I occasionalLy have new information on techniques and equipment that I will share with you here.
View a tutorial on 4K Video Frame Grabs on the canon digital learning center
Go to http://learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2016/lepp-4k-frame-grabs.shtml?categoryId=22 to view the tutorial on tips on capturing stills using 4K video and 4 methods to extract those stills from the hundreds (even thousands) of frames that are captured at 30 or 60 frames per second.
Field testing the new Canon EOS-1D X MK II in the field using different lenses, ISOs and natural environments with bird photography
All Images in this ArTicle were taken with a Pre-Production EOS-1D X MK II Camera
I find that bird photography is one of the most difficult forms of nature/outdoor imaging. Testing the EOS-1D X MK II in these challenging situations is giving me some very good insight into the possibilities this camera offers, and most important of all addressing the question: do I want to invest in it ($6000) and replace my 7D MK II (paid for). I passed on the original 1D X because I didn't think it offered enough advantages over the 7D MK II in speed (FPS), quality, AF, and/or price, and I liked the 1.6X crop factor of the 7D II. To test the factors that might convince me (or you) to buy the EOS-1D X MK II, I have been photographing a number of bird subjects in different environments. I will move on to other subjects as time permits, so keep watching this space in the coming weeks.
A camera's speed in frames per second is important for many subjects and the 14 FPS of the EOS-1D X MK II is very useful and quite a bit faster than the 10 FPS of the 7D2. The ISO capability of a camera--and how it affects low-light capability, capture speed, depth of field, versus image quality level in terms of noise--is important when I need to produce a cover of Outdoor Photographer magazine or make a quality 20x30 inch print. The 7D II gave me a good 800 ISO for my work. Good, but not great. The EOS-1D X MK II is giving me consistent 3200 ISO with results that could easily be a cover of OP and is making possible excellent 20x30 inch prints that I am producing to display at my lectures. I do my own printing on 24- and 44-inch large-format printers and have done so since inkjet printers were made available to photographers! So the quality of the file from the EOS-1D X MK II is far superior to the 7D2 and even my 5DS R at high ISOs. I haven't tested the camera at ISOs higher than 3200, but I surely will do so on a variety of subjects. In the case of flying birds, however, I needed both fast shutter speeds (up to 1/4000th sec) and as much DOF as possible. In these tests I worked consistently at f/11 to f/16, where in the past I have needed to work wide-open in order get the shutter speed I needed to stop the movement of my subjects.
4K video frame capture offers the ability to shoot very high definition video, extract any single frame from the clip, and use it for publication in social media, the printed page, or even prints. You can scrub (look through) the captured video on the back of the camera and find the exact frame you want, then click on that frame and it is saved as a JPEG on the media card with a file size of 4096 x 2160 at 72 dpi. This is equivalent to an 8 MP camera. It doesn't seem like much data, but on line, in a magazine or a print up to 24 inches the quality is surprising. I also took a clip from the 1DX MK II and used Photoshop CC 2015 to extract a single frame with the identical results to the in-camera method. It's actually easier in the camera. This is probably the future of photography where we shoot a motion clip and chose a frame from the number of images available at 30 to 60 frames per second!
The capture and autofocus speeds were tested on some very fast moving bufflehead ducks. There was no time to get them immediately located in the center of the frame so I chose the center third of the focus points (Large Zone AF) and also the expanded Selectable 15 center AF focus points so I could lock on the subjects quickly. The camera's AI Servo AF Characteristics was set to "Case 2" so that items like reeds between me and the ducks wouldn't interfere with the focus locked on to the duck. I was very pleased with these settings (Large Zone and Selectable 15 AF points). I used mainly the Canon EF 500mm MK II telephoto with a 1.4X tele-extender (700mm) on the ducks. That gave me a basic aperture of f/5.6 for the lens combo, which was still very quick. I needed the reach of the longer focal lengths because of the distance to the small ducks. Having either 1600 or 3200 ISO allowed the shutter speeds of 1/3000 sec and occasionally 1/4000 sec. By stopping down to f/11, I had a better chance of covering the duck with the depth of field.
What are my conclusions so far? Between the speed of the frame rate, the quickness of the autofocus, and the quality of the files up to and including ISO 3200, I'm very impressed. Some of the images I've shown here--in particular the action shots of the bufflehead ducks-- would not be possible with any other camera body. I tried to photograph these very same ducks last year using the 7D MK II without any results that I wanted to keep, let alone share. The frame capture from 4K video is very interesting and I did not expect the file quality that would allow me to make 20 inch prints. I'm going to spend more time with the video capabilities and look at the 120 frames per second. I didn't mention the video AF with the DUAL PIXEL AF which was important in getting sharp frames to make them useful to single out. Still, when you can capture stills at 14 FPS, you won't often need to go to video at 30, 60, or even 120 FPS. That's a pretty fast motor drive and a lot of images to scrub through looking for that one perfect one. This is a very versatile camera for many applications, but right now I'm sure looking at it as a tool to get the images I may not have been able to get before.
Observations on using the Canon EOS 7D MK II and the new ef 100-400mm MK II
I Love what I see and Capture!
I tried the original EOS 7D when it arrived a few years ago and soon after sold it and continued with my EOS 1D MK IV for action photography. My reasons for not being satisfied with the results from the 7D were the noise inherent in the files at ISOs of 400 and higher. Not only was there noise, it had an irregular look that I didn't like. I was pleased with the 8 frames per second and excellent autofocus on moving subjects of the 7D. I also liked the 1.6X crop factor (angle of view) that the EOS 7D afforded me with long lenses. Wide-angle landscape images were captured with the EOS 5D MK II and later 5D MK III.
When the EOS 7D MK II became available I was quick to give it a try and immediately liked the results. We now have 10 frames per second, and the ISO is very useable for my type of work (prints and magazines) up to and including 1600 ISO. I do prefer to use the camera in the 200-400 ISO area for optimum quality when printing. The look of the noise patterns in the MK II is much smoother and does not jump out at you like it did in the 7D. We can also work with AF out to f/8, very useful when a 1.4X tele-extender is attached to an f/5.6 lens.
The original Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L has been my staple medium telephoto lens for nearly 15 years. That's a long time for Canon to stay with an optic without upgrading it! I recently looked through my latest book, "Wildlife Photography" and the majority of the images in the book were captured with that lens. The lens has some faults in that the edges aren't as sharp as I'd like at the maximum apertures and focal lengths, the sliding zoom is somewhat of a dust pump and not as smooth when zooming (not great for video), and the lens's autofocus wasn't as quick as the newer lenses that kept being brought out. I was also bummed that I couldn't use tele-extenders with the lens and get acceptable results. Even with all that, I still used it religiously. I had great hopes for the EF 200-400mm f/4L and when it finally showed up I hastily got my hands on it and took it out into the field. It was sharp! It worked with a built-in 1.4X tele-extender! And it was big, heavy, and really expensive! I stayed with my original EF 100-400mm. Then the rumors started to show up on a replacement for the vulnerable 100-400mm. I waited, and waited. When it showed up I immediately tried it and ordered it on the same day!
I found that the new EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L was sharper than the original, a little in the center and a lot out to the edges at all f/stops and focal lengths. Those that say there is little difference from the original don't have 15 years experience with the first lens and haven't been making large prints from the new lens. The MK II 100-400mm is far quicker on the autofocus, especially on the EOS 7D MK II and the zoom's rotating collar is more precise. I do miss the ability to zoom and focus at the same time as we could do with the pump lens. The EF 1.4X tele-extender works exceptionally well on the new 100-400mm MK II. The 2X can be used, but it's not something I'd be using when quality of image is important (which is nearly all the time). So I've done several shoots with the combo and I have here some results from photographing birds at Gatorland in Florida and kayaks in white-water competion near my home in Bend, Oregon. This is the best nature middle range telephoto combination I have ever worked with in speed, autofocus, and sharpness. This isn't a spec review, it's a field use with results review.
George Lepp tests the new Canon 5DS R in the field
On February 28th George and three other Canon Explorers of Light had the opportunity to take the new Canon 5DS and 5DS R out to the Valley of Fire near Las Vegas, Nevada, to capture images that were displayed at the Canon booth at the WPPI Convention in Las Vegas. Below are examples of some of the images captured that day and a few close-ups that were accomplished in my hotel room that night while I still had the camera. The cameras will not be available till late June 2015. The camera I was using was a pre-release version of the 5DS R.
My response to the new camera was that it will be very important to those that can use the technology that is available. If you don't need a camera with tremendous resolution for large prints or exceptionally high data for cropping, then this will be too much camera for you. It will tax your computer with 300 MB 16bit files. Even the 8bit files are 150 MB when open. The RAW files are approximately 60 MB in size. The dynamic range when working on the files in Canon's DPP and Photoshop CC 2014 was quite good and pretty much matches my EOS 7D MKII. I did not use any high ISOs on this shoot, but I expect it to be similar to the 7D MK II. This doesn't bother me because I seldom go beyond 1600 ISO unless I'm doing night sky scenics. I use a tripod whenever possible so the issue with increased obvious movement of the subject due to small pixels and great enlargement is not a problem. I was worried that my current lenses wouldn't be up to the task of the 50 MP sensor. The new EF 100-400mm MK II is definitely sharp enough, even with a 1.4X attached, and I have an EF 11-24mm on the way. The EF 24-105mm might be the weakest link as my EF 500mm at the upper end will be good with the extra resolution. As for the 5DS vs. the 5DS R, we didn't see any moire problems in any subjects with the "R" version. If you shoot weddings, maybe the "S" is a smart choice. I didn't have a chance to see how much sharper the "R" is over the "S".
Overall, I can't wait for the 5DS R and will buy it at it's earliest availability. I've been doing this photography for over 60 years and it's still just as exciting as it always has been. These images are all from a pre-release camera.