Another boring lens test post

Okay, I bought a Canon 50mm f1.8 EF lens. I would not have done so if a 40% off the lowest regular price around sale had not come up. I especially would not have done so if I’d known about the unexpected $250 in vet bills that came up afterwards or the unexpected $186 in other expenses or the price of gasoline going back over $2 per litre. Let’s face it; if we could see the future we’d all win the lottery.

But it seems every Canon owner has one of these lenses so … why not me? Just how good is it anyway?

50mm on the 1Ds.
40mm on the 1Ds.

The quality is almost identical to the 40mm ‘pancake’, and indeed it’s not much bigger. For general shooting, both are ‘good’ but neither are ‘excellent’. In fact not only does the classic Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 utterly destroy them in sharpness, the venerable Nikon P610 is also noticeably better (when it actually manages to get a correct focus lock, which is rare these days). This is the sort of thing that makes me want to try a Nikon DSLR.

Now let’s see the two lenses on the crop sensor Canon T100 (from the same place):

40mm on the T100 – about 64mm equivalent.
50mm on the T100 – about 80mm equivalent.

(You may notice the T100 overexposes and the colours are not as rich.)

How is the 50mm for really close-up sharpness?

On the T100 – notice focus did not lock in the right place.
Segment of 100% image at the sharpest area.

Of course these were taken wide-open to give it the toughest test. Again, it’s good but not excellent. Frankly I expect better from Canon. Oh I get it: you’re supposed to spend the big money and buy their top quality lenses instead of spending reasonable amounts and getting mediocre results. That’s another shoot-yourself-in-the-foot strategy from Canon, which goes with their no-third-party-RF-series-lenses announcement. They don’t seem to get the idea of “brand = reputation” and that people will accept lower quality from ‘off-brand’ makes at lower prices but won’t accept lower quality from ‘name brand’ makes at any price. (I have seen this failed marketing strategy before, as in when certain car makers introduced junky low-priced cars to ‘compete’ with the import makes when all they wanted was to get people into showrooms and talk them into higher priced, higher profit vehicles.)

So it’s not the best lens, but can you take a good picture with it?

Evening sky with the 50mm on the 1Ds. No adjustments other than sizing.
Fuzzy seeds with the 50mm on the T100. Cropped and sharpened.

Yes, I guess so. Although it seems to work better on the 1Ds (full frame) than on the T100 (crop sensor). The ‘medium’ focal length afforded by the 1.6 factor on the APS-C camera puts the lens in a range I don’t normally use. Frankly it’s a little disappointing over-all, like every purchase I’ve made lately.

Anyway … Once this holiday weekend is over it’s on with the wood harvest (a couple more loads at most) and then close up the cabin for the season.

Marley finds lens testing boring.

Say hello to my large friend

The new tool in the kit: Canon 1Ds

One of the cameras I’ve wanted to try is a full frame, any full frame, DSLR. My preference was the Canon 5D, but despite being plentiful they continue to command indecent prices. I’d about given up finding anything when along came this offering from within Canada which eliminated the cross-border hassles. I managed to get it on a last-moment bid for about 1/3 what similar ones are going for and about 1/2 what an in-Canada 5D costs. In all a pretty good deal, especially as it showed up with all the manuals and discs and a firewire cable and three batteries plus charge and an AC adapter! I’m not sure how good all the batteries are as I’ve only managed to get one charged enough to activate the camera.

So, the acid test: how good does it do ‘out of the box’?

Ambulance coming, but not for me this time!

Not bad. I was using the slightly fuzzy 75-300mm Canon EF zoom, which on this camera is 75-300mm because it’s full frame!  As expected the contrast needed a little help, partly because it was a gray day (heavily overcast) and partly because it’s an old sensor. But I like the colour rendition.

Main problem: dirty sensor.

Yes the sensor will need cleaning. Do people never look after their equipment? Mostly the camera looks good with only a few minor scuffs and expected wear. The dirt shows up more on a full-size rendering.

Cropped close chickadee.

Here we have a 640×427 section of the full-size 4064×2704 frame. It’s a little blurry even with the application of unsharp masking. There are three factors at work here: it’s ‘only’ an 11MP sensor, the lens used is not the sharpest, and the camera has a reputation for being ‘soft’. I have not got into the settings yet to see how much it can be improved on its own.

Coming in for a landing.

This shot is cropped square just to eliminate annoying clutter on one side. I’m hoping for some better weather (i.e. sunshine) and a chance to try it out with the 40mm prime lens (it won’t work with the EF-S lenses) and the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar on manual. That should be something to see!

Large, medium, and small artillery: 1Ds, T100, and G11.

This is no lightweight camera, btw; it tilts the scales at 1585 grams without a lens. The T100 is only 436 grams. We’re talking three-and-a-half pounds of camera; more than most film SLRs weigh. I don’t expect this to be a ‘daily’ or ‘street’ camera by any means; it is intended for quite specific use which I hope to get to soon.

Until then, I will do such testing as I see fit and can think up.

Going full frame?

I am writing this before taking the plunge, in order to explain to myself why I’m doing it. If, in fact, I do it. We’ll see. It’s just that my mind keeps skittering away when I try to think of the advantages of a full frame DSLR, so I need to get them down on electronic paper, so to speak.

The most obvious advantage is that it’s more sensitive to light. This means better low-light pictures, such as star shots. Will this help me much in my photography? Probably not.

Right after that we switch from “advantage” to “difference”, which is not the same thing. Of course a full-frame camera utilizes lenses differently: no crop factor involved, so the focal length (which is so often expressed in terms of 35mm film camera equivalent) will be “as written” (a 50mm lens is “normal” focal length, not a short telephoto 80mm equivalent). The depth of field is also altered accordingly. Will this help me much? Again, probably not.

The resolution difference is pretty minuscule as the FF DSLR I’m considering is 20MP as opposed to my APS-C camera’s 18MP. Presented on a physically larger sensor, there is only a slight improvement in sharpness and dynamic range. If it were a 28MP sensor this would be different. So … much help here? Ah, not really.

Okay, why was I thinking I should buy this? Because it’s the only piece of hardware I can acquire that would actually make any difference at all in my work? Maybe. Because I found a Canon 6D used for about 1/3 the price of a new one and it’s for sale in the same province so no massive import costs? Perhaps. Because I’m bored? Yes, probably that one. I mean, it’s not like I have trouble producing good photos from the cameras I’ve already got, right?

Screenshot from 2020-01-10 13:16:30
Canon 6D ad image

So I did some research, specifically reading articles about the advantages/disadvantages of the full frame cameras. None of the things I read presented me with any information I hadn’t already considered myself. Really there’s not much reason to go full frame no matter who you are or what you shoot unless you can get that sensor with the huge increase in pixels so that the density of same is equivalent to the cropped sensor version. With film photography the resolution is fixed by the amount of silver particles per square area, which is pretty much the same across all negative sizes – but the larger the negative the greater total number of particles so the sharper the image. Increasing the sensor size by a factor of 3 without a corresponding increase in the number of pixels doesn’t really mean much.

Sounds like I’ve talked myself out of it, again. In fact I keep coming back to the notion that what I really want is an old Canon Elph 150 with its 20MP CCD sensor and 10X zoom. The only one of those I can find right now costs more than the new-but-shop-worn Elph 180 – which only has an 8X zoom and a CMOS sensor – and has to be imported besides.

Screenshot from 2020-01-10 13:15:36
Canon Elph 150 ad image

No worry, no hurry as it’s not going to be ‘photography weather’ again around here for a long time yet.