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Christmas present for myself – new lens

I made a nice Christmas present for myself – new lens Canon EF 100mm F2.8 Macro. Very happy with the results of the first test. Good for portraits and for closeups.
outdoor portrait
portrait: f5.6, eye: f6.3
closeup of an eye

Trying macro photography

I’ve tried macro photography with Canon EF 85mm f1.8 lens having +4 lens attached; and with old manual Russian-made Helios-44 lens + cheap Chinese extension ring.

The option with EF 85mm and +4 lens means full electronic control with autofocus.

Cheap extension ring is a piece of metal only, no electronic connection between camera and lens. This is why I used old Helios-44 – because it has manual aperture control.

The result with EF85 is in general good, but chromatic aberrations are strong on contrasty edges (depending on particular scene of course).

Helios-44 resulted much less CA however the transition between area in focus and completely unsharp part isn’t very pleasant to my eye. EF85 produces a softer blur.

I must note however that the comparison isn’t fair because I tried 2 lens in different conditions. Now as I noticed some interesting point I’ll need to find some time to make a real comparison.

New lens – Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM

I just made myself a Christmas gift – Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM. I am very glad I did – I tried it in a studio in the same day and I love it! It gives quite sharp picture full open (f 1.8) and it gives absolutely pin sharp one when closed just a little. Also background blur looks very nice with bright spots looking round rather than polygonal. Another nice thing is that autofocus is very fast. Well, I read all that in the reviews I found in the internet before buying this lens, I am just glad I can agree with all statements.

For studio use with my cropped EOS 40D it needs some space; but I bought it having full-frame EOS 5D Mk II in mind… If everything goes well I consider buying one next spring.

Pretty smile - trying new EF 85 mm f/1.8
This picture was made at f3.5


EOS Discovery days

Last Friday I went to Canon’s “EOS Discovery Days” in Brussels. Thanks to Bert Stephani for sharing an invitation, otherwise I would have missed it.

Canon has shown a lot of their photo equipment: all SLR models, many lenses and printers. It was allowed to try everything, unfortunately only at the counter desk (where light was less than ideal). Contrary to my expectations EOS 5D Mark II was still a pre-production unit, so we were not allowed to try it with our own flash cards… Canon Belgium expects to get new 5D in the beginning of December.

I am planning to buy EF 85 mm f1.8 lens so I tried it and a few other… This is not very meaningful shot made with EF 1.8/85 (in fact I could have more testing opportunities in a specialized photo store…).
Just trying EF 85 mm f1.8

The formal part of the event consisted of a few presentations. I’ve got a bit controversial feeling about the whole event – on one hand it seemed to be aimed at professional photographers i.e. those already familiar with Canon cameras and lenses; on the other hand the presentations were made as if people in the room didn’t know about Canon… Anyway, the presentations were nice, particularly the photographs shown 🙂

Presentations were followed by a workshop by Bert Stephani. I always like when professionals give their practical advice – even if I already know the subject there are always some small things that are very helpful (and that I would hardly think of by myself).

Bert on stage with his model Erika

A nice addition to the even was a book EF LENS WORK III available for all guests for free. Not just a catalog of Canon lens, but a lot of detailed information and nice illustrations and use examples.

Canon G9 – first impression

While my EOS 40D was in repair I have purchased Canon G9 camera. I had a few reasons for that – having some backup for my SLR, but also having a compact camera that is easier to carry with me in case I don’t have SLR; and also having a camera that other family members can easily use.

In case you don’t know, Canon G9 is not a usual compact camera. It has a number of features that make it interesting for serious use: good quality pictures, RAW format, full manual control, image stabilization, hot shoe for external flash.

Canon G9

I haven’t used it intensively, neither I run a formal test – this is why I titled this post “first impression”.

Some reviews of G9 that I have read position that camera similarly to range-finder in comparison with SLR (and by that they distinguish it from cheapy plastic full-auto ones). I must admit that it doesn’t really feel as a rangefinder. In fact it feels similarly to full-auto models. However controls and functionality do make different impression indeed.

RAW format

Although RAW files from G9 have the same CR2 extension as from Canon DSLR cameras, Canon Digital Photo Professional software doesn’t work with the files from G9. The only native Canon software that works with G9 RAW files is ‘RAW Image Task’ that is called via Zoom Browser EX.

I use different workflow anyway, but just need to warn you: ‘RAW Image Task’ enforces some sharpening and some noise reduction even when you set corresponding parameters to 0. In case you use 3rd party RAW converter such as Adobe Camera RAW there is no problem (and you can clearly see the difference).

I am not sure about the older versions of Adobe Camera RAW, but version 4.4 works with G9 RAW files without any issues.

Image quality
The optics is quite good – no visible vignetting and quite sharp picture with good resolution. Cityscape picture with tiny aerials shows good detail through the whole frame.

In some situation barrel distortion is obvious, but it can be corrected in post-processing.

Chromatic aberration / purple fringing is reasonable, and can be fixed in RAW converter or photoshop when it shows up.

G9 image looks much noisier comparing with EOS 40D or even EOS 350D, and I don’t mean color noise. I mean the picture is less smooth, it resembles EOS picture when sharpening is applied. When you enrlage G9 picture to 400% or 500% you can see that color transition between pixels isn’t very smooth even on single-color surface.

placeholder – to be replaced with sample picture

Depending on your requirements this effect might be not too important for you. It can be reduced in post-processing; and also down-scaling the picture to 6 megapixel can reduce the effect a lot. Microstock agencies that are extremely picky about the quality of pictures accepted my test shots (filtered and downsized to 6 MPx).

Functionality/features

  • Full manual control – you can set ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
  • Aperture priority and shutter speed priority – similarly to DSLR you can set it manually, and you can set the camera to underexpose or to overexpose in this mode
  • External flash – just same as with DSLR can operate in ETTL mode or in manual mode
  • Histogram – can be seen after the shot is made, but also can be seen before releasing the shutter. That helps to evaluate the right exposure.
  • Autofocus works quite well, although you can not select the exact point other than central one.
  • Image stabilisation works well. A good portion of my 1/13th second pictures taken handheld appeared sharp afterwards (indeed shorter exposure means higher per cent of sharp pictures).
  • Macro mode works well, but you can only take the lens very close to object in wide-angle mode. Still quite nice, not possible on DSLR without special macro lens.
  • Battery life is quite long. Even when battery indicator flashes at low level, quite a few shots can still be made.

Conclusion

There are no miracles – Canon G9 has quite obvious limitations and the quality of images is below DSLR. Still, G9 is very nice camera with good features capable of producing decent quality pictures.

Canon RAW files and in-camera settings – continued

This is a follow up to the story about in-camera setting affecting RAW files for Canon EOS 350D.

I have made a quick test on my EOS 40D and found no difference in the RAW files that were photographed with different sharpening setting on the camera (called “Styles” on that camera).

I have placed camera on tripod, and made 2 shots with identical lighting and identical aperture/exposure/ISO settings; with the only difference being the sharpness level. I photographed RAW+JPEG. While I can clearly see a difference between 2 JPEG files, the 2 RAW files look virtually identical.

I would be interested to know about other cameras. RAW format is indeed supposed to b e independent from in-camera processing settings but it is not the case for EOS 350D. I wonder if there are other cameras having this issue.

Canon RAW files and in-camera settings

A friend of mine has discovered insteresting thing about RAW files from his Canon EOS 350D.

Apparently in-camera settings do affect RAW file unlike common belief. Camera mounted on tripod, manual settings, and 2 pictures made – one with sharpening set to zero in camera; and another with medium sharpening. When both files are processed by RAW converter (sharpening in converter set to zero) there is a very clear difference:
2crops
(click to see full-size)

The same effect was experienced with several different RAW converters. However original Canon converter allows to remove sharpening from the second picture (while setting sharpening to zero in non-Canon converters still keeps it)

Somebody has told me it’s not the case with RAW files from EOS 40D – I will indeed test it after I will get the camera from repair.

Interesting that the situation with RAW files from Canon G9 is almost the opposite. There is no way to change sharpening settings in camera, but I compared RAW processing by Canon and by Adobe converters. Picture converted by Canon converter does have sharpening and noise reduction applied even when parameters set to 0; but converting with Adobe Camera RAW it’s not the case – zero sharp level really means no sharpening.

Remark: When talking about EOS 350D and G9 I am talking about different RAW converters. EOS350D processed by Canon Digital Photo Pro (DPP) while G9 processed by Canon RAW Task (via Zoom Browser). I don’t know if RAW processing engine is the same of different for these 2 applications…. Canon DPP doesn’t recognize CR2 files from G9 (even the latest upgrade).