Tag Archives: lens

Making A Storm In A Teacup

Next week I’m giving my High Speed Flash/Water Splashes talk and demo at Brighton & Hove Camera Club. Since I haven’t done any splash pictures for a while, I thought I would get the kit out again and have a play.

Splash In The Cup
Splash In The Cup

I’ve been meaning to use this fab teacup again. It was last seen on Day #1614, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. The above is an alternative to the shot which made it for Day #1901 – Storm In A Teacup. Here’s the setup:

Teacup setup
Teacup setup
Another Lens Splash
Another Lens Splash

Coincidentally, I was looking for an image for this week’s [email protected] project, and since the cups needed to be photographed a little further away for the full effect, my Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM was perfect for the job. Above right is an alternative for Teabreak Time In The Studio which I chose for [email protected] (2013) #11, seen in the previous post. Mum and Dad gave me the fake lens mug for Christmas and it was crying out for a shot like this!

Canon 70-200mm EF f/4 L USM Long-Term Review

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

When I first got my Canon 70-200mm EF f/4 L USM lens secondhand from a friend in February last year, it was to have a smaller, lighter alternative to the monster 100-400mm EF f/4.5-5.6L IS USM which I also own. And I hoped it would make a good companion to the Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM which is my regular standard zoom for days out.

My thinking was that I would use this one more frequently as it’s much less strain on the arms if you are using it without a tripod (which I tend to do – I’m too lazy to drag a tripod everywhere and it slows down my spontaneity).

Looking back over the last fifteen months or so, I realise I’ve actually used it more than I thought – but only on relatively few photographic outings.

The first real run out was a day in Brighton in April 2011, meeting photographic friends for a shoot. The light was mediocre but I was reasonably pleased with the results. Here’s one of the West Pier:

West Pier Silhouette
West Pier Silhouette
Yellow Poppy
Yellow Poppy

A group from GNPC went to RHS Hyde Hall in May to photograph the magnificent floral displays. It was a beautiful sunny if windy day and the images from that shoot produced some vibrant colours with great bokeh in the background. This yellow poppy illustrates it perfectly.

With plenty of light around, the 70-200mm focal length is a cracking option for this sort of picture, especially if the flowers you want to photograph are in the middle of a well-manicured bed and you can’t get any closer to your subject!

It’s not really suitable for macro or close up work, as the closest focus distance is 1.2m. The 705g weight isn’t too onerous on the shoulders – either in the kit bag or on the front of the camera – and only 35g heavier than my 24-105.

Thames Barges
Thames Barges

The next trip it went out on was the Shoot Maldon Live event with Upminster Camera Club, where I was judging the images made on the day, straight out of camera. I thought it only fair that I had a go myself!

This classic view of the Thames Barges at the Hythe shows the weather was occasionally sunny, but mainly overcast. It’s not a bad lens for landscape work, but the 700mm widest focal length can be a bit limiting for this type of photography, depending on your location circumstances.

Later on in May I was out again with the Chelmsford Flickr folk for their 30th Photowalk. We attended the Essex Young Farmers’ Country Show.

Orange With Blue Nuts
Orange With Blue Nuts
Slow shutter, poor light
Slow shutter, poor light

The lens was great for isolating interesting details from the shiny old tractors and farm equipment, but proved a little bit short on zoom length for the aerial motorbike displays – many of which had to be cropped in post production to fill the frame a bit more compared to straight out of the camera. The light had also gone very dim by that stage, so I was struggling for a decent shutter speed, even with the lens wide open at f/4. And the lack of Image Stabilisation meant I was a bit disappointed with many of the resulting shots. The one on the right shows one of the bikers taken at 200mm, with a 100% pixel comparison of part of the rear wheel – it’s not terribly crisp.

Charing Cross Dusk
Charing Cross Dusk

I had another go in low light at the beginning of June, when I found myself on the South Bank to witness a rather impressive dusk after sunset.

I made this image of Charing Cross by steadying the lens on the railings by the side of the river. Otherwise the lack of IS would have given me quite blurry images – and I didn’t dare push the ISO too much beyond 800 for fear of losing some of the details in the shadows and vibrancy of colours in the highlights.

I would have liked a slightly wider view of the scene but at 70mm, this is as wide as it got. Once again, I felt I was hitting a few of the lens’ limitations on this particular shoot.

Thoughtful Soldier
Thoughtful Soldier

In July I went with some friends from GNPC to the War & Peace show in Paddock Wood. I was hoping for some good candid portraits of the re-enacters so packed the lens in my bag.

It did prove to be a great portrait lens during the day. I loved this picture of a young “German” airman – which nearly made it to image of the day for Day #1299. But I did feel a bit conspicuous wandering around with the “white” lens and got asked several times if I was from the press!

Flowing Locks
Flowing Locks

In September a friend and I attended the London Tattoo Convention for the first time. We weren’t quite sure what to expect but knew there would be plenty of opportunity for people-watching – so again, the 70-200 was packed in the kit bag.

The folks there were very friendly and approachable, many of them more than happy to pose for photos.

The halls where the event was held were quite dingy, so I was once more hampered by the lack of IS with the lens. The best shots I got all day were in the central courtyard which has huge skylights in the roof. This red head was being pursued by many paparazzi so I was lucky the 200mm focal length got me a shot between other people’s heads!

There was quite a hiatus before I took the lens out again – a few days ago I attended the GB Olympic Canoeing Trials at the White Water Centre in Waltham Cross.

Aiming For The Gate
Aiming For The Gate

The primary lens I took along to capture the action was the 100-400 as I wanted to fill the frame as much as possible. But I packed the 70-200 as a backup and I’m glad I did – a few shots into the event and my 100-400 lens started playing up!

So the 70-200 proved to be a useful alternative, especially when the sun was out. The image above was made from a few feet away from the edge of the course. I didn’t have a press pass so wasn’t allowed “inside the ropes” but I still got some reasonable pictures.

Ultimately, I’m still undecided if I want to keep the lens. It didn’t cost me a lot as it was second hand. But I think 70-200 is just the wrong focal range for my current kit lineup. It overlaps the 24-105 by quite a lot, yet doesn’t really get much further at the long end to justify carrying it around. I prefer the 100-400 for sports and action shots, mainly for the versatility of zoom range and Image Stabilisation, which I do really miss on the shorter 70-200.

It’s certainly a great lens for some subjects such as flowers and portraiture, given enough light. Sadly the UK’s record for sunny conditions aren’t that great though! I’ll probably have a think about alternatives to this lens and write more when I’ve come to a decision.

Open Wide(er)

It’s been over 3 years since I bought my Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM lens. In that time, I’ve still kept hold of the 17-85mm EF-S f/3.5-4.5 USM it replaced, but I haven’t used the wider lens very much compared to the 24-105, which is my everyday lens and gives better image quality.

Canon 10-22mm EF-S f/3.5-4.5 USM
Canon 10-22mm EF-S f/3.5-4.5 USM

However, recently I’ve been craving a wider angle of view so had done some investigation on the options for wide/ultra-wide on the EOS 7D cropped sensor body. The wise money said Sigma 10-20 EF f/4-5.6 (which is cheaper but slower) or Canon’s own 10-22mm EF-S f/3.5-4.5 USM [right].

I vowed a while back not to buy any 3rd-party lenses (after a disappointing flirt with a Sigma 135-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens about 5 years ago). But I also vowed not to buy any EF-S lenses if I could help it – for future-proofing if I ever do get a full frame DSLR. What to do?

No Entry
No Entry

In the end, I figured that it will be some time (if ever) that I get the opportunity of a full frame body, so the Canon EF-S won out. Having read reviews and borrowed a friend’s lens for a few days to play with, I was convinced this was the right option. It arrived this morning! So I was eager to get out and about to give it a proper test run. I started off at Paper Mill Lock and then headed to Maldon for some early evening shots as the sun was setting, but I got there just in time to make a few shots.

From this brief outing, I’m pretty impressed with the lens. The trick is to get some interesting foreground to act as a lead-in for the rest of the picture, otherwise everything just looks too far away. But it’s equally at home shooting distance or close ups. My favourite from the shoot made it as Day #1310.

Wyvenhoe And Friends
Wyvenhoe And Friends
Starway Stairway
Starway Stairway
Two Pulleys
Two Pulleys
Trinity House Buoy
Trinity House Buoy

May '09 Review

I started off the month with a bit of a disaster – managing to drop my camera and trusty 24-105mm lens, which resulted in this:

Ouch[Potential disaster strikes on 2nd May. Ouch!]

Up The HillI can’t stress enough the benefits of having a UV or skylight filter on the front of your expensive lenses – in the end, this was all that was damaged, even though it took a trip to the Camera service centre to get the thing off the lens! A nailbiting few days before I knew if I had caused more damage, but thankfully not.

Sunday 3rd was the date of the annual Stebbing Scramble, which I attended with some friends from GNPC. I took my monster 100-400mm lens for a spin, and managed to get some great action shots.

The one on the left was a close runner for Day #489: [Up The Hill – coming out of the water jump]

There is a whole set on Flickr which I took during the afternoon.

May 14th also saw the momentous milestone of reaching Day #500! I thought a cake with candles was the least I could do – but didn’t manage too many other shots as I spent a large chunk of the day driving to visit Alistair in Newcastle.

Although I’ve been further north to Jedburgh and visited nearby Durham and Middlesborough, it was the first time I had been to Newcastle. There are loads of things to see and photograph, and I had an excellent week despite the mixed weather!

Most of the Friday was miserable but in the early evening the sun poked through the clouds so we took a walk around the Tyne, over the bridge and visited the Millennium Centre in Gateshead. There are some great shots here. This one was a very close runner up for Day #501:

Contrasts - inside the Giant Glass Slug[Contrasts – inside the Giant Glass Slug]

We also enjoyed a trip to the seaside followed by an evening Newcastle Photo Walk on the Monday. The weather wasn’t quite as good for that, but I liked the urban gritty feel I got with this shot on Day #504:

Your Future This Way[Your Future This Way]

Red, Green, Blue, YellowOn 24th it was another Chelmsford Photo Walk meet, where Rodney and I did the Springfield – Great Baddow stretch of the Centenary Circle. It was very hot, so we had to slap on the sun cream or risk frying. Here are some images taken during the walk, but my favourite which didn’t make it for Day #510 was this:

[Red, Green, Blue, Yellow – lichens on a bridge across the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation just south of Cuton Lock]

On 28th I spent a pleasant day with a friend looking around Kew Gardens, but the weather wasn’t too great so I didn’t really get many good shots.

Finally, back up North at the end of the month, this time for BarCampLeeds. I liked this bit of architecture, close to the venue, but it didn’t really echo the essence of the day in the same way my choice for Day #517 did:

Rusty Cladding[Rusty Cladding – I’ve since been told it’s called Corten Steel. Who knew?]

On Lenses

Canon 17-85mm EF-S
Canon 17-85mm EF-S

I took a long, critical look the other day at some of the photos I’d recently taken with my Canon 17-85mm lens [left]. It’s built for digital and as such, can’t be used on any 35mm or full-frame censor CCD cameras (such as Canon’s 5D – not that I have one!).

I’ve had it a couple of years, bought as a replacement for the original 18-55mm kit lens which came with my EOS 300D in 2004. That lens was pretty ropey – very plastic and the image quality was far from great.

Now I’m using my Canon 30D, I’ve begun to notice that the 17-85 lens isn’t particularly sharp around the edges, especially at the wide 17mm end. It also suffers from chromatic abberation:

Buttsbury Church wide angle shot looks OK at web resolution
Buttsbury Church wide angle shot looks OK at web resolution
Detail of the trees on the left
Detail of the trees on the left

As you can see, this 100% view from a section of the trees on the left shows a distinct magenta halo on one side of the birch trunk and a slight green halo on the other side. When trying to make prints at A3, these lens “features” are beginning to be irritating…

So I have been thinking about a better lens for my short/standard zoom.

I initially looked at Canon’s 24-70mm EF f/2.8 L USM but it costs nearly £900, so that was out of the question. What are the alternatives?

Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM
Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM

I’ve finally settled on the Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM [right]. Yes it’s a stop slower than the expensive lens, but has the bonus of Image Stabilisation, and f/4 is still pretty fast, especially as it’s throughout the zoom’s range.

And the L stands for Low Dispersion glass – Canon’s best quality lens. On paper my old Sigma 135-400mm lens had a similar spec to the Canon zoom I now use for rugby, 100-400mm EF f4-5.6 L IS USM, but the pictures the Canon produces with that “L” quality glass are so much better. So I thought another L-series lens would be a good investment. Particularly if I ever get myself a Canon 5D full-frame D-SLR as my existing 17-85mm EF-S won’t fit.

Can Impression #2 shows buildings and blue sky reflected in the River Can as it flows through a concrete bit of Chelmsford
Can Impression #2 shows buildings and blue sky reflected in the River Can as it flows through a concrete bit of Chelmsford

I had the pleasure of trying out the new toy this morning, taking a few quick shots on the way home from Chelmsford. So far, I’m impressed; the image quality seems first rate. I haven’t yet missed the extra 7mm range at the wide end, but am glad of the extra 20mm at the tele end of things.

Branches shows a 100% enlargement of another image taken at the wide angle. Not sure I can see any chroma artifacts in that!
Branches shows a 100% enlargement of another image taken at the wide angle. Not sure I can see any chroma artifacts in that!

Of course, I’ve yet to give the lens a proper run out, but I’m certainly happy with its first impression. And I’m rather pleased with today’s Picture of the Day, Covert Surveillance, taken with the new beastie on the way home from the shop!