Monday, 7 March 2011

Tripping with the Canon 20-35mm

Having just received my 5D back from the repairer, and my new 20-35mm lens from Trademe (an internet auction site similar to ebay here in New Zealand), I was keen as mustard to get out and shoot with it. There were a lot of events happening locally this weekend, so we picked one and headed out the door.

We decided as a family to go to the Gypsy Fair. I was keen to go because I knew there would be lots of photo opportunities for bold colour and good wide-angle images - and I wasn't disappointed.

I haven't used the Canon 5D in over a year - shooting with the Nikon D300 instead. I've written about my love for the D300 and initially felt myself really missing some of its features over the 5D. For example, I much prefer the larger, higher resolution LCD screen on the Nikon D300 - it's gorgeous compared to the smaller, lower resolution screen on the Canon.

This may sound like a small thing, but in reality it's huge (no pun intended). Looking on the back of the 5D didn't inspire confidence that I had the image I wanted - even when checking the histogram. The 5D images lacked the punch and pop I am used to seeing on the screen of my D300, although I'm pleased to say this isn't particularly borne out in the final results on the computer.

I was using the 'Portrait' Picture Style on the 5D, whereas with my D300 I'm used to the 'Vivid' colour setting. And I'm pretty sure that therein lies the problem. I've set up my own 'Custom' picture Style on the 5D now - increasing the sharpness, saturation, contrast and colour tone values, and I'm getting much better images on the back of the camera.

Of course I'm shooting RAW on both systems, so these settings aren't of major importance for the final RAW file. But it is better to see a sharp, punchy image on the back of the camera after you've taken a photo. It just inspires more confidence.

I'm also not too inspired by the 9-point focus system on the Canon 5D when compared to the 51 point system on the Nikon. I'm not saying the Canon is bad - and I only tend to use the central focusing point and recompose anyway - but the autofocus system on the Nikon does seem more robust and responsive. Regardless of frames-per-second (which the Nikon also completely hammers the 5D in), I know which camera body I would reach for if the action got really frantic - and it wouldn't be the 5D. Of course for static images - and even for capturing my son on a mini trail bike - the 5D is more than capable (of course).

One of the issues I had with the 5D files when I got them onto the computer was noise. I was shooting at ISO 100, so no, noise isn't that apparent - but surprisingly it is there. Again, I think I've been somewhat spoilt with the D300, which although not the best of the bunch, still handles noise much better than the 5D. I regularly shoot at ISO1600 on the D300, whereas I don't think I'll go much above 800 on the 5D. I also heard recently that Canon sensors perform best at ISO160 and multiples thereof (320, 640 etc). So ISO160 is cleaner than ISO100? Might have to give that a go and see for myself. Place that in the 'strange but true' file.

Anyway, the photo above 'Lucky Star', shot at ISO100, has noise in the dark areas inside the caravan that is simply horrible. Admittedly I underexposed quite a bit to retain detail in the clouds, and then 'opened' the shadows in Photoshop - but even some of the better exposed areas 'cleaned up' noticeably when I put the image through Noise Ninja. Probably a worse case scenario - but the 5D is definitely noisier than the D300 - period.

At this point you may be thinking 'what a dog of a camera'. Surely there must be something he does like? Isn't there? Well I'm glad you asked, because there is indeed. Quite a few things in fact.

First, even though it may exhibit more noise, the sensor on the 5D has to be one of its major selling points - because it's full frame. Yes, I do appreciate that my new Canon 20-35mm is, in fact, a 20 to 35mm optic on the 5D (and not some weird 32-56mm monstrosity). I'm not a super telephoto shooter, so I don't really appreciate the x1.6 crop factor of the ADSC sized sensors. I want a 24-70mm to be exactly that - thank you very much.

Second, I love the ergonomics of the Canon. Using the large scroll wheel on the back of the camera to instantly change EV is inspired bliss. I'm so used to shooting with that big old wheel in the back, I miss it soooooo much when I shoot with my Nikon. 

Otherwise I'm in two minds about the overall simplicity of the Canon compared to the Nikon. I'd like the Canon to have an option to use a two button reformat without having to dig into the menu system a-la the Nikon's, but then again, the Canon 5D seems easier to get familiar with. I can recall it being called a real 'photographers' camera when it was first released, and I must say I agree with that. It's got nothing you don't need (live view, picture modes, video capability etc) and everything that you do to take great images. It's solid, weather sealed, fits my hand perfectly and is part of an incredibly impressive system - especially the Canon lenses.

Which finally brings me to the Canon 20-35mm f3.5/4.5. With the Canon EW-83 lens hood attached it's a bit of a monster lens - not very long, and not very heavy, but man does it have a big front element (77mm)! The ultrasonic motor is lightning quick and whisper quiet, giving the impression of a quality lens. Initial impressions are that the images are plenty sharp enough, especially when stopped down to f5.6 or f8. And so it should be as an ultra-wide optic. 

What I don't like about it is the very short front focus ring. It's too narrow, and too close to the front of that honking great lens hood. The even narrower manual focus ring is better placed and falls more naturally under my fingers when holding the lens. Wish Canon had put the zoom ring there instead. Ah well. 'Pobody's nerfect' as they say :-)

Folks reading this may sense a bit of Canon v Nikon, although that's not my intention at all (really). These are just the differences in the two camera systems that I own, as I see it. And these are also just my initial thoughts, after using the 5D again after over a year. I've already tweaked the cameras picture style to give me a better user experience, and even that little thing has worked wonders.

Ideally I'd meld the two together into one Super-Wayne camera :-)  If only life were that simple. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your reply. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on this post. I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Thanks again