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Diego Raigoza Nuñez RSS Feed (Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico)

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Sony HVL-F58AM High-Power Digital Camera Flash with Wireless Ratio Control and Quick Shift Bounce for Sony Alpha Digital SLR
Sony HVL-F58AM High-Power Digital Camera Flash with Wireless Ratio Control and Quick Shift Bounce for Sony Alpha Digital SLR
11 used & new from $279.77

130 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best flash for your Sony DSLR/DSLT. Period., March 21, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Sony HVL-F58AM is the best flash for your Alpha camera, be it DSLR or DSLT. Period. There is no contest about it.

In this review, I will state my experience using this flash and list down all the bells and whistles this flash offers plus any notes of use you need to know. It will be long, but hopefully I will answer all your questions about this flash.

Here we go:

The first question of anyone considering this flash is: "Is it worth 400-500 bucks?" Yes, it is. This flash will give you much more flexibility than any other flash you can mount on your Alpha camera for several reasons.

This flash has a Guidance Number of 58 at 105mm at ISO 100. This provides a wide range of power to cover different distances, although it can vary depending on your settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO). This is a VERY powerful flash, compare it against the built in flashes in DSLRs and they range between 10 and 12 GN, which is good and better than nothing when you need more light, but you won't be able to reach very far with it. Now you see why everyone else is raving about this flash in their reviews here. Using a GN 58 flash against a GN 10-12 one, which one would you pick?

The major selling point Sony uses for this flash is the Quick Shift Bounce technology, which allows you to move the flash's head left and right from 0 to 90 degrees quickly. Have you ever shot vertically with a normal flash that will just tilt upwards maybe to 90 degrees or 120? Some of them let you swivel the head on its own axis, but you can't move the head and set it like if you were shooting horizontally. This flash let's you do that. Why is this important? Because it allows you to have even light horizontally or vertically. If you shoot vertically with a normal flash, it will illuminate your subject from the side, not from the front, and this may cause exposure problems in your photos. With this flash you just pull or push the head to the desired position and you got the same lightning in any position you're shooting at. Simple but above all, quick.

This flash allows you to tilt the head to bounce the light off the ceiling or a wall. If the 0 degrees position is the flash head looking straight forward, it goes up to 45, 60, 75, 90, 120 and 150 degrees. At 120 and 150 degrees the flash is looking backwards, that means AT YOU, so be careful to not fire the flash while you're looking ahead or you can damage your vision. Duck or keep looking through the viewfinder. In case you wonder, the use of the 120 and 150 degrees tilt is to bounce the flash off a wall behind you (assuming it's close and bright enough) if the roof is too far. Trust me, it's better to have the option than not having it. Just be careful about it in order to avoid any damage to your eyes, the light discharge from this flash is really intense, not to mention hot.

The F58AM flash has an in built wide panel difusser and a bounce sheet. The wide panel diffuser is to help the flash illuminate evenly the scene you're shooting when using a wide angle lens (18mm or shorter) otherwise the left and right sides may come out dark. The bounce sheet is used when you need to bounce the flash but there is no roof or wall nearby, so it gets you out of the jam, it also creates a highlight on your subject's eyes if you fancy that. These two accesories come out both at the same time when you pull them, but you can use them independently, you just push back into the flash the one you won't use.

This flash is heavy, compared against a Minolta 3500xi Program flash, the Minolta is paper weight and the F58 is a heavy weight boxing champion, even more when the 4 AA batteries it requires to function are inserted. I've read some reports that because of the weight of this flash, the accessory shoe in their cameras broke off, forcing them to send their cameras to a repair center for a new accessory shoe. So far, I haven't had that problem with this flash, but I do tend to relieve the accessory shoe of the weight whenever I can. Examples: if I'm using this flash and I need to put the camera down for a moment, I remove the flash from the shoe and I let it sit there on its own, not mounted. If I'm using the Quick Shift Bounce, I hold the flash head or the flash body with my other hand if I don't need it at the lens. So far I haven't had a problem like that, but then again I do find it possible since the mounting foot of this flash is really small for the huge thing it carries. It's a big flash. However, if you relieve the weight stress off the camera's shoe, you shouldn't have any problems.

When using this flash, your camera's AF sensor (be it IR or the in-built flash) is overriden by the IR AF sensors of this flash, this is normal behavior in all flashes. Housed along with the AF sensors are the Wireless flash sensor and the wireless mode light (the one that tells you the flash is in Wireless mode).

This flash requires 4 AA batteries to operate. They can be alkaline or rechargeable. I suggest you use rechargeable batteries. Alkaline batteries require a bit longer for the flash to recycle them when firing and they are exhausted sooner than rechargeable ones (Alk: 100 repetitions or more - Rechargeable: 200 repetitions or more). Besides, alkaline batteries are usually thrown to the garbage when they are empty, which damages the environment and your health. I suggest you go with rechargeable batteries like the Sanyo Eneloop 8 Pack AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries. Always recycle alkaline and rechargeable batteries.

One hidden feature of this flash is that it automatically detects whether your camera has an APS-C or Full Frame sensor and adjusts accordingly. This is done to fire the proper amount of light for the selected focal length, since the real and effective focal lengths vary in APS-C sensors (in FF 50mmm are 75mmm in a APS-C sensor for example).

In the back of the flash you'll find a screen to check status and shooting options. The buttons found are: Mode (to select wether the flash acts like a fill flash, wireless flash or you can "turn it off" without moving the switch or removing the flash from the camera, pretty handy if you need to switch from flash to no flash in an instant), TTL/M (to switch between Through The Lens metering or Manual metering) Zoom (to manually zoom the strobe to the desired focal length, although it automatically zooms in or out as you move your lens), there is a button to light the screen with a cinnabar orange color that has become a trademark of Alpha products, there is the Power button (to power on or off the flash), a translucid Test button (has multiple functions: it tells you when the flash is ready to fire by glowing orange, when you fire and the camera determines a correct exposure, the button glows green but the flash has to be attached to the camera for that to happen, finally it works as a modelling light; it fires a single burst of light for you to check where the light will fall and the shadows that will be created in case you want to fix that beforehand). Finally you have a Fn (Function, like the one in your camera) button that let's you switch between having the flash work as a controller for other flashes, working wireless in the old wireless protocol or in the new one. It also let's you access Custom functions such as whether to enable HSS shooting, power save modes for wireless and on-camera mode, the kind of burst you want the Test button to fire, if you want it to display meters or feet, if you want to switch between wireless channels (in case you're working near another photographer also using wireless flashes). The Fn button has arrows around it to let you navigate through the menus.

One neat feature of this flash is that you can force the head down beyond the standard position to use it when you're doing macro shooting. This comes in handy when you're shooting small things with the flash mounted on the camera but the burst doesn't cover all the subject, lowering the head a bit more may be the solution and this flash let's you do that. If that won't work, go wireless.

One of the best features of this flash is the Wireless mode. In this mode you can use the flash without having it mounted on the camera. It's triggered by the in-built flash in your camera (if you're using an A900/850, you need a Sony HVLF20AM TTL Digital Flash for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Cameras to trigger the F58). Wireless flash opens up a plethora of options to illuminate your subject, because now you can set the flash anywhere independently from where the camera is, as long as the flash can see the trigger burst from the in-built flash. You don't have to worry about metering either, because the camera sends that information in the triggering burst and the flash receives it and adjusts accordingly. You can meter manually if you prefer and still trigger the flash wirelessly.

NOTE: Even though you need to raise the in-built flash or use the F20 flash to trigger a wireless flash, the burst emitted is not powerful enough to affect exposure on it's own. If anything, it will yield an underexposed shot. When using wireless, the light that counts is the one coming from the flash in wireless mode, not the in-built flash. Unless you're shooting REALLY close to something using a wide aperture, then the triggering burst will affect exposure, but that is very rare to happen. If it does happen, just cover the in-built flash with your hand or something else but make sure the burst can still be seen by the flash and that should be it.

This flash can also be used to control 3 groups of flashes with different light ratios independent of each other. So now you can set 4 or more flash units wirelessly with different light outputs (full power, half power and down to 1/32th of power) and using this one will control all of them. While this flash can control other F58 flashes, it can control F42, F56 and F36 flashes (or their Minolta equivalents). You just need to set the proper wireless protocol: New protocol (F58-F42) Old protocol (F56-F36). I'm not sure if you can combine new and old protocol flashes when using this one as a controller, but I'm thinking no. Check yourself though, plenty of sites around that discuss this issue.

In order to help you get all the advantage of this function, you are supplied with a mini stand to mount the F58 on. So now you can set the flash on the floor or other surface with no problem. The stand can also be mounted on a tripod head, which takes a load off from you because you can move around without having to hold the flash with your hand. The only warning I will give you with this stand is that it's not exactly that robust, so while it can be mounted on a tripod head, I don't suggest you tilt the tripod head or place it in weird positions that will exert pressure on the flash's stand and mounting foot, because the flash is heavy and I don't think the stand can handle the weight of the flash if set at a tilted angle. This one is meant to be used in the position the flash would be if it was mounted on the camera. Don't say you weren't warned.

When not used, you can store the mini stand in the carrying case Sony provides you with this flash. The case is not a hard one, it's soft, but it's better than nothing. It's really meant as a place to put your flash when not in use and carry it around, but it won't protect the flash from falls or hits, and you shouldn't let that kind of abuse to happen to this flash, this is precise and delicate equipment. The case can be carried on a belt, it has grooves on its back for horizontal or vertical belts.

The flash has connections for a cable extension, which let's you work with the flash in a tethered way. I haven't tried it myself since I don't have the cable and I use wireless, but if you got them, you can use them with this flash. It also has a port to connect a battery back, which will allow you to shoot again quicker without having to wait for the flash to recharge. I do find this option handy but I don't have the battery pack to try it out.

In any case, this flash recycles FAST and I mean F-A-S-T. The manual says it ranges between 0.1 and 5 seconds with alkaline batts and 0.1 and 3 seconds with rechargeable batts. This is really fast. You appreciate this kind of performance when shooting people once and then they do that face or gesture you were looking for and you can fire again knowing that the flash will fire properly and not at half power or less or just won't fire, yielding an underexposed picture which ruins the effort.

The flash doesn't have the "whine" most flashes have when they recharge, some people like the noise and others don't. Personally I like the whine sound but I can live without it, in any case, it's better not to have it when you're shooting sound sensitive subjects like animals. I'm mentioning this in case the sound its a must or a no-no for you.

There are tons of other options with this flash but it would take forever to cover them all here, so I will just close this review with my favorite option besides Wireless Mode: High Speed Synch.

When using in-built flashes or old flashes, the shutter speed at which you can shoot at is capped by the use of a flash, in the Alpha DSLRs and DSLTs it varies around 1/160 and 1/200 (1/250 if you turn the Steady Shot option off in some models). This may not be enough to freeze movement or to black out the background if it's distracting. HSS allows you to shoot your camera's top speed and the flash will fire! I'm talking of 1/8000 (top speed for A700/850/900) of a second, which is such a small instant. You may not always shoot at 1/4000 or 1/8000 of a second, but if you need to capture fleeting moments in a snap using flash, this flash will let you do it with no fuzz. Thinking in more practical speeds (1/250, 1/500, 1/1000), you can capture action with full detail using flash and that speed. You're no longer bound by the synch speed of the in-built flash.

As you can see, this flash has all the bells and whistles you can need or want in a flash. It all works perfectly and seamlessly with your camera. Despite how expensive, big and heavy it is, it's extremely simple to use. It's intuitive and you can't get lost in the menus. The screen is big and easy to read, plus the fact you can light it up when working in the dark is a huge plus, I just wished the button that does that was translucent as the Test button and glowed too, that would make it easier to find it in the dark.

The only problem I've had so far with this flash is that sometimes the small switch that's hidden in the mounting foot that tells the flash whether it's mounted on something or not does not move as it should, so the flash sometimes will still think it's mounted when it's not, so it won't respond to wireless commands. I thought my flash was defective and had to be sent back but after asking around, I was pointed to this issue and I solved it by mounting the flash on the mini stand. The mini stand has a groove specially for that switch, so it moved and the flash responded again to wireless commands. Whenever I have that problem, I repeat the operation and that takes care of it. I'm thinking that probably I was sent a flash that someone else returned for the same reason but didn't find information to fix the problem. My win though, I got this flash for 200 bucks less. If you receive a unit that does work in wireless mode for a while and then it won't respond, do as I did and that should fix the problem, or try pressing it yourself with something tiny. If it won't respond after that, then it may be a real defective unit. Look carefully for the switch though, you can miss it on a quick glance, it's hidden below one of the rails in the mounting foot.

In the box you receive: F58 flash unit, carrying case, mini stand, user manuals in English and French and printed warranty.

I really suggest going for this flash instead of the F42, even if you're on a budget, save more money and be on the look out for sales on this flash, it's worth every single penny. I would go for a F42 as a secondary flash or to make a group of them to release them using the F58. I'm not saying at all that the F42 it's a bad flash, on the contrary, but the F58 is just too darn good. Who knows what Sony will have to do to top this one and make it look little and weak.

Every review here that praises this flash tells the truth (except for that buyer who gave it 2 stars because you need to raise the in-built flash to trigger the F58, that's just being dumb and not doing enough research). You will not be disappointed by this flash. It does what you need it to do and more.

As of this date, there is no better flash to mount on a Sony Alpha DSLR or DSLT, there is just this one. Period.

I hope you find this review helpful. Sorry for the length of it, but I'm trying to provide as much information as I can for you to make an informed decision when purchasing.

If you got any questions, feel free to leave them.
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 15, 2013 6:26 AM PDT

Speck ToughSkin Rubberized Case with Belt Clip for 80/120/160 GB iPod classic 6G (Black)
Speck ToughSkin Rubberized Case with Belt Clip for 80/120/160 GB iPod classic 6G (Black)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good protective case for your iPod (as long as you don't need a fancy looking case)., January 14, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)

I am downgrading the rating I originally gave this item. After extended use, the clip started failing on me. At first it was no problem, since the lock and release mechanism in the clip got stuck every once in a while. Then it became useless, since a part broke off and the clip wouldn't release the case anymore. I contacted Speck asking them for a spare clip since my warranty is still valid and all I got was the crappiest customer service I experienced in a long while. The person who replied my mails always wrote in a manner that it seemed that he was pissed off that I bothered him with my mails. He probably had better things to do at work, like updating his Facebook status, than solving issues like this one. All I got out of him was that they didn't have spare clips or cases at the time, that I should check later.

Today, the clip finally broke off for good after spending two weeks falling apart in tiny pieces. Now I'm left with the case but I can't no longer carry it around attached to my waist, I'll need to put the iPod in my pocket, but since the case increases the overall size, that task won't be possible always.

Therefore, I now recommend to really consider whether you can live with this thing failing after a while or if it's no matter to you. I no longer recommend this case as strongly as I did, specially after the really lousy attention I got at Speck's customer service.

I notice that right now the case appears here at "Currently unavailable". I guess they still can't get more cases made.

I'm leaving my original review as I wrote it since the other features I highlighted still remain intact, the clip is the only problem I've had. I guess I'll have to look into another brand of iPod cases.

Original Review:

The Speck ToughSkin Rubberized Case with Belt Clip for 80/120/160 GB iPod classic 6G (Black) is a great way to protect your iPod against the everyday wear-and-tear as long as you are not looking for a posh looking case OR you can deal with the looks of this one.

Let me explain why I'm saying this. The case seems to be mostly made for practical purposes, those are: protect your iPod physically and (hopefully) last you for a long while but it can make your iPod look like a Husky or Tuper tool that belongs in a toolbox, which is why I jokingly call this case "a macho case" among my friends who own iPods.

The case is made of hard rubber that seems perfectly able to stand bumps and gentle hits, I wouldn't recommend tossing your iPod with this case against the ground and expect it to bounce back at you intact but it could make a critical difference between a good scare and a good cry if (heaven forbid) you ever drop your iPod to the ground.

The case has holes to expose the places you'll be using frequently (Click Wheel, headphone port, Hold button) and the connection port, which means you don't have to remove the case everytime you plug the iPod to the computer. Unfortunately at this time I haven't been able to test it while using a docking station yet to check if the case obstructs or not, but once I do I'll update this review.

The case comes paired with a protective screen for the iPod's screen (obviously). The iPod's screen seems to be just as fragile and easy to scratch as the LCD screen of my DSLR, which means that covering it with something hard is practically a must in order to avoid light scratches, hard scratches or (heaven forbid) a cracked LCD screen. The protective screen covers the ipod's screen completely and appears that Speck wanted that the screen and the case formed a kind of seal around the LCD screen but I don't know why it doesn't complete the seal the area around the screen in my case. there is space everywhere except at the bottom of the screen, no matter how much I press the rubber around, it will move away from the place where it should stay put.

One drawback from the screen protector (as with most of them) is that it can create glare that makes the screen hard to see, this is mostly noticeable when using a low power output of the LCD screen or if you check the ipod for the time. Personally I find this a nuisance I can bear, because I prefer the screen protected than having it exposed.

Finally, the case brings a clip you can remove. The clip allows you to carry your ipod at your waist or other places. You can remove it by pressing a spring in the same clip and it disattaches from the rest of the case. The only thing left is the plastic where the clip attaches but it's not too obtrusive.

There are two things that you must observe with this case:

1) The iPod classic (in my case, a Apple iPod classic 160 GB Black (7th Generation) NEWEST MODEL )will not fit on it's own within the case, it will be thinner than the case. Fortunately, Speck provides you with a rubber thin plaque that compensates for that extra space and the iPod won't dance around inside the case with it. As a plus, it provides a bit more protection to the back of the ipod, which is where the HD is located, therefore a sensitive location.

2) The case increases the overall size of the iPod. This may pose a problem if you like to carry the thing you in your pockets or in narrow places.

Like I mentioned in the beginning of my review, the look of this case is more of a tool found at a workshop than a cool-looking accessory. If you're looking for a case that will make the iPod look as an item from a sci-fi movie, you'll have to look elsewhere. The case is designed with practicality and safety of the device it will hold in mind.

So far I've been very pleased with the product, it has kept my iPod safe so far and it doesn't seem it will break anytime soon, which is something I wanted to avoid. I've seen very cool looking cases breaking or cracking too easily with mild use and I didn't want to be replacing the case every 2 months. So far I've had this case for a month but if I have any problems with it in the long run, I shall report them here.

If you favor practicality over looks and want a case that will protect your ipod from bumps, scratches and small drops, I seriously recommend checking this case out. I find it has more pros than cons, but it's ultimately up to you to decide what you want in a case for your iPod.

In the meantime, I recommend this case.

EDIT (Feb 4th 2011): After having taken out my iPod for cleaning and having inspected the case a bit more closely, I've found a few things worth mentioning:

1) The clip holder that's left if you remove the clip can also be removed, you just press against it so the clear plastic part will cross to the other side and it's off, so if you'd like to use the case without the clip, you can actually do it. The hole left is covered by the plastic plaque.

2) The plastic plaque works better if the side with the Speck logo is facing down and the smooth side is the one touching your iPod's back.

3) Regarding the LCD protection screen: After having looked at it more closely, I've realized that it has a groove on it that acts as a gap between the protective screen and the LCD screen of the iPod itself. I'm thinking that this was done in case that if the protective screen was cracked, that the impact wouldn't reach the LCD screen. This is smart thinking by Speck I think.

There is another plus; usually protective screens for LCD screens that have a gap allow for dust to get inside that gap and eventually attach permanently to the LCD screen because of the static build up they gather over time. Today I had to remove the protective screen to check the LCD screen and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was completely clean and unmarked. This is because the protective screen is surrounded by a thin black plastic that acts like a gasket and seals the area around the LCD screen, so there is no way dust can enter to gap left by the protective screen. Remember that I mentioned above that the rubber of the case doesn't seem to create a gasket around the protective screen although it looks like it was intended that way? Well, the protection has that gasket, so even if the rubber of the case doesn't cover the edges of the protective screen, your LCD screen is still protected. Another plus point of this case.

I recommend this case even more after having realized all this.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 16, 2011 8:35 AM PST

Sony ALCR55 Rear Lens Cap for the Sony Alpha Digital SLR
Sony ALCR55 Rear Lens Cap for the Sony Alpha Digital SLR
2 used & new from $3.22

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful accesory to keep your lenses working smoothly., December 7, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Sony Rear Lens Cap is a good product, although looking it at objectively, it's nothing more than a plastic thing with the name Sony on it.

The thing to keep in mind here is that this cap is necessary to protect the mount and contacts of your lenses, which this cap does in an excellent manner, since it's hard enough for the job. It's not made of easy-to-pierce through plastic.

There is not much to say about it, it's good for what it does and that's that.

The problem I have with Sony and other sellers is that the price for this item varies wildly and sometimes I've seen it priced at 40 dollars, which is a massive rip off for a thing that costs 10 cents to produce. There is also the issue that Sony has been cheating users lately by replacing this cap with those tiny plastic cups you use to pour ketchup in at McDonald's or Burger King on kits of camera and lens. Probably to save on costs and force you to buy one of this, but still, its ridiculous. It should be offered standard for body and lens kits as it used to be 1 year ago.

Leaving that aside and focusing on the cap itself, it's good for what it does. Covers your lens' mount, contacts and rear elements, which are important parts of the lens that need to be protected when not in use. If you got Minolta lenses that require this cap, it will also fit on them.

Giottos MH1000-652 Ball Head (Black)
Giottos MH1000-652 Ball Head (Black)
Price: $85.96
2 used & new from $75.95

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great all-purpose ballhead that won't cost an internal organ., December 7, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Giottos MH1000-652 Large Ball Head with Tension Control and MH652 Quick Releaseis a great addition to your tripod (as long as it can take ballheads) and camera equipment.

If you're new to photography or you don't know what a ballhead is: A ballhead is an addition to your tripod that allows you to be able to move the camera around by turning knobs. It's called a ballhead because the main plate is mounted on a ball. The heads on the $30 stuff you buy at the grocery store tends to be a panhead, which allows you to pan up or down, left to right or back but won't allow you to position the camera at odd angles if required and usually they don't handle as much weight as ballheads do.

Usually, the best of the best ballheads in the market cost $400 or more, which can be too much to invest on a ballhead for many, however, that doesn't mean you can't get a very good ballhead for a cheaper price.

This ballhead is a perfect example. In this review I will talk about my experience with this ballhead while using it on the field.

The Giottos MH1000-652 ball head is sure heavy, at 625 grams it isn't precisely feather weight but it isn't too terribly heavy either. The biggest ballhead offered by Giottos in this series, the Giottos 3000-631 weighs 1329 grams on its own!

The reason this ballhead weighs that much is because is made of metal, the only thing not metal is the plate and the quick release plate. This is what allows the ballhead to take as much as 10 kilograms of weight! That means you can mount a big DSLR with a vertical grip (attached or inbuilt), a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and a flagship flash on it and you probably would still have weight capacity left from this ballhead.

This is very important, because the more weight it can handle, the less prone to shake the ballhead will be, which won't ruin your photos with blur from camera movement. It's worth mentioning that in order to have a rock solid platform for your camera, you also need a tripod that can take lots of weight and won't rattle either. I recommend looking into the Giottos MTL9371B Professional 3-Section Aluminum Tripod with Flip Leg Locks to match this ballhead with.

The ballhead has three knobs. The biggest of them is to release or tighten the grip of the ballhead, this allows you to move the ballhead to the position you want and once there, you lock it and it will stay there. The second knob is for tension control, it allows you to determine how loose or tight you want the ballhead to move when you release the grip on it. The knob has several bars drawn on it (they look like volume levels) that act as a visual guide as to how stiff or loose the ballhead will move. The third and smallest one is a knob that allows the head to pan, so if you like to create big panoramas, this function will come in handy for you. It also works to move the camera left to right or viceversa without touching the biggest knob.

Since the ballhead allows you to pan around, it has degree markings on it to let you know how much you're moving the camera, starts at 0 and goes to 180 degrees. The numbers run in left and right directions, so you can see the degree markings regardless of the direction you're moving at . The only problem you will find is that the 180 degree mark is hidden below the smallest knob. On the outer rim of the ballhead there is a white line that acts as a pointer along with the degree marks.

The ballhead comes paired with a Giottos 652 plate or main camera mount and a quick release plate. The main camera mount has two bubble levels if you need a guide to know if things are leveled or not. Personally I don't bother with them but it may be important for you.

The nicely surprising part comes with the quick release plate, it has a locking mechanism that won't let you take the camera off the tripod unless you manually release the lock. This is VERY important because cheap heads can actually suffer that the quick release plate snaps off the main camera mount if it has too much weight on it or worse, you touch the camera in such a way you end up dropping it to the ground. That won't happen with this ballhead. The lock is spring loaded, so you need to press it yourself for the mount to release the plate. If there is no camera mounted, when releasing the lock, the quick release plate jumps up to you just enough for you to grab it quickly (It does not blast off like a space ship, relax).

Finally, the quick release plate has a screw below it so you can unfold it and lock the camera against the plate and when you're done, you fold it back again and you're good to go. This is so convenient because usually the cheap stuff requires you to take a coin, your car keys or whatever you can find to screw tightly the plate with the camera, but it's very impractical. The way this head does it is better.

The ballhead mounts on a 3/8" screw, so make sure your tripod has that screw or can use it, if it uses the 1/4" size (the one cameras use for their tripod bases), it won't fit. The tripod I recommended lets you switch between both sizes. On the bottom of the ballhead there is some leather imitation material that seems to be there to avoid slipping while moving in circles.

My experience with this ballhead has been terrific so far. I've taken it to all kinds of environments and it has performed superbly. The most important issue for me was whether it could really stand heavy camera setups without giving up or starting to develop "play" (or when the main mount wiggles around). I've mounted my DSLR with it's vertical grip (which both are made with magnesium alloy bodies, therefore, are heavy) a heavy flash and heavy lenses, from slow long zooms to fast zooms and the camera never had a problem with the weight, no wiggling, to moving down because it was too heavy, nothing. It's been rock solid.

One problem I have frequently is that I confuse the lock and tension knobs when my eye is looking through the camera, sometimes I release the wrong knob and either the head won't move or it moves a lot more than I expected because I released the tension completely or I really locked it tight. Even though visually they are different in size, by touch the difference is not that obvious. Contrary to the panning knob, which is small and I can't confuse that one.

One great advantage I see between using a ballhead and a panhead is that the ballhead is a lot quicker to set and fix in position and to release and move than the panhead. There is also the issue that the ballhead allows you to set the camera in angles the panhead won't.

One feature I'm almost forgetting is that this ballhead has a small slot that allows the main mount to go into vertical position (or portrait orientation) without you needing to switch to a panhead. This is very important because it means you can shoot vertically or horizontally with this head with no fuss. And yes, in vertical position, the plate still won't move despite how heavy things are on it.

Two issues I've come across with this head:

1.- If you're pointing the camera upwards and/or to the side at angles of 45 to 85 degrees, the head will rotate down due to the weight if you do not lock the pan knob before hand. I'm pointing this out because it will introduce movement when shooting with long exposures and it may ruin your shots. So be sure to lock that knob before you actually shoot.

2.- I don't know exactly why but the main mount developed over time play or wiggling. I don't know if it was because of the weight I've put over the head at times and it was bound to happen eventually or because of the bumps and falls the head has sustained from time to time (especially when deployed in the field) that lead to this. Originally I thought it was a quality control issue or I needed to use the warranty and therefore I refrained from writing this review until I knew what the problem was.

Eventually I discovered that the problem was that the main mount had screwed off itself a bit and therefore had the play I'm talking about. Under the quick release plate, there is a hole for an Allen or L wrench, if you tighten it, the main mount returns to its rock solid state and the play is gone. This is worthy to know because you may go through the same problem I did and return the ballhead thinking is broken, but it only needs to be tightened with the proper tool. This is a good thing because it's an easy fix you can do without having to send the ballhead for fixing.

Finally, the ballhead comes with a leather pouch for transport when not used, a small screw base which I think it's in case the head needs to be repaired, warranty and a small card with instructions.

If you need a good ballhead for heavy duty and resistant for heavy set ups, you might want to give a good look into this one. It's simple to use and affordable, which for some it's an important issue: to purchase a good product without spending lots of money on it.

I recommend you check Giotto's official site for the specs of this ballhead so you can compare it against other models.

If you end up going for this ballhead, you won't be disappointed.

EDIT (Jan 15th 2011): After browsing through the manuals of my photographic gear, I found a bag containing a L wrench or Allen key which happens to be the very same tool I mentioned earlier in the review that you need in order to tighten the mounting plate if it develops play. It came with this head but I didn't even noticed it and I stored it with the rest of the manuals and warranties. Another added plus this head provides you.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 27, 2013 5:39 AM PDT

G.I. Type Stainless Steel Canteen Cup
G.I. Type Stainless Steel Canteen Cup
Offered by River Colony Trading
Price: $11.00
11 used & new from $7.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good cup for field work., October 2, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this cup to pair it with this canteen Rothco 422 G.I. Style Aluminum Canteen and Cover, 1 Quart.

It matches perfectly the canteen, both can be carried in the same package.

This cup is stainless steel and so far I haven't had any problems with it. It has worked well for me. The butterfly handle is really handy for grabbing the cup as you would grab a coffe cup by the handle, though grabbing it as if it didn't have them is not a problem either, but the handles come in handy (pun intended) if you need to boil water or cook something with it, you could burn your hands if you grab the cup.

The cup's intake capacity is 500 mililiters give or take, if I fill it using my canteen, I still have some water left in the canteen. Good to ration water supply when you are far from a water source or you need to share water with someone else and you don't want them to drink from your canteen directly.

It's resistant, I've packed it for countless trips to the outdoors and it doesn't have any dents despite the fact it has to share space with lenses, cameras and other stuff I sometimes pack.

One aspect that wonders me of this cup but I can't explain is the fact that it dries quickly. I don't know if it's the weather here or the material or what, but whenever I drink water in it, it dries fast, sometimes less than five minutes, with no traces that a liquid was ever there.

The only gripe you could have with it is the fact that seems that over time, the cup develops a dark color, mine was shiny gray when I got it but now it's dark gray. I don't mind really since it's meant to be used out there, it's not a jewel that needs to be kept clean and shiny always.

Some people have mentioned this is a military issue cup, and that would explain just how tough it is.

If you need a cup and a canteen to go with it, I suggest you take a look at this one and the canteen I linked to, they seem to be made for each other, since they fit perfectly. One thing though, I have to use the canteen cover in order to be able to pair the cup with the canteen, because if I remove it and just put the canteen inside the cup, the canteen is loose and won't attach to the cup. The cover acts like a kind of gasket.

This canteen will certainly be handy if you go frequently to the outdoors. In the field it's where it shines. I recommend it.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Best Pants For Field Work. Ever., October 2, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm a photographer and I tend to shoot frequently outdoors; I've photographed and/or walked through woods, deserts, rivers, mountains, caves, urban landscapes, the works.

Being comfortable and having ease of movement is something paramount to anyone spending long amounts of time in the field. I used to wear a pair of cargo pants that were good, but not near as good as these pants are.

I bought the XL size of these pants, and boy, they fit so nicely it almost makes me sad I can't wear them for every day use.

If you're a big person, these pants will surely be for you. They are wide and they are SO darn comfortable. In my case they are not tight but neither are they so loose you'll go missing inside them. They are loose just the right amount for you to move around comfortably. When you got to climb rocks, tree trunks, cross rivers or run for your life, this feature alone pays the pants.

The pants have four pockets, 2 on each leg, one big on the top and one below a bit smaller. Plus back and front pockets of course. One small issue that I have with the leg pockets is that you can't remove the top fold to access the pocket completely, they are sewn in one end and the other is closed down with a big button. The problem I got is that since I can't open the pocket completely, sometimes I have to stop what I'm doing and grab with both hands what I want to put in or take out of the pocket, whereas with the pants I used to wear, I didn't have to even look, since they have velcro and I could access the pockets swiftly. On the other hand, the fact the pockets are like that, makes things harder to go out of the pocket if you jump or run. So I guess it evens out. I'm mentioning it so you won't be surprised in a bad way. One good thing about all pockets is that they are big and deep. So if you need space to carry stuff with you, you won't have a problem of space shortage.

One very useful addition these pants have are drawstrings in the bottom of the legs. These allows you to close down the leg's width if it's too baggy for you OR if you want to seal that area. In my case, I wear military boots and these pants when working in the field, in order to prevent bugs crawling up my legs and biting me (like fire ants, I learned that the hard way), you can use the strings to close the leg and prevent anything going up your leg. This also comes handy when it's cold or hot where you are.

The pants fabric is quite resistant, I've needed sometimes to climb down hills sitting, so I slide down. I've rubbed them against rocky surfaces, drove them into mud and water, plants with thorns and there is not a single hole in them so far.

The pants have what appear to be small hooks or belts which I suppose are to attach yourself to something, or they may be just for show. They are located at the waist, where your belt would go. I think those are the 2" waist tabs mentioned in the description.

Despite what it may seem, these pants are light, they're not too heavy, which is surprising, because for the kind of resistance they offer, you'd expect a thick and heavy fabric, but it's not.

I own a pair of these pants in camo color and I've recently bought a pair in black. Camo color is alright when working in woods and such places, but may drag unwanted attention in urban landscapes, I suggest the black or olive color for such cases.

It's too bad that the khaki and gray colors aren't offered anymore. Bummer.

All in all, these pants are one great choice. I've been extremely satisfied with them, they have delivered so well that I could buy the olive color and have three pairs just for kicks because they are that good.

Just make sure to pick the proper size for you and I doubt you'll regret it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2010 11:31 PM PST

Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Camera
Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Camera
Offered by Beach Camera Same Day Shipping
Price: $598.00
23 used & new from $269.99

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best macro lenses for the Alpha mount., October 2, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens is one of the best lenses you will ever put in your camera's mount.

I will provide the pros and cons of this lens along with my experience with it.

What most people want to know right now is whether this lens is sharp, it is. You could cut cheese bars with how sharp it is.

The fast aperture of f/2.8 allows you to use aperture to isolate your subject from the background or use it when you work under low light. It closes down to f/32.

This lens gives you a reproduction ratio from 1:4 to 1:1, that 1:1 ratio is the one that will let you take pictures of bugs or tiny things and make them look big enough on the picture with enough detail resolved to let you crop if you need to.

It's common belief that a macro lens works wonders for macros but not for normal shooting, such as portraits or landscapes. This is not true, you can use macro lenses for both purposes with excellent results. Especially from this lens.

The focal length of 50mm applies to full frame cameras (A900/850), in APS-C cameras (from the A100 up to the A700) it will yield a focal length of 75mm, which it may be an odd length to use since it borderlines on telephoto. It's not really a problem when shoooting up close but if you shoot portraits or landscapes, you may need to take a few steps back to compose, depending on what you want to display in the image.

This lens has a metal mount, a DOF scale which let's you determine how much of the subject in front of you will be in focus depending on the subject's distance and the aperture used. Something to keep in mind here: 1: The scale is tuned for Full Frame, not APS-C, and the scale is set to show in focus subjects at f/16 and f/32. Unless you shoot frequently at these apertures going for maximum depth of field, I don't think you'll find this scale useful. The best thing you could do is to look at your optical or electronical view finders (for all those new A33/55 users out there) and engage the DOF preview button (if your camera has the option) to check how much of the image will be in focus at the selected aperture. For those of you with no DOF preview option, my advice is to shoot at different apertures and get familiar with how much in focus things get when using small apertures or how less things in focus you have at wide apertures.

At f/2.8 the lens has a shallow DOF, however, wherever you set the focus point, it will be real sharp, the rest of the image will be fuzzy if you look at detail at 100% magnification (a.k.a pixel peeping) but this is normal, shallow DOF yields few things in focus. Closing down the lens makes things sharp all over the plane. The best sharpness can be obtained at around f/5.6 and f/8, beyond that things won't change too much.

A handy feature this lens has is a focus limiter switch. The switch lets you use the whole focusing range of the lens or limit it at a range you chose so it won't go beyond that while trying to focus. If you're shooting landscapes or portraits, you don't need to go beyond 1:4 magnification and if you are shooting macros at 1:1 or 1:2, the last thing you need is the lens to go at 1:4. This speeds things up when focusing, either manually or automatically.

The lens has a focus hold button, which helps you to retain focus where you set it if you're using AF instead of having the camera look for focus again. In the A100/700/850/900 you can set this button to work as DOF preview instead of using the camera's button. For some, this will be more comfortable ,so it's a handy option as well. I don't know for sure, but I assume this will also work with the new A33/55/560/580 since those have DOF preview buttons too.

The lens is mostly build of plastic, but it doesn't have a cheap feel. It's solidly built. I would just advice to be careful with the filter threads, because those are plastic too, and if you use filters or special add-ons for macro lenses, you could wear them off with frequent use. Maybe a step-up or step-down ring will be a good idea to attach to the lens and use the threads of the ring to mount filters or other things. The thread size is 55mm.

This lens doesn't have a hood, but it doesn't need it. By design, the front element is deeply recessed into the lens, be it completely drawn in or completely extended, so there is no need for a hood. If you need one, use your hand to block light rays.

The focusing ring is wide and has a good grip, unfortunately it carries the same ribbed grip that all Sony lenses carry which is a dirt magnet and hard to clean. I wish Sony dropped this and used the smooth rubbery grips Minolta used to have or the Tamron ones.

The lens focuses real fast thanks to the wide aperture it possesses. However, be careful. When using the lens for portraits or landscapes, focusing won't be a problem, the AF mechanism will do it fast and swiftly. Where it may get annoying is when using it for macro and close up shots.

The focusing axiom you need to know and always remember when shooting macros or close ups is: The closer you are to your subject, the more careful you got to be with distances, in some cases, if you move just 1 mm, you will lose focus completely.

If you think this is exaggerated, try to shoot flowers or something really small while using manual focus and breathing. You'll see that as you breathe, the subject goes from focus to out of focus.

Therefore, you shouldn't expect this lens and camera to *know exactly* where you want to focus when shooting up real close, because there is no way they will know. You can AF at 1:1 magnification, but most of the time it will make the lens hunt for focus and go all the focusing range. Also keep in mind that the closer you are, the more focusing points the camera has to choose, so you can drive the AF nuts with this.

The best way to use this lens when doing macro, is to focus manually. That will ensure you will focus on the right exact spot you want without waiting for the camera to figure out where you want it to focus. Like I said, you can use AF with it, but the lens will be prone to hunt for focus a lot, THIS IS NOT A LENS OR CAMERA MALFUNCTION. It's just the laws of optics and photography.

If you really insist on using AF with this lens, I suggest you use spot focusing and select a focusing sensor so the camera will focus with only that one, I suggest using the central sensor.

One thing you need to determine if you're considering this lens is if you will be shooting near and static subjects or subjects that will let you get close or if you're going to need to shoot from a distance and you can't get close. If you choose the first option, then this lens is for you, if you chose the latter, then I suggest you give a look to the Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens or third party options, like the Sigma 105mm Macro or the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro lenses. Why do I bring this up? Because if you're shooting things from a distance, this lens won't give you enough reach. I've gone through this before where I want to shoot things I can't get close to like dragonflies but I can't reach them as I want to because the lens just doesn't have enough length for it. There are several options for the Alpha mount of macro lenses which will give you reach for far subjects, but if you don't really need it, then go for this option. If I recall correctly, this lens is a bit sharper and has more contrast than it's 100mm brother.

The colors and contrast yielded by this lens are superb, images will have a color punch that Canon and Nikon users crave for but can't get from their system.

Aside from the possible short reach of this lens, the other con I can think of is the sound it makes when focusing, while it's not loud like a zoom, it does have a sort of loud deep noise when it focuses. For situations you need it to be silent, you're better focusing manually. But will all due honesty, this is nit picking.

This lens will open up worlds you never knew that existed at distances you could only dream of when using a kit lens. There is a difference between being close and being CLOSE.

If there is one lens that will not disappoint you and be versatile for macros, close ups, portraits, landscapes and whatever else you can think of (except shooting at long distances), is this lens.

I strongly suggest you look the review done by Kurt Munger of this lens, it will provide other technical information I may have missed to mention.

Price wise, it may be a bit expensive, but it's worth every penny. Unless you really need the reach, look into the other options I mentioned, just be aware that price may increase from this price point.

Otherwise, take the plunge now and treat yourself to a wonderful lens.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 25, 2015 1:04 PM PDT

Giottos MTL9371B Professional 3-Section Aluminum Tripod with Flip Leg Locks
Giottos MTL9371B Professional 3-Section Aluminum Tripod with Flip Leg Locks

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent professional tripod without blowing the bank account., September 6, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Giottos MTL 9371B 3-Section Compact Aluminum Tripod is a great option to consider if you're looking for a sturdy and well-enough-built tripod without paying a huge sum of money.

In this review I will give you my experience with this tripod and list its pros and cons, however, I do seriously recommend going to Giotto's official site and check the specs of this tripod so you can make an informed decision if this is the tripod you need.

Here is a crash course of the things to keep in mind when purchasing a tripod that's not the $30 plastic and flimsy stuff you can get at Walmart:

- Pro tripods come in aluminium or carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is a lot lighter but a lot more expensive as well.

- Pro tripods require you to purchase a ball head and/or a panhead in order to use your camera with them, although it's not necessary it makes things easier when handling the camera. This tripod for example, doesn't require you to buy a ball head in order to attach a camera to it, but I do recommend you get one.

- The two main types of tripod heads are: ball heads and pan heads. Ball heads usually give you more flexibility as to how you set the camera angle wise, they're easier to operate and usually it's all you'll need for stills. Pan heads are also an option but their movement is limited (up and down, left to right and you can switch from vertical to horizontal position easier than a ball head). From my experience, the pan head is usually better for video or if you shoot stills of things in constant movement, the ball head can also do these but doesn't offer as much control as a pan head. Ball heads are perfect for everything else.

- In order to determine what kind of tripod you need, figure out the following: How much weight you plan to put on it? You plan to travel with it in planes or carry it yourself and in your car? How big you want it to be folded and completely open? Can you deal with a rock solid tripod that's heavy (unless its carbon fiber) or you want a light and easy to carry tripod at the expense of losing stability? Do you need it to give you flexibility as to how you can set each leg or you want the legs to be locked? (Some tripods allow you to set the legs at different positions and heights regardless of the other two while other tripods have the three legs locked amongst themselves and you can't set them differently) Do you need it to collapse to the ground to do macro work?

- The more sections the tripod has, the more compact it is when folded BUT this means it loses stability when completely opened.

- Finally, some tripods have levers and other twist locks in order to raise or fold the legs. Which kind you get depends on your preference. Some like levers, others like twist locks.

With that out of the way, let's proceed.

This Giottos tripod is study and well built, this version is the aluminum one, so it will weight 2.46 kgs, which is heavy. I've carried this puppy for hours around my neck and it does put a strain on it. Even at my age it hurts after a while.

That said, what this tripod has for heavy it also has for sturdy. If you're graduating from a flimsy and plasticky tripod you bought for 30 bucks or less, you will notice the difference right away. This tripod is a lot more resistant to movement and allows you to put 10 kgs of weight on it. I've used my Sony A700 with a zoom lens, vertical grip and flash on this tripod and it has yet to complain about it.

The tripod has 3 sections; 1 is unfolded by design and the other two you can fold at your whim. Folded the tripod has a height of 72 cms while completely open reaches 172 cms! Almost as tall as I am! It goes even taller if you add a head or if you don't open the legs a lot.

There are several things this tripod offers that are worth mentioning:

- The tripod allows you to collapse it to the ground, with this I mean that you can stretch the legs wide open and get almost to floor level for macro work. To do this you need to change the central column with a short one (that is supplied) and allow the legs to open beyond the normal range (You do this by raising a switch on the top of each leg with will allow it to go higher than it would normally would).

- The fact you can raise the legs higher means you can access an infinite amount of weird positions to set the tripod. I say weird because unless you've dealt with professional tripods before, you're just not used to the kind of stuff this tripod allows you to set it. This ability comes REALLY handy when you work in uneven terrains such as mountains, but it will also be helpful in those places where you can set two legs at a certain place and height but not the third. Usually this would mean you're screwed and have to deal with a weird angle, but this tripod allows you to get the angle you want while set in a unconventional position.

- You can remove the center column completely and insert it from below. If you want to do macro work but don't want to bring the tripod down to ground level, you can remove the center column from the tripod and insert it on the same slot but from below; you tighten it up and you're good to go. This position may be a bit uncomfortable to work with, but it's good to know you can do it.

- It raises pretty high. Usually cheap tripods won't go even to eye level which poses a problem where you need to hunch or sit down in order to look at the view finder or LCD screen, but this one will raise to eye level and even higher. Giottos says this will go as high as 172 cms, but I'm taller than that (1.82cms) and it still goes higher than me WITHOUT a head if you don't open the legs a lot.

- There is a tilt option in this tripod. Sometimes you will come across situations where you need to tilt the camera in order to get the angle you want or to get the camera where you want. Usually, tripods won't allow you to do so unless you have a ball head or pan head and even then it may just not work for what you need. This tripod allows you to remove the center column and raise the ring that holds it tight and tilt it to your needs, you reinsert the central column and you tighten it up and voila, you can now shoot in another position. This is particularly helpful when you need to shoot at angles that require you to raise or lower the camera without moving the tripod from its position.

There is also a lock in the center column that allows you to spin the whole package of Raise and Tilt locks if you need to put them in a place where they wont be near a leg. This is helpful if you got big fingers and you need space to turn the locks without bumping into the legs. This may be of no big deal to you until you want to release or tight those locks on a rush and have to be bumping against the legs.

- The tripod has a bubble lever as well to tell you if its leveled (duh!) or not and how much you need to adjust if necessary.

- The tripod allows you to switch between 1/4" and 3/8" screws. Cameras use 1/4" screws to attach and ball heads use 3/8". The center column allows you to switch between those two with a center screw that has both sizes. Quite handy.

- The tripod comes with a "Tool bag" as Giottos deems it. Its a small pouch that carries the short column for collapsing the tripod down for macro work, a hex key and a wrench. The hex key is to tighten up small screws in the tripod's head if necessary and the wrench is to tighten up the screws in the legs when they go lose and making the leg move loosely after some time.

So far my experience with the tripod has been really satisfactory, aside from the weight issue, I'm really happy of having purchased this tripod. The weight thing was something I knew before I bought it and decided to deal with it. The carbon fiber version went for a lot more money than I had available at the time I got this one. I'm bringing it up so you keep it in mind and won't be surprised by it if you buy this tripod.

The locks really hold things in place, there is no slipping or play. This is critical since you don't want your expensive gear to be mounted on a tripod that can't handle the weight and eventuall will drop your stuff to the ground. The leg locks are tight and you can avoid getting bitten by them as long as you keep your finger on top of the lever.

The legs have plastic all-purpose feet which allow you to cover most terrains. Giottos does sell snow spikes, ground spikes or suction cups that you can attach to the tripod by removing the plastic feet and screwing those on.

The only real complaint I have for Giottos is that this tripod is sold WITHOUT a carrying bag. It's ridiculous that even the cheapest tripods have a carrying bag but this tripod doesn't. There is a bag for it, but Giottos wants you to yield $60 for it. Nonsense. It should be provided as a standard. If the tripod didn't perform as good as it does, I would give it 4 stars instead of 5 just because of this.

I had to get one done for my tripod since I didn't want to carry it unprotected. On one side it was a good thing, since I could have it made so the tripod would fit while having a ball head or a pan head attached. I don't know if I'd be able to do that if I had bought the Giottos bag. On the other hand, maybe they don't offer a bag because they can't know which head you'll end up attaching to this tripod.

Finally, I recommend you get a ball head along with this tripod. Choose a ball head if you'll be dealing primarily with still shots, if you need a head for video a pan head will be better.

I got the Giottos MH1000-652 Large Ball Head with Tension Control and MH652 Quick Release and the Giottos MH5001 3-Way Pan Head with Quick Release along with this tripod. I will discuss their performance on their respective reviews.

This tripod is sturdy, flexible, full of options and it's meant to last. Lest we forget, it's a lot more affordable than other options out there. Take a good look of this tripod, it may be all you will need for a lot of years to come.

Tamron AF017S-700 Autofocus 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD Macro Zoom Lens for Konica Minolta and Sony Digital SLR Cameras
Tamron AF017S-700 Autofocus 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD Macro Zoom Lens for Konica Minolta and Sony Digital SLR Cameras
Price: $164.95
17 used & new from $111.58

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good telephoto lens for the price range., September 6, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD Macro Zoom Lens is a good option for a telephoto lens if you're on a budget or just starting to build your photographic kit and don't have much money left to spend on a long range lens.

This lens will work on APS-C and Full Frame sensors. On a APS-C sensor, the lens will have a true focal length of 105-450mm if you're using a 1.5x sized sensor.

The features that give this lens a bit of an edge over other lenses in this price range are:

- The slightly faster aperture. Most telephotos in this focal length range usually start at f/4.5, but this one starts at f/4 which is half a stop and may not be a huge difference, but if you're working in low light, that extra stop may prevent you of raising the ISO.

- The macro function. This lens allows you to reproduce things up to half their true size on your photos (1:2) Not all telephotos have this capability. Because of this capability, the lens has a minimium focusing distance of 95 centimeters (3.1 inches) which is a lot closer than what you could focus with other lenses.

For the price you're paying, you're a getting a good lens, but of course, don't expect this lens to perform as well as other options that are more expensive; like the Sony G 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 or the Sony G 70-400mm f/4.5-5.6.

With that out of the way, let's get to know this lens better.

The lens is light, is not too heavy. The construction is mostly plastic but overall the construction is solid and good. The zoom ring is big and wide enough to manipulate without hassle, the rubber grip on it will prevent slips. The focusing ring is smaller and thinner but good as well. It's easy to find without taking your eye off the viewfinder since the texture of it is different from the lens body. It also has the grip as the zoom ring to prevent slipping. This is particularly helpful in humid conditions or if you're hands are sweating.

One point worth mentioning to Sony DSLR users is that the grip plastic does NOT attract and collect dust like the zoom and focusing rings on Sony lenses. It's also easier to clean, Sony lenses just make it impossible to keep them clean on those two parts, but not this one.

To activate the macro function of this lens, you got to move a switch on the lens. The lens has a normal focusing range starting at 1.5 meters (4.9 inches) up to infinity in all the zoom range, but from 180mm to 300mm you can activate the switch and access the closer focusing capabilities of the lens. Visually you shouldn't have a problem to figure this out since the lens carries markings for both ranges; white for the normal and gold for the macro.

The only problem with this function is that you can't go below 180mm without disenganging the macro function and you can't access it unless you're at 180mm or farther. It sounds redundant but better know it.

One little problem I tend to have with this lens when mounted on my Sony A700 is that if I engage the macro function and want to return to the normal one, I need to switch from AF to MF to move the focusing ring back to normal range if the ring is on a macro distance setting. Otherwise, it won't let me disengage the macro function nor return to a wider focal length. I don't know if this behavior applies to other DSLRs but it's worth mentioning it.

This lens takes filters of a 62mm size, but unfortunately the filter ring rotates when focusing so you got to be careful if you're a polarizer or a ND filter.

The hood has a good size, it may not be too deep, but serves it's purpose. It has a pattern of several rings inside it, this is meant to cut light rays when they hit the interior surface of the hood and prevent them of bouncing there and into the lens, reducing flare and glare. It does work but don't expect it to take care of these problems every single time, there will be times when the light is just too hard for the hood to completely avoid flare or glare. Finally, the hood reverses for storage in this lens, making it easy to store and carry, the only problem is that it will block access to the focusing ring from 70mm to 135mm. Personally, I recommend using the hood everytime you use this lens. If you don't like using hoods, then leave it at home.

Optically, this lens can be good for the price or ruin your shots due to softness. Let me elaborate on this.

If you have movement in your shot caused by camera movement and you're shooting wide open, the softness will be very visible. To make this lens sharp, you need to close it down to f/8 or more, it's sharpness on wider apertures depends a lot on you shooting at a fast enough speed or a stable enough tripod, and even then it may be soft. Again, remember you're paying below 200 dollars for this lens, so you can't expect Sony G or Carl Zeiss sharpness. I've had sharp enough shots at wide apertures but not always, just as I haven't always gotten sharp things using small apertures, it depends a lot on the conditions you're working on.

If you close it down enough, the sharpness improves dramatically and will work well enough.

One important thing to keep in mind: the longer the focal length, the more obvious camera movement is, this will reduce sharpness drastically using this or a $1000 lens. Use a fast enough shutter speed or a monopod/tripod to reduce or prevent camera shake. SuperSteadyShot will definitely help but it's not a cure for everything.

Focusing speed is alright, it's not amazingly fast as SSM lenses, but it can be fast enough. The problem comes when the lens hunts for focus, which can take a LONG while and eventually give up with no focus locked. The other problem is that if you're using the macro range and the lens has to look for focus, it will move the focusing ring all the way and rather slowly at that, which may make you lose the moment you want to capture and/or drive you mad in the process. I've found that as long as the lens doesn't have to move long distances in the focus ring, it's fast enough, but if it has to check the whole range, it will take a while. The lens sometimes focuses "in steps". By this I mean that it will try one distance, then another and then it will settle on something in between which usually tends to be the right distance, but not always though. This mostly happens in low light, if you shoot in day light, the lens shouldn't have a lot of problems.

The lens is not quiet, but it's not a howling siren either. I think my Sony DT 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 is a bit louder, maybe a bit higher pitched than this Tamron.

One thing that puzzles me is that the lens is advertised as having a metal mount, but Amazon sent me a copy with a plastic mount. It's no biggie, but it did catch my attention.

For the price I paid for this lens (which was a bit cheaper than what it's going for right now) I'm satisfied with this lens. The lens has it's limits optically, but once more, you're getting a good quality for the price you're paying. If you absolutely need a sharp telephoto, have a look at Sony G series telephotos (or the equivalent of the camera brand you use), you will get a far better performance, but the price will be higher as well.

I would recommend this lens to people who need a telephoto but can't afford a more expensive option. You get good enough sharpness, macro capabilites, a light package and a good telephoto range for a good price.

Finally, you get a 6 years warranty from Tamron, which is an even better warranty than the one Sony offers.

If you need an alternative to what Sony (or the brand you use) offers in this focal length range, give a good look to this Tamron lens, a good option for a good price.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2013 10:45 AM PST

Sony ALCB55 Body Cap for the Sony Alpha Digital SLR
Sony ALCB55 Body Cap for the Sony Alpha Digital SLR
Offered by DataVision Computer Video
Price: $8.49
3 used & new from $3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does It's Job, July 25, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
There isn't too much to say about this item.

This is Sony's official body cap for their Alpha DSLRs. This cap will cover and protect the mount and mirror box of your camera when there is no lens attached. It also fits all Minolta camera's with the Minolta AF mount.

It's made of plastic. It comes with a nice Alpha logo sticker to be placed on the cap's center.

I haven't tried other caps made by other brands, but this one does its job. Personally I'd prefer if this was made of some metal so it would last longer. The one that came originally with my A700 has visible wear and tear on the edges that lock this cap on the mount. I can't be certain nor do I have any evidence to support my claim, but I'm worried that this tearing will eventually drop plastic bits in the mirror box that may end up on the sensor.

The other problem with this item is that it's price varies wildly, I've seen it for 1 buck and up to 40 dollars, which is a silly price for a simple piece of plastic.

Besides that, it's something all Alpha owner should have. You never know when you'll need to cover the mount and mirror box with something that's not a lens, like when cleaning the body.

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