Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 5 Posts about Camera Settings

In honor of the New Year, Boost Your Photography will spend the month of January featuring collections of top posts across a variety of topics. This opening post will cover top posts explaining specifics of camera settings. Other top posts cover apertureexposurephone photographyDIY photography hackscompositionlenses and accessoriestop photography ideas, and macro photography.

Top Posts about Camera Settings





  • Depth of FieldDepth of Field: it's more than just aperture. Depth of field is the area of the photograph in focus, and this post will highlight all the various components of photography that can impact the depth of field in your final photograph.

Want more great ideas? Follow Boost Your Photography on Pinterest: Boost Your Photography





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Manual Mode in Photography - go for it!

This month's Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge - Shooting Modes - has been leading up to this point: full manual mode. Manual mode is far less intimidating than it may appear at first. This post will walk you through the basics of how to use manual mode to your advantage. (Missed out on the earlier shooting mode posts? Catch up by reading about program mode, shutter priority mode, and aperture priority mode.)


Manual Mode

Manual mode puts you, the photographer, in charge of all of the settings involved in your final image. While this might sound like a lot of responsibility, it is actually only a small step up from shooting in aperture or shutter priority modes. In those modes, you choose two of the three major settings, while the camera chooses the third. (There are, of course, many other settings within your camera, but you can read more about those settings elsewhere in Missed the Shot? Remember Camera Zero.)

In manual mode, you choose all three settings: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. But you are not simply pulling numbers out of thin air. You have two different strategies that you can use when shooting in manual mode: using your light meter or using the 'rule' of Sunny f/16. Each of these options is explained in detail below.

Using Your Light Meter in Manual Mode

The first option for choosing your settings in manual mode is to rely on your camera's internal light meter. When shooting in any mode other than manual, your camera relies on its light meter to determine the correct exposure for the given composition. When shooting in manual, the light meter still provides an estimation of the correct exposure. (Read more here about correct exposure.)


The light meter line graph is visible through your viewfinder when you are shooting. Different camera brands and models will have slightly different displays, but the main idea behind the light meter graph is the same.

If the flashing arrow under the line is pointing to zero, it means that the camera's light meter has determined that your composition is correctly exposed. A negative value means that the composition is too dark (according to the light meter) and a positive value means that the image is too bright.

This is where you, as the photographer, come into play. You now get to decide how you want to change either the ISO, aperture, and/or shutter speed to get the exposure that you want. You do not have to "agree" with your camera and choose values that will give an exact zero, according to the light meter, but it is a useful guide if you are unsure about which settings to use.

Quick Aside about the Exposure Triangle

You can find a lot of information and long digressions about the exposure triangle, but the key point is that you can change the exposure value (as recorded by the light meter) for a given picture in one of three ways: you can change the ISO, the aperture, or the shutter speed. (Sound familiar?) Many people picture this as a triangle-shaped graph with all three variables on it, but I have never found that visualization particularly useful.


I prefer to think about it situationally. Lets say that your meter says your photograph is too dark by one stop. (Your light meter is pointing to -1.) You can ...

  • Double your ISO (say, from 100 to 200 or 400 to 800), which would increase your exposure by one stop. The trade-off is the possibility of increased noise with a higher ISO value.
  • Open up your aperture (make it wider), say from f/8 to f/5.6 or from f/4 to f/2.8, which would increase your exposure by one stop. The trade-off is a decreased depth of field (amount of the image in focus).
  • Double the time for your shutter speed (say, from 1/250th of a second to 1/125th of a second or from 1" to 2" long), which would increase your exposure by one stop. The trade-off is that a longer shutter speed might not work with a moving subject or a shaky photographer.
  • Some combination of all three.
What if you are unsure of where to even start with your settings? That brings us to the other topic I have already mentioned, the "rule" of sunny f/16.

Sunny F/16 and Manual Mode


Sunny F/16 is such a popular concept in photography, that if you Google it, you can find a plethora of t-shirts and other memorabilia with its diagram. Back in the days of film photographers, you would have to carry around a light meter as an additional piece of equipment, rather than having it handily inside your camera. So this was where the "rule" of sunny f/16 originated.




So, here's the rule (or guideline, as it were): if you are shooting on a sunny day, you can set your aperture for f/16 and then set your shutter speed as the reciprocal of your ISO. For an ISO of 100, shutter speed of 1/100th. ISO of 800, shutter speed of 1/800th. Easy.

Want to take it beyond sunny days? You can probably guess the rest of the "rules" by the t-shirt above. Somewhat overcast? F/11. Totally overcast? F/8. Bordering-on-dim overcast? F/5.6. Sunset? F/4. And a bonus: super bright snow or sand? F/22.


Each of these sets of settings will give you a starting place for your manual photography. But what if you want to shoot outside on a sunny day with a wide open aperture for effect? Rather than do all the math of counting f-stops and converting your aperture changes with how to correspondingly change your shutter speed, may I suggest my favorite method?

Guess and check.

Switch back into aperture priority mode, dial in your ISO 100 and f/1.8. Hold your shutter down halfway and take note of the suggested shutter speed. Then switch back into manual and dial in those same settings. Now you can tweak your shutter speed as needed, referring to your light meter or histogram as your guide. (Read more about Demystifying the Histogram for help.)

Shoot in Manual Mode

This week your challenge is to try shooting in manual mode. Take it step-by-step and see how it goes. Find some situations to try out the "rule" of sunny f/16 or one of its counterparts. Try relying on your light meter to get your exposure close and then tweak it to get what you want. You may be surprised at how easy it is to make the jump!

Share a link or a photograph in the comments below, or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography


Next month we will be paying attention to light and lighting for the Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks ChallengeJoin us to think about light in your photographs. Or, jump in for a re-boot of #BYP52Weeks starting off at Week 1 in January!

2013:


  • Favorite Photography Books and Authors: part 1. This first post on my favorite photography books and authors focuses on authors who explore the bigger picture of photography and will inspire you will ideas for composition, design, and more.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Shooting Mode: Part 3 - aperture priority

This month's Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge is focusing the different creative shooting modes available on your camera: program mode, shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, and full manual mode


Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority mode allows you to set the aperture and ISO for your camera, and it will choose a corresponding shutter speed, based on its calculation of the correct exposure. (Read more about correct and creative exposure in the article All about Exposure or about ISO in ISO Basics.) Aperture priority mode is usually abbreviated as A on your shooting mode dial.

The aperture (or opening) of your camera lens controls the amount of light that enters your camera and impacts the depth of field (how much of your photograph is in focus). A wide open aperture (like f/1.8) captures a lot of light but relatively little of the photograph will be in focus, while a narrow, closed down aperture (like f/22) captures far less light but much more of the photograph will be in focus.

Looking to learn more about aperture?

Common Situations to Use Aperture Priority Mode


Creative Bokeh Photography

Bokeh photography requires a wide open aperture. You want to keep your subject relatively close to the camera and your background (or background lights) farther away for the best bokeh effect. Read more in All about Bokeh.


Portraits 

Portrait photographers often use aperture priority mode and shoot at the wider end of the aperture spectrum. This creates a blurred background look that focuses attention on your subject. When working with a thin depth of field, it is important to make sure that your focus is spot on. Read more in Portrait Photography Basics and Top Tips for Photography Portraits and Posing.


Indoor or Low-Light Photography

Aperture priority mode can also be useful when shooting indoors or in other low-light situations. Setting a wide aperture allows your camera to constantly choose the fastest available shutter speed, especially if lighting situations are changing while you are shooting.


Starbursts and Sun Flares

Starburst effects and sun flares are created by using a narrow aperture like f/22. The number of points on the star are impacted by the number of aperture blades inside your camera. Try it out with different lenses to see what kinds of effects you can capture. Read more about Using Sun Flares and Starbursts to Create Stunning Images.


Waterfalls

Waterfall photography can also benefit from using a narrow aperture like f/22. This forces your camera to choose the longer shutter speed possible, giving the composition and conditions. Longer shutter speeds create the smooth, flowing water effect that can make for memorable waterfall shots. Read more in Yes, Go Chasing Waterfalls.

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

This week your challenge is to try shooting in aperture priority mode. Try one of the situations above or another photography subject. Shoot a range of photographs across the aperture spectrum to really see how controlling aperture can help you get the shot you want.

Share a link or a photograph in the comments below, or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday and Photoshop Posts over at Craftsy

I have contributed several posts recently over at Craftsy that I wanted to alert you to. Two are holiday-themed, and two are Photoshop advice. You can check out the articles by clicking the links or via the pins below. Enjoy!

Quick Tips for Photographing the Holidays (While Staying Sane)





The holidays are photography season, and this post presents some common sense tips for how to successfully manage your photography - and your holidays - all while keeping your sanity too. Read Quick Tips for Photographing the Holidays (While Staying Sane).

Exposure Compensation for Perfect Holiday Lights Photographs





Exposure compensation is a great way to make sure your camera takes the photograph you intend - which is especially important when shooting holiday lights, both inside and out. Read Exposure Compensation for Perfect Holiday Lights Photographs.

Improve Editing by Installing and Using Photoshop Actions





Photoshop actions can speed up your workflow and allow you to streamline your post-processing. Learn how to install and use Photoshop actions - including links to recommended sites and free actions. Read Improving Editing by Installing and Using Photoshop Actions.

How to Use Layer Masks to Create Composite Images





Learn how to use layer masks in Photoshop to create unusual and creative composite images. Layer masks allow you to make nondestructive changes to your images and even tweak them later. Read How to Use Layer Masks to Create Composite Images in Photoshop. (And watch me transform into a pretty butterfly.)





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Shooting Modes: Part 2 - shutter priority

This month's Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge is focusing the different creative shooting modes available on your camera: program mode, shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, and full manual mode


Shutter Priority Mode

Shutter priority mode is useful in any situation when you want to control the shutter speed of your camera. In shutter priority mode, you set the ISO and shutter values, and the camera will choose an aperture, based on its calculation of the correct exposure. (Read more about correct and creative exposure in the article All about Exposure or about ISO in ISO Basics.) For many cameras, shutter priority mode is labeled S for shutter, but Canon cameras use the abbreviation Tv for time value.

Not sure what shutter speed to use when? Start with the article Shutter Speed: an overview for a quick introduction to various shutter speeds. Or read Shutter Speed Guidelines for a handy pocket-sized reference about recommended shutter speeds.

Common Situations to Use Shutter Priority Mode

Freezing Motion

Seagull in Flight, 1/500th of a second

When you want a moving subject to appear sharp, you need to use a fast shutter speed, otherwise some or all of your subject will turn out blurred. This is a common problem if you are interested in shooting wildlife, pets, or children. A general rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed at or quicker than 1/250th of a second, but very fast subjects (like birds in flight) may need a shutter speed on the order of 1/2000th of a second.

Hand-holding

1/15th of a second - I was too shaky, even though the meerkat was still

If you are shooting without a tripod, practice, good posture, and steady breathing can help you keep your camera steady, but there is a limit. The general rule-of-thumb is that you can hand-hold for the fraction of a second equivalent to the focal length of your lens, so 1/50th of a second for a 50 mm lens or 1/200th of a second for a 200 mm lens. Image stabilization (IS, variously called vibration reduction or vibration control) can extend that speed slightly. Especially if you are shooting in low light situations, you may need to change to a higher ISO or a wider aperture to maintain the shutter speed that you want.

Intentional Blur


There are also situations when you might choose to use blur in your image. With panning, you move your camera in sync with your subject to blur the background. (Read more about Panning in Photography.) You can also move your camera while shooting for other creative effects. (Read more in Creative Reasons to Move Your Camera.) With waterfalls, you want a long shutter speed of at least a second or longer to add a smooth, silky blur to the flowing water. (Read more in Yes, Go Chasing Waterfalls.)

Playing with Light and Long Shutter Speeds


Longer shutter speeds allow you to use light and light painting for fascinating photography. Longer shutter speeds can blur traffic lights into interesting patterns (read How to Photograph Traffic Light Trails) or nighttime carnival rides (read Long Exposure Photography at the Fair(e)). You can spin orbs of light (read Light Painting: how to spin an orb) or orbs of fire (read Spinning Fire with Steel Wool Photography). You can even shoot swirling patterns in the stars (read Stacking Photographs: Beyond Star Trails). Each of these various techniques involves a tripod and a shutter speed measured in full seconds and longer.

Shoot in Shutter Priority Mode

This week your challenge is to try shooting in shutter priority mode. Seek out some situations that might require a specific shutter speed, whether it is a quick speed to capture a fast-moving subject or a long, slow shutter speed for artistic impact. See how controlling your shutter speed can help you get exactly the shot you want.

Share a link or a photograph in the comments below, or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

2013:

  • All about Bokeh. Bokeh is an incredible effect from lights and blur, and the holiday season is a perfect time to experiment with bokeh. This post will walk you through how to create fabulous natural bokeh shots.
  • Shaped Bokeh. The next step in bokeh photography is to create shaped bokeh. This post will walk you through this simple DIY hack for shaped bokeh photographs. 

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Shooting Modes: part 1 - Program mode

There are two basic types of shooting modes for your camera, often referred to as the basic and creative modes. The basic modes include Auto and the pre-programmed modes, such as portrait, landscape, macro, and night. The creative modes are so called because they give you, the photographer, more creative control over the final image.


This month's Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge is focusing the different creative shooting modes available on your camera: program mode, shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, and manual mode. Even if you use a point-and-shoot camera, most come equipped with a version of program mode that will also give you more creative control over your camera.

All about Program Mode

Program mode is my go-to default mode for taking photographs and is part of my "Camera Zero" settings that I always return my camera to when I am done shooting. (To read more, check out the article Missed the Shot? Remember Camera Zero.)


I like to think of program mode as "auto plus." Just like in auto, the camera will set both your aperture and shutter speed, based on its calculation of the correct exposure. (Read more about correct and creative exposure in the article All about Exposure.) Unlike auto mode, however, program mode offers several important options for improving your photographs:

  • Control over the ISO. In program mode, you set the ISO value, whereas in Auto, the camera sets the ISO. Controlling the ISO allows you to control the possibility of noise in your photographs (present at higher ISO values). Set your ISO to the lowest value, often ISO 100 to avoid noise. Read more in ISO Basics.
  • Program shift. When you hold the shutter button down halfway, your camera will display the aperture and shutter settings it intends to use. In program mode, you can shift those values to a different set of equivalent exposures. So, for example, if your camera chose f/3.5 and 1/640, you can spin the dial to shift to an equivalent exposure such as f/10 and 1/80. (Read more about equivalent exposures and their application here.) This ability to shift the values gives you immediately flexibility when shooting, and you can respond rapidly to any changing photography situation.
  • Exposure Compensation and AE Lock. Another way to control your exposure in Program mode is using the exposure compensation graph. You can manually set your camera to over- or under-expose the images, compared to its calculated exposure. Or you can use AE Lock to set where in the photograph the camera calculates the exposure. Read more about exposure compensation here and AE Lock here.
  • Set the picture style. All of the creative modes allow you to select different picture styles for your shot. A picture style is a set of parameters that control the sharpness, contrast, and color for your JPEG. Many cameras have options such as standard, landscape, portrait, neutral, and monochrome. For my Canon Ti brand camera, I cannot shoot in monochrome (black and white), unless I choose a creative shooting mode, like Program mode.
  • Set the while balance. Setting and adjusting the while balance can make huge improvements in your photographs. If you shoot in RAW, you always have the option to adjust the white balance in post-processing. If you shoot in JPEG, however, program mode gives you the option to adjust your white balance by choosing from a variety of pre-programmed and custom white balance modes. (Read more about Strategic White Balance here.)
  • Control your focus mode and focus points. Program mode allows you to utilize all of the different focus modes on your camera (one shot, servo, focus, etc.), as well as to use manual focus point selection. Switching from auto autofocus point selection to manual lets you choose a single autofocus point for the camera to use, allowing you control over exactly what in your composition is being used to set the focus. (In auto mode, your camera might decide that the fence in the background is more interesting for focus then the eye of the person you are shooting, which will result in a disappointing out-of-focus image.) Get the full details in the article Focus on Focus.
  • Own your flash. Flash is an important tool for photographers, but it is a tool that you want to control. In Auto and other basic modes, the camera will decide when to use the flash, and your flash will pop up automatically. You will not have the option to take your photograph without the flash. In Program mode, you choose whether to deploy your flash or not.


Give Program Mode a Try

Do you normally shoot in Auto or another basic mode? This week, set that dial to Program mode and give it a try. Dial in ISO 100, try setting a single manual focus point (start with the center one), and see what a difference a little more creative control can make for you. If you really want to see the difference, toggle back-and-forth between Auto and Program mode in a few different situations, and see what differences you find in your final shots.

Not sure about the rest of your settings? Check out the article Missed the Shot? Remember Camera Zero to see the details behind my recommended default camera settings.

Share a link or a photograph in the comments below, or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Great Gifts for Photographers (and Yourself)

The holiday sales season is upon us, which makes it a great time to think about finding the perfect gift for yourself or for other photographers in your life. These recommendations come from my own experience and are items that I adore and use constantly (with the exception of few aspirational listings at the end: hint, hint Santa).

Cheap Must Haves

Extra Batteries and Extra Memory Cards. Any photographer would be delighted to receive a spare battery or quality memory card as a gift. And if you are caught asking yourself the question, "How many is too many?" I believe the answer remains, "At least one more..." Links: camera batteries, memory cards, or read more.

Informational and Inspirational Photography Books. I am an inveterate book reader, and I love photography books for their powers to inform and inspire. Some of my favorites include Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson, The Digital Photography How To series by Scott Kelby, The Photographer's Eye (and really everything) by Michael Freeman, and anything by Freeman Patterson.

A Set of Close-Up Lenses. These little babies screw on to the front of your lens, turning it into a powerful macro or close-up lens. Close-up lenses are a great way to experiment with macro photography and explore the details of the world around you. Links: close-up lenses or read more.

A Travel Tripod. The GorillaPod brand of travel tripods are small, inexpensive, and powerful. GorillaPods bring you the power of a tripod with a minimum investment, and their flexible nature allows you to use them in a wide variety of settings and situations. Links: GorillaPods or read more.

A Remote Shutter Release. A remote is an incredibly useful photography tool and one with endless applications. A simple, corded remote will set you back only a few bucks, and inexpensive wireless models can be found starting for just under $20. If you really want to step-it-up in the remote game, check out the Trigger Trap mobile, described below. Links: remote shutter releases or read more.

A Lens Pen. These handy lens cleaners are a must have for any photographer. The LensPen fits easily in your purse or camera bag and contains two cleaning ends - a brush for bigger debris and a rounded pad with a self-contained cleaning solution. Super useful. Links: Lens Pen.

Great Next Steps

Trigger Trap Mobile Remote. Trigger Trap takes the power of the camera remote to a whole new level. Trigger trap connects to your mobile phone, turning it into an incredible powerful and fully-functional high-end remote. You gain a lot of specialized functionality too, including time lapse, sound triggering, and much, more more. Incredible fun, expect a full review from me soon. Links: Trigger Trap Mobile.

A Quality Set of Filters. There are many kinds of filters for photography. I use UV filters daily for protection and to diminish unwanted flare in my photographs. Circular polarizers have amazing properties for emphasizing the blue in skies, changing reflections in water, and really making colors pop. A neutral density filter allows you to slow down your shutter speed to capture amazing long exposure shots, like slow, silky waterfalls or smeared, cloudy skies. Links: UV filters, circular polarizers, neutral density filters, or read more.

A 50 mm Lens. Every DSLR owner should have a 50 mm lens. The 50 mm f/1.8 starts at around $100 and is an incredible upgrade from your kit lens. The wide aperture possibilities of f/1.8 are amazing and will revolutionize your photography, especially if you shoot indoors or fast-moving children or want that blurred, bokeh effect. Links: 50 mm lenses or read more.

A Durable Tripod. A serious photographer needs a series tripod. While a quality, durable tripod is an investment, think of it as a lifetime purchase. Tripods are meant to last, and most come with long-standing guarantees. When one of my tripod legs got bashed in and stuck on my Alta tripod, I only had to pay $10 in shipping to send it off to the company and received it back, good as new, in less than two weeks. Totally worth it. Link: full-size tripods or read more.

Bigger Splurges

Lightroom and Photoshop. Post-processing extends the power of your photographs and is a must-have if you are interested in working as any kind of event photographer. Buying Lightroom and Photoshop together gives you the batch processing power of Lightroom with the photo editing and manipulating powers of Photoshop, all in one convenient package. Links: Lightroom and Photoshop packages.

A Light Tent. A light tent is an incredibly powerful tool, especially if you are interested in product photography or showcasing smaller subject. Light tents are wonderful for photographing crafts, jewelry, or other items for selling online. They lend beautiful, even lighting and will really make your subject pop. Links: light tents or read more, product review.

A 10-Stop Neutral Density Filter. As mentioned earlier, a neutral density filter limits some of the light coming in to your camera lens, allowing you to use longer shutter speeds when shooting. The Lee Big Stopper 10-stop neutral density filter is the granddaddy of them all, reducing the incoming light by 10 full stops. These are the filters being used when you see the incredibly smooth flowing water shots or the impossibly silky waterfalls. This is one for my own wish list. Links: 10-stop neutral density filters.

Biggest Splurges

And now we get into the truly aspirational purchases.

Tamron 18-270mm16-300mm, or 28-300mm. The Tamron 18-270mm is my go-to lens and the one that is on my camera 90% of the time. I love this lens so much that I even wrote a post all about it recently over at Digital Photography School. This all-in-one zoom lens is perfect for traveling, parents, and anyone who prefers having a single lens with a lot of functionality. The 18-270mm version has recently been upgraded with the release of the 16-300mm, which also means that the 18-270mm can be had for even less. If you have a full frame camera, you should investigate the 28-300mm version for full frames. Links: Tamron 18-270mm, 16-300mm, and the 28-300mm or read more.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 or Nikon 105mm f/2.8. This dedicated macro lens is one coveted by many photographers, and it has a wide applicability beyond macro and is a popular portrait lens as well. Now do not get me wrong, I love the fact that I can get macro effects with my close-up lenses and extension tubes, but if someone were to offer me this lens, it is one that I would never, ever turn down. If you love macro photography, this would be a great investment to make. Links: Canon 100 mm f/2.8 or Nikon 105mm f/2.8.

The Canon 7D Mark II. If I ever get up the guts (and the cash) to update my beloved camera body, this is where I will be looking. Amazing high-ISO performance, a 20+ megapixel sensor, and 10-frames per second, there are a lot of great things going on with the 7D Mark II. Here's to starting that letter to Santa ... Links: Canon 7D Mark II.