Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Updating Equipment

Took a laundry basket of camera gear to The Camera Store to be sold on consignment. Gone is the 5D3, my 17-40, 50 2.5 macro, 24-70 L, 1.4 telextender, also my GH2 and 14-140.

I'm keeping the 70-200 f4L IS, the 24 tse, 90 tse, for possible use if Canon produces the camera I want.

I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing with the Panasonic GH2 - sweet camera, works well, but I'm getting much better pictures with the fast lenses on the Nikon wide open (so far just the 35 1.4 sigma but I'm going to give the 85 1.4 Nikon a go. IS doesn't help if the people move and fast lenses and high ISO are the only solution - did think of a fast lens on the GH2 but time to clean house.

I returned the Sigma 180 IS macro - not because of any problems, simply because at my age I can't hand hold fore and aft steady enough to focus - so having IS doesn't really make any difference - I'm going to have to use a tripod anyway - and the lens is big and heavy.

In the mean time, low light live view focusing is driving me crazy on the Nikon D800E but I'm willing to live with it.

I shot this hollow stump last night, supposedly before sunset, but a storm came up and the light went down, and focusing stopped down became near impossible, especially as I was shooting at f11 with my new Zeiss 15 mm.

The image isn't perfect, even a 15 needs focus blending this close. Upper left is about 3 inches away and remains out of focus and there are parts of the image that are not optimally sharp, but I really like the image. I hugely opened the shadows and I know I couldn't have done that at base ISO on the Canon 5D3. The image above shows much more detail than I could see looking in.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


From Pioneer Acres, North East of Calgary, all using focus blending with Helicon Focus, varying amounts of Akvis Enhancer but nowhere more than 50%.

Zeiss 15 vs. Nikon 14-24

I think I finally figured out what's going on with the varied comparisons between these lenses.

1) the Nikon suffers from focus shift, making testing iffy

2) the Zeiss has field curvature in the corners (towards near), great for foreground, lousy if there happens to be something at distance in the corner, almost the opposite of the Nikon

3) the Zeiss is sharper than  the Nikon over most of the field.

4) the Nikon is sharper in the corners (see 2) above)

In theory live view would fix the focus  shift but there is so much depth of field that one would need to open up and adjust the exposure, both inconvenient and negating the workaround for the focus shift. The Zeiss doesn't shift and can be focused in the viewfinder - I haven't tried live view with it yet but no doubt it too will have the same problems focusing stopped down.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Zeiss 15 mm. on D800E

I spent weeks going over reviews, test pictures, comments and so on, trying to figure out whether to get the Nikon 14-24, or the Zeiss 15 mm. All my reading really didn't settle the question. In some testing the Nikon came out ahead, in others the Zeiss, and there was no consistent pattern to the kinds of problems found in these lenses.

So, off to The Camera Store here in Calgary, and I borrowed a Nikon first. It had a hitch in the zoom that was most unpleasant, and was near impossible to focus - live view at f8 had so much depth of field that it was 'why bother' focusing. I worried that the focus shift reported would cause autofocus problems and in fact it did, producing a significantly blurred image.

I tried out the Zeiss - no diff. focusing, using manual focus of course (it isn't an autofocus lens) and focus confirmation in the view finder.

Corners were noticeably soft at f 5.6 but the vast majority of the image (probably 80+% was very sharp.

I tried another Nikon - no hitch but still challenging to focus. This time I did get a good image. Right, back to the Zeiss at f11.

Corners are decent if not wonderful but the rest of the image is great, and we're now talking 95%of the image. Not only that, it's easy to focus, buttery smooth, and feels nice in hand. I bought it and headed over to The Bow to photograph Calgary's newest tall building.

The piece was created by Barcelona-based designer Jaume Plensa.  It's a face and here we are looking past the chin to the underside of the nose, with the Bow in the background. Both the building and the sculpture are a superb addition to Calgary. Oh, and the Zeiss 15 is damn fine too.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


Just lying on the ground  - steel strapping, railway spike, tire iron? and part of a car fender. Focus blended.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Photoshop CC

The vast majority of reactions to Adobe's announcement about cloud access and monthly subscriptions are ill informed and just plain inaccurate but none the less, here is a fundamental change - from charging $200 every 18 months or so for an upgrade to the latest photoshop, to currently $240 per year and likely soon $480/year subscription - given the introductory price and the 'regular' price this would make the 'upgrade' cost over 18  months $600 - gee that's only a three fold increase in upgrade price.

Given that one only need access the net every 90 days with a yearly subscription - I can live with that - though others won't be able to - traveling or no web access for security reasons.

I like that for this $600 I get access to all the other software - though the only one I'm likely to use is In Design and that on a pretty casual basis - certainly not a good deal for me. There is an option for Photohsop only, for current $10/month, likely $20 in the future - bringing the cost down to $240/year - that's at least in the ballpark for what I now pay for Photoshop upgrades. I think I can live with the new system. I never like paying more for things - but really - it is my choice - stick with Photoshop 6 for years to come (lots of people use old versions of Photoshop) or invest in the new. Hell, there's even Elements and Lightroom as well as third party software.

People seem to think that they are going to have problems opening files if they don't keep paying - well anyone who routinely saves images in multiple layers is pretty silly - not just for the disk space but also for the time to save and load images. I doubt that flattened .psd files will be any problem for years to come.

Fewer amateurs are using Photoshop and more are relying on Lightroom for all their editing, but Photoshop is still king for those of us trained that way and able to take advantage of the tools and add ons.

I'll be signing on for CC, a) because I still need Photoshop and b) because I have several images with camera shake just begging for the new camera shake filter - and that alone will be worth the admission price, and $400 a year to do business is not really an issue for me.

For those who dabble in Photoshop, there are alternatives - it's just that many of the tutorials and magazine articles show how to do it in Photoshop - and many tools are not available in other brands of software. I sympathize, but Adobe is a business and people can choose.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Nikon D800E Experience

I now have some real shooting behind me with the D800E and thought I'd write about my experience. The camera is fairly intuitive and it hasn't taken me long to get comfortable using it. 99% of my work is on tripod and using live view. I set the camera up so a single press of the centre back button zooms to 100% (not the highest zoom that seems to be over 200+ and interpolated and somewhat pointless).

I was working in relatively low light last night and at small apertures and did find the noise on live view to be a problem. Canon does live view at wide open which reduces this tendency, and at the same time reduces depth of field so it's easier to find the sharp point, but with the risk of focus shift (of which we are hearing more and more). Some lenses are more prone to focus shift and it's hard to pedict which - largely it is worse with fast lenses, but the Sigma 35 mm. 1.4 doesn't have focus shift while the 2.8 Nikkor 14-24 reportedly does. I can live with Nikon's way to do things and it wasn't a huge effort to open up, focus and remember to close down again before the shot.

The camera stopped working properly at one point last night and nothing would fix it - turned out the battery was low, but the camera didn't indicate it was anywhere near totally out. I won't make much of this for now and it's even possible reinserting the old battery might have solved the problem - but either way something is odd. Mind you my old 5D2 used to lock up occasionally but it's a bit disheartening to see it so soon in a new camera. I have not yet updated the firmware so that could fix the problem. Will report back.

 Image quality on live view is decent but def. not as good as on the 5D3 - but I can live with it. I don't like that the self timer has no beep or flash or in fact any way to know it is counting down on the back of the camera (a light flashes on the front - lot of use that is to me).

But what about the quality of the photographs - after all, that's why I switched? To be honest, it needs a pretty big print to see any difference (50 inches) and even then it isn't a do or die situation. That said, it seems to me the images hold up better to editing and perhaps don't need as much editing (early days yet). It's remarkable to see images on screen at 100% magnification that look like they aren't magnified.

I'm really impressed with the 70-200 f4 Nikkor - and I'm not convinced that switching to a series of fixed focal lengths is a better option - given  how often one's position is not adjustable nearer or further from the subject - usually yes, but probably 25% of the time it isn't and I'd have to crop if I used a fixed focal length lens (85, 135, 200).

I had occasion the other night to photograph indoors with the D800E and used my 35 f1.4, wide open, ISO 2500 - and was very pleased with the results. My Panasonic GH2 with its slow 14-140 sure couldn't have handled this, and the depth of field at 1.4 worked just fine - ie. not much depth but adequate for faces.

Absolutely no regrets picking up the Sigma lens - my first non camera brand lens if you don't count my Lens Baby.