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My New Hardware

This page provides info on the hardware I use.

System Item Reason For Selection Post Purchase Observations 
Canon EOS 20D

a)     the very fast start-up

b)     fast shutter response

c)     always on power consumption level with standby and exit standby with shutter button

d)    despite 1.6X crop factor sensor, availability of the EF-S 10-22mm to permit reasonable wide angle

e)    Canon's continuing commitment to 1X crop factor (full frame) sensor cameras in the professional range.

f)     Canon seems to be leading the DSLR field

g)     The Canon EF lens solution seems to me to be technically superior for auto focus capability.

Well thought out controls. Build quality is good although the plastic finish a prone to scratching. About the same weight as my old film cameras but much bulkier. Battery life excellent for a digital. Overall very happy.

Design Issues:  

No manual focus aids. (Can manage manual focus though)

No spot meter. 

No display of RGB histogram, only luminance.

Criticism

ISO not shown on LCD or viewfinder unless being set. 

Mirror movement surprisingly large. 

Manual operation similar to matched needle is possible using the quick adjustment wheel and main wheel for aperture and shutter speed. However, this leaves the thumb very busy with autofocus and AFP selection as well.

ES-S 18-55mm kit zoom Due to having no compatible glass, and to lower the barrier to entry, I decided to go with the 18-55mm kit zoom.  Although quite good optically except at the corners, this lens is cheap and plastic and the manual focus adjustment rattles like a kidís toy. However, I figured I would get some good primes as soon as possible and a normal zoom would always be useful. A major obstacle to landscape photography at the wide end is no distance scale let alone no depth of field markings.
EF 100mm f/2.8 macro I had always enjoyed macro work and managed to get permission from my long suffering wife to get the 100mm f/2.8 macro which was on special offer at a web supplier.  This is a nice sharp lens with very good build quality; the USM auto focus and full time manual focus make a massive difference to usability compared to the kit lens. Compared to the 200mm lens below the focusing ring had a very small amount of slack movement. The hood does not lock that positively when in use but has not fallen off yet.

Very useful as a walk around lens for pulling in detail with the advantage of going into life size magnification. Also doubles as an excellent long portrait lens with useful maximum aperture.

EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM I wanted a reasonable long lens for detail and larger wildlife subjects. Although slightly heavier than the 70-200 f4L. I did not go for the zoom as the performance is slightly soft compared to the primes for 85, 100 and 135mm. Good sharp lens but starting to get bulky and heavy for hand held work. Build quality excellent, essentially the same as the EF 100mm f2.8 Macro (non L) except for two points. The nice red line and no slack movement in the focusing ring although this was very minor in the 100mm (above) 

As an L lens it comes with a hood and a little soft pouch. The pouch is probably only good to stop things banging around in a properly water resistant and padded bag though. (My wife instantly spotted the lens pouch and tried to nab it as an nice little makeup container.)

My copy of this lens is so sharp the EF 1.4X converter has no detrimental effect and the combination still seems to be out resolving the 20D. With the EF 2X there is some loss of sharpness but the lens is still as sharp as many others with no teleconverter.

EF 50mm f/1.4 USM This corresponds to an 85mm lens on full frame 35mm, probably my favorite focal length from by film days. This lens is fast and very sharp. Build quality good although it does not have the solid feel of the 100mm and 200mm above, but then it is much smaller and lighter. 

The focusing ring movement is not as smooth as it could be and has some slack. The front element is well recessed so operation even without a hood should be low flair.

It only has depth of field markings for f22!

EF-S 10-22mm f3.5-4.5 USM The only way to get real wide angle for APS-C sensors. Build quality good, seems sharp. Flare well controlled. Sharpness better and chromatic aberration lower than ES-S 18-55mm kit zoom, spherical aberration not obvious. Colour good, slightly cooler than most Canon lenses rather like the 50mm f1.4. Smooth controls with no obvious backlash. The front element is well recessed. Bob Atkins noted that this would probably be an L series lens if it was an EF mount which seems likely considering the optical construction.
MP-E 65mm f2.8 1X-5X Macro Photo An easy way to get variable magnification above life size. Comes with the B Tripod Mount Adapter. The magnification control and TMA adjustment are very smooth. The lens construction quality is high and has a solid feel. Handheld use above 3X will be very challenging, probably to the extent it is not too practical in the field but not impossible, however handheld used with the twin flash up to 3X seems relatively easy.

The little know hood (Canon part # CAN0028T225) for use with the Twin Flash is painted metal and screws into the filter thread. This hood does not look completely essential but probably is helpful when the flash heads are angled for 2:1 and above magnification or a key light flash or head is used from behind the subject. 

The MP-E manual warns that through lens metering may not work reliably, however both ambient and flash exposures worked well for me.

MT-24EX Twin Light Macro Flash Very flexible macro flash. The unit is very nicely constructed and comes in a quite well made soft bag that is moderately padded and might even turn a light shower. There is only a loop of material to carry it with and no D-Links to attach to other equipment or straps. The flash heads have to sit dismounted from the ring in the bag so it is not ideal for quick usage. It is fine for putting the flash in a bag with other stuff. As an alternative for individual carry the Lowepro Utility Case takes the flash and has plenty of room for spare batteries. This case has two sliplock attachments for attaching to other Lowepro bags and comes with a shoulder strap with clips to attach to the integral D-rings.

The flash is nicely made and easy to control. Adjustment of the lighting ratio between the two heads is simple and direct.

A very nice feature is the flash CF-9 which puts the heads incandescent focusing lamps under control from the camera by means of two half depressions of the shutter button and light for 20 seconds or until the flash is fired. These lamps are a god send in poor light, particularly with the MP-E 65mm at magnifications of 2X or more where light loss starts to kick in.

EF 1.4X II

EF 2X II

Teleconverters increase the capability of compatible lenses. The TCs are well made and come with L-Series type soft pouches that give just enough protection to stop bits banging together in a bag but little else.
Benbo Tripod and Kirk BH-1 Ball Head The Benbo is part of my old system but I have replaced the original Gitzo head with the Kirk. (In fact I cracked the Gitzo by over tightening the lock) Total weight with the head is just under 4Kg and a folded length of 36 inches, just over 0.6 Kg of this is the head. I am on the look out for something lighter as this is quite a bit to carry. I have also added a Kirk L-Plate to the camera and lens plates with Arca style quick release platforms.
EF 300mm f4L IS USM A bit more reach for wildlife, birds and with extension tubes larger insects that are very shy such as butterflies. Although the 400/5.6 would be sharper and have faster AF than the 300/4 +1.4X I feel the advantages of IS for a lens of this length suits my current shooting style more. Very nicely made lens with the dubious virtue of being white. The integral hood pulls out and twist locks into position. Smooth manual focus operation and surprisingly compact. Comes with a quite nice white zip lens case with a bulge at the top for the tripod mount ring foot. The case has a removable shoulder strap and belt loop but has minimal padding. Although the case material is probably reasonable waterproof the dual zip opening has no weather flap. I have used the Lowepro lens case 4 which is a tight fit in terms of length and diameter with a Kirk Arca-Swiss quick release plate fitted.
Kenko Extesion Tube Set for Canon AF fitting DG

Changed to

Canon EF25II and EF12II

Required mostly for use with the 100mm, 200mm and 300mm to increase magnification. Not as well made and solid as the Canon probably are but much cheaper. Mount is metal although body is plastic. Come with end caps for the stack but no case or pouch. Note the pouch for the tele converters works, I am using the LP814 Lens Pouch normally matched to the Canon EF 50mmf2.5 Macro Lens. One criticism is that the lens release spring is not that strong, you have to be careful not to accidentally release it in use, this has happened three times to me. This seems to be due to the low locking torque required.

I have now changed to the Canon which fit more tightly although are three times more expensive. The build looks exactly the same but the lens locking torque is much higher and the release leaver action force is 2-4 times as high. The come in a black leatherette pouch.

EF 17-40mm f4L To replace the kit lens with a sharper and better handling lens for general photography. Nicely made and quite sharp, build quality is very slightly better than the 10-22mm. CA is well controlled for a zoom but not up to prime levels, sharpness is fairly constant throughout the zoom range and probably very good at the wide end. Sharpness is much better in the edge and corners than the kit lens.
Velbon CF 530 Pro  Tripod, Velbon  PH-253 ball and socket head I needed a lightweight tripod for use in the field. Nicely made and economical carbon fiber tripod and lightweight head. Capable of multiple independent leg positions and low level setup but no lateral arm facility. 
Manfrotto 694 Magfibre 4 Section Monopod I needed to replace my cheap old monopod which could not hold the weight of the 300mm + 2X. Nicely made and good compromise with folded and expended length, quick action locking. Normally used with the Velbon  PH-253 ball and socket head.
EF 28mm f1.8 USM Wanted a fast lens with a wider view. This is a compromise lens. The sharpest in this focal length range is the 35mm/f1.4L, but it is large and heavy. The 28mm has good centre performance but poor corner performance.
Angle Finder C Used quite a lot for low level shots and to aid manual focus. Had an old 3rd party make but this did not have a high magnification mode, reversed the image and suffered from chromatic aberration. Very nicely made with a leaver to switch between a 100% 1.25X view and a 2.5X centre view as an aid to manual focus. Image is correct way around in all attitudes. Comes in a little pouch with a folding cover, this has a little pocket inside for the adaptor required for some EOS bodies.
EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM The use- case for this lens was for situations where primes are not convenient and to provide a compact two lens solution for tourist situations in conjunction with the 10-22mm. It was envisaged the IS would be a useful alternative to fast lenses as many subjects would be static. Good build quality with smooth focus and zoom controls with no slack and just enough stiffness to avoid accidental movement. Comes with the typical L lens hood and pouch. Tests show it is very sharp although CA is slightly high at the zoom end stops.
Hyperdrive HD80 with 60Gb HD For portable storage without a laptop. The HD80 uses standard AA cells for easy replacement in the field. Utilitarian build but simple to use. Comes with a Velcro case with a Velcro belt loop and an extra pocket with enough room for a set of spare batteries. Copy with check of 1.9Gb of data from a Sandisk Extreme III 2Gb card took 13min. The same operation with no check took only 4 min. Copy of both data sets (3.8Gb) to a Windows XP PC with USB2 took under 10min. It came with a UK compatible charger ad as part of the special offer a car charger and two sets of batteries.
WhiteBal Pocket Kit I needed something hardwearing and compact that could be kept accessible for taking white balance references. Although I had a card in my bag I almost never used it due to the difficulty of access. Seems OK. Comes with a plastic wallet and lanyard but not the CD. The plastic wallet provides protection but does not seal closed so there is a chance the wallet will drop off if hung on the neck by the lanyard. The solution to this is to put the wallet into one of the sealable plastic bags the the kit is delivered with.
Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote I needed a cable release for those times when timing was critical. As the simple release for the camera was 40% of the price of the timer release I decided to pay the extra and get some additional functionality rather than pay a significant amount for something that was just a switch and a plug. Does what it says on the tin and has as a comprehensive instruction manual. Does not come with any protective pouch but does come with a battery. There is no off switch but the battery should last 3 years. The display gives a warning when the battery is on the way out.
Canon Magnifier S A discontinued item from off EBAY providing straight through magnification of 2.5X and can be flipped out the way to get a normal view. Although I had the Angle Finder C (above) I wanted something to aid manual focus for macro and 300mm + 2X TC that gave a view straight through to simplify tracking of the subject. The device works as advertised. However it does not work as well as the Angle Finder C for glasses wearers providing a limited field of view covering just a little more than the partial metering circle on the 20D. The Angle Finder C provides about twice this for a glasses wearer in 2.5X mode. Experiments show that the AOV is more for non glasses wearers but the diopter adjustment range is insufficient for my use. 
Kenko Pro 300 1.4X DG The main reason for this purchase was to double stack with my Canon 1.4X on my EF 300mm f4L IS to obtain close to 600mm focal yet retain AF. Although the 2X works well with this lens and manual focus is not too hard up close AF at greater distances and with moving targets would be a boon. Also can be used with lenses that are not compatible with the Canon TCs. Seems to work well Construction is not as good as the Canon TCs in that the outer shell is plastic rather than metal. The camera mount is nice and secure, the is a little movement on the lens side but not enough to be a concern. The release spring and lock torque is not as strong as with the Canon TCs but not as loose as in the Kenko extension tubes as to be a major concern about accidental release (see above). 
EF 180mm f3.5L Macro The main reason was to obtain a macro lens with a little more reach for those few subjects and occasions the 100mm is a bit short and for tripod work. Very nice lens, sharp at normal distances although not as exceptionally sharp as the 100mm macro and 200mm f2.8L. AF is very slow compared to the 100mm macro and 200mm f2.8L.

This situation seems to be reversed with the 180mm at least as sharp as the 100mm macro and better than both the 200mm and 300mm f4L IS with tubes.  Also quite respectable with the EF 1.4X II and sort of usable with the EF 2X II, flatness of fields is well controlled with both.

Canon RC-6 Remote Control For less fuss with cables when I use the camera on a tripod but want control over shutter release time with MLU enabled..

The RC-6 remote control works exactly as specified with the 7D, however therein there is a problem.

When operated by the remote the mirror lockup custom function is essentially ignored, unless the RC-6 is set to a 2 second delay. This means it is not possible to use the RC-6 as one would the shutter button or a cable release, i.e. one press to lockup the mirror and another to release the shutter, in this sense the RC-6 adds nothing over the internal camera timer with MLU enabled.

However, normal operation and even bulb release operates as expected.

It is a shame the behaviour with MLU has been so unnecessarily crippled by Canon. It is often desirable to use MLU and time the shutter release, perhaps for a lull in wind etc. If this functionally is essential to you get one of the cable releases.

Objective test results for my lenses are here.

Here are my thoughts on lens selection

A few words about photo bags.

 

Last Updated 08/06/2010

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