5 June 2009

Have you updated yet?!

We've mentioned it a few times now, and all being well, this will be the last time! We're moving!

Blog posts are now being made on www.eos-network.com
This is our new site with the blog (obviously!), a community/forum/network, details of our training courses, a weekly EOS Quiz question, our twitter feed, regular EOS tips and tricks, a photo gallery for you to upload images to and get peer feedback on (that came online this week!) and some soon to be added features - online training videos and downloadable podcasts.

If you've not dropped in to check it out and register on the site yet, you really should :-)

This message will be re-posted a couple of times this week to make sure you all get to see it!

If you read this by RSS feed and want the RSS feed for the new blog click this link!


1 June 2009

Please update your links!

We've said it a couple of times this last week, but for those that missed it, WE'RE MOVING!

Blog posts will now be made on www.eos-network.com
This is our new site with the blog (obviously!), a community/forum/network, details of our training courses, a weekly EOS Quiz question, our twitter feed, regular EOS tips and tricks, and some soon to be added features - photo galleries, online training videos and downloadable podcasts.

If you've not dropped in to check it out and register on the site yet, you really should :-)

This message will be re-posted a couple of times this week to make sure you all get to see it!

If you read this by RSS feed and want the RSS feed for the new blog click this link!


30 May 2009

What is a telephoto lens?

If asked the question above, what would you say the answer is? Is it:
a) A lens with a focal length greater than 200mm?
b) A lens which can change it's focal length?
c) A lens whose physical length is less than the focal length?

I expect most of you will go for answer "A" but you'd be wrong. In real terms, anything with a focal length over 200mm is termed a telephoto lens in common parlance...but, there is a clue in the fact that you often find lenses shorter than 200mm refered to as telelphotos. So what are they talking about?

Well, the answer lies in techie talk.

According to the Canon Lens Work book, a telephoto lens is defined as follows:
With general photographic lenses, the overall length of a lens (the distance from the apex of the front lens element to the focal plane) is longer than its focal length. This is not usually the case with lenses of particularly long focal length, however, since using a normal lens construction would result in a very large unwieldy lens. To keep the size of such a lens manageable while still providing a long focal length, a concave (negative) lens assembly is placed behind the main convex (positive) lens which is shorter than its focal length. Lenses of this type are called telephoto lenses. In a telephoto lens, the second principal point is located in front of the frontmost lens element.

Translated into simple terms, a telephoto lens is one that has a physical length (from the front lens element to the the focal plane) which is less than its stated focal length.


29 May 2009

The new EOS 5D Mark II firmware

So, the new firmware for the EOS 5D Mark II will be arriving on the 2nd of June so we're told. What does it mean, and is it really a big step forwards for most users? To decide that, we need to look at what it's actually doing and why those features were not in the camera from the start.

The EOS 5D Mark II was the first EOS model to feature movie recording and the first camera from anyone to feature full HD recording. The market for this camera is huge. Possibly bigger than had been anticipated. It's also a very immature market in that there are no established users who have fixed ideas about what they're doing with the camera. The problem has come because the camera is simply so good at movie recording. If it had been a bit weak or not very good quality, the professional video guys would not have been interested and the standard full auto video mode would have been perfectly good enough for the people who were going to make use of the feature - those that have little or no experience with video and just want it to work without too much fuss.

That's the only reason I can see why Canon would have chosen to not give full manual control. If you think about it, giving the full control to a complete beginner with no experience is quite likely to lead to a bad user experience - it'll be too complex and the results won't be as good and they then won't use the feature.

Instead what's happened is that the camera was limited and the pro video guys got hold of it and wanted more - more control to get better results because they know what they're doing. They know what shutter speed and aperture will do to the results and how to use them creatively. I can already see there will be problems with the new firmware - beginner users will be confused and will end up shooting at (for example) faster shutter speeds than they need because they think they have to and it's what they're used to doing with still images of moving subjects. The reality is Canon could have simply given a few shutter speed choices - 1/30sec, 1/60sec, and then a break until the much higher speeds for specific results.

And what about sound? Ask any video guy and they'll tell you that sound is more important than pictures. The image can be great, but if the sound is rubbish, the whole thing will be poor. That's another reason for the simple video controls - it was a set and forget feature. You can start recording and let it get on with it without having to touch the camera and risk getting 'handling sounds' from the camera body. Granted the internal microphone is not great and for good sound you should be using an external unit, but for you complete beginners in video it does the job and allows you to get video with sound of little Johnny running around the park. Now you'll almost certainly have to buy an external microphone to get half decent sound because there will be more camera handling sounds going on as you adjust the aperture or ISO to get the right exposure. Suddenly the camera has gone from a product suitable for use by the masses to a one that is now capable of being used by everyone - amateur movie makers and pros alike but for almost everyone will require an external microphone.

So what am I complaining about? Well, it's this: If you've got full manual control and everyone is telling you it's a great thing, you'll be tempted to use it. If you don't know much about video, don't! By all means practice with it and find out how it works, but don't start shooting in manual movie mode and expect great results or you're setting yourself up for a fall.

For the pros reading this - you're happy you've got full manual control, but don't think it's all about you. In fact, you're not the biggest market for cameras. Think how many consumers buy cameras when compared to how many pros. And that's why Canon did what they did. They're probably over the moon you're so pleased with their camera that you want to use it to film this, that and the other, but it was a first step into an uncertain market. So before you start complaining about the other things you want - Manual Audio Control and varying frame rates, stop and think. For pro users they'd be great, but for consumers it's another layer of complexity they need understand to get good results.

NEWS: For those that read this far...well done! As we mentioned at the beginning of the week, we are moving. If you subscribe to the RSS feed, you can subscribe to the feed at the new location using this link.
If you just want the new website where you can find the blog to bookmark in your browser, that's here.


28 May 2009

Is the recession really biting?

It seems everywhere you look these days there's doom and gloom about the recession. I'm sure everyone reading this knows someone who has been made redundant, had their hours cut or otherwise suffered due to economic down-turn. However, while everything else seems to be heading ever more downwards, the photo industry seems to be carrying on regardless.

A couple of months back we had the launch of the Canon EOS 500D and Nikon D5000 and now Sony have released a raft of THREE new consumer level models. Not only that but Pentax are in on the act too with the announcement of the K-7. It all adds up to a time when you'd be forgiven for thinking there was a global recession going on. At the very least I'd expect companies to hold off a little. Maybe keep products 'live' for a little longer before replacing them. Or maybe it's a concerted effort to drive sales upwards and so stave off poor economic results. Sony for example posted their first net loss in 14years just the other week - and it was big too - $1.03billion. Nikon too have seen a drop. While they're still in profit, they've seen their profits fall 63% for the year ended 31st March '09 - down to 28.06 billion yen from 75.48 billion yen the year before.

So what's going on? We've got cameras being launched when you'd think the market was in a downturn and at the same time, prices from the major manufacturers going UP. It's like giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

What do you think? Are you likely to buy a new camera in the near future or are you taking the squirrel approach of saving for a harsh winter?


27 May 2009

EOS 5D Mark II firmware update coming

Canon have finally announced new firmware is coming for the EOS 5D Mark II.... and it will give manual control for people wanting to shoot video! Hallelujah!
The new firmware will give the ability to choose:
*Full aperture settings
*ISO speed range from 100-6400 as well as Auto setting and H1
*Shutter speed from 1/30sec to 1/4000sec

There is no mention of any changes to the Auto Gain Control settings on the announcement, so if it's not there, there will still be something for grumpy people to complain about on the web! Honestly.

Hopefully, this will put an end to people using those N!kon lenses for video!

The firmware update will be available from 2nd June 2009 from the usual Canon websites.


26 May 2009

Another award for the EOS 5D Mark II

NEWS: For those that saw the post yesterday, we are moving! The new location for the blog will be at www.eos-network.com
However, we don't want to lose all you guys in the transition, so for the next few weeks we'll keep putting our posts both here and on the new site so you can always find them!

For those who have bought an EOS 5D Mark II, awards a rather meaningless, but in someway a validation that you made a good choice. (You bought a Canon so clearly it was a good choice, but this time others agree with you!)

The most prestigious award in Japan is the Camera of the Year award in the Camera Grand Prix 2009. The Camera Grand Prix has been running since 1984 and the awards are voted on and decided by thirteen photo and camera publications with a deciding committee made up of academic experts, technical writers, professional photographers and others from the photo world.

The award for 2009 was given to the camera they thought was the best product released between April 1 2008 and March 31 2009. And they chose the EOS 5D Mark II.

Are you feeling vindicated in your purchase now?!

Well done Canon!

As an aside, how much do awards really sway you as the 'buying public' when you're choosing your next camera?


25 May 2009

It's a bank holiday today!

Today is a bank holiday, so we're going to take a break from filling your inbox with lovely Canon-centric photo content, tips and tricks.

In fact, this whole week is a half term holiday so we reckon a lot of you will be off work and away with the kids. We're going to take this opportunity to recharge the batteries and shift locations.

Our new site is starting to take shape and we'll be pouring the content from the blab blog into there over the coming days. It'll be a long process so please hang on with us, once it's done we hope we'll be bringing you an even better location for all things photographic and Canon.

If you want to get ahead of the game and visit the new site now, you can at www.eos-network.com

There is a network/community/forum (call it what you will!) for you to join and make friends in and there is information about the photo training courses we'll be running over the course of this year. It's free to register and join, so come on, what are you waiting for?


23 May 2009

Holiday camera options; decisions, decisions.....

It's the time of year when the holidays start to be a key event in many family lives, it's half term holidays for many schools. So what camera would you take on a family holiday?

Whilst photo centric holidays almost pack themselves in terms of camera kit - everything you own plus a new accessory or lens or two, the family holiday is often a case for lightweight reduced camera kit. Maybe it's time for the 'day off' camera to earn it's keep. Holidays involving flights and children (yours plus a plane full) often mean a compromise. Do you take just a Digital IXUS and give the serious photography a break - will the family care if you take simple pictures of them on holiday?

Right now I'm considering exactly this, and the options are EOS 500D + EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens, PowerShot G10, Digital IXUS or just a video camera shooting stills and video to flash memory, which would you choose? I'll let you know in a week or two what I took and how it was to be restricted in photographic hardware, liberating or constraining.


22 May 2009

A move is taking place

Somehow, this slipped under the radar.

It would appear that Canon are moving their European HQ. Currently they have a kind of split system, with one half based in Amstelveen in the Netherlands and one half based in Stockley Park (near Heathrow) a little outside London. Well, that is all set to change according to the news.

Canon Europe are moving from the Netherlands to Stockley Park. This will mean the UK will be the hub of their European operation. What does it mean for us as consumers? Probably not much really, but it may have some effect for Canon UK - the British sales office for Canon. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

According to reports, around 200+ roles will be moving from Amstelveen and it will be happening over the summer period. I'm sure it won't be easy persuading that many people to move from the Netherlands to England, so if you're at all interested in working for Canon, it might be worth keeping an eye on the national job advertisers to see if any come up.

There is more info on the web and in this article from the Daily Telegraph.


21 May 2009

iPhone remote control of your EOS camera?

I'm sure you're wondering if your read the right. Well, you did. On-One software (makers of the long running interpolation software "Genuine Fractals") have announced a new app for the iPhone that allows you to wirelessly control your EOS camera. More than that, it allows you to change settings like shutter speed, aperture and ISO and will even WiFi the image back to your phone as soon as you've taken a shot.

Think that's great? Well, it gets better! If you're using a camera with Live View mode, then you can also get wireless live view direct to your iPhone!

I'm beginning to think this is one of the coolest apps I've yet seen or heard of. It's not been approved by Apple for sale in the App Store yet, but I can't see that taking a long time. I for one will be at the head of the queue to pick up a copy.

For more info, take a look at this On-One web page with a video showing the system in use.

If you're an iPhone user, do you think you'll be getting this? If you're not an iPhone user would it tempt you to get one?

Obviously if you don't have an iPhone, this can all be done wirelessly using the WiFi transmitters from Canon to WiFi to a computer.


20 May 2009

EOS 5D Mark II and movie exposure

How many readers have the EOS 5D Mark II?
Of you, how many have tried the movie modes and have figured out the way to accurate exposure?

You essentially have two controls over exposure on the camera. Firstly, there is the AE Lock button. Just like in still shooting, the AE lock button will hold the exposure at whatever value is currently set when you press the button. The one thing to remember is that you don't need to keep the button pressed. Just press it once and leave it alone. The exposure then won't change unless you press the button again... or use the second exposure control: The quick command dial.

The quick command dial acts like exposure compensation in still shooting. Essentially it makes the scene brighter or darker and that is about as much information as it gives you.

Clearly there are a couple of different ways of getting the right exposure then - you can either point at a dark area, let the camera open up the exposure, use AE lock and then use the command dial to make it darker again, or you can start pointing at a light area, use AE lock and then open up the exposure. Both will work, but it is worth experimenting as you only have +/- 2stops of compensation available so you need to make sure it's within the range of adjustment.


19 May 2009

EOS 5D Mark II Video

Well, it's been a long time since we've shown you any links to videos shot on the EOS 5D Mark II, so here's one for you to get your teeth into. Since the launch of the camera, there have been many videos that show what the camera is capable of but it's only until now that we're starting to see a maturing of the output that photographers are producing. You know, output that is using the camera to it's full potential. Well, this video is one of the best examples we've seen to date. Not only is it well shot, but it's well shot in a situation that cannot be easy (a war zone) of a subject that is difficult to convey.

So, as Tuesday is our traditional day for showcasing work by photographers we thought we'd bring you this real gem to show what can be done with an EOS 5D Mark II and the desire to tell a story. Click the following link to view the video on Vimeo...

Afghan Hearts and Minds by Danfung Dennis

Give us your thoughts and let us know if you've seen any videos you think are worth sharing.


18 May 2009

Oil spots on the troubled EOS-1D(s) Mk III waters

Someone at Canon must be getting the message by now, the flagship EOS-1D(s) Mark III model has a new service alert for oil spots! It seems in the drive to make the camera better, stronger, faster they made it more oily too.

Here's the FAQ on the Canon UK service site, so you know the drill, it's time to send in the cameras again, because in the manufacturing stage they put too much oil on the camera moving bits and when the shutter is open some of that oil can land on the image sensor. Surely there can be little much left that has not been the subject of a fix or two by now, in fact we probably have a Mark III and a half already.

Update: both Mark III models are affected.
NOTE: The EOS-1Ds Mark III & EOS-1D Mark III are affected by the oil issue according the Canon sites.


16 May 2009

MAC OS-X 10.5.7 good news for tethered shooters

If you use an Apple MAC and have OS-X 10.5 then most likely you've been running 10.5.6 lately, but now 10.5.7 is now available to download and if you didn't get it already do so...

In MAC OS 10.5.6 Apple seemingly broke the tethered shooting functions making it very tough for users to shoot with cameras connected to the laptop. Typical symptoms include freezing of the whole computer, lock up of DPP or EOS Utility or similar. Usually it happens after around 15 minutes of continuous tethering, sometimes after 20 or more images have been transferred. MAC OS-X 10.5.7 seems to fix this, though there's no mention of fixes to USB on the update release notes.

To try it out we hooked up an EOS-1D Mark III and left it in live view mode for over 30 minutes it was still all alive and working and we could then pick the camera up and shoot a couple of hundred frames straight in to the MAC; just like you could do with MAC OS-X 10.5.5.

One thing that 10.5.7 brings is support for RAW images from EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 50D and PowerShot G10 according to the release note information.


15 May 2009

Tilt and shift lenses - what does shift do?

Canon has the largest range of tilt and shift lenses of any digital SLR system with the TS-E 17mm f/4L, TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, the TS-E 45mm f/2.8 and the TS-E 90mm f/2.8. The original TS-E 24mm f/3.5L is also still in the market even if it's not made by Canon anymore. What makes TS-E lenses special is the range of movements of the lens assembly relative to the focal plane. Unsurprisingly the Canon lenses offer tilt and shift movements as their name would suggest.

First why the designation TS-E? Other Canon lenses for EOS cameras are EF or EF-S, but these special tilt shift lenses are not auto focus lenses so the EF or Electro Focus designation doesn't fit.

Since the movement of the tilt and the shift have different effects on the images we'll cover each of the two kinds of image results in isolation to make it clear, though the combination of the two is most powerful. For this article we'll look at shift, and use the video modes of the latest EOS digital SLRs to make the effect totally understandable. Tilt will be covered in a future article.

Shifting the lens on an EOS video capbable DSLR from Blab pictures on Vimeo.

In this video above the TS-E 45mm f/2.8 is fitted to our camera and the lens shifted parallel to the sensor all the way to the top limit of it's movement. Then in the first part of the video it's shifted down to the centre stop where a small indentation let's you know you've reached the centre of the movement, and in effect at this point the lens becomes a normal 45mm lens. Second part continues the movement of the lens from the centre to the lower limit. Watch how the trees in the video keep upright and how the video shows that the relatively small range of movements can change what is in the picture by so much. Use a hotshoe mounted spirit level to make sure the camera is level during the shoot to keep the trees upright. Sure you could try and frame the scene by tilting the camera, back to get the tops of the trees in, but then the trees will start to look smaller to the top and bigger to the bottom. This shift is like moving the camera up or down, and not just by a few millimetres.

TS-E lenses offer the ability to rotate the tilt and shift planes relative to the camera. This makes the seemingly impossible pictures possible. For example if you need to take a picture of a person who is stood in front of a mirror then you can shift the lens sideways and take the picture, the photographer will be simply out of the frame and importantly not showing in the mirror! Widely thought to be only useful for architecture, interiors and technical imagery the TS-E lenses offer amazing possibilities for creative photographers.

For more reading then check some of these links to the Scheimpflug principle,and an article on the TS-E 45mm lens on CPN. If you want to see the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II 'dance' then check out the bottom of this preview article at dpreview.


14 May 2009

A star in the range - EF135mm f/2L USM

For such a great lens, it's amazing it is not more widely owned. Often seen as a candid portrait lens, the EF135mm f/2L USM is about more than just catching people when they're not aware.

If optical quality is what you're after, then it doesn't get much better than this. It is sharp. Tack sharp, pin sharp, razor sharp, whatever you want to call it, it's it.

It is also fast, both to focus and in terms of aperture. The f/2 allows you to shoot in low light and control depth of field like nothing else. You can separate the subject from the background and get fantastic bokeh at the same time.

It's also light and compact making it easy to carry. If you shoot portraits or low light, you really shouldn't leave home without it.

As if that wasn't enough, it takes an Extender too - 189mm f/2.8 or 270mm f/4 anyone? Yes, it really is a versatile piece of glass. Does it have a downside? Well, it'd be nice if it had an Image Stabiliser but you can't have everything. Otherwise this lens is pretty much perfect.

It has one other use too, one that's a little less important photographically, but useful none-the-less. Since it's quite an uncommon lens to see and not the first lens people think of when buying new glass, it's a good way to pick if someone follows the crowds or not. I tend to find, if I see someone with a 135 f/2, they probably have a good idea of what they're doing - you might even call it a connoisseur's choice!

If you've never shot with one of these lenses, go out and give it a try - find someone who has it, beg, borrow or steal it and prepare to be amazed at how this seemingly forgotten L lens can open up so many opportunities for you.


13 May 2009


I was teaching the other day and the subject of reflectors came up. I'm not sure how but we ended up exploring the difference between a reflector and a diffuser. Now, while most people can understand what a reflector might do, the idea of using a diffuser between the subject and the sun is a little harder to understand, so I thought it best to demonstrate using two pictures....


The first image is direct sunlight falling onto the flower head. The second image has a diffuser between the flower and the sun casting a big shadow. Which do you prefer?


If you're struggling with the concept of reflectors and diffusers, here's a simple way to remember what does what:
Reflectors work to reduce shadows, diffusers work to reduce highlights.


12 May 2009

What's your 'day off' camera?

Enthusiasts and professionals alike, photography becomes a passion that seems to fill much of the waking hours, and for those bitten by the bug really hard then it may fill your dreams too. Today we're looking at the cameras you use on your day off.

If the big bag full of EOS-1 and EOS 5D cameras is your work kit, what would you have to have in a 'day off' camera? Probably you'd want some form of control over main photographic controls like aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc. Do you need RAW? Recently Canon Ambassador and wedding photography superstar Jeff Ascough has been taking his PowerShot G10 out on his days off and producing some great work. Jeff's been bitten by the landscape of the Northwest and is getting some great results. In a recent blog post with some stunning landscape images Jeff wrote that the PowerShot G10 has become his main camera for personal work, pretty neat endorsement for an EOS 5D Mark II advocate.

For many photographers the camera they keep in their hand is often an iphone these days and they seem to take delight in the technological restriction of a fully automatic camera with few manual controls. Probably the complete freedom - or should that be isolation - from the technology of taking the picture is good for the creative juices to see pictures. A popular example is someone like Chase Jarvis who is posting a lot of his daily iphone pictures on facebook.

Here at blabpictures the 'day off' camera varies from the standard iphone to the PowerShot G10 and for ultra compact options then an old Digital IXUS 80 for when we need simple, small and easy to deal with pictures; 8MP JPEGs oh joy!

What's your ideal or current 'day off' camera?


9 May 2009

Focus distance limit switches on lenses

Some of the Canon lenses feature a little slide switch to let you restrict the range of focus distances the lens will operate over, but why? 

With the longer focal length lenses there's often quite narrow depth of field and also quite a large range of movement for the optics to cover from the closest focus distance out to infinity. If your subjects easily fall in to the range covered by a lens restricted limit switches then you get a much faster focus shift from minimum to maximum subject distance as the focus assembly only moves a small set of it's possible range. There are quite a lot of lenses in the range with focus limit switches including the EF100mm f/2.8 MACRO USM, EF135mm f/2L USM, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM. In fact most L series lenses with focal lengths longer than 100mm have focus limit switches. In the case of a mega lens like the Ef800mm f/5.6L IS USM there's three positions for the limiter including the full 6 metre close focus to infinity range!

Coming back to something more normal the popular EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM has focus limit ranges 1.2m to infinity and 3m to infinity. So if you are shooting say motorsport and are over 3m from the track boundary choose the restricted range of focus, the lens will move from the new 3m minimum focus to infinity much faster than it would from 1.2m to infinity. This makes the AF seem more snappy when you pick up a camera and the initial focus is way off. There's just less time spent hunting for the subject while the lens racks in and out from minimum to maximum focus distances.


8 May 2009

Photographing butterflies

It's that time of year when butterflies are starting to appear and thoughts turn to how best to capture them 'on film'. For many people, the first thought is to turn to a macro lens - the EF100mm f/2.8 USM being a favourite. However, the reality is, unless your butterfly is very still - early morning for example - the 100mm lens is not really going to cut the mustard. More usefully, the EF180mm f/3.5L Macro USM lens will give you a greater working distance while still providing the magnification you're looking for.

However, for many the 180mm macro is a little out of budget for such a specialist item. A really good butterfly combination is to put together two tips we've previously the talked about on the site: The EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM and Extension tubes.

If you put these two togther, you can get closer than the 1.4m minimum focus distance of the lens would usually allow, and also increase the magnification - up to 0.42x (nearly half life size) with an EF25 II tube. This gives you the flexibility to zoom as well, and has the added advantage that when you use extension tubes, you can really blow out the background to keep the subject standing out.


7 May 2009

IS Modes

I wrote about Image Stabiliser lenses with movies just the other week as well as shutter speed choices to avoid camera shake, so I thought I'd follow it up with some advice on the Image Stabiliser modes found on Canon lenses.

Most of the IS lenses in the Canon range feature two IS modes, cunningly named Mode 1 and Mode 2. These two modes cause the IS system to work differently so you can choose the mode depending on what sort of shot you're taking. The question is, when do you use each setting?

Mode 1 - General shooting. This is the mode you will have the camera set to most of the time. The IS mechanism will try and remove camera shake in both the horizontal and vertical direction, to give a sharp image.

Mode 2 - Panning. If you are shooting moving subjects, then one technique you might choose to use is a slow shutter speed and panning with the subject. If you get it right, this creates and image with a sharp subject and blurred background. It's a very effective technique and is used widely in motorsport photography especially. If you decide to have a go at panning, then you should set the IS Mode to 2. This locks the IS mechanism in one direction so say you are panning from left to right, the IS mechanism will not try to compensate for the horizontal motion, instead concentrating only on any vertical fluctuations.


6 May 2009

sRGB or AdobeRGB colour space in camera

EOS camera menus offer a choice of sRGB and AdobeRGB colour spaces for images captured. Which should you choose and does it matter?

The colour spaces sRGB and AdobeRGB
sRGB is fine if you print your images directly from the camera to a connected printer, if you want to post images on web pages or email them to friends and relatives. Most computers will be able to display the images as expected.

AdobeRGB is often used by professional and advanced users as it offers a bigger range of colours compared to sRGB, particularly with more extended ranges of green, yellow and orange tones than the sRGB space. Red and blue tones are almost similar for the two spaces. The reason for the AdobeRGB space is often that it is a better space to match with CMYK printing processes, however if you share images with people who don't know how to manage their colour then they will often see flat washed out images lacking in contrast.

This comparison on the left shows the sRGB colour space inside the AdobeRGB colour space. The grey frame is the AdobeRGB space and the colour section it encloses is the sRGB one.

Which colour space you should use in camera is purely academic if you only shoot RAW images. Since the RAW image includes enough colour information to fill the AdobeRGB and sRGB colour spaces easily. Your processing in the RAW converter of choice will let you decide the colour space of your TIFF or JPEG images at the time of conversion from RAW. If you shoot JPEG images then your choice is made on the camera. 

Seeing the comparison of AdobeRGB and sRGB above many photographers will say, go for AdobeRGB every time, but is that really right? If you shoot landscapes and other subjects with lots of blue, green and yellow tones then it's quite likely that AdobeRGB would be helpful, but if you shoot portraits and need good skin tones then sRGB can be better for your images! The reason is that you have smaller steps of change in tones giving smoother gradation. If your images can be be fully covered by the sRGB space then it offers finer gradation. 

'Why do I get an underscore as the first character of my filenames?'. Photographers play with their camera settings, particularly with new cameras, and then the files they used to see as IMG_0001.JPG suddenly become _MG_0001.JPG, it's caused by changing the camera to AdobeRGB colour space. The reason is that some clever guys decided in the EXIF 2.1 specification to identify all AdobeRGB images from cameras with an underscore character as the first character of the filename.
I tend to shoot RAW most of the time and leave my cameras set to sRGB just to give me complete filenames, and also the preview thumbnail images are also easy to display as they are sRGB too. If you shoot RAW in AdobeRGB then your preview images will be AdobeRGB too.

A quick summary:
  • sRGB is the choice if your images are for printing by a mini-lab or kiosk, or you post them straight on the web or email them. This is the safest choice if you are not working in a colour managed environment.
  • AdobeRGB is the choice if you need the extended colour gamut and are working in a colour managed environment. Most modern consumer inkjets like the PIXMA range can print a lot of the colours in the AdobeRGB colour space if configured properly.
  • RAW shooters, make the choice in the post production and RAW processing stage depending on the image usage.
What's your choice?


5 May 2009

A star in the range - EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

The second part of our 'star in the range' series sees us looking at the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens. Those of you with this lens will know how good it is, those without can only wonder what all the fuss is about. The truth is, this lens really is quite remarkable. It offers full 1:1 (lifesize) reproduction without having to change the length of the lens when focusing, and the results are stunningly sharp. So sharp in fact, that a common question asked is "Why is it not an L-Series lens?" The answer is that it doesn't use some of the technology required to make it an L-Series model, however the optical performance is more than enough to justify it.

If there are any complaints leveled at this lens, it's that it is in fact too sharp in some situations. Portraits usually. This lens seems to resolve detail that you just don't see, meaning that in a portrait shoot (for which the 100mm focal length is actually very useful) you end up with lots of images that need retouching to remove skin blemishes you didn't know where there!

So, should you buy it? Well, if you want to get into macro photography, it is the obvious choice in the range. The MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro photo is too specialised and lacks the ability to focus at infinity, the EF50mm f/2.5 Macro only does shalf life size unles you add the life size adaptor and the EF180mm f/3.5L Macro USM is more designed for subjects that need a longer working distance - butterflies and dragonflies for example. The 100mm is the all-rounder. You can shoot insects with it as long as you're careful about what you're doing, you can get in close to flowers and fungi and you can use it for portraits and general photography.

Is there anything missing from this lens? Well, I wish they'd box it with a lens hood included and I'd like to have this lens with an image stabiliser fitted like the N!kon VR Macro lens. Other than that though, it's a stunning lens that anyone interested in macro photography should seriously consider.

Have you got one? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Would you buy it again if you had to?


4 May 2009

Bank holiday in UK

In the UK it's a public holiday meaning a long 3-day weekend and some time to spend taking pictures, so we'll give you a rest for today and be back tomorrow with more EOS Expertise.

If you have some interest in being a Tuesday 'tog in the coming weeks then please do get in touch via the comments. You can add a do not publish line in your comments and since we moderate all the comments we won't publish but it provides a way to contact you.


2 May 2009

My Menu - what do you use it for?

When Canon launched the EOS-1D Mark III they added a new menu to the tabbed arrangement. Called  My Menu it lets you put six of your most regularly accessed functions on a single personalised menu tab. Judging by the number of photographers we've seen who have never ventured in to this green tabbed menu it's time to write something to help you make use of it. If you have a camera that was launched after January 2007 then you have My Menu in your camera and this applies to you, so that's all the current models at least.

Locked up mirror
One thing that photographers who have shot Nikon in the past often ask is: Can you make mirror lock up easy to access? Maybe Nikon cameras suffer from more mirror induced shake than Canon ones, but never mind My Menu is the answer. Since Canon puts mirror lock up in the custom functions menu it's quite a combination of key presses to get there. But with My Menu you can register individual custom functions directly in the menu. 

Highlight alert
Another feature that some photographers use is the highlight alert display. Basically areas of the image that are near to complete burn out flash on the playback displays. This can be a real help if you're trying to get the exposure all the way to the right without burning out. However if you show pictures to models and people who just want to see how the shoot is going then it's best to turn this off, they don't need to see all these flashing bits of the frame where you intentionally pushed the exposure to the limit. Putting Highlight Alert in the My Menu let's you quickly change between the settings.

My Menu as the default
Normally when you press the menu button on the cameras they return to the same menu as you last accessed but My Menu can be set as the default menu to be shown each time you press the MENU button on the camera. This makes you six pre selected menu items available to you directly. It's great when you have the items set correctly on the My Menu for your way of working, but actually a pain in the neck if you are still working through getting your settings sorted out.

As a guide here's some of the things that often make the My Menu on our cameras
  • Format - as soon as I put a new card in the camera I need to format it, so this is often the top item on the My Menu
  • Highlight Alert - for precisely the reasons mentioned above this one often appears. However highlight alert function is only on EOS 40D or higher models.
  • Highlight Tone Priority - for wedding shooters and even landscape photographers this one can help keep detail in the highlights, but it's downside is more chance of blocking up in the shadows.
  • AF point selection method - For cameras with quick control dials on the back I often use this to move AF point selection to the rear control dial with EOS-1D models. Then I don't need to do so much focus lock and recompose. It works for me in studio shooting situations and also reportage type work. Subjects are less aware of you if you don't keep waving a camera around!
  • Flash control - since all these models with My Menu have the ability to control the flash settings of Speedlite 580EX II and Speedlite 430EX II from the camera menu I tend to leave this in the My Menu too if I'm doing a lot of work with flash. It's simple to switch it out if I need something else.

Did you know that My Menu items can be set from the EOS Utility software. Start EOS Utility with the camera connected and then choose the Camera settings / Remote shooting item. Once the remote shooting panel appears you will find a green tabbed item in the middle of the screen. Here is where you configure the My Menu for that camera. Clicking on the My Menu settings text will display the currently set My Menu items from your camera and give the ability to add new items, remove items and even re-order the items in the My Menu. It's all quite simple and can also be changed at the camera menu too.


1 May 2009

Filters... again!

So, you've taken our advice and stopped using filters on your lenses all the time for protection. But there's a problem. When you went to take the filter off one of your lenses, it was stuck and wouldn't budge. Panic, what do you do?

Well, worry ye not. It has happened before and it'll happen again. Fortunately, there are several ways to remove them.

The first one people turn to is a filter wrench. But it's a faff carrying one around with you and there are other solutions.

Next up, if the filter ring is made of brass, then putting the whole thing in the freezer can help - the brass and aluminium contract at different rates and the filter becomes unjammed. This works, but takes time and some people don't like putting their lens in the freezer.... although others happily shoot with their lenses in the arctic and suffer no ill effects.

Finally, our favourite method. An elastic band. Yep, you read it right. A good, strong elastic band is generally all you need to carry with you. Simply slip the elastic band over the filter ring and start turning. The rubber will give you more of a grip and you should be able to free even the most jammed filter. If not, then combining and elastic band and a freezer is almost guaranteed to do the trick.


30 April 2009

Battery grips and AA batteries for your EOS

EOS 50D with battery gripEOS 5D Mark II, EOS 5D, EOS 50D, EOS 40D, EOS 30D, EOS 20D, EOS 500D, EOS 450D, EOS 400D, EOS 350D and EOS 1000D all have the ability to be powered from AA batteries when you use the Canon battery grips. The battery grips for these models come with a battery magazine that can be used with six AA batteries but AA batteries are not all equal. With battery grips costing about the same as a couple of Canon original batteries you might be tempted to try a battery grip and AA batteries instead of a pair of Canon batteries.

In practical trials of many of the listed cameras, using AA batteries is to be thought of as a 'get out of jail free card' rather than an everyday solution. If you forgot to charge your Canon batteries and need to shoot now, then the AA route can be a life saver. However AA batteries seem to only power the cameras for a very limited number of shots before their voltage drops and the dreaded low battery indicator and warning on the LCD show. There is some hope if you choose the AA battery route and that is Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries. For some cameras they can provide longer shooting than a pair of Canon batteries in our trials, but they are not a cheap option.


29 April 2009

Err 99

If you've never had an Error 99 failure, you're a lucky person. Error 99 seems to crop up now and again on pretty much all the camera models and if you've never seen it before, it can be quite daunting as it locks the camera out and stops you being able to do anything.

What causes it is more of a problem to diagnose though. Error 99 is basically a catch-all term. Think of it like the camera telling you that something is wrong, but it's not sure what it might be. Unlike the other error codes, of which the are about a dozen, the camera doesn't give too much guidance.

So how do you clear it, and what are the potential causes? In the first instance, turn off the camera, remove the memory card, battery and lens. With the lens off, take a look at the contacts and see if they're a bit grubby and need a clean (if they do, use a pencil eraser to rub them gently). With that done, put it all back together again and the camera should come back to life.

If you see an Err 99 once, it's not a cause to worry. If you start seeing it regularly, then you should seriously consider getting the camera into your nearest service centre as it will be pointing to an underlying problem that needs solving.

As we pointed out in this post on the EOS-1 Series Mark III firmware updates they now have a bit more information included and in fact, you're less likely to see Err 99 anyway.

So, how many of you have seen Err 99? Was it a one off or did it recur? Did you get it solved or is it ongoing?


28 April 2009

A star in the range - EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

What, no Tuesday 'tog? Yes, it it is Tuesday, no, you're calendar is not wrong and no, there is no Tuesday 'tog today. Don't worry, there'll be one next week, we just thought we'd give it a break for a week while we take stock of where the blog is going and what it's going to do.

So this week, this is the start of a new mini-series picking out some of our favourite lenses in the Canon range. Some may be familiar to you, some maybe not, but all of them are lenses we've used and found to be cracking. First up this week is the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens. Now this lens is a great favourite of ours and is in fact well like by many photographers. Sadly though, it is often overlooked in favour of the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM in the belief that that f/2.8 lens is better.
Well, for all those that bought f/2.8 lenses - sorry! The f/4 lens is actually as good or better than the f/2.8 lens at any aperture. It's a much newer optical design and hence improvements have been made.

When looking at lenses, there are four things you're likely to consider:
Image Stabiliser

If we take the optics first, as we said above the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM more than holds its own.
Image Stabiliser: f/2.8 = 3 stops, f/4 = 4 stops
Weight: f/2.8 = 1470g, f/4 = 760g
Price: f/2.8 = c.£1550, f/4 = c.£980

To make it simpler, you get better hand-holding ability, a weight saving of 710g (that's nearly half the weight) and a cost saving of about £570. Pretty clear cut isn't it?!

So, with the optic quality being equal and everything else being better on the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens, you may wonder why people still buy the f/2.8 lens. Well, the answer is simple - they shoot in low light or they use extenders. With extenders of in low light conditions, the f/2.8 lens is still king becasue it focuses better and keeps a larger maximum aperture. If you fit a 1.4x Extender the max perture drops by 1 stop taking the f/2.8 lens to f/4 and the f/4 lens to f/5.6 In bright light, this doesn't make too much difference, but once the light levels drop, having an aperture a stop wider can help with focusing.... not exposure though. Let's be clear on this = most people still have the film or early digital mindset. In other words "I can't take the ISO over 400 or I'll see noise". If you're shooting on one of the latest cameras, this doesn't matter. You can up the ISO further, still avoid undue image noise, and effectively counter the exposure loss of one stop.

For all those that do have the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens and are thinking you'd be better off with the f/4L IS version - don't worry. If your lens is in good condition, you should be able to sell it second-hand for more than the cost of a new f/4L IS lens. Just don't send any prospective purchaser to this page first!


27 April 2009

Please stop the ****in beeping!

Having been to a church wedding this weekend I have a top tip. For all of the photographers who are 'doing a bit of wedding work' to help make ends meet, a church marriage service is not the place for a beeping camera.

All the EOS cameras come from the factory with the beeps enabled as a default, to turn the beep off you need to go to the first menu tab and find the selection for BEEP and turn it off. Alternatively if you use back button focus then keep the camera in AI Servo AF and it won't beep either.

Maybe I'm just tuned to it, but the beeps of the wedding togs camera sure distracted me enough to notice he'd got a new EOS 5D Mark II and some EOS 5D cameras and only the new EOS 5D Mark II was beeping.


25 April 2009

Lens hoods and filters

Hands up those that keep filters on the front of their lenses for protection.

Now, those with your hands in the air (it's ok, you can put them down now) do you use the best filters you can buy? You know, the Canon range or the Hoya Pro 1 Digital etc?

No? You use the ordinary ones from the corner shop?

Shame on you. Let me put it to you simply. A filter creates another air-glass interface and increases the risk of light scatter, reduced light transmission, flare, ghosting, aberrations etc. If you don't use the best filters you can buy, you may as well give up on the expensive glass habit you have and buy cheap milkbottle lenses for all the good you're getting out of your L-Series ones.

More to the point though, what protection is a filter on the front of the lens going to give? Honestly, if you drop it, two things will happen. The filter will break, thereby scratching the front element anyway, and the filter mount will deform leaving you with a broken filter jammed to the front of your lens. Great scenario!

In my opinion, there are only a couple of occasions when using a filter on the front of the lens is acceptable. 1. On a beach or dune with wind-blown sand. 2. In a rain storm with driving rain. 3. When the lens is pointing out of a fast moving vehicle in the direction of travel.
Notice anything about these scenarios? They all involve the possibility of wind-borne objects hitting the front lens element. At all other times, your better off without.

If you really want to protect the front lens element, get a lens hood. Lens hoods should be bought with lenses as standard. In fact, we wish Canon would start bundling them with all the lenses, not just the L-Series.
The lens hood, while not as effective against wind-borne objects, is effective against dropping the lens (it acts like a crumple zone), fingers getting the front of the lens accidentally, and most importantly, lens flare. Using a lens hood should be a matter of course. It will improve contrast in your images, reduce flare and ghosting and give you that piece of mind that for most situations, the front of your lens is well protected.


24 April 2009

Does sharpening add up in DPP?

Recently the world famous camera store in New York known as B&H has made available a really interesting video of a seminar presented by Erik Allin from Canon USA. The seminars are all about the Canon software. If you want to find no better use for the best part of two hours it's worth a watch. Even better is that the section with the demonstration of techniques in the Canon Digital Photo Professional software are covered in probably some of the most depth ever seen in the wild. Check out video 2 of 3 and 3 of 3 particularly. Big thanks for that Erik and B&H

However on the topic of sharpening we'd like to dispute the claims made in the video that you can choose to do sharpening in either the RAW or RGB tabs of DPPs tool palette. In our quick test the two sharpening sliders are cumulative. So set +10 sharpening in the RAW tab and then set +500 sharpening in the RGB tab. We found that with both sets of sharpening set to the max then it's more sharpened than when either of them individually is set to the maximum. 

These images are screenshots from DPP edit image window and are in split screen mode at 100% view.

RAW +10 sharpening, RGB 0 sharpening
RAW +10 sharpening, RGB +500 sharpening
RAW 0 sharpening, RGB +500 sharpening
To me it seems that the RAW sharpening is applied to the RAW data and then additional sharpening on the RGB data is applied, one small contradiction in an otherwise great presentation.

So to answer the title question, RAW sharpening in DPP does add up.


23 April 2009

Firmware update for EOS 50D, EOS 450D and EOS 1000D

EOS 50D, EOS 450D & EOS 1000D firmware updates
Canon has made new firmware updates available from it's website for the EOS 50D, 450D (Rebel XSi) and 1000D (Rebel XS). The changed functionality is listed below for each of the cameras.

  • Reduces vertical banding noise that can appear in images shot in SRAW1 image sizes
  • Adds additional details to error messages with more specific errors rather then the often generic Err 99 that people have seen
  • Adds support for the focus assist beam feature of the new Speedlite 270EX that was announced with the EOS 500D earlier in March
EOS 50D cameras have been reported in the market with firmware version 1.0.5 direct from the factory. This now seems to have been an interim version, maybe the same as 1.06 but without the AF assist beam support for the Speedlite 270EX?? If your camera is running the older firmwares then time for an update. The banding in SRWAW1 images was also addressed for the EOS 5D Mark II earlier in firmware version 1.0.7 back in January.

  • Adds support for the focus assist beam feature of the new Speedlite 270EX that was announced with the EOS 500D earlier in March.

  • Adds support for the focus assist beam feature of the new Speedlite 270EX that was announced with the EOS 500D earlier in March.

Top tips for hassle free firmware update;
  • use a fully charged battery in the camera
  • use a small memory card to load the firmware update on
  • take your lens off the camera before doing the update
Have you tried the new firmware and for the EOS 50D does it fix any problems you have had?


22 April 2009

How many awards is enough?

Well, it seems if you're Canon, then there's no such thing as too many awards. Here at blab, we love Canon products, and we know that you guys and girls do, so it's nice to see the industry agrees with us - if only because it means a lot of people that know what they're talking about think you made the right purchasing decision as well! So, with 5 awards in the bag, Canon are rightly feeling rather happy about it - enough that they felt it good to put out a press release!

It seems the EOS 5D Mark II picked up best D-SLR Expert, the PowerShot G10 got best Expert Compact, the TS-E17mm f/4L got best Professional lens, the new PIXMA Pro 9500 II got best Expert photo printer and the Legeria HF S10 got best Expert HD camcorder. Well done Canon!

Press release:
United Kingdom / Republic of Ireland, 20 April 2009: Canon today announced that it has won five awards from the prestigious Technical Image Press Association (TIPA) – Europe’s leading photo and imaging press association.

The TIPA voting panel, which meets annually to select the best photo and imaging products of the year, selected the Canon EOS 5D Mark II as “Best D-SLR Expert in 2009”, the Canon PowerShot G10 as the “Best Expert Compact in 2009” and the “Best Professional Lens in 2009” award went to the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L. Additionally, the Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II won “Best Expert Photo Printer in 2009” and the Canon LEGRIA HF S10 took the “Best Expert HD Camcorder in 2009” prize.

“Winning 5 TIPA awards, as well as exceeding last year’s success, is an outstanding achievement for Canon and confirms our leadership in the imaging market,” said Rainer Fuehres, Head of Canon Consumer Imaging, Canon Europe. “To be presented with these awards, from an independent body as prestigious as TIPA, is an important accolade and recognises our commitment to and passion for the power of image.”

Best D-SLR Expert in 2009: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon’s full frame, 21.1 megapixel EOS 5D Mark II is the first EOS with full High Definition video capability that captures amazing quality footage. TIPA’s panel of judges summarised the camera as: “Fast, reliable and discreet, this ‘expert’ D-SLR challenges in quality the best pro models.” Although compact and lightweight, the EOS 5D Mark II’s newly designed and improved Canon full frame CMOS sensor, along with the DIGIC 4 processor, delivers image quality at 3.9 frames per second.

Best Expert Compact in 2009: Canon PowerShot G10
The PowerShot G10 is Canon’s flagship PowerShot compact digital camera and the first G-series camera to offer wide-angle imaging via a 5x (28mm) zoom with optical Image Stabilizer. TIPA’s panel of judges commented that the PowerShot G10 “… is very well built, and its grip ensures good stability.”

The PowerShot G10 is perfect for shooting sharp, blur-free shots of landscapes, architecture or interiors. It includes a 14.7 Megapixel sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 4 image processor ensures exacting image quality.

Best Professional Lens in 2009: Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L
The tilt and shift Ultra-Wide angle TS-E 17mm f/4L has the widest view angle of any tilt and shift lens on the market and the TIPA judges were impressed with its outstanding image quality: “The Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L is the professional choice for architectural or landscape photography.”

Best Expert Photo Printer in 2009: Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II
The TIPA panel were impressed with the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II, as it enables gallery-quality imaging: “(it) uses a 10-colour pigment based single ink system, including matte black and photo black. This allows photographers to print on gloss and matte media with exceptional colour accuracy and gamut, without the need for swapping ink tanks.” The addition of 16-bits per channel print capability offers exceptionally smooth tonal gradations in both colour and monochrome photo prints of up to A3+ or 14” wide.

Best Expert HD Camcorder in 2009: Canon LEGRIA HF S10
Suited to high-end consumers, the next generation High Definition (HD)flash memory camcorder features an extensive set of professional-level controls and features which proved a hit with the TIPA judges: “The LEGRIA HF S10 uses a combination of 8.0MP Full HD CMOS sensor, Canon HD Video Lens with 10x optical zoom, and the DIGIC DV III processor, to produce video of exceptional quality.”


21 April 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - John Lester

This weeks 'tog is landscape and nature photographer John Lester.

BLAB: Jumping straight in to the important question, what colour would your Ferrari be?

JL: I'd love to give the geek answer of 18% grey so I've got the coolest grey-card around, but I'd go for metallic Black. I understand the purists' point about red ones, but show some individuality! Besides, the sunset looks amazing reflected in a shiny black car.

BLAB: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

JL: If I was to summarise my photography in just one area, it would be Landscape / Nature photography, but I enjoy other areas as well and am always looking for new projects and experiments.

My interest in photography started in 1988 when I was 10 and my parents bought me a Canon Sureshot point-and-click film camera for my birthday. It went everywhere with me and despite not having a zoom, I managed to get some pretty good nature shots - sneaking up on butterflies, grasshoppers etc. About 6 years later, I took my first shots with an SLR - a 3 frame panorama of Mount St. Helens (post eruption) using a manual Pentax SLR. I still have the pictures framed on my bedroom wall now.

On the strength of my little Sureshot, I decided Canon was the way to go so I saved up and bought a second hand EOS 1000F which I proceeded to improve my photography with. Purchasing various lenses and accessories gave me the opportunity to properly experiment with aperture, shutter speed, filters etc. I was fortunate to have a family who took me all over the world so saw wonderful things you can't get in the UK. I was also lucky to be egged on by a neighbour and now very good friend, Dr. John Davis, who has toted everything from Sony Cybershots to Leica SLRs and is currently using a Leica Range-finder as his main toy.

At University, I did the photography for one of the Sports Club Balls and sold prints from the event - that meant learning how to use, process and develop black and white film and prints. I spent DAYS in the dark room playing with settings. It was by no means profitable for me and in honesty was not hugely successful, but the money helped toward my EOS 5 which to date is my best camera.

In 2004 I went digital and bought an EOS 300D which still serves me well and nearly all my website pictures were taken with it. Despite going digital, I still believe that the skill of Photography lies in the camera and not in Photoshop. I make small adjustments to my images such as cropping and brightness, but nothing you couldn't do easily in a dark-room. I'm not knocking the Photoshop gurus out there but for me that's Digital Art rather than Photography.

I use Aperture on my Mac Pro for all my photo work. I've been a Mac addict since about 1985 and wouldn't dream of using anything else. My MacBook Pro comes with me on photo trips longer than one day and proves an invaluable tool for generating interest in what I'm up to.

I have no plans to be a full time professional photographer as I'm scared of turning my favourite hobby into a chore, but I am working toward selling a few prints / doing a few shoots to hopefully get my photography to pay for itself and maybe buy me the occasional bottle of winjavascript:void(0)e.

I put some pictures on my website, http://www.jalphoto.co.uk a few years back and really must update the site properly, it needs an overhaul so please do visit me, but also check back soon for an updated look at my work.

Right now, I'm doing some photography work with a friend of mine,James Corrin. He is teaching me how to do model shoots and I'm going to help him with his landscape work.

I've recently been made redundant from a small IT reseller so I'm using this time to work on things I don't get time to do whilst I look for a new job. If anyone works at Apple or needs an IT hardware sales guy....

BLAB: Back to the regular blab questions: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?

JL: Oooh toys!

  • Canon 5D mkII with 24-105mm F4 L IS (£2900) - This will be my next kit purchase as I've been dribbling over full frame since the original 5D was launched. I love wide-angle landscape work and the 16-35mm L lens I have is awesome, but just not wide enough on a crop sensor... I'm also looking forward to playing with HD video, but suspect that will be a minor part of the camera's use. The 24-105mm lens gives me something good for general purpose work with a very useful zoom range.
  • Apple 30" Cinema display (£1200). I have an Apple 20" Studio display now, but more pixels are required for playing with a 21MP camera.
  • Colour calibration kit (£100). I would like to be a little more accurate with my output. My Canon PIXMA printer is brilliant but is not colour accurate with my screen and that bugs me.
  • A handful of Sandisk Extreme IV flash cards (£500)
  • Canon EF 14mm f2.8 L lens (£1900). As I said already, I love wide angle landscape work.
  • Canon TS-E 45mm Tilt Shift Lens (£1100). I have no idea how these work but the results fascinate me so I'd love to play with one, especially on someone else's money :)
  • Three Speedlight 580 EXII Flash (£1000). Slave flash-lit work is another area I'd love to play in
  • Canon MR-14EX Macrolight ringflash (£450). I've got the Canon 100mm Macro which is probably my favourite lens, a Ring Flash would be very useful for me.
  • Two Elinchrom Freelight Ranger portable flash (£900). I want to get more into people photography, but want to combine this with my landscape work, so portable lights would make the list too.
BLAB: Sounds like that list is pretty well planned out, but which of your images means the most to you and why?

JL: This was taken beside Spirit Lake in Jasper National Park, Canada back in 2004. I love doing landscape photography and the wilds of Canada are just so perfect a playground. This trip was one of the last family holidays we took before my Dad died. He was a huge fan of the outdoors and this shot wraps up the awe and majesty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

As much as I hate to admit it, the location of this shot was luck more than judgement. We'd spent all day at the lake further up the valley with mostly cloud-laden skies and cool weather (even in August it's cold up there - it's only 3 months from snow melt to snow fall). We were just leaving for home when I saw this view in the wing mirror of the car. The sun had just broken onto the mountain in the foreground. I stopped sharpish and piled out of the car leaving my confused family wondering what had happened. The image is Canon's JPEG (I wasn't shooting RAW then as the camera was 2 weeks old and I didn't know what it meant) but otherwise untouched. The sky was that moody, the water that still. I was very lucky - I took just one exposure and got back in the car. Fortunately it worked.

BLAB: What would your dream photo opportunity be?

JL: I've got two - one that will never happen and one that I hope will.

My Dad was a Botanist and in 1995/96 was applying for budget to create a Flora of Yemen. If he'd managed to secure this, then I was offered the role of official photographer and would have spent 3 months trekking through the wilds of Yemen with a new macro lens and EOS 5 film camera and more film than I knew what to do with.

The opportunity I can still do (and am determined to one day) is to hit Fall in the maple forests of Eastern USA / Canada. This has to be one of the most spectacular events and presents so many photo opportunities.

BLAB: Pictures.... please?

This was taken at midnight by Chun Quoit in Cornwall. I'd set out to take star-trail pictures by the Quoit but had not understood what thin cloud and a full moon would do to my exposures. 5 minutes looked like daytime. Green grass, blue skies, SHADOWS!!. I changed tack and worked on this picture which I like as it shows the undisturbed ancient-ness of Cornwall but with the modern world close at hand. The Quoit itself is "painted" with a standard torch to bring it out.

I took this picture with my newly purchased 100mm Macro lens. It's of some old winch gear in Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Rusted metal has a fascination for me - I think it's something to do with the colour and the fact that it's been abandoned.

I was in Slovakia on a 10 day photo holiday touring the countryside. Near the end of our trip we'd stopped in a tiny medieval town called Spisska Sobota near Poprad. I saw these Houseleeks growing in roof at eye-level and the lighting was perfect.

Taken in Trengwainton Gardens, Cornwall. It had been raining all day and with a very low, flat light there wasn't much jumping out at me. I found these flowers with water droplets on quite fascinating and took this hand-held, naturally lit shot. For me it shows the brutal sharpness and background blur of the Canon Macro lens

BLAB: Thanks to John for being this week's 'tog on Tuesday, if you want to be here in the future comment on one of the Tuesday tog posts with some contact info and we'll be in touch. Your contact details won't be published since we moderate all blog comments.


20 April 2009

Movies and IS - the examples

Well on Saturday, I promised you some example videos showing what IS does when you're using long telephoto lenses with the camera mounted on a tripod. Something I didn't say on Saturday was that this doesn't only appear in movies - if you're using Live View to compose or focus, you'll also see the image moving slightly. However, the benefits of IS if you're shooting stills are great enough to mean we'd suggest leaving IS on - The ability to manual focus with a more steady viewfinder being one of the main reasons.

So, on with the movies. What you'll notice is that in the first 10seconds, the image seems to move around and you can hear the IS motor spinning. In the second clip (after the cut) is that the image is stable and there is no IS sound.

EOS 5D Mark II Movie with IS on long telephoto lenses from Blab pictures on Vimeo.


18 April 2009

Filming, tripods, long lenses and IS

We're all aware that IS is a wonderful invention whether you're shooting stills or video. However, there is one caveat to that - when using a tripod.
Most of the recent IS lenses don't require you to turn off the IS when you mount the camera on the tripod, however in our experience, if you're pretty certain the setup is stable, then turn it off otherwise you'll end up with slightly blurry images as the shutter speed drops.
For filming, you don't end up with blurry images. From our experience, we've seen that with longer lenses when filming from a tripod, you don't so much get blurry images, as motion in the images - in other words the image seems to drift back and forth as the IS spins but there is nothing to correct. Essentially the IS elements that move to counteract are creating a movement that isn't there. To avoid this, simply turn the IS off when you put a big lens on a tripod and plan to do some filming.
Look out for a post early next week where I'll put up two video clips, one with IS on and one with IS off to show the effect...


17 April 2009

Slave Speedlite tips

430EXIIWhen using the Canon wireless flash system people work in one of two incompatible ways. They put the slaves in manual and set the power on the slaves individually, or they leave the slaves in E-TTL and then use either manual or E-TTL II on the master flash.

If you set the power of the slaves individually in true pure 'strobist' style then you have precise control and can in effect have more than the standard 3 groups of flashes. One flash at 1/128, one at 1/32, one at 1/4 and another at 1/2 power is all possible. Indeed this is the only way to work if you need this level of difference in power outputs. Problem is that to change the power levels you need to go round to each individual slave and make the change.

If you leave the slaves in E-TTL and assign them to the groups A, B and C; then from the on camera master flash such as the Speedlite 550EX, 580EX or 580EX II you determine the settings of each of the flashes in the slave groups. The only important thing is to note or remember which slave is in which group. For ease if you put A slaves to camera left, B slaves to camera right and the C as a background or hair light you don't go far wrong. You can have more than one slave in the same group if needed. 
Put the master flash in manual and then you can set the power level of each A, B and C group of slaves from the master. Leave the master in E-TTL II and use the ratio controls to balance A:B and the flash exposure compensation to adjust the strength of group C. 

In this second approach with the slaves assigned groups and left in E-TTL it makes it possible for a group of photographers to work in either style. The all manual strobist photographer can set the power output for his shots by adapting the power on his master flash, and other photographers can use E-TTL II with ratio control for theirs. Just recently on a model shoot outside we tried exactly this setup, and everyone got the results they needed. The slaves simply take the information from the master that communicated with them last and do what they are told switching from manual power outputs to E-TTL II outputs and even high speed sync as necessary.


16 April 2009

An anecdote from experience

There it goes. My fourth TC-80N3 remote control. It's gone to the great camera gear heaven. At around £100 a pop, it's not cheap to keep killing them, but that's my fourth one gone. And would you believe it, I've killed all four of them in the same way - lowering the tripod while shooting water and forgetting the TC is hanging below. Yep, that's right, I've drowned them. This time was even fresh water and I dried it immediately, but no matter, it's dead.

So what's the story here? Firstly, when working around water keep an eye not just on your camera, but also anything you may have with you.... the 80cm cable is great for triggering the camera remotely, but easily long enough to drop the release into the water. Secondly, maybe it's time to look at ways of keeping water out for when I feel stupid again and accidentally dunk it in the water again. My number one choice currently, as weird as it may look, is a 'phone condom'. Yes, you read that right. Some genius came up with the idea of making condom type things for mobile phones, and I reckon one will be just the job for keeping water out of the TC-80N3.
I've got a couple here and I'm going to give them a try. While they're not going to be able to seal the top end, I think a bit of tape around the cable should be enough for the couple of seconds that I usually submerge them for!

Anyone else killed one of these or have any thoughts on how to keep them dry? Anyone that suggests 'not dipping them in the water' will be berated forcibly! :-)


15 April 2009

Closer than the minimum focus distance

Extension tubeDo you ever hit the 'subject too close' limit with longer lenses? Wouldn't it be great if that 70-200mm lens with it's 1.2m closest focussing distance could be used even closer sometimes?

The EF12 II and EF 25 II extension tubes move the closest focus point of your lens even closer. Macro photography with an EF 500mm f/4L IS USM anyone?

Extension tubes are tools that some photographers see as only for macro work, but you can use them with a lot of lenses not just macro ones. Moving the rear of a lens further away from the sensor means that it will focus the light from closer subject distances than it can do normally, the downside - you can't focus on infinity anymore.

Some years ago Canon used to show a video with wildlife photographer greg Basco shooting snakes in trees using an EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens with an extension tube on the back allowing much closer focussing.

In the past I've found the extension tube a neat solution to the problem of shooting through glass at zoos. In some cases you need to have the lens right up against the glass to reduce the reflection, but then the subject is too close for the minimum focus on the lens. Put on the extension tube and the problem is solved.
These two shots were taken with an EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens at it's minimum focus distance, the first with the lens only, the second with an EF 12 II extension tube fitted between lens and camera.

200mm close focus 200mm close focus with 12mm extension tube

You can now focus at distances less than 1 metre from the subject but maximum subject distance becomes just less than 5 metres with the lens set to infinity.

When Canon introduced EF-S lenses with the EOS 300D it changed the extension tubes so that they could be used with EF-S lenses as well as EF lenses. This makes it possible to use an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens as a macro lens on an EOS-1Ds Mark III, but the subject distance is very short. Some wide-angle lenses aren't compatible with extension tubes as the point of focus moves to a point inside the lens itself.
For the technical or the inquisitive readers you can also combine extenders like EF 1.4x II or EF 2x II with extension tubes for even more magnification.
Extension tubes may make the automatic peripheral illumination correction available in DIGIC 4 cameras insufficient, and likely it will render flash distance information wrongly too.


14 April 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Clare Robinson

Today's featured 'tog is Clare Robinson a photographer and sometimes model.

BLAB: Please tell us a bit about yourself

CR: I started taking photos on a small red plastic camera that I bought for £5 at a Blue Peter Bring and Buy sale held at our house many years ago! Over the last 6 years I've been taking photos with whatever camera I've been able to get my hands on- from my Canon Powershot point-and-shoot to my 400D that my other half bought me for a rather special birthday/christmas present!

I have a lot of friends who are photographers, which interested me to try amateur modelling to help them with portfolio work. Eventually I found the modelling wasn't really my bag- being a bit of a tomboy, I wasn't used to allocating time for curling my hair, painting my nails and all those kind of things! I was however, pretty interested in trying it from the other side of the camera. Thanks to many of my photographer buddies, I got to have a little experiment playing with their cameras and equipment, and found that although my technical knowledge was almost non-existant, I wasn't terrible at shooting models. Since then, I have shot a number of local models -in studios, on location and in my makeshift studio in the dining room- and am thoroughly enjoying the new challenges that it brings me! I think my experience on both sides of the camera is extremely useful when putting models at ease- but it also ensures I have realistic expectations from my model shoots. I intersperse shooting models with some self portrait work with varying degrees of success!

I'm the first to admit that if it wasn't for digital cameras, I would not be a “photographer”- though many may argue that unless you understand the processes and can shoot on film that you're not really a photographer! I still struggle with technicalities, but I enjoy creating beautiful and interesting images of people, places, things and experiences- and I am learning so much as I go along.

BLAB: In keeping with our usual style, here's a few questions we put to Clare.

What colour would your Ferrari be?
CR: I'm afraid I just wouldn't have one! I'm a bit of a hippy environmentalist type, and I can't imagine anything more ridiculous than the idea of spending £200,000 on a car! Having said that it, if I had to have one, it would be in an embarassing or ridiculous colour like lime green (do they DO green ferraris?) or orange to match my folding bike!

What's your best bit of advice for a new photographer?
CR: I think it would be just to keep taking photos, to experiment and be self critical in a constructive way. Most of my photography is self taught- with advice from friends stuck in there along the way. Inspired by a friend, I challenged myself to do a 365 photographs project- which I started with my point and shoot Canon Powershot A530. It ran over about 15 months (not the 365 days straight that I envisaged) and really made me work to find something of interest or beauty in my everyday life. It also taught me how to select my better pictures and take critique- and I would highly recommend it as a way to really start taking photos.

If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?
CR: I'd probably just catch myself up the the level of every other photographer on the planet! I shoot with a 400D, using either the kit lens or a Tamron 28-105mm that was given to me by a friend. I like to keep things basic and to be resourceful when shooting- a lot of my self portrait work has been done balancing the camera on a tower of books, and lit using desk lamps! I have recently bought myself a few extra bits and bobs, but on the whole I don't have a lot of spare cash to spend on camera gear. I'd love a really decent macro lens- my interest often lies in the detail of an image- especially finding an obscure or perfect pattern in an unexpected place. I'd also make sure I had a great portrait lens, some flash units and a proper set of studio lights with all the accessories!

Which of your images means the most to you and why?
CR: This is a really hard question that I've been pushing myself to try to answer! Although not necessarily my “best” image, day 19 of my photography project means a lot to me! It was taken on the first foreign holiday I took with my (now) fiancee, and we went to such beautiful places across Brittany and had such a lovely time! I think it was one of the first “good” photos I took, which I thought about and planned, and used technical knowledge mixed in with a “creative vision” to come up with a satisfying outcome!

The pictures I have chosen to represent the range of my work are:
This image was taken during the snow in February 2009- and for some reason it's one that I always come back to. My “style” if I have one involves slight desaturation of colours- and this represents that and the sombre effect that it creates.

The next image is of one of the models I shot in 2008:
The Story
This was the first time that I used a model to create an idea or vision that I had about how the overall image should look and feel. The model (Lisa) was brilliant- able to take direction and bring her own style and movement to the shot. I put the three images together as a tryptich to better express the emotion and story behind the picture.

Spiney Mice
I haven't really travelled anywhere particularly exciting, but I always want to prove that you don't HAVE to travel to exotic locations to take interesting images. This was taken at Whipsnade Zoo- I couldn't believe how well lit the animals were, and how clean the glass was through to the vivariums. This is two baby Spiny Pocket Mice feeding from their mother- an absolutely captivating experience!


I always feel that it's a good idea to mix photography with whatever other hobbies you have. I have squillions of other hobbies, but sailing is a particularly pituresque one (sometimes!). This is the Ripple (or Patience), a beautiful restored Broads Yacht who I have had the pleasure of sailing a number of times- and on a sunny day with a strong breeze- there's nothing better!

BLAB: Thanks to Clare for being the 'tog for today on the blog. You can find more of Clare's photography in her regularly updated flickr stream, it's well worth a look.

As always if you want to be here one Tuesday then let us know via the comments.