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Messages - underjammer

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Lenses / Re: Speedy Manual Focusing?
« on: April 17, 2013, 03:29:26 PM »
How do focus screens work on newer body? Are they like the old split prism from the film-era? Any recommendation on which is the best for the 6D? Thanks a lot!

I'd also be interested in some experiences with these, there only seems to be one option left (no katzeyeoptics for ff, brightscreen seems to be out of business). As far as I understand it they screw up spot/partial metering, at least with fast lenses?


The 6D has an official "user changeable" focus screen, so you can buy the precision screen from Canon..  However, it's not a split prism (or a microprism) focusing screen.  It's just a matte screen that shows focus significantly better.  But it's only like $35, so it's a good start..  It's called the Canon Eg-S precision focusing screen.  I've never used it, so I can't say how dark / hard it is to use if you are using slower lenses with it..  (ie, you're switching out lenses and not switching out the focusing screen..).  I surely wouldn't want to swap the screen out a lot..

Lenses / Re: Help with efs 17-85
« on: August 30, 2012, 06:32:13 PM »
Just asking to be sure..

Do you have other lenses to verify that it's your lens that's the problem?  I'm pretty sure I got error 99's when my shutter was dying on me.  It started by giving that error periodically..  Then once every 5-10 shots.. a power-cycle and i was good to go.  Then I think it eventually just stopped, and gave that error 100% of the time.

But right..  if that's your only lens, you might need to make sure it's not the camera.

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Re: Cheap Camera Ideas...worth it?
« on: August 24, 2012, 12:43:49 AM »
My friend has a rebel xt (not xti) and is going to India.  She wants to know if, for $200, it's a better idea to buy a point and shoot or another lens to compliment her 18-55mm.  My problem is I don't believe there is a good answer to this question.  She says used lenses are not an issue, but $200 will still only get you so far.

As you can probably tell she really isn't that into photography as much as she just wants a record of her trip, but I would still like to give her good/correct advice.  What say you CR braintrust?

Just how not-into-photography is she, exactly..?  The fact that she's curious about other lenses sounds like she's more into it than not into it..  Does she use her camera regularly for fun, and does she use it much in non-auto mode?  Personally, I'd say unless she's really into it, going to India with a DSLR with multiple lenses is going to be more trouble than it's worth.

What's she going to be doing there..?  Is she going to be doing tourist-ee stuff?  Or doing some what of a cultural exchange, and hanging around indoors with family/friends?  Visiting historic sites is a day-time thing, and high ISO won't be a problem..  Pretty much all the temple and palace type places that I went to were all open-air outdoorsie.  And unless she's in the mountains, it's probably going to be hottt, and maybe humid, if she's on a coast.  Maybe this time of the year isn't so bad, though?

Also, if she's just there on vacation, and she's not that into photography, she should be focusing on her trip, and not on taking pictures of her trip..  She doesn't want to get done with her trip and realize she missed the experience because she was too busy with her camera.  However, if she's going to be there a while, actually living there, then by all means definitely bring the camera and use it when she can, if that's what she's into.

When I was there, I used my 17-85mm for like 90% of my shots..  I did throw on a telephoto when I was taking pictures of palace details, or monkeys and what not, but most of the time not so much..  I also traveled alone, so I could take my sweet time and not be rushed by anyone, or slow anyone down..

I also had a point and shoot with me, which I used a whole bunch.  There is ALLL sorts of crazy stuff going on in the streets of India, and point'n'shoot in hand is waaaaay easier than DSLR in hand.  And it's also inconspicuous, which is a GOOD thing in a lot of situations.

Also, in India, a big camera is a magnet for people wanting your money.  They're going to get in her shots and then demand money from her, if she's doing tourist-ee stuff, haha.  To avoid it, she's going to have to tell them to get lost.  A LOT, haha.  But they move along..  Or at least they moved along for me (a guy).  They'll probably do it if she's got a point and shoot, too, but they probably won't notice quite as quickly..

Anyway, these are things to consider..  If she's really into it, then by all means I highly recommend she brings her Rebel!  But if she's not, and just wants pictures for memories, and doesn't really care, I'd really recommend just a point and shoot..

IF she's set on bringing the Rebel, I'd really really really recommend getting the 18-55mm IS.  It's all over eBay and craigslist for ridiculously cheap..  And, I'd ALSO recommend the 55-250 IS as others have said, too..  It also is extremely available on the used market..  I wouldn't recommend a prime just before going on a big trip.  That's going to be a lot of time playing/messing with camera instead of focusing on the trip!  (but again, if she's INTO photography and isn't just there for a quick visit, then sure, a prime is a great lens to play with and use..  But not so much otherwise..).  A 50mm prime on an XT for a travel lens?  I don't think so.  And don't forget, multiple lenses plus camera most likely means a dedicated camera bag.

If she's going to get a point and shoot, I can't say NO to an s95 or s100.. they are awesome...  I have an s90..  but if she really isn't THAT into photography, and doesn't really live for RAW format, I don't see why she shouldn't get something like an sx230 or sx260 (affordable travel zoom!)..  People are going to tear me a new one for such a suggestion, probably, haha, due to some idea of "questionable" image quality..  but what ever..  We all used ancient point and shoots years ago that were just fine...  I had my SD630 with me in India, and that thing rocked.  If you buy an s95, you're not going to be zooming in to see the crazy detail work on the Taj Mahal, etc..  All us s90-s100 users are already carrying our DSLRS on trips with us, so we don't need that extra zoom a travel zoom will give you.

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Re: Canon 5dc, better than T1i?
« on: August 13, 2012, 01:49:51 AM »
Thanks for all the positive replies guys :D Glad, I'm not the only one who considered actually buying a 7 year old camera. I have another inquiry about the 5d.

I plan to buy the body only for now because it's pretty cheap. Ebay list $750 as the lowest price, haven't check craigslist or the FM forms though.

I know this is kind of really bad idea, but what's a good non-L EF lens that can work well with the Canon 5Dc. I'm asking about lenes like the Canon 28-135, Canon 28-105, or any other EF lenses. I'm not looking for EF Primes just yet, lots of vacations planned for the next 3 months so I'd rather purchase a Zoom lens for convenience. If didn't need to pay for college, I would have no problem with this but I'm stuck in school and I really have no choice :/
I would not pay more than $650 for a good used 5D classic.  Make sure its had the mirror fix.
A good used 28-135 for about $200 -$225 will be a good choice, however, as far as low light goes, you are going to be struggling with a slow lens.
Check your local Craigs list, and negotiate.  Many sellers have no clue, and ask far too much.

Oh yea!  The 28-135mm IS, awesome call for a walk-arounder!

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Re: Canon 5dc, better than T1i?
« on: August 12, 2012, 11:15:21 PM »
Band concerts are where I find my self pushing the ISO to 1600. Also, I tend to hang out in dark areas with my friends. Like my friends don't like having a lot light in their rooms.

Gotcha..  These are definitely ISO pushing situations.  I'm actually with K-amps that the 5DII might be the better suited camera (but it's significantly more expensive), and after you get the 5Dc, you might find that lacking ISO-wise a bit, too.  But, being able to combine full-frame, with wide angle primes, you will do 2-3 stops better than what the T1i + the 17-55mm 2.8 could get you, so maybe the 5Dc would be OK.

Also, in the case of band concerts, I'd probably say that image stabilization won't help you much, since you're going to be pushing the shutter speed to hand-holdable levels, anyway, since you've got moving subjects.  As Mt Spokane said, specialized primes are prob in order.

For hanging with friends, though, who might be sitting around, or moving slowly, you miight be able to get away with 2.8 with IS by going to a slower shutter speed.  But if you're not satisfied with your kit-lens at 18mm f/3.5, then f/2.8 probably won't do you much better..  If you're doing room shots zoomed in toward 55mm, then the 2.8 may help, since you'll get +2 stops of light by going constant aperture..  But if you're doing zoomed-out shots, closer to 18mm, then you'll need a prime to do better than the kit lens,  and those are moneyyyy..  (And 20mm (Sigma) is the widest you can get, which might not be wide enough on a crop..).  So full frame might just be it for you!  Do you find your kit lens to be wide enough in room shots, just not fast enough?  You'll definitely need either a 20mm or 24mm, if it's not wide enough.  But if it's wide enough, the 28mm prime on full frame might do you well...  the 28mm is cheapest, and it's a fine lens, really..  I had one for a while.  (If you were to stick with your T1i, getting, say, the 17-55mm, 2.8 would only give you half a stop of light more than your kit lens, so that won't be enough, probably..  But you could also consider the Sigma 20mm 1.8, which would give about 1.5 to 2 stops over the kit lens.. but you'd lose a bittt of focal length).

Sorry that section was a bit run-on-ee and repetitive.

A is what I was looking for. I tend to shoot wider than longer. If I were to get a 24-105 or 25-70, I'd feel like i'd be missing more on the wider end on my T1i. I've tried the 24-70 on my T1i when I was with my uncle. Every time there'd be a group photo, I'd constantly find myself stepping back farther than normal. I know that on a crop, the corners ares better than a Full Frame.

Yup, you nailed it.  You def need a specialized wiiide lens, whether you're using cropped or full frame..  your 18-55mm on the T1i is about the same as 28mm on full frame, so you'd need to go to at least 24mm on full frame to do better.  If you don't mind the wide-itude of 18mm on your T1i, then the 28mm prime, or that Tamron 28-70 I mentioned (but it sounds like you probably should look at a wide prime over a 2.8 zoom) should be OK.  Otherwise, you'll find 28mm lacking, too.

She has the 18-55 and a Canon 50 1.8. She told me that even though her camera is an old camera, she gets the most out of it.  She made me think about buying the 5Dc because it's an older body, but it's still a great camera. I don't really need 18mps anyways, I'm not printing any posters or anything like that :D

Gotcha, cool.  Absolutely, older cameras are still viable.  : D  But my main concern is, for the 5Dc, the shutter count.  That camera was like $3K when it came out, so it was probably mostly pros buying it, which means lottssss of shutter actuations.  I've seen listings of 5Dc's that explicitly mention they've had their shutter replaced.  That's a goood thing!  : D  Look for that (or ask..).

I'd be willing to try the Tamron if I get the 5Dc. Got any good IS EF lens suggestions?

Well, I'd probably say a 24-105 f/4 IS is the way to go for IS and walk around..  But on the flip side, you don't get f/2.8..  But for walking around (non-event stuff..), f/2.8 probably isn't so important.  But to be able to have 1 lens do both event and walk around, there isss the new Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 IS.  I don't know much about it, though..  It's a hard decision, which lenses to pick!

Personally, I have the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8, and it's excellent..  I held out for a looong time before I got it, and oh man, I wish I had gotten it sooner.  If I went full frame, I would probably have the 24-105 f/4 as my walk around..  And just have a bunch of primes (which I already have..) to supplement.  But for doing event stuff (perhaps a concert, as well), a 2.8 zoom might be the better option, even without IS..  (Which means for mee, I'd wind up having both, haha..).  I really am a big fan of IS for walk-around stuff.  I'd probably investigate the Tamron 28-70, since I've heard such good things about it, if I was going to have a 2.8 "specialty" zoom AND the 24-105mm IS.

For concerts, it's hard to choose what's best..  a 2.8 zoom is good for having options, but a faster prime will give you more light.. but you might need more than 1, unless you can always position yourself at the right distance from the stage, for the particular prime you have..

I would not pay more than $650 for a good used 5D classic.  Make sure its had the mirror fix.
A good used 28-135 for about $200 -$225 will be a good choice, however, as far as low light goes, you are going to be struggling with a slow lens.
Check your local Craigs list, and negotiate.  Many sellers have no clue, and ask far too much.

Thanks, I'll check do my best to try to negotiate the price of the 5Dc. Thanks for the heads up. :]

That sounds like a great price for a 5Dc.  I wouldn't be able to fault you for getting one at that price..  : D  On craigslist, I've seen them as low as 700-750 recently.  I've also seen them (absurdly high) at $1000..  Just know you're going to pump a whole lot of money into it glass-wise, too, and remember its possible limitations.  My main concern is the shutter count, and my secondary "concern" is its somewhat marginal ISO performance over the T1i.  But by getting a wide angle prime along with it (more moneyyy), you will be able to up the ISO "difference" a lot more..  But that's onlyy if you need wider-than 28mm full-frame equivalent..  (If you don't need wider, you can look at the Sigma 20mm f/1.8, which is the widest/fastest thing you can throw on a crop camera, I think..  But that lens might be more expensive than the Canon 28mm 1.8..  I sold mine for about $400..).

And, of course, you'll probably be able to sell the 5Dc again, when you decided to get a different full-framer, so it's not a bad investment, I'm sure.  : D  It definitely would suit your dim-room needs (along with another lens, though..), so if you can get a good one for a good price, it's probably worth it.  : D

EOS Bodies - For Stills / Re: Canon 5dc, better than T1i?
« on: August 12, 2012, 04:11:37 PM »
I love my T1i to death, but I grown to dislike the noise at around ISO 800 and with a kit lens, I've found myself constantly having to push that high.

I have no experience with the 5Dc's ISO noise, but appropriate exposure can have a huge effect on noise.  If you get a faster lens for your T1i, you might find yourself not having as much of an issue with it..  But a lot of people complain about the ISO at around that range even for the 7D, etc, so there's not much you can do some times...  When do you find yourself pushing the ISO, and find it lacking..?

Looking at the pictures on dpreview, it looks like the 5Dc will give you about 1.5(ish) stops of ISO over the T1i, which isn't necessarily a revolutionary advantage.

Many people say that I should get a better lens like the Canon 28mm 1.8 or Canon 17-55 2.8 but I do want to go FF some time in my life and I don't want to buy EF-S lenses seeing that will put me further away from purchasing a FF camera.

First off, if you are die-hard feeling that you won't buy an EF-S lens, because you eventually want to go full-frame, then by all means, I recommend you go full-frame, and no longer be limited by that mentality, because you really do need to expand your lenses to really take advantage of your camera, and to expand your skills.

If, though, you are just "thinking" that, and can be convinced otherwise, you should look at, if nothing else, the ultra-wide angle EF-S lenses (the 8-ish-20-ish mm zoom lenses)..  And check their price out NEW, and then check the going price of uses ones on ebay.  That will give you an idea of how much such a lens will "cost" you in terms of ownership, when eventually going full frame (assuming you don't wind up keeping a crop camera around..).  Then, consider if you'd be willing to buy one used, and your ownership cost will essentially approach zero, when it comes time to sell.

You can also watch lensrentals.com for their used lenses..  they are priced very well, and they keep them in tip-top shape, so you know you're getting a good used lens..

If you ask me, there's no reason NOT to buy an EF-S lens, if you have an EF-S camera.  In fact, it's rather silly to avoid EF-S lenses, for their obvious advantages:  cheaper (due to less glass..) and smaller/lighter!  I guess if you are huge, size doesn't matter..  but shoving 10 lenses in a bag adds up.

I also don't want to buy EF lenses because I feel like they aren't used to their full potential on a Crop body.

I'm not sure what you mean by EF lenses not being used to their full potential on an EF-S body..  Do you mean...
a)  if you buy a wide-ish walk around zoom like the 24-70mm 2.8 lens, and you're not able to get the full wide angle 24mm's out of it?  -  this is true..  But on the flip side, that 70mm becomes more like 110mm, so you gain on the other end..  To get wide angle on a crop body, you really need a dedicated wide angle EF-S lens, anyway..  (And to get wide angle on a full-frame, you really need something like the Canon 14mm..)
b)  the EF lenses throw a larger image circle, and you are "throwing some of that image circle away"..?  -  If you ask me, this is something to not think twice about..  I won't argue that the lens is going to be BIGGER, and you could do the same thing with a smaller EF-S lens..  But just because you're throwing away some image circle doesn't mean you're not using it to its full potential..  In fact, you're using the "sweet spot" of the lens, so you're actually getting more lens than you really paid for...  and when you do upgrade from your crop body to full frame, you might be like "what the heck...  now the edges look worse than they used to.."..  And then it'll be lens-upgrade time, and you'll be shelling out 1.5 to 2K for the next-best lens..
c)  that 1.2 aperture doesn't give you the same bokeh on a crop as on a full frame, when framing someone the same for portaits?  -  yup, you're right, and there's nothing you can do about it.. But you can still buy the EF lens now, and use it to take significantly "better" (aka different) images than you could have without it..  To really blow your mind with bokeh, regardless, you're going to be spending big $$, so it's not really something to fret about for the moment..  (Or just take a person and pull them way away from their background for the shot, I guess..)
d)  other reason you're thinking?  Those were the only ones I could think of..

Talking to my girlfriend's mother, who is a photographer, made me think about something. She's had a Canon XTi ever since it was first released. She never upgraded her body, yet she still is able to produce fantastic images from her camera.

What lenses does she have..?  Can you use/borrow any of them?  Because that's an EF-S camera..  What did she make you think about?  The 5Dc?  (PS I had that camera, too, and it was great..  The T1i (I have one as a "beater" camera..) has better ISO (about 1 stop advantage), and higher resolution..)

Do you think my want for a 5Dc is complete sane? or is the 5Dc not a viable option anymore.

There's surely nothing wrong with the 5Dc.  But they are getting old(er)..  So you really need to make sure you find one with a low-ish shutter count.  The cost of a shutter replacement is like 250-ish, maybe.  And I just read a post that indicated if the shutter count is over 100,000, they force you to replace another part (at and additional $200).  The 5D has a shutter life of 100,000, btw..  I'm not saying it's not worth the shutter replacement..  it's just another added cost on top of the "hey I'm buying this 5Dc for really cheap, aww yea!".  (If you grab one for 700, say, and wind up paying another 500 for shutter replacement soon down the road, that's $1200..)

But right, I digress..  Here's the rest of what you're going to need when you get your 5Dc..
a)  The 5Dc
b)  some lens you can do general photography with (be it the 24-105 or 24-70..) (or the 40mm pancake as someone recommended, but if it's only that, it's going to leave you very limited without other lenses..)
c)  a portait lens (canon 85 1.8, or maybe sigma 85 1.4.. at the minimum..)
d)  hopefully (b) will cover your landscape requirements, else you're looking at the 17-40, etc..

So you're still going to be needing to unload a lot of money on top of the 5Dc..

I might recommend before getting the 5D, maybe look into the Canon 85 1.8 (or the Sigma 85 1.4, if you can swing the $$)..  It's decently priced, and will be a great portrait lens for your T1i.  Heck, you should go out tomorrow and buy the Canon 50 1.8, if you don't have one.  It's like $100, and will give you a good idea of how the 85 1.8 will look on a full-frame..  But maybe you won't be able to get over how cheap that lens is, hence the 85 1.8 recommendation.

Anyway, right..  The 5Dc can be great, but don't necessarily push yourself away from your T1i before you actually give a fair chance, I guess?  That's my take.  You're limiting yourself by not getting lenses for the T1i.

I know this is kind of really bad idea, but what's a good non-L EF lens that can work well with the Canon 5Dc. I'm asking about lenes like the Canon 28-135, Canon 28-105, or any other EF lenses.

Supposedly the Tamron 28-70mm is an excellent and cheap one.  However, I would personally recommend a lens with image stabilization of some kind for your everyday lens..

if you don't need instantaneous capture of all them there pixels, you can totally do that right noow!  With a gigapan thingy!  Heck, someone made a 270 gigapixel (panoramic) image, haha..


Lighting / Re: Anyone used a LED ring light for macro?
« on: August 03, 2012, 07:07:26 PM »
This thing is pretty cheap, and it uses your existing speedlight.  It's kinda big/bulky, but it works really well.  For macro, though, I'm not sure if the lens itself would get in the way and cause shading, etc..


For macro, you might also want to look into a softbox, rather than a ring light.  Here's a place to start for softbox / macro lighting investigating.


I have both a Kenko 1.4x DG Pro and a Tamron 2x SP 300 Pro.

I got the Tamron 2x because I won a pretty cheap ebay auction.  Its image quality is actually pretty good (save for some CA)..  Stopping down 1.5 stops is about the same sharpness as wide open without the TC.  You do lose some contrast, but you can pull it back in post processing no problem..  The main problem I have with the 2x is autofocus, though..  It likes to hunt a lot, if there's not maaajor contrast with what I'm shooting at.  I'll do a lot of manual focus with it, though, no problem.  But good luck with fast-moving stuff...

The Kenko 1.4x I got years ago, and it's great.  It's a little sharper than the Tamron 2x, and a bittt better with CA, but still has a fair amount of CA..  So you just need to be aware of where/what you're shooting.  It's got better contrast, for sure, too.  I was more impressed with the 2x that it was so near optically to the 1.4x, after reading all sorts of stuff about 2x complain-complain over the years.  I'd say the autofocus is its main problem.

The Kenko 1.4 will do a similar hunting with non f/2.8 lenses, and even with my Sigma 120-300, autofocus speed slows way down.  And as someone mentioned, the 1.4x plus the 70-300 IS non-L @ 300 is definitely NOT sharp.  Even stopped down, it leaves something to be desired..  But the 70-300@300 isn't sharp in the first place, so you can't expect tooo much.  (Really its fine for web-sized photos, though..) Also, it'll hunt like crazy @300, but still try to autofocus..  (essentially it's trying to autofocus at f/8...).

They are both pretty available on eBay, and I've seen them go for anywhere from 50-120-ish...  Totally random!  Even if you get a 100-400, I would recommend you pick up a 1.4x, if for no other reason than a little bit of fun, and a little bit of "just in case"..  It's like an inch thick with end caps..  Definitely worth it having it in the bag, if you ask me!  The 2x is significantly larger, and less able to squeeze into the bag unnoticed..  So I'm less inclined to encourage you to go get a 2x.

When I have nothing better to do, I like to stack them, and go crazy..  Interestingly, if the 1.4x is in front of the 2x, I lose 3 stops of light.  But if the 2x is in front of the 1.4x, I only lose 2 stops of light..  But in the latter case, the image quality is poorer, and I need to stop down extra, anyway...   : D

Software & Accessories / Re: Focusing screen for 5d Mark ii
« on: July 10, 2012, 03:12:02 PM »
I have a Katzeye split-prism for my 7D, and I had a cheap-o $15-ish one from ebay for my 400D/xti.  The cheap-o one had a dual-diagonal split-prism, which worked very nicely, while the Katzeye has a horizontal one, which is often hard to see..  I also have a KPS 1.3x multiplier eyepiece thing, and if you ask me, it helps with focus-screen accuracy 10 fold.  I go from eye-strain without it to super easy to know what's actually in focus with it.  I would highly recommend one.

I actually prefer the microprism part of the focusing screen, so if I could pick up a $35 EG-S screen for the 7D I would in a heart beat.  I imagine I would like it.  And $35 is not much of an investment (and if I hated it, I'd just sell it again..)  Never used one, though, so I can't tell you the difference.

My Katzeye is *not* "optimized" for brightness (the OptiBright thing), by the way, so 100% of the screen actually shallow depth of field.  I can use outside the microprism area to focus, but it does get dim out in that area in low light.

Oh right..  As for your f/4 lens, I'd agree and say that from my experience with my screens, f/4 is OK, as long as you've got decent light.  f/5.6 is do-able, but borderline frustrating..  If I could only work with that outer part of my screen, I probably would be unhappy at f/4, but again, no idea how it compares to the EG-S.  I imagine if the 50D is OK at f/4 for you, then the 5D should be just as fine, or maybe be a bit better, since you technically have more light getting to your eye, due to the larger prism?  (Feel free to tell me I'm wrong there..)

Lenses / Re: Moving to India
« on: June 22, 2012, 04:47:27 PM »
I can't believe you're going back...

Why? We had a great time, loved the food, people, culture etc. Also it is a growth area in our professional fields!

your wife is going to stay indoors nearly all the time?

Not likely, she is the Scientific Attaché for the French Embassy...  She got the job, and as an acadmic scientist (biophysicist/biochemist) it was not too difficult for me to find another lab there to continue my research (muscle disease in children)... So, it is not as though I’m dragging her there, nor do I think it will be a problem. :)

Of all the countries I've been to, I've never been harassed and treated as badly as I have in India. And I'm male. For women travelling alone, it is worse again.

When I was in India, I got a lotttT of the "a white guy! he's 'rich' let's try to get some money out of him" in tourist-ee areas, but it got pretty repetitive (and extremely funny..) after like 2 days.. .  It wasss annoying when people would try to get in my pictures, though..  (They then expect you to "tip" them..)  But they'd do it for *everyone* with a camera..  DSLR or not.  That was about the extent of harassment I got.

There were definitely some sketchy people, but I think they pretty much gravitate toward alll tourists, in terms of "easy money", and I never felt any sense of danger.  It was fairly innocent attention.  I also started telling them off pretty quick, and they left me alone, since they knew they weren't going to get my rupees!  It was as easy as that.

(However, there are things like people-who-watch-your-shoes-for-money... And they do that for EVERYONE, not just "whitey", so in those cases you really should be paying them.)

I did get loads and loads of kids coming up to me asking for hand outs (because I'm white)..  At first it was annoying, and they would keep pestering me, but I had brought a lot of gum, so I started handing sticks of gum out, and they couldn't have been happier.  : D  No more pestering, just lots of happy kids, and they'd either want to talk to me, asking me lots of questions, follow me around curiously, or move on and get money from other people, depending on how touristy or busy the area was.  An older woman asked me for money once, as I was giving gum to some kids, so I offered her a piece, but she just gave me a dirty look, hahaha..  So I gave her some money, and THEN she reeeeally wanted the gum, too.  : D

Outside of tourist-ee areas, I got a whole lot more interest and excitement just by being a foreigner.  People were very warm and friendly, and if I had my camera out, they loved to get their picture taken and see the results on a screen.  (This was 5-6 years ago, though.)  No idea how it's changed since then..

Also, as for weather, Rajasthan and Bangalore are totally different beasts, I think?  Rajasthan was hot and dry, and was just fine..  (46 degrees c (115+ f) - no problem!).  Sure you might sweat, but you won't be soaked in it (especially carrying around a camera bag).  Hopefully Bangalore isn't has humid as Chennai!  In Chennai, it was instant-soakage and it did NOT leave you.  Oh man!  Loose clothes and loose bags.  The temps weren't nearly as hot, but the humidity was a killer.

Also, if I was stomping through heavily packed areas, like a bazaar, I wouldn't have my DSLR out, though..  Just my point-and-shoot in my pocket.  Mostly because, as someone mentioned above, the DSLR really gets in the way.  I guess if you're more aggressive and/or gung-ho you can get out there in the thick of it, but that really isn't my style, haha.  : D

I WAS paranoid of thieves trying to lift stuff from my backpack, though...  I didn't have a backpack camera bag, though..  just one at my side, and i had the zipper / flap pointed IN toward my body, so there was pretty much no way anyone could get into my bag (short of cutting it open, I guess, but I wasn't THAT paranoid, hehe..)

As for those lenses, I'd normally recommend the 70-200 over the other two, but in your case, I'm not sure..  I don't know the 70-300 size/weight..  if it's significantly smaller, mayyybe..  but I doubt it is, though I have no experience with that 70-300.  I have the 70-300 IS NON L and I also have the 55-250 ef-s.  I brought the 70-300 IS non L with me to India (the 55-250 didn't exist then), and it was great and I used it a bunch, but I don't think it really has much over the 55-250, other than full-frame coverage (which you don't have, so it's a non-issue..).  The 70-300 IS non L isn't quite as sharp at 300 as the rest of the focal range, so that extra 50mm reeeally doesn't get you much over the 55-250..  I would say it's not worth it.  And its autofocus speed isn't anything to write home about, if I recall, though I've never actually tried comparing it to the 55-250.  Buttt, I don't think I've ever tried to use the 70-300 for anything that neeeeeeded ultra autofocus, so it's never let me down, either..  (None of these lenses are really birding lenses..)  And since I know that range, personally I wouldn't bother limiting myself with the 70-300 L 5.6, when I can get the 70-200 II 2.8 and throw a 2x adapter on there for 400 5.6 if I reeally needed it (except for autofocus speed, perhaps... I'm sure the adapter will kick it below the belt in terms of autofocus, but I've never used that lens with an adapter, so I don't know.).  But that's just me.  So I'd say stick with the 55-250 or go all out with the 70-200.  Maybe give the 55-250 a shot over there, even though its falling apart..  The 55-250 I think is an awesome everyday stomping around telephoto.

Sounds like an awesome experience for you guys!  Enjoy it!  : D

As for other places, I'd recommend Torrey Pines State Park (right on the ocean, north of La Jolla) and Cabrillo National Monument, which is at the end of Point Loma (the penisula on the west side of San Diego Bay).  You get a pretty nice view of San Diego downtown from Cabrillo.

For beach exploration, going to Mission beach / Pacific beach and walking the boardwalk will get you some good views (and it's usually pretty packed mid-day on the weekends), and walking (or biking..) along Mission Bay is nice, too.  There are volleyball courts at the southern part of the board walk, and I think maybe a few randomly along it, too.  Surfing you can always find at the northern end of Pacific Beach, and also La Jolla Shores and a beach at the end of Tourmaline Street in north Pacific Beach.  Look up Tourmaline Beach.  It has pretty consistent waves, but generally tamer waves, so you probably won't see anything crazy there..  But they are good waves.  This time of year the waves are starting to slow down, too, so it'll be harder to find big crazy surf (which usually isn't the best to surf, anyway..).  There are also a number of consistent spots along Sunset Cliffs Blvd in Ocean Beach, too, and right at the base of the Ocean Beach Pier (which is a famous place to check out, since it's the largest public fishing pier on the West Coast, or maybe just in So-Cal, I'm not sure, hehe..).  But right, you can be standing up on the pier to take pictures of surfers, if the waves are goood, and that spot is usually pretty consistent.  Really, you can find people surfing anywhere, but a lot of times, surf is hit or miss.  They're always out in the water waiting, though..

Sailboats I would say you're more likely to see off San Diego Bay, rather than Mission bay, but I don't know much on that one..  I tend to see them when I go to Cabrillo, but they are either sailing into or out of the bay.

And as skimamf mentioned, definitely try to get to Coronado Island (the island in San Diego bay), and Coronado Beach (on the island..).  It's my favorite beach, just really a pretty place..  nothing very exciting, really, just a huge amount of sand, and generally a quiet place.  There isn't really much surfing there, though.  But the hotel there is where the movie "Some Like It Hot" was filmed.  And just remember the whole island is like 25mph, so don't go speeeding over there!  : D  Oh right, and skimamf also mentioned La Jolla, which is also a great place to check out.  That's where the seal beach is, which is right at La Jolla Cove (there's a nice little park there, too), where seals hang out on the beach, and you can go and watch them (from above).  I thiiink they're there year round, but not sure.  It's where they raise their pups.  (And not to be confused with SEAL Beach, the Navy SEALs training beach, which is at the end of Coronado beach, but I digress..)

And if you reeeeally have some time, and like an adventure, look up the Salton Sea, haha..  The weirdest creepiest place around...  The old abandoned part is at the south-eastern part of the sea.  North eastern part has a camp ground and the info center.  It's about 3 hours east, though..  But you drive through Anza-Borrego desert to get there, which is a wonderful place!  : D

But right, have fun!  : D

I live in San Diego, and I'm a zoo member, but I'm a bad zoo member, and rarely go, haha..  I tend to go to the Zoo's Safari Park (previously known as the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park) more than the actual zoo, too.  Butttt, at the zoo, I feel like you get pretty close to the animals, so a 300mm lens shouldn't be much of a problem so any of those lenses should do you well.  And though I have no experience with the 300mm f/4, that sounds like it might be a great idea, and with a 1.4x extender, it'll give you 400+mm, if you need it.  But size-wise, I don't know what you want to lug around.  I also have the 70-300 non L, and while it's great for what it is, I agree that at 300mm it's on the softer side wide open (but stopped down it's totally fine... but I shoot with a crop camera, so I get its sweet-spot.).

But if you make it to the Safari Park, you'll definitely want the 400mm+ reach, as there are a lottttt of areas where you aren't near the animals.  And you'll probably want it for surfing pics.

I have a 7D, and I'm with Michi, that a 3+ underexposure will bring out all that chroma noise and banding, which is the main issue with the second shot.  (Chroma noise is the colored noise, while luminance noise is the black/white splotchy.)  I bet that one was pretty dang dark out of the camera!

You miiiiight be able to limit the chroma noise in shot 2 a bit by doing this in Lightroom:  (I actually only have Lightroom 3, so not sure if LR4 is set up the same..).

Under Develop, scroll down to the "Detail" section, and in there is the Noise Reduction section..  Then bump up "Color" from 25 (default) to around 35-40..  It miIIiight dull your colors just a tadd, so them bump your contrast a couple notches and your vibrance..  It should bring the image back pretty well, without all that chroma noise.

As for your first shot, I don't have much experience with nice blue sky pictures..  That looks like a lot of noise, though.  Also, how much did you crop that shot?  It looks like it's pretty close to a 100%, so you pretty much max-cropped?  That would be my guess, anyway..  If that's the case, there's not much you can do besides getting a bigger lens..  The hawk doesn't look that bad, really, just a bit tiny!

You can also try messing with the Luminance noise reduction in the hawk shot, and then do sharpening, though..  And if you hold down Option/Alt (on an Apple at least.. not sure if it's the same button on Windows..) you can see the "sharpening mask" as you adjust it, which essentially defines the sharpening edges..  It'll let you not sharpen the noise, while still sharpening the hawk.  (Hold down option, and then click and drag the "Masking" bar under Sharpening, which is juuust above the Noise Reduction, you'll need for your second shot.).

As for a bigger lens, you're kinda limited..

You've got a 400 5.6, which doesn't really allow you to add an extender, because you lose autofocus..

You can get a 300 2.8, which will let you do a 1.4x extender which gets you 420 f/4 (about the same as your 400 5.6, so no real advantage there..), or a 2x extender getting you 600 f/5.6.  Howeverrr, with a 2x extender, you really need to stop down another couple stops to get back to a crisp image..  so you're looking at not shooting faster than f/8 to f/11, which cann be limiting...

A 400 f/4 is sort of non-existant, except for the DO, which is crazy expensive..

Then there's the 500 f/4, 400 f/2.8, and 600 f/4...  And they're all crazy expensive.  And bigggg and heavy.  And really, neither 500 or 600 give you a HUGE increase over 400mm..  BUT, they both offer you the ability to throw a 1.4x extender on them, which does help get that extra reach.

Also, if you were to upgrade to a 1dmk4, you lose a bit of the crop, so your 400mm doesn't reach as far, which will them make you bang your head into the wall even more, haha.  : D  Really, it's just a bigger lens you need..

Aaaand lastly, in my experience, the 7D is just kinda noisy..  But I really don't have a problem with it.  And I would say it's consistently noisy from ISO 400 til ISO 1600..  I don't notice much of a difference.  After that, though, contrast definitely falls off, and detail starts going, but I use ISO 3200 nooo problem!  But definitely not if I'm doing a big crop.  And definitely I have no problem using it if I have substantial light..  Once you start pulling exposure, the higher ISOs are much more noticeable.

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