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.

[rating:4]

Canon EOS Rebel XTi/400D Digital SLR

Introduction

It took a bit of agonizing trying to decide what would be the replacement SLR to my Nikon D100. I knew for sure that I was making the switch to Canon. Ironically my friend saw it coming before I even realized it. It had just come time to upgrade.

So at first I was not even considering the Canon EOS Rebel XTi/400D because I felt it was too “entry level” SLR for me, so I was considering a used Canon EOS 20D instead. I really wanted the Canon EOS 30D because of the improvements over the 20D, but the cost of the SLR alone would make it difficult for me to have any quality lenses. I was considering a used Canon EOS 30D at one point, but figured it might be too dangerous of an investment considering buying used electronics, too unpredictable when it may just decide to crap out especially without a warranty. So I was considering a Canon EOS 20D again because of its price and it still had many of the features I wanted despite a new model being out. After number crunching, I decided perhaps the Canon EOS Rebel XTi might be a good idea after all.

For the cost vs. what it offers, you can’t really beat the price. I got mine brand new from a Canon authorized dealer, Beachcamera.com, body only, for under $700 dollars.

Weight and Dimensions

2007-01-08 - Canon EOS Rebel XTi - 009They weren’t kidding when they said this SLR was small. It’s practically the size of a larger point-and-shoot, in fact it probably could be confused for a point-and-shoot if not for larger lenses attached. My finger tips feel practically smashed against the lens mount, that’s how tiny it is. At first it was quite uncomfortable to use, especially since I was using a Nikon D100 before, but after you get used to it, its not so bad. I’ve used my friend’s Canon EOS 30D and my Dad’s Canon EOS 5D, and when you have been using the XTi for awhile, holding the other two bigger SLRs feels completely different.

The XTi is very light, almost feels like there is nothing inside. The lightness can be both a good and bad thing. It’s good because you’re carrying less, but it’s bad when you have a big lens attached such as the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM. Without the top LCD, Canon has achieved a SLR the size of mid-sized point-and-shoots, which makes being stealthy easier.

Lighter lens mounted to the XTi is no issue, but when you mount an L lens, it becomes very front heavy. Everything time I have my 70-200mm f/2.8L mounted, I’m bracing the lens rather than the camera.

Construction

The XTi is primarily constructed of polycarbonate with magnesium around the lens mount and CMOS sensor. It definitely feels plastic, but don’t let that detract you from how great this camera really is. It definitely is very well constructed and put together despite being plastic. I have my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM attached to it primarily, and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM for special events, and it doesn’t feel like the lens mount is going to break off. Take it from a guy, who at times, carries his camera with the 24-70mm or 70-200mm attached via the neck strap slinged on one shoulder walking around. I know some people would cringe at the thought…

I know many people and many sites have commented on how much more comfortable the Nikon D80 and even the Nikon D40 (despite being smaller than the XTi) is. I have held both for a bit and agree that the two Nikons are definitely more comfortable.

Field Test

2007-04-26 - Canon Photo Equipment - 005Because this is my primary (only, currently) body, I use it whenever I need to take pictures. It gets a lot of use and while I don’t baby it, I don’t abuse it either. The body still looks relatively new other than for a few cosmetic blemishes such as my fingertips digging into the rubber inserts to hold the camera.

I always get looks when I pull out my XTi because I have two main lens, the 24-70mm and the 70-200mm both f/2.8 which means big lenses, and the 24-70mm is usually what I have mounted. It looks a bit comical at first, such a small camera but such a big lens.

The small size of the XTi makes traveling with it very easy. I can easily stow it away in my car and carry it with me to snap nice high quality shots. My lenses do kind of negate the smallness benefit of the XTi though…

2007-04-26 - Canon Photo Equipment - 031The 2.5 inch LCD screen is great, I love it, especially since I went from a 1.8 inch LCD screen on the Nikon D100. One major thing I highly recommend doing to protect your LCD is purchasing the Palm Premium screen protectors multipack and applying it to your LCD. You will have to do a bit of measuring and cutting, and it may take a few times before you get it perfect, but it is all worth it. It doesn’t affect the color or view angle of the LCD in any way. Worthy investment.

In the beginning, I figured the dust sensor cleaning feature was a gimmick by Canon, but after a bit of comparison with my friend’s 30D, it does in fact work. I change my lenses much more often than my friend does (he only has one lens…at the moment…), but I have hardly any sensor dust compared to him and he is much, much more careful about how he changes his lenses to prevent dust such as facing the camera downwards to avoid introducing new dust artifacts on the sensor, me, I just plop it off and on.

The battery life is actually quite good. I don’t have an exact count of how many shots you can take before you have to recharge the battery, but I find that I rarely have to recharge the battery. When the battery is depleted, it doesn’t take long to recharge the battery back to full either, some three hours I believe. And in no accident, the Canon NB-2LH battery is compatible with the XT, Canon PowerShot S30/40/45/50/60/70/80, and the Canon G7.

Final Thoughts

2007-04-26 - Canon Photo Equipment - 010While I am definitely overall very happy with the SLR, there are a few points that do irritate me. First and foremost, the limited ISO steps. My ISO choices are: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600. The jump from 400 to 800 is ridiculous! Sometimes I need 600 or around 600 and 800 is a bit overkill. The XTi does do very well in noise suppression, but going from 400 to 800 is a bit much in my opinion. I would definitely like to be able to adjust my ISO in 1/3 steps versus full steps, but I guess this is where entry-level comes into play.

There is no easy way to change the focus point. On the Canon EOS 30D and Canon EOS 5D, there is a little independent mini joystick that you can set to be a dedicated focus point changer. On the Rebel XTi, I have to press the focus point button, then use either the four point cursor keys or the jog wheel near the shutter. This results in missed shots because of having to press the button and then search for where I want the focus point set.

I’m not a big fan of the limited buffer. While the frames per second (3 FPS) is decent, the buffer of 27 high quality JPEGs feels limiting, although there is very few reasons to deplete the buffer. But somehow Nikon’s D40 and D80’s 100 picture buffer seems much more appealing.

If the Canon XTi’s body was made of all magnesium alloy, I think it would be perfect, although it probably would cost almost as much as the Canon EOS 30D.

Also having 10.1 MP is nice, makes having to do drastic crop downs still look pretty damn good.

This camera is definitely worth having as your primary and/or secondary camera. It has many features of the Canon 30D, but at nearly half the price. Eventually I would love to have the Canon EOS 1D Mark IIn or even the newly released Canon EOS 1D Mark III, I probably would still use the XTi a lot. It’s small, portable, cheap, and can use all the lenses so it makes a perfect backup camera or a traveling camera.

[rating:4.5]

Nikkor AF 80-400mm f/4-5.6D ED-IF VR

Lens Review

Nikkor AF 80-400mm f/4-5.6D ED-IF VR on Nikon D100.

Lens Specifications

[table=5]

Introduction

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 010I had the opportunity to try out this lens for about a day. I rented it for $30/day from Calumet, partly out of curiosity and for future reference. I had some high hopes for the lens for many reasons, two of which being: it is a professional level lens (as indicated by the gold band on the front) and superb focal length (80-400mm).

Lens Construction

I was expecting the entire lens to be made of metal, its not. It is mostly made of metal, but some parts such as the focus ring, focal ring, and lens hood are all made of plastic. The tripod mounting foot and most everything else is made of metal.

It does a decent feel when one is holding the lens. It does partly make sense to go with plastic where Nikon can to save in weight, but for the price you’re paying for one of these pro lenses, you would expect it to take some beating.

When I first held the lens, I was surprised that it is not as heavy as I thought it would be. It is double the weight of my Nikkor AF 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF (760g) and almost a third of the weight of the Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/4D ED-IF (3,430g), so it’s definitely not too heavy to hand hold. The vibration reduction (VR) does help a bit especially on the longer focal lengths.

Auto Focus Performance and Speed

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 006The speed at which thing focuses is a bit slower than my Nikkor AF 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6D IF on my Nikon D100. The primary reason for the slow auto focusing is because the Nikkor AF 80-400mm lens does not contain an internal focusing motor, but rather relies on the camera’s screw drive motor. This is fine for those who have a Nikon SLR with the AF screw drive motor, but for those who have the new Nikon D40, this lens will not be usable in auto focus mode. I’m sure on a pro camera such as the D1 series/D2 series and so on, the lens would probably focus much faster.

Another reason for the slow auto focus is the focal length. Going from a focal length of 80-400mm and everything else in between, the camera’s matrix meter has to hunt for the focus from a pretty wide available focus points. There is a focus limiting switch which will help speed things up a bit. How that works is that if you know you’re going to be focusing on far distance objects, you can set the switch to limit so it doesn’t try to hunt at closer focus points.

Another reason for the slow auto focusing, but somewhat of a moot point because you could always increase your ISO, is that the maximum aperture is f/4. So this lens wouldn’t be too ideal in low light conditions.

Overall Thoughts

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 002I did like this lens. I didn’t think it was great as I originally thought it would be, but its not horrible either. It is a good, almost great, lens with good optics.

This lens is definitely not a good sports lens because of its slow AF speeds. I was having a difficult enough time trying to focus on birds flying around and capturing shots of airplanes in the middle of the day with pretty decent lighting.

This is definitely a good lens if you need a good focal range. It was nice to be able to focus past 200mm and onwards to 300mm and ultimately to 400mm. I think this lens would do decently for concerts because of the focal range and it is relatively *light* weight. And I mean good for concerts in a way in which you are sitting near the nosebleeds or in the nosebleed sections. Obviously if you were hired by the artist to do photography, you would not need a lens like this.

All-in-all, it is a good lens, but it wouldn’t be the first, second, or third choice of lens purchases because of certain limits (maximum aperture is f/4, it isn’t too practical of an everyday carry around lens, it cost more than $1500) and for what I usually like to shoot, this lens wouldn’t see much action.

Nikkor AF 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6D IF

Lens Review

Nikkor AF 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6D IF on Nikon D100.

Review

This was the second lens that I got from my dad when he gave me his Nikon D100. I was hardly using this lens because of its limited focal range versus my other Nikkor AF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G lens. Little did I know then, this lens was actual better in terms of color and sharpness than the Nikkor 28-200mm.

The build quality of this lens is a bit better than decent, but not quite good. It’s still vastly plastic but does have some heft to it, probably because it contains 16 elements in 12 groups.

2007-01-05 - Nikkor 28-105mm D lens - 001The auto focus of this lens is slow, especially in low light conditions. It does not have a built on auto focus motor (AF-S) and thus relies on the camera’s screw-drive motor to focus which has the disadvantage of being louder over the other lenses that has the built on AF motor. The loudness is especially apparent when the lens is searching for focus through the focus range. This lens is an internal focus, IF, lens so the front element does not move to focus. It is worth noting that this lens does focus a bit faster than the Nikkor 28-200mm.

This lens has an aperture ring making it compatible with virtually all the Nikon cameras, a feature not very necessary on the Nikon digitals. Available aperture settings are 3.5, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, and 22.

One really nice thing about this lens is that is has a macro switch, although this is a bit outdated for new macro lens no longer has a need for a switch. The macro can only be activated at focal lengths of 50mm to 105mm. The closes focus distance is 1.64 feet (0.5m) at 50mm with the macro selected.

The filter size is 62mm.2007-01-05 - Nikkor 28-105mm D lens - 004

08-20-06 - San Francisco - 001.jpg2006-07-28 - SJ Grand Prix - 006.jpg08-19-06 - Stripes - 005.jpg

These are merely a few samples. For more pictures, please visit the gallery.

Photography

Introduction

I’ve have always been vaguely interested in photography. Not hard to imagine when your parents own a photo shop so you practically grow up around everything photography. But growing up, I didn’t like shooting pictures or being in pictures. I had this funny habit of never smiling whene my picture was taken.
As I got older, I begin to appreciate shooting pictures. This interest grew rapidly during my car modification days. I wanted a way to keep track of the modifications with before and after pictures. At this point, I was really only interested in point-and-shoot as I did not fully appreciate and understand the need of single-reflex-lens cameras, or commonly known as SLR cameras. I did manage to get good pictures from my Sony CyberShot DSC-P71, a 3.1 mega pixel point-and-shoot camera. It was funny too because it took me almost three to four months after having the camera before I learned how to actually shoot decent night photos without the flash. I was pulling out my hair trying to figure out why all my night photos were dark and blurry.2004-11-06 - New York City - 090

It wasn’t until my friend, who got a Canon EOS 10D SLR camera, showed me how to better use my Sony CyberShot camera. At the time my friends and I all thought our friend was crazy spending a $1000+ on a camera with no lens. I never imagined ever even considering spending that kind of cash for any camera.

So I kept taking pictures of my car, my friend’s cars at various locations trying to get that one “money-shot” that I could post up on the forums and wow everyone with my little point-and-shoot camera.

My First Time With The Nikon D100 SLR

The first time I got a chance to lay my hands on an actual SLR and use it was my dad’s Nikon D100 that he used for shooting portraits. It made my little dinky Sony 2004-11-05 - New York City - 045CyberShot look like nothing compared to the size of the Nikon D100. The reason I was even borrowing the Nikon D100 was I was hoping to get some extraordinary shots of New York, where Andrea and I were going for her birthday. Before taking the camera, I should have thoroughly read the book on how to use it, but unfortunately my dad forgot to include the manual when he let me borrow the camera. I figured how hard could it be to use…boy was I wrong! The SLRs have so many configurable options that one could easily get overwhelmed. The multitude of available options is great for varying situations, but is fustrating when you want to just take pictures.

I never did quite figure out how to use my dad’s Nikon during the New York trip, but I did surprisingly got some decent shots. Most of the shots were shot in manual mode (which I didn’t know squat about anything to even be shooting in that mode). There are shots where I had set the camera to aperture prioritythinking the “A” on the command dial means auto (doh!). For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why some of the shots seemed so dark, now that I look at it, my f-stop was set to 13 for daylight and nighttime shots. No wonder I couldn’t shoot anything at night… The only reason I was able to even get a decent shot of Time Square was because it was so damn bright there, f13 would probably have been what the D100 would have chosen anyways.

Some of the main things I really liked about using the SLR is: 1) the ability to capture so much of a picture and zoom in so tight to a picture that normal little point-and-shoots aren’t able to achieve. This made me appreciate how nice it is to have optical zoom versus digital zoom. 2) The fast shutter speed. I was literally snapping everything I could see and frame. It was great! With my Sony CyberShot, I would take a picture, have to wait until that picture processes and then take another one. Quite slow

Got My New (Used) Camera

A present from my Dad, his old Nikon D100 with a Nikkor 28-200mm zoom lens. Reason I got this SLR was because my Dad upgraded to a Canon EOS 5D. This is the same camera that I used in New York when Andrea and I went. I got this camera on May 25, 2006. Since then I’ve been trying to learn the hang of this thing. It’s definitely no Canon EOS, but its still very nice.

Here are some quick facts about the Nikon D100:

Max Resolution 3008 x 2000
MegaPixels 6.0
Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.5 mm (Nikon DX)
Sensor Type CCD
ISO rating Auto, 200-1600
Max Shutter 1/4000
LCD 1.8″
LCD Pixels 118,000