Author: Elin Rantakrans
Publisher: Rocky Nook
Aimed at: Photography enthusiasts
Pros: Lots of color photos
Cons: Lacking technical information and depth
Reviewed by: David Conrad
Subtitled "70 Tips from the Top", does this slim book have useful advice?
Buying photo equipment - what could be more enticing for a geek or techie? One of the joys of photography is the gear. You don't have to be a great photographer to get something out of the hobby as long as you love thinking about and actually buying something new to occupy you while everyone else has taken that photo of a lifetime using their iPhone. .. So a book on buying the right photo equipment is something that you might buy while building up to buying something else.
What would you expect such a book to be all about?
Well to appreciate the equipment, work out what you need and pick the best, you are going to need good hard technical facts - something this book is very short on.
Firstly the author starts off with her hands tied behind her back because she tries ever so hard not to mention real photographic equipment. If the book attempted to list and compare all of the available zoom lenses, say, then it would be very, very long and would go out of date in no time. It would also have to perform some sort of technical evaluation of each and this is really not something that you can do while just aiming at writing a book.
When it comes to comparing actual equipment of the same type you have a difficult task. However, this book sensibly avoids this level of detail and tries to indicate what sort of equipment might be useful to you. That is, rather than telling you which telephoto lens to buy, it tries to discuss what use you might get from having a telephoto lens - but this too can be a difficult job.
What you really need is both a practical "this is what it does for you" and a "this is how it does it". The reason is that you can generally only see the possibilities once you know how it does it. For example, the focal length of a lens changes depth of field and perspective. But neitherr is discussed in this book. Instead the author offers the very basic idea that telephoto lenses bring things closer and wide-angle lenses bring a feeling of space.
In this section of the book and mostly wherever lenses focal lengths are discussed there is the problem that the fact that the author is discussing effective focal length is rarely mentioned. What constitutes a long or wide angle lens depends on the size of the sensor that the camera is using. All of the lens sizes discussed are relative to 35mm film, which is generally what effective focal length is all about.
You can tell that I was irritated by the sloppy and vague presentation of the book, but my patience finally fell apart at page 17; after reading the sections about lenses I finally reached "Choosing a lens is very much a matter of personal taste." I really didn't need a book to tell me this. While I might have been more generous and ignored the sentence, after not being told very much so far, it seemed to sum up the book's approach.
The remainder of the book is much the same. Each topic is explained in minimal detail with an occasional aside to tell you how it might affect the "look" of a picture. Often the information doesn't get much beyond "light meters exist and you can buy one". For example, Section 46 on "Mastering difficult lighting - using a light meter" tells you that when you have difficult lighting conditions a separate light meter can help, but it doesn't give you the slightest clue as to how. OK, this isn't an instruction book but not even giving a reference to another deeper coverage is negligent and simply demonstrates an unwillingness to get involved with the action.
If you want a book that tells you that lenses can be heavy, that you should carry a spare battery and perhaps even a spare memory card, then this book might be for you. For me the line that sums up the book is in the section "Diving with your camera":
"...but the one essential piece of equipment is a waterproof housing for you camera..."
Again you could forgive such statements of the obvious if there were any statements of the non-obvious in the rest of the book.
On the plus side this is a nicely produced book with some nice color photos to smooth your way from page 1 to 124. If you are not a geek or a techie, aspiring or otherwise, then you might get more from this shallow overview of topics in photography than I did. I'd describe it as pretty but not useful.