Photography | Portpix Photography | Port Macquarie Wedding Photographer


Photography – My Thoughts & Experiences

I’m a Canon users and have been for quite some time. Before that I had a Ricoh film SLR and then a Canon film SLR before going digital in 2000. I can honestly say the reason I went Canon was because I already had a number of their lenses from a 1992 trip to Africa and Egypt. As I was more than happy with Canon and I already had some lenses I didn’t see the sense in changing. If I were to change I would only consider changing to Nikon.

I’ll admit at this point that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Pentax, Olympus or Sony, they all make a good product.

Since the heralding of the digital age the leaps and bounds in technology have been phenomenal to say the least. It’s not that long ago that 1.3MP (Megapixels) was the norm and now most mobile phones have at least a 2MP camera and some up to 5MP.

With the top of the range DSLR (Digital Single-lens Reflex) camera now have 21MP in the case of the Canons and 24MP in the Sony, I’m left to wonder the rational of cramming more and more pixels into a finite space. Do we need more megapixels? We are already at the level where it is now the limitation of the lenses, even the professional grade lenses, is reducing any visible improvement in picture quality. I equate the megapixel race at this stage to the software bloat that we now experience in computing.

It’s the inevitable cat chasing its tail, bigger storage mean that software developers can put more into their programs, this in turn leads to more powerful computers to run the new programs and more storage to save all the files we create with the software, which then leads to needing more and more storage. And the cycle goes on.

I’d really like to see the big camera manufactures stop the pixel race and concentrate on other aspects of their product.

The Canon 5D MkII which is just starting to be released has the capacity to record full (1080p) high definition video. Some boring old timers, and I don’t mean old in age, I mean old in mentality and adjusting to new technologies, will cringe at the fact that a SLR camera can now take video. I don’t know why it should come as such a surprise, camcorders have been taking still photos for years.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the new 5D MkII, but there are some very obvious flaws in its design that make me wonder if Canon, and others too, have spent too much time chasing pixels and not focusing on other issues. For example;


Allow EF-S lens to fit EF Mounts:

It is currently the situation that any EF lens can fit both full frame and cropped frame cameras in the Canon range, but EF-S lenses will not fit full frame bodies. I can see in some situations this may cause problems, especially with something like the EF-S 10-22mm, but to me its just a marketing exercise. There is nothing stopping Canon allowing you to fit EF-S lens to full frame bodies, even if it meant you had a cropped field of view or reduced number of megapixels at your disposal. I’d gladly take a drop from 15MP to 10MP to have the convenience of being able to use all of my lenses on all of my cameras.

It even goes so far as Canon’s EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 which has all the optical qualities to make it an ‘L’ series lens, the body build leaves a little to be desired, but again this is deliberate by Canon. It appears to most people that the only reason this lens is not an ‘L’ lens is because it is an EF-S lens and it appears that Canon do not want an EF-S lens to wear the ‘L’ series moniker.


Interrupted Video to take Still photograph:

You can not take a still picture whilst videoing. The videoing has to be interrupted whilst a still is taken after which the videoing re-commences. Why? As a wedding photographer I just love the idea of being able to value add to my services by taking video of important moments in the wedding process as well a photographs. But what’s the point of videoing that moment when vowels and rings are being exchanged only to have to interrupted it to take a still? How ridiculous.


FAT32 issue:

Another problem, which admittedly is not all Canon’s fault, is the retaining of the FAT32 format for its memory cards. Because of this very out dated specification, you are limited to a maximum single file size of 4GB. This equates to about 12min of full HD or about 24min of small HD videoing on the 5D MkII. OK, 12min is a long time when you think about it, but why not just move to the NTFS format and have unlimited file sizes? NTFS is already well and truly established in the computing world, so its not as though Canon has to embrace some ‘new’ technology.


High ISO noise:

It really is quite amazing what we take for granted nowadays with regards to ISO (or ASA as you may remember it) performance in modern digital cameras. Its not unusual to expect good results from basic pro-sumer cameras like the Canon 1100D or Canon 700D at ISO 3200 (usually their maximum sensitivity) and from the more professional cameras of ISO 6400 or even ISO 12800.

I can remember back in 1992 trekking up to see the Gorillas in Uganda only to find them in dense jungle and very poor light. Whilst this didn’t take away from the experience, it did disappoint me immensely from a photographic point of view. There I was in poor light, photographing black Gorillas with only ASA 400 film at my disposal. To cut a long story short I was suppose to get some ASA 1000 film before leaving Australia, but it just didn’t happen.

There was no way ASA 400 film was going to give me anywhere near a fast enough shutter speed to prevent blurring, so I ‘pushed’ the film to ASA 1600 ( a total of two stops and the most you’d want to go) to try and get an acceptable shutter speed. Whilst it did work, the results were as expected and very average to say the least, but it was either this or not get any shots at all.

Yet here we are today ‘expecting’ good results at up to ISO 6400. Now both Canon and Nikon have cameras that have ISO settings as high as 12800 in the case of the Canon 70D and 51200 in the case of the 5D MkIII and some Nikons. Now once again as a wedding photographer I appreciate the ability to shoot in such low light, it has to be said that at these extreme ISO settings the results are basically unusable, so they amount to little more than bragging rights of who has the highest ISO. Sound familiar, it should, its the same situation with the ‘who has the most megapixels’ race.

So to my gripe, why bother having these ISO settings if they are virtually useless? Canon and Nikon, if you’re listening, concentrate on making these ISO settings more useful, or don’t bother with them at all.


Move from 14 bit to 16 bit:

Having sensors that can record in 14 bit is a great improvement from the older 12 bits, but I think it about time that the effort to moved to 16bits was made, at least as an option. More information on Bit Depth here. Whilst we are approaching the limits of what the human eye can distinguish, the extra depth in this case would do wonderful for Wedding photographers like myself.


Frame Rate:

Instead of having a one fits all maximum frame rate Canon, why not take a leaf out of Nikon’s book and increase the frame rate, even at the expense of pixels, to give me as the end user the option to chose.

I’ll give you an example. The 5D MkII has a maximum frame rate of 3.9 frames per second. How the hell you get 3.9 and not 4 or 3.5 is a mystery. Now 3.9 f/s may be a mighty feat considering the amount of data that has to be pushed around. Remember we are talking about 21.1MP at 3.9 f/s. and I have no issue with maybe this is a technical barrier rather than a self imposed one. But lets say I want to use my new 5D MkII for something more sporty than a wedding or general photography, 3.9 f/s just isn’t going to cut it unfortunately. So why not drop the pixels, to say 15MP and 6 f/s as we know is possible as this is what the Canon 50D is capable of. I’m paying over two and half times the price for the 5D MkII than the 50D, so I don’t think that its too much to ask for.

Then if you want to be really generous why not drop to 10MP and 10 f/s as you do with the Canon 1D MkIII. The 1D MkIII is getting a bit long in the tooth now, so I don’t think you are going to loose too many customers to the 5D MkII. Plus it has other features, though admittedly not too many, that the 5D MkII doesn’t (at this time).


Things for the future:

All the talk about the latest and greatest video news is about the RED range of video cameras with their 4K and 5K cameras (4000 and 5000 lines of video). Full HD as we are use to it (ie: TV) max out at 1080 (horizontal lines), by 1920 pixels wide.

Now a 15MP camera like the 50D has 4752 x 3168 and the 21.1MP 5D MkII and 1Ds MkIII has 5616 x 3744. Even the humble 450D’s 12MP works out to be 4272 x 2848. So why the big deal about RED? We already have the same capabilities in the current crop of DSLRs, so why not aim to use it?

Obviously with these sorts of data throughput, the FAT32 limitations will have to be addressed first.

Now if you did just some of these you’d have one hell of a series of cameras. So what’s stopping you, is it just marketing?


Interesting Articles to read:

I recently read an article that David B. Goldstein wrote on web site titled ‘Physical Limits in Digital Photography’ (a copy of the article in PDF format is available on the website and also here Physical Limits in Digital Photography.

In this article David explains the physics behind light and the current crop of sensors ability to capture it and whether increasing the number of pixels beyond what we have today is going to produce any tangible results.

The article is a bit heavy going in places and unless you have a basic understanding of how cameras work, physics and a good dose of IQ, you may find it a bit confusing … hell I did, I’ve had to read it a couple of times. But if you are interested it makes for some interesting reading.

Photography Links

Here are some sites that I’ve found invaluable over the years. If you hate the idea of reading and would rather watch short videos on photography topics and reviews don’t forget YouTube.

Digital Photography Review
News, Reviews and just about anything you want to know about Cameras, Lens and software relating to photography.

All Things Photography
A fantastic source of information on All Things Photography. The site has been set up by Nick Stubbs, a consumate professional and a very nice guy who is willing to pass on his many years of experience.  A handy Glossary of Photographic Terms can also be found here.
News, Reviews and just about anything you want to know about Cameras, Lens and software relating to photography.

Photo Review Australia
A good Australian site for most things photographic.

cNet Australia
Another good site for all the latest in photography.

Luminous Landscape
A good site for all things to do with DSLRs. Camera, Lens and Software reviews. Tutorials and other bits and pieces I think you might find handy.
A great source of information and tests on all things Canon. It also has some interesting features to on DSLRs.

Camera Labs
A good site for all things to do with DSLRs. Camera, Lens and Software reviews. Tutorials and other bits and pieces I think you might find handy.

Cambridge in Colour
Is a great site for in depth explanations about almost anything you might need to know.

The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It also has lots of useful information about photography too.

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