Looking After Your Camera, Lenses and Other Tools (Podcast 788)

Looking After Your Camera, Lenses and Other Tools (Podcast 788)


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I can’t recall ever dedicating a post to looking after our gear, and I was reminded of this task a number of times recently, both after my return from Namibia and as I spoke with a member of the archery club that I’ve joined, when they noticed me wiping my gear down as I packed it into my back at the end of our practice session. They thought I was being very conscientious as I wiped the various parts of my recurve bow while dismantling it, and I replied that I always do this with my tools. I know that many photographers do this, but figured it was worth talking about a couple of points, so here we go.

I should say that one of the main reasons I am currently wiping down my archery gear is because I’m practicing in temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit, so I’m pretty much constantly perspiring, and I don’t want to leave the salt on my bow. When I first got my bow, I didn’t take a cloth, and the result was that I had to get it all back out again when I got home to wipe it down, so I started to take a cloth, and now I’m killing two birds with one stone by doing this as I pack the gear away.

I recalled when I was shooting in Antarctica and often came back to the ship with sea spray on my gear, and that can be corrosive, so no matter how tired I was, I would take all of my gear out of my camera bag, lay it out on the top bunk of my bed, and wet, then rang out a cloth leaving it just damp, and wiped my cameras and lenses down. If I’d used my tripod, or it had also taken some spray, I’d fully extend all the legs, wipe that down too, then leave it to dry before putting the legs away again. Of course, how I did this depended on how rough the sea was. In a storm, I’d just wipe things, then wipe them again with a dry cloth and put them straight back into the bag to avoid them from falling off the bed when the ship rocks. The important thing to note is the necessity to get the salt water off the gear quickly. Using a damp cloth doesn’t hurt the equipment and dries almost instantly.

In addition to salt water, dust is another thing that can gradually damage our gear, so generally, when shooting in places like Namibia, where there is a lot of dust and sand if it’s been a windy day, or I know I’ve gotten a bit of dust on my gear, I do the same thing at the end of the day, using a damp cloth to wipe everything down. Another thing that I wanted to talk about in relation to traveling to dusty countries though, is the necessity to one last clean when you get home.

Most of the time in sandy or dusty countries, you’ll find yourself with a little sand in your bag. This may blow in when you open the bag, or fall off of your gear when you put it into the bag. Because of this, after I get home I take a little time to wipe the bag itself down with a damp cloth, and then I use a vacuum cleaner to clean the inside of the bag. I also at this point give all of my gear one last wipe with a damp cloth before giving it a few moment to dry and then put it into my humidity controlled cabinets, which is where I store all of my gear while not using it.

With sand, I also find that it can get stuck to the rubber weather seal on the mount of my lenses, so I use the damp cloth and run it around the inside and outside of the seal, as you can see in this photo from when I was cleaning my gear after returning from Namibia this year. You can also see a few grains of sand around the inside of the lens and on the back element. To remove them I hold the lens up with the bottom facing down and use an air blower to dislodge the sand. With the lens facing downwards, the sand generally falls away leaving the lens clean.

Cleaning Lens Seals
Cleaning Lens Seals

The same goes for cleaning the sensor of the camera. First, I hold the camera up with the sensor facing down, and blow the inside of the sensor chamber, to dislodge anything on or around the shutter, then I turn on Manual Sensor Cleaning in the menu, which opens the shutter exposing the sensor, which I also give a good blow while holding the camera with the sensor facing downwards.

I used to use a rubber plunger to remove stubborn dust until the heat got to the rubber one year, and I tried to remove some dust before a trip only to find that the rubber had perished, and I left a chunk of it sticking to my sensor. I was able to find a store in town that would clean it off safely, but it was a scare, so I threw the plunger out and never bought a replacement.

I have actually found though that pretty much from around that time, and especially with the Canon mirrorless cameras, I am getting very little stubborn dust on my sensors now. If I notice a bit of dust in a photo, generally just a blow with my blower is enough to dislodge it. I haven’t had my sensor cleaned professionally now for a number of years. I generally replace the camera every three or four years and have not had a sensor cleaned for that entire time for the last few cameras. With the mirrorless cameras I put this down to the option in my cameras to close the shutter when the lens is taken off the camera.

As I mentioned earlier, I do keep my gear in humidity-controlled cabinets, and that is very important if you live in a place with a lot of humidity. Tokyo is very humid during the summer, and I found myself with mold forming on my gear when I first moved here, so I have used humidity-controlled cabinets for many years now. I mentioned this in detail and covered what I use in Episode 744 of this podcast, so check that out if you are interested.

So far, I’ve talked about what I do after a shoot or trip, but I wanted to also add a few paragraphs about how I shoot. With me being so careful about cleaning my gear, you might think that I am really protective of my gear in the field too, and to a degree, you’d be right, but I am not overly protective. My tools are to be used, be it my cameras and lenses, or my new recurve bow for archery. The most important thing while working with these tools is to get the job done, making great photos in the case of photography. If this means I have to get a bit of dust or moisture on my gear, that is what will happen. If you are not using a weatherproofed camera and lenses, you do have to be careful to not allow them to get too wet or dusty, but in general, I find that in light rain or dusty conditions, draping a cloth over the camera, then periodically wiping off any water, is enough to keep it from getting inside the camera. With dust, I prefer to blow it off with an air blower while outside, then wipe it down later when I finish the shoot.

Also, don’t be fooled by the overzealous marketing blurb of camera manufacturers. Canon, for example, will say things like a new camera has “improved weather sealing,” which is entirely misleading. In the Canon range, only their 1 series bodies have ever been completely weather sealed, and only when using weather-sealed L lenses. Cameras like the 5D or the R5 etc. have limited weather sealing, which is what helps to keep them from breaking with the slightest bit of moisture, but they are not fully weather sealed, so cannot be used in pouring rain without taking any measures to keep them dry. The 1 series bodies can be used in the pouring rain because they are made to withstand that kind of use.

A Drenched Canon 1DX
A Drenched Canon 1DX

To prove my point about the none-weather sealed Canon cameras, I used my 5D Mark III in Iceland during a rainstorm, and sure enough, after an hour or two of getting drenched, it died, and I had to switch to my EOS-1DX that you can see in this photo. I did not protect the 1DX from the rain for the remaining few hours of the shoot, and it didn’t bat an eyelid. Not the most intelligent way to make a point, I know, but I had to prove to my partner over there that the 5D was not weather sealed, so I let the inevitable happen. Besides, three days later, after keeping it wrapped in dry towels, the 5D did come back to life and was fine for a few more years of use.

Another thing I wanted to mention is changing lenses in wet or dusty locations. Again, my priority is getting the shot with the right lens. When I can use two cameras, I try to guess what lenses I’ll need and put the two most likely candidates on the cameras. If I do have to change lenses though, and I can’t get into a sheltered location to do so, I will generally turn my back to the offending element, and change lenses anyway. I try to be quick, but don’t rush to the point that I might fumble with the lenses. I always check my images in the evening while traveling, and if I notice any dust on my sensor, I will try to blow it off with an air blower that evening.

Condensation

We can’t really finish without talking a little about dealing with condensation. Although people often recommend putting your gear into plastic bags and sealing then when going from cold to warm environments, I personally just ensure that I put my camera and lenses back into my camera bag, and zip it up, before going in from the cold. This is generally enough, even when going in from -28° Celsius or 2° Fahrenheit.

Note too that it’s not enough to simply check that condensation is not forming on the outside of your gear. The worst problem I’ve had with condensation was when I accidentally left my bag open with cold gear inside and condensation formed on the inside of one of my lenses. I also had a problem with the EOS R with condensation forming inside the viewfinder, making it almost impossible to use the camera. I haven’t shot with the EOS R5 in really cold conditions yet, due to the pandemic, but I’m hoping it handles the cold and moisture better than the EOS R did.

EOS R Fogged Up First Time
EOS R Fogged Up First Time

Anyway, the moral of this entire story is to use your gear practically in the field, taking care when possible, but with the priority on getting great images, then give your gear the love required to keep it purring along when you are finished. You should be rewarded with less maintenance fees, and if you sell your gear in part exchange for new gear, you may find that you’ll get a little more for your gear too.


Show Notes

Music by Martin Bailey


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OBSBOT Remote Update and PhotoClock Pro Video (Podcast 774)

OBSBOT Remote Update and PhotoClock Pro Video (Podcast 774)


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You may recall from a few weeks ago when I reviewed the OBSBOT Tiny 4K AI-powered webcam, that I mentioned how I really disliked the way the remote control was by design rendering the computer keyboard completely useless. Well, just a week after I bought my Tiny 4K webcam, I received an email from the makers of this little camera letting me know that they have released a new remote control that does not mess up the keyboard.

Dispite having owned mine for literally just a week, they did not agree to replace it free of charge, but they are running a campaign that enables registered users to replace their current Remote at around a 70% discount, so I paid just $10 to have a replacement sent over to Tokyo. It took about three weeks to arrive, but I am very pleased to report that I have the remote running, and it works great, and I am typing the manuscript for this Podcast episode at the same time! This was not possible with the old remote.

I am now so much happier with the OBSBOT Tiny 4K webcam and feel much happier recommending it to others now as well. Unfortunately, I just checked Amazon.com and as of April 15, 2022, the company that is selling these remotes is still selling the old version, so be very careful if you buy one of these. People are probably going to try to move their old stock creating unhappy customers before moving to the new stock, and creating happy customers. You could try calling the store from which you buy your remote and check that they will send the new version, but otherwise, probably the most fail-safe way to buy is to go to the mother-ship obsbot.com website, although shipping may take a while. I’ll put the full link to the remote product page in the show-notes for this episode. Design-wise, they are identical to look at, apart from the red “New” sticker on the back of my new remote. This actually came in handy as I still had both of them on my desk earlier this week when I reached over to pick it up, and was able to quickly confirm that I had the right one in my hand, thanks to the sticker.

Anyway, a nice job from the team. They should have gotten this right from the start, and probably only fixed it because I’m sure a lot of people complained, and those that didn’t were probably afraid to speak up after being sent a copy. That would never happen in my reviews because I don’t review anything that I can’t speak my mind about, but as I mentioned in the original review, I bought this camera with my own money, and have received nothing from the makers of the OBSBOT in relation to this or the original review.

I actually don’t really have much else to say this week, as I’ve been working on my new app again! I’m about to release an update that will add a brightness alarm, enabling you to set four different dimming and brightening patterns to dim the screen over a duration that you set, and then brighten the screen again at the time you also set. At this point I’m still not sure that I can make it play a song that you select as part of the alarm, although that is my goal at this point. To enable me to do that in style though, I am integrating PhotoClock Pro with Apple Music, and I am pretty sure that I will be able to enable you to select songs to play as your alarm relatively easily once I have the integration finished.

I created a video that I wanted to share with you, and I’m behind on pushing this out because of the new development work, but I did include the dimming and brightening and show the Apple Music integration to the point I was at two days ago. I am now able to go into the albums and select tracks as well as jump to related albums etc. so it7s shaping up very nicely. I’ll probably do another short video soon once I get the new release out, to share how it finally works.

I’ll embed the video in this post anyway so that you can check that out. If you’d like to pick up a copy of PhotoClock Pro, please visit the product page at https://mbp.ac/pcp or go directly to the App Store at https://mbp.ac/aspcp. You’ll find these links in the show notes below too.


Show Notes

PhotoClock Pro product page: https://mbp.ac/pcp

PhotoClock Pro in the Apple App Store: https://mbp.ac/aspcp

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

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Are Primes Always Better Than Zoom Lenses? (Podcast 772)

Are Primes Always Better Than Zoom Lenses? (Podcast 772)


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In preparation for our March Question Time with the MBP Patreon Community, I did a few tests to show something that I knew to be the case but is something that you hear a lot in photography circles, and that is that prime lenses give better image quality than zoom lenses. It turns out that I’d misread the question, but the test and the reason for the test are valid, so I figured I’d share my thoughts with you today.
My angle here is not necessarily to prove to you that zoom lenses are always going to be as good as prime lenses, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, there is danger in simply believing what other photographers say, simply because you hear it so often. My point today is more about the importance of questioning what you hear. Not necessarily confronting the person that says it, but think about what you have seen in your own photography, and if necessary, as I often do, run some tests of your own to form a definitive answer to your questions. After all, if you don’t run tests with your own gear you’ll never be able to say for sure one way or the other.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what I tested. I took my new Canon RF 50mm F/1.2L lens, a wonderful prime lens, made, of course, for Canon’s mirrorless camera system with the R Mount. To compare this lens to a zoom lens, I grabbed my Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L lens, and to show the difference in quality over the latest prime L lens I also grabbed a thirty-year-old 50mm F/1.4 none-L lens. This lens has been repaired once, as I had some mold form on the inner elements probably around 18 years ago now, and sent it into Canon for repair. It doesn’t get a lot of use these days, but it’s such a good little lens that I’ve never been able to bring myself to sell it. Besides, at under $400 new, the resale value for a used copy isn’t enough to convince me to part with it.

I did my test with a Canon EOS R5 mirrorless camera, which in itself brings a certain amount to the table, as it records beautifully sharp images. I simply grabbed a few objects from my studio and added an old Japanese book that I read many years ago, as the text is good for evaluating sharpness, and I shot three images, all at 50mm, including the 24-105mm lens, so that we can compare the three. I set my aperture to ƒ/8, which is considered to be the sharpest aperture, and I had a small light illuminating the objects from above, slightly to the left. I also put an air blower close to the right edge and a steel rule on the left side running down towards the bottom left corner.

Here is a gallery of all three images so that you can click through them to compare them. Of course, as these are the web resized images, this isn’t any use to evaluate sharpness, but we’ll get to that shortly. First of all, note that the 24-105mm lens set at 50mm is actually slightly wider than both of the 50mm primes, although I imagine that falls within the variance standards that Canon set for themselves.

This first set is really just to enable you to literally see the bigger picture. Next, here are three crops of pretty much the same area of the same images at 100%. If you open these up in the lightbox viewer by clicking on them, you will be looking at 100% images assuming that your browser window is wide enough, and should be able to see the detail enough to evaluate the sharpness.

You’ll probably be able to see that although the characters on the page look slightly fainter in the 24-105mm lens, the sharpness, especially on the camera, are very similar with all three lenses. Sure, the 50mm RF lens is probably fractionally sharper than the other two, but is the difference great enough to warrant avoiding using a zoom lens altogether? Let’s keep looking to gain the information needed to really make a decision.

Here is another set of crops, from the same three images, this time from the bottom left corner, where I placed that steel rule. The rule is pretty much out of focus through the shallow-ish depth of field at this shooting distance at ƒ/8, but I wanted to share this to show that although there is really not a lot of distortion there is a little bit of color fringing on either side of the rule in the old 50mm and the 24-105mm lenses, but that is not visible in the RF 50mm prime, so it does have a slight advantage here too. In regular subjects, where you have texture and/or various colors in the frame, the fringing is more difficult to see, but it’s nice to know that it’s happening so that we can check and fix it if necessary when working on important projects.

Now, I haven’t tested the wider focal lengths of my 24-105 in this session. We can, of course, expect image quality to drop slightly close to the extremes of the zoom, although the 24-105 doesn’t suffer much at the wide end, and is a little softer when zoomed all the way into 105mm, but it’s not a huge drop in quality. When I get some time I may well compare my 100mm macro lens, another prime lens, with the 100mm point on my 24-105mm and my 100-500mm lenses, but I already know from testing both of these zoom lenses and the 100mm macro lens for that matter, that they all perform admirably, so there really isn’t much of a need to compare them directly in this context.

And that brings me nicely to my final thoughts on this subject. As I said, I really wanted to gather the information required here to be able to show you that the difference is minor. Although there is a small increase in quality in the prime lens over the zoom lens for the majority of my shooting, I work with zoom lenses, and I’d like to finish with my thoughts on why that is, and why you also need to make your own decisions.

Personally, I am pretty much always going to choose the zoom lens for travel and landscape photography, because it is so much more versatile in the field. Sure, you can zoom with your feet, but there are limitations that we face such as shooting position restrictions, private land etc. that will often make it necessary to shoot from a certain distance. Yes, we can crop our images a little if we need to get closer but couldn’t physically do so, but I have 45 megapixels, and I want to use as many of those pixels as possible. This is my choice, and may not be so important for you. I prefer to be able to get my framing as close to perfect in the camera, to avoid cropping when possible.

With my own lenses, I just don’t think the drop in image quality is great enough for me to want to try to work with prime lenses. If you consider the number of lenses I’d need to even start to cover my current kit in primes, it soon becomes obvious that it just isn’t realistic, both financially and in my ability to actually carry the lenses around. I’m currently working with three RF lenses that provide every millimeter from 15 to 500mm. To cover the main focal lengths I’d need 14, 24, 35, 50, 85, and 100mm lenses, so six lenses to replace my first two. Then I’d need a number of really big white lenses to cover key focal lengths that I get with my 100-500mm. I’ve done the 600mm gig, and the 300mm ƒ/2.8. I loved my old 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 lenses too, but I am really enjoying being able to work from 15 to 500mm with three great RF lenses. It’s just so much easier to get around with this kit.

In Thought
A young Himba lady caught in a moment of thought

So, why do I own the RF 50mm prime? Well, for me, the main reason is the wider aperture and the shallower depth of field that it brings to my photography. If it wasn’t for the widest aperture of ƒ/1.2 I wouldn’t own the 50mm lens. When you see how good the image quality is from the EF 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens, you could also argue that there is very little difference in aperture size between the ƒ/1.4 and the ƒ/1.2, although the prices vary hugely, so saving money on the ƒ/1.4 version is definitely an option too. Every gear decision we make is a trade-off, and it doesn’t always have to be cut and dry, and this brings me to my final point.

Gear is our enabler. It is by no means the be-all and end-all of photography. We are the creativity behind the camera, but photography has and always will have a strong link to the gear that enables us to do it, and at the end of the day, some gear is just so nice to use that it can override the arguments about whether A is better than B, or C. The 50mm ƒ/1.2 L lens falls at least partly into that category. It’s a solid, and yes heavy lens, but it feels great to work with, and the wide aperture with creamy bokeh is an added bonus, as is the ultimately very good image quality.

And ultimately, the decision as to whether or not you shoot mainly with prime lenses or like me, mainly with zoom lenses, is also very much a personal choice. My aim today is not to persuade you in either direction. My main goal, as I said at the start of this post, is to suggest that you question the reasons behind your decisions, and don’t base your decisions on commonly whispered photography mantras. Are prime lenses always better than zooms? In some ways, yes, but the flexibility of zoom lenses is undeniable, and I believe that the zoom lenses we have now are so good that it really isn’t necessary to take a second mortgage to buy an arsenal of prime lenses for the difference in image quality alone.

If you want to shoot with very wide apertures, that’s another story. Typically zoom lenses have relatively small widest apertures, so this should probably be the trade-off that you consider more than anything, and not because of the light-gathering aspect so much now either. ISO performance is also so good now that you can whack your ISO up to get the shot rather than using a wide aperture if exposure is the only consideration. Having said all that though, I still take my 50mm ƒ/1.2 prime lens to Namibia when I go, because I want to use the shallow depth of field in some of the portrait work I do there. I carry that brick of a lens around for almost three weeks, for probably around an hour’s worth of photography, but I don’t mind that at all because the results are beautiful.

You make up your own mind about this, and have fun with your photography. And do some tests for yourself, to see how your lenses fare. If you are happy with the quality you are getting with zooms, you probably don’t need primes just to increase the quality. It’s the other reasons we’ve touched on that should drive your decisions. When people say that primes are better than zooms, they are correct, but if you are lucky enough to be able to buy some quality L lenses or similar in your own system if you don’t use Canon gear, then you’ll probably be just as happy with the results from zoom lenses. And if you are a staunch prime-lenser, you’ve made your decisions too, and I don’t want to try and change that. I would ask though, that when you try to talk zoomers into your world, don’t only talk about image quality. You already know that the decision is about so much more than that.

I’ll add some affiliate links to the gear mentioned today to the show notes. If you buy from our friends at B&H Photo, please use these links to help keep the wheels on the MBP Wagon.


Show Notes

Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L: https://mbp.ac/rf24-105

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L: https://mbp.ac/rf50

Canon EF 50mm F1.4: https://mbp.ac/ef50mm14

Canon EOS R5: https://mbp.ac/EOSR5

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Canon RF100mm F2.8 L MACRO IS USM Lens Review (Podcast 757)

Canon RF100mm F2.8 L MACRO IS USM Lens Review (Podcast 757)


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It would seem that Canon got their hands on some transistors, as I took possession of my new Canon RF100mm F2.8 L MACRO IS USM Lens last week, and have started to put it through its paces. With Adobe breaking my FAB Tools plugin with their Photoshop 2022 update, I’m running short on time, but wanted to push this out during October, so here goes with my review.

I’ve been a huge fan of Canon macro lenses over the years. My first was their old EF 100mm lens, then I upgraded to the 100mm L Macro lens when it was released in October 2009 and it absolutely blew me away in terms of image quality and build. I’d hankered after their old 180mm Macro L lens for a number of years, but it was expensive for a niche lens, so I never pulled the trigger on that one. My previous 100mm EF Macro lens being an L lens was great, and it has never let me down in 12 years of use. The image quality has kept up with the increased resolution of our 45 and 50-megapixel cameras too, so if you own an EF Macro lens you are still getting great shots with the RF Mount Adapter, so unless you use it a lot, there isn’t a lot of incentive to switch.

Having said that, I am trying to covert my entire system to RF lenses, and if you’ve followed my antics as I’ve moved to the Canon RF system, you may recall that I’ve been able to pay for the entire switch by selling my old gear to Map Camera, a wonderful camera store here in Tokyo where I live. Granted, I had some big-ticket items, like the 200-400mm 1.4X EXT lens, which brought in a decent amount, and two Canon 5Ds R bodies went into the pot, along with most of my old EF lenses. Map gives a good price for used gear though, and if you put the proceeds onto a point card for future use with them, you get an extra 10% on the price, resulting in me literally converting everything I own to RF, with the latest addition in the RF 100mm Macro lens being the first item that I’ve had to add funds to, albeit just $100, with the rest being paid in points. The pandemic halted all of my tours for the last 18 months, so I’ve been more grateful than ever for being able to migrate to the Canon RF mirrorless system for a grand total of just $100.

Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens
Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens

There are a few features of the new RF 100mm Macro lens though that may be important enough to make you also want to make the switch, so we’ll cover these first. Perhaps one of the most important changes is that the new RF Macro lens has what’s called an SA Control Ring, and the SA stands for Spherical Aberration. This ring adds a type of soft focus to the images while maintaining a core of sharpness to anchor your images visually. To demonstrate, I asked my neighbors, who grow Bonsai trees commercially, if I could photograph their chrysanthemum bushes that they have lined our car park with, as they are in full bloom right now, and being at the foot of the stairs to our apartment made them an easy subject as I struggled to make time to do this.

Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens SA Control
Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens SA Control

Now, I have to admit, the difference between the images is not all that easy to see. Through the lens, the difference seems more pronounced, but it didn’t make it into the images as much as I’d thought it would. I’ll explain why that happens shortly. I’ve created an animation though that will move through the images without any transitions so that you can see the difference as the images switch.

Here too is a gallery of the five images, so that you can look at them at your own pace. For the first image, I have adjusted the SA Control Ring to minus 2, which is all the way to the left. As you’ll see, this is perhaps the softest looking image. You’ll also notice that moving the SA Control Ring in the negative zooms the image out slightly. I had the camera on a tripod and was focusing on the flower in the center, so apart from a slight breeze moving the flowers around, the framing between shots is unchanged, and of course, the focal length for all of these is 100mm.

Another element to watch is the tiny bug near the edge of the frame in the bottom left quadrant. In the first of the images at minus 2 Spherical Aberration, it’s quite soft, along with the flowers, of course. It gets gradually sharper though as I adjust the SA Control Ring into the positive, at Plus 1 SA. This tells us that the bug was slightly out of the plane of focus when I was focused on the center flower, but the SA Control Ring actually brought this into focus more, which is interesting.

I do like the soft dreamy look of the Spherical Aberration though, perhaps with a slight preference for the positive values. Canon says “A minus setting creates a dreamy, soft-focused look, while a plus setting creates a bubble-bokeh-type look.”

It actually will be easier for you to see the difference between the extremes of the SA Control Ring by taking a look at some photos that I shot of our breakfast tomatoes the morning after picking up the lens. These were hand-held so not all that well aligned, but the effect is much easier to see. This first image is with the SA Control Ring set to zero, so it has no effect on the image. I opened up the aperture to ƒ/2.8 for these, and I imagine that therein lies the reason for not being able to really see the effect in the chrysanthemum images, which I shot at ƒ/5.6. The effect is much more noticeable at wide apertures. which makes sense because it’s designed to affect the bokeh, so the less bokeh there is in the image the less you’ll see the effect.

Tomatoes SA Control Zero/OFF
Tomatoes SA Control Zero/OFF

This is important to keep in mind because the camera always shows you an image with the widest aperture unless you press the depth-of-field preview button, and this is why the test shots of the flowers looked dreamier to me when I shot them, compared to the actual stopped down ƒ/5.6 images. Next, here is a shot with the SA Control Ring set to minus 2, so you’ll see that it’s zoomed out slightly, but much softer from the Spherical Aberration applied to the bokeh.

Tomatoes SA Control Minus 2
Tomatoes SA Control Minus 2

And here now is the other extreme, with the SA Control Ring set to plus 2. Notice the little rings that have formed around the tiny specular highlights in the water on the lower tomato. This shows us more of what Canon is talking about when they say that a positive value gives us a bubble-bokeh type look. I imagine this lens will be a lot of fun to use on Christmas tree lights or cityscapes at night, with lots of lights to turn into little bubbles. It’s a nice focal length for picking out details in a nightscape too, so I will venture into the city with it as the Christmas illuminations are turned on this year.

Tomatoes SA Control Plus 2
Tomatoes SA Control Plus 2

All in all, I think I’m happy with the Spherical Aberration control. Keep in mind that it works best at wide apertures, and it should be lots of fun. It will work great as a soft-focus portrait lens as well. As I was preparing for this Podcast, I shot a few images of the new lens and the light from my window hit the front of the lens for a while in a way that enabled me to get a good view of the aperture diaphragm as you can see in this image.

Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens Diaphragm
Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens Diaphragm

We can count the clearer visible nine aperture blades, and also see the nonagon shape that the aperture makes, which, incidentally, is the same as the EF L Macro lens. The RF version has 17 elements in 13 groups, compared to 15 elements in 12 groups for the EF lens. The Image Stabilization is now said to work for up to 5 stops of stabilization, meaning that in theory, whereas you’d usually need a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second for a steady shot, based on the 100mm focal length, with 5 stops of IS, you could decrease that shutter speed to a 1/3 of a second. If you are hand-holding for a 1/3 of a second though you’re more likely to have focusing issues as you move back and forth, so I generally like to keep a relatively high shutter speed, especially in the field, where even a slight breeze can introduce subject movement.

1.4X Lifesize Magnification

So, the other thing that may make this lens more interesting to owners of the EF 100mm Macro lens, or to anyone for that matter, is that compared to a maximum magnification of 1:1 with the EF lens, the RF 100mm Macro lens now gives us 1.4X lifesize magnification. That means if you were to photograph something 36 millimeters wide and 24 millimeters high with the old lens and move your camera to the closest focus distance, your subject will fill the frame perfectly, with a 1:1 ratio.

At 1.4X magnification though, you’d appear to be closer to your subject, and fill the frame with just 25.7 x 17.1 millimeters of the same subject at the closest focus distance. This is a great improvement, as I often wanted to get slightly more magnification with my EF Macro lens, and Canon is featuring this strongly in their marketing. Amusingly though, this was more of a lucky side-effect of the shorter distance from the lens to the sensor than anything else.

EF lenses required a gap of 44 millimeters between the back of the lens and the sensor, as they had to accommodate the mirror, but in the RF system lenses are only 20 millimeters from the sensor, so there is a 24-millimeter difference. Curiosity got the better of me, so I opened Omnigraffle, a technical drawing application that I use when I have to draw things to scale. I set the scale to 10 pixels per millimeter and locked it to the canvas so that when I drew, for example, a line that was 3000 pixels long, it represents 300 mm or 30 cm which is the minimum focus distance of the EF 100mm macro lens.

I proceeded to map out the minimum focus distance for the RF 100mm macro lens which is 26 cm and drew the sensor sizes and subject sizes as boxes to scale. I also drew a frame of 25.7 x 17.1 mm to represent the 1.4X magnified subject size that would fill the frame and drew two lines which I set at 24 degrees apart to represent the field of view of the RF Macro lens, and 23.4 degrees to represent the field of view of the EF Macro lens.

With everything laid out to scale, I drew one last line that I made 24 mm long and laughed out loud as I dropped it into place between the 1.4X magnified image and the 1:1 magnification image, to find that the difference is exactly 24 millimeters. I’m so pleased that Canon decided to cash in on this happy accident rather than false keeping the maximum magnification at 1:1. Now I just wish they’d accidentally leave a GPS unit in the bodies that I buy, as it keeps dropping out and crashing to their lab floor.

Reason for RF 100mm Macro 1.4X Lifesize Magnification
Reason for RF 100mm Macro 1.4X Lifesize Magnification

For the curious among you that are wondering how I calculated the angle of the lines from the start of the field of view to the sensor, I didn’t have to. The angle of the field of view is understood from the specifications of the lens, so working back from what we know to be the minimum focus, we can easily find the point at which the field of view starts, in other words, the distance of the nodal point of the lens. We also know that the image is projected to fill the size of the sensor, so I simply drew two more lines from the nodal point to the sensor to illustrate that angle as well. Cool! These little exercises are fun to work through.

As you can see in this side view photo of the new RF 100mm Macro lens, we have the regular set of buttons at the base of the barrel, to control the Autofocus, Focus Range, and Image Stabilization. I have to admit, I rarely change any of my lenses from the FULL position for the autofocus range, although if I was to use this setting, a Macro lens would be one of the better uses, by limiting the range to from 26 cm to 50 cm, to prevent it from zooming all the way out to infinity when you miss focus. Having said that, this lens does move through its entire focus range very quickly as well, so I probably still won’t use this feature very much.

Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens Side View
Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens Side View

On the other side of the lens barrel, there is a Lock switch that locks the SA Control Ring in its central position, where it has no effect. I am leaving the Lock engaged at all times when not using SA Control so that I don’t forget about it and end up applying the Spherical Aberration by mistake at any point.

One Minor, Possibly Major Negative Point

All in all, I am really enjoying the new RF 100mm Macro lens, and I will no doubt follow up with more images as I get out with this lens more. I also just love to go and buy some flowers and shoot with the Macro lens in my studio, so I’ll share those too when I get around to it. There is just one negative aspect that I feel I should raise though before we wrap this up, and that is the design of the tripod collar.

Rather than making a collar that fits snuggly around the barrel of the lens, Canon thought it would be a good idea to sell the nicely designed collar with a plastic adapter ring that you have to put inside the collar to use the collar with this lens. Not only was it difficult to position, but I find the way it makes the collar stand away from the lens also looks pretty goofy, but it actually functions very poorly as a collar. If you’ve ever used a lens with a collar you’ll have no doubt, at some point, loosened the collar and rotated the lens around to go into portrait orientation without flopping your camera and lens over on their side.

Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens with Collar
Canon RF100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens with Collar

That’s what they are usually designed to do, but when you try to do it with the collar and plastic adapter that this lens comes with, a small amount of loosening doesn’t allow the system to be rotated, so you have to loosen it some more, and then some more. The point at which the lens and camera can be freely rotated is dangerously close to the point where the locking screw comes completely out of its thread, and the collar opens up on its hinge, allowing you to remove it from the lens. Needless to say, if that was to happen in the field, you’d at best end up with a scratched lens as you fumble to stop it from tumbling to the ground, and at worse, you could fail to stop it all from tumbling to the ground.

I don’t know what Canon was thinking when they designed this collar, but it’s a very poor design that I’m pretty sure will be a problem for at least a few people in the coming years. Personally, I would like to see a redesign for a closer snugger fit, provided free of charge to anyone that has bought this initial collar, although it’s highly unlikely to happen. Apart from that though, it’s a great lens, and I’m looking forward to using it more and reporting my further findings via this Podcast.

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Show Notes

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Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Break Free of iMac Stand Positioning and Rotating the Screen (Podcast 737)

Break Free of iMac Stand Positioning and Rotating the Screen (Podcast 737)


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When I bought my iMac Pro four years ago, I seriously considered buying a VESA Mount adapter with it, so that I could mount the iMac on a flexible arm, but at the time, all of the arms I could find that would support the iMac Pro were around $200 and so with the mount adapter, I was looking at around $300 so I decided to pass on this option. Since then, my eyesight has changed slightly, as presbyopia sets in, and I’ve found that the distance to my iMac was just at the point where my short distance glasses were not helping, and my long-distance glasses didn’t help either. I also developed some pain over the last few weeks as I spent way too much time sitting at the computer in an awkward position, so I decided to check on the price of the adjustable arms again, to see if there was anything more reasonably priced that would do the job.

To my pleasant surprise, I found a brand called Huanuo that made a number of stands that would be perfect for what I wanted to do, and the price was so low that I almost felt guilty paying so little, but I found the engineering quality and usability of the two stands that I bought to be excellent, so I figured I’d share my findings with you today, and I’ll include a few photos of the various positions in which I am now using my dual-display setup, with both of the displays on adjustable arms.

Stepping back in time a little, I’d actually always been slightly disappointed that the iMac comes with a stand that does not allow the adjustment of the height of the display. It always seems slightly low to me. I also like to use my displays vertically sometimes, like when viewing lots of portrait orientation images, or investigating problems in programming language code, but there is no easy way to flip the iMac up on its side with the stand that comes with it. Once you change this for the VESA mount though, you can easily rotate the display, and I will also share the keys that you need to press to actually see the rotation options in the Display Preferences, as these are not visible by default.

So, the two adjustable arms that I bought for my iMac and my second display are the Huanuo Single Monitor Stand HNSS8 (https://amzn.to/3sfOFgp) which supports holding a hair under 20lbs, so I’ve used this for my 32 inch BenQ display, and the HNSS12 (https://amzn.to/2RnkN4U) which holds up to 26.4lbs, making it compatible with the slightly heavier iMac Pro. Although the lamp and mic stand that are also attached to the back of my desk make this somewhat difficult to understand what’s happening, here is a photo of the back of my iMac and my second display on the stands, so that you can see what I’m talking about.

iMac Pro and BenQ display on Huanuo Adjustable Arms
iMac Pro and BenQ display on Huanuo Adjustable Arms

The two stands together only cost me around $70 on Amazon here in Japan, and ironically that is about the same price as the iMac Pro VESA Mount Adapter Kit from Apple. The BenQ display comes with the screw holes to attach the VESA Mount without any adapters, as you can see in the above photo, but the iMac comes with a stand that has to be removed and a plate affixed to the back to take the screws that fix it all together.

Attaching the iMac Pro VESA Mount Adapter

I found the whole process pretty fascinating, so I shot a few images as I replaced the iMac Pro stand for the VESA Mount Adapter. First of all, here are the kit components, out of the box, ready to use. As you’d expect, they’re well-engineered and match the dark grey of the iMac Pro.

Apple iMac VESA Mount Adapter Kit Contents
Apple iMac VESA Mount Adapter Kit Contents

To remove the stand that comes with the iMac you have to slide that credit-card-sized piece of plastic into the slot that the stand is fixed into and move it around until the stand is released slightly allowing you to push it down to reveal the line of screws along the top, as you can see in this next image.

Removing the Default Stand
Removing the Default Stand

You can then unscrew the default stand screws with the driver that comes in the VESA Mount Adapter kit and apply the base for the adapter as you see here.

Attaching the VESA Mount Base
Attaching the VESA Mount Base

Then you can attach the VESA Mount base plate with the four corner screws at 10 centimeter spacing ready to attach the third party mount.

Attached VESA Mount Plate
Attached VESA Mount Plate

And here is the mount that came with the Huanuo adjustable arm that I bought to support my iMac Pro.

Attached HUANUO VESA Monitor Plate
Attached HUANUO VESA Monitor Plate

After that, I attached the adjustable arms to the back of my desk, and attached both my iMac Pro and BenQ 32 inch displays, and started to play with the positioning. I won’t go into detail on the actual process of putting the adjustable arms together, but I will say that it was again a relatively easy process. The only thing that you have to really be careful of is the arm springing open as you undo the locking strap. There is a lot of pressure stored in these arms and you could easily hurt yourself when they spring open if you rush the process. Thankfully there are plenty of warnings in the instructions so you have to ensure that you read the manual rather than getting stuck straight in.

Regular Landscape Orientation Dual Monitors

I’ve found the freedom to move the two displays around quite liberating over the last few weeks since I installed these adjustable stands, so I’ve shot a few images to show you the variations I’m using, and easily switching between, because the stands just support the displays wherever you move them to. First up, here is just a regular landscape orientation dual monitor setup.

Dual Displays on Huanuo Arms - Horizontal
Dual Displays on Huanuo Arms – Horizontal

Even this is better with the adjustable arm stands though, because I can easily bring the displays towards me more, which helps me to see the screens properly without using my short distance or long distance glasses. Also, because the displays are free-floating now, I don’t have to worry about all of the other things on my desk.

iMac Pro in Portrait Orientation

Probably one of the most useful setups I’ve started using is the one you see in the next photo, with the iMac Pro rotated 90 degrees into portrait orientation. Although I could always easily rotate the BenQ display on its stand, I find that the 32 inch display is slightly too large to be useful in portrait orientation. The slightly smaller 27-inch screen of the iMac Pro on the other hand is a good size to use in portrait orientation, and is, of course, great for viewing portrait orientation images without compromise.

Dual Displays with iMac in Portrait Orientation
Dual Displays with iMac in Portrait Orientation

Here also is a photo of a dual display setup in Capture One Pro still with the portrait orientation iMac and the Viewer filling the screen with a portrait image. Of course, you can save your workspace so it’s easy to recall the various positioning of the Browser and Viewer etc. as you move between screen layouts.

Capture One Pro with Second Portrait Orientation Display
Capture One Pro with Second Portrait Orientation Display

This would also be great for a tethered shoot with portrait orientation images of a model being streamed back to the iMac and displayed instantly as you shoot.

Rotating the Screen on a Mac

You may notice that the option to rotate the display on the iMac is hidden by default, probably because the vast majority of people just use them on the default stand that doesn’t allow for portrait positioning. To show the Rotation option when using an adjustable arm mount like this, press the COMMAND and OPTION keys together while selecting Displays from the System Preferences, and you should then see a Rotation option. If it doesn’t show straight away, try a few times. The timing can be a bit finicky. Luckily, once you have the display rotated, you don’t have to press this key combination every time you open the preferences.

iMac Display Preferences with Rotation
iMac Display Preferences with Rotation

Impressive Swing Range

As an added bonus, I’m even now able to swing my BenQ display out so far to the right that I can use it directly while playing my keyboards making music as well. Because my keyboards have all the buttons required for me to select instruments, record, stop and undo my recordings it’s actually really easy to work on music even with the display off to the side like this, so this is a liberating new change as well.

Impressive Movement Range
Impressive Movement Range

As I mentioned, I’d developed a bit of pain in my shoulders and right arm as I worked too long in the same position, and I’ve found that since I added these adjustable arms it’s gotten much better. It’s easier to adjust the height, and having both screens at a comfortable viewing distance has made a huge difference too. I also bought a stand for my MacBook Pro so that I can get it up to eye level when working at my dining table downstairs, and that has also helped as I’m not sitting with hunched shoulders to look at the small screen.

OK, so not directly photography related, but we pretty much all use computers, and also if you are a Windows user you can use these adjustable arms as well, so it’s not just about Macs either, and therefore should be useful to at least some of you.


Show Notes

The Huanuo Single Monitor Stand HNSS8: https://amzn.to/3sfOFgp

And the HNSS12: https://amzn.to/2RnkN4U

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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