Thursday 4 April 2024

Random Gear Thoughts


Canon EOS R7, RF-S 18-150 IS STM

The photo above is from probably the best midsize walkaround combo I've ever owned. The combo of size, focal length range and effective crop capability of the lens and sensor are superb. Essentially it's a 29-300 in one lens, if I crop to 20mp m43 format for the long end (which is very doable on that sensor as it has the same pixel density as the OM-1). 

The RF-S 18-150 has been a surprising gem, and I've also shot a fair bit of video with it, as I have a non-Photography youtube channel that's been shot exclusively with the R7 since June. I will be testing out the R6 as a B-cam for it, but the R7 will remain the main video camera since it's got somewhat better sorted video controls (Video is NOT on the mode dial, but a position on the power switch, allowing easier switching, although that also means I occasionally accidentally put it in video mode instead of stills. The R6mII's separate and dedicated switch is the best setup of the lot). The close focus and good sharpness of the 18-150 has proved quite useful for my video needs in addition to being a good stills lens.

Don't get me wrong, it's not L glass, but it does punch above its weight as a kit lens and delivers quite acceptable results for the way I use my images. 

Overall the RF system is proving to be a nice mix of capability for me. While not perfect, and definitely lacking in 3rd party AF options, the 1st party native lenses fit my needs pretty well and are IMHO better selected than Nikon's, the mix of bodies is good at the low/mid-range (the weak spot IMHO is the R3, which isn't really competitive vs the A1/A9mIII/Z8/Z9 competition). One very nice aspect is how seamless the EF integration is, it makes using adapted EF lenses extremely seamless. I've done adaptation of AF SLR lenses on Fuji, m43, Nikon and Sony and the only comparable experience was Nikon E lenses on Z (and I found the older mechanical aperture lenses to be less nice to adapt, although generally capable). 

Speaking of L glass, my cheap 70-200L has had a new lease on life on the R6. While it was quite good on the R7, especially if stopped down, it did not wow me. That's largely because a 20-ish year old optical design and the R7's very high pixel density were not a great combo if I was looking for top notch performance. On the much lower density R6 sensor however the 70-200L moves from quite good to excellent and I've gotten a selection of shoots that I am absolutely loving with that combo. 

I also added the RF 24/1.8 IS Macro to my bag, providing a wide angle option for the R6 and a walkabout prime for the R7. It's quite a good lens and I'm liking it so far, although I've not used the macro focusing much yet. I do need an UWA for the R6 though, and will also need to add a second EF to RF adapter so I can run my 10-18 on my R7 and my 70-200L on my R6 at the same time. Probably will go for the control ring version to get that extra control point for the R6/70-200L combo. 

Sunday 10 March 2024

2024 Update and 2023 Review

Canon EOS R6, EF 70-200/2.8L Mk1

It's been a while, usually I post a wrap up and next goals in January. This year life interfered and I was far too busy and focused on non-Photography stuff in December, January and February to update.

I had 3 goals for 2023, and achieved one of them.

The goals were:

1. Take 10,000 images with one camera (Failed)
2. Take 2 major photo outings per quarter (Failed)
3. Get my Fred Miranda Like to Post ratio over 60% (Succeeded at just shy of 62%)

The first was a stretch goal and I'd commented that I'd be happy enough if I got to over 5000 images on the R7, which I did succeed, as I ended the year at 5600 images on the camera. That's been somewhat unusual for me given my low rate of shooting and system switching. Combined with ~2500 on the OM-1, I shot around double the number of images in 2023 as I did in 2022.

The second failed very simply because I was far too busy in Q4 and as a result only had one outing. 

The third succeeded, and in fact I'd hit it by mid-year. 

 So for 2024, what are my goals?

1. Shoot 10,000 images without changing camera systems. 

2. Take 7 major photo outings in the year
3. Get my Fred Miranda Like to Post ratio over 66%

And yes, I still have the R7 and it will continue to see regular use, although it's somewhat been downgraded to my video/second/small body recently as I just added an R6 to my bag. The R6 addresses my main usage complaint with the R7 (AF tracking against busy backgrounds is frustrating) and adds a second body for situations where I don't want to swap lenses. I will need a second EF adapter for the best config, since that would be the EF-S 10-18 on the R7 and the EF 70-200L on the R6, both of which need an adapter. 18-150 on the R7 and 70-200L on the R6 will likely be the standard combo for now.

Regarding gear, I plan to slowly add more FF lenses now that I have an FF body again, I need a flash as well, and also a new tripod as my most used one was in my Jeep when it was stolen last December, which is a large part of why I failed goal 2 for 2023. 

Ideally I'd like to exit 2024 still shooting the R6/R7 combo. That would be something of a record for me, with one camera then being at 18+ months of ownership and the second at 10 months. I do plan on concentrating on glass for now, filling out my system. 

Monday 17 July 2023

Be Careful of Cheaping Out?


Canon R7, EF-S 10-18mm f4.5-5.6 IS STM

Thom Hogan recently wrote an article called Be Careful of Cheaping Out

I read it, and think it's a pretty problematic take on things. He has some valid points, but is starting from some really bad assumptions about both user intent and budget.

He starts off addressing 3rd party batteries. Yes, most of them are trash, but that doesn't invalidate the claim that 1st party batteries are wildly overpriced. Thom is overly accepting of claims that the price of them is driven by testing and design work. To be blunt, that argument holds no water based on my experience with Electric-powered RC aircraft. RC batteries are pushed much harder than camera batteries, tested far more and cost a small fraction of what camera batteries do. The big brands are not testing more, they're milking for profit. 

The flip side is that he's not wrong in claiming the 3rd party options are mostly cheap trash sold for too much money as well. So it makes sense to buy 1st party even if you are getting ripped off. There's a small number of quality 3rd party options finally starting to show up and I suspect that once a brand or two establishes themselves with a reputation for quality, the camera brands are going to be very unhappy with battery sales.

He gets into cards next, where he seems that users are buying or keeping more reasonably priced cards instead of buying the fastest cards which maximize the performance of the body. And he's not wrong in why you should buy fast cards, if you want the body to perform at its max ability, you need to buy the expensive fast cards. However many people simply don't push their cameras hard enough for this to matter. I personally still use top-end UHS-1 cards as I simply don't run into speed issues with them. I'll upgrade when card performance becomes a limiter for my work or I need new cards for some other reason. Why am I going to buy $200+ cards when I get the performance I need from $25 cards?

The same goes for lenses. Who cares that I'm using a 70 year old lens that wasn't a top performer back then. The real question is 'does the lens deliver the results I am looking for?' not 'am I using the best possible lens?'. Yeah, the Nikkor 24-70/4 S does technically beat the pants off most of the older options in that range, prime or zoom, but it's also boring. The rendering of many of the older/cheaper options can be more interesting, plus they are cheaper and thus more friendly to occasional use. That lets users buy lenses they may only use occasionally and don't want to invest big bucks in (like my recent 70-200L acquisition).

The one spot that Thom was dead on about was the one he only mentioned in passing. That's the tendency for newer photographers to buy cheap crappy tripods, then upgrade in single steps as they discover how bad the unit they bought is. Today, with plenty of relatively inexpensive decent tripods, there's no reason not to go all the way to a good Sirui or similar unit rather than buying cheap junk. This is the one case where penny wise is often pound foolish. The other aspect here is that tripods are not one size fits all. I own 3 currently and use them based on application. My Manfrotto 055XPROB's are for heavy lenses and when I need the steadiest option, my 290's are for when I need light weight and mobility and my Platypod for odd locations and when I want to strap things together or hard mount to a surface. 

At the end of the day, most users buying a $4000USD body are not using the body to its full capacity. They buy it because they want it or it has some feature they need. But they also get to use it with the lenses, cards and batteries that they choose and the only time there are wrong answers are when they are complaining about performance AND that the performance in question is being limited by their equipment choices. 

Saturday 15 July 2023

My First L Lens


Canon R7, EF 70-200L f2.8 IS USM

I've never actually owned a fast telezoom before. I've generally prioritized size & weight over a fast aperture for my zoom lenses, especially telezooms which are naturally larger & heavier than wide & normal zooms, and for what I usually shoot that is definitely the correct choice. However sometimes you just find the right deal at the right time and I did with this 70-200L. 

The main use for a fast telezoom for me is environmental nature shots in shaded forest, the best solution I ever had for that was the m.Zuiko 75/1.8 (150mm-e), but it wasn't very flexible since it was a prime. The m.Zuiko 40-150/4 Pro offered the flexibility (and was the fastest AF telezoom I'd bought previously) and the size/weight, but had no TC compatibility and still was lacking a bit of lens speed in some situations. 

What I acquired is an original 70-200L f2.8 IS USM with a touch of Schneideritis (outer edge element separation in glued lens elements) that does not impact IQ. This gives me a fast, TC-compatible lens ideal for use in lower light situations like shady forests, at the cost of a frankly lousy MFD (1.4m) and a bunch of weight (almost 1.5Kg). It's a very situational lens and likely will stay home much of the time, but it is a good lens to have available in case, especially at the incredibly low price I paid for it due to the Schneideritis. With a 1.4x TC on the R7, it's also got enough reach for airshow and limited birding use, so I will have to add a TC to the kit as well. The main reason I would not normally look at a lens like this is it simply costs too much for something that's very situational for me, so getting one at a steep discount addresses the main downside of the lens for me. 

It will be interesting to work with this lens, as it is so different from my usual choices in this focal length range. It will definitely stay home a fair bit due to the weight, but when I do haul it, I do expect to get shots I'd otherwise miss due to lack of light.

It also brings out just how good the experience of adapting EF lenses has been so far on the R7. I've used fully coupled adapters on m43, F and E/FE mounts and always found significant downsides. m43 was just terrible AF, even with a faster body like an E-M1 series, plus big lens/little camera handling issues. On F mount the FTZ adapter worked seamlessly with the 70-300E, but was a little annoying with older lenses, and the physical design made handling suck (the newer FTZII addresses the handling issue by dropping the useless integrated tripod mount that caused the handling issues) and in Sony the integration of mechanical aperture lenses was pretty meh (plus there were only a few SSM/SAM lenses with decent AF), and going with an EF to E adapter resulted in inconsistent performance.

With the EF to RF adapter, the experience so far has been seamless, although I'm only using native Canon glass for coupled adaptation (my Tamron 90mm is uncoupled, being a Nikon lens on a mechanical F to EF adapter). Aside from being a little large, I've had zero issues using the EF-S 10-18 IS STM, the EF 50mm f1.8 STM or the EF 70-200L f2.8 IS USM on the R7 with the standard Adapter. It's worth also noting that Canon actually makes 4 different adapters. There's an inexpensive standard adapter, a Control Ring version which has an additional control ring to substitute for the control ring that's on the RF lenses and not on EF lenses, a filter version which accepts a filter holder (available with either a polarizer or variable ND) and a Speedbooster, marketed for the Super35 cine bodies but which works fine on the RF-S bodies as well. My recommendation is to get the Control Ring adapter unless you have some reason to want one of the others. I have the standard one and plan to add the Control Ring version to my kit later in the fall. 

Friday 14 July 2023

First Goal Down


Brennans Creek, Killaloe, ON
Canon R7, Canon EF-S 10-18 IS STM on EF->RF Adapter

I've got 3 goals for 2023, defined in my 2022 Wrap-up and 2023 Goals post.

As of yesterday, I've achieved Goal #3, to get my Like to Post ratio on FredMiranda up to 60%. 

Since image posts tend to get a lot more likes than gear arguing, this goal was set to push me towards more focus on the images I'm making and less on the gear I'm making those images with. In doing so I discourage my own chasing the dragon and am less likely to take a break from FM because I'm annoyed. 

This one was admittedly set while I was shooting m43, where the low-traffic m43 image threads meant I'd usually get 3-4 likes on a good image. Now with Canon and the higher-traffic threads I'll usually see 10-15 likes per post (Sony was even higher, at 15-20 for a good image). I'm going to keep pushing on this as I might actually be able to get close to my 2022 goal of a 70% ratio. 

Regarding the other two goals

1. 10,000 images on one camera. I'd just broken 3,000 images on the OM-1 when I sold it, of which about 2500 were shot in 2023. I'm now just under 2500 on the R7 after around 1 month of ownership. I think the overall goal is achievable with the R7 as I expect to exceed 3000 images in the next couple weeks. Based on current trends I expect the R7 will be the first camera I've owned in a long while to exceed 5000 images and I'm on track for 10,000 this year.

2. Two major photo outings per quarter. I'm on track for this, although I just barely made it in Q1. This is going to be easy to maintain through the end of Q3, but Q4 and the late fall doldrums will present a challenge. 

Overall, the R7 continues to be a success for me. I enjoy shooting with it, and I increasingly am looking for reasons to use it, which is a big win. 

Thursday 29 June 2023

Regrets - I've Had a Few

 "The Road Ahead"

Sony A7RIV, FE 28-60mm

That's the last image I'll post from the A7RIV. 

Regrets have been something of a bane for me. Often my gear decisions have been driven by 'I really miss that lens', notably getting both my last E-M5II and my OM-1 have been driven by my love for the m.Zuiko Pro 12-40/2.8. Then I inevitably end up regretting not having those great FF RAW files, or not being able to adapt FF glass the way I want. I really need to put an end to this vicious cycle, as the end result is inevitably I have a more constrained set of gear than I should because I lost value on the last system switch. 

In looking back, and at the lenses Sony has announced this year (or is rumoured to be about to drop) I'd started to build up some regret at selling off the A7RIV. It was a good camera, and if it didn't really make me want to get out and shoot, it didn't stop me either. I'd likely still be shooting it if I'd still had it when the 20-70/4G was announced, that would have been the perfect replacement for the FE 28-60, which was a decent little lens but not quite wide enough and didn't focus close enough for me. And there's so much cool glass in E mount that I do miss the option to drool over all the options. Which of course had a flip side of I didn't buy them because I didn't have budget to buy every lens that takes my fancy, even if they are cheap, and never could pick which cheap lens to buy. There are some advantages of a more constrained lens lineup, less analysis paralysis. 

The regrets around the A7RIV have me looking closer at FF options again and I found yet another surprise with Canon RF glass. I've realized that I really should have taken a closer look at the RF stuff a couple years ago. 

My biggest complaint about FF kit after size has long been that the close focus usually sucks, especially compared to m43 Olympus glass, and I do a LOT of near macro work (bees, flowers, mushrooms, etc). In RF mount, it doesn't. In fact the lenses seem to be overall better than the already outstanding OM glass in MFD. I'm kicking myself a little bit now, as if I'd bought into RF instead of the A7RIV, I'd almost assuredly be still using it today as essentially none of my relatively minor frustrations with the A7RIV and Sony exist in RF mount. Flip/twist LCD's on everything except the lowly R100, an APS-C option with good ergonomics, compact and reasonably priced zooms, and zooms with good MFD. Also better grip ergonomics and weather sealing. The only remaining frustration from Sony is the IBIS/EXIF data issue for manual glass and that's comparatively minor as I shoot less and less adapted glass. 

What does this mean overall? First off, I'll almost assuredly grow into FF again. For landscape an R5, 14-35, 24-105L and 100-400 kit simply makes the most sense overall as a long-term setup. Since that kit is decent for the R7 as well, I'll likely head that way before any FF body is acquired (the RF100-400 will almost assuredly be a late July acquisition). That would make my light hiking kit that R5 based setup eventually, and I'd add the R7 and a macro lens for a 'heavy' kit.

Now if I can just pull off staying in a single system long-term...

Monday 26 June 2023

R7 at 2000


R7, RF-S 18-150mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM, frame 2002 from the R7, cropped vertically to m43-ish.

Today is my 14th day of ownership of the R7, and yesterday I exceeded 2000 shots on it. That's something of a record for me, I've not gone all-out shooting with a new camera this way since I briefly had my E-M1.2 a couple years ago. 

I'm not entirely sure why either. The OM-1 was objectively a better camera than the R7 (as it should be given the cost difference between the two), I got along with it reasonably well and I had great glass for it, but it didn't make me want to shoot it. The R7 I just want to pick up and shoot and I've been looking for reasons to get out with it. It's just a fun camera and I can't even tell you why that is. I do think one part of it is the EM-1/OM-1's do require thinking to operate, they are such complex beasts with so many direct controls and multi-use options that they don't get out of my way as well as the somewhat simpler but still very capable R7 does. 

Mostly I've been shooting with the 18-150. It's a killer little lens for a kit lens. Good range, even if I do wish it was just a bit wider (15-150 would have been perfect). Good close focus, fast AF (it will track BiF) and I can really crop down to get m43-level reach out of it since the R7 has the same pixel density as the OM-1. The optics are quite decent too. Nothing to write home about, but also quite acceptable with good resolution and colour and decent contrast. Not as good as my OM Pro lenses, but as good or better than the non-Pro Oly zooms I've had in this range (14-42 and 40-150 R)

Honestly, despite it being slower and softer than the 40-150/4 Pro, I actually like it better for everyday use because of the much better close focus. I do miss the 12-40 Pro though. The shot above I could not have got with the 40-150 Pro, it just didn't focus close enough. The 12-40 did, but didn't have the working distance needed for this sort of shot. The combo of 150mm, 0.45m close focus (at 150mm) and m43-level pixel density makes the R7/18-150 a great bugging combo. 

In terms of the number of shots, it's a measure that's sort of irrelevant and sort of not. I've been trying for a few years to quit chasing the dragon and never quite succeeded. Right now it seems I've generally had cameras I got along with last for 8-9 months and around 3000 or so shots. That's where I had the OM-1 when I sold it, the A7RIV, the last E-M5II, even the Z5 was there on shot count if not on time. The last camera I had that broke that was the X-T2 (which got up around 4500 frames). So I'm trying to break that trend, more in terms of time than shots, but shots too (hence my 10,000 frames on one body goal for this year). I don't see myself completely breaking the cycle, but if I can stick to a single system I'd be pretty happy. So let's see where I am next March (which would be 9 months on the R7). I'm expecting I'll have added at least one body to the mix (likely the R10 or R50 as a B-cam) but I want the R7 to remain a key part of my setup for a good long while, so I can focus instead on rounding out my lens collection.