I was brought up in a community and environment where it is taboo to make references about the color of our skin. This was, I guess, our way of saying, that it really doesn’t matter. I’m not sure if was more my family or if it’s because Britain is such a melting pot, but on the whole, unless we become close enough to a person to talk about ethnic differences or similarities, we just didn’t talk about it. That would change after moving Japan, as the Japanese will let you know that you are different at pretty much every opportunity, but we’ll get to that later.
Over the last few weeks, following the murder of George Floyd, I have watched news programs and been deeply moved by some of the scenes and videos coming out of the United States, and at the same time, been deeply frustrated by the lack of change up to now. I don’t talk politics, as who we support and who we don’t support is a very touchy subject, so while trying to avoid offending anyone on that front, I feel that I need to speak out about a number of things that are laying heavily on my mind right now.
Like a few others that I’ve heard say this over the last few days, I was going to just keep my thoughts to myself, but then I did something that I do every few days, which is to recall one of the biggest regrets of my life, and realized that saying nothing can be as harmful as being racist. I don’t have a racist bone or even cell in my body, and I was shocked in my youth to learn that a few people that I thought were friends were racist. My closest friends were like me, no prejudice or racism ever came into our conversation, and those more distant acquaintances that showed racist tendencies did not stay friends.
This story comes with an apology. An apology to a beautiful young black girl named Epee (not sure if I spelled that right) that used to hang out with us in my mid-teens. She was quiet, and had a beautiful laugh, and is a part of many of my memories, but one of the last times I saw her, not surprisingly, became literally one of the biggest regrets of my life.
We’d been hanging out in the local park near the swimming pool, as we often did, and heard that a friend was having a party nearby, so we all walked over there together. As our group walked into his hallway and the front door closed, I heard him say that he was having no black girls in his house. I saw disappointment and sadness of Epee’s face that I’ll never forget, but the deeper regret is that we stayed, and let that young girl walk home alone.
I can’t imagine how painful that must have been for Epee, and of course, to this day, I regret the fact that we didn’t leave with her. If that happened now, I know that I’d have the wherewithal to turn around and walk out, but in my mid-teens, when partying was more important, I didn’t, and I’ll regret that for the rest of my life.
I’ve spent hours online over the years searching for Epee to apologize, but I’ve never found her. If anyone knows her, please let her know about this post. She’ll have left high-school in Long Eaton, Nottingham, England in 1984, a year after I left high-school. If you ever find this Epee know that I’m sorry. What we did was unforgivable. If possible, drop me a line, so that I can let you know personally.
Silence Sends the Wrong Message
I’m relaying this story today because this led to the realization this morning that staying silent on the issue of racism is not acceptable. I may not be able to do anything directly to help, but I cannot just sit back and say nothing, because that allows those who may have other views to include me in their circles, and that party back in 84 was the first and last time I’ll allow that to happen.
I need everyone that listens to this podcast or reads the blog to know that I support any peaceful protests against racism, and regardless of the color of your skin, if anyone wants to come onto the show to speak out on these issues, let me know. I do not want to hear from racists or anyone that would use this vehicle to spread hate, and should anyone I speak to turn the conversation that way, the call will be immediately terminated and nothing will be shared.
Hopefully only a very small number of people, but I know that there will be some people that follow my work that have different views. If that’s the case, you will need to either come to terms with the fact that I deplore racism of any kind, and if you can’t handle that, you can walk away. I will not tolerate racism or white supremacy comments, so don’t leave any. If our spam filters don’t keep you out, know that your comments will be deleted, and if I get many, I’ll stop comments on this post. I will not let hate in because there is no hate here to help you to propagate your own.
My Own Experiences in Japan
I’d like to relay a few other stories about my own life here in Japan that have been a bit of an eye-opener over the years. Growing up as a white person in England doesn’t expose you to much racial prejudice. Even in Japan, it does not expose me to prejudice as much as what I’ve heard from Indian and black friends over here, but there is a certain amount of prejudice that I’ve dealt with over the years that helps me to feel more grateful for the way I was raised, without prejudice or racist feelings.
There will always be looks and even today, after living here in Japan for 29 years at this point, I can sometimes sit on a crowded train with people standing, and a free seat next to me, because some people would prefer to stand than sit next to the foreigner. That annoys me, but it’s not aggressive, so I can live with it. I recall the first time I tried to rent an apartment in Fukushima back in 1994 and was told by the real estate agent that they had nothing to rent in the area I was pointing to on the map. The next area also came up blank, and the next, until I’d pointed to the whole city, and was told that they didn’t have a single apartment to rent. Realizing that they were saying that they would not rent anything to me, I stormed out, stringing together as many fowl Japanese words that I could muster.
I’d struggle when renting apartments on two other occasions, and recall the anger I felt when I moved back to Japan after a short stint in England until 2000. I had arranged our new apartment in Tokyo remotely and was due to go and sign the contracts the day after I arrived back and called the agency from the airport as requested, and was asked a question that made my blood boil. The agent asked where I was from, and I replied that I was from England, and pointed out that they already knew that. Embarrassed the young girl on the phone said that she was sorry to have to ask, but explained that she needed to know my ethnicity. I told her that I was caucasian, and asked why she was asking. Continuing in her embarrassed tone, she explained that the owner of the apartment would not allow me to live there if I was black.
I immediately thought of Epee, and quickly expanded that to every black person on the planet that experienced this kind of prejudice their entire lives, and felt angry that there were some people in Japan, a country that I love so much, that harbor these kind of feelings, and I was shocked that in Japanese society, you can even ask that question. I’m sure that in most countries I could be arrested for asking that question, and rightly so. I was also annoyed with myself because I had no choice at this point, with all of my stuff from England arriving in a few days, but to continue with the contract and I ended up living in that racists apartment for ten years.
Knowing how difficult it is to rent a place here, I had no choice, but both my wife and I were appalled by the question, and never forgave the owner for it. We’d talk about that experience every time the owner annoyed us, by coming to our door to ask if it was me that had put the wrong type of garbage out, for example. He’d assume that anything that required more than a smidgeon of understanding of Japanese or the Japanese culture was probably me, and that annoyed the hell out of me. After a number of such accusations, I told him that I lived and worked in Japanese, and had no problem understanding simple garbage disposal rules and that I’d like him to stop coming to me when someone messes up, and to his credit, he did stop, in the most part.
The apartment that I moved to ten years ago did not have any similar questions, which was refreshing, but it was around the time that I moved here in 2010 that I had a conversation with an Indian friend and learned that as a non-white foreigner here, he was discriminated against much more frequently than I had ever been, which was a bit of a shock. But, I need you to know that although Japan has its problems, in general, they are not aggressively racist, and most people point out differences out of curiosity and in fun, rather than in malice. The Japanese can behave a little awkwardly even around white foreigners, although those barriers are easily broken down by a good understanding of the language.
I should add that I am actually now a Japanese citizen. I naturalized in 2010 and now need a visa when I visit the UK. I no longer own a British passport, so please understand that despite the few shortcomings that Japan has, I love this country and the Japanese people so much that I became one. Also, I need to say that I’m relaying these stories to let you know that I have experienced some racial prejudice, but I realize that my experiences are nothing compared to the oppression and racism that many black people face every day. It doesn’t even come close.
I wanted to relay one last story that touched me recently, to help you understand that the Japanese are compassionate and are also behind the black community in your fight to make the world a better, fairer place. We watched Curtis Hayes tell a 16-year-old protester that he has to come up with a better way to protest, because he has been doing it the same way for years, and nothing has changed. It is a powerful message, from people that live with these struggles every day, and my Japanese wife, having just gotten out of the shower, turned off her hair-dryer to watch this.
As the clip drew to an end, and I was feeling emotional, both sad with the situation, and angry that nothing has changed, I turned to my wife to find her crying. She was crying partly because of the same feelings that I had, and was moved by powerful and deep messages, but also, she told me, by the fact that people like Curtis Hayes still had the strength to protest despite it never leading to any real change, so far.
But with a video camera in pretty much every pocket now, these messages are not lost to the moment. It’s no longer just the leaders such as Martin Luther King that make global news. Everyone has a voice now, and we both hope and pray that these will be the protests that finally lead to change. Everyone is equal. We all deserve to be treated with respect and receive equal opportunities. Things need to change, and the time is NOW.
This has to be our future, and it starts today.
Finally, I’d like to add a verbal credit for the photo that I used as the featured photo for this post. It was shot by Johnny Silvercloud represented by Shutterstock. It’s an amazing photo with a powerful message. As I searched through the library for an image, and saw the message on the t-shirt, “Silence is Betrayal” I knew straight away that this was the shot. Thanks Johnny!
Having just recovered from the worst cold of my life, taking more than 10 days to shake, I’m now finally ready to talk about my 2018 Morocco Tour & Workshop, which was great, but I feel that the treatment I received from the customs officials on entering Morocco deserves a post to itself, so we’ll get this out of the way first.
I’d like to issue a strong warning to all photographers traveling to Morocco. When I arrived in Morocco this year, I walked through the customs area and was asked with a smile if I was a photographer. With a similar smile, I replied yes, and I was swiftly taken into the customs office and asked one question. Do your cameras shoot video?
I replied that yes, they do, but that still photography is the main reason for my visit. On this, without any further questions, I was told that I could not bring my camera gear into Morocco and that I had to…
Leave my camera bag at the customs office and pick it up on my way home!
I told them that I was here to do a photography tour, and there was no point in me being in Morocco without my gear, and their reply was that my only other option was to return home. It was either leave your bag or go home. Those were my two choices. Of course, neither of these choices was acceptible, so I stood my ground.
I asked on what grounds they wanted to keep my gear, and after a few relays, they told me that it was because my cameras could shoot video. I, of course, told them that almost every camera that was made in the last ten years can shoot video, and that without doubt, every other person going through their customs gate could also shoot video, but they were free to enter Morocco.
I was told that I need to leave my bag, and go to Rabat, the capital of Morocco and get authorization from the government. I asked for details of what authorization I needed to seek, and from which government body.
All I got was this piece of paper (right) with the words Rabat and Minister of Communication. They would not tell me what type of authorization I needed.
At this point, I called my travel partner for the Morocco tour and asked them to call the Ministry of Communication in Rabat and ask what kind of authorization I needed. They were able to get through to someone and were told that there is no authorization that I can seek.
I later learned that to do any production filming in Morocco, you do need to get authorization from the Ministry of Communication, but that is for shooting movies, short-movies or commercials etc. Otherwise, it is not illegal to shoot video in Morocco.
I imagine that this is what the customs officials were hassling me about, but that was based on one leading question; do my DSLR cameras shoot video? Not, are you here to film a movie or commercial. I was never asked why I had the cameras. Just do they shoot video.
Anyway, at this point, I watched a guy come in and pay the customs officials for a few boxed up iPhones, and although this may have been an official payment, the way they seemed to be bartering on the price made it look like a back-hander to me, otherwise known as a bribe.
I know that customs in some countries work this way, so although I spent forty minutes in India once standing my ground adamant that I would not pay them, it had already been well over an hour that I was trying to get my bag into Morocco, so I asked if they wanted me to make a payment. Luckily, and to their credit, I was told that it was not necessary.
So, I asked to see the manager of the guy that I was talking to. It turns out that this was the guy that had brought me in here in the first place. I decided to go straight for the jugular in this conversation and told him that I was here to do a photography tour, and I could not leave without my bag.
I proceeded to say that if they made me leave my bag, I would walk outside and film a video with my iPhone explaining what had just happened to me and that this would be viral on the Internet within 24 hours.
I pointed out that this would seriously damage Morocco’s photography tourism trade, and I asked if he was ready to take responsibility for that? At this point, he took me to his manager, who took me back into the customs office and asked me to write out a memo stating that I was not entering Morocco to shoot video and sign it. I did this and was let through customs, with my camera bag.
An Unprovoked Attack on a Good-willed Tourist
This whole fiasco took me a few minutes short of two hours, and quite honestly, it felt like I’d been dragged into an alley by some thugs and given a kicking, just for the hell of it. It was cold and totally unprovoked, and quite honestly I’m shocked and amazed that Morocco is carrying out this kind of practice.
Luckily, none of my tour guests were stopped in a similar way, and luckily the other guest that was due to arrive at the same time as me came in on a flight that was also delayed, so he came out around ten minutes after I did, meaning that I didn’t keep anyone waiting.
There were two related incidents though that are a bit of a saving grace for Morocco and her otherwise wonderful people.
When I walked outside the airport to the meeting point, shortly after I met our guide who was there to pick me up, a young Moroccan man came over to me with a concerned look on his face. He had a kind face and was a comfort as I was obviously still very stressed. He asked if anything was wrong and was greatly saddened to hear my elevator speech on what had just happened to me.
He asked me not to lose faith in the Moroccan people, and then disappeared for a minute and came back with a bottle of water and short tube of pringles that he handed to me. I tried to refuse but he wouldn’t let me. This act of kindness brought me back to a state that almost felt normal.
The second thing that happened, not including the amazing 12 days that we spent in Morocco since my arrival, was on the way back through the airport at Casablanca, as I went through security checks.
The guy checking the contents of bags started asking me about my trip. He asked all the places we’d visited, and with all the photography gear I had, he asked if I was a photographer. My heart sank, as the thought of spending another two hours getting out of Morocco with my gear crossed my mind, but then he asked if I’d enjoyed the photography here. When I replied that I had, very much, he smiled and said, “I’m pleased to hear that. I hope you come back and visit us again.”
Honestly, as I was already run down from a cold that had a vicious grip on me as I returned to Japan, I almost burst into tears. It made me so happy to receive a kind comment from a guy in a similar suit to the ones that had accosted me twelve days earlier.
Just Say No!
So, that’s my story, that I didn’t wish for, and wish I didn’t have to tell, about almost losing all of my gear for at least twelve days, although possibly permanently. I have two main messages that I’d like you to take away from this. Firstly, if you are going to Morocco to shoot still photography, and you are asked by customs if your camera shoots video, just say no!
But, I can’t end without saying that Morocco is a beautiful country, with mostly very warm and poetic people. A little camera-shy sometimes, for sure, but I really enjoyed this year’s tour, and I’m still hoping to return at some point. I’m still trying to decide whether or not to run this tour in 2019, partly, but not entirely because of this incident. There are a few other things that I have to consider too, before I can make my final decision.
If you are interested to hear how the tour went, see the next post as I start a series of travelogues to share our journey and some the of beautiful photographs that I came back with this year. If you are not a regular visitor, subscribe to our newsletters to get a reminder when the next post is released. Or visit our subscribe page to see other options, such as subscribing to our Podcast feed.
Welcome to the 500th episode of the Martin Bailey Photography Blogcast! I did have a fun video hangout for you to watch today, but Google’s gargantuan half-assedness has put the mockers on that, so I’ve edited an audio backup for release today. I do hope you enjoy this conversation, which would not even exist if it wasn’t for Mike “Sharky” James, the host of the PetaPixel Photography Podcast, so thanks so much Sharky for your help during the recording, and for creating the backup for us. You literally saved my bacon!
Basically, what happened is, we had a great, fun conversation, that I recorded as a Google Hangout on Air. I’ve recorded almost a 100 of these over the last four years or so, and never had a problem, so I almost didn’t even ask Sharky to make the backup, but because I’d heard horror stories from Frederick Van Johnson of the This Week in Photo podcast, about hangout’s disappearing, I figured it would be prudent, so I accepted Sharky’s kind offer, which basically saved the day.
[UPDATE] So, after 96 hours of processing, the hangout video finally completed, and became available, so I’m going to link it here in addition to the edited audio that I included in our blogcast feed. It’s a fun video after all. The photos and links etc. are all after this video, so scroll down to take a look.
The biggest photography event of the year is happening right now!
Every year my friends Griffin, Valerie and Adam over at 5DayDeal release what I personally consider to the best and most exciting photography related sale of the year. They’ve spent months putting together a collection of all the best photography products available online from all of the top name photographers around the world, and for 5 days only, they’re selling it for just $127.
This year they’ve got products from people like David duChemin, Nicole S. Young, Lindsay Adler, Trey Ratcliff, Serge Ramelli, and Topaz Labs.
Here are just a few of the products included in the deal:
5 Simple and Creative Lighting Setups + High Impact Images by Lindsay Adler – $198 Value
24/7 Photo Pro by Dave Seeram – $497 Value
The Art of Sculpting Splashes by Alex Koloskov – $250 Value
Lightroom for Landscapes by Christopher O’Donnell – $199 Value
Newborn Photography for the On Location Photographer by Cole’s Classroom – $300 Value
Photographing Children – Naturally by Brent Mail – $300 Value
Wedding Photography Business Start Up Bundle by Jasmine Star – $50 Value
In fact, they’ve included over 50 products from more than 25 contributors, many of which normally alone sell for over $150. When you buy The Complete Photography Bundle on 5DayDeal.com, you get dozens of super high-quality photography products. Over $3,300 worth of products to be exact. Now you see why I consider it to be the most exciting photography event of the year.
You might be wondering, what if you already own one of these products?
That’s alright, The Complete Photography Bundle is still a total bargain even if you already have one or two of the products. It’s also good no matter what your level is – there’s something in there for everyone.
The best part of the whole thing though, is that a full 10% of the revenue from the sales goes directly to 4 awesome, specially chosen charities; Help Portrait, The BOMA Project, Camp Smile-A-Mile, and Flashes of Hope.
They’re looking to raise over $300,000 for these charities this year, and to do that, they’ll need your help. Head over to 5DayDeals now, and check out the sale, and, even if you choose not to buy this year, please share this link (https://mbp.ac/5dd3) with your network to help raise awareness. Not only is this a great deal, it’s a great cause which I’m extremely proud to support, and I hope you will too.
Ends Sept 15, noon PST
Of course, as this is a 5DayDeal, it only lasts 5 days. From Sept 10, noon PST to noon on Sept 15, 2015. Once those five days are up, that’s it! This bundle is gone forever, so don’t drag your feet on this one. Pick up your bundle now, before it’s too late.
Yesterday I picked up my new Canon EOS 5Ds R 50 megapixels, ultra high resolution DSLR camera, and have since shot around 200 frames, on which I’ve based this first impressions review. I’ll follow up on this with a full review and podcast in a week or so, when I’ve done more shooting, but I am so excited about this camera, I just have to share my initial findings with you.
My Expectations Before Buying
First of all, let me explain the downsides that I was expecting from the Canon EOS 5Ds R before I actually picked up the camera. I was every bit ready to see slightly soft images, because 50 megapixels is such a high resolution, I was expecting that many of my lenses would not be able to resolve light down to a fine enough point to create a sharp image. Basically, I expected it to “out-resolve” many of my lenses. I thought that the new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L lens would just about hold up to the task, because it was announced at the same time as the 5Ds and 5Ds R cameras, but I thought that even that would be a bit soft.
So far I have only shot with the 11-24mm and the 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II lens, so that’s all I can comment on right now, but as you’ll see, I have been pleasantly surprised by the results from both of these lenses.
I also fully expected ISO performance to drop from around ISO 800 and start to absolutely suck from around 1600. I just couldn’t see how pixels this small could perform well in low light.
I expected this camera to be virtually impossible to shoot hand-held and still get sharp images, because the pixels are so small that even the slightest camera movement will take light that should have been focussed on one pixel, and blur it into the next pixel.
Read on to see how wrong I was on all three points…
My First Field Test
I picked up my Canon EOS 5Ds R here in Tokyo on the morning of it’s release here in Japan, on June 18, 2015. As I often do on such occasions, I took the accessories that I need and a few lenses, so that I could start testing the new camera right away. After picking up the camera, I went to the Starbucks around the corner from the camera store, put on the strap, then my old battery grip from the 5D Mark III (that works with the 5Ds R!) and left my Really Right Stuff L-Bracket on the battery grip, which also fits fine.
I then went through the menus, and changed things like the Histogram from Brightness to RGB, changed the color space of the images from sRGB to Adobe RGB, and stopped the camera from being able to shoot images without a CF card. I also at this point found a few nice surprises, which we’ll get to after looking at a few images.
After finishing my coffee, I walked back down the street again and shot the first few images, hand-held. As I said, I fully expected that this would give me blurry images at this resolution, but when I hit the Magnify button and zoomed in to a 1:1 view of the image, I almost dropped the camera. I am not kidding you, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Here is the image I looked at, the sixth frame that I shot with the camera (below).
Nishi Shinjuku Shops
Note that when you click on the images to view them larger, they will automatically start a slideshow, and progress through each frame. To stop that, mouse over the images. You can also click either side of the image or use your keyboard arrow keys to navigate back and forth.
Here now, is the center of the image, at 100%. All of the full images are resized to 1440 pixels wide for the web. The 100% crops are exactly 144o x 960 pixels cropped from the original images. There is nothing done to these, other than the default sharpening that Lightroom applies to all images on import. For some many of the following images I have converted to black and white, so show how I would probably process these images, but all 100% crops are straight out of camera.
Nishi Shinjuku Shops (100% Crop)
Keep in mind that this image was shot hand-held, at 1/125 of a second, f/8, ISO 160, 16mm with the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L lens. As I said, I was expecting this to be virtually impossible at this resolution, but it works! I consider myself to have a relatively steady hand when shooting, but not necessarily super-human.
Advanced Mirror Control Mechanism
How can this be? Well, at this point, I’m assuming it’s down to Canon incorporating a new Mirror Vibration Control System. This is from the Canon web site.
The camera shake that occurs from the impact of an SLR’s mirror can leave blurred details in the recorded image. This effect is magnified when working with a super high-resolution sensor like the one found in the EOS 5DS R camera. To counter the effects of conventional, spring-driven SLR mirrors, the EOS 5DS R features a newly developed Mirror Vibration Control system. The camera’s mirror is not controlled by springs but instead is driven by a small motor and cams. This system suppresses the impact typical of the camera’s mirror, significantly reducing impact and its effects on the image.
It seems to have done the trick, and the shutter action sounds beautiful! I shot just over 200 frames and only a handful using a tripod, and none of them were blurred. I kid you not. I didn’t get a single blurred frame.
I took a walk over to the Cocoon Tower, my favourite building here in Tokyo, and did a few other shots. Here is one looking down into their dark stairs. They have two sets of stairs; one white with black tiles and one black with white tiles. I chose this one to start testing the ISO performance. For this photo, I had to crank up the ISO to 800, with a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second, f/5.6 at 18mm.
Cocoon Tower Dark Stairs
I’ve also embedded the histogram into this shot, to show you that although I was exposing the whites to be white, the majority of the image information in this image is way down in the shadows. That usually means a LOT of noise, especially on cameras that don’t work well at high ISO. Hell, this shot would have totally freaked my old 1Ds Mark III out at ISO 800, and that was only (phner!) a 21 megapixel camera.
Anyway, here is a 100% crop of the two gentlemen crossing on the stairs. Sure, you can see a tiny little bit of noise creeping in, but to say we are looking at the shadow end of the histogram for much of this image, I am happily surprised to see so little noise.
Cocoon Tower Dark Stairs (100% Crop)
I went around the other side of the building, and because it had been raining, shot this fun image of the glass above the elevator door, with little puddles of rain on it. I’m just including this for fun, but I do love the tonal qualities of the images. Again, this one is straight out of camera (below).
Rain on Glass
Comparison between the 5Ds R and 5D Mark III
I did one test where I pitched the 5D Mark III against the 5Ds R. I set this shot up on a tripod, and made this first image with the 5Ds R (below).
The Cocoon Tower (5Ds R)
I then unscrewed the 5Ds R from the battery grip, which was attached to the tripod with the Really Right Stuff L-Bracket, moved the 11-24mm lens from the 5Ds R to the 5D Mark III, and then screwed the 5D Mark III into the battery grip. It seems to have shifted very slightly, but the below is from the 5D Mark III. The lighting changed slightly in the few minutes it look me to switch the camera out, but these were both shot at 1/100 of a second, f/8, ISO 100, 11mm.
The Cocoon Tower (5D Mark III)
Here now, is the 100% crop from near the centre of both images. This is really to give you an idea of the difference in magnification between the two cameras. These are both in color, straight out of the camera.
The Cocoon Tower (5Ds R 100% Crop)
The Cocoon Tower (5D Mark III 100% Crop)
I did one long exposure, using a tripod of course, to see how well the image quality coped. I put a piece of ND10000 gelatine film in the film holder on the back of the 11-24mm lens, for this 2.5 min exposure, f/11, ISO 100 at 11mm, using the new in-camera Bulb timer that we’ll look at later.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (2.5 min exp)
Here is a 100% of the top of the buildings, again from the color original (below). Again, what we are looking at here is in the low end of the histogram, as I was exposing to keep the sky from blowing out, so you can probably detect a tiny bit of noise in the dark building, but this is a perfectly acceptable amount in my opinion.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (2.5 min exp – 100% Crop)
I went up to the 45F of that building, and shot some images out of the window. If you know the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building viewing area, you’ll probably also know that tripods are strictly forbidden. These next handful of images were all shot hand-held, either resting on the ledge on the inside of the window, or simply standing with the camera against the glass.
Tokyo from Metropolitan Government Building
Here is a 100% crop of the center of this image. You can see that it was a dull and hazy day, but I think you’ll also appreciate the amount of detail being captured here. This was shot at 1/100 of a second, f/8, ISO 200, 11mm.
Tokyo from Metropolitan Government Building (100% Crop)
Here’s another view from the other side of the building, with my favourite Cocoon building down there on the right. 1/100 of a second f/8, ISO 160, 12mm.
The Cocoon from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
And here’s the 100% crop.
The Cocoon from Metropolitan Government Building (100% Crop)
So far, all of the images we’ve looked at were shot with the new 11-24mm which we can almost assume Canon were confident of the resolving power of, as they announced it at the same time as the 5Ds R. This next photo though was shot with the older 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II lens, at 1/125 of a second f/8, ISO 320 at 45mm.
The Cocoon from Metropolitan Building (24-70mm)
And here is our 100% crop. Again, the weather was a little hazy, but I am blown away by the amount of detail being capture here, even with this older lens. I didn’t even know that you can see Tokyo Dome (top right) from this building, until I looked at this image at 100%.
The Cocoon from Metropolitan Building (24-70mm – 100% Crop)
I’ll be testing my other lenses over the next week or so, to see how they also hold up to this resolution, but honestly, if the 24-70mm is as good as this, I’m not concerned about my other glass. It’s not that the 24-70mm is bad, but I’d say it’s on a par or perhaps a tad softer than all of my other glass, so right now, I’m a happy camper.
ISO 3200 Test
OK, so I’ll do some more scientific tests of the ISO performance soon, but for now, here’s a shot of the incredible Melon Bear, a Japanese “Yurukyara” mascot for the Hokkaido town of Yuubari, where they grow the most amazing melons. I shot this on the 2F of the metropolitan government building, hand-held at ISO 3200, 1/60 of a second, f/5 at 35mm.
The Melon Bear (ISO 3200)
And here’s the 100% crop. Don’t forget to click on the image and view it at true 100%. Sure, you can now see the grain, but if that’s as nasty as it gets at ISO 3200, I can totally live with this level of ISO performance. Hand-held at 1/60 of a second didn’t really seem to be posing any problems either.
The Melon Bear (ISO 3200 100% Crop)
Freedom to Shoot Hand-Held!
I’ve heard many people complain that you really can’t use the Nikon D800 at 36 megapixels, because camera shake makes the images soft. Basically people say you absolutely must shoot with a tripod the entire time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting with a tripod, but I also love being able to shoot hand-held when I’m running and gunning, and I was expecting to have to give that up with the 5Ds R due to the high resolution. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this simply isn’t the case. Canon have hit the ball right out of the ball park with this camera.
Other Nice Surprise Features
I probably should have already known about these next few features, but I honestly didn’t have much time to read-up on the new features before I picked up my 5Ds R, so these came as a nice surprise to me as I look through the camera menus yesterday.
In-Camera Bulb Timer
I was pleasantly surprised to see a new built in Bulb timer for long exposures. Traditionally 30 seconds was the longest in-camera exposure we could achieve, before it was necessary to attach a cable release or remote timer and go to Bulb mode, then either time your shots while depressing the cable release, or set your shutter speed on the remote timer.
We still have to go to Bulb mode, which is fine, but now there is a timer built right into the camera, so it is no longer necessary to use a cable release. If you also start your exposure with a two second timer, you can get your hand away from the camera and give it time to stop vibrating from your hand movement before starting the actual exposure. Great stuff!
Canon EOS 5Ds R – Bulb Timer
I was also happy to see that the 5Ds R has a built-in intervalometer, so that we can now do time-lapse photography without a remote timer/intervalometer. Another nice touch!
Canon EOS 5Ds R – Intervalometer
Custom Quick Control Screen
And something else that I absolutely love, is the Custom Quick Control Screen. This is similar to the Quick Control Screen that we’ve had for a few generations of Canon camera body now, but now you get to choose what is displayed, how wide, and where on the screen it is displayed. This is how I’ve set my screen up for now.
Canon EOS 5Ds R – Custom Quick Control Screen
Because I’ve now disabled the standard Quick Control Screen, when I hit the Q button that we can see on the right of this photo (above) I am brought straight to my custom screen. Another great new feature! By the way, I did not shoot this image at 04/01 23:59. That’s just what get’s displayed when you start to customise the screen. I had to wait for my 5Ds R just like most everybody else. 🙂
Do We Really Need 50 Megapixels?
I know that some people are going to ask this, so let’s just consider if we really need 50 megapixels.
Personally, I’ll take every megapixel I can get if it doesn’t result in the sensor out-resolving my lenses, and doesn’t give me really bad ISO performance. I could have lived with having to use a tripod, but fortunately, that is not the case. I took a gamble when I reserved my own 5Ds R back in February, while on the bus on the last day of my Winter Wonderland Tour, but I’m glad I didn’t sit on the fence and miss out on getting mine of the day of the launch, because none of these three possible issues affect this camera.
If you only shoot for the web, or never print your work, and you don’t sell images commercially, then you perhaps don’t need this many megapixels. I have almost lost commercial image sales in the past because my 12 megapixel files weren’t large enough. I was able to provide alternative shots at 21 megapixels and still close the deal, but it was a close call. For that same job, if I’d have had 50 megapixel images, it would have been a no-brainer for the client. For me, this is future-proofing my images that I work hard to create.
How you want to proceed is for you to decide, based on your own situation and requirements.
5Ds or 5Ds R?
The other thing to consider, is whether to go for the 5Ds or the 5Ds R, which is what I went for. The 5Ds R is pretty much the same camera, but the R has the low-pass filter effect cancelled. Here’s how Canon describe it:
With all the features and capabilities of the EOS 5DS, the EOS 5DS R camera offers the potential for even greater sharpness and fine detail for specialized situations. It features the same Canon designed and manufactured 50.6 Megapixel sensor, with the low-pass filter* (LPF) effect cancelled to provide even more fine edge sharpness and detail for critical subjects such as detailed landscapes, and other situations where getting the sharpest subject detail is a priority.
*The possibility of moiré and color artifacts is greater due to the LPF cancellation function.
I have not shot with the 5Ds, so I have no idea how much sharper the 5Ds R is by comparison, but unless you think moiré would be a big problem for you, I’d recommend going for the 5Ds R.
Do Files Take Forever to Process?
I was pleasantly surprised by the process speed of the files. The transfer of the files to the computer took a little longer than usual, using a USB3.0 card reader, and the files take a second or so to “res-in” in Lightroom, but it is nowhere near as slow as I was expecting it to be. It’s really not a lot slower than working with my 5D Mark III 22 megapixel files.
I’m using Lightroom 6 (2015.1) on a Mid-2013 27″ iMac (32GB RAM/Fusion Drive) and a Late-2012 MacBook Pro Retina (16GB RAM/SSD). My Lightroom catalog and images are transferred directly to a Drobo Mini connected via Thunderbolt, which is slightly slower than working directly from the internal hard drive, but still runs fine, and enables me to move the drive between both computers without copying the catalog or images around.
What’s Missing from the 5Ds R?
At this point, the only thing that I am disappointed about with the 5Ds R is that it does not have GPS built in. I thought when my 7D Mark II came with this, all future Canon bodies would have GPS built in by default, but I was wrong. I understand that Canon were following the design of the 5D Mark III which also does not have GPS, but they were able to do so much elsewhere, this is a bit of a let down. I now have to continue to use my GP-E2 GPS unit to geotag my images.
BUT, this is the only thing that I can find at this point that I would have like to have seen in this camera. Sure, there is other stuff, like built-in bluetooth to pair this with my other cameras and have the ability to synchronize key settings like shutter speed, aperture and ISO etc as I change settings, but that’s been on my wish list for so long now that I have almost given up on it.
As I mentioned, I will follow up on this review with more test results after I’ve shot more, but at this point, based on an afternoon’s shooting, I am literally blown away by the 5Ds R. Even if my expected limitations had been true, I would have loved this camera, but with none of them affecting it, I truly believe that the Canon EOS 5Ds R is an engineering marvel.
Although it was a dull rainy season afternoon here in Tokyo, I hope that the images I’ve shown here help you to appreciate just how much detail this camera is capable of capturing, even at moderately hight ISOs.
If you have found this review useful, and intend to pick up your own, you can help to support my efforts buy purchasing with the below links. Note that if you already have a 5D Mark III battery grip BG-E11, you do not need to buy this again. They are the same.
Of course, my recommendations are based purely on my own experiences, and in no way biassed to encourage affiliate purchases. I paid for the 5Ds R and lenses used myself, and have received no third party compensation in exchange for or in relation to this review.
Don’t Miss the Follow-up Review!
If you have arrived here having searched for 5Ds reviews, I urge you to subscribe to our newsletters so that you don’t miss my follow-up review. I release a weekly photography podcasts full of useful information about the art and craft of photography, which I hope you will also find useful.
I’m often asked which color space to use in Photoshop, and when I tell people that it’s best to work in ProPhoto RGB, I hear various reasons why people don’t think it’s necessary. One of the main ones is the camera’s widest color space is Adobe RGB, but that of course is not true. Adobe RGB is available as a better alternative to sRGB for use in the JPEG previews in your RAW files, or if you should for some reason shoot in JPEG, that’s your lot.
Once you have your images in Lightroom though, it automatically uses ProPhoto RGB, you can’t even change it! When you go over to PhotoShop though, you have a choice, and far too many people select Adobe RGB or even sRGB, because that’s what your images are often exported in. Today I’m going to show you why that’s a mistake.
If you are already up on color spaces and just want to get blown away, skip down to the video below. If this is all going over your head a little, read on first…
What is a Color Space Anyway!?
Just in case you don’t know what I color space is, briefly, in this diagram you can see the Spectrum Locus, which represents all the colors that we can see. Computers work with large amounts of data much better though, if that data can be mapped out mathematically, so over the decades a number of clever people have created what are called color spaces, that basically map out colors based on straight lines forming a triangle within the Spectrum Locus. This enables us to give each color a number, that can be used to create that color on a computer.
As we see here, sRGB is actually quite a small segment of the visible spectrum, and although better, Adobe RGB is only in reality a bit larger that sRGB. To really show you the relationships between these color spaces and a bunch of others, in the video below I use a tool called ColorThink Pro to make it plainly obvious that ProPhoto RGB is the way to go when editing your images in Photoshop or any other image editing software.
ProPhoto RGB in PhotoShop
To set ProPhoto RGB as your working color space in Photoshop, just go to the Edit menu, and select Color Settings, and you’ll see this dialog box. Just select ProPhoto RGB as the RGB working space. Don’t worry about CMYK for now. You will usually only use that in pre-press work and when necessary, you’ll be told what color space to use.
I also turn on Ask When Opening and Ask When Pasting for Profile Mismatches and Missing Profiles too. This prevents me from using the wrong profile without realizing it. Really though, once you’ve made this change, you can pretty much forget that you are working in ProPhoto RGB, and just reap the benefits.
(Click on the screenshot to view larger.)
This goes for any other image editing software too of course. Whenever you can select ProPhoto RGB, it’s always best to do so, and save your working files in this color space, then use sRGB when exporing for Web or Adobe RGB when necessary, sometimes for printing services, and some stock sites prefer Adobe RGB, but that should only be selected when exporting your images for these purposes.
Editing in ProPhoto RGB from Lightroom
Note that if you send files from Lightroom 5 to Photoshop, there is no need to specify a color space as you leave Lightroom. When you do round-trip editing in other plugins though, such as Silver Efex Pro you will need to specify ProPhoto RGB as your color space, as you see in this screenshot (right).
As an aside, always select 16bit in the Bit Depth pulldown too. As a rule of thumb, to ensure that you never shoehorn your images into a smaller workspace, select the highest possible setting, unless it imposes unrealistic limitations on your workflow.
Some other plugins and applications, such as onOne software have their own color space setting. Surprisingly, onOne software is installed with Adobe RGB as the default, so you need to change this to ProPhoto RGB in the preferences before you start using the program. Once set though, it stays set, so the time investment in using ProPhoto RGB is minimal.
Not Throwing Color Away
It is worth noting of course, that you aren’t exactly throwing away color when you export to these smaller color spaces. The conversion takes into account the difference between the color spaces, and compresses and remaps the colors to fit into the smaller color space. You usually can’t see a difference on a computer display.
Wiggle Room and Future-Proofing
The major benefit of working in ProPhoto RGB is to maintain your full data for editing wiggle room, and printing, and we will also probably see wider and wider color spaces available in displays in the future too. Please don’t limit your images to today’s technology.
See for yourself!
Anyway, take a look at the video. I was giggling like a schoolgirl when I first looked at ProPhoto RGB in ColorThink Pro, and I hope this helps you to understand why working in ProPhoto RGB is really the only way to go. Don’t forget to go full-screen!
Pixels 2 Pigment Aug 2014
Before you go, I just wanted to let you know that having just finished the first In-Studio Pixels 2 Pigment workshop, we’ve set the dates for the next one! It will be held on Aug 23-24, 2014, right here in my Tokyo studio. For details take a look at the Pixels 2 Pigment page. I hope to see you there!