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Digital SLR Issue 79 ��

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For the most part, photography is (and should be) a light-hearted hobby that we can dip in and out of as an escape from the nine-to-five grind. Recently however, it seems that you can’t open a newspaper without reading about some sort of copyright infringement or image theft. All fairly Want to read Digital SLR on your iPad? scary words and the chances of you or I being the Save up to 40% by subscribing at the App Store today! victim of a photo theft are remarkably slim, but if you’d like to know how to protect yourself, we have some advice on page 50. Now, on to more upbeat matters. This issue is packed full of features to help improve your skills, answer your questions and generally fill your month with photo fun. We’ve dedicated this month’s Rules guide to macro photography. Many believe close-up images can only be captured by professionals, but as our feature explains, you can grab your camera and bag some brilliant images – today! And if you get well and truly bitten by the macro bug, we’ve tested seven value-for-money lenses that will get you closer to your subject and deliver frame-filling photos. If you snap some nice macro images, or any type of photo, why not share them on our Facebook page – Our community is going from strength to strength and you could be part of it!

4 The 9 golden rules to macro COVER

Digital SLR, Issue 79

Photo Technique It’s time to get up close and personal for some inspiring images.

18 Photo Academy COVER

Ready to invest in a second lens? Don’t buy a thing ’til you’ve read this.

28 Take control of camera shake COVER Instead of battling against it, harness it to create stunning abstracts.

34 18 pages of projects COVER

Looking for a challenge or a rainy afternoon activity? Look no further: we’ve seven projects for you to try.

58 How Do I?

If you’re puzzled by painting with light or fazed by focusing, we have jargon-free answers for you.

64 T  ake perfect people photos COVER

Learn the simple tricks you need to get beautiful portraits every time.

READERS’ SHOTS 14 Feedback

Did you submit your images for our experts’ critical opinions and practical advice?

22 Reader Hero

Reader Gary Cox’s a wizard at taming wild animals. Find out how he creates his magical mono images.

52 You Shoot It

Matty Graham, Editor

Two readers share their landscape efforts with us. Will your pet portraits grace our pages next issue?

94 Photoblogs

Our readers are a creative lot – in case you hadn’t realised yet! – as these two sets of images show.

EQUIPMENT 69 Macro lenses COVER

Read our 9 rules and you’ll want to get closer so read our pick of the seven best macros for under £500.

74 If you buy one thing… COVER Each issue we recommend a musthave bit of kit. Under the spotlight this issue: the monopod.

76 Review

Will £65 buy you a reliable tripod? You’ll be surpised with the answer.

See the best of our readers’ landscape images on page 52 – here’s an image I shot on the Northumbrian coast.

the digital slr promise We like to make promises here at Digital SLR magazine. It means you’ve got something to judge us by and we’ve got something to live up to. Listed here are some promises that we’ll stand by in this and every issue of the magazine. If you don’t think we live up to these promises, tell us. n We’ll make sure every issue is full of easy to follow advice n We’ll never fill all our pages with images taken by professional photographers using equipment you can’t afford n We’ll never test equipment that costs thousands of pounds n We’ll always print lots of pictures by our readers Follow us on Twitter:

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62 Competition

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Issue 77 competition winner

Congratulations to Steve Newport from Frome in Somerset, who won our competition for a dream trip with Lakeland Photographic Holidays! issue 79  DIGITAL SLR  3

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In association with

One subject. THE nine rules you need to know. Welcome to the ultimate definitive guide

The nine rules to...

Magical Want to take a closer look at your subjects? Matt Cole shares his secrets for capturing frame-filling images



Get down low

If your chosen macro subject is an insect, a flower or fungus, it will generally look its best if photographed from ground level. Low-level images have more impact and look more professional than images taken from above. This may mean lying on your stomach so a plastic sheet to lie on can prove useful and if your DSLR has an articulating LCD screen, use it. If photographing an insect, focus on the insect’s eyes as that’s the part of the image the viewer’s eyes will be drawn to.

4  DIGITAL SLR  issue 79

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In association with Meet our expert Matt Cole Based in Leicestershire, Matt is passionate about wildlife and nature photography. See more of his images at www.


Shutter speed: 1/200sec Aperture: f/2.8 ISO 400 Lens: 35mm macro Notes: Macro lenses get you in close to your subject for a frame-filling image.

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In association with


Richard Keyte Morning “This shot was taken on a very misty morning in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex. I wanted to find a strong focal point, like a church spire, to peep through the heavy morning mist, but the area was very sparse and there wasn’t much about. “I enjoy shooting landscapes, so I’d be really keen to get some feedback on how I could improve my images in the future.”

Mist’s ability to simplify scenes works well with the shapes in this location.

MARK BAUER Misty mornings provide some of the most atmospheric conditions for landscape photography. It’s worth keeping an eye on the weather forecast and getting out first thing if the conditions look right, so full marks to Richard for making the effort. There’s more to it than just turning up, though, and misty scenes can be tricky to photograph. The brightness of the mist can cause exposure problems, with most cameras tending to underexpose, and Richard’s done well to avoid falling into this trap. Mist simplifies scenes, revealing planes and strong shapes in the image, and it’s worth trying to highlight these features when shooting misty landscapes. Although Richard’s image shows the shapes in the mist and the treetops rising above it, he hasn’t quite got in close enough to make the most of where the main interest is – the woodland area beyond the bracken in the foreground. A tighter crop places more emphasis on this area, and also cuts out the rather scruffy and distracting foreground, as well as the featureless sky above the trees. Finally, pulling down the highlights in the top third of the image has helped to reveal a little more of the interest showing through the mist. These simple changes all give the shot more impact.

The scruffy fo reground is distracting.

Get live feedback on your shots! Want our experts to give their opinion on your images? Head over to our Facebook page and look out for our live Feedback Friday sessions. The next session is Friday 19 April. All you need to do is post the image you’d like critiqued and we’ll reply with some positive and constructive advice. Our tips could be the push you need to improve your photos.

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Expert critique  Feedback

Our panel of experts: A select group of really clever photographers who have loads to say…

Matty Graham Editor A photojournalist for over ten years, Matty is particularly enthusiastic about action photography.

Ian Fyfe Technical writer Ian is a Sony shooter who likes shooting all sorts, but particularly enjoys getting in close for some macro shots.


Roger Payne Editorial director Roger has recently completed a 365 project, so is well-placed to dish out advice on your images.

Mark Bauer Pro landscape photographer Based on the south coast, Mark specialises in atmospheric images of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

Drew Buckley Pro landscape photographer Pembrokeshire snapper Drew shoots landscapes and nature, along with running location-based workshops

Scene is fairly dark and could have been brightened up on the computer.

Camera: Nikon D3000 Lens: 18-105mm Exposure settings: 1/80sec at f/11 ISO 100

Jim Spurgeon Snowdrop “I’m a newcomer to digital photography. I purchased a second-hand Olympus E-500 last year and try to get out as much as possible to practise with it. The snowdrops image was taken while my wife and I were out walking at Marks Hall in Essex. The ground was very wet, so I adapted by using my 40mm150mm lens. I didn’t have a tripod so tried to stay still.”

Drew Buckley The snowdrop is everyone’s favourite, classic winter flower. The snowy white teardrop petals together with the vibrant green stems are very pleasing to the eye, Jim’s done well to single out a specific flower and, by using a larger aperture value, separate it from the surrounding plants. Depth-of-field can make or break an image when it comes to taking floral close-ups. Selecting aperture-priority mode allows you to


The large aperture valu e separates the single bloom fr om the others nice ly.

Camera: Olympus E-500 Lens: 40-150mm Exposure: 1/80sec at f/4.5 ISO 125

choose the aperture and let the camera decide on a suitable shutter speed depending on your scene. Jim shot this image looking down onto the plant. With flower portraits, I’d always want to be on the same level as the plant. Dropping down to the plant’s level not only enhances the threedimensional appearance of the image, but also brings the viewer into the subject’s world, creating a much more intimate and interesting image. Also with floral portraits, composition is very important. Rather than putting the main subject in the centre of the scene, position it slightly off-centre on an intersecting third. Negative space is just as important as the main subject and helps to balance up your images. Remember you can always recompose your scenes in post-production using the crop tool.

“Depth-of-field can make or break an image when it comes to taking floral close-ups” Follow us on Twitter:

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Anatomy of a lens



01 Focus ring Manually adjusts the focus. 02 Zoom ring Changes the lens’s focal length and the angle of view in the viewfinder. 03 AF/Manual switch Enables you to switch between automatic focus and manual. 04 Front element Multicoated to minimise flare, which is when stray light striking the front reduces image contrast. 05 Rear element This is the most delicate part of the lens and should never be scratched. Inspect this area before buying.

06 Filter thread Accepts filters. The size is indicated on the front of the lens, eg. 58mm. 07 Lens hood Minimises flare, and also offers a degree of physical protection. 08 Distance indicator Indicates where the lens is focused in feet and metres from the closest focus distance to infinity. 09 ZOOM LOCK Locks the barrel and stops it from turning. 10 IS/VR/VC Image stabilisation/ vibration reduction/ vibration compensation, enabling you to shoot in lower light with less camera shake.

Learning about your camera is important, but reading up on lenses will help you buy the right gear and take better images


he zoom that came as standard with your camera does a very good job and handles most situations perfectly. But have you ever considered that simply by selecting a different lens you can dramatically alter your pictures? Perhaps you want to capture sweeping wide angles, or you may wish to magnify some interesting architectural detail. Alternatively, have you ever wanted to get really close up to your subject? A major advantage of DSLRs is you can do exactly this because you can change lenses whenever you like. Lenses open up a whole new world of creative picture making and choosing the right one for your image will soon become second nature.


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Get to grips with lenses  Photo Academy





09 01


02 10

03 above A lens is a complex piece of engineering. Take the time to learn about its components and how to use it.

Buying advice



• A DSLR is only as good as the lens you’ve attached to it and it’s a basic fact of photography that investing in a decent lens pays dividends. • B eware imports from eBay and other international dealers selling on the web, and purchases made in international airports abroad (so-called ‘grey’ imports). While the lenses are cheaper and still top quality, they’re usually not covered by UK warranty. • The standard 50mm prime is more affordable than you may think. • A skylight or ultraviolet filter left on permanently will protect the front element from damage. • If buying second-hand, look out for fungus in the glass or scratches on the rear element. Ask to see pictures of the glass if necessary. • Consider buying a tripod; it will help improve image sharpness. • Consider a decent camera bag and specialised camera insurance.

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above Fungus or scratches on the glass can affect image quality. Don’t make the mistake of buying a damaged optic.

issue 79  DIGITAL SLR  19

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Take Control Add some movement

Take Control

Move your DSLR to create

ABSTRACT IMAGES Laugh in the face of camera shake as Roger Payne shows how intentionally moving your DSLR can create stunning effects


amera shake has to be public enemy number one when it comes to taking photographs. I wouldn’t like to think how many times an image of mine has been spoilt by the dreaded wobbly hands syndrome. So, I thought it was time for some payback; here’s a technique where you can use your arch enemy to create some eye-catching abstract effects. Intentional Camera Movement (also known as ICM) does exactly what it says on the tin: you move the camera on purpose while the shutter is open. Action photographers use ICM all the time to create ‘panned’ images where the subject is sharp and the background blurred, but – as you’ll see here – it can also be used to create abstract images of almost anything. I headed to my local Forestry Commission (FC) site to create this image using fir trees. If you want to find your nearest FC site, visit It could well be worth you going down to the woods today...

from THIS


Equipment used > Camera > Kit lens > Tripod > Image-editing software

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Add some movement Take Control

use camera shake to your advantage

Turn over to learn this amazing technique Follow us on Twitter:

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issue 79  DIGITAL SLR  29

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LD roje an ecAP c t 4 – olaris io li or ts // 36 – F // Pro S E/• CLOS / P DS cLIt 4 •rWI t STIL ject LIF s c d o o l • s je io L je o tu P e d t o d FEP d s sta E-PUP – sp ojec ro S Ba stuOR – Sh // Pr lens ban k // S • SP TSoa ntW // LIGoject 5 ct 6 – Pr the prime ect 44 raffiti toboo iring a ct 2 – C •mLO e Pr HTProje , great g pho 50 – H Proje an ele ers // // ther // m filt filters wea shots

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issue 79  DIGITAL SLR  33

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Photo Projects >> Picture frames Project 6

You’ve been framed Stuck indoors with the kids driving you mad? Use a simple picture frame to keep them entertained and bag a fun family portrait at the same time In photography, we talk a lot about framing an image for the best composition. However, there is a way to take this technique a little further and capture a quirky portrait at the same time. The idea is simple, use a frame within a frame – a wooden picture frame to be exact. By having your subjects hold up a photo frame in front of their faces, the viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to and focused on what’s in the frame and therefore on your subject. In fact,


Find a frame


Set up your camera


Position your subjects


Take some test shots

human nature dictates that the viewer will probably ignore everything outside the frame. This technique has another major plus point – because models (particularly kids) are often nervous and fidgety sitters, having them hold the frame gives them something to do and helps them relax. Apart from the picture frame, your camera and a willing model (or two), you don’t need anything else to capture this unique and fun image.

Final image A unique image that’s fun for the kids and focuses the viewer’s eyes on your subjects. This project will definitely keep the kids (and you!) entertained.

Any picture frame will do, but you could choose a simple wooden frame or a fancy ornate one. First things first, remove the glass and print and, especially if kids are going to be holding it, make sure there are no sharp edges.

Kids have a short attention span, so have everything ready when they arrive. This includes the camera, so make sure it has a memory card in and is set to aperture-priority mode (A or Av on the mode dial). An aperture of f/4 should be fine.

Sit your subjects down in the appropriate position – I placed a black background behind my two little models for a nice, clean backdrop. Remember to communicate with them and explain what’s going to happen. Kids aren’t professional models, so keep the shoot light-hearted and fun.

With the subjects holding up the picture frame, fire off as many shots as you can because models (especially kids) will get bored and lose interest quickly. Try to keep the faces in the frame – if the kids lower the frame, the shot won’t work as well.

Make the photoshoot fun

Kids need encouragement when sitting for portraits. If you’re shooting two (or more), tap into their competitive streak and suggest a smiling competition with a treat for the winner. 48  DIGITAL SLR  issue 79

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Photo Projects >> Picture frames

What you’ll need > Camera > Lens > Picture frame DIFFICULTY RATING



Crop in


Turn your camera

Review your images and try to crop in; I zoomed in to keep the background as one colour. If you have to, you can always download the image and crop on the computer if you find that easier.

Now that the kids have done a picture together and have a bit of confidence, see if they will sit for a picture by themselves. You may want to turn the camera on its side and try a portrait format image. Follow us on Twitter:

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Join in too! >> This project can be fun for grown-ups too. Why don’t you use a remote release trigger, or your camera’s self-timer, to take some images of you and your partner holding up a picture frame each? And then share them on our Facebook page. issue 79  DIGITAL SLR  49

28/3/13 14:15:11

youshoot it In association with

Make Life Simple

Simon Anderson “As a train driver I get to see a lot of beautiful countryside on my daily travels and spotted this field between Lewes and Brighton. I went back on my day off in May last year, armed with my camera and tripod to try and capture some of that beautiful landscape. The sky was a wonderful blue which contrasted well with the green of the fields.” “For my coastal shot, I headed over to Bexhill-on-Sea to have a walk and grab some long exposures of the beach. I found these groynes leading into the sea towards the beacon and composed in portrait mode which suited the scene and made good use of the clouds.”

ABOVE A compositional tool that can produce interesting images is symmetry. Placing your focal point in the middle of the frame gives images a sense of balance. Simon has used this groyne to good effect as it also leads the viewer’s eye from the bottom of the frame to the top. Nikon D300s, 16-85mm, 112 secs at f/16, ISO 100 RIGHT Simon has managed to introduce motion to a bright sunny day by using a combination of filters. Along with an ND filter, Simon added a Lee Filters grad to darken the bright blue sky and balance the overall exposure. Good-quality filters, such as Lee Filters, are worth the investment as they don’t add unwanted colour casts to the frame. Nikon D300s, 16-85mm, 90 secs at f/25, ISO 100

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you shoot it Send us your best shots and you could bag a PNY memory card for your trouble. These talented readers did just that

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issue 79  DIGITAL SLR  53

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How do I? Picture-taking problems solved

Please send questions via email to:

This month’s e: topics includ

the moon

✓ Photograph roup shots ✓ Get great g ht ✓ Paint with lig l foca ✓ Get a longer ut buying length witho a new lens


Capture the moon? What lens and settings do I need to take pictures of the moon? Brian Gilley, Stoke Most of us associate the moon with darkness, since it’s out (usually) at night. In fact, it’s surprisingly bright, and when it comes to taking a photograph directly of it, you don’t need to do much differently to when you’re taking a picture in sunlight. If you want to capture detail of the moon, then your kit lens won’t do the job. A focal length of at least 200mm is ideal, although you can always crop in further on the computer later to make the moon bigger in

the picture. Put your camera into aperturepriority mode (A or Av) and set the aperture to f/11 – this should keep the detail as sharp as possible. There is one other setting that it’s important to get right though. In aperturepriority mode, the camera will calculate the exposure for you, but the dark sky filling most of the frame will fool it into overexposing. To prevent this, you need to change the metering mode to spot metering – in this setting, the camera will expose for the subject directly under the focus point. Once all of these settings are in place, focus on the moon, press the shutter, and you should have a moon masterpiece.

The dark sky will fool the camera into overexposing so change metering mode


Take group shots? What are the basics to taking group photos and what settings should I use? Callum Harrison, Facebook page When you’re with a bunch of friends or family, it’s great to take some shots of everyone together, but getting good pictures of large groups can be difficult. One of the biggest challenges is making sure everyone’s in focus. It’s best to get everyone at a similar distance from the camera and to use an aperture of about f/11 so even people in front or behind the focal point are kept sharp. Of course, we all know the perils of blinking when there’s a camera around, and it can also be surprisingly hard to get one picture in which no one looks like they’re dozing. One trick is to get everyone to close their eyes and open them on the count of three – take the shot just after three and everyone should have their eyes open. You could also use continuous shooting mode to take a burst of shots. To make group shots more interesting, don’t stand all your subjects in a rigid line. Ask them to do something, like hugging or shaking hands, so they’re interacting with each other – this will add some life and personality to your pictures. Again, using continuous shooting mode in this situation will help you capture great images. 58  DIGITAL SLR issue 79

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Your questions answered


Paint with light? I’ve seen lots of pictures I really like that are made by ‘light painting’. How can I do this myself? Wendy Thomson, Facebook page Light painting is great fun and really simple. All you need is a tripod, an LED torch and a subject. Set your camera up on the tripod and focus on your subject, then switch the lens to manual focus so it doesn’t move. Select shutterpriority mode, and dial in a shutter speed of about five seconds – you might want to experiment to get the effect you want. Turn off the lights so it’s completely dark, get your torch ready and trigger the shutter – it’s best to do this with the self-timer, not only because this prevents the camera shaking, but also because it gives you time to get into position with your torch. Once the shutter’s open, literally ‘paint’ light onto your subject by moving the torch beam all over it. Keep it moving for an even exposure, or concentrate on specific areas to make these brighter. Experiment with the painting, because each picture will be different. If you want to try it on a larger scale, head outside in the dark and paint subjects like statues or cars, or even make the light the subject itself, drawing shapes in the air. Most importantly though, have fun!


Zoom in further? I have a 70-200mm lens, but would like to be able to zoom in a bit further. Is there any way I can do this without buying a new lens? Jenny Hill, email Often you’ll find yourself in a situation where you can’t move any closer to your subject, but your longest lens doesn’t zoom in far enough either. Buying a lens with more reach means you have to do some more reaching – into your pockets. Thankfully, there are a couple of cheaper compromises. The cheapest and quickest is to use the lens you have and crop the image on the computer later. This gives the same effect as using a longer lens, except the size of the final image is smaller. If your camera’s sensor has 18 or more megapixels, the cropped picture should still be big enough to print at A3. If you want to keep the full size of your images, try a teleconverter. This fits between your lens and the camera body to increase the total focal length – usually multiplying it by 1.4x or 2x. Basic ones are tubes that literally make the light go further; more sophisticated ones incorporate a lens to maximise quality. There are drawbacks though – they reduce the effective aperture of your lens, meaning less light reaches the sensor, and they can introduce other artefacts if they’re not good quality. The key is to get one that’s as good as the lens you’re using it with – a cheap teleconverter on a top-quality lens just counteracts the quality of the lens. On the other hand, sticking one on a 70-300mm lens will give you a zoom range that would otherwise cost you thousands.

QUICK QUESTIONS Can I slow down the continuous shooting rate? >> Some more advanced cameras have two continuous shooting modes, usually called ‘Low’ and ‘High’, which give two different speeds. Many cameras don’t offer this, but there is a trick that might help. By setting your camera to take Raw images as well as JPEGs, your camera will have to deal with bigger files. This will slow it down, so in continuous shooting mode, the rate will be decreased. You don’t need to do anything with the Raw files afterwards if you don’t want them, although they will take up more space on your memory card.

How do I focus manually? >> First, switch your lens into manual focus. This is usually done with a switch on the left-hand side – make sure this is set to M or MF rather than AF. Once this is set, compose your image through the viewfinder and turn the focus ring on the lens – not the one you use for zooming. Turn it slowly and carefully watch the subject that you want in focus – you should see it get clearer, then as you continue to turn, it’ll become blurred again. Turn the ring back and forth until you find the point at which your subject looks clearest – this is where it’s in focus. Take your shot, and then zoom in on the LCD screen to check you got it spot on. If not, try again! Follow us on Twitter:

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issue 79   DIGITAL SLR  59

28/3/13 16:00:00

Develop Your Skills  Perfect your portraits


Perfect your portraits

Stuck in a rut or hit a wall with your people pictures? Stewart Bywater explains how to make the leap to quality portraits


ith the rise in social networking and image sharing, we are constantly bombarded with snapshots of our friends and family. However, while it’s all too easy to take a throwaway snapshot on your DSLR, or even your phone, to make a really good portrait, you need to put in a bit of groundwork and have at least a basic understanding of your camera’s settings. Don’t let this put you off though. This feature will arm you with all the information you’ll need to start taking breathtaking pictures that will not only reinvigorate your passion for photography – they will also make you very popular among your friends, family and even clients!

When we think of portrait photographers, our first thoughts are of artistic types, sitting in their huge studios, surrounded by enormous softboxes, reflectors and medium-format cameras. Well, times have changed, and as you saw in Issue 78’s Mega Project, it’s easy to take stunning portraits with just your DSLR and some window light. However, to maximise your potential and options, you need to familiarise yourself with a few settings and techniques that will not only improve your portraits, but your understanding of photography as a whole. The other thing to keep in mind is that taking great portraits is not a gift you’re born with – but with the right planning and preparation, anyone can take amazing portraits.

MAIN Make more of your subject by using good photo technique to capture a better portrait. INSET Interacting with your subject is key to bagging a successful portrait.

“To make a really good portrait, you need to put in a bit of groundwork” 64  DIGITAL SLR  issue 79

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issue 79  DIGITAL SLR  65

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On Test Macro lenses SPECIFICATION Focal length 70mm Maximum aperture f/2.8 Lens construction 10 elements in 9 groups Minimum focusing distance 25cm Filter thread 62mm Length 95mm Diameter 76mm Weight 527g Fittings Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma, Pentax (dimensions and weight for Canon fit version)

SPECIFICATION Focal length 40mm Maximum aperture f/2.8 Lens construction 9 elements in 7 groups Minimum focusing distance 16cm Filter thread 52mm Length 64.5mm Diameter 68.5mm Weight 235g Fittings Nikon


70mm f/2.8 EX DG With a medium focal length, is the performance of this lens average too? >> £369 STREET PRICE >>

this lens is like Sigma’s 50mm version, only one that’s spent the summer in a greenhouse and expanded in all directions. It’s still compact though, and the focal length has grown correspondingly, with an extra 20mm that puts it in the middle of our group. This means you’re slightly further away from your subject when focused as close as possible, so while the magnification is the same, you’re less likely to scare off jumpy subjects and won’t block as much light. It’s built solidly and feels high quality in the hand, and as with the 50mm version, the focus ring is extremely smooth and makes the fine adjustments necessary for macro work simple. With the focus limiter switched on, it’s no slouch when it comes to autofocusing, and there’s no hunting

but efficient lock on. It makes a buzzing sound that might not be appreciated by some living subjects, but it’s not as much of a problem as with the Tamron 90mm.





What are the results like? Among the best-performing lenses in our group, there’s very little difference when it comes to sharpness, but the Sigma 70mm just has the edge for us. With apertures between f/4 and f/11, detail is extremely crisp and this doesn’t change much as you move towards the edges of the image. There’s a hint of chromatic aberration in the corners, but this is no cause for concern. Detail is key for macro images, so this lens’s top sharpness combined with its convenient focal length and good build quality, makes the Sigma 70mm a fantastic buy.


40mm f/2.8 G AF-S DX The smallest, lightest and cheapest in our group, is there a compromise in performance? >> £185 STREET PRICE >>

for tight budgets, this lens is an attractive prospect. It’s near-on half the price of most in our group. It’s also the smallest and lightest, so won’t be a burden in your kitbag. This is down to the focal length of just 40mm, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. It means that when you’re taking a macro shot at maximum magnification, you’re right on top of your subject. No insect will sit still for this, and it might be difficult to light your subject when everything’s so close. Autofocus is extremely quiet, but not particularly quick and the focus limiter restricts it to focusing in the distance – this seems a bit odd for a macro lens. During focusing, the lens barrel extends, and when you’re already so close to your subject, there’s considerable risk of collisions.

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At such close quarters, manual focus is safer – the focusing ring drags a little, but it allows fine adjustments.

What are the results like? For the price, you might expect relatively low performance from this lens, but in fact it matches many of the third-party lenses. Most notably, at its sharpest aperture of f/5.6, it provides higher resolution than the more expensive Nikon 60mm lens. This is true across the frame, and even though there’s a little chromatic aberration at the edges, this is more than outweighed by the saving in your wallet. The focal length of this lens means it’s a bit limited in its practicality, but if you’re a Nikon user and you’re willing to work around the disadvantages, then this lens is a bargain.

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Macro lenses On Test SPECIFICATION


60mm f/2.8 G AF-S ED With the fastest autofocus in our group, do other aspects of this lens match up? >> £404 STREET PRICE >>

pick up this lens and it’s immediately clear from the weight that it’s well built – one reason that it’s at the top end of the price scale. Another reason for this is that the focusing mechanism is inside, meaning the lens never changes dimensions. The minimum focusing distance puts the glass almost 5cm from the subject, and this never changes – a big advantage for insects that might be scared by movement so close. Also helping in this situation is the almost silent focusing. There’s no focus limiter, but to be fair you don’t need one – this lens has the quickest AF action of our group, so if your main aim is to capture fast-moving insects, then this could make all the difference to your success rate. For manual focusing, there’s a large ring that’s

smooth when moved fast enough, but when making fine adjustments, it tends to judder.

What are the results like?



Focal length 60mm Maximum aperture f/2.8 Lens construction 12 elements in 9 groups Minimum focusing distance 18.5cm Filter thread 62mm Length 89mm Diameter 73mm Weight 425g Fittings Nikon

Considering the price, the image quality from this lens is a little disappointing. Even at its sharpest aperture setting, edges are not crisp and detail is soft. On the plus side, it’s excellent at controlling chromatic aberration, and there are no coloured fringes at any aperture setting anywhere in the image. But in terms of resolving detail, it’s beaten comfortably by most of the lenses in our group, including the much cheaper Nikon 40mm option. The extra cost for this lens gives you speedy autofocus performance and high build quality, but there’s a sacrifice in the detail you can capture.

VERDICT In practice, there’s very little between these lenses, and where there are shortfalls, there are advantages to bring things back. Both of the 60mm lenses from Nikon and Tamron produce images that lack sharpness, but the Nikon lens has a fast autofocus mechanism that’s great for insects, and the Tamron offers the widest useable aperture to achieve the shallowest depth-of-field. At the opposite end of things, the Sigma 70mm and Tamron 90mm lenses resolve more detail than any of the others, but the autofocus motors are noisy and not the quickest. If you’re on a budget, then the Nikon 40mm lens is by far the cheapest and its performance matches that of more expensive options, although this comes with the caveat of having to get closer to your subject. With the longest focal length, the Canon 100mm lens lets you keep the greatest distance from subjects, but it’s the most expensive and only a choice if you use a Canon camera.

One thing that’s clear is that you shouldn’t be afraid to opt for a thirdparty lens. The two most expensive lenses in our group are from Canon and Nikon, yet they are outperformed by cheaper options. Admittedly, the cheapest option is also a Nikon lens, but this comes with considerable limitations even though the performance is good. Magnifying detail is what macro photography is all about, so sharpness is one of the most important aspects of a macro lens. For this reason, our top choice from those that we tested is the Sigma 70mm lens. In truth, Sigma’s 50mm and the Tamron 90mm are on a level with it as far as sharpness goes, but our winner offers a more complete package. The 50mm lens is limited by inconsistency across aperture settings, while the Tamron is plagued by a noisy autofocus motor and the Sigma has the edge when it comes to build quality. Although the difference in price is relatively small, the more complete package of the Sigma 70mm lens represents slightly better value.

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issue 79  DIGITAL SLR  73

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Next issue in Digital SLR ISSUE 80 ON SALE 9 MAY

Jargon-free advice

Coast to a great shot See the seaside in a whole new light

Bag a photo bargain

Shoot your first wedding

Learn the right way to pick up a secondhand DSLR and save tons of cash

We’ll explain everything you need to know to capture that special big day

PLUS! DSLR-79-061 (NEXT MONTH)hbljcMG.indd 61

3 Capture creative reflections 3 Shoot stunning silhouettes 3 Explore London’s best locations 3 Make a DIY diffuser 28/3/13 14:36:39

Digital SLR Magazine Issue 79 - Sampler  

100% dedicated to helping you take better pictures with your camera. Each issue is packed with essential photographic techniques, reviews of...

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