Tag Archives: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Coming Soon

In my last post, I related my thoughts about buying a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM to replace my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM.

Today, I officially set the wheels in motion to achieve this objective.

After recently being in contact with the manager of the store from which I prefer to buy, I visited the store today and paid a deposit on the lens.

The good news is that Canon Australia has two in the warehouse, that mine has already been ordered by the retailer, and that it should be available to pick up this week.

Fantastic!

I am looking forward to exploiting the capabilities of this lens to the fullest, and it will bring my lens lineup to the state I desire: all primes in the widest apertures currently available.

Naturally, this means that my long-serving (over ten years now) and excellent Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM will be departing, but being in near-mint condition, I am sure it will very quickly find a new home and serve a new owner for years to come.

The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM will be a very welcome addition to my super-telephoto lens lineup, joining its big brothers, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM and the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM.

In terms of gear acquisition and de-acqusition, 2017 has been a rather dramatic year, with two new lenses purchased, three long-serving lenses sold, an entire collection of filters sold, and a new set of filters acquired.

I think it is time for a rest.

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM – Almost

Last week I had an opportunity to purchase a second-hand Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM at a very cheap price.

The big 500 is a lens I have long wanted, and it is an ideal lens and focal length for wildlife photography.

I decided to have a look at it, and I spent a fair bit of time with it.

It works fine, but it is not in the greatest condition.

A portion of the AF switch had been snapped off, which exposed the inside of the barrel — at least, the section below the switch panel.  That was concerning to me, as water could easily ingress the barrel.

Also, the front rim was in quite bad shape. It had copped a lot of bumps into hard objects.

I was told that it belonged to a paparazzo who used it on a motorbike.

Clearly it had collided with poles, walls, cars, the bike itself and heaven knows what else.

Despite a few paint scratches, the hood was in great shape.  I would expect that if it had been used much, it would have been well and truly trashed; I suspect it did not spend much time on the lens.

Even for the very cheap price I was offered, it was a risky and uncomfortable situation, and the lens would need to be serviced by Canon to address the damage, which could have been an expensive exercise.

The lens was in good condition relative to how it had been used; but a condition not good enough for my comfort level.

I decided not to proceed.

The following day, I began to think about the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM.  I tried that lens at PMA Australia in 2008 when it was new.  It is a stunning lens, and having recently shot a few times with the long-discontinued and rare Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM, I would be very happy with a fast (faster than f/2.8) 200mm lens.

When I conducted some critical analysis, the truth is that I do not need a 500mm lens, as I can already achieve the 560mm focal length at f/4 by attaching my Canon Extender EF 1.4x II to my Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM.

What the 500mm prime has in its favour is lighter weight (enormously beneficial when travelling: 3.87kg vs. 5.37kg), and a sharper, native focal length of 500mm.  Having said that, of the three longest focal lengths I had in Kenya, 400mm was used most, followed by 800mm and 560mm.

What I cannot currently achieve is  f/2) at 200mm.  It has been a dream of mine for a number of years to replace my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM with a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM, as not only would the latter give me a brighter aperture at the 200mm focal length and a stunningly sharp lens, but it would switch me to a 100% prime lens rig.  I am a fan of fast primes, and presently I only have one zoom — one of the finest zoom lenses Canon has produced, incidentally.

I have asked my regular supplier (who has always given me good deals) for a price on a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM.  If I can land a good price, I might just finally do this, and turn another lens replacement dream into a reality.

Farewell, Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

Today I sold my Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM lens.

For a month or two, I had been thinking of offloading it, and once or twice previously, I had entertained the thought of selling it.

I was recently put into contact with someone who might be interested in it, and today the buyer collected it.

According to my lens utilisation statistics, it was my least used lens apart from my one-month-old Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM.

Looking at my images, I have only shot 10 images with it in the last five years. Two images per year is not much, and I only published a total of 36 images during the time I owned it.

I am just not a macro shooter at all, and I find macro photography too frustrating for my liking.

It is a stunning lens and is in near-mint condition, but it just is not the kind of lens I use much or really need (despite having owned it for over nine years), so it is better for it to be in the possession of someone who will exploit its capabilities.

I will use the money from its sale to fund my NiSi 150mm filter system.

My original intention was to replace the lens with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, but as nice as that lens is (I inspected one), it makes no sense at this point in time.

If I ever want a macro lens in the future, I’ll go and pick one up; but for now, the lack of a macro lens in my rig is not a hindrance.

With this most recent sale and last month’s replacement of my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM with a Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM, that amounts to two lenses gone from my lineup in less than two months!

I have optimised my lens lineup in several ways, and I am content with what is now in my rig.

I would still like to replace my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM with a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM, but for the foreseeable future, that notion will remain confined to the realm of wishful thinking.

It’s Official: Kenya African Wildlife Photography Trip

A few months ago we booked another trip to Africa.

It’s been something we’ve wanted to do again since our first life-changing visit in October of 2012.

This time we are heading to the Maasai Mara region of Kenya, for some incredible wildlife encounters on an eight-day private photographic safari.

We are again going into the wilderness with our friend and guide Mario Moreno.

Also a few months ago, I bought 400mm f/2.8 lens for wildlife photography — actually, for this trip.  On the last trip, I took my 300/2.8, which was comfortably accommodated by my Lowepro Mini Trekker AW backpack.

Unfortunately, the 400/2.8 is a much larger lens, and the Mini Trekker AW cannot accommodate it.  Well, it can (barely), but there’s insufficient room for everything else I need.

In researching camera bags, I had two criteria:

  1. it had to accommodate the gear I need and want to take; and
  2. it had to be airline cabin-friendly.

I was pointed in the direction of the Lowepro Vertex 200 AW, and looked into this bag.  When I contacted Lowepro to enquire into whether it would accommodate a 400/2.8, I was told it would not.

Fortunately, that answer was wrong, as it very comfortably accommodates such a lens.

Today I headed into town with the lens and tried it out.  It was a perfect bag for my needs.

I brought it home and packed it with the gear I’m taking to Kenya:

  1. Canon EOS 5D Mark II;
  2. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM;
  3. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM;
  4. Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM;
  5. Canon Extender EF 1.4x II; and
  6. Canon Extender EF 2x II.

It all fits!

My 17″ MacBook Pro even fits into the laptop compartment, albeit somewhat snugly.  This means I will only need one bag, whereas last time I had a camera backpack and a laptop bag, which isn’t ideal when travelling internationally.

I am very pleased with the Lowepro Vertex 200 AW.  The build quality is excellent, as indeed it is with all Lowepro bags/cases I’ve owned; and the padding and straps in the waist area really make the fully-packed bag seem much lighter.

Here is a photo of the bag, packed with the bulk of the gear I’m taking to Kenya:

Lowepro Vertex 200 AW Packed for Africa

Lowepro Vertex 200 AW Packed for Africa

This bag will certainly make travelling internationally with bulky and heavy camera gear a much more pleasant experience.  It will also serve me well locally and on domestic trips, as since having the 400/2.8, I’ve not had a suitable method of carrying it.

I cannot wait for the Kenya trip, and to being in the wilderness for some incredible wildlife experiences.

New Camera Bag: Lowepro Nova 190 AW

After having ‘Lowepro bag for light travel’ on my list of things to buy for a year or two, today I finally purchased said camera bag.

Hitherto, my camera bag rig consisted of a Lowepro Mini Trekker AW and an often-used 12-year-old shoulder bag which needed replacement.  I also have a Crumpler 5 Million Dollar Home (Canon EOS edition) which came with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, but it’s way too small to be practical, and being bright red, stands out from a thousand miles away.

The Mini Trekker AW is a fantastic backpack, and even accommodates my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM along with camera, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM and both the 1.4x and 2x tele-converters (even with smaller equipment, I can fit a lot into it), but I’m long past the point of wanting to carry a large-ish backpack around, and particularly when I travel (flying especially), I want a smaller shoulder-carry bag for my camera gear.  It was not unusual for my camera backpack to weigh 10kg when flying inter-state.

Today I brought home a new Lowepro Nova 190 AW.  Oddly enough, this was the bag I was considering the last time I looked into this issue and looked at bags.  I looked at the Lowepro Nova 200 AW, which is longer and deeper, but I found it to be too large, and in terms of size, it wasn’t a great deal different from my Mini Trekker, so I went back to the Nova 190 AW, which is more pleasant to carry around.

While the Nova 200 AW will hold more gear and would undoubtedly be a great bag, I wanted something smaller and less bulky.  The Nova 190 AW will easily hold the camera and three or four fast (ie, f/2 or faster) primes or two f/2.8 zooms.

Important to me was the bag’s ability to hold my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM.  The salesman in the store grabbed a 5D II and 70-200/2.8L (non-IS, but close enough in size), and the Nova 190 AW easily accommodated that rig, plus had plenty of room for another couple of decently sized primes or zooms.

For those unfamiliar with Lowepro nomenclature, AW designates ‘all-weather’, meaning the bag has an integrated rain cover.  As a seascaper, and one who tends to get rather wet, it’s important that my gear is protected, and the integrated rain cover will easily keep splashes and rain at bay.

I’ve just packed it, and it very nicely holds a good rig of equipment without being too heavy, or increasing in bulk due to the gear I’ve placed inside it.

At the moment, it contains my:

  1. Canon EOS 5D Mark II;
  2. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM (including hood);
  3. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM (including hood);
  4. Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller;
  5. Lee filter wallet containing GND4, GND8 and two ND8s;
  6. Lee filter holder and 82mm adapter ring;
  7. Hoya 82mm circular polarising filter;
  8. Hoya HMC 82mm ND8 filter;
  9. hotshoe-mounted spirit level;
  10. spare SanDisk Extreme III 4GB CompactFlash card;
  11. Princeton Tec FUEL headlamp + spare batteries;
  12. Lenspen;
  13. neoprene lens cleaning cloth;
  14. plastic bags and ziplock bags; and
  15. business cards.

Quite a lot of gear!

All in all, I am very happy with this bag, and I will keep it packed as above for the most part, as it contains my seascaping rig, plus my 85/1.2L II, which I don’t normally carry on ‘scape shoots, but which will give me extra reach when needed.  I can easily swap that for my Canon EOS 135mm f/2L USM if I want even more reach.

It’s just as easy to swap out some gear for a bag of fast primes and flashes.  It’s very versatile, holding a decent rig of equipment without being bulky or too heavy, and when it comes to flying, it consumes a lot less room in the overhead luggage compartments, or could just as easily sit under the seat in front of me.

My Lee filter wallet and the case for the filter holder both consume considerable space.  If I needed more room or wanted to take a 70-200/2.8 as well as my 16-35/2.8L II, I could find an alternative way of transporting the filters, as they are flat sheets of resin, measuring 6×4″ at the most, and could be stacked together with tissue paper separating them, and a ziplock bag containing the lot.

The Nova 190 AW offers plenty of options for configurability and holds a surprisingly large amount of equipment for its size.

It was definitely a good purchase; all I need to do now is head out for a shoot.  With my state of mind over the past three or four months, that’s proven to be more challenging than finding a suitable camera bag!

Equipment I Use – Camera and Lenses

As a photographer I believe that the ability of a person to capture photographic images is more important than the equipment used in the process.

However, and somewhat at odds with that ideal, I also believe that quality equipment is a vital part of the ingredients that go into producing a great image.

Put simply, high-quality equipment will both reduce gear-induced limitations as well as produce images of better quality.  It is to be remembered, however, that the world’s greatest camera in the hands of the world’s worst photographer will produce an expensively bad image.

Philosophies aside, this first article of several is intended to explain the camera and lenses I use and for what applications I use them.  Further articles will go into the details of other equipment such as lighting equipment, filters, supports and other accessories, as these are equally important in achieving my images.

While I love good gear and have a significant amount of it, I’d prefer to be using that equipment to capture good images than sitting here talking about the equipment; but be that as it may, many photographers are interested in knowing what gear other photographers use, so without further ado, here’s a breakdown of my camera and lens equipment.

Camera

I use only one camera: a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR.   I purchased this in May of 2010 to replace my Canon EOS 5D, a camera I had been using since 2006, and which was destroyed by a dramatic encounter with the ocean at Kiama.

The biggest feature of the Canon EOS 5D line of cameras is the full-frame sensor.  A full-frame sensor is the same size as a frame of 35mm film (ie, 36mm x 24mm), and there are multiple benefits of a larger sensor than the smaller APS-C (1.6x crop) sensors in most of Canon’s other cameras; namely:

  1. less digital noise due to a physically larger sensor;
  2. easier composing due to a larger viewfinder;
  3. easier focusing due to a larger viewfinder;
  4. a brighter viewfinder due to the larger size; and
  5. no cropping of a lens’s native field of view.

One significant point needs to be made on the issue of digital noise.  One of the critical factors that comes into play is the pixel density.  Simply put, the more pixels you cram onto a given surface area, the closer they must be in proximity, and the higher is the likelihood of digital noise resulting from heat.

The 5D was known for its low noise, and likewise, the 5D Mark II also offers very low noise. I have shot a band at ISO speeds of 3,200 and 6,400 and landed very good results.  Granted, at 100% magnification, the image is very grainy, but it is completely impractical to view a 21mp image at full-size.  When viewed at more realistic sizes such as 1,024 x 683, the low level of visible noise is very acceptable indeed.

My first DSLR was a Canon EOS 20D, which I purchased in 2005; and prior to that, my first digital camera was a Canon PowerShot S45, which I purchased in 2002.  This was a high-end compact camera, which at 4mp, had the highest pixel count available at the time.  This camera also offered raw mode, video, and had manual exposure controls — all for the handsome sum of around $1,300.   A current-model, entry-level DSLR can now be bought for under $1,000. How times have changed!

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, my gallery of images captured with the Canon EOS 5D and my gallery of images captured with the Canon EOS 20D for an insight into these cameras’ capabilities.

Lenses

More important than the choice of camera is the glass in front of it.  At the time of writing I have seven lenses, all being from Canon’s “L” range, and all having the widest apertures in their respective focal lengths.

I use my various lenses for different purposes, and the following paragraphs will provide some details on each lens.

1.  Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

This is my seascaping lens.   I use it exclusively for seascape and landscape work, and while it is a zoom, I tend to shoot it like a prime, rarely deviating from the 16mm setting.  I like the ultra-wide, 108-degree diagonal field of view this lens offers at 16mm, and for ‘scapes it produces wide vistas and allows a foreground subject to be given striking prominence in the frame.

I have also used this lens for an indoor band shoot, but I tend to prefer faster primes for their increased light-gathering ability.

The 16-35 is very sharp, and with the brightest aperture currently available in 135-format lenses, it offers a brighter viewfinder which assists with autofocus.   The f/2.8 aperture of this lens also allows creativity in non-landscape/seascape scenarios.

I mostly shoot it at f/8 or f/11, but as above, it can be used to somewhat diffuse the background in a photograph whose foreground subject is within close proximity.  Granted, producing much background blur with an ultra-wide lens isn’t going to be easy nor practical for most of the purposes for which such a lens is used.

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM for an insight into the lens’s capabilities.

2.  Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

This is a great general-purpose lens when a wide aperture is needed.  On a full-frame camera the 35mm focal length is quite useful, in that it is wide, but not too wide; and it is not too long such that the framing is tight.

I use it for bands and portraiture (when I want a wider view than my usual telephoto view), and any other general indoor photography.  It works well for over-the-table people images at dinner parties and the like.  I also used it for a wedding shoot.

It is extremely sharp, works very well in low light and produces nice background blur at f/1.4.

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM for an insight into the lens’s capabilities.

3.  Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

This highly desirable and excellent performer of a lens is desirable to many photographers, and it has a place in my rig.  I consider it to be a general-purpose, fast telephoto zoom.  I don’t use it a great deal, but it’s hard to beat when I do need a lens of its range.

My main uses of this lens include portraiture, bands, aviation, sports, wildlife and general photography.  I’ve also used it for a wedding.

It’s hard to comment negatively about this lens, as it is tack-sharp even wide open and is quick to focus.  It is also compatible with Canon’s tele-extenders, but I would not recommend using the 2x tele-extender, as image quality will invariably suffer, along with the light loss of two stops.

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/1.8L IS USM for an insight into the lens’s capabilities.

4.  Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

This extremely fast tele is my staple for portraiture.  The moderate telephoto length is perfect for portraits and the very wide aperture not only allows subject isolation, but produces a creamy background blur distinctive to this lens.

My other main use for this lens is band work or any other low-light indoor setting in which moderate telephoto reach is needed.  When shooting bands, even with an aperture of f/1.2 it’s still necessary to push the ISO into four-digit territory.

I have used this lens for the odd still-life image, but I have found that the combination of the 85mm focal length and the minimum focus distance (MFD) of around 90cm does not produce ideal framing, and instead I use longer lens with an almost identical MFD.

The very narrow depth of field and slow focus-by-wire autofocus of this lens makes it more challenging to use than other telephoto lenses, but when you get it right, it delivers magical results.

Unusually for a Canon L-series prime, the objective element extends from the barrel as the focus is adjusted.  The large, heavy objective element may explain the slower autofocus, as the motor has to push a very heavy piece of glass backward and forward.

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM for an insight into the lens’s capabilities.

5.  Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

The 135/2L is a mind-blowing lens on several counts:

  1. at f/2, it is very fast for the focal length;
  2. it produces very creamy bokeh;
  3. it’s light and small (for its specifications);
  4. it’s one of the least expensive L-series lenses;
  5. it has a very short (for the focal length) MFD of around 90cm; and
  6. its autofocus is stunningly fast.

I’ve never experienced a lens which focuses as quickly as this one does.  It’s ready before I am, and I daresay its AF is faster than that of my 300/2.8 super-tele.  That’s saying something!

My main uses for this lens include portraiture, bands, weddings and general-purpose telephoto photography, but I have found it to be a very good lens for still-life photography due to its frame-filling focal length and short MFD.  Quite a few of my still-life images were captured with this lens.

It would also do well for indoor sports, although a sports shooter  I am not.

The 135/2L is a ridiculously sharp lens and will deliver very pleasing results.

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM for an insight into the lens’s capabilities.

6.  Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

This is a specialised lens, and one I use for only one thing: macro photography.  I don’t shoot a lot of macro images, so it sits on a shelf most of the time, but when I need it, it’s hard to beat.  Its longer focal length provides greater working distance, but the down-side is the reduced depth of field, and macro lenses have inherently shallow depth of field in the first instance.

Even when shooting at f/11 at its MFD, this lens can be challenging to use.  However, it is extremely sharp, and I’ve found that images captured with it require no sharpening during post-processing.

A macro lens (focal lengths of 100mm and greater are typical for macro lenses) can also double as a portrait lens, although given I have four other telephoto lenses which get used for portraits, I don’t find that capability particularly useful in this lens.

Unlike all of the other macro lenses in Canon’s lineup, the 180/3.5L Macro is compatible with Canon’s tele-extenders, which allows even greater magnification than that 1:1 (life-size) magnification this lens natively offers.

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM for an insight into the lens’s capabilities.

7.  Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

This is my longest, largest, heaviest and most expensive lens.  It could also be considered my sharpest, but in my experience, all of my lenses are sharp!

It is one telephoto lens a lot of people want, and it sure delivers fantastic results.  I use it mostly for aviation, wildlife and astrophotography, but I have used it for portraits and band photography.

I often combine it with my Canon Extender EF 1.4x II and Canon Extender EF 2x II to provide 420mm at f/4 and 600mm at f/5.6 respectively.

Despite the size and weight, I almost always shoot hand-held with it.  I can quite comfortably shoot with a lens of its weight all day without issues.  However, for shooting subjects like the moon, a tripod is essential.  For sports, a monopod can help, but during the very little sports photography I have done, I still found hand-holding was more to my liking.

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM for an insight into the lens’s capabilities.

Tele-Extenders

As mentioned above, I have the Canon Extender EF 1.4x II and Canon Extender EF 2x II.  I generally only use these on my 300/2.8 for the very useful and approachable reach they provide, but three of my other lenses are also compatible with these: 70-200/2.8L IS, 135/2L and 180/3.5L Macro.

I tend not to use the tele-extenders on these three lenses, as I don’t need the focal length increases the combination provides, and in some cases I can achieve the equivalent or a marginally longer focal length with a brighter aperture.

The 1.4x tele-extender is universally considered to be the better of these two units, with greater image degradation (and two stops of light reduction) occurring with the 2x tele-extender.

What convinced me to buy the 2x tele-extender was a set of images posted by someone who paired it with the 300/2.8L IS.  The images were very sharp, and image degradation was very minor to the point of being unnoticeable (if it even existed).  My own results with this combination have shown it to be a good match.  However, I’d only recommend the use of the 2x tele-extender with the absolute fastest of super-teles (eg, 200/1.8L, 200/2L IS, 300/2.8L IS and 400/2.8L IS).

See my gallery of images captured with the Canon Extender EF 1.4x II and my gallery of images captured with the Canon Extender EF 2x II for an insight into these tele-extenders’ capabilities.

So, there’s a summary of my camera and lens equipment.  I’ll discuss my other equipment in subsequent articles.