Ultrawide on a 5d Mk2 – a Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This lens worked out pretty well on a Canon 60D crop frame sensor (here) and it’s also quite handy on Olympus OM series film cameras. ‘Full Frame’ digital though is a lot more demanding, especially at the far edges of the frame so how well does this vintage lens shape up on the mighty 5D Mk2? I need a wide-angle lens for this camera so it’s been dusted off for a test. All shot in RAW and converted in DXO Optics 9.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

The waterfall at Kimmeridge Bay in full flow. The flare to the bottom left is a ‘feature’ of this lens – I quite like it and here it fills a dark area of the frame.

On the bulky 5d Mk2 even this relatively heavy old MF lens feels fine. It’s lighter than a 24-105mm ‘L’ so it’s quite reasonable to carry around without becoming fatigued. The filter size is 67mm and infinity to minimum focus (25cm) takes a rack of around 180 degrees. The majority of this rack is taken getting from one metre to 25cm so you probably won’t see that bit of the scale very often.

This lens seems to cause the 5D MK2 more metering problems than any lens I’ve attached to it. Evaluative and centre weighted modes both occasionally produced wildly overexposed shots so keep an eye on the playback histogram after each shot.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

On the 5d Mk2 via an Olympus OM to Canon EF Fotodiox adaptor. Nicely balanced and a pleasure to use. Manual focus is very difficult due to the huge depth of field so the LCD of depth of field scale are preferable.

One of the traditional uses of such a wide-angle lens is for course landscapes and initial impressions are impressive at f8. The colours are natural and everything looks sharp enough – without pixel peeping.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

What it should do well – and it does. There isn’t much curvature on horizons (pincushion distortion) as long as the horizon is near the centre of the frame though it’s not that bad generally.

The other traditional use is interior shots and with an angle of view of 90 degrees it’s quite good at that too!

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Remarkably I haven’t seen any chromatic aberration which usually plagues wide-angle lenses, but there are a few odd internal reflections and flare when shooting into the sun which you can either live with and use creatively or just try to avoid by being very careful with your compositions.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

As with all wide-angle lenses converging lines look particularly dramatic – you end up looking for them everywhere. The closer you are to the subject the more dramatic the effect is.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

As there’s so much depth of field you can also use the depth of field scale to ‘shoot blind’ and just hold the camera near the ground like the following shot. After lots of experimenting it seems the depth of field scale is a bit optimistic – use the next widest aperture scale (i.e. set f16 but set a hyperfocal distance for f11). Maybe it was ‘good enough’ for film but it’s not for critically sharp results on the 5D…..

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Using such a wideangle lens for close-ups isn’t advisable due to distortion which increases the closer you get. The closest focus distance is 25cm – use it if you dare!

And another using the same technique – one of the few shots of snowdrops I’ve taken which I like – and I’ve taken loads!

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Bokeh with such a wide-angle lens only appears when the lens is closely focussed. It’s slightly fussy but not bad.

After all these promising results, time for some proper test results. This scene was chosen to be especially demanding for a wide-angle with bare branches acting to test the sharpness.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

The full test frame.

At f3.5 centre :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

f3.5 edge :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Well wide open it’s not that good at all – the edge is terrible, but having read detailed test results for such lenses – even modern ones – the extreme edges of wide angles are often poor. Conclusion – avoid f3.5!

at f8 centre :- Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2f8 edge :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Improved as you’d expect, though still not exactly brilliant!

at f16 centre :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

f16 edge :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Much better – relatively… The extreme edges of the frame are still not great but better than I expected.

All things considered, this is remarkably good for a £100, thirty year old lens. As long as you keep it at f8 to f16 the performance isn’t too bad at all and on a par with many modern ultrawides (especially mid-priced zooms). It’s so much fun to use that I don’t really care too much about the soft edges – with such a wide angle of view they don’t seem too important. If you’re a perfectionist or pixel-peeper though this may not be good enough for you.

For someone who needs such a wide-angle lens infrequently this is good enough for me (and becoming a favourite lens). The lack of chromatic aberration is remarkable, the flare which crops up now and again is quite attractive (to me anyway) so all in all it’s getting a hearty recommendation for the price.

I’ll finish with another shot from the waterfall sequence – the slight vignette is caused by stacked ND filters, not the lens.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

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A Plastic Lensbaby Lens on a Canon 5D Mk2 using a ‘Clear’ Picture Style

The Plastic Lensbaby mounted in a Composer did well on a 60D, but as an 80mm equivalent lens it was restrictive for general purpose photography. On a ‘full frame’ 5D it should be a more useful 50mm lens (I really like 50mm lenses!) but a larger sensor should show more ‘Lensbaby softness’.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

‘Clear’ picture style, f5.6. There isn’t the soft misty look I’d expected which is odd, probably caused by the picture style which creates highly saturated and contrasty images.

A day’s experimentation is called for….All shot in RAW + JPG (the final picture style is ‘baked into’ the JPG but not the RAW – just in case).

If you’ve never seen or used a Lensbaby a brief explanation is called for. They’re manual focus lenses with a very basic construction, in several designs most with ‘Waterhouse’ removable aperture disks (see below). Their uncorrected optical flaws are there to be exploited and the main reason for using them. Fitting smaller apertures (they’re held in place by magnets) reduces the optical flaws, but even at f16 they’re still there!

The Plastic lens is a 50mm f2 with aperture disks running from f2.8 to f16 (you could make your own if you liked!). Note that the Sweet 35 lens has a conventional internal aperture so no need for the ‘box of apertures’.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

The blue ringed plastic lens (not ‘L’ series then!) with the aperture disks to the right (see f16 and f5.6?). The disk holder is on the right, the lid looks suspiciously like a 35mm canister lid, and the end of the ‘stick’ is a magnet to remove the disks from the lens. Simple but ingenious. It is a temptation just to leave one aperture disk in all day!

They’re very small and light, almost transforming the 5D into a lightweight camera (I’m used to the weight of 1 24-105mm lens). As you can see from the next shot, the lens can be pivoted around to move the central sharp part of the image around in the frame, though I must admit I hardly ever do this, preferring to keep the ‘sweet spot’ of sharpness in the middle.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

The ‘lens’ as seen here is really a secondary mount called a ‘Composer’ – there are several types. Different lenses (glass, plastic, pinhole etc) are then slotted into this to achieve different results.

To counter the inherent low contrast of these lenses you can either correct in post-processing, or cheat and use Canon’s ‘Clear’ picture style which pushes contrast and saturation to extremes. Installing extra colour profiles on your DSLR  is easy, some are already installed (‘Neutral’,’Standard’ etc) but there are three spare ‘slots’ for extra profiles – look here. Alternatively they can just be applied in Canon’s RAW DPP software – the result is the same but using software is a lot more fuss.

Focussing is best done on the LCD screen as these are low contrast and low sharpness lenses and the ‘Clear’ picture profile is simulated on the screen. It’s quite easy if you’re used to using MF lenses.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

The first image with no ‘Clear’ style applied, just an ‘auto levels’ – not quite so dramatic. Still no soft mistiness which was so prominent on the 60D – interesting!

Enough about what it is – how well does it do?

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

Keep it simple and abstract!

Firstly, the softness at the edge of the frame is stronger on full frame than APS-C – as expected (I didn’t expect quite this much though) so smaller apertures will be required unless you really want to go wild. As on the 60D, simple, bold compositions work best allowing the blur at the edge of the frame to emphasise the main subject.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

At f8 – the centre is surprisingly sharp, the edges smearing into some nice blur.

To add to your creative ‘arsenal’ the lens will flare like crazy if sunlight shines over the front element :-

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

Sun out of frame to the upper left.

This shot was taken moving the camera very slightly to the right. Note that spectacular chromatic aberration on the roof!

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

Better!

Though oddly it’s not bad if you shoot straight into the sun!

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

The proper 50mm focal length is much more useful for landscapes, though again, smaller apertures work best.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

f5.6 disk – a bit too much blur maybe.

The ‘Clear’picture style really drags some good colour out of a scene on a cold winter’s day – a bit of de-saturation in Photoshop would tone it down nicely though if that’s more your taste.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

At closer distances the blur looks more like that of a really fast lens – well, almost but not quite! The soft pastel colours in the stone and leaves look good here I think.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

What to make of all this?

On a full frame camera you’ll need to use smaller apertures than on a 60D to tame the Plastic Lensbaby’s extreme edges (assuming you want to of course). Smaller apertures unfortunately seem to remove the soft, dreamy look that the lens produces on APS-C – these look more like the results from the glass lenses. On the other hand a 50mm field of view is more useful for general photography. I’ll test the glass lenses next, but so far I’d say it’s better on a 60D.

Using the ‘Clear’ picture style certainly adds a bit of zip to these low contrast images – it’s invaluable to help focussing and visualising the image before it’s taken, and can be changed in DPP if you prefer a more subtle result.

Lensbabys are a bit pricey new, but have been around long enough to buy cheaply second-hand. Unless it’s been run over by a truck there’s virtually nothing that can go wrong with this kit (no IS, no AF and not very sharp to begin with!) so it’s a pretty safe thing to do.

Hope you find this useful – it quite surprised me – thanks for looking!

The Zuiko 28mm f2 on a 5D MK2 (at last)

This blog is named after my favourite lens – the Zuiko 28mm f2, so this mini test is overdue. It’s been tested on a Canon 60D, but not on a 5dMk2 – it’s ‘native format’, full frame 35mm. Lets hope it’s as good as I’ve always thought!

This is a manual focus lens from the days of film mounted using a lens to camera adaptor, so no image stabilisation, no autofocus and no communication with the camera so some missing IPTC data. The exposures can be a bit random using old lenses like this – aperture priority centre weighted metering and RAW is the best way to use them, but even then you may need to bracket exposure.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Mounted using a Fotodiox OM to EF adaptor. The lens and body are evenly balanced due to it’s all metal build and the amount of glass in there.

Focussing is smooth and it’s relatively easy at f2 on the standard focussing screen in good light. In low light it’s better to use the distance scale if the subject is at infinity – ‘infinity’ for a 28mm lens isn’t that far away, look at the distance scale. The next marked distance is 3m! Alternatives are to focus bracket, use the depth of field scale and f8 in which case everything between infinity and around 2m is in focus, or to use the LCD .

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

At f8 the resolution is very,very good – there isn’t much CA in low contrast conditions, the colour is faithful, so all good.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Crop from the centre – superb! f8

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Crop from the edge top left and again – superb. f8

A good start! As I’d hoped at f8 it’s as good as it gets – but this is an ‘easy’ scene, front lit with gentle autumn light. Let’s push things a bit.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

In more extreme conditions shooting into the light there can be some light flaring around silhouetted areas which I quite like. This isn’t unusual in older lenses – I suspect there’s some internal fogging of the lens elements. This lens is over forty years old! f4.

 

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Shooting into the sun there can be some internal reflections/flare – not surprising for a lens of this age and speed. This was taken at f2. Easy to avoid with some slight re-framing but something to be aware of. Alternatively it could be used for creative effect. The bokeh here for a wide-angle lens is pretty good.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

There’s a touch of blue/green CA in the tree branches – this is uncorrected in this shot but can easily be fixed in PP. Otherwise this great.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Indoors in a dark church at f2. Note the distortion (not corrected automatically).  It’s sharp enough though.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

This is the best bokeh I could get for this test at f2 – not bad with a slight curve. I like it but others might not.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Close up – this lens has floating internal elements which optimise performance at close distances. Overall it does a good job though using a 28mm as a close up lens is somewhat eccentric!

So time for the standard scene –

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

The complete frame. Note the vignetting at maximum aperture.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Centre f2 – a tad soft but useable – this is a huge enlargement.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Edge f2 – top right and soft at the very extreme edge.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Centre f4

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Edge f4

I won’t bother posting any more – the results are identical to f11, softening at f16. F2 results are a little soft and the vignetting is quite strong – this isn’t unusual for a fast lens. Note that modern lenses can have their vignetting automatically corrected by software like DPP or DXO,  but for older lenses this will have to be done manually.

In summary then, a cracking lens for its time, very sharp when used in optimal conditions, but showing its age when pushed to take shots into the light when flare and internal reflections can be noticeable. Going back to manually correcting vignetting and distortion manually is a bit of a nostalgic pain.

This is where you’ll fall into one of two camps.

Either

You’ll go for a modern made lens which probably isn’t as well made or sharp at f8 but has AF etc and behaves better when shooting into the light

OR you’ll like the technically flawed results under difficult conditions and use these optical faults creatively to give your shots a ‘vintage’ look.

I’m in the latter camp as I generally like some ‘character’ in lenses and I don’t mind messing around in PP.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

So highly recommended with some caveats – often the story with old lenses. This lens is quite rare on the second hand market and go for $250/£160 so cheaper than most modern 28mm lenses. Things may change when the new Sigma 28mm f1.8 ‘Art’ is released – if it’s as good as the 50mm, the standards by which a 28mm lens is judged may change!

A comprehensive technical description of this lens can be read here, and an interesting discussion of the use of lens adaptors by Roger Cicala of Lensrentals can be found here.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

An OM Zuiko 50mm f3.5 Macro on a Canon 5d MK2

Hanging around the 50mm focal length in these tests (I seem to have a few 50mm lenses), it’s time for a 50mm macro. I tested this lovely old lens on a Canon 60D (here) some time ago and found it to be pretty good on a ‘crop frame’ sensor. The predictable question is – what’s it like on full frame? All shots in aperture priority, ‘evaluative’ metering mode, shot in RAW and converted in DXO Optics 9.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

At minimal focus distance – this lens gets you quite close!

This is an old OM series lens from the film days – an adaptor will be needed to fit it to a modern DSLR.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Here it is at infinity focus, compact, light and generally rather satisfying to use.

The lens is an ‘old school’ quality all metal affair with a smooth focussing rack going from infinity to 23 cm in almost a full turn. Obviously there’s no autofocus or image stabilisation – these features weren’t invented when this was made. Note how much of that turn is past 1 metre in the shot above – fast, fluid focussing makes this lens a pleasure to use.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

At closest focus distance and fully extended.

To give you a rough idea the closest focus distance is around three inches/seven cm in front of the lens – it can go closer but you’ll have to read on to find out how! At this closest distance, reproduction is around 1/2 life-size (i.e. the subject is 1/2 as big on the sensor as it is in real life).

Onto a few samples then – and before we start, shooting these was some of the best photographic fun I’ve had in a while. Looking for shots at this scale is very absorbing and time-consuming. If you’re going shooting with any companions make sure they’re patient and understanding!

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Taken at f3.5 using the ‘gently move the camera back and forth until the subject is in focus’ technique. Sharp enough I’d say.

Focussing on the 5D’s default screen is quite easy – depth of field is very shallow at these distances at f3.5, and it’s pretty obvious when things are in focus. The major problem is camera shake – keep the shutter above 1/250th with a higher ISO if necessary.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

A classic subject for a macro lens – taken on an overcast day at f3.5. The bokeh is nicely behaved and unobtrusive.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Shooting hand-held at arm’s length on the LCD is a bit tricky (these were seven feet off the ground on the tree)  but it sometimes comes off.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

The colours are natural, the only oddity being that an ‘auto levels’ in Photoshop produces a green or blue tinge. This isn’t unusual when shooting with older lenses.

Good so far, especially given that these are all hand-held. To get a bit closer let’s dig out the old OM extension tubes…

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

These all metal Olympus extension tubes were bought second-hand when I was a student some 30 years ago, and have paid for themselves several times over. Amazingly they come in three velvet lined boxes – a cut above modern kit packaging! I always feel rather spoilt when they’re used, and it’s quite nostalgia trip.

The extension tubes are 7mm, 14mm and 25mm deep and extend the distance between the lens and subject allowing for higher magnification. With the 25mm tube the reproduction ratio is 1:1 – i.e.  the subject image is as large on the sensor as it is in real life. Using the front half of the ‘Kod Pus‘ as a subject – an old folding Kodak rollfilm camera – this is as close as the lens gets without any extension tubes.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Without extension tubes this is as close as you can get. The front lens is about 14cm / 1/2 an inch in diameter.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

With the 25mm extension ring (1:1).

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

With all three rings stacked (46mm extension and quite a bit greater than 1:1!).

Using extension tubes really tests the resolution of a lens as only a portion of the image circle strikes the sensor – the greater the extension the smaller the segment used. Still, these aren’t too bad at all – even if those markings are rather confusing – Marine?

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Back outdoors again – even at f3.5 at close distances the shallow depth of field can look quite ‘expensive’.

All in all then a sensible, well-behaved lens which shows good to excellent results even when hand-held. If you can live without AF and IS, save  some money- they’re quite common on the second-hand market at around £100, but the extension tubes are relatively rare and I’ve no idea how much they go for – glad I held on to mine! There is an f2 version, but that’s rare and pretty expensive.

Warning – if you do get this (or any macro lens) be ready for slow progress on photo days out…

The tech specs for this (and lots of other old Zuikos) are here.

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

Initial Impressions – The Sigma 50mm F1.4 ‘Art’ on a 5D MK2 (lots of images)

I don’t usually post about modern lenses – there are lots of reviews out there already of any photographic kit made recently. However, this is the exception which proves the rule as this promises to be one of the best third-party lenses of recent years. All shots taken on a 5D Mk2, processed in DXO Optics 9. DPP (Canon’s RAW developer software) won’t help with distortion etc as this isn’t a Canon lens, but DXO has all the correction profiles available.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

What was hoped for. Contrast, bokeh, colours and sharpness (including spider’s web). A good start to say the least.

Having been distinctly unimpressed by the weak construction of the Canon 50mm f1.4 (it needed a £150 repair after a slight knock) I started looking around for a replacement, and there isn’t that much available which is affordable (i.e. not the Canon 50mm f1.2), optically sound and well-built. There is the manual focus Zeiss Otus available, but as I don’t have £3k+ free it’s a non starter (I’ve had cars cheaper than that).

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Left – Canon 24-105mm f4 ‘L’, centre the Sigma 50mm f1.4, and for comparison with the way things were done in the past, the compact and excellent Zuiko OM 50mm f1.4. Amazingly the Zuiko is the equivalent of the Sigma!

Onto the lens. It’s big and heavy! It feels about as heavy as a Canon 24-105 f4 and it’s around the same size. Much has been made of this, but as I’m now used to the size and weight of the 24-104 on a 5D Mk2 it’s not really a problem. Build quality is excellent, the autofocus is quiet and the whole thing exudes a feeling of quality. Costing £700 it should I suppose!

Using Live View (CDAF) the focussing as fast as any lens on the 5D Mk2 (ie slow), using the viewfinder (PDAF) it’s as fast as the 24-105. Low light focussing seems as good as the 24-105 too.

Is it any better than the Canon 50mm f1.4 in the sharpness dept? At f1.4 through to f5.6, definitely and noticeably yes. After f5.6 they’re about the same.

Here’s the full picture in this quick test :-

_MG_8950_DxOs

What a surprise – it’s The Mill again!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f1.4 centre – excellent for a 1.4 –

Update – having tested manual focus on a 60D here this may be ever so slightly out of focus when using autofocus – a little AF tuning required. Having done some MFA in camera adjustments -5 seems the best compromise for all distances (the correction required is different at various distances).

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Here’s the result using Live View and manual focus shot on a different day – much more like it!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f1.4 edge using autofocus and slightly mis-focussed – the trees are out of focus even at these distances (see later shots)

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f2 centre – AF

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f2 edge

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f4 centre – as good as it gets

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f4 edge

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f5.6 centre – astonishingly sharp!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f5.6 edge – and again.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f8 centre

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f8 edge – things soften slightly at f16.

 

What’s noticeable other than the superb sharpness, is that at wider apertures, the trees which are 100 yards or so further behind the chimney in the edge shots out of focus – see the shots at f8 where they are. This narrow a depth of field isn’t something you’d expect for a 50mm lens focussed close to infinity, illustrating just how important accurate AF is. For a much more professional discussion about this see Roger Cicala’s excellent post about using fast lenses here.

This shallow depth of field ‘problem’ explains why some users are initially disappointed with the results from fast lenses – these lenses are difficult to use wide open, you need to be very precise with your focus point and shoot a few shots each time as the focus can vary slightly – even a tiny amount with this narrow margin for error can be disastrous.

Let’s try another shot:-

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Autumn on the way (at f2.5)

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Centre crop – that is very sharp.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Top centre crop – very sharp too.

Depth if field at close distances is tiny as you would expect :-

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The Siggy at around two feet (60cm) at 1.4 – a centre 1/3 crop of a frame and that depth of field is around 1/8th of an inch (2-3mm). To get more in focus the focus point would need to be the centre of the bell rather than the bottom and maybe use f2.8. You need to be careful with this lens!

Contrast at 1.4 is OK, but picks up quickly – by f4 the lens shows quite strong contrast – maybe a ‘neutral’ rather than ‘standard’ colour profile would be best if you like to shoot JPEGs.

Colours are very good to excellent straight from the RAW files, with a tendency towards a cooler neutral look (the Canon 50mm f1.4 produced ‘warmer’ results) :-

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

It’s all going on here – shallow DOF, contrast, colour and bokeh!

 

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

My stand in portrait model at f2 – the hair really is blue.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

A crop from the centre. Focus on the eye is spot on!

Bokeh when the background is deeply out of focus is lovely, but when it’s ‘almost’ in focus it can be bit ‘busy’ :-

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Very out of focus bokeh – this is as good as the old Helios 85mm f2 used in previous posts!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

A full range of ‘out of focus-ness’. The intermediate distance bokeh displaying a slight degree of jitter with a detailed subject.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

This subject though – because it has less detail than the leaves – fades smoothly into soft bokeh.

Chromatic aberration is evident at wide apertures but DXO corrects it very well (sometimes with the manual sliders) –

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

A crop from the above – a hint of slight green and magenta on out of focus areas but for a shot at 1.4 this is excellent.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Centre(ish) crop

I didn’t need to do any lens callibration focus adjustments on the 5dMk2 (the Canon rather huffily just reports ’50mm’ for the lens in the MF adjustments screen!), and it looks as if it’s also fine on the 60D though this needs proper testing. I only ever use the centre focus point – edge points may not be as accurate.

I haven’t worried about vignetting – DXO does an excellent job of removing it (I didn’t see any in other words). I also tried to get some flare without the lens hood attached but wasn’t successful, which may mean the lens hood isn’t needed….

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

So, all as advertised it seems, but who is going to buy one given the price (3x the Canon version) and the weight? Other than me obviously.

It seems to me that this lens offers an alternative to the fast/sharp in the centre/blurry at the edge/heavily vignetted fast prime ‘look’ which has been accepted for years. To have a f1.4 lens which is sharp wide open at the edges opens up some interesting opportunities, whilst allowing for ultra sharp images across the frame at f5.6 onwards. Photographers who would like to make the most of this new wide aperture ‘look’ will find this attractive.

The weight is a non issue in my humble opinion  – if you’re carrying a full frame DSLR with a 24-104mm or 24-70mm zoom you already don’t care about weight and do care about maximum image quality (if you do care about the weight you may have the wrong camera system!).

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Based on this initial series of images, the Sigma produces some of the best results I’ve seen. It’s not the easiest lens to use – where you place your focus point is critical, and choosing backgrounds with less detail provides better bokeh at mid distances (a universal rule not specific to this lens). If it had a proper aperture ring and image stabilisation it would be perfect!

Thanks for looking, hope you find this useful.

If you’re interested in using other lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

p.s I have no connection with Sigma – just using their products

Upgrading from a Canon 60D to a 5D MK2

If you’re a Canon APS-C shooter who’s lusted after a full frame DSLR then this post is for you. It’s not a review of either camera – there are loads of them available already – rather it’s about the experience of moving from one to the other. Having used 60D’s for almost four years and the 5dMk2 for six months it seems about time….

Canon 60d and 5d Mk2

The lighter, more rounded 18Mp 60D on the left, the more muscular 20Mp 5DMk2 on the right.

The first thing you’ll notice is the weight and size of the 5dMk2 body. It’s only 150g heavier (790 g vs 932 g) but the all metal body ‘feels’ much heavier, and the body seems to sit less easily in smaller hands. Add a 24-105mm to the 5DMK2 and a 15-85mm to the 60D and the weight on your shoulder goes from 1.4 kg to 1.6 kg. Not much on paper, but you can feel the difference after an hour or so.

Canon 60d and 5d Mk2

The 60D on the left has a more rounded shape and sculpted grip which reduces fatigue.

The grip on the 5DMK2 is noticeably more ‘chunky’ and less comfortable after a long period of shooting.

Canon 60d and 5d Mk2

The 5D’s joystick control is to the top left of the LCD – the 60D doesn’t have one at all!

The next major difference is the lack of an articulating screen on the 5DMK2. The 60D’s is one of the best out there, and I’ve really missed it for low angle shots and video. This may sound like a minor niggle but repeatedly squatting down to see a tripod mounted 5DMK2’s LCD induces backache!

The 5DMK2’s viewfinder seems to be about 1/3 larger which is great but it’s no brighter than the 60D. The extra size is a mixed blessing though, as it needs a good look around the screen to check composition before shooting. The info readout on the bottom of the screen is dimmer on the 5dMk2 making it more difficult to read on a bright day.

Oddly, ‘Auto ISO’ on the 5DMK2 cannot be limited (to say 1600 ISO) which makes it’s use risky.

The 5d MK2 drains batteries sitting on a shelf at a remarkable rate – much more so than the 60D.

The 5dMk2 exposures when using old manual focus lenses are more random than the 60D. However the larger screen makes focussing easier.

Compact Flash cards (5dMk2) are significantly more expensive than SD cards (60D) for the same capacity.

The 5dMk2’s LCD when viewing taken images can be misleading – much more so than the 60D’s. Replaying images look rather washed out and it’s difficult to judge contrast and exposure, so using the histogram becomes a must.

Dust – the 60D hasn’t needed a sensor clean in four years of use, the 5D MK2 needs one every six months.

Canon 5dMk2 70-300mm lens

5DMK2, 70-300mm lens and some subtle and accurate colours.

Finally the controls. The top plate buttons and display are instantly familiar, but the back of the 5DMK2 with its joystick control and line of buttons on the left is completely different. The articulating screen of the 60D is the obvious reason for the difference, but using both cameras on the same shoot can become frustrating. The oddest difference is the lack of a dedicated movie mode on the 5DMK2 – the 60D stores preferred movie settings when you go back to stills, the 5DMK2 just has ‘current settings’ which are used across all modes . This can be frustrating as it’s easy to forget to set things back how they should be, especially the colour profile which is best set as a flat low contrast and sharpness profile for movies and a more normal profile for stills. The best way around this is to use one of the ‘custom settings’ on the mode dial.

Canon run two lines of lenses, one for full frame (EF) and one for APS-C (EF-S). EF lenses can be used on APS-C cameras with a focal length multiplier of 1.6, but EF-S lenses don’t have a large enough image circle on full frame so are pretty much useless. If you’ve bought lots of EF-S lenses this upgrade is going to be expensive!

The batteries of both cameras are the same which is useful on a long day, and having two chargers makes recharging pretty quick. The 5dMk2 seems to use up battery charge quite a bit faster than the 60D when shooting video. It also drains batteries when sitting around doing nothing, something the 60D doesn’t do at all.

After all these slightly niggly points, where does the 5DMK2 start to win some points over the 60D?

_MG_7924_DxOs

5DMK2, 24-105mm. The quality of the image can only really be appreciated at full size rather than this tiny version.

The first is control of depth of field – full frame allows shallower depth of field using the same lens (see an earlier post here), and has no focal length multiplier – a 50mm lens is a 50mm lens! This is especially good if you use a Lensbaby as the 35mm Sweet 35 gives a significantly wider view on the 5DMK2 than on the 60D.

Second is the quality of stills. The resolution isn’t that different but the 5dMk2’s images have a more polished ‘look’ to them which is difficult to explain. It’s to do with the subtle colours, the crispness delivered by the 24-105mm lens and the even graduation of tones which give shots greater depth and quality. The larger 5d’s pixels produce less grain at higher ISOs, and remain smooth until 1600 or 3200 ISO – 800 ISO is as high as I like to push the 60D.

Third is the quality of the video where the large 5DMK2’s sensor leaves the 60D struggling to compete. The 5D’s footage seems less prone to moire which is irritating on the 60D on occasions. The 60D’s however now have Magic Lantern installed which opens up lots of video possibilities (I haven’t dared use it in the 5dMk2 yet!).

Canon 5dMk2 50mm F1.4

5dMK2 50mm F1.4 on an overcast day – razor-thin depth of field and soft tones.

Is it worth upgrading? That depends on whether you’re prepared to put up with the extra size and weight, the less slick handling and the sometimes less than helpful controls when switching between stills and movie mode (update : fixed using ‘custom settings on the mode dial). In exchange for these inconveniences, the 5dMk2’s results (when you get it right!) are clearly superior in many ways as you would expect. However the 60D is easier to use and carry with more user-friendly features and isn’t that far behind where it matters. In conclusion, if I was shooting for fun rather than to make money, the 60D would be the clear winner, but for commercial use it’s easily the 5DMK2. Having said that, if I was just shooting for fun I’d probably never use a DSLR and stick to something small and light such as an Olympus PEN or an old film camera!

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking. If you’ve got any questions about upgrading just ask.