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I still reckon I invented the blog, sadly it was only after it was in popular use that I noticed that my creation had been widely used for quite some time.

Instead of blog, I called my writing a narrative without consequential direction; a journey of thought rather than progression; a collection of ideas not beholden to systemic expectations; or a celebration of the morsels of life that bind us to the world.

Yeah, I know. Just a bloody blog.

Canon 5D Mk3

28 May 2013

I have a few confessions to make. I bought a Canon 5D Mk3. After pooh-poohing it I was eventually swayed by a lack of alternative and went for the Mk3.

Two Canons 5DMk3 and G1X

And my other confession: A very close second in my purchase options was the 1DX. And I was very, very close, finally only swayed by the thought that the extra money could be used to get a Canon 85mm f1.2L.

And for me the form factor of the 1DX can be very intimidating, especially in less professional settings, so that’s why in the end it is the 5D Mk3 which is now my workhorse camera of choice.

Having made the bold prediction that a high megapixel camera was imminent from Canon, I have to suck it up on that one as well.

I still reckon there was a camera close to production, but it was trumped by the Nikon 800, and even further by the 800E that is the same 36 megapixel sensor without the anti-aliasing filter, and perhaps final proof that people did indeed want a high megapixel camera.

Canon might have felt that their product was below par in that race and sent it back to the design department.

Another explanation doing the rounds is that Canon’s lenses were not good enough to handle high megapixel imaging. We have seen a lot of workhorse lenses undergoing upgrades with the 24-70 f2.8L II and 70-200 f2.8L II IS the most notable extensive and expensive upgrades.

Or the problem could be more practical. After the flooding in Thailand back in 2011 Canon is taking more production back to Japan, and then hit with the rising yen and the commensurate slowdown in US sales, I would expect there was not great hurry to get an innovative product onto the market.

My other recent purchase should not be such a surprise. I got the G1X which also has a happy home in my camera bag, or more usually, my coat pocket. Now this baby I love.

Two Canons 5DMk3 and G1X

The focussing system still sucks with its slowness, and while it is supposed to be faster than the G12 this is not noticeable in the real world.

Many others complain about the macro focus being too far away. I thought this was a stupid complaint at first, but now that I see everyone spends most of their photographic energies snapping food, I can see why some wankers might complain.

For me, I’m happy with the image quality and this feature alone overrides its shortcomings in other areas.

Having a compact camera that you can stretch to ISO 2000 or more is the big winner in my book.

With all my other compacts I rarely took them past ISO 50 because the noise at even ISO 400 was unbearable. And this was a major drawback because in all practicality it is the compact that is going to places where lighting is most challenging, because it is with you when you are away from the studio, arena or event.

Another backhanded advantage of using a product that is lacking in one area is that it fine-tunes your skills in others. In the search for work-arounds I am more often pushing the limits of the camera and exploring manual setups that overcome these shortcomings.

You might say that buying something new and then having to work around it defeats the purpose of upgrading, but that’s not always so.

With the 5D Mk3 for example, the focussing system is head and shoulders above the Mk2, but more often than not, it gets in my way. What’s that you say?

Well, I was so used to just using the centre spot focus on my Mk2 for so many years it has become firmly entrenched in my muscle memory.

Now that I can focus by region, expanded region, have better follow focus and options for portrait and landscape orientations, frankly more often than not I find myself going back to my Mk2 habits.

The tried and true method of back-focussing with the centre spot and taking it from there, re-framing if necessary or manually locking on to a moving object serves me better in situations where there is a lot happening.

Instead of going through a number of steps to alter the auto-focus performance it’s easier to just lock on one spot and concentrate on the action more.

So where am I now?

I’m pretty happy with the new gear. I’m especially pleased with the improved high ISO performance of the Mk3 and no longer worry about going over ISO 2000. My new threshold of resistance is ISO 5000, so that is a significant move forward.

Having said that, I still prefer to shoot as low as possible and have erred on the side of conservatism far too often, or you could say so regularly that instead of classing blurry pictures as an accident, it has now become a style.

But, while pointing out again that I am quite happy with the Mk3, I reckon Canon made the transition tougher than it needed to be.

Just changing the layout of the buttons has my fingers running around the back of the camera, and every time I want to zoom in or out on a preview I have to use different fingers. No biggie, just a butt-pain.

The menu system has also changed in annoying little ways. While much the same, just details differ enough to disconcert you when you need to change settings in a hurry.

I wouldn’t mind so much if it was an improved navigation system, as camera manufacturers have never been great software developers, but essentially it is the same basic system with just a few options moved around for no apparent purpose.




Canon 5D Mk3

3 March 2012

So the long awaited Canon 5D Mk3 has been announced. The much anticipated update to what was pretty much a game changer in the industry this time enters the market with a whimper instead of a splash.

5D Mk3
Image courtesy of Canon

Same sensor size, though for me this is no big deal. I’m happy at 22mp and I remember going from the 12mp of a 400D to the 18mp of the Canon 50D and being upset that at the pixel peeping level many of my shots were much fuzzier.

It was a matter of better technique, better understanding and some better lenses that got me over this issue, and then made me better able to utilise the capability of the 5D MkII.

I reckon going to 33 – 38mp would have as many drawbacks as it would advantages.
The 5D now essentially has the 7D ergonomics with the 1DX focussing system. This is good. But it’s not great.

Video enhancement is neither here nor there for me. After the introduction of the C300 I was hoping Canon’s video energy would go that way, but it seems they are still intent on pushing the video capabilities of the 5D line and this is a major aspect of their marketing strategy.

When you see crews filming with the 5D, it is usually just that – a crew – and they have so much shit hanging off the thing that to me it seems the only advantage is that you can go and film in areas usually restricted to photographers.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the advantages in having video on your still camera, but the video capabilities of the Mk2 already surpassed my video needs, so telling me they’re now even better is something I’ll take, but don’t want to pay for.

The improved focus system and speed up to 6fps is good news to me. I tend to shoot a lot of sport and am always frustrated at sporting events when the 1D shooters fire away and I can hear them machine-gunning away at dunks while my motor drive frustratingly kerchunks along beside them.

While only one Digic 5 processor compared to the two in the 1DX, the increase in speed is of great interest to me, especially the shutter lag. Apparently they have it down to 59ms, which is up there with the best in the business.

But I know this isn’t a sports camera and have managed to work around the poor focussing because I know I get advantages in other areas, mainly picture quality, depth and good low light performance.

I guess my major beef is the price hike. With only essentially incremental improvements using already developed technology taken from other lines it seems excessive that it enters the market over $1000 up on price. Same as the new 24 – 70 f2.8L II, seems the upgrade price these days is $1000. Which is a lot if you feel you end up with pretty much the same thing.

And many of the improvements are in the video area, so I guess I’m feeling neglected and asked to fork out for stuff I didn’t want in the first place.

I read somewhere that the video people don’t need more than 22mp because it mucks with the mathematics and makes it tougher to render or something. So maybe the 5D has found a niche in the video world and Canon want to consolidate that position.

In short, I won’t be running out to buy the 5D Mk3.

Like much of their marketing these days I feel Canon is feeling out the market before committing to products. Maybe with the rise in the yen they are feeling a financial pinch that has shifted more focus to maintaining profits over innovation, but with that strategy you lose a lot of customer passion and loyalty.

I still think there is another camera hiding in the wings. Canon knew long ago that Nikon would be hitting the market with the D800 and 36mp and I don’t think they can leave that camera in a segment of its own.

And all the lens upgrades lately seem to be pointing towards more demanding sensors.

Again they might be waiting to read the reviews or see the sales figures, but I believe they have something pretty close to ready, or perhaps even awaiting imminent release.

I expect a high megapixel camera aimed more at the stills shooter. The focus system will be crap again, the speed will suck and the ergonomics fiddly, but it will probably be the camera I’ll go for.


The Megapixel War is Dead - Long Live the Megapixel War

9 February 2012

When Canon announced their still faraway 1DX last year, there were many in the industry rejoicing that the megapixel war might at last be over.

Ray and 1DX

For once there was an emphasis on quality over quantity of pixels, as the new 1DX heralded superior dynamic range and ever improving high ISO performance.

This on top of the mind-blowing 12 frames per second (fps) auto focus, and 14 fps mirror lock headline figures. And at last a new and improved focusing system.

Well, for me it just didn't make sense, and as the update cycle continues with ever more announcements rather than products appearing in the store, everything seems to point towards the megapixel war being far from over.

For me as a 5D MkII shooter I must say the 1DX was a bit of a letdown, and really nothing more than an answer to the Nikon D4 - refinement for the sake of headline market specs.

What I wanted was a 33 megapixel camera that could be set to APS-H or APS-C. This would give everyone something to salivate over in a Canon flagship professional camera.

The APS-H crowd would jump from 16 to 25 MP, and the APS-C shooters would go from 18 (for the 7D) to 20.6 MP, like I said, something for everyone, and good reason to find the $6800 needed to take one home.

Sports shooters could dial in APS-C and get their 12 fps at 20 megapixel, and their glass would be getting the same perspective as a 7D, 60D, 50D etc.

There are still a lot of professional shooters using equipment like this and moving up to the 1DX might not be viable for them because all the sudden the shots they were used to on a 200 mm lens for example, would now be 125 mm, or the 18 megapixel image they shot would need to be cropped down to 11.25 megapixel to get the same reach.

It is, in short, a product that is taking megapixels from our pockets and making our stable of lenses shorter by the APS-C factor of 1.6.

Same for the 1D Mk4 shooters. They wouldn't be losing as much, but still their 16 megapixel APS-H sensor would be dropping their 200 mm lens back to 154 mm, or cropping down to 13.8 megapixels for the same image.

Now with the sudden announcements of new lenses from Canon, including the long awaited 24 - 70, and its massive price hike, it might appear to the more cynical amongst us that Canon is banking on its users needing to make a major update on their glass.

All this seems to point to expected greater demands of higher megapixel sensors, and alongside the need to update lenses in order to get the reach that many photographers are already used to, it seems Canon may have an eye on lens sales punching company profits forward in the medium term future.

So let's have another look over the fence. Nikon, who has been the clear market leader in many areas for a few years now has announced and released a pre-production model of the D800 with its 36.3 MP sensor.

Its price of $3000 is a direct challenge to Canon and the 5D MkII - and the best indicator that Canon will be launching something in similar in the near future.

Nikon already has a far superior focus system as well as an envied high ISO performance, and much of the innovation in the 1DX has been focussed on these areas in what is largely a catch-up exercise for Canon.

But in clinging to the coattails of Nikon they face the risk of falling further behind in other areas such as flash technology.

Canon seems to be riding the rumour mill at the moment and waiting for public opinion to sway, if not direct, their future product line.

Even the alleged leak of a 5D MkII in the wild with the 200 – 400 1.4X lens would again, to my same cynical friends, seem a fully orchestrated event initiated to gauge reaction rather than prepare the market for an impending release.

There is talk of the 5D MkIII, a 7D MkII perhaps moving to full frame, a new line of hybrid somewhere between the 5 and 7 series that might be called anything except the confusing 3D.

Then there is talk of a completely new ultra high MP camera, somewhere in the 40 MP range that would also slightly overstep into the medium format market.

Again, Nikon has already made that step offering the D800E, which essentially is the same D800 without a low pass filter, offering the fine detail necessary in studio shooting.

For me, I just want Canon to head forward, to have the courage of their convictions and get behind a product they believe in. Something that will blow me and the whole industry out fo the water.

I for one will be putting my hand in my pocket for a G1X.

I love the articulating screen for a start, and that's the main reason I got a G12. It lets me get alternate angles on shots and doesn't require me to look like I'm having a dump in the middle of the sidewalk.

Canon's move in putting a near APS-C size sensor in the G series is a good example of market innovation - for me anyway.

I can't see the need for a mirrorless classs of cameras, at least for professional photographers.

Why would I want to invest in a new stable of lenses for a smaller sensor? To me, the G1X is the perfect answer as something that will fit into my pocket at at a pinch, and can comfortably travel with me when I don't want to lug around a backpack full of lenses. It still serves the point and shoot function, but will have the extra quality of a large sensor if needed.

Sure the 5D was a market leader and was a product that Nikon had to chase, and it is still superior in some aspects on the video front, but to me, as a stills shooter, that's neither here nor there.

But in short, I’m tired of waiting for Canon to catch up to Nikon. I want them to break new ground and astound me with a product that will blow me and the whole industry away.

I want something I can be passionate about instead of just waiting for servings of stale morsels that Nikonians have been enjoying for years.

I just hope Canon can do it before I feel the need to make the expensive and traitorous switch to a rival system.





Canon 5D Mk3

The Megapixel War is Dead - Long Live the Megapixel War