What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

Tag: canon

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!

Well, unfortunately the Canon G9 which broke on holiday is uneconomical to repair. I’m loathed to get a replacement one so I’m looking for recommendations for a compact camera I can stuff in my bag and carry around with me preferably before I’m told to bugger off to India on business with $contract.

Here’s the list of requirements, hopefully not too moon-on-a-stick…

  • Needs to be good in low light situations without using flash, since I use it mostly for parties.
  • Internal flash which doesn’t blind, external flash connector less important but a nice-to-have.
  • Needs to be able to do f/2.8, preferably with ISO800 and above.
  • Battery: Excellent battery life, bonus points if it takes Canon NB-2LH batteries (which sorta limits me to the G10 or a second-hand G9).
  • Memory: Compact flash or SDHC (‘cos this is what I have tons of).
  • Timer and long-exposure shooting.
  • 10MP at least, definite bonus points if it does RAW.
  • Size: Not too unwieldy, and will fit in my back pocket. The G9 just about did.
  • Price point lower than £400.
  • Not too bothered about video, if it does it then it would be good if it were HD.

I have already discounted the G11 because I don’t like flop-out LCD screens and it falls outside the price range. The Canon G10 has also been suggested, the dust-in-lens issues have put me off that a little although it meets most requirements.

Does anyone have any other suggestions please?

Time for a bit of a sweep up on tales of photography which came to conclusions recently…

Remember my whinge about Jessops’ poor repair service where they’d taken 10 days to get it to Canon’s repair centre? I got my EOS 5D Mark 2 back with a note of ‘readjustment’ – after a little bit of research it turns out that this is a fairly common operation, and while they don’t map the pixels out they actually re-adjust the CCD (which bit I don’t know, so don’t ask). Jessops themselves are unrepentant about the delay, it’s fairly average for them and the Interwebs are full of complaints.

In the course of my investigations into quicker repair options I came across Canon Professional Network. While most of the website is open to everyone (I recommend the video tutorials/masterclasses from professionals), if you qualify for their full programme you get priority repairs and equipment loan if it takes more than a week to get the unit back to you. The entry requirements are fairly sizeable – you have to own at least 2 L-series lenses and 2 ‘professional’ bodies (base requirement is EOS 40D so your entry-level dSLRs don’t count nor do the older bodies).

They also make sure there’s a repair centre on-site at major events such as Wimbledon and other major sports events, yada yada. That way if something goes bang you can get it sorted damn quick (and they cover your lenses too, hooray).

Anyway, I qualified for it in the end because I’ve acquired a Canon EOS 50D as a body for Nicky to use. The 30D has been very heavily used (the trigger is reluctant to fire sometimes) and the accessories will fit a 50D so it seemed like a sensible purchase. Nicky’s used it a little bit on holiday and I’m looking forward to the first gig pics using it.

I guess I’ll see how the repair service deals with the G9’s failure and will report sometime in the future, but bear in mind the experience may be a little different as it’s a travel-insurance job.

On a side-note, there’s unsubstantiated rumours of the EOS 7D (again) and of course the new G11 has been announced. Maybe if the G9 is irrepairable I’ll go find one of those instead.

I’m so Canon’s bitch.

Happy new camera!

I now own a Canon EOS 5D Mark II – the Leeds Headrow Jessops had one in, and after a lunchtime jaunt (where I’d convinced myself it was a stocking error and they didn’t really have one) I happily bounced back to the office with a bagful of toys (body-only, since I have glass for man and dog, but I did add on some screen protectors and an 8GB Sandisk Ultra CF).

Good timing too – I spent the evening at The Hop shooting the Open Mic Night. It’s a regular night for me so I was able to compare the photos from my 30D in previous weeks: the end verdict is that the camera displays a totally different dynamic from anything I’ve used before.

The first big difference is the full-frame sensor. OK, I know this isn’t specific to the 5D itself but it’s taken vaguely 20-30mm off my lenses – the 85mm lens acts like a 50mm on the 30D; the 70-200mm acts like a 50mm… you get the idea. In short, I don’t know my glass any more: where I could pick out any lens straight away it’s now going to take some experimentation to get the optimum balance again!

Onto the ISO expansion: the high-ISO noise is pretty nonexistent. Fair enough if you run it at H2 (ISO25600) you get some grain, but I was happily shooting at ISO6400 last night: instead of riding aperture and shutter speed (my technique on the 30D) I found myself riding the ISO instead. It also meant I could take some cracking crowd shots, and stop making up for the poor light with low shutter speed. Brill.

Finally, the video – 1080p HD video to be precise. Now I’ve not worked out a way of resizing/transcoding that yet given a 5-minute performance yields a 650MB file, but it looked good; actually my big problem is that I can’t hold the sodding camera steady, a skill I suppose I’d better learn if I want to do video alongside still photos.

It chucks out 8MB JPEGs. Consequently my 8GB card was almost full when I left the venue. The end result of the Hop shoot is here.

Minor annoyance: Canon have rejigged the buttons on the top of the body. I suspect this will get really tedious when I’m swapping between the 30D and 5D at paid-gigs. However there are quite a few gigs coming up including an all-dayer at The Hop on Sunday (the “Oxjam” thing) so I’m sure it’ll get some hammer.

More when I’ve got used to it!

Neal pointed me at this article on dpreview.com which details the specifications for the Canon EOS 5D mark II in time for Photokina this year.

Some stuff you get for your £2299:

  • 21.1MP sensor with new low-pass filter and DIGIC-IV processor
  • 1080p 16:9 movie recording (limited to 4GB constant file size)
  • ISO100-6400 native, with extension to ISO50-ISO25600
  • New battery type (oh bugger!) – LP-E6
  • 9-point AF, 6 “invisible” AF points
  • Dust-reduction and sexy new cleaning mechanism

I’m quite glad I’ve held out for this now. Maybe I’ll budget for one on the other side of Christmas, or for my birthday in May. Actually, the latter sounds like a good idea…

For several years now I’ve been showing up to gigs around the Wakefield/Leeds area, taking photos to try and better my own technique: indeed in one of the pubs in Wakefield there’s a gallery of past events where I took the shots. With my Canon 30D and a handful of lenses stretching from an f1.8 50mm through to f5.6 300mm I think I’ve made a lot of progress in taking reasonably evocative and sometimes exciting shots. Comparing pics taken in 2005 with more recent efforts offers quite a startling contrast.

More recently I started getting offered paying work to turn up at a show and do some photography, so I thought I’d better start taking it seriously. As anyone who plays with dSLR kit knows, glass is expensive: it’s easy to run into many hundreds of pounds once you get addicted to photography! Thus I wanted to make sure if I spend a pile of cash on a lens then it’s the right one, which would deal well in low light and give some nice clear shots so I didn’t end up having to put half the shoot into B&W.

Ideally I wanted a way of evaluating different lenses over the course of a few days each and in a variety of different situations:

  • Full gig atmosphere, stage show, etc. – not always possible since it depends on the band and the venue.
  • Pub gig atmosphere, intimate venue with small room for maneuver – O’Donoghue’s in Wakefield is good for this.
  • Harry’s Bar in Wakefield, which stages regular gigs but has the most godawful lighting in the universe.

The latter two were easy – I regularly take pics in both venues. The former was afforded with a gig photographing Paleday again.

That left the decision on where to borrow lenses. I have friends who have camera kit (some ridiculously expensive), and most of the lenses I wanted to try out were out of their price range too. Enter LensesForHire.co.uk who have been absolutely sterling not only in having a wide range of lenses you can hire, they also ship them to you the day before the hire and collect it the day after, include full insurance, and you get a lens that’s been tested and cleaned. Perfect!

First lens up was the f2.8 70-200 USM IS L. I didn’t have a full gig to go to, but figured trying it in O’Donoghue’s would be a good start (photos). Sadly, that model just wasn’t designed for gigging, it’s heavy, the IS function is useless in low light, it’s just more of a sports lens or for outdoor gigs: most of that gig was taken at ISO800 or ISO1600 which on the 30D gives grainy shots (it’d probably come out a lot better with a DIGIC-III based body such as the 450D but that’s not the point).

Neal recommended I try the f1.2 85mm L II USM so I hired that for the Paleday gig last Friday where I’d got a full backstage pass and the run of the venue (woo!). Honestly, I was absolutely at a loss for words – the glass is utterly fantastic, wow, etc. This is the lens.

Many of the sound check photos were taken purely with a flourescent floodlight at ISO100 or ISO200 giving a clarity I’d just never come across in my photos before. No mucking around, no playing with colour balance, no monochrome – just clean-cut angles and excellent bokeh.

(Incidentally – I carried around Nicky’s EOS 400D with the f2.8 Sigma 28-50 on the front, any 400D photos you see in the Astoria collections were taken with that).

The first band of the night were Royal Showdown, a 15-piece which included a string section – good opportunity to try stuff (photos). One of the bigger problems I’ve had in previous gig shoots has been the prevalence of saturating red and yellow light, to the extent that I set up a colour profile on the 30D purely to deal with that in extreme cases; no such worries here with shots such as this being taken from the auditorium, and this from the balcony. I’m especially pleased with the shots of the string group (example) and although that particular lens has a very tight depth-of-field at f1.2 I found the focus was almost bang on most of the time, needing only minor adjustment.

Paleday were fab of course (photos) – only a 30-minute set but still great music. I spent pretty much all of it monkeying around the auditorium and wings taking band pics. The saturating light got in the way a little, especially when taking photos of Phil the bass player from across the stage (photo) but by and large they’re a stonking set of shots including some good ones of Sam. I considered stopping around for the later bands but to be honest I was exhausted and not looking forward to a 200-mile drive home!

So, it worked in a full gig and lighting atmosphere. Next up, let’s go to the pub – O’Donoghue’s on Saturday night. The band ‘Full Tilt’ were playing a set of good hard loud rock including use of a Black & Decker drill (no, it’s not faked). Close-up saturating light from PAR56 cans set about 1.5m away from the performers gave me ample time to play with stuff, and I was very pleased with the results.

Tonight I’m probably going to wander to Harry’s Bar to just do a final test at Open Mic Night, however I’m largely happy with it and will be purchasing one when I’ve got a replacement for the Marlow contract. It’s heavy, it’s expensive (coming in at a list price of £1500 and a discounted price of £1250 if you shop around), but it’s the dog’s for it.

Enjoy the photos.

I’ve just spent the morning in Leeds, after turning up at the Commercial Street shop at 10ish with my not-very-good Canon EOS 30D.

The gentleman remembered me from Sunday, so it was reasonably easy just to get started. He brought out another 30D for me and I went outside to take some photos to test it was all OK – sadly not, there were 3 or 4 obvious marks. So another unit was procured, which had the same problem.

Then they’d run out of 30D bodies, so he walked up to the nearest branch on Headrow and picked up their remaining 30D. That had dust on it.

By that time I was getting a bit anxious, but the nice gentleman phoned the Merrion Centre branch which had a sealed one and a display model. The sealed unit also had dust on the CCD, so we tried the display model. That worked! So now I have a 30D which doesn’t have dust on it.

According to the sales guys I spoke to, they’ve had quite a few 400Ds returned with dirty CCDs which just won’t clean, and the current rumour is there’s a bad batch – this seemed to be the first 30D they’d had back but by their own admission they don’t sell many. Bizarrely, my 10D lasted two years before I needed to get the CCD cleaned, and I’m wondering if the CCD in the 30D is susceptible. It also shows that the 400D’s CCD-cleaning feature doesn’t actually seems to be that great.

Irritating, but I’m glad it’s sorted and Jessops were very helpful in rectifying the problem.

It looks like the Canon Outlet is confined to eBay, and thus subject to nutter price bidding (even using a sniping tool). How tedious.

Anyone got any other ideas please?

So, with not many days to go before holidaytime, right now isn’t the best time for my SLR to go pop.

Jon had it over the weekend for Clarence, and pointed out to me on Sunday that the Sigma 28-200 we use for general gig pics was occasionally having problems focusing and giving ‘error 99’ – general error meaning that a reboot is required, something I last saw using an older reverse-engineered Sigma lens. So naturally I blamed it on the Sigma and he switched to another lens.

I got the 10D back tonight, and since it was sunny popped into the garden to take some photos. All fine on the Canon 75-300 lens for a short space of time then it began failing to autofocus, going from one extreme to the other and back again. If I knocked it into manual focus it was fine – just seemed to be the autofocus (although to be honest it wasn’t making a good effort at working out lighting either, not popping the flash when it needs to). A trawl of the Canon forums suggests that there’s a general ‘issue’ with autofocus not getting quite right on the 10D, but nothing on this scale.

It seems I have a few options:

  1. Get this one fixed, something which won’t happen in time for the holidays and which has an unknown cost element.
  2. Buy a new 30D, something I was loathed to do given that the 40D is strongly rumoured to be coming out in September and that’s what I’ve been waiting for.
  3. Buy a 400D which will have the 10MP stuff and the DIGICiii processor, but which I’m not keen on (I borrowed Col’s last weekend and although it takes nice pics, it doesn’t ‘feel’ right to me, probably because there are less controls – I miss the back dial).
  4. Buy a refurb 10D from the Canon outlet which will probably be less than getting it fixed, and I’ll have it within a few days.
  5. I don’t take a camera on holiday – absolutely unthinkable!

Right now, option 4 is looking favourite, and if I don’t get success on that by mid next week I’ll go into a Jessops and buy a 30D – Nicky can get the 40D when that comes out. I hadn’t exactly budgeted for a 600 quid outlay right now however.

How sodding annoying.

Reading over at Fosfor Gadgets about the upcoming Canon EOS 40D, I have to admit I’m more than tempted, even though the sole major upgrade from the 30D seems to be the CCD:

1.6x 10.1M CMOS senor (30D has 1.6x 8.2M CMOS Sensor)
Anti-dust feature
2.5 inch LCD (30D has 2.5 inch LCD)
9 focus points (30D has 9 focus points)
5 fps (30D has 5fps)
Compact flash based memory cards (same as 30D).

There’s links on Slashgear and Gizmodo as well. Maybe time to upgrade the 10D after all!

This is cool, a tutorial on how to build your own Canon shutter release cable. It includes the relevant bits to wire it up to a serial port too so you can automate it. Very cool.