Primes

As I so often say, prime lenses are fun. They are often better than zooms, lighter, and faster. And they enforce compositional discipline.

Like the 85mm f/1.2 lens that I rented it from www.gtalensrentals.com (because when I can not afford a piece of equipment, or when I want to try it out, or when it’s something I would use only a few times a year, I rent.)

All shot handheld with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L prime lens.

What I love about this lens: The quality. It is ridiculously sharp. Its focus mechanism, whether engaged (manual focus) or not is ridiculously smooth, a real pleasure to use. No scratchy scrapy movement: smooth effortless “air hockey” gliding instead.

This lens is razor-sharp wide open, too, and has beautiful bokeh (the “creamy” nature of the blurry background):

f/1.2, 1/50th sec, 3200 ISO

What I like less: if his lens had IS (stabilization), that would be great. And if it could only focus a little closer… its closest distance is almost one metre/3ft.

You see, that startles Mau as well:

These shots were made at 1/200th sec, f/1.4, 3200 ISO in a pretty dark room. The kind of thing you can do with a prime.

Go rent this lens: since I returned it, it’s available. Warning, though, I plan to get it again for Tuesday’s corporate portrait shoot!

 

6D

My oldest son Jason uses a Canon 6D with 24-104 f/4L lens, and I had the chance this weekend to play with it a little. Here’s a portrait I just made, of Jason, with the 6D and that lens:

Here my first impressions: Love it!

OK, that’s that.

But wait.. there’s more!

The 6D is basically a low-end full-frame camera. I have always said that full frame will prevail (the sensor is the same size as 35mm film, meaning bright, large, viewfinders, great high ISO performance, and very shallow DOF (“blurry backgrounds”) when you need. Full frame is the way to go, and the 6D does not disappoint.

So why is it “low end”? It isn’t, really. Of course in order to not cannibalize the 5D and 7D sales, Canon left off some things that the 7D, 5D, and so on do have. For instance, there are fewer functions available via buttons (White Balance and Flash Exposure Compensation are two notable missing functions that now need menu or quick menu access).  The frame rate is lower. There are no dual cards slots. The focus system has fewer spots than the 5D, 7D or 1D series.

Do these matter? Not really. I could live without them. This camera looks and feels great; the shutter is quiet even without the “quiet mode” engaged; build quality and sealing are good: I would be delighted with this camera.

There are many pro features included that I had expected Canon to leave out. Lens adjustment, copyright info;  all these are there. There are even all-new functions like built-in GPS and a pretty good working WiFi mode. The mode button locks. The Quick menu is the same as on the 7D, 5D3, and 1-series. (TIP: in this quick menu, set the joystick to move focus point without further button presses, and invert Av/Tv wheels in M mode).

Minuses? Well, for me these are minor:

  • The menus are not getting clearer (getting rid of the colours is not very clever).
  • The language in some of the new menus is atrocious (after setting copyright info, for instance, instead of a simple “OK”, I need to press MENU, whereupon I see “[OK] has been selected. The settings screen will close after saving the text entered”, then a choice of  ”Cancel” or “OK”.  Huh?
  • White balance and Flash Exposure Compensation (“FEC”) are only available via the quick menu. Of course for FEC you can use the flash itself.
  • The viewfinder is, I think, a 97% viewfinder, not a 100% viewfinder
  • We have the traditional 9 AF points in a diamond, rather than the 7D or 1D’s excellent AF system.

But as said, these are minor, and the pluses mentioned outweigh them easily.  Amazing camera – don’t we love the free market? Thank you, Nikon and Canon, for engaging in this eternal great arms race. I would be delighted to have a 6D as a second camera when shooting anything; or as my only camera if I were on a budget and could not afford a 5D3 or 1Dx. Great camera, right at the right time.

 

Pocketwizardry

As those of you who read this DAILY teaching blog all know, I use both TTL flash (fired by “morse code” flashes of light) and manual flash – and in the latter case, I usually use Pocketwizards.

Like in this shot:

Where are they? Ah. Here:

You see: I “Lightroomed” them out in post. Sometimes that is the only way – and it is simple here.

I had six Pocketwizards. I just bought one more, bringing my total to seven. The new one is a PlusX, the new “low end model”:

I shall use this on the camera, leaving the six others free for use on lights.

Why simple?

The higher-end models have zones. And they do more stuff, in particular the TTL models. But more stuff means more things to go wrong, and TTL means reverse engineered TTL, and hence possibly even more things to go wrong; and funny little batteries are expensive and hard to find. So I am happy with simple pocketwizards.

And yes, these are compatible with -among others!- the old Plus II models. The first 4 channels of the ten equate to the four channels on the Plus IIs.

I am often asked “do you use Canon’s built-in TTL wireless?” No, I do not. I have a 600EX, but I would have to replace my 580EX and four 430EX flashes as well – a $1500 investment. No, thanks.

The best news? These new Pocketwizards cost less than half what the Plus II cost, and are more robust. So far: wholeheartedly recommended. (But, Pocketwizard, please include a hotshoe cable…)

TIP: if you use, or would like to use, flash creatively and well, buy my NEW e-book. Click on PRO FLASH MANUAL above: the world’s best full flash course in 123 pages for just $19.95!

 

Tool Tip

I recently received a few screen protectors for review from Expert Shield (www.expertshield.com and  www.expertshielduk.com ).

Now, you need to know: I have never used screen protectors for any of my equipment: they are unnecessary, they are messy and they get in the way of clear visibility.

But wait. Not these! These are special, and so far, I am very impressed.

When you receive the screen protector, it comes in a neat box with a special cloth to clean your device’s display. The screen protector is pre-cut to your exat device including any openings for switches, cameras, loudspeakers, microphones, etc. These are available for a wide range of devices.

The screen protector comes as three layers: one protective mask below, the actual protector, and one protective mask above. You clean your display; then you peel off the bottom mask, then put the protector over the display, and finally, when any dust and air bubbles have been removed, you peel off the top mask. The actual screen protector is a silicone gel that sits on the display without any glue or any other substance: it appears just surface tension that holds it on.

No glues, so these are not messy. They are 100% transparent and I cannot see that the protective layer is on my screen. I have used the screen on my iPhone, Canon 1Dx, Fuji x100, and am about to put one on my iPad also.

The biggest benefit for me? My devices tend to start getting dirty and they then attract dirt and grease (the iphone and ipad in particularly turn from “oleophobic” to “oleophilic”). Wit these screen protectors, it will at worst be the screen protector that starts deteriorating – and it is easily replaceable.

I am doing a long term test of these, but so far I am very much impressed, and it is not often that I change my mind on an entire field, but that has happened here: I am now converted and am happy to use screen protectors. I will continue to use these and will update you after a while – so far, an unreserved recommendation.

Michael

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I will not accept payment for reviews: when I review products, as in this case, I am not getting paid, and I will always give my honest opinion, good or bad. If you want me to review your product, send me a copy or a loaner (depending on how expensive and large the product is) and I shall review forthwith.

 

Yah man!

I am in Jamaica, to shoot Kristen and Dan’s destination wedding.

This week will be intense, and fun. Lesson one: bring, among others, a wide angle lens. Wide angles are easy (great DOF, slow shutter possible) and offer dramatic perspectives.

Lesson two: shoot a story. I have shot the happy couple since Pearson airport, and will continue until they land again at Pearson. Stories are much more gripping than random shots.

Jamaica is wonderful and the people are amazing. The Riu resort is good. My only drawback so far is that I had to pay $400 extra to get a room with Internet, and slow Internet at that, and handicapped (only port 80 browser. No email, etc, so I have to work around that). More costs extra. There goes my profit for the shoot.

But look for lots of travel and wedding shots. Until then: cheers!