A little more play with the Huge Canon 5D Mk II

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 21st, 2011 by MadDog
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Kiddies, if you have little interest in photography other than pictures of the kids or pets, then have a quick peek at the pretty pictures below and move along. You’ll soon be bored. I’ve been playing just a little (took time out to eat, sleep and do some house cleaning) with the new Canon 5D Mk II and the two lenses I purchased. All this fuss with new gear is primarily about my new job. It will likely be a few months  until I get my first assignments. I have to return to Madang to finish up my life there before I can begin in earnest anew here in Sedona. In the meantime, I have my work cut out for me. I have to learn a new camera which is far more complex than anything I’ve ever had before and I need to learn to do production quality HD video from the ground up. I’ve already started on that. I’m afraid that posts for the next few months are going to be pretty geeky. At least you will see some amusing images and learn how an old dog learns fancy new tricks.

I have noted that no matter how good I thought I was, the 5D Mk II has humbled me. I’ve known the basics of photography since I was old enough to point a camera. Since it was my dad’s main interest, he taught me little else. I inherited a Busch Pressman camera and was working with smelly chemicals in the basement by the time I was eleven. The 5D is a whole new ball game. Let me say first that it shoots absolutely stunning images on full, flat-out Automatic. You could not find a camera that will give you a higher percentage of superb shots if you never want to crack open a manual for a nice bedtime read. Just leave the knob set on the little green box, swap lenses around as you please and shoot, shoot shoot. If you have any compositional sense at all you will be shooting National Geographic style shots from day one. And, you will mightily impress your friends. Which leads me to the only reason I can think of for a family album shooter to have one – to impress your friends. You had better hope they know something about photography or they will laugh at you for buying such a huge clunker of a camera. Really, if you never want to print anything bigger than an 8 x 10 print, then buy a good quality super-zoom such as the Canon Canon Power Shot SX30IS for less than $400.

One of the many differences between the two (5D Mk II vs. SX20IS) is the the SX30IS provides many pre-programmed shooting modes which allow a shooter who has taken an afternoon off to discover them to create a wide variety of beautiful images which would have required considerable technical knowledge in times past. The 5D has none of this. It does have a superb Automatic mode, but you have to cook the fancy creative images youself. This requires a fair level of both knowledge of the technical aspects of photography (The Exposure Triangle, etc.) and the complexities of the massive control range of the camera itself.

Come to think of it, there is another good reason to buy a 5D Mk II. If you are serious about making excellent images, for whatever reason, and you want to buy a camera which will keep you happy for say, ten years, then the 5D and a couple of good lenses might be the ticket. You could possibly end up spending a similar amount of money over ten years stepping up from one camera to another and never be as good with any of them as you would be after a few years with the 5D. She would be as dependable and wise (and as amusing) as a good wife. Okay, that’s going too far. You get the idea. Believe me. You will want to name your 5D. Something this precious deserves a moniker. Just promise yourself one thing before you invest. If you lose interest and it ends up gathering dust on a shelf, pass it along to a promising photographer who can’t afford it. Give him or her an offer which can’t be refused. This is a camera which deserves to be used by someone who can learn to make it sing.

Speaking of singing, I wanted to do something a little special for the first image I show from the 5D. Frankly, I could have shot this with my G11, but that’s not the point. This image represents a change of shooting habits. I have seldom been so frightened in my long, wayward and adventurous life as I was when I was crossing over those rocks with a new 5D and two top-notch lenses. If I had my G11 there and I slipped I’d simply toss it to the other bank, pick it up, wipe the mud off and shoot. Not so with the fancy gear. Honestly, if I did not need the capabilities of this rig for my work (the HD video is broadcast-quality) I would never even risk having it. Anyway, back to the image.  I bought a variable density filter which allows me to cut the light down drastically so that I can make long exposures in brightly lighted scenes. In this shot I could hardly see through the filter. Setting the camera appropriately for a twenty second exposure, I got this silky water image at Red Rock Crossing near the house in Oak Creek Village. In order to fancy it up a bit more, I spent a quarter of an hour fooling around with Artistic Filters in Photoshop. I’m going to print this one and hang it on the wall, after asking Grace, of course.

You really have to click to enlarge it to see what’s going on.

Here’s a similar image shot with another lens on full automatic mode:

You really can’t appreciate the quality of this image at the resolution I have to use to make it manageable for the web. The original RAW file was twenty-six megabytes!

I can’t live without macro photography. I’d sooner give up my one beer a day. (Hey, I gave up my one cigar a day habit. Give me a break.) I was concerned that my Canon 17-40 F4.-5.6 L USM lens would not cut the mustard. This is about a 30% crop of the center of a full frame at 40mm focal length:

That was as close as I could get while allowing the auto focus to operate. Someday I might find a used macro lens for the camera, but it can wait a while. This makes me happy. I won’t be blowing up any ants as big as small dogs, but I still have my G11, which is actually a better macro rig.

There is a nice little pub within easy walking distance from our house. It’s called PJ’s Village Pub and Sports Lounge. I went over a couple of nights ago to meet a friend for a little conversation. It was storming beautifully outside. After it was nearly over I went outside an snapped this cute little shot:

It’s had a pleasant massage from Photoshop to correct the colors to what my imagination requires, but otherwise, it’s straight out of the camera.

Earlier, inside PJ’s, I set the 5D on full auto and held it parallel to the mirror on the wall for this tasty image:

This is a 17mm shot. It shows little objectionable distortion common to wide angle images. I’m quite happy with it. Other than the removal of an ugly power outlet under the mirror, this is right out of the camera.

For this last little bit of play, I wanted to test several things at once. First I wanted to see if I could really get five frames per second out of the 5D. I want to try some portraits on burst mode. I find it difficult to get just the right expression when doing portraits. I’m going to try getting all set up, provoking the right mood and then letting fly with about a hundred exposures over maybe twenty seconds. Then I can pick just what I’m after. Next, I wanted to see how good the 64oo ISO setting is. I’ve never been able to shoot this sensitive before. My G11 dies a horrible noisy death over 400 ISO. (The results show that the 5D Mk II is four or five stops better for noise.) Finally, I wanted to gen an idea how well Microsoft Photosynth could stitch together the shots for a 3D walk-around presentation. Here is the result, using our home office as a test subject:

Well, I’m sure that you were fascinated at that. I have more worthy subjects in mind. How about a walk down Oak Creek Canyon, peering into holes and turning over rocks in the stream?

Maybe I had better save that for HD video. My next project is a home-made flying camera rig.

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