Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On Lenses

I took a long, critical look the other day at some of the photos I'd recently taken with my Canon 17-85mm lens [left]. It's built for digital and as such, can't be used on any 35mm or full-frame censor CCD cameras (such as Canon's 5D - not that I have one!).

I've had it a couple of years, bought as a replacement for the original 18-55mm kit lens which came with my EOS 300D in 2004. That lens was pretty ropey - very plastic and the image quality was far from great.

Now I'm using my Canon 30D, I've begun to notice that the 17-85 lens isn't particularly sharp around the edges, especially at the wide 17mm end. It also suffers from chromatic abberation:

[Buttsbury Church wide angle shot looks OK at web resolution]

[Detail of the trees on the left]

As you can see, this 100% view from a section of the trees on the left shows a distinct magenta halo on one side of the birch trunk and a slight green halo on the other side. When trying to make prints at A3, these lens "features" are beginning to be irritating...

So I have been thinking about a better lens for my short/standard zoom. I initially looked at Canon's 24-70mm EF f/2.8 L USM but it costs nearly £900, so that was out of the question. I finally settled on the Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM [right]. Yes it's a stop slower than the expensive lens, but has the bonus of Image Stabilisation, and f/4 is still pretty fast, especially as it's throughout the zoom's range.

And the L stands for Low Dispersion glass - Canon's best quality lens. On paper my old Sigma 135-400mm lens had a similar spec to the Canon zoom I now use for rugby, 100-400mm EF f4-5.6 L IS USM, but the pictures the Canon produces with that "L" quality glass are so much better. So I thought another L-series lens would be a good investment. Particularly if I ever get myself a Canon 5D full-frame D-SLR as my existing 17-85mm EF-S won't fit.

I had the pleasure of trying out the new toy this morning, taking a few quick shots on the way home from Chelmsford. So far, I'm impressed; the image quality seems first rate. I haven't yet missed the extra 7mm range at the wide end, but am glad of the extra 20mm at the tele end of things.

[Can Impression #2 shows buildings and blue sky reflected in the River Can as it flows through a concrete bit of Chelmsford]

[Branches shows a 100% enlargement of another image taken at the wide angle. Not sure I can see any chroma artifacts in that!]

Of course, I've yet to give the lens a proper run out, but I'm certainly happy with its first impression. And I'm rather pleased with today's Picture of the Day, Covert Surveillance, taken with the new beastie on the way home from the shop!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

February Review

February was of course longer than usual this year, but us 366 folk didn't get a day off! I've still kept up the photo a day discipline quite easily. And I think my "mundane" days have been more interesting than those during January, so maybe I'm learning!

I'll kick off with some "near misses" that almost made it as shot of the day during February:

[Millennium Window - the lovely new stained glass in Fryerning Church was a close call for Day #40]

[Saturated - a curious abstract I stumbled upon during my walk around Ulting on Day #41]

[Goblet of Fire was another image from the studio when I was messing about for Day #45]

[Kennady's Abstract - I loved the soft colours with this long exposure for Day #46]

[The Tilled Earth - a nice sepia treatment which almost made it for Day #55]

[The Duck Pond - a bit of a chocolate box picture from my look around Battlesbridge on Day #57]

As I said in the beginning, I think my "boring" days have been slightly more creative than January. This was tested during Days 35-37 when I was sick - but I still managed a shot or two with my compact camera, so haven't broken the 366 rule.

The 366 group on Flickr I belong to has weekly themes to help you out when inspiration is lacking. The theme for Week 6 was "Love Is..." I was a bit stuck for what to do, but then an idea germinated just before I was due to spend the day in the Studio with a friend on 14th. My entry was called "Love Is ... Never Black & White" which was my picture for Day #45, and I was delighted that the 366 folks voted it best picture for week 6.

I think it was particularly pleasing as I'm not often a photographer who pre-conceives an idea and then sets it up for a picture, I'm much more likely to go with what I see in front of me. So to have taken a successful image which required thought and pre-planning was quite a departure for me. And it meant I got to choose the theme for Week 8, which I decided would be Nature's Patterns.

I hope you continue to observe my journey through the year during March.