Monday, September 28, 2009

Canon 5D mk2 - my thoughts

The Canon Rebel Xti was my first DSLR. Up until I made that plunge in 2007, I had been shooting with film and scanning the negatives into high resolution files to edit digitally. The Xti was and still is a pretty decent camera and I have many good images in my catalogues to testify to that. I eventually moved up to the 5D after seeking better iso and image quality as well as wanting a full frame sensor. The Canon 5D is an excellent camera and will surely go down as a classic in years to come. Even after its release a few years ago it is still considered one of the best around.

Shown above is the 5D mk2 with optional battery grip

The reason I purchased the newer 5D mk2 was to have a good back-up camera which will now be the 5D with the mk2 being the main.I now have it for a few months and am becoming more familiar and comfortable with it. I shoot dance performances at times which is mostly in low light conditions and so the improved high iso quality and slightly faster FPS of the mk2 will be a good advantage. The huge increase in resolution was welcome but more importantly the increased DR (Dynamic range) Overall, this is a camera with all around better image quality than its already great predecessor. I have not used the HD video capabilities with this camera, and honestly really have had little interest in that aspect of it at this point. The 5D mk2 is a lot more than just an improved version of the older model. It really is basically an entire new camera from the bottom up. Obviously the 21 mp sensor is different and much improved but we also have a new and more durable shutter, new and more powerful processor, new and improved battery and battery management, larger LCD screen, automatic sensor cleaning (which is something we missed on the original 5D) seemingly better build quality, and a host of new features in layout, function and control... Oh, and yes the HD video capability and live screen LCD. First, the IQ (image quality) is fantastic and noticeably improved over the already capable and fantastic original 5D. I was able to shoot a flower in hard sunlight (just for the heck of it) and was shocked to look at it later on the computer to see that nothing blew out and the sensor handled the tough contrasty condition. There was no out of gamut color blow out,(purple flower) highlights were intact as well as detail in shadow areas. I was impressed. I am afraid now though that I may be tempted more often to shoot in poor conditions. . .not a good practice. The resolution enables amazing detail within detail. Oddly enough though, capturing a sharp image seems to be more of a challenge. It is thought that perhaps because the resolution goes so deep, that it is more critical for focus to be dead locked in or details will appear a bit soft. So, do not expect to buy this camera and be amazed that everything is so sharp! Quite the opposite, you really have to think about your technique and make sure everything is right to ensure the potential of the resolution and IQ. You would also want to be using the best glass to squeeze all the IQ out of this box.

High iso quality is amazing. I tried 1600, 3200 and 6400 and while 6400 certainly has evident noise and lower IQ it is very usable and welcome to have there if needed. 1600, and 3200 is very impressive. It is expandable to 12,800 and 25,600 but I would suggest only using these for absolute necessity. There is a good deal of noise and image quality loss.

What I like very much about this mk2 is the fact that I do not have to look at the digital display on the top of the camera (which is now slightly larger than the previous model) to make adjustsments to ISO, WB, focus and drive, as well as other settings. I always found it difficult to see what WB icon I was setting in that little display and to make iso adjustments, etc. Especially in a dark room or theater it was so difficult to see even with the little backlight that is has. Now, everything can be viewed and set and adjusted from the large LCD display screen at back. Simply press your funtion button on the back and the display will pop up large and clear on the lcd. Then you can scroll through the various setting and make whatever adjustments you need, quick and easy.

settings displayed on rear lcd

This was something I missed when I went from my Rebel Xti to the 5D. Everything was easy to adjust from the lcd screen and now so it is again with the mk2. Also, the iso is now seen in the viewfinder as well and by simply pressing the iso button easily with the index finger I can make adjustments to iso while never looking away.

Here is another huge plus - I can now make all adjustments on my 580EXll speedlite from the menu on the cameras LCD. Even in a complete wireless setup, which is what I use at times. The digital display of the speedlite was sometimes a challenge to navigate through. Selecting funtions and making the setting changes could be quite a task especially in a darker room. So now having all the speedlite funtions shown on the large lcd in clear display with the ease of the dials and toggles of the camera, making setting changes is a breeze. This is great. I can even go into custom functions as well as being able to adjust the power of the slaves in a wireless set up. Everything can be done on the back of the camera. Perfect.

Speedlite function controls on rear lcd menu

This proved to be very handy and a pleasure when I was working with artist David Jon Kassan in his studio on an upcoming project of his. Have a look at his site, he is an amazing talent and great person as well.

Another thing to mention, due to the extremly high resolution, RAW file sizes are huge. Approx 25-30Mb depending on setting and conditions. It may be that we don't need such large files for a particular assignment/task but would still like to shoot RAW to have the full IQ potential there for post processing. Canon has made it possible to shoot in one of three different RAW settings. RAW, RAW1 and RAW2. RAW is full 21 MP, RAW1 is approx 10MP and RAW2 is approx 5MP. All yielding the same great IQ but just reduced resolution and file size. Very useful and a welcome feature. FPS (frame per second) has increased by almost one to now nearly 4fps which is nice, but also amazing considering the huge files this processor must work with at that speed. I was amazed to fire off 11-15 bursts at this speed in full resolution. There is an indicator in the viewfinder that tells you the available bursts to be had at any given moment. Once you have reached the limit, there is a few seconds pause during which no shots can be fired as the processor is busy writing the data to the card. You would absolutely want to use a memory card of very high read/write capabilities to handle the load the processor will be giving over to it. I have been using the Sandisk Exteme lll and lV cards with no problems.

There are a host of other little features that are mixed in now with the custom fuctions such as "highlight tone priority" which puts emphasis on the highlights and tries to avoid blowing them out during exposure, but at the same time you will have less detail in the shadow areas to work with. . ."Auto lighting optimizer" which aids in getting your subject exposed correctly, "peripheral illumination correction" which adjusts for the light fall-off at the edges of the frame especially with wider angle lenses. "Long exposure noise reduction" and "high ISO noise reduction". All these functions seem to work fine, but I prefer to do all my post processing later in LightRoom/Photoshop. Basically, thats what these features are, post processing. I have them off most all the time. "Long exposure noise reduction" I might switch on if using a long exposure on a tripod for a night scene, etc. Well, so far I love the mk2 and welcome all the little changes in layout and funtion that I missed with the 5D. There are some other neat little features packed in here such as having the camera automatically switch ISO for you according to conditions, etc if you set it. Too many other little things to get into, but all in all this is a fine piece of work especially considering the price.


Image quality, resolution, features and functions, HD video, live view screen, large LCD screen, battery and battery management system, heavy duty shutter mechanism, powerful and fast processor with 14 bit analog to digital conversion, price. . .

I still wish Canon would place a mirror lock function switch on the back or side of the camera so as not to have to scroll through custom functions menus to get to it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Some things heard. . .

While sitting in a public space, a woman leans down near my ear to my right side and says "We WILL be gettin together , you know that right?!" I turn to look at her trying to think of a reply and not wanting to look so obviously taken off guard when I notice she is picking something up near me and talking on a hands free set up. She looks at me while continuing on as if nothing happened. I guess in her mind nothing did. I was still recovering. . .

While driving along a city street in the car with my son Kyle, windows half rolled down on a nice afternoon we stop behind a car waiting at a light. Another car pulls up next to us on Kyles side and from the corner of my eye I see a woman lean out the window toward us and say "Now, do you think I can tie your shoes while I'm drivin" in a very sarcastic tone. I turn to her and roll the window all the way down. She is looking right at me as if she is waiting for a response. Kyle looks at me to see what I'm going to say. I then notice she is talking to a child in the back seat of her car, but she still is making eye contact with me! I was about to say, "Yes, I believe you can but I'm perfectly capable, thanks" when she turns completely around to look at the child. She then looks at us again and then turns forward. Kyle and I look at eachother like "Huh?" Kyle says "What happened, Dad?" I told him the woman was talking to her child in the back and that she might have been unaware that she was seemingly addressing us. Oblivious.

While walking along the street yesterday a couple of young girls, maybe 14 or 15 years old are walking right behind me and talking about boyfriends and this and that. One says" OOO here it is, I got a text"! "Let me see, let me see" says the other. "Oh man, its Dad." She reads the text to her friend, "I need the model number of the coffee maker as soon as possible. Get it, should be on the back." The friend laughs, and the girl who recieved the text says " Yeah, like thats gonna be on my top priority list today". Poor dad.

Oh, and I am constantly hearing from people that I look like Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. Never heard that before, but hear it often in the last year or so. I think it has to do with the gray hairs I'm getting. . .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hamerkop, a new addition to the series.


Here is a latest addition to my bird series. It is a Hamerkop (Hammerhead) and found mainly in Africa. It gets its name from the shape of its head when its neck is extended. The tuft of feathers at the back of the head stick out straight like a beak. The long thin neck with the beak and tuft of feathers at the back give the birds head the shape of a hammer.I will be trying for another shot eventually with its head extended to show this attribute and hope to have it to add in the series.(easier said than done!)It was once thought to be a Heron or Stork but it is widely considered to be in a genus all its own.They are known for building massive nests, as much as 3 or 4 feet deep and just as wide. A pair of Hamerkops may build a dozen of them throughout an area, but might only use one and for only a short time. This is a blessing for other species however. Various other birds will eventually make home in a discarded Hamerkop nest, even some snakes and reptiles might find refuge in them. So here it is, the Hamerkop and hopefully I'll be able to capture some more.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Family!

From Blogger Pictures

Looking back through some older photos I came across this shot of a bunch of happy ducklings on a log with mom in the background. Somehow this shot makes me think of the importance of family and being together. I come from a rather small family. I had some cousins and uncles and aunts growing up although they are not around anymore. The one thing I always missed was having a brother or sister. I remember asking my parents at a real early age for a brother. God, I must have put them through hell with my requests especially on rainy days when there was no one out to play with. So much so that they eventually bought me a huge Gorilla (stuffed animal, Blue!) hoping it would susbtitute as a companion. What were they thinking. . .lol. I used to use it as a punching bag, it just had an expression that was asking for a good beating.

Some of my friends growing up had lots of brothers and sisters that they did not always get along with. They would fight like hell at times. I would hear "your so lucky to not have to deal with your asshole brother or sister". I still thought to differ. . .

This photo always warms my heart and I hope these ducks are still around today to share their good times and bad.

Then there is this Squirrel monkey who was looking out of his cage the way i would look out my window on a rainy day. . .lol.
(really just wanted to include this as I always liked this shot ;)

From Blogger Pictures

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

From Blogger Pictures

Hopefully, after visits from relatives including the "flirtatious aunt" and the rest. . .

From Blogger Pictures

the kids playing and enjoying the last weekend before school for most. . .

From Blogger Pictures

Moms short tempered mood swings in dealing with preparations for getting the little ones ready for the new season. . .

From Blogger Pictures
You get your much deserved relaxing moment after enduring it all. . .

Have a great Labor Day weekend!