Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens Review

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The Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX is a 180 degree autofocus fisheye lens for full frame cameras that offers a less-expensive, third party alternative to fisheye lenses by Canon and Nikon. This review of the Sigma fisheye will cover it as compared to the more expensive Nikon 16mm fisheye and to the budget Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 fisheye (see our full review of the Zenitar fisheye) to give you an idea of which fisheye lens might be the best option for you.

I’ve long been a big fan of fisheye lenses, as I really love photographing aquatic life. (A little corny fish eye humor for you to start this review off on the wrong foot…) I’ve owned or tested seven different fisheye lenses, so I’m fairly familiar with the strengths and weaknesses various lenses bring to the table. I also have to admit that while I am an avid fisheye user, there is a lot of potential for overusing the lenses because they are so fun, and that not everyone will like the (what’s sometimes called) gimmicky look.

When used in moderation, a fisheye lens is a great lens to have, but it may not be the best lens to devote significant funds towards unless you will be using it regularly. Whether this Sigma fisheye lens is perfect for you as a less-expensive option or whether you should go for more of a budget fisheye lens is something to give consideration before buying.

Before going any further, if you’re using a crop sensor DSLR (and if you don’t know whether you are or not, chances are that you are shooting on a crop sensor camera), this is not the lens for you. Instead, opt for the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, which remains my favorite crop sensor fisheye lens. My Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 review praises that lens for its cheap price, great optical quality, and unique characteristics. 

As is the case with all of my photography reviews, this is a “real world” review, meaning that it’s based on my use of the lens in the regular course of taking photos in the field, not arbitrary photos in a sterile lab. Some people love to photograph lab charts and look at straight out of camera shots at 100% to take a pixel-peeping look at things, but I’m not one of those people. As an actual photographer who actually takes photos, I see more value in how the lens actually performs in actual scenarios, and how edited photos from it actually look. As such, that’s how I review lenses. Actually! ;)

With that said, let’s take a look at what makes this Sigma fisheye special… (more…)

Sony RX100 III Review

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The Sony RX100 M3 is the newest advanced-level point and shoot camera, and further improves on Sony’s RX100 line to maintain its place as the best point & shoot camera currently on the market. I’ll make that much clear from the outset: the Sony RX100 III is without a doubt superior to every other pocket point and shoot camera, and for many people it will rival a mirrorless or DSLR system. This camera is that good.

This should really come as no surprise to photography enthusiasts. For each of the past three years, Sony has released a new camera in the RX100 line, each of which has taken the crown as ‘best point and shoot’ with its release. I won’t bother going into the line’s history or explain why it’s so technically impressive–if you’re interested in that, check out my original Sony RX100 Review. In terms of image quality, everything that I wrote of the original Sony RX100 is true of the new RX100 III, except perhaps to a greater degree. The new Sony Rx100 camera always has new bells and whistles…and has a higher price tag. In this Sony RX100 III review, we will take a look at the newest Sony RX100, and judge whether it’s worth the added cost over previous models in light of the new features it brings to the table.

For this version of the Sony RX100, a lot has changed. Much more than changed with the Sony RX100 II, which was an improvement, but the model many photographers skipped. The Sony RX100 III is a very worthy upgrade that brings a lot more to the table, but it also brings a considerably higher price, too. This is what has me torn on the camera: on the one hand it does take the ‘enthusiast point and shoot’ camera concept to the next level with upgrades in both features and image quality, but on the other hand, might the money be better spent elsewhere? (more…)

Easy Tips for Better Photo Composition at Disney

Photography composition can be a tricky thing, especially in an eye-catching and frenetic environment like the Disney Parks. Many people know some vague basics about composition, like the Rule of Thirds, but it can be tough to apply any “rules” when actually running around the parks taking photos. With so much going on and such a rush to do other things (you know, those pesky “attractions” that your families always want to do while you’re trying to get down to important business and take photos!), it’s often easier to snap a photo of something nice-looking than slowing down and taking the time to worry about composition. After all, with a pretty subject like Cinderella Castle, does composition really matter?

Yes, yes it does. Composition is the bedrock of photography, and without solid composition, photos can lack that what it takes to be compelling to viewers. Photos certainly can still be pretty, and often pretty is enough, but pretty and visually compelling are two totally different things. A pretty photo is well, pretty, whereas a visually compelling photo grabs the viewer’s eye and speaks to them for some reason or another. Especially in the setting of the Disney Parks, it can be very difficult to distinguish the two, because virtually everywhere you turn, you will encounter something that is pretty.

In this sense, photographing Walt Disney World or Disneyland is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. The environments are so beautiful that even a compositionally weak photo can look great. And frankly, there’s nothing wrong with these simple photos of pretty subjects. I do it all the time with Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, and a multitude of other subjects, and I will be the first to admit that many of my photos of the parks are incredibly basic in terms of composition, and are instead just pretty. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, so if you look through your own Disney photos and see a lot of weak compositions, don’t feel bad. At all. With that said, I think the best photos are both pretty and visually compelling.

Ever done Expedition Everest at night? It's a BLAST!

If you’re already confused, that’s okay. Composition is one of those topics that’s incredibly difficult to fully master, and it can be very tough to learn. In fact, some people say that you can’t learn composition. It’s more a naturally intuitive thing, and either you have an eye for it or you do not. While I think this is true to a degree in that some people have a natural eye for what makes a compelling photo without really ever thinking about it, I do not believe that others cannot train their eyes to pick up on compelling composition in scenes. To me, it’s sort of like baseball: there are those individuals who naturally have a sweet swing, but there are also those who spend thousands of hours in the batting cage tweaking their swing and doing everything they can to set themselves up for success.

Let’s take a look at 5 basic things you can do to improve the composition of your photos. Even if you don’t understand all that abstract jibber-jabber above, these are quick fixes that just about anyone can employ! (more…)

Photography Reviews

Looking for the best camera (point and shoot or DSLR), lens, or other photography gear and equipment to buy? This photography buying guide offers helpful “real world” ratings and reviews on photography equipment from an actual photographer (take a look at my photo galleries to see my work). Although my specialty is landscape and travel photography, the gear reviewed can be used in a whole range of photographic scenarios. If you’re not interested in learning about photography, but just want to find Disney photos to download or print, click here.

Before considering any camera and photography equipment upgrades, it is a great idea to learn about photography. Use online resources (Google can find a tutorial on anything!), but if you want to learn the basics or read something more thorough, we recommend books (read our book reviews). The book we always recommend starting with is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Seriously, get it. All of the expensive equipment in the world won’t help you if you haven’t learned the basics, and that book is the best way to learn the basics. A book is a lot cheaper than a new lens, and if you’re a beginner, that book will improve your photography more than a new lens.

No camera “takes good pictures.” Some cameras can help an adept photographer more than others, but if the person taking the photos doesn’t do things right, photos taken with a $2,000 camera can look worse than photos taken with a camera phone. Likewise, many experienced photographers can take better photos with an iPhone than inexperienced photographers can with expensive DSLRs on Auto Mode.

The point being, it’s important to learn the fundamentals of photography in addition to buying shiny, new toys. This guide will start by providing resources for learning more about photography (the most important step) and then reviews and information concerning buying more tools to improve your photography. (more…)

Mailbag: New Camera For Disney Under $500?

I often try to write posts that indirectly answer frequently asked questions we receive via email, but for a new weekend series (hopefully…depending upon how many emails we get!), I wanted to do posts that directly answer your reader questions with quick-hit blog posts. I posted about this Friday on Facebook, and thought we’d get started right away with our answer to a reader question. If you have a question you’d like us to answer in a blog post, please send it Questions@DisneyTouristBlog.com.

Reader Nancy L. asks:

“…I have a point and shoot camera, but it’s several years old and I don’t like the quality and I wasn’t happy with my photos on our last trip…I’m going to WDW this summer and want a better camera before then. I am willing to spend $500 but don’t know what I should buy…”

One thing not mentioned in your question is how serious you are about photography. I ask because, while the equipment you use is important, it’s more important to know how to use whatever equipment you own. Your current point and shoot may be able to do everything you’re looking for in a camera, it may just be a matter of learning more about it and photography and unlocking its potential. To that end, I highly recommend reading the manual if you haven’t already, and grabbing a couple of books on photography. My top recommendation is Understanding Exposure, which is an absolute must-read. Beyond that, I have a list of recommended photography books that will help. Your local library should have most of these, so you might not have to spend any money to capture better photos.

With that said, you might already know all there is to know about your camera and a good amount about photography, and may still be unsatisfied with your camera. Or, you may not want to learn about photography, and just want a camera that does better in auto mode. There’s nothing wrong with that, and while every camera will perform better with the photographer choosing the settings, it’s also true that nicer cameras in auto mode will produce better results than in auto mode than lesser cameras.

Since you’re using your camera for travel, size might be a consideration, so I’m going to provide a couple of different options with that in mind. Essentially, you’re going to be making a trade-off of either smaller size or better quality. Regardless, either solution can capture great photos (I shot all of the photos in this post with an entry level DSLR or point & shoot). As far as budget goes, $500 may seem like a lot, but in the world of photography, it won’t get you too far. In fact, for my two main suggestions, you’re going to be just on the cusp of needing to spend a tad more to accomplish what you need.

Let’s take a look… (more…)