Tag Archives: camera

First Experience With The R3

My 1DXII bodies have been doing sterling work for the last five or so years and continue to be reliable.  In the interim, the camera world has made a shift from SLR technology to mirrorless.  Canon was a slow starter in this space but has since got in to gear.  I am not an early adopter and waited until something came along that really appealed to me.  The R3 body was that thing.  It combines the latest of the mirrorless technology with a body like the 1D series and the associated great battery life.  It was enough to make me take the plunge.

Getting one was a different story.  I ordered one in the fall of 2021.  I wanted to get one first to work with it and make sure it was the thing for me before committing to a pair of them.  Recently, I got the call that my body had finally come in.  I was very excited to try it out.  I then got a call from the store within an hour of the first saying that the second body was on.  I had ordered this much later with the intent of knowing whether I was happy or not before it showed up.  I decided to defer it and see how things went.  I think the credit card was pleased with that decision too!

I have now had a week of playing with it having shot some aviation and some wildlife.  I have not really had a chance to dig deep yet so this is just first impressions.  Overall, it is really impressive.  The ergonomics are familiar after years of shooting with 1D bodies.  However, the controls are more complex and things are not identical so I am taking a while to get comfortable with where everything is.  This will probably take me a while.

Battery life has been very good.  I was expecting it to be worse than the 1DXII but it seems to have stood up to a lot of shooting with tons of life left.  New batteries don’t hurt of course and we shall see how things play out.  The small megapixel bump is fine but it really is barely noticeable compared to the 1DXII.  24Mp versus 20Mp might sound like a big increase but when you look at the linear pixel count it is only a small increase.

Autofocus is amazing and confusing.  Its ability to pick up targets and then track them across any part of the image is fantastic.  It seems to have very good accuracy and I am liking the shots I am getting.  Eye detection on wildlife is spookily good.  However, I don’t yet know how to control the autofocus properly.  There are so many ways to customize things that I have yet to understand.  For example, I haven’t yet worked out how to make it focus on a center spot only like my old setup.  Most of the time, the clever stuff is more useful but there are odd times when you want it to do something simple.  With small subjects or cluttered backgrounds, this can be important.

I also have to get used to pressing the button when I pick up the camera.  I am used to looking through the viewfinder to sight a subject before pushing anything but the viewfinder shuts off after a while and needs to be woken up.  It would be good if that could be done with some motion sensing (maybe it can and I haven’t found it yet).

I have tried the eye control a little.  It seems to work pretty well.  Calibration with my glasses was fine and the contract lenses were okay too but I have put that to one side for now while I leaned to understand a whole bunch of other functions of the camera.  I have also connected it to my phone and iPad which has been a handy thing to do.  I did briefly experience with the automatic focus stacking which seemed to work well and I shall try more of that in due course.  I haven’t tried any video yet at all.

I have had to change my cards and card readers since both of the card types are new to me.  That was a nuisance but not the end of the world.  I actually bought them a while back so I wouldn’t have to worry about it now.  I got the 24-105 lens in the RF mount.  My old 24-105 was a bit beaten up and the image quality was not strong so a replacement seemed like a good idea.  They had been as rare as rocking horse poo but fortunately were in stock when I went in so I got one.  I also have the convertor for my other lenses and they seem to be working extremely well.  The combination with in body stabilization has improved them too and I find some of the tracking of moving subjects in the viewfinder easier than it used to be – something which I attribute to the IBIS.

Overall, I am happy so far.  Definitely some things to work on understanding.  At the time of writing (versus publishing), I am about to go on a trip when I shall shoot a lot of planes.  This will be a big test but the initial experience makes me think it should go well.  The camera tracks the cockpit of planes like the eyes of a bird so I am feeling confident it will be good.  I think the conversion to mirrorless is going to be complete for me based on what I have seen so far but within the next month, I should know whether it will work for me or not.

Looking Down On Construction

I got to climb a tower crane recently.  This is something I had never done before and, since it provides a good view of a site and it was a new experience, I was keen to go.  I had one of my bigger cameras with me but I didn’t have a strap for it.  This proved to be a poor choice.  Climbing the ladders to get up the tower is not particularly hard but trying to do so while keeping hold of the hand strap of one camera was possible but very slow.

I quickly decided to leave the camera on one of the stage levels and get it on the way back down.  It wasn’t like anyone was going to be passing by.  I still had my phone in my pocket so that would have to do.  I got up to the level just below the cab.  Stopping at a few levels on the way up game me some different views of the construction site.  An elevated position is so appealing to me.  It gives perspective that most people never get to see.

Climbing back down again was a little less easy.  There is something about climbing up something which seems more natural than climbing down.  However, I was soon reunited with my camera and then finished the last couple of levels.  I will take good note of the advice about not bruising your knees as the ladder angle changes.  I might have bashed them once or twice.  Also, next time I shall make sure to have a strap to allow me to carry the better cameras with me!

Lens Envy

Camera gear is always something that you can find a better and more expensive version of.  However, you really feel like an amateur when you go up against the TV guys.  There were a few camera locations I passed by when shooting at Ridge.  They were using these huge Canon zoom lenses.  They would be a bit of a nuisance to carry around and cost more than I care to think about but you still feel a little envious.

You Forget How Slow Old Cards Are!

My main cameras have two card slots.  One is a CFast and the other is Compact Flash.  I use the CFast all the time but the Compact Flash is a handy backup.  Occasionally, if I have the camera on with the CFast out of the slot, the camera reverts to the second slot and, if I don’t notice, it continues to use it when I next shoot.  This isn’t a particular problem except when it comes to downloading.  I have USB3 card readers for both CFast and Compact Flash.  However, the speed of card technology has moved on dramatically.  When I download the Compact Flash cards and import to Lightroom, I am reminded of just how slow they are.  I used to do this all the time but, once I started using CFast, I got used to the better speed and now, when I revert to the old tech, it feels positively glacial!

Filming a Car Scene in Vancouver

Walking through the streets of Vancouver one weekend, we came up to an intersection.  There was a Porsche sitting on a trailer with two people in it.  It quickly became apparent that they were doing some filming.  The woman was an actor and the man was filming here.  There was a vehicle pulling the trailer with some of the production staff sitting on it.  Initially I was focused on what they were doing but then I started to look around.

The whole convoy was all related to the filming.  There was a motorcycle escort supporting them and other vehicles from the production team.  Everything on the street was controlled.  You often feel when watching street scenes that they are filming in an open environment but a lot of the time it is totally controlled.  Only us and the other pedestrians could be considered random variables in the whole process.  The light stayed red for a while with the cameraman trying a variety of positions and then the lights changed and the whole ground headed off to the next block.  We went on our way too.

Astar Over My Head

These shots are from a few years ago.  I had the privilege to spend a day with the late Alan Purwin during the filming for one of the Transformers movies in Chicago.  I got to fly with them on some of the shoot but I also was on the ground when they went off on part of the filming.  I put myself directly ahead of the Astar when they took off and Alan buzzed me.  I noticed when going through the images that the cameraman was tracking me with the stabilized mount on the nose as they flew over the top.

Going Mirrorless

Being late to the party is something that I make a habit of.  You could also be more optimistic and say that I am not an early adopter.  A number of friends and colleagues have added a mirrorless body to their collection of gear and I have followed suit.  I am perfectly happy with the performance of my SLRs.  This was to add something rather than replace something.  The primary interest was in size and convenience.  There are times when lugging the heavy bodies around is just inconvenient.

I went with an EOS M6.  I did consider going with a different manufacturer but using other equipment I already have was one factor.  Another was that this camera gave me an option I was quite keen on.  It has a screen for use while shooting but it also has an optional viewfinder to slot into the hot shoe.  This was discounted to only $11 when I bought the camera.  I like a viewfinder hit am okay with a screen.  Nancy, on the other hand, does not like screens so the viewfinder can be brought along if required and will make her happier to use the camera.

So far my experience with it has been very good.  Image quality has been fine, the controls are good and let me make adjustments without needing to enter menus.  The flippy screen is really handy and the kit lens fits plenty of needs.  The app that works with it is also pretty handy which gives a few options I wish the SLR could match!  The time lapse functionality is good too.  I have not tested it fully with my range of lenses and will do so at some point.  However, for what I bought it for, it is doing the trick nicely.

Making Use of the Camera’s Features

One of the things that I was glad to get when I last changed camera bodies was the ability to have exposure compensation while shooting in manual mode.  You might wonder why this is a useful thing to have but I was shooting a couple of time recently when it was useful.  Sadly, the first time I didn’t think to use it.  The second I did though.  This is the result of shooting in dark conditions when the light levels are changing quite a bit.

The problem in the first case was that I was shooting in aperture priority mode.  The light was low, so I went to auto ISO to allow it to adjust.  The camera looks to get a shutter speed that is related to the focal length of the lens you are using.  I was shooting a landing aircraft and, when I was out at the full length of the zoom, it kept shutter reasonably high.  However, as the plane got closer and I zoomed out, the camera dropped the shutter speed down which meant the panning resulted in a lower keeper rate.  I should have foreseen this and I was annoyed with myself.

The next time, I thought through the issue a bit better.  A gray sky meant that I needed to have some positive exposure compensation.  I went to manual mode, set the shutter speed and aperture that I wanted but included the exposure compensation.  Then I set auto ISO.  Now I had the ISO adjusting to get the combination I wanted while including exposure comp.  On my old bodies, this was not possible.  The result was the exposure I wanted with ISO adjusting throughout the sequence.  When conditions are not great and changing quickly, this is an approach I can highly recommend.

It is Dark at Nellis During the Night Launch

On previous trips to Red Flag I have taken pictures of the departing B-1Bs as they fly overhead.  The burners are really impressive and definitely worth getting a shot of from below.  However, having done this a few times, I wanted to try something different.  The fighter get out of burner very quickly after they get airborne.  They are in mil power for ages before they get to you on the centerline.  I wanted to see what you could get from the side a lot closer in so Paul agreed to try something different.

We ended up shooting a lot of side on stuff of departures for the night launch.  Unfortunately, we didn’t appreciate just how dark it is at Nellis at night.  We had a good moon so we were hopeful that there might be some residual light.  It turns out that this is not the case.  Even close in, the fighters are out of burner.  The tankers and the E-7 went out and I got some shots but they were a struggle, event making use of the best high ISO capabilities of the cameras.  The B-1s did show up okay but I still didn’t do as well as I thought I should have.

I learned a bit about the performance of the cameras.  I was shooting at super high ISO settings with the camera wide open.  However, as I review the shots, I realize the camera was behaving in a way that I had not anticipated.  I was shooting in aperture priority with some negative exposure compensation dialed in.  As I look through the shots I see that the camera would start out with a dark shot, gradually boost the exposure and then go dark again.  I would review the shots and see one that was looking good but know that the next would be dark.

When shooting in such limited light, the shutter speeds are very low and the number of lost shots is high.  Therefore, you can’t afford to have the exposure be bad.  I don’t know how many shots I lost since they may not have been sharp anyway but I cut down on my opportunities.  In future, I need to have all of the exposures be acceptable in order to maximize my opportunities.  Therefore, I think I shall have to go fully manual on everything for these shots.  Set ISO up high and then go to manual aperture and shutter speed.  I will still lose a lot of shots but at least I can focus on dealing with my handholding technique rather than worrying about how the camera is metering a dark night.  It’s not too reasonable to expect the camera to get that right every time.  It is a pretty extreme case!

Creating Lens Profiles for Adobe Software

UPDATE:  It turns out, the upload process for the profile sends to an address that doesn’t work.  While I try to fix this, if you want the profiles to use, you can download them by clicking here.

Within Adobe processing software, there is lens correction functionality built in to the Lightroom Develop module (or Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) that compensates for distortion and vignetting in the lens the image was taken with.  Adobe has created a large number of lens profiles but they never created one for the Canon 500mm in its initial version.  Adobe also has an online tool for sharing profiles but this does not include one for this lens either.  The 600mm had a profile and it was supposedly close so I had been using that for a while.  Recently, though, I was shooting with the 1.4x teleconverter fitted and this introduced some new effects which required some manual tweaking to offset.

I still wasn’t happy with the result so I decided it was time to bite the bullet and create some profiles from scratch.  Adobe has a tool for creating a lens profile.  It involves printing out some grid targets which you then shoot a number of times to cover the whole of the frame.  It then calculates the profile.  I was shooting at both 500mm and 700mm so I needed a few targets.  To make a complete profile it is a good idea to shoot at a variety of focusing distances and with a range of apertures.  The tool comes with many targets.  Some I could print at home but some of the larger ones I got printed at FedEx and mounted on foam core to make them more rigid.  Then it was time to shoot a bunch of very boring shots.

The software is not the most intuitive I have ever worked with but it eventually was clear what I had to do.  (Why do some manual writers seem like they have never used the process they are writing about?)  I found out how to run the analysis for different charts and distances separately and append the data to the profile as I go.  I did need to quit the program periodically because it would run out of memory which seems like an odd bug these days.  After much processing and some dropped frames as a result of poor shooting on my part (even on the tripod I got some blur occasionally with very slow shutter speeds) it got a profile out.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course (that is what the actual phrase is for those of you that never get past the pudding part) so I tried the profile out on some recent shots.  It works!  I was rather delighted.  I may shoot a few more samples in good conditions to finish things off but this was a rather happy outcome.  Once I have tweaked the profiles sufficiently, I shall upload them to Adobe and anyone can use them.