Those who follow my Twitter and Flickr photostream probably already know that I got a new camera – the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (Amazon link, B&H link). Before last Friday I had been shooting with a 20D, my first dSLR. I’ve had the 20D pretty much since it was released, and I was really happy with it. I never felt the need to upgrade to a newer 1.6 crop factor bodies, I really wanted to go full frame so I had been waiting for the 5D2 probably for more than 2 years. When Amazon got it in stock I JUMPED on it.
My 2 main lenses work a lot better at full frame, the 70-200/2.8L becomes a lot more useful without the crop factor, now I actually shoot in my studio with it pretty often. The 24-70/2.8L becomes a wide angle lens at the short end. The color rendition of the sensor is amazing, Adobe camera profiles in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom 2 further bring out the colors in the images. I’ve also started to work in the ProPhoto RGB space for even larger gamut.
Noise performance in high ISO is impressive, with ISO expansion turned on it goes from ISO 50 to ISO 25600. I shot in a pitch dark lounge in ISO 12800 and the results look fine after a little bit of NR and B&W conversion in post-processing. I would say, loosely, the ISO 12800 is the ISO 3200 on my 20D.
Pretty much everything works better on the 5D2, going from the 20D is quite an upgrade for me. One thing I would really like to have is a better AF points pattern, but I guess Canon only put that on the 1D and 1Ds series bodies. The 9-point AF pattern on the 5D doesn’t really make much sense to me, especially if you’re shooting portraits and working with relatively shallow depth of field. I always avoid the “focus-and-recompose” technique, as that easily put things out of focus, it’s simple geometry. The camera has enough resolution to crop, but I generally avoid cropping whenever I can. The AF-on button is very useful, I set it up to do AF-stop, so I can use the shutter half-pressed to focus, and then I can press and hold the AF-On button to prevent the camera from focusing again. The 20D didn’t have such feature so I had to move the switch on the lens to MF.
The video capability of the camera is interesting, I am slowly learning how to use Final Cut Pro to edit and process videos. Shooting videos also require manual focus tracking, which is not something I used to do.
I’ve had the camera for 5 days and I’ve done a couple of casual shoots with it already, I’m at over 1200 frames. I’m doing 3 days of catalog shoots next week with it. I also picked up an extra AlienBees B400 and an octobox from Craigslist. I’ll probably have a lot more to write about the camera a week later. Here are some selected shots I’ve done with it so far…
Quick test shot after I unpacked the camera, lit by available light from ceiling only, ISO 1600, with 24-70/2.8L:
That night Sherry modeled for me in my studio to test it out, I shot this with a single AlienBees B800 with a softbox on her right, with a silver reflector from her top left for fill and hair, 70-200/2.8L:
Drinks at Wish last Saturday night, ISO 12800, NR’ed and duotone conversion in post-processing, image looks pretty clean, the place was almost pitch dark:
Did a shoot with Kourtney for her website last Sunday, this was lit by a 580 EX II on the side triggered by PocketWizards:
Sherry got me an RS-4 R-Strap, and it got here yesterday, so this afternoon I went for a photowalk to test out the strap, I attached it to the D-Ring of my Manfrotto QR plate, which was screwed into the tripod ring of my 70-200/2.8L, after 4 hours of walking my shoulder felt just fine, but then I am pretty used to carrying heavy photography setup. Some images from the photowalk:
I also shot some video footage and attempted to put it together in Final Cut Pro:
Treasure Island is a nice spot to shoot the SF skyline, I went there yesterday with the SF Photography Meetup group. That was my first event with them, got there half an hour late and just setup and started shooting, didn’t talk to other members. I think one of the organizers walked by to see if anyone needed help, but I guess I didn’t look like I needed any.
I also shot a few shot of Sherry with 580EX2 tripped with Pocket Wizards, but none of them turned out well enough to post-process. Anyway, some shots:
I tried the included HDR workflow in CS4, but the resulting images didn’t look that great, maybe I just don’t know how to use it. I did auto bracketing on most of the shots so I was hoping I could generate some dope HDR shots. Most of these shots were merged manually with layers and masks with more than 1 shots, but I could’ve easily done the same with a single raw file.
Found this photoset by ttstam from the Flickr 5D Mark II – group. The noise control at high ISOs on the 5D Mark II looks impressive from these images. You really have to go to Flickr and look at the full resolution versions to see the noise performance. He also included reference shots with the 5D and 40D. (not the exact same shots though and they’ve been post-processed and HDR’ed)
Here is the shot at ISO 3200:
ISO 6400, slightly noisy:
ISO 25600, it starts to get noisy even in the downsampled version:
I spent most morning messing with color profiles of my MBP. The “late 2008” MBPs come with 2 different panel models so far: 9C84 and 9C85. I have the 9C84, probably because I got mine on the release day. I’m not sure which model is better, but it’s more important to have it calibrated correctly than which model number it is.
I really should get a hardware calibration device to calibrate my screens and printer, well, I already have an ICC profile for printing with my printer (Canon i9900) and my photo papers (Ilford Gallerie Pearl), if you use Ilford papers you can download profiles here. I spent more than an hour looking at comparisons and reviews of the different hardware calibration devices, they are pretty confusing as it’s not just the hardware that matters, the software makes a huge difference too, obviously. Doesn’t seem like I can get anything I will be completely satisfied with without spending over $1k. If I were to get something now I’ll probably go with the Eye-One Display 2 by X-Rite. If you’re interested in that here’s a link to get it from Amazon.
I googled to see if I can find profiles calibrated with different devices and software, and I found this thread on MacRumors forums that is exactly what I needed. I tried pretty much all the uploaded profiles there and these 2 looked the best to me. I am using the D65 one, but most people will probably like the native whitepoint one better. (I’ve shared these 2 profiles here and here).
btw, for my photography, I shoot in Adobe RGB, RAW, and open them at 16-bit in Adobe Camera Raw (CS4). I never convert them to sRGB before I publish my work online. I do embed the Adobe RGB profile in the JPEGs, so if you view them in applications that support color management they should look fine. If you don’t, the colors will look really messed up. Safari in Leopard uses ColorSync, so if you use Safari you’ll be fine. If you use Firefox 3 in Leopard, you need to enable color management yourself, as it is disabled by default. To do that, you can either edit the settings in about:config, or install this add-on. If you’re one of the unfortunate few who are still on Windows, I believe Vista has color management built in, if Vista sucks too much and you’re still on XP (good choice!), you can try to download Microsoft Color Control Panel.
Now my profiles from display to prints are pretty close, so I’m okay as long as I shoot and sell my prints. But I upload a lot of images to Flickr, I think maybe I would start converting the profiles to sRGB so they won’t look ridiculous on browsers that don’t support embedded color profiles or color management at all. Any color management or digital workflow tips you’d like to share? Please post them in the comments.
If you’re new to color management, René Damkot wrote a great post about the topic at Canon Digital Photography Forums.
Lensbaby just refreshed their entire line of selective focus lens. I’ve wanted a Lensbaby for quite some time but never actually bought one, all my lenses are large so I kindda want a ultra lightweight and small walkaround lens. While the 50/1.4 or even 1.8 might fit the physical criteria, I am hooked with L-shaped bokeh and just cannot deal with the unpleasant blur from those lens. Check out this video of the new Lensbaby Composer, seems easy to use while I still get decent control of focus. Kindda pricey at $270, and I would want to get the wide angle attachment at $90, or maybe I won’t need it with full frame (later).
The Composer is a breeze to use. Simply bend the lens to move the Sweet Spot and focus with the Composer’s unique barrel focus mechanism, which automatically dampens the focus action as you approach infinity.
The Composer stays in its bent position without needing to be locked. If you want to ensure the Composer will not move during an extended shooting session, you can lock the lens’s position by rotating the locking ring. This locking feature makes the Composer the ideal Lensbaby lens for studio photography or for any situation where you want longer or repeated exposures.
It’s been a while since I put up a real post, my daily Twitter digests took up the first page of my blog quickly.
I’ve always considered moving to China, or Asia in general, to do startups or consulting. Our friend Jimmy decided to go to business school in Shanghai, so I went there to check out the city and to see how are things there. I hadn’t been to China for over 10 years. Before that we stopped by Taipei as Sherry had to be there to help her mom purchase an investment property in her name.
Other than the extremely humid and hot weather it was a great trip. Taipei is really growing on me, the food and the shopping are pretty decent. Tuan Tuan had most of the brands I like: N(N), UC, Margiela, Hysteric Glamour, CDG, etc. There is also an Undecover store that is always fun to visit. I was in Taipei on the Olympic opening day, but I missed the broadcast as I was jetlagged and pretty much passed out after watching part of the parade.
We flew from Taipei to Shanghai, and with EVA airline now you can fly direct! Well, the plane still goes over to Hong Kong and then back up, but it doesn’t have to stop at Hong Kong. So the flight now is only about 2 and a half hours, before it takes pretty much the whole day to travel from Taiwan to Shanghai as you would have to land in Hong Kong and then take off later, and Hong Kong is a pretty busy airport so that takes a while.
We got off the plane at PVG and got on the Maglev, it was a pretty cool experience, the train went up to 430km/h (~269mph), and took only 6 minutes to get to the middle of Shanghai, I believe the distance is about 18.6 miles. (on our way back to PVG the train didn’t go nearly as fast, not sure why).
We spent a day in Shanghai and then went to West Lake (??),a famous fresh water lake in Hangzhou. The first night in Shanghai we went out with Jimmy and went to a the German theme bar in Xin Tian Di (???), we were pretty tired from traveling and just had a few beer there. The band there was really terrible that night. Xin Tian Di was a really nice area to hang out though, it pretty much feels like you’re in the States, they have cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating and shops like Shanghai Tang.
West Lake was gorgeous, although it was really too hot for sightseeing. We stayed at the Hyatt right on the lake, our room got the lake view and the hotel was really nice (great A/C too obviously). I definitely will go back when the weather is cooler. Most of the trip I didn’t carry my SLR with me, but I had it with me when we toured around West Lake:
After we got back to Shanghai we spent most of our time sightseeing, eating, and we also went out with Jimmy pretty much every night. First we went to Bar Rouge, it’s on top of the famous Peace Hotel (????) at Bund 18. The patio offers great view of the Pudong side, they turn off the lights of the buildings, including the Oriental Pearl Tower (?????), at 11pm though, so if you’re gonna hit up a place at the Bund to check out the view make sure you get there before that. Snapshot of The Bund with my digicam, I brought my tripod to Asia but never got to use it:
The highlight for us at Bar Rouge wasn’t the view of Pudong, it was observing how the Shanghainese “pros” work the bar. It was really efficient, they approached mostly foreigners, most of them look like they had never been in a lounge/bar/club before, started dancing with them closely within a few seconds, and in a few minutes they’d start making out, in about 15 minutes they would leave together. We were all pretty shocked, and that was everywhere around the bar!
The Bund, taken from outside Häagen-Dazs.
The next night we went to the Pudong side for coffee at Häagen-Dazs, the place was right on the river and you could see The Bund from it. After that we hit up Muse, a club owned by a Hong Kong actress, our friend knew someone there and hooked us up, had a few drinks and played dice at a table, Chinese-style clubbing experience. I read on SuFu that the best place was Guandi, but we couldn’t find it, maybe it closed. So the next night we went to G-Plus, a relatively new club at Xin Tian Di. The place was nice, huge and they had a nice DJ there that night. At around 1 the bartenders lit the bars on fire and poured free shots. I got that on video:
The coolest area we visited was Taikang Lu(???), it offers art-influenced shopping from up-and-coming artists. It maintains the original old Shanghainese buildings, and you would see people’s houses/apartments right next to remodeled store units. There are also quite a few restaurants and bars that offer outdoor seating, possibly a great place to hang out in the evenings when it’s not as hot.
Our last night there we hit up a place called People 7, I found it from reading the Shanghai thread on superjetset. It was one of the coolest bars I’ve been to. To open the door you have to figure out which 2 lanterns to place your hands into. The place was Taiwanese-owned, they have a couple bars in Taipei as well.
jimmyjam x ayn at People 7
We spent another day in Taipei, didn’t do much that day, went to Orange (?????) for some really good shabushabu. I didn’t take any pictures of the food but this guy took some great ones. After dinner we stopped by the Audio-Technica store to auditioned the ATH-A900’s. They were highly recommended by my headfi friend Steve. I’ve wanted to check those out for over 4 years and never got a chance to. They sounded great, so I picked up a pair. They could be had for a bit cheaper online here in the States but I got to audition them there with proper source and their service was great. They also threw in 2 A-T cable organizers. Over the ears closed cans are much more suitable for using at home than my custom in-ear monitors. Also other people can use them as they’re not customized to my ear canals like my IEMs.
Internet access is kindda important to me, especially when I couldn’t yet unlock my iPhone 3G to use in Taiwan and China. In Taipei pretty much anywhere you go within the city limit you can get WiFi via WiFly. You can get access cards with username and password for daily usage for about $3 USD at any Starbucks. There are other plans that are all dirt cheap, like an annual unlimited plan for iPod Touch for about $33 USD. In Shanghai we found free wifi at all Coffee Beans & Tea Leaf locations, Cafe du Paris, Esy Cafe in Taikang Lu, and another coffee chain that I can’t remember the name right now. They have paid wifi at all Starbucks and I believe McD as well, but it was hard to pay for access without a Chinese cellphone (or SIM card). Part of the Taiwan airport has free wifi as well. One thing I found strange was that most stores in China don’t accept credit cards like VISA, MC, or AMEX. Even a Nike store didn’t take them. If you have a Chinese bank account they have something like our debit cards that is accepted at a lot of places, I believe the taxis also take those. btw, taxi in Shanghai is really really cheap, a 30-minute ride (maybe around 20 miles?) costs only about $6 USD.
I brought my running gears there but only ran once, and it was only a 5-mile run. The main problem was that I didn’t know the places and routes well enough to do more than that. Even with the 5 miles I had to loop around the same area a few times. In SF I can easily run 10+ miles by going half of that one way and just turn back. My favorite route is from my apartment in North Beach out to the Wharf, up toward Fort Mason, down to the Marina and then out to Crissy Fields and the Golden Gate Bridge, the view is spectacular.
It’s a shame that I didn’t really get a chance to check out the high tech and startup/business scenes in China. Next time I go there I’ll have to setup some meetings first. This is about it for now, I have more updates to post but I will save those for another time. I am typing this up 4am in the morning as I went to bed at 10pm and got up at around 3am. I am still a bit jetlagged.