Playing With Canon’s New Big Guns

Playing With Canon’s New Big Guns

Canon’s 1Dx and 600mm f/4L IS II lens have been two of the most sought after (and repeatedly delayed) items in their inventory for the past year or so. Now, Canon is finally shipping them with some regularity, and we took this opportunity to put this new combo through its paces. I love photographing birds. A few years ago, I started with a Canon 100-400mm lens and a Rebel XTi, and shot from the comfort of my car. Eventually, I moved up to a Canon 1D Mark IV and a 600mm f/4, or a 500mm f/4 lens. The 1D MKIV/600mm combo became a favorite, and I managed to capture some really cool images with it that are part of my Natural History portfolio. Of course, since then, Canon has introduced its successor to the 1D MKIV and the 600mm f/4. The 1Dx takes over where the 1D MKIV left off, introducing a bigger sensor and better high-ISO performance, among other things, whereas the new 600mm Mark II comes in at slightly shorter and much lighter than its predecessor. I took this combo out for a spin to see if it would match up to my old favorites. As with my previous reviews, I focus more on the shooting experience out in the field, rather than lab tests and results. Handling Canon 1Dx The first thing I do with a new camera is go through the settings to customize it to my specifications. The Canon 1Dx’s menu system is a lot like the 5D Mark III’s, which itself borrows a few things I loved from the 7D, such as the...
The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus

The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus

Part I of the Leica Diary can be found here. Part II can be found here. Zone focus. Those are the two key words you need to know about focusing with a Leica. If you’ve used a rangefinder before, you already know this; if you haven’t, then read on. Leica cameras don’t focus like the DSLRs, ILC (Interchangeable Lens Compacts like the Olympus E-P2), or point-and-shoot digitals that we’re all used to. For one, Leica lenses are all manual-focus lenses. For another, unlike most other digital cameras today, you’re not focusing through the lens (TTL). You’re actually using a separate viewfinder to do the framing and focusing for you.  Take a look at the image below. It’s a bit hard to capture the view through a Leica’s viewfinder, but see that slightly bright rectangle near the top-left of the circle? That’s your focusing aid. Now, see how the part of the poster that’s in that rectangle is doubled?  Well, on a Leica, you adjust the focus ring of the lens till the two images merge into one. That’s the first way to focus a Leica, and when you’re at a wide-open aperture like f/2.5, it’s the surest way to gain critical focus. But that’s not how zone focusing works. Google defines zone focusing as “A way to focus that utilizes the depth of field scale rather than the actual distance from camera to subject. Zone focusing is most useful for candid, street photography.” To understand this, let’s take a look at the lens barrel of a Leica. In the image below, you’ll see that there are a number of markings...
Notable Storytellers – Sara Lando

Notable Storytellers – Sara Lando

Welcome to Notable Storytellers, a feature where we point you to some of the best visual storytellers around, from photographers and videographers to VFX and graphic artists. Sara Lando is an Italian photographer who first came to my attention through her work on David Hobby’s Strobist blog. An occasional contributor there, Sara is a commercial photographer based in Milan, Italy. I devour Strobist.com with regularity, and remember seeing Sara introduced as the European correspondent last year. I also remember reading an article by her on photographer Christoph Martin Schmidt. Her recent series of articles, however, weren’t about another photographer, or even a technique – not necessarily, anyway. These were more of an “approach philosophy” piece. I quote David Hobby: Picture a tiny Italian woman gesturing continuously as she uncorks a full brain dump (from a very, very creative mind) on all of the little things that many people never think of when photographing others. As I was listening I kept thinking, “Someone should be writing this stuff down RIGHT NOW.“ I read the article. Then read it again. It was, I realized, pretty damn good. And insightful. So I clicked through to her portfolio, and got a really wide grin on my face. I love finding photographers whose work inspires me. It used to make me groan at the distance I have to cover to get that good, but now it just drives me. Sara’s work is definitely, without a doubt, inspiring. What fascinated me about Sara’s portfolio is the range she covers. Not in terms of subject matter — she sticks mostly to people — but in terms of...
Flashing Above San Francisco

Flashing Above San Francisco

Every so often, we get to talk about our friends, whether they’re doing something awesome in front of a lens, or behind the camera. This time around, it’s both. One of our favorite all-round good guys and awesome photographers, Syl Arena, swung through San Francisco a while back and hung out with our very own Alex Huff. Alex has an awesome (yeah, I’m jealous) view of San Francisco from her balcony, and Syl used the opportunity to do a shoot with the new Canon 600EX-RT flashes and the ST-E3 transmitter. Using the 600EX-RT, Syl balanced the ambient light with flash, resulting in a very cool image. The complete writeup, with breakdown and before/after shots, is on Syl’s blog. Syl also has a piece up about a personal project he did recently, called “The Faces of American Coal.” It’s one of those deeply personal series of images that will resonate with you. They’re up close, intense, and searching. Of course, Syl being the consumate teacher, has also broken down his process for taking the images too, so we get the added bonus of seeing what goes into a project like this. Maine-area folks, a quick heads-up: Syl will be at the Maine Media Workshops, presenting on Canon Speedlites from Aug 19-Aug 25. If you’re around and have never been to one of Syl’s workshops, they’re not to be missed. Head up there and learn about Canon Speedlites from a photographer who’s often cited as knowing as much about Canon Speedlites as many Canon...
Quick samples from the Canon 1Dx and the 600mm f/4L IS II

Quick samples from the Canon 1Dx and the 600mm f/4L IS II

I spent a weekend shooting with the Canon 1Dx and the new 600mm f/4L IS II, and will be posting a writeup of it soon. In the meantime, here are a few sample images taken with that combo. For what it’s worth, my favorite combination until recently was to shoot with the 1D Mark IV and the old 600mm f/4L IS Mark I. I don’t think it’ll be giving much away to say that the 1DX and the new 600 are officially my new favorite combination for this type of photography. Watch for our writeup of these new beasts from Canon later this...
Notable Storytellers – Vincent Laforet

Notable Storytellers – Vincent Laforet

Vincent Laforet is a filmmaker and photographer that belongs in any reasonable list of Notable Storytellers. Long before he became one of the pioneers (some, including me, would say he is the pioneer) of making films with video-capable DSLRs, he was a staff photographer for the New York Times – and a Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer at that.

In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words

Behind-the-scenses, how-tos, and technique tutorials are excellent tools to help photographers get better at their trade. Just as important, however, is listening to and understanding the experiences of the shooters you look up to. Here are a couple of videos along that vein.

The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction

The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction

These days, it looks like every major camera manufacturer is coming out with a new addition to the MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) class of bodies and lenses. The latest, of course, is Canon, with its EOS-M camera. These units, typically smaller than your average DSLRs, have been getting better and better, packing some serious punch into a very small form factor. Thing is, in all the hype behind cameras like the EOS-M and Fuji’s X100 and X-Pro1 bodies, people forget that MILCs have been around before companies like Sony, Fuji, and Olympus made them popular. Way back in 2006, a good three years before Olympus came out with its retro-styled Micro-Four-Thirds-based camera, Leica introduced its first digital rangefinder, the M8. Powered by a 10.3MP crop sensor, the body retained almost all of the classic Leica styling that’s been aped so much now, and kept the lens mount the same, so that almost all M-series lenses could fit onto this new digital body. The M9, which BorrowLenses.com carries, kept the same general body shape of the M8, but upped the sensor to an 18.3MP full-frame sensor. It also added some very nice features, including better high ISO performance, a better EV compensation system, and exposure bracketing (though it feels kinda weird to try and shoot HDR with a Leica). Leica users also happen to be some of the biggest zealots most passionate folks out there. I’m not talking about the rich guys who like to hang an M9 from their neck for the cache that the little red dot on the camera’s body provides. I’m talking about the guys...