Continuing on with my Snow photos 101 section, by far the most common question in my in-box is “what camera or lens should i get?”. You can view the equipment that I use HERE, but this doesn’t mean that you need all of this to make some great ski or snowboard photos.
A professional ski photographer will own lenses that range from a 15mm fisheye all the way up to a 300mm telephoto lens. Different shooting situations require different setups and they aren’t necessarily all carried at the same time. By far my most used lens is my 70-200mm zoom lens so something in that range would be a wise choice. When you are deciding which equipment to invest in, bear in mind that camera technology is evolving at a frantic pace. Whichever camera you choose now, will be outdated in a years time. Lens technology on the other hand moves at a much more sedate pace. Very little has changed over the last 10 years aside from the addition of image stabilization to a few lenses. It therefore makes sense to spend as much as you can on your glass, if you treat it properly a good lens can last you a decade. Typically you will see a more noticeable improvement in image quality by using higher quality glass, than you would with using a more expensive SLR camera.
Picking a single lens that covers the whole focal length range you need is not the best solution. The larger the zoom range the lesser the image quality so try and split it up into at least 2 or 3 lenses A wide-angle zoom such as a 17-40mm or 18-55mm and then a telephoto zoom in the 70-200 range will have you covered for most things. Once you have mastered these, you can add specialized lenses to your lineup, like a fisheye or large aperture prime lens like the 50mm f1.8. Prime lenses, those with a fixed focal length, will always yield a sharper photo than their zoom counterparts, but most ski photographers value the portability of a few zooms over a large collection of primes.
What camera should I get? There is no one right answer to this question; a good photographer can make a good photo with almost any camera. Don’t get sucked into the megapixel race though, the majority of images you see in ski or snowboard magazines up to 2009 will have been shot at either 8MP or 10MP and as you will have seen, that’s more than enough for most users. I would however recommend sticking to the 2 big brands, Nikon and Canon. Both companies make exceptional sports cameras for professional users and many of the features filter down lower in their product line for beginner and advanced photographers.
been following your blog a little bit, your photos are PRO.
i shoot skiing and snowboarding. sometimes senior portraits and other things too.
i have to ask your opinion on wireless transmitters for my 430exII xsi combo.
so i dont want to spend that much money, ive found some transmitters for my budget.
they have no ttl tech, highest sync speed is 1/200.
im a little worried because i usually shoot at higher speeds especially in snow.
should i just get those cheap ones. or go with PW or Cybersyncs?
Unfortunately I dont think those things will do the trick for you. They would probably work fine indoors but getting outside and especially up into the mountains does weird things with transmitters. The pocketwizards are generally regarded as the best out there (stay away from the TT1 and TT5, those ones suck) but even they experience problems when you get them cold and up into higher altitiudes. Cheaper ones wouldn’t stand a chance.
I have heard some great things about the Elinchrom Cyber Syncs though but part of their benefit is being able to adjust the power of elinchrom lights which you dont have so my thought would be go for some second hand Pocketwizards on ebay if you are budget limited. You dont need to worry about not having TTL, manual is way better anyway. But what I would say is that remember your shutter speed will be limited by the X-sync speed of your XSI. I think that is 1/200 anyway, but proper usage of flash and you wont have trouble, most cameras are limited to 1/200 or 1/250 including mine.
Keep an eye out for a tutorial in this new 101 section soon explaining all about how you deal with x-sync, i’ve written about half of it so far.
thanks for the quick response, im gonna check ebay.
looking forward to your x-sync tutorial.
Hey Dan, do you ever get upset that they reduced the mark IVs sync speed to 1/300 down from 1/500 on the 1d mkIII? Does it affect you when youre dealing with quickly moving subjects? I get flash blur a lot at 1/250 on my 50d and Im thinking about moving up to the 1dmk3 for that reason. Please let me know your feelings on it.
Zack , the sync speed on the 1dMKIII was not 1/500, you are mistaken. It is the same as the MKIV which is 1/300 when using EX canon speedlights and 1/250 with other flashes.
I never really have problems at 1/250. Remember that the action freezing is done with the flash burst and not the shutter when using flashes so if you underexpose the ambient light enough, you won’t have any troubles.
(NB. the original 1d camera from about 10 years ago did have a 1/500 sync speed but that was a very very long time ago because it used a different type of shutter mechanism. Every camera from the 1dMKII onwards has been 1/250)
Thanks for the response, and I guess you are right, I dont know why I thought that, maybe because I was talking about it and my friend mentioned his went to 1/500th but now I recall his is the original 1d. Also you are correct about under exposing the ambient, but in bright sun on a large subject(big rail,etc) its hard to even with 3 flashes.
Yes in bright sun it is a challenge that we all face. UNless you use a ton of 1200w/s strobes theres no magic solution to that problem. Just get the flashes as close to the subject as you can.