Saturday, October 31, 2009

7D and LensAlign


One of the intriguing features of the 7D is that it can be fine-tuned to match individual lenses. This feature is called AF (for Auto Focus) Microadjustment. Of course, the argument can be (and is) made that such adjustment should not be necessary; however, I’m glad that the 7D has this capability. It just makes sense to me that tolerance stack-up can become a problem as various lenses are matched to various cameras.

On the 7D, AF Microadjustment is made through the custom function menu (the next to last menu shown) as C. Fn III-5. The instructions for making this adjustment begin by stating that this adjustment is not normally required – a comforting thought. There are three basic settings: 0) Disable 1) Adjust all by same amount and 2) Adjust by lens. The default setting is Disable. Go a little deeper into that menu and there is an adjustment scale ranging from -20 to + 20; the default is 0. But how does one know the correct setting?

Basically, the AF Microadjustment is made by trial and error: Take a picture, check the focus, make an adjustment, take another picture, etc. The LensAlign devices are handy when making these adjustments.

Along with my 7D, I bought the Canon 50mm f1.8 prime lens. This is an inexpensive lens that has a good reputation; however, I was very disappointed in my copy. I finally realized that it simply was not focusing properly. That’s when I bought the LensAlign Lite system shown above. In fact, the photo shown above is cropped from a shot made with the 50mm at f1.8. (The 50mm is still soft wide open but gets considerably better about f5.6 or so.)

There’s no point in my going through detailed instructions about LensAlign as instructions are readily available from the RawWorkflow site. Suffice it to say that the LensAlign Lite kit consists of a vertical target and an angled scale. After aligning the camera to the target using a mirror, the mirror is removed and a picture taken of the target using single point autofocus. As seen in the photo above, when focused on the target, my 50mm was actually focused in front of the target.

Instead of exactly following instructions, I simply ran the microadjustment range from -20 to + 20 while the camera was mounted on the tripod. I then examined the images on my computer screen using BreezeBrowser which conveniently displays the AF adjustment for each photo.

The photo below was made using the 50mm with a -10 AF adjustment.

and the image below was made with a setting of +20

I finally settled on a +15 adjustment for the 50mm. Other adjustments with my own 7D were:
Canon 85mm f1.8 at +10
Canon 18-55mm at 0
Canon 70-200mm at -5
Canon 100-400mm at 0

I’ve also tested a Canon 28-135mm but can’t quite find the happy place for the adjustment. I’ll probably keep it at 0 and continue to call it “soft”.

Monday, October 26, 2009

G11 Review at Luminous Landscape

At the Luminous Landscape site (one of my favorites), Michael Reichmann gives his hands-on report on the G11. He makes comparisons to the G10, especially with respect to noise, and also to the Panasonic GF1.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rural Life Museum


Within Baton Rouge, the Rural Life Museum is several hundred acres of farm land donated to Louisiana State University by the Burden family in 1964. The museum still includes farm land and flower gardens used by LSU as well as a collection of buildings and artifacts from the 1800s. It is a great place to visit and photograph. I often go there when trying out new photography gear or techniques. One of my favorite photos, made with HDR techniques, was taken at Rural Life Museum.

It was time to take the 7D to Rural Life Museum for a practice session. This was to be a simple session using only one lens (Canon 28-135mm), no flash and no tripod. Since many of the rooms and cabins are unlit, this would be a challenge and would require high ISO sensitivity. Also, I wanted to photograph some scenes having extreme dynamic ranges. Finally, I decided to emphasize the in-camera JPEG (“standard” settings) of the 7D.

The top picture of this post was taken at -1 exposure compensation (from ISO 100, 1/80, Av mode at f5.6) but the grass at left front is still a bit overexposed. The histogram is quite full. This would probably be a good candidate for HDR but I didn’t bracket.

The scene below is an interior shot of a reconstructed school room. The 7D was set for ISO 3200, Av mode yielded an exposure of 1/50, f4.5.

Here’s another shot with very bright and dark areas; ISO 100, Av mode at f8, 1/200 second, -1 exposure compensation.

Another ISO 3200 shot below using manual exposure at f5, 1/25 second inside one of the cabins.

All in all, a good practice session and a pleasant afternoon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

G11 and S90 at Best Buy

Our local Best Buy store has the G11 and S90 cameras on display and in stock. For that matter, they also have the 7D (but not the 15-85mm lens that I was hoping for). It’s interesting how frenetic demand is quickly turning into routine shopping and purchasing.

Side by side, the S90 is impressively smaller than the G11. I couldn’t help but think “If the G11 sensor can fit into this smaller camera, then a larger sensor could fit into the G11.” This extensively debated topic and wish will continue and those “laws of nature” explaining why a larger sensor cannot be squeezed into a G series camera will probably be revoked.

In my hand, the G11 felt strangely familiar and, at the same time, different. I still think, as I did for the G10, that the stacked control dials are awkward and the exposure compensation dial is misplaced. In my brief hands-on, the G11 did not feel quite as comfortable as my customized G9. Realistically though, this feeling was based more on familiarity than ergonomics.

The articulated LCD was very nice and I did not find the slightly smaller display to be significant. The G11 menus are somewhat different from my G9. Most noticeably, the bottom row of text (displayed on the LCD) is an elaboration of the menu item. For example, if “Mute ON” is selected as the menu item, then the bottom row of text reads “Turns off camera sounds”. Nice touch. To accomplish this, the menu uses five rows of text per screen for the menu items while the sixth row is dedicated to the explanation. (My G9 also has six rows but all contain menu items.)

When extended, the lens seemed a little larger in diameter than on my G9 but that could have been my imagination. Looking through the viewfinder, a bit of the lens intrudes but disappears on zooming in a small amount.

I’m sure that the G11 will be a good seller for Canon but suspect that the S90 will turn out to be even more profitable.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

7D Firmware Update Version 1.0.9

Just in case anyone has missed it, an update is available for the 7D firmware. My own 7D came in with Version 1.0.7; the update is Version 1.0.9. More information and the firmware download is available here.

The firmware upgrade procedure is well described by Canon and is relatively straightforward – in other words, I did it and my 7D firmware is now Version 1.0.9. No apparent differences between the versions in so far as I can tell in my own limited and normal use.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

7D Flash System


OK, so this is not a great picture. But what if I told you that the Canon 580EX was triggered wirelessly by the built-in flash of the camera at a flash ratio of 2:1 and the flash compensation was also set by the camera at -1? For one thing, you’d know that the camera was the new Canon 7D (because the Nikons can’t trigger the 580EX!).

One of the more intriguing features of the 7D is this ability to control an external flash via its own small built-in popup flash. This was a strong selling point to me and I’m tinkering with it to learn the system. Here’s a link to an ongoing discussion and FAQ about the 7D flash.

About all I can personally say about the 7D flash system at this point is that mine works with my Canon 580EX and 420EX flashes – individually or together. I’ll also gripe a bit that the wireless flash control menus are awkward to access repeatedly while learning the system. Here’s hoping that I’ve overlooked a simple shortcut.

Friday, October 16, 2009

7D Menus

The 7D is so versatile that an extensive set of controls and options must somehow be made available – in other words, the menu system is quite extensive.

At first glance, the menu system is also intimidating and I’m not exactly new to either cameras or computers. I am, however, new to the 7D and coming to it from a 20D and G9. Here’s a set of photos of the various menus and options of my 7D. Note that these photos are not all inclusive of the 7D menu system. Many of the menu item shown offer several optional settings. In general, the procedure is:

1) Press the Menu button (back panel)
2) Rotate the Main Dial (top panel) to move left/right between the various tabs/icons at the top of the display
3) Rotate the Quick Control Dial (back panel) to move up/down between the various menu items shown
4) Press the Set Button (back panel, center of Quick Control Dial to select a menu function
5) Be prepared to repeat steps 3 and 4 (perhaps more than once).

I’m sure that most of the menus and selection processes are routine to many Canon users but perhaps this posting and images will be useful to newcomers to the system.

These settings are not necessarily the defaults nor my recommendations because I've been tinkering with them. The menu item shown as being selected is (I think) the last menu item that I accessed.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

7D vs G9 at ISO 1600

I’m laughing at myself for misconceptions and memories of the quality of my G9.

Since getting the 7D, I’ve been randomly playing with it and marveling at its capabilities. Although I have other lenses, all my shots so far have been with the (cheap) 50mm fixed lens. I thought this was supposed to be a good lens and would give me a large aperture 80mm equivalent for portrait work. One of my first shots was this one (taken out the door, down the hall and cropped to hide the junk on my desk) at f2.8 and ISO 1600.

I didn’t do anything special to get this picture – just set ISO 1600, f2.8 and fired off a Av mode in-camera JPEG. The small rectangle AF focus point was placed on the center of the bookshelf. This is a 100% crop so we are pixel peeking here. All done rather simply and quickly. No matter how I rationalized, this is not a good result. In fact, my G9 would do better.

Or would it? The G9 was handy so I set it for ISO 1600, zoomed in a bit to get roughly the 50mm equilvalent focal length and fired off another shot. The G9 shot was also at f2.8. Here’s a similar 100% crop.

Hmm, perhaps that 7D does take a better ISO 1600 shot after all!

I’ve been tweaking the focus adjustment for that 50mm lens but have concluded that it is just very soft at f2.8. Fortunately, it improves rapidly as the aperture is stopped down. This is a little frustrating to me but, after all, it is a cheap lens.

The 7D was easy to set up and use for basic photography but I have a lot to learn about it.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009


After much agonizing and deliberation, I decided to upgrade my Canon 20D (DSLR) instead of my Canon G9. In other words, I decided to purchase a Canon 7D instead of a G11. The 7D has arrived and is looking good!

As just a bit of my thinking and rationalization, my wife and I share the photography hobby and therefore the equipment. When we began, I had some old film cameras (most notably the Konica T2), but we became more serious with a pair of Canon EOS SLR film cameras and gradually accumulated lenses, flashes, etc. From film, I eased into the Dark Side with the Canon G3 and liked it so much that we bought a 20D shortly after it became available. The 20D is a fine camera but we had only one and it quickly became my wife’s camera! Whenever we were photographing together, my wife used the 20D and I used various combinations of the G3 and film (usually transparency). The G9 was definitely an upgrade from the G3 but we obviously needed another DSLR.

Why a DSLR and why the 7D? In a word, my granddaughter -- although in truth there’s more to the decision than that Apple-of-My-Eye. In addition to being cute, she is quick – much quicker than the G9 (and yes, I know about the half pressed shutter button, etc.). Video might catch her and HD video (not available on the G11!) seems appropriate. Also, I’m studying off-camera flash and frankly have been envious of Nikon’s ability to control external flash directly from the camera. When not using flash, the 7D’s promise of reduced noise at high ISO sensitivity is very alluring. Finally, the 7D just really seems to be a very good camera. We’ll see.

What about the G9? I still have it, plan to keep it and will certainly be using it; in fact, I used the G9 to get this picture of the 7D. I also still have the G3, 20D and, uh, all my cameras.

What about Light Description? This blog has never been just about the G9 although for much of the past two years it probably appeared to be. As I explore and learn to use the 7D, I’ll be documenting those experiences just as I did for the G9. From time to time I still expect to have a few posts about the G9 or referencing the G9.

What about the 7D? It really feels good in my hand! More later.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Houmas House

Houmas House is a beautifully restored plantation home and gardens in south Louisiana between New Orleans and Baton Rouge; officially in Darrow. It’s a great place to wander with camera in hand, snapping quick or thoughtful photos and then easing into a good lunch. Here are two that I took recently with my G9 and printed large (12x18) for framing.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

G9 at 4 fps

Well, more like 3.7 frames per second.

I continue to learn and be amazed at the capabilities of the Canon G9. Although there apparently is no reference in the operating manual, it turns out that if the G9 is set for continuous shooting and also placed in the special low light “scene” mode (ISO3200 under the SCN setting) then the shooting speed is about 3.7 shots per second. Amazing.

True, few adjustments are available while in the SCN, ISO3200 mode. At ISO3200, the image will be noisy. Also, the image will be a 1600 x 1200 pixel JPEG. But it is fast – both ISO and shooting speed.

Without verification or knowledge of the details, I’ve always assumed that the SCN ISO3200 mode of the G9 was obtained by “pixel binning”. Loosely speaking, adjacent pixels are combined in-camera to make pseudo-larger pixels that collect more light at the expense of decreased resolution. (Pixel binning is not the same process as simply down sizing an image.) How all this could be done at increased shooting speeds is beyond me.

Similar to my crude shutter lag tests, I simply took pictures of the monitor while displaying the Xnote Timer with the G9 set for SCN ISO3200 and continuous shooting.

(My thanks and credit to “Piet” who pointed out this undocumented feature on the Canon G Series discussion forum at Photography on the Net .)