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?
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):
(You may notice the T100 overexposes and the colours are not as rich.)
How is the 50mm for really close-up sharpness?
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?
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.
Taking a break from lens testing to do a little lens testing.
You might have suspected that the Sony’s high resolution 24MP sensor is great for showing up any and all flaws a lens might have, and you’re right; it does.
What then would be the result of using the lowest resolution sensor I have available, the 6MP Pentax K100Ds? Not needing to reduce the image as much for “Internet size” pictures means you also can not increase it so much to spot the flaws. You can get away with a lot if you don’t look at a picture too closely!
As you can see if you don’t ask too much from a lens it can deliver something better than you expect. (All except the Sun Actinon, which still proves to be a very poor lens indeed.) In fairness, these images are not “straight out of the camera”; they have been processed, including ‘sharpening’, to achieve the best possible result with still a minimal amount of effort.
Okay so I’ve used the a6000 a bit more in varying conditions and not always the best weather. Sunshine is occasional around here and when it is clear it gets cold. That’s as may be.
I’ve found a couple of things I don’t like. The first is that the SD card is right up against the hinge side of the access door, which makes it very difficult to remove/replace. Oh sure you’re supposed to use the wifi connection or a USB cable to download your pictures. No thanks. I like being able to change cards. It’s one thing to grasp the simple economics of putting it with the battery under one bottom door (unlike certain other cameras that give memory a separate, side-access compartment as it should be). It’s quite another to grasp that tiny card with big fingers and wiggle it in/out when it’s so close to the door. Something is going to break there. Beyond my patience.
Another problem is the camera’s tiny size. The pad of my thumb keeps hitting the controls on the back and suddenly it thinks I want to change the ISO or it brings up one of the other functions connected with the various buttons which on this camera are quite close to the edge. Along that same line, the knurled adjustment knob on top which is easily moved with the thumb when in shooting position is right next to the ‘PASM’ knob which is also easily moved with the thumb – when you’re trying to adjust the other. Like so many things these days it is not designed for operation by people with large hands.
I’ve had some trouble with the EVF too, in that it needs a proper eye cup to block light when the sun is low and coming from the side. Likewise the fold-up LCD isn’t much good as a waist-level finder because the automatic eye-detection is too close to your body then, blocking the light that triggers it. I’m sure there’s a menu option somewhere to turn that off.
So let’s see how the lens evaluation went. I’d rate it as “good”, but not “very good” and certainly not “excellent”. That power zoom switch is a nuisance, and I kept forgetting to use the zoom ring. Two ways to do one thing is redundant, and redundancy is only needed as a safety against failure (which this isn’t). Let’s look at the pictures:
Let’s discuss the last two images. My intention for this camera was to use it for ‘birding’, hoping the 24MP sensor would allow enough digital zooming to make up for the limited lens range. Now if you know birds you can see from the segment that is a bald eagle. But you wouldn’t want to hang that picture on your wall. The kit lens only goes to 50mm (75mm equivalent). The full size frame of the picture looks sharp enough, but that sharpness vanishes when cropped this much. How much could we get away with? Good question. At any rate this lens is clearly inadequate for the task. Lenses are available up to 200-ish mm (300mm equivalent) and I have an experiment planned to see how that works before plonking down the outrageous price for one.
One more picture with this lens to see how it does on close-up:
Oh yes, I almost forgot: there is already dirt on the sensor (a more frequent problem with mirror-less than with DSLR cameras).
(Note: this post and the next one are pre-planned as I’m going in hospital for a procedure and probably won’t be up to doing much for a while.)
… many things. Better weather, consultation with a doctor, shopping trip, and shipments.
But not Godot.
While I’m waiting I tested the Nikon P610’s focus failure, which I noticed is most pronounced close-up and with the lens pointing down. The lens is actually loose in its barrel, and you can feel it (and sometimes hear it) shift around. So I pointed it down and took a close-up of a wild rose stalk, and then gently pushed the loose section back to the camera to ‘take up the slack’. What I found was that the autofocus said it was correct at either point, but the actual focal point was off by about 10mm (at a distance of roughly half a meter). This doesn’t explain why it sometimes fails to focus on more distant objects, except in as much as the internal wear may cause some random slack then as well. I’ll have to devise an experiment to check that. Although there isn’t anything that can be done about it.
Anyway, here’s the best picture from that test. It shows again why I like that camera!
That’s a 640×480 crop out of the full size 4608×3456 image. At the focal point it’s very sharp indeed! Not bad for a $400 ‘bridge’ camera, eh? It will cost me over $700 to replace this ailing imager, so I’m not keen on it quitting altogether. True, the EVF is practically impossible to see at times and the exposure is no longer accurate across all conditions. Yes, the pictures always need a slight contrast improvement because the sensor has aged and doesn’t produce ‘snappy’ results. Okay, once in a while it jams completely and has to be shut down and restarted. But as long as I can coax the images I want out of it I will keep using it.