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Topaz Simplify

With Topaz Simplify, you can transform your photos instantly with one click into oil or watercolor paintings, monochrome sketches / line drawings or bold cartoons. I like best the oil painting modes, especially for vibrant and colorful images, but each image may benefit from a different filter, so it’s best to experiment with several filters. Fortunately, the rendering is very fast, and you can quickly test various options before committing to one. Or you can apply multiple filters to an image, stacking them onto each other, or even mix them with some other effects from Topaz other plugins.

Cut Flowers

To illustrate some of the painting filters and the different looks, I used a colorful street image scene and ran it through various filters. Each filter supports also an extensive group of parameters with easy-to-use sliders to optimize your rendition, but for the purpose of this demonstration, I never touched any sliders and used just the provided default settings.

Street Scene – Original

Before applying an oil or watercolor painting filter, I ran the image through Topaz Adjust Boost to get a more vibrant starting image. If you don’t have Topaz Adjust, you could just saturate the colors slightly.

Street Scene – Topaz Adjust Boost

then I applied the Oil Painting Toned II filter (one out of about twenty oil filters)

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Oil Painting Toned II

to get a more contrasty scene with very vibrant colors, I used another oil filter, called Oil Painting IV

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Oil Painting IV

For softer, less contrasty rendition with more subdued colors, the watercolor filter works well.

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Watercolor

Another street scene using the BuzSim filter

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

and a 100% crop of the same image to see the details

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter magnified to 100%

Landscape scenes lend themselves very well to artistic interpretations

Lake Superior North Shore – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

The following image is an artistic interpretation of an image shown in my earlier post “Drive to Lake Superior”. You can compare the two images and see how Topaz Simplify reduced the details and smoothed out the rocks.

Canoe on a rocky beach – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

As stated on the top, in these examples I never changed the default settings that are located in the right control panel. For each preset, you can change all kinds of parameters, including saturation, contrast, simplify modes (the abstract rendering), handling of edges, vignette and other things. Once you start playing with those parameters you’ll have almost unlimited options as how to render the image. On top of it, you can make also your own presets, and configure them exactly to suit your specific needs.

One more example of a vintage car, processed in two different ways:

Vintage car – original look

Vintage car – used Cartoon preset

Vintage car – Used Buz Sim III preset

As stated on the top, in these examples I never changed the default settings that are located in the right control panel. For each preset, you can change all kinds of parameters, including saturation, contrast, simplify modes (the abstract rendering), handling of edges, vignette and other things. Once you start playing with those parameters you’ll have almost unlimited options as how to render the image. On top of it, you can make also your own presets, and configure them exactly to suit your specific needs.

To buy Topaz Simplify, use the following link:

http://www.topazlabs.com/861.html

By using the above referral link and a discount code “lespalenik” you’ll get at anytime any of Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at 15% off

Just before the fall colours peaked in Central Ontario, I checked the weather forecast and decided to head up north, to the northeastern shore of Lake Superior. After a brief evening nap on Wednesday night, I packed up the camera gear, some clothing and food, and at 2:00am I left my home. The traffic at night was very light, the roads were dry, all moose were hiding safely in the woods and at the dawn I arrived in Espanola with just over 400km under the belt, a good spot to refuel and get some coffee. This was Thursday, and it was going to be a nice sunny day. As I was driving northwest on Hwy 17, I passed a small lake with mirror-like surface and beautiful reflections.

At The Dawn

Driving along the Spanish River, the colour changes in the trees were getting more noticeable, and I took a few shots along the river. The little tree clinging to the rocky islet, leaning in the direction of the current, was an interesting sight.

Lone Survivor on Rocky Islet

Now, the colours started to get really vibrant. So many trees, each section with a different color palette, it was hard to pick the best place.

Colorful Tree Along Spanish River

As I was taking in the colours and looking for a nice composition, suddenly I noticed a bald eagle perched on the top canopy (see the tiny black dot in the left third near the top). It was quite far on the other side of the river. Fortunately, I had a 70-300mm lens already mounted on my camera, so I managed to get a few shots of the eagle across the river before he took off.

Eagle between the reds and yellows

The sun stayed up all day, the temperatures continued to rise, I kept stopping to take more shots, and slowly I made my way towards the Lake Superior Park. In the summer, the road must be quite busy with many cars, RV’s, and even cyclists, but at this time of year the traffic was very light which made it easy and convenient for driving, frequent stops, and countless U-turns. I enjoyed the journey, and couldn’t help comparing it with the overcrowded roads at the Algonquin park at this time of year (for the benefit of international readers, Algonquin provincial park is about 3 hours northeast from Toronto, and Lake Superior park is almost 800km northwest from Algonquin Highlands).

Driving on Trans-Canada Highway

Finally, by mid afternoon, I arrived at my destination, and spent the rest of the day exploring the rocky beaches and cliffs just south of the Lake Superior Park.

Colorful Lake Superior Pebbles

On Friday, it was raining, so I caught up with sleep, and in the afternoon I ventured out towards the park. I stopped at several scenic spots and took some photographs in the rain.

Trans-Canada Highway is the main route for transport trucks

Small Island With Tall Trees

Red Leaves on a Maple Seedling at Agawa Bay Beach

On Saturday, I had a mix of sun and clouds, even some brief showers, so I was able to capture all kinds of weather conditions and light. I drove northbound through the park, and made it all the way to Wawa.

Pebble Beach and Rugged Cliffs

The famous 28ft tall, and now slightly rusty Wawa Goose

Last shot of the day at the Katherine’s Cove

Sunday was my last day at the Lake Superior. The day was sunny and unusually warm, and the big lake looked very calm. I was planning to take a short hike on the Lake Superior coastal trail, so this would be the highlight of my trip and the best day for photography.

The entire trail length is about 87km (54 miles) and the recommended hiking time is 5-7 days. The trail is quite demanding and the terrain varies from forested sections, sand and pebble beaches, boulder gardens, granite slabs to steep and exposed cliffs. In several  places, I had to lift or lower my camera bags first, before I could climb or descend using both hands to pull myself up and unencumbered without the heavy load. However, the scenery and wide views were absolutely breathtaking. Fresh lake air and fragrance of pine needles, plentiful mushrooms and fallen leaves added even more to the overall experience.

Clear waters and rocks

The coastal trail follows the coast, and where the cliffs become impassable, it veers off the coast and turns into the forest. This is indeed a rough trail, not an easy boardwalk. In places like shown below, if the wind blows from the lake, the waves could spill over the boulders and pull you in, or you could slip on wet rocks.

An easy section of the trail

Walking on the uneven terrain, especially when passing through the boulder gardens means you are constantly stepping up and down, and have to watch your every step.

Boulder garden with a hiking trail sign

Colorful rocks and boulders in every size and color

One wrong step and you could easily tumble into the deep and freezing water

By the end of my hike, the slight breeze changed into cold and intimidating gusts, calm water turned into white caps, and the lake looked quite ominous. The weather can change very quickly at Lake Superior.

Still, it was hard to leave this incredible place. I used every opportunity to make yet another stop, both on the coastal trail and then on my drive back along the lake. Finally, at the dusk, I took the last pictures at the eastern end of the lake, and headed back to Sault Ste Marie. Drawing on the day’s experience, overstimulation, and charged-up energy, I drove through, and by 3:00am Monday morning, after four splendid days in the north and two nights and 2000km on the road (and about as many images), I arrived safely home. I still haven’t finished processing all the pictures.

To see more pictures from the Lake Superior trip, please visit my (still evolving) stock image site at http://www.advantica.com/stockphotos/ (you may have to paste in this link into your browser)  or  at http://www.les-palenik.artistwebsites.com?tab=artwork (few pages down or search for “Lake Superior”)

This beautiful stretch of whitewater has been scheduled to be the venue for the whitewater events at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Games. It is located just below the dam at Horseshoe Lake, where the Trent Severn Waterway holds back large amounts of water in order to prevent flooding of Minden. Unfortunately, this past spring the 100-year flood levels were just too much for the dam, and many areas in Minden have been flooded.

Usually suffering from low water volume in the summer, this year the water levels and volume are still at record levels. All the rain has kept the Horseshoe Lake water levels above the dam very high and the river continues to run strong. There were still sandbags on the concrete walls on both sides of the river, as the evidence of the recent flood.

Sand bags on the concrete walls above the dam

The spring flooding of the Gull River has damaged infrastructure at the Minden Wild Water Preserve. Just below the dam, you can see the toppled wall, part of the engineered whitewater course, built in 1972 from heavy concrete blocks. The heavy and long wall was installed to funnel water onto the side of the main channel. When the large blocks gave in, water rushed in and opened another river arm on the left side, creating an island. The problem is that if left this way, the main channel wouldn’t get in the summer months enough water. In addition, the erosion in the left channel might continue, altering significantly the entire course.

Damaged concrete block wall below the dam

Kayaker coming down from the upper part of the river

 

There was a kayak race in the morning, which I regrettably missed, so the following photos are from the afternoon after the slalom gates have been taken down.

On the top of the chute

Coming Through, one way or another!

Nothing will stop this fellow

Looking ahead to the next set of rapids.

Planning the next step

If you don’t feel like paddling, you can enjoy the spray of the whitewater in a more leisurely way. Not recommended for people who tend to roll in their sleep.

Woman On The Rocks

The bottom portion of the course is very popular, especially at high water levels. The last few rapids are not dangerous, but still fun to play in.

Perfectly synchronized team in an inflatable kayak.

Two men in a tandem kayak

In the calm water below the course

 

In closing, it was the strongest summer flow I’ve seen on this river in thirty years. A few years back, I used to run it in my Mad River Explorer canoe myself, but having seen that recent power of the river, from now on, I think, I’ll stick just to photographing others.

 

For more pictures from the whitewater course, you can visit my FAA Gallery at http://les-palenik.artistwebsites.com/art/all/whitewater2013-07-13/all

The worst flood in hundred years
Most towns around Lake Muskoka were hit extremely hard by this year’s flood which reached the peak by the weekend, although water levels remain high. Many roads, particularly in Bracebridge were under water and impassable. There was extensive damage to the roads and many properties around Lake Muskoka and Muskoka river.

View from Kelvin Grove Park towards the Hydro Falls in Bracebridge, Ontario

The photo above and all other pictures that follow were taken in Muskoka on April 28, 2013, the day after the Muskoka river has crested.

Muskoka River spilling over the pedestrian walkway at the Hydro Station

The catwalk on the top of the Hydro Falls dam was overflowing and closed to the traffic.

Maintenance worker at the bottom of the Hydro Falls

Wharf Road on the west side of the Muskoka River at the Bracebridge Bay Park

Accumulated driftwood shows the extent of the flood

There was a lot of great looking driftwood and construction lumber including pieces of wooden docks alongside the river. The boards shown above were left on the grassy banks of Muskoka River about one meter higher and ten meters from the Sunday’s river edge.

Chairs in the lake

This group of chairs was situated on low-lying bank on eastern side of Lake Muskoka (that is, low-lying ground before the flood), and being in calm water and weighed down, it didn’t float away.

All kinds of items got away and are enroute to Georgian Bay

The water levels on Muskoka River rose higher than on the surrounding lakes, and proportionally there was more damage along the river. Many boathouses filled with water, hydro lines got short-circuited, boats came out of their slings or were pushed against the ceilings, shelves and furniture sank, and some canoes stored outside floated away.

Lakeside cafe half-submerged in the historic Duke’s building in Port Carling

This waterfront cafe is located in the historic Duke’s building at the top end of Indian River in Port Carling, just a few steps from the highway 118 and the lock to Lake Joseph. Not a good way to start the season.

Submerged town dock on Severn River

The landscape was significantly altered (for the period of flooding time). Many fixed large dock structures on the rivers and lakes were completely submerged, some of them almost a half-meter deep and several meters away from the water’s edge.

Three teenagers on a dock

I wouldn’t attempt it myself, but these three kids were pretty good at balancing precariously at the edge of the submerged dock. To their right, the water was only a few inches deep, to their left, 6-8 feet deep. In both directions, the water temperature was just a few degrees over the freezing point.

Top portion of High Falls in the northern part of Bracebridge – Muskoka River spilling over the access road to the falls and bridge

BIRDS OF PREY Recap – May 26, 2013

Eagle Eyes – D600 at 500mm, F6.3, 1/2500s, ISO400, by Les Palenik

Setting Up – by Harvey Beitchman

For a change, we had a very nice sunny day with a lot of light and pleasant temperatures, but around the noon the light got quite challenging for close-up portraits. A fill-in flash helped considerably to eliminate harsh shadows and green colour cast as reflected from the surrounding foliage.

Dan Copeland with his own flash enhancer

The lenses ranged from 70-200mm to a 600 prime. Below are some images from the workshop.

Bald Eagle by Harvey Beitchman, D800, 70-200mm at 70mm, F9, 1/1600s, ISO400

Barn Owl- by Harvey Beitchman, D800, 70-200mm at 135mm, F10, 1/1000s, ISO800

Kestrel by Harvey Beitchman D800, 70-200mm at 70mm, F6.3, 1/2000s, ISO500

Great Horned Owl by Harvey Beitchman D800, 70-200mm at 70mm, F6.3, 1/2000s, ISO500

Great Horned Owl by Dan Copeland

Great Horned Owl closeup portrait by Dan Copeland

Bald Eagle by Rob Hunt

Bald Eagle by Rob Hunt

Bald Eagle by Les Palenik D5100, 70-300mm Nikkor at 155mm, F5.6, 1/1600s, ISO200

Red-tailed Hawk by Les Palenik D5100, 70-300mm Nikkor at 200mm, F9, 1/2500s, ISO2500

BIRDS OF PREY Recap – May 26, 2013

Setting Up – by Harvey Beitchman/caption]

In summary, we had a very successful outing – great group, nice weather, and beautiful, well trained and very cooperative models. Originally, the weather forecast called for some showers, and I had packed some rain gear, but fortunately, we had a mix of sun and cloud, and the rain didn’t materialize until the late afternoon.

We were using Canon and Nikon equipment, and the lenses ranged from 50mm through 105, 200, 500, 600 primes to 70-200mm, 120-400, 150-500mm zooms.

Glenn Springer will be on May 31-June 2 exhibiting and selling his prints at the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show. If you tell him, you read about the show here, he will give you 15% discount on his prints and future workshops. For more information and to sign up, visit his website at www.photography.to

Below are some images from the May 12th workshop.

BIRDS OF PREY Recap – May 12, 2013

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

In summary, we had a very successful outing – great group, nice weather, and beautiful, well trained and very cooperative models. Originally, the weather forecast called for some showers, and I had packed some rain gear, but fortunately, we had a mix of sun and cloud, and the rain didn’t materialize until the late afternoon.

We were using Canon and Nikon equipment, and the lenses ranged from 50mm through 105, 200, 500, 600 primes to 70-200mm, 120-400, 150-500mm zooms.

Glenn Springer will be on May 31-June 2 exhibiting and selling his prints at the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show. If you tell him, you read about the show here, he will give you 15% discount on his prints and future workshops. For more information and to sign up, visit his website at www.photography.to

Below are some images from the May 12th workshop.

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owlets by Barbara McMahon – Canon T4i,50mm/1.4, ISO400, F5.6, 1/320s

In this place, you can get some spectacular pictures even by using an inexpensive kit lens or a 50mm lens. Of course, a long lens gives you many more options.

Barn Owl by Barbara McMahon – Canon T4i,50mm/1.4, ISO400, F5.6, 1/320s

Barn Owl by George Reichert – Nikon D800,70-200mm/2.8, ISO180, F2.8, 1/800s

George got an incredibly sharp picture of the flying owl, especially considering that it was shot at 2.8 and just 1/800s. You can see the details in the crop below.

Barn Owl by George Reichert – Nikon D800,70-200mm/2.8, ISO180, F2.8, 1/800s – crop from the above picture

Bald Eagle landing – by Glenn Springer – Nikon D600, 400mm, F8, ISO2000, 1/800s

Great Horned Owl in Flight by Glenn Springer – Nikon D600, 200mm, F8, ISO360, 1/400s

According to Glenn:  the wings were blurred because the shutter speed was too slow, and then I helped it along by using the Radial Blur filter in Photoshop.

Red-tailed hawk by Les Palenik – Nikon D600,350mm, ISO400, F6.3, 1/640s

Harris hawk by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 250mm, ISO400, F6.3, 1/640s

Bald Eagle by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 500mm, ISO640, F7.1, 1/1000s

Between all of us, we must have shot thousands of the owlet images. And all of them look great. Here is one more for closing.

The main attraction – the adorable great horned owlets – by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 500mm, ISO400, F7.1, 1/500s

White Spirit Bear

Recently, I’ve seen a National Geographic Magazine documentary about the selection and making of their best ten 2011 photographs. You can see all ten photographs at:  Top Ten 2011 NGM Photos

I liked best the spirit bear story and the photo of the white bear laying contently in the moss-draped green rain forest. If you ignore the bloody salmon between his paws, the bear looks almost angelic in that setting. However, the report of the photographer coming to the close proximity of the bear is the really dangerous stuff. According to Chris Johns, Editor in Chief at NGM:

“Paul Nicklen, the photographer is a master at getting closer. He gets close enough to take this beautiful forest with this beautiful bear, eating a salmon, and make it all come together in a photograph that captures your imagination. I feel like I’m there. I can almost smell that forest, the bear. This is Paul’s home. This looks like a photo he took in his backyard of a dear friend.”

To see the whole series of the spirit bear photographs, click on the following link White Spirit Bear Photos

Western Canada is the only place in the world that’s home to this unusual form of black bear, whose fur is white due to a genetic abnormality (it’s not an albino). The white spirit bear is also called kermode, and with total population of about 200, it is a more rare species than the panda bear.

Paul Nicklen reports that he spent two months looking for the bear, when “this incredible big white male came right beside me about three feet away, he grabbed a fish and ate it. I then spent my entire day living my childhood dream – walking through the forest with this bear. I actually got to sleep within three feet of him and photograph him. It was a truly amazing experience.”

I have to confess that about twelve years ago in northern Ontario, I came close enough to a large black bear to feed him an apple. Right between his teeth.  OK, it was a captive bear in a large fenced-in enclosure, and I went in with a warden, but if we had ran out of apples, that bruin could have made a winter food cache of both of us. Mellow fellow, but really big, and drooling too much for my taste. All this white foam coming out of the black mouth from the shooter’s perspective was just too contrasty, and trust me, not a pretty picture. It seems that Pavlov’s conditioning experiment works also on bears – he definitely associated our visit with food.

I’m glad for Paul that he was able to fulfill his childhood dream and walk all day through the forest with the bear, but reports like this may entice some well-meaning hikers to approach wild black or grizzly bears, and these encounters often end tragically. As reported in my previous post, just last month in Alaska, a large grizzly bear killed and partially devoured an experienced hiker who got too close to the bear.

Hiker, killed by a grizzly

Now, it could well be, that the bears on a salmon diet are much calmer and of a better disposition than the grizzlies grazing on Denali tundra or starved black bears during a dry summer in Algonquin Park. I can attest that after eating a smoked or grilled Pacific salmon I feel also at peace with the world around me.

A grizzly sprinting at 35 miles an hour from hundred feet away will sink its teeth into your expedition cargo pants in less than two seconds, giving you just enough time to engage the autofocus, select burst mode, and press the shutter. Depending on your reaction time and camera model, your closed ones may inherit six to ten pre-mortal frames that could be made into a very short viral video clip.

Reaction times for trained athletes vary from superfast 40 ms for Muhammad Ali’s fastest punches to 150 ms required to return a table tennis ball. Sprinters take 100-150 ms after registering the starting pistol to jump off the blocks.

As an action photographer, you might find it interesting that once an image hits the retina, it takes approximately 100 milliseconds before it consciously registers in the brain. Although the light travels much faster than sound, the human’s body visual system is actually slower than our audio system. When the light or an image hits our retina, the photons must be translated into a chemical signal that in turn must be converted into an electrical impulse that can be carried via the nerve fibres to visual cortex residing in the back portion of the brain. Visual cortex will process the input signal and split it into two entities – one processing the shape and identity of the object(s) we see, and the other decoding the location and motion of the object(s). These two streams are then combined into a final information block which is converted into conscious awareness. Lot of complex data manipulation and processing.

Neuroscientists have discovered another problem with the real-time watching. A simple assumption is that our visual system continuously monitors the surroundings and records it in “video camera” style. In reality, we are continuously scanning the entire scene and taking a quick sample from each location. The seamless connection and stitching of the entire scene is handled by the brain that combines the individual segments into an equivalent wide-screen scene that appears like a movie.

Typically, we perform about five such visual relocations per second with the minimum time of 200 milliseconds to shift our viewpoint. Then you add 300-400 milliseconds required to execute a cognitive decision and another 50 milliseconds to engage a motor command to be communicated by nerves to the finger on the shutter. All these activities add up to 500-600 milliseconds or half a second, which translates to several missed frames.

Case in point:

This past summer, I was photographing a whitewater kayak race. I used a 70-300mm zoom lens across its entire range, shooting at F8 in single frame mode. From my vantage point, I was able to follow the racers, set the continuous autofocus, and fire off one or multiple shots in each gate. Except one tricky spot on the river with a fast short drop followed by a haystack. I took a number of shots in that spot, some better than others. When I examined images on my computer screen, I came across the following shot:

I like this image, and it was a sheer luck capturing it. Surely, I wasn’t composing and focusing for the hand with paddle. Most likely, I noticed the racer just coming down the chute, focused on him and pressed the shutter. Let’s assume that in that particular drop the water moves at 15mph (24km/h), kayak moves relatively to the water at 5 mph (8km/h), so the resulting speed is 20mph (33km/h). If the distance from the top of the drop to the bottom is 5 ft (1.5m), moving at that speed, the kayak can cover 9m in a second, or 5 ft (1.5m) in 165 ms. This corresponds roughly with 100 ms required for a transmission of the image from the retina to the visual cortex, plus another 50 ms to press the shutter. And that explains the confluence of kayak being in the hole just with the hand and paddle visible behind the standing wave and click of the shutter in that very fortunate moment.

As the kayaker cleared the haystack, he was slowed down sufficiently, that I could easily focus on him in that position and make another exposure. If his speed in that moment was around 3-4 mph, he would cover in 165 ms only 1 ft (30cm) which didn’t pose any problem for locking the focus or sufficient depth of field at that distance.


 

Back to the grizzlies:

On August 24th, 2012, in Denali National Park, a grizzly attacked and killed a lone backpacker who was photographing the bear from just over 40 yards away. He took 26 pictures of the bear with his camera over a span of 7 1/2 minutes, but the bear seemed to take notice of him only for the last few seconds, according to National Park Service officials who based their assessment on satellite imagery and photo time stamps. The park service said that, based on “initial evidence,” authorities believe a bear attacked the backpacker by the river and dragged his body to a “food cache site” in a bushy area 100 to 150 yards from where the attack occurred.



Picture above taken by yours truly a few years ago in Denali from a safe distance, not too far away from the fatal site.

 

The hiker took the first bear shots with a wide angle. Then he zoomed in. The last five pictures, taken in a span of 13 seconds, show the bear lifting its head up, looking away from the camera, and then turning towards the photographer (did the hiker sneeze or yell at him?). The mauling probably occurred almost immediately after the last image.

“A bear could cover that distance before a person could react,” said the park ranger. The bear was estimated at 600 lbs (270 kg), big for Denali. It was a mature boar, at least 5 years old.

Canon 50mm lenses

Few months ago, we compared three Nikon 50mm lenses and examined center and corner sharpness. To complete the exercise, this time, we’ll compare three Canon lenses – Canon 50mm/1.4, Canon 50mm/2.5 macro, and a 17-50mm Tamron zoom XR DiII SP. The Tamron zoom is better and faster than the Canon 18-55mm kit zoom that was omitted from the comparison. For my type of shooting, I find also, that the 17-50mm range is more useful than 18-55mm.

All images were obtained on a bright, sunny day, at F8, and 1/1600s, and a APS-C format Canon T2i camera was mounted on a solid tripod. The images were not manipulated nor sharpened.

The first set of images shows the overall uncropped images (reduced to 720×480 size).

1. Canon 50mm/1.4 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

2. Canon 50mm/2.5 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

3. Tamron 17-50mm – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

The primes show better contrast and more vibrant colours than the zoom lens (notice the red chimneys and the reflection in the water). On the other hand, Tamron lets more light through at the same aperture. If you are going to print it in small size or use it just for Web, you won’t notice any difference in image quality, regardless of the lens used.

 

Next set of images shows a crop of the middle section (you can click on the images and see it in full 100% size).

1. Canon 50mm/1.4 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

2. Canon 50mm/2.5 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

3. Tamron 17-50mm – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

Both Canon primes are very sharp in the middle section (remember, this is output from a RAW, unsharpened image). As expected, the zoom lens is not quite as sharp, but again, printed at small to medium size or reduced to a web size, it is quite acceptable (you’ll need to view the samples at 100% to see the difference).

 

The last set of images shows the leftmost section in 100% crop

1. Canon 50mm/1.4 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

2. Canon 50mm/2.5 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

3. Tamron 17-50mm – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

Both Canon primes show excellent corner sharpness and some moire on the metal netting of the deck balcony. The 50mm/2.5 macro shows slight amount of green fringing along the vertical edges (noticeable on the two white beams under the roof), but that can be easily corrected in Lightroom). The Tamron zoom, as expected, is not quite as sharp, but due to the loss of knife-edge sharpness, it indirectly gets rid of the fringing, and moire on the balcony is also less pronounced.

Conclusion:
If you need the best quality, the 50mm/2.5 macro is hard to beat (it is also the least expensive of three tested lenses). In image quality almost indistinguishable from 50mm/1.4, and you get also the macro capability. Of course, if you need a fast lens in low-light situation or better isolation of the main subject, the 1.4 aperture will be the better choice. Tamron zoom is the longest and heaviest of the three, and not quite as sharp as the 50mm primes, but in good light and exposed at its sweet spot, it delivers good image quality and a useful range of focal lengths.

One more difference:

If you look carefully at the rightmost window in the cropped version in the last set of pictures, you’ll notice a startling difference. In the first two images, photographed with Canon prime lenses, the test subject sits straight and appears interested in his surroundings, whereas in the last photo he stopped cooperating and fell asleep.