COBA Meeting: Wireless Digital Photography and Sensor Cleaning

This is our second meeting of the year and also second time at our new meeting place: SmugMug Headquarters. Adam Tow presented about his take on wireless digital photography including a live demonstration and one of our fellow members, J.C. Dill and Landon talked about their experiences with sensor cleaning. Read the in-depth summary after the jump including pics. Continue reading COBA Meeting: Wireless Digital Photography and Sensor Cleaning

Shoot In Darkness: The Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

This lens is wickedly cool. I’ve never been much of a prime lens kind of person until I had the opportunity to use this lens for awhile and realized the magic behind primes and the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. This is one of Canon’s most highly regarded lenses and rightly so. Read my thoughts and opinions after the jump. Continue reading Shoot In Darkness: The Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

COBA: 5D Mark II with Jim Rose, Political Photography Part II: Jared Polis, and What Would You Invent?

Today was a real treat, we were visited by Canon Senior Professional Market Specialist for Field Market Support Jim Rose with the much anticipated Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Let’s answer the big question on everyone’s mind:

This is the best camera Canon has every built. Jim Rose

I got the opportunity to play with the 5D Mark II and photograph with it. Long story short: it is very much worth the wait. It may seem arrogant and perhaps even premature to say, but I do believe the new 5D Mark II will reestablish Canon as the market leader. This couldn’t have come at a better time after the focus issues with the 1D Mark III and 1Ds Mark III has caused a lot of headache and bad blood between Canon and Canon loyalists, but the 5D Mark II brings some light to what has been a very dark tunnel of despair.

On paper, the 5D Mark II sounds very impressive: 21.1 MP, UDMA support, 1080p HD video, ISO up to 25,600, a 3 inch LCD with 922,000 pixel resolution for about the same price as the 5D Mark I when it was first introduced. In my hands, it is very well constructed and feels quite solid, but not quite the same build quality and durability as the 1D/1Ds series bodies as others have mentioned.

Jim Rose was discussing how low noise is at ISO 6400 and when the staff photographers at San Francisco Chronicle (they have two on order BTW) saw the images at ISO 6400, their jaws dropped. Jim was discussing how even George Lepp (of the famous Lepp Institute of Digital Imaging) was very impressed and said that ISO 6400 on the 5D Mark II is very usable. That’s a very nice seal of approval. At ISO 12,800 things start getting a bit noisy, but not terribly bad. By ISO 25,600, things are quite noticeable noisy, but if this is the only way to get a shot, it is still usable. According to Jim (not Canon’s official stance), ISO 3200 on the 5D Mark II is comparable to ISO 800 on the 5D. I was allowed to fire off some shots on my memory card with the 5D Mark II and the images are very nice with very low noise. Unfortunately, despite being a production camera and not a prototype, I am not able to publicly post the pictures at the time (they are posted but password protected but I’ll remove the password after the 5D Mark II starts shipping).

The 1080p HD video feature of the 5D Mark II is very, very nice. You can record up to 12 minutes of video and take stills while recording. How that works is while you are recording, you just press the shutter button as you would if you were taking a picture and it will pause the recording, take the picture (or pictures) and then resume recording. You lose half a second of video for each photo taken during recording. So if you are recording a video and three minutes into recording, you snap a picture, half a second later the recording will resume resulting in a single file, and not split video files with the thirty second skip where the photograph was taken. Very cool! Also Canon recommends that you prefocus before you start recording although you can auto focus while recording (by pressing the AF-On button), it is very slow because it uses the Live View contrast detection auto focus. Another thing to note is that you can only record videos in Aperture priority mode. You select the aperture, the camera will select a shutter speed and auto set the ISO to maintain a constant consistent shutter speed. You can also dial exposure two stops up or down. You also need a UDMA card to take full advantage of the HD video recording.

The back LCD is stunning and breath taking. At 3.0 inches with 922,000 pixel resolution, checking for sharpness has become so much easier. The images displayed on the LCD are very stunning. Also the viewfinder has been redesigned and is definitely brighter than my Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II viewfinder.

Jim has been with Canon for more than eight years, since the start of megapixels (i.e. Canon D30) and this is the first camera that he is really excited about and believes that it is “going to re-energize Canon”. Jim also speculated on the 1D/1Ds line as it was asked about it’s future considering that Nikon has moved in full frame, which I won’t post as it is all speculation. Jim also mentioned the 5D Mark II should sell very, very well considering how many people want the ultimate in megapixels but couldn’t afford or justify the cost of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. This is certainly a good thing because I think the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, while is a spectacular SLR, it is not worth $8,000. It’s worth $5,000 and that is where they are selling used for now (and in some cases even less). Once the new Nikon D3x is released and priced around $5,000, I’m sure Canon will no longer be able to justify pricing the 1Ds at $8,000.

So is it worth it? Yes. Am I getting one? No. I’m waiting for the the new Canon EOS 1Ds Mark IV. I love the ruggedness, durability, and auto focus. Adam Tow is thinking of downgrading from his Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II and Canon EOS 1D Mark II to two Canon EOS 5D Mark II because of the size and the HD video options.

Other little tidbits: there are seventy eight Explorers of Light and Printmasters, of which Vincent LaForet, Joe Buissink and George Lepp are members. Jim Rose does in fact read DPReview.com.

I also forgot to mention:

Adobe CS3 DOES NOT support Canon EOS 5D Mark II RAW files. It also appears that there will NOT be an update for CS3 to fix this and you have to either buy CS4 or convert the Canon RAW to DNG.

The shutter on the 5D Mark II is very, very quiet. I was quite shocked, it sounded almost 25% quieter than my 1Ds Mark II.

Political Photography Part II: Jared Polis

Adam and his wife, Rae, went to Colorado to photograph the last week of his high school friend’s campaign for Congressional seat in Colorado District 2 before the elections. Jared Polis is an internet entrepreneur having started Blue Mountain, ProFlowers, and Fuser which he sold all off during the height of the dot com boom making millions. Jared is also founder of the New America Charter Schools. Jared has been campaigning for a year and half for this two year term. Adam spent a week following Jared around as he campaigned at Park-N-Rides, Honk and Waves, Meetings, Halloween and Farmer’s Market, Canvassing, and finally Election Day.

Adam packed his Canon EOS 1D Mark II and Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II with the following other items: Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM, Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L USM, Canon 1.4x Extender, Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, Canon Speedlite 550EX, and a Gary Fong Lightsphere. He found he was primarily using the 28-70mm on his 1Ds Mark II and 135mm on his 1D Mark II.

Adam’s daily workflow:

  1. Shoot in the morning
  2. Select, rate, process in Apple Aperture 2 and upload photos to SmugMug
  3. Recharge batteries
  4. Shoot in the evening
  5. Repeat steps 2 and 3

Reason Adam does the post processing in the afternoon rather than the evening is he figured he wouldn’t do it in the evening.

Jared Polis won the Congressional District 2 seat with 60% of the vote. To see Adam’s pictures, you can visit his SmugMug here.

Gallery

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How To Install Canon E1 Hand Strap

This is for those who are curious as to how to install the Canon E1 hand strap onto their Canon EOS 1D, 1D Mark II, 1D Mark IIn, 1Ds, 1Ds Mark II, 1D Mark III, 1Ds Mark III, 5D with BG-E4 grip, 20D/30D/40D/50D with battery grip.

e1_hand_strap

COBA Meeting: Political Photography, Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Photokina Wrapup

The latest Camera Owners of the Bay Area (COBA) took place Wednesday, October 8 at the usual place in Stanford University at Condura Hall 100. The topic of discussion were Photokina Wrap Up, Political Photography with guest speaker Mona T. Brooks, and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Jim Rose (Canon Senior Professional Market Specialist for Field Market Support) was slated to appear with a pre-production copy of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, but turns out that there are very, very few pre-productions available and Jim wasn’t one of the lucky ones to have one. Continue reading COBA Meeting: Political Photography, Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Photokina Wrapup

The Latest Addition To My Photography Gear: The Amazing 1Ds Mark II

For a $4,000 difference between the 1D, the 1Ds' lettering is gold plated.
For a $4,000 difference between the 1D, the 1Ds emblems are gold plated

Sooo, if you’ve been following me on Twitter, you may have noticed my mention of a “new toy”. Well, the wait’s over, my new toy is a camera. Not any camera, but Canon’s top-top of the line, the much sought after and highly desired Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II. Up until August 2007, it had been the highest megapixel camera for a full frame (or even cropped sensors) 35mm digital sensor. Introduced in September 2004, it took the photography world by storm offering the most megapixel at the time in a full frame sensor. The Canon EOS 1Ds (mark I) was the first dSLR to feature a full frame sensor with the Kodak DCN-14n following suite.

All this for only eight thousand dollars ($8,000). So, yea. Quite out of reach even for many professionals photographers. Continue reading The Latest Addition To My Photography Gear: The Amazing 1Ds Mark II

National Geographic 2477 Bag Review

So after finding the perfect shoulder camera/laptop bag, the National Geographic NG-2475, and then having to return it because it couldn’t fit my 15.4″ MacBook Pro, fortunately Bogen (yes, the same company that makes tripods) makes a slightly larger version: the National Geographic NG-2477. The new bag is a few inches wider and is identical in design and layout to the NG-2475 except for the buckles and the addition of luggage straps to easily attach to a rolling luggage handle. Continue reading National Geographic 2477 Bag Review

Canon EOS 1Ds versus Canon EOS 5D

Sometimes new(er) isn’t always better. Take for example: Windows XP versus Windows Vista. Our office (and many others) have refused to make the up(down)grade to Windows Vista because of the slow performance, annoying security policies, and it offers nothing that we don’t already get with XP.

So how does something that is 6 years old like the Canon EOS 1Ds compare to the 3 years old Canon EOS 5D? It’s a tough call, but let’s see why anyone would choose an older SLR over a newer model. It’s worth noting that the only reason we can or even should compare the two cameras is because of the full frame sensor. Also you might be wondering why compare the original 1Ds rather than the newer and better Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II? The Mark II’s price (~$4000) is still significantly above the 5D whereas the original 1Ds’ price (~$1800) has fallen to be right on par with the 5D. Other than that, these two cameras are completely different and serve different purposes. Continue reading Canon EOS 1Ds versus Canon EOS 5D

Canon EOS 1Ds Review

I borrowed my friend’s Canon EOS 1Ds Mark I to try for a little while to see what it was all about. While it is not like it’s newer and better son, the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, it definitely is no slouch either. Let me repeat, the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark I is still a very capable and useful SLR today even though it’s nearly 6 years old. Continue reading Canon EOS 1Ds Review

Canon EOS 5D Digital SLR

Introduction

2006-09-17 - Canon 5D - 005The Canon EOS 5D is pretty much about as professional of an digital SLR as you can get. It is one of the few full-frame sensor digital SLRs on the market. It feels very well built and handles like a charm. Plus a CMOS sensor of 12.8 megapixels definitely make for a lot of pixel details, so on paper it sounds quite promising, so how does it shape up in the field and in reality?

First, I must say I’m a bit biased against full-frame SLRs. I know there are a number of people who relish the fact that there are now a couple SLRs (both Canon) that are full-frame sensors similar to the ones found on film cameras. So what are the advantages of a full-frame sensor?

Advantages

  1. The focal length of the lens attached to a full-frame slr, such as the Canon EOS 5D, is precise versus the same lens being attached on a smaller sensor that results in a crop factor. So if I was to attach a 24mm focal length lens on a full-frame slr, it is precisely 24mm. But if I was to take that same 24mm focal length lens and attach it to, say an Canon EOS Rebel XTi/400D, the 24mm focal length becomes ~38.4mm because of the 1.6x crop factor.
  2. Bigger sensor will resolve higher quality because there is more surface area to gather more light. And in relation to how closely or loosely packed the pixels are on a given sensor, there will be less noise on a full-frame slr versus a non full-frame slr given the same amount of megapixels.
  3. Lower noise. This relates to #2, with a bigger sensor that can gather more light because of its larger surface area, less amplification is needed to boost signal thereby producing lower pixel noise.

Disadvantages

  1. Cost is considerably higher. More raw materials are needed to produce a larger sensor and a larger body is necessary to house a larger sensor.
  2. The weaknesses in cheaper and poorly produced lenses are much more apparent and blaring.
  3. Similar issues with the full-frame film sensors: vignetting and softness in the corners.

So what are my thoughts after using the Canon EOS 5D for two weeks so far (which I must warn is no where near enough time to get an accurate feel)?

Weight and Dimension

2006-09-17 - Canon 5D - 007The Canon EOS 5D is definitely not a light digital SLR. It weighs 810g (892g with the battery), which is about 1.78 pounds. It is quite large in your hands, not quite as large as the Canon EOS 1D line, but definitely bigger than the Canon EOS 20D/30D and hugely bigger than the Canon EOS Digital Rebel line. The exact dimensions are 6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0 inches. Because of the huge grip, it is comfortable to hold and use.

Construction

Much like its younger brothers, the Canon EOS 20D/30D, the entire body is made up of magnesium alloy right down to the EF mount. It is not weather sealed, unlike its bigger brother, the 1D line.

In the tradition of professional level SLR, there is no built on pop-up flash (partly due to the huge viewfinder), so an external flash unit would have to be used. The buttons are slightly different than the Canon EOS 20D/30D. The four buttons (Menu, Info, Jump, and Preview) that are left of the 2.5″ LCD is slightly raised higher than on the Canon EOS 30D. The On/Off switch is also more pronounced. The two buttons on the back upper right hand side is also different than the 30D. The Auto Exposure Lock/Zoom Out button is larger than the Zoom in button whereas on the 30D, it is the reverse being that the Auto Exposure Lock/Zoom Out button is larger and the other is smaller. And the final major difference is the jog dial doesn’t have the Picture Style selection that the 30D has.

Field Test

It’s definitely wild to be able to have a wide angle lens really be a wide angle lens. My walk around lens, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM is amazingly wide allowing me to capture more than I was able to capture before. The catch-22 to having no a full-frame sensor is that while my lenses are all now wider like it should be, I don’t have the same focal crop I had before. At times I am finding the 70mm focal length on my walk around lens to be lacking that extra little field of view I used to have with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi/400D. I find myself switching lenses back and forth more often with my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM.

2006-09-17 - Canon 5D - 001I also do find that both my lenses are better counter-balanced on the Canon EOS 5D because of its weight than when the two lenses were mounted on my XTi. I don’t find my trigger finger and hand to be as sore because I’m not having to support all the lens weight through the smaller grip. I do find myself garnering more attention these days because everything looks so big now. Before the lens was intimidating for people, but with the 5D now, everyone is just surprised by the sheer size.

Having the extra megapixelage is quite nice. It allows for some amazing crops that I could never have achieved with my Nikon D100. While the Canon EOS 5D only has a 2.8 megapixel advantage over the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi/400D, the differences in the pictures is quite evident. This also further proves that megapixels do not mean everything. I would have personally preferred a faster burst rate (3 frames-per-second), but it has the highest buffer of all the other Canon dSLRs, except for the Canon 1D Mark III, with 60 JPEGs. The XTi could only manage 27 JPEGs at best before slowing down to 1 frame-per-second. The 3fps is quite adequate for most and many occasions, but having an additional 2fps would be great for sports photography.

The ISO noise suppression on the 5D is amazing. When I have to use ISO 800, there is less noise in the pictures than my Canon EOS Rebel XTi/400D at the same ISO level. ISO 800 on the Canon EOS 5D looks equivalent to the XTi/400D’s ISO 400.

Final Thoughts

The Canon EOS 5D is very, very nice, but I wouldn’t buy it. It is three times as much as my XTi/400D and double the price of the Canon EOS 30D, but doesn’t offer enough over the 30D and the XTi/400D to be worth it. But then again the 5D is a very specific niche dslr. It has a full-frame CMOS sensor at about a third the cost of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II with a few less megapixels also. I would rather spend the extra $200 and purchase the Canon EOS 1D Mark IIn or Mark III over the 5D. But if you need full-frame and top notch ISO noise control, then the Canon EOS 5D is your choice. Full-frame is nice, especially when you need wide angle, but I personally need more reach than I need wide and the 1.3x crop factor of the 1D is a good compromise between full-frame and 1.6x crop factor.

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