This blog is my attempt to keep track of some of the things I learn along the way, with my Canon 7D, G12 and accessories. All images copyright Brad Calkins, not to be used without permission (or purchase). I do not attempt to monetize my blog, other than to promote my stock photo portfolio on Dreamstime.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New lens - 28mm f/1.8

I've been torn up about this lens for a while - there are a lot of mixed reviews on it, and I couldn't find a store that had all the options to test out.  I had tried the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 on a 5D II and liked it.  I found a few cases online where tests showed how it looked on something other than a test chart and it looked good so I ordered one up.  Here are some initial shots.  Focus is spot on (shots at f/2.5).  Wide open it has a dreamy look,  pretty similar to the 50mm f/1.4 in bright light - looks good in low light higher ISO, though.  Outdoors I'd stop down to f/2 or below.  Overall I'm impressed - and much cheaper than the 35mm f/1.4 L :)
And a center crop from the shot above:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Canon 60D and Sony SLT-A55

© Photographer: Bradcalkins | Agency:

In the last week two new cameras have been introduced that are of interest to me.  The first is the Sony SLT-A55.  It is unique in that they have adapted the Pellicle mirror idea from the 60's to modern SLRs to allow the faster phase detection autofocus to be used in movie mode.  Most SLRs flip the mirror out of the way (or have no mirror like my GF1) and use contrast based AF off the sensor.  Fuji makes a unique compact with some trickery up its sleeve with a few modified pixels in the center, but otherwise this is a new solution to the AF during video problem.


1. Fast autofocus during video.
2. Full time view in viewfinder allows eye level video shooting for more stability or in bright light where the screen is hard to see.  No blackout between still photo shots.  Should translate into faster response time after the shutter press, but on a lower priced body I doubt it beats the best.
3. Solves some of the problems with the original Pellicle mirror design: a partially silvered mirror loses light in the viewfinder - with an EVF this can be corrected with more amplification.  Another issue was light leaking in the viewfinder - again no problem with the EVF sealing the body.
4. Potentially much better AF tracking during high fps shooting since the AF sensor has a continuous view.  This could be a really big deal if ever adapted into the high end Canon/Nikon sports bodies.
5. Fewer moving parts.
6. Potentially allows different lens design as the mirror won't hit the rear element (Canon Pellix has two special lenses).


1. No AF when stopped down to f/8 or smaller.  All phase detect camera have that issue, but not it applies to video.  Still - better to have great AF down to f/8 for most users.
2. Mirror is now the dust and grime collector.  I've always been warned not to touch the mirror due to its delicate surface - I wonder how that will play out over time.  No dust reduction on mirror I don't think.  Note that due to the mirror being away from the sensor this should mean dust won't affect the photo in the way that dust in a lens doesn't.  That said, the top of the mirror is close to the sensor...

The 2nd major announcement is the new Canon 60D.  I've been waiting for this to be released to decide what to do - I want more megapixels for stock, but just can't justify a 5D Mk II.  7D is very interesting but I didn't want to spend the extra only to find a similar spec'd 60D.  I don't really see much video shooting for me - I have a GF1 that does a fine job of HD video for my purposes, and it is usually the camera I have with me for family outings when I want to take video.  So that said the 60D announcement is somewhat ho-hum.  The interface on the body is simpler, has SD cards, new grip, new batteries, same AF as the 40D, plastic body, and some of the former button functions are now in the LCD menus.  Flip out screen is nice, but better for video.  No PC Sync cord option.  On the plus side is the same size viewfinder at the 40D, level, flash commander built in, etc.  I'll have to get this in my hands to make any sort of decision.

By the way - what is with 'amateur' cameras having 18MP?  I just can't imagine having lenses that can take advantage of all that for someone on a budget.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Profile your camera

Since I got my GF-1 I've been bothered a bit with trying to get consistent color between it and my DSLR (Canon 40D).  While I don't really expect an exact match, I do find that I like the color on the Canon better, and the Panasonic seems a bit off.  Skin color especially seems tricky to get right with any of the built in presets for white balance and 'film style'.  I tried profiling it in Lightroom today and below is the result.  There is quite a different in the individual color patches and how much more saturated they render now.  Looking forward to doing the same with my SLR and comparing them with some real shots.  First up is the original / default profile, second is profilied from a target...  Decide for yourself :)  Definitely less of a difference on the blog than directly compared in Lightroom.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For those who like 100% crops

I've written reviews on the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens and how I didn't love it wide open.  Live and learn - it is worth bringing up a couple of points about that statement.

The first is that if you buy a lens to shoot wide open and expect perfect results you will need both perfect technique (for focus) AND an expensive lens.  Most primes have some flaws, and shooting wide open in bright sun is usually on that list of flaws.   I've been disappointed by hearing how great a lens it and then getting mixed results when using it.

Here is a perfect example.  This was shot in slightly overcast conditions, at f/1.4.  Note that the grass looks really good.  I did a little contrast boosting to help it out, but really quite good results.  What you notice, though, is the purple line around the white object on the lawn.  I was able to reduce the purple in the second shot, but still pretty obvious.
The crux of the issue is that you really should use your widest aperature for what it was deisgned - lower contrast, lower light shots.  Stop down to f/2 or f/2.8 for wide open bright day stuff.  Looking at the grass right around the center of the frame you'd be hard pressed to say there were any issues.  Bottom line?  Pay attention to how people use a lens before you take their advice - if you only shoot test charts (white/black high contrast) you'll have a poor picture of how the lens with behave in the field.  And hence why so many mixed reviews on lenses are out there.

My Camera Couture

A colleague at work has a family member who has started up a business selling custom and interesting camera straps.  I took a quick look at the site and will surely be getting something to help her out.  Check out her products and accesories at

Monday, August 9, 2010

For the fun of it...

I find that as I get or change equipment over time I use it heavily then go back to the basics for while.  This weekend I thought I would get some shots of a friend's baby, but my kids too.  Rather than do what I've been doing lately I broke out the shoot through umbrella, remote trigger and setup near a leather chair.  In between baby shots I grabbed a few shots of my kids too:
Simple, classic lighting but makes a nice record photo :)