Wednesday, 19 November 2014

My Canon lens advice

Canon Choice - Lenses

Every year Canon seems to offer great discounts on their kit, and other than the NEC Photo show in March, there is no better time to buy. If you are considering Canon kit and you are wobbly about which lens to buy, I have done a lot of research and indeed purchase and below is what I recommend. I don't have all my recommendations, but I do know what kit is ideal, compromise and probably don't bother...

Of course, what you buy very much depends on your 'type' of photography, so I'll have to assume you know the difference between focal lengths and so on.

Wide lenses for landscapes, interiors and interesting perspectives:

I have just bought a 35mm f1.4 (MK1 not MK11), why, because at around £900 with £150 cashback, it's a bargain. The MK2 version is bigger, heavier, more plastic, sharper but has worse bokeh! I suggest you do the same while stocks last - I don't see you losing money as I think these exceptional lenses will hold their value.

Good, general purpose and affordable (what I use) Canon 17-40mm f4

The new and expensive 11-24 is beautiful but at £2.8k should be.

Standard lens and zooms that cover the so-called 50mm standard

Pro choice 24-70mm f2.8

50mm f1.2 - pricey, big, heavy and difficult to use

50mm f1.4 - does the mid range and what I use despite below - this is arguably the worse 50 that Canon do - the 1.8 STM is great for not a lot.

24-105 f4 - the kit lens, great lens, lots of pros use this, probably the only kit lens I would buy and yes, I did!


Here's where I will get disagreements!

Lots of people love the 85mm f1.8 - it's great for sharpness and bokeh, but I sent one straight back as I couldn't stand the purple and green fringes, only part of which I could get rid of in DXO software... unfortunately


85mm f1.2 - I so want one of these

100mm f2.8L macro - fantastic lens - I have one

a 70-200... the f4 if you want it for travel too or the 70-200 f2.8 VR 11 if not, you don't mind the weight and want what must be one of Canon's best lenses - I bought one of these and it's stunning!

Longer zooms and primes

a 70-200 see above

135mm f2.0 - my favourite lens

400mm DC - if you can afford/justify it

400mm f5.6 - if you can't

100-400 mk11 - a great lens, but with an extender (1.4x) on my 70-200, I'm there anyway (98-280 f4 and a crop if needed).

400mm f2.8 - it's the 300, but more

Friday, 14 November 2014

How to... Using the camera on 'PASM' and taking control of your photography

How to...

(skip these pages if you know)

I've had an email requesting my 'How to' on NOT using the Auto setting on cameras all the time. In order to answer that, one must understand 'exposure'...

Getting the right amount of light is very often taken care of by the electronics in the camera. The exposure, as it is called, is gained by the interaction of the size of the hole in the lens and the time the shutter is open. This is very simple, big hole small time, small hole long time. Of course, the reality is, someone came along and called the hole size an ‘f’ number and yes, the hole is not kept open for long so that’s in fractions of a second...
So, f2.8 for 1/500th of a second is ‘the same’ as f5.6 for 1/125 of a second. Before this information makes you think, ‘this isn’t for me’, it needs to be said, you can simply accept this is the case and move on.
These f numbers are not really understood by experienced photographers, other than, low ones come with big holes and let you have the person in focus and the background out of focus, larger f’s do the reverse. f16 will get the foreground and background in focus at the same time.

  1. Getting the correct exposure is achieved by the relationship of ‘f’ number and shutter speed
  2. High shutter speeds require a larger aperture or lower ‘f’ number to let in more light. Used to freeze motion
  3. Small apertures (larger ‘f’ number f16 for example) giving larger depth of focus, are compensated by longer shutter speeds
  4. Large apertures such as f2.8 lead to defocused backgrounds and small depth of focus

A lot of cameras have a dial that has PASM on it.

  • Program is used to get the camera to decide what it thinks is a good combination between the 'f' stop and the shutter speed.
  • Aperture Priority is used when you know better and wish to choose how deep your focus is. Shallow artistic depth of focus requires low numbers f2.8 for example. The camera sets the corresponding shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure.
  • Shutter Priority is when you know better and wish to cause blur by using a long exposure time to, for instance, blur a waterfall. Equally you may wish to freeze a sports car by using a fast shutter speed, like a thousandth of a second. The camera will open the lens hole more if you use a fast time to let more light in, and of course, lessen the depth of focus.
  • M is for Manual. This is when you take total control. Your choice of depth of focus and your choice of shutter speed. To get the exposure right you will need a bit more knowledge or a bit of... luck!

To round this up, as you go through the f-number scale, each step equates to a halving of the light, so f2 is twice the light of f2.8 and so on. Shutter speed is easier to understand as 1/15th second is twice 1/30th. The f stop scale runs 1.4 - 2 - 2.8 - 4 - 5.6 - 8- 11 - 16. 

...start using your camera on something other than 'AUTO'

This article is taken from my iBook from a couple of years ago. If your knowledge makes this something that offends, then sorry, equally you might know someone that may find it useful, in which case pass it on.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Software and RAW convertors

The best RAW convertor is Aperture. It's Mac only though and Apple for some odd reason are stopping supporting it so...

Choose between:

Lightroom CC
I finally decided to cease messing and pay for the Adobe CC for photographers, which at £100 a year is only the same as paying for regular updates of Photoshop which I was buying anyway - 'get over it'. If you are serious about photography, do the same.
Do I like Lightroom, not much, why:
Lightroom applies recovery which screws up your photos - this can be avoided in part though. In the develop pane on the right, change the Camera Calibration processing engine from 2012 back to 2010 and save the workspace to keep it this way. This is a Guy Gowan observation. What does this do? If you compare an image with overexposure highlighting on, you will see that the 2012 engine simply rubs out some of the 'red' wash without actually doing much else - and while I'm on the subject, whoever said 'expose for the highlights' was lacking knowledge - digital cameras retain more detail in the slightly overexposed areas than they do in the shadows. Recovery of shadow detail usually leads to colour moiré - horrible black areas with red and green dots in.
Lightroom annoys the hell out of me as you have to keep switching panes or functionality is missing - I want stacks everywhere, particularly in 'develop' where it ain't. I actually have to go to 'Library' to open stacks then back to 'Develop' again... arrrrgh!
This aside, Lightroom is powerful and knits well with photoshop which is what you really need to edit your photos properly. One reason is that it's totally crazy to mess around with a brush when you can use a layer mask which is bang-on accurate and can be created in seconds instead.

Capture One Pro 8
Like this a lot. It's designed to go with the very expensive but very good Phase backs fitted to the 645 body (which I think is really Mamiya?). It's RAW conversion is good and the software is quick and the library is easy to get to grips with.

DXO Optics Pro 10
This program is a must have if you shoot wide angle lenses IMHO. The company has taken the trouble to measure body/lens combinations in the lab and tailor processing specifically to the exact combo you are using. Obviously not all lenses are covered so check here loads are tho'

Digital Photo Professional 4
Canon supplies this for free with their EOS cameras. I have a Canon M as well and despite this camera still being on sale, Canon don't support it in version 4... what! This software is otherwise good for free, but despite Canon knowing Canon's magic formulae so RAW processing should be the very best, I don't think it is.

Adobe Camera Raw
Link is more useful than a download click. Comes with Photoshop, see Lightroom above.

I have them all! Decisions!

Conclusion: If you can get on with Lightroom, trial available, then the Adobe CC membership represents a very good route. If you want a standalone option with no on-going payments, then Capture One is your best option. DXO is very, very good, but unless you shoot a lot of wide, then the other products, to me, feel more complete.

Before buying, there are free trials for all the above products!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Blame It On The Bokeh

Why the title?

Bokeh is the quality of out-of-focus backgrounds in a photo. I love good bokeh, and the way you get it is to use wide aperture, long focal length lenses or a combo of the two.

Exquisite bokeh: use a 135mm or 200mm f2.0:

Bad bokeh: usually a zoom 'kit' lens. In this case it was a 50mm f1.8 - the bokeh should have been good with this lens, but it's donut-like and distracting:

The aim is to have points of light exhibiting as diffused soft discs, not donut or points of light. Dreamy backgrounds that give rise to a three dimensional feel, as opposed to distracting definable shapes....!