Question: I recently purchased a Canon EF-S 55-250 mm f/4-5.6 IS telephoto zoom lens. It did not include a lens hood. Do you think I should buy a lens hood for my new lens?
Answer: I strongly recommend using a lens hood in almost all circumstances. There are two primary, important benefits.
The first and primary benefit is improved image quality. The front element can catch light from outside the field of view, which can cause flare as well as reduce contrast and image quality in general. The lens hood will shade the lens to keep this extraneous light from affecting your pictures. In fact, lens hoods can also be referred to as "lens shades," especially when referring to equipment used in the studio.
The second benefit is protection. The lens hood will help protect the front lens element from accidental damage when the lens cap is off and you are taking pictures.
Lens hoods are even more imperative when you use fast (low f-stop) lenses with large front elements. The large front element is very susceptible to catching extraneous light, and this large glass surface also represents a huge target that requires protection from scratches and fingerprints.
The only time I do not recommend a hood is when it interferes with flash pictures, typically casting a shadow across the lower portion of the frame when you use the lens at a wide-angle setting. Fortunately, you will see this the first time you take a picture and you will take off the hood.
With the sad, nationwide demise of local camera shops, you will probably have to find a hood online. The manufacturer's hood will be the best, but will cost more than a generic one. It's OK to buy generic hoods. Just make sure it is a bayonet mount design and not a screw mount if your lens supports a bayonet mount. (Yours is a bayonet.)
Your Canon 55-250 mm Image Stabilizer lens is an excellent one. I recently praised the Pentax 50-200 mm lens as a great buy for Pentax owners, and this Canon lens is practically a must-have for Canon DSLR owners who want a high-quality telephoto zoom without paying pro-gear prices. It can be purchased for as little as $159 online. Look for lenses that say "white box" or "bulk packaging."
Question: I have a soundbar that needs to be mounted on the television because when it is on the stand it blocks the TV's remote IR receiver. There is a shelf above the TV, so it is a bit tricky. What do you recommend?
South Bend, Ind.
Answer: You may be able to work your TV by pointing the remote at the ceiling so the signal bounces towards the TV from above. It's a long shot, but worth a shot nonetheless. Just remember: Angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection when you aim.
If this does not work, check out Sewell DIRECTV's universal soundbar brackets. They are some of the most clever, unobtrusive, and simple mounts I have ever seen, ingenious in their simplicity. They are adjustable and will place the soundbar directly on top of the TV without imposing any additional vertical space, and they are very affordable as well, starting at $24.95.
See them at: http://sewelldirect.com/Universal-Soundbar-Bracket.asp.
Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com.