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Canon 7D Mark II Sensor Test.

Hi All,

Recently Adobe released Camera RAW 8.7 with support for the new Canon 7D mark II. I’d already taken the shots a few weeks ago, but could not process them through my workflow. Now; I can, and I have uploaded the results to the sensor test page.

70D and D7100 Sensor tests.

How well do crop sensor cameras work for long exposure work? I’ve just finished testing the 70D and D7100, you can review the results on the sensor test page. In regards to the Canon 7D mark 2, once Adobe supports the 7D mark 2 with the Camera RAW software I will be able to follow the same workflow and upload a comparison. So stay tuned, I expect it will perform better than the 70D.

 

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.

Sensor review of the new Nikon D750

I’ve just completed the Nikon D750 and Df sensor tests for long exposure noise. It looks like the new D750 is the king of the hill.

Head on over to the testing page to see the results.

A big thanks to Walch Optics in Hobart for allowing me to check out the new D750 and Df.

Aurora Australis

Aurora AustraliaMy experience with the Aurora.

I have shot a few Auroras now, most at fairly low light levels when compared to those at very high or low latitudes. I have shot a nunber at around 42 degrees south from Tasmania, and here are my tips for shooting Auroras that are just visible to the eye.

Light, it’s all about light. The fastest glass is going to give you the best results, why? Auroras are funny things, large light curtains that slowly move and weave across the night sky, in order to get the best picture you need to “stop” or have as little movement in the curtains as possible. There are only two ways to do this while keeping your exposure short, either you increase your ISO or you open you lens f-stop to allow more light in. Increasing the ISO is not ideal as it adds more noise, and only the best cameras will have usable low light pictures at high ISO’s

The picture above was shot at ISO 800 for 2 mins at f4 with a 17-40mm, in this example you can just start to see start trails, and the aurora is flat with little variation across the color bands. f4 on this lens was the max f-stop for light. If however I had used a 24mm f1.4 I would have been able to reduce the time period by 3 stop or an exposure of 15 seconds @ f1.4 at ISO 800. This would have given the same overall exposure but allowed for more variation and exposed the ribbons better.

So, get the fastest glass you can afford, and this is sometimes a trade off with focus length. For example 16-35mm f2.8 v’s 24mm f1.4, the 24mm is going to allow a lot more light in, but will not be as wide as the 16-35, and the cheaper 17-40mm f4 is going to allow even less in. Another option is the Sigma 20mm f1.8 if you can handle it’s softness.

What else do I need to know? Well, don’t try shooting an aurora near other light sources, such as cities. If you moon is up, and all but a slither then forgot it, it’s going to wash your aurora shots out. Use a good tripod, I can’t stress it enough, don’t buy a cheap flexible tripod for low light photography. the slightest movement is going to wreck your shot. You can used ND grads, and they will help to even out brightness. Know where infinity is on your lens, as you may not be able to see enough to focus. Some cameras show stars in live-view zoomed in and you can focus on them, or a light source far in the distance.

Night Photography, Nikon v’s Canon

Fort Direction Sunset

I have been a user of the 5D mark II since the day it was released, well almost. It’s a great work horse, delivering consistent images regardless of the situation. Then along comes the Nikon with the D800, and it’s smaller brother the D600. Are they any good for landscapes compared to the Canon? After some very extensive research on the web (hours of reading articles), I decided to move to Nikon, with the D800 being all the rage. So I borrowed a friends D800, and a D300s to do some basics comparisons and to get used to the Nikon bodies. What I will discuss here is how Nikon compares to Canon for low light landscape photography. The types of light levels I’m discussing are around 30sec / f2.8 / 1600ISO.

The D300s I was considering for a second body, as is of the same era as the 5D mark II. It was useful to confirm the D800’s metering as discussed below.

Live View

Canon has always had a good live view system, particularly with the frames per second delivered to the LCD on the rear of the camera. The first thing I noticed with Nikon was increased noise and significantly reduced frame rate when viewing zoomed in content on the Nikon, particularly in low light. The combination of these two factors made it very difficult to focus the camera, and I stress ‘very’, with the Canon I could focus on a star for example, while with the Nikon the frame rate was so low it was very difficult to focus, not impossible, just frustrating. I did however like the inbuilt level feature. Insuring the horizon is level at low light can be difficult.

Exposure

I’m sorry, but the Nikon is next to useless for getting the exposure anywhere near correct at extremely low light. In very low light conditions the Nikon did not meter anywhere near correct, and was metering at least 3.5 f-stops below the Canon. Having said that the Canon was also metering low as well and I was clearly in the manual settings / try and see space. It could be that Nikon allows significantly more light in through the view finder? It was nice to see that the D800 did have a shutter for the viewfinder, which was a welcome relief from the rubber boot / strap cover. To be fair on the Nikon the conditions were well outside of normal photography, and even the Canon was struggling, but closer to the mark.

Color Balance

The Canon always delivers good color balance, and very rarely do I have to set it to daylight or any other setting, even when shooting at night. The Nikon however was struggling and needed to little more help to get the balance correct, most of the pictures were turning out a very dark blue. Having said that, this is not a major issue as I always shoot RAW, and this can easily be corrected in post. Most likely the slight color balance issues were getting worse at lower light: “The D800 was noticeably sharper, while the Mark III produced more accurate colors, with a superior white balance system.” – http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/Features/Head-to-Head-Nikon-D800-vs-Canon-5D-Mark-III.htm

Long exposure artifacts

When taking very long photos the D800 was introducing a lot of random white spots into photos, I would not consider them to be “hot” pixels, but they were quite strange. a quick Google search later and I discover it’s a nice feature: http://scottreither.com/blogwp/2012/07/01/nikon-d800-e-long-exposure-issues-problems-2/ & http://www.flickr.com/groups/1567431@N22/discuss/72157632780538698/ are two such examples.

 

Conclusion:

I think this video shows most of the points above: http://vimeo.com/42381520. You can clearly see the under exposure, incorrect color balance, and some noise being introduced, even at 1/50. Extend that to a 5 min exposure and it all goes pear shaped.

There is no doubt that during the day or in moderately low light the D800 will perform as well a a 5DmX, if not better. However at extreme low light I do not believe the D800 is the best choice. It’s clear, at least to me, that this is pushing the camera to it’s limits. So for the time being I will hold onto my 5DmII, and hope that Canon will introduce some of the new options in their next 5D body, along with maybe a few more Mega Pixels.

 

Also, D300s Frames Per Second?

This is completely not related, but a surprise to be sure. We all like to get the best out of our gear, so I always set my camera to 14-bit RAW were possible. With the D300s I noticed something interesting, the factory setting is only 12-bit RAW, thus allowing up to 7.5fps dependent on other settings. However increasing the quality to 14-bit RAW reduced the fps to 2.5 max (ouch). I rarely shoot more than one frame at a time and could not care less. HoweverĀ  I wondered if this was just a marketing “trick” from Nikon’s to make the camera look better than it really is? How fast would a Canon body be at 12-bit RAW?

Orbsome Art.

LED Orbs
LED Orb Art

LED Orb Art, No Photoshop.

I friend of mine showed me some LED orbs he created the other day, and we decide to go out and shoot some more. The shot above was a 2 minute exposure, involving myself and chops to create the 3 LED Orbs. I’m still experimenting and I’m hoping to have a shot not to far away that has 4 orbs of different colors soon, including a “split orb”. Once I’ve “mastered” the technique I’m going to post an article on how you can create your own cool orbs.

More Orbs can be viewed at my flickr page, link below.

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