Tag Archives: Canon

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.

New Lens: Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

Today ushered in a new chapter in my photography, and simultaneously closed another.

A new lens joined its brethren here in my photography den; and an old friend parted ways.

Now, I am not one to buy gear very often.  My days of ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ (GAS) are well and truly behind me; and I have settled on a photography rig which allows me to achieve what I want to achieve.

Being in a position whereby gear is not a limiting factor, is indeed a good position.  Sure, there is always something that would be nice to have; but something that is nice to have, as opposed to something that is necessary for my photographic objectives, is quite a different matter, particularly when it comes to spending money to placate a want rather than a need.

However, every now and then, a new piece of equipment joins my rig, often unexpectedly and rather suddenly.

Today, the spectacular Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens found its way into my rig under those very circumstances.

For some odd reason, I had read The Digital Picture‘s comprehensive review of this lens (amongst others) quite recently, and I had pondered, both recently and a number of times throughout the years, the possibility of replacing my beloved Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM with the wider, 14mm prime lens.

For years it was one of those “it would be nice…” scenarios, but today it became a reality.

At 4:16pm I declared that I was actually thinking about doing this.

At 5:33pm, l declared that I had actually done so.

I have never progressed from “I’m thinking about…” to “I just bought…” so rapidly.

The plan I had was to visit my main photographic supplier on my way elsewhere to see what kind of a deal I could get.  When I visit (which is maybe once every year or two), the guy there always recognises me, talks to me for a while, and gives me a good deal on anything I buy.

The visit was purely for research, but it went a bit further than that, as the lens was there (which I did not know before visiting), and the price was right.  I solved two ‘problems’ in one hit.

Firstly, he discounted the listed price of lens for me; and secondly, he gave me a good trade-in deal on my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM.

As the 14mm prime was intended to replace the zoom, I did not want to spend a significant amount up front and then need to sell my nine-year-old Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, which has recently been superseded by a Mark III version.  A trade-in was perfect.

The salesman was surprised at the remarkably good condition of my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, to which I responded by stating that I take good care of my gear.  Indeed, I do.

The combination of the initial discount and the trade-in value put the price firmly in the “I can do this right now” category rather than the “tempting, but I cannot justify the expense now” world of misery.

So, the deal was done.  My beloved Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens stayed in the shop, and a brand-new Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM departed with me.

I honestly did not plan any purchases this year at all, and while I periodically think about lenses and cameras I would like (there is always something), there is a massive difference between the wishful thought, and the cash-depleting reality.

So far, 2017 has started off quite nicely in the photography department, with two pleasing shoots having taken place.

Tonight, I had plans to expand upon that.  And now I was armed with a new lens and all the kid-in-a-candy-store excitement a new toy brings.

Some people’s photography becomes re-invigorated upon acquiring a new camera or lens; some people’s photography becomes re-invigorated as a result of shooting a pleasing image.  In my case, a combination of both scenarios was achieved tonight, and my initial impression of theCanon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM is that it is a brilliant lens.

I have shot extensively with my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens over the past nine years, and according to my lens utilisation statistics, it is my most frequently used lens.

However, I wanted an even wider lens for a more expansive view, and I also wanted to switch to a prime.  Most of my lenses are primes (now seven out of a total of eight), and even though the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is a zoom, I rarely ever used its zoom capability, sticking fairly religiously to the 16mm setting, and at times forgetting that the lens’s focal length could be changed, which I realised after moving my tripod rig to a slightly different position.

So, now I have a new Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens which opens up new possibilities and has given me a psychological boost.  Additionally, I took it for a shoot only a few hours after purchasing it, and I landed a pleasing series of images (about which I will post separately).

I hope my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM finds its way into the home of someone who will love it as much as I did, and that it will bring years of rewarding images.

I look forward to getting back into photography, and a new lens may just help do that.

Image Statistics

For quite some time, I have been wanting to gather the EXIF data from all of my published images, and produce some statistics on various criteria such as exposure settings and equipment used.

During a recent period of renewed creative energy in the form of computer programming rather than photography, over the past month I finally developed automated code-based functionality in my site to extract, analyse and present what I consider to be some interesting statistical data about my collection of published images.

By its very nature, some of this data can be quite dry and geeky; but the results do show some interesting facts in terms of exposure and equipment preferences, and in some cases the results were surprising to me.

Note: If you don’t care what equipment I use, what exposure or stylistic photographic preferences I have, or you don’t care for numeric data generally, it is advisable to skip this long article; but if that kind of geeky thing does appeal to you, keep reading.

Presently, my site gathers data and presents tabular data, which lists from most frequent to least frequent, the numbers of images captured:

  • with a particular camera;
  • with a particular lens;
  • with a particular telephoto extender;
  • within a particular focal range;
  • at a particular focal length;
  • at a particular shutter speed;
  • at a particular aperture;
  • at a particular ISO sensitivity;
  • during a particular year;
  • during a particular month; and
  • on a particular day.

I have also produced what I call a ‘time trend’, in the form of a table showing the number of images shot by month and year.

In this article I am going to break it down and explain the trends I see.

What this exercise has shown me is that the raw numeric data alone does not tell the whole story; there are some ‘human’ elements which can explain why a certain exposure setting or piece of camera equipment rates higher or lower in popularity than would otherwise be expected based on my knowledge of my preferences.

So, let’s look at the trends.

At the time of writing this article, there are 1,600 images in my gallery, which were shot over an eleven-year period from 2005 to 2015.


I have owned three digital SLR cameras in that time.  Here is the breakdown by camera model:

# Camera Images
1 Canon EOS 5D 893
2 Canon EOS 5D Mark II 519
3 Canon EOS 20D 188


The Canon EOS 20D was my first DSLR, and I owned it for over three years.  I shot many images with it, but over the years I have deleted some of the images I published, as in those early years, I was an ‘anything and everything’ kind of photographer without much discernment.

My Canon EOS 5D lost its life to a rogue wave during a seascape shoot in 2010, and on the same day I replaced it with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.  I owned it longer than my Canon EOS 20D, and owned it for a similar amount of time to my current camera (the antiquated but still as-useful-as-it-ever-was Canon EOS 5D Mark II), but much of what I shot with it was during a period of frequent activity and rapid development.  In other words, I shot a lot, and got better at it.

Most of my best work has been shot with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, but over the past few years, as further analysis will show, my output in terms of quantity has significantly decreased, but my output in terms of quality has significantly increased.

This explains why my current camera is the least used.


I have owned many Canon EF lenses over the years, some of which I have sold.  I have also ocasionally used a few lenses I have never owned.

To me, the lens usage statistics are more interesting, and there are some surprising results, which can again be explained by ‘human’ factors or circumstance.

Here is the data:

# Lens Images
1 Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM 562
2 Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM 181
3 Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM 173
4 Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 161
5 Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM 100
6 Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM 98
7 Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM 93
8 Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM 78
9 Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM 36
10 Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM 34
11 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II 31
12 Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM 24
13 Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM 17
14 Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM 3
15 Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM 3
16 Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM 2
17 Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM 1
18 Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L 1
19 Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM 1
20 Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM 1


It’s no surprise to me that my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is the most frequently used lens of the 20 featured, as my main forms of photography over the years have been those which lend themselves well to ultra-wide focal lengths.

I have shot a lot of architecture, cityscape, landscape and seascape images, particularly since 2008, so that lens occupies the top spot in terms of usage.

What could be considered surprising, but in hindsight not so surprising, is the presence of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens in second place.

I sold that lens nearly seven years ago (and ceased using it up to a year before I sold it), but I bought it in 2005 on the day of its release, and, as explained earlier, I shot anything and everything in those days.  It was my ‘walk-around’ lens, and hence it got a lot of use.  The last published image I shot with that lens was in November of 2007, which was a long time ago now; yet still features prominently due to my experience and the development stage at the time.

I will not go into detail about all 20 of these lenses, particularly those with which I shot less than a handful of images, as those lenses were borrowed or tried; but I did want to draw attention to my two super-telephoto lenses, as by nature of my overall subject matter, they’re not commonly used, but some particular circumstances have made them surprisingly prominent.

The first is my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM.  I have owned it since 2007, but it gained its most significant usage half a decade later in 2012 when we visited Africa for the first time and fell in love with wildlife and the photography thereof.

In the early days it was used sparingly and for nothing particularly serious.  A few years later I went through a phase of aviation photography, during which it was used more; but our South Africa trip in 2012 was where that lens came to shine.

That leads me to my Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM.  It presently sits in 8th place, yet it is my most recently-purchased lens — I’ve only owned it for over a year.  What drove it so high up, relatively, was our trip to Kenya, where I used it, by my rough estimate, 98% of the time.  I took two other lenses  (16-35/2.8L II and 70-200/2.8L IS) and also used a 300/2.8L IS for a few shots, but the 400/2.8L IS pretty much lived on the camera.

This example shows how a lens, which has spent the least amount of time in my rig, can achieve such relative prominence due to one significant event; namely, a wildlife safari in Kenya.

Telephoto Extender

There isn’t much to say about the prevalence of my Canon telephoto extenders, as there are only two models, they work only with particular Canon EF L-series lenses, and in my case, I tend to only use them with my two longest lenses.

All that can be said is that of the two telephoto extenders, the Canon Extender EF 2x II features more prominently, which can be explained by the two Africa trips we have done.  On the first trip to South Africa, I used it with my 300/2.8L IS, giving me 600mm of focal length (ideal for wildlife photography); and on the second trip to Kenya, I used it with my 400/2.8L IS, giving me an even better 800mm of focal length — absolutely wonderful for frame-filling images of big cats and birds.

# Telephoto Extender Images
1 None 1,448
2 Canon Extender EF 2x II 98
3 Canon Extender EF 1.4x II 54

Focal Range

This particular category is amongst the most interesting to me.

In developing my statistics gathering and reporting system, I initially only looked at actual focal lengths; but further into the project (actually, after ‘completion’), it dawned on me that breaking down focal lengths into distinct focal ranges would be more useful and revealing than reporting on single focal lengths alone, especially as the presence of zooms can mean lots of isolated cases of esoteric ‘no man’s land’ focal lengths appearing (such as 33mm or 98mm).

I used Canon’s definitions of focal ranges as the baseline for my own categorisation of focal ranges, and crunched the data to produce the following table:

# Focal Range Images
1 Ultra-Wide (16-23mm) 485
2 Short Telephoto (70-135mm) 350
3 Wide (24-35mm) 285
4 Medium Telephoto (136-399mm) 227
5 Long Telephoto (400-800mm) 196
6 Standard (36-69mm) 57


I have known for years where my preferences lie in terms of focal lengths.

I like ultra-wide and ultra-long focal lengths, and not much in between.

My architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape images were mostly shot with an ultra-wide lens, which easily explains the occupation of the number one position by the ultra-wide category.

The second spot is occupied by short telephoto ranges, which I specifically use (particularly the 85mm and 135mm focal lengths) for portraiture and still-life.  I have many portrait images in my gallery, which allows that focal range its prominence.

The standard focal range is my least used focal range, which is no surprise, as for years I have regarded the 50mm focal length with complete disdain, and have also boycotted ‘standard’ focal lengths, as, quite frankly, they bore me.  Given the standard focal length of 50mm more or less replicates what the human eye can natively see, it has no interest, as it’s neither wide and expansive, or long and detail-revealingly tight.

While I have owned both a standard zoom and a 50mm lens in the past, for most of the time I have had no lenses with focal lengths between 35mm and 70mm.  I just have no use for them, and my subject interests do not require or lend themselves to such focal lengths.

Focal Length

As outlined in the previous section, statistics about focal length ranges are more useful and revealing than statistics about individual focal lengths, particularly as there are over 700 available amongst the lenses I own or have owned; but for the sake of completeness, here are the statistics:

# Focal Length Images
1 16mm 430
2 35mm 137
3 85mm 125
4 24mm 102
5 135mm 98
6 300mm 93
7 600mm 73
8 200mm 66
9 400mm 51
10 420mm 43
11 105mm 37
12 70mm 35
13 50mm 33
14 180mm 30
15 800mm 24
16 23mm 14
17 25mm 13
18 40mm 11
19 18mm 11
20 17mm 10
21 27mm 9
22 21mm 7
23 28mm 7
24 100mm 7
25 19mm 7
26 140mm 6
27 95mm 6
28 130mm 6
29 32mm 6
30 26mm 5
31 560mm 5
32 115mm 5
33 252mm 4
34 165mm 4
35 145mm 4
36 73mm 4
37 67mm 4
38 125mm 4
39 29mm 3
40 173mm 3
41 90mm 3
42 185mm 3
43 120mm 3
44 20mm 3
45 75mm 3
46 22mm 3
47 80mm 3
48 88mm 2
49 45mm 2
50 58mm 2
51 195mm 2
52 160mm 2
53 65mm 2
54 78mm 2
55 150mm 2
56 170mm 1
57 270mm 1
58 220mm 1
59 31mm 1
60 168mm 1
61 72mm 1
62 96mm 1
63 55mm 1
64 104mm 1
65 153mm 1
66 148mm 1
67 84mm 1
68 98mm 1
69 190mm 1
70 110mm 1
71 60mm 1
72 33mm 1
73 30mm 1
74 360mm 1
75 92mm 1
76 47mm 1


The main points of interest in this table are the double-digit and triple-digit occurrences towards the top of the table.

16mm is by no surprise my most prolific focal length, due to my architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape photography.

Moderate telephoto and long telephoto focal lengths also tend to dominate, which is driven by my subject choice, and also the fact that most of my lenses are primes.  The use of telephoto extenders on the big lenses, and the use of focal lengths at the extreme ends of a few zooms, also contribute to the particular focal lengths and frequencies documented in the top 20 rows of the table.

Shutter Speed

My shutter speed usage is reported in a rather long table, too.

I haven’t drawn any analytical conclusions from this particular data, but apparently I favour 1/200th of a second.

Of interest towards the bottom of the table is the occasional very long shutter speeds I have used.

My longest exposure was just over an hour, and there have been a few over the years than ran for single-digit minutes, and one which ran for ten minutes.

The 30-second shutter speed has achieved sufficient prominence, and otherwise most shutter speeds are in the middle-of-the-road territory of up to 1/500th of a second.

# Shutter Speed Images
1 1/200th of a second 114
2 1/125th of a second 77
3 1/160th of a second 77
4 30 seconds 62
5 1/500th of a second 55
6 1/250th of a second 52
7 1/100th of a second 52
8 1/320th of a second 50
9 1/640th of a second 44
10 1/400th of a second 43
11 1/50th of a second 41
12 1/60th of a second 37
13 1/1,600th of a second 36
14 1/80th of a second 36
15 1/1,250th of a second 34
16 1/2,000th of a second 29
17 1/40th of a second 29
18 2 seconds 28
19 1/800th of a second 28
20 1/1,000th of a second 28
21 1/2,500th of a second 27
22 5 seconds 26
23 4 seconds 26
24 15 seconds 26
25 1.3 seconds 25
26 1/25th of a second 23
27 8 seconds 23
28 2 minutes 22
29 3.2 seconds 22
30 1 second 21
31 10 seconds 20
32 0.3 seconds 19
33 1/8th of a second 18
34 1/30th of a second 18
35 0.6 seconds 18
36 1/15th of a second 17
37 1/20th of a second 17
38 1/4th of a second 17
39 1 minute 17
40 2.5 seconds 16
41 0.5 seconds 16
42 1/6th of a second 15
43 1.6 seconds 14
44 0.8 seconds 14
45 6 seconds 14
46 13 seconds 14
47 1/13th of a second 13
48 20 seconds 13
49 1/3,200th of a second 13
50 1/10th of a second 11
51 25 seconds 10
52 4 minutes 8
53 1/8,000th of a second 8
54 1/4,000th of a second 8
55 1/5th of a second 7
56 1/5,000th of a second 6
57 0.4 seconds 6
58 45 seconds 5
59 5 minutes 4
60 3 minutes 4
61 1/6,400th of a second 3
62 6 minutes 2
63 1 minute and 20 seconds 2
64 19 seconds 2
65 7 minutes 2
66 1 minute and 30 seconds 2
67 1 hour and 7 seconds 1
68 3 minutes and 32 seconds 1
69 2 minutes and 28 seconds 1
70 10 minutes 1
71 6 minutes and 15 seconds 1
72 15 minutes and 24 seconds 1
73 15 minutes and 1 second 1
74 2 minutes and 43 seconds 1
75 29 seconds 1
76 10 minutes and 1 second 1
77 39 seconds 1
78 12 seconds 1
79 3 minutes and 7 seconds 1
80 55 seconds 1


The statstics about my aperture choices are quite interesting — to me, at least — as they show that despite my preference for having the widest aperture in a given focal length, I don’t always use those wide apertures.

Here is the breakdown:

# Aperture Images
1 f/8 332
2 f/2.8 239
3 f/5.6 233
4 f/11 214
5 f/4 132
6 f/9 71
7 f/2 66
8 f/1.4 48
9 f/1.8 38
10 f/13 34
11 f/1.2 32
12 f/6.3 27
13 f/10 21
14 f/16 20
15 f/7.1 16
16 f/3.5 12
17 f/14 12
18 f/3.2 11
19 f/4.5 10
20 f/5 8
21 f/1.6 5
22 f/20 5
23 f/2.2 4
24 f/18 3
25 f/22 3
26 f/2.5 3
27 f/32 1


The fastest lens I have is f/1.2, and the two longest focal lengths I have don’t get any faster than f/2.8; yet f/8 seems to be my most frequent aperture.

Again, this is easily explained by my proliferation of wide-angle scenic images.  Even though I shoot these with my 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, I rarely ever use that lens’s maximum aperture; for in shooting architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape images, I want a wide view with a deep depth of field and rich, sharp details from foreground to background, which calls for narrower apertures.

The difference between f/8 and f/11 is not great, but unsurprisingly f/11 is in the top five.

Another common aperture I use is f/2.8.  I have four f/2.8 lenses, two of which are super-teles, which I almost always shoot wide-open.  I didn’t buy fast super-tele lenses to shoot at f/8!  My Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM also ostensibly gets used wide-open more often than not.

The moderate-to-slow aperture of f/5.6 also appears rather frequently, which I figure is likely to be the result of using my Canon Extender EF 2x II on my 300/2.8 and 400/2.8, giving me 600mm at f/5.6 and 800mm at f/5.6 respectively.

I also use f/5.6 frequently for portraiture.  Even though my Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens is my go-to lens for portraits, I don’t frequently shoot it wide-open.  Just because a lens can be shot at extremely wide apertures does not mean it always should be shot at such apertures.

Towards the bottom of the table are extremely narrow apertures, which I rarely ever use.  One must be careful to avoid diffraction caused by very narrow apertures, which leads to softening of fine details.  If a deep depth of field is required, there is little benefit in stopping down beyond f/11 or f/16 at wide focal lengths, as apertures of f/8 and f/11 tend to achieve a very acceptable compromise of sharpness and depth of field.

ISO Sensitivity

The statistical breakdown of my usage of different ISO sensitivity ratings was no surprise at all, but it remained interesting to see.

The top five spots are occupied, in order, a stop apart, starting from the lowest native ISO rating my cameras have offered.

I have known for years that I favour as low an ISO rating as possible, and for most of my photography, I can get away with this; but for wildlife and some other low-light photography (such as band/musician performance photography), I have simply needed to push the ISO rating to achieve acceptable shutter speeds to freeze movement in low light.

# ISO Sensitivity Images
1 100 835
2 200 342
3 400 170
4 800 58
5 1,600 35
6 50 31
7 320 24
8 1,250 22
9 500 19
10 1,000 17
11 640 13
12 3,200 11
13 160 11
14 250 6
15 6,400 4
16 125 2


According to the data, the most extreme ISO sensitivity rating I have used is 6,400.

Year of Capture

The next set of criteria I examined in my image statistics was time; specifically, which years, months and days of the week were more popular.

Again there are some unsurprising results, but a few others stood out as interesting.

# Year of Capture Images
1 2007 334
2 2008 304
3 2006 212
4 2012 189
5 2009 183
6 2010 113
7 2015 101
8 2011 67
9 2013 52
10 2014 33
11 2005 12


Over a ten-year period, my most frequent activity happened in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  It was during this time that I rapidly developed my interest in photography, and spent many weekends shooting, as well as travelling domestically on photography-centric trips.

I was also a more generalist photographer, shooting all manner of random subjects.  My style and subject matter preferences were only in their infancy of development.  All of this explains my proliferation at the time.

The year 2005 features as the least frequent year.  It was the year in which I first bought a DSLR.  I had been shooting digitally since 2002, but had not really established much of a presence online, and I didn’t consider photography a serious or even semi-serious interest.

From 2011 to 2015, my output took a serious decline in frequency.  I became less interested, de-motivated, occupied by other interests and priorities, and I had become extremely fussy about what I would shoot and when.

With the exception of 2005, for which very few images are still published online, my record low year is 2014.  I really shot very little, and my peaks of interest were few and far between, with only a few images here and there, most of which were captured during domestic trips we took, and during two photographic workshops I attended during the year.

I had stopped shooting seascapes — in fact, my last seascape image was shot in 2013.  Even now, I remain disinterested in shooting seascapes, and it feels like a photographically significant chapter of life which has more or less closed.  I know I can always return, but for now the desire remains lacking.

The year 2012 is the exception to this long-running ‘lull’ period, in that a massive trip to South Africa was the main contributor towards my output that year.  I also had some frequent and productive seascape shoots that year as a result of a photography group with which I was quite actively involved at the time.

The present year, 2015, remains a low-output year, except for one event: our Kenya trip.  I shot thousands of images in Kenya, and have published 95 images at the time of writing.  Otherwise, I have shot only six images, and it was late in April before I shot the first!

Month of Capture

The breakdown of months is interesting from an academic viewpoint.

Here are the details:

# Month of Capture Images
1 June 270
2 January 193
3 October 167
4 April 157
5 December 141
6 May 134
7 March 112
8 September 104
9 July 95
10 February 92
11 August 71
12 November 64


I cannot offer any explanation as to why June is in the top spot; even though most of 2015‘s images were shot in June, it would still be a popular month.  In my part of the world, it’s winter, and pre-dawn seascape shoots during winter mean being cold and wet.  Unappealing!

January’s number-two place makes sense, as I tend to take time off work in December and January, and apparently I’ve been out and about over the years.

November is the least popular month, which is interesting, as 2015 has been a low-output year in terms of quantity, and November is only a month away!

Day of Capture

There isn’t much of interest or surprise in the statistical breakdown of days.

When I was a frequent (weekly, even!) seascape shooter, Sunday was my day.  Saturday follows very closely behind due to its status as a weekend day which is generally busier than Sunday.

# Day of Capture Images
1 Sunday 583
2 Saturday 561
3 Friday 145
4 Wednesday 103
5 Tuesday 85
6 Monday 72
7 Thursday 51

Time Trend

Lastly, I have produced a table showing the number of images shot by month and year.

I haven’t looked much into what this indicates, as the year and month breakdowns already discussed paint a better picture; but it remains never the less an interesting exercise to see how my actvity during the same month over an eleven-year period can experience peaks and troughs.

Time Trend Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2005 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 2 3 0 2 12
2006 3 22 2 22 12 42 7 6 19 20 13 44 212
2007 65 0 66 5 17 19 19 9 46 27 32 29 334
2008 30 36 20 34 16 52 24 14 13 14 8 43 304
2009 30 16 9 31 24 28 12 5 4 11 5 8 183
2010 5 5 9 13 11 13 15 16 15 2 3 6 113
2011 8 3 0 15 8 4 6 5 1 10 3 4 67
2012 27 8 6 28 12 13 10 4 1 80 0 0 189
2013 21 0 0 1 19 3 1 2 0 0 0 5 52
2014 4 2 0 4 13 1 0 6 3 0 0 0 33
2015 0 0 0 4 2 95 0 0 0 0 0 0 101
Total 193 92 112 157 134 270 95 71 104 167 64 141 1,600


In conclusion, it has been an interesting exercise to gather and analyse my image data to see which cameras, lenses, exposure settings and points in time were most and least significant; and if you’ve read this far, congratulations, as this indeed is a long, dry article which analyses the sorts of information about which most people would not care.

For me, the data I now gather and report can be useful in recognising trends in my photography over the years from an EXIF data viewpoint, but it essentally remains little more than an academic exercise which was rewarding from a creative and geeky viewpoint.

Latest Acquisition: Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM

I’ve just come home with my latest lens (and the first lens purchase in over six years): a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM.

When out shopping in the city yesterday, I visited a few camera stores, one of which happened to have one available for sale at a very good price.

For a few years I have wanted a Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM (either the original or the lighter, newer mark II) for wildlife photography in Africa.

The 400/2.8L IS is a lens after which I have lusted for nine years, but one I never really expected or planned to buy.

When I discovered this one yesterday, it was too good to pass up.

With my Canon Extender EF 1.4x II and Canon Extender EF 2x II,  I will achieve 560mm at f/4 and 800mm at f/5.6 respectively, which should cover our next African photography safari quite nicely, allowing me to achieve tighter, more selectively-focused images of the incredible wildlife there.

Last time I took my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM, and achieved longer focal lengths of 420mm at f/4 and 600mm at f/5.6.

I’m looking forward to exploiting the 400/2.8L IS’s well-documented capabilities, and landing images with the signature look this lens provides.

Overview of the ‘Plastic Fantastic’ Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, known as the ‘Plastic Fantastic’ or the ‘Nifty Fifty’, is a very popular lens, and for good reason: it’s fast and cheap.

I used to own one of these, but I later sold it.  I have no need or desire for a 50mm lens, as the focal length doesn’t appeal.

However, given the enormous popularity of this lens, I think it’s worthwhile to point out what’s good about it, as well as what’s bad.

Anyone considering purchasing one can take these simple facts into consideration.

What’s Good?

  1. It’s light.
  2. It’s small.
  3. It’s fast (as in wide aperture).
  4. It’s sharp.
  5. It’s inexpensive.
  6. On an APS-C camera, it provides classic portrait framing.

What’s Bad?

  1. Its barrel and mount is plastic.
  2. It has no distance gauge.
  3. It has no ultrasonic focus motor.
  4. It’s slow to focus, and noisy, too.
  5. The focus ring is awkwardly positioned and small.
  6. It has a five-bladed diaphragm, producing unappealing pentagonal bokeh.

What the lens does provide is a lot of bang-for-buck.  It’s ridiculously inexpensive for what it delivers.  Of course, if one wants a fast 50mm lens and can live with the negative aspects I’ve itemised above, it’s worth having.  Even if the lens turns out to be unappealing after all, it won’t be an expensive learning exercise.

Equipment I Use – Lighting

Following on from part one of a three-article series about the equipment I use, in this article I will discuss the lighting equipment I use.

Some people might be thinking “Wait, you’re a seascaper — why do you need lighting equipment?”, and fair enough; but seascaping is not all I do; I also shoot portraits and still-life, and for both of these, good lighting is important.

So, without further ado, here is a breakdown.


I use two flash/strobe units, almost always off the camera.  I don’t like on-camera flash, as it is harsh, and frontal lighting obscures texture and form, and is unflattering on people.

The two flash units I have are the Canon Speedlite 580EX and Canon Speedlite 580EX II.  With a guide number of 58, these are the most powerful flash units Canon offers.  I tend to use the mark II more, but in most cases I shoot with both flashes, using one as a key light and the other for fill.


I have three 42″ umbrellas in my rig:

  1. white translucent (shoot-through);
  2. white reflective; and
  3. silver and gold reflective.

I use my shoot-through and silver/gold umbrellas mostly.

The benefit of a shoot-through umbrella is that the light is diffused rather than bounced; it is softer and created a mood reminiscent of window lighting. Unlike a conventional umbrella off which the light is bounced, the outside convex surface of the umbrella is facing the subject, and the light shoots through the translucent material.

Of my reflective umbrellas, I use my silver and gold umbrella the most.  The benefit of the dual-colour umbrella is that the gold material produces warm tones, which is great when shooting people.

Here’s an example of one of my portraits in which I used only my gold and silver umbrella:

I'm Looking at You, Mister

I'm Looking at You, Mister

In this shot of model Stacey Reibelt, I placed my stand-mounted Canon Speedlite 580EX II to the left, 2.5m away and at a 45-degree angle.  On the flash I dialled in 1/8th power and 24mm zoom.

The ambient light was quite overcast and flat, but with a silver and gold umbrella I was able to create the appearance of afternoon golden sunlight.


A more recent addition to my lighting rig was a softbox, albeit a small one at 40 x 30cm.  I picked this up in Melbourne incidentally, but have used it for a few shoots.

My softbox is a Photoflex LightDome Q39 XTX-20XTXS.

Like a shoot-through umbrella, a softbox contains translucent material through which the light is projected.  The difference between a softbox and a shoot-through umbrella is that a softbox contains black material on the rear, so there is no light spill.

The larger the softbox, the more soft and even the light.  I’ve had success using my softbox for model shoots as a key light, with an umbrella serving as a fill light or a hair light.

Light Stands

I have two flashes, and therefore two light stands.

The light stands I have are excellent, and I cannot recommend these highly enough.

The brand is LightPro, and these are 3.1m air-cushioned stands.  At 3.1m, they have plenty of height (more than I need most of the time), and the air-cushioning prevents the flash from impact in the event that a column drops suddenly after loosening the column screws.

These aren’t small sands, but they are light, have a good spigot, and have the capability to mount horizontal tubing for backdrops.  The spigot itself can also be positioned such that is parallel with the ground as opposed to the regular perpendicular arrangement.  It simply provides more options.


What I have not discussed so far is how I trigger my flashes.  I use wireless (radio-frequency) triggers.  I have three PocketWizard PLUS II transceivers, which are industry-standard, very reliable, work at distances of up to 1,600ft, and offer four frequencies.

These units, being transceivers, can both send and receive signals.  Other wireless trigger systems work on the basis of a receiver connected to the flash, and a transmitter mounted on the camera’s hotshoe; PocketWizards do both in one unit.

I have three, as I need one on the camera, and one connected (via a PC sync cable) to each flash.

The only negative thing that can be said about PocketWizards is that they are very expensive.  I paid $350 for each unit, so it’s quite an expensive proposition to buy three in one hit, which was what I did.

What that money buys is reliability and peace of mind.  I have never had a problem with a PocketWizard; these units just work every time, and do not misfire.

One further down-side is that these units do not support ETTL.  I don’t consider that a show-stopper, as I shoot my flashes in manual mode and have always done so when working with off-camera lighting; but ETTL support could be handy.

Reflector/Diffuser Dish

Also in my rig is a Glanz 80cm five-in-one reflector dish.  This unit, which folds down to a 30cm (or thereabouts) diameter, contains a central unit containing white translucent material, and a reversible cover.  Each side of the cover contains a different surface, with black, white, gold and silver.  This gives the most flexibility, and the black material can be used as a backdrop when shooting table-top still-life images, or a flag to prevent light spill.

I also use it for a technique I’ve introduced to other photographers, and what I call “swooshing”.  The technique involves rapidly waving the dish near a model to make her hair blow up or back in the wind.  Here’s an example:



It can yield some interesting results.

Light Tent

The last item of lighting equipment I use is a light tent.  Mine is a Glanz 80 x 80 x 80cm tent made from a white translucent material.  A light tent works by creating a large, enveloping light source, with the illumination coming from lights positioned outside it, shooting through the fabric.  The light is bright and soft, and with backing fabrics it’s possible to create a seamless backdrop.  A light tent is great for product photography.

So, there’s a summary of my lighting equipment.  I’ll discuss the rest of my equipment as part 3 in a subsequent article.

Canon Standard L Zooms: 24-70/2.8L vs. 24-105/4L IS

Canon presently offers two L-series, professional-grade, constant-aperture standard zoom lenses:

  1. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM; and
  2. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.

Very frequently in photography forums, the issue of which lens to choose arises — often enough that it is worth an entire article to break down each lens’s strengths and weaknesses in order to provide an objective assessment.

For some people, choosing between these two lenses is quite difficult, so hopefully the information I provide will help people make the choice that suits their circumstances.

Firstly, let’s look briefly at the pros and cons of each lens before going into finer detail.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Pros

  • one-stop wider aperture (f/2.8 vs. f/4);
  • smaller minimum focus distance (0.38m vs. 0.45m); and
  • lens hood size suits all focal lengths (more on this later).

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM – Cons

  • larger;
  • heavier;
  • more expensive; and
  • has less telephoto reach at the long end.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM – Pros

  • smaller;
  • lighter;
  • less expensive;
  • has longer telephoto reach; and
  • has image stabilisation.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM – Cons

  • one-stop narrower aperture (f/4 vs. f/2.8);
  • larger minimum focus distance (0.45m vs. 0.38m); and
  • lens hood is fixed and designed for the 24mm focal length.

A word of warning: do not look at the number of items in the above lists and draw the erroneous conclusion that more points on the positive side means the lens is a better choice; it is far from that simple, and as is the case with so much in photography, one size does not fit all.

Before going further, let’s look briefly at some features common to both lenses:

  • 77mm filter thread;
  • non-rotating objective element;
  • weather sealing;
  • rugged construction;
  • constant aperture across all focal lengths;
  • fast, quiet, ultrasonic focus motor;
  • inner/rear focusing;
  • full-time manual focus;
  • aspherical elements (minimum of two); and
  • distance gauge.

Let’s now look in further detail at the differences between the features of both of these lenses.


The 24-70 offers a brighter f/2.8 aperture (the brightest available in any Canon or Nikon zoom lens), whereas the 24-105’s widest aperture is a stop narrower at f/4.

For some people, f/2.8 is the be-all and end-all.

A brighter aperture offers a few advantages; namely:

  1. the ability to achieve a shutter speed twice as fast;
  2. easier focusing and composing in lower light; and
  3. more diffused background blur.

Depending on the type of photography, the need for a faster shutter speed may be paramount.  Such photography includes bands, stage performances, weddings or any other photography of moving subjects (mostly people) in dimly lit environments.

Now, the difference between f/2.8 and f/4 is one stop.  It could be said that simply increasing the camera’s ISO sensitivity by one stop is a legitimate work-around, and in some cases it is.  Current DSLRs have much better noise handling than earlier generations, and even at ISO 1,600, some cameras produce very decent results.

Depending on the ambient light, the ISO adjustment may be insignificant (eg, 200 to 400), but when shooting at higher ISO settings such as 1,600, the difference between one ISO setting and the next may be quite significant in terms of sensor-induced noise.

While the same exposure at a particular shutter speed can be maintained by increasing the ISO by one stop to compensate for the one-stop narrower aperture, one thing this cannot do is increase the diffusion of the background blur.

Depth of field is affected by three things: aperture, focal length and subject distance.  Where the focal length and subject distance remain the same, the aperture is the differentiating factor, and the difference between f/2.8 and f/4, especially at longer focal lengths, can be quite significant.  If background blur is an important quality, the 24-70 would be a better choice.

Similarly, for low-light shooting where people are subjects, the 24-70 would be a better choice.

Focal Length Range

Without a doubt, the 24-105 is the superior lens if having more reach in a single lens is important to the shooter.

However, many people who own a 24mm L zoom also own a 70-200mm L zoom (especially one of the f/2.8 offerings), so to those people, having an extra 35mm may not be a big draw-card.

Where the 24-105’s extra (and quite useful) focal range is particularly beneficial is for travel photography.  Some travellers may be quite constrained by size and weight, and when travelling, particularly on a non-photographic trip, swapping lenses may not be ideal.

We all know that the main benefit of buying an inter-changeable lens-based camera system is the ability to change lenses, and that buying one lens and never changing it is akin to buying a convertible sports car and always driving with the roof closed; but there are some circumstances in which changing lenses is either impractical or completely undesirable.

A wet or dusty environment is a classic case.  When it comes to travel, a traveller may be in a tour group or need to be able to move quickly, and changing lenses could waste time and delay people, or, worse from a photographic perspective, cause the shooter to miss a time-critical shot.

For other people shooting in environments not constrained by size, weight or time, having a separate telephoto zoom lens in the 70-200mm range may mean that the extra 35mm of reach in the 24-105 is not a highly attractive feature that would tip the scales in favour of the 24-105.

Size, Weight and Cost

For many people, the issues of size, cost and weight are significant enough to tip the scales in favour of one lens over the other.

Let’s look at the differences between size and weight.

The 24-70 weighs 950 grams, whereas the 24-105 weighs 670 grams.  For a lens of this size, that 280 gram difference is substantial.

The 24-70’s maximum length is 123.5mm, whereas the 24-105 has a maximum length of 107mm.  1.65cm probably doesn’t make a huge amount of difference, but the 24-70 is noticeably longer.  It is surprisingly narrower, but by a very small amount (83.2mm vs. 83.5mm).

Cost is variable depending on where you buy and when, but without getting into specifics, the 24-70 is generally going to be $400-500 more expensive in the Australian market.  This may be the most significant factor for some people in choosing between these two lenses.

Image Stabilisation (IS)

The presence of Canon’s image stabilisation in the 24-105 adds complexity to the decision-making process when evaluating these two lenses.

What IS allows is for up to three stops of hand-holdability.  This means that it is theoretically possible to achieve the same shutter speed an f/1.4 lens would allow, and achieve a sharp shot, which makes the 24-105 more desirable than the 24-70.

What’s crucially important to understand about image stabilisation is that it is only useful for static subjects; it does not freeze subject movement.  The only way to freeze subject movement is with a sufficiently fast shutter speed, which requires more light, or more light-gathering ability.

When shooting static subjects, IS is fantastic.  When shooting moving subjects in low light, the only way to achieve a sharp image is with more light, either from flashes, a brighter aperture, a higher ISO sensitivity or any combination of those three factors.

Some people claim that IS is not useful on standard or wide focal lengths.  I disagree.  I believe that IS is useful at any focal length.  It is to be remembered that not all photographers have good lens handling technique, and that a shutter speed for one person may be too slow for another to achieve a sharp image.

IS also helps when instability is introduced by external factors, such as gusty wind, or being on a boat or jetty which may move with the water.  IS can also be beneficial when standing on uneven ground or when otherwise placed in an unstable or awkward position on order to land the shot.

If IS is more important than light-gathering ability and subject motion in low light is not a consideration, the 24-105 makes for a better choice.

Minimum Focus Distance

There is an 8cm difference between the minimum focus distance (MFD) of both lenses, with the 24-70 having a shorter MFD at 38cm.

While neither lens could remotely be considered a macro lens (the 24-70 has a maximum magnification of 0.29x at 70mm, and the 24-105 has a maximum magnification of 0.23x at 105mm), it is possible to get quite close to a subject for a larger view.

To that end, the 24-70 is the superior lens because it allows the lens to be closer to the subject, increasing the apparent size of the subject in relation to the frame.  Additionally, the f/2.8 aperture allows a narrower depth of field (if this is important to the image).

Lens Hoods

It might seem strange to discuss lens hoods when comparing two lenses, but the differences between the hoods of both 24mm L zooms are significant enough to warrant particular mention, notably because the 24-70’s lens hood mechanism is unique to that lens.

The 24-70 has a very large hood that is designed for the 70mm telephoto focal length.  How does it work at 24mm?  Good question.  The hood attaches to the lens barrel, and not the rim of the lens which extends and contracts.

The 24-70 uses a “reverse-zoom” feature, where the lens is physically longest at its shortest focal length.  To zoom out to 24mm, the barrel extends.  To zoom in to 70mm, the barrel contracts.

Because the hood is not attached to the moving part of the barrel, when zooming out to 24mm, the objective element extends towards the end of the lens hood, and is positioned at a suitable distance from the edge of the lens hood to match the 24mm focal length.

When the lens is zoomed in to 70mm, the objective element is recessed deeply, and the hood therefore provides a greater depth suitable for that focal length.

This is unique to the 24-70; no other zoom lens with an extending barrel (including the 24-105) in the Canon EF lens lineup incorporates this clever design feature.

Because of the lack of this design in the 24-105, its hood is only useful (for preventing flare and increasing contrast) at 24mm.  It is a shallow hood, meaning that at 105mm, it is not useful or suitable for the focal length.

I do not consider the hood design of either lens to be a differentiating factor in choosing between the two lenses, but I do consider the “reverse zoom” a very clever and practical design feature, and in the case of the 24-70, flaring is far less likely to be an issue.

But Wait, What About Optical Performance?

Astute readers will have noticed that I have not discussed the optical qualities of both lenses.  That alone is a separate subject, and there are plenty of reviews out there, some of which go into considerable detail.

What I will say is this: both lenses are sharp and produce nice colour and contrast.  I have not compared in any detail the differences between them, as for my (fussy) liking they are both excellent.  Some say the 24-70 is superior, but that’s an individual assessment.

I have owned one of these lenses and shot with both; neither one of them left me wanting more image quality.

If the finer points of optical quality are of particular interest, I recommend reading The Digital Picture’s Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM review and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM review.


Both lenses are solid performers.

While the individual’s needs, wants and constraints are very much variable, I can offer a few general points of advice.

  1. If low light capability and subject movement is an issue, choose the 24-70.
  2. If background blur is important, choose the 24-70.
  3. For general-purpose outdoor/travel photography, choose the 24-105.
  4. If size, weight and cost alone are limiting factors, choose the 24-105.

Choosing between these lenses is not an easy task, and having been there myself, I can speak first-hand of the difficult choice it is.

Hopefully the points I have discussed here will make it easier for you.