EF 300mm f2.8L IS with (and without) Stacked Teleconverters

Okay – I'll admit it – up until recently, I've borrowed the 300mm f2.8L IS lenses I've shot with. It is (tho not as much as I thought it was) a specialty lens that was just what I needed for some projects (like any professional cycling race) that I hadn't committed to buying… till now.

300mm28is

When the lens arrived (I'll spare you typical set of pictures of every square inch of the lens – you all know what one looks like) my first question (as for most folks) was "how good is my copy?".  I managed to take a few shots around the office when I took delivery, but I had a busy day on tap, so I couldn't really play till I got home that evening. The moon was a day or two shy of being full, so I figured it would make a good test subject. In the shots I'd done at the office, I saw that I had no noticeable CA in my images at all… I decided to test with a 1.4x then 2x teleconverter handheld. I had great results (given that it was humid and fairly warm – lots of atmospheric "issues" making a great shot problematic).  Again – zero CA so far, very fortunate for me…

Moon-2x-1271
Handheld 5D2 w/ 300mm f2.8L IS – 2x TC = 600mm f7.1 1/400 iso 400

The next day had a criterium on tap at a nice course in an area of Dallas that has some older homes that have been converted to office space. The course is the bane of most of the area cyclists because there are no long straights – nothing but two squares connected at a corner, lots of turns.  This can be a challenge for a lens, but the 300 took it in stride… beautifully fast focus, with amazing bokeh.

BikeRace
1D3 – no TC – 300mm f2.8L IS – 1/1000 at f5.6 ISO 400

Stacked Success

So far – nothing was too out of the ordinary, but I was in for a surprise a few nights later. Some friends got together for a ride then dinner. As we left the restaurant I saw that the moon was just over the horizon and it was blood orange in color… Back at the house I grabbed my 1D3 and both my teleconverters.  I walked out into the cul-de-sac in front of my house, I raised the lens, half pressed the shutter, and was surprised to hear the AF kick in. It did dance a bit, but it wasn't blind hunting. It worked steadily in and locked on… 

Moon-20x-14x-1387
5D2 – 300mm f2.8L IS – 2x TC II – 1.4x TC II = 840mm – 1/20th at f/8 (2.8 + 3 stops for the stacked TCs) iso 800

I snapped a few shots and wondered if it would work on my 5D2 as well. Lo and behold – it worked again. I shot a few more photos with the setup on my tripod. I knew they wouldn't be tack sharp (too much smoke, humidity, etc), but was curious just the same. I gave it an hour or so and shot some more; with the now brighter subject, the lens didn't hunt around – it just focused. In reviewing the images, I was impressed that it a) had focused, and b) had come out with just minimal CA in the images with the stacked TCs.  The CA wasn't evident in the orange photos (no color correction was done – this is how the moon looked – I think it was thanks to the wildfires in West Texas), but did show an hour or so later when the moon had climbed out of the smokey haze to shine brightly. Just a hint of cyan bleeding into the whites/grays.

Moon-20x-14-cax-1411
5D2 – 300mm f2.8L IS – 2x TC II – 1.4x TC II = 840mm 1/200th at f/8 (2.8 + 3 stops for the stacked TCs) iso 400

The thing I should have checked (and will once I'm back in town and have my TCs at hand) was if my 70-200 2.8 will AF with the stacked set of TCs…  With the 1D3 and the 5D2 – I was using the center AF point selected, had spot metering (to help it get correct exposure on the moon) with no other special (that I know of) fn configuration.

The EXIF data on the images only show the effects of the 2x TC… they show a 600mm exposure at f5.6 – essentially two stops off the f2.8 of the lens; but it should read 840mm at f8 (with the extra 1.4x and the additional stop lost from the second TC).

Next up for the 300 – doing the AF microadjustment with my camera bodies…

As always – use the comments sections below for any questions, or use the "contact" link above.

Thanks for reading!

 

PRETEC P240 USB 3.0 Multi Card Reader Review

With time sensitive projects like professional bike races, every minute counts. You need to get a first image or two to your team clients so that they can update their websites as quickly as possible. So as soon as the presentations are done – the race begins (for me at least).

The biggest time lag is dumping data down from the cameras to my laptop. In the past I've tried a few USB 2.0 card readers, but had found that using a USB connection directly to the cameras worked something on the guesstimate of 3-4x faster than USB 2.0. I'll admit I've not tried any of the UDMA compatible card readers – with the functionality of my cable from camera method, I didn't think I get that great a gain in transfer speed with a UDMA compliant adapter.

PostProc-6

That was all well and good till I purchased my new laptop last year – it had a USB 3.0 port. It wasn't long before USB 3.0 compatible external drives arrived on the scene, and the faster push of images from my laptop to my archival drive was great to have, but that wasn't my critical need. I needed data off the cards ASAP.

I'd kept my eyes peeled on the interwebs for card reader products but none were to be found till the PRETEC P240 USB 3.0 Multi Card Reader appeared in my search results. I hopped onto www.MyDigitalDiscount.com and saw it said "arriving 27 April", I figured I may as well jump in the queue so I ordered one – pretty cheap at $22.99.  When I got my confirmation email, it had my order date as the ship date… I hopped back on-line the next AM and it now showed they have them in stock. I ordered on a Monday, it arrived via priority mail on Wednesday. It was time to test.

The PRETEC P240:

PRETEC-P240

The PRETEC is pretty basic. Just a small black box with 4 card slots on one side (SDHC/MMC/SDXC, MSXC/MSHG, microSD/microSDHC and M2), the CF I/II slot on the other; it also has a USB 3.0 port on one end. It comes with a short "connector" which conveniently tucks into an indention on the bottom of the device for more compact storage. You can also use (if plugging in with the connector may block usage of other USB ports or be too low on your device) any USB 3.0 to USB cable. I utilized the connector that came with the device. The build quality feels basic – not flimsy, but not super solid either; but with no moving parts inside, and at a $23 price point, what do you really need/expect?

Testing Methodology and Equipment:

My current laptop is a Lenovo ThinkPad W510, it has an Intel Core i7 CPU – quad 1.6 GHz processor, 10 GB of ram, and a Segate SATA 7200 rpm 320-GB hard drive. I'm running Windows 7 64-bit as the operating system. Not the most earth shattering spec, but it does the trick for me. For the data to move around I used 350 raw images from one of last years races, which totaled 7.43 GB.  I copied them onto the CF card tested into a typical directory structure for a camera: DCIM\EOS1D\IMG_####.CR2 (not sure this matters, but figured I'd keep it "real").

I tested two different cards. The one I ran the full gamut of tests on was an ADATA 533x 16 GB CF card. Tho not labeled with "UDMA" specifically on the card or packaging, I did some research before buying this and found that it is indeed UDMA compliant, and I think these tests bear that out. The second card tested was a LEXAR Professional UDMA 300x 8 GB CF card. I tested this second card mainly to see how the rated speeds of these two cards compared; once I saw how it did on the PRETEC, I didn't want to repeat the other transfer methods.

I tested four different copying methods: USB Cable from my Canon 5D Mark II to the laptop; the PRETEC P240; a Kodak 6 in 1 reader (USB 2.0 and *not* UDMA compliant), and an old Digital Concepts CF reader (USB 1.0?).  I'm pretty sure the "Kodak" and "Digital Concepts" are just branded generic readers that I've seen with different logos on them. May not be the best comparison against these 2.0 and 1.0 readers, but I figure I'm in the ballpark. I hadn't been using either one for years since the camera to pc process was working so well for me.

The copy procedure was pretty straight forward, open the cf card in one window, open a destination directory in the other, select all then drag over to the new folder and release. I started a stopwatch at the release of the mouse button and then stopped the time when the copying dialog box closed. I only did one pass for each setup as I'm not looking for statistical accuracy here – I figured ballpark numbers would translate pretty well between the methods – and with the differences I saw after running the sequence once, I didn't think any races were close enough to merit a second set of testing.

The Results:

  ADATA 533x UDMA LEXAR 300x UDMA
  Time: Data Rate* Time: Data Rate*
PRETEC P240 2 min 6 sec: 62-85 mb/sec 3 min 50 sec: 32-45 mb/sec
Canon 5D2 7 min 47 sec: not displayed** not tested
Kodak 6 in 1 est 1 hour***: 2.25 mb/sec not tested
Digital Concepts est 2+ hours***: 0.92 mb/sec not tested

* Data Rate observed in "more details" panel during file transfer. The range of numbers I saw from time to time.
** The 5D2 shows as an attached device, not as a "drive"; so Windows 7 does not show data rate numbers
*** Stopped as observed "Data Rate" was so low. Estimate is the time remaining that was displayed by the transfer progress window

My Thoughts:

I had only been able to find one other review of the PRETEC P240 before I bought mine and that user had found no gain in speed over their USB 2.0 device. They also didn't comment on what speed card they had, what their computer hardware was, etc. Besides, with the cheap price, I figured it was pretty low risk – and I could always return it.

PostProc-11

I was very happy to see that with a fast card and my hardware that I would see noticiable gains in transfer speed of images so I could get my post processing into gear in almost 1/4 the time it has taken in the past.  I was pretty used to 40 – 60 minutes of data transfer, that could be cut to 10 – 15… Can't complain about that sort of process improvement for a measly $22.99 plus shipping.

I may go ahead and test the transfer time of the 300x card via the 5D2 to see where the "card speed" threshold is using the camera as a transfer device. I may also test transfer via camera and PRETEC at the same time.  I only have 1 USB 3.0 port on my laptop, so having two devices copying at the same time could speed the process – a USB 3.0 hub and a second PRETEC may be the best bet. If/when I do more testing, I'll update this post.

As always – let me know if you have any questions – either comment below or use the "contact" link in the header.

Thanks for reading!

two press room photos copyright and courtesy of KQCooper

NewsWear ChestVest Review

NewsWearLogo So, back when I wanted to find a key piece of gear to handle/manage my camera equipment while out shooting from the back of a moto – I was steered towards NewsWear's Chest Vest by a longtime friend and fellow shooter Liz Kreutz.  I reviewed the different options available and chose the "medium" over the "digital" (has a pocket that will hold a large digital body); or the "foul weather" version, which essentially is the digital version made with waterproof material.

I had avoided the waist belt systems for a few reasons. First off I wanted to get the weight off my belt, secondly, with a lot of time sitting on a moto, I wanted to ensure things were a bit higher so I could pivot easily and not worry about getting to pockets along my hips or more around towards my back.

The one thing I couldn't find at the time (and I'll admit I didn't look before I started writing this post) was any sort of review that talked about the sizes of the pouches.  The NewsWear site only mentions different things than might fit, but not actual measurements nor an example "load out" of the gear.  This review will answer both those questions.

Measuring Up the Men's Medium Chest Vest:

CV1-full

There are four pockets, the middle two are the same size, as are the outside two pockets. The larger middle pockets measure (roughly) 9.5 inches high by 5 inches wide by 2.5 inches.  The other pockets are 6 inches high by 5.5 inches wide. The flaps that cover the tops of the pockets also contain pocket areas with a velcro closure across the top edge. I wanted to measure the effective usage of the pocket, so I measured from the lower edge of the velcro closure to the bottom of the pocket. The larger pocket flaps are 6 inches high by 5 inches wide, while the outer flap pockets are 5.25 inches by 5.25 inches.

Overall width of the four pockets from side to side is 20 inches, the backing extends another 2.5 inches on either side (for sewing of the waist belt and the shoulder straps) for a total width of 25 inches. I didn't want to un-do the belt setup that has worked for me to measure a maximum length of belt available, but by looking at available extra belt length I'd say you could get a total "belt" length of 47 or 48 inches. I wear mine over a moto jacket which (with the protective padding, etc) is fairly bulky, I think the "belt" (full pouch assembly width + webbing) would be 40" for my config. I do wear it a bit loose when on the moto.

CV2-back

There are two other pockets – along the "inside" of the belt, behind the middle to pouches – that I'd forgotten were even there. They are fairly flat, have a velcro closure at the top edge, and measure 5.75 inches by 4.25 inches wide. You might stash a passport or other key papers here, things you don't want to fall out of a pocket, but don't need super easy access to.

The construction is of heavy duty canvas/nylon. The pouches are all made of fabric panels that allow for the large lenses (etc) to easily slide into place.  I think most of the other grizzly details can be found at the newswear.com site HERE.

What I Use on the Moto:

CV3-load

In the previous pictures, I had the gear above in the pockets. My "load out" for shooting a bicycle race from a motorcycle is as follows, although the image above doesn't have all the "smalls" I usually stuff into the flap pockets. and the thing below the Canon 5D2 body is a 15mm f2.8 fisheye, the strap kept rolling it away when it was on its side.  Also – to ensure there wasn't any confusion about what was in the chestvest vs. hanging from me when on the moto – I didn't picture the two 1D bodies I use nor the flash. Okay – enough of the caveats, on with the info…

Left most (as I'm wearing it, right most in the picture) pocket carries my quantum flash external battery. I keep my wider lens camera on the left side with the flash on it, so this keeps the cord stretch to a minimum. In the flap I keep my memory card vault, and some other basics for being on course. An allen key (you never know when a l-plate or mounting plate may loosen up on you at the wrong time), some ear plugs (for loud PA systems during podium presentations), and a lens cloth with a lenspen or two for touch-ups.

Left center pocket houses my 5D2 without the grip. The majority of my moving shots are all handled by my two sports shooter bodies – one with a 70-200 2.8L IS (right side) and the other with a 24-105 w/ flash (on the left side) – you just don't need the full frame width when moving. So I keep it in a pocket for easy assembly for a scenic or fish eye shot. In fact, my 15mm 2.8 fisheye lives at the bottom of this pocket, the padded strap above to protect the lens, then the body on top. This lets me get the body out if I want to use my 17-40 that is kept in the rightmost pocket for a scenic without having to get the fisheye out of the way first.  This flap pocket is usually stuffed with (not pictured) route notes for the day. A page from the race bible with all key mile markers, along with any notes I may have on scenic spots to try for, etc. I'll usually end up with a laminated card (thanks to my moto driver) which has all the summary info and an elevation chart with feed zone, KOMs, sprints, etc indicated.

Right center pocket (in this "full" example) has my 100-400. I don't use this much, and will usually leave it with my sherpa slash second shooter for them to use, but I'll throw it in on occasion. This is roughly the same size as the 70-200 2.8 and other lenses. So you've an idea of what will fit. The outer pocket for this usually is left to be a bottle holder of sorts. We usually end up with 1/3 liter water bottles from the race organization and one, along with some sort of sports bar to much on during the stage, will fit into the flap pocket.

Right most pocket will have my wide angle lens – usually a 17-40 f4L. It has a bit more reach than the 16-35 2.8, and I rarely if ever shoot at 2.8 during a race stage – especially since this is my "scenic" lens and even in the team areas, and after a stage if I'm shooting in a crowd, I'll have the flash running and will have more depth of field need than 2.8 will give me. The outer flap will house some spare ziplock bags, and a quick fit camera/lens cover. I've found that the disposable ones are super packable and work great. Op/Tech USA makes the one I use out of a clear plastic (www.optechusa.com). It has a drawstring to keep the bag tight against the open end of the lens; an elbow bend to the sleeve; a hole that allows you to pull the eye-cup pad off and re-mount it "outside" the bag so you are not looking through plastic; and it has enough length on the "put your hands in here" end that it will go almost to your elbow. Yes – my "full on" cover is used when I know I'm heading out into the rain, but this is a great easy to pack alternative that works well – but I digress…

My Additions to the System:

The two additions I've added to the system are not necessary in my view, but definitely helped me with my load out.  I picked up a pair of "velcro on" shoulder pads from a local dive shop. They give a bit of padding to the 1.5" wide webbing that is used for the shoulder straps, but more importantly to me was they now offer a way to secure my camera straps to my shoulders so I don't lose a camera at a critical moment. Since the velcro just wraps around the pad, I undo one of the strap sets, tuck the camera strap across the top of the shoulder strap, then close the velcro over the camera strap. I leave this one a bit loose to allow the strap to slide through the velcro without binding. Voila – I don't have a camera strap across my neck; nor do I worry about it sliding off my shoulder. It is also super easy to undo to release the strap if I need freedom of movement when off the bike or at the end of the race at the finish line or at the awards podium presentation.

The other addition is a pouch for my cell phone. I've enough different Oakley AP style bags that I have plenty of the military style modular pouches that velcro onto mil-spec vest/webbing systems. I just used one of those and velcroed it around the left shoulder strap just above the pouches. Now my phone is easy to grab with my right hand as needed. Also – with it closer to my head than if it was inside a pocket, I have a better chance of (tho not much with wind and a helmet on – nor would I answer – I'd just know to check when I got to my next "scenic" setup and was off the bike).

Overall Impressions:

What can I say – I love this product. I've now used this vest for almost two years. It has held up incredibly well, no fraying of any cloth, none of the stitching has come undone, and the velcro has been holding up well. It has served me well no matter if I'm on the back of a moto, working in a crowd at a criterium, or if I'm documenting an event.

The supple nature of the materials used make it easy to "cinch down" an empty or only partially full pocket, and it seems to move well as I do. Not getting in the way as I pivot, kneel, get around obstacles, and so on. It just works well with various amounts, sizes, and pure volume of gear you want to stow.

CV4-Me I know some of my colleagues will wear this lower than I do, at almost belt level, but I like it around my lower torso instead. It gives me freedom to get on one knee without the pouches hitting my thigh. Also – while on the moto, it puts the bottom of the pouches right in my "lap" so the gear is lightly supported but allows me to pivot freely.

The load is balanced across my shoulders, back and waist (well – and when seated, my lap), so I've yet to have any "gear" fatigue. I may be tired from a long day, but my shoulders and waist are not hurting from hauling my gear around.

I will probably get a foul weather version soon, it will be nice to have the extra space if needed, and to have the weather protection; but I'll be sure to hang on to this one.

If you have any questions – feel free to comment below, or use the "contact" link in the header.

Thanks for reading!

Copyrighted image courtesy of KQCooper