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Posts Tagged ‘lens’

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.

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This is the third and final installment of the 50mm lens review, comparing image quality shot at F3.5 (or smaller for zooms).

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The first set shows 100% crops of the centre section.

1. Nikkor 18-55/3.5-5.6 – ISO 320, F5.6, 1/1600s

2. Nikkor 18-70/3.5-4.5 – ISO 320, F4.5, 1/3200s

3. Nikkor 50mm/1.8 – ISO 320, F3.5, 1/6400s

4. Sigma 50mm/1.4 – ISO 320, F3.5, 1/6400s

The image quality in the centre of the image seems quite good for all four lenses even at wider apertures.
It seems that Nikon 50mm/1.8 is the sharpest (look at the lettering at lifebuoy). Sigma image is slightly lighter with more details
in the shadows despite being exposed exactly as the Nikon 50mm/1.8.

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The second set shows 100% crops of the left edge.

1. Nikkor 18-55/3.5-5.6 – ISO 320, F5.6, 1/1600s

2. Nikkor 18-70/3.5-4.5 – ISO 320, F4.5, 1/3200s

3. Nikkor 50mm/1.8 – ISO 320, F3.5, 1/6400s

4. Sigma 50mm/1.4 – ISO 320, F3.5, 1/6400s

CONCLUSION:
The two primes demonstrate clearly their higher quality on the outside edges, and Sigma 50/1.4 is visibly sharper than Nikon 50mm/1.8. The shadow details are also much clearer for this lens.

If you use the 18-55mm kit lens or the 18-70mm Nikon lens, position your main subject in the middle, and the background is not too important or in the far distance, you won’t notice any problems. However, if you are shooting a landscape scene and want it to be sharp from edge to edge, with the above zoom lenses you will incurr significant penalty on the outside perimeter of the image. In that scenario, the prime lenses will do a much better job.

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As we have seen in the Part I, when we shoot at F8 and position the main subject in the centre, most lenses perform quite well.
In this installment, we’ll look at the left and right edges, exposed at F8.

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The first set shows 100% crops of the left edge.

1. Nikkor 18-55/3.5-5.6 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1250s

2. Nikkor 18-70/3.5-4.5 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1000s

3a. Nikkor 50mm/1.8 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1600s

3b. Nikkor 50mm/1.8 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1600s
Exposure adjusted (lightened) to match with the Sigma exposure (1/1000s)

4. Sigma 50mm/1.4 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1000s

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The second set shows 100% crops of the right edge.

1. Nikkor 18-55/3.5-5.6 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1250s

2. Nikkor 18-70/3.5-4.5 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1000s

3a. Nikkor 50mm/1.8 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1600s

3b. Nikkor 50mm/1.8 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1600s
Exposure adjusted (lightened) to match with the Sigma exposure (1/1000s)

4. Sigma 50mm/1.4 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1000s

The two zooms performed again very similarly, and show significant detail deterioration even at F8 aperture. The inexpensive 18-55mm kit lens was perhaps slightly better than the 18-70mm lens. The tested kit lens was newer than the tested 18-70mm zoom which may explain the difference in image quality.

The 50mm/1.8 Nikkor was visibly sharper than both zooms, and the contrast seems also better.
Sigma 50mm/1.4 renders the shadow details even better. Too bad, the camera metered 1/1600s for Nikon 50/1.8 lens and 1/1000s for Sigma 50/1.4, because that makes the 3a picture darker, so I tried to compensate for it by adjusting the curves and lightening the Nikon 50/1.8 shot (picture 3b).
Interestingly, Sigma lens exhibited some light pink patches on the white ship.

CONCLUSION:
The two primes demonstrate clearly their higher quality on the outside edges.
If you use the 18-55mm kit lens or the 18-70mm Nikon lens, position your main subject in the middle, and the background is not too important or in the far distance, you won’t notice any problems. However, if you are shooting a landcape scene and want it to be sharp from edge to edge, when using the above zoom lenses you’ll incurr significant penalty on the outside perimeter of the image. In that scenario, the prime lenses will do a much better job.

In the Part III, we’ll look how these lenses perform at the wider apertures.

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In case, you were wondering about the differences in image quality between a 17-55mm kit lens and a 50mm prime lens, this post examines those differences. I compared four lenses – two primes and two short zooms – Nikkor 50mm/1.8, Sigma 50mm/1.4, standard Nikkor kit lens 18-55/3.5-5.6G VR DX, and Nikkor 18-70/3.5-4.5G DX.

The experiment took place on a sunny day at the picturesque Gravenhurst Wharf, the shooting mode was set to Aperture Priority, and the aperture was set to F8. The testing was done on a 12MP D300 camera in RAW mode, camera mounted on a Manfrotto tripod. As you can see, each lens has a different sensitivity (or D300 metered slightly differently), there is a difference in colour rendering, and the calculated shutter speed varied between 1/1000s and 1/1600s. The pictures are not manipulated or sharpened in any way. To see enlarged images, click on the image you want to inspect in more detail.

In hindsight, I should have selected manual mode, and exposed all lenses in the same way, but it was interesting to observe that the camera metered differently with each lens.

The first set shows uncropped, scaled-down images. You can’t see the details, but you will notice slight differences in hue, contrast, and saturation.

1. Nikkor 18-55/3.5-5.6 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1250s

2. Nikkor 18-70/3.5-4.5 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1000s

3. Nikkor 50mm/1.8 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1600s

4. Sigma 50mm/1.4 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1000s

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The second set shows 100% crops of the center section.

1. Nikkor 18-55/3.5-5.6 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1250s

2. Nikkor 18-70/3.5-4.5 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1000s

3. Nikkor 50mm/1.8 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1600s

4. Sigma 50mm/1.4 – ISO 320, F8, 1/1000s

The two zooms performed very similarly, and at this aperture the inexpensive 18-55mm kit lens was even slightly better. This lens was newer than the tested 18-70mm zoom which may explain the difference in image quality. The 50mm/1.8 Nikkor was slightly sharper than the kit lens, and the contrast seems better. Sigma 50mm/1.4 is about as sharp as the Nikkor 50/1.8, but this lens metered 1/1000s as compared to 1/1250s, and consequently the exposure and the colours are slightly lighter.

CONCLUSION:
If the light is good and you can shoot at F8, even the inexpensive DX 18-55mm kit lens will perform very well.
The main advantage of the prime lenses is that they offer better colours and contrast, and you can use them also in low light. They are also more compact than the zooms.

In the Part II, we’ll look how these lenses perform at the extreme edges and different apertures.

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There are 425 castles and 180 forts in Slovakia, more than in most European countries. The castles were built since the twelfth century, originally as defense posts, later as domicils of the upper echelon. The cold and dark fort compounds were not particularly homy and pleasant, so in 16th century the nobility started to build more comfortable castles and mansions below the forts. Most of these structures were attacked, destroyed, reconstructed, repeatedly burnt, but many buildings have survived and prospered till the modern days.

As to the photographing many of these monuments, what lenses should one use? Although a wide angle lens seems to be the most logical choice, it depends very much on the location and surroundings of the castle. When you get close to the massive structures or even inside the castle grounds, you’ll need extreme wide angles. If it is possible to photograph the castle from the grounds below, I find a prime 50mm lens or 17-50mm zoom very handy. Both lenses can be used very effectively also for panorama stitching. If the castle is perched high on a mountain and the visibility is good, I try to photograpraph it on my approach several kilometers away with a long lens. This gives me a totally different perspective than photographing it from just below the castle.

Let’s start with Bratislava castle, the seat of national government. The recently renovated rectangular building with four corner towers stands on a rocky hill above the Danube river. Over the years the city grew around the castle and today the castle is in the middle of the city. It’s an easy walk from the downtown or you can take a ride in a cute tour minibus.

The castle terrace provides an excellent view of Bratislava, and in good weather even views of two neighbouring countries – Austria and Hungary.

Just slightly over 100km northeast of Bratislava lies a completely different castle, in the village of Beckov. This castle was built on a 50m limestone cliff which was formed a long time ago by the river Vah. This view was captured with a 70-300mm lens, at 110mm.

A close-up from just below the castle walls with a 50mm lens produces quite different view. Although presently, there is no access to the castle grounds, you can walk around the castle, and there is a nice view of the surrounding countryside from near the entrance to the castle.

Another hour away to the east, is perhaps the most famous castle in Bojnice, visited by hundreds of thousands of travellers every year and it is also a popular filming stage for fantasy and fairy-tale movies. It is a romantic castle with some original Gothic and Renaissance elements, located in a pleasant town with a nicely restored town square, beautiful gardens, small zoo and other tourist attractions.

Filakovsky hrad is located in the southern Slovakia, just a few kilometeres from Hungary. It was built originally as a defense fort against Turks, but they invaded it and held it briefly in 15th century. Part of the castle is a massive pentagonal bastion that has been re-roofed and exists in a slightly modified form till today.

same ruins, just from a little bit closer:

Going straight up north, in the northern part of Spis near Polish border, is another old castle in the town of Stara Lubovna. This large castle was built originally in the 13th century on a limestone cliff in the 700m elevation with a large tower and a gothic palace. In 1553, the castle was completely burned. In 16th century, a new palace and a chapel were added in baroque style. Inside the walled compound, there are three courtyards and on the grounds there is an old and huge linden tree, about 25 tall with a 4.5m diameter, estimated to be 300-400 years old. The town below is a well known spa resort in a beautiful mountain setting with a skanzen and other tourist attractions. This photo was captured at 180mm from the east side.


Two more castles in Slovakia, Spišsky Hrad and Šomoška, have been covered and shown in previous posts.

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Another year, another whitewater race.

The Open Canoe Slalom Race 2011 took place on the weekend September 10th and 11th in Minden, Ontario, the weather was perfect, and we had a great turnout in terms of paddlers and boats.

River rescue - click to see the photobook

I was photographing the event on both days – primarily with a Canon T2i and a prime 200mm/2.8L lens, and with a Nikon D300 equipped with 70-300mm and 70-200 VR zoom lenses. The light conditions were challenging – harsh light and dark shadows in the sun and quite dark in the upper stretch of the river that was shaded from both sides with tall trees. And those boats move fast!

It would be great to see the absolute differences between the three long lenses, but the comparison was difficult because each shot was captured under different conditions. What became obvious is that in good light all three lenses deliver great results and that the light, shutter speed, aperture, and the angle under which you shoot are much more important that the actual lenses.

The 70-200mm/2.8 Nikkor zoom lens, although quite heavy, focused fast and accurately throughout its entire range, and was a pleasure to use. The Canon camera and 200mm/2.8 lens combo was the lightest, focused also very fast and the lens has perhaps the nicest bokeh of the three. In good light, even the relatively inexpensive 70-300VR Nikkor performed admirably (especially in the tested 100-200mm range), but it did not resolve the details as well as the other two lenses, while the dark river sections constituted a challenge and introduced a lot of noise even for the Canon 200mm/2.8L prime lens. (To be fair, in that light the weakest point was the sensor and not the glass).

The entire whitewater section of Gull River is relatively narrow, everywhere you are relatively close to the action, and from most vantage points you can fill the frame even with a 55-200mm lens. On a few occasions, I dialed up the Nikkor 70-300mm lens all the way to 300mm, but at its maximum aperture of 5.6 sometimes you have to compromise the speed and the resulting sharpness.

As a side note, there are a few tight spots on the river to experiment also with a wide or short telephoto lens, and Glenn, my shooting buddy got some interesting shots even with a 12-24mm zoom.

Here are some images from Sunday, Sept. 11th. The small web-sized pictures (reduced from 12-18MP twenty times to about 0.5 MP) don’t do justice to the actual images, but they all look great at full resolution, and would print nicely in 8×12″ or even larger size.

Nikon D300, Nikkor 70-300mm ED VR - ISO 250, 140mm, F5.6, 1/2500s

Nikon D300, Nikkor 70-300mm ED VR - ISO 250, 185mm, F5.6, 1/2500s

Canon T2i, 200mm EF prime - ISO 200, 200mm, F2.8, 1/4000

Canon T2i, 200mm EF prime - ISO 200, 200mm, F2.8, 1/4000

Nikon D300, Nikkor 70-200mm VR - ISO 200, 200mm, F2.8, 1/5000s

Nikon D300, Nikkor 70-200mm VR - ISO 200, 200mm, F2.8, 1/2500s

More images from the river in the photo book by Blurb

See also slalom images at the Shutterstock site

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