Tag Archives: Lens

Latest Lovelies

I rarely capture photographs of the gear I use to capture photographs, but this year has seen some changes to my camera and lens rig.

These are two of my latest ‘lovelies’: a Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM, which I purchased on 12/01/2017 to replace my long-serving Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM; and my much newer Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which I purchased on 23/06/2017.

Latest Lovelies

Latest Lovelies

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a substantial upgrade to my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a 2008-vintage camera which I have been using since 2010. I will keep my 5D2, but the new 5D4 will be my main camera.

I am looking forward to taking advantage of the increased dynamic range and reduced high-ISO noise of this latest generation of full-frame Canon sensors.

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.

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.

Lens Cleaning Tip

Today I decided to drag out my lenses and give them a clean.

They really didn’t need much in the way of cleaning, as I always keep them clean, and generally give them a clean after use if the nature of the shoot warrants it.

When I looked at one or two of my lenses, I discovered that the black rubber focus or AF stop ring was almost grey due to either dust, scuffs or both.  The textured surface of the control rings on lenses, as well as the material from which they’re made, makes the use of a blower or dust brush ineffective at cleaning them.

I decided that in order to get into the grooves of the rubber rings, I needed to scrub, so I opted for a soft-bristled toothbrush, which I dampened and then used to scrub ‘along the grain’ of the rubber rings.

I found that did a good job of restoring the rings to their black colour, and makes them look as good as new.

As for my technique for cleaning the optical surfaces of my lenses, I firstly use a rocket blower to blow off any surface dust, and then I use a soft-bristled brush to physically wipe off any remaining surface dust.  Finally I use a LensPen, which has a soft, carbon-tipped, triangular-shaped cleaning pad which effectively cleans the glass and gets into the nooks and crannies where the edge of the glass meets the barrel assembly.

The 50mm Focal Length: Boring

For years I have held a strong distain for the 50mm focal length.

Inexplicably, I hitherto had never ranted about it here.

To me, 50mm is an utterly useless and boring focal length, and I do not quite understand why so many people bother with it.

On the 35mm camera system, 50mm is considered a ‘standard’ focal length, meaning that its focal distance is approximately equivalent to the diagonal length of the focal plane (film or sensor).  A 35mm sensor or film frame measures 43.3mm diagonally.

The problem with the 50mm focal length, for me, is that it is neither wide (which I love), or long (which I love).  It doesn’t provide an interesting view in the form of a wide vista of a picturesque scene, and it doesn’t provide a close view of the details of a distant subject (such as the face of a lion or leopard from a distance).

Perhaps what appeals about 50mm to many people is the fact that one can buy a fast prime cheaply.  A 50mm f/1.8 lens is very inexpensive, which gives people an easy and cheap entry point into the world of fast lenses and prime lenses.

Decades ago, 35mm SLR cameras came with 50mm lenses — 50mm was the ‘kit lens’ of the day.  Sure, there are 50mm lenses with wider apertures of f/1.4f/1.2, f/1 and even f/0.95; but the purchase price exponentially rises with each third-, half- or full-stop.

While I find 50mm useless on a 35mm camera system, I also find it useless on an APS-C camera, as the focal length provides a field of view equivalent to 75mm (Nikon) or 80mm (Canon), which for general photography, and indeed many specific types of photography, makes it a ‘no-man’s-land’ focal length, and quite an uninteresting one at that.

It’s good for portraiture in terms of framing, but it is to be remembered that it is still a 50mm lens, so it is not as effective at achieving flattering portraits as an actual 85mm lens.  All an APS-C camera does, when a full-frame (135-format; aka 35mm) lens is mounted on it, is crop the view (ie, the smaller sensor cannot ‘see’ the entire, larger imaging circle of the lens).  The focal length is not magnified.  The only way to get the magnification of a longer lens is to use a longer lens.

Perhaps people who engage in street photography or portraiture (with an APS-C camera) might find 50mm useful, but in my experience, it’s not at all useful for anything I shoot.  I love my 85mm lens, but it tends to get used only for portraits, and it gives me the actual benefits of the focal length, including, but not limited to, the framing.

So there you go: a few thoughts on what I consider to be the most boring focal length in the known universe.