Tag Archives: camera

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

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!

Camera News

I doubt you’re reading this blog for the news, but there have been some recent announcements that will be of interest if you have more than a passing interest in photography.

  • The Canon EOS 7D looks like a nice step up from the 50D. It packs 18MP, so it will be interesting to see what the high-iso shots are like. Since Canon is apparently expanding its range of cameras with APS-C sized sensors, we should see more EF-S lenses, indeed two new ones were announced at the same time.
  • Also the Panasonic GF1, that equivalent to the Olympus E-P1 I was waiting for, has hit the announcements board. This really looks like a camera worth buying, and instantly rules out the E-P1 for me, assuming the price isn’t any higher. I still can’t decide whether to go for a micro four thirds (MFT) camera over an advanced fixed-lens camera (LX3 / S90 / G11) though.

Olympus E-P1, my next camera?

DPReview have a preview up of the soon-to-be released Olympus E-P1. I was thinking seriously thinking about getting a Panasonic LX3, but this looks like the perfect travel companion:

E-P1 side by side with the LX3

E-P1 side by side with the LX3 (source: dpreview.com)

Perhaps the only barrier could be the price – I’d expect it to be somewhere around the level of current prosumer DSLRs (50D, D90) which is a bit of a step up from the LX3 (close to double, probably more once you add lenses). But image-wise this is more DSLR than compact, whereas the LX3 is much more of a compact. In a portable camera I wouldn’t miss the viewfinder so much, but the poor contrast-detect autofocus would be its major downside compared to the 40D, and the Panasonic G1 which is based on the same system has much better autofocus.

And even with the 17mm “pancake” prime lens it’s still bulkier than the LX3, so there’s definitely room for both models. But with the E-P1 the micro four thirds system just got a whole lot more interesting, and this is tempting as a “do-it-all” camera to replace both my point ‘n shoot and DSLR.

Either way, I can definitely see myself owning a micro 4/3rds camera at some point in the future, but it might be worth waiting for the E-P2, which will hopefully refine the concept (and include Panasonic’s autofocus system).

Update 22-6-09:

It’s available on pre-order in the states at $799 US. Using the Canon 50D as a price index, the cost here at retail for the 14-42mm kit should be about $1450-1500 NZD. Which is about what I paid for my 40D body, so not too bad, in fact slightly cheaper than I was expecting. It’s quite a lot to spend on a downgrade, but for traveling it might just be worth it.

Buying a second-hand Digital SLR Camera

Having recently purchased a camera from TradeMe (New Zealand equivalent of ebay), I now realise that I made several mistakes. The camera was a Canon 5D with a 24-105 F4L lens and was physically flawless. It appeared to have been very well looked after, and the test shots looked fine, so I have to admit I wasn’t as cautious as I should have been. But the day afterwards I noticed what looked like very fine cracks in all my photos. Some quick internet research revealed that what I was seeing was fungal growth on the CMOS sensor! How did I not notice this?

The problem was that I went to have a look at the camera after the sun had gone down, thus all the photos were taken in dim indoor lighting which needs wide a aperture for proper exposure. At wider apertures much of the light hitting the sensor comes in at a wider angle, and as the sensor has a filter in front of it some light can get behind foreign matter on the surface of the filter before hitting the sensor. Narrow apertures show up dirt far more readily as the light is coming in from a narrower range of angles.

Looking at the sensor itself I could see the fungus and some other specks of dust. So I took a test shot of the sky at f/22, +1 EV (although any brightly lit background would do)… and this is what I saw (this is the full frame so you’ll have to view it enlarged to see what I’m talking about):



Needless to say, these marks have a very visible impact on any pictures with an aperture narrower than about f/7, and looking back I can even make out the fungus in the original test shots I took at f/4.

Fungal growth on the sensor could potentially be expensive, as a by-product of fungus is an acidic compound which could eat away at the coating on the filter. Worst case is that it needs a new filter, which should not be expensive in itself but would expensive in terms of labour as it requires dismantling the camera. So I’m hoping a simple clean will put it right!

So, the lesson I learned is to take some test shots in BRIGHT LIGHT, at both narrow and wide apertures. Narrow apertures reveal dirt on the sensor, and wider ones are more likely to show up any lens issues such as fringing or bad focus.

A summary of advice:

  1. Go to view the camera during the day, not at night.
  2. Take your own memory card along so you can examine the shots in more detail when you get home. I did this, but the wide apertures meant that the fungus was barely discernible, and it was on the edge of the image where the picture was out of focus anyway, so I wasn’t looking in the right places.
  3. Take test shots of the sky or another brightly lit background at the narrowest aperture possible (normally f/22) and +1EV (exposure value). If you simply can’t arrange a time during the day, flash shots of a clean white or lightly coloured wall should suffice. Or you could use a long shutter speed, since dirt on the sensor isn’t going to move you don’t have to worry about camera shake or motion blur… just make sure you get the right exposure.
  4. If purchasing a lens with the body, take some shots at the widest aperture possible, as these are far more likely to show up lens flaws such as fringing or bad focus.
  5. Examine the sensor by putting the camera into “sensor cleaning” mode. This flips up the mirror so you can see the sensor. To do this on a 40D you would go to setup menu 2 (yellow icon with two dots) > Sensor Cleaning > Clean Manually. On the 5D just scroll down to it, it’s in the orange setup section close to the bottom.

There are no doubt many other flaws to look out for in cameras which I haven’t touched on here. So be sure to look at other sites with more complete information, but nonetheless I hope this has been useful for someone!

Update 1-6-08

Probably what most people reading this are going to want to know is; did the sensor clean fix the problem? Unfortunately it didn’t, and Canon quoted me $2500+gst in parts alone for repairs (which is a new sensor assembly). Since this is considerably higher than the value of the camera, it’s basically not economic to repair unless you know someone capable of replacing the filter or dismantling the camera and cleaning it properly.

My new toy


Originally uploaded by Al404

I’ve been getting into my photography recently – I’ve had an SLR camera (a Canon 350D)  for a long time but haven’t really used it as much as I could have. What better way to reinvigorate my love for photography than buy new gear?

I started quite modestly, replacing the kit lens of my 350D with a Canon 17-85mm which really makes it a whole new camera as it’s a much nicer lens. Next I bought the cheapest possible prime lens, the 50mm F1.8 II. So far so good.

But then I bought a 40D. Followed by a 70-200mm F4L lens. And before you can blink I’ve spent over $3k NZD…

Ah well, it was nice having money while it lasted. You can see the results of my purchase on Flickr, although you’ll need to be a friend to see them all.