Warwick with 5D Mk2

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

On a cold and frosty day recently I drove to Warwick for a stock photography shoot. Though cold the light was excellent and I was expecting to get plenty of good images.

For this I took the Canon 5D Mk 2 and 3 MF Nikon lenses 24mm f/2, 50mm f/1.2 & 135mm f/2.8 all fitted with adaptors. I’d recently bought some adaptors from ebay which would give me focus confirmation in the viewfinder. This would avoid me having to use live view to focus and expose. This works very well but I prefer the camera to my eye rather than held out in front of me. This trip would afford me a good opportunity to try them out.

The plan was to walk along the River Avon, head up to Mill Street with its old half timbered buildings, then head through the town before finishing up with one of the classic (and much-photographed) English views of Warwick castle and the River Avon.

Many of the cameras I buy are released in the winter & it gives a good opportunity to test them out before I really get going in the spring and summer. The light ( when you get some! ) is good all day but because of this there are deep shadows and strong contrast. Plus the ever present “purple fringing” because of bare tree branches against the sky. By shooting in winter I can usually find out what cameras and lenses will do before I start using them every day.

The trip was successful and I ended up with some strong images. I also ended up with very cold fingers. I’ve tried all sorts of gloves, with and without fingers and never found any I could work with. Maybe for very cold days I should take one of those back pain patches and keep it in my pocket!

The adaptors worked very well. It was nice to have the focus confirmation. This meant that I was able to use the MF lenses in the same way as on my Nikons. As usual the 50mm f/1.2 performed the best (this is a great lens) but was closely followed by the 135mm f/2.8 which is excellent. I’d not really used the 24mm f/2 much so this was a good opportunity to try it out. Again it was excellent without ever quite matching the other two for sharpness.

What was of some concern were the files generated by the Canon. There were several images, where because of the strong contrast of the low winter sun, the shadows needed lifting. When I did this there was a lot of noise and some banding, even at 100 ISO. This has never been a problem with my Nikons and it looked quite unpleasant & was very difficult to eliminate. I ended up with several images that had deeper blacker shadows than I wanted. This looks quite dramatic but tends to cut down the sales potential of the shot.

Since that time I have tried to compensate for this by shooting with +1/3 and +2/3 stop exposure compensation but have found that this does burn out highlights. Many people have suggested on the web that this is because Canon have overestimated their ISO settings in order to prove its low noise capabilities at high ISO’s. I’m not sure about this but there is something not right here. In the past I’ve had 3 5D’s, one that overexposed, one that underexposed and one that was dead on. So I’m aware that all models don’t automatically work the same. However this may cause problems in the future particularly with high contrast scenes.

Its also frustrating as the images were very sharp and detailed.