Sunday, 3 October 2010

My Cameras, there workings and why I chose them

In this section I will be explaining the workings, reason for choice in relation to the course requirements and other possible options.

I have two cameras that I use on a day to day basis, both are Canons, a 450D was my first sortie into DSLR country and a 5D MKII, which is my main camera with the 450D as my backup.

I chose Canon cameras, as opposed by it's competition from  such as: Nikon, Sony and Pentax, after much debate and surfing of the web, my main reasoning's for this choice was that Canon was at the forefront of camera design and offered loads of lens options, plus I found them (still do) easier to use, more intuitive to use, well me anyway and I didn't like the red triangle of it's nearest rival Nikon.

I'll start with the 450D as this was my first, when I first looked into buying this camera it was designed as the bottom of the DSLR rung  (now that title has been taken by the Canon 1000D) with basic auto modes and the option get more creative if you wish.

It offered  me a number of significant improvements  from it's predecessor. A resolution increase, from 10 to 12 megapixels,  but perhaps more exciting was the addition of Live View which is great for previewing my pictures taken,  two different modes including contrast detection AF, similar to that used by the Panasonic DMC-L10. The 450D also got a larger 3 inch LCD screen and a new 9-point AF system, 14-bit processing, spot metering, SD cards instead of CompactFlash, and a 3.5fps continuous mode.

It even had a new kit lens, the EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS (which I have given to Eric as it is a basic kit lens in terms of quality although it did offer shake free shutter speeds equivalent to 4 stops, The 450D is more expensive than the 400D, which was being offered as a budget option. Most of the 450D's buttons are located on the rear of the camera, It offers quick access to the Continuous modes, Auto Focus, Metering modes and Picture Styles via its circular four-way controller.

There's a ISO button on top of the camera near the aperture/shutter speed control dial, which provides easy access when looking through the viewfinder. Aperture and shutter speed settings can be easily adjusted with the index finger on the well-positioned dial, but it's annoying that you have to hold down the Exposure Compensation button to change the aperture in Manual mode, rather than just press it once to toggle between shutter speed and aperture. It has dust-removal technology, where the sensor is shaken briefly at high frequency to hopefully dislodge any dust particles from its surface. This could delay the need for manual sensor cleaning, perhaps indefinitely, but it won't be able to remove ‘sticky' deposits like salt spray, pollen or the smears left behind by careless sensor cleaning or the wrong kind of solvent. Canon has also developed a new internal Dust Delete Data system (as seen on the 40 D), which can map the position of visible dust on the sensor. This can then be deleted automatically after the shoot with the supplied Digital Photo Professional software. As I haven't used it I cannot comment on it's use.

The menu system had been completely revised and it now used  a menu system from the professional Canon cameras, with a simplified tab structure that does away completely with scrolling that was used on the older model. There are 7 tabs, with up to 7 options in each one, providing quick and easy access to the various options. You can even setup your own customised menu page for instant access to frequently used settings via the new My Menu tab. Pressing the Display button when using the Menu system displays all of the camera's current key menu settings laid-out for easy viewing on the LCD screen. There's an impressive choice of eight different image quality modes and there are also useful tools like a red-eye reduction option and the usual custom white balance option and flash exposure compensation that can be used on the integral flip up flash.

The LP-E5 battery pack is smaller than the 400D's, and also has a higher capacity of 1080mAh. This extends shooting time on a single charge to appox 500 shots, they changed from CompactFlash to SD memory cards, which with bigger, faster and cheaper SD cards available was a bonus for me as I didn't have to buy new cards.

Focusing is quick and very consistent, for a base model, in good light with the standard 18-55mm kit lens, but obviously not as quick the 5 or 7D, with the wide-area 9-point AF system offering good scene coverage, the camera happily achieves focus indoors and in low-light situations. It takes less than a second to store a JPEG image at the highest quality setting with no discernible lockup between taking shots, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card. For RAW images (which is what I use all the time) it is just as quick. In the continuous shooting mode you can hold down the shutter button and take 3.5 shots per second for up to 53 JPEGS, 6 RAW files, for an entry-level model this is good.

The 3 inch LCD screen gives a very good, clear view of my pictures and gives feedback on a picture's exposure and color reproduction. It has 230,000 pixels. By default, the current camera settings are displayed on the LCD screen. This can be turned off by pressing the Display button, and there's also a handy sensor underneath the viewfinder, which detects that you're looking through it and turns off the LCD display to both save power and stop it from distracting you (this can be enabled or disabled in the main menu).

The software that came with it is ok, but Digital Photo Professional isn't the best RAW converter in my opinion, and Adobe Lightroom, for example (which already supported the 450D) does a much better job.I personal use Adobe CS4 and I find this my preferred software.

Once you have captured a photo, the 450D has an average range of options for playing, reviewing and managing your images. More information about a captured image can be seen on the LCD by pressing the DISP. button, which brings up an image histogram and all the shooting Exif data, including shutter speed and the time and date it was captured, with a second press displaying an additional RGB histogram. It is simple to get a closer look at an image as users can zoom in up to 15 times, and it is also possible to view pictures in a set of nine contact sheet. You can also delete an image, rotate an image, view a slide show, protect images so that they cannot be deleted, and set various printing options. Unlike some competitors, there are no digital styles or effects that can be applied to an image after it has been taken - the more subtle Picture Styles are the only way of tweaking your JPEGs in-camera. The camera shows you a preview of what the effect will look like when applied, and the effect is applied to a copy of your image, thus preserving the original intact, this doesn't apply to RAW so no use to me.

 My 5D MKII and 24-105mm f/4.0 L series lens

After purchasing my 450D I quickly found it limiting in terms of it crop factor of 1:6 reducing the depth of  field that I was seeking for my portrait shots, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a Canon 5D MKII which I hope will see me through some years taking photographs.

Until recently full frame cameras were considered by most to be big, heavy and expensive and were exclusively the domain of full on pros. Now that has changed as all the camera manufacturers have got on the downsizing bandwagon which was started with the original 5D. Most of the latest full frame cameras use the same sensors of the top of the tree cameras shoehorned into a smaller lighter body, but still in comparison to the budget cameras such as my 450D still heavy and big. Full frame sensors normally measure about 36 x 24mm which is equivalent to the 35mm frame size, this is much bigger that the APC  (Advanced Photographic System) size of sensor as found on my 450D which is 25 x 17mm. Bigger sensors still mean higher prices so full frames, even though prices have come down, are still much more expensive compared to smaller sized sensors/ cameras.

I asked myself the question, why are full frame cameras better, It's only natural that bigger sensors equals higher resolutions and better quality, you would also automatically think a bigger sensor equals more megapixels but this is not always the case, for example the Nikon D700 has only 12Mp which has been over taken by the APC sensor of the 7D at 18Mp, it is true though more megapixels make the most of the resolving powers of high quality lenses and you can be more aggressive with your cropping without losing the image quality, as lower pixel count does make the pixels larger,thus then able to capture more light and then less noticeable noise. the benefit I find with having a full frame camera is the amount of light coming in through the viewfinder is excellent in comparison to cropped sensor, more light means better composition as you can see better what you are doing. In my opinion the best feature of a full frame camera in comparison to the APC cameras is their ability to give a much tighter depth of field when shooting at large apertures, which is my personal favourite style of shot, especially with portraits.

So I decided to buy my Canon 5D MKII with a 24-105mm kit lens, as I already had a Canon I was able to use the additional lenses I had purchase for my 450D which I had the foresight (or luck)to be EF lens which are suitable for full frame and can also be used on cropped too, these were the Canon 90-300mm non USM lens (otherwise known as the piston) a basic lens producing reasonable, but soft, quality images, a Sigma 50mm f/2.8  DG EX macro lens, this was a Sigma premium lens giving excellent image quality but slow in focusing as it was a macro. I then decided to purchase another fast lens, Canon cheap and cheerful 50mm f/1.8 prime, a plastic and basic lens that gave excellent quality images all for the price of £99. My latest purchase is Sigma's 70-200mm f/2.8 DG EX APO, another top of the tree fast telephoto, again giving excellent image quality and Bokeh which is just what I want, I would have liked the Canon version with image stabilisation but just couldn't afford it.

The 5D MKII boasts full 1080 HD video with face recognition, and three auto focus settings, an ISO range from 100 to 6400 which is expandable to 50 - 25600. a large ( 920,000 pixels) automatic adjusting rear screen for brightness in sunny viewing conditions and has excellent quality and live view. a viewfinder with 98% coverage, solid magnesium alloy body, which is a real step up from my plastic 450D, the body also include full weather sealing. It still keeps a similar menu system to the 450D but has more intuitive external controls such as the rear multi controller dial along with the main dial next to the shutter release button, a top screen next to the button for adjusting the white balance, AF modes, ISO and flash exposure compensation, and drive modes. all of these functions can also be viewed on the rear screen by using the info button on the rear. Finally on the top left hand side is the dial for setting the modes to manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, as well as your own custom shooting modes

It hasn't got a flip up flash as this is a more pro orientated camera and relies on the high ISO range, speedlites or studio flash, nor does it have built in wireless flash triggers that the newer 7D boasts. I shall be covering my speedlites in a future blog. It uses Compact Flash so I had to buy new card which are more expensive, I have also bought an compact flash to SD adaptor so that I can use all of my SD cards in this camera. on the flip side apart from the video I don't need to use high speed memory as it can only achevie 3.9 fps.

In my hand the Canon feels chunky and well built and I am happy that it feels like a dependable, robust, solid camera that will last me a life time of rigorous us, and so far I am extremely please with my purchase. This camera will be ideally suited to this course brief  as in summary it's light enough to hand hold, has a full frame high resolution sensor with the ability to crop to an extreme level. 

In the next installment.... speedlite flash

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim
    A great start with focussed criteria meeting the units requirements.
    And free written by yourself in context to what work you intend to use your kit on.
    As usual this entry can be used as a point of reference for all your other work.