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Messages - BLFPhoto

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Via online galleries on my Photoshelter site.  I started with Photoshelter with the lowest level that allowed eCommerce sales of prints directly from the galleries.  I'm at the full Pro level now with more than 75% of 1TB of gallery images up there. 

It makes it easy and fast to get images to clients, particularly clients who traveled from out of town for beach portraits or weddings.  I can also give multiple distributions via email addresses or group passwords. 

For one-offs, or early in establishing business, USB drives are my recommendation.  But online distribution gives so many advantages that I won't do physical media again unless specifically requested by the client. 

Lenses / Re: Something with 50mm L lens that make it different
« on: July 18, 2014, 10:24:16 AM »
The EF 50mm f/1.4 is a great documentary and photojournalist lens.  It works great starting at about f/2.0 and really shines at f/4-f-8, especially in black and white.  It will do passable work at f/1.4-f/1.8 and is very cost effective for that work. 

But for those looking for images that rely more on artistic expression, the EF 50mm f/1.2 is the far better lens.  Wedding photographer?  Environmental portraitist?  Those photographers will find the color, contrast, bokeh, etc. all add up to a better image for their purposes much, if not most of the time.

I have owned both, and still currently have the 1.4 version.  It was one of the first EF lenses I bought way back in the early 90's.  I still have my original copy of that lens and it is still going strong, contrary to all the reports of how fragile it can be.  Treat it nicely and it will work for a long, LONG time. 

If the 50mm played more in my wedding and portrait shooting, I would have the L version for sure.  As the OP asks, I can confirm there is just something "more" about the images I got out of the one I had for a while, when compared to images from my 1.4 version.  In my estimation, it is the combination of all performance aspects that create that look.  It's almost like that's what the Canon engineers were trying to do!  ;-)

Software & Accessories / Re: Rain protection for 5D3 and lens
« on: July 14, 2014, 03:29:57 PM »
I shoot a lot of sports and keep both a small and a medium sized Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket in my bag to cover my bodies and lenses.  They pack up super small into zippered pouches to the point I often forget they are in the bag until I need them.  They weigh next to nothing.   

If you go with the Vortex product, you want the "Pro" version which has a velcro opening to allow for attachment of a monopod/tripod.

The medium size fits my 1DMkIV or gripped 5D Mk3 with 300mm f/2.8 lens with room to spare.  I often use it with the 70-200 IS II as well.  But the small version also fits that combination, though it's a bit more tight quarters for long shoots. 

I would not put the Vortex products in the same category as, say, Think Tank, Canon, or other more massive rain coats that have see-through plastic and other niceties, but they will more than meet 90% of any need for a rain cover.  Put another way, I would use my Think Tank cover if I were going to spend 3 hours at a soccer match in a downpour.  Or if I were headed to the arctic tundra or rain forest for an expedition.  But in spotty, maybe medium-heavy rain, and for long days afield where I may or may not need it, I'll take the Vortex anyday.   And that covers almost all of what I do.   

The kicker is that they are only $35.95 for the medium size in several different colors.  Compare that to over $150 for the Think Tank. 

I have used an Op-Tech cheapo before, but for my $ and my gear, I'll take the Vortex any day as well.  Be sure to check them out before you buy anything else.

Lenses / Re: What was your first L lens?
« on: June 05, 2014, 04:26:16 PM »
My first L was the "Magic Drainpipe" EF 80-200 f/2.8 L.  It didn't have USM.  It was 10mm less range than its current cousins.  And it didn't have IS.  But the images were quite magical.  I bought, compared, and used the 70-200 f/2.8 non-IS when it came out, the 70-200 f/2.8 IS when it came out, and ultimately kept the 80-200 over those even when it became no longer officially supported by Canon.  I only sold it a little over a year ago when I got the new 70-200 f/2.8 IS L II, which is the first of that series that really surpasses that old black lens for me.  But, honestly, I wish I'd kept the 80-200 for portraits.  The drainpipe was magical with portraits.  Only the 85 and 135 Ls are better in my book. 

After the 80-200, it was a long, steady ride to where I am today. 

Portrait / Re: Mobile studio portraits - am I doing this properly?
« on: June 02, 2014, 09:42:01 AM »
For my taste, the main light is too direct and too harsh.  The side light is too much.  Better to get the main light further off the camera to give good modeling, soften it up a bit as well.  And move the rear light higher and more spread across the entire back of the subject to give more separation.

The way you've shot it comes across far too flat...lacking contrast across the entire frame.  The skintones are too close to the background tone.

6D.  No Grip.  Carry extra battery.  The one battery should get you an entire day's worth of landscape shooting, though. 

My lightweight running kit is a 6D, 40mm f/2.8, 17-40L, 135L and a Joby flexible tripod, with a couple of cards, a brush, and lens cloths all in a Lowepro Flipside 10L.  I can run all day with that (not kidding...have run 6 and 7 hour runs with it!) and have all that I need in remote places to take great landscapes and running action shots.  I use the 6D over the 5D Mk III due to the built in GPS and wi-fi.   Anyone who tells you you can't shoot action with a 6D is wrong.  Yes, there are limitations that only my 1D Mk IV with a 300mm f/2.8 will answer.  But this isn't about limitations...this is about freedom of movement and total capability.  If I really want some serious landscape shooting, I'll toss in my grad ND filter kit.  Sometimes I'll toss in a 580EX II with a pocket wizard flex system when I'm shooting runners on trails, but that gets a bit tight and heavy in that pack. 

The 6D is a fantastic camera in a landscape and mild lifestyle shooting role.  The AF module may give up a lot next to the 1D or 5D Mk III, but I've found it more than adequate in sports tracking situations, though usually using just the center point.  For landscape, this will not be a limitation.  If your composition has a main focal point outside the focus points, just use live view as someone noted.  This is probably the preferred way to shoot a considered image like a landscape these days, in my view.  I use the viewfinder when I have people in the shot.  Otherwise I'm tethered or using the live view LCD.

Grab a couple of fast 32Gb or a 64GB card and call it a day.  My 64GB card gives more than 1999 RAW photos on my 6D.   Heck, I'd probably have a hard time filling up the 32GB backup card on a day on the trails.  I just don't run through cards like I do when I'm shooting high speed bursts on the 1D or 7D. 

My recommendation is to forego the grip unless you're doing a lot of people shooting.  As someone noted, it makes the camera less stable on a tripod.   And the alternate hand position just isn't necessary in landscape shooting.  It's one of the last things I'd think about given your shooting parameters.

And don't underestimate the little 40mm pancake as a single super-lightweight package on the 6D.  Sometimes I will go out with that and nothing else.  It's pretty fantastic for landscape and street shooting, working within the limitations of the single focal length.

Lenses / Re: Review: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
« on: April 25, 2014, 02:50:40 PM »
Here's my take on reviews and testing:  What passes for "testing" in most reviews and internet reports is not really testing in the strictest sense.  Statistically speaking, the sample sizes are far too small to draw meaningful conclusions with a reliable degree of veracity.  Nor are test conditions sufficiently configuration managed to alleviate or mitigate outside sources of measurement error or data variability.  In the cases of Sigma, Tokina, Zeiss, etc., the testing should include multiple samples mounted to multiple bodies of the major available models of camera.  Further, the configurations of the camera bodies should be recorded, managed, and synced to a standard for each lens/model level 1 configuration.  In other words, it would not be valid to test multiple bodies of a camera that have different settings, even if the lens is the same one used across that round of tests. 

Obviously no layperson has access to this level of equipment in order to provide a comprehensive account of how a lens truly performs.  The best that can be said for any given "result" reported in various reviews is that on that day, with that camera set the way it was set, with that very lens, this was the result.  Often we don't even know enough about the conditions of that event to draw valid conclusions. 

Some have noted that when we see trends across multiple reviewers that we can use that as evidence.   Strictly speaking, that is not the case without a significant amount of analysis of the events under consideration along the lines of what I outline above.  Just because two entities report issues, the results are not necessarily directly correllated unless the conditions under test were held exactly the same.  Put another way, we're back to anecdotal evidence.  Correlation is not causation. 

That isn't to invalidate what was observed.  In fact, it probably points to a need for more in depth and controlled testing in order to produce results from which a true root cause analysis can be conducted. 

Another missing ingredient from most tests is a DIRECT control group.  Oh...this reviewer has recorded results for this lens and the OEM lens you say?  Once again, that comparison is only really valid if both lenses were tested under the exact conditions with the exact, serialized configurations.  You want to say, in this case, that this Sigma's focus precision is worse than, say, the EF 50mmL f/1.2?  You had better have tested both lenses across a statistically relevant sample set of each lens, and across a statistically relevant sample size of each model of camera tested, and under very strict configurations both to the camera, target setup, support, light values, etc. 

Others here will disagree with what I wrote, but what I'm really saying is that we should ask the HARD questions about anything we're reading, especially if we're inclined to base our equipment investments on the data and conclusions. 

The only entity I'm aware of with the access to enough population of lenses, cameras, and valid, calibrated test equipment is LensRentals.  When Roger reports trends in test results for a given lens or body, I will generally place a greater faith in the applicability of the result as indicative of the true qualities of the equipment in question.  But Roger isn't in the business of reviews or equipment testing.  His tests are conducted against known baselines and intended to return the equipment to serviceable conditions.  This means certain aspects of even his testing are not recorded or even necessary for his mission.  So even his information must be understood as not strictly indicative of the absolute properties of a piece of equipment.  He's said as much in one of his blog posts. 

In other communities I participate in, we have established relationships with various members of the manufacturers such that engineers (in some cases the LEAD engineer) come and share their data with us.  They participate in the forums to the point that they even allow us to question their data, results, conclusions, etc.  Sometimes the data agrees with our outside anecdotes or even controlled testing.  Sometimes not.  I think it would be great if we had Canon, Sigma, Tokina, etc. engineers participate here or at least somewhere.  Chuck is a good start, but truthfully, he gets beat up A LOT whenever I've seen him appear.  He's also a tech rep, not an actual engineer.  And my sense on this forum, so far, is that some here would not be able to play like grown ups.  That happened to one manufacturer on one of the forums I'm talking about and they left the discussion and forum altogether.  It was a loss to the community based on a few jackasses who could not respectfully discuss disagreements.  Getting the various reviewers to participate in these discussions from time to time would be valuable as well.  I, for one, would ask folks like Bryan some hard questions about their data and methods.  Respectfully.  Not to poke black eyes at manufacturers or review/testers, but to discover and discuss any holes relative to the data and conclusions.  Over time, respectful discussions can benefit the whole community in getting better in their area of the sandbox.  We know more, they build better products and provide more open data. 

Anyway...I'm not saying that the various reviews are all garbage.  Rather, I'm imploring people to understand what they are really seeing, and the limitations and assumptions made  through the process when the review is produced.  They are good data points in the case of several of the well-known sites.  But they are not gospel.  I, for one, am a long way from pronouncing the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 an AF disaster.  It's on my list of equipment acquisitions over the next few months.       

Canon General / Re: $10,000
« on: April 25, 2014, 12:52:03 PM »
16-35L f/2.8
Two more Einsteins w/Paul Buff Pocket Wizard trigger modules (For a total of 5 in my kit)

Or bank the $10k and wait for the remaining funds for the 200-400L

Either way, my needs are pretty narrow at this point...along the lines of gold plating the hammer.


Regardless, the real issue is this is n=1 lens.

On this we are in 100% agreement.

Let me also be very clear that I'm not questioning his honesty or integrity.  Rather, in my line of work, I don't accept anyone's work without seeing the data to back up the conclusions.  Otherwise people get dead.  Now we're not risking bodily injury here, even though these new 50s aren't our dad's old compact, lightweight primes.   But we are talking about a serious knock on a new product that seems somewhat out of character with the current paradigm.  If I were Sigma,  and I was looking to build on my newly improving reputation, I would not let a lens anywhere near the street that was such a laggard in focus precision, especially on current flagship cameras of the big OEM players.  Certainly I would not release it with the fanfare this lens is getting.  I'd slap a Quantaray silkscreen on that puppy and let it die a death in kit lens hell. 

Me?  I'm just thinking I'd love to dig in on the at sample shoot and do some root cause analysis.  I guess that's the engineer and test geek in me, though. 

The best we lay testers can do is automated testing using products like FoCal.  The tool allows you to not only perform repeatable cycles of testing, but allows you to specify variables such as how the lens is de focused between shots.  Multiple test runs, altering the variables can help pinpoint possible performance limitations or at least give you further insight into the character of your copy of a particular lens.  Over time you can also compare results to note changes or anomalies in the performance that may indicate a need to travel back to the manufacturer for service.  One of the key parameter settings for Focal is for mirror lock up, probably alleviating your need for a wired release to control vibrations. 

I have no experience yet with the LensCal product.  Maybe someone has a comparison. 

Here's the thing, Neuro...I would call that 10 shot sample a REALLY shitty result for Sigma.  Worse than many of their older lens' results.  And you're buying that without questioning the validity of the test and data?  I have lurked longer than I've posted, and frankly, I've come to expect more rigor from your responses.  You've got a great academic take on things, and a lot of insight that the more casual Canon user doesn't have, so I'm a bit perplexed here.  Please spare us the harping on precision vs accuracy.  Clearly those of us carrying on the discussion have demonstrated that we are aware of the difference.  I once wrote a defense white paper on the different test methods and protocols required to measure accuracy vs precision.  I'm pretty read into the difference.  I'm also well versed in the absolute test control and statistical requirements to actually assess levels of precision.  I simply don't see that in this review or write up.  It certainly wouldn't stand up to peer review of the test results. 

Therefore, I'm not satisfied that this is a valid result, let alone indicative of the general quality of the lens.  I have followed TDP for a very long time and agree his reviews and methods are some of the most complete out there...the standard. Y which most are judged, as you note.  But here and on other reviews, I think there is a need for much further disclosure of the exact configurations under test, including all camera settings.  Clearly there is room for a lot of speculation on why he got this sequence of shots, and not all of it is to Sigma's detriment.  Incomplete data can be worse than no data if errors are induced in the analysis.

If the Sigma proves to be a lemon, so be it.  But I'm not hanging my hat on that appellation based on this review.  Let's not get too sold on the strong TDP review brand that were blind to gaping holes in the data.  Question everything.  Over on my triathlon forums where we debate aerodynamics and friction to the same degree we here on the canon forum disect lenses, I have a friend who often states, "In god we trust.  All others must bring data."  I'm not a god guy, but I understand what he's getting at. 

Meanwhile, I'm curious to watch the development of more Art series lenses like the 24..

No.  I don't think that.  I think there is not enough information to adequately assess the results and pronounce the lens inconsistent as a rule of thumb.

Exactly.  Without a reference point, it's hard to say what shots are more indicative of the specific sample's ability to focus.  And the delta could be a clue to some symptom or reason for the lack of consistency. 

One thing I didn't note yet was that few details are given of the specific setup of the AF, including all AF-related CF settings.   Without that information, interpreting the results effectively is problematic at best.

It could very well be the case that certain configurations of AF, for certain bodies or AF modules, give problematic results for these 3rd party lenses, for the well-noted reason that the AF algorithms are developed from reverse engineering.  The issue could be local to that specific configuration and not a global issue, and the lens could therefore otherwise perform admirably.  Should we throw out the baby with the bath water in that case? 

... I jumped the gun on dismissing the 6d... And in retrospect I have a good deal of esteem for the 6d...

I can attest that the 6D and it's AF got a mostly ill-deserved drubbing.  While it is true that it's AF sophistication lacks significantly relative to the 1DX/5DMkIII, it is really a better system than the 5DMk II's.  This last weekend I ended up shooting my 6D for a portion of triathlon coverage where I was shooting wide angle on the bikes, with flash.  I used both single shot and Ai Servo as well as both center and other AF points.  In the application I used it, the 6D was more than adequate to the task and I did not feel I would have done better on those particular shots with either the 1DIV or 5DMkIII, which were mounted w/telephotos. 

There are some well noted limitations of the 6D AF due to AF point spacing, and the sensitivity, orientation, and number of non-center points.  Not everyone has multiple bodies to address different shooting conditions and needs and might find a 6D just that little bit short for their needs.  But after a couple of months of shooting and studying the 6D's AF, I have no issues with it when used in appropriate applications, including some that other forum pundits would swear are outside it's service mission.

But if Canon wants to step up the AF in a follow-on model, I won't argue! 

What does AFMA have to do with it?  It has to do with controlling variables in a test environment to ensure the results you are receiving.  And despite your protestations, there is an element of accuracy from AFMA related to the precision.  We have no way of knowing which of the sample 10 photos is most representative of the most optimum focus his particular camera and lens combination is capable of producing.  I can also provide you with test results .pdfs where a non or mis-calibrated lens performed more poorly on the focus consistency tests than it did once properly calibrated (AFMA).  That is contrary to the idea that accuracy is unconnected to precision in this application. 

I don't know the algorithms involved, so I cannot hypothesize to any degree of accuracy why that might happen.  But it does...often enough to convince me there is something to it.

And I have to wonder if you read my post completely.  I mentioned my experience in your vaunted "real world" conditions that not only refutes, at least in the 35mm's case, any sort of worrisome AF consistency issues, but that also corroborates what I saw in much more controlled test conditions shooting those pesky test charts. 

What you're calling "real world scenarios" is what we call in my line of work "operational testing".  Beware that all "real world scenarios" or "operational testing" is not equal for purposes of drawing conclusions from them.  Test design and controls have a lot to do with the fidelity of data produced.   And I'm saying given the paucity of information regarding test controls on TDP's "real world" shooting, we cannot faithfully put much stock in an idea that this 50mm indeed has any AF issues worth worrying about. 

I'm not trying to defend Sigma, per se.   I'll dump the Sigmas in a heart beat if the evidence gives me reason to doubt their performance.  But I'm similarly not going to simply buy some anecdotal "evidence" as proof without ensuring the evidence is properly controlled to produce the results noted.  In this case, the most glaring control missing is sample size.  I believe TDP did some fairly exhaustive shooting, probably using fairly common tools, including tripod when necessary.  But the results are based on a sample size of 1 lens, which is not adequate to properly draw conclusions from.  It's not good enough to dress up a review and AF performance test with accounts of how much and how varied the conditions were that produced the results, even if I grant you 2 test configurations based on his mention of testing both 1DX and 5DMkIII bodies with the lens.  Not for me, anyway.  I need more data.

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