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Living with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM

The first thing I noticed when I picked up the lens is its L’ich in weight and feel, in fact it weights about the same as its counterpart. It may not exactly look the part but it feels right.  My first question though was whether its L counterpart, the Canon EF 100Mm F 2.8 L Is USM Macro, was not a better choice.

The L equivalent is 625g of L quality glass that comes with a hybrid image stabilization system but also costs about 40% more than the humble Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro. Specifications aside, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro’s lack of image stabilization concerned me, particularly whilst doing handheld macro photography, these fears disappeared very quickly as I learned

Fly of the Namaqualand, shot with a Canon 7D f/10, 1/250s and ring flash
Fly of the Namaqualand, shot with a Canon 7D f/10, 1/250s and ring flash

about macro photography. In short, if you are not either steady and fast or on a tripod it will be very difficult to take the shot.

Why opt for the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro? Besides the financial aspect there are other concerns. At the time of buying the lens the L version could not house a ring flash without Jerry rigging adapter rings. The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro is 58mm in diameter and most ring flash are fully compatible to this size, a feature that is very useful for macro photography.

Flowers of the Namaqualand , shot with a Canon 7D, 1/250s, F/3.5
Flowers of the Namaqualand , shot with a Canon 7D, 1/250s, F/3.5

One of the most incredible features of this type of lens is the focus distance vs. depth of field but I never expected the sharpness that came along with it. It fast became my go to lens in situations where I was relatively uninspired simply because it opens opportunities, lets you see the world differently. This lens is never a burden to carry and always allows for creativity but it is a purpose lens built not only for macro photography but also does very well as a portrait lens that feels at home on a cropped or full sensor.

If I had to give one regret about this lens it would be that it works better in manual focus but this is a minor inconvenience that comes with macro photography. Finally, this lens lives in my camera bag wherever I go and finds its way onto my camera more often than I care to admit it. If you want to discover the world of macro photography on a budget this is definitively a lens to consider.

Ash wood or landscape? Shot with a Canon 5D Mark III at f/10, 1/80s
Ash wood or landscape? Shot with a Canon 5D Mark III at f/10, 1/80s

Living with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III–Part 3

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Learning to use a new camera is a bit like learning to drive a bike, the more professional the camera gets the more likely the accident… And I have just stepped in the super bike arena.

First I want to talk about what is missing on the camera and it bugs me, I am missing an infrared trigger for my flash!!! The 600D, 60D, 7D all have why not the 5D Mk III? Just the wireless IR part would do, thanks.

Here is what has changed and really get’s to me:

  • The focus option button has moved to the <Fn> Key and been removed from the Q screen, why???
  • The zoom buttons are history and replaced by a single button on the left of the screen, all previous cameras where the same including the MKII!
  • Moved the Q button to a new location, this one actually makes sense but I keep looking for it in the wrong place

The good news is that the rest of it is very 7D like on the ergonomics side of things, even the weight. There are some positive changes too.

  • The mode dial lock, on the 7D I kept on finding it changed, weird I know but no more.
  • The rate button, I use it to protect photographs to send via the Eye-fi.
  • The Multi-Controller on the grip, this is really useful to select focus points.
  • The ISO button now has a dot on it, just feel your way around and you will find it, which in turns allows you to find the others in relation to it.

But by far my favourite new feature is the dual card slot with the ability to take an SD card and better yet an Eye-Fi card.

Living with the CANON EOS 5D MkIII – Part 2

In our day and age, we are all permanently interconnected via social media. One of the questions that I asked CANON South Africa about the CANON EOS 5D MkIII was why was there no Wi-Fi or GPS built in? The answer was rather simple and unexpected,  over the air licensing. Every device that uses any over the air transmission must be licence for use in a specific country, well in most cases. Here in South Africa, it is ICASA and their wheels turn rather slowly. I find this all odd, that all Wi-Fi devices must be registered that is, since it is a world wide standard but I digress.

So imagine my surprise when I popped in my Eye-Fi card and I got an icon at the bottom on my camera LCD! And a menu to enable and disable my Eye-Fi card!

The CANON EOS 5D MkIII recognises and is able to control the card in the limited way on on and off but that allows me to save on battery life and that is great. Furthermore, in the EYE-Fi menu is the status of the card, this allows you to check on which network you are currently on  and a whole lot of other information.

Now why is this of importance to anyone? An though this is relevant to the CANON EOS 5D MkIII  and I will be digressing from here…

I was asked a rather simple question the other day: How is it that you are nowhere near your PC, shooting with your DSLR and posting the photos to Facebook  so quick? The answer is: MAGIC!

The magic of technology and here is my mobile workflow:

  • The EYE-Fi card allows me to transfer the photographs I take with my DSLR to my iPad (or any Android device) in near real time when it is switched on.
  • It adds the photograph to my iPad’s Photo library which in turns allows me to do a rudimentary edit using iPhoto for the iPad, I tried Photoshop Touch (available on both iPad and Android) and I find it too complex for my use.
  • And then upload it to Facebook and/or Flickr from iPhoto using 3G.

Total time spent between photograph being captured, processing and sharing? Under 10 minutes.

Are there hidden disadvantages? The short answer is yes but here are some tips :

  • Use a CompactFlash card to record all your RAW images.
  • Set your Eye-Fi card to Small JPEG, the CANON EOS 5D MkIII allow you to record 2 different formats on 2 different cards, this will help you with the transfer speeds to your iPad and at 5.5MP well it’s to big to share over 3G anyhow.
  • Set up your Eye-Fi card to only send the images you have set to protect, there are 2 reasons for this, you could fill up your mobile device rather quick if you do not do this and you will be reducing the transfer time dramatically.
  • Switch off the Eye-Fi card when not in use.
  • Take out the Eye-Fi card, or any other SD cards for that matter, to increase burst limit. With the Eye-Fi card in my burst limit is 5 RAW (30MB/s CF) and S1 (Eye-Fi Class 6 SD), with it out 8 RAW reported by the camera.
  • For fastest transfer have the iPad as close as possible to your camera.

This photograph has been through my mobile workflow.

Johannesburg Sunset

Click to see larger version on Flickr

Living with the CANON EOS 5D MkIII – Part 1

After a long wait, that seemed to last forever, and a trip to KwaZulu-Natal with a CANON EOS 5D MkII, an experience I will blog about in weeks to come, I finally received the infamous CANON EOS 5D MkIII.

You can read about my first impressions based on the BETA version here. This production version is a different beast though, it is just better. It continuously continues to surprise and baffle me with it’s prowess to perform in any conditions I through at it.

The most surprising of the lot are it’s ability to level out night and day for a handheld shot…
It ability to give a good result at ISO12800 with reasonably controlled noise allowing you to shoot scenes, like the one bellow, handheld is just near unbelievable.

Table Mountain By The Fountain

Click to see a larger version on Flickr

Truthfully, I would not do this every day but having the ability to do it should the need arise is most probably the most surprising plus of the CANON EOS 5D MkIII.

Living with an Eye-Fi SD Card

Eye-Fi_Pro_X2

Imagine a world where your studio has a large screen and as you shoot the photos are displayed on it, no wires, no heavy grips that drain your camera, just pure freedom of movement. Imagine being on the road and as you shoot you are able to get all these photos on you tablet or phone and upload them to a remote location or edit for immediate sending? Imagine all of this and then add automated geo-tagging and a set of your photos on your camera’s card too.

What if I told you all of this is possible today! What if I told you it’s not that expensive either? Let’s have a look at the Eye-Fi SD Cards in this case the Pro X2.

The installation is relatively easy as long as there is no firewall, Windows 7 will ask you to open the required ports. The software itself is no as intuitive as I would expect it to be but not overly complicated either. I was up and running in about 10 minutes using my laptop as my download station.

Using my laptop: The first thing you will notice is the “lag” between the time you take a photo and the download gets completed. I initially thought something was not working. It transfers both RAW and JPEG with out issues, you just need to be patient.
The Windows software, Eye-Fi Centre, feel a bit like an afterthought, it does the job of getting the photos and configuring the card. Don’t expect more. 

Eye-Fi Center Windows Application

Using my iPad: This was a little more complicated, you’ll need to set the card to “Direct Mode” for that it needs to go back into the laptop’s SD card reader and you will need to install the “receiving” software on your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch and “pair” you card. I had to fiddle a bit to get it to work. My iPad and iPhone did not pick up the Wi-Fi signal of the card. Once it did life was easier though I had to remind my phone about the card a couple of times.
Here is a tip: In the settings on your mobile iOS device, set it to upload on Wi-Fi only! i say that because by default it uses 3G too, I got caught out, here comes the bill.

The good news is the application, at least in the case of the iOS version, gives immediate access to the photos to the “Camera Roll” and “Photo Stream”, this makes it available to most Photo app like iPhoto for iOS, PSTouch for iOS and Android, Snapseed for iOS and Android and Photogene for iOS to mention a few.

I have not tested the automated uploads to and FTP or sharing site, nor have I tested it with video but my experience has not been bad. I will be stretching it a bit on my next photowalk, let see if it’s going to work. I intend to shoot, edit and share during the walk. We will see if this really works.

The good:

  • The technology works
  • Highly configurable
  • SD cards are common in consumer cameras.
  • The optional online backup for only 7 days after the date of upload, premium service cost $49.99 per year adds a few features such as full resolution and unlimited storage for an unlimited time.

The weird:

  • I get an email each time an upload is completed.

The bad:

  • The user interface in both the iOS App and Windows App are a little clumsy
  • The card does not have a stay alive mode and disconnects easily to it’s tethered device causing the tethered device to get confused a times.
  • Slow synchronisation

The ugly

  • Once the initial configuration is made why can’t the configuration be made over Wi-Fi?
  • My Canon EOS 7D does not have an SD slot, there is good excuse to get me a Canon EOS 5D MkIII.

The card has a few other features but I personally will never use most of them nor will most people that would use these cards, one that may come in handy though is the “Endless Memory” feature that allows you to use the card as a buffer.

I’ll tell more of my experiences in a follow up post.