Canon 50D Firmware 1.0.3 and Adobe Lightroom 2.1

Okay – two updates for the 50D.

Firmware Update – 1.0.3

First up the firmware 1.0.3 has been released. You can get to it here.

It is upposed to correct the err99 problem that some folks have experienced.

Adobe Lightroom 2.1 Released

Previously Canon 50D RAW support was only due to a "release candidate" version of Lightroom. That is their version of a "beta" release. The full 2.1 release has official support for the 50D RAW format, and my quick tests seem to show that they've improved the noise reduction, but I've not really had a chance to compare apples to apples. You can get that upgrade here (you'll need to be a licenced owner, or you can download a trial). You can choose Win or Mac version in the "latest updates" column to the right.

Thanks for reading!

Canon 50D vs. Nikon D300

Ahhh… The Great Debate…

A reader commented recently asking for my 2 cents on the above question – 50D vs. D300 – it can widen to which camp you follow – who's Kool-aid did you drink? Canon vs. Nikon – mac vs. pc – Coke vs. Pepsi…

Some Caveats:

I'll fess up – I'm a Canon guy. I was a film shooter for years and just didn't like the image quality of the digital cameras that were out. It wasn't until a friend showed me his Canon G2 that I finally found a camera in a price range I was willing to pay for a first digital camera – that had output that I thought did well. From there I saw some images from other cameras and just felt I liked the look of the images from the Canon sensors, so when it came time for me to buy into a dSLR – I went with a Canon. From there, it was all downhill… well – not really. I bought some great lenses and continued to build my Canon kit. Bodies: XT (sold), XTi (sold), 30D (sold), 40D, 50D – lenses: EF-S 10-22, EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS, EF 24-105 f/4L IS, EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS, EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS, a Lensbaby 3G and a few other bits and pieces… So now, unless some truly earth-shattering happens – I'll most likely stay a canon shooter.

I've not used the D300. I've used some friends other Nikons – D2, D80, D40x, etc… but never picked up a D300.

That being said – I've always tried to keep an objective eye on things when it comes to reviews. Even with the 50D pages here – I've leaned towards posting the images and 100% crops w/ my methods so that you the readers can make your own decisions. I'll chime in from time to time w/ my 2 cents, but everyone has an opinion and they all can vary by usage, past experience, what you want from the camera, and so on – so – personal opinions are just that… personal to the person and should always be taken in that vein.

As a final caveat – so I don't have to repeat this in every section – keep in mind that at the higher end of equipment, some differences are very large and noticeable when looking without going to scientific empirical testing (max ISO at 3200 (6400 w/ boost) vs 6400 (25,600 with boost) e.g. between the 1D Mk III and the D3), others are smaller like the image quality between the top of the line lenses between Canon and Nikon when looking at prints. So keep this in mind – that I'm speaking in the general – what most users will see or notice for their $ – rather than trying to make any sort of final gavel ruling on what *IS* best… the joys of subjectivity of the user reigns supreme in the photo world IMHO.

My default answer: (just as an FYI)

Yeah – I've been asked this quite a bit. The joys of friends knowing that you are a "professional photographer" – what is your recommendation for an entry level dSLR. "I don't have a lot of money to spend, what's better Nikon or Canon for under $1000".  Most don't have existing gear, they just want to improve from the P&S camera they've been using.

My pat answer is that while I'm a Canon shooter – what you get for your entry level $ is pretty much the same between brands (yes – I know it see-saws from release to release), go down to your local camera shop, pick up both cameras and see if one or the other feels better to you or if one's menu/controls make more sense. If so – run w/ that one and just enjoy the camera you choose. If you think you'll be getting serious and know what you want to shoot – well – then that's another question…"

The Specific Question:

Thom asked about my 2 cents re: 50D vs. D300… Starting w/ a clean slate (no older film lenses to try to still use) He figures his main usage will be sports (soccer and hockey) and perhaps low light shots of bands, oh – and landscapes and other general usage. So – on the slate are Autofocus, low light performance, who's glass is better, FPS in continuous mode, RAW vs. JPG in sports – "is being forced to shoot in JPG for sports a deal breaker for me?"

[sound of knuckles cracking as I limber my fingers to begin to type my responses…]

Autofocus:

Well – being that I've never used the D300 – I can't comment on if it's AF routines are better, faster, stronger than the Canon system. I can say that with any AF system, a LOT depends on what you are shooting, how cluttered the viewfinder is with items that may "fool" the AF system, and a myriad of motion metrics. These MMs can include speed of subject, direction with regard to the camera, motion relative to other items you DONT care about in the image, distance to the camera, % change of the distance to the camera per frame rate (ability to follow w/ intelligent focus), and so on…

Soccer_2 What I can comment on is what I've shot w/ my Canons. Of what you asked about, I've shot club soccer from the sidelines, and professional hockey from the stands – about 1/3 the way up the lower level – just so most shots were above the near glass, but still giving great low-ish angles of view. For the soccer stuff, I used my 100-400 lens w/ a monopod and had no trouble getting tack sharp shots… stopping the action was pretty easy, and the AF had no problems w/ accuracy or getting the right subject in view. Keep in mind I was always zoomed in on 1 or 2 players for most of the shots. Perhaps I was avoiding situations where cluttered shots that might have given the AF fits because I didn't want that sort of "shot" anyway. 

Stars8895_2 With the hockey, I used my 70-200 f/2.8 L IS… sometimes w/ a 1.4x TC, but mostly without so I could get a faster shutter speed. Again – the AF worked great and I had few if any problems with getting in focus shots. The biggest problem here was just plain old amount of light (or lack thereof). If you are going to be shooting league hockey, I'd guess they don't spend the same amount in the local rinks as the American Airlines Arena in Dallas did to ensure even light for the TV cameras, so know that the high end ISO will play a factor here. The ability for the Canon to boost to 12,800 ISO may give you a leg up here… Sure – the noise in the image may be less than optimal, but you could get a shot that would not come out at all if you were shooting at 6400. I'll leave the noise comparisons up to you to decide on.

When it comes to the number of points the AF system uses, I would have to say that yes – more should be better. The Canon 1D series of cameras have been using a 45 point system… Up until the Nikon release of the D3, the Canon 1D Mark II AF system was pretty widely regarded as the best for sports shooting… If you think sports is what you really want to shoot – my 2 cents is to not get the 50D, but go get a 1D Mark IIn – used for $1600 – $1800 or so. That'll make you happy w/ AF performance, but will only get you to 3200 iso with boost. Ahh… the trade offs…

Low Light Performance:

Welcome to the subjective zone… on paper, yes – the 50D will shoot at 12,800 ISO while the Nikon only shoots to 6,400… but how usable are images shot at those resolutions. Some purists will say that the noise on both images makes them unusable while others like the effect the grain gives to the shot.  Read my two posts on jpg and RAW high ISO posts to see some examples from the 40D and 50D… tho also understand that very little (if anything) was done to clean up any noise in the images – and that your "actual mileage may vary"… no matter if you start w/ the Canon or the Nikon image – plug-ins for PhotoShop and other post processing tools, have come a great way in helping eliminate noise…

This area will also come down to what sort of lenses you use… if you buy great glass that is really bright (say f/2.8 for a longer zoom, or f/2.0 or less for a nice prime) it will help you greatly – helping you by not forcing you to go to your highest ISO to get the shot… which leads us to:

Who's Glass is Better?

Ahhh… the next subjective zone. Sure – you can get down to all sorts of uber scientific tests as to which lens has less distortion, less chromatic aboration, etc… What it all comes down to is the end result to the eyes of the beholder. I think (sorry to be a Canon heretic here) that Nikon makes the better glass. but only by a slim margin. This is when looking at both lines "top of the line" lens offerings. When it comes down to most of their other offerings, I think it is really a push. Also – keep in mind that if you want to save some on glass, Tamron, Sigma, and quite a few other manufacturers offer their lenses with both Canon and Nikon mounts… so if you go the 3rd party lens route – the question is moot.

I'd suggest that you draw up your "dream bag" of glass, a set of lenses that will cover the needs you foresee, and then try to fill that bag from both vendors. See if there is a price difference between the two and take that into account. Will the % difference really get you a noticeable difference in the images you get?

With your desire to shoot low light, let's go with a bag that will cover super wide angle, then cover 16-400mm all at 2.8 till we get to that longest of zooms… and a 1.4x and 2x TC.  Yes – I'm avoiding primes – but that is when the $$ can really soar… since this is just a quick comparison – I just went to one site and priced each bag:

Canon Bag: $7,943
Canon EF-S 10-22mmf3.5-4.5 – $799
Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L II  – $1659
Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L – $1349
Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS – $1799
Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS – $1599
Canon Extender EF 1.4xII – $369
Canon Extender EF 2xII – $369

Nikon Bag: $8,643
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S $1029
Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S – $1669
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S – $1699
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR – $1799
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED AF VR – $1519
Nikon TC-14E II (1.4x) Teleconverter AF-S – $444
Nikon TC-20E II (2x) Teleconverter AF-S – $484

So about $700 difference between the two, primarily in the wide angle lenses, the 24-80, and the two TCs… In all, about a 10% difference. Again – you make the final call.

The Bundled-up Question – FPS, RAW vs JPG etc…

Thom asked about the fact that when shooting in 14-bit RAW, the Nikon can only shoot at 2.5 FPS. The 50D shoots 14-bit RAW files at 6.3 FPS. Would shooting jpg vs. RAW be a deal killer for me… Yes… yes it would. As a note – the D300 can shoot at *up to* 8 FPS (w/ the added battery pack) in 12-bit RAW – but I wanted to keep the comparison at 14-bit RAW. 

I think the frame rate comparison is easy – more FPS – more chances to get sports action to freeze players (or equipment) at the dramatic point where arms and so on are in aggressive and compelling positions… but as for RAW v. JPG – the RAW wins every time counselor.

Crash4885 RAW is to a negative as a JPG is to a print from the negative. RAW files just give you so much more flexibility in post processing, once you learn what all you can do to them, including saving images that you thought were un-usable. The first photo I ever had printed in a national magazine was shot raw and while the moment would have sold the picture anyway, the adjustments I was able to make it helped illustrate that moment with more clarity. So yes – hands down – shooting sports in JPG is a deal killer for me; but I do know that the top rated cycling photographer in the world shoots jpeg exclusively. I guess if I was better I could shoot jpeg only too? LOL

Okay, thanks for all that Will, but… what do you recommend?

My 2 Cents, a summary:

Step one – go get your hands on both cameras and play with them some… you can read whatever you want about other's impressions – but you can't just go with their info exclusively. Which feels better in your hands, which one's controls make more sense to you? Step two – from a technical basis, I like the higher resolution (more crop-ability, or better detail if you frame in camera); almost double the FPS when shooting RAW; and the ability to shoot higher ISO (though it is a "2nd push" ISO) – all seem to lean towards the Canon. I think that glass quality is pretty much a push with a lean towards Nikon but at a slight price premium on some lenses. At this point the Nikon is a more thoroughly tested camera (for having been announced back in August 2007) and some say their multi point AF may be better, while others think that more points can cause more points of confusion for the system. Keep in mind also that the Nikon is $400 more than the Canon, which while newer with potentially newer tech – is the untested body. The one last thing to consider is pedigree… Canon has been *the* choice for sports shooters in the past, and while the hiccup (or heart attack – depending on who you read) they had w/ the 1D Mark III auto focus, and Nikon's well received first steps into the Full Frame sensor DSLR arena with the D3 – I'd still give the nod to Canon – especially given the critical acclaim for the 5D Mark II.

It is going to come down to what you think you'll make the most use of – the AF system – the resolution – RAW FPS – Glass – etc. Then the decision should be easy! (Riiiiiiight!)

Good luck with your decision!

Thanks for reading!

Canon 50D – Peripheral Illumination Correction

Okay – we now return you to our regularly scheduled 50D review series…

Today I’m taking a look at the Peripheral Illumination Correction feature. In short -most lenses will have a bit of falloff in the corners – a bit of vignetting. What Canon has done is to measure how much falloff there is in each of their lenses and have defined profiles for each. You can load up to 40 of them into the 50D (including combos w/ Canons 1.4x and 2x TCs) so that the camera can correct for this vignetting in the camera while it is creating the jpeg image, or can store that info in the RAW file for use by DPP.

The process of setting it up is pretty easy. Connect your camera to your computer with the USB cable, fire up the EOS Utility, choose "Camera settings/Remote shooting", then pic "Peripheral illumin. correct." from the "Shooting menu" and you’ll get a screen like this: (click to enlarge)

Picconfig

From here you can check your Canon lenses from the list (note the category buttons in the top right, to help you sort through the long list). If you own either (or both) of the Canon TCs, you should click the appropriate extender buttons in the bottom left. The list will re-populate with all the canon lenses that can use the TCs listed again with the TCs in combination. (note the top right column in the photo above). The bottom left corner of the window will let you know how many lenses you’ve selected out of the forty allowed.

Once you have your camera loaded with the profiles for your lenses – you are ready to go.

As a quick example – I’ve done a quick test with my EF-S 10-22, I shot a light colored wall to show the falloff, and then did a quick export from Lightroom.  The top photo is the jpg (with the correction) the bottom photo is the RAW without.

Pic22

Pic21_3

The correction seemed to work pretty well in camera when shooting JPG. It didn’t eliminate the falloff completely, but it did a pretty good job. If the shot was not of an evenly toned light wall, you might not even notice that all the falloff wasn’t gone.

If you are a RAW shooter who uses DPP for their RAW processing, PIC will also work for you. When you review your image, DPP will let you know if PIC was on when a given image was shot. Below you can see a screen shot of some of the images I shot: (click to enlarge)

Dppshot

In the "frame" around each image, you can see an icon that looks like a white Canon lens. This indicates that the RAW image was shot with PIC enabled. From here you can turn off the correction, or can tweak it if you want.  Choose "View" then "Tool Palette" from the menu and you will get the tool popup. Choose the "NR/Lens/ALO" tab, then click the "Tune…" button. You will get this popup: (click to enlarge)

Lacdetail

If you want to turn off the correction, you can un-check the box next to "Peripheral illumination". The slider can also be moved to adjust the amount of correction.

I also worked with the images in Lightroom 2.1 release candidate – which has "preliminary" support for the 50D. As I expected, the correction did not import, but a quick click to "develop" then adjustment of the "vignette" slider, and the same end result was achieved.

Another quick note – I pulled the jpeg files that are embedded in the RAW file (as a preview) out and took a look at them to see if the PIC was applied to those JPGs…   

Conclusion:

I think this is a feature aimed at .jpg or DPP users, and seems to work okay for those uses. Being a RAW shooter who post processes in Lightroom, I’m planning to leave it turned off all the time. Not only won’t I use the data in LR, I don’t want the camera to create previews that don’t match the RAW files. The vignette tool in LR will do just fine for me.

Thanks for reading!

Fight Cancer with Photographs – The Cancer Mosaic

If you’ve been visiting my blog on a semi regular basis (well – as semi-regular as anyone can since the blog is only about 11 days old now) you may have noticed the arrival of the yellow banner to the left.

I won’t get long winded about it, you can read more by clicking the banner, but I am a 17 year cancer survivor. I had a 2 1/2 pound tumor removed from my chest back in 1991, did chemo and radiation, five years of follow-ups with my Oncologists, and I’ve been cancer free ever since. I’ve lost my father to cancer (prostate) and an aunt to cancer (her third round of breast cancer).

I’m now pretty heavily involved w/ the cancer support community and have been raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s efforts to help support cancer patients, fund research, and reach out through advocacy efforts. Those advocacy efforts help raise people’s awareness of their risks; let them know what sort of screening should be done and on what intervals; and they lobby on behalf of all of us to help increase funding for research and provide top notch health care for all – insured or not – money should not be the deciding factor for if you can get treatment or not.

The Mosaic’s goal, other than to raise money, is to help put a face on cancer. To help illustrate that it is a disease that does not discriminate. It touches all ethnic, social, economic and age demographics. The Mosaic is a way to support a loved one who has been touched by cancer – to support someone who is fighting the disease now – or to honor someone who has lost their fight.

Explore the site and please donate and submit a photo of someone to be included in the mosaic.

Please – also take the time to talk with your doctor about your risks, what screening and prevention steps you can be taking, and have your loved ones do the same. Cancer detected earlier is much easier to treat.

If you are moved by this message, but have a group that is dearer to your heart, then please support that group – the end goal is the same – to fight cancer!

Thanks for reading!

http://www.TheCancerMosaic.com

Canon 50D – Moon – Stacked TCs Again

Okay – it has been a week or so since I shot the other set, almost a full moon tonight and set out to get the eerie thin clouds in front of the moon. But by the time I got home, the clouds had drifted off. Even with a slight haze/glow from the moon, I figured I’d give it another shot.

EF 100-400 f/4.5-6.6 L USM + EF 2x II + EF 1.4x II + tripod and remote trigger release.

EXIF (included) says ISO 200 – 1/160th at f/11 at 800mm – but remember it has ignored the 1.4x so, it is really 1/160th at f/15.5 (sqr root of 2 x 11) at 1120 + the 1.6x crop factor gets you 1792mm effective focal length.

Opened with Lightroom, added a bit of contrast to compensate for the haze, but zero added noise reduction, zero added sharpening (tho – Lightroom may do a bit for baseline – nothing was added).

Click to enlarge…

As cropped in camera:
Moon1 

100% crop at jpeg quality of 100:
Moon1001 

I’m always amazed at how different the moon’s craters look when the light is direct on vs. coming in at an angle…

Even with the haze tonight, pretty darn happy with the results. I might have been 1/3 – 2/3 stop dark on exposure (but can tweak that), adjust to remove/minimize the CA (nothing done yet – shows some from the stacked TCs), and perhaps tweak a few other things… but I’ll put it in the keeper file… along with the 50D.

Thanks for reading!

Canon 50D – After 1370 shots…

Well – the last photo taken on Friday night was photo number 1370. Not bad for about 10 days with a camera. Some folks have asked what I think of the usability and differences/similarities.

With all the forum chatter about pixel peeping on noise, resolution, and if the camera is worth it, I’ll start off with why I bought and what I was looking to get out of the 50D.

Oh – click on the images to enlarge – I’ve included EXIF info in the popup versions. Tho it seems that the lens info is not coming across. In order of posting in this post – 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, 100-400 f/3.5-5.6 L IS w/ stacked 1.4x and 2x TCs – see the stacked TCs post for more detail on this shot, 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, and 24-105 f/F L IS.

In General:

The majority of my business is contracted work. Aerial photography; work for interior designers; various other work; and the occasional work for catalogs, etc. The sports shooting that I do is more on the ‘for fun’ side. Don’t get me wrong, would I like to be getting paid to follow professional sports? Sure – who wouldn’t? I’ve just been trying to keep my photography business a) realistic – it is my second job – my day job is in technology; and b) I want to keep it fun – since I’ve been photographing for fun till about a year and a half ago, I don’t want to lose that joy I get from taking photos.

1300shots1 That being said, what I really wanted out of the camera was the higher resolution, by far. The high ISO and the better screen, then the improvements to Live View. My clients want to use my photos for high production value "slick" magazines, as well as for large format printing for trade show usage and advertising needs. Sure – a 20 MP or better body would have served me better, but the budget wasn’t there, so 15 MP is a great inexpensive solid quality option.

On the sports shooting side, which is all I’ve used it for to date, it has worked great. The new screen is amazing and the higher resolution images have allowed me to crop images a bit more to get a more dramatic version of the shot that can still be blown up to 20×30 via my Shutterfly Pro Gallery site.

In my Hands:

Mooncrop2_2 Well – I can’t say as the camera feels any different in my hands when shooting. It feels just like the 40D and short of the silver function knob and the very minor badging and labeling differences, (okay and the slightly longer rubber covers for the side connectors of the camera), it looks just the same. The screen difference only comes into play when chimping (reviewing the shots taken), but it is a big advantage there.

Shooting Results:

Images:
1300shots2_2 While I felt the benchmarks that I did showed good improvement over the 40D, in practice I didn’t want to jump in too fast, so I started off with 1600 ISO. I’ve seen much better usability in those shots and will shoot at 3200 at the next event. So far, all the shots I’ve fired "in anger" have been at the velodrome or at the moon. Not exactly great tests for the color or flexibility of a camera. The shooting at the velodrome at night (as both shoots there have been with the 50D) is challenging. It is an outdoor velodrome with two different types of lights that illuminate the track. That lighting has lots of hot and cool spots around the track, and makes for white balance adjustment very difficult. In the next few weeks I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to shoot in a wider variety of situations and I’ll post more as I have done so.

Autofocus:
The next item (after high ISO image quality) that the discussion boards seem to have been dwelling on is if autofocus has been improved or not.  While there has been nothing in the documentation about Canon making any changes here, I have seen differences in "real" use. When I got my 40D, I did some tests to compare how the AF had been improved over the 30D. You can read that post here on the Digital Photography Review website. In short, if I shot a line of riders on the track that were moving ~25 mph, the focus point would slide back along the line of riders on both the 30D and 40D, but it slid back on the 40D slower, so I had a better chance at getting multiple shots of the rider I wanted before the point slid to the rider behind that one.  It was as if the AI Servo was trying to guess where it needed to be, but couldn’t do it fast enough… it was consistent – the riders would get ahead of the focus point and it couldn’t keep up. With the 50D, I’ve seen the AF point jump ahead of the line of riders, allowing me to get a shot or two in focus, then it would drift back, then jump ahead, then drift back onto the rider I wanted again.  Keep in mind this has been observed during two different shoots, both in the 1300shots3 crappy light of the velodrome. I’m not technical enough to know if it is jumping around due to different contrast on different riders, or if it is due to the AF trying to get ahead of itself. Since I wanted to shoot the race, not just make a "test" session out of it, I haven’t shot enough with it to draw my own conclusions yet, but I am encouraged to have seen the results.

AF Microadjustment:
I was able to dial in my collection of lenses, and the 24-105 and 70-200 were crisper and I seemed to have more keepers than during the shoot the week before. I will be running some more specific tests and will see if it makes any difference as to how far away the object is that you dial in the AF on. So far – I’m a fan, but it is only somewhat anecdotally supported.

Conclusions – So Far:

I’ll have to say that I’m guardedly optimistic about the 50D out of the gate… I’ve read about the noise and high ISO questions, and how the 1.0.2 firmware is an improvement (my camera shipped w/ 1.0.1). Knowing how much firmware can help the performance of a camera, I’m guessing that if there are improvements to be made, that they’ll be coming in a month or so. But I’m already seeing an improvement; primarily from what I get from the resolution bump and the 1 stop or so improvement in ISO. Beyond this, I’ve not had enough time to draw too many conclusions; but I’ll be sure to post more info as I do.

Thanks for reading!

Canon 50D – Stacked TC Moon Shots

When I got home from work yesterday after running a few errands, the moon was out in a fading sky. The tripod was still out from the AF Microadjustment processes from the night before so I toted it out to the back patio and, using live view, got a few images of the moon. I noticed a bit of atmospheric haze at the upper left (blooming from the haze of the day) so I stowed the camera for a bit and went out later to shoot some more.

I was using my 50D with the EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM with the 1.4x TC stacked with the 2x TC. For those of you playing the home game, that results in 400*1.4*2*1.6 (the sensor crop factor of the 50D) to yield a 1792mm effective focal length. If you are getting really precise, the 1.4 crop factor really adds the square root of 2 which is 1.4142136 ish… so you would really get 1810mm effective focal length.

Just to see what the difference was at just 400 x 1.6 crop factor, I shot a few of those too in the second shooting of the day.

Full frame shots were processed in Lightroom 2.1 release candidate w/ no change to the noise reduction. Pic 1 is ISO 400 for 1/60th second at f/11 showing f/16 actual (the camera picks up the info from the 2x TC but seemingly ignores the info from the 1.4x TC – so stuff comes out 1 stop darker when it hits the sensor; if you look at the exif on the larger images, you’ll see focal length of 800 – ignoring the 1.4x TC and the 1.6 crop factor of the body, fyi.); Pic 2 is ISO 800 for 1/250th of a second at f/14 showing f/19.8 actual (14 x square root of 2 to add one stop); Pic 3 is also ISO 800 for 1/250th of a second at f/14 pulled back one stop to have the exposure match the previous pic. Exported from Lightroom as 800 wide jpgs with image quality of 70 (out of 100) with the option of "sharpen for screen".

The three images – as framed in the camera: (click to enlarge)

Moonnocrop1_3 Moonnocrop2_2 Moonnocrop3_2

Stacked TCs + 400 – Stacked TCs + 400 at night – 400 only at night.

Here are some 100% crop samples from all three images. Processed as above except the export was done as JPGs w/ 100 quality, imported into PhotoShop CS3, cropped to 500×333 and had the watermark placed. "Save for Web" as 70 quality JPGs:

100moon1

100moon2

100moon3

I tried to get the crops to match as closely as possible on the two stacked TC shots; but the rotation of the moon over the few hours between the evening and night shots didn’t allow me match exactly. I didn’t want to rotate the image in Lightroom and have the re-sample do something good or bad to the image quality, so I just tried to include similar distinct features in all.

Neat stuff – looking forward to trying later in the fall/winter when the colder air will have less optical distortion on the images – I could see the sharpness wavering in Live View much like the wavering of heat on a road in the summer…

Thanks for reading!

Canon 50D Hot Pixel Fix

Well – when I took my Canon 50D out of the box a week or so back, IHotpixelbefore found after a bit of pixel peeping on some images, that I had two hot pixels on the sensor.  I was immediately disappointed and thought I'd be without my new camera for a week or more while I returned it and waited for the dealer I got it from to send it back.

If they had been more out of the way – well – one was bottom right, and not too much to worry about; the other was about midway up, about a third of the way across the sensor. I'll also post 100% crops of the .jpg images that show the hot pixels. What seems a bit odd to me, the RAW files didn't show the problems, just in the jpegs… curious. Here are the two crops one blue pixel on the left side of the sensor, and a brighter pixel in the lower right corner (the pixels are centered in both crops below):

Hotpixelbefore1    Hotpixelbefore2

I figured I'd do a quick search to see what other folks had experienced when sending cameras back and soon Googled "canon 40D hot pixel"… one of the first pages talked about a fix that had worked for this person, and supposedly others. A quick read had me thinking it was well worth a shot – and whaddaya know, it worked for me as well!  I'd post images "after" but it seems ridiculous to post black squares… <chuckle>.

Here is the fix, I'm not going to venture any theories as to why it worked, but one page I read said they thought it "re-calibrated the sensor"… To be honest, I don't care – my sensor seems to now be working a-okay!.

Hot Pixel Fix for the Canon 40D which worked on my 50D:

  1. Remove the lens and put the body cap in place on the camera
  2. Put the camera in to "manual sensor cleaning mode". It is the same for both the 40D and 50D – Press the "Menu" button, then select the middle "yellow wrench" tab, then "Sensor Cleaning" then "Clean Manually". You will hear the click of the mirror coming up (so you *could* be using a swab on the sensor – but don't do that – leave the body cap in place).
  3. Leave the camera in this mode for 30-60 seconds, I kept it this way for closer to 60 seconds.
  4. Power off the camera off – you should hear another click as the mirror drops down into place

That was it. Test the camera and see if the dead pixels are gone – they were for me.

Thanks for reading!

Canon 50D AF Microadjustment – Instructions/Tutorial

Next chapter in our ongoing 50D review:
Auto Focus (AF) Microadjustment

(Also known as C.Fn.III-7 fun-o-rama!)

I’ll fess up, one of the first things I did after getting my Canon 50D was to pop my EF 24-105 f4L IS in place, put the camera on a tripod, point the lens at the concentric circle AF Microadjustment target that seems to be making the rounds, and start trying to tweak my auto focus. I thought it would be quick and easy – and that I’d see great new sharpness from all of my shots… <chuckle>

Okay – so I didn’t think it was going to be that easy, but I didn’t have much luck in my first attempt.

The pattern I used, which I found by searching with good old Google, is posted later in this post. I found the first versions of it in this thread on openphotographyforums.com. I also found a page w/ a similar target (same pattern, different file size) on Northlight Images’ website here; but the instructions seemed a touch incomplete to me.  (As an FYI – I do think the Northlight page – the one linked to the word "here" – is worth reading – it is much shorter than the series of posts, responses, questions, etc. in the thread.)

Allow me to ‘splain – no – there is no time…
Allow me to sum up…

In short – you need to use a special target on an LCD based monitor (a printout will not work – it has to be shown on a LCD) – the test procedure counts on the interference between the LCD screen showing the pattern and the sensor to show as a pattern (called moiré – pronounced "mwah-ray") when the focus is sharp. Show the pattern at 100% on said monitor, set the camera for center AF point only, aim your camera square to the screen at the center of the pattern, turn on live view, get the most distinct interference pattern you can, turn off live view, and then watch the distance indicator window on your lens as you half press the shutter to have the AF focus on the screen. If the scale moves in the window, the AF Microadjustment is off… Make a tweak and then re-test. Oh – and be sure to do each lens individually, I’d be shocked (and would tell you to go out quick and buy a lottery ticket) if all your lenses came back the same correction…

Sounds pretty easy… but… I had just a few questions after reading the post I reference above:

  1. How far away should the camera be from monitor showing the target?
  2. What aperture should I shoot with?
  3. So, if the distance scale does move, which way do I need to "adjust" the lens? + or – ?
  4. Is the pattern test the best test?

The first attempts were admittedly rushed, and I had a hard time seeing any real difference, and I thought that zero adjustment was the best for the 3 or 4 lenses I tried… But I knew intuitively that couldn’t be the case, so I stopped that test, and got on with some other playing with my new camera that day.

After doing some shooting, the dead pixel testing with its discoveries/fix (doh! – been meaning to post that one – perhaps Thursday), and the shooting of an event behind me, it was time to get back to the AF Microadjustment.

So today I got things setup; and, being just a touch less rushed, I was able to refine my process just a bit (okay – quite a bit), and was soon seeing some results.

After reading through the long series of posts from the OPF, I was clearer on a few things. 1 – keep your lens zoomed to its maximum zoom level; and 2 – be sure to keep your aperture cranked as open as possible (smallest number your lens will shoot). This does two things – it ensures the shallowest depth of field, and it ensures the shallowest depth of field… (no – that wasn’t a typo, both actions minimize the DoF).

So having thought on this a bit since my first attempt, I figured that when the tiny pixels on my laptop’s high res but not huge screen combined with the finer resolution of the sensor on the 50D, and with the finer resolution on the camera’s screen, perhaps the moiré wasn’t the best test for the 50D AF Microadjustment. I quickly  created my own test pattern with one pixel wide lines in a grid, with a few of the lines either wider or a different color so you could tell where you were in the grid when zoomed in on live view. My thought was that I should use laptop monitor at a 45 degree angle to the camera, and I could then use the tight DoF and the snazzy new screen to pixel peep to see which individual pixels on the laptop monitor were out of focus relative to where the center point focus pipper was placed. I guessed it would work better than the tutorials which had been created for the 1D Mark III and 1Ds Mark III with their lower resolution screens.

To save details – nope – didn’t work so great for the short lenses, but did come in handy later… I found that the moiré works great for wide to medium lenses, and that my pattern worked better for longer lenses.

The Answers: (well – what worked for me at least)

Keep in mind that you should have the zoom at its maximum zoom – I had live view set to "Quick Mode" and never hit the "AF-On" button – I manually turned the focus ring. Oh yeah, and one shot AF with the center AF point selected.

1. How far away should the camera be from the monitor showing the target?
When testing wide to medium zoom (say, up to about 100 mm), I used the circular pattern and found that it helped to have the pattern come close to filling up the frame top to bottom. For my 24-105, it turned out to be about 50 inches from screen to where the sensor is in the camera (you know that little circle w/ the horizontal line through it that you see when looking down on the top of your camera? That horizontal line shows where the lens is focusing – the front of the sensor); for my 17-55 – about 30 inches; and something like 20 inches for the 10-22. When in live view, just ensure you see the interference pattern clearly – play around with the 5x and 10x live view if need be.

2.  What aperture should I shoot with?
Use the most wide open aperture (the smallest number) to minimize DoF.

3. So, if the distance scale does move, which way do I need to "adjust" the lens? + or – ?
I was a touch confused by the "Forward" and "Backward" labels on the adjustment screen. I then almost scratched a hole in my head trying to come up with a way to explain what they meant – I soon gave up and came up with how I got my head around it.

Seated behind the camera, I’d see the distinct pattern in live view; I’d turn off Live View then half press the shutter. If I saw (for example) the distance scale shift to the right as I looked down, that meant I had to turn the focus ring counter clockwise (or – ) to get the moire pattern back. If I saw the scale jump to the left, that meant I had to turn the focus ring clockwise (or + ) to get the pattern back. So I soon ignored the words on the adjustment menu, and just moved the pipper to the – or the + as needed.

4. Is the pattern test the best test?
Well – yes and no. I found that for my 10-22, 17-55, and 24-105 – the circular interference method worked the best; but when the longer lenses came out, my 70-200 (zoomed to 200 – remember – zoom to high end) and 100-400, I found that it took so little to shift the pattern, that I had difficulty getting a distinct pattern to be consistent. It might have been that I was testing in my kitchen and was running out of room to move the tripod away from the monitor, but I found using my target worked pretty darn well. Again – show the target at 100% view, but this time, turn the monitor on an angle so that it is about a 45 degree angle to the camera. Center the camera on the thick lines that cross in the center of the target. Now turn on live view, zoom to 10x and you should be able to manually focus so that the vertical line is sharp, with DoF fall-off to the left and right (assuming you pivoted the whole laptop on the counter/desk, if you tilted the monitor away – the horizontal line should be sharp w/ DoF fall-off above and below).  Now turn off Live View, half press the shutter to let the AF operate, and then turn Live View back on – zoom back to 10x… if the live view display has changed, you easily be able to see if the focus has shifted to a portion of the screen that is closer to you (if so, you would need to turn the focus ring clockwise, so add to the AF Adjustment) or if it is focused further away (you need to turn the focus ring counter-clockwise to get the center point back in focus, so subtract to the AF Adjustment).

A few pics w/ my target being used (click to enlarge):
Afm1_4 Afm2_2 Afm3_2
From left to right:
My setup;
the pipper on the crosshairs of my target;
this 10x zoom shows what it would look like if you needed to subtract correction.
micro adjustment, micro adj, nikon, 1D mark III, 1D mk III, 1Ds mark III, 1Ds mk III, sigma, tamron, micro-adjustment

Okay – so that’s it then? You betcha!
But wait – there’s more!
NOW how much would you pay?

For those who are interested in a longer winded version of the test… here goes… I’ll just try to bang this out as it is getting late and I do need to get some shut eye.

1. Be patient – take your time – don’t rush this – or you will get *very* frustrated. The moiré pattern’s changes as you barely nudge the focus ring can be VERY SUBTLE (in caps for irony’s sake) – so don’t do this after three espressos and a red bull.

2. Setup your camera on a very steady tripod. When you get to your longer lenses, you will notice any subtle movement is magnified greatly by the distance to the screen. (See step 1…) Ensure your camera is leveled.

3. Display your choice of target at 100% on a LCD display – I put my laptop on the kitchen counter.

4. Set the height of the center of your lens to be the same height as the center of the target you are using.

5. If you are using the moiré target, square up the camera to the screen – if you are using my target, angle the screen at about a 45 degree angle to the camera.

6. Set your Live View to quick mode, your aperture to wide open (lowest number), set AF to use only the center point, and set the distance between the camera and the target to the closer end of the focus range of the lens. As an example If your lens can focus at 1/2 meter, then move the camera to about 3/4 of a meter away from the target. The target should fill most of the height of the frame (you don’t want it too big – unless you are using my target). Some lenses that have IS (image stabilization) will sense if the camera (or lens) is mounted in a tripod, but to be sure – I suggest you turn it off manually to be sure.

7. Focus on the target in Live View – If you are using the circular pattern target, get the most moiré pattern you can (see the example images on this page from Nortlight-images.co.uk), or if you are using my target – focus on the intersection of the thick black lines (3 px wide) at the center of the target.

8. Turn off Live View, watch the focus distance scale in the window on your lens to see if it moves while you 1/2 press the shutter to activate the camera’s auto focus. remember which way the focus scale moved

9. If the focus distance scale didn’t move – you are done! (If this happened the first try – you might try steps 7-9 a few times to ensure that your precision in step 7 was accurate) You can also verify by going back into Live View and seeing if you see the same amount of moiré you did before. Or if you are using my scale, see if the thick line is still in focus properly.

If the scale did move – proceed to step 10

10. hit the "menu" button, index wheel over to the Custom Functions menu (the second from the end) and choose "C.Fn III: Autofocus/Drive", then choose 7 – AF Microadjustment, and ensure it is set to 2 – Adjust by lens.

11. If this is the first time AF Microadjusting this lens on this camera, hitting the "info" button below the LCD will "register" the lens and take you to the AF-Microadjust screen; if you’ve had this lens on before and adjusted it, or if you are looping through, making changes and checking, hitting the "info" button will allow you to "change" the microadjustment in the AF-Microadjustment screen.

12. Now – make an adjustment to the correction value. If it moved a lot, try adjusting the value by 10, if it moved a little, try 5. + or – ?  Well – if you are using the circular rings target:  If the distance scale shifted to the right – adjust in the minus ( – ) direction… If the distance scale shifted to the left, adjust in the plus ( + ) direction.  My Target: if the focus shifted to a portion of the pattern that is closer to you, adjust in the plus ( + ) direction… if it is focused on part of the pattern further away, adjust in the minus ( – ) direction.

13. Be sure to hit the "Set" button (the button in the center of the thumb-dial) to save your change!

13. Now go back up to step 7 and repeat the process until you do not see the focus ring shift.
nikon, sigma, tamron, micro adjustment, micro adj, 1D mark III, 1D mk III, 1Ds mark III, 1Ds mk III, micro-adjustment

Okay – that pretty much wraps it up…

Just as an illustration, here are the adjustments that my lenses needed:

Lens: Adj:
EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 -5
EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS +7
EF 24-105 f/4L IS -7
EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS -4
EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS + 1.4x TC +1
EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS + 2x TC -3
EF 100-400 f/3.5-5.6 L IS -4

Be sure to note that the camera does save separate micro adjustments when you are using TCs with your longer zooms. So there are three adjustments saved with the 70-200 f/2.8L IS, one by itself, one when using the 1.4x TC, and one when using the 2x TC. Pretty cool.

The Targets:

The moiré target from this thread at OPF:
Rings1 

My target – feel free to share early and often:
Wspafmtarget

Okay – I’m going to have to crater now – good night and thanks for reading!
micro adjustment, 1D mark III, 1D mk III, 1Ds mark III, 1Ds mk III, nikon, sigma, tamron, micro adj, micro-adjustment

Canon 50D File Sizes – Things to consider…

Well – shocking I know, but the files from the 50D are a wee bit large in size.

In shooting the test shots, I saw JPG file sizes between 5,408 KB to 11,511 KB; RAW file sizes ranged from 20,639 KB to 28,953 KB.  Then when you covert RAW to TIFF for testing… then the prizes really soar! 88,368 KB per 16 bit TIFF.

In looking over the files I shot for the job on Friday night, I racked up 10.2 GB in files, for only 526 photos.

Larger memory cards will be needed if you are looking to shoot any sort of event with any sort of coverage; but the other thing to consider will be the storage requirements for ongoing archival of images.

As I push the files for sale from that shoot on Friday up to my Shutterfly Pro Gallery, I’m realizing it will take markedly longer (you guessed it, by a factor of 50% or so) to get the files loaded.

You’ll need to be sure that whatever service you use for your image sales, that you know how this will affect your storage needs re: their limits for storage. You’ll not be able to keep as many on line at the same time if you do have a restriction.

Well – I need to finish the posting from Friday night – thanks for reading!