Category Archives: Cameras & Lenses

Canon EOS 1DX mark II & 5D mark IV Autofocus Systems

Finally.

If you’re like me, you’ve been loyal to Canon for their great lenses and beautiful skin tone.

But that loyalty has come with a price.  Namely, autofocus.  Let’s face it – it’s been crap.

If you’re an f/8 shooter, you’re in great shape.  But if you love your shallow focus with soft creamy bokeh-filled backgrounds, life has been rough for us Canon users.

At f/2.8 or larger, using single-point AF, whether single-shot or servo, and even placing the AF point carefully over an eye with plenty of lighting, the rate at which the camera returns an image that’s actually in focus is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20%-30%.

I’m not saying they’ve been way off, but they’re consistently off just enough.  Web-res is unaffected, but doing larger prints can be tricky when shooting this way.

If you’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with Nikon shooters, you may have even looked over with a little envy at the relatively consistent sharpness they get at f/1.4 and other similar settings.

WELL NO LONGER!!

The 1DX mk II and the 5D mk IV finally incorporate AF systems that can handle shallow-focus shooters.  I’m actually back to shooting at f/1.8 and f/1.6 on a regular basis – and that’s at live events with people moving around like weddings and corporate parties.

I’m not going to comment on auto-tracking or other fancy AF modes designed to figure things out for you.  Frankly I could give a shit about modes like that.  What makes these cameras worth the upgrade is simply this: every single one of my lenses feels like it got a sharpness upgrade, because the damn AF system is actually accurate now.  I get an AF hit rate of 60%-70% around f/1.6.  On my 1DX classic or my 5D mk III, I would have been lucky to get one sharp image out of 10 under these conditions.

So if basic AF performance is key to how you work, go out and get one of these newer Canon bodies.  Finally the wait is over.

Canon 5D Mark IV Announcement Coming Soon

According to Canon Rumors, the Canon 5D Mark IV will be announced on August 25, 2016.  CR has indicated that they’re confident this is fact, not rumor.

Continue reading Canon 5D Mark IV Announcement Coming Soon

Canon EOS 1D-X mark II Viewfinder

Hi All,

It’s pretty well publicized that the 1D-X mark II has always-on illuminated red AF points.  Are you curious what they actually look like?  Sure, plenty of websites show you a drawing and describe it, but I’ve actually got a photograph for you to see.  The image quality is terrible – I did this with my cell phone – but you can actually see what the interior viewfinder view of the camera is.

1D-x-mark-2-viewfinder-red-af-points

The red light is constant – it does not blink.  There is also a variety of other display options such as only showing the AF point that is selected.

The camera menu offers two brightness levels, “normal,” and “brighter.”

Canon 1D-x-mark-ii-af-point-brightness-menu

Canon EOS 1D-X mark II screen color balance

Note – The following information may no longer be relevant.  Canon has released firmware 1.1.2, which adds a menu item “LCD color tone.”  This menu allows you to choose the overall color tone of the screen for matching older camera bodies such as the 1D-X classic, or 5D mark III.  You can download the latest firmware for your 1D-X mark II here.

As of this post, I got my 1D-X mark II three days ago.  This thing is amazing.  I’m absolutely thrilled with the accuracy and consistency of the AF at large apertures (f/2.0 and faster) compared to my 1D-X original.

After receiving the new camera, I went into a two-day shoot, and I carried all three of my camera bodies – the 5D mark III, 1D-X original, and 1D-X mark II.  Immediately I noticed that the color balance of the screen in the 1D-X mark II is not the same as the other two cameras.  Forgive the cell phone photo, but here’s a sample of what I’m talking about:

Canon EOS 5D mark III screen vs 1D-X original screen vs 1D-X mark II screen. The 1DX mark II has a noticeably warmer color balance.

While slight variations from camera model to camera model are expected, notice that the 5D mark III and 1D-X original are still reasonably similar.  The 1D-X mark II, however, is significantly warmer in tone.

You’re looking at a photo of grey concrete.  This was shot near sunset, thus the slight magenta cast.  All three cameras were set to “cloudy” white balance.  All three versions were shot with the exact same lens.

I shoot RAW, so I wasn’t too concerned about being able to make everything match in post, but I was very curious to see whether that tone discrepancy was present in the files, or simple a function of the screen.  Here are slices of the same files from above.  These were output by Adobe Lightroom 6.  All files had all settings zero’d out, and the camera profile was set to Camera Neutral.  Again, allowing for slight changes in the different camera models, you can see that all files look pretty similar, which points pretty strongly to a simple difference in screens.

Difference in grey tones between Canon EOS 5Dmk3, 1D-X original, and 1D-X mark II.

One final way to test this, so to simply compare the screens while in a menu, not displaying image data.  This sample may be harder to judge from my cell phone photo, but in person the distinct warm-tone of the 1D-X mark II is quite clear.  (Sorry I changed the order of the cameras compared to the samples above.)

Canon EOS 5D mk III vs 1D-X original vs 1D-X mark II screen comparison in menus.

{Edit}
In addition to the above samples, I also used Adobe Lightroom to measure and level the three files.  I used the white balance tool to adjust the grey tone based on the exact same location in each photo.  The resulting output was:

  • 1D-X mark II: 5450k
  • 1D-X original: 5400k
  • 5D mark III: 5300K

Even further evidence that the files themselves are all reasonably close given completely different camera models and manufacturing years.

{End Edit}

Have you noticed this discrepancy in the screen of your own 1D-X mark II?  Does it impact your ability to shoot?  Would you not buy or choose to wait to buy because of this?  Comment below!

Does the new EOS 1D-X mark II battery charger also charge the older 1D-X (original) batteries?

Yes…

Photo of Canon's LC-E19 charger charging both LP-E19 and LP-E4N battery packs.

Yes it does.

To clarify, the battery new battery charger provided with the Canon EOS 1D-X mark II is the LC-E19.  The native battery for the same camera is now the LP-E19.  The camera can also be used with the previous batteries from the original 1D-X called the LP-E4N.  The new charger is backward compatible with the older battery packs, and will charge them.

How To Change or Remove the Canon EOS 1D-X Clock / Backup Battery

You know about the big battery in your Canon 1D-X, but did you know all modern cameras also have a small watch battery that keeps the clock and other settings  while the main battery is removed?

While it typically would take many years, sometimes this battery goes dead, causing your camera to lose all its settings while the main battery is out and charging.  Or perhaps you’ve had some kind of technical issue with your camera for which doing a full factory reset would be useful.

** WARNING: IF IT’S NOT ALREADY OBVIOUS, DOING THIS WILL COMPLETELY ELIMINATE ALL CUSTOMIZATIONS AND SETTINGS FROM YOUR CAMERA.  USE THE 1DX’S ABILITY TO BACK THEM UP TO A FILE BEFORE PERFORMING THIS OPERATION. FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS AT YOUR OWN RISK. **

Edit to above warning – So that’s not true.  Previous 1D series cameras will lose all settings, but the 1D-X stores many of the settings in flash memory, so they persist even after pulling the backup battery.  To reset back to factory, you’ll also need to visit two menus.  The first is the yellow Wrench menu, page 4, then select “Clear all camera settings.”  This poorly named menu item clears some camera settings.  The next place to visit is the orange Camera menu page 7, and select “Clear all Custom Func.”  These two menu items plus removing the backup battery will put the camera back to factory.

Here are the steps to remove your 1D-X’s backup battery.  The only tool you’ll need is a PH00 or Philips-head 00 size screwdriver.  If you need to replace the battery, look for a 3V CR2025.

The first step to replacing the backup / clock battery in the Canon 1D-X, is to remove the main battery.
The first step to replacing the backup / clock battery in the Canon 1D-X, is to remove the main battery.
The first step to replacing the backup / clock battery in the Canon 1D-X, is to remove the main battery.
Turn the camera upside down.

Continue reading How To Change or Remove the Canon EOS 1D-X Clock / Backup Battery

AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) On the Canon 1D-X

If you’re familiar with the menu system on the Canon 5d mark III, you may know that on page two of the red section there’s a menu item called “Expo.comp./AEB.”  Using that menu, one can make changes to and enable/disable the way the camera exposure brackets.

Coming from that system, I was very puzzled attempting to enable auto exposure bracketing on Canon’s 1D-X.  Other than features that the 1D-X has over the 5d mk III, most of the menus are the same between the two cameras.  And yet the 1D-X is lacking that menu item entirely.  It turns out Canon implemented shortcuts via the hardware buttons on the 1D-X, and eliminated menu-digging.  It’s a very nice feature, but it’s not exactly self-explanatory.  Here’s how you get it working….
Continue reading AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) On the Canon 1D-X

Canon 5d mark III Shutter Replacement

My 5d mk 3 finally crossed the 150,000 cycle mark on its shutter actuations, so I sent it off to Canon’s Irvine service center for replacement.  Do people go way past 150,000 actuations without any trouble?  Sure.  But people also go past 60,000 miles on their car without replacing the timing belt.  If you’re a casual photographer who doesn’t depend on your camera to pay bills, you may not care about the 150,000 actuation mark.  Might as well run the thing until it breaks down, and you actually have to pay the bill.  For me, the idea of my shutter jamming up in the middle of a wedding is the stuff nightmares are made of.  Sure I have other cameras, but why invite risk? Continue reading Canon 5d mark III Shutter Replacement

Canon 200mm f2 L IS USM Test

Day 1

Canon CPS was kind enough to send me a loaner 200mm f2 L IS USM, and I just came back from using it on a shoot.  Unfortunately for my bank account, I think I’m in love.

I photograph people.  90% of my work is weddings, and the remaining 10% is wedding-related (engagement sessions and the like.)  I already own the 70-200 f2.8 L IS USM mk II.  Both are excellent lenses, but since I work primarily on primes I’m spoiled in the IQ department.  (IQ = image quality.  I heard you snerking!)  That coupled with the fact that some most churches simply have terrible lighting has always kept me curious about the 200mm f2.

It’s hard to imagine a lens that delivers better IQ than Canon’s 85mm f1.2 L mk II, but this just might be it.  Glowing skin tones, wicked sharp, and perfectly controlled CA all wide open at f2 – this lens is sexier than Marilyn Monroe on a steaming manhole cover.

Yup, it’s big.  Without hoods, the length is only slightly longer than the 70-200 f2.8, but the girth of the 200mm prime… well that’s something else entirely.  It makes the 70-200 look like a scrawny little pencil.

Photo showing size difference between the Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS USM mk I, 70-200 L IS USM mk II, and 200mm f2 L IS USM
Left to right: Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS USM mk I, Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS USM mk II, and Canon 200mm f2 L IS USM.

Continue reading Canon 200mm f2 L IS USM Test

Canon EOS-1D X and 5D mk III, Single Point vs Single Point Spot AF

(If you find yourself wondering what the modes under discussion are, refer to the 1DX manual page 69, available for download here.  These exact same features are also available on the 5d mk III.)

I love the single point spot AF modes in Canon’s 5D mk III and 1D X cameras.  If you’re trying to get focus lock on a small point such as a burning candle, and the camera keeps focusing on the background instead of the flame, the spot AF mode can quickly solve this problem.  Another great use is if you’re trying to photograph a face framed by bushes or tree foliage.  In this case the camera often grabs focus on the surrounding leaves, rather than seeing through them to the face behind.  Spot AF can solve your troubles and keep you moving quickly to the next shot.

I liked them so much, in fact, that I started to leave the camera set to this mode all the time.

Then I began noticing a little less consistency when shooting in low light than I’d like, so I gave CPS a ring.  I’ll be going back to the normal single-point (non-spot) AF mode, thankyouverymuch.

The spot mode is great for the specific situations outlined above, but according to the CPS rep I spoke with, I’m also forcing the camera to attempt focus based on one quarter of the information available in the non-spot single-point mode.  This causes more hunting and less overall accuracy.  According to the rep, the spot AF mode was originally intended for macro photographers who routinely work at incredibly close distances.  Yes, it works great under the conditions I outlined above, but other than that it’s best to give the camera as much info as possible.