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Want to spice up your photography life? How about a new lens?

When considering optics, you have many things to think about: sharpness, distortion, durability, focusing speed, and cost, just to name a few. All of those factors are important. But before you get to the technical aspects, I offer five considerations that might help you narrow down the list of candidates.

lens_ options.jpg Your kit lens (on the right) is great for general photography. But what if you want to do something different? Maybe explore low light compositions? Consider adding a fast lens (left) to your kit.

In my latest TechHive article, Five tips to help you choose a new camera lens, I cover perspective, maximum aperture, size and weight, stabilization, and emotional appeal.

Once you've covered those bases, then you should have a short list of lens candidates to choose from.

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I just received my Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner (Lomo) and have had fun testing it. I have my unit now because I participated in the Kickstarter funding. Retail units will be available very soon online.

The Lomo enables you to connect a smartphone, in my case an iPhone 4S, and scan 35mm film strips. The internal light is powered by 2 AA batteries. Operation is simple. Feed the film into the unit using a knurled knob, turn on the light, mount your phone, and take a picture of the illuminated image.

wild_bill_ellison.jpg Retired Dr. "Wild Bill" Ellison photographed in his study in 1991 using a Contax SLR and Ilford XP2 film.

You can use any photo app to take the picture. I prefer using ProCamera because of the controls it provides. Once I captured the image, I used Photoshop Express to invert the picture to make it a positive (Effects > Invert). After a bit of image adjustment, I'm ready to share my photo with the world.

1935_chevy_truck_front.jpg Front grill of a 1935 Chevy truck photographed in 1993 with an Yashica FX2000 and a Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 lens using Ilford HP5 Plus film.

The good points for the Lomo include:

  • Low cost (around $65) and very compact. Fits easily in your daypack.
  • Easy to use with quick results.
  • Free iOS and Android scanning apps soon to be released.
  • Great way to share your film archives or current projects on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and other sites accessible from your mobile phone.

Not so good points include:

  • Device only uses a portion of the resolution available on your iPhone. After cropping out the abundant black area, the final size of the scans were around 1200 x 1800 pixels.
  • Doesn't accommodate mounted 35mm slides.
  • Design isn't that robust, so handle with relative care.
  • Bottom line, however, is that the Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner is fun, and is about the easiest way to digitize 35mm film strips. I'm looking forward to publishing more of my film work from past decades.

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    Inside my Pro Messenger Camera Bag


    In last week's podcast, I talked about how I was going to prepare for the St. Patrick's Parade assignment in San Francisco. My basic equipment list was:

    Originally I was thinking of using the 60D instead of the 5D Mark II. As it turned out, I had to send my 60D to CPS to have the grip reglued. So I went with the 5D Mark II with the 70-200mm, which I used most of the time. But when I did need a short lens, I grabbed the OM-D. I prefer this to changing lenses while on the run.

    Here's a 1-minute peek inside my Pro Messenger 200 AW to show you how I set up the bag.

    I carried this rig all day, logging miles up and down Market St., across the water on the Larkspur Ferry, and with me in restaurants for some after-assignment celebration. (I don't like to leave camera gear in the car!) I'll be working with this same set-up later this week for my 3-day assignment covering the Artisan Cheese Festival.

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    Beautiful weather and happy people were the highlights of the St. Patrick's Day celebration in San Francisco. Here are a few images that show why this is such a popular gathering year after year.

    St. Patrick's Day

    St. Patrick's Day

    St. Patrick's Day

    St. Patrick's Day

    St. Patrick's Day

    Photos by Derrick Story.

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    I bet you rarely use Noise Reduction in Aperture. Probably because it doesn't work that well... at least not for its intended purpose. What it is good for, however, is rendering more pleasing skin tones for your portraits. Here's how.

    Noise Reduction for Portraits Model Francesca Parnigoni already has great skin. Using my noise reduction technique, I was able to soften it just a bit without losing its natural texture.

    Noise reduction, when applied as illustrated here (2.0 Radius; 0 Edge Detail), creates a slight softening effect without losing the natural textures. So when you have a subject that has nice skin, you can retain its characteristics while creating a subtle, but appealing enhancement. In Francesca's case, I want to see those faint freckles. They're attractive. Most skin enhancing techniques would wipe them out. But not this one!

    Basic Steps

    • Choose Noise Reduction from the Add Adjustment popup menu. Make sure the box is checked.
    • Set Radius to 2.0 and Edge Detail to 0. The effect is now applied to the entire image.
    • Click on Gear icon in the Noise Reduction brick and select "Brush Noise Reduction Away" from the popup menu.
    • Use the brush to paint over the eyes, eye brows, and selected hair to remove the noise reduction effect from those areas. (They will return to their original sharpness.)
    • To check your work, click on the Gear icon in the floating Noise Reduction palette, and select Color Overlay. You'll be able to see the areas where you removed the noise reduction effect.
    • Turn off color overlay, and enjoy.

    Eyes will now be their original sharpness, but skin receives the subtle enhancing effect. If you need further work on the skin, you can always apply the skin softening brush. Just make sure you're not too heavy-handed.

    More Aperture Tips and Techniques

    To learn more about Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

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    Leica 25mm on OM-D

    The Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH Lens ($499) for Micro 4/3 cameras brings a fast prime lens to the mirrorless form factor at a relatively reasonable price.

    I've tested this lens for a variety of shots, mostly when set to f/1.4, and have a few images with comments to share.

    Natural Light Portrait Lens

    Capturing portraits with the Leica set to wide open on an Olympus OM-D is pure joy.

    It's sharp where you focus it, there's nice softening outside of the focus area, but the falloff isn't so steep that you ruin shots due to misfocusing.

    Francesca Parnigoni Portrait
    Model Francesca Parnigoni

    Francesca Parnigoni Eyes Francesca Parnigoni close up

    The 25mm focal length forces you to interact with your subject because you can't stand too far back. I'm definitely adding this lens to my portrait studio kit.


    It's sharp. The autofocusing on the OM-D was fast and accurate. And even though the lens doesn't have image stabilization built in, the OM-D does. So you get speed and IS... and excellent detail.

    Sharpness Test

    Here's a screen capture from Aperture showing the loupe magnified to 200 percent on the detail of the top basketball. Notice the texture and the clarity of David Stern's signature, even at 200 percent.

    I opened the aperture to f/1.4 for the basketball image. Actually, I rarely shoot at any other setting with this lens. Also note how the background is nicely softened.

    Color Fringing

    I had read that the weakness of the Leica 25mm is some color fringing in bright, contrasty light. I tried to duplicate those results in my own testing. But I didn't see much in my shots.

    Chromatic Aberration Test

    Here's a screenshot from Aperture with the magnifying loupe set to 200 percent. I examined all of the tree branches too, and they looked the same as the lamp. This image was captured at f/4.5. There may be different results at different settings. But overall, I had no problem with color fringing in my initial tests.

    Bottom Line

    The Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH Lens is worth every penny of its $499 price tag. Included in the box is a bayonet mount lens hood and soft lens pouch. I'd recommend getting a 46mm neutral density filter to allow you to shoot at wide apertures outside. Because that's the real joy of this lens.

    Having a compact f/1.4 prime that fits in my pants pocket adds value to my micro four thirds system. It's this type of glass that increases my trust in the system for assignment work as well as creative projects. I love it!

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    Take a look at the Olympus Micro Four Thirds Gear Guide for an overview of cameras, lenses, and accessories.


    You have two cameras on your iPhone, why not put them to use? That's the feeling of Toad Murphy, the group that created Dblcam.

    This free app captures two image in quick succession. The first with the back camera on the iPhone, then a second with the front. The obvious users are the growing numbers of selfy photogs on Instagram and Facebook. But the app has potential for anyone with a creative bent.

    I recorded this image during a midday stroll on one of my favorite walking paths. I captured a half dozen images, liking them all, but preferred this version that I shared on Instagram.

    If you're in the mood to try something different, Dblcam is definitely worth a look.

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    This week on The Digital Story: It's me and 100,000 Irish this coming Saturday for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in San Francisco. Here's how I'm going to prepare for this crazy assignment. Lowepro's new Flipside 20L AW outdoor backpack. Our first advanced workshop covering the Artisan Cheese Festival. All of this and more on this week's podcast.

    Story #1 - Preparations for St. Patrick's Day Parade Shoot, SF, March 16 - 100,000 in attendance. Gear: Canon 60D and OM-D, Canon 70-200mm f/4, Canon 40mm f/2.8, Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8, Olympus 60mm f/2.8, Canon 320 EX Flash Going to catch the ferry in Larkspur to downtown SF to avoid traffic. Why did I choose this stuff for the shoot?

    Story #2 - Lowepro has just introduced the Flipside Sport 20L AW, a lightweight and breathable bag to use during their outdoor adventures. The Flipside Sport 20L AW fits 2 pro SLR cameras with integrated grips (one with attached 300mm f/2.8 lens), 2 extra lenses and a flash, a tablet or laptop, tripod or monopod, a battery charger and other accessories plus trekking poles and other personal gear. The backpack is available now priced at around $180.

    Story #3 - -- The Artisan Cheese Festival Shoot will be our first advanced workshop. Three TDS photographers will be working with me: Scott McDaniel, Jeremy White, and Jeff Dickerson. I'm really looking forward to this. Then in June we have the TDS Workshop on Movie Making (June 15 & 16). A couple seats are open!

    Listen to the Podcast

    You can also download the podcast here (26 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

    Monthly Photo Assignment

    The March 2013 photo assignment is Black & White.

    More Ways to Participate

    Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

    Podcast Sponsors

    Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

    Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography. Take the SizzlPix Challenge - See how your photo will Sizzl by getting a free 5x7 section of an uploaded image. Just put TDS or The Digital Story in the comments to get your free SizzlPix section.

    Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to save 20% at check out.


    In the case of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, you get what you pay for. At least that's the verdict of DP Review in their post, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM review. Bestowing a Gold Award on the $2,100 pro zoom, Andy Westlake writes:

    "...quite simply the Canon offers such exceptionally good optics that, if you're after the very best, there's simply no other choice."

    Personally, there is much about this lens that I admire. But for my photography, I want image stabilization for that large of an investment.

    How do you feel about it? If you want to share your thoughts, I've started a conversation on our TDS Facebook page.

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    A Slow Motion Feast


    In the post, 20 Things That Are Way Better In Slow Motion, we're treated to 20 film clips of activities recorded in slow motion.

    Among my favorites are popcorn exploding, a bullet smashing into a wall, frog hopping across a pond, an eagle snatching its prey, and a cymbal being struck by a drum stick.

    Fun stuff, all playing right on the web page.

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