Monday, 30 March 2015

Canon EOS 1D MkIII ISO performance

I'm in the 'testing' phase with my 'new' 1D Mk3, and decided to see what ISO I would be comfortable pushing it to on something like a wedding.

No, I'm not one of those guys who does the scientific testing with test charts or brick walls - I'm more of your 'real world' applications kind of tester for my own gear. So I set my tripod up in my lounge, pointed it towards the corner of the room, set the aperture to a middle-of-the-road f8 (should be pretty sharp around there), set my lens to a middle-of-the-road 50mm(ish), and fired away on all full ISO settings.

Just a boring ISO shot - but hopefully a revealing one? Canon 1D MkIII with Canon 28-135mm IS USM
Once I had taken all the shots (using the 2 second timer delay on the camera so camera shake shouldn't be a factor), I enlarged a portion of the shadow area by 200% and had a good look-see....

The results at 200%
These were all shot in RAW and then converted unaltered the high res jpegs using Adobe Lightroom. NO noise reduction was used in the process.

Probably not great at this resolution, but what do 'I' see? I see fantastic, almost noise-free results up to ISO 400, with just a hint creeping in at ISO 800. At ISO 1600 there is definite noise in the shadow areas, but it's quite a 'granular', film-like noise, and not the horrible banding type I was getting with the 50D. ISO 3200 is pretty grainy - but this is without any noise reduction, and I reckon it might clean up enough for a reasonable 8x10" print - plenty for a wedding album.

Canon 1D MkIII @ ISO 3200 - 200% enlargement
To put this theory to the test, I ran the 200% enlargement from the shadow area through my noise reduction software of choice - Noise Ninja. Above is the un-filtered enlargement, while below is the same section run through Noise Ninja.

Canon 1D MkIII @ ISO 3200, filtered through Noise Ninja (default settings)
Don't know why it's slightly darker (?), but anyway - it is definitely less noisy (albeit with a little less detail). These were the default Noise Ninja settings - I could probably get it looking even better with a little more effort :-)

So where am I comfortable shooting the 1D Mark III at in terms of high ISO?

Canon 1D MkIII @ ISO 1600 - 100% crop
Above is a 100% crop at ISO 1600, and this is probably where I would be happy 'pushing' the 1D MkIII to if I had to. Especially with noise reduction software added into the mix....

Canon 1D MkIII @ ISO 1600 - 100% crop and put through Noise Ninja (default settings)
So yes, ISO 1600 looks pretty good to me once it's all been 'cleaned up'. I wouldn't go there unless I 'had' to, but sometimes, especially during a wedding service, in a church, without flash, I do 'have' to. So it's nice to know that I can.

If the Canon 1D MkIII had an auto ISO feature (it doesn't), I'd probably let it roam between ISO 100 and 800 without a second thought. But I prefer to choose my ISO's anyway, so I will go up to 800 in a church no bother - and 1600 if my shutter speeds need the extra boost. Without comparing the two cameras side by side (which I may do later), I feel that the 1D MkIII is giving me better ISO performance than the Canon 50D. What noise there is, is much 'cleaner' in the 1D MkIII - probably not surprising given its larger sensor and smaller pixel count. Sometimes 'more' in terms of pixels, isn't always better - especially when they are crammed into a smaller surface area.

Overall, I'm very happy with the ISO performance of the 1D MkIII. It reminds me of the high ISO's on my full frame 5D - again not surprising since they are contemporaries of each other (both released around 2007/2008). Sure, it ain't no Nikon D3, and the APS-C Canon 70D would probably eat it for breakfast. But I'd rather have a 1D than a 70D anyday, and even when I've got the performance, I always try to shoot at the lowest ISO I can get away with - period.

So it's a thumbs up for ISO performance with the 1D MkIII for what I will use it for. I'm sure some more 'real world' examples will follow and the proof will be in the next pudding (oops, I mean wedding). 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Sports Day with the EOS 1D Mk3

My Canon EOS 1D Mk3 arrived earlier in the week, just in time to use it to photograph my son competing in the West Coast Junior Athletics day.

As soon as I opened the box containing my new purchase it was love at first sight! What a beautiful camera - big, heavy, incredibly well built and perfectly designed. Form really follows function with the pro 1D series of Canon bodies, and I couldn't be happier.

Joshua competing in the longjump. Canon 1D Mk3 with Canon 75-300mm IS USM
I didn't really have time to come to grips with the myriad options that the 1D Mk3 has to offer - especially in the autofocus custom functions - so the night before I just made sure the battery had a decent charge, the camera was set on servo autofocus, hi speed, and group focus point selection.

As you can see above, the 1D Mk3 nailed the autofocus every time, although it felt a little 'sluggish' in real-time, and I wasn't getting anywhere near the 10fps that the camera is capable of. A little further reading after the fact has enlightened me as to the autofocus options that I probably 'should' have chosen - especially if I want that 10fps machine gun burst. I decided to set the tracking priority to focus, rather than speed - so as a result I think the camera was micro-focusing in between each shot, thereby not attaining its 'full' shooting speed. But, as stated above, it certainly nailed the focus and of the 40 or so images I took, only two were out of focus (and both of those were towards the end of the jump).

"Up, up and away"! Canon ID Mk3 with 75-300mm IS USM, 2000th sec @ f4.5 - ISO 400
I've used Canon cameras my whole photographic career (just shy of 30 years now), so in some ways, using the 1D Mk3 is second nature to me already. BUT, I've never owned or used a digital 1 series before, so the plethora of auto focus options is going to take me some time - and practice - to get to grips with. Canon have a very helpful pdf on the autofocus options available for the Mk3 which can be downloaded from here. I'm going to have to study this and go out and try some of the modes to see what works best for me - something i'm very much looking forward to doing.

For now, I'm happy with my first up attempt at some action shots with the 1D Mk3. I didn't screw it up, and I'm encouraged to experiment some more to get to grips with the autofocus system. And I wasn't unhappy with the way the 75-300mm IS performed either. I'm sure that one day I will 'upgrade' it to the 70-200mm, but until then it will help me learn my way around the camera so that I can really make use of the better lenses when I do get them.

I have a Canon 28-135mm f3.5/5.6 IS USM arriving soon that I will use as a 'walk-around' lens for the camera, which should make a nice combo. Will write more about my journey with the 1D Mk3 as it develops. Can't wait.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

My Canon EOS 1D - Finally!

Since my last post about micro-adjusting my 50D, I've shot another wedding.

The images were more successful this time around (i.e sharper), and I was happier with the final result. Happier, but not blown away.

Rebeccah and Aldon's Wedding Party with Wedding cars and drivers.
I've heard it said before that the 15MP sensor on the Canon 50D is very noisy, but I had tended to dismiss this as mere internet pixel peeping. But I'm beginning to understand what they are on about - from personal experience. I'm seeing noise in ISO 200 shots that in previous cameras I've owned (around the 10 to 12MP range) would never have been there. I think that Canon over-stretched themselves with the 15.2MP sensor they put in the 50D, and I think it shows.

Overall, although I hate to say it, I'm distinctly unimpressed with the 50D. There's a lot to like ergonomically speaking, but IQ (and let's face it, isn't that what really counts) isn't up to snuff this time.

So, even though I'd really just got the kit together, I made the decision to move on. And as is my want, I decided that I was going to be an open book. Anything goes, and I was open to any suggestion.

Initially my attention turned (once again) to mirrorless system cameras. In particular, the Sony NEX 6. I figured that if I was going to make a change, it may as well be a decent one - to something totally different for me. I looked at the NEX6, the NEX 7, an Olympus OMD EM5, an OMD EM1, and a Panasonic GH3. I almost, almost pulled the trigger on the GH3, but in the end, I just couldn't do it.

For all their 'hooplah' and attention at the moment, even amongst pro shooters, I still personally don't think mirrorless is quite 'there' yet. Give it 5 years more and I'll be seriously interested. Iron out some of the autofocus issues, shutter shock (no, I hadn't heard of it either - look it up), a few more lenses, better evf technology, and I'll be ready to invest. But for me, at least, DSLR's are still where it's at. Especially since I'm thinking of getting back into shooting a few weddings a year.

So given that a DSLR is still my weapon of choice, and I'd just sold all of my 'new' Canon gear, which system was I going to invest in now?

Okay, yeah - I know. The title of the post kinda gives the game away. But seriously, Canon was the last thing on my mind, considering I had just sold all my Canon gear!

From the sale of the 50D kit I had around $1000NZ to get a body and lens (and hopefully flashgun). What I wanted was a serious amateur/pro spec'd body that gave me a decent frame rate, good IQ and solid autofocus performance. Basically what I was after with the 50D.

I've mentioned Trademe - New Zealand's local internet auction website - many times on this blog, as it's about the only way I have of shopping for used photography gear without going off-shore to ebay. Searching every day on Trademe allowed me to amass a pretty sizable watch-list of stuff, and I even bid on a few of them. Top on the list was a Sony a700 body which eventually went for more than I was willing to pay for (although, as it turns out, it went for a lot less than I eventually ended up paying for a camera body). Then I was seriously looking at its big brother - the full frame Sony a850, but that was definitely going for more than I was willing to pay.

Canon 1D Mk3
Throughout my searching, I always kept a lookout for the camera line that I have long desired to own - the Canon 1D series.

The original 1D Mk1's turn up reasonably regularly, generally fairly cheaply because they are either very well used, or they are just plain old. Shutter count on them tends to be fairly high as well, so they are not really a camera that I get that excited about.

The 1D Mark2 and 2N's appear quite often as well, although again they are usually well used and a fair way gone through their life-span (check my previous post on the Mk2 I almost bought recently).

When you get to the 1D Mk3 and Mk4's, you are starting to talk a little more serious money, since they are 'relatively' newer technology. UI (User interface) from the Mk3 onwards was radically changed as well, making them much more user-friendly and in-line with Canon's enthusiast line, yet with the 1D series build and feature set. I've never really considered the Mk3 or Mk4 cameras in the past because they have tended to be out of my price range, especially the ones in good condition.

My 'new' Canon EOS 1D Mk3
During my search on Trademe, however, a Canon 1D Mk3 turned up that looked in very good (to excellent) condition, for a very reasonable price ($795NZ with a 75-300mm f4/5.6 IS USM lens). It was going cheaper than many 1D Mk2's go for on Trademe for the body only, so not surprisingly, my interest was peaked! From asking questions - and then eventually emailing the owner - it seems that he had purchased the combo for over $1000NZ about 6 months earlier, but found that he used his full frame 5D much more. So he simply wanted it to go to a good home, where it would actually be used (yeah, I've heard that story before too, but through conversing with the guy I actually believe him).

Anyway, to cut an already long story short, although I did 'umm' and 'ahh' for a few days (and almost bought the panasonic GH3 in the meantime), I eventually couldn't help myself, and had to go with the 1D Mk3.

There are lots of reasons for my decision, which I won't go into now, since this post is already too long. I will talk about the 1D Mk3 in my next post, when I will actually have it in my hands and have had the chance to shoot with it.

But for now, I'm super excited about it arriving and can't wait to shoot with it. My son has made his High School long jump team and is competing on Wednesday. Might just be the perfect outing for a Dad and his 1D Mk3.