Chapter 2: Choosing a Camera and Lens for Cityscape Photography at Blue Hour – Part 1

Chapter 2: Choosing a Camera and Lens for Cityscape Photography at Blue Hour – Part 1

TABLE OF CONTENTS - Blue Hour Photography Short Tutorials

First and foremost, let me reassure that you don’t need an expensive camera to shoot beautiful long exposure photography at blue hour. As long as it comes with manual and semi-manual mode (e.g. Aperture Priority) and is compatible with wireless or wired remote shutter release (most DSLR and mirrorless cameras meet this requirement), you’re set.

I know a number of photographers on Tumblr who use entry or mid-range DSLR with a kit lens to shoot amazing photos. While a good camera certainly improves the quality of your shots, the person behind the camera makes all the difference, as the quote goes. Well, I could end this chapter here (LoL!), but let me go on a little more. ;)

How “Crop Factor” Affects How Wide We Can Shoot

As a cityscape photographer, I’m a bit obsessed to “shoot wide”, as it allows to fit more cityscape into the frame. This comes in especially handy when shooting a city from an elevated viewpoint. And, the one thing that affects how wide we can shoot is something called “crop factor”.

Let me explain. DSLR bodies come in two types, APS-C (a.k.a. cropped sensor) and full frame. Entry and mid-range DSLR (cheaper ones) uses cropped sensor, and here’s the important part: focal length for cropped sensor DSLR is multiplied by 1.5 (for Nikon, 1.6x for Canon, 2x for most mirrorless cameras).

Your Nikon lens may be labelled as 18-55mm, but when put on a cropped sensor Nikon DSLR, its focal length becomes 27-82.5mm (1.5x 18-55mm), which can’t really be called “wide” any more. On the other hand, with full frame DSLR, you’re always shooting with what we call “true 18mm” (no multiplication). See the comparison below, you’ll be surprised to see how much wide angle coverage you lose with cropped sensor DSLR.

18mm Lens on Full Frame DSLR (Outside) and Cropped Sensor DSLR (Inside)

Comparing the same scene shot with 18mm lens on full frame DSLR (outside) and cropped sensor DSLR (inside).

How to Shoot Wide Enough with Cropped Sensor DSLR

Then, it seems no-brainer to go with full frame DSLR and shoot wider, doesn’t it? But, very few people jump onto full frame DSLR especially early in their photography life, because it’s pricey (at least USD1500 for body only). Alternatively, you could keep your cropped sensor DSLR and use it with an ultra-wide angle lens such as Nikon 10-24mm (f/3.5-4.5) . With this lens, you’re actually shooting with 15-36mm (1.5x 10-24mm) due to crop factor mentioned earlier, but is still considered “wide enough”.

That said, this Nikon 10-24mm is so-called DX (Canon equivalent of EF-S) lens, designed solely for use on cropped sensor DSLR, and not compatible with full frame DSLR. If you’re to upgrade your body to full frame DSLR in the future, you’ll also need to purchase an FX (Canon equivalent of EF) lens. I’ll talk more about lenses on the next chapter. Stay tuned!

Nikon DX Lens

If a Nikon lens has a “DX” label on it, this means that it is designed solely for use on cropped sensor DSLR, not on full frame DSLR.

Any questions? Feel free to Contact Me. Thank you!

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