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.