Thursday, July 31, 2008

Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II

The Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II is the smallest, lightest & cheapest lens available from Canon. Although I was not a big fan of this lens on film as I did not find the 50mm focal length very exciting, I am very impressed with the performance of this lens on a digital SLR with 1.6X FOVCF. Mounted on my EOS 400D, for example, this lens becomes a 90mm F/1.8 lens which is perfect for portrait and low light photography.

Rathi @ Krip & Pari's engagement party
Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II
1/20s @ F/1.8, ISO 400, Fill-in flash

Although there has been negative reviews about the poor bokeh (image quality of out of focus areas) of this lens due to usage of five non-rounded aperture blades, I found the bokeh of this lens to be quite satisfying. In the shots taken at Krip & Pari's engagement party, the tiny bulbs illuminating the surrounding were rended as nice, rounded, out of focus highlights that formed a nice pattern on all the portrait shots.

The Image Quality (IQ) of this lens is one of the best, and belies its rather modest price. This is currently my preferred portrait lens, with its sharpness, fast aperture, good low light performance and nice background blur possible with F/1.8. I just wish it had better macro capability rather than the uninspiring .15X maximum magnification at a closest focusing distance of 1.5 ft (.45m).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Photo of the Day

Flower in Tende

Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4-5.6 IS USM, 85mm
1/500s @ F/5.6, ISO 400

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Krip & Pari Engagement Party

More photos from Krip & Pari's engagement party. Shot all pictures in RAW and converted to B&W in Canon DPP and added Sepia tone for an old world charm Also added a Green filter to lighten the green and darken the red in their floral garland.

The B&W Sepia toned pictures remind me so much of the old photo albums from my parents wedding that my mother is very fond of pulling out and showing to us. B&W is also very useful medium to focusing attention on the couple and not on their bright costume that is a prerequisite for any Indian function.

Krip & Pari had invited some kids from a children home they are associated with and the kids had a gala time dancing and showing off their moves. The kids added a very special warmth to the wonderful occasion.

All photographs taken with a Canon EOS400D with Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 lens shot wide open assisted by the camera's built in flash at ISO 400, 800 or 1600.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Photo of the Day

Pari & Krip

Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF 30mm F/1.8, 50mm
1/60s @ F/1.8, ISO 400, In built flash

Today was the engagement party of Pari & Krip, one of the sweetest couples I have the pleasure of knowing. I met them on the Hamta pass trek in May 2007 and subsequenty trekked with them to Bandajje falls in Feb 2008. Here's wishing both of them a very happy and fulfilling married life!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Photo of the Day

Flowers in Tende, France

Canon EOS400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4-5.6 IS USM, 136mm
1/125 @ F/6.3, ISO 400

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bookmark - Tag Galaxy

A 2008 diploma thesis by project by Steven Wood, Tag Galaxy helps you search and view photographs from Flickr by visually representing them as a star with tag planets around it. You start off with an initial tag entered into a text box and then successively narrow down your search by selecting more tags associated with the photograph. Once you're done with tag selection, all photos matching the tags are layered on a 3D sun that can be rotated using your mouse.

For example, an initial tag of "India" resulted in close to 2 million photographs, with 8 other tags shown to narrow it down including Rajasthan, Women, Children & Kerala.

I head about Tag Galaxy from Digital Pro Talk.

Canon walkaround lens choices

Bob Atkins has a good review/comparison between a Canon EOS 5D with EF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM and EOS 40D with EF-S 17-85mm F/4-5.6 IS USM. I personally use the EF-S 17-85mm F/4-5.6 IS USM as my walkaround lens which I purchased after much delibration prior to leaving for my Everest Base Camp trek.

Friendly match in Texas Instruments, France
Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4-5.6 IS USM, 108mm
1/400s @ F/5.6, ISO 400

My requirements from a general purpose walk around lens are:
  • Wide enough for general landscape photography and group photographs (~ 28mm)
  • Long enough for good portratits with out of focus background and for compressed landscapes (~ 100mm)
  • Image Stabilization, because I mostly shoot hand-held and it's pretty difficult to carry a tripod or set it up on a hard trek in single digit temperatures
  • Fast apertures, to avoid blur when shooting under low light conditions and for good out of focus backgrounds
  • Good image quality, bokeh, low distortions & aberrations
  • Light and small enough to carry around
  • Price
I had purchased my EOS 400D body only, and bought the EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS at the same time to serve as my general purpose lens. The reviews were good to excellent for the (then) newly introduced lens, it was stated to be much better than the bundled non-IS lens in terms of optical quality. However, I found the 55mm (88mm conventional) too limiting and decided to upgrade before I left for the once in a lifetime trek to EBC.

Considering the 1.6 Field of View Crop of my EOS 400D, I was left with the following choices:
  1. Canon EF-S 17-55mm F/2.8 IS USM
  2. Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II
  3. Canon EF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
  4. Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4-5.6 IS USM
I am not including the super zooms from Tamron due to lack of image stabilization and image quality issues inherent with a super zoom. That said, I do own a Tamron 28-200mm XR lens from my film days that I still use with digital. I do not prefer Sigma lenses, since I have read of compatibility issues with Canon, however there are lots of Sigma on Canon users out there.

Train des Merveilles
Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4-5.6 IS USM, 27mm
1/80s @ F/6.3, ISO 100

Considering my requirements, I arrived at the 17-85 after a process of elimination, mostly based on the focal length range supported by the zooms. The 17-85 is a well regarded lens, the complains about the lens are mostly the following:
- Not fast enough (F/5.6 @ 85mm)
- Distortion and Chromatic Aberration (CA) at wide angle

However, these were more or less what I could live with and/or work around (either by stopping down or correcting using software), so I decided to go in for the lens and has been more or less happy with the choice. I have shot with this lens in Nepal, Kudremukh and France amongst other places.

I recently purchased (yet to get in hand) the Canon EF 70-200mm F/4L IS USM lens that should nicely compliment the 17-85. Combined with a Tamron SP AF 1.4X TC, my lens range covers 17-280mm (27-448mm) with a max aperture of F/5.6 (1 stop loss with 1.4X TC) which I hope should be sufficient for most photographic opportunities.

The-Digital-Picture has a nice survey of most Canon general purpose lens choices.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Great deal on Tamron SP 1.4X TC at Amazon

Today I saw that the price for Tamron SP Autofocus 1.4X Teleconverter is $136.14 as opposed to yesterday's price of $189.00 in Amazon. I was planning to buy the TC to extend the reach of my new Canon EF 70 -200 F/4 L IS USM lens and hence had the TC in my Amazon shopping cart. The only caveat was that shipping estimate was one to two months.

I anyway went ahead and ordered it, hope that it will ship in time for my in-laws to bring it back from the US. Current status shows the delivery estimate between August 1 - August 18 (I chose 2 day shipping for $11) which is just within margin as my in-laws return on August 20th. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Photo of the Day

Curves, Lights & Colors
7 Jun 2008

Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F4-5.6 IS USM, 27 mm
1/13s @ F/9, EC -1, ISO 400

Patterns in the ceiling of Isys Restaurant in the Hotel President in Jayanagar, Bangalore. The camera was having difficulty in focusing, so I had to focus lock at a contrasty edge and refocus. Since by default AE also locks with AF on half-depress of shutter, the image was coming out a bit over-exposed, so I diallied in -1 of Exposure Compensation to set this right. The alternative is to use exposure lock button (*) to lock exposure separately and then focus and shoot. Custom function 4 controls AF/AE settings.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

1.4X Tele Converters: Tamron vs Canon vs Kenko

I have just ordered a Canon EF 70-200mm F/4L IS USM lens from Adorama (Amazon stock availability was on and off, and Adorama also had free shipping like Amazon), and am looking at the possibility of adding a 1.4X Tele Converter to my kit. On the 1.6X FOV crop EOS 400D body I am using, the lens behaves as a 112 - 320 mm F/4 lens, combined with a 1.4X TC, it will become a 157 - 448 mm F/5.6 lens. The intended usage is for candid and wildlife photography.

Note that the 1.4X reduces the maximum aperture by 1 stop whereas the 2X TC reduces it by 2 stops. So the F/4 lens becomes a F/5.6 lens with the 1.4X TC attached. Note also that Canon bodies (other than the professional bodies) cannot autofocus if the max aperture of the lens is smaller than F/5.6. So I will retain AF with 1.4 TC, but not with a 2X TC as that reduces the max aperture of my F/4 lens to F/8.

I researched on the net for the following options:
  1. Canon EF 1.4X II
  2. Tamron 1.4X AF
  3. Tamron SP AF 1.4X Pro
  4. Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DG AF 1.4X
Canon EF 1.4X II
  • Expensive
  • Weather resistant
  • Limited to certain lenses (L series mostly) due to construction
  • Reports correct minimum aperture to camera
  • Lowers AF speed to accommodate the TC
Since the 70-200 F4 IS is the only "L" lens I own as of now, the Canon 1.4X would be a bit of overkill for me at this price.

Tamron 1.4X AF
  • Cheapest of the lot
  • Does not report aperture to body correctly
  • Black, does not go well with white of L series lens (well that matters a bit!)
Tamron SP AF 1.4X Pro
  • Optimized for F/2.8
  • Claimed to be identical to Kenko PRO
  • White (matches L series)
Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DG AF 1.4X
  • Good reviews
  • Claimed to be identical to Tamron SP 1.4X
  • Cheaper on eBay
The Kenko PRO and Tamron SP are supposed to be identical using glass from Hoya and packaged differently.


After reading all the reviews and comments online, it looks like the Kenko PRO & Tamron SP are good bets over the Canon which is $100 more. I am inclined to pick up the Tamron because 1) I have used Tamron lenses before and like them and 2) it is white and will match my new 70-200 mm f/4L IS and 3) it is said to be optically identical to Kenko 1.4X PRO which has good reviews and 4) it will be useful if I upgrade or buy any F/2.8 lenses in future.

  • Overview of TCs by Sean
  • From Bob Atkins, an overview of TCs
  • Comparison between Canon 1.4X and Tamron 1.4X on by Bob Atkins
  • A FAQ on teleconverters at Photography-on-the-Net
  • Tamron/Kenko compared aginst Nikon in NikonLinks

Monday, July 07, 2008

Photo of the Day

Flight about to land at Nice Airport
22 Jun 2008

Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F4-5.6 IS USM, 136 mm
1/320s @ F10, ISO 400

People on the Plage watching a flight about to land at the Nice Cote d'Azur airport and a yacht in the sea.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Photo of the Day

Para sailing off Nice coast
21 Jun 2008

Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F4-5.6 IS USM, 136 mm
1/640s @ F14, ISO 400

Several adventure groups offer various water sport options along the Promenade des Angles in Nice.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Photo of the Day

Sidewalk cafe in Cours Saleya
21 Jun 2008

Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F4-5.6 IS USM, 75 mm
1/100s @ F8, ISO 400

The Cours Saleya is a pedestrian street in Nice lined with quaint shops and terraced cafes and restaurants. Tuesday to Sunday there is a fruit, vegetable and flower market, on Monday there is an antiques fair and on summer evenings you have arts and crafts fair.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Photo of the Day

Evening light on trees
21 Jun 2008

Canon EOS 400D, Canon EF-S 17-85mm F4-5.6 IS USM, 27 mm
1/125s @ F5.6, ISO 100

Past 8 PM and light is still sufficient to shoot at ISO 100! Was on my way to catch a performance at the Fete de la Musique in Cagnes sur Mer when I saw the evening sun throw a golden light on the trees.