Archive for the ‘Canon’ Tag

Friday Foto Talk: Getting Familiar with your Camera   13 comments

A fading day illuminates colorful skies and the basalt cliffs at Crown Point in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A fading day illuminates colorful skies and the basalt cliffs at Crown Point in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

This subject is one of those in photography that everybody just assumes is true but many don’t put it into practice with enough rigor.  Getting familiar with your camera and lenses, along with your tripod and other accessories, is key to capturing your best shots.  This is tops on my mind right now since I just bought a new camera.

If you are a novice, or even beyond novice, photographer, I have to say right here that there is only one author that I’ve read who really dives into this subject with some detail.  That is longtime photography teacher Brian Peterson.  His Understanding Photography Field Guide should be required reading.  He does not go deeply into the idea of getting familiar with your camera, since beyond saying you should do it, there’s not much to mention that is not brand dependent.  But he does detail great ways to get familiar with your lenses.  So go read that book and I won’t go into lenses much here.

A quiet dusk evening along the Columbia River.

A quiet dusk evening along the Columbia River.

Nobody would argue that learning how to use a new piece of electronics is important, whether computer or phone or camera.  But I’m going to argue here that most people tend to do the minimum amount of learning when it comes to their camera.  They read the manual (maybe) and then begin using the camera.  They don’t go back to the manual, trying to figure out the best way to set it up.  But this is the best way to make sure you are doing things in the most efficient way.  It’s important to do this early on so you don’t get locked in too much to a less-efficient way of doing things.

Once you go through this somewhat clunky period of feeling out your camera with help from the manual, then you should just shoot shoot shoot.  This is the only way to get to the point where everything is second nature, where you never have to look at your camera to do anything.  Your eyes belong on the scene before you, not on your camera (except for reviewing the image on the LCD when necessary).

 By the way, regarding the plethora of books that come out on each new model of camera: I don’t see them as very useful.  They are basically extended user’s manuals, which you get for free with the camera.  Much of what you’ll learn is what that photographer does with that camera.  So long as you don’t let that influence you too much, there isn’t much harm in reading one.  I prefer reading the user’s manual and developing my own system.

Dusk descends on the Columbia River in Oregon.

Dusk descends on the Columbia River in Oregon.

When you get to the second-nature stage of using your camera, lenses and tripod, you can do things very quickly.  This allows you to take advantage of quick-changing light.  You can switch subjects quickly.  You can get that wide-angle shot PLUS the zoomed in composition.  When photographing people, you can capture quickly changing expressions and body postures, allowing much more natural looking pictures.

Don’t get me wrong.  You’ll still miss plenty of shots.  You will get set up and trip the shutter a few seconds after the golden light fades, you’ll be ready to photograph an animal just as it passes behind some brush, etc, etc.  I’m actually talking about minimizing the missed shots, not adding opportunities.  For that you’ll need to simply get out in front of interesting subjects and shoot more often.

My previous camera (one that is in the shop right now) is a Canon 5D Mark II.  I just bought a new 5D Mark III, and so there is a lot of overlap.  All the shots here were captured with my new camera.  I’m very familiar with my Mark II, so how different could the Mark III be?  Unfortunately it’s not a completely seamless transition.  That’s because it’s difficult to get used to those things that have changed.

One example on my new camera is the different button used to magnify images on the LCD screen.  This is a feature I use all the time, in composing and focusing images using LiveView, and in reviewing images on the LCD for good focus.  The magnify button on the 5D III is in a different place than it is on the 5D II.  Doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but when your fingers are very used to going to a certain place, it requires retraining to make the change.

New camera models will often have wholly redesigned features.  Autofocus is one example on the Canon 5D III.  Inherited from the 7D and 1D model series, there is a brand new autofocus system to learn.  Compared to the 5D II, it is quite complex, with many different possible settings.  Something new to learn for sure.  Expanded capabilities will just remain unused if you don’t learn how to use them.

Thus far I have only shot a few pictures with my new camera, so I’m sorry for not having a lot of images in this post.  I will post more new pictures as I take them.  In fact, I’m going out right after finishing this post!  Now I’d like you to really examine how familiar you are with your camera gear.  Could using it be more intuitive for you?  If so, get out there and shoot!  Perhaps go back and read that manual one more time.   And by the way have fun!  Thanks for reading!

One of the many old pile dikes sticking out into the broad lower Columbia River right at the edge of magic and blue hours.

One of the many old pile dikes sticking out into the broad lower Columbia River right at the edge of magic and blue hours.

Friday Foto Talk: Does the Camera Matter?   5 comments

This shot of the Columbia River in Washington under morning light was made with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens.

This shot of the Columbia River in Washington under morning light was made with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens.

I normally try to stay away from talk of gear.  This is the only day of the week in which I ever blog strictly about photography matters, but even here I stay away from gear reviews and the like.  Last Friday I looked at how water and your camera get along (or not!).  I suppose I dipped my toe into the gear waters when I did that.  So today I’m going to go in a little deeper.  But don’t worry, I’m not about to sell out.  I’ll keep it gear-neutral, and you won’t see any cheerleading.

I’ve been a Canon user since I switched to digital.  Nothing against Nikon, Sony, etc. of course.  I simply looked at the lens lineup, cost of a good camera to begin with, and went for it.  It happened that Canon’s 5D Mark II was the best value at the time I was purchasing, and Canon’s lens choice seemed a tad better than Nikon’s.  I shot Nikon film cameras, and could easily switch if a compelling reason came up.

Phantom Ship is a rock island sticking up in one corner of Oregon's Crater Lake.

Phantom Ship is a rock island sticking up in one corner of Oregon’s Crater Lake.

After I purchased the 5D Mark II I did not want to spend a lot more right away.  So I bought a Sigma lens with it, then a couple cheaper Canon lenses.  I wasn’t happy with the quality, in general.  So it wasn’t long before I took the plunge and bought a few Canon L lenses.  I also bought a Canon 50D as a backup, then a zoom lens that is specific to that camera type (crop-frame).

Through all this, I learned one important lesson: Next to the photographer and subject/light, the lens (not the camera) makes the most difference to the quality of image you get.  The camera does matter, don’t get me wrong.  I used a super-zoom point and shoot camera for some years when I was not seriously into photography.  Although the colors were okay, the images tended to be plagued by digital noise.  Noise tends to reduce clarity and make colors look unnatural.  Essentially, noise can ruin an image.  In general, the more expensive the camera, and the larger its sensor, the better it handles noise.

A viewing platform hanging over the lip of Multnomah Falls in Oregon is not for those afraid of heights.

A viewing platform hanging over the lip of Multnomah Falls in Oregon is not for those afraid of heights.

There are plenty of other reasons to get a nicer camera.  Ergonomics is important.  The way the camera feels in your hands and how easy it is to reach and naturally operate the controls is a factor, but depending on how outside the norm the size of your hands are, it’s my experience that you get used to whatever you use.  More important for me is a viewfinder that you can put your eye up to.  I have a point and shoot and use it when I’m in situations where the only camera I want to have needs to fit into my pocket.  This little camera (a Canon S95) handles noise amazingly well for its small sensor size, but I will never like using a screen to take a picture.  I just can’t compose as well.

A great pyrenees (Pyrenean mountain dog) appears to be having trouble staying awake.

A great pyrenees (Pyrenean mountain dog) appears to be having trouble staying awake.

One reason I don’t think is a good one to consider when shopping for a camera is the brand’s “cachet” or name recognition.  Nobody wants to admit they pay attention to this kind of stuff, but deep down we all know we do.  When I’m around other photographers, I’ve noticed other Canon shooters are more likely to strike up a conversation with me than are folks with other brands.  Silly huh?  I know one thing for sure.  If I had the money to go out and buy a Canon 1Dx, or a Nikon D4 (the two full-pro models), I might feel pretty cool around most other photographers.  But there will come that moment when somebody with a Hasselblad H5D (40K) or a similarly priced Leica S with fancy lens will show up.  Then what do you do?  It’s keeping up with the Joneses, a game you can’t win.

A red-winged blackbird sings in an eastern Oregon marsh.

A red-winged blackbird sings in an eastern Oregon marsh.

So back to the question: does the camera matter?  The short answer is yes but not as much as most think.  Glass (lenses) is always more important to the quality of your images, as is your overall skill and comfort with the camera.  The best camera is the one you have with you when you are presented with perfect light and subject.  This is an old truism that will always hold.

All of that said, today I have on the way a brand new Canon 5D Mark III.  I pulled the trigger yesterday and took advantage of a free one-day shipping offer.  It will replace my beloved 5D Mark II, which took a bad fall and bath last week.  That camera is at Canon’s repair, and will be fixed, but not cheaply!  Now I have 3 DSLRs and need to sell one.  My previous backup, the 50D, might be the one to go.  But that camera has given me nothing but sterling service for 3 years and is still going strong.  I might instead sell the 5D Mark II.  I’m not really sure.

Fairy Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge appears to glow in sunlight diffused by the deep forest.

Fairy Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge appears to glow in sunlight diffused by the deep forest.  This was captured with my Canon 5D Mark II and Tokina 16-28 mm. f/2.8 wide-angle zoom.

The Mark II is a full-frame camera with video while the 50D is a crop-frame without video.  The Mark II is a 21 MP camera while the 50D is a 15 MP camera.  But you have more reach with a crop-frame (it basically gives you extra zoom capability), nice to have when your main camera (in my case a 5D Mark III) is a full-frame.  I think most people would sell the crop-frame and keep the Mark II as a backup.  But for me it isn’t so simple and I haven’t made up my mind yet.  So feel free to give me your opinion if you have one.  Let me know if you are in the market and are interested in either camera.  Maybe you can help me make up my mind.

Have fun shooting!  I’ll post pictures from my new camera soon.

This image of a fisherman beneath Crown Point in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge was captured with my Canon 50D plus Canon EF-S 17-55 mm. f/2.8 IS lens.  Not bad for a backup!

This image of a fisherman beneath Crown Point in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge was captured with my Canon 50D + Canon EF-S 17-55 mm. f/2.8 IS lens. Not bad for a backup!

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