Shooting Tour of Missouri from a Moto: Part 1 – Getting there…

I'm sorry that it has been so long since I've posted to the blog, but there has been so much going on this year, I've been too busy to have the time to write. So many folks have asked about my week of shooting at Tour of Missouri, I felt I had to be sure to write about it.

San Francisco Grand Prix 2002I guess this trip really started years ago. I've been able to shoot a variety of races. From US Postal racing in San Francisco at the SFGP in 2002, through Lance and other racing at the Dirty Du outside of Austin, to the Tour of California in 2007 when I followed the whole race w/ course credentials (via GrahamWatson.com – long roundabout story not worth boring you with) but without a moto. A good friend, Brian Dallas, and I covered Tour of California that year together. He wrote a blog out of Ventura, CA called Ride Ventura. It was the first multi-stage race that I've ever "chased". Brian and I alternated getting rides in media cars, or other vehicles for better access to the stage. 2007 Tour of California: Stage 1 - Santa Rosa The other person would drive the car to the finish w/ the luggage and gear, and would try to catch a shot or three at one or two places along the route. That year worked out really well as I captured arguably theimage of the race that year: the pile up in Santa Rosa during the finishing circuits of Stage 1. Just after the stage finished I saw Graham and showed him the sequence I'd captured; he was instrumental in helping me sell the shots to Velo News. I ended up with a two page spread in the Off the Front section, the sequence for their website, and they used one the post pile-up pictures for an article about the controversy that came from the neutralization of that stage… after the stage had finished. Not bad for my first outing at a multi day stage race…

Suffice to say, this got me hooked…

I continued to shoot as much as I could. I entrenched myself at the local Velodrome – the Superdrome in Frisco, TX – and was soon dubbed their "official" photographer. That work gave me incredible experience. Shooting 12-15 races a night for 1-2 nights a weekend, 3 weekends a month over the late spring, summer, and early fall for a few years can add up to a LOT of shots. I learned how to frame my shots faster, learned the controls of my camera by touch, and learned to really trust my instinct. I got pretty good an knowing when a jump was going to happen in a match sprint, I got to learn the riders and some of their habits, and so on.

Perhaps most valuable of all was how I gained speed and skill in post-processing images. The day shots were challenging enough – shooting on a 250m track w/ 44 degree banking is one thing, but to shoot in the evenings with ever changing light raised lots of quality issues. So, as the sun is setting, the flood lights are kicked on and they slowly mix in to replace the fading daylight. It isn't bad at first, the sun setting creates great shadows to play with and you get great contrast when a rider is in the sun, but the track is shaded. But as the sun sets, the track's two very different types of flood lights bathe alternating stretches of the track with two very different "temperatures" of light - I had to get good at color balancing. Also, the pure volume of shots made it critical that I learn to cull out the "bad" shots and to not agonize over decisions between similar shots. That is wasted time that can add up and increase processing time by hours. This translates very well over to a multi-day stage race – you need to be able to get your shots selected, tweaked, and published to websites and/or image services quickly or someone else may sell their shot to a potential client first.

I also made a point to get some moto time. I needed to find out if I could sit on the back of a bike, twist my body around, and shoot w/ accuracy and a steady hand… Oh – and not get motion-sick in the process. I knew I could shoot from a helicopter both air to air and air to ground, so I was pretty sure I would do okay, but I didn't want to show up at a pro race w/out having shot from a motorcycle. I was able to do some triathlon shooting that got me invaluable moto experience, thanks Kristen and Todd!

I did shoot some other pro racing. TX Tough Grand Prix in Dallas brought some top criterium pros to Dallas in 2008 – I got another off the front shot in Velo News… I was also able to make it out to shoot the last three days of Tour of California this year… That brought back the fun of 2007 – and all the old questions I had from my previous AToC… If it was this much fun to chase a race for the starts, some middles, and the finishes; what was it like to shoot from a moto in a pro race? What does it take to get those key shots? How do the best folks end up being in the right place at that right time?

I got a lot of my answers during 7 days in Missouri…

Planning:

There was a lot of leg work that went into planning for the trip. The first part was ensuring I'd have the credentials - shooting for Graham Watson made this process much easier. By shooting for him I was bringing a global audience exposure to the race via Graham's daily race updates. I was also then shooting for the publications that utilize Graham's work who didn't have another shooter under contract at the race. An email to the race organization soon had a reply that they'd remembered me from 2007's Tour of California and they were looking forward to having me out for the week. Check…

2009routemaparticleThe other half of the planning revolves around how to not only figure out where to stay each night, but figure out how to get your gear from place to place given the fact that you'll be sitting on the back of a moto from the start to the finish, and there is only space for you, gear hanging off of you, and perhaps one of the moto's two panniers – but you also may have to stuff a 300mm prime and some rain gear in there, along with water and lunch. The solution is to have a friend be your assistant for the week, driving a car from start to finish w/ luggage, laptop, extra gear, etc. Their payoff is long hours, an adventure, and a set of media credentials for the week. A good friend, Kevin Cooper, was kind enough to help me out for the week, and was an added value as he is also a shooter. He was able to provide some backup coverage for the race by essentially doing what I'd done in California in 2007 – shooting the start, the finish, and perhaps a spot or two along the route.  Kevin also figured out the route for getting from stage to stage as well as where to stay each night. I was swamped with a few other projects at the hotel "planning" time, and I also figured that since he was going to do the bulk of the driving – it would be sorta odd for me to tell him where we needed to be and how to get there.

A huge wrench was almost thrown in the works as a battle in the Missouri government developed between the Gov and Lt. Gov about if the pre-approved and allocated sponsorship money for the race from the state was actually going to be provided to the race. As disappointing as it would have been to have something cancel this opportunity, I realized it was out of my control and just hoped that cooler heads would prevail and things would all fall into place, which they did.

Equipment:

Next on the list was to go over in my head, and in my budget, the equipment I'd need for the race. My gear bag was pretty complete for starters, but who couldn't always use something else. My bag contained a slew of Canon gear. Two bodies, a 1D Mark IIn and a 5D Mark II; with a solid range of glass – 17-40 f/4L, 24-105 f/4L IS, 70-200 f/2.8L IS, and a 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS. Plenty to cover pretty much any situation, but I figured a few more pieces would help fill the gaps in the bag. I really felt a second sports shooter body would come in handy – a 1D Mark III, I also wanted to get a great fast prime – the 300mm f/2.8 IS was top of that list, and to get the last piece of the puzzle – a 15mm f/2.8 fisheye.  A quick request to the fine folks at Canon Professional Services had the equipment scheduled and due in the day before I left for Missouri.

A new game show - name that gear! LOL

All the other camera side stuff was already "in the bag". Cleaning gear (blower, lens pens, sensor pens, cloths, etc), memory cards, external storage, laptop, spare batteries, chargers, flashes and so on. I did pick up a Turbo battery for the flash to speed recycle time, but there wasn't much other camera equipment to get.

Moto gear was another story all together… I didn't have a helmet, no riding jacket, nor a great rig to not only store and arrange the gear on my person as I was on the bike, but also a way to ensure that a camera strap wouldn't slip off a shoulder and result in anywhere from four to six thousand dollars worth of glass and camera body bouncing down the roads of the midwest.  I'd considered a traditional photo vest, but I figured it would lack large enough pockets for the larger lenses, and would be too hot across my back. I also looked into just a belt system that would allow me to use the cases that came w/ some of my canon lenses, but I wanted to get the stuff off of my waist, thinking it might be uncomfortable to have all that weight on my belt. The next thought was to look for some sort of web-gear setup like the military uses. I think that solution would have worked really well, but at a bit of a price as ammo pouches and so on can run the tab up pretty quickly. The winning solution was one passed along to my by friend and fellow Canon shooter, Liz Kreutz; she pointed me to NewsWear.com logoNewsWear.com. I'll do a review of the vest soon, but I went with the medium chest vest – only $95 and it worked extremely well… A trip to a local motorcycle shop w/ another buddy, Greg, soon had me sportin' an AGV Blade helmet. Again, I didn't want to break the bank, but wanted to get something I could actually try on and ensure not only fit, but would allow me to hold the camera to my face with flash mounted and still be able to get my eye to the viewfinder. Quite a few helmets had slick integrated visors but the front of the helmet was now so thick, I couldn't get the eyepiece to my eye… Hmmm… is it important to be able to see to shoot? The last budget saver - a friend of Greg's was my size and had plenty of extra gear. A nice mesh bodied light gray jacket w/ back, shoulder and elbow/forearm panels completed the gear list. Okay – a few last things – some sturdy over the ankle hiking boots (from Oakley, gotta love their gear), some rain gear, and various other supplies like sunscreen, etc… sorted.

Missouri Bound:

So Saturday the 5th arrived and it was time to load up the car and head north. Kevin showed up and my place and we soon all of the gear loaded, a tank full of gas, and only 650 or so miles later, we arrived in St. Louis.

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More to come, I'll try to not keep you all in suspenders too long.

Thanks for reading!

- Will

Autofocus Performance: Technique and Technology

I received an email recently that thanked me for the AF Micro-adjustment info, but also asked about how to test the AF function in general on the 50D. They already select the AF point manually (a key first step), but some images are in focus while others are not; also – if they shoot a sequence, there are also issues with some images being in focus and others not.  I responded via email, but figured this would make a great post.

A few things to consider:

What AF mode are you using?
You are shooting w/ a set focus point – that is key, but also ensure you are in AI Servo mode. One Shot will almost never work w/ any sort of movement. (Canon terminology, but Nikon has similar modes)

Is it out of focus? Or is it motion blur from either the camera motion or the movement of the subject?
Are you running a fast enough shutter speed? The rule of thumb for handheld for *stationary* objects is is 1/focal length… so if you are in w/ a 400 mm lens, you should be shooting handheld at 1/400th or better if the thing you are shooting is standing still… then if you add motion into the mix – you need to have great panning and a steady hand, and IS, and a faster shutter speed.

What is the color/pattern of where the focus point is?
The af systems are all based on contrast and the ability to find enough contrast to check for focus (the main reason that low light AF sucks). If your subject is consistent in color, or the light isn't great, that may give the AF system fits…

Which AF point are you using?
Keep in mind that (with the 50D – but this applies to other cameras as well) the center point has the best sensitivity – All work at f5.6 but only the center point has additional sensitivity for lenses of f 2.8 or better…  Consider using the center point, keep zoomed out just a bit from how you would crop in camera, shoot the pic, and then crop during post processing to get the final picture you want.

How fast is the thing you are trying to shoot moving, and how far away are you?
You can be shooting something fast that is far away but coming at you, or you can be shooting something slow but is close, and you can have the same problems – relative speed.  Consider this… Someone moves 10 feet closer to you in 1 second as you try to keep them in focus…  If they are 100 yards away, not a problem, you're looking at only 3.33% of the distance between you two lost… If they start 40 feet away – they've moved 25% of the way towards you… but are still moving the same speed.

Is it moving towards you or side to side?
Towards you is the AF system, side to side is your panning technique.

If towards you, is it moving towards you linearly? 
I'm not positive, but I think most of the AF routines are geared towards linear movement… I track a lot of cyclists at a velodrome.  Depending on where I am and they are on the cycling track, they may be speeding up or slowing down relative to my position at different rates, even though they are moving at a constant speed.  Then couple that with the varying distance to the subject and relative amount of distance closed per second… and the brain can lock up thinking about it all…

Which lens is key too!
How fast (bright, low f-stop) is the lens, how fast the AF motor in the lens is, etc.

The difficult thing in all of this is finding ways to test that are consistent… so that you know it is your technique or the camera, or the situation that is the issue.  Finding players in the same uniforms, in the same light, at the same distance, and so on…

I found that a lot of practice was what really helped increase the number of "keepers" I had out of any photo shoot that involved sports photography.  Practice, practice, and then practice some more. The whole time trying to focus (no puns intended) on one or two of the above items during each session. If you try to include them all early, you'll just drive yourself batty.

Camera companies all (yes, both Canon and Nikon) put their better systems in their pricier bodies. Not too surprisingly, I found much better AF performance when I started using a used 1D Mark IIn (considered by some to still have the best AF performance out there).  The additional focus points, the better AF system, coupled with a great fast lens like the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, make for even better performance – but mainly after all the other things are sound to begin with. I've loaned my 1D to some friends who still have lousy keeper rates w/ it.

At the risk of repeating myself – practice… practice… practice.

When you are shooting a sequence by holding the shutter down, keep in mind that all of the above is still very much (if not more so) in play; especially if the subject is close. If there is little contrast to the uniform or color where the AF point is targeting, the AF system may not recognize that the subject is even moving. You get the idea…

Oh – practice… practice… practice!

Thanks for reading!

Canon EOS 5D Mark II – First Shots

I'd posted the other day about heading out with my Labrador to head to the canals for a swim (for him). I brought my 5D Mark II along with my EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS to see how the new body would perform. A surprise appearance by a Great Egret gave me a chance to check out the AF performance. Now it was flying from left to right (rather than the more difficult – towards me) and I'd already set to center point for the autofocus – AI Servo – but even the first shot was tack sharp.

As always – click to enlarge the photos (with full EXIF).

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Bif-diw-1

Bif-diw-2

Bif-diw-3

Bif-diw-4 

5D Mark II and 1D Mark II N…

Gee – where to begin.

Since I last posted about equipment, I've sold my 50D, the grip, and my two EF-S lenses and that covered the cost of getting a 5D Mark II.  I had been planning on waiting a bit, but a friend of mine who had picked one up but a week later got her hands on two 1Ds Mark III bodies to use – suddenly found her new gripped 5D Mark II sitting on a shelf. An attempt to sell on ebay yielded a "US" buyer who wanted it shipped to Russia – riiiiiight… then she was on a few projects. Just as I was sure I was going to be good and wait a month to get my 5D2 after a few other things I'm selling (a few bikes and other various stuff that has been gathering in my garage), she pings me w/ an offer I couldn't refuse.

So – the 5D2 arrived the day before I was going to take the new (to me) 1D Mark II N out to the Superdrome to see how it performed for the first time during some night races.

So – my conundrum… shoot w/ the 1 or the 5?

Shootin' the Pooch… aka DIW and BIF

Part of the decision was made for me when I took my black lab to the neighborhood canals for a swim and took the 5D2 along to document the occasion. As we neared the canal – a snowy egret took off and repositioned itself just down from where it was – this gave me a chance to try catching an un-planned BIF (bird if flight) shot. My 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS was on the 5D2 and I got off 8 or so shots and wasn't sure how well I'd done.

Soon the DIW (dog in water) opp was distracting me – the pup (well – he's 13 now) was too busy having fun chasing a bumper in the water as I fired off rounds and realized that I've been a bit spoiled with the 1D's 45 AF points… While the 9 had seemed plenty when I was shooting the 400D, 30D, 40D and 50D, the 1D opened my eyes to what true "great" AF performance and selectability is… I (like my friend Liz who sold me the 5D Mk II) think I've been spoiled…

Back at the house later, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the 5D2 had done with the egret. Having read about how the AF on the 5D2 was based on other 9 point AF systems from Canon - I wasn't sure what to expect. I had set it on Program, had done a quick white balance with my ExpoDisc as I walked over, and was able to track the bird with the center point fairly well. The fact that the bird was staying about the same distance from me helped; the images were tack sharp and the amount of detail – even on an all white bird - *without* highlight tone priority on blew me away.  But come to think of it – even the first shot was tack sharp. The photos of the dog came out great as well… Again – a bit spoiled by the AF point selection, I found I was able to find a good AF point and just keep zoomed back just a touch so I'd be able to crop down the pic just slightly to get the framing I wanted w/ the specific part of my pooch in focus… Again – the image quality of the camera and the detail I could see when pixel peeping was amazing.  This is the up-side of 21.1 MP images… the down side was soon apparent at the track that night.

At the Superdrome

That night I got to the Superdrome in Frisco, TX to find a huge turnout for the first race on the new surface. The facility had just undergone a $100,000 face lift for the track and other parts of the facility. The few weeks of open riding on this buttery smooth and fast surface brought out quite the crowd.

My plan was to mount the 17-40 f/4 on the 5D2 and have the 70-200 f/2.8L IS on the 1D2n. I ended up putting the 24-105 f/4L IS on the 5D2 for a bit as well.

I was soon in my routine of shooting the warm up, some shots in the pits (nicely packed w/ bikes and racers), and once the racing got started, the racing itself. Moving around on the apron for different angles, I also moved outside the rail to shoot some of the action so that the ligting would be a bit better for available light work.

I bring a 580EXII flash for the fill work, and will even push a longer exposure w/ wider aperture with the flash to get some motion blur with a clear image in the mix… You can see the images from that night here. I'll see about getting some of the BIF and DIW up when I have some more time.

The Down Side to 21.1 MP

So, it seemed intuitive that the large MP rating of the 5D2 would bring some immediate issues with the resulting file sizes – but there was another I'd not really counted on, but had an easy work around for.

I had been keeping an 8GB CF card in the 1D2n – which yields around 1100 or so images before I have to swap cards. I usually would take my main camera and put the 8GB UDMA card in it – then use a 4GB UDMA card to tide me over while I dumped the images from the 8GB into my Vosonic image storage device.  Then I'd just swap back after the download was complete.

I still figured I'd use the 1D2n the most (and I did) but didn't realize how quickly you can burn through 125 or so photos to fill a 4GB card… Not to worry – another card held me over while I moved files from the 4GB down to the vosonic.

The unexpected size issue arose when I'd finished working through the files overall – I sync my cameras so they have the same time on them, and I end up dumping all the photos into one folder when processing them in Lightroom (2.3 64bit). When I did the export to push to my sales site – it was easy to see which were from the 5D2 (the 10+ MB jpgs) and which were from the 1D2n (3-4 MB jpgs).  I started to upload and realized how long it was going to take… D'oh!

A quick cancel update command – back into LR to restrict max width to 4000 pix – re-export, and the files were soon posting quick as a wink.

I'll post more as I have some more time – till then…

Thanks for reading!

SmugMug vs. Shutterfly Pro Gallery

In the Beginning:

I started selling event photos right around two years ago. When I made the decision to do it, I needed to act pretty quickly. I'd been doing primarily contract work and I'd had no experience with the ins and outs of event sales.

As I went to look for that first service to use (I sure wasn't going to go make the prints, then mail them – a logistics nightmare), I went with a pretty common name at the time – Shutterfly. They had a great reputation with fulfillment of personal users' orders, seemed to have a good price structure, and I knew early I needed the pro level with the unlimited storage. I pulled the trigger and was pretty happy overall with the service I received.

There were some issues early that I wasn't too happy with – but I was hopeful that Shutterfly would respond to the input from their pro usrs as I felt that my suggestions were going to be the same things that other pros want: 1) better customization to get the look/feel of Shutterly's site to match the look of a Pro's "main" site; 2) The ability to sell image downloads online; and 3) the ability to put bib numbers into the system so that events w/ bib numbers could easily find their photos.

As Time Went by:

After some discussion with the head of the pro gallery for Shutterfly some things did change. They launched a forum for Pro users to discuss things and to receive news about what Shutterfly had in the works. They launched a carry over from the shutterfly personal sites for the pro users – a more attractive "main" page that would only let you post galleries - but not let you sell images from those pages – you still had to funnel folks to the usual pro gallery pages. Changes came, slowly and not in areas that meant the most to me.

Finally – a month ago – about 4 weeks before I had to make a decision – they announced in an email that they were going to open up the ability for customers to buy digital images. But this, like the landing page, left me wanting more. Their catch? Customers could only copy image files over to their personal Shutterfly accounts. They could not download a file themselves.

This makes sense in one way – the photog will know that the user can't get the full res file and can't mis-use the file and not pay royalties.  On the flip side – it isn't getting the customer what they really want – the file. Perhaps I put a wee bit too much faith in my customers; but I do think I may not offer full res images for all my events – some of my better shots may only be avail as prints – but I do now have options.

The Search Begins:

Well – with none of my three key things addressed, I began a search a few weeks back to review other options. Since I launched with Shutterfly – I had seen write ups about numerous other photo sharing services. Some have since gone under (I read about it) others I either dreamed up or just can't find, or they went out of business again too. One that struck me as a nice option was a service that had you pay for storage as you added data – but that you would never pay for that storage again. Seemed like it may have been better than $200/year (Shutterfly's rate) or other renewal fees.

Speaking of fees – Shutterfly will waive your renewal fee (of $200) if you exceed a $2,500 of profit via their site – which is a nice perk if you can hit that level – but I don't make event sales the main component of my photography. Contract work is a much more lucrative avenue than event photography and I do the event work more to give back to the velodrome and cycling community – not as a main moneymaker.

I soon (from web recommendations and those from a few friends) looked into SmugMug, the free 14 day trial had me setting up a prototype site with SmugMug.

Short version – I'm going to stay with SmugMug and the "shop" link above will take you to my new sales site. I've posted a few galleries, and will post both view only and sale galleries there moving forward. I've also posted a HD time lapse movie that I did as a testing of their video hosting capabilities.

All About Branding:

The fact that my site is now uniform, that my site, blog, gallery and sales site all have the same style banner, uniform header links, etc – is the biggest early win. Take a look at these two examples – which one looks more professional? The first is a Shutterfly pro gallery – the first page you see after entering the gallery – the second is what my new SmugMug site looks like.

1-old

2-new

Which one do you think uses the common larger monitor sizes more efficiently? Both screen shots were from a 1280 x 1024 monitor. The SmugMug site does a great job with resizing and adjusting the size of the preview and thumbnails without having to re-load the page. The Shutterfly site just looks old school.

The customization process was easy to get the major things done, but I did have to lean on my geeky side (years in the IT industry) to be able to get down to the details. I will most likely do some posts on where to find some of the trickier things. The custom watermarks? Really easy, and I think a great touch to the site.

More Than Just a Pretty Face:

The larger selection of print formats, high quality Giclee prints, panorama printing options, framed canvas prints, and so on, and so on, and so on!

Digital downloads – and (tho I most likely will never use it) – the option to sell commercial use license downloads as well. The "personal use" downloads come in three resolutions – 1meg, 4meg and original resolution – and I can set prices for (and choose to offer or not) each of these sizes. As for the commercial license download – I'd use a stock photography for my stock stuff, and I want to keep my finger on the commercial use of my editorial and other photos.

Video posting as well – the "pro" level with SmugMug gets you 720p HD file hosting for files up to 5 min in length.

Compatibility w/ some mobile devices as well – I'm far from an iPhone a-holic, but the fact that there is a way to view galleries and hosted video on an iPhone (and most likely the iPod Touch – tho I've not tried that yet) has me wondering if I can get an iPhone to work off my blackberry server… hmmm….

Conclusions:

I'm stoked about SmugMug so far – I'll soon (I hope) see how their payment structure works (shutterfly was great on this – prompt bank transfers every month). I also have some prints coming in from the pro lab from SmugMug (tho you can choose to get prints from a highly rated pro-sumer lab), I'll let you know how well that works too. Till then – I'll be fleshing out my new shopping site – arranging the galleries that show on the main page.

Hey – if you want to give SmugMug a shot – you can get a discount by clicking hereand then signing up. Oh, and don't hesitate to ask setup/config questions – more than happy to help.

Thanks for reading!

Canon Crop Comparison: FF vs 1.3x vs 1.6x – Bokeh

Who hasn't wondered what the hubbub is all about. All this "crop factor" talk. Full frame, 1.3x, and 1.6x (well – for the Canon-ites out there).  I think we all understand how it effects the reach of our lenses, but how does it effect the bokeh of our images?

A Quick Re-wind…

For those who may not know the first part of that, it is pretty straight forward.  The crop factor, multiplied times the focal length of your lens, yields an "effective" focal length number, or "35mm film equivalent" number.  A full frame sensor – sized the same as a negative – has a no crop factor, or really a value of one. For Canon, this would be the 5D, and the "s" flavors of the 1D series – the 1Ds, 1Ds Mark II, and the 1Ds Mark III.  Most of the entry level (and again – I'm typing "Canon" speak here) and mid level cameras are 1.6x, (Digital Rebel, 400D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, etc) while the Canon 1D (non "s") cameras toe the line at 1.3x (the 1D, 1D Mark II, and 1D Mark III).

So – in practical numbers (and an easy one at that) if you put a 100-400mm zoom on each of the different crop factor cameras, set it as wide as it could go (at the 100mm position), you would get photos out of them that appeared to be taken at 100mm (the full frame), 130mm (the 1.3x), and 160mm (the 1.6).  This can be a bonus if you are looking for extra reach out of your lens, but can be a detriment if you are looking to get wider angle shots.

Back to the Point of Today's Post…

Okay – the sharp end of today is what about those middle zones… what really is the difference? Does the crop factor make any difference to the photos that would be framed the same in all three ratios?

Let's say three people, one with each crop factor type, see the same subject and want to photograph it. We'll also say that all three people stand the same distance away from that subject and frame their shots the same way through their viewfinders. Okay – and – miraculously enough, all three are using the same lens and decide upon the same settings for f-stop and shutter speed. How will their pictures be different?

Sure – we need to throw out the differences in the sensor's sensitivities, color saturation, etc… those really are not a factor of the crop factor itself, just a part of the construction of the sensor elements and image processing software and firmware.

How the Test was Done…

I have a 1D Mark II N and a 50D, so I had the 1.3x and 1.6x covered; luckily a friend – Kevin – just picked up a 5D. Voila – gotta love a plethora of bodies to test with. Now that the gear was covered, it was pretty easy to configure a test that would minimize differences and allow for valid comparisons.

A few of my vintage cameras soon were on a table with a magazine propped up against the wall to serve as a more defined thing to get out of focus in the background. I mounted my 70-200 f/2.8 L IS to my tripod, and switched off the IS.  To get the same net image, the effective focal lengths had to be the same. For the FF and 1.6, the math was easy, shoot the 1.6 at 100mm shown on the lens, and shoot the FF at 160mm. Some quick math (160/1.3) yielded 123mm for the 1.3x.  We ended up shooting w/ the 50D first, so we metered with it and chose the exposure of 1/10th at f/2.8 (we chose the f stop to minimize the depth of field). Other tidbits – all the cameras were set to "neutral" picture style; RAW;  I shot gray cards to set custom white balance for all three cameras; all were set for mirror lockup and a remote trigger (wired) was used.

After shooting, the images were brought into Lightroom, I did boost the vibrance on the shots from the 50D as the colors looked very different from the other two bodies (more on that later - as in another post). They were then exported as 800px wide images, 70% quality, sharpen for screen (for the "full image" pictures posted here); and as 100% quality, scaled to match the smallest (the 1D) image dimension so that when cropped, they would all be the same size, no sharpening.

The Results…

The three photos below (click to enlarge) are the three "as they filled the viewfinder" images. The 1.6x (50D) at the top; the 1.3x (1D Mark II N) in the middle, and the full frame (5D) at the bottom.

CropC-1

CropC-2

CropC-3  

Okay – to sum it up – there is a very noticeable difference between the three photos. Now the distance for these was about 7 feet from the camera to the cameras, and another 8 inches or so to the magazine. The two areas that seem to illustrate the bokeh difference for me are the forearm of the rider and the lettering of Velo News.

On the forearm, the word GARMIN is sorta readable in the 50D (1.6x crop), is a bit blurrier on 1D (1.3x crop) and is darn near un-readable on the 5D (full frame).  In the lettering of the N, you can see how much the orange color expands and blurs as the crop factor gets smaller.

Now, some might think – wow – what if I don't want that much bokeh… I should avoid full frame… Nope – just don't shoot at f/2.8.  You can add depth of field by going to f/4 or f/5.6.

The key thing here is, if you are looking for MORE bokeh, moving to a full frame sensor camera body will do the trick. It isn't just buzz… it is very noticeable.

Thanks for reading!

Canon EOS 40D Body and BG-E2 Grip – Both SOLD!

Okay – with the arrival of the 1D Mark II N, that brings me to three's a crowd for camera bodies. I'll keep my 50D as my backup, and will prob use the 50D for jobs it is better suited for than the 1D.

With that in mind – I'll get you to the nitty gritty:

Canon EOS 40D Body Only - 27,033 Actuations – great shape – clean sensor – $635 SOLD

Canon BG-E2 - Primarily used on backup body – great shape – $120 SOLD

Together – $745

Price Includes PayPal fees, and USPS Priority Mail shipping to the lower 48. Insurance and or expedited shipping can be added at cost. Best bet is to contact me here with questions or "I want to buy!" messages…

Now that's out of the way – the details! Oh – and you can click on any of the photos to enlarge.

Canon EOS 40D – Body Only40D-001-6096

This was purchased 31 August 2007 as a part of a kit with a 28-135 lens. I sold the lens when I got the kit – the lens is NOT included in this sale.

Other than the lens (sold a while back) and the video cable (no clue where this went to as I don't ever recall using it), I have all the other original contents of the box. User manuals, software disc, documentation/guide disc, quick ref guides, various "system diagrams" and other canon marketing material. I also still have the body cap, strap, battery, and battery charger. I'm sure I can get a copy of the orig receipt from Pictureline.com.

This camera was my main shooter till I purchased my 50D, 18 September 2008. It was mainly used at a velodrome in the area, shooting track cyclists. It was also used for architectural work (indoor and outdoor) as well as some other general photography and portrait work. It was never used in the rain or in any other inclement weather. Never used in dusty conditions.

The body itself is in great cosmetic shape. It always had a battery grip mounted so the bottom corners and bottom of the camera are pristine. There was also usually an L-Plate mounted as well. There is just a little bit of "polish" around the index wheel and shutter button, but no scratches, dings, or other damage to the exterior of the camera.

The sensor is clean. I can send a recent pic – straight from the camera – of a light colored surface if you would like to pixel peep to check cleanliness of the sensor. According to the software I reviewed here, the shutter has 27,033 actuations on it. It still shoots like a dream.

The display is bright and, like the body, scratch and mar free.

I think the photos show the condition very well, I'll revise this post soon to link to some examples of images taken with this camera.

40D-002-6108 40D-003-6109 40D-004-6111 40D-005-6112 40D-006-6113 40D-007-6115 40D-008-6116 40D-009-6117 40D-010-6118 40D-011-6119


Canon BG-E2 SOLD!BG-E2-001-6092

This was purchased in July of 2007 when I bought my 30D. When I got the 40D a month or so later, I purchased a second battery grip which stayed on my primary camera… So this BG has almost always been on my backup body so it has had very little actual shooting use. The index wheel, shutter button, and the other buttons all feel like new. The grip is cosmetically pristine except for a bit of "shine" to the corners of the grip. There are two minor scuffs to the grip near the shutter button from the grip getting set on concrete from time to time during shoots. There is a photo that shows the slight scuffs pretty well.

I still have the instruction sheet, the original box, and the AA battery tray.

BG-E2-002-6083 BG-E2-003-6084 BG-E2-004-6085 BG-E2-005-6086 BG-E2-006-6087 BG-E2-008-6090 BG-E2-007-6089


Again – $635 for the 40D… $120 for the BG-E2 SOLD!…  Price includes PayPal fees, and USPS Priority shipping to lower 48. Insurance and expedited shipping can be added at cost.

Contact me here with any questions… or leave a comment below…

Thanks for reading!

Canon EOS 1D Mark II N – First Impressions…

Well, it has been far too long since I've posted to my blog. What better occasion than to discuss some new gear.

I've been toying with which "Pro" body to step up to for quite a while. I've jonesed for both of Canon's 1D Mark III variants – one for sports, the S for architectural work and portraits, but just couldn't rationalize the money for a) the amount of shooting – my photog biz is steady, but not my main gig; and 2) [sic] because technology is changing soooo quickly right now, I didn't want to jump on the bandwagon and have buyer's remorse.

I know waiting was the right decision, primarily as the 5D Mark II has whet my appetite for the next gen of sensors from Canon, and because of the (you make the call about the severity of the) focusing "thing" with the 1D Mark III.

What I did need was better AF performance at the velodrome. With racers coming at me at varying angles and ever changing relative speeds (the joys of tracking fast folk flying by from one spot on the track's apron), the 40D was okay, the 50D had been a bit better; but I wasn't getting the raved about 1D Mark II "best of breed" AF performance.

As I mulled over my decision, I'd kept my eyes peeled on prices, and recently a friend sent me a link to a 1D Mk II N that I couldn't resist. After you take out the included 2 day air, the included L-bracket (no – not a RRS – but a nice Kirk none the less) and the extra battery's cost - the body only set me back around $1200 or so – a screamin' deal as I've seen abused bodies sell on eBay for well over $1,600.

As advertised, the body is in great shape cosmetically, has (according to exif data - which isn't infallible – but I trust the seller's rep – so I still think it is accurate) about 46k actuations, and other than a wee bit of dust on the sensor, is in amazing shape.

I've had it since Friday, and started learning it Saturday; so far about 500 shots in the "cards" so to speak…

A few obvious (and some not so) tidbits so far:

  • AF is worlds better than anything I've shot before - can't wait to get to my first race
  • Faster to pick up new menu/controls after initial "this is nothing like my xxD series controls at all – I'll never learn this" impression – LOL
  • Need to use firewire cable, not USB, to control or config this camera. This changed for the Mk III series, but seems the driver isn't windows 64 bit compatible either. So I've had to put a fw card in my old desktop to adjust the personal settings on the camera
  • The heft to this thing just feels substantial and bomb-proof
  • I dig the ability to make my own file prefix (subtle and geeky, I  know… but I do dig it)
  • Looking forward to 5 and 7 shot brackets (xxD limited you to 3)
  • The sound of the shutter is mesmerizing
  • IQ at 1600 is (as I understood from research) pretty amazing and very usable, haven't tried the 3200 push yet.
  • There is a richness to the images that just isn't there in the xxD bodies I've shot. Suffice to say – you get what you pay for!
  • Sharpness of my L glass is more apparent with this body.

That's about it for now. I'll be blogging about my reasons for buying used (I've been a new gear guy, for my bodies at least, in the past), comparisons (as unfair as they may be) to my 40D (while it lasts) and my 50D; bokeh diffs between a 1.6 and 1.3 crop (and I'll have FF to work with as well on loan); and whatever else may come up from the next few weeks of learning this beast. I've also just picked up a nice copy of the EF 17-40 f/4 L – so there will be info about it as well.

Thanks for reading!

Fullest Full Moon – A quick post…

Tonight was the largest the full moon will appear to us this year – the full moon closest to the Earth in its orbit, that is.  There was some haze on the horizon and some low thin clouds in the way as well, but here are a few shots from tonight… Started w/ just the EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS; then added the 2x TC; then added the 1.4x as well for the last shot.  The second to last shot was with my EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS – a self portrait of sorts. As always – click to enlarge. Thanks for reading!

VeryFullMoon-1 VeryFullMoon-2 VeryFullMoon-3 VeryFullMoon-4 VeryFullMoon-5
VeryFullMoon-6 VeryFullMoon-7

 

Vosonic VP8860 Multimedia Viewer adds Canon 50D RAW Support

Not sure if you've considered a multimedia viewer for your bag, but with the 15.1 MP images comin' out of my Canon 50D – long days of shooting can burn through CF cards pretty quickly. There are numerous options out there, Epson probably the most mainstream, but I went with the Vosonic. Quite a few factors led to that decision, but I'll save that for another post. Short version – I'm a huge fan of the VP8860.

Today they finally released a firmware update for the VP8860 that supports RAW files from:

  • Canon EOS 50D
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Sony Alpha 200
  • Sony Alpha 900

The firmware update can be found here on the VP8860 Firmware download page and you can read aobut the viewer on the VP8860 Product Page

Thanks for reading!