Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Canon 85mm f/1.2 Lens Test

Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II @ 1.2

I rented the very very very expensive Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens from borrowlenses.com. My trial started today and runs to next Tuesday. I gotta say, hot dang this is an amazing lens. Some of my Flickr friends have described it as 'magical'. I currently own the Sigma 50mm, and I was looking to move to a longer focal length just for portrait shooting. I've read review after review and I'm strongly looking at the 50's bigger brother as well, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4.

Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II @ 1.2
After shooting with this lens, I've come to realize that on a full frame camera like the 5D Mark 2, the 85mm is such a more comfortable focal length than 50mm. It just 'feels' right. With my 50, it felt like I had to get closer to my subject, and therefore, I had a lot of issues at wide apertures like 1.4 where one eye would be in focus and the other would not. Again, maybe it's just me, but with the 85, f/1.2 felt comfortable, had a more forgiving depth of field for my subject only, and gave me that absolutely beautiful bokeh that I'm looking for. I have yet to try the Sigma, but the Canon is blowing my socks off thus far. This is going to be tough to match; it's like looking through a window.
Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II @ 1.2

And here are a few shots with my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 from this past Christmas for comparison: 
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.6

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 @ f/4

If anyone out there has any additional feedback or recommendations, I'm all ears. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Trick for Sharp, Contrast-Filled Photos (and a link)

Update: 12/12/2012: Here's a good reason NOT to do this: DPS - Expose to the Right

I found this to be a good read, on the B&H Photo blog:  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/insights/blogs/bh-insights/just-what-sharp.html.

The one thing that's mentioned in this article that I've always done is shoot with my exposure turned down -1/3 or more. It depends on the lens I'm shooting with, but I always turn it down this much, and with wide angles such as my fisheye, I may turn it down even more. When you shoot underexposed, it will do a few beneficial things: First, as a side effect, it reduces your shutter speed since you're intentionally underexposing the image, reducing the probability of camera shake and subject movement. Second, as the blogger adds, it will add black to your image, punching up the colors and give you more contrast. Third, an underexposed photo is always easier to correct in post than an overexposed photo, so this will help you recover detail lost to black. I'm a huge fan of high contrast images saturated with black, so if you are as well, give it a try!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tax return = new toys

So, I'm considering one of the following with my tax return cash. Does anyone have personal experience with any of these and maybe be an enabler for me? Or, has anyone had a BAD experience with any of these that they can steer me away from?

  1. Sigma 12-24 - I want to get a 'real' ultra wide angle lens, and I really loved the Sigma 8-16 (I'm selling this - anyone interested?) on my crop sensored Canon 7D. I got the Sigma 15mm fish a few months ago, and I'm thinking that was a boo boo and I should've gotten a true wide angle first. Oh well, live and learn. The fish sort of ties into the next item...
  2. DXO Labs software - I've been using it on trial. It's OK, I like that it fixes distortion on all of my lenses (and does a great job at defishing) and cleans up some vignetting and noise specific to a lens, but at a whopping $300 price tag and it being an absolute pig of an app to the point where it slows down everything on my Macbook Pro, I'm really on the fence for this. Maybe I'll wait until later in the year, I know sometimes they have good rebates and specials on it.  
  3. Nik Color Efex 4 - I liked 3, and 4 has some really sweet filters and a cleaner interface than Topaz or PhotoTools. IMHO, it's still overpriced at $200, but this is the current leader. 
  4. 2x Telephoto extender - maybe for my 70-200 f/4 IS for wildlife shooting? I'm thinking I can just crop for now to get in close. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Be Sure To Import Your Photos as ProPhoto RGB, but Export as sRGB

I have a MAC at home and a PC at work. I often switch between Firefox and Chrome and I noticed one disturbing thing when I was viewing photos in Chrome: Some photos that I saw from certain photographers were sort of dull and lifeless, but only in Chrome. Conversely, in Firefox, they were bursting with color. I noticed that in the Flickr EXIF data the Color Space for these photos would say "Uncalibrated". It turns out that Chrome doesn't supported embedded color profiles - sort of the legend for how the browser should interpret the extended color set.

There's an easy quick fix for this: All you have to do is to tell Photoshop to force all colors to sRGB. You can see a video on how to do this here: 
3/14/2012 Update: 
It turns out that while sRGB is the preferred profile for viewing an image on ALL web browsers safely, it is NOT optimal for your working color space. See this page: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/prophoto-rgb.shtml/ Basically, the ProPhotoRGB setting that Adobe Lightroom uses by default is the best choice as it has the highest color range. Using sRGB during your workflow may clip some colors where ProPhoto would not. 

Thus, I think the best mode to be in is to bring your photos into Photoshop and work in ProPhoto, but finally export them in sRGB (see here for how to do this in LR and PS: http://om4.com.au/client/preparing-images-color-profiles-srgb-adobe-rgb/) so that you can be assured that they display on ALL web browsers safely. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fixing Processing Artifacts Around Edges

 saw this about a week or two ago and this is a very useful tip for the issue where, when you run a photo through some sharpening or HDR processing and you get those ugly bright or dark artifacts around edges. 

This image has a bunch of ugly artifacts and ringing around the edges of the sky if you look closely http://www.flickr.com/photos/13726219@N06/5557839819/

The Power of Photography

I just created a 500px account (follow me here), at the mention from the excellent ISO5571 blog. I'm not sure how much I'll post to it since I have such a great time interacting with the Flickr community and I don't know how much longer I'll post to 3 different social media sites as it is so tedious.

But in going through which of my shots to post up to 500px, I came across this one that I took when my daughter Gianna was 2 days old in the hospital:

See the full Flickr page for the shot
During this time she was under these extremely harsh blue bili lights to remove her jaundice from being born almost 2 months premature. She was hooked up to a respirator, wearing a mask to protect her eyes from the lights, and getting fed through a tube. This is perfectly normal for a preemie, but it was very scary for my wife Kristen and myself as we obviously weren't used to such a thing. Anyways, she's a perfectly healthy 4 month old now (see below) and doing great, but this shot of her in this fragile state, hanging onto mommy's finger for support will always strike a very powerful memory for me and I think it may be one of my best ones thus far.

Monday, January 30, 2012

First ND Attempt

For the first time, I was out shooting and decided to use my ND Filter. At this point, I only had my 4x ND and not the 9x ND, but believe me, that was plenty as you can see:
This was an 85 second exposure, and was only slightly edited from the original with some leveling. I'm really loving what the ND filters do.

Figuring out what your exposure should be is a real challenge, it's sort of trial and error. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New UWA (with issues): Tokina 16-28 f/2.8

In going full frame, I was looking for a good ultra wide angle lens. After reading stellar reviews on DXOMark on the Tokina 16-28 f/2.8 (it beat out the Canon 16-35 f/2.8, among others), and other sites and knowing the excellent reputation of the Tokina 11-16 on APS-C sensor sizes, I figured I'd give it a try. While sharp, the lens unfortunately has this really odd rainbow haloing problem around lights in dim lighting conditions (full res here):

On top of that, the lens is big, heavy, and the bulbous head cannot accept filters.

I guess it's back to the drawing board for another UWA. Maybe the Sigma 12-24 is in my future. If you have suggestions for full frame UWA, please let me know.

LensAlign Tool Review

Tiger from Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom
So, I tried LensAlign over the weekend. For those of you who are not familiar, due to minor differences in manufacturing, and lens and camera combinations, some lenses may exhibit “front” or “back” focusing. This is when you use the camera’s auto focus system, and it has a tendency to focus either in front or back of your desired target, giving your images a slightly soft appearance. LensAlign is a simple system to allow you to test your camera’s focusing capabilities and adjust it on a lens by lens basis (at least on my Canon 5D Mark 2). The setup is really simple - you set your camera up and shoot their little plastic box that has a ruler attached to it. When you shoot, you focus on a vertical plane of the box and then when you examine the shot, the ruler will show you if your lens is either front, back, or perfect focusing. 

It only takes about 20 minutes to set up, and it seemed to work very well in that, after I had my lenses adjusted, they seemed to focus on the test box very consistently. I haven’t yet tried them in a while. 
Which lenses needed the most correction? Well, the results are somewhat surprising for my Canon 24-70 f/2.8, a L series lens which I’m very very fond of and which gives me nearly flawless shots every time (at least to my naked eye):
  • Canon 24-70 f/2.8 = +9 
  • Canon 85 f/1.8 = +2
  • Sigma 50 f/1.4 = +12
  • Canon 70-200 f/4 IS = 0
  • Tokina 16-28 f/2.8 = +1

I had noticed that my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 had about a 25% bad focus rate when I was using f/1.4. I just chocked it up to using a very thin depth of field, but maybe the slight back focus had something to do with that. I’ll have to keep an eye on that moving forward. 

If any of you plan on trying it, make sure you watch the videos on the website first of Michael Tapes actually doing it. I fumbled through it with the instructions that came with it, and missed a few key steps that Michael does in his vids.

I've seen test charts that can do nearly the same thing, so if you're on the fence about spending money on one of these, you can most likely get similar results out of that technique.

So there you have it - I highly recommend this tool. In my experience in reading lots and lots of lens reviews, I’ve often heard complains about front and back focusing issues - LensAlign should fix a lot of those. 


Over the years, I'd like to think that I've accumulated photography knowledge that would be valuable to others. I figured I should start a blog to capture that information, so here goes.