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Colours, Hobart, Sunset, Tasmania

The Canon 6D mark II and long exposure.

When the first sample shots from the 6D mark II started showing up in the usual places, I must admit I was not all that impressed. It looked like Canon had taken a step backward and failed to advance their sensor in terms of noise. Having now had the chance to test the 6D mark II, I’m happy to report it’s an OK result for the price of the camera. I personally think you can still get better value for the money, but it’s an OK upgrade for those in the Canon camp looking at long exposure work while gaining some much need features and AF improvements.

Most long exposure Aurora work is around the 30 second mark, so as shown from the results below the new model is only slightly worse at 30 seconds than the original, which when combined with the megapixel upgrade and no doubt better noise reduction options in camera, would most likely put the new model in front. Results for the 5 minute exposures are also slightly down, but with slightly better standard deviation, again making the two cameras very similar.

However, looking at 1 second results, they seems to be more in line with what others are reporting, which is maybe a step backwards in noise, especially if your looking at sports photography.

So if your looking to upgrade from the 6D to the 6D Mark 2 I don’t expect the pictures are going to look any worse, maybe a slight improvement for long exposure work. Is it worth the upgrade? I will leave that up to you to decide.

If you would like to look at the results in more detail, you can do so here.

Fuji X-T2 Added to Sensor Database.

I’ve had a few requests now to have the X-T2 added to the Sensor Database. Well without further adieu here it is. It’s worth noting that I still personally believe Fuji are heavily processing noise in camera, and again we see the noise mean reduce as the exposure time goes up (eh). Considering the X-T2 is using a crop 24MP sensor the results are pretty good, but again there is some processing going on.

 

Sensor DB Update

SensorAd1For some time now I have been building and maintaining not only the biggest archive of Aurora observational data and realtime forecasting (The Aurora Forecast Service), but I have also been building a database of sensor profiles for long exposure / high ISO.

Recently I performed an update to the The Sensor Noise DB, allowing you to compare camera models more easily. I hope you find this update useful. I also plan to have the Nikon D5, Pentax K1 and Canon 1D mark II test shots available soon, so stay tuned.

I’d also like to thank Walch Optics for there support, and recommend them as your first point of call for photographic equipment in Hobart.

Gotcha, Buying Secondhand.

I run a local buy/sell page for photography equipment here in Hobart on FaceBook, and I’m also a member of many other similar pages across Australia. Photography equipment can be expensive. So I’m as keen as the next photographer to grab a bargain.

But what is a good price?

Price is very subjective and what people are willing to pay can depend on many factors such as urgency, availability, age and condition.  So I thought I’d give a few points to consider when buying your next body. Since the specifications, age, availability and the like are all subjective I will focus mainly on condition.

Even if a body has issues, it’s not necessarily a reason to pass, but it could help you to determine if the price is right. If you are buying on the internet some of these checks many be impractical to do, but never the less, here is my check list:

  • Condition (External):
    • How does it look externally? To be honest most photographers will baby their equipment, so this is not a good factor to look at. Dust and dirt can be easily removed, but it is worth looking in the hard to get spots to get an idea on how well it has been looked after.
    • Check for obvious dings and the like, even if it still working external marks could indicate internal damage.
    • How worn do the buttons appear? Are there any wear marks, text worn off or shiny buttons?, Glue? Do they all work?
    • Does anything feel worn? (Lens mount, thumb sticks, selection wheels etc)
    • How worn does the tripod mount look, marks around the mount point?
    • How worn are the anchor points and strap?
    • Are there any screws missing? Do they appear to be tight, check lens mount particularly.
    • Are there any parts missing? (Battery cover clip, rubber weather seal boots, view finder surrounds, viewfinder cover for long exposure etc).
    • Check articulated displays have full movement, and display has no issues while moving.
    • Is there any damage to LCD screens caused by excessive sunlight / heat.
  • Condition (Internal):
    • Is the inside of the mirror housing clean?
    • Is there any dust in the viewfinder?
    • Is the sensor clean?
    • Is the battery compartment clean?
    • How worn is the USB port and jacks? Do they work?
    • Are the card slots clean, do the cards click in and out as they should?
    • Is there any corrosion or residue to indicate it’s been used around salt water a lot?
    • What is the shutter count?
  • Problems & Testing:
    • Does this body have any recalls? have they or can they be fixed? cost?
      • Classic examples here include 5D mirror falling off, 5D light leaks, D750 AF light banding issues / shutter issues, D800/D600 oil spots on sensor etc.
    • Are there known issues with this model? Google, know the body, not just the specs on paper, Test for them….
      • Classic examples not covered under recall, D800 asymmetric AF issues, 7D bent CF pins etc.

After you are happy the body and it’s condition, obviously you should test it further if you can, run it through it’s paces, and preferably review the shots before buying.

Happy hunting 🙂

Playing with the light. ND Filters.

Most good modern DSLR’s have a good amount of Dynamic Range (DR), DR is the measurement from the brightest to the darkest a sensor can capture in one image, beyond this range highlights will be blown and dark shadows will yield no detail. It is normally measured in Exposue Values (EV). A Good sensor will be at least 12, and maybe as high as 16.

But what do you do if the image you are trying to capture has more DR than my sensor can capture? Well there are a number of ways to deal with this, these are the most common:

  • Take multiple exposures to combine into one image, either as a composite merge or a high dynamic range shot (HDR), later models can do HDR in camera.
  • Add additional light to the scene.
  • Use filtering effects to modify the light being exposed.

BPD_1948HDR and adding light are fairly common, but using filters is not very common for night sky photography and Aurora’s. The reason it is not popular is that adding filters reduces the amount of light entering the camera, resulting in either having to use higher ISO settings or longer exposures.

However given the right circumstances using a filter can have great results. I like to use them for shooting Aurora’s provided the Aurora is very bright and it has minimal movement. If the Aurora is bright I don’t need to increase my ISO, and minimal movement like beams in the Aurora will mean I can increase the exposure time a little without blurring any details.

I have found that using a 0.9 (3 stop filter) helps significantly with exposure compensation, balancing out the light Aurora in the sky to darker foregrounds. Not only does it help with the balance and bringing out blacks, but it effectively gives your sensor a 3 stop advantage.

A sensor that can shoot 14 stops of DR is suddenly equivalent to 17.

Suddenly I’m no longer dealing with those horrible black dark areas where the noise hides.

The Tessellated Pavement, Tasmania

IMG_8241It’s taken me a while but last night the weather was favorable and I managed to finally get a reasonable Aurora over the ‘Pans’ at Eaglehawk neck. As an added bonus I also scored a little airglow as well, seen here as the green glow to the left of the picture 🙂

For these shots I used an ND Grad filter to darken the sky allowing more exposure in the foreground without overexposing the glow of the Aurora.

“The most well known example of a tessellated pavement is the Tessellated Pavement that is found at Lufra, Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula of Tasmania. This tessellated pavement consists of a marine platform on the shore of Pirates Bay, Tasmania. This example consists of two types of formations: a pan formation and a loaf formation.

IMG_8229The pan formation is a series of concave depressions in the rock that typically forms beyond the edge of the seashore. This part of the pavement dries out more at low tide than the portion abutting the seashore, allowing salt crystals to develop further; the surface of the “pans” therefore erodes more quickly than the joints, resulting in increasing concavity.

The loaf formations occur on the parts of the pavement closer to the seashore, which are immersed in water for longer periods of time. These parts of the pavement do not dry out so much, reducing the level of salt crystallization. Water, carrying abrasive sand, is typically channeled through the joints, causing them to erode faster than the rest of the pavement, leaving loaf-like structures protruding.”

-WikiPedia.

“Someones up late”.

Iron Pot AuroraHad one of those nights last night where I could just not sleep, so I decided to head out and see if I could get a nice shot on a beach where I recalled someone had built a makeshift stick “hut”.

The beach faced north, so I knew if the Aurora Australis was active I’d have to do at least a 200 degree panorama to get it all in. In the end it was only four shots with my 16-35 lens.

I have titled it “Someones up late”.

Shot shows the Iron Pot lighthouse at the mouth of the Derwent River in Storm Bay with Bruny Island to the right (Tasmania). Pictured to the left is a single shot from the same location a little further down the beach.

Oblivious to the lights.

IMG_7875When your out shooting late at night you have a lot of time for thinking during exposures and between shots, especially if your by yourself. I often think of all those people at home, watching TV, or asleep in their beds, oblivious to what is going on around then, and the silent lights that weave across the night sky above them.

I think the mood in this shot sums up how I often think of those people. They are inside, working away or watching some program on TV. Meanwhile outside the lights are dancing in the sky and the stars are shining brightly on a perfectly clear and moonless night.

The picture was taken in Mortimer Bay (Tasmania). The photograph to the right was taken only a stones throw from the boat shed when the Aurora was a little more active.

Fossil Cove (Tinderbox, Tasmania)

Fossil Cove - TasmaniaI have lived in Tasmania all of my life, and surprisingly this is the first time I have visited Fossil Cove. I think it’s one of those places that photographers know about, but keep it a secret. So, it was not me who told you about it….

For this location you really have to check the tides as well as the weather to ensure your going to be able to walk under the arch to be able to shoot all those fantastic rock layers. Of course you can always get your feet wet, which I don’t mind.

Fossil Cove is not far from Hobart, and it’s a very nice location. I’m sure I will visit again soon, maybe take the family.

The Aurora Australis

Aurora Australis from Mortimer Bay
Aurora Australis from Mortimer Bay

It has been while since Hobart has seen a good strong Aurora. Yesterday the numbers were looking good all day, see: ozcreations.biz, and sure enough come dark the green and red was clearly visible to the naked eye.

From about 8:30 to 11:30 I snapped a few shots, and a few panorama stitches. I will upload some more to flickr as well.

If you would like to know more about the Aurora Australis, why not join the Facebook Page?

:Update: I returned to this location the other night, and while the gum still stands it has lost the main branch shown in this shot. It’s a shame as I would have liked to shot this tree again with a stronger aurora.

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