Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Canon 17-40 f4L test shots

A shot I did in the morning before we went out.

I was so excited to test out my Canon 17-40L in the field. So the best way to try it out was to go to a botanic garden near us. We got there around noon, when the sun was pretty high...not the perfect time to take pictures, it was the weekend so it's one of those days where all you do is just wander around and take as much pictures as you want. This time of the year when fall starts is the last couple of weeks where you can take photos of trees and plants in their usual green colors. Couple of weeks more and we will get the beautiful fall colors...another thing that I'm looking forward to.

So I brought out my DSLR and started taking shots. I loved the lens with every shot that I took. It never really did surprise me how fast this thing auto focuses. The USM motor was excellent as well as the full time manual focus. The focus ring was pretty smooth and the zoom ring is as smooth as silk. You can rotate whichever ring with a finger but they are pretty dampened so they don't move when you don't want them too. The lens doesn't change lengths either when you zoom in or out, and of's also dust and weather resistant! You'd have to install a filter in front to complete the sealing though, too bad I don't have one yet. So I was shooting without any filters when I did these shots:

At the bonzai part of the garden.

At the fountain...I remember taking an HDR shot of this months ago.

Sunflowers facing the sun.

Some yellow flowers in the garden. I don't know what they are.

These flowers are pretty to look at. Though they are the worst smelling ones!

Last but not the least, this wasn't taken at the gardens, I just wanted to post it here to show the excellent color reproduction of this lens.

I can't wait to try this out on some wide angle nature shots. I would have kept my Tokina 17mm, but for convenience, this lens is a really good replacement for my 2 prime lenses.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Canon 17-40 f4 L USM

I have always been a fan of prime lenses. They have given me joy through my years in my studio taking still shots and portraits. In my opinion, they are a very good alternative to getting those really expensive premium zooms in like the thousand dollar range, as they beat any zoom if you compare them in their own ranges. Like lets say if you compare a fixed 35mm to a zooms 35mm range, the prime lens will always prevail in image quality. Sharpness is never a question with primes...though a good photographer knows that sharpness isn't everything in photography.

I've always loved my 70mm macro, 50mm, 35mm, and my newly acquired 17mm, which was a replacement for my 10-20mm for non full frame. I brought my 17mm to a trip in Indiana and it brought me astounding results. In the studio, my 70mm is the king. If I needed more room because my studio is pretty small, I switch to the 35mm. Swapping lenses in my studio is a breeze...this becomes annoying outdoors.

I have swapped 3 lenses 3 times in like 10 minutes when I was outdoors the last time. It could've been my fault because I brought the wrong lens the first time but I never did know that something different would come up other than what I planned. A lot of times when taking shots, you get caught in a moment where you needed a shot but you had the wrong lens on. A lot of situations would allow you to swap...but not all the time. It can only take about a second till you miss that shot that you have been waiting for for years.

So I went home and thought about an ultra wide zoom lens. I went online and looked for the best deals they have for them. I realized that if I sold 2 of my lenses, I can purchase a really good one that will cover at least 2 focal ranges of my primes. So I thought about it all night. The next day, I swallowed my prime lens' pride and purchased my very first ultra wide angle zoom for full frame...and so I am now a proud owner of a Canon 17-40 f4L USM lens!

My 17-40L. Got it used online so the hood isn't in perfect condition. Still works great though.

After waiting for 3 days it finally arrived. Complete with box, hood, covers, bag, and manual. Took it from the box and surprised that it was pretty light. So I grabbed a body and slapped it on.

The 17-40L attached to my 5d Mk2. The lens seemed wider in appearance with the hood on.

I tried really quick shots in our living room. The 17mm looked awesome. Focusing was fast due to the USM motor, and it seemed that it's a pretty nice lens to handle. Here are the things I love about it:

Focusing is quick and quiet due to the USM focus.
Full time manual focus is also supported. You can manually focus instantly after the lens locks on to a focus spot. No need to switch to manual focus.
The zoom ring is really smooth. It feels like it slides.
Light, really easy to handle. This can be attached to a body around my neck and it wouldn't bother me at all for hours.
It has slots in the rear of the lens for drop in filters. You can cut these from sheets of gel you get from your photo store.
77mm filter threads which is compatible to most pro lenses.
Build is pretty good. Not as good as the 70-200mm L, but that cuts down on the weight of it.

The f4 maximum aperture doesn't really bother me at all. This lens will be used mainly for landscape photography so f8 and above will be the ideal aperture that I will be using on this. The f2.8 maximum aperture for the 16-35 L is good to have but for double the price the f4 would do good for me.

I will post my first outdoor shots with it in the next post!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Night shots with my 17mm Tokina lens

A couple of nights ago I wanted to drag my lazy self to a nearby school to take photos of their awesome fountain. I knew that it was time for me to do it soon as it is already nearing the cold season and the water in the fountain will soon be shut off for the rest of the year so I'll have to wait till spring of next year till I can photograph it again.

So I pack my bag with a body, tripod and 2 lenses. My 17mm to take really wide angle shots of the fountain and a 50mm just to have a longer lens so I can photograph whatever I can see with a normal view. I took my mountain bike straight to the school lugging my bag full of equipment.

On my way there there was an awesome full moon on the side of the trail. Now this is what blows about having just most prime lenses. I have two lenses with me that were really short to capture the full moon. So I basically just put the 50mm in my camera, took shots and that was it. Nothing really that exciting. The shots came out ok, though I could've really used a longer lens than a 50. But hey, I didn't know.

So I get to my destination, parked my bike on the side of the road and put the 17mm into my camera body. Snapped my camera into my tripod and then I was off! First off I went into my primary subject. The fountain! I made sure that my camera was secured in my tripod before I set it down. So I set my camera to manual mode, and the started shooting.

I shot the fountain from different angles. Starting out in the front taking shots all the way around till I got to where I started. The setup was easy, I just took one portrait and then one landscape shot for each view. The landscape shots is just to show the lights that were in the parking lot behind the fountain. So it seemed like the fountain wasn't floating in space. There were instances that there was wind and it was blowing water into my camera. Too bad my lens isn't weather sealed, it doesn't even have a filter either. For situations like this, I recommend putting a non coated uv filter in front of your lens to protect it. Non coated filters though are less resistant to ghosts, but they are easier to clean in conditions like this. The coated ones will just smudge the water droplets into the glass.

My best position in photographing the fountain. No water droplets splashing into my lens.

I shot a couple in the fountain area and I was done. Grabbed my bike and moved on. I then stumbled upon a few neat night scenes around the school so I put my tripod down again and started doing shots.

This was in the front of the school facing the main road. This was actually my first time this late in this place.

The entrance near the fountain. I thought it was a neat shot in between the trees at night with a slow shutter speed.

I will do more of these in the future...especially near the holiday season when all the lights are up. Make sure though that you dress warmly when you do this. Also if you are unsure of the neighborhood you're in, I suggest not to go alone with all your equipment. Go with somebody. It's best to stay safe!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Marshall County Indiana blueberry festival 2011

Over the labor day weekend we went to Plymouth Indiana for the annual blueberry festival. We got there on Saturday and went straight to the festival. The weather was unbelievably hot...around 94 degrees. Include that with the thousand people walking in the festival and the temperature feels like 100 degrees and above. That didn't stop me from taking my shots. For my kit, I decided to bring along 2 bodies, my 5d mk2 and my 350d aka rebel xt. The rebel was to be used by my fiancee and I have the 5d mk2. For the lenses, I brought along my 70-200 f2.8 IS USM, 17mm Tokina f3.5 and a Canon 35mm f2, I brought a 28-135mm IS USM for my fiancee to use with the rebel. The 70-200 would be my walk around lens for the festival, and the 17mm would just be a special lens that I will use for something the rides in the mini carnival they have there. The 35mm is just something to bring along in case something happens to my 17mm, it's not as wide although I was thinking of using it in the hot air balloon thing in the event. Not a very bad kit combination as the only heavy thing in my bag was the 70-200mm lens. Everything else was pretty light.

An insane ride at the festival.

So I slapped on the 70-200mm on my 5d and walked around the event...nothing really interesting. So I just took some shots of our party while looking for something to buy in the craft fair. There were crafts in every booth, and endless supplies of food and drink. Basically you never run out of something made from blueberries such as donuts, pies, shakes, etc. in an event like that...that's why it's called the blueberry festival, duh. There was a booth where they had birds of prey. I took some shots there too. Nothing really fancy. We then walked around and I saw the carnival!

Since I got my 17mm lens a day before we left for blueberry festival, I haven't really had the chance to try it out. Here's my chance, as I see a huge ferris wheel and some crazy slides. I got so excited that I took the 70-200 off and put the 17mm on, that thing felt really light compared to that beast! I then started to take shots of the rides and the booths.

Merry go round shot with the Tokina 17mm.

The inverter shot the other way.

This was the first ride I shot at the carnival. Looks like a lotto machine for humans.

At that place we have a beautiful view of a creek in the backyard of the house. I still had my 17mm on so I started shooting the beautiful landscape. Most of the day I enjoyed taking pictures of everything especially with my new 17mm lens.

The next day I was eager to see the skateboard/bmx competition at the festival. It rained hard in the morning so we weren't able to be there to see it. Bummer.

At the end of the festival we ended up watching a labor day parade. I had my 70-200 IS USM lens the whole time. Parades are fun because you can take pictures of different people wearing different costumes, riding different cars...etc.

It was a very nice trip! Came home with around 400 shots in my cards.

Girls on horses in the parade. Shot with the 70-200 IS USM.

Man in a tractor with the flag. In the parade.

The kitten we were playing with in the place we stayed in.

One of the birds in the festival. They were all agitated.

A guy in the parade with a hot air balloon thing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Tokina 17mm f/3.5 AT-X

Since getting a full frame body weeks ago, I knew I needed an ultra wide angle lens since I cannot use my Sigma 10-20mm EX DC lens on my 5d anymore because it's not built for full frame. Unfortunately I had to sell my Sigma to fund a UWA (ultra wide angle) that I can use on my 5d and the rest of my bodies, though it wouldn't be as wide as it will be on my 1.6 crop bodies...but that's ok, my 5d will be my main camera anyway.

So I searched the internet for which uwa lens is good for full frame. I had the chance to try out a Canon 20mm f2.8 USM. The Canon 20mm f2.8 isn't bad at can get one online for around $400-$500 brand new. If you bid on it online, you can get one for around $300. Not bad. Though I was reading a lot of reviews about it and people have mixed reviews. I've read about the 20mm being soft in the edges...which uwa's are notorious for. But really...who looks at the sides of the frame in real life? So basically I had the 20mm f2.8 and the Canon 24mm f2.8 competing for my attention. Both of these are not really uwa's but they are wide enough for me. So I decided to try out a Canon 20mm f2.8 once again, to finalize my decision. Sharpness overall wasn't bad with this lens...the contrast can be better but it's acceptable. I still am more impressed with my Sigma 10-20mm on a 1.6 crop body than with the Canon. I was ready to go out and get a 24mm until I saw this.

The Tokina 17mm AT-X is basically almost all metal outside.

I have never tried a Tokina lens in my life. I used to have one of those screw on Tokina adapters. Either a wide or a telephoto one...I can't remember. But that was about it. So I asked my stepbrother, a wedding photographer, about Tokina lenses and he said that basically if the oem lenses don't work for him he'd get a Tokina over other third party lens manufacturer, and he advised me to do the same. So I went to ebay to watch an auction that was due in 4 days and I waited.

4 days later and I finally win one! For $180! I guess the guy selling it was also selling his old film camera along with some older lenses. Good thing I was able to grab one. I was so happy I didn't have to spend double on a Canon 20mm f2.8.

I open the box and there is this lens inside that is built like a tank! This lens is heavy for its size. Mainly because of the metal construction and the built in metal lens hood. I'm impressed! I've never had a lens that has a built in lens hood and it felt awkward at first, though I am pretty much used to it now. The lens has a really simple design. You can't find that finely sculpted body on this one. It's basically a metallic cylinder with a metal hood and a switch. In the middle is a distance scale which basically won't be as useful as everything else in the frame will be pretty much in focus with an uwa. I snapped it on my 5d and I was ready to go! I went to a school near us and took shots in the park. I was amazed.

The Tokina 17mm AT-X attached to my Canon 5D MK2.

The Tokina 17mm f/3.5 AT-X is a very impressive lens. From the build quality up to the image quality...2 of the most important aspects of a lens. It is a 3.5 lens...a bit slower than the 2.8 Canon 20mm. I don't really care because I never shoot uwa lenses wide open. The focusing isn't bad at all either. Pretty fast with a faint whine. Like those early ef Canon lenses. Here are the things I love about the lens:

Build Quality - This lens is a beast. Mostly metal. From the barrel up to the hood.
Contrast - Very high contrast on the images it produces. Little or no post processing required.
Sharpness - For being an ultra wide angle, beats lenses with a similar focal length. Use manual focus and it gets even better.
Focus speed - Not too bad here either for having no USM motor.

The only gripe I have about it is the fixed lens hood and the cap. It's a pain to take the cap off especially when you are in a hurry. Also, the hood prevents you from putting in a filter adapter. You can only use the screw in ones, which doesn't bother me at all, but for the image quality it produces, it's a steal for half the price of a more modern uwa lens. Paired with a full frame body, this combination is perfect for landscape and architecture shots.

An old structure at an Amish place in Indiana.

A boat at a place we stayed in.

The Inverter ride at blueberry angle like this can only be done with a wide angle lens.

At 17mm you can actually squeeze a wide structure into your frame.

Leading lines are easily created more dramatic with a uwa lens.

Structures also appear overwhelming if you come close enough to photograph it.Imagine printing this on a 18x24 inch paper.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Testing out the 5d

Been taking a lot of shots with my 5d mk2 and so far I'm pretty impressed with it. I have shot a little under 500 shots since I got it. and so far I've only replaced the battery once and I still have plenty of power with the 2nd load of battery.

For studio shots, the ISO 50 works awesome! I can now dial in a very wide aperture even when I'm using studio lights which overexposes a shot when you are using ISO 100. I have used a mamiya at work and it was the first camera I've used which has a minimum ISO lower than 100...and it was perfect for studio work. Since I cannot afford a 15 thousand dollar camera the 5d mk2 is good for the price. The lower flash sync speed which is 200/sec doesn't really bother me. I rarely use a speed above 125/sec in the studio anyway.

I basically tried out every lens that I have on it. Pretty much 2 of my lenses stood out on the 5d. The mighty 70-200 IS USM is phenomenal with this body. I have been using it with my 50d but the results with the 5d is unbelievable. I cannot believe that I wasn't using its full potential with a cropped body. Another lens that blew my mind away was the Canon 50mm 1.8. The 50mm was the biggest surprise of all, considering it was under $100, it had the ability to showcase the full potential of the full frame sensor on the 5d. If only the 50mm was a macro, can do wide and telephoto, then I would probably just glue that thing onto the body.

Doing shots for stock photography sites, the 5d is the perfect camera for me. The images that it produces basically have a lower noise level than my other bodies...exactly what I need for stock photography sites. I really didn't wanna spend hours applying noise reduction in some of my shots. In real life nobody really looks at photos at 100%. With stock photography sites, everything is looked at a 100%. Even that hair on your cupcake shot that is only visible at 100% will break your photo. Having less noise straight out of the camera is a real nice perk from having the 5d.

I haven't tried shooting birds or sports with it though. But that'll come later.

All in all I can say that it was really money well spent!

Shot with the 70-200 IS USM lens. Shot behind glass at 200mm at ISO 800. Check the details on the snakes face.

Shot with a Sigma 70mm macro. The original showed minimal noise in the shadow areas at 100%

Shot with a Sigma 70mm macro with ringlight attached. Incredible details at the center of the flower.

Shot with a Canon 35mm f2 lens. Wide shot. Distortion corrected in PS. Still shows pretty sharp.

Shot with the cheap Canon 50mm f1.8 lens. The detail is unbelievable. You can still see the fingerprint patterns on the fingers and the imperfections on the side of the spoon.

I can say proudly that these images were NOT sharpened in photoshop...also these have been converted to jpeg format. The original shots were 10 times better!