I took most of yesterday off to pay a visit to Calumet in Manchester for a Canon Professional Services roadshow where they were showing off some of the new stuff.

I like CPS (formerly CPN) – it’s open to everyone who has spent a ridiculous amount of money and provides on-site support from engineers at the larger events, ‘masterclass’ type newsletters, plus loan kit if yours packs up. More importantly (to me) their repair service guarantees you’ll have an item back within 5 days or send you loan equipment to use.

However, I can quite honestly say I was drawn to this particular event by the promise of free CCD cleaning and service! Normally I fork out at least £40 a shot for this (plus travel) so killing two birds with one (free) stone seemed like a good idea and I wouldn’t have to hang around in a cafe while the cameras were ‘seen to’. Besides, the 30D sorely needed a clean anyway.

The ‘roadshow’ itself was quite small and hidden in a meeting room in the depths of Calumet’s offices. One side of the room was given over to printing technology (the Pixma range) and the other featured a table full of lenses, flashguns and camera bodies to try out – lots of toys. One end of the room was given over to a small theatre-style arrangement of chairs, but no screen to see example images (which seemed a little odd).

So what did I have a play with? I’d heard the hype around the 70-200 f/2.8 IS L II lens (I have the first version) and had a quick go – the optics have apparently been redesigned but it was difficult to be able to compare in an office room (more about that later). Additionally the Canon rep wouldn’t let me store any images on a CF because “it’s a pre-release lens, this is the only one in Europe, and it’s not the final one”. Disappointing!

That particular restriction only applied to a couple of items though. I also fiddled with:

  • 17-40mm f/4 L ultrawide (as a complement to my 24-105mm f/4 lens).
  • MP-65 Macro which gave some insane results – this photo was taken from a distance of 15mm. Great for getting pics of bugs I guess!
  • 15mm f/2.8 fisheye, a lens I’ve had my eye on for a while which could give some fun gig shots. I’ll probably nab one of these from lensesforhire.co.uk for a week so I can make sure it’s good enough.

Then there were the camera bodies, and I had a play with an EOS 7D, an EOS 1D Mark IV and an EOS 1Ds Mark III. I really missed the full-frame, and the 1Ds Mark III didn’t really ‘wow’ me either, so it served a purpose in that it made me realise how happy I am with my EOS 5D Mark II and stopped me lusting after toys for a while. Additionally, the absence of edge-AF (the diamond is concentrated in the centre on all models) means I’ll wait a bit longer, thanks.

(Sidenote: I asked about the possibility of a ‘1Ds Mark IV’ and was told nothing was in development or in the roadmap.)

It was great getting hands-on experience of the kit and talking to people who obviously knew what they were on about, but it would have been so much better if we had something to take photos of when trying equipment out – even a couple of bowls of fruit with a softbox would have been something. As it was, I used the Canon guys themselves as models and did the best I could with the flourescent lighting itself.

I pottered back to Wakefield once the cameras had been cleaned and I’d played with enough toys. Nice to see the human face of Canon, and worth the jaunt.

Photos (and examples while playing with kit) are here.

Edit: I just got a call – I won the £500 voucher to spend at Calumet as well – what a lovely surprise!