07 September 2019

Thoughts on gear, costs, quality of light and the learning of photography

Canon EOS 400D
I assisted a new photographer yesterday with the first time understanding of aperture, focal length and different lenses. His camera is an old 2nd hand Canon EOS 400D paired with one of my lenses (Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens*).

In the assessment of his images in Lightroom after getting some flower / landscape image done in the gorgeous morning light (going through his exposure settings) I was pleasantly surprised in the quality of the images produced by his 10 MP (release date: 20006) camera and the 70-300mm lens.

For my new client I suggested to keep the old EOS 400D and pair it with a good quality consumer lens or two and learn, shoot and shoot some more - and not to worry about the photographers next to him with the big cameras and professional / long lenses.

Canon EOS image on the right: Similar to the EOS body my client used (paired with a different EF lens)

Yesterday's session kept me thinking well into the night of what was achieved and although I'm not at liberty for sharing his images, I will share two of my own with some thoughts - going back to the heading of this post.

The first image (grey heron) was created by me with a Canon EOS 700D (APS-C - Crop) and my very old / iffy 70-300mm lens (not the lens used yesterday) with the combined value of +- R15K and the second image (swift tern) was produced with my EOS 6D (Full Frame) and the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens with combined value of +- R100K.

The most significant difference for me is the fact that the f/4 aperture used (swift tern) with the 300mm lens and paired with the full frame body rendered a very pleasing background blur compared to the 70-300mm lens on the APS-C body (grey heron) at f/9.5. At least the f/9.5 aperture provided good sharpness across the relatively close subject.

Both images were captured in excellent light and IMHO I have a hard time justifying a difference of R85K when looking at these two images. The grey heron is the full frame of the image with the swift term significantly cropped.

I'm not in any way suggesting that an entry-level Canon / entry-level lens is as good as professional grade gear. Both have a specific application, purpose and target markets at a very different price point. 

There is no doubt that the professional grade gear used will outperform the EOS 700D and said lens in low light with its superior ISO-performance, sensor size and more detailed image quality. However, superior specifications will not turn the new photographer into a more experienced and skillful photographer over night.

For the learning and enjoyment of photography I will always encourage new photographers to extract as much value as possible out of current gear / increase current skill levels before upgrading body and / or lens - and to learn as much as possible from the current body (Exposure setting / Autofocus / Lenses) and the effect of different light / environmental conditions.

With Canon EOS 700D / Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens

Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island, Milnerton - Canon EOS 700D Vernon Chalmers Image Source Canon EOS 700D
Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island, Milnerton - Canon EOS 700D Vernon Chalmers Image Source Canon EOS 700D

Canon Camera / Lens / EXIF Data
  • Canon EOS 700D
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens
  • ISO 1600
  • Aperture f/9.5
  • Shutter Speed 1/2000s
  • Focal length: 190mm
  • Lens IS turned off
With Canon EOS 6D / Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens

Swift Tern in Flight Woodbridge Island, Milnerton - Canon EOS 6D Vernon Chalmers Image Source Canon EOS 700D
Swift Tern in Flight Woodbridge Island, Milnerton - Canon EOS 6D Vernon Chalmers Image Source Canon EOS 6D

Canon Camera / Lens / EXIF Data
  • Canon EOS 6D camera body
  • Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens
  • Sandisk Extreme Plus SDHC™ UHS-I Card 95MB/s 32 GB
  • Exposure / Other Settings: Canon 6D / EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Manual Mode
  • Aperture: f/4
  • Auto-ISO 500
  • Focal Length: 300mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/4000 seconds
  • IA Servo / AF on - Centre Point
  • Lens Autofocus / IS on
  • Handheld

* The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens is a professional Canon EF lens at almost three time the cost of its consumer sibling the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS II USM lens - in my view the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens does not really justify the price difference for the new / developing photographer - except where the lens is applied in an professional shooting environment ito image quality and weather sealing.

As I wrote in April 2019... (of the grey heron image)
'Its not always about having the fastest camera / (longest) lens combination, for me, at the time, the quality of light was the most important criteria. A fast shutter speed came in handy as well. This is a JPG image straight out of camera with minimal cropping (if any).

The image was captured on an typical African summer's morning, but still very early in the morning (less than an hour after sun rise). Seeing a grey heron so close was really unexpected, but with its relatively slow flight speed I had enough time to adjust the zoom for an almost full frame capture.

The small aperture used / and the fact that the bird was so close to the background did not provide for any background blur in the image, but at least the f/9.5 aperture provided for a relativity sharp subject.' Vernon Chalmers Photography Source: Taking Advantage of Good Natural Light>>

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