On Facebook and on photography forum sites, I constantly hear “information” which is incorrect or totally irrelevant to the way other photographers work.

Let’s take a couple of examples.

Sigma 35mm Art

This lens is the darling of the industry right now. However, have you actually tested it’s performance against the alternatives? I tested it against my Canon 35L and found that, while the Sigma is definitely sharper, auto focus is not as consistent, especially in continuous focus.

sigma-vs-canon-35mm

Having a sharp image is great, but if it’s out of focus, the extra sharpness is meaningless.

I tested this by walking towards an object in a variety of lighting conditions with continuous focus on. I always took a shot at the same point during my stride and the shutter speed was high enough to avoid any blur. I repeated the test 5 times for each lens and in several different lighting conditions. I then counted the keepers. (some people may say this isn’t test conditions, and I’d agree; it’s meant to be real world conditions).

Why is everyone saying it’s an amazing lens then?

Well, it comes down to testing they don’t do and possibly what they consider to be acceptable focus. I’m known for being a real stickler when it comes to focus and check every image at 100%. Nothing is included unless it’s really sharp and in focus. I know for certain that many photographers don’t check their images at 100% and some don’t care that much if the focus is a bit out (or in some cases quite a lot out).

So really the difference is a combination of:

  • Not testing it against an alternative at all, but just “thinking it’s great” compared to whatever you had previously.
  • Not testing it in equivalent conditions to other lenses, which creates bias.
  • Not caring that much whether it’s totally in focus anyway but just liking it.

All of this is said without any judgement on how people choose to shoot, but it does demonstrate why it’s important to test a lens in conditions which match how you shoot and to ensure it does what you need.

Canon sensor dynamic range

Something I hear all over the place is that Canon hasn’t improved their dynamic range for ten years.

What does this mean? Well, if you need to lift the exposure, or brighten the shadows, of a photo in post production, you’ll notice noise appearing. Nikon (or more specifically Sony who make their sensors) have improved this massively over the past 5 years.

How about Canon then? Have they improved the usable dynamic range? Yes! Not anywhere near as much as Sony, but they have done.

The camera which came after the 5d3 was the 6d and below you can see images showing a photograph which has had 3 stops of exposure added to it in Lightroom.

dynamic range - 5d3

Canon 5d3 with +3 EV added in Lightroom

dynamic range - 6d

Canon 6d with +3 EV added in Lightroom

original

And the original file, without being brightened

As you can see, the 6d has better controlled deep, dark shadows than the 5d3, but photographers believe what they hear online instead of checking for themselves.

And before you quip that Canon have just added more noise reduction, I can say for certain that the 6d files are sharper in the shadows. I know this because … yes … I tested it!

Is this just about Canon?

No. I shoot Canon so I see a lot more about Canon, but Nikon suffers from similar issues, as do Sony, Fuji, Olympus and so on.

What else is said online?

There’s loads of misinformation out there. These are just two examples. There are plenty more to be had, from believing that the 6d has metering linked to AF points (it doesn’t) to claiming the canon 24-70 V1 was every bit as good as the 24-70 V2 (it isn’t).

Conclusion…

You can only believe so much of what you read online.

There are some fantastic reviewers out there but there is also a lot of bias too. There are photographers who are paid by manufacturers, photographers who deliberately try to mislead for their own (possibly brand-led) reasons and there are those who just love to try to be helpful and are honest. Working out who is who can be hard.

So the answer is always the same; work out what you need and build your kit around your own needs. Rent equipment to test it out yourself in your circumstances and use it a little on a shoot before buying it and taking it into the field.

Because believing the masses may lead to some costly mistakes.

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    Great article Phil …. There’s a lot of following the crowd at chow time when it comes to choosing lenses for wedding photography in particular. Maybe it’s down to lack of understanding or wanting to understand the technical side of choosing lenses.

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canon-5ds

 

What am I doing previewing a 50 megapixel camera?

It’s a good question. Wedding photographers have, on the whole, been unimpressed with the megapixel race. I’ve been no exception. My 22MP Canon 5d3 has been exceptional and the prints I’ve produced in large 18″ albums have not lacked any detail whatsoever.

So why am I previewing the 5ds, a 50MP beast?

Well, because it’s new and it might just become something which suits your needs perfectly. Let’s look at the headline stats:

  • 50.6MP
  • 5fps
  • ISO 100-6400
  • 61 point AF, with 41 cross type
  • CF and SD card slots
  • 30MP and 20MP crop modes

To give you a feel for how the camera might work for a wedding photographer, I’m going to compare it to a 5d3.

Body

Well, the body is basically identical to the 5d3 really. Pretty much nothing has changed. The SD card is now UHS-1 compatible, which means it’s much faster to write to than the one in the 5d3. Even the (slightly disappointing) viewfinder is in the 5ds.

It shoots at a relatively average 5fps, but that will be OK for most wedding photographers.

Auto-focus

Yep. Nothing has really changed here too. It’s likely to be the same module as the one from the 5d3. It might have been tuned to be a little more accurate possibly due to the resolution, but only Canon would know that.

Sensor

Resolution

The headline feature is that the 50.6MP. That’s huge – really massive.

Is all of this resolution useful to a couple anywhere at a wedding? Possibly in the couple shots since it would allow a large amount of cropping before the quality of the image degraded, plus huge prints would be exceptionally detailed. Group photographs might also benefit for similar reasons. I wouldn’t say the rest of the day required that amount of megapixels though. Couples really wouldn’t thank you for sending all of their images at that resolution.

From a photographers point of view the number of megapixels would significantly increase their storage and computational requirements, so it’s not ideal for them either. In addition, getting the most from a 50MP file will need some seriously steady hands, even with the new mirror mechanism to reduce vibration! That means higher shutter speeds on a camera which already hasn’t got great high ISO performance. Which leads me on to…

High ISO performance

More bad news may come in the high ISO performance of the camera. It’s expected to perform similarly to the 7dII, which is around a stop worse than the 5d3 and just slightly better than the 5d2. That’s not terrible performance, but not startling.

However, I will wait and see. Since this camera has such a high resolution, once the images are scaled down to 5d3 size, the noise performance might be about the same. Time will tell.

Dynamic range

And the last bit of bad news for some will be that dynamic range (the quality of deep shadows at low ISO) is about the same as the 5d3. I expect it to have less noise, since the 7dii did improve upon the 5d3 in this area, but many photographers were hoping for a sensor which was more effective in this area. However, this isn’t particularly important to wedding photographers, in my opinion.

Photography tools

Many photographers these days use auto tools to give them the edge when speed is required. Auto ISO has revolutionised my photography and I’ve been using aperture priority (when it makes sense) for years.

The 5ds improves on the 5d3 with:

  • Much more effective auto ISO options.
  • The option to use exposure compensation in manual mode.
  • A more effective meter using a dedicated 150,000 pixel sensor.
  • More effective subject tracking from the 1dx and 7d2 in the form of iTR.

There’s no doubt these are very welcome additions to many wedding photographers, although you still can’t meter from the selected focus point (why Canon?)

The focus of the Canon 5ds

This is a niche camera. You can certainly it’s niche from the specific mirror lockup functions to help reduce camera shake. It’s for landscape, architectural and studio photographers and the amazing amount of MP moves them into medium format resolution territory, but for a much lower cost.

So here’s where it might make sense all of a sudden. There are a significant amount of photographers for whom wedding photography isn’t their key area. They might do 5 to 10 weddings a year and having a camera body just for wedding photography wouldn’t make sense.

For those photographers, the 5ds in MRAW (28MP I believe) / SRAW (12MP I believe) or one of the crop modes might be a very sensible option. They can have the camera they want for their key niche, and then use it in a lower resolution most of the day to photograph weddings, when they are commissioned to do so.

Is there any other way primary wedding photographers might want to use this camera? Well, I think some will supplement their current kit with a 5ds and use it for parts of the day to produce incredibly high resolution wall art. I can’t image many choosing it as their primary wedding camera though, but stranger things have happened.

What about the 5ds r?

The 5ds r is a version of the 5ds with a different type of optical low-pass filter, which effectively cancels out the anti-aliasing effect usually produced. This will increase the sharpness of individual pixels, but it may also introduce moire… wedding suits and wedding dresses could very easily start to look odd.

Without experience it’s hard to say, but I’d tend to stay away from the 5ds r for a wedding. Whether MRAW or SRAW files will produce images without moire will require testing.

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So you’re getting married abroad, but you’re not sure about the quality of the local photographers. What’s the chance of taking your own photographer abroad with you?

Check with your venue

Some venues won’t allow you to use anyone other than their in-house photography team, although it’s questionable whether they would turn down the option if really pushed… but be sure ahead of time.

Choose a known destination photographer

There’s a surprising amount to organise when you’re photographing a destination wedding. Simple things like transport, maps, location, language and how used they are to traveling can make a massive difference to how relaxed they are when they arrive, or whether they manage to arrive at all!

Skype is your friend!

Your photographer might not live in the same country as you but that shouldn’t stop you from saying Hi and making sure they are someone you feel comfortable with. Most photographers will be happy to organise a convenient time which to discuss their service.

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Ask for an engagement / party shoot

If your photographer is already at the location and your friends and family are there, they may well be happy to photograph events and an engagement shoot for the two of you. This will give you some extra memories of this once in a lifetime occasion.

Ensure your photographer arrives at least one day in advance

If your photographer is just down the road it’s not a problem, but flights are occasionally delayed or cancelled, so ensure your photographer is due to arrive at your destination at least a day before the ceremony.

Planning your destination wedding?

If you’re looking for a photographer for your destination wedding, please get in touch to discuss your wedding.

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