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April 17, 2014

6D and 7D Compared Again

White-crowned Sparrow Golden-crowned Sparrow Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco Purple Finch

A very dark, rainy, cloudy day. Wool pants, wool coat, wool hat, cotton socks, cold feet. Sitting in the gazebo for several hours trying to get comparable shots with different camera bodies. I mean, how much fun can a person have? In spite of the whining, it was interesting and I learned a little more about my equipment. Depending on how you look at it, the 6D isn't as good as I thought or the 7D is better than I gave it credit for in my previous post.
   The comparison photos here are equal distance from the camera. They are cropped to be very close to equal size. I used the 70-200mm lens with the 2X teleconverter for 400mm focal length on all.
   What the pictures show:
The image quality is pretty much the same when cropped to the same finish size. Detail definition is very close to equal. Noise level at finish size is also very close to equal. That surprised me, I expected the 6D to be superior. The 7D (and the 60D not shown) exposes about 1/2 to 2/3 stop darker than the 6D. I lightened the White-crowned Sparrow from the 7D to make it roughly the same as the 6D. The 6D is more accurate, in tone and color, out of the camera. The brightness of the viewfinder gave the 6D a slight advantage on the sparrows but the advantage went to the 7D for the 3 times more distant Purple Finch. The unadjusted photos give a pretty accurate picture of the difference that actually exists between the two views, the 7D is darker but accurately depicts the exposure without compensation. The 6D is lighter but also accurate.
   The rest of the story:
When making the decision to buy the 6D, I was hoping it would be as good as the 7D for these types of cropped photos. It is close enough but probably no better. I like the autofocus on the 6D but for these there was not much difference. When an eagle flew over, however, I raised the 6D and snapped a couple quick shots. They were too dark, of course, but it focused on the bird even though there were trees in the background, not clear sky. I have never been able to do that with the 7D. The 6D autofocus is simple but it works! The advantage of having more 'area' to work with does allow me to use the same lens over a greater range of distances.
   I like using the 6D better than any previous camera I have owned. I would like to have the advantages of the 'crop frame' when and if they improve it to where it is an advantage. The 7D was and is a very good camera but it is close to retirement age. I thought I might sell it but like all things close to retirement age, no one has much use for it even though it still has a lot to offer.

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March 31, 2014

6D and 7D Compared

American Robin American Robin Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco American Robin American Robin Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco

Having used the 6D for a couple of shoots and gotten familiar with it, I decided it was time to make some comparisons between it and my 7D. This first set of comparisons is all I had time for today. I would like to also do some with clear sky in the background. That would give a better comparison of the noise level as well as sharpness and halo effects. Maybe later on I can do that but for now I'll discuss what I learned from these.
   Distance on the robins is the same, the 6D junco is a little further out than the one from the 7D. Both cameras were set to aperture priority, f5.6, ISO 2000. The same lens combination was used, 300mm, 1.4X and 2X extenders, in that order. Live view and contrast AF were used. There was no micro-focus adjustment made on either camera. I used the jpg files from each camera and made no further adjustment other than resizing. The first row is the full frame captured and the second row is the crop I would normally post.
   Looking at the photos, I would say the crops are pretty equal. Detail, sharpness, noise, color and contrast all quite close to the same. What I can't show here, though is the difference between the cameras in taking the photos.
   The 6D just plain works better in every way. Even though the subject is smaller in the frame, it is easier to see. The contrast autofocus with this combo is slow on the 6D. On the 7D it is painful, going off to hunt even if it starts from being focused. I have noticed the phase detect AF is faster AND more accurate on the 6D also.
   In conclusion: The 7D is no longer part of my toolkit. It isn't needed, the 6D can do what it does, for me, and more. An improved 7D when it finally arrives? We'll see.

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March 19, 2014

Canon 6D; The First Week


Gull with Busy Background

I've had the 6D for about a week and have been able to spend about a third of the time I would like in using it. But spring is upon us and I will try harder as the weather warms. At this point, I am happy with my decision to try another FF(Full Frame) camera. When the updated version of the 7D (Crop Frame) is released I may want one of those but for now I have no hesitation in rating the 6D more usable and more enjoyable to use than the current 7D.

The Autofocus

The first thing I want to talk about is the AF (auto-focus) system. In the minds of many reviewers, this has been a negative point. The 6D only has 11 AF points compared to the 7D's 19 points and 61 points on the flagship 5DM3. Only the center AF point on the 6D is of the cross-type whereas the others have several. It also has fewer choices in how to use AF. Let the camera choose (auto) or you choose (manual).
   Big disadvantage? Not really. For some types of photography it probably is but for what I do it seems to work just fine. And it is simple to learn and simple to use. With the 7D I tried many times to use the different AF features but was usually frustrated because what worked for one situation would not work at all for another. In what I do the situation often changes quickly and having to cycle through several focusing choices is not an advantage.
   My biggest problem using the 6D in real life was learning not to worry about it. Push the button for which of the two I wanted, auto or manual, point and shoot. I almost never use any but the center point and that works great with both. The photo with the gull was taken with auto and the hummingbird was with manual. In each case all I had to do was get the center point on the bird and shoot. The auto followed the gull as it should and the manual got what I wanted when I wanted. Compared to the 7D both are quicker and much more accurate.

Male Rufous Hummingbird
The Image Quality

A larger question in my mind concerned the IQ of the FF. Would it be good enough to allow me crop to the same size as I normally do? Short answer: Yup! This hummingbird photo is less than 10% of the original. That, even for me, is an extreme crop. It was sharpened but no noise reduction was used in processing. I used ISO 800 although 400 would be usual. I was intentionally using a shorter (less magnification) lens than I would normally. What this proves is the 6D out guns the 7D in every way. The detail is at least as good and the noise level, even in this crop, is as good as the 7D full size at any setting.
   Anything I care to take a photo of with this camera is going to give me as good or better finished image than any camera I have previously owned or used. I feel confident in saying this even though I haven't used it in many ways yet. I'm looking forward to doing so but don't expect the results to be anything but pleasing based on experience and what I have seen so far.

Other Things

One of the things I was certain would be an advantage was the 'real estate', or image size, if the IQ were good enough. It is and it is! Some photos posted in my 6D gallery show my early endeavours in this regard.
   I knew, from having had the 5D, that the viewfinder would be brighter and easy to see things in. I wasn't sure if I remembered whether an object viewed at the same distance from the camera would be easier to see, especially as relates to sharpness, than in the crop frame cameras. It is.
   One more thing; depth of field. If both cameras are the same distance from the subject, the background should be the same in the part of the image that is shown in both photos. Even though that be true, there is no doubt the 6D has a more pleasing, somewhat softer, look than the 7D. Whether due to pixel size, lack of noise or whatever, I like it.
   I'll leave it here for now. I'm sure to have more to say later.

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March 13, 2014

Tired

Rufous Hummingbird A tired Rufous Hummingbird female A resting Rufous Hummingbird female

On Tuesday, March 11, I spotted the first male Rufous Hummingbird of the year in the yard. He spent most of the afternoon resting among the not quite ready current bushes and by evening seemed to have moved on.
   Then yesterday, late in the afternoon, I asked my wife if she had seen him around and she hadn't. Just a few minutes later I was sitting by the window and this female started fluttering against the glass as though trying to get in. Maybe she was getting small bugs? After a few moments, she gave up and just hung at the bottom (middle photo) for about two minutes. Then she kind of fluttered out about a foot from the window and perched for a full five, maybe ten, minutes.
   Interestingly, when she started fluttering, she attracted the attention of our bird-watching cat. The cat came right over and sat on the next window sill about 2 feet away. The glass was separating them but even so the hummer acted as if was just too tired to care.

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March 8, 2014

One Half of a Decision

Mt Baker

Oh boy! Just about the time I think I have my mind made up, I change it. Even though I said before that I wouldn't consider it as an option, I did consider it and ended up ordering a Canon 6D. It should arrive in two days. Now I will attempt to explain my reasoning and expectations and then I can read them later and see if I am thinking clearly or not.
   The photo here was taken with the 7D and 70-200mm lens at 123mm, f16, 1/500th sec., ISO 200. A FF camera would have given me about the same size photo at 200mm, other settings equal. But the FF would have more (a few) and larger (a lot) pixels which relates to better resolution and less 'noise'. This photo is about as good as it gets with a crop frame camera but the noise can be seen here in the sky of the enlarged photo. Not bad but it was a bugger to sharpen without making the sky look too noisy. So, OK, I want a full frame camera but why the 6D and not the 5D2?
   I could say that money was no object but, of course, it always is so I will take that first. The 5D2 is currently $3100, the 6D $1750. The top dog 1Dx is $6700 by the way. All can be had cheaper but these are the US warranty, regular dealer, prices. So cost advantage is $1350. That is about 2/3rd of what I expect the 7D2 to cost when it is announced. So, yes, that is important. But if the camera doesn't do what I need, then even that advantage would quickly be forgotten. A tool that doesn't do a good job is worse than no tool at all.
   What, then, is the job the 6D will be expected to do? Primarily landscape. Sometimes family photos. I will try it for some birds in flight work, thinking that, even limited to the center focus, the wider frame and brighter viewfinder may give me an edge over the crop frame 7D. If it doesn't it isn't too important as I expect the 7D2 will fill that purpose when I get one using in part the money I saved on the 6D. Oops, gave it away!
   Okay, here it is in a nutshell; Only the 1Dx stands a chance of doing all that I want to do with one camera. Wildlife and landscape are two different worlds. While any modern camera can be made to work for both in a limited way, having different cameras for each type of work should produce the best results. The 6D is one half of my decision in how best to do what I want to do. I expect the upcoming 7D2 to be the other half.

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February 22, 2014

I Still Wanna New Camera

Sensor comparison

On 9/15/2012 I wrote about wanting a new camera but having difficulty deciding what kind of camera to want. I followed up on 9/17/2012 with some more specific thoughts concerning the 5D3 and the soon, or so I thought, to be released 7D2.
   Nothing has changed! I still want a new camera. I'm still waiting for the release of the 7D2 before I make a final decision. I have been tempted many times over the year and a half since I wrote those previous musings to buy the 5D3. But I haven't and I won't until the 7D2 is available for serious comparison. Besides all of the things I mentioned for consideration in those earlier musing,time has added a couple more.
   I mentioned that I wouldn't like the hybrid sensor such as the Rebel T4i has. Now there is a new type of sensor having different capabilities that sound really good. In real life, however, it has a way to go before it is proven good enough for serious work. Bugs are being reported. If the new 7D2 has that type of sensor, I would not feel comfortable buying it in the first year. That would mean another year and more of waiting and wanting. Don't know if I could do that.
   One consideration I mentioned previously was cost. I don't think that is too important now. The 5D3 is selling for around $3000. The 7D2 is expected to be in the $2000 range. Rock Pigeon The difference isn't negligible but this may be the my last major camera purchase and getting it right is worth that much if need be. Other considerations I mentioned were AF speed and IQ. As long as the sensor is of the type currently in use in the 5D3, not the new 70D, the only question on the image quality would be the noise level at higher ISO settings. This has been the minus side of the current 7D. The autofocus system on the 7D is good and the 5D3 is better so the new 7D2 should be more than satisfactory.
   As you look at the photos here and in the aforementioned musings, one thing stands out. I call it 'real estate' or image size. The pigeon is well contained in the smaller sensor but it was much harder to keep it there than it would have been with the larger sensor. If an image of comparable quality is obtained in the crop, then the full-frame camera has some advantage. Different lenses can offset much of that advantage but the visual advantage of the larger sensor simply cannot be equalled by one 2/3rd the size.
   However the 7D2 may have even more resolution and may have much improved noise levels. Coupled with it's almost certain higher frame rate, lighter weight and lower cost, shrug, like I say nothing has changed. I'm still waiting.

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January 29, 2014

Rules

Swainson's Thrush

Two different subjects discussed recently on a bird list got me to thinking about rules. Image manipulation was one subject, the other had to do people behavior.
   There are different kinds of rules. The first and foremost of these are ethics. These are the moral rules, or principles, such as honesty. To misrepresent something is unethical.
   Then there are the rules imposed by authority. One such authority would be those whose responsibility is to manage something so that it accomplishes its intended purpose. A government agency would be one such authority. The person or entity purchasing an image is another. They have the right, or authority, to govern the amount of manipulation of the image. The same would be true of one accepting entries in a contest they sponsor. I think of these as 'hard' rules, having little or no flexibility.
   Then there are rules that are more flexible that we sometimes refer to as 'rules of thumb'. These are rules that generally produce the best results but are not binding. 'Soft' rules, bend to suit.
   The first discussion was about image manipulation, that is; manipulating, or changing, an image to make it look different than the photo produced directly from the camera. There are many changes and degree of changes that can be made to the digital file. These can vary from a mild enhancement to an almost unrecognisable version of the subject. There is nothing wrong with any of these changes in themselves. The wrongness is if the resulting image is incorrectly represented as to what it depicts. This is where rules come in to play.
   Mt. StuartIf the image is an outright fraud, misrepresents the subject or scene with the intent of deception, that is unethical. If done for the purpose of gaining value from someone, it is also illegal. However, the purpose and not the alteration is the defining factor. In the case of 'hard' rules, though, purpose is not a consideration. If a news editor pays for images to use in a publication he has a ethic that governs what he requires in those images. That ethic will cause him to set very specific rules about what he will or won't accept. It's those rules, not the ethic, the photographer must follow. The ethic is open to interpretation, the rules are not. The same can be said for a competition. A better looking image may be had with some enhancement. It is the rules though, not the ultimate result, that governs how much enhancement is allowed.
   If someone, such as myself, has a web site they post their photos to, they can do pretty much as they want. If they want to mislead someone, and it's not for gain, they could do it but it would still be unethical. They would be breaking a rule that no upright person wants to disregard. When it comes to 'soft' rules, however, purpose again becomes the predominate factor. If the purpose is to show the subject in it's natural environment then a 'rule of thumb' would bar cloning it out. If the purpose was to aid in identification of a subject by showing it's features clearly, then removing a distraction would be a logical thing to do.
   The other subject that started me thinking about rules was people behavior. Specifically, behavior as it relates to viewing and photographing wildlife. Our first group of rules, ethics, is not as rigid but the basics, such as proper behavior and not seeking dishonest advantage, still apply. There is, however, some overlap here in what some may consider ethical and others may think of as 'rule of thumb'. The Nature Photographers Code of Conduct is a good example. It is something I agree with in almost every way. But is it ethic or is it 'rule of thumb' or even somewhere in between? A quote; "Never let your presence cause the animal any stress. If there is a sign of stress, pull back." A question; what is stress and what is normal caution? A bird or animal has an area of tolerance that will change as they become used to a presence. The rule is cardinal but can be a little 'soft'.
   'Hard' rules, those imposed by a regulating authority should not be mistaken. The authority has the obligation to make those rules plain and individuals have the obligation to learn and follow them. If one side fails to fully do their part it certainly doesn't relieve the other of their part. Reminds me of a saying regarding trespass; if in doubt, stay out. So if we aren't sure of a rule, assume the firmest restriction, you'll survive.

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December 5, 2013

To Video or not to Video


I started fooling around with video when I was trying to go lightweight with the Panasonic GH2. At that time, after doing a couple of videos and putting them on YouTube and embedding them like this one here, I started a separate section on this site just for video. I also started using Vimeo and subscribed to a plus feature to give me higher definition and more control over how they were presented.
   Now, some three years later, I have gone back to using the APS-C type of SLR camera bodies with full size lens for most of what I do. I have found the SX50 to be just right for the times I want the lightweight option. So now I am pondering the amount of video I may do in the future as well as what I may use to do it and how best to display it on this site. Here are my thoughts at this time:
   Musing, mostly about photography, is what this site is all about. I have a Photo Gallery with photos without comments, but it is hosted on another site and the link above is only a link to that site. When I post a photo or a video it is usually to illustrate some point in my musing. It seems to me that I am better served by putting any video here in my musings rather than in a separate gallery.
   Quality beyond a certain point is superfluous for such purpose and can even be detrimental, causing problems on older computers or slower connections to the web. Therefore, I am going to post all future video in the standard resolution and discontinue the plus subscription. I will also be removing the Video Gallery from this site.
   Cameras these days almost all have video capabilities. This makes it easy to just use whatever is at hand when video is desired. The biggest requirement for video purposes is an autofocus system that will refocus quickly and smoothly as the subject moves about. The new SLR's show promise but, so far, the SX50 is the only camera I have that comes close enough to be usable without manual focusing, something I find to be beyond MY capability.
   Notice the Lincoln's Sparrow in the video, an unusual bird in my yard this time of year.

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November 16, 2013

Resolution; how much is needed?

Mt. Rainier reflected in Reflection Lakes

I am going to be pondering this question more than once and in more ways than one in this and future musings.
   Resolution is much the same as information. More of it allows a clearer picture to be seen but only when presented in the right way at the right time. Consider this photo on the right and compare it to the two similar photos from October 21st. As you see them here on the web page there is little difference. They are all about the same file size and are approximately the same physical dimensions. If you enlarged any one of them to closely examine a section they would still look about the same as each other. In other words; any one has all that is needed to allow the viewer to see clearly the scene depicted. All of them have been reduced from the original to this size with just that intent. If I had put the original file sizes on the site, you would only see a part of the photo at one time.
   However, if a closer look at detail is desired, then having the original file becomes more important as does the size, or resolution, of the file. On the left I have a comparable crop of each of the three original sized photos. The larger photo would print a nice picture 36" wide while the smallest would be just OK at 10", still a nice picture if that is all that's needed.Comparison of file size
   Here's the point; If you want to see the 'whole picture', you may not have as clear a view of all the details as you might like but trying to have all the details at once may make it hard to see the whole picture. Putting it another way, you could walk all over the mountain you see here, examining it in great detail, and only have the vaguest of ideas of what it looks like as a whole.
   On the other hand, if you have this overall view and then use the greater resolution to clarify details with a closer look, you can have a better understanding of the scene. For instance, in the original of the highest resolution photo here, Camp Muir (used by mountain climbers) can be seen by those knowing where to look.
   Obviously, to show a large area, such as this scene, on a web page doesn't require huge amounts of resolution. If, however, your wish is to see clearly only a small part of this scene then more resolution, or information, can be vital. In fact, the small part can then become picture of it's own. Sometimes photos are taken with just that aim in mind, to crop and portray a certain part of what the camera/lens captures. Even those photos are better understood by the viewer if they are able to first see the 'bigger' picture.

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