Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lens or In body IS?

So I am sitting here during some rare free time, and I am reading a discussion on why Canon should put IS in body and I am kind of laughing to myself and decided to share some of my thoughts about IS here. For those who do not know, IS stands for Image Stabilization.

First of all, in my opinion, IS has limited uses. It is absolutely necessary, in my opinion, in long lenses starting at about 400mm. Even on a tripod or monopod, the lenses are so large and heavy that some camera movement is bound to occur, even at higher shutter speeds. Having IS in these lenses helps cut that down greatly. But having IS in other lenses does only two things.

1. Drain your battery quicker.
2. Empty your wallet quicker.

Now, I do very little landscape photography and focus mainly on action and news, but I honestly believe in the 1/focal length rule for the most part. What ever lens you have on, as long as you can keep the shutter speed at least at or above the focal length, a 200mm lens would be 1/200th shutterspeed, you are going to have a sharp photo. Using slower shutter speeds than this can introduce camera shake....if you are not careful. Holding your breath, using a wall, table, or chair to steady yourself, or using a bean bag, monopod, or tripod is going to be cheaper and do a better job. Most landscape shooters will use a heavy duty tripod, cable release, and set their camera up for mirror lockup. People seem to think that in camera IS will solve that problem, but it wont.

In order for the in camera IS to work, the sensor has to move around to adjust for camera movement. While this movement is only a millimeter or two, you are now making your sensor even smaller. What if you are trying to fill the frame with something specific and the sensor shifts that 2mm, and suddenly along the edge of your image there is something that you do not want, or, worse yet, looking through the viewfinder, you can not see that the IS is going to do this because it is no longer OPTICAL. With in lens IS, you can see the IS smoothing the bumps out. In camera, you will see nothing.

Also, in lens IS is more accurate. IS from a 600mm lens is different than IS from a 400mm lens. The 400mm is tuned to give the best possible results from the 400mm focal length. You put the 400mm IS into a 600mm lens and compare it to a 600mm lens with the 600mm IS mechanism in it, the one with the 400mm IS will be less accurate. Basically, in lens IS is fine tuned for the lens it is in. In camera, you are either going to have IS that falls short compared to lens based IS or you are going to see camera's that either loose some features to make room for the IS software and mechanics. There is only so much room inside the cameras for all the data they need to work, and only so much room for the processors that make this data work. So, you have a Canon 30D. Pretty good AF, quick, accurate. Buffer clears out ok, not super fast, but better than previous models. Suddenly Canon releases a 35D, basically a 30D with in camera IS. You think great! A camera that is killer already, now is even better. You go out and switch that IS on and the first thing you notice is that the autofocus is moving a bit slower, not too noticable, but it is a tad slower, and not locking onto subjects as quickly. Take a burst of 4 or 5 RAW photos and suddenly you notice the buffer is taking for ever to empty as the images are written onto the memory card. Now, I am not saying that this would happen, but in all honesty, the 30D has one main CPU to handle all the cameras processing. 1D series has two, one for AF, one for everything else. Adding in body IS is going to slow down the camera slightly.

Another item that people tend to over look is flash sync. I do not know why this is, but it appears that in camera IS reduces the flash sync. Most Canon cameras are either 1/200th or 1/250th of a second flash sync, with the original 1D at 1/500th of a second. Adding in camera IS will change this. I do not have the specs in front of me, but I remember the Minolta 5D had a 1/160th of a second X-Sync without IS, turn IS on, and that dropped to 1/125th of a second. Shooting in studio and using studio strobes to shoot high school sports, 1/500th on my 1D and 1/250th on my backup XT (I know it says 1/200th, but I have successfully strobed at 1/250th) is a major necessity for me. If in camera IS is going to slow down the X-Sync, then there is absolutely no way in the world I will get a in camera IS body.

I do see how IS can be useful for some sports shooters. Shooting a baseball game under sunlight and having to drop your shutter speed down to about 1/60th to quickly take a shot of someone in the dugout, IS would be a benefit, but for the most part, with the exception of long lenses, my opinion is that IS is a gimmick.

Some of the greatest photographs of all time were taken long before IS, Autofocus, even color film, and to get them, even if it meant having an assistant help you, a good, sturdy tripod was use, and in my opinion, there is no better reduction of camera shake out there than a good, heavy tripod with a very sturdy head.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Have SLR, can I take your picture?

With the introduction of low priced DSLR's this year, and Christmas approaching quickly, I am sure there will be a lot of new photographers on the streets. I want to give you all tips to make your new photographic trek a nice experience rather than one that could get you in trouble.

Just because you have a nice camera does not mean you can take photos where ever you want. Let's say you head out, the day after Christmas with your brand new camera to take pictures of the winter wonderland out there. You head downtown to take photos of the decorations and you have no problem. Suddenly, while framing a nice image of a decorated front of a office building, a security guard approaches you and tells you that you can not take pictures of the building. How do you handle this? Lately I have been reading about photographers who fly off the handle at security guards, screaming about public places, freedom of speech, etc. This is absolutely the last thing you should do. Apologize to the guard and tell him you were just taking a photo of the decorations and was unaware that this was not allowed. Ask him if there is someone in the building you can talk to about getting permission to take a photo. This is the absolute best way to handle this. So you are on a public sidewalk? Big deal. If you were taking a photo of a leaf on the sidewalk, he would have no ground to stand on, but taking the picture of a building, while it might be open to the public, it is owned by someone, and there may be actual restrictions on photography. Crazy, huh? Not really. Just because you have a camera does not give you a license to shoot anything, anywhere, at anytime. Let's say the same situation above occurs, but instead of you, it is a newspaper photographer. More than likely, either the photographer, a reporter, or someone from the newspaper has already made contact with the building management to get permission to photograph the building. Or, when the photographer got there, prior to shooting, they would make contact with the building management on site or with security letting them know who they were and why they were there. Even if they did not do this, if they were approached, they would more than likely have their press ID issued from the newspaper with them, identifying them as someone with a legitimate reason for being there.

Flying off the handle does absolutely nothing for you or other photographers. If you upset this security guard, the next time you or another photographer shows up, they may bypass talking to you at all and call the police. You can throw out all the freedom of speech that you want but, why ask for problems, when it is very easy to just ask for permission to shoot? If they say no, move on. Don't make it an issue. Not being a person with inside information at the building or whatever, means that you really do not know if there are restrictions. If it is a special architectural design, the architect may have copyrighted his design and to protect it, there is a restriction. I know it sounds silly, but it can happen. A while back in the Tacoma, Washington area, at the Tacoma Dome, there was a ridiculous rule about taking photos inside the facility. There was some real bad neon artwork that the artist did not want reproduced in any form. So, any photograph not taken for media use only, inside the dome, was not permitted. If I remember correctly, that did not last long, and I am not even sure if the neon is still there, but it was a rule, and security enforced it. A high school football championship was being televised and the TV cameras could not be in some positions that they wanted because the artwork would be in the background, so they had to shoot from less than desirable positions to avoid breaking the rule. While they were technically media, they wanted to avoid any possible infractions that may come later, like using footage to promote the event the next year and having this artwork in the video.

Basically, you just do not know, so when you don't know, ask. There are many so called public places that in reality are not public. Just because a park is public, there may be a group that has rented the park for a day and they may have restrictions on photography for a event or something.

Holiday Greetings

I am really not sure how many people actually come by and read this, but I want to wish the best to all of you this holiday season as 2006 draws to a close.

My schedule has been interrupted for the next month or so as my mother prepares for open heart surgery. I have been canceling shoots and taking time off each week as I take her to doctor appointments, shopping, and running errands for her. I squeeze shoots in as I can and I hope to be able to get out to shoot some ECHL hockey this week as most of the high schools and UAA prepare for their winter breaks.

I did receive some nice news recently as I got a check from Icon SMI, one of my wire services. I knew that I had a photo in a recent issue of ESPN the Magazine, but it turns out I also had a shot earlier in 2006 picked up on ESPN.com. Along with that, my other wire, Newsport emailed me that I had sold a shot from the Quad Rugby event at the 2006 National Veterans Wheelchair Games. With not a lot going on in Alaska, it is nice to have 3 sports shots picked up for national publications.

Besides working on a review of my new 120-300 2.8 from Sigma, I am working on a full review of a couple Think Tank Photo products. I was sent a Airport Antidote and a Pro Modulus Speed belt set to put through the ringer for Fred Miranda's Digital Darkroom. Right now, after only using the gear for a short time, I can honestly say Think Tank got everything pretty close to perfect. I do have a few suggestions already, and once high school basketball and other events get going locally, I will be able to give them more of a workout.

I hope you all have a wonderful time during this last part of 2006 and wish you all a great 2007.

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