photo session: urban ballerina – Viktoria

Late afternoon in New York, with the sun-light glinting off the glass buildings – dramatic light for a ballerina in an urban setting. However, the sunlight that was reflecting off the buildings wasn’t consistent, and did not necessarily fall in a place where we could use it. So I created my own with an off-camera speedlight just out of the frame – but positioned so that it intentionally flared, and also gave beautiful rim-light on Viktoria.

The pull-back shot shows how the speedlight was set up, and my own position, low down on the ground, to get that perspective.

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ISO comparison – Canon 5D mkII, 5D mk III, Canon 6D, Canon 1Dx, Nikon D4, Nikon D600

I had a number of people ask about more details about the Canon 6D and whether I would recommend the Canon 6D (B&H), or Canon 5D Mark III (B&H). It’s tough enough to give advice at best of times, since the decision to buy a top-notch camera is a nuanced one. There are so many factors that come into play – your budget, weight of the camera; ergonomics; features & specification. Everyone has a different requirement of their camera gear.

So when I was able now to get my hands on a broad enough selection of Canon cameras (Canon 5D mark II /Canon 5D Mark III  / Canon 6D / Canon 1Dx (B&H) simultaneously, I decided to also add the Nikon D4 (B&H), and Nikon D600 (B&H) into the mix. One would expect that the Canon 1Dx would beat the Canon 5D mark II hands-down since there is a generation difference in technology as well as a massive difference in price. Similarly, one would expect the Canon 1Dx (B&H), and Nikon D4 (B&H) to compare favorably to each other.

Now, as I said, the choice between cameras depend on a number of factors – but one of them that becomes important in certain areas of photography, is high-ISO performance. Instead of relying on my say-so, and a few 100% crops, I decided it might be interesting if everyone does a bit of homework for themselves, and scrutinize the relevant RAW files. This would help in making the decision a personal one.

Download the RAW files from here. Right-Click and Save-As to your computer. They have been renamed in an self-evident way. (The last 4 digits are from the original file-name.) Be prepared though that this might hit your bandwidth limits with your internet service provider, since these files are quite large!

I shot sequences of images (of the same castle), with all 6 cameras, starting at 400 ISO all the way to 6400 ISO, in full-stop increments. The cameras were on a tripod. I used the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)  and the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G (B&H) on the respective bodies. I tried to keep the framing as exact as I could. In terms of camera settings, I changed the shutter speed in full-stop increments as I changed the ISO. I kept the aperture at a constant f/8 and do keep in mind this isn’t a lens test.

I purposely photographed the shadow side of this castle, so you can see how the high-ISO noise looks like in the darker shadow areas. There is also enough detail in the image so you can figure out how the higher ISO settings affect image detail.

You will notice that for some images, I changed the shutter speed by 1/3 stop lower. This is because despite me working as fast as possible, the light did change subtly in the 3 or 4 minutes in which I shot the initial sequences for each camera. So I repeated several sequences. Therefore, the images you see here, are images that to my eye looked to have the same brightness. In other words, I tried to compensate for the slight change in light levels as I shot the sequences. I know, I know, it’s not scientific, but this is as fair as I could make the comparison.

Also, be aware that I shot with Shade WB, and this differs quite a bit between how Canon and Nikon interprets that. So for your own comparison, change the images to some specific Kelvin setting. (The beauty of RAW files – these parameters aren’t fixed.)

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re-appraising the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II

I know this is going to amuse many of you. Since my less-than-excited review of the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II, I did end up buying the the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H) for myself after all.

My daughter has developed an interest in photography, and fell in love with my 5D mark II (and Canon 24-105mm f/4) that I lent to her. So I ended up giving her the camera and lens to keep as her own. However, this left me with just the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II, and no camera body. And no mid-range zoom.

Even though I use Nikon as my primary system, I do feel it is important that I remain au fait with the Canon system – specifically their flash system. This is necessary for the various articles on the Tangents blog, and for the workshops that I teach. It looks less convincing if I ramble on about the Canon flash system and have a Nikon in my hands. That’s how I rationalize reasons to have a lot of toys.

So I followed my own advice in that review, and tested my copy immediately on purchase … and I’m happy with it. The sharpness wide open is stunning. Even better, that mushiness that I see in other Canon wide-angle zooms when used at widest aperture, isn’t there. This lens has remarkable sharpness and contrast at wide aperture when looking at the edges. The two photos here were taken at f/2.8 and I am very happy with the sharpness at that aperture.  I can happily live with this lens.

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using the Canon EOS 6D in movie mode (model: Anastasia)

To test the Canon EOS 6D  camera (B&H) and the Canon 24-70mm f4.0L IS lens (B&H), I met up with Anastasia Z in New York. She had such presence and confidence, that while shooting stills of her earlier in the day, I had an idea of a video sequence we could do. And with that, here is an overview of how well the Canon 6D fares as a video camera.

So when the light levels starting falling this afternoon, we went to Times Square, which is always insanely lit up by the numerous billboards. An ever-changing flood of light from every direction.

This 30 second clip is an edit from about 12 clips I shot of her. We had to work fast since it was freezingly cold, especially with the wind blowing. We’d work out a sequence while she had her warm jacket on, and then she’d hand it over to my friend, Peter Salo, who assisted us. Then we’d shoot a sequence quickly, before she popped the thicker jacket on again, and tried to warm up a little bit again.

Even with having to shoot fast, and only being able to shoot limited sequences, I am very happy with the results. It definitely shows what an energetic and sensational model, Anastasia Z is. (If you’re a New York photographer, check her out on Model Mayhem.)

More techie info about the video clip, and about the Canon 6D …

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review: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II

It was with great excitement that I received a review copy of the new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H) lens. There were several reasons that this highly-anticipated lens interested me.

My experience with Canon gear has been … let’s just say it’s been an uneven experience at times. There are specifically two lenses that got my ire – the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II and the (original) Canon 24-70mm f/2.8

The older Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a bit of a reputation. While some people love it, others hate it for being an inconsistent lens. It has a tendency to go out of calibration. Also, in my experience it tends towards softness when you zoom to 24mm, focusing at infinity. I dread it when a second shooter uses this lens, and by now I insist they use the much more reliable Canon 24-105mm f/4L zoom (B&H), instead. Then I know the images will be sharp, with much less chance of being back-focused. Yes, I’m not a fan of the older lens at all.

In contrast, I absolutely love the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS (B&H). It is sharp, even wide open. Along with the aggressive stabilization, this makes it a wonderful lens to use in low light.

But there really was a gap with Canon in a bread-and-butter pro-spec top-notch reliable and crisply-sharp mid-range f/2.8 zoom. (It has to be all of those things!) Especially if you look at the superb Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 AF-S (B&H).

But now the new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II has entered the scene.

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Canon and Nikon

November 23, 2012

my experience in using both the Canon and Nikon systems

It seems that whenever I post here about using either Canon or Nikon gear, or when I’m seen with either, that some people are surprised that I’m using the other brand.

Just to mess with everyone, here is a snap of me carrying a Nikon D4 and a Canon 1Dx, each with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. If I look a little gung-ho there, I most certainly do look happy with all those toys … appropriately enough, in front of Toys’R'Us in Times Square. The gleeful smile is mostly because I still have the same enthusiasm and love of the gear as when I first fell in love with a camera, way way back. I love the Art, but I also love the toys.

I know there’s a lot of curiosity about this topic – whether I shoot with Nikon or Canon. Or why I would have both systems. Most people who follow the Tangents blog, will know that I (predominantly) shoot with Nikon. There are specific reasons for that, and that’s the topic of this rambling blog post …

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off-camera flash for a photo session with a Vintage look

Anyone who regularly follows the Tangents blog or has my 2nd book, off-camera flash photography, might recognize Sarah. When she told me she was visiting New York, I made sure that I squeezed in a photo session with her in my schedule. The weather on the day was grey and drizzly … enough reason to juice it up with some off-camera flash. And then play with the images in post-processing a bit …

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behind the scenes video: using the Canon Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites

In my review of the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT, I raved about the ease of use of the new speedlite by Canon that has built-in radio transmitters. The same with my subsequent review: Canon ST-E3-RT Transmitter and Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite - this system is going to have a huge impact.

The behind-the-scenes video clip as I set every thing up, is of the photo session with Molly K where I used the Canon 600EX-RT speedlites (B&H) and ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter (B&H) during an actual shoot. You can actually hear the thought-process.

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review: Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter and Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites

In my review of the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT, I’ve already raved about the ease of use of the new speedlite – thanks to a menu system that you can follow without having to decipher it via a manual), but mostly because of the built-in radio control of the flash. This elevates the Canon 600EX-RT to a new level. As mentioned in my review, I really think this flashgun will change things in the photo industry. It’s huge.

I’ve only now been able to get hold of the ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter (B&H), to use with the Canon 600EX-RT speedlites, and I am just as impressed.

The main advantages of this controller, is that you can change the flashes’ output directly from your camera. No need to run to and fro between your speedlights to change a flash’ output. And of course, The Big Thing about the new flash system, is the built-in radio control. You’re not limited by line-of-sight anymore, or compelled to buy radio slaves. It is obvious that Canon has done their homework on this puppy. While it is a complex flash system, the Canon ST-E3-RT isn’t a complicated device to use.

To test this system, I used three Canon 600EX-RT speedlites (B&H) and a ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter (B&H) in a photo-shoot. As always, there’s a description of how I used this in the photo session … but more interestingly, a behind-the-scenes video clip of how the Canon 600EX-RT speedlites were set up for this photo shoot.

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review: Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT

Summary: Right off the bat, let me say it – this speedlite, the Canon 600EX-RT (B&H), is going to change the industry. Nothing is going to be the same again.

A speedlite that has radio transmitters built in, has been anticipated for quite some time now. It just makes sense.  So it was just a matter of time before one of the big camera manufacturers did this … and Canon is the first. And they didn’t drop the ball on the rest of the speedlite’s features, or with the functionality of this piece of gear. It’s easy to use, with an obvious menu – even for a complex flashgun like this.

Before the Canon 600EX-RT, we had various options how we could trigger our Canon Speedlites, but right now our option is clear – it’s the the Canon 600EX-RT  (B&H)

I’ve also now added the review of the Canon ST-E3-RT and Canon 600EX-RT speedlites.

About the photo at the top …

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