The Photography Gear Episode [IP65]

In IP Roundtable Podcast by Jim Harmer182 Comments

Photography is really about lighting, composition, and subject, but in this episode we throw the creative stuff to the wind and spend some time nerding out on photo gear.

What's in this episode

  • Recommendations for low cost wide angle lenses for Canon
  • What are the REAL differences between Canon and Nikon cameras?
  • If Canon photographers should use the Magic Lantern firmware
  • Information about choosing a tripod collar for your lens
  • Suggestions on whether it's better to upgrade a camera or buy a new lens
  • and more!

Resources mentioned in this episode

  • Jim's doodad of the week: The Light Blaster (You'll be entered to win a Light Blaster just by leaving any comment below!)
  • The new Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS USM lens which was announced this week (inexpensive wide angle lens for Canon full frame cameras)
  • The new Canon 10-18mm lens which was announced this week (landscape lens for crop sensor cameras) at only $300!
  • The Tokina 16-28mm lens is a great option for extremely sharp results for a wide angle lens.  See the Canon version here and the Nikon version here.
  • Join the Improve Photography Travel Group specific to the Oregon trip here, or join the group for the Iceland trip here.  Photography workshops are really expensive, so I'm going on these trips with readers of Improve Photography all around the world to give you a workshop-like experience for free!  It doesn't cost anything to go on a trip with the travel group–just pay for your own travel expenses and come join us.
  • Submit Questions for the Podcast

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For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page. You can see all the previous episodes of the Improve Photography Podcast here.

About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. Jim travels the world to shoot with readers of Improve Photography in his series of free photography workshops. See his portfolio here.


  1. Thanks for the podcast Jim! Always love the gear reviews even though it inevitably leads to more G.A.S. Thanks for the giveaway too!

  2. Thanks for another great podcast, and for helping us with our photography knowledge.

  3. Hey Jim.
    Good podcast this week, thanks. I was particularly interested in your Canon v Nikon comments.
    Two weeks ago I sold most of my Nikon gear and bought a bunch of Canon gear. So far, I’m regretting it. Maybe I will get used to the interface, but I am very disappointed in the sharpness and the image noise at relatively low ISOs. I’m not talking Rebel stuff; I bought a 5D3 and holy trinity of 2.8 glass plus some other lenses. Granted, the AF is sophisticated, but I don’t care if I can’t get good results. I think you were spot on with your comment about Nikon winning in the low light arena.
    I’ve listened to every episode of your podcast and I appreciate what you are doing for the photo community. Keep up the good work.

  4. My Life needs a blast, and what better from the light blaster it self.
    Thanks from a newbie

  5. Thanks Jim for all the hard work you do. I know that it’s not easy to do a quality podcast, but you always seem to get it done and the are phenomenal! So thanks for another great podcast and thanks for the info on the two new canon lenses. Take care

  6. An affordable wide angle lens! Nice!

    Thanks for the podcast! The light blaster looks awesome!

  7. Thanks for the podcast and resources Jim. I bought a yn-560 based on your recommended gear section and can’t be happier. I have since added another 560 and a yn-568.

  8. Thanks for all your hard work in producing these very informative podcasts, Jim. Have you ever used one of the “mega-pixel” bridge cameras like the Canon X50? I find it very useful in reaching those distant subjects like birds that the 70-200mm just can’t do.

  9. Thanks for the podcast and your time, Looking forward for the next one !

  10. Thanks Jim for the awesome podcast! I have listened and re-listened to all of them. Since taking your Portrait class, I’ve been experimenting with flash and this Light Blaster is definitely going on my wish list.

  11. FINALLY I have found time to listen to a podcast!! I recently took one of your online classes & have learned so much.
    Your podcast today gave me some great insight as welll.
    Thanks Jim!

  12. Thanks for the podcast – I look forward to it each week and I missed it during your move.

  13. Hi Jim, I think Tyrell from Baltimore (at 28:41) may have been asking about the three braces that connect the legs to the center column, rather than the different methods of locking the leg extensions. The Sunpak tripod he mentioned has these braces, as do many very cheap tripods. My take is that the cheap tripods are really flimsy, so they require these braces to give a bit extra stability, whereas the more substantial tripods are stable enough without them.

  14. hello Jim
    thanks for the podcast I always look forward to the next episode I started listening around January and recently went back to listen to all the episodes I missed.

  15. Hi Jim, I think Tyrell from Baltimore (at 28:41) may have been asking about the three braces that connect the legs to the center column, rather than the different methods of locking the leg extensions. The Sunpak tripod he mentioned has these braces, as do many very cheap tripods. My take is that the cheap tripods are really flimsy, so they require these braces to give a bit extra stability, whereas the more substantial tripods are stable enough without them.

  16. Hey Jim love the podcast been listening to it for forever and checking all the time for new ones. Count me in for the light blaster drawing! You can find me on Google plus +Daniel Bradley

  17. The Light Blaster looks pretty interesting… I may have to try it out and see how I could use it in a real world scenario.

  18. Love the podcast, listen every week! I learned a great deal and look forward to the next episode every week.

  19. I’ve been listening to your podcast for a little over a year now.
    I’m loving the Lightroom presets. Thanks! (*^_^*) /

  20. Your advice on a wide angle lens could not have come at a better time. My dad has just gotten into landscape photography and was looking for lens suggestions. Thank you for the wonderful podcast.

  21. I hate to say but some of the most useful info in this latest podcast was how to keep our spouses happy. lol
    It is amazing how little things seem to work like filling or emptying the dishwasher.

    P.S. I do love the photography tips too. 🙂

  22. Hey Jim, when Dustin left the show you had mentioned that you would try to have him as a guest some time in the future. Is that still a possibility?

  23. Great podcast as usual. Tell Dusty-O to stop by as a guest on the show to let us know how everything is going with him.

    #Light Blaster

  24. first time listener. I like what I heard. I’ll stay tuned.

  25. Thanks Jim for the pod-cast every time I go out shooting I think of whether there is something you have said that I can apply to it.


  26. Jim,

    Thanks for sharing with the photo community each week!

    Warmest Aloha,

  27. Appreciate your responses to listeners’ questions. Always learn something from those.

  28. Hope your day is great! Also, what super cool doodad to play with. 😉

  29. Thanks for another great episode! Always enjoy listening!

  30. Been listening for well over a year. Great reference for various types of gear. Thanks.

  31. I am in love with this podcast! I have loved photography my whole life, but I’m fairly new to listening to podcasts. Now that I have found this podcast, I am an addict! I was in the process of buying a new car when I found this podcast and I told my husband that I didn’t care about make, model or color, I just needed Bluetooth so that I could listen to “my” podcast! Keep up the awesome work! Your research is so appreciated!

  32. Hey Jim, I love the way you explain photography in plain english!

  33. Pick me! Pick me!
    Love the podcast! Finally caught up!

  34. Congratulations on the move.
    I hope you can find all your gear in the boxes

  35. I was eagerly anticipating the next episode. I’m glad you got moved into your new place. Congratulations! Thanks for your commitment to Improve Photography!

  36. Good stuff Jim. I appreciate your recomended gear. I have used it several time. My latest was the monoprice monitor. Thank you. Chuck

  37. Thanks for your podcasts, and I still enjoy listening to them each week. The light blaster is a great idea, thanks for letting your listeners know about such a great device. I can see it being a handy item in the bags of many people, myself included

  38. Hey Jim,

    I am just getting started in photography and stumbled onto your podcast recently. Love the show! I have already listened to about 35 of your shows and have learn so much! I am going to purchase the Canon 70D at the end of this month and can’t wait to apply what I have learned from your show.

    Thanks for all the great knowledge you are sharing with us!

  39. Love the podcast. First time I’ve listened to it. Will be back.

  40. Hey Jim,
    Just kidding, love the podcast keep up the great work!

  41. Love the Pod Cast Jim! Thank you for all you do and all you share with us!

    Now hit me with a LIGHT BLASTER!!!! 🙂

  42. I enjoyed the podcast on gear, especially the wide angle discussion for Canon Mark3. I will look into the Tokina, but wanted to know if you had any experience with:
    – Rokinon FE14M-C 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Lens for Canon (Black)

    Thanks for any feedback as this seems to have good ratings even though it is manual focus.

  43. I really look forward to listening to the Improve Photography podcast. Great show!

  44. I really enjoy your podcast and look forward to it every week. Thanks for all the great info!

  45. So there is another great Tokina wide angle for crop sensors: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II. Granted, it’s got some chromatic aberration issues but overall the lens is great ESPECIALLY for video!

  46. Hi Jim,
    I am just a photography enthusiast but your podcasts make me want to go and shoot photos every day ! Inspirational and educational! Keep it coming! Thanks!

  47. Hey Jim,

    Love the podcast and have listened since day 1. My train journey to work goes a lot faster with some Improve Photography and you’ve taught me a lot more than you probably realise! (and not just because I’d love a Light Blaster by the way!… Genuinely am grateful for all the effort you put in).


  48. I just discovered your podcasts. I look forward to many more.

  49. Hey Jim – Love your podcast, and thanks for the chance to win the Light Blaster!

  50. I just checked out the Light Blaster at — talk about a cool product. You’ve got to see the videos to “get it.”

    And thanks for fielding my question about using video lights for shooting portraits (a few episodes ago). For those who didn’t hear the response. Constant video lights are going to throw too much light at the subject and make them squint, resulting in a less-desirable portrait.

    Keep up the great work!

  51. hey was looking for a photography podcast and got lucky and found your podcast, good job with the eps but what do you think of getting the wifey a Sony RX100 ? too complicated or just right ?

  52. Love the podcast, just checked out the Light Blaster looks cool.
    Keep up the good work.

  53. This podcast came just in time. I was about to buy a wide angle lens, but now I am going to hold out and see how the Canon lens turn out. Thanks for all your work!!!

  54. I’ve heard good things about the Light Blaster! I hope you get a chance to demo it in a future podcast. Thanks for all your podcasts!

  55. Love the podcast. I’ve been an avid listener since the beginning. A few years ago I got thrown a high school photography class. I have since replaced myself with a far more highly qualified teacher but we share equipment ( I now teach film). I would love to share a light blaster too. Really cool stuff.

  56. Jim,

    Thanks so much for your podcast! I just found it a couple of months ago and have been gorging on past episodes.

    Also, thanks for the “heads up” on the Canon 10-18mm lens (I shoot with a 60D). And your doodad this week seems pretty cool! I just might have to get me one of those…


  57. Hi Jim!
    Thanks for the great podcast! It has been wery educational for listengin you while working (and no, i’m not a photographer, i’m an electrician).

    But the question that i have wondering is, what is the differents between speedlights guidenumber and studiostrobes WS-number?
    Is there some way to compare those number?

    Once again, thank you and sorry about my english 🙂

  58. Hey Jim, thanks for an entertaining ‘cast as always. I just purchased a Yongnuo flash (although I got the TTL version, sorry!) and the Cowboy Studio stand at your recommendation. Another new technique to learn!

  59. Hey Jim!
    Thanks for all that you do to help out with learning photography. Love the podcast and love that you always sound so happy on the podcast and you can hear how much you enjoy photography and teaching! Keep up the great work!

  60. Hey Jim,
    I’m from Gainesville Florida and I found your podcast on iTunes about 3 months ago. You have been extremely helpful to my wife and me. She has always liked taking photos and there are tons of portraits, landscapes, and flowers covering our walls. we like to take trips (especially to the smokies) and It has been obvious to me that the #1 thing “holding her back” was that she has always used a point and shoot. At the same time she loathes learning new technical skills and is easily frustrated by gadgets so I was always afraid of trying to get her to switch to DSLR. I bought a Canon Rebel on craigslist and started listening to your podcast and visiting your website with hopes that we could ease our way in and eventually she would know how and only want to use DSLRs. So far it is working out pretty well. I have really enjoyed all that you have taught me about the technical side of photography and I look forward to taking your lightroom class and hopefully some other good ones. Stefanie is enjoying taking lots of pictures and experimenting. We go out often to look for a shot or just cycle around off the beaten path and see what we see. It is clear that there is a lot to learn (and buy lol) and we have a long road ahead of us, but without knowing it you have been a valued companion. Thanks for enhancing this treasured hobby; I don’t think we would have been able to make the transition without you!

    Best Regards

    PS We love your photos and Stef says she hopes you were using a VERY long lens and generous cropping for your smug mug shot of that bear!

  61. Great podcast, Jim! I’ve learned so much this past year just by listening to your tips and advice. Episode 49 about sports photography has been really inspirational and one of my favorite ones ever.

    Keep up the great work, and I really appreciate and enjoy your podcast. There are so many out there and yours is one of the best!

  62. Great Episode. The comparison between Nikon and Canon is very useful.

  63. I found your podcast a few months ago. I love all of the ones I’ve heard almost got thru all. Anyway love the podcast and all the tips and camera news. The doo dads are great way to find and keep up with what’s new like the light-blaster. Keep up the great work! Mark

  64. Hi Jim!

    I’ve listened to your podcast for a very long time and have learned a huge amount. By far the best photography podcast out there. Keep up the outstanding work!

    So about this light blaster, send it to meeeeeeeeeeeee! 😀

  65. Hi Jim,

    I have added your podcast to my weekly listing since I recently found your podcast. I enjoy your information on “the gear” which gives practical approach to the gear vs. skills viewpoint.


  66. Jim,

    I love listening to the podcast, I’ve been listening from the beginning. It’s impossible to not be psyched on photography after listening to an episode.

    Have you thought about having some outdoor photographers? I would love to see Jimmy Chin, Andy Mann, Keith Ladzinski, Simon Carter, or other adventure/outdoor photographers on the podcast.


  67. Hi!

    Love your podcast! I’ve been listening to it for about a year and a half now. It’s great to hear all of your suggestions and opinions. Thanks for your time!

    P.S. I’d LOVE to win the clickelitesport camera bag. It’d be perfect for the outdoor lifestyle I live… One full of adventure!!

  68. Hey Jim,

    the tripod question also mentioned the points at the end of a tripod’s legs … do “real” tripods have those too? Do you have to buy them separately?

    Anyway, informative as always. Thanks!

  69. Jim,
    Why did my previous comment disappear? Did I say something offensive???

  70. Been very happy with the podcast, Jim! Thanks for doing it!

  71. Still not sure what the lightblaster is but it sounds fun!

  72. Jim, you do a great job in encouraging all of us fledgling photo nerds to keep moving forward. Your advice and helpful demeanor is as invaluable as it is honest. Thank you.
    Pat B brooklyn ny

  73. great episode.always good information. I need an ef-s wide angle and hadn’t really started to research it. Now I must wait for the 10-20 to come out. I do head shots for a living and that light blaster looks like a blast. I usually just use white paper. I MUST have a light blaster.

  74. Hey Jim,
    I love the Podcasts! Your work is amazing and inspirational! Keep up the great work.

  75. Love the podcast and the website! I’ve been a regular visitor on this site for well over a year now and really enjoy the conversations, insights, and especially the enthusiasm you bring to the world of photography and photo gadgets. Keep up the great work, Jim!

  76. Jim,
    Great podcast. Kudos to the depth on most everything; it’s deep enough to help people along the way and make good purchasing decisions, yet pulls back on the scientific info where most people’s eyes glass over and interest would be lost. I miss the banter you had with Dusty O; we all hope he is doing well.

    I did have a question about the Lensbaby special effects lenses. I see them on BHPhoto.

    Thanks Again,
    Rich Baker
    photo enthusiast

  77. So here’s the question about the Lensbaby: Have you ever used one? And secondly, can’t the same effect be achieved in post processing?


  78. Thanks for all these podcasts, they are truly a jump start for a novice like myself. I especially was interested in your inserted info on the new Canon ultra-wide angle 10-18mm. I am looking forward to when it is available.

  79. Great podcast. Thank you for all the hard work ! 🙂

  80. Great podcast Jim! Love the tips. I’m hoping to get my wife to take some pictures with me in them too! 🙂

  81. I checked some videos about that blaster and it’s pretty cool indeed! Keep the great show!

  82. Jim,

    Please thank Udi Tirosh and the rest of the Awesome folks at Spiffy Gear, “Thank You,” for making one of their amazing Light Blaster projectors available as a give-away on your show to introduce it to your listeners (US!).

    I just finished looking All Over their web site and think The Blaster is an exciting innovation.

    Whether I am fortunate enough to win this on, or have to wait until my next paid shoot to buy one – I am looking forward to using one of these – the possibilities are endless:
    – infant/toddler/youth portraits to add whimsical or sentimental surrounding ambiance and get away from those boring, standard backgrounds.
    – sports team/player portraits to put a stadium of fans around them
    – portraits at the prom venue – one light backdrop to lug, set up, and tear down, but every couple has a different background.
    – executive portraits – 30 different locations in 5 minutes without ever leaving their office!

    You get the idea…

    Thanks for all your hard work, too, Jim. Much appreciated.

  83. Hi Jim,

    These episodes are always some of my favorites – getting into the gear is always fun but I also like hearing what crazy things some of the other listeners are up to.

    The Light Blaster looks pretty cool. I’d love to use one in my shoots.


  84. Jim- Great podcast as always. The light blaster looks fantastic. Definitely will make boring backgrounds exciting! Looking forward to learning more and improving.


  85. Thanks for all of your recommendations, Jim. You’re right, too, about the excitement of seeing that Amazon box sitting on the front porch. I wonder what will be next on mine! 🙂

  86. Fabulous podcast. So glad I’ve discovered it. Looking forward to joining the FB photo group.

    Thanks for all your work.

  87. Love the show, especially learning tips for getting great results on a budget. I am an amateur/hobby photographer, and love to experiment, but often have to find more affordable ways to improvise and come up with the effect I’m looking for. I’ve picked up a lot of these ideas from your show, so thank you and keep it up!

  88. Just to re-iterate your comment to the question about the next bit of gear after a kit lens and entry-level telephoto. After my kit lens the first one I bought was the F1.8 50mm G, and use it for most of my pictures taken at parties and events. Indeed, at my nephew’s wedding a few weeks ago, that was the lens on my camera for most of the day.
    Definitely recommended, allows lovely formal and informal portrait shots, and (unlike my zoom lenses) Darktable has to add very little lens correction in post-processing.

  89. Hi Jim,

    I am hoping that I am not too late to enter the contest as I just got around to listening to the podcast.

    Love the show,


  90. Thank for your podcasts. I enjoy listening to them and have learned quite a bit from them. I appreciate your passion and your diligence!

    Would definitely love to try the Light Blaster – what a novel product!

  91. Hi Jim , thanks for doing the podcasts they are interesting and the blog is great.

  92. I am very new to photography. LOVING your podcast. Learning a lot!

  93. Just started listening to your podcast and am really enjoying it. Thanks for the effort! Also could help throwing my hat into the ring for the Light Blaster! 🙂

  94. I’m far from being a pro, but the podcast has helped me out a lot on just getting better. Thank you for all the helpful info.

  95. Thanks for the podcasts, great to listen to while I am stuck at work thinking about my next photo trip.
    Just back from 4 days in the Lake District in the UK, where I followed your advice about concentrating on getting good photos in one area and not running around trying to photograph the whole area.
    Keep up with the good work


  96. Thanks for the great podcasts as well as your recommendation of the ClikElete sports bag, looks great and is definitely on my wish list now!

  97. Great podcast. I noticed that you may have misunderstood one of your listener’s questions. He was asking about tripods with freestanding legs vs. tripods with the center braces and your answer was concerned with leg locks instead. Thanks for your podcasting. I’ve improved my photography a lot from all of your info.

  98. Enjoy listening to your podcasts. Informative, and a welcome
    alternative to radio or music while on the road.

  99. Love the podcast. I listen to several photo podcasts, and this is my favorite.

  100. Great podcast my photography improves with every episode, thanks for all the hard work

  101. Great podcast as always, Jim! That Light Blaster sounds really interesting. Also, I really love contests! I don’t know how hard it is to run them, but it sure is fun for us when you do. 🙂

  102. I’m writing to address the effectiveness of using Canon teleconverters. It seems that the vast majority of reviewers really dislike the image quality they get with a teleconverter. I have been really experimenting and practicing with teleconverters over the past couple years and have come to LOVE the results with Canon’s prime telephoto lenses. On Canon’s 300mm f/4L IS, I have shot with both the 1.4x II and the 2x II with great results. What is even more incredible is that I have also discovered that in good light, great results can be achieved with stacked 1.4x & 2x teleconverters on that lens. That gives me 840mm on a 5D Mark II for less than $2k. In practice, there is really no comparison between a properly executed teleconverter shot and a cropped image from a lesser focal length; especially when printing large.

    An example of a stacked tele shot is on my G+ at the website address I listed.

    From my experimentation & practice, the keys to image quality in this combination are:
    1) You need a subject that is relatively still to allow the necessary workflow with manual focus
    sturdy tripod & ball head. With the 300 f4L, I turn off IS when on a tripod.
    2) Live view mode (eliminates mirror slap vibration & gives detailed manual focus control when zoomed in)
    3) Stop down 1 stop beyond the wide-open effective f-stop of the combination (I use f/11 when using f/4 lens with 1.4x & 2x stacked)
    4) Increase ISO as necessary to get fast enough shutter speeds for the focal length (840mm).
    5) Use super long lens technique when shooting. I rest my left hand on the top of the lens and hold the camera grip to activate the shutter.
    6) Bear in mind that depth of field is not really based on the aperture setting with a teleconverter. It really decreases the depth of field by the multiplication factor. Therefore, 840mm at “f/11” really provides DOF of 840mm at approximately f/7. That DOF is razor thin, so exact focus and lack of forward/backward subject movement become extremely critical.

  103. Correction to the above:
    The stacked 1.4x & 2x on an f/4 lens makes f/11 the effective “wide-open” aperture (losing 3 stops). I get the best results at f/16 with that combo.
    Important note: The camera only recognizes that the 2x is mounted when stacking and the metadata shows 600mm. The camera will also allow selection of f/8 in this combo, which leads to really poor sharpness if selected. f/11 is definitely usable though and I have shot a lot of high image quality stacked shots at that aperture as well. f/16 is the sweet spot though.

    Here is a direct link to the full-res at f/16 on G+:

  104. I’m finally caught up listening to all your podcasts… a wealth of information for all levels of photographers. Thanks a million!

  105. Probably a little late on the Light Blaster contest. It looks like a cool toy among the many that are out there. Did I say toy I meant tool. Appreciate your energy.

  106. I have been a listener for over a year, and have to say that I have learned more here then any other single source. Well done! Awesome podcast. Thanks!

  107. Awesome Podcast!!! Have been a student and love the website and the information that you offer…

    Thanks for everything and continue to do!!!

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