The Switch: Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part I

The Switch: Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part I

This is Part I of a series on moving from an all-Canon setup to an all-Nikon setup for four weeks. Will I go back to Canon at the end of four weeks? I have no idea… “I’m going to check out a bunch of Nikon gear and go shoot with it for four weeks. Then I’ll write a series of articles about it.” I grinned at Jim Goldstein, BorrowLenses.com’s VP of marketing, and my nominal boss. He stared back at me, first with a blank expression, then with a knowing glint in his eye. “You’re looking to switch, aren’t you?” he asked. “And you want to use this idea for a series to test the waters on the other side, dontcha?” He kinda had me there. I’d been eyeing that D800 ever since it was announced, and was eager to give it a try. More importantly, I really was thinking of switching sides. Two of my idols, David Hobby and Joe McNally, both shoot Nikon. Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) for their external flashes is world-renowned, and is a traditional area of strength for that brand. As someone who uses lighting a lot these days, I had seen what all the fuss was about and wanted to put it through its paces for my own shoots. “Well, no, I’m not looking to switch,” I told Jim. “But if it happens as a result of my experiment, well…” Jim’s a good sport, and we both agreed that it would be worth it to see what a Canon shooter with an open mind would feel about moving wholesale to Nikon gear. So,...
Sharpness You Can See: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II

Sharpness You Can See: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II

The much anticipated release of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II has been the source of much discussion and debate. While the lens has some notable differences than the original Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (we’ll cover those at the end) the #1 attribute of note is its sharpness. How much sharper could it be you ask? We ran tests to gauge image sharpness for each lens here at BorrowLenses.com headquarters and we were blown away by what we saw. The original Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM was considered to be a very sharp lens and what we found in our tests was that Canon made significant improvements in sharpness and chromatic aberation reduction in the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II. Seeing is believing, so check out the comparison images below to see for yourself how much sharper the lens is compared to the older model. Note: The images below are essentially thumbnails that will show differences in lens distortion, vignetting,  pincushioning, and in extreme cases sharpness. To properly see the differences in sharpness and chromatic aberration we recommend you click on the download link at the end of this post to view the full size images. Our Testing Methodology We placed the optical axis of the lens perpendicular to our Edmund Optics Resolving Power chart.  This alignment neutralizes any sign of tilt that would misalign the plane of focus and exaggerate any softness in focus in the outer corners.  Each lens was tested on a Canon 1D X with center point focus, mirror lockup and triggered after a 2 second delay to minimize any vibration that would add motion blur. Camera and lenses were...
The Leica Diary, Part V – Final Thoughts

The Leica Diary, Part V – Final Thoughts

This is Part V of a series. The previous four parts are listed below: The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction The Leica Diary, Part II – Coming To Grips The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus The Leica Diary, Part IV – An Unexpected Thing or Two After about four weeks of shooting with the Leica M9 and various lenses, I came to a dismaying conclusion. I am not a street photographer. I don’t like street photography. I get nervous, am unsure, and take terrible street photos. And, for most of the time that I had the M9, I was trying to be a street photographer.  What we have here, folks, is a classic case of a photographer trying to mold himself into the image of his camera gear. The Leica is the classic street photographer’s camera; therefore, my thinking went, in order to truly use it and get the hang of it, I MUST shoot on the street. Occasionally, that resulted in a decent image. The portrait below of my friend and colleague, Ben Salomon, was taken with the M9. Every so often, I’d come across an image I’d like. But more often than not, my efforts would be a wash. But this was a really amazing camera. Surely, the fault lay with me if I couldn’t get good images out of it. Well, yeah, kinda. The fault was with me – to a point. The trap that I fell into was allowing the Leica to dictate not just the my technique, but also my style and genre. Since it was supposed to be a great street camera, I...
Finding the Photo in the Cruft

Finding the Photo in the Cruft

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the power of software to bring out something interesting in images that might otherwise be a wash, but wouldn’t you know it, I’m still capable of being amazed. I’m currently shooting with the Nikon D800 of late as part of an assignment (more to come on that later), and I was up in the hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay Area at night, hoping to get some shots of the brilliantly-lit vista that encompassed San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and parts of the Peninsula area. Of course, I got up there, and everything was completely fogged in. I was miffed. Even the slight glimpse of the city in the background behind the Bay Bridge was mostly obscured by fog. I was ready to pass up on the image, finding not much of value, but then decided to play with it a bit. Since I had megapixels to spare (the D800 has a 36MP sensor), I decided to crop the heck out of it. Okay, That was kind of cool, and it was still a 22MP image. But it was still just a fog-blurred image. I decided to see what Lightroom 4 could do with it. Well, okay, that’s not half-bad. Exposure bump by +0.30, highlights lowered by -16, +48 on Clarity and +51 on Vibrance. Not half-bad at all. I didn’t want to stop there. If Lightroom could bring that much life back into this image, what could I do with one of my favorite software packages, Color Efex Pro 4 from Nik Software. I added a little bit of the Detail Extractor...
Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 1

Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 1

This is Part 1 of a series on using Tilt-Shift or Perspective-Control lenses. In this part, we look at the “Shift” functionality of these unique lenses. Part 2, which covers the “Tilt” functionality of these lenses, can be found here. Anyone who’s ever shot a building or any other structure from the bottom looking up knows that the bottom-up perspective makes it look like the vertical lines of the building are all converging towards the top. This problem is exaggerated with wider-angle lenses, making many of these lenses unsuitable for certain types of architectural photography, where not having those distortions is key. While the latest version of Photoshop does include an “Adaptive Wide Angle” filter to help correct these distortions, a lot of photographers prefer to get things right in-camera, leading to less image manipulation in post. For that reason, both Canon and Nikon, as well as third-party manufacturers like Schneider-Kreuznach, have come out with a range of lenses that address that specific problem. The box below outlines the list of tilt-shift lenses BorrowLenses.com has in our inventory. Canon  TS-E Lenses Nikon PC-E lenses Schneider-Kreuznach TS lenses Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Nikon 24mm f/3.5D ED PC-E Tilt-Shift Nikon 45mm f/2.8D ED PC-E Tilt-Shift Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-E Tilt-Shift Schneider PC Tilt-Shift Super-Angulon 50mm f/2.8 Lens For Canon Schneider 90mm f/4.5 Tilt-Shift Lens for Canon Schneider PC Tilt-Shift Super-Angulon 50mm f/2.8 Lens For Nikon Schneider 90mm f/4.5 Tilt-Shift Lens for Nikon Take a look at the image below. Here, I’m using a 17mm...
The Leica Diary, Part IV – An Unexpected Thing or Two

The Leica Diary, Part IV – An Unexpected Thing or Two

This is Part IV of a series. The previous three parts are listed below: The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction The Leica Diary, Part II – Coming To Grips The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus In this part, I’ll look at a couple of unexpected things I ran into when shooting with the Leica. Most people who shoot with a Leica assume that the lenses available for it, like the 50mm f/2.5 shown above, are primes. And, for the most part, this is true. I’d certainly had no reason to think otherwise.  The first unexpected thing… Then I was introduced to the Leica 16-18-21 lens. Okay, here’s the deal. Leica has really only made two zoom lenses that I know of, and of those two, this one is the only one still in production. And, to be fair, this isn’t a zoom lens like we imagine it to be. Canon and Nikon both make a 16-35mm zoom, for example. On those lenses, you can zoom seamlessly through the entire focal length range. I’m fairly sure I have images shot at 19mm, 23mm, 29mm, and other focal ranges in my library that were shot with the Nikon 16-35mm lens. The Leica’s zoom lens, however, is more like three prime lenses bundled into a zoom lens. The zoom ring doesn’t turn seamless. Instead, as you can see in the image above, there are three “click” stops at 16mm, 18mm, and 21mm. When you shoot, you shoot at one of those three focal ranges. Now, this lens, when you rent it from us, comes with a neat little accessory. Since the Leica’s built-in...
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...
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...