives up to it’s own description:

Utilizing advanced (patent pending) features such as BriteVue XL™ technology with high optical magnification (5x), K9 lenses and 6 super bright LEDs, the SensorLoupe™ is the only tool you need for locating debris on your sensor. The high quality optical glass is coated with MgF2 to reduce chromatic aberrations and to seal the lens so that no mildew buildup occurs. The high caliber materials used in construction of the SensorLoupe™ provide a high resolution, crystal clear image of the sensor. The BriteVue XL™design aids to easily spot dust on the sensor, succeeding where other tools fail.  

Despite the complete lack of documentation, or maybe because of the complete lack of documentation, I had my Sensor Loupe up and glowing in just a few minutes. A fair amount of the set up time was spent sifting through the packing material searching for the button battery that I was convinced had to be included with the unit and therefore, since it strangely was not in the product box, must be hiding in the shipping box. In fact, two button batteries are required so my careful autopsy of the shipping box was time well spent. But, and I want to be constructive here, Visible Dust… put the damn batteries in with the product.
Exposing the sensor on a DSLR can, if done incorrectly, result in heartache so consult your camera manual before diving in. I had my 5D cleaned by Canon recently and my images were basically dust free so I didn’t expect to see much as I lowered the Sensor Loupe into the lens opening. Sure enough, just one small dust particle. I fired up the strangely named but very effective Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly(tm) sensor brush, removed the Sensor Loop and picked up the dust particle. Then I checked my work. One dust particle gone, three new particles of various sizes, shapes and origins. The Sensor Loupe made each one fully visible. A second pass with the sensor brush and I was back to one particle. Pass three with the sensor brush and I was back up to two. Good I thought, I needed a hobby. Eventually, it occurred to me that by lifting the sensor loupe out of the lens opening I was creating a draft that was encouraging new dust to replace the old. One more try, this time just tilting the sensor loupe up and slipping the bush in, and I was dust free.(tm)