Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Back in the New Year

Alas, the year end rush is getting to me as well. Will be taking a break from posting until the New Year. Until then, wishing you a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This Picture Didn't Need a High Resolution Camera

Taken sometime last year in the middle of a "fog" storm...
Heron on Log, Fraser River, Richmond, B.C., Canada
In this situation, the thing is to avoid the temptation to zoom into the bird. This heron was quite happy in its solitude, perched on the submerged log in the middle of the river. There was not much else to see, flog had blanketed everything. Hence, all of the "negative" space left in the picture frame. If the picture had been composed tighter on the heron, that sense of being lost in the fog would have been gone. Yes, you do see less detail when the subject is this small in the picture frame, but remember, the camera is a tool for capture images, and not just merely detail.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tamron SP AF17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di Review

I had big plans to review this lens. I was going to do a full comparison on my D80 and on a full frame D700. Quite frankly I wanted to see the results myself, since I had been saving this lens, along with a few others, for an eventual switch to full frame. Alas, plans change. I found a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 for a sweet deal, which was just about the time that financial sense was telling me that a D7000 was more appropriate for my future. Sigh... goodbye Tamron 17-35. At least it found a nice home.

This is a  reasonably sized lens. The barrel is fat and the front is wide, taking 77mm filters. However, the weight is quite light for its size, which is not a reflection of it's build quality, which is in keeping with what you would get with a D90 or D7000. The lens isn't bulky, and you can easily walk around with it. The zoom ring has a nice light feel to it, and does not require a zoom lock like some of the other Tamron lenses. The petal hood, to be quite honest, is not terribly useful, as it only shades the lens at its widest focal length... on full frame cameras. Still, this is an issue with all wide zooms, and it is nice to have the added protection of a petal hood on your lens, especially since the front glass element is quite curved... if you're not careful you might find yourself bumping into things with it. 



Vault Room, Century House Restaurant,Vancouver B.C., Canada

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Good Craiglist Post (Part 1)

For all of the time that I spend picking apart dubious Nikon D700 posts, I thought it was time to share one that is a nice simple post, that doesn't raise any red flags, and which would actually compel me to follow up with the seller.

***

FS: Nikon D700 Mint Condition <17,xxx - $2200 (Burnaby)


Date: 2010-11-28, 9:34AM PST


Nikon Full Frame camera with superb ISO.

Got all the box, accessories (strap, batteries) and paperwork. There is a tiny scratch mark at the bottom of the camera. Bought in BC and still under warranty (1.5yrs left)

no shipping, local cash only


keywords, d7000, d700, fx, nikon, pro, professional, best, slr, dslr 

***

This is a beautifully simple ad, the camera practically speaks for itself. The poster doesn't do too hard of a job selling the camera... if I were to hazard a guess, he is probably targeting somebody moving up from a DX camera than than trying to find a professional looking for a backup body. This is very conscientious person, has laid out the fact that there's a scratch on the body ahead of time, which to be quite honest, is something that you would expect from normal use.

The warranty is moot, since Nikon warranties don't transfer... Here in Canada, Nikon warranties last for two years, so 17,000 shutter clicks in about 6 months is a fair amount of usage in six months time, but is not unreasonable if you are dealing with somebody who shoots for a living. It's still relatively young in the life of the shutter mechanism, and the asking price is in line with the current used market.


All in all, this would be worth following up on if you were looking for a used D700.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Anatomy of a Craigslist Ripoff (Part 5, D7000 Edition)

Original posting as follows -

***

Nikon D7000 - $1249

 Date: 2010-11-25, 6:45PM PST



Im original Owner this camera Purchase week ago i show u original receipt From local store

come with 2 year warranty
Some financial Reson so why im selling

was purchase this camera $1279 + HST= 1432 total Purchse Last week from local store








  
***

Usually there's a a talking point to these scam tear downs, but I think the lesson for this one is pretty clear... if you're going to post a picture of the item, post a picture of the item, not the manufacturer's promotional file. Price is right, and item is right, they picked a hot item that's in short supply. However, despite the large immigrant population around here, I can tell you that even English as a second language is not this bad.

Were you to actually respond to this post, I'd think that you'd find that the perpetrators are likely from out of town somewhere trying to grab your hard earned money.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making Money Trading Lenses

I recently sold my Tamron 17-35. I got a little more for it than I paid for it about two years ago. (Overall I lost a little on it because I spent extra to to replace the easily damaged petal hood.) Same goes for a Nikon 24mm AF f/2.8 I had for a short period of time that I had this year. Taken together, the cost of ownership for  these two lenses was essentially zero, not factoring in inflation or currency exchange.

The smart money is on lenses, but only if you choose your lenses smartly. Buying a used lens is like buying a used car... somebody else has paid for the depreciation. The only difference is that you can keep using a well kept lens... a car will breakdown eventually. As much as the world has advanced in terms of technology and manufacturing, it's still time consuming and relatively expensive to produce good optics. That's why lenss are such a good value on the used market.

  1. Don't pick kit lenses. There are too many of them out there.
  2. Pick a lens that has good reviews and tests well. Don't pick one merely for the name brand. About the same time that I was selling my Tamron, a Nikon 18-35 went up for sale as well. I made my sale... the Nikon stayed up on Craigslist for much longer. Why? That particular Nikon actually costs more, but is worse off optically. Some people won't touch the third-party brands, but in the age of the internet, everybody is familiar with everything.
  3. Pick a lens that you will actually use. The value of it is in using it and recouping your money when you are done, not in having it sit in storage for two years.
  4. Know who you are selling to when you are done. Even though I was using the Tamron as a top-notch DX normal wide-zoom, I knew my target buyer would be a D700 shooter looking for a less expensive alternative to the Nikon 17-35 or 16-35VR. And that's who I eventually found.
  5. If it doesn't grab a bite within three days, don't immediately re-post. Both of the lenses that I sold were actually listed more than once. Each time they got a few emails for interest, but nothing concrete. The thing to remember is that the longer an item is listed, the more its value is reduced. Eventually a Craigslist hawk is going to pounce, point out that your item has been up for a long time without being sold, and then negotiate you down off of your price. Think that doesn't happen? Ask any real estate agent what they think about clients who list their homes too high and then have them sit on MLS for months...
  6. Clean your lens. I highly recommend a using sparing dab of Armor All on cloth to wipe down your older lenses. It's an easy way to take years off of the appearance of your used equipment.
A final word about currency exchange. The value of the Japanese Yen to the U.S. dollar is rising over time. The first impact that this has is that it raises the local price of new Nikon equipment. The second impact that it has is that it subtly raises the value of used equipment as well, particularly for lenses that are still being sold. Think of the 24 AF-D, the 50 AF-D, etc... lenses that have been essentially unchanged for the past decade. These guys are still being sold in stores, and so long as the retail price remains intact, so will used prices be preserved.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where I Spend my Time on the Web

 www.dpreview.com
My web traffic stats tells tells me that the majority of the readers of this blog come by way of DPReview. No big surprise, since that's the only other place where I do a significant amount of posting. DPR has its pluses and minuses, but the best thing about it is that its where a lot of the world's photography traffic congregates. This is both good and bad, as you have to put up with a lot of questionable posts and flame wars to get to the really good posters. This is DPR's greatest strength and probably one of its worst shortcomings. Because the staff is no longer the quickest with their equipment tests, DPR has become the de facto gear forum of the photography world of sorts. Heavy emphasis on gear... sometimes you wonder why nobody is talking about photography. DPR's camera test remain some of the best on the web. Though there is probably some site out there that does some aspect of testing better than DPR, its strength lies in the fact that the basic testing format hasn't changed much in almost a decade. Because the setups are so consistent from camera to camera and year to year, it is one of the best resources for camera shopping... if they get around to testing your camera that is.

www.dcresource.com
Take DPReview's consistent testing format, change the writing to a more concise user friendly format and remove the forum bullshit... and you basically have DCResource. It's obviously a smaller operation, but it's very good for what it does, and probably a better place to start shopping for a camera if you aren't looking for an SLR or high end enthusiast compact.

www.cameralabs.com
Like DCResource, but with slightly more comprehensive testing procedures. A small and plucky website that could really do with more frequent testing.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com
The anti-DPR...a very sedate place. A bit off the beaten path, but a good place to be introduced to things that aren't Nikon or Canon or SLR's. Topics covered include Leica, medium format and video.

www.imaging-resource.com
Take DPR's consistent testing format, add in a better section about optics in the review and add in a a compare-o-meter for the pixel peepers and you basically have Imaging-Resource. It's very good for what it does, but I just don't find that it has 'soul'. If anything the flow of events goes like this....Imaging Resource posts sample images of a new camera, then the forum members on DPR pixel peep it to death. Just as the flame wars are dying, DPR comes out with their review that confirms what everybody had been discussing up to then, except that the review will have one controversial section that will fuel the forums until the next camera launches.

www.slrgear.com
IR's companion SLR lens testing site. A key draw is the site's proprietary widget that lets you adjust sliders to see how the image quality of a lens varies according to focal length and aperture. As far as interactive widgets goes, it's one of the simplest, which makes it one of the best. However, the site is not completely clear on what constitutes a 'blur unit' when optical sharpest is being described. It's hard to tell if they are talking about a drop-off in absolute resolution or if they are describing field curvature at times, but to be honest, I find this to be a weakness with most lens reviewing sites.

www.photozone.de
Another excellent lens testing site. It doesn't have an interactive java applet, but the format of the tests results is very readable, and they've accumulated a fairly large database of tested lenses.

www.bythom.com
Experienced, intelligent, articulate, provocative. All words that you could use to describe Thom Hogan. The site is cleanly laid out and offers a pretty realistic view of the Nikon camera world. Hogan doesn't review equipment so much as he assesses it... posts don't just describe what's good or bad, but also what the implications are for each positive or shortcoming. Bythom's PDF guide's to the various Nikon bodies are well worth the money, as they don't just tell you what the manual should have told (but in a more clear manner), they also go into the implications and practicalities of each area of the camera. The Nikon manual may tell you how to set up autofocus on your camera, but Hogan will also tell you which modes work best for which situation and how well each does it.

www.kenrockwell.com
Articulate is not a word I would use to describe KR. Yet I end up visiting his site on a regular basis, this despite the violence that he does to the English language. Why? Because if you read him long enough, you find that he clearly is a bright fellow, and to be honest, he does seem like he would be a big happy goof in real life. KR's testing methods are dubious and his recommendations ought to be taken with tablespoons of salt. However, his "The Camera Doesn't Matter" ethos is very admirable... unfortunately he spoils it by all the hyperbole he lavishes on Leica equipment. About this apparent contradiction, I can only quote the Simpsons episode where homer goes on tour with Lollapalooza...
Q: Dude, are you being sarcastic? 
A:(Sigh) I don't know anymore.

In a similar manner, KR will tell you to skip RAW because life is too short to mesh with post processing, only to wax lyrical about film the next day, glossing over the obvious time and cost of processing negatives. What Rockwell does do well is document older Nikon lenses and equipment. He writes about them in a way that is only his, but the posts are usual a good starting point for researching older lenses and bodies.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Misleading Craigslist Ads (1)

Not a ripoff, but a hilarious misrepresentation that went up today...

****

LEICA summicron f2.0 - $85


Date: 2010-11-07, 11:46AM PST


Comes with Panasonic LC40 camera in excellent condition. All cables, instructions, battery, memory card and original box. Call 778-578-5447 for more info. 
****

In case  you are wondering about the price, notice that the focal length isn't given. Even if f/2 summicron's are the cheapest line of lenses that Leica has to offer, they don't go for this cheap.... unless they are attached to the the front of a digital camera.... I give you..

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Panasonic/panasonic_dmclc40.asp

$85 for a vintage eight-year old camera? Sure. But it just begs the question, what would the seller do if the buyer just wanted the lens...?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anatomy of a Craigslist Ripoff (Part 4)

 What is it about the D700 that prompts such crazy posts? I thought I wouldn't be revisiting this topic for a while, but this showed up in the wee hours of the morning today -

********************

Like new Nikon D700 package for sale - $3600 (burnaby)


Date: 2010-11-06, 12:07AM PDT
I have a very new Nikon D700 package for sale. I am going to list the things in the package and their regular price i spend. 

Nikon D700 Body (With original box and receipt. Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 11 2010. Regular price: $2349+TAX ) 

Zeiss 50 f1.4 zf II (With original box and receipt. Bought from Leo's camera shop in Sept 15 2010.Regular price: $859.99+TAX) 

B+W UV filter for the zeiss 50 lence (With original box and receipt. Bought from Leo's camera shop in Sept 15 2010.Regular price: $59.99+TAX) 

Nikon Remote Trigger Release MC-30(With original box and receipt. Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 13 2010.Regular price:$89.99+TAX) 

Two CF memory cards. One is Lexar 8GB, another one is SanDisk 4GB, they are all high speed cards(Bought from futureshop in Sept 11 2010. Regular price around $200+TAX) 

Dynex All-In-One Card Reader (Bought from futureshop in Sept 11 2010. Regular price:$32.99+TAX)
Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag (With receipt. Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 11 2010. Regular price: $139.99+TAX ) 

Manfrotto 207302YB M-Y Tripod with Ball Head QR ( Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 17 2010. Regular price: $149.99+TAX ) 

Optex Deluxe Blower ( Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 17 2010. Regular price: $12.99+TAX )
LensPen ( Bought from Broadway camera in Sept 17 2010. Regular price: $12.99+TAX )

So all the stuff's price is going to be $3907+TAX=$4376.87

All the stuff are personal use because of hobby. So all the stuff are perfectly protect and in perfect condition. 

But right now i am selling this package for some personal reason( you can ask me if you like), and i am selling it for $3600. 

All the stuff in this package is like brand new, you can do the math how great it is.
If anyone interested in this package, please email me to XXXX@hotmail.com or call XXX-XXXX. Thank you very much. 

********

And now for the red flags. I`m not even going to try to compare and see if you would be getting good value if you bought all of this. This posting defies all logic. Never mind why all of this stuff is being sold just two months after he bought it, anybody with a knowledge of of the Greater Vancouver area will know that this is just a crazy way of buying camera equipment. Just to reorganize the dates -

  • September 11 - Broadway Camera (Richmond or Vancouver)
  • September 11 - Future Shop (Various locations.)
  • September 13 - Broadway Camera (Richmond or Vancouver)
  • September 15 - Leo`s Camera (Downtown)
  • September 17 - Broadway Camera (Richmond or Vancouver)
Just to spare you the details, but these store are spread over two suburbs and the busy downtown core of Vancouver. All within one week. The question is.... if you can afford all of this stuff, shouldn't  you be working instead of criss-crossing town buying stuff?

Also a red flag.... Leo's camera does not carry Nikon products. You might be able to get a Nikon mount lens from them, but it's not their thing.

They key thing about this post is not the prices. It's the dates and the receipts. I have no doubt that the receipts are real and that the dates are real as well, but that's the biggest cause for alarm. This looks an awful lot like the spoils of somebody who was hitting up stores in a credit card fraud binge. Lots of expensive equipment in a short amount of time at various locations...all to maximize the culprit's time with the card before it gets shut down.

But what if it's not, and it's just some poor rich kid who made a mistake getting into photography? The point of the matter is to train yourself not to entertain questions like that when you are reading Craigslist ads. You want to maximize your chances of conducting a safe and fair transaction, and should automatically gloss over any suspect posting no matter what. The bad guys are out there.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Piggybacking Somebody Else's Flash

Most weddings take place in dimly lit venues which may turn out to be too dark for the camera/lens that you have at hand. Yes, the ISO capabilities of modern cameras is improving day by day, but the best way to counter darkness is to throw light on the subject. Use a flash. Of course, you may not own a flash unit, or the wedding party may have requested that you don't use it.

This is a little trick I came up with for those times that you want to capture the bride and groom. There is one guy who will be using a flash, and that is the official wedding photographer. The trick is to take a few shots when he's shooting...you're essentially using him as if he's a remote flash for your camera. It's pretty hit and miss, but the results can be quite dramatic if you hit it right.
  • Anticipate when the official photographer is shooting
  • Set your camera to burst mode.
  • If you are shooting in a semi-automatic mode like aperture or shutter priority, you should dial down your exposure compensation. How much? It's almost impossible to say, too many variables. Your camera will be trying to generation an exposure off of it's own readings, but it doesn't know that the there will be an external burst of light in the form of the pro's flash unit.
  • Choose a shutter speed of 1/60th or slower. Don't worry about motion blur. Flash exposure is almost instantaneous, but you've got to leave your shutter open long enough to capture this light. In other words, use a shutter speed that is lower than your maximum flash sync speed.
  • Burst-shoot a few frames when you think you've got the timing nailed.
This is a very imprecise method of shooting. You'll need to use burst because you're basically gambling that your shutter is open at the same time that the flash goes off.  You'll probably have to correct the exposure in post processing afterword. Benefits:
  • This works in situations where you are too far for your built-in fill flash to work.
  • Because flash exposure is almost instantaneous, you'll get much less subject motion blur than if you had tried to hand-hold the camera at a sub optimal shutter speed
  • You'll get better noise than taking the camera past it's ISO comfort zone.
  • You'll get better picture detail than either with boosted ISO or with a fast lens held wide open. Both will degrade the amount of detail that your camera can resolve.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

D300: Craigslist Value of the Momment

Thinking of upgrading to a D7000?

Consider the D300 for a moment. They're going for under $900 on Craigslist, and there are a number of good reasons to consider one if you are upgrading from a D90 or lesser camera:
  • Build quality. It's a machine far tougher than what you're used to
  • It's a workhorse. Lots of units out there, most of them working reliably
  • It's optimized for detail. If you've used a D90, the sensor output is not exactly the same as the D300... it's the same chip, but there are subtle differences in how the jpeg engine works. The D90 was made for consumers, and emphasizes noise reduction; the D300 was targeted at working pros who shoot with NEF.
  • The D7000's high ISO abilities aren't quite what they are cracked up to be. Yes, the initial samples were impressive, but don't be too hasty. There are a lot of good reasons to consider this camera, but too many people got caught up in the apparent noise handling characteristics without considering how the camera was applying it's tone curve or how much noise reduction was actually being laid down by the jpeg engine.
  • If you have a D90,the D7000 is realistically an incremental improvement over your current camera. You're most likely to get the most benefit out of an upgrade if you skip camera generations; by going from D90 to D300, you're staying on the same generation image quality wise, but you are opening yourself up to a host of other new capabilities such as improved exposure metering and more sophisticated auto-focus tracking. 
  • Picture submissions. Most agencies and purchasers of pictures have a list of 'approved' cameras. If they don't, the list is more of an unofficial one. These lists are not so much about excluding inferior cameras as they are about excluding inferior photographers; it saves the poor editor from sifting through mounds of submissions from amateurs shooting on consumer cameras. Because not everybody can afford a semi-pro camera, the chances of finding a suitable submission go up for the editor.  When it was new, the D90 would have been on most of the approved lists because it was current technology, but I'll bet that it would have fallen out of favor by now. The D300 will remain on for some time. Yes, this is discrimination; yes it is snobbery. Yes, it is a fact of life.
Look for low shutter count bodies used by serious enthusiasts. Cameras from paid professionals will likely have high shutter counts, especially if they've shot weddings.The rubber hand grip tends to unpeel, but can be cheaply put back into place with a little bit of rubber cement. Be extra careful looking over these machines; Nikon warranties are not transferable. Also be careful not to pick up a unit that was originally bought outside of your country, your local Nikon center won't even bother to fix it.

Also look out for unusally low priced D300s bodies... the probably of encountering a scam post is higher. This cameras should still command relatively high asking prices above the $1,000 mark, which doesn't make them that appealing on the used market.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Hold Your DSLR

This is a just a gentle reminder about how to hold your DSLR properly. For most camera's, it's pretty obvious what you should be doing with your right hand because that is the side of the camera that has the grip. For whatever reason, the proper positioning of the left hand is not obvious, as so many new photographers invariably pick up their camera the wrong way.

The proper position of the left hand is:
  • Palm up with the fingers cradling the lens near the lens mount and the left side of the camera body resting in your left palm
  • Left elbow tucked into the chest
  • While we're at it, the right elbow is also tucked into the chest as well
Most new photographers pick up a camera and hold the lens with an overhand grip. This has some rationale from a bio-mechanical point of view, as the elbow will naturally pivot inward somewhat when you raise your arm, thereby turning your hand palm down. This is categorically the wrong way to hold a lens, because it is not stable. If your hand is on top of the lens, that means it is exerting a downward force on it. If your hand is under the lens, your fingers are not doing as much work, and the lens rests passively in your hand. By the same token, if your elbow is not tucked into your chest and is out in space in a chicken-wing position, you are are relying on your shoulder muscles to keep your arm steady as it fights against gravity. By tucking your elbow in, your body is performing less work and is able to hold the camera much steadier. The key principal is to form a stable base that requires the least amount of muscle tension.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Anatomy of a Yet Another Craigslist Scam

This posting showed up today on our local Craigslist. I give you the full posting for scrutiny.


*************************************

F.S. Nikon D700 Pro Lens Kit ( LNIB ) - $4300

Date: 2010-10-18, 5:36PM PDT
ILLNESS FORCES SALE: PLEASE NO VULTURES .

1. LNIB D700 with Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 ED .

This was purchased as a Pro Kit and paid $5300.00 in Jan 2010. Never had chance to use it as planned. Complete with all boxes and software. Has less than 300 clicks and is as NEW. It has a Warranty that is transferable , and covers loss , damage, theft etc; worldwide floater .
The price is $4300.00 no tax. Still $500.00 less than the store and a Warranty. Please do not haggle over price or show up with less cash than asking, this is a waste of your time and mine. Let's respect each other.

OTHER ITEMS AVAILABLE FOR SALE SEPARATELY ARE AS FOLLOWS;

Nikon MB D10 Grip for D700 Sells for 350.00 incl. tax. Buy New never used $300.00 no tax. Firm Boxed.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 D lens in perfect/mint shape in box. $295.00 firm


Tamron AF70-300mm f/4.5.6 LD Macro 1:2

Nikon Mount Incredibly sharp Lens. $100.00 firm in Box 4 years left on Tamron Warranty.

Manfrotto 190QCB Tripod with Manfrotto 352RC ball Head. Looks nice $95.00


Photoflex Gold/zebra and white panel fabric w homemade 39x72 frame $50.00


Photoflex LightDisc Holder as New Sells for 125.00 alone, i will include a 7 foot Lightstand and a 5x7 collapsable diffuser panel for $150.00

Great for knocking down High Noon Shadows. Fabric is Transparent.

Here is some links for Nikon D700 and 24-70mm 2.8 ED Lens


http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/24-70mm.htm


http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d700.htm


Here is what the D700 looks like with the MB D10 grip Photo courtesy of someone other.



Serious Buyers Please

Initial contact via this post.
If i Agree to show the Equipment further contact info will be provided . Thank You.

**********************************************

First, to understand why this is an insidious post, you have to understand what the poster did right -
  • The retail purchase price is right. A Nikon D700 with a 24-70 would have cost over $5000 after taxes at the beginning of the year. (Yes, it's that expensive here...)
  • The asking prices for the misc equipment are about right, though nobody in their sane mind would call the that particular Tamron 70-300 "sharp"
  • Though I didn't include it , the suburb is "right". The posting lists a suburb that is known for being an upper-middle class 'bed-room' community.
And now the red flags...lots of them.
  • The illness story. If you've followed the previous Craigslist guides, you'll remember that a legitimate posting never needs a SOB story to sell it. And to be quite honest, if you where going through troubling illness, would you put it all over the internet?
  • Nikon warranties are never transferable. That is an outright lie. 
  • He quotes Ken Rockwell... people who shoot D700's don't need to learn about the camera from Mr. Rockwell. In fact, it's a dead give away that the ad is targeted at least sophisticated shooters who rely on KR for their web reading, not realize that there are many, many better choices....
  • "Please do not haggle over price..." Even if this was a legitimate post, words to this effect are the surest sign that you are dealing with a jerk.
  • No picture of the actual camera  in the ad. They copied in a promo picture, but what's the point? Every experienced shooter knows what a D700 looks like...
  • And the biggest clue...... he's asking way to much. The asking price for D700's is about $2300, and for the 24-70 it's about $1400. That's right, combined, you should be paying no more than $3700
If you remember the last D700 scam breakdown...
http://1000wordpics.blogspot.com/2010/09/anatom-of-another-potential-craigslist.html
... you may be asking why there are so many illegitimate D700's floating around our locale. There aren't. It's the work of a few... maybe even a single person working the ad space. And in case you are wondering, the current price of the body + lens retail is $4589 after taxes... with a real warranty.

Tamron 28-75: An Introduction for DX Use

The Tamron 28-75, in it's various incarnations, has a well deserved reputation for quality optics at an affordable price. It's even more affordable if you find one on Craigslist, which is not that difficult a proposition considering how popular this lens is. Most would compare it to the Nikon 24-70 AF-S, but it's really apples to oranges. The Tamron is very competent on full frame, but the Nikon is better... albeit, much, much more expensive.

Mounted on a D80, D90 or the new D7000, the weight and size of the 28-75 balance nicely. It's a little bit longer and heavier than the Nikon consumer lenses in this range, but it's much shorter and lighter than the Nikon equivalent. The barrel is plastic, and not metal like a professional lens, but it's build quality is in keeping with the cameras in this price range. The older screw-drive versions are more desirable than the ones with built in focusing motors (BIM). The older lenses auto-focus faster; when Tamron added built in motors to their lenses, it was pretty much a kludge on top of the existing lens design...  in other words, the BIM versions aren't a true implementation of AF-S focusing.

One aspect of this lens that doesn't get mentioned much on internet forums is how nice it is to manually focus. The focus ring is nice and wide, unlike the rubber-band like afterthought on the 18-105, and it has a nice smooth dampened feeling... not quite as good as the old fluid-dampened manually focused lenses, but much nicer than the majority of the lenses out there.

On DX, the 28-75 is a bit of an awkward focal length, as it is the equivalent of 42-112mm. The limiting factor is the wide end... to be honest, if you keep this lens in your bag, you will need something wider to supplement. This usually isn't a limiting factor except in the tightest of places. It's still a great landscape lens, especially if you do stitching. To be honest, this is a lens that you tend to use a lot of at 28mm, as it's closer to the natural viewing angle of human vision than the so called 50mm "normal" (A topic for another day....)
 
However, the extra length that the DX-crop affords does make this a nice portrait lens. If you like shooting headshots with a 50mm wide open, try this lens at 75mm and f/2.8... you don't get the extreme subject isolation that you would get with a f/1.4 aperture, but you do make up for it with the longer focal length (which enhances foreground background isolation). The perspective at 75mm is pleasing, and at f/2.8, you have more depth of field than with the 50mm's wide open. Think of it as a flexible compromise for the 85mm lenses... not as good as what they do at this focal length, but with the added flexibility of zoom.

The constant f/2.8 is a breath of fresh air, especially if you've only shot with variable aperture lenses. However, don't be tricked into thinking that f/2.8 zooms are low-light lenses... they're not, they're just better than the consumer lenses. In most indoor situations, at f/2.8 the light still required a fair bit of ISO boost. What the f/2.8 means is that the long end of the lens is more usable than a variable aperture lens. If you stop down, this lens gets really good at f/4 and basically sits on a plateau of goodness up to f11.

If you are paying attention to your safe shutter speed (the minimum shutter speed for acceptable hand-held shots, usually defined as the inverse of the effective focal length, or 1.5x your focal length on DX), you'll notice that you run out of safe shutter speed pretty quickly on a variable aperture lens. Say you are using the venerable 18-70... Your safe shutter speed at 70mm is 1/135 seconds. However, that lens is f/4.5 at the long end. In comparison, the 28-75 is still f/2.8 at the long end... meaning that at the same ISO, the Tamron will be able to use a minimum shutter speed that is about 2.6 times faster than the Nikon 18-70.

Fans (or people who spent a lot of money) of the Nikon 24-70 like to point out that the Tamron 28-75 has only average resolution wide open. This is a given, but to be honest, the Nikon is not at it's best wide open either...no lens is. At f/2.8 the Tamron is reasonable sharp in the center and average in the corners. If you've ever used a 50mm AF-D, the resolving power is similar. In fact, if you look at the MTF curves, the Nikon 50 AF-D from f/1.4 to f/2.8 looks like a continuation of the Tamron's MTF curve. In other words, it's quite serviceable, it's just not exemplary

One final note: In many ways, the Tamron 17-50 is the DX version of this lens. Tamron has recently updated it with their VC image stabilization technology, and by all accounts it's brilliant (provided you get a decent copy, but  quality control is another post). My bet is that the 28-75 will get stabilization before the Nikon  does.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weddings - Flash or no Flash

If you are like most people (and like me), your camera probably sees the most amount of work during weddings. And if you are like most people, you probably have an aversion to using the on-bard fill-flash because it produces harsh and unflattering exposures. This, of course, becomes all the more important if you are attending one of those weddings were the bridal party, or more likely the case, the officiant, requests that no flash photography be taken.

Just as an aside, if you are considering getting married, the officiant/priest/pastor/etc is dead set against flash photography, my kind suggestion is to find one who isn't. The worst memory I have was the minister of a church who insisted that none of the guests use flash during the ceremony.... including the official photographer. I suppose this was not to violate the sanctity of the wedding ceremony...of course, my opinion was that this particular minister had completely lost touch with what weddings were supposed to be about, a shared community experience. (And just as a poke, I have been of a lot of religious weddings over the years, many much more theologically deep and satisfying than his one. The only thing the venue had going for it was stained glass and pomp and circumstance.) I spoke with the photographer after wards... this was when most wedding photographers were using Nikon D200's... he had been forced to use ISO 1600 and looked like he was in a lot of anguish over how the pictures were going t turn out.

But enough about that. The point is, if you are shooting at a friend's wedding, don't be afraid of your flash, because it will save you big time. Here's a quick use/don't use suggestion. (Assuming you don't have a flash unit like a SB-600 that will bounce off the ceiling.)

Wedding Procession - Don't Use
You'll probably be surrounded by gusts with compact point and shoots, which will invariably need to use flash. When exposing a picture, one flash is good; more than one flash from multiple sources is bad. I prefer not to use flash out of respect to the bride, who is probably  bundle of nerves anyway. 

Ceremony  - Don't Use
This is a no brainer. The bride and groom are relatively stationary, and the chances are that you will be able to stabilize your camera on the pew or chair in front of you.

Presentation of the Bride and Groom - Use
With the formal ceremony over, the bride and groom will move pretty fast down the isle. I prefer to use smaller apertures and flash to get plenty of light and depth of field.

One Person - No Flash
With one person, no flash is less intimidating to pose for pictures.

Multiple People - Flash
Don't even try to use wide aperture with multiple people, you won't have enough depth of field to get all of the faces in focus. Aim for something past f/5.6 and use flash to compensate for the loss of light. Even if the exposure turns out to be a bit harsh, it will still be better than a nicely exposed out of focus picture.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autofocusing with Non-Cross Type Sensors

Was reminded of a neat trick with the non-cross type sensors. These are usually the sensors on the periphery of the AF array. They work by detecting contrast in vertical line detail. The downside is that they are not as sensitive to detail that is predominantly horizontal.

So in low light situations, when you are using the edge AF sensors and the the camera is struggling to focus, a neat way to encourage focus lock is to turn the camera 90 degrees. If the camera acquires focus, continue half-pressing the shutter and return the camera to the orientation that you want, then full press.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review: Everything is Negotiable by Gavin Kennedy

Everything is Negotiable is a  good read for neophyte negotiators, as well as seasoned pros. For many people, negotiation is all about who ego, will and determination. That's not how it works, as any successful deal involves both side reaching their intended goals.

If you've been following along with the previous Craigslist posts on this blog, then you'll also find a few of the same principals in this book. Gavin Kennedy lays out each chapter with the main text about a basic principal of negotiation, with a follow-up case study at the end of the chapter.  The follow-ups are are useful measure to see if you understand the principal in question, and are accompanied by short and succinct answers the further reinforce the techniques being discussed.

The writing can get a little clunky at times, but on the whole, this is not an opaque text. This is by no means a desk reference, but it is a handy volume to keep on your shelf.

Here's a link for the Amazon's listing:
http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Negotiable-Best-Deal-Every/dp/1847940013/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284953047&sr=1-1

Friday, September 17, 2010

D7000 Shakes Things up a Little

Well, it's been a busy week on the interweb forums. It's pointless repeating the news here, there are so many other sources to catch up on D7000 news. However, there were three big surprises included in Nikon's newest camera -
  • Focus fine tuning
  • True mirror lock-up
  • AIS Metering
Up until now, all three of these features were used to differentiate Nikon's pro camera's from their consumer cameras. You can either read this to mean that the next generation (potential D400) will be even more spec'd than the D7000, or that the D7000 is the replacement for the D300s. However, in terms of used equipment, the D7000 -
  • Pushes down the value of the D90. This is given, however, used prices were already drifting down in the summer. Expect retail price to remain firm and supply to be short for the D7000 up through Christmas. Potential used D90 buyers are out there, and will likely be people moving up from the D40-D3000 cameras. The enthusiast users, however, will be salivating at the D7000.
  • Pushes down the value of the D300s and D300. This one was really unexpected two weeks ago. Even though the D300s is a more substantial camera with even more functionality, the D7000 is entirely relevant to the semi-pro market today (think weekend wedding shooters). This makes the D300 a real bargain on the used market. Prices were drifting down through the summer, and it's possible now to get one on the used market for $1,000 or less here in Vancouver. If you don't need the HD video, and you don't print larger than 14" by 11", then a lightly used D300 is a camera that will see see lots of useful life. The key is "lightly used"... these are real workhorse cameras and those that make a living off of them aren't shy about using them.
  • Preserves the value of AIS lenses. Hurray, manual focus lenses are relevant again! Once the domain of the pro cameras, now average Joe can finally meter with non-AF lenses without having to fiddle around in "M" mode. Although there are some real gems from the AIS era, don't expect these lenses to inflate much in value. Today's lenses are optically superior to the old glass, but there those ld lenses that just aren't made today. Like the 50mm f/1.2 AIS for example.
  • Slightly pushes down the value of the D700. This is bold statement to make, as these cameras speak to two different user groups. However, A lot of people in the D80/D90 camp have been waiting to go full frame, lusting for an affordable D700. With the highly spec'd D7000 arriving, those people (myself included) will be thinking twice, reducing the demand on the D700. Think about it this way if you are a wedding shooter.... if you aren't pushing out to ISO 6400, the D7000 will offer similar (albeit, likely not as good) quality up to ISO 1600, and will have HD video for clients wanting cinematography. And shoots at higher resolution. Pause for thought, right?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Anatomy of Another (Potential) Craigslist Scam

As a follow-up to the my previous summary of dodgy D700 adverts on our local Craigslist:

http://1000wordpics.blogspot.com/2010/09/anatomy-of-craigslist-rip-off.html

I present to you this dodgy ad:

Nikon D700 - box only - $30  

Date: 2010-09-13, 6:14PM PDT

"My Nikon D700 was stolen. Now I am left with a box I don't need anymore. Is in great condition. Comes with manual, quick guide, Software and USB cable. Asking $30.00 OBO."

To be honest, I am not sure if this is in actual fact, an honest ad, but even if it were, there is nothing honest about it's intent. What honest use could you have for an empty box? I can't think of any practical ones that are worth $30... but $30 is a small price to pay to give a stolen camera the appearance of legitimacy.
  1. An empty box is not worth $30.
  2. If you've lost your camera packaging and want to resell in the future, buying somebody else's packaging will not recoup the reduced price of not having original packaging
  3. The manual that comes with the packaging is not even a worthy buy for $30. You can find some pretty competent third-party how-to books for less.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Anatomy of a Craigslist Rip-Off

These posts were collected in the space of just over one month for the city of Vancouver. For your reference, the city of Vancouver is about 580,000. The surrounding metro area is about 2.1 million people. We have a very affluent community here, so one of these posts is entirely possible. You be the judge if six different people in the space of one month are really trying to unload  D700's for suspiciously similar reasons...(Underlined emphasis is mine)

Date: 2010-09-09, 10:47PM PDT
"I am selling a brand new in box *sealed* Nikon d700 body.
It was bought locally and comes with 2 years extended warranty and original receipt.
I received it as a gift, the reason for sale is I am using pentax no point to switch to nikon."


Date: 2010-09-05, 10:40PM PDT
"Brand new nikon d700 + 24-120mm VR lens kit. This kit sells for over $3600 with taxes at bestbuy. I'm asking for $2700 only. My friend bought t for my as a wedding gift but I do not need dlsr camera. Price for body only: $2350 firm." (Around here, Best Buy does not sell the D700...)

Date: 2010-08-26, 9:35PM PDT
"Received a brand new nikon d700 2 months ago as a birthday present, only used a couple time at home, I don't think I'm able to handle those types of cameras. The camera is in brand new perfect condition. Come with receipt(july 2nd, 2010), and remaining of the manufacture warranty from canada nikon. Also have original box and everything.  Also comes with nikon d700 tutorial dvd set(2 dvd disks)!  Everything for just $2300, please feel free to email me if interested. thanks!"

Date: 2010-08-22, 11:29PM PDT
"Selling my new condition D700 with very few clicks(Shutter is good for 150,000 clicks). Only used 3 times in door. Received as a gift a month ago, LIKE NEW SELDOM USED. It comes with everything in the box and receipt for warranty."

Date: 2010-08-16, 7:25PM PDT
"Hi all, I have a brand new sealed nikon d700 body for sale. It comes with original receipt and 2 years nikon warranty. This was an unwanted gift because I already have a dslr camera. Please email me if interested, thanks."

Date: 2010-08-08, 11:54AM PDT
"Brand new never opened nikon d700 body. Got it as a gift, already have a d300 and I see no point of upgrading. Comes with original receipt, original warranty card for 2 year nikon canada warranty. Priced to sell."

To be honest, I've learned to unconsciously block posts like these because they show up so often here. The only thing that has changed is that used prices for the D700's have come down somewhat in the last quarter of a year. These scam posts used to put up asking prices that were significantly lower than used market value, but since the new and used market has come down, it's been a little harder to spot the glaring scam posts.
  1. Nobody in their right mind gives a D700 as a gift. Vancouver has a lot of affluent people, but they still have more sense than to through around $2,400 camera. (That's the current CDN retail. We have 12% tax on top of that)
  2. It makes more sense to return an unwanted gift with a gift receipt than to Craigslist it.
  3. Anybody proficient enough to use a  D700 will know that Nikon warranties are not transferable.
Like I said, at best one or two of these is legitimate. Aside from the same flimsy excuse for selling, all of these posts have one thing in common - they have to paint a background picture to draw you in. A real post doesn't need to lay it on thick like this. It bears saying again, if it's too good to be true then it is. You can get yourself into real trouble dealing with people selling stolen goods. The one thing these five posts have in common is that they are likely the work of one person, or one group of people. That means that they make a living off of stolen goods. Stay well away.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Art as Commodity

Have you ever wondered how to price a painting for a photograph? This came up on the June 25th NPR Planet Money Podcast.

 http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/06/24/128084948/art

The most important thing is laid out at the beginning of the podcast - it has nothing to do with how good the art is. That is to say, for most of the pictures and paintings out in the world, the price that you pay for the art has nothing to do with its artistic merit.

Instead, most art is categorized by scale, intensity and medium.

  1. Scale: The larger the art, the high the price
  2. Intensity: The more detail the higher the price. Likewise, the more time  needed to produce the detail, the higher the price.
  3. Medium: The more difficult the medium is to work with, the higher the price. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review: The Thinking Photographer by Ian Bradshaw

The Thinking Photographer,by Ian Bradshaw ISBN 0-356-12153-4 Published 1986.

This one is hard to find, but its worth it if you do. Don't let the fact that it was written in the film era put you off; it's a book purely about composition and technique. Imagine picking up a photo technique book today without any mention of Photoshop or image alteration... a book entirely about taking pictures. Really, imagine that! Indeed, there's barely any mention of  techniques such as focus and exposure, except when they have issue with picture composition.

What makes this book so special is that situational topics are covered in an almost flowchart like fashion. Bradshaw starts off with something that anyone might shoot - a portrait, a wedding, sports, etc. - and then guides the reader through a series of pictures. The first images in each section are the compositionally weak ones, and then step by step he shows how each picture can be improved by rearranging the picture elements. In other words, the book is about guiding th reader throguh the thinking process about what makes a good image.


You might be able to find it where I did, in your public library. (Easiest place to find old books). It's well worth it, there just isn't enough written today about effective composition.


Try here for copie:
http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=1998876616&searchurl=an%3Dian%2Bbradshaw%26sts%3Dt%26x%3D0%26y%3D0

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Should You Buy/Sell a Package Deal on Craigslist?

From time to time, you see people selling their entire camera system as a package on Craigslist. The two most common reasons for doing so is that the person is downsizing and getting out of DSLR ownership, or that person is switching brands, either from Nikon to Canon or vice versa. The question is, is it cost effective to do so?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last Minute Craigslist Negotiations

When all matters of legitimacy and mechanical reliability settled, the final hurdle to cross in a Craigslist deal is the matter of price. During this time, the buyer has more room to negotiate than the seller. The buyer can ask for a little bit more off the price; for the deal to fall through on a final minor price discount would be a waste of time for the seller, given the time spent on setting up the transaction and the uncertainty of what negotiations would be like with another potential buyer. This is a lop-sided time for the buyer, as there is no room to ask for a higher price; the asking price would have already been spelled out in the Craigslist ad, asking for more would be absurd.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lenses That Are Only So-So on the Used Market

Despite the fact that you can save money by buying a lens on Craigslist, it does not necessary follow that every lens out there is a good value for the money. This depends a lot on your own personal circumstance. For example, acquiring a Nikon 14-24 at any reasonable used price would still be too expensive a purchase if you shot with a Nikon D40.

Likewise, some lenses have been obsoleted by newer alternatives. Others were never really that good to begin with. Eventually, every lens is a bargain if you can find a good price for it, but that depends if there is a seller willing to let it go for that price. The following is a personal view of lenses that don’t offer good value for the money. By that, I mean that I think you would have to get significantly below typical Craigslist prices to consider these lenses.

Nikon 24-120VR Version 1 (Paper Specs Don't Always Live Up to Reality)


A much maligned lens that doesn’t live up to the standards of more modern designs. On paper, you have almost everything that you could want: useful zoom range for both DX and FX with built in image stabilization. The sticking point with these lenses is usage. Are you using it as a normal zoom or are you using it as a travel zoom.

My vote is that ‘travel zoom’ is a better use for this lens. It doesn’t develop the across-the-frame sharpness that you would expect for a normal zoom; this isn’t the lens that you will want to use as your “body cap”. However,  if you find one at a good price, it’s sort of the poor-man’s 18-200VR (which, by the way, is also not that sharp a lens). Most 18-200’s a priced competitively, you should really not be paying more than 65% the price of a used 18-200VR for a used 24-120VR.

Nikon 20mm f/2.8 (Usefulness Depends on Intended Usage)

On paper, this is one of those lenses that you think would be a keeper. The only problem is that it still sells new for a high retail price, which keeps used prices high as well. As I write this, typically used prices go for $400ish in my local area. That’s a lot of money considering all of the alternatives that would perform better on DX cameras like the Nikon D90.

The advantage to this lens is that it’s a prime. It’s smaller than a zoom and it’s optically more efficient. You can typically expect a 1/3 stop advantage in speed compared to a zoom at the similar focal length. That is to say, under equal circumstances, a prime will let you shoot with a shutter speed that is 25% faster than a zoom. The down side is that the distortion pattern to this lens is wavy and not as simple to correct.

On DX, this lens falls into neither nor territory… it becomes the equivalent of 30mm FX and is not truly wide for landscapes but is a little too wide for the classic 35mm equivalent street photography focal length. (35mm is a favourite focal length of Leica shooters). However, if you are using a D700, the price is affordable compared to something like 17-35 f/2.8.

Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 (Excellence is not Always Value)

Optically, this is an awesome lens. It’s very competent at what it does, all through the zoom range. It’s also one brutally expensive lens new. This inflates the asking price on the used market, but there are two downsides. The first is competition. Tamron makes a very competent 17-50 f/2.8 zoom for a fraction of the price. In fact, you could buy a new 17-50VC, which includes image stabilization, for less than a used Nikon 17-55. Granted, these two lenses serve different markets, but the Tamron (in it’s various incarnations) does 90% of what the Nikon does for a fraction of the price. I’ve seen older screw-drive versions go as low as $280 asking on Craigslist. The Nikon is better built and is better wide-open at f/2.8. The build quality matters if you shoot a lot, travel or get paid (e.g., wedding photography), but the image quality wide open is not as important as it might sound to be, as the plane of acceptable focus is very narrow at f/2.8 anyway.

The other negative is that the market is moving away from Nikon 17-55. It’s a competent pro-DX standard zoom, but the type of professional that would need a professional quality standard zoom (again, typically wedding photographers) is more and more likely to be using a D700 than a D300. This will also make it harder to resell this lens in the future.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Negotiating Prices on Craigslist

This will apply to both buyers and sellers on Craigslist, because price is usually the point of contention on which a sale hinges. In the commercial world, price is often not the sole determinant of a deal, as you would have issues such as servicing, shipping, warranty... etc. But since none of these apply to used goods, price become the final issue to settle between buyers and sellers after the condition and legitimacy of an item are settled.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How to Sell Lenses on Craigslist

Here's a guide to selling equipment on Craigslist. I'm going to focus primarily on lenses. Good lenses don't depreciate much after a few years, if at all. Newer lens will generally not recoup their price, but have strong demand if they offer good performance, or are professional quality lenses. I'm going to assume that this isn't you, so we'll skip high-ticket items like anything more expensive than the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 and the 70-200VRII. If you are selling a 200-400 f/4, I'm going to assume that anything I have to say will be fairly irrelevant to you.

One thing to watch out for is currency fluctuation. Depending on when and where you bought the lens, the resale value will fluctuate according to the retail price of the same lens sold in a store. Don't expect wild swings, as importers tend to hedge against currency changes months, if not years in advance.

Things to ask yourself before selling:

 

  1. Is this lens worth buying? What's the incentive for a buyer to pick up your lens? This is the single most important question you need to ask yourself before going to the market. (Also known affectionately to you business students as the unique value proposition). If you have a kit 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 lens that you want to resell, it would be difficult to expect much given how many of those things were made and how pedestrian the f-stop range is. (I'm talking only about the resale market value... that particular lens in its various inceptions is optically decent for it's price... but that's the point, low starting price, low resale value). Which leads us into the next question:
  2. Does my lens have a good reputation? Is it sharp, is it fast, does it colour fringe, is it well made? Thanks to the internet, the number of well informed people grow by the day. You pretty much have to start with the assumption that your potential buyer is going to be well-informed. Said another way, don't expect a lot of enthusiasm for your Nikon 70-300ED zoom, but you should get lots of inquirys for a Nikon 70-300VR. 
  3. Am I willing to part with this lens? Funny thing is, I wouldn't consider this question first. Sometimes thinking about the first two questions will make you decide that it's not worth parting with your beloved lens. It's good to know the worth of something before you decide to part with it; if you don't let it go, you will appreciate it more having considered this question.

 

Writing the Craigslist Ad

 

  1. Specify locations that you would be comfortable selling in. You are the seller; don't go driving across town through rush hour traffic for a potential sale that could fall through. Your time is also your money.
  2. Put down the right asking price. This seems obvious, but it bears stating: the right asking price is more than what you would expect the lens to go for.  No matter what people say, no price is firm. Putting down "300, firm" will not deter people from bargaining with you. What it does do is make you seem inflexible, which reduces trust on the part of the seller, and it will make you look weak if you do acquiesce. For example, if you think that $300 is fair and what the price will eventually come to after negotiations are done, then list the price higher, say at $330.
  3. Clean your lens. Use a microfiber cloth and gently wipe off the dust from the front element, making sure that you are actually wiping the dust out and not just jamming it into the nook where the glass meets the plastic body of the lens. One trick: Armor All. It does what it says it does, it restores the colour of faded plastic. Spray a sparing amount onto a cloth and then wipe onto the plastic body of your lens. Do not spray directly onto the lens, and do not get any of it onto the glass. Let it absorb and then buff until the surface is dry and the Armor All is incorporated. This takes years off of the appearance of used lens. Also works wonders on camera bodies.
  4. Make sure you have front and rear caps as a minimum. Presenting a lens without a rear cap is the kiss off death. First of all, nothing is more off putting than buying something from a stranger with a sensitive part of the optics exposed to the elements. Secondly, a lens with a front cap but without a rear cap is potentially a stolen lens pulled off of somebody's camera body.
  5. Ideally, have the originally packaging and receipts. Nothing says scrupulous legitimate owner like a receipt and a well cared for manufacturer's box. The older the lens, the more willing a buyer will be to over look the absence of these.
  6. Include pictures of the actual lens in your ad. Since photography is a visual hobby, it would make sense for your ad to have visual appeal. Shoot it against a non-busy neutral  background; it doesn't not have to be stark-studio white. Make sure you or your residence cannot be identified by the the picture. Also make sure you shoot the item with lots of depth of field so that the item is easy to see in the Craigslist listing. Now is not the time to be wowing people with your ultra-shallow bokeh  technique.
  7. Do not link to an outside picture or paste in manufacture's promotional images. Anybody can do this, the point of posting a picture of the actual item is to prove to potential buyers that the lens exists. You might have to use your cellphone camera, but a picture is better than nothing at all.
  8. Do not include manufacturer's specs or promotional literature in your Craigstlist ad. In other words, don't gild the lily. Ads that do this seem insincere; your buyer is going to know what your product is, don't insult them by giving them the promotional crap again. 
  9. Don't quote Ken Rockwell in your ad. I don't have anything personal against him, but the man's writing style is...ahem...polarizing at best and if you quote him in your ad, it will mark you as a rookie who doesn't know that there are more sophisticated places to spend your web viewing time. (By all means, visit his site, though. I do it all the time.) 
  10. Do not use the tagline, "My loss is your gain." This comes across as brutally insincere. Leave the cheezy taglines for used cars salesmen. 
  11. Do not  include your telephone. Serious buyers will give you a contact number immediately; if you have priced it competitively, they will know that others are looking at the same ad and that time will count. Give preference for people who offer a telephone number right away; people who do not will likely have a few more questions. In the time that it would take to play email tag, you could have arranged a deal.

The Deal:


  1. Meet in a high traffic, public place in an economically upscale part of town. Coffee shops and banks are the best locations. Starbucks are common in my hometown, so it's fairly common practice to meet at one. Do not meet at train or subway station. Ads that ask for this are downright suspicious.
  2. Do not meet after sundown. You will be conducting an expensive cash transaction with a stranger that you haven't met before; this is for your own safety.
  3. Bring a friend if you are uncomfortable. If you are wary about selling on your own, your next best option is to consign your equipment through a local camera store. If Craigslist is out of your comfort zone, don't be put off by the small amount of money that a camera store will offer you.
  4. Let the buyer test your equipment, but be mindful of their movement and where the nearest exits are. You want to eliminate the possibility of the 'buyer' making a quick getaway.
  5. Be prepared for last minute negotiations. Any buyer worth their salt will try to negotiate a little off the price that you discussed by email/phone. This is up to you, whether you want to accept less and take your chance that the next buyer will be willing to pay more money. I suggest throwing in a UV filter if you have one for the lens. The best way to counteract last minute negotiations is to have set the proper asking price ahead of time, so that you will have leeway for the inevitable.
  6. Shake on the deal. Social convention being what it is, a handshake puts an end to the negotiation process. Anybody who changes their mind after this step is somebody who is either ignorant of, or willing to violate one of life's little rules that most people live by.
  7. Only accept cash. If you meet in a bank and the buyer can confirm that the funds exist, only then would I ever recommend taking a cheque. Even then, it's just easier to have the buyer withdraw  the necessary funds in cash. Never accept a money order, or payment from somebody out of town.
  8. Always count cash with the money and the equipment on the same table, in plain view of both parties. Never forget, the buyer is also scrutinizing whether or not you are an honest person as well.
  9. Chit chat. If the deal went well and your buyer is upright and honorable, the conversation after the deal will probably be more relaxed and pleasant. This is a sign of a good deal.  Buyers who are willing to find used lenses on Craiglist are typically more serious about their hobby than the general public.
  10.  Make sure you're cash is safely stored on you. You now have a significant amount of money after the transaction; be careful with it.
  11. Avoid looking at Craigslist for the next few days. Be happy with the price that you got, don't tempt fate...

Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Buy Used Equipment on Craigslist

Except for accessories, I've purchases all of my camera equipment on Craigslist. I can't help, I like the savings.  This really isn't for everyone, as it requires a lot of research and a bit of street-savvy. Some people prefer the enjoyment of new things; others enjoy the thrill of chasing a bargain. To each their own; however, photography is not a cheap hobby and the savings that you can get buying used are not to be laughed at. If the financial crisis of 2008-till-who-knows-when has taught us anything, it ought to be the importance of spending our money more wisely.