All-in-One versus Prime Camera Lenses

Over the years, lens technology has improved and lens size has decreased.   Following on our post about buying a DSLR, we’re going to talk about camera lenses – specifically All-in-One versus Prime Lenses.

Way back when, if you wanted to cover the range from 28mm to 200mm when shooting film, you were probably carrying a 28mm lens, a 50mm lens, a 28-70mm and a 70-210mm lens.  Most high-quality zoom lenses were in the 3X range – that is a range of three times their base number.  Examples include 28-70mm and 70-200 or 70-210mm.  Yes, there were “superzooms” out there with 5X and 10X in those days, but they were known to be compromised in their quality – and if you wanted serious quality, you were carrying around prime lenses.

A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length – 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc.  Most of the time, they are going to give you better results than a zoom lens or a superzoom lens.  I have 35mm and 50mm prime lenses that I carry on a regular basis – they are fast (f1.8), small, and light.  They are relatively “cheap” – some call them “fantastic plastic”, and can’t be beat for interior or low-light photography.

Today – it’s common to see lenses in the 10X to 15X range, such as 18-200mm and 18-270mm or 18-300mm.  These lenses typically have an optical stabilization or vibration reduction feature as well.  Their quality has improved to the point where they give good to great results throughout their zoom range – and, if you’re not trying to make 30″x40″ prints, they’re great lenses.  In general, the longer the zoom range, the more compromises (vignetting, pin-cushioning, distortion) you’ll need to be aware of to deal with.

Today, many cameras at retail stores are sold as “kits” – you get the body plus an 18-55mm zoom and a 55-200mm or 55-300mm zoom.  Most everyone will find these kits more than adequate for their purposes and needs.  If you go to your local camera shop or one of the big camera retailer website, you might find a choice in kits to the point where you might find it’s the camera plus an 18-200 lens.

  • If you’re going down the all in one path – do your research.  Think about what you want to do.  Check out the manufacturer’s websites to see what’s out there: Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Pentax, Tamron, Tokina,
  • Check out reviews on the manufacturer’s websites and on the web.
  • Talk to your local camera store.
  • Check out reviews on the web: Ken Rockwell, Digital Photography Review, B&H, Adorama
  • And, once you’ve made your choice, enjoy it!

I can’t deny or argue the convenience factor of just carrying a body and one lens.  It’s something that years ago many of us dreamed of, but the quality just wasn’t there.

And now, I enjoy the guilty pleasure of carrying one body and one lens and being able to accomplish most anything.

Camera equipment for basic travel photography

Sometimes, The Frog travels lightly, and sometimes not.  This post is an outgrowth of the Buying a DSLR post, as it was part of that same discussion with a friend.  To me, travel photography means getting good results while traveling without a lot of stuff.  It’s easier these days, as the quality of all-in-one zoom lenses keeps getting better – and you can get great results if you know and work within the limitations of your lens.

My travel camera bag is about 10″x10″x6″, and divides into three “slots”.  It’s not huge – but there are times when convenience rules and I don’t want to be dragging a backpack around.  Since there’s not a lot of room for “stuff”, I have to think carefully about what I take because if it doesn’t fit in the travel camera bag, it doesn’t travel!  Camera equipment for basic travel photography isn’t always the same as the camera equipment I take when I’m on a photographic mission (such as trains or a specific landscape objective) – we’ll talk about that in the future.

Here’s a look at what’s in my “light” travel camera bag – camera equipment for basic travel photography.  This might give you some ideas about what you want, and/or how you might want to pack your camera bag for your travels.

The basics, which cover most travel photography:

(1) A Nikon D5100 body.  Compact, light, great low-light capability, and works well in the “idiot-proof” mode where it does everything or in a manual mode where I do everything.
(2) A Tamron 18-270mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens.  A great all-in-one zoom with stabilization, and it goes on sale from time to time!  Also comes with a great warranty.
(3) The camera’s battery charger and an extra battery.
(4) A microfiber cleaning cloth.  (Yes, T-shirts work too, but the cleaning cloth is kinder to your lens.)

The basics and indoor/low light: All of the above plus (5) a Nikon 35mm f1.8 lens.  A fast prime lens can’t be beat, especially if you’re taking pictures at night or in low light.

The basics plus: #’s 1-5 plus (6) a Nikon SB-600 external flash.  This can be used for fill flash during the day or a night/indoor flash, and it does a pretty good job throughout the zoom’s entire range.

The basics and landscape photography: (1), (2), (3), (4) and (7) a Tamron 10-24mm f3.5-4.5 Di II lens.  This lens does not have stabilizing or vibration reduction capability – so our friend the tripod often comes along with his friend the remote cable release.  If I really want to stuff the bag, the 35mm lens (5) makes the trip as well.

Good things can come from small places!


iPhone/iPad/Galaxy S4 Case Sale!

It’s Laughing Frog Images’ first summer, and time for our first summer sale!

Time to indulge yourself with an image you won’t find anywhere else, or, if you’re feeling really nice – give someone a unique gift!

iPhone 4 / 4S / 5 / 5C cases now $25.99!

Galaxy S4 cases now $25.99!

iPad cases / folios now $31.99!

Make one your own at Laughing Frog Images!

This sale ends August 31, 2014.

Remember that the printing process for these items is somewhat challenged by high-contrast scenes (for example, bright white clouds and dark areas / shadow areas in the same image).  As we’re not able to offer refunds for custom orders, choose carefully.  And, don’t be afraid to ask a question about a particular image.  We’re not going to push you to get a product that might not be all that you want it to be.  As small enterprises go, we’re as small as you can get, and we need happy customers!

My helper Ella

Sometimes, it takes me a long time to complete a post.

It’s not always writer’s block, or proofreading, or anything like that that gets me.

More often that not, it’s because of my assistant blog writer (or writers).

Here’s Ella deep in thought – or sleep – and quite content either way.  She likes being in the middle of the action!

ella at work on the keyboard


And that’s why sometimes it takes a while to write a post.  Or edit an image.  Or to scan slides.  Or to get much of anything done.

And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing…

Buying a DSLR camera

Recently, The Frog was asked by someone about buying their first DSLR camera.  Their kids are growing up, and they sensed a need/purpose to get a better camera to capture family moments and memories.  That got The Frog’s brain cells going, and after thinking about it, The Frog offered his advice, starting with the basics as DSLRs were new to them.  As it’s a worthy topic, it’s been expanded upon and organized a bit better for your information and consideration.

A DSLR camera is a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera.  Basically, it looks like a 35mm film camera that many of us grew up with, and has interchangeable lenses.  There are also many worthy “hybrid” digital cameras on the market – they look like a DSLR, but you can’t change lenses.  There are so many of those on the market that we’re not even going to touch on that subject!

Buying a DSLR camera

So… you want a DSLR.  The next question is “which brand?”  Major DSLR manufacturers include: Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony.  Most have a range of products over a fairly wide price range.  In general, as price goes up, so do available features and capabilities.  Where do you start?

First – think about what you want the DSLR to do, and what you want to do with it.  Do you want to simply click the shutter button and be done with it?  Do you want to be able to set the shutter speed or aperture and let the camera do the rest?  Do you want to have full manual control?  Do you want to be able to do low-light photography without a flash?  All of these answers will factor into your decision.

If you want to read some impartial reviews before you go to your local camera store or after looking and/or before you purchase, check out Ken Rockwell’s site or Digital Photography Review for information and ideas.  Reviews can also be found on the manufacturer’s websites and retailer websites.

If you or someone in your immediate family has a Nikon or Pentax 35mm film camera, you might want to focus your efforts (pun not intended, but it works!) on a Nikon or Pentax DSLR – many/most of their “old” lenses will work on their new DSLR cameras.  They probably won’t auto-focus or couple with the exposure meter – but they will work!  For those of you (like me) that have Canon 35mm film cameras, well…, you can still shoot film with them.

Do you want new?  Used?  Refurbished?  The Frog’s digital equipment is a mix of new and factory-refurbished “stuff”.  New is new, and needs no explanation.  There are great used products out there as well, as many people upgrade their cameras like they upgrade their phones when something new comes out.  Factory-refurbished items are available from the manufacturer’s websites and some retailers, and are cheaper than new, but often with a shorter warranty.  You can add to your “stuff” more economically and faster if you’re willing to consider used or refurbished equipment.

Then, after your thought and research process, I’d recommend a visit to your local camera store and not a big box retailer.  Local camera stores give you the opportunity to get hands on with the cameras and get your questions answered – and your questions are probably better answered by someone in a camera store than someone who may be selling a refrigerator one moment and then a camera in the next.  There’s a perception that local camera stores are overpriced which isn’t necessarily true – manufacturers have a great deal of control over pricing these days, so your local camera store is going to either have the same price as the big box retailer or be extremely competitive.  We all need local businesses to survive and thrive – so pay your local camera store a visit!  The Frog’s local camera store in the Los Angeles area is Samy’s Camera.  (The Frog also admits to purchasing on the internet, and he’s been buying from B&H Photo – Video for over 20 years.)

Once you’re at your local camera store, get the equipment in your hands and see how it handles and feels.  Ask if the store rents equipment – that gives you a chance to see how it performs as well.  Your final decision will be based on feel, handling, and results if you can rent to try as much as it will be on price.

Upcoming posts will talk about lenses and what’s in the Frog’s camera bags.  Those posts may give you more to think about as you consider a DSLR purchase.








Upcoming Blog Topics

Upcoming blog topics on Laughing Frog Images:

  • Buying a DSLR.
  • What’s in my “travel” camera bag?
  • What’s in my “serious” camera bag?
  • All-in-one lenses vs. Prime lenses.
  • Pocket cameras.
  • Phone photography gets serious.
  • The Gallery/Store and our product partner.
  • Scanning and growing the Galleries.
  • The smells of photography are gone.
  • The real Frog.
  • Photography, Food and Lodging. (Yes, they go together!  This will be an ongoing series.)
  • Our products and our philosophy.
  • Gift ideas.

Take a minute and subscribe by following the link below so you don’t miss upcoming blog topics and posts!

If someone you know is thinking about buying or replacing a camera, or simply likes photography, we’d appreciate you sharing this with them!

new gallery screenshot

Fireworks Photography: You Can! (3B)

At this point,

  1. you’ve got your fireworks images from last Friday,
  2. you’ve downloaded Picasa and gotten familiar with it – and now
  3. you’re ready to edit your personal fireworks photography!

(If you’re not – go back to the last post, download Picasa and catch up with us!)

The Frog decided that the best way to walk you through this was to create a video and show you instead of trying to tell you using words and screen shots.  You can see the processing step-by-step this way.  If we’ve done our job, you’ll see that you don’t need to be intimidated or nervous about processing your own work.

So, if you’ll click here you’ll be taken directly to the video in a new window, and in 4 minutes and 33 seconds, you’ll be able to process your own fireworks images!

Spoiler Alert:

Here’s what we started with:

DSC_7871_FB 320x

And here’s the final product:

DSC_7871 adjusted in Picasa fb

Of course, if you decided to skip all of the work last Friday night, you can just click here and select an image to make your own.  If you really want to make it easy, you can order it framed and ready to hang!  The Frog’s YouTube site shows you how you can make one of our images your own.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series on fireworks photography, and that we’ve been able to remove some of the real or perceived mysteries about fireworks photography.

Fireworks Photography: You Can! (3A)

Well, if you’re like most of us, you’ve got your fireworks pictures, and now you’re ready to process them.  “Processing” your fireworks photography means anything from straightening, cropping, darkening, enhancing, or any one of a number of things to get the result you want.

I have to admit that I realized I opened up a big can of worms when I said in Part 2 that the next post would be about processing.  As I started to write the post in my mind, I came to a screeching halt (yes, it was a funny sound in my head…) when I realized that there are almost as many different photo editing software programs out there (including editions and versions) as there are people that see this blog.

My first thought was that I really outsmarted myself this time, and that the Frog may be up the creek without a paddle.  Not that a frog needs a paddle, but work with me and follow along now that I’ve typed this far…

And then, a spark of brilliance – why not work with a free software that is easy to use and is compatible with both Windows and Apple so that anyone can get it?

One of the most common free photo editing programs is Picasa by Google (here’s a link to an article in PC Magazine if you want to check some other free programs).  Follow this link to download the current version of Picasa:

One of the other benefits of Picasa is that it will find and catalog every image on your computer if you want to have every image file in one place.  It had been a while since I’d seen Picasa – and I have to admit that I am impressed with how far it has come.  It’s very simple, but it’s also very powerful.

Part 3A of the series is going to stop here so that those of you who want to follow along in Picasa can take the time to download it, install it, and get familiar with it.  If you don’t want to use Picasa, you’ll still get the basic concepts so you can work in whatever program you choose to.

We’ll pick back up with Part 3B in a couple of days.