Tag Archives: Gear

Kenya Trip 2019 – Gear to Take

Very soon, we are departing for Kenya, for what will be our first visit to Africa since 2015.

Naturally, there is some preparation in terms of photographic equipment.  A photographic safari requires a considerable amount of gear.

Here is a view of the equipment we would like to take with us:

Kenya Trip 2019 - Gear We Want to Take

Kenya Trip 2019 – Gear We Want to Take

And here is a view of what we can actually take with us:

Kenya Trip 2019 - Gear We Can Actually Take

Kenya Trip 2019 – Gear We Can Actually Take

In realty, we are taking a decent amount of gear, which will allow us to capture the images we seek.

Canon’s Big White 200mm Primes Compared

Introduction

People who are familiar with Canon’s EF telephoto lenses may know that over the years, Canon has offered two wide-aperture, fast-for-focal-length 200mm prime lenses:

  1. Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM; and
  2. Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM.

Firstly, here is a view of these two wonderful lenses side-by-side:

Canon EF 200mm Prime Lenses Side-by-Side

Canon EF 200mm Prime Lenses Side-by-Side

The Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM is a legendary lens, and although it has been discontinued since 2003 or 2004, it remains a desirable and collectible lens, and can be difficult to obtain cheaply, if at all.

For a number of years, Canon did not offer a 200mm prime lens faster than f/2.8, until the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM was announced in 2008.

I am fortunate enough to have used both of these great white 200mm lenses in real-world shooting situations, and I also own one of them.  Friend and fellow photographer David de Groot is the proud owner of a Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM, and I am the proud owner of a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM.

My New Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM

My New Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM

In December of 2017, David and I decided to somewhat scientifically test the two lenses in a semi-controlled environment for the purpose of very simply comparing the resulting image quality of both lenses when shot at their widest individual apertures (f/1.8 and f/2), and when shot at the widest aperture common to both lenses (f/2).

Now, this article is not intended to provide an in-depth, deeply scientific and highly technical evaluation of the two lenses; rather, it is intended to simply show in pictures, and describe from my own perspective as a lens user rather than a lens reviewer, how the two lenses perform at the widest apertures.

I am not going to compare the finer points of image quality, or even discuss the specifications and features of the lenses, as those details are widely published, and are not so relevant for the purpose of this article.

For people who are interested in far more detailed and scientific reviews of these two lenses, I recommend visiting The Digital Picture’s Canon lens reviews.  Bryan Carnathan has owned and reviewed both lenses extensively, and his reviews provide much more detail for those seeking that level of analysis.

At this point, I would like to state that both lenses are sharp wide-open, and produce very similar — and pleasing — results.

While there is a lot of similarity between the results of both lenses, there are also some differences, and in my own opinion, the much newer Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM is superior — from a sharpness perspective — to the older Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM.

This is not altogether surprising, as there is a considerable age difference between lenses, with the newer lens having the advantage of optical technology advancement in the years between lens releases.

Now, some details about the test environment.

 

The Testing Process

There was not much to the testing process.  We used a plush toy dinosaur as the subject, placed it outside on the railing of the verandah, and then shot our images from a tripod.

In the distance behind the subject was lush green foliage, which made for a pleasing background.

The subject was a little over three metres from the camera (3.05m, according to the focusing distance data reported by the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM).

Other than the lenses, cameras and perhaps a slight amount of distance changing when the lenses were swapped (due to the varied position of their tripod mounting feet), the only significant change was the ambient light, and composition to a small degree, which is not important for the purpose of comparing image quality.

All of my images were shot in raw mode, using my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV in manual exposure mode. David captured his images using his Canon EOS-1D X.  In both cases, the images were captured using the conventional on-camera shutter release button, without the use of a countdown timer or the mirror lockup feature enabled.

It is therefore possible that photographer-induced motion (even at minute levels) may have been introduced, which in turn may have affected the results; but it is to be remembered that people photograph human or animal subjects with these lenses in real-world situations, meaning that there is almost always human contact with the camera.

The three images I captured are as follows:

  1. Image 1, shot with the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/1.8;
  2. Image 2, shot with the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/2; and
  3. Image 3, shot with the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM at f/2.

 

Image Processing

I decided not to apply any post-processing to the images, with the exception of the exposure level.  Due to the ambient light levels varying between shots, the brightness of the images consequently varies, so I adjusted the exposure to bring the three images to the same visual brightness level.

Images 1 and 3 had their exposure increased by a third of a stop (+0.33 in Adobe Camera Raw) to bring the exposure level to the approximate brightness of image 2.

Otherwise, I applied no post-processing to these images beyond simple raw conversion.  I did not adjust any settings or apply any colour profiles; I simply exported the images straight into Photoshop (Adobe Photoshop CC 2018) and saved them as JPGs at the highest quality level (12).

Crucially, I have applied absolutely no sharpening to the images.  What you will see is what the camera captured.  While sharpening is a necessary part of digital image processing (particularly for raw images), what I want to highlight is what the lens is capable of producing, not what Photoshop is capable of producing.

 

Image 1 – Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/1.8

Here is the first image, captured with the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/1.8:

Toy Dinosaur - Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/1.8

Toy Dinosaur – Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/1.8

Click the image to download the full-size 30.1mp file (6,720 x 4,480px).

Here is a 100% crop of the first image:

Toy Dinosaur - Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/1.8 - 2,048px Crop

Toy Dinosaur – Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/1.8 – 2,048px Crop

Click the image to download the cropped 2.8mp file (2,048 x 1,365px).

 

Image 2 – Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/2

Here is the second image, captured with the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/2:

Toy Dinosaur - Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/2

Toy Dinosaur – Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/2

Click the image to download the full-size 30.1mp file (6,720 x 4,480px).

Here is a 100% crop of the second image:

Toy Dinosaur - Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/2 - 2,048px Crop

Toy Dinosaur – Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/2 – 2,048px Crop

Click the image to download the cropped 2.8mp file (2,048 x 1,365px).

 

Image 3 – Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM at f/2

Here is the third image, captured with the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM at f/2:

Toy Dinosaur - Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM at f/2

Toy Dinosaur – Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM at f/2

Click the image to download the full-size 30.1mp file (6,720 x 4,480px).

Here is a 100% crop of the third image:

Toy Dinosaur - Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM at f/2 - 2,048px Crop

Toy Dinosaur – Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM at f/2 – 2,048px Crop

Click the image to download the cropped 2.8mp file (2,048 x 1,365px).

 

Observations and Conclusions

As I mentioned earlier, both lenses are very sharp.

However, the difference in sharpness between the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM and the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM can be seen when viewing the 30.1mp image at 100% magnification.

It is really necessary to view the images at 100% magnification (rather than the 640px versions presented above) to properly see the differences in sharpness between lenses, and between f/stops on one of the lenses.  Having said that, sharpness variations can still be seen in the 640px versions of the cropped-to-2,048px versions.

When inspecting the full-size image files, look in particular at the catchlight in the toy dinosaur’s eye, which was the focal point in the images.  The sharpness difference can also be seen in the texture of the fabric from which the dinosaur is made.

The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM clearly has the edge, and it is noticeably sharper.

Interestingly, the image shot with the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at f/1.8 is noticeably sharper than the image shot with the same lens stopped down to f/2.  This may have been due to photographer-induced movement upon depressing the shutter release button, but it is impossible to tell.

I am not too concerned about this difference, as lenses typically become sharper when stopped down.  While I cannot prove it, it is possible that I may have accidentally thrown off the focus by a small amount when composing and capturing the image at f/2, and given that the image captured at f/1.8 is sharper, I will treat this intriguing result as an anomaly, and not representative of the capability of the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM.

One other difference between these two lenses is the colour.  To my eyes, the colour rendered by the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM is more vibrant, and a touch warmer, than the colour rendered by the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM.

The varying light levels may have contributed to this, but when looking at both images captured with the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM, the colours are more subdued.

Now, while the difference in wide-open sharpness is definitely noticeable between lenses, is it enough to make a difference in the real world?  That is hard to say, as different people have different expectations and preferences.

In reality, many people, upon seeing images in normal viewing conditions (and without pixel-peeping or wearing a lens reviewer’s hat), may not care to notice the difference, or even be able to tell the difference.

On the other hand, very discerning people, who do analyse lens performance results more critically, would see the differences, and for them, it may make a difference — assuming, of course, that the photographer is in the rather enviable position of having to choose between these two fine lenses.

My view is that while both lenses are sharp and produce stunning results when the photographer does his or her part, the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM clearly has the advantage over its older brother by a noticeable difference.

While I have shown the results of some testing, here are some real-world results.

On two occasions, I photographed a little penguin at Featherdale Wildlife Park.  On the first visit, I used David’s Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM, and on the second visit, I used my Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM.

Here is the image I captured with the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM:

Checking Out This and That

Checking Out This and That

And here is the image I captured with the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM:

Profile of a Little Penguin

Profile of a Little Penguin

These two images were captured on different days, in different lighting conditions, and with different lenses; but I am pleased with both.  I actually prefer the earlier image captured with the faster lens, as the composition and colour are both more appealing to me.

While my test results reveal that the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM at f/2 is sharper than the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM at both f/1.8 and f/2, my real-world results show that both lenses produce very sharp images, and that the practical differences are minor.

If you happen to be able to own or use either lens, it makes for happy shooting.

My New Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: Ideal for Cityscapes

Last week, I decided to buy a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens.

It was a lens I had entertained — but not seriously — adding to my rig.

Until the addition of this lens, my two wide lenses consisted of my Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM  and Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM.

While I love a wide vista, sometimes 14mm is just too wide.  I never thought I would say so, but alas, it is true.

On the other hand, 35mm can sometimes be too long.

Twice in the past 12 months I have needed a focal length in between 14mm and 35mm, but did not have a lens of that focal length.

I have barely owned my Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM for a week, and I have used it on two separate twilight cityscape shoots.

So far, the 24mm focal length is proving to be very useful for cityscapes — particularly when shooting skylines across the water from a distance.  With a wider lens, the skyline can shrink into a vast expanse of sky and water; and with a longer lens, the framing can be just a bit too tight, whereby there is not quite enough sky.

My first shoot, on the same day I bought the lens, resulted in the following image:

Lavender Bay on a Summer Night

Lavender Bay on a Summer Night

This particular location does not seem to be hugely popular for cityscapes, but it was something different, and the 24mm focal length was absolutely perfect for this composition.

My second shoot with the new lens was last night.

After a few lazy days at home, I felt the need to get out for a photoshoot.

I decided to re-visit Mrs Macquarie’s Point.  The last time I photographed Sydney from this location was just over eight years ago.

Mrs Macquarie's View

Mrs Macquarie’s View

From this view, the skyline has not changed a great deal, but there are some buildings which did not exist in my previous image.

For this image, I opted for a wider focal length, and waited for the rich blue light of twilight to emerge after sunset.

I am enjoying the field of view this new lens provides.  Not having used the 24mm focal length for quite a while, it made for a nice change, and has been quite suitable so far for the images I have captured with it.

I am hoping to use it more next week, but I really need to invest in the NiSi filter holder which will fit this lens, as I need to be able to use my grads and ND filters with it.