Category Archives: Photography

Canon EOS – From 40D to 70D

It was time to upgrade. The 40D has been a trooper, but it hasn’t seen much use recently. Whether it’s the inconvenience of its compact flash memory cards, or just sheer size and weight, I have seldom felt the need to travel with it.

The 40D was released 8 years ago in 2007, which is a very long time in technology. I bought mine at the start of 2009, just after the release of the 50D, which carried a 30% price premium over the older model. I’ve never regretted my decision to go with the 40D, and I’ve had over 30,000 shutter actuations out of it, most of those with my favourite lens – a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM. Now days, you can get a much cheaper 10-18mm lens which is slower (f/4.5-5.6), but has a STM motor and image stabilisation, making it much better for video. If you don’t already have an ultra-wide angle lens, seriously, get this one.

In the past year though, I’ve probably shot less than 100 frames with the 40D, favouring a much smaller Panasonic GX1 with a Samyang 7.5mm fish-eye and the excellent 20mm f/1.7 pancake. These lenses are as sharp as they are useful, but when using the little GX1 I don’t really feel like I’m “doing photography”. The experience is that of using a point & shoot, but the pictures I can take with it are almost as good as the 40D (better in low light with the f/1.7 pancake actually). Lugging the SLR doesn’t really make sense.

Looking through some of my old photos recently made me realise how much I miss the Canon 10-22mm lens. The fish-eye is fun, and even has a wider field of view, but images from rectilinear lenses afford more creative flexibility in my opinion; the fish-eye look is distinctive, and not one you really want to characterise all your images. Continue reading

Christchurch

Nostalgia is a wonderful experience. Visiting an old city, seeing old friends, visiting old bars, shops, and reliving the moments is an experience to be treasured. With Christchurch, we have been deprived.

I visited a full 3 years after the most devastating quake (February 22nd, 2011). In that time, much of the rubble has been cleared, and the city is starting to rebuild. But it was shocking just how much of the condemned old city remains, so long after the event.

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Homecoming

One thousand three hundred and thirty days.

That’s how long I’d been away from New Zealand, and how long since I’d seen my family in person.  But really, it didn’t feel that long.  Regular Skype contact and Facebook updates mean that keeping in touch with friends and family on the opposite side of the world is easier than it used to be.

Still, it’s a long time between drinks, and it’s surprising what’s changed.

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The GX1 is a veritable bargain

Just picked one of these up at the airport on the way through. They have been going for around £350 for the GX1 body and 14-42mm Vario lens, or £330 with the standard 14-42mm lens. Originally an £800 kit, the discount is because Panasonic is clearing inventory to make way for the GX7, which looks amazing by the way. Far from 2.5x the price amazing however.

GX1

The Sony RX100 and Fuji X100S were also on my radar. The RX100 is a great camera and much more compact than the GX1, but it has a much smaller sensor and is still twice the price at around £600. The only snag is that I’m going to have to spend another £200 on a prime to exceed the low-light performance of the RX100, but the result is a more capable kit, and it’s still £100 cheaper!

I also made the mistake of handling the Fuji X100S. It was a mistake because it almost cost me £900, but I quickly realised this and put it down before I could get more attached! That is one sexy piece of kit, and is in a different league IQ and interface wise. I would LOVE one, but at nearly £1000 (!), it’s hard to justify with the GX1 being such a bargain.

The GX1 won’t replace my SLR (no affordable wide angle lens), or my old Canon S90 (not quite pocketable). But it is much much less of a burden to carry than an SLR, will go many places the SLR wouldn’t. I shall be putting it to good use while in Amsterdam!

5 tips on travelling with a wide-angle lens

Three years ago, on a bit of a whim, I bought a Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens. The action was probably symptomatic of Gear Acquisition Syndrome, but I’ve fortunately managed to keep it under control since – I’m still using the same set of lenses I bought around that time!
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-5.6 USM

It was a pricey item, and to this day I don’t really know what possessed me to spend such a sum on a piece of glass that I didn’t really know how to use. What’s more, I wasn’t sure I’d use it regularly. But all the pictures in this article were taken with it, and these days it hardly leaves the camera.

Others have asked me about wide angle photography, and I’ve even loaned my 10-22 out a couple of times, so I thought it was about time I put down some words about traveling with a wide angle lens.

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Photo workflow script

After trying several photo management tools I’ve concluded that the best way to manage a photo library is the simplest – copy the files yourself and name the directory.

I also often shoot in RAW+JPG mode on my camera and like to keep the files separate to make viewing saner, so under each event directory I will have a RAW and JPG directory as well.

After downloading, the first step is always to delete the photos that didn’t come out. With both raw and jpeg files to delete this process is a bit of a pain, especially when they’re in separate directories, so I wrote a script that deletes the raw file when the jpg is missing. That way I can simply browse through the JPG directory with Eye of Gnome, delete the photos I don’t want, and the script handles cleanup of the RAW directory.

https://github.com/al4/scripts/blob/master/bash/rawdel.sh

The code is below but you should use the github link above in case it gets improved at some point in the future.

#!/bin/bash

# rawdel.sh, a photo workflow script to delete raw files when the jpg has been removed
# By Alex Forbes
#
# I frequently shoot in RAW+JPG mode and when downloading from the camera I like to separate 
# the raw and jpg files into separate directories. I then go through the jpg directory and 
# delete the rejects. It is a pain to have to manually delete the corresponding raw files as 
# well, so I wrote a script to do it for me.
#
# It simply removes RAW files from a directory when the corresponding JPG file has been removed.

# Set these
rawextn="CR2"	# raw file extension (Canon is CR2)
rawdir="./RAW"	# directory where raw files reside
jpgdir="./JPG"	# directory where jpg files reside
				# rawdir and jpgdir can be the same

# Working variables, leave as-is
list=""			# list of files that have been deleted
rawlist=""		# the list of raw files that we will delete
filecount=""	# number of files we will delete

# Operate on each raw file
for f in $(ls -1 $rawdir/*.$rawextn); do 
	# Corresponding JPG file is:
	jpgfile=$(basename $f | sed "s/\.$rawextn$/.JPG/")

	# If this JPG file doesn't exist
	if [ ! -f $jpgdir/$jpgfile ]; then
		# Add to our list of files that have been deleted
		list=$(echo -e "${jpgfile} ${list}")
	fi
done

# Convert jpg filenames back to corresponding raw filenames
rawlist=$(echo ${list} | sed 's/\.JPG$/.CR2/g')
filecount=$(echo -e ${rawlist}| awk 'END{print NF}')

if [ $filecount == 0 ]; then
	echo "No files to delete"
	exit 0
fi

echo -e "About to remove $filecount files:\n${rawlist}"
read -p "Continue? [Y/N] " prompt
 
if [[ $prompt = "Y" || $prompt = "y" ]]; then
	# Delete all files in the list
	for f in ${rawlist}; do
		rm -v $rawdir/$f
	done
	exit 0
else
	echo -e "\nAborted."
	exit 1
fi

If you’re after a new camera …

… the Panasonic GF1 is quite a bargain at the moment at $990 NZD for the 14-45mm kit. In the UK it is just £329 (with £50 cashback), which at the current exchange rate is even cheaper.

The G1’s successor (G2) was recently released, which adds movie mode, a touch screen and a few minor improvements. When it comes to taking photos though, the two are almost indistinguishable.

The G2 however has an inferior kit lens (14-42mm, the better old one is 14-45mm), and costs $500 NZD more than the G1, which now costs about the same as the new “budget” model, the G10.

The G10 does have a basic movie mode, but loses the high resolution viewfinder and articulated screen. It too has the inferior 14-42mm lens, which in my view makes the G1 the better buy unless you absolutely must have movie mode. But if movie mode is important you really want a GH1 or G2 anyway (possibly GF1).

dpreview.com’s review of the G2 should tell you all you need to know. :)

Me though, I’ll be sticking with my 40D and Canon lens collection, plus the S90 for situations where a big camera is inconvenient (the S90 is by far the best compact I’ve ever used). I think the GF1 is the really interesting model in the Panasonic range as it realises the potential of the micro four thirds system – a big sensor in a small package. The problem however, is that a MFT (micro four thirds) camera can’t replace a compact because they’re all still too big to fit in a trouser pocket with a standard zoom.

I really don’t want to own 3 expensive cameras comprising two unique lens and accessory systems, so therefore a MFT camera would have to replace the DSLR. And the MFT system to date can not match the dynamic range and lens selection of the Canon EOS line. So for now I’ll stick with 40D + S90, with my most likely upgrade path to be a 5D MKII and/or 600D when the 40D starts to show its age (which it certainly isn’t yet).

The S90 may have cost a lot, at the time it was almost twice as much as a perfectly good compact like the Fuji F200EXR. But you’ll notice that its price hasn’t dropped at all since its introduction which to me indicates that demand is still high, and I think it was worth every penny.

So to put things in perspective, the S90 costs more than the G1 in the UK after the rebate, and if you don’t mind the larger size of the G1 it’s not difficult to see which is the better value!

Holiday Snaps

The holidays are over, I’m back to work but clearly the news reporters aren’t as stuff and the TV news are full of garbage. At least there’s photo processing to keep me occupied!

Through experimentation I’ve been learning a few tricks on processing raw photos with Canon’s Digital Photo professional – I won’t make the same mistake of promising an article on using it but it’s in the back of my mind…

Anyway here are a few photographic highlights:

Anchor

Foxdown Dusk

Wellington Waterfront

Third Party Lens Hoods

What’s the difference between Canon lens hoods and the third party hoods that sell for much less on auction sites such as trademe and ebay? I couldn’t find the answer to this question anywhere else, so when shopping for a hood for my Canon 10-22mm lens I decided to go for a third party hood and find out.

The genuine example I have is a Canon EW-73B lens hood. It sells for $66 NZD on photo.co.nz, whose prices are generally in line with the current retail market while not being the absolute lowest. This is an exorbitant price for what amounts to little more than a piece of plastic. The third party equivalent sells on trademe for around $25 NZD, much cheaper but hardly a bargain. So what’s the difference? Well effectively you’re paying $39 for the brand and felt on the inside of the hood. And perhaps slightly better quality plastic as well.

The third party example is an EW-83E. Ideally I’d purchase a third party EW-73B to compare, but the images online tell me enough that I don’t need to – they’re exactly the same as the EW-83E I have aside from the size and shape. Below is a picture that illustrates what I see as the major difference between third party and branded hoods:

Third Party Lens Hoods

As you can see there is a notable difference in the reflectiveness of the inside surface. Admittedly my hand in this photo is partly shielding the Canon hood, so I took another shot for the skeptics: here. But it’s not difficult to imagine how a smooth surface would reflect more light than black felt.

The question is whether this actually makes any difference to your photos. We know that light refracted in the lens can reduce colour saturation and cause flare (see the digital picture’s write-up on the use of lens hoods for more info), however answering the question of whether light reflected from the inside of the hood and then onto the lens can do the same is more difficult to answer (if anyone wants to shout me a third party EW-73B I’ll do my best to find out!).

At minimum the effect of using a third party hood should still be reduced flare and better colour saturation (vs not using any hood at all), so a photographic scenario that demonstrated a perceivable difference would probably have to be carefully designed. Maybe a flash just off the frame but pointing straight at the lens would do it.

Conclusion

Both third and first party lens hoods are a ripoff.

ThinkTank “Urban Disguise 70” Buyer Review

I’m not in the habit of reviewing everything I buy, but it does give me something to post. I picked this up from Progear in Newmarket for $219 (NZD), so it’s not a cheap bag but not absurdly expensive either. Note that I did actually purchase this with my own money and buyers are never totally impartial, but I’m certainly not being sponsored by the manufacturer/distributor/retailer either!

The last bag I bought to hold all my gear (a backpack from trademe) cost $79, so it was a cheapie but excellent value for money, more so than this (since the Urban Disguise 70 cost me 2.5x as much). This time around I wanted something that was durable, looked nice but didn’t scream “camera bag!”. And this seemed to fit the bill.
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First a shot of the bag and the gear I have to fit inside. It’s a fairly modest kit, small enough that I can carry everything most places:
Urban Disguise 70

Like most bags aimed at photographers the internal layout is completely re-arrangeable, and a good number of spacers are included. This pic shows how I’ve laid out mine (albeit not very well as the zipper doesn’t allow it to open very wide):
Urban Disguise 70

The bag has a generous number of pockets. This is one of the side pockets where I chose to store a couple of filters:
Urban Disguise 70

This next photo shows the pouch which holds the rain cover:
Urban Disguise 70

However this is one feature that I can’t really see myself using. Here’s the bag with the rain cover on:
Urban Disguise 70

Unless you’re in the habit of leaving your camera bag outside on a rainy day, or don’t mind carrying it like a cardboard box, this is a rather useless feature in my opinion. But it does add a bullet point to the marketing materials. If I ever use it I will be sure to update the review!

Update: As noted in the comments below, you can actually use the rain cover if you attach the strap to the clips on the “back” of the bag rather than the sides. Maybe I will use it after all.

Also included is a memory card wallet which attaches to the bag via a velcro ribbon:
Urban Disguise 70

There have been a couple of times when I’ve been concerned about memory cards slipping out of my old bag, so I think this is a great idea. It’s one of those nice extra touches that really makes this a photographers bag, and wasn’t something I was expecting to find (or had even considered). It’s a shame about the gaudy colour though, and the bright blue ribbon it attaches to makes it worse (what’s wrong with gray/black?).

Finally a shot with all my gear inside:
Urban Disguise 70

As you can see it’s a comfortable fit. The DSLR has a 10-22mm lens mounted with its hood facing outwards and there’s heaps of room. It also fits with the 70-200 on and hood reversed. I could comfortably fit another medium-large sized lens or another body, but probably not both.

You may have noticed that you can’t see much of the gear that’s either side of the DSLR (the 70-200 and flash are on the right and the 17-85 and 50 are on the left). Due to the narrow opening they aren’t that easy to access either. I could possibly remedy this by putting the DSLR on one side, but then the camera would be harder to access which somewhat defeats the point. To be fair, allowing a wider opening would compromise the look of the bag somewhat, and it’s only an inconvenience when I want to change lenses and quick access isn’t very important.

Conclusion

This is a sharp looking but understated bag that is very well made. It blends in well and is a perfect size for my needs, so I’m happy with the purchase.

Pros

  • Good quality materials and construction
  • Plenty of pockets and spacers
  • Holds a good amount of gear
  • Doesn’t look like a camera bag

Cons

  • A little pricey, but not exorbitant
  • Narrow zipper opening makes gear on the sides hard to access
  • Rain cover has questionable utility value
  • Dorky name, but it describes the mandate well

For more info see the manufacturer’s site.