As some of you know, I’ve been using a Fuji X-T1 at weddings for part of the day. I love using it, but I’ve been concerned about the amount of hunting (sometimes very significant amounts of hunting) that the camera does.

It made me wonder if there was anything I could do to improve this situation.

High performance mode

Well, first off, make sure you have high performance mode set “on” in power management. It will drain battery quicker, but batteries are cheap and the AF system runs faster with it on.

Phase detect points

Fuji installed 9 phase detect points in the centre of the camera, I suspect in order to allow for more effective continuous focus. Phase detect points are the type which are in your DSLR and they work very differently to the contrast detection systems traditionally in point & shoot and mirrorless cameras.

When I first started using the camera I played around with the sizes of focus points. I use lenses wide open (f1.2 and f1.4) so I wanted to ensure my focus was very accurate so I settled on the smallest point. Certainly, using some of the larger points it didn’t seem to settle with moving subjects.

However, I’ve noticed significant amounts of hunting when using the Fuji and I was hoping that this could be improved somehow.

After doing some tests, I found that the smallest sized focus point significantly increases hunting with these centre 9 phase detect points. One size up is better, but two sizes up from the smallest is better still from the perspective of quick AF.

What I’m used to with my DSLR is a phase detect point which will know very quickly if it’s in focus and so very quickly decide to do nothing, or maybe just a tiny adjustment. With the Fuji system that hasn’t always happened.

Why?

Well, it seems that Fuji put single direction phase detect points in. These types are the same ones that are used in the outer focus points with the Canon 5d2 system. They can detect vertical contrast very well, but horizontal contrast is a real problem.

Try this: go into a darkened room and try to focus on the vertical and horizontal door frame with the camera is landscape orientation. It’ll be harder to focus on the horizontal frame. Now turn the camera to portrait orientation. It’ll now be harder to focus on the vertical frame.

What this means is a large amount of the hunting that I’ve been noticing is likely to be with the camera trying to detect focus on (nearly) horizontal elements using the phase detect points.

There’s no fix for this, unless Fuji can tweak the firmware to improve it somehow, or put cross type phase detect points in, which I hope they will do in future.

What about the contrast detect points?

Well, they work completely differently so they appear unaffected by these issues – either the size of point or the orientation of contrast you’re trying to focus on.

However, I would suspect that the larger the point, the more difficult it might be for the contrast system to settle on a subject which is moving slightly (such as a person standing talking to someone else) so I would tend to keep the points at the lower size.

Conclusion?

The phase detect points are both a help and a hindrance. In good conditions they are quicker to settle. In bad conditions (small focus point, horizontal contrast, darker) they are significantly slower.

However, it does seem that not using the very smallest focus point does help this situation so currently I’d recommend against that. For the phase detect system, two up from the smallest size point was the best in my tests.

If you don’t know how to change the size of focus points, press the button which allows you to move focus points and then use the front scroll wheel.

comments 0

read comments

leave a comment

5d4

Well, it’s here. The loooooooonnng wait is over. 4 years in the making, we now have a 5d mark iv. Is it the best wedding camera out there though? Well, let’s find out.

Disclaimer

First off, I make no money from these articles, no one gives me any kit to try and these thoughts are all my own and are particularly related to my style of photography, although I will try to think of others needs too.

Also, all images are taken with a retail 5d mark iv and processed in Lightroom.

I’ll be comparing the 5d mark iv primarily to the 5d mark iii, although I will touch on Nikon, Sony and Fuji at times too.

I’m also not a professional reviewer – just someone who likes to know as much about their camera as possible! That said, I do my best to make sure everything is factually accurate and sensible.

A bit of history .. but not too much!

The Canon 5d line has a pretty long history now. It was my second DSLR after my 10d .. yes that long ago!

2016-12-25_0017

The 5d was the first reasonably priced full frame camera. The 5d2 came along with video and a much higher resolution sensor. It was a revolution! It suffered from a relatively poor AF system though when considering weddings. Then the 5d3 emerged, which was just a really good all round camera – much like the Nikon d700 was.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence – Vince Lombardi

What makes a good wedding camera?

In order to review something, you have to have criteria to compare it against, so it’s important to lay those out.

2016-12-25_0013

Unfortunately, everyone likes something a bit different. Some like stealth, whereas some like files you can push as much as possible in post. I’ll do my best to be fair to all sides, but you might not agree with me…!

  • Be INCREDIBLY reliable please; no one wants the stress of being on a wedding and their camera just stops working. Yes, we all have backup cameras .. but it’s still horrible!
  • Don’t get in my way; This is hard to quantify, but at a wedding the moment is gone when it’s gone, so you want to worry as little as possible that the camera won’t take the shot you want, when you want it.
  • Have a fantastic selection of lenses and a superb flash system; Camera bodies are one thing, but you buy into an entire camera system and the lenses you want should be available too.
  • Be lightweight; Many wedding photographers these days stay at for 10-12 hours. That’s a long time to keep a camera in your hands! So, the lighter it can be, the better.
  • Shh! Be quiet; Weddings are full of people who aren’t used to being with professional photographers, and so you don’t want a huge “clack” in the background.
  • Don’t punish me if it goes wrong; Weddings are .. really fast! Sometimes you’re not quite ready for something. When it goes wrong, let me recover something. For a pro these should be very occasional, but it does happen.

How did the 5d3 perform?

The 5d3 got the basics very right. It was superb and I remember how excited I was about the new AF system. However, there were some pain points, which are listed below. You can read my full review here: 5d3 review.

Dynamic range

Especially at low ISO, if you pushed the exposure or shadows up on the 5d3, you would notice poor quality, badly coloured noise and “banding”. I have to say, this caused me very few real business issues personally, but I know for others it was a bigger problem.

2016-12-27_0005

However, total dynamic range is also affected by how much you can pull the highlights back, and here I would say Canon has always been up with the competition if not a little ahead.

It was very seldom that I needed to push an exposure more than 1 stop, as you can see from this graph. It shows the vast majority of my exposures are within 1/3 of a stop of where I wanted them to be. I suppose this is why it’s not been a big deal for me. I also didn’t tend to push shadows too much.

exposure-changes-post-production

Buffer and card speed

The buffer and card speed go hand in hand to determine the length of bursts of shots you can take.

Cameras like the 1dx / 1dx ii and d4 / d4s / d5 have buffers which mean you can shoot for a ages, but the 5d3 was only about 13 – similar to the 5d2. To make matters worse, the slow speed of the SD card (for which Canon took a beating for being overly cheap) meant it took an age to clear the buffer and the speed would then be limited to less than 1fps.

This is an issue in confetti shots and sometimes walking down the aisle. I am constantly timing shots to ensure I can keep shooting which means I lose moments.

Auto ISO

One of the real annoyances for some people were the auto ISO controls. Not being able to choose a minimum shutter speed faster than 1/250th second was just crazy. I expected this to be fixed in firmware. I believe it was on the 1dx, but not on the 5d3. Why Canon? This was an easy fix.

In addition, not being able to change exposure compensation in manual mode when using auto ISO meant it was much less useful. Again, it should have been fixed in firmware, but was only fixed on the 1dx.

2016-12-24_0015

Black AF points

One of the biggest complaints was the black AF points. This was an issue in dark conditions where you could actually lose sight of where your AF point was and so you couldn’t tell what you were focusing on. I spotted this within hours of using the camera.

I’ve found that you can happily recover about 4 to 4.5 stops of shadow detail at ISO100 on the 5d mark iv

Was this a big problem? Well, yes it was really. Again, the 1dx gained a workaround for AI servo, and I believe this is fixed properly with the 1dx ii. The 5d3 got nothing though, even though it was a serious problem. For years we have had to live with missed shots due to this, mainly in the first dance.

Canon, you really dropped the ball on this one. Someone should have realised during development that this would be an issue. It makes me question how much you understand what we actually do.

AF performance

General AF performance was superb, and AI servo was brilliant compared with the 5d2. I’d actually use AI servo instead of one shot for outdoor couple sessions typically since I usually have couples moving while I’m shooting.

However, when it got pretty dark, one shot and especially AI servo would both fail to lock on.

High ISO

We always want better high ISO quality; it’ll never stop. I wouldn’t like to use my 5d3 past ISO6400 and sometimes that was a little low for the shot I wanted to take.

2016-12-24_0014

Silent shutter

This was the “killer app” for the 5d3 as far as I was concerned. I could take 4 or 5 shots before people even close to me noticed I was there. It allowed me to be as stealthy.

It was one of the key reasons I didn’t look into Nikon at the time. It’s funny how things which might not be obvious can be so important to how someone works. Vicars loved it too!

Quality, durability and service

One of the most important aspects of all is that the camera isn’t likely to break. No matter what the quality of prints are … if your camera isn’t working, that’s a bad moment in your life!

The 5d3 excelled here.

In the early days though there were some moments where the card wouldn’t finish writing the current photo and I’d need to switch the camera off and remove the battery <cue heart pounding sound>. This was blamed on the memory cards, but the issue miraculously disappeared over various firmware updates while using the same cards. Hmmm….

Handling

General handling was superb. I loved the introduction of the “zoom to 100% of the AF point” feature. That made checking focus so much quicker. A real benefit to a wedding photographer.

It always annoyed me though that switching AI servo to one shot and back was slow. There was a button press option (DOF button) for this, but you had to hold the button down – aagh!

To me, this demonstrated that Canon aren’t testing cameras with enough working photographers because I noticed this immediately and hoped for a fix … which, you guessed it, never came.

So what rating would I give the 5d3?

As a wedding camera, I’d give the 5d3 an 8 out of 10 for it’s time. Right now, I’d give it maybe a 6 out of 10. Now bad for a 4 year old camera though! It was such an excellent all rounder.


So what about the new 5d mark 4?

The 5d3 was already a fantastic wedding camera with superb handling and fantastic AF. So, why buy a 5d4 instead of an older 5d3?
How much improved is it? What are the killer apps?

Low ISO dynamic range

Everyone who is into cameras was wondering what Canon would pull out of the bag on this. They don’t have a great history with dynamic range and Nikon have always excelled here. However, the 1dx ii was much improved and we hoped the same was true for the 5d4.

It was!

2016-09-20_0001

I’ve found that you can happily recover about 4 to 4.5 stops of shadow detail at ISO100. That’s about 1 stop behind a d750. It might not be enough for some landscape photographers, but I’m perfectly happy with that.

At ISo200 onwards, the 5d4 is fairly  level pegging with the competition. I’m certain Canon will not rest on their laurels with the sensor for so long now since they’re taken a lot of “internet bashing” and defections relating to this for the last 4 years.

It has cost them a lot of sales.

2016-12-24_0001

While discussing dynamic range, I also believe that the extreme highlights (the ones you need to pull back in Lightroom) roll off a little more attractively on the 5d4 compared with the 5d3.

However, while I’ve done some semi-scientific tests, I’ve found this difficult to confirm.

ISO Invariance

The camera is now moderately but not completely ISO invariant. This means there’s much less reason to shoot above ISO100. There is still a benefit, but it’s much much less than it was.

You can see on the image below a crop of the original shot at ISO3200 at the correct exposure for the scene. Then, you can see an ISO1600 shot pushed 1 stop, an ISO800 shot pushed 2 stops, an ISO1600 shot pushed 3 stops, an ISO400 shot pushed 4 stops, an ISO200 shot pushed 5 stops.

You can start to see a bit more noise immediately, but it’s tiny and wouldn’t change a printed photo at all. By the time you are pushing 4 stops at ISO400, the noise is definitely increasing in the shadows. By the ISO200 shot there’s noticeably more noise.

 

2016-12-27_0001

This is a great performance when you think about it. That’s 4 stops pushed from an ISO400 shot. It’s not as good as the competition, but it’s a lot.

Here’s the sequence showing the full photo and concentrating mostly on colour differences.

2016-12-27_0004

You can definitely see some colour differences in the pushed ISO200 photo – it’s more magenta – and maybe a little in the ISO400 shot. Outside of that, the colours are fine.

So if I had an ISO3200 photo, what would be the least ISO I’d shoot it at? ISO800 would be fine, and ISO400 if I really needed to.

So why bother?

If the noise is still better at the correct ISO, why not shoot at the correct ISO?

Well, for scenes with a low dynamic range, there’s probably no reason to shoot darker, but if you have a larger dynamic range, you can hold onto a massive amount of highlight detail that you’d lose otherwise.

You can see this on the bulbs and windows in the cropped image below. The bulbs are much more evident in the ISO400 shot on the left.

2016-12-24_0005

I’ve now found myself protecting some highlights, such as candles and windows, more than I would have previously. I’ll shoot dark, move exposure up say 3 stops in Lightroom and then pull highlights right back.

As another example, here’s a speeches photo which I shot deliberately dark to preserve highlights. The unprocessed file is on the left and it was shot at ISO800, but based on the couples skin, the correct exposure was ISO2500. However, there was a bright light shining on the white flowers on the table causing a wide dynamic range scene.

I probably could have shot it at ISO400 and gained a further stop of highlight room but <ahem Canon> without a RAW histogram, or RAW highlight blinkies, it’s hard to determine exactly what the correct exposure is. Again, there’s no noise penalty in the files for doing this.

2016-12-24_0006

Could I have done this on the 5d3?

A 1.5 stop push would have been just about OK, but more than that and the files would start to look grainy. Was it a big problem with the 5d3 not being able to do this as effectively? For me, not really. It’s a small benefit really. Extra dynamic range won’t transform my business.

Auto ISO

I shoot on auto ISO for much of the day so this is a really key feature for me. Auto ISO is improved significantly and we can now change exposure compensation in manual mode – which was an issue I first pointed out to Canon on the release of the 5d2, 7 years ago.

Yes, 7 years ago. I just wanted to say that again as it leads into a key point at the end of this review.

2016-12-24_0008

Unfortunately … I’ve run out of buttons! The only buttons I can use EC in manual mode are “AF area selection” and “Set”, both of which are doing something else. Noooooo……!!!! How about allowing the “*” and “M-Fn” buttons to do this too? In reality, I might give up AF area selection as it’s not a function I use that much.

However, auto ISO is still not perfect in it’s implementation. More on that later.

AF performance

Really good news … auto focus has taken another leap forward, especially in low light. I now find myself using AI servo in the first dance in very dark conditions with few AF mistakes. I wouldn’t have done that with the 5d3. It’s not perfect, but my keeper rate is higher than it was with one shot when people are moving.

If it’s really dark I’d still use one shot though as it’ll use the AF assist beam from my flash.

2016-12-26_0001

Ten years ago photographers would use flash, mostly overpower the ambient and run at f4 or f5.6 maybe. It simply wasn’t possible to guarantee enough attractive shots without using this formula. Shots like this below really show how far cameras have come both in terms of dealing with high ISO from a sensor perspective, but also AF performance in the dark.

Another bonus is that the AF points are spread a little more across the frame vertically.

Measuring hit rate

In the long sequence below of the bride and groom walking down the aisle, I had an 85% lock on rate when using AI servo, with another 5% being “just out”. It’s possible and likely a few of these were my errors. The rest were perfectly – and I mean totally perfectly – in focus.

2016-12-24_0009

Since the lighting was flat and low contrast, which is a harder situation for an AF system, it’s a good performance.

It’s not infallible though.

A sequence of a couple walking into their bedroom lit mostly by dim, flat light (see photo later) caused difficulties with resulted in an “in focus” hit rate of 60%, even on the stellar 35L. As they got closer to me, there was a little more light on them and accuracy improved, but near the doorway, most shots were slightly out of focus.

In another sequence of the guys coming up stairs to the wedding, every shot was in focus and that was an ISO10,000 f2.8 photo so really dark .. but there was more contrast on the face to lock onto.

There are also occasional shots which are just out of focus for no reason .. usually only by a small amount. The 5d3 had the same issue. I think when you shoot as low DOF as I do, in dark conditions, with subjects who are moving constantly, that’s just something you come to expect.

2016-12-25_0018

High ISO

As I said earlier, extra high ISO performance desire will never stop.

Is the 5d4 noticeably better? Yes and I’ll happily now use ISO12,800 whereas with the 5d3 I’d stop at ISO6,400. The noise grain is also more attractive – more filmic and random.

I would say, looking at dpreview files in detail, it delivers the same if not slightly better performance than the d750 and not quite as good as the d5 or 1dx ii .. although it’s getting to the point where it’s hard to tell the difference. I believe it’s very close to the 1dx (which wins a little past ISO6400) and therefore what was expected and needed.

5d4-d750-d5-dynamic-range

How versatile are the exposures at ISO12,800?

Will they accept much pushing and pulling?

I’d say you could push up to a stop at the absolute maximum, presuming you were willing to keep the blacks fairly dark and maybe add more noise reduction in. Half a stop should be fine for sure. As expected, it’s the deep shadows which show the worst noise.

Colours hold up very well though, with only a little distortion here and there in the darkest shadows.

I would happily print an ISO12,800 shot pretty big, but when pushing a stop or more, I’d say you would want to keep the print size smaller, or expect to see a bit of noise.

2016-12-26_0006

Silent shutter

There’s good and bad news here. The camera has a new shutter which reduces “mirror slap” vibration, which is superb. Sharper photos and lower shutter speeds are always welcome.

The great news is that the normal shutter is noticeably quieter. However, the silent shutter is less silent than the 5d3. Is this an issue? Not really for me, but I know others were disappointed. I now use the normal shutter for much of the day, whereas I never used to use it on the 5d3 at all.

How much of a difference is there?

To put numbers on it, from about 3 feet, the 5d4 was 65db for normal shutter and 60db for silent shutter. The 5d3 was 68db for normal shutter and 57db for silent shutter. So, the silent shutter is now 3db louder but the 3db quieter for the normal shutter.

1db is just perceptable, 2 is moderately perceptible and 3 definitely is noticeable. 10db is doubling of the loudness.

It is what it is. Mostly I’m still happy.

Quality, durability and service

Currently I have nothing to report here as the camera is too new. Canon typically produce very reliable cameras though. It’s one reason I wouldn’t like to move to Nikon as I hear there are significant issues on that side.

I would say though that several people, again, noticed the card not finishing writing the current photo problem, which was again blamed on the cards, but which again seems to have gone with firmware updates. Hmmm…. again.

2016-12-25_0009

Handling

The camera handling has changed relatively little.

They have fixed the functionality of the AI servo to one shot switch, which made me so incredibly happy. I can now use AI servo coming down the aisle and quickly press the DOF button to switch to one shot for the ceremony.

Or, if I spot a great reportage moment which needs AI servo and I’m on one shot, I can switch quickly and catch the moving action.

The old functionality is still available if you want it.

Would I buy it again if I had my time again? Yes I would. That’s the best recommendation I can give to any purchase really.

There’s also a new button to change the amount of AF points (AF area selection) you’re using – just a single point, through to multiple. I don’t really use this for my wedding work though. I’d say it was more bird in flight and sports territory.

mRAW and sRAW

I don’t personally use mRAW and sRAW, but I know some of you do, so here’s my quick and dirty assessment.

On the whole, there’s little to tell in terms of noise or sharpness of the overall photo, whether you shoot mRAW, sRAW or RAW, as long as you don’t want to brighten shadows much.

I’d say the original RAW is probably a bit sharper, but I don’t think anyone would ever notice. I did notice a difference in colours. The mRAW and sRAW files had less colour depth than the RAW file, even though the development and WB settings were the same.

High ISO files are fine..

You can see this in the (rather unexciting) ISO12,800 photo of the inside of my cupboard. The colour of the box is noticeably different.

2016-12-26_0007

.. but pushing shadows not so much

The much bigger problem is when you start to push the shadows. You can see a series of photos pushed from ISO100 to ISO6400 (max 5 stops). The original RAW files retain their colours and the noise is fairly well controlled.

With mRAW it’s terrible. The colours are horrible and there is a lot more noise. This started even with a relatively moderate 2 stop push. It starts to look like a 5d3 again. I’m not sure why that would be the case, but it is.

2016-12-26_0008

I’m sorry to say that, unless you don’t need to push shadows, I don’t recommend mRAW or sRAW. Fix please!

30mp sensor

I’ve not mentioned this so far, but the sensor has more resolution. My honest view is that sensor resolution for wedding photography is pretty much irrelevant, except for cropping. 20-24mp is more than enough for me.

To be honest it’s more of an annoyance since it’s just caused slower lightroom performance, more memory cards on the day and more disk space used.

I do get why Canon had to do this though – to be keeping up with the competition on headline specs.

Was AA filter really necessary?

What was something of a surprise and disappointment was adding an anti-aliasing filter on. The competition have pretty much all moved to no anti-aliasing filter and I hear literally no complaints. Sharper photos would always be a preference so I actually was confused about this.

2016-12-25_0001


What else is new with the 5d4?

Is that it? 4 years later and I’ve got better AF and a better sensor and a few tweaks? Surely there must be more than that?

Fortunately, you are right! There’s more to look at. Some of it isn’t that relevant to weddings and I’ll largely ignore it. It’s just not relevant to the work that I do.

Dual pixel AF & touchscreen

Canon has been working on this tech for years now and it has finally made it’s way to the 5d4, along with a very functional touch screen for choosing what to focus on, as well as menus and so on.

The dual pixel AF system is superb. It can lock onto an object – especially a face – and track it with incredible accuracy. You can shoot at 4fps in live view with the subject being tracked.

As it was, they did just enough to keep my interest and take my money.

However, more work has to be done to allow you to choose exactly what you want to track. Too often I find myself pressing on something I want to track and finding the AF point moves elsewhere by itself and changes size.

I also can’t change the size of the virtual AF point, which is a problem for very low depth of field shots.

It’s a relatively new feature though and I hope to see this improved over time as it could be superb. Firmware updates maybe? It would have been even better with <ahem> a tilt screen though.

There’s also a slight bug. With normal AF points, if you press the zoom button on a particular shot, it zooms to 100% at the AF point used to take the shot. However, this feature doesn’t work when using live view – it just zooms to the middle of the image. This is a major annoyance. Fix please!

Multiple “my menus”

One of the most useful features Canon cameras have is a “my menu” which allows you to build your own menu from commonly used features. You can now have multiple ones of these and even disable the normal menus. This is great!

Dual pixel RAW

I have to say … given that there are “missing” features, I’m disappointed that Canon put time and marketing effort into this. Pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to has been totally underwhelmed.

2016-12-25_0010

There have, however, been some discussions online about whether this feature could further improve dynamic range. Now that would have been a feature worth having!

“Real white” white balance

There’s a new white balance mode, already on the more modern Canon cameras, which attempts to produce a more accurate white balance under tungsten light.

I’ve found it fantastic, but not without some problems.

When you have a flash on the camera it’s overridden to use the standard flash white balance temperature. Unfortunately, I often use my flashes with a CTO gel and this leads to an orange looking file on the back of the camera so I have to set white balance manually again .. annoying!

0001_pd4_9397

Here’s an example of what I mean. The photo is just horribly orange because the system thinks the flash is the dominant white balance.

I would prefer the camera to ignore the flash colour temperature and just use the white balance setting it calculates. Fix please!

2016-12-25_0015

Anti flicker mode

Also available on more recent Canon cameras is the anti flicker mode. I’ve turned this on and often see it telling me that there’s a flickering light source. I understand that this will give me more consistent exposures, so it’s a great option to have.

New viewfinder options

The viewfinder can now contain more information. I can’t say I use this much though.. sorry!

I find the black of the viewfinder generally to reduce the usefulness of the new elements which can be shown. For example, if I switch from one shot to AI servo, the viewfinder will show me that change … unless I’m shooting something black, in which case I won’t be able to see it.

2016-12-25_0002

New custom buttons

Alongside the “AI servo to one shot” button fix, there are other new button assignment options. Initially I was interested in assigning a single button (AF-ON) to be “one shot” auto focus, whereas “*” would be AI Servo.

However, after a couple of shoots, I realised I couldn’t reliably determine which one I was pressing, so I switched this off again after getting it wrong a few times. The two buttons are just too similar in feel and location.

Higher resolution screen

The screen resolution is now 1.62 million dots, compared to 1.04 million dots. More is better.. and I’d say it’s noticeably improved.


What’s still missing or problematic?

For me, here are the key issues that remain with the camera. While it’s definitely moved on, the Canon 5d mark iv still not the perfect wedding camera.

I’m sure we all expected this because what is ever perfect? There’s always still room for improvement with everything that we produce. Are any of the issues really significant though, or are they just small tweaks?

2016-12-25_0019

Tilt screen … where are you?

Firstly, I really really wanted a tilt screen, and I know a lot of other photographers did too.

However, I know this makes the cameras less durable so maybe a compromise would be two bodies? One with tilt and one without?

ISO invariance .. a bit more please!

Dynamic range at low ISO and ISO invariance can still be better. It’s significantly improved to the point where I personally find myself again saying I don’t need more.

It’s likely Nikon (and Sony) will improve both low and high ISO again over the coming month and years and this will put Canon at a disadvantage again, purely from a competition point of view, just as they had started to catch up.

Auto ISO max shutter speed

Auto ISO would benefit from being able to just choose a specific maximum shutter speed. Instead, you have a set of shutter speeds you can choose from. Sadly, 1/60th is too slow due to subject movement and sometimes 1/125th is too fast if I’m trying to keep ISO low.

Just allow us to set the maximum shutter speed to any value. Most of the time I’d choose 1/80th as I have steady hands. Fix please!

2016-12-24_0016

Black AF points .. again

Black AF points is still not fixed. I have no idea on such an expensive camera why this is still broken.

I should never be able to lose my AF point. Yes, in AI servo they now flash red, but what about in one shot? This needs to change in the next version of the camera. Well, to be honest, it needed to change in this version, but Canon clearly didn’t want to spend the money on fixing it.

Battery performance

Even without using the back of the screen any more than I used to, I’m finding that I’m using 25-40% more battery than I used to. With the 5d3, I would tend to get through a day with two batteries. I’d switch as the couple went in for the wedding breakfast.

Now though I’m having to change sometime in the afternoon reception, which is a disappointment. Apparently the new sensor and shutter drain more power.

When you have to change batteries will be down to how many photos you take though.

Line protection

It’s been noted many times that Canon appear to deliberately withhold features to protect the 1dx line. I understand that. You can’t have everything for less cost. It’s business.

2016-12-25_0008

However, while I think tank like build quality and 14fps are unreasonable to expect on the 5d4, I’m not sure the same can be said for some features.

Buffer depth

The major complaint here is buffer depth. A £3600 camera which is used for this type of work should not have such a small buffer. This was a major mistake and will be a massive annoyance … again!

I don’t think we expect a 50 frame buffer, but UHS II SD cards and maybe a 25 frame buffer wouldn’t be too much to ask. For me, this is Canon penny pinching and unnecessarily protecting the 1dx line.

Note to Canon: if I want a 1dx, I’ll buy one. I don’t want a camera that big and heavy at all, so I will never buy one.

AF point spot metering

The major omission though, again, is AF point linked spot metering – why is that still not available on the 5d line? There is no good reason for it that I can see.


What else is noteworthy?

These are a few other bits and pieces which are worth mentioning, but which didn’t deserve their own section in my opinion.

Well, the basic functions of the 5d4 are similar to the 5d3. Auto exposure modes are very accurate – maybe slightly more so thanks to the 150k pixel metering sensor.

It can also automatically track subjects around the frame itself using iTR, but in tests it’s just not accurate enough for me to rely on, as you can see from this video with the 5ds. Apparently Nikons 3D tracking system is superb, and I saw a video showing this so I have no reason to disbelieve this.

Annoyingly, the live view tracking system is superb, so I don’t know why the iTR system can’t also be? Fix please!

2016-12-25_0014

It also has Wifi and GPS. I’ve heard people say GPS eats a lot of battery so I won’t be using it. It’s not that relevant to wedding photographers really.

Wifi is great though. Connecting the camera to my phone allows me to transfer images easily. However, the app is confusing and complicated. It took me about 4 goes to get it to work .. and I’ve got a degree in computer science! Fix please!

It also has 7fps compared with the 5d3’s 6fps. It’s a bit more. I think most people were expecting 8, but Canon seem to limit the 5d to half the 1dx line.

It also has a terrible implementation of 4k video since the chosen codec uses way too much memory card space. There’s little in the camera for videographers to be honest. Canon wants you to buy their cinema line, clearly. It’s a shame because in fact videographers in the wedding market just choose Sony these days.

Canon deliberately choose not to tackle that section of the video market so there’s no point in asking for a fix on this one.


Features I’d like to see

This might sound a little negative, but here’s a few things I’d love, but doubt we’ll see. I’d love to be proved wrong. Any or all of them would make fantastic additions to the camera in my opinion.

After working with a camera manufacturer for years, you get an idea of how they like to work and what you can expect from them. Based on this experience, here’s a list of features I don’t think we’ll see.

2016-12-25_0003

RAW histogram

It would be incredibly useful to be able to see when the RAW file had run out of highlight room on any channel, not just the embedded JPEG.

JPEG with highlight pull

I don’t understand why a JPEG file can’t include different levels of highlight pulling? The JPEG is produced from the RAW file which contains all of the highlight detail which Lightroom allows me access to.

It would be of significant advantage to JPEG shooters if they could retain more highlight data and would probably push some people to shooting JPEG since they wouldn’t have files which “highlight clip” skies and dresses.

Buttons that light up

This is one of those “come and see how much of a problem it really is” issues.

During the winter, weddings are dark events and I’m often struggling to see what options I’m changing or pressing. This goes for all buttons, outside of the obvious ones like the shutter.

New “LED screen” instead of the top LCD

The LCD top panel with shutter speed and so on included has been like this for probably 15 years. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t now be a small LED screen of some kind. This would make it possible to customise the display and show the options I actually want to see.

2016-12-25_0004

Automatic lens calibration

When you shoot much of the day at f1.6 or f1.8, you realise quickly that lens calibration is pretty important. I use the excellent Focal by Reikan for this job.

To calibrate all of my lenses takes me about half a day. Now granted, it’s a one off. I don’t need to do it again. However, with excellent live view AF, it seems like Canon could quite easily implement an in-camera automatic lens calibration system. I first made this suggestion mid way through the 5d3 lifecycle and I still maintain it would be useful for people.


Canon 5d mark iv review – summary

Canon again have produced what is in my opinion the best balanced wedding camera for professionals. Obviously others will disagree, but here’s why I come to that conclusion.

Compared to other DSLR’s

Here is the obvious competition

  • It’s not heavy and expensive like the 1dx, 1dxii, d4s and d5 but is very close in performance in all key wedding related elements.
  • It’s a larger and more durable body than the d750, and doesn’t suffers from a 1/4000th shutter limit (try shooting at f1.4 in bright sunshine..).
  • It appears to have better AF than the d810, plus a sensor which is close in low ISO performance and a bit better at high ISO. The d810 is it’s closest competition today.
  • It has better AF and a significantly better sensor than the 5d3.
  • It’s in a different league altogether to the 6d and d610.

It’s not the best at everything though, and in fact there’s not much it’s actually the best at, but it has the best balance of features and cost for the professional wedding photographer, much like the 5d3 before it.

2016-12-25_0016

Looking at mirrorless for a second, Sony is an interesting company, but their mirrorless cameras just don’t have the support, nor do they have dual card slots, and they maybe lack some lens option. They’re one to watch.

Fuji are interesting too, but I just can’t trust the AF system like I can with the 5d3 or 5d4 and I would prefer a full frame sensor for lower DOF and higher quality high ISO files.

What’s the final score then?

What would I rate the Canon 5d mark iv out of ten then? When the 5d3 came out, I thought it was an 8 out of 10. Today I’d rate it a 6 out of 10.

Has it bettered the original 5d3 score?

Sadly not. I’d also rate the 5d4 an 8 out of 10 today. Overall, it’s superb and if you’re looking to upgrade your 6d, update your 5d3, or maybe even move to lighter 1dx with few downsides, it’s the most obvious choice. Whether it’s the right business decision to spend the money is a different question. My 5d3 had seen a lot of action so I was due a new camera fairly soon anyway.

However, I would have rated it at 9 out of 10 if it was £2800 not £3600 and they’d fixed the black AF points. I might even have pushed to 9.5 out of 10 if they’d sorted the buffer and iTR system, added a tilt screen and fixed a few other bits. A 10 out 10 would come from complete ISO invariance.

The million dollar question .. would I buy it again if I could make the decision again? Yes I would. That’s the best recommendation I can give to any purchase really. Niggles aside, I’m very happy with it.

Price talk…

Talking of price, I believe the d810 was £2700 at launch.

Looking at the 5d4, £3600 is just too expensive for this camera. This was universally agreed on by everyone I spoke to. I realise it’ll go down in price over time, but it would be preferable to start lower and go down more gradually.

2016-12-25_0022

What it is and isn’t

Understanding what you’ll really get from a camera can help when making a buying decision.

What is it not?

  • It’s not the best budget wedding camera – that’s the Nikon d750.
  • It’s also not the most durable – the 1dx, 1dxii and d4s/d5 take those titles.
  • It’s also not the bleeding edge for low ISO dynamic range – that’s the d810.
  • It’s not the most innovative – I think you need to look to mirrorless cameras for that.

If you’re looking for those things, look elsewhere!

So what is it?

The 5d4 was recently voted the most disappointing camera of 2016 by Tony Northup youtube viewers. Is that what it is?

I understand what they mean in some ways. There’s no really exciting whizzy new features. There’s not much to look over at your Nikon / Sony / Fuji friends and go … “yeah, but can you do this!”. That’s what online critiquers often want.

2016-12-25_0012

That’s not the point though. It’s important to understand this when reviewing the camera. This is a workhorse. It’s meant to be the most all around well balanced camera for a professional photographer.

When you review it with this in mind, it starts to make sense.

Sure, I would have liked a few new exciting features that pushed me try new things, but I need to look back at my original list of criteria. Nowhere did I say “whizzy new features”. I did, however, say:

  • Be INCREDIBLY reliable please
  • Don’t get in my way
  • Have a fantastic selection of lenses and a superb flash system
  • Be lightweight
  • Shh! Be quiet
  • Don’t punish me if it goes wrong

.. and as far as I can see the 5d4 accomplishes these more effectively than the 5d3, although it’s too early to talk about reliability I suppose. It’s a better 5d3 with a few bells on.

This is why it’s so important to lay out what you want before reviewing.

2016-12-26_0003

Should you switch from Nikon?

Mostly when I speak to people about switching from Nikon to Canon or vice versa, I say “don’t do it”. Although it’s often explained with a business reason, I don’t believe this for one second. It’s a non-business reason. People just want something better. A pure business reason would be “will it make me more money”.

Is my view different with the 5d mark iv?

Nope. I can’t see any good reason for you to switch from Nikon unless there’s something specific you want, like a lens or maybe the dual pixel AF system.

How long with the crown?

How long will the 5d4 be the best wedding camera body though, at least in terms of headline specifications? The 5d3 was arguably the best for maybe 2 years until the d810 and (maybe the) d750 were launched.

2016-12-25_0020

However, I don’t see the 5d4 holding the crown for that long this time.

I’m sure the d820 will be superb, and Nikon are pretty aggressive with the frequency of camera body launches … although people might not love the file size which is inevitably going to come with it!

I’ve said it time and time again though ..  a camera is a complete system and the reason I shoot Canon is not just the body, but the lenses too. I’ve tried Sigma and the AF is just not as accurate in AI servo, which is important to me. That’s not to say Nikon doesn’t have great lenses – they are definitely catching up over time and that 105 f1.4 looks great!

Still, for me, it’s the key lenses that I use which keeps me with Canon. They make great, but not particularly exciting, camera bodies but they make great lenses.


Where next for Canon cameras?

Why is this even a relevant question for this review? What does the future have to do with the 5d4?

Well, it’s my view that the days of selling cameras on features like sensors megapixel improvements and AF quality are coming to an end. They’re already superb and I’m not sure people will continue to part with the same level of hard earned cash for them.

The next major steps should be in usability in my opinion.

2016-12-26_0009

If Canon were to take a leaf out of User Experience projects which create better websites, the best thing they could be doing is interviewing and shadowing as many photographers as possible and working out what their problems are and how they can solve them.

That could produce a truly awesome camera.

Updates through the life cycle

Yes, I’m glad you brought that up. We understand that you release a camera and it’s not perfect. Look at the 5d2 and 5d3 auto ISO implementation. They were far from perfect. However, they were firmware fixes.. or should have been.

That’s the point. They should have been firmware fixes.

I think it’s time for Canon (and other manufacturers) to realise we are in a different age now:

  • Phone manufacturers release firmware updates with major fixes and new features.
  • TV manufacturers release firmware updates with major fixes and new features.
  • Speaker manufacturers release firmware updates with major fixes and new features.
  • Weighing scale manufacturers release firmware updates with major fixes and new features.

Everyone does this. Except, it seems, some camera manufacturers.

Canon need to look at Fuji and how they are working with their users and providing them with updates during the camera life cycle. This makes their users more loyal and buy more cameras. It doesn’t mean they buy less cameras. They’re grateful and appreciative.

How innovative are Canon now?

If I was to be honest, I’d say it feels like Canon hasn’t been as innovative of late. Maybe that’s not reality, but rather how it feels.

2016-12-25_0005

The same thing seems to have happened to Apple. They don’t really push so much now in my opinion. They get themselves to the point where they’re the market leaders and they run slightly behind everyone else.

What do customers want?

This is not a good situation for customers and I know there have been defections to Nikon for low ISO dynamic range issues in Canon and the likes of Fuji and Sony for mirrorless (dual card slots in a high end Canon full frame mirrorless that will take my lenses please!! In fact, just a mirrorless 5d4).

Canon are being attacked from every side. They must know this.

Still, it seems to me like they’re maybe a little too confident of their market leading position. If the 5d4 had been even a bit less than it is, I would have kept the 5d3 and waited to see what the d820 and d760 brought to the table. I did buy into Fuji for a while a few years ago, but it was too early, and while the xt-2 is a superb camera I’d rather stay with full frame.

Really, they did just enough to keep my interest and take my money this time.

You could say that’s perfect marketing, but in fact you want to excite and delight your customers.

Four years ago when I looked over the fence when I was trying to decide if I would buy the 5d3, I wasn’t as serious about a switch. Now, I don’t know; I’m less brand-centric generally and just want a camera that will allow me to do the best job for my couples.

2016-12-26_0002

We’re all reviewers now

I think with the advent of real user reviews, youtube, facebook groups and so on, people have a voice that they didn’t have before.

All manufacturers should be keenly aware it’s much easier for their reputation to be hurt. Canon have really taken an online bashing for low ISO shadow quality, as I’ve mentioned a number of times. Information (good and bad) flows around very quickly now.

On that point, I do think it’s time to solve a few problems, Canon. The viewfinder black point issue is unnacceptable for the second time. This was a problem 4 years ago. And only UHS I in the 5d mark iv .. why? Auto ISO max shutter speed being limited to specific options .. why?

We are under threat too!

Camera manufacturers also need to understand that professional photographers are also under threat and not only from each other.

The new iPhone cameras will soon be able to shoot in some kind of simulated low depth of field mode. That takes another chink out of our armour. Yes, if low DOF is all we have to offer as professionals, then we don’t deserve to be in business. But still, it makes things a bit more tricky.

If you can help us push on, we will continue to support you with more sales.

2016-12-25_0011

So Canon – get out there with your customers. See what their pain points are and how you might fix them. Help your customers gain a competitive edge. This is a symbiotic relationship. You help us succeed, we help you succeed. If we die off, so do you.

You are very welcome to join me at a wedding and post production session to see how a camera might be improved upon and I’m sure others would welcome this too. I understand that you have your Canon explorers of light, but they do not represent us or shoot like us, so it’s important to take a wider range of opinions.

That would be my Photography Christmas Wish.

comments 8

read comments

  1. Richard
    Reply

    Good balanced review. I always enjoy reading reviews from working photographers rather than professional reviewers . You raised a few points that I had not thought about. I have the 5d4 and I love it. I use it for everything, but I am finding big benefits shooting indoor sport. The AF is awesome.

  2. Reply

    Thanks for the great review. I’ve been on the fence about purchasing the new camera this year and came to agree with your sentiment that Canon did just enough to justify purchasing it. Features I would have liked to see that didn’t show up: more spread out AF points, faster flash sync speed, and the ability to shoot in a dual ISO mode for increased dynamic range (combining two images at different ISOs like what Magic Lantern offers on the 5d3).

  3. Reply

    Good review, thank you for your time. I’m using a 1DX and a 6D, it seems that I can continue like this, at least a couple more years. Good advice for Canon, will they listen?

  4. Fotograf nunta mariuspavel.ro
    Reply

    On of the best reviews I read regarding Canon 5D MARK 4. I am also interested in this camera, but i am wating for 6D mark ii and then decide.

  5. Reply

    Great review, agree with all your pros and cons, I wasn’t a fan of the 5d3 at all preferring the 1dx, upgraded to the 5d4 and 1dxmk2 and apart from the holy grail has returned on the 1dx2 ( full time glowing red focus point ) i actually prefer to use the 5d4, its just that bit more usable.

  6. Bob Sanghera
    Reply

    One of the best reviews, JUST AWESOME! Thx

  7. Reply

    Oh my goodness Phil – the picture of the cake is awesome! I’m in awe!

  8. Ollievision Photography ollievision.co.uk
    Reply

    The Cannon 5d4 is a great camera

leave a comment

SEO is incredibly and increasingly important for photographers as customers move away from more traditional routes of finding wedding and portrait photographers.

Sadly, most lack even the basic understanding of how SEO works and the Facebook rumour mill has propagated information which is – quite simply – incorrect.

Fortunately, each year SearchMetrics (a giant in the SEO world) publish the latest set of ranking factors to help explain the elements of SEO which are still relevant to Google.

Google is changing all of the time. What worked last year might not be so important today and certainly what worked more than three years ago is probably out of date now.

seo-training-for-photographers

Therefore staying as up to date as possible with the trends in SEO is incredibly important. Spotting trends before your competitors and making changes can be the difference between success and failure.

Sign up for more!

Want to know more about SEO? Sign up for my newsletter for my upcoming SEO videos which explains everything about getting more traffic for free..

Searchmetrics findings

Searchmetrics have used the mass of data which they accumulate in order to check the most important elements of a site which Google seems to deem important.

The most essential points for photographers are detailed in the infographic below.

It’s important to highlight that these factors are not everything you need to know about SEO; it’s one thing to understand something matters, but in many cases actually doing it effectively requires more understanding.

seo-ranking-factors-2015

comments 6

read comments

  1. Sean Gannon gannonstudios.com
    Reply

    Nice post. SEO seems to move so fast that most business owners that have a business to run dont always have the time to dedicate and by the time we do, the goalposts always seem to have moved yet again. Appreciate the visual graphic as well. Its always more interesting with graphics than just words.

  2. Reply

    Thanks Phil, interesting post. This is something that is always at the forefront of my mind with my web site and I’m always working on trying to improve SEO. Although, almost most of the time I’m working on other stuff too. Need to spend more time on this. 🙂

  3. Matt Wing mattwing.co.uk
    Reply

    Thanks Phil, very interesting and useful. I’m constantly finding ways of making my own site more interesting and relevant, this has come in very handy.

  4. Gary Derbridge gdphotographer.co.uk
    Reply

    Thanks Phil, very interesting post. You’re right, it’s hard to keep up at times!

  5. Genyphyr Novak alpsphoto.com
    Reply

    Hi Phil – I’ve really enjoyed reading several articles on your site. The ones about cheap wedding photography particularly hit home. I’ve been a photographer for many years but have only started focusing on weddings in the past few years and am building up my business here in France slowly. I do get a lot of people finding me on the internet since I live in a place that people choose as a destination for their wedding. And SEO content is something I also struggle with. I’ve been using a WordPress plug in that seems to do a decent job of it. The truth is that you must work on this every 3-6 months and check your local rankings all the time no matter what system you choose to try to help you judge if your site is still being found. Of course beyond SEO, word of mouth is still a great way of getting work and we can’t forget that either! Even if some word of mouth these days also means “word of social media” – it’s basically the same thing. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to photographers as well as clients ! Your wedding shots are amazing.

  6. Patrick Sampson photosbooth.co.uk
    Reply

    Hi Phil, Great article, and thanks for the helpful infographic! The ever changing way in which Google decides who to rank highest makes it an ongoing struggle. For those just starting out in photography, there is a lot to learn about SEO, as well as taking good pictures.

leave a comment

Wedding photography is a particularly insular business, with very few talking outside of their small groups of trusted photographer friends and most working alone.

This situation doesn’t help anyone. Sometimes it’s good to know that other people are struggling with what you’re struggling with, just to make it a little easier to deal with.

With that in mind, I decided to do the first UK wedding photography business survey to understand where photographers are at the moment with their businesses. It was enlightening!

You can see the key points on the infographic above.

What are the key lessons?

What do I take from it? Here are some thoughts:

  • Photographers are more confident than they were 3 years ago. That’s great news!
  • Photographers really enjoy their jobs! (But they’d really prefer not to have to choose images, or do admin and finance).
  • The vast majority of photographers are managing to earn a living from their photography business, with some reporting they are even earning more than they need. However, I think it’s fair to say that few are getting rich.
  • Photographers still believe the market is over saturated, with too many amateurs offering cheap deals and discounts for very little cost. That is having an effect on their ability to charge a real living wage for a quality product. It encourages customers to price shop, rather than quality / style being their priority.
  • Many photographers mentioned they would like the industry to be licensed and regulated in order to reduce the occurrence of poor quality photographers.
  • Marketing is the key area that all photographers still struggle with, with many noting they can’t seem to find their customers.
  • It was very encouraging to read that 83% of photographers will do what it takes to make their business succeed. That’s a very positive statistic! Businesses that don’t welcome change generally don’t succeed.
  • It was interesting to read that a third of photographers still haven’t done any training whatsoever, but it was telling to find that only 13% of training was rated as “all fantastic” and with nearly 25% being in the poorer category. Clearly, trainers are not doing all they can.

Conclusion

I would say that wedding photography is not a broken business model, which I hear discussed at times. In fact, only 5% of people ticked that option. There is plenty to be look forward to in the future if wedding photographers are willing to develop their skills and improve all areas of their businesses.

My one question mark from all of this is that regulation of an industry can reduce the amount of amateurs, it’s true. However, improving your own business in all areas will do the same job. Regulation has never been talked about, so I wouldn’t wait on it.

I’d like to thank everyone for being involved in this project and hope it’s useful for the UK wedding photography community.

What next?

Find out more about the business of wedding photography in my article to help photographers understand how to run a business.

And if you like this… sign up for my newsletter to find out more about SEO, marketing, business, post production, photography skills and training opportunities.

comments 2

read comments

  1. Reply

    Great article, really interesting to read. 🙂 Thanks

  2. SHARON MALLINSON WWW.SYMPLYPHOTOGRAPHY.CO.UK
    Reply

    What a fascinating article – thanks for sharing!

leave a comment

We’ve all got our ideas about what is right or wrong in our businesses, but as someone who has trained and mentored many photographers, I can confirm there are common mistakes that new and old businesses alike make.

So. Here we are.. it’s the countdown which could save your livelihood!

10. You’re copying others

It’s very easy to copy others. However, the rarer something (good) is, the more people want it and the more you can charge. Conversely, the more generic something is, the easier it is for customers to price shop.

Instead of doing what others are doing, offer something different in:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Branding & website
  • Customer service
  • Photography style & quality
  • Products

Know your competition so you can steer clear of them and constantly re-appraise your competitive market every 6 months to see what they’re doing.

9. You’re ignoring SEO & social media

More and more brides are finding their photographers online. Wedding magazines are largely a thing of the past now, as an advertising medium, but SEO and social media are right where people are.

So, you need to put aside time to work on your online presence. Hint: pinterest is great!

8. You’re scared of change

Businesses that stand still are actually moving backwards because others are moving forwards. An example of this issue was a videographer I spoke to, whose business was failing. I pointed out most videographers had moved to DSLRs but he gave a long list of reasons that he couldn’t switch, none of which were really real.

So, every year, look to improve something in your photography business. Write down the areas of your business which are in the worst state and aim to fix 2 or 3 of them a year.

7. You’re not shooting for you

To keep yourself fresh and full of ideas and enthusiasm, you should shoot for yourself at least once a month. Have pet projects which will allow you to see photography in a slightly different way and which can feed back into your paid work.

You have a long career ahead of you, so enjoy some of it!

6. You’re wasting your advertising budget

It’s common in business to hear that advertising should cost you around 10% of what make back. If you are paying thousands in blog advertising, magazine advertising, wedding fayres, ineffective adwords campaigns and so on, and you’re not making at least a 5 fold return on your investment, you should be looking elsewhere.

Do the figures and always know where your customers have come from. Cancel those advertising streams which simply aren’t worth it.

5. You don’t have a financial plan

70% of wedding income might be over the summer. Plan to avoid cash-flow issues with ideas such as:

  • Have other winter work (training, portraits, specialise in winter weddings, go abroad and shoot in their summer).
  • Pay yourself a set monthly salary and leave the remaining money in your business.
  • Produce a budget forecast for the coming year with income and known outgoings – including tax. This helps spot months you might need more income, and help you understand what salary you can afford.
  • And finally… put some extra money into savings for a rainy day.

4. You underestimate the importance of brand

People tend to find it hard to look at what they themselves have and so often disregard the importance of a clear and strong brand in the modern market. 30 years ago customers would look in their yellow pages for the three local photographers, but these days they can easily see hundreds.

Your brand needs to stand you apart and be an honest reflection of your business ideals.

3. You don’t know your profit

“Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity” is a truism in business. Too many photographers focus on income without considering true profit – or if you’re really on it, your take home pay. Do you know how much all of your products cost?

Typical costs you should know and plan for include:

  • Albums, prints & samples
  • Travel & accommodation
  • Training
  • Equipment & repairs
  • Insurance & professional fees
  • Accountancy & bank / paypal fees
  • Telephony
  • PC & online software
  • Website, branding, & hosting
  • Advertising
  • IT (computer, storage & backup)

2. You’re fixated on kit

If you find yourself asking your favourite photographer crush “what lens they used for this shot”, you might be a kit addict.

Don’t worry.. it’s common among photographers. It’s true that equipment does matter, but it should not occupy your every waking moment, and if your business is failing, it’s the last thing you should be looking it. Instead, spend money on learning about and improving your brand, sales and marketing.

Only ever buy equipment which will provide you with a clear return on investment.

1. You have no business plan

I’m constantly surprised to find that photographers don’t have a business plan; if that’s you, you’re in good company since I’ve yet to come across a single photographer who does have one.

Decide where you want to be in 3 years time, and work back from there; work out where you need to be in 2 years to achieve your 3 year goals, then work out where you need to be in 1 year, then 6 months and 3 months. Constantly update this to give yourself quarterly goals which head you in the right direction.

If you don’t have a goal to head for, the only guarantee is that you won’t achieve it.

Any questions?

I hope this has been useful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments. In the meantime, you might like to sign up for my newsletter, if you’ve not already done so.

comments 0

read comments

leave a comment

The Canon EF 50mm 1.2L USM would be my choice if you forced me to shoot a wedding with just a single lens.

It still surprises me saying this because I really didn’t like 50mm lenses initially, having tried the much cheaper Canon f1.4 and f1.8 lenses, but the results I can achieve with this one lens make it my overall favourite.

Read on to find out why that’s my view…

Popularity of 50mm lenses

Fast 50mm primes are popular with photographers. They are the closest to our own eyes, which makes photos produced “comfortable” to look at. I think Jasmine Star might have been the first particularly well known photographer to bring them to weddings, although there were photographers before her using them.

Canon-EF-50mm-f-1.2

It’s easy to see why. Shooting a 50 wide open brings a level of romanticism to the shot which you simply don’t get with other lenses, or at least that’s the case for the better quality 50’s out there.

Overall, it’s the optics of this lens which really shine. Everything else is good, but Canon knocked it out of the park when creating the look this lens produces.

Quick roundup

Pros

  • The way the lens renders the scene is just beautiful.
  • From f1.8 to f2.8 it’s very sharp.
  • Focus accuracy is exceptional, especially considering the low DOF.
  • It lets in a large amount of light, which lets you keep your ISO lower.

Cons

  • It’s not cheap, although good value within it’s category.
  • It’s prone to Chromatic Aberration, but Lightroom removes most of it.
  • Sharpness tends to suffer wider then f1.8, so I very rarely shoot at f1.6 even.
  • Focus speed is not particularly fast.
  • It’s a known “problem lens” with people reporting focus shift issues.
  • It’s not as sharp as other lenses from f2.8 to f5.6.
  • It’s not the lightest or smallest lens in the world, but I don’t find it heavy like the 85mm 1.2.

Construction

The Canon 50mm 1.2L is built to work in the toughest conditions. Unlike the 50mm 1.4 which needs to be treated with kid-gloves, the 1.2 has never let me down in 5 years of ownership, even with a few knocks.

It’s weather sealed too, so you can use it when the wedding-weather-gods aren’t particularly shining on you.

The lens hood is easy to put on and take off, which is one of those things only photographers who work fast really care about!

Lens characteristics

This lens might have been partly responsible for the vintage low DOF photography which has been so popular recently. There’s something really old and beautiful when shooting wedding details and brides were really wow’ed by the effect from this lens. I was one of the early adopters in the UK and I booked a tons of wedding based purely on this!

What it is about the lens then? Well, photographer often talk about “creamy” when they’re describing the out of focus areas of the shot – the bokeh. I prefer to describe more technically it as lacking harsh edges. I really disliked the Canon 50mm f1.4 because of the the harsh bokeh. The Canon 50mm 1.2 just doesn’t suffer from that.

Light into canon 50mm 1.2

Lens flare with the canon 50mm 1.2L at f1.6

Then there’s the way it deals with sunlight behind the subject and flare. If you shoot into a setting sun fairly wide open, the light just seems to flood a section of the frame and photographers have been using that to great effect.

The Canon 50mm 1.2L is built to work in the toughest conditions.

It’s the overall photo which really shines. Everything else is good, but Canon knocked it out of the park when creating the look this lens produces. I’d even go so far as to say they’re going to struggle to improve on this aspect of the lens.

Sharpness

Where it struggles though is in the area of f1.2 to f1.6. It’s just not that sharp – at least compared with some of the more modern lenses. I’m happy with that personally and rarely shoot it wider than f1.8 as I find the depth of field is just what I need at f1.8 anyway.

It’s also not as sharp as the Canon 50mm 1.4 from f2.8 onwards. For me again, this is fine. I never shoot it at any other apertures than f1.8 and f2. It was designed as a lens to shoot from f1.6 to f2.8. It’s a very specialist lens.

It’s certainly not a great studio lens where you’d be shooting at f8 all day. For that I’d take the also exceptional Canon 24-70 f2.8 II instead.

Shoe shot 50mm 1.2

Wedding details photographed with canon 50mm 1.2L

Auto focus

When I was new and working in studio, I thought the accuracy of auto focus was guaranteed. Then later I discovered it wasn’t quite as simple as that and in fact it’s more complicated with the different focus points playing a part. Then even later I discovered there were certain lenses which could be relied upon more than others.

As a professional wedding photographer, I now know which lenses I will rely on most for certain jobs, if I want tack-sharp images (and I’m very picky!).

How does the 50mm 1.2 fare then? Very well on the whole. It’s not my most accurate lens but the amount of keepers I receive from a day (and I’m very very picky) is extremely high.

canon-50mm-1.2-focus-accuracy

Sharpness and focus accuracy of canon 50mm 1.2L

What is amazing though is I run couple sessions in AI Servo mode with them walking towards and away or moving their heads; even then focus is very accurate when using the correct focus point on a 5d3. This is a massive plus point for me!

Where the lens struggles a bit is in particularly low light (think 1/60th, f1.8, ISO4,000, tungsten light), where it may hunt more than some lenses or just not quite hit the target compared with other lenses. This is slightly exacerbated by the speed of AF, which is slower than the Canon 24-70 f2.8L II or 35L for example; you’ll try to focus on something and, by the time the lens has focused to infinity and back, you’ve missed it. That doesn’t happen often though.

For that reason I tend not to use it when I need to absolutely guarantee focus in very low light conditions. However, when there is a usable amount of light available, focus is accurate and quick enough most of the time.

For the reportage photographers out there, the lens is fast and accurate enough to capture fleeting moments of guests laughing and joking around, or kids running around.

Wedding guests 50mm 1.2

Reportage with Canon 50mm 1.2L

You will read online though that there is a known focus-shift problem with the lens – this tends to be when shooting at mid apertures and doesn’t seem to happen with all copies of the lens. I’ve never experienced this problem but I believe it does exist. If you’re going to buy one, make sure you can return it if you get a turkey!

Compared with the competition

When I bought my copy 5 years ago, there really weren’t many particularly good 50’s on the market. Now, though, there is some competition:

  • Canon 50mm f1.8. Cheap and cheerful and recently updated; I wouldn’t personally class this as a professional lens for a wedding photographer though.
  • Canon 50mm f1.4. A lens I kind of hated; with harsh boken and a poor design which means it can (and did!) break at just the wrong time, I don’t recommend it. However, it’s a better lens if you wanted to use it in studio.
  • Sigma 50mm f1.4. The first 50 Sigma produced; I would recommend it more than the Canon 50mm f1.4, but the new Sigma Art lens is way better than this 50mm 1.4.
  • Sigma 50mm Art f1.4. The new kid on the block; I’ve not tried one yet, but people report it’s very sharp and I believe them. My view is that Sigma generally still have a way to go with AF and have some copy variation problems. In terms of the optics, it’s sharp but slightly clinical looking maybe and I prefer the dreamy look of the Canon 1.2 L. It’s a good choice, but I still prefer the Canon.
  • Zeiss Otus f1.4. I just had to mention this; it’s about £4000 and doesn’t have AF… but it has the most incredible optics and is very much at medium format quality. Not likely to be found in many wedding photographers kits though.

Conclusion

It all comes down to this; should you shell out what is a very significant amount of money for this lens?

And the answer from me is a resounding “yes”.

I would take it over any other 50mm lens on the market, even though it’s not the sharpest. More than most, this lens has real fans and I’m not the only one. In fact, I’ve been known to quip;

The Canon 50mm 1.2? You’ll have to prise it out of my dying hands.

However, this lens is a little like marmite – some love it and some don’t, especially for the price. So like with all major equipment purchases, maybe the sensible business decision is to rent it and any alternatives (such as the Sigma) first and then buy it if you like it? Lens purchases are quite serious since you’re usually using them for 5-10 or more years.

Looking forward…

It’ll be very interesting to see what Canon do with the version 2 of this lens, given the exceptional quality of their recent lenses (the 35L II, 24-70 f2.8L II and 16-35 f4 IS particularly).

wed3-30

Canon are producing exceptional optics and incredible AF and lenses remain the main reason I wouldn’t sell my Canon gear. However, when it’s replaced, I really hope they manage to retain the characteristics of this particular lens because it’s what people love.

Being really honest though, I’m not sure I see any reason to update. It already does everything I want.

Free newsletter!

Sign up for my free newsletter on photography and business.

comments 6

read comments

  1. Jennifer Holliday jenniferholliday.co.uk
    Reply

    Great to get a working review of this lens thanks Phil

  2. Rob Dodsworth robdodsworth.co.uk
    Reply

    Ah man, I’d talked myself out of this but now I’ve got Ebay open and Paypal at the ready. Dang it! Great review and images Phil!

  3. Martin mgiddings.com
    Reply

    The next best thing is this lens has dropped in price in the last six months and is a bargain on top of what it does! Not cheap but worth it.

  4. Reply

    Thank you so much for this review, I’ve been in two minds about buying this lens for a while & you’ve helped me decide 😉

  5. Reply

    I have been on the fence between which version of the 50mm I should purchase for wedding photography and this post sealed the deal for me. Any thoughts on the 35mm? I did some research and decided on the 50mm but I am curious about any potential use cases that you might find it handy.

leave a comment

So… what would I like?

It’s likely next year that Canon will update the 5d III which has been an exceptional wedding camera and produce the new 5d4. Since it’s closing in on Christmas I thought I’d ask Santa Canon to take into account my wishlist for the camera.
Obviously these are based on my needs as a wedding photographer…

Ideal improvements

  • Larger buffer. Around 13 frames isn’t quite enough for bursts coming down the aisle or confetti.
  • Improved viewfinder which allows you to see the focus points when in the dark and in the bright light.
  • Ability to adjust the exposure compensation when using auto ISO in manual mode.
  • Improvement to low light focus accuracy. Sometimes it’s just not “perfect”, especially under tungsten light.
  • 1 stop better high ISO performance (1/2 stop better than the 6d) in RAW, bring it to around the same performance as the 1dx.
  • Higher dynamic range at low ISO and generally cleaner shadows throughout the ISO range. I don’t often need this, but any improvement would be of benefit at times. At the very least, remove all shadow pattern noise, as has been done with the 7d2.
  • Latest greatest AF system from the 7d2 / 1dx with the ability to track subjects around the frame.
  • Tilting screen.
  • Expanded options for auto ISO in general
    • More shutter speed options
    • Improved auto minimum shutter speed options (such as taking into account a very minimum shutter speed, and knowing if a lens has IS etc..)
  • Fast UHS1 SD card for backup.

Nice to have

  • Ability to use the front button to switch modes from AI Servo to One Shot and back with a single click, rather than holding it down to temporarily switch.
  • Longer battery life.
  • Lighter camera without compromising quality (might be really hard to achieve!)
  • Semi-automatic lens micro adjustment using dual pixel AF technology.
  • Integrated AF assist for low light focusing without having a flash on the camera.
  • Higher resolution screen with auto brightness that works in practice.
  • New control from the 7d2 to allow changes to the focus zones.
  • Metering linked to AF point.
  • A larger viewfinder magnification (not sure if this is even possible?)
  • Increased shutter life.
  • Increased sharpness in the photos.

Keep it as it is

  • Resolution. I’m personally very happy with 22mp. Produce a difference camera for high resolution since, with weddings, I don’t want to waste space. If it needs increasing, 26mp maximum. I’d be happy with a reduction in resolution to about 18mp too.
  • 6fps is plenty for this camera for my needs, but I imagine this will increase. If it increases, allow us to specify the fps, like the 1dx.
  • Silent shutter. This was one of the best wedding improvements with the 5d3 and I’d never wish to go back to a loud shutter again.

The 5d3 was nearly the perfect wedding camera and has let me down very very infrequently, and I expect the 5d4 to be more of the same.

If you’d like, you’re welcome to read what I thought about the previous camera is my 5d3 review.

Thank you Canon!

Build your photography business

If you’re looking for photography training, sign up at my photography training page. Learn about SEO, online marketing, sales, pricing and other key information for any business.

comments 0

read comments

leave a comment

As some of you know, I’ve been using a Fuji X-T1 at weddings for part of the day. I love using it, but I’ve been concerned about the amount of hunting (sometimes very significant amounts of hunting) that the camera does when trying to achieve focus on a subject.

It made me wonder why and I did notice that the smallest focus point wasn’t particularly fast when using the centre 9 PDAF points. However, there was another issue…

Detecting focus with horizontal contrast

After some investigation it seems that the Fuji X-T1 really struggles to focus on horizontal contrast subjects. Watch this video to see this in action. Sorry about the very poor quality…

Originally my thought was that it might just be the centre 9 points which I had heard were single direction Phase Detection points, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Further tests showed all of the AF points that you can select suffer from the same problem. See below for an example with one of the lower left corner focus points.

These tests were with the Fujinon 56mm 1.2. I also tried the 35mm 1.4 and found largely the same issues, although it’s a quicker focusing lens so the issue isn’t as obvious.

I also wondered if it might be the lighting on that particular door frame, but I tried it on 4 others and received the same results.

This has all since been confirmed by another Fuji X-T1 user.

What this means is an unknown amount of the hunting that I’ve been noticing is likely to be with the camera trying to detect focus on (nearly) horizontal elements.

In tests, a subject needs contrast which is about 30-40 degrees from horizontal for the AF to find it easily. That’s got to be quite a lot of situations!

There’s no fix for this that I know of, unless Fuji can tweak the firmware to improve it somehow?

These tests were confirmed on an X-T1 with both V1 and V1.1 of the Firmware. Lenses also had the most up-to-date Firmware.

comments 2

read comments

  1. Joe Fischer
    Reply

    Hi Phil, have you tried this in portrait mode? My X-T1 then hunts on verticals. Regards Joe

leave a comment

wedding-photography-fuji-xt1

 

Free newsletter!

Sign up for my free newsletter on photography and business.

Preface

Please note that I am a real photographer and not a reviewer. This article is written with that in mind; I sell work and I know what I need in order to do that. It’s also important to realise these are my view only – if you disagree with these points, that’s fine!

All images in this article are shot with the Fuji X-T1 – either with the 35mm f1.4 or the 56mm f1.2. I’ve used it at 3 wedding so far. If my view changes over time, I’ll update this article.

The camera as a tool

I’m known for being incredibly picky about the gear I use. Photographers tend to say “it’s the photographer, not the camera” and they are right in a way. However, the truth is that the camera either does or doesn’t allow you to take the photograph which is in your mind. Would Da Vinci have created the Mona Lisa with finger paints? He might have produced something amazing still, but it wouldn’t have been the exact Mona Lisa. It’s also true that a camera (or lens) can make you feel great and more creative.

My view is that most photographers don’t push their equipment all that much. They take photos of relatively static subjects in not very challenging conditions.

That’s very different to my world.

I shoot moving subjects in dark and rainy conditions at very low DOF and I really push my equipment to the limit. I don’t want my work to be compromised by the tool used to create it. Some wedding photographers work very differently to me too – they might shoot mostly static subjects with flash at f5.6 all day for example, or they might be totally reportage and take only 300 photos in a day – so even within the wedding photography genre you have a massively mixed bag.

So … does the Fuji X-T1 compromise my wedding work? Or does it add to it? Read on…

bride-ceremony-fuji-xt1

The mirrorless debate

Mirrorless cameras come with a clear few notable benefits over a traditional DSLR:

  • Weight; These camera systems are significantly smaller and lighter. When you’re shooting for a full day, it takes it’s toll on your body. Really. Honestly.
  • WYSIWYG; The viewfinder shows you the photo you’re about to take so no guesses are needed with the exact exposure and you see the shot as it will look on your computer.
  • Quieter shutter; At weddings this is a significant advantage. While the Canon 5d3 has a good silent shutter mode, I don’t believe Nikon offers anything particularly effective in this area.
  • Price; Currently a crop-frame mirrorless setup will tend to cost less (maybe around half?) than any decent full frame DSLR setup. That’s quite a saving!
  • Less imposing; Some people believe that they seem a bit more like cameras people are used to and that makes people a little less nervous.

So far I’ve avoided mirrorless systems, mainly for these reasons:

  • Poor quality Electronic Viewfinder (EVF); typically the resolution is too low and they are too laggy for me to see detail on peoples faces, which is very important to my photography.
  • Poor quality and slow focusing system; the contrast detection focus systems are often OK for static subjects, but as soon as subjects are moving, they have tended not to be as effective.
  • Poor low light performance compared with a full frame DSLR; I’ve become used to flawless ISO3200 and very usable ISO6400.

What are Fuji trying to do?

Currently, mirrorless cameras have tended to sell to enthusiastic amateurs or as second cameras for professionals. However professional photographers can’t risk a degradation in results based on the tool they’re using, no matter how much they might enjoy mirrorless cameras. The X-T1 seems to have been designed to appeal more to pros than any previous camera from Fuji.

bride-fuji-xt1

Fuji are, I’m sure, aware that Canon and Nikon don’t really want people moving away from DSLRs towards a mirrorless system. CaNikon have produced relatively poor mirrorless systems and don’t seem that serious about it. Fuji (and Olympus I suspect) can see an opening while CaNikon are dithering about.

Apple couldn’t get people to buy their desktop PC’s, so they went away and became a company about music and then phones. Now they’re a massive player in the entire electronics market. They gave people something new that they wanted. Effectively, they came a long way round but achieved their goal. Has Fuji the same plan?

What does an average wedding photographer need?

I’m going to talk about the average wedding photographer now, not me. Most wedding photographers need these things, but individual styles vary this list:

  • Effective 24-70 and 70-200IS lenses, usually f2.8 throughout the range. They need to be sharp at their widest aperture.
  • An effective flash system which works well both during the day and at night, whether bouncing or direct. Often these days, off camera flash options are important too.
  • Fast and accurate focusing in all conditions – both in good and low light. The system should work well whether subjects are moving or stationary.
  • Enough resolution; 12mp is acceptable as a minimum, I’d say.
  • Enough weather proofing; generally couples don’t want to go outside in downpoors, but walking into church and with the advent of “evening rain shots under a brolly”, it’s important for the camera and lenses to be weather proofed enough.

There are also some which go on the “strong want” list:

  • Backup of photos in the camera to ensure that they can’t lose the photos (dual card slots).
  • A camera that doesn’t “get in the way” ie. it’s not fiddly, difficult to use and has options right where you need them.

asian-wedding-fuji-xt1

What extra do I need?

For my own photography, I’d add these in:

  • I shoot at very wide apertures – f1.8 is very common for me on a full frame camera and I rarely go over f2.8, except for groups and some detail shots. This is for a combination of reasons; I dislike flash, I love low DOF and I like to keep ISO to a minimum.
  • Since I shoot low DOF, I need very fast prime lenses which are sharp wide open.
  • Since it’s a crop sensor, I need the widest aperture I can get, in order to approach the same DOF as my DSLR – f2 on my 50mm on my Canon is about the same as f1.2 on the Fuji.
  • I shoot natural light a lot, so I need the sensor to handle very low colour temperatures (<3000K)
  • I shoot a lot of walking shots,  so I need a continuous focus system which just works and is spot on all of the time, even when shooting in low light at f1.4. Here are some examples of what I use it for during the day:
    • Walking up and down aisle (low light)
    • Couple walking into the reception in the evening (low light)
    • Couple shots when walking through gardens (good light)

couple-kiss-fuji-xt1

Lenses

Lenses are important. I have the best Canon lenses available in my bag and my current line-up is:

  • Canon 15mm fisheye
  • Canon 16-35 f2.8
  • Canon 24-70 f2.8 V2
  • Canon 70-200 f4 IS
  • Canon 35L
  • Canon 50L
  • Canon 100L macro IS

The lenses I use most are the 24-70 and 50L. The lenses I use next most are the 100L macro and 16-35. The lenses I use least are the 35L, 70-200 and fisheye.

putting-shoes-on-fuji-xt1

Looking at the lens lineup, Fuji have most of this covered:

  • They have an excellent Fujinon 35mm f1.4 R, which is equivalent to the 50L.
  • They have 24-70 and 70-200 equivalents (Fujinon 16-55 f2.8 and 50-140 f2.8) coming soon.
  • They have released a 16-35 equivalent – the Fujinon 10-24 f4. It’s a shame this is an f4, but I understand it would be much heavier if it wasn’t. This might cause me a few issues as I’ll need to use ISO6400 rather than my current 3200, but I can make this work most of the time as the lens has IS (which won’t freeze motion, but at least it’ll help with shutter speed).
  • There is a very good quality 23mm f1.4 R, which is the equivalent of the 35L.
  • Samyang offer an 8mm fisheye for X-Mount. It’s not AF, but the X-T1 manual focus system is excellent so it wouldn’t worry me to much.

The major missing component is a very usable ~100mm macro IS. They have a 60mm (90mm equivalent on full frame) which seems good quality, but it lacks IS and apparently it’s very slow at focusing. It was a very early lens, like the 35, so maybe due a refresh at some point. For now, extension tubes would be possible.

What’s really important is that I can shoot these lenses wide open. I shoot my 50L at f1.8 most of the time and if I can’t use the Fujinon 35mm at it’s widest 1.4, I’m not going to get a similar low DOF look. Amazingly though all of these lenses seem to be very usable at their widest aperture – way to go Fuji!

I would also say that, since I like my low DOF so much, I’d love for them to release a really high quality 35mm 1.2. I’ve found that the Fujinon 35mm f1.4 R doesn’t quite offer the same quality of bokeh nor quite as low DOF as my 50L, even at f1.4. It’s a great lens, but I think it could be bettered.

On the positive side, there is an exceptional Fujinon 56mm f1.2 (85mm equvalent). I’ve never purchased the also exceptional Canon 85mm 1.2 II since it’s very heavy and very expensive. The Fuji 56mm though is fantastic and light!

I am aware that the 16-55 f2.8 will have depth of field much closer to a 24-70 f4 on a full frame camera. Sometimes more “free” depth of field is useful, but on the whole it’s a negative for me. With that in mind I’d probably run two Fuji X-T1’s at the same time with prime lenses. I would get the 16-55 still but it wouldn’t be used as much as the 24-70 f2.8 on the 5d3. Fuji could produce something like the 18-35 f1.8 from Sigma if they felt they wanted to, in order to help photographers who want a fast wide angle.

Clearly Fuji know a thing or two about lenses. They have the key bases covered here I’d say.

couple-portrait-fuji-xt1

Weight

Some photographers will hold their cameras for a few minutes and put them down. Others mount them on tripods. For me though, at a wedding, it’s very difficult to get a break from holding the camera up.

When I first tried the Fuji my jaw dropped at how light it really is compared with the Canon equivalent! Even with the relatively small 50L on my 5d3 with the battery grip I was shocked at how much heavier the Canon was. Most reviews talk about Fuji kit being 40% of the weight. To me it felt like it was filled with helium, but still well built!

Viewfinder

One of my key reasons for avoiding mirrorless so far has been the poor quality (small, low resolution, laggy) viewfinders. I’m very picky about moment and I want to know exactly what’s happening in front of me. People have also said EVF’s have made them feel a little sick due to the lag.

fuji-x-t1-viewfinder

Well, I have to say Fuji have cracked it. The EVF is exceptional – and that’s not a word I use often. It has a truly tiny 0.005s lag (I didn’t measure this … they did). It does tend to strobe a bit under fluorescent lighting, but other than that it’s amazing. Truly. I showed my brother and he jaw literally dropped!

A few years ago this would have been a major blocker to me buying a mirrorless camera. Now I actually prefer to use it, compared with an optical viewfinder. It gives me more of a feel for the final shot and that makes things look more beautiful and exciting as I can see exactly how the light will look. Take for example a window which has light blooming in when in low DOF – on my Canon I can’t see that light blooming in but on the Fuji I can.

This is a key component in why I like the Fuji so much.

Flash

I’ve not had a chance to use the Fuji flash system but from the research I’ve managed to do online, it seems like the Achilles Heel of the X-Mount system currently. The top end flash seems to be mostly menu driven, which is way to slow for me. However, Nissin are bring out a very interesting i40 flash which is significantly smaller than normal flashes.

Auto tools

Auto exposure tools and auto white balance are used by a lot of photographers. On the whole I’ve found both can be a little skittish at times.

The white balance algorithm can produce noticeably different results with a very similar scene. Sometimes it just clearly chooses the wrong white balance – especially where there is a lot of green grass in the scene. I think more work is needed on this system. Since I post process in RAW it’s not an issue for me though.

With regards to exposure I’ve been happy on the whole. Again the exposure can move around a little more than I would expect, but it may be that my Canon does the same and I’m just not used to seeing it because it has an optical viewfinder rather than an electronic one. I’m pretty happy on the whole though.

Generally the exposure modes are effective. Spot metering is a welcome addition since Canon have resisted adding it to cameras under the 1d level (for no real reason that I can ever work out other than trying to encourage you to upgrade).

There is a good set of options for minimum shutter speed too. Activating this menu can be programmed to one of the buttons and I’ve taken over the wifi button for this function as I need to change minimum shutter a lot more often than wifi.

It would be nice to see the option to specify a minimum shutter speed per lens though – I’d set the 10-24 to 1/60th, the 35 to 1/80th and the 56 to 1/100th. It’s another thing I wouldn’t have to remember to do and would allow people to take into account their own hand stability.

Autofocus

It’s extremely important for me to have fast and accurate focusing in all conditions even at the widest apertures. The conditions usually are:

  • Static subjects, good lighting. An example would be a portrait of the couple outdoors.
  • Static subjects, poor lighting. An example would be inside the church.
  • Moving subjects, good lighting. An example would be the confetti shot.
  • Moving subjects, poor lighting. An example would be walking down the aisle.

first-dance-fuji-xt1

My 5d3 is exceptional on the whole, although pin sharp accuracy is slightly less likely as the light goes down – even using micro adjusted lenses.

Accuracy and speed

Auto focus speed on the Fuji is mixed. The Camera Store tested 4 mirrorless cameras and the Fuji came bottom and other pro photographers are telling me they have issues too.

The biggest overall issue – and it is a really big issue – is that the camera will significantly de-focus at times ie. it focuses a long way out and back again before locking. That delays AF by a second or more. It can also be a bit “skittish” sometimes – focusing in and out and little bit before settling. This is more pronounced with the 56mm, which is a larger piece of glass, than with the 35mm. This issue is new to me because my Canon just knows which way to go and it gets there quickly.

Sometimes I think this may be caused by people are moving slightly when they’re chatting. In further tests I’ve found that using the smalled sized focus point with the centre 9 PDAF points increases the focus hunt. The biggest issue, though, is focusing when there is only horizontal contrast. See a specific article on this here. This is so frustrating! I’ve missed shots due to this issue.

Another issue is AF with backlight. My 5d2 was generally inaccurate and would fail at times, although it was solved with the 5d3, but the Fuji literally will not AF with a moderate to strong backlight. Right now, I’d have to use manual focus.

Looking at the AF sensor, there are 9 phase detect points, but I believe Fuji made these non cross-type, which means the AF probably ends up using contrast detect more than it needs to and may contribute to the issue above with horizontal contrast AF subjects.

hindu-ceremony-fuji-xt1

Other tests on the X-T1 have been very positive. The Fuji would focus in light that the Canon would just give up on! That surprised me! I also think accuracy on the whole is as good as the Canon in good light and maybe a bit better in low light. I guess part of the reason is that it uses contrast detection at least some of the time.

Continuous focus

Focus on moving subjects seems to be very good on the whole, but you can only use the centre 9 phase detect points accurately for this. However, there is very little information about which those 9 points actually are. I’d like the viewfinder to indicate this to me.

What I really don’t like is the way it focuses in and out while you have the button pressed down. If there was any way to stop this happening I’d have a lot more confidence in it, but I suspect the camera is trying to work out where the focus currently is and where it’s moving to? If you believe in it and just go for it, though, it seems accurate, even at wide apertures and in low light. Initial subject lock isn’t particularly instantaneous, but once it’s locked on, it’s good.

What I wonder is whether it would handle how I approach walking down the aisle shots. I tend to take a few burst shots of each person as they come down the aisle, then stop shooting to let the buffer write, then take a few more and so on. To ensure this works on my DSLR, I keep continuous focus running with the back button and just take a few shots when I want to. This might be more tricky with the X-T1.

It’s a serious issue that I can only do this with the centre 9 points though. That limits my creative composition options significantly. More phase detect points please Fuji! And make them cross type too, if they aren’t already!

Another improvement would be with continuous focus in Low Speed burst mode – the viewfinder blacks out for long periods so I lose sight of the subject enough to lose tracking. This doesn’t happen so much with High Speed burst, but then I’m taking more photos that I really want to.

Back button focusing

The Fuji doesn’t really have a particularly effective system for back button focus. The AF-L button is in a really unhelpful place; I really want to switch it with AE-L – which I literally never use. It’s also too recessed into the body so it’s hard to find.

bride-bangles-fuji-xt1

Outside of the placement of the button, the system doesn’t work how I’d like it to. There are a few options:

  1. To lock and hold focus while pressing and holding the AF-L button.
  2. To lock focus with the AF-L button, but then you have to click it again to turn it off to change focus.

I much prefer how my DSLR does it – turn AF off on the top button entirely and just move it to the back button. This really is just a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – it didn’t need a new way of working. So far though I’ve preferred option 1 on the Fuji and it does work OK.

I even looked at manual focus as a way of doing this. However, when you switch to manual focus, the movement of the focus point around the screen is just to tell the camera where to zoom into when you click “focus assist” (I think), rather than allowing you to select the focus point and it’s size. However it nearly worked just how I would like it to.

It might not seem like much, but I do this for 11 hours on most days! Those extra button clicks or holding my thumb in a weird position can mean missing moments or a tired thumb, especially with the placement of the button not being that ergonomic. I will say I’ve got used to it a bit, but it’s not fantastic.

As a final issue, back button focusing doesn’t work with continuous focus mode – it uses only single focus. You could say this is a good feature, but it’s not really, because it means continuous focus in single shot mode doesn’t really work at all. What I’d like to happen is to hold the back button down, have the camera continuously track focus and then click the shutter when I want to in order to capture the shot I want. This just doesn’t work. I miss this from my DSLR..

Moving focus points

Since I got my 5d3 I’ve been introduced to the joys of using focus points other than just the centre one … and I’m hooked!

When I first looked at the Fuji I was seriously concerned about the lack of a joystick (or similar) to move the focus point around. I did soon learn though that you can redefine the four direction buttons to enter the focus movement mode. Without this option I simply wouldn’t have been able to use the camera for weddings since I change focus points so regularly and rapidly and I’m not willing to go back to focus-recompose.

Talking about these four direction buttons, I found they are too recessed into the body and it’s hard for your finger to find the right one – especially with the right-most ones next to the grip. They also don’t have a very positive feel.

However, it works acceptably. I would love Fuji to include a joystick though – on the grip and the camera body.

Another thing I love on my 5d3 is the ability for the camera to remember the previous focus points as orientation changes. It would be quite unusual for you to want to use the same focus point when you were in vertical and horizontal orientation so this makes total sense. I often find myself setting my 5d3 up with a top focus point in both orientations when doing “coming down the aisle” shot, so it’s ready.

beautiful-wedding-ceremony-fuji-xt1

Manual focusing

I’m not a particularly big fan of manual focus, but I would say that the Fuji system is the best I’ve ever used. The focus peaking especially is fantastic; fast and accurate.

However, great though it is, I’ll always see it as a backup for when AF fails. Other photographers have a different view and that’s fine.

Improving the focus system

I know there are several options you can specify such as pre-AF to make focus more accurate and able to keep up, but the honest truth is that I don’t have time to fiddle with menu options during a day. Things happen fast and I pack a massive amount into wedding days.

In reality I just need it to work with the minimum of fuss.

On the whole the focus system is usable but it’s one of the areas where I believe there is most room for improvement, at least for my style of wedding photography, which is fairly free and flowing.

Fuji should take note of how professional photographers use their DSLRs – many don’t “click and take a shot”. Many do use back button focus. Many also use continuous focus, move focus points and pick shots off as they are found.

You could certainly say “get used to a new way of working” and that is a valid view, but why reinvent the wheel? By providing photographers with the same system they had before, more will switch. Certainly I would say that action and wildlife photographers are telling me that the Fuji is nowhere near as usable as their DSLR currently.

Final words: give us a focus system that works as well as and in the same manner as our DSLRs and you’ll hear nothing more on this subject. That might take a generation or even two, but it is what’s required to court as many professional photographers as possible.

Camera handling

It’s hard to judge this one without remembering that I’m used to the Canon. However, I do have some clear issues with the Fuji. These are:

  • Moving focus points is fiddly and awkward. With my 5d3 I can make changes with one button click. With the Fuji it’s a two button click. If you couldn’t redefine the direction buttons it would be even worse! Moving focus points is very important to a lot of pro photographers.
  • The buttons on the camera are too flush with the body, making it hard to find them without looking. I’m sure I’d get used to this a little more, but I don’t really want to have to.
  • Fixed with V 1.1 Firmware – thank you! The video record button is too close to the shutter button and is too easy to click accidentally. I’ve done this twice per wedding on average. 
  • The AE lock and AF lock buttons should be able to be switched. Back button focussing is used by a vast amount of photographers whereas AE lock isn’t as popular and it currently takes the most ergonomic spot.
  • The shutter speed dial on the top of the camera is fiddly and difficult to use. It’s made worse by only allowing you to change full stop shutter speeds and then needing to use a front dial to change third-stops. I’m used to being able to use a single spin-dial. A friend said that the camera is not set up to be used in manual mode. I sort of agree.
  • The ISO speed dial is also a little fiddly to use in it’s current place. On my Canon it’s a one button option using my right hand (if you redefine the SET button).
  • While I don’t mind the placement of the exposure compensation dial on the X-T1, it is slower to use than my canon. However, I really don’t think +/- 3 stops is enough. It needs to be 5 stops.
  • I really miss the custom menu of my 5d3, which allows me to pull together all of the menu options that I use frequently onto a single customised menu page. These include things like format the card.

bridal-preparation-fuji-xt1

However, the Fuji also has some great options too, and they are:

  • I really like the idea of moving away from aperture priority and shutter priority etc.. Instead, you can just list any of the options as “A” and it will be automatic. Great!
  • I love having the aperture selection on the lens. I do think they should label each lens though – currently some lenses don’t have the apertures written on them.
  • I like the placement of the drive mode (bracketing, fast and slow shooting etc…), the focus modes (single, manual and continuous) and exposure mode dials. Others have said it’s too easy to accidentally switch out of single shot, fast and slow shooting to bracketing though.

On the whole the Fuji feels slow to make frequent changes to exposure and focus. EC is limited to only 3 stops. Generally, a layout closer to a current DSLR would increase speed of use. However, it might also be unpopular with a portion of Fuji fans.

Single card slot

This is the biggest issue when creating the hardware spec for X-T1 in my eyes. It’s the one thing that has been mentioned to me time and time again by other wedding photographers – not all, but many.

It’s important to realise that card failure is extremely extremely rare if you’re using a top brand card. I’ve never had one fail but I do know others who have. With my 5d2 I used to use 8Gb cards and switch regularly, which was a total pain, but since I’ve had the 5d3 I keep half of the day on a single card and only switch once. I feel comfortable with that since the camera is constantly writing to two cards and I can concentrate on the wedding and the couple, rather than where my cards are up to.

mirror-shot-fuji-xt1

This one decision will discourage some / many wedding photographers from investing in Fuji at the moment. You can of course say “well, we coped before dual card slots” but with the technology available and being used in the market, “why cope”?

What can you do? Well, my only feasible option would be to buy two X-T1’s and make sure I take plenty of pics on each. If I lost one card in one camera, at least I’d still have the other.

Could the second card slot be put in a new battery grip maybe? This was something that came out of a discussion with a friend. I’ve no idea if it’s technically possible.

All that said, this is a serious problem for me. I never want to be in a position to tell a bride I can’t deliver her photos. This was my top desired feature for the 5d3 before it was released.

1/4000th second plus base ISO 200

This won’t matter to all wedding photographers, but it is really important to me. Not everyone will realise, but f1.4 or f1.2 outdoors on a bright day will require around 1/8000th at ISO100. This isn’t an option that Fuji offers.

couple-flowers-fuji-xt1

The solution for now is to use ND filters, but it’s something else to put on and take off and keep somewhere close by. It’s just an annoyance and wastes time. I have forgotten to take it off a couple of times, resulting in a few shots with higher ISO than was necessary before I realised.

I’m hoping that the new organic sensor from Fuji (is it real?) will have base ISO 100 and they will introduce 1/8000th second shutter.

Update: The new firmware coming in December 2014 will offer 1/32000th of a second, so this issue will be considered resolved.

Battery life

I get a full day (and more) from the two batteries in my 5d3. I would get about a quarter to half a day from a Fuji. However, while the battery is rated to 350 shots I find I get more like 700-800. It may be because I take a lot of near-duplicates.

Really I just need to buy more batteries and have them closeby. There’s no solution to this really.

RAW file size

Why are the RAW files about 10-20% larger than my Canon RAW files, which are 22MP compared with the Fujis 16MP? I was actually looking forward to saving some card and disk space with a move to Fuji… but instead I have the opposite.

Not a biggie .. but I was surprised.

Buffer size

I don’t know exactly what the size of the buffer is with the Fuji. However, I believe it’s larger than my Canon. I would certainly like the viewfinder to tell me how many images I have left in the buffer so I can keep an eye on it and not run out just at the wrong time.

I use relatively slow cards in my cameras for cost reasons – I have about 20 SD cards and I keep a copy of the photos until I have delivered the wedding, so any extra buffer space is very welcome.

I simply couldn’t afford to have the extreme speed cards, unless I was to copy them off at the end of a day – it’s just another thing I’d have to do, so I would prefer not to.

“It’s better quality than my DSLR”

I see a lot of people saying this online. It seems people are copying what a few big name photographers have been saying. The truth is, it is in some cases and not so much in others.

fuji-xt1-benzier-effect

High ISO is still not as good as a my 5d3, but it’s only 2/3rd stop worse. That said, the noise pattern is definitely nicer. Given that most of the time I shoot a maximum of ISO6400 on my 5d3, normally at f2.8, that’s fine with me. I’d happily shoot the Fuji at ISO3200 or maybe ISO4000 and that’s enough since I’m not really looking at zooms – ISO5000 f2.8 on my Canon is “around ISO2000 f1.4” (I’ve not done the calculation so this is probably not quite correct) so as long as I’m using fast primes, I’m good.

Low ISO shadow quality is significantly better than Canon cameras though and that’s sometimes useful. I suspect it’s a little worse than a d800 still. It’s a very good performance though. It was noted by a Nikon user that the Fuji seems to allow more exposure changes in post with high ISO shots than his D800. I can’t comment on that. However, if it’s true, it might be that the Fuji sensor has a really fantastic balance of post production exposure changes across the ISO range.

low-iso-dynamic-range-fuji-xt1

Sharpness from Lightroom is not fantastic. There are a number of threads around the internet about this and you can read about my own experiences here. I hope Adobe will improve it over time. That’s not Fuji’s fault, but it would be good for them to help Adobe (who are clearly struggling).

Colour wise, I find that under (deep) tungsten light (maybe around 2500K) the orange, red and pink colours all blend into one a little bit, which isn’t great for lipsticks versus skin. I’ve been unable to determine whether this is the sensor or Lightroom. I did try to produce my own profile using a colour checker passport and I couldn’t quite get it there colour wise, so maybe it’s the sensor? I’m not certain. I’m not enough of a colour expert to say.

asian-ceremony-fuji-xt1

So IQ is a mixed bag when compared with my 5d3 but the differences are largely irrelevant since it’s more than good enough. This is a really key point. For a crop frame camera it’s certainly very good and Fuji should be very pleased with themselves. People may also say it’s not fair to compare it to full frame, but I don’t care what size sensor my camera has – just the output.

Where it certainly does excel is in JPEG colour reproduction and quality straight out of camera. I shoot RAW so this doesn’t affect me, but Fuji have made excellent quality JPEGs. Again, good job!

If the rumours about the organic sensor are true, my next Fuji sensor might be much better quality than my Canon. Wow!

Advantages of the X-T1 compared to a full frame DSLR

In order of importance, the key advantages are:

  • As mentioned, the X-T1 is about 40% of the weight of my 5d3 with the equivalent lens.
  • The viewfinder shows you the exact photo you’ll take, so no more needing to use your judgement to get the exposure correct. This should speed up photography and improve accuracy. It also seems to make you a little more creative and excited about taking photos somehow..
  • The X-T1 is less obtrusive; it features a quieter shutter and the camera looks less imposing.
  • The flip out screen is great for taking shots high up or low down. Really saves your knees and getting wet in grass!
  • It’s significantly cheaper.
  • It provides much higher quality shadows at low ISO for a larger dynamic range (compared with Canon cameras)

wedding-reportage-photography-fuji-xt1

Disadvantages of the X-T1 compared to a full frame DSLR

In order of importance to me, the key disadvantages are:

  • Flash system is lacking currently I believe.
  • Many DSLRs have dual card slots whereas the Fuji only has a single card, which means backups in camera aren’t possible.
  • AF tends to completely de-focus too much.
  • Moderate quality continuous AF and a weird system of focusing in and out which is very off putting.
  • Fewer phase detection AF points spread across the frame than I have with the 5d3 and Nikon have on their equivalent cameras.
  • Fiddly controls (exposure and focus and back button focus mainly).
  • 1/4000th of a second and ISO200 base means shooting at f1.2 / f1.4 in full bright sunlight is impossible without ND filters – resolved
  • Only +/-3 stops exposure compensation.
  • Inability to get the same level of DOF with primes compared with running my DSLR lenses at f1.8.
  • Need lots of batteries (maybe 4?) for a full day wedding.
  • Maybe 1/2 stop worse for high ISO (>3200) photos.
  • A few missing lenses in the lineup (currently).

wedding-moments-fuji-xt1

What are other people saying?

One other interesting balanced review from a wedding photographer on the internet compared with the Olympus said on balance the Fuji was the better camera for wedding mainly because of the sensor size. That seemed fair enough. He also noted the issues with focus speed. However, he has since said that he has moved back to a DSLR.

On my Fuji professional photographers group, the top likes were:

  • Size / weight
  • IQ
  • Lenses
  • (4th place was fairly tied amongst WYSIWYG, build quality and discrete)

The top dislikes were:

  • Flash system
  • AF
  • ISO100 & 1/8000th second shutter speed (or built in ND filter)
  • Dual card slots

Will I be putting my money where my mouth is?

So I did buy a Fuji X-T1 system for weddings and after using it alongside my current camera and talking to other photographers who work similar to me, I finally decided I couldn’t use the Fuji to shoot a whole wedding, or even most of the day.

If you work differently to me and are maybe less picky about missing shots, or you work in a more traditional or posed way, or are happy shooting at f2.8+ with lots of DOF, you can certainly shoot weddings with it. Some very good photographers are using it every day.

My plan had been to use the Fuji for the whole day of a wedding until the light was so low that I needed flash and then transfer to my Canon. In time if they brought out a competative flash system, I could remove the Canon for even that work. However, two things stop me progressing with this plan:

  • AF issues – it is buggy and doesn’t work how I want it to work in key circumstances. I’m not willing to change the way I work since that’s what my couples have bought.
  • Lack of dual card slots. Even though lots of photographers say “it’s never happened to me”, I don’t want to be the first Fuji user to report that I’ve lost a wedding.

What was surprising though is that enjoyed using an electric viewfinder more than an optical viewfinder and I never thought I’d say that. I do “feel” the photo more as I’m taking it. I get excited about seeing the photo closer to how it will be on my screen due to the EVF.

I would definitely like to switch to an X-Mount mirrorless system though if I’m still shooting wedding at the point they release something which exactly suits my needs.

wedding-guest-reportage-fuji-xt1

 

Fuji – are they the future?

While it might seem that this review has a lot of negative “It can’t do this and that doesn’t work that well” I’d really like readers to see it as anything but.

It’s important to remember that I’m a very technical and picky photographer. There’s no doubt at all that many wedding photographers will be happy to make the switch today.

If I didn’t love using the Fuji I wouldn’t have bothered getting this far or writing this review. I’m hoping this will encourage Fuji to produce a true Canon competitive camera body. Fuji should be incredibly pleased with what they’ve achieved and the next steps to improve it all seem technically possible.

For me, I’d happily pay an extra 20-30-40% on top of the price of the X-T1 to get everything I need and I suspect may pro photographers will feel the same, having been used to DSLR prices.

Fuji X-T1 vs. Olympus OMD and Sony A7

It’s worth at least a mention about the alternatives and why I won’t be choosing them.

The Olympus OMD system is a very well rounded system and has been a firm favourite of photographers. However, the 2x crop sensor is a step too far for me – the reduction in high ISO quality and increase in DOF mean it’s a system I wouldn’t choose. For studio photography it’s a great choice though and AF is apparently more effective.

The Sony A7 is an interesting option as it’s a full frame mirrorless camera. Might this give me the best of both worlds? Well, no, not really. While the sensor is fantastic quality, I’m back into the heavy lenses, which I’m trying to move away from. In order to counteract this, Sony are releasing f1.8 primes and f4 zoom lenses. Since I’m losing a stop of light with these f1.8 and f4 lenses, I might as well have the Fuji with it’s crop sensor and overall smaller size and weight. There’s no advantage to the Sony for me. However, Sony have been “one to watch” over the last 4-5 years and I don’t think I can discount them.

I should point out I don’t know either system particularly well, but the sensors would dissuade me from looking further. For me Fuji picked the right sized sensor.

Get involved!!

Finally, if you’re interested in Fuji as a professional or serious camera system (and I hope you are), please feel free to request to join my Facebook group. It’s a place which welcomes professional and serious photographer who want to support each other.

Fanboys, though, are not welcome – sorry.. If it annoys you discussing the camera as it really is, it’s not the place for you.

comments 7

read comments

  1. Andrew Billington documentary-wedding.com
    Reply

    Well Phil – I think that about covers it. I agree with you pretty much but I’ve learnt to accept the short comings (like you) for the advantage shooting with the small and beautiful X-T1 cameras offer. They will get better in the next generation but, even at the moment, I’m photographing weddings 100% with them.

  2. Reply

    this review is what i was looking for. since i have both mentioned cams, fuji and canon. i am vry interested in some real world tests and opionions and not fanboy talk. so far i am using my fuji only for travel, but i guess i will give it a try for weddings as a second body next to the 5d3. thank you so much for your objective and intensive review. cheers from germany, chris

  3. Kevin Lam kevinlamphoto.com
    Reply

    Well thought out comparison! Lots to consider. I shot with the E-M5 last year for a few weddings side-by-side with my 5D3’s, but haven’t had the chance to give my X-T1 a try at a wedding yet.

  4. Erick
    Reply

    I wanted to say that I used a D800, XT1 and Olympus EP5 with primes on my last wedding gig and decided to keep the olympus. The 2x Crop factor is something to look into since you aren’t exactly losing that much shallow DOF when compared to xt1. It is the same principle of full 35mm frame vs 1.5 crop factor controversy. If you want light, fast, sharp and less expensive lenses and body. Look into Olympus. I did. But if you have already settled for fuji, don’t try the VF4 finder from olympus, it’s sharper and brighter.

  5. Paul Richards albionrow.com
    Reply

    Very detailed review. I agree with most of what you say, though I personally love the dial based ergonomics, each to his own. I’m using two xt1s with the 14, 23 & 56 lenses for weddings now. I keep a Canon 6d and 50L in my car for extremely low light venues, but I haven’t needed it yet. All the best.

  6. Andrew Cattermole cattermolephotography.co.uk
    Reply

    This is the best and most comprehensive review of Fujifilm vs the DSLRs and so helpful thanks. I have shot weddings with the 5D2 & 3 but have also had an X-Pro1 for a while now. I love it and will now look to add the X-T1. Thanks again, great piece, Andrew

  7. David Green bigday-weddings.com
    Reply

    Thank you Phil for such a comprehensive lowdown. As a Canon shooter with a kit bag similar to yours I’ve been considering the XT1 for a while, especially as the X100S is my walkabout leisure camera of choice away from London weddings. Thanks!

leave a comment

It’s been spoken about for a few weeks that the Adobe (Lightroom and Camera RAW) rendering of Fuji X-T1 files misses fine detail which should be included. In fact, the RAW files perform worse than the excellent Fuji JPEG files and significantly worse than Capture One when it comes to fine detail rendering. No one seems to know quite why. You can see an example on the official DPReview review of the X-T1. Since I’m recording both JPEG and RAW at the same time I managed to see this myself and in one file it was particularly poor at 100%. These 100% crops are below. Look at the grass. The RAW file is the second one and this was the best I could do with it using “detail” and “sharpening”. Several photographers have used the term “painterly” to describe this. Certainly not how you want your RAW files to be described!

ScreenShot077

100% crop of in camera JPEG

ScreenShot076

100% crop of JPEG rendered from RAW using LR 

I know these files aren’t exactly the same place or size, but the effect is similar across the file. I’ve reported this to Adobe and I hope they will be able to resolve this as quickly as possible.

comments 1

read comments

  1. HF
    Reply

    I use a D610, OMD and XT1. Its well known, that Fuji raw files are not demosaiced correctly in LR. This water-colour effect is not there when using PhotoNinja or Irident developer. Both can be set up as external editors in LR (look at the blog of http://www.thomasfitzgerald.photography or http://www.marksoon.com/blog/2014/fuji-x-trans-raw-processing to get some ideas). It really pays off and is not much more work than using my Topaz filters out of LR. Irident is better on Retina displays, PhotoNinja for Windows PCs.

leave a comment

fuji-x-t1

 

 

Free newsletter!

Sign up for my free newsletter on photography and business.

Fuji XT1 tips

Some of these tips were found by me. Some of them were found from other sites and forums.

Zoom to 100% with RAW

If you shoot in RAW you’ll find that the Fuji RAW file contains only a 40% embedded JPEG. This means, when you click “focus assist” to zoom to 100%, you won’t – you’ll only zoom to 40%. This means you can’t find out if your photos are tack sharp.

The solution? Shoot RAW + JPEG. The camera knows they are the same and it will zoom in to 100%. RAW + Normal JPEG is fine for this purpose – it has enough resolution and quality.

Also usefully, if you move the front command dial left and right when in this mode, it will show you a 100% view of each file at the position that the photo was focused. So, if you move focus points between two shots, it will show you the different points that the camera focused on.

An added bonus is that, if you use software like Fast Picture Viewer to choose photos later, it should also use the fullsize JPEGs instead of the 40% embedded JPEG in RAW. Lightroom also understands they are the same file too.

You can discard the JPEG files later if you choose to.

Steps:

  • Open the menu
  • Move to “Image quality”
  • Choose “Normal + RAW”

Move focus points quickly

If, like me, you switch focus points around regularly and quickly, you’ll find that the X-T1 system of pressing “down” and then moving the focus point around is slow and inconvenient.

The solution? Make all four direction buttons enter the “focus point selector” option. That way, if you want to move the focus point left, you just press left twice – and more times if you want to move it left more and then press up if you want to move it up. You do sadly lose access to a number of quick menu options, but it was worth it for me as this is a very key function for a camera.

This was the most important X-T1 tip for me. I couldn’t have managed to use the camera with my style of photography without this.

Steps:

  • Press and hold the “Disp/Back” button until you enter the Function Setting menu
  • Change FN3, FN4 and FN5 to “Focus area”

Sunny days and f1.2 lenses…

The X-T1 has some amazing prime lenses which shoot at f1.4 and f1.2. They are very usable at those apertures. Sadly, on a sunny day you’ll need to shoot at around f2.8 for a correct exposure due to the ISO200 base and 1/4000th shutter speed. There’s simply too much light.

The solution? ND filters. It’s a pain, yes, but there’s simply no option. How many stops do you need? For a correct exposure you need two stops really. However, the X-T1 has great highlight recovery in RAW so you might get away with a one stop ND. I would recommend two stops though.

(Just so you know, when the camera uses ISO100 in JPEG mode it is actually taking the photo at ISO200 and pulling the exposure down one stop, so don’t think shooting in JPEG will give you any real benefit).

Faster focus

In order to get the best from the focus system in tough conditions, sometimes you need to give it a little helping hand. That’s where High Performance and Pre Focusing come in.

High Performance will eat through your batteries 20% quicker,  but everything just runs quicker than it normally would since the processor is sped up, giving the system the ability to cope with situations a little faster.

Pre Focusing means the camera is constantly trying to achieve focus, which should mean that the lens is much closer to being in focus when you really need it to be, giving you a better chance of photos being in focus.

Steps:

  • Enter the menu
  • Press “left” to move to the menu sections
  • Move down to blue tool menu 2
  • Choose Power Management
  • Set High Performance to On
  • (Make sure you’re not in Manual focus mode)
  • Enter the menu
  • Choose Autofocus Setting
  • Move down to the second page
  • Set Pre-AF to On
comments 3

read comments

  1. Reply

    Thank you for these tips. Just bought a Fuji and this was helpfull.

  2. Reply

    Thank you for these tips. Just bought a Fuji and this was helpfull.

  3. Lionel
    Reply

    Thank you these tips, very useful.

leave a comment

Build your photography business

If you’re looking for photography training, sign up at my photography training page. Learn about SEO, online marketing, sales, pricing and other key information for any business.

So what’s the problem here?

For quite a long time I’ve had an issue with some of the conclusions that dxomark would lead you to, based on the ratings that they calculate. Let’s take the high ISO scores from the Nikon d800 and Canon 1Dx.

 

The d800 rates slightly better for high ISO than the 1dx – ISO 2853 vs. 2786. Now in reality the difference between these two numbers is tiny – one stop better high ISO would mean a number would have to double compared to the other – but still the d800 produces the higher result.

Now look at the relevant “print” (normalised for sensor size) graphs comparing the two cameras:

I’m not saying that the numbers don’t mean what DxO want them to mean – I’m sure they’re correctly calculated. I am however saying they are misleading. They don’t present the real picture. The 1dx is the better camera for low light – just look at the dynamic range at high ISO – yet it doesn’t appear so from the high ISO ratings.

I presume that this affects the overall scores too.

So what does the High ISO number mean, and why is it flawed?

Here’s what DxO say about their high ISO score:

Photojournalists and action photographers often struggle with low available light and high motion. Achieving usable image quality is often difficult when pushing ISO.

When shooting a moving scene such as a sports event, action photographers’ primary objective is to freeze the motion, giving priority to short exposure time. To compensate for the lack of exposure, they have to increase the ISO setting, which means the SNR will decrease. How far can they go while keeping decent quality? Our low-light ISO metric will tell them.

The SNR indicates how much noise is present in an image compared to the actual information (signal). The higher the SNR value, the better the image looks, because details aren’t drowned by noise. SNR strength is given in dB, which is a logarithmic scale: an increase of 6 dB corresponds to doubling the SNR, which equates to half the noise for the same signal.

An SNR value of 30dB means excellent image quality. Thus low-light ISO is the highest ISO setting for a camera that allows it to achieve an SNR of 30dB while keeping a good dynamic range of 9 EVs and a color depth of 18bits.

A difference in low-light ISO of 25% represents 1/3 EV and is only slightly noticeable.

As cameras improve, low-light ISO will continuously increase, making this scale open.

Here’s the key bit. Read it again: “Thus low-light ISO is the highest ISO setting for a camera that allows it to achieve an SNR of 30dB while keeping a good dynamic range of 9 EVs and a color depth of 18bits.”

So they have picked an arbitrary set of figures (SNR 30dB, DR 9EV and 18 bits colour depth) and they will “stop” when any of those numbers have been reached. So, because the 1dx colour sensivity is ever so slightly below the d800 it receives a lower rating. Literally no account is taken of the fact that the dynamic range is significantly better, which will hugely offset the tiny difference in colour depth.

How then will manufacturers new sensors rate? If SNR is pretty much as good as it’s going to get, what will happen to the ratings? Improved shadow noise in the future (ie. a higher dynamic range at high ISO) will not be rewarded in the DxO scores unless the other scores go up too.

To take this to it’s logical conclusion, colour depth and dynamic range could increase by 5000 times and the camera would still receive a High ISO score limited by the SNR and that doesn’t make sense to me.

What do I think then?

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – I actually don’t care about these numbers outside of understanding that my camera does what I need. What I do care about is that people have useful information on which to make an informed decision and here DxO is not providing that. Why? Because you’d buy a d800 over 1dx for high ISO when clearly it would produce inferior results. Their own graphs show this.

I think the overall DxO results are helpful. The graphs give you a good idea of what you can expect from a sensor. However I question whether photographers should be using their combined and calculated numbers to mean anything at all. They simply won’t match real world shooting experience.

So photographers – read the graphs and ignore the calculated numbers and use it as part of your equation for camera purchase would be my recommendation. And when your friends say “my camera has 2757 ISO score and that’s bigger than yours”, maybe you can now educate them?

What do you think? Have your say below.

comments 0

read comments

leave a comment

So Canon released a new full frame camera, and is this the camera you want if you’re looking to get into weddings? Possibly.. just possibly it is.

Canon EOS 6D at a glance

The key facts that you need to know are:

  • A new 20.2MP full frame CMOS sensor
  • 11 AF zones with center cross at f2.8 which is accurate to -3EV
  • Shutter rated for 100,000 actuations
  • 63 zone metering
  • Wi-Fi and GPS modules built in
  • 4.5 fps shooting speed
  • 1/4000s maximum shutter speed
  • Shutter release around 60ms.
  • Single SD card slot (and no CF card slot)
  • ISO to 25600 (expansion to ISO 50 and up to ISO 102,400)
  • Digic 5+ processor
  • Fixed 3″ 1,040,000 dot VGA resolution LCD
  • Small and light
  • Silent shutter option

Canon 6D for weddings

So what do all of these specs mean for wedding photographers?

Well firstly it’s important to realise that information is thin on the ground right now. No one has used this camera yet. However, we can build a rough picture of what it will be like as a wedding camera based just on the specifications.

What’s important to a wedding photographer?

Here are some key points for a wedding photographers camera:

  • At least 16MP
  • Good high ISO quality
  • Accurate focussing
  • Speedy response
  • Secure (ie. won’t lose files)
  • Durable

The EOS 6D meets some of these points well and some of them less well.

Firstly resolution and high ISO quality. We know it has 20MP, which is plenty for weddings. However, we don’t know what the high ISO quality will be like yet. If it’s similar to the 5d3 – and I suspect it will be – this will be fine for wedding photographers. Full frame cameras tend to do very well for high ISO image quality.

Accurate focussing is very  key for wedding photographers and the 5d3 pushed forwards massively in this regard. The 6D is less well specified – it has only a single cross type point (Cross type points are the only ones which are accurate enough to rely on). This means you will have to use the centre point and “focus and recompose” which is not ideal if you have a thin depth of field from using prime lenses as it can introduce errors. It also tends to introduce camera shake due to moving  the camera constantly so you will need to be careful with your technique. The lack of more cross type points is the key disappointment with the 6D. However, the centre point looks to be incredibly accurate – suitable for -3EV levels of light. To put that into perspective, that means it’s able to focus accurately in half of the amount of light as the 5d3, 1dx and any Nikon camera too.

A speedy response is difficult to evaluate at the moment, but you need a camera which will take photos when you press the shutter. This is down to the number of FPS that a camera is capable of, but also focus speed and the amount of time it takes after you press the shutter. Currently the signs are OK, with the camera capable of 4.5 FPS (I run my 5d3 at 3FPS most of the time) and a 60ms shutter lag, which is about the same as the 5d3. Only time will tell how the camera focusses, but Canon has taken incredible strides forward with the 5d3 and 1dx so hopefully the 6D will follow this trend.

Secure, to me, means that a camera should keep your files safe. This is where the 6D is let down a little by using SD cards, which are more flimsy than CF cards. It is further let down by not having twin cards allowing you to backup your files to another card. It’s likely there would never be a problem, but with peoples wedding images to be responsible for, you want to be sure. A wedding photographer simply can’t lose someones photos.

Durability. Well, so far it’s hard to say. It looks like the 6d will be similar to the 7d and 5d2 in build quality (not 5d3) so I’d say durability would likely be fine.

A few other points to consider:

  • 1/4000th of a second is not ideal if you’re looking to use fast prime lenses in full sunlight. The best you will be able to achieve is about f2.5.
  • The screen is likely to be exceptional, as with the 5d3. That will be a real plus point.
  • Wifi and GPS are really not features which will help wedding photographers on the whole, although I’m sure some people will find a way to use them.
  • Metering sounds like it’s the same system as the 5d3, which is perfectly adequate.
  • The silent shutter of the 5d3 has become one of my favourite features from the camera. The inclusion of this in the 6D is a real positive. We don’t know how silent this will be yet though.
  • 100,000 shutter actuations is a little on the low side for wedding photographers, who tend to take many images. However this probably means 2-3 years of good use.

Conclusion – Canon 6D for wedding photographers

I think this is a worthwhile camera for budding wedding photographers. As a full frame camera it will provide good quality images and while the number of cross type focus points is low, the centre point will likely be very accurate.

My main issue is the use of a single SD card. Either including CF cards or a second SD card for backup would have made me more comfortable about delivering images, but as long as you’re careful I’m sure it will be fine.

The camera should be £1799 on release in the UK and I’d suggest it’s likely to drop £300 in the first year.

As a final point, Canon – I really wish you had included more cross type points in the AF system and dual card slots.

Compared to… Nikon D600

The main competitor to the Canon 6D is the Nikon D600. I would say that generally the Nikon is better specified as an entry level camera for wedding photographers, primarily due to the dual SD card slots and the increased amount of cross type points in the auto focus system. The price is currently the same, which makes the D600 better value for money.

However, Canon have exceptional prime lenses which produce amazing images and, as an upgrade route, the 5d3/1dx with Canon those beautiful prime lenses is currently the top wedding specification in my view. If you’re serious about weddings, this is the combination I’d recommend ending up with. If you start with Nikon it’s likely you will stay with Nikon.

A tough choice I’d say…

comments 2

read comments

  1. Reply

    Very interesting article, Phil, on this new edition to the Canon range. I do like the way you have introduced Youtube videos into this blog.

leave a comment

And the 5d mark iv is out!!

To read my review of the newest camera, look here at my canon 5d mark iv review.

First off…

Let’s start off with some honesty: I’m not a professional reviewer so this will be an “outside of the lab and in the real world” review. I also already shoot with Canon.

3 years in…

I thought I’d preface this review with my long term view of the 5d3. I’ve owned and used it now for best part of 3 years and I know all about it. What was good and what was bad?

The pros

  • It’s been very reliable and hasn’t let me down. The shutter was replaced recently since it was over 200k, but it probably didn’t need it. One button needed replacing too (the back button focus one). For a camera with that much use, it’s been exceptional.
  • The AF has been amazing. On the whole the AF has been amazing. If there’s one area where it still isn’t 100% though it’s under dark tungsten light at the wedding reception (usually the speeches).
  • ISO6400 was really usable. I’m perfectly happy using ISO6400 and I find ISO3200 can take quite a push (maybe a stop) before I’m unhappy with the image quality.
  • Silent shutter! I’ve left the silent shutter on for pretty much the entire life of the camera and it’s been amazing. It’s really helped my photo journalistic style.

The cons

  • I’ve lost shots because I can’t see the AF points. On occasion, with dark receptions in the first dance, I’ve lost my selected AF point and I have missed a shot.
  • Low ISO dynamic range. On the odd occasion I have wished for nicer quality deep shadows, especially at low ISO. It’s not often, but occasional.
  • More features please! The 1dx received a firmware update with some features half way through it’s life. Several of those would have been fantastic for the 5d3 too, since there’s many more of them than 1dx’s. Other camera systems, such as Fuji, are starting to offer more features mid-life and there are rumours Nikon will be doing too.

Overall I don’t think I could have bought a better wedding camera. Nothing is perfect, but it certainly came close.

And now on with the original review…

What’s important to a wedding photographer?

A month or so ago, Canon released the new 5diii. How does it stand up as a wedding camera? To answer that, we need to know what’s important to a wedding photographer. Here are my key thoughts:

  • Accurate and quick focussing
  • Excellent high ISO quality
  • To ensure you can deliver the photos
  • Stay quiet and unobtrusive
  • Speed of use
  • Shoot in any conditions

Handling & usability

The 5diii is similar is usage to the 5dii, so if that was your previous camera you’ll feel right at home. A few buttons have changes – there’s a new rate button which I doubt will be of massive use to wedding photographers – but on the whole it’s an incremental change. Of more importance, the mode dial has a lock feature which means it’s not possible to accidentally knock it any more.

Canon have added a feature which allows you to map many of the buttons to work in a way you would like them to. Particularly popular for wedding photographers right now is being able to reassign the DOF preview button (now on the right hand side of the lens) to temporarily switch focussing mode from one shot to AI servo (or vice versa). My favourite is remapping the “Set” button as a change ISO option – you hold “Set” and change ISO with the front dial. When in Manual mode, this allows you to continue to see your exposure meter which really helps.

One of the most important changes for me is the inclusion of dual card slots into the camera. There is now a CF and an SD card slot and you may write your files to both at the same time. This will allow me to use 64Gb cards and not have to switch over the day since I’ll always have a backup – bliss!!

Auto ISO on a canon 5diii

Also on the positive front is providing a usable auto ISO function (it was very poorly implemented on the 5dii). I’ve never really used auto ISO before, but effectively it’s the same as any other auto mode. On using it at a wedding I found myself really liking it. However, Canon have not provided EC with Manual mode with using auto ISO and it really needs it. The auto ISO options are also a little on the light side: there’s no option to choose, say, 1/80th as the minimum shutter speed. Providing EC (Exposure Compensation) with Manual mode would solve a large part of this problem. It’s also missing the option to limit ISO by third stops – you can only choose 6400, 12800 etc…

The disappointment is that Canon didn’t provide support for the UHS SD cards so the SD slot is significantly slower to write. As a further disappointment, the buffer size has not increased so if you wanted to write RAW to the CF and JPEG to the SD, the buffer is only 6 shots. The buffer isn’t bad if you’re writing the same RAW files to both card though – about 14 shots.

The slow writing to the SD card though means it’s more difficult to take advantage of the upgraded 6fps shooting mode (up from 4fps with the 5dii) while shooting RAW and JPEG. However, in practice I personally found virtually no instances where this affected my work since I shoot RAW to both cards.

One of the most impressive features is the new silent mode shutter. This halves the amount of noise the shutter puts out and will be fantastic for shooting in a quiet church near to the couple. Kudos for such an effective feature Canon! In Church the shutter was effectively silent to those around me. I doubt anyone heard me shooting. View a video demonstration below:

When considering the body, the weather sealing of the camera is improved. I never had a problem shooting with my 5dii in rainy conditions, but the 5diii should be even more secure.

The body also feels better in my hands – more modern grips and better sculpted.

Screen, menus & viewing photos

The screen on a digital camera is incredibly important these days. Gone are the days where it’s impossible to check the accuracy of exposure on your screen – these screens now offer the ability to view your photos in bright light. I found the 5diii was the closest yet to having the brightness needed to view the image in bright light, but I found the auto brightness option really wasn’t that effective which is a shame.

The significant change is to the zoom function. Rather than having zoom in / zoom out using the buttons on the back right side of the camera, there is a dedicated zoom function and you use the front scroll wheel to zoom in and out. That takes a bit of getting used to. On the positive side, it’s possible to zoom straight in to 100% on the last focus point to check focus quickly. That’s a really welcome change when confirming that your focus is accurate before moving on.

There is an all new menu system too which is similar to the previous one, but with more pages. The menus are definitely easier to navigate through. The custom functions have also been moved out of the deep difficult to find menus and there is useful help explaining the various functions now.

Focus system

5diii AF sensor points

It’s obviously important to a couple that their photos are in focus. The 5dii was dead on in good light and fairly accurate in low light, but only the centre point was really usable. I personally took more photos that necessary just to ensure I had photos in focus. In poor light I’d also use the focus assist on my canon flash (with the flash on minimum power, pointed away).

The 5diii has an all new pro focus system from the new 1DX with 61 points, where 41 are the more accurate cross type points. The 5 central points are a new special dual-cross type which should improve accuracy even more. In practice, the 5diii is able to focus down to -2 EV compared with -0.5EV with the 5dii and the focusing was spot on even in incredibly low light. It’s amazing!

At a wedding this allowed me to achieve shots I simply wouldn’t have been able to, or would have had to use the focus assist light on the 5dii. See the example shot – this sample shot was taken at ISO12800, f2, 1/125th – that’s not a lot of light! Yet the focusing is bang on.

The question often asked about focus systems is how many shots are in focus vs out of focus. Well, there were very few out of focus and those that were were probably my fault. However, in extreme low light the camera did take some time to focus but we’re talking about situations where the focus system would be pushed to it’s maximum. Was it 100%? No, but it was pretty close…

To go with this, there is a new focus menu which 20-30 options. You’re able to make quite significant changes to the focus tracking system in order to work in conditions which are more simple (like someone walking towards you), as well as more complicated (like tracking ice skaters). It’s very flexible.

The slight disappointment is the viewfinder. It’s hard to see the red flash on a focus point in good light. I found an option where the AF point could switch off when focus was achieved and that helped a bit, but that mode doesn’t show the focus point when AI servo is switched on, so you can’t see where you’re focussing. There is also a problem where you can’t see the dark focus points against dark objects, so it can be hard to work out what you’re focussing on.

Aghhh!!

On the plus side, it’s got an integrated grid which can be switched on and off. I love a grid since it’s helps me keep everything straight and reduces my time spent making little corrections in post!

Image quality (IQ) and RAW files

5dii vs 5diii shadow quality at high ISO. 100% crops. Click to view full size.

The 5dii was widely regarded as having fantastic IQ. It had the double whammy of a high resolution 21MP sensor and yet keeping up with the 12MP Nikon d700 in high ISO tests – a truly astonishing sensor.

The 5diii builds on this with a 22MP sensor which features the same stunning skin tones with an improvement in high ISO noise of 1/2 to 1 stop in raw. In practice, I’d happily shoot the 5dii at ISO3200 in RAW when processed in LR. With the 5diii, the improvement in the quality of the noise (how it looks) I’d happily shoot at ISO8000, or maybe a little higher if the scene is fairly bright. (Note to Canon: Please can we have third stop ISOs with the Auto ISO option?). That’s effectively a stop and a third improvement in usable ISO range while keeping the same resolution. As a test I’ve also done a shot at ISO25,600 (below). You couldn’t expect good quality large shots at these kinds of ISO’s – you won’t get them – but for web sized images or small prints you might just get away with it if you are careful with the initial exposure and apply a lot of noise reduction.

canon 5d3 iso25600

ISO25,600

Where Canon falls compared to it’s competition is low ISO (ISO100-400) dynamic range – the deep, deep shadows are just not very nice quality. In practice, I would happily push the shadows by 2 stops, but not more. The competition are offering 4-5 stops now and this is something which Canon can work on in the future. Does this get in the way? No, not really for me. At a wedding there may be a few shots where more than 2 stops of deep shadows need be recovered. This is a subjective point though – others may find their needs are different.

What I do really like is that Canon kept this camera at 22MP. The competition is increasing the amount of MP all the time and, while this might be useful for landscape photographers, it does mean storing and processing photos becomes that much harder. 22MP will print a beautiful quality A2 photo so I neither need or want more resolution. Kudos again Canon.

As an aside, the camera also offers an improved JPEG engine with more effective noise reduction and many other elements. As I photograph in RAW it’s not an issue for me, but it’s a welcome improvement.

The competition?

I suppose I should talk about the various alternatives:

  • Canon 5dii: slightly lower quality at iso3200 than I’d like and focussing that you need to work around. Nice and cheap now though!
  • Canon 1ds3: similar in many ways to the 5dii but with much better focussing but a poor quality screen.
  • Canon 6d: effectively a newer version of the 5dii. A great camera in many ways, but won’t suit wedding photographers who like to use accurate AI Servo, especially with outer points (it only has one cross type point). Also only has a single card slot, which was a shame. Limited to 1/4000th of a second.
  • Canon 1d4: a 1.3x crop version of the 1ds3 which I always felt would ruin my lens selection at the wide end.
  • Canon 1DX: Canons newest offering (yet to be released). Likely to be the king of the hill for sports photographers but rather overkill for weddings and shutter is no where near as quiet.
  • Nikon D700: a great overall wedding camera used by many pros, but rather low resolution now at 12MP. Nice and cheap now though!
  • Nikon D3: similar to the D700 but a more professional body and feature set.
  • Nikon D3S: still the low light king (although 5d3 and d4 come close) and a great all round wedding camera. Still rather low resolution at 12MP. Probably what I’d be shooting with if I was a Nikon man.
  • Nikon D600 and D610: similar in many ways to the Canon 6d, but with dual card slots and better low ISO dynamic range. Limited to 1/4000th of a second.
  • D750: Probably Nikons best overall wedding camera currently, with 24mp, great low and high ISO quality and a reasonable amount of auto focus points, although fewer cross type points than I’d like personally. It’s also limited to 1/4000th and lacks a dedicated AF-ON button.
  • Nikon D800 and D810: Too many megapixels to be useful for wedding photographers (50-70Mb RAW files with no mRAW option!!) but fantastic low ISO dynamic range and decent high ISO performance. If you shoot JPEG, the file size isn’t so much of an issue. D810 offers a higher continuous shooting speed, which is benefit.
  • Nikon D4 and D4S: A combination of 16MP, great low ISO DR and great high ISO performance. Rather expensive though and more geared towards sports, like the 1dx.

On a general Nikon point, I’ve always found that Nikons tend to white balance towards green by a random amount. While some way like this look, I personally don’t. Cleaning this up in post costs me time and therefore money. It’s one of the reasons I’ve preferred Canon to Nikon.

Conclusion

Every camera has it’s pros and cons and the 5diii is no exception:

Pros, in order of importance to me

  • Dual card slots to backup image files
  • Class leading auto focus system
  • Clean high ISO (ISO6400 and maybe ISO8000 is very usable)
  • Silent shutter option
  • 22MP is just the right resolution
  • Improved weather sealing

Cons, in order of importance to me

  • Inability to see the red flash in the viewfinder in bright light (but there is a workaround) and inability to see the dark focus point against dark objects (for which there is no current workaround, but Canon are aware of). This really is the only serious issue and it should never have happened.
  • The auto ISO options are too limited – EC in Manual and options to choose any shutter speed and third stop ISOs are essential (this is only important if you’re going to use Auto ISO, but I recommend you give it a try…)
  • The lower speed SD card slot (only an issue if you shoot large bursts and especially if you want to shoot RAW to one card and JPEG to the other)
  • Poor quality deep shadows (only an issue if you push shadows more than 2 stops regularly to increase dynamic range)

On the whole it’s an amazing update which addresses the improvements that events photographers wanted to see from the 5dii. I personally believe this is the best overall wedding camera on the market today – it’s nearly the perfect combination of the right features at the right price.

While the 5dii had a fairly significant issue – the focus system – the 5diii only has minor issues and it has matured significantly because of it. On the price point, the 5diii is probably a little expensive, but you can buy two 5diii’s for not much more than a 1dx or d4. This makes it a very attractive option for a wedding photographer who is likely to upgrade again in 3 years.

Sample 5diii images from a real wedding

I can confidently say that some of the images in this selection could not have been taken by the 5dii without extra focus help..

Beautiful colours and subtle tones

 

Spot on focussing with the outer focus points

 

Even with a thin DOF, the focussing on the hand is perfect

 

The focussing is fast enough to capture a fleeting smirk

 

… and to capture an unexpected hand shake

 

Coupled with the Canon 135f2 lens, the camera can produce beautiful photos

 

And focussing with the outer focus points means razor sharp images

 

At f5.6 this shot is incredible sharp

 

Another very quick capture that the focussing system kept up with in low light

 

Accuracy of focussing through this mirror is fantastic

 

ISO8000!

 

Auto ISO at work. I was moving around and found that Auto ISO gave me the ability to react quickly

 

Low light focussing on the dance floor

 

On a 5dii this kind of shot would have required a focus assist lamp

 

A new take on dance shots courtesy of the super accurate focussing

 

And another superb dance floor capture

Those beautiful lenses…

As a final point, the key Canon prime lenses (24L, 35L, 50L, 85L and 135L) are revered for their quality and the beauty of the images they produce. Only a Canon camera can use these and they are a constant reminder to me that, while a camera body is important, the lenses are equal or more so. They are a large reason I shoot Canon and will continue to do so.

Image shot on 5dii using 50mm 1.2 L

comments 11

read comments

  1. Reply

    I’m still not convinced that this justifies the price tag it has; it just doesn’t deliver (for me anyway) the extra value for the price.

    I love my 5Dii’s so I’ll be sticking with those for now.

    Andrew

    http://www.newport-wedding-photography.co.uk

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      I think it’s a fairly common view. However, for me and for my business, it’s just the right tool – it’s basically a mini 1dx… and that was justification enough for me 🙂

  2. Niel Stewart nielstewart.co.uk
    Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve also passed the focus ligh issue back to canon – lets hope their listening. I’ve shot a few weddings on the 5DIII now and I’m very impressed.

    I also agree on the lenses front although I favour the 85 1.2 over the 50.

    All in all it’s very competent. The 600ex-rt are very good and seem to be reliable wirelessly.

    Just can’t wait for the grip for the 5DIII now!

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      Yes! They can’t bring the grip out quick enough! I hear it’s delayed again 🙁 🙁 🙁

  3. Martin Roe lenzflair.co.uk
    Reply

    Fabulous and very useful review, Much appreciated. Definitely on my wish list, I love the 5d and the 5dii, but i’vd always suffered from uncertainty with focus, skin tones are streets ahead of anything else however. THank god this is here, I would have defected to Nikon otherwise!

  4. Reply

    I like this camera over the 5dII for one reason, the improved focusing. However, they should fix the focus points so they are visible in all situations. Just make it red and stay lighted up like the 1 series do.

    Thank you for the review, very well done.

  5. phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk
    Reply

    I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a little difficult to understand how they got to this situation. Very odd..

    It’s shame because they tarnished an otherwise amazing camera…

  6. Samchoo
    Reply

    hi Phil, Thanks for the review.
    Many I ask you a question of the 50L and 24-70L?
    I love these lens but I am also quite disturbed by the focus shift they had. I hear Canon fix this in 5D3(even without microadjustmen). May I know you experience on this? Thanks a lot!
    Sam

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      Hi Sam,
      My experience so far is that nothing has changed, but that doesn’t mean that nothing HAS changed – what is it you’ve heard and from where? It’s the first I’ve heard of this. My 24-70 and 50L were adjusted to suit my 5d2 so they’ve always been great..
      Phil

  7. Neil Bowler neilbowler.com
    Reply

    Great review Phil, enjoyed reading over that even though I’m Nikon.

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      Thank you! The whole Nikon vs. Canon stuff is a bit silly. It’s not VS – it’s tool for the job! And realistically both cameras are good enough for 95% of photographers needs anyway..

leave a comment

It’s very important for a photographer to have control of their image, especially when shooting RAW. I was therefore very interested in the new highlights and whites sliders within Lightroom 4 beta .. but I wasn’t really ready for what they were going to let me do.

Recover maximum highlight detail with Lightroom 4

It’s my goal as a RAW photographer to use as much of the sensor as possible in a single capture in some cases. The Fill Light and Highlight Recovery tools in Lightroom 3 allowed me to do that to some extent, but I was always aware there was more sensor data which I just didn’t have access to.

Well, now I do.

Take a look at the images below showing original images, images processed using Highlight Recovery in Lightroom 3 and the new Highlights and Whites sliders in Lightroom 4 Beta. I know you don’t always want to get this amount of detail back and sometimes “blooming” light in the distance can make a photograph, but having the choice is incredible.

On to the photos…

This first photo shows a lit curtain behind a bride. I was aware that I must get the exposure right for the skin tones so couldn’t worry too much about the background. I’m amazed at how much detail Lightroom 4 beta has pulled back into the scene. Zoomed in, I can see a lot of the details of the folds in the curtain which I just can’t see in the Lightroom 3 render.

This second photo shows a scene which was captured as a silhouette. I was aware that the majority of the sky would be in range of the sensor and pulling some of the detail back in Lightroom 3 shows this. However, look how much further you can go with Lightroom 4 beta!

Finally, this is a shot of Concordes nose. Again, I had to make an exposure decision and concentrated on the people to the right (which are cropped off this test image). Even with the highlight recovery slider on full, Lightroom 3 does not manage to fully recover the highlights. However, Lightroom 4 beta creates smooth transitions between the highlights and the midtones, to render an image which is not overexposed anywhere.

Any problems?

Well, the only problem I can see so far is that pulling a lot of highlight detail back does tend to make Chromatic Abberation show up more, which is a shame. As with anything, you can also use the new tools too much, rendering the image unusual looking.

Conclusion

I’ve known for some time that the highlight recovery slider in Lightroom 3 left a lot of the captured data unattainable. However Lightroom 4 solves that problem. Used effective it can be a fantastic new tool in the photographers arsenal, allowing the full range of your cameras sensor to be used and producing a more HDR type effect from a single image.

Roll on higher usable dynamic range!

Capture One Pro 6

I was asked to compare this with Capture One. Here’s a render of the same scene as the first image with highlight and shadow sliders both set to full..

What do you think?

Leave a comment…

comments 8

read comments

  1. Reply

    Great review Phil, I’ve done a few experiments and it really is a great step forward. Do you find the new CA correction has improved? Have a look at a few sunny day wedding dress/Dark suited groom pictures. It does a really good job and the new Black slider has some subtlety too. Also Church windows respond well to the highlight slider.
    All best Si

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      It does an amazing job of pulling the original highlights right back into range and not affecting the rest of the image too much. Impressive.

      So far the CA removal tool doesn’t look like it’s done a massive amount for me, but I’ve not looked in detail.

  2. Reply

    Very interesting blog

    I downloaded the beta yesterday after being very very happy with using LR3 i didnt really expect the little changes to be so good-im an interior photographer and today did extensive testing on the highlights slider….. it is very good. My only gripe so far is that the previous “fill in” slider seemed to work alot better for what i do the the “whites”…..oh and the white/balance control on the adjustment brush is also a pretty awesome tool to have in ones armoury-just washed some unavoidable colour casting away today!

    Be interesting to see the update price?!

    Regards
    James

  3. Gary Derbridge gdphotographer.co.uk
    Reply

    Great review Phil, very interesting read!

  4. Steve Hargreaves smhphotography.co.uk
    Reply

    Great review and examples, will be interesting to see the final product when it is launched and how all my old LR3 presets work (or don’t) with LR4

  5. John Starns johnstarns.com
    Reply

    Very interesting thank you; a significant leap forward. Am I right in thinking that LR3 presets are not transferable to 4?

    John Starns

  6. Sharon Mallinson symplyphotography.co.uk
    Reply

    Interesting comparisons – off to experiment now! Thank you you

  7. Kelly Michelle soundkicks.com
    Reply

    I am not a photographer but i like to use my canon to take photos. Your review is very educating. Thank you for sharing Phil

leave a comment

The latest version of my favourite RAW processing software, Adobe Lightroom 4, has just been released in Beta.

New features in Lightroom 4 Beta

The major new features are:

  • A new highlight and shadow tool which work differently to the previous tools. The exposure function has been changed too to accommodate the new tools..
  • Photo book creation which allows you to make a pdf book, or upload straight to Blurb. A number of templates are included.
  • White balance local editing, which has been asked for a lot recently and certainly is something which I will appreciated for multiple white balance photographs. Also, noise reduction and moire local editing.
  • More video support
  • The clarity slider is better at preventing halo effects.
  • Soft proofing, which allows you to see how your pictures will look when they are finally printed. This has been another long requested feature.
  • … and a few other bits and pieces.
It’s likely that this will not be the full list of enhancements in the full version of LR4. It will reflect the tools which Adobe would like feedback on.

Why do I use Lightroom?

What is it about Adobe Lightroom that I like so much?

Well, fundamentally it allows me to give couples the hundreds of professional edited photos that I do, even considering the perfectionist that I am since it simplifies many of the jobs that would be difficult with other RAW development programs.

Go Adobe 🙂

 

comments 0

read comments

leave a comment

Canon released their latest addition to the professional end of the market – the Canon 1D X.

Here’s a low down:

  • Weather sealed
  • 18 mega pixels
    This is the surprise for many people since it’s “low”, but it’s the quality of those pixels which is important. High ISO photography will be fantastic, as will dynamic range.
  • 12fps
    12 frames per second will allow for fantastic “confetti” shots!
  • Shutter rated for 400,000 cycles
  • X Sync speed of 1/250th
    This is the same as previous 1D cameras
  • 61 point AF points, with 41 cross-type points
    Cross-type points are important for the highest accuracy focussing. Canon 1 series cameras are known for fantastic focussing and this is expected to be too.
  • Dual Digic 5+
    These faster than ever image processors will allow for a greater data throughput and some funky stuff like chromatic abberation reduction in camera.
  • 100,000 pixel metering sensor!
    In a first, the metering system will feature 100,000 pixels for the most accurate exposure ever.
  • HD video support up to 1080p
  • Gigabit networking
  • Twin Compact Flash cards
    By using two cards, your photos will be backed up in camera. A fantastic option.
  •  Several other interesting options, such as auto focus tracking.

Canon are very proud of the EOS range of digital cameras and this latest entry shows they have been listening to professionals who demand the most from the cameras.

Read more in Rob Galbraiths article.

comments 0

read comments

leave a comment

Colour checker passport tungsten church

Colour checker passport can improve colours in the strongest yellow Church light

Today’s article for photographers is on the important subject of …. colour! Everyone has colour and, since photographers have been able to use colour film, they have found better and better techniques for producing accurate colour.

However, something has gone wrong in the land of digital. Photographers are no longer pushing the quality of their colours and are often happy with the default colours that come out of their raw processor, not realising that there’s a whole world of beautiful and correct colour out there!

Colour checker passport

What is a colour checker passport and how does it relate to wedding photography?

Well, it’s a device which has a set of known colours printed on it. If you take a  photograph under unusual lighting (or natural lighting), you can use it to build a profile for your camera to use in Adobe Lightroom which will correct for colours which would often look poor. I’m not going to go into the technical details, but producing a profile will significantly increase your colour accuracy…. and the best thing is it will cost you only a few minutes of your time.

A colour checker passport really is incredibly useful to wedding photographers since we have to work in the most unusual and mixed lighting conditions and there’s no time to relight the whole scene. It’s one of the tools I wouldn’t leave home without.

Colour accuracy and white balance

See the photograph above. On the left is the original file which is using auto white balance. In the middle you can see a photograph with the colours corrected using white balance only. It does look better.

Many photographers think that once you correct for white balance, that’s it – job done – colours are correct! Well, white balance does what it says – it corrects white. It doesn’t correct blue, or red, or green, or yellow and so on. This is where the colour checker passport excels. See the image on right hand side. That is white balance corrected AND created using a profile from the colour checker passport photo taken on the day.

What colour!!!

So… I recommend you all go out and buy a colour checker passport and lightroom. It will give you the best colours possible.

Build your photography business

If you’re looking for photography training, sign up at my photography training page. Learn about SEO, online marketing, sales, pricing and other key information for any business.

comments 3

read comments

  1. Reply

    Great article Phil, so many photographers struggle with colour and yet it is so easy to get right. Sodium lamps in churches and other gappy light sources cannot be corrected with the white balance dropper on its own as you demonstrate above so clearly.
    Hope you are well

    Si

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      Thanks Si. Great colour is there for everyone – we just need to make people aware of the options 🙂

  2. Reply

    Love this article. Thanks for posting 🙂

leave a comment

When you first start wedding photography the first skill you need to master is … accurate exposure quicker than you ever thought was possible!

Wedding photography isn’t like other photography disciplines. You don’t have 1 minute to setup your shot. You need to get it just right, and get it right NOW!

So you’d better know how it works and how to correct it if you don’t get it right.

This article talking about exposure, exposure compensation, manual mode and aperture priority, histograms, accuracy of exposures – the lot! So take a read through and see whether your current methods are the most effective for your shooting style.

What is correct exposure?

Firstly, a myth to dispel – there’s no such thing as correct exposure, whereas there is a clear correct answer to 1+1, which equals 2. You, the photographer, choose the correct exposure to show what you’d like to show. So, as long as it’s how you wanted it when you envisaged a shot, then it’s a job well done!

You can quite clearly justify that any of these exposures are perfectly correct for the photograph below.

Any of these exposures are "correct" depending on what the photographers vision was

Any of these exposures are “correct” depending on what the photographers vision was

That said, it’s clear to customers and other photographers if your exposure was a mistake caused by inexperience. For example, a silhouette with some bright scenery in the background makes sense, but if everything in the shot is black or white, you probably just got it wrong.

How accurate do exposures need to be?

10 years ago camera sensors were not anywhere near like the quality they are today and photographers would say “you need to exposure to the right (ETTR)”. This meant keeping the photograph in the brighter part of the histogram. This was due to the shadows being particularly poor quality.

So, if you brightened the photo because you’d underexposed, you’d see lots of horrible grain.

low-iso-dynamic-range-fuji-xt1

Fuji XT-1 photo brightened by 2 stops

With modern camera sensors, RAW mode and effective noise reduction, this is becoming less and less important. Yes, you can get the most quality from your sensor by exposing to the right or certainly getting your exposure bang on.

Today, though, the latitude you have with a modern sensor in post-production when shooting RAW at ISO100 means that you can happily brighten the scene one to two stops.

With some sensors, you can even push the exposure by 4-5 stops (typically Sony and Nikon) and you’ll still have a very usable file! As you increase ISO to ISO3200 and beyond, you’ll want to be more and more correct with your exposures though – at those ISO’s I wouldn’t like to brighten the shot by more than a half to one stop.

Darkening your overexposed shots isn’t such an issue as long as nothing is “blown out”, meaning that the highlights aren’t so bright that they weren’t recorded. Generally in RAW you can darken a shot about 1 to 1.5 stops before you start to notice this happen, although bright clouds might become completely white.

How accurate are my own exposures?

So how accurate am I? Well, I’m pretty accurate. Over 90% of my photos are within 1 stop of where I wanted them to be and 70% are within one third of a stop of where I wanted them.

You can see details of this in the graph below, which shows the amount of exposure adjustment I made in Lightroom across several weddings. Some of the photos which required a larger brightening in post will have been images I was trying to hold onto very bright highlights for, such as white clouds.

exposure-changes-post-production

What about photos which have a wide dynamic range, which means a photo which has a significantly dark shadows and bright highlights in one photo? Well, modern cameras cope with this situation much better than they used to, as shown by the Fuji photo above. More and more often photographers are capturing very wide dynamic ranges, such as sunsets without using flash, and pushing the shadows in post-production.

I expect this trend to continue and for photographers to have to be correct with their exposures less and less.. but that doesn’t mean it’s an outdated skill.

What affects exposure? A recap..

Think of exposure (or Ev) as “brightness”. You turn the brightness up on your TV and everything gets more luminescent. Exposure is the same. Three elements control the exposure: aperture, shutter speed & ISO.

Any one of these has the ability to brighten or darken the exposure. Increasing your aperture number (a narrower aperture), increasing the shutter speed or reducing the ISO will all darken the photograph.

exposure-aperture-shutter-speed-iso

Which one you should use to brighten or darken a photo depends on a number of conditions. For example, if you are shooting at f5.6, 1/60th, ISO3200, I would suggest moving to f4 or f2.8 to brighten the shot since a slower shutter speed if likely to produce a shaky shot and a higher ISO will produce more grain.

If on the other hand you’re shooting at f2.8, 1/4000th, ISO100, I’d brighten the shot by reducing the shutter speed to 1/2000th or 1/1000th since there is likely to be no reduction in quality.

What camera modes should I use?

You have four key camera modes to choose from:

  • Aperture priority mode
  • Manual mode
  • Program mode
  • Shutter priority mode
Shutter priority is mainly for sports and generally doesn’t get a lot of use at weddings and program mode can take too much control away from you if you don’t know how to use it, but aperture priority and manual mode both are very effective at weddings .. if you understand them … and many photographers don’t!

I use aperture priority for 40-50% and manual for 50-60% of the photos I take on a wedding day.

Manual mode

I would say every wedding photographer should understand how to use manual mode. Some don’t, but really they should.

With manual mode you’re telling the camera exactly what settings to use – and it will use those settings no matter what. If you mess up, you mess up and it’s all on you.

When is manual mode most useful?

I tend to use manual mode when the exposure isn’t going to change a lot from shot to shot, when I need exact control and also when the background illumination will change significantly. So, the following sections of my wedding day are usually shot in manual:

  • Wedding ceremony
  • Group photos (if the light is constant)
  • Speeches
  • First dance
  • Whenever I’m using on or off camera flash
Examples of photos taken with manual mode

Examples of photos taken with manual mode

Aperture priority mode

With aperture priority, you tell the camera the aperture you want and it chooses the shutter speed to ensure the scene is exposed correctly, according to a set of criteria.

Manual only photographers often misunderstand aperture priority. They think the camera is making decisions. In fact, it’s making no more decisions than when you’re using your camera in manual mode – the two systems are directly equivalent to each other (Mind! Blown!). I’ll explain why a bit later.

When is aperture priority most useful?

Aperture priority is particularly useful when the brightness of each photograph is going to change from the last. So, I tend to use it for the following sections of the day:

  • Bridal preparation
  • Detail shots
  • Group photos (if the light is changing)
  • Guest reportage
  • Couple shots
Examples of photos taken with aperture priority

Examples of photos taken with aperture priority

Metering modes

I’m not going to go into huge detail about all of the metering modes since you can look them up in your camera manual or online.

I run my camera in centre-weighted average metering mode. It’s very predictable and I’m very used to looking at a scene and understanding what the camera metering mode will do.

Other really like spot metering, where only a small amount of the frame is considered and the camera ensures the meter is correct for that spot.

The one to really avoid is “evaluative”, since it really does start to make decisions for you and, as such, the result is not predictable. It’s good for amateurs, but a professional photographer needs something they can understand and predict.

When you take a photograph, the camera is trying to ensure the metering system (which is biased towards the centre of the frame with centre-weighted average) is 18% grey on average. So, if you take a photo of something which is white, it’ll make it 18% grey. Similarly, if you take a photo of something black, it’ll make it 18% grey.

18%-grey

(note there is some disagreement on whether it’s 18% grey or 13% grey or something inbetween, but this is irrelevant to this discussion)

Well, that doesn’t sound very good does it?

Exposure compensation in aperture priority

Your camera manufacturer was clever enough to realise that not all scenes are 18% grey and they gave you the ability to tell the camera that a scene is brighter or darker than 18% grey and that it should adjust accordingly.

When you’re evaluating the exposure compensation required for a scene, you need to average all of the relative brightnesses in that scene.

If you’re photographing in a ceremony room towards a bright window, the exposure compensation needed might be +3 or +4 stops.

If you’re photographing a scene outdoors at night and most of it is pretty dark, the exposure compensation might need to be -2 or -3 stops. If your frame is filled with a dark suit, your exposure compensation might need to be -2 or -3 stops. You need to play around with your camera to get used to this but, once you get used to it, it’s very quick.

When you’ve decided what exposure compensation to use, you need to dial that into your camera when using aperture priority.

Calculating exposure compensation

Sadly, the camera doesn’t tell you the correct exposure compensation because it doesn’t understand what it’s looking at. You look at a black rug and say “it’s a black rug”. The camera doesn’t get that it’s black at all. For all it knows, it might be a white rug.

Therefore, you need to do the maths in your head.

centre-weighted-average

I took a wedding photograph and blurred it using Gaussian Blur with a very large pixel count and turned it black and white. This gives me an idea of what the camera “sees” when it’s calculating the brightness of a scene (metering).

When calculating the exposure compensation needed for a photograph I’m doing this calculation in my mind very quickly and adjusting the exposure compensation so I’m close enough; I’m happy if I’m 1/2 stop out, either way.

This scene above would require +2/3 stop exposure compensation, I suspect, due to the bright sky. If the sky wasn’t included, it would probably average at pretty much exactly 18% grey. I’m normally aiming to get the skin tones to be about the right brightness.

exposure-compensation-explained

The scene above would require about -1 stop exposure compensation I suspect since a large amount of the frame is dark, although the centre is a bit brighter which lifts the centre-weighted average a bit.

exposure-compensation-window-back-light

Windows are a law unto themselves when considering exposure compensation. The outside can be 4 or 5 stops brighter than the room you are in, so I’ve darkened this scene down in the right hand side to simulate this but kept the windows very bright.

Two moderate sized windows in this scene could mean a +2 to +3 stop exposure compensation for the scene above to receive the exposure you see in the final photo on the left.

exposure-compensation-bright-white

And finally, a bright table scene. Obviously most of this scene above is very bright, so I would expect this to average at +1 2/3 stops exposure compensation.

When you hear photographers complain online “my camera underexposes”, you can bet they actually don’t understand exposure compensation!

I find that an average scene with my canon 5d3 is often +2/3 stops – that’s usually my starting point – but a wide angle shot including a bright grey sky might need around +1 1/3 stops depending on how much of the photograph is sky and that tends to trip people up (a white cloudy sky is very bright you see!)

Metering in manual mode

We’ve talked about metering in aperture priority .. how about manual?

I explained above that manual and aperture priority are directly equivalent to each other .. and this is nearly true. When a photographer is using manual mode, they are either:

  • Guessing the exposure and “chimping“.
  • Using a lightmeter.
  • Using the meter inside the camera.

If they are guessing the exposure and chimping, they are not doing anything more than aperture priority photographers would do when trying to guess the exposure compensation to use and chimping.

camera-meter-manual-mode

If they’re using a lightmeter and reading the incident reading … well pretty much no one would use a lightmeter at a wedding these days, but if they are then they are doing something completely different.

If, as most will be doing, they’re using the meter inside the camera, they’re manually doing exactly what the computer inside the camera is doing when using aperture priority.

They will be changing the shutter speed (and ISO and aperture if they want to) in order to get the meter (marked in red in the diagram) to the value which they believe is correct for that scene. This uses the same metering they would be using if shooting aperture priority.

So, really, when photographing in manual mode, photographers are doing the same as the computer in aperture priority, except it’s taking longer for them to twizzle the dials to reach the correct exposure!

Yes, the camera is making some decisions about a sensible shutter speed, but unless you’re trying to capture something odd, you’re probably making the same decisions that it would, and you can set the minimum shutter speed in cameras these days anyway.

You remember the scene above which was of the table, which was mostly white cloths? Well, to shoot that in manual you’d choose your aperture (f1.8 in this case), then set your shutter speed to say 1/80th and then change the ISO until the meter showed +1 2/3.

In aperture priority you’d set the exposure compensation to +1 2/3, set aperture to f1.8 and shoot. Much quicker.

To look at it in a more mathematical way, imagine this formula:

EV (brightness) = SHUTTERSPEED * ISO * APERTURE

Now, it doesn’t work quite like this, but it serves a purpose to demonstrate a point.

With manual mode, you are specifying SHUTTERSPEED, ISO and APERTURE and you receive EV out of the formula.

With aperture priority, you are specifying EV (using exposure compensation and your cameras meter) and APERTURE and the camera is deciding on SHUTTERSPEED, depending on what you tell it you would like to keep as the minimum shutter speed. It might also be in control of ISO, if using Auto ISO, and you’d be telling it what to use as the maximum ISO.

Really, they are the same in many ways.

Choosing between manual or aperture priority

Now you know more about manual and aperture priority, and you’ve seen aperture priority is quicker, why bother using manual mode at all? Well, as I explained above, manual mode is particularly good for when using a flash or when the light is not changing much.

Aperture priority can definitely get you into trouble if used wrongly.

The most obvious example of manual being a better mode to use is in a church when zooming in and out and moving around; the average brightness of the scene can be changing wildly so, if using aperture priority, you’d have to be changing the exposure compensation all of the time. In manual mode you wouldn’t need to do this because the brightness on the couple is (probably) changing very little.

However, let’s say that a bride is walking down the aisle and there are bright spots from a window. In this case, aperture priority will be the better choice since it will change the exposure depending on whether she is walking through one of the bright patched. In manual mode you’d have to choose either to exposure for either the bright bits or the dark bits.

That’s why, when I’m asked whether I use manual or aperture priority, I always say I use both in the right situations. I don’t favour either. I believe this makes me a faster and more flexible photographer.

Auto ISO at a wedding

I’ve avoided talking about Auto ISO so far. It’s the new kid on the block when considering wedding photography exposure options .. but I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said it has changed my life!

OK I probably am exaggerating a bit, but really it has significantly changed how I shoot.

When I’m in manual mode, I do everything in manual. However, in aperture priority I’m virtually always in auto ISO mode. This speeds up my shooting no end and means it’s impossible for me to forget to change the ISO.

Why? Isn’t this letting the camera make decisions?

Yes – but the auto ISO system is making exactly the same decisions I would make using exactly the same criteria as I’d be using if I was doing it manually.

It’s trying to keep ISO as low as possible and shutter speed over a minimum which I set, while keeping my aperture where I choose for it to be and brightness of the scene correct for the exposure compensation dialed in. This is exactly what I’d be doing if I was using manual mode.

I can’t recommend auto ISO highly enough and if you’ve not played with it because you can’t yet give up control, auto ISO will probably improve the quality of your photographs, not reduce them, because if you’re always changing ISO you might sometimes be leaving it too high; auto ISO will never do that.

The acid test

I’m of the opinion that, if you can’t tell whether a photograph was shot in manual or aperture priority and with auto ISO on or off, there is no reason to discount any of those options entirely .. except your own personal bias or shooting style.

Here are photos taken with a mixture of aperture priority and manual mode. Can you tell which is which?

Here are photos taken with a mixture of aperture priority and manual mode with auto ISO on and off. Can you tell which is which?

Go to my homepage and look through my main gallery – there will be photographs taken with all of those options. You won’t be able to tell.

Personal bias is fine. If you like shooting a certain way, that’s fine. However, by not using all camera options available to you, be aware you are losing something no matter how fervently you believe your option is the best.

What about histograms?

Good question! I mentioned the histogram above, but what is it?

The histogram shows you how much of each brightness is in your image. In theory, if you make sure that there’s not a huge spike in the darkest or the lightest bit of the histogram, you have a correctly exposed image.

camera-histogram

Camera histogram showing exposure

However, that in itself is a false view because you could have an image which is meant to be incredibly dark – mostly black in fact. The histogram would look like all of the image was in the shadow area and you might therefore want to brighten it if you only look at the histogram. This would be incorrect.

I guess a histogram, like everything, is useful if you understand it. The problem I have with a histogram is that it’s perfectly possible – as with most exposure tools used wrongly – to get it completely wrong. Histograms can present a view which really tells you nothing.

And the big problem is that a histogram can’t tell you where the skin tones you care about are, in terms of brightness.

(although I believe Nikons allow you to zoom in and see the histogram for just a small section of the image, which is useful).

This means that you have no idea by using the histogram alone whether the skin tones are correctly placed in the brightness scale.

It’s also important to be aware that the histogram only shows you the brightness levels from the JPEG, which will be missing several stops of dynamic range in the brightest and darkest part of a RAW file.

In the end, a histogram is definitely useful in some circumstances – especially so in bright sunshine where the LCD might become ineffective – but I prefer to rely on the LCD screen on the whole. A histogram will give you some information, but you need to interpret it with your mind, much like you do when calculating exposure compensation.

If it’s your thing, and it works, and you end up with correct exposures – go with it!

What next then?

You need to practice. Photograph everything. Photograph initially in manual, and then move to aperture priority. Try auto ISO.

Photograph plain walls and dark rugs and scenes with windows and scenes without. Photograph bookcases. Photograph pets and friends. Photograph inside and then go outside and take another correctly exposed photo as quickly as possible. Get used to taking photos really quickly and finding out which mode works best.

But do all of this before you are at a wedding.

After a few days of playing, you’ll know how you cameras metering system and modes work and that’s it – job done.

Good luck!

Free newsletter!

Sign up for my free newsletter on photography and business.

comments 9

read comments

  1. Reply

    really interesting post….being relatively new to weddings exposure is something that i always find a challenge…the changes in light levels across the course of the wedding is vast…i do have a tendency to try and get the shot then deal with it PP (RAW). I have found that im getting better and im starting to recall settings for certain situations…i also use a pen and pad to record any difficult settings when i arrive early pre wedding….its a challenge but id do love a challenge!!!

    Lovely shots by the way.

    take care

    Dan

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      Thanks for the comment Dan 🙂 Glad you found it useful. It’ll get easier, I promise!

  2. Christine
    Reply

    I’m a wedding photographer and we do things a little different. We shoot iso 400 inside and out, always with an flash on a bracket. We take the reading in shutter priority then put the numbers in manual. Of course we changed this up when needed but these are our go to settings. I’m the second shooter who is being trained by a photographer who has shot over 3500 weddings. He is and amazing photographer who I kept bugging until he gave me a job. I hope this helps.

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      We do indeed do things very differently. I’m glad you’ve managed to find a system which suits you 🙂

  3. phil sherratt
    Reply

    Hi phil found this very useful i will take your advice and set my self a challenge to practise, love how in your shots that the skin tone are lovely and sharp you really make your brides glow this blog as made me to understand exposure a bit more easer im farely new like dan to weddings, i have also been practising with custom white balance do you do any of this is your weddings ? when would you recomend to use this ? many thanks for this blog been really use full

  4. phil sherratt
    Reply

    Hi phil found this very useful i will take your advice and set my self a challenge to practise, love how in your shots that the skin tone are lovely and sharp you really make your brides glow this blog as made me to understand exposure a bit more easer im farely new like dan to weddings, i have also been practising with custom white balance do you do any of this is your weddings ? when would you recomend to use this ? many thanks for this blog been really use full

  5. Reply

    Great read Phil, I was just chatting to somebody who doesn’t know a lot about photography so will share this post. I would point out also what you are exposing for, which is of course the subject and in wedding photography it is (mainly)the bride. I normally expose for the brides dress and everything else falls into place. There are times where I would use spot metering too. Thanks for taking the time to write it all out and share it.

  6. Reply

    Thanks for the message! I’m glad you liked it!

  7. Reply

    Awesome article, Ive been in two minds lately as to whether to give manual a try to help make my images more consistent and I think both aperture priority and manual mode are the way forward! I would have thought shooting bridal prep in manual mode would have been better though because there isnt a great deal of movement?

leave a comment

Free newsletter!

Sign up for my free newsletter on photography and business.

On with the lenses..

You might also be interested in the article on Zooms vs. Primes.

I’m often asked what the best lens is for wedding photography. Unfortunately it’s a very complex question with no clear answer, and I can only really advice on how I use lenses at weddings.

The 24-70 f2.8 II is Canon’s finest day. Coming from the version 1 of that lens, which I largely hated to shoot, they produced a class-leading lens which is nearly as sharp at f2.8 as it is at f7.1

Balancing a kit bag with lenses can be a difficult process. There are those who say keep it lean and mean and there are those who take everything they can. I’m in the latter category. To start things off, let’s look at which lenses I use most at weddings.

amount-lenses-used-at-wedding

 

As you can see, the 24-70 f2.8 II and 50 f1.2L dominate, resulting in around 65% of the photos taken on a weddings day! Yes, they’re both expensive lenses, but clearly I get value for money out of them.

Individual lens reviews

Canon 24-70 f2.8 II

The 24-70 f2.8 II is Canon’s finest day. Coming from the version 1 of that lens, which I largely hated to shoot, they produced a class-leading lens which is nearly as sharp at f2.8 as it is at f7.1 (where it’s sharpness is at a maximum). In addition, it’s the most accurate focusing lens in my bag. Expensive? Yes, but justified. I shoot a little bit of everthing with this lens. It’s incredibly versatile.

See sample images from 24-70 f2.8 II

canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-2 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-3 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-4 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-5 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-6 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-7 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-8 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-9 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-10 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1-11 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii (1 of 1) canon-24-70-f2.8-ii (1 of 1)-3 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii (1 of 1)-4 canon-24-70-f2.8-ii-1

Canon 50mm f1.2L

The Canon 50mm 1.2 is a fairly old lens now and due for an upgrade. However, there’s something about the photos it produces – they just look amazing! I’ve written a long term review of the 50mm f1.2L, so find out in more detail what my thoughts are. I use it for reportage, couple shots and detail shots mostly.

See sample images from 50mm 1.2L

canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-3 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-4 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-5 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-6 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-8 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-9 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-10 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-11 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-13 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-14 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-15 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-16 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-17 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-18 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-19 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-20 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-21 canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1) canon-50mm-f1.2-L (1 of 1)-2

Canon 85mm 1.8

The 85mm 1.8 is my best bang-for-buck lens and my only non L lens. It’s actually very good quality from f2.0 and much faster to focus and lighter than the 85 1.2L (which is amazing quality by the way!). I use it mostly as a reportage and couple lens.

See sample images from 85mm 1.8

canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-15 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1) canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-2 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-3 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-4 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-5 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-6 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-7 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-8 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-9 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-10 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-11 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-12 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-13 canon-85mm-f1.8 (1 of 1)-14

Canon 70-200 f4L IS

I don’t particularly love the “long lens” look that’s popular with 70-200 shooters. However, I accept I need a long lens for when I’m at the back of the church, so I chose the f4 version, which is lighter and cheaper, but still good quality. The days are gone where I need only f2.8 or faster lenses due to the increased quality of cameras at high ISO. The 70-200 f2.8L IS II is exceptional in every way of course. I will do some couple shots with this lens, but mostly it sits in my bag unless I’m fairly distant from a ceremony.

Canon 100mm macro f2.8 L IS

I use the 100mm macro in two ways; as an exceptional portrait lens and a macro lens rolled into one. You can use extension tubes instead of having a dedicated macro lens, but they are a pain to use and the 100mm gives me two different types of shot.

Canon 35 f1.4L

The 35 f1.4L is the one lens I could quite happily do without except, having bought and paid a lot of money for it, there doesn’t seem much point. I do use it in certain circumstances, most notably when there’s not enough room for me to use the 50L. However, it’s also extremely accurate at focusing on moving subjects in low light. I know others who love the field of view from this lens, but it’s just a bit too wide for me.

Canon 16-35 f4L IS

I didn’t particularly like the 17-40 f4 or the 16-35 f2.8L – both were not fantastic quality optics. However, the new 16-35 f4L IS really is fantastic quality, edge to edge. Again, I don’t particularly need it to be an f2.8 lens. Image Stabilisation is useful in some circumstances, but weddings are about people moving, so I tend to only make use of it when taking photos of, say, the whole wedding breakfast room. I use this to shoot overall wide angles of details and for some wides during the ceremony and for particularly wide angle shots of venues.

Canon 15mm f2.8 fisheye

And lastly, the 15mm f2.8 fisheye. I use it at pretty much every wedding for just a few key shots showing a really wide view of the action that’s happening on the dance floor, or at dinner. You can’t buy this lens any more. If it broke would I replace it? Probably not.

I have a pretty large bag (clearly) but most importantly I have a think-tank lens belt with 3 compartments. With the lens on my camera, that allows me to have 4 lenses with me at any point.

What would I recommend?

Given that you can’t (usually) go out and buy every lens day one in your wedding photography business, I’ve put together a few thoughts on how you might progress and also a list of primes I’d recommend, if you’re so inclined.

Starting out – 3 lenses

  • 24-70 f2.8L II
  • 50mm 1.2
  • 100mm macro 2.8L or a 70-200

Everything – 8 lenses (me!)

  • 16-35 f4 L IS
  • 24-70 f2.8 L IS
  • 70-200 f4 L IS (or 70-200 f2.8L II)
  • 15mm f2.8 fisheye
  • 35mm 1.4 L
  • 50mm 1.4 L
  • 85mm 1.8
  • 100mm macro 2.8L

Building – 5 lenses

  • 24-70 f2.8 II
  • 50mm 1.2
  • 70-200 f4 L IS (or 70-200 f2.8L II)
  • 100mm macro 2.8L
  • 85mm 1.8

Prime only shooter

  • 24mm 1.4L
  • 35mm 1.4L
  • 50mm 1.4L
  • 85mm 1.8
  • 100mm macro 2.8L
  • 135 f2L

Carrying and transporting lenses

I’ve had some interesting conversations about taking 8 lenses to a wedding. Firstly, photographers can’t believe I use them all. As you can see above, I really do.

So the next question is how do I cope?

Well, I have a pretty large bag (clearly) which has wheels, but most importantly I have a think-tank lens belt with 3 compartments. With the lens on my camera, I have 4 lenses with me at any point.

The Canon 50mm 1.2 is a fairly old lens now and due for an upgrade. However, there’s something about the photos it produces – they just look amazing!

So, for example, during the ceremony I often have the 24-70mm f2.8 II on camera with the 16-35mm, 100mm and 50mm in my belt. The 16-35mm and 100mm will be used during the ceremony, but the 50 is there because I’ll use it after the ceremony for the “couple congratulations!”. Another example is the speeches; where I will have the 35mm, 50mm and 85mm with me. This allows me to shoot at f2 throughout.

Notable lenses which I don’t own

There are some great lenses that I choose not to include in my bag:

  • 70-200mm f2.8L IS f2.8 II. An exceptional lens, in terms of performance, but also heavy and expensive. As it’s a lens I don’t use very much, I settled for the f4.
  • Sigma Art lenses. The darlings of the industry at the moment, I just don’t like their rendering of the scene as much as the Canon lenses, and I find the focus with moving subjects in low light to be less effective. However, are they good? Yes, I’d say definitely so.
  • 85mm f1.2L. The ultimate portrait lens and peerless, but it’s extremely heavy and very slow to focus, so I use the 85mm f1.8 which is surprisingly good.
  • 135mm f2L. An exceptionally sharp and accurate focusing lens which I wanted to love, but the lack of IS really put me off (I needed 1/250th for a stable shot) and I eventually sold it. It just didn’t suit the way I work. Buy it with confidence if you don’t mind the shutter speed.

To finish

It’s oft said in the photography industry that the best lens is the one on your camera.

To be honest, there’s lots of things photographers say that don’t make any sense, and this is up there with the best of them. Lenses and lens choices can make a significantly difference to the look of your photography, so your selection should be taken seriously, as with any area of your photography business.

Do remember though that it’s very easy to buy a lens that an amazing photographer shoots with, but’s much more likely to be the way they interact with the wedding day and the way they use light which makes their work amazing. The lens is there to capture the vision, but the photographer is the one making the decisions.

comments 9

read comments

  1. Sara Callow saracallow.com
    Reply

    Excellent post Phil, thank you,think ill make a few purchases based on this, thanks shall look forward to more like this I’m hopeless at choosing lenses

  2. Gary Derbridge gdphotographer.co.uk
    Reply

    Interesting post Phil!

  3. Maria
    Reply

    Hi!
    Really useful post, love that fact that you outlined and showed examples of each lens 🙂
    Quick question.. I have been looking around for extension tubes but I am confused as to which ones to go for?
    Could you recommend the best ones?
    Thanks 🙂

    • phildweddingphotography.co.uk phildweddingphotography.co.uk

      Hi Maria,
      Glad you like it!

      You need extension tubes that allow the electronic signals to pass through to the lens and back again. Your retailer should be able to help 🙂

  4. Foto Nunta Brasov mariuspavel.ro
    Reply

    Great review – i own two of the lenses – 24-70 and 70-200 mark 2 both. i am thinking of buying an ultra wide lens – like 16-35 f4 IS os the new Tamron 15-30 f2.8 VC – what do you think about that?

  5. Chelsea Louise Haden clhadenwrites.co.uk
    Reply

    Comprehensive post Phil. It all gets a bit confusing with so many lenses on the market! Thanks for helping to clear it up.

  6. Robert Burns
    Reply

    Fantastic post through and through. Extremely helpful post to both my mom and I! We loved it. Thanks for sharing it with me.

leave a comment