Easter Expedition..Pt.2

Following on from the B & W edits from the Canon are the colour images. In general I think the colour isn’t too bad. These were all edited from the RAW files. I’ve never been a fan of Canon colour especially in their Jpeg output but the colour from the RAW file edits isn’t too bad.

While not in the same class as the colour imagery from Fuji cameras it isn’t the worst I’ve seen. Bearing in mind that the 1000d is a ten year old entry level DSLR  I’m happy with these images. It is evident looking at the Fuji HS20 jpegs ( I dont shoot raw on this camera) that the jpegs have a definite colour and contrast punch thats not in the Canon files. More tellingly though was how much highlight loss the Fuji was showing even when being shot in EXR DR mode with Auto DR used. There’s considerably more highlight clipping in some images. Fortunately most can be cropped out at least partially.

Below are the edits I have done, in colour, from the Canon Raw files. I shot RAW+jpeg but in almost all cases I deleted the jpegs and processed the RAW images. As with Part.1 each image will take you to the full sized file.

Easter expedition …Pt.1

This Easter Sunday saw us at the Glen Afton Line open day. This small Bush Railway is a great chance to view and ride on some of the less well known work horses of yesteryear. There are several Heritage Rail clubs and societies dotted around New Zealand and most offer an interesting day out.

I will be going back in winter to get more images as there was simply too much to see and too many people for us to contend with this day.

We took four cameras with us, the Canon 1000d, Pentax MZ-6, Fujifilm HS20 EXR, and the good old Samsung S6.  The film images will be a couple of weeks away as I haven’t finished the roll of film  in the camera, 22 images taken on the day but theres another 14 to use yet.

All the digital cameras did well, the DSLR moreso but the HS20 was still up to the challenge and I got some images I wasn’t expecting from the HS20.

I have edited the first batch of images and these are from the Canon and are a mixture of black and white edits and colour. In some cases the same image was edited both B&W and colour primarily because they lent themselves to such treatment.

As always click each of the thumbnails for a full resolution image. Use F11 in your browser to go full-screen. Some of the images look the same but are either different focal lengths  or different edits of the same image. Part 2 will contain the Canon colour images.

Canon EF-S 55-250 IS ii

The new (to me) Canon EF-S 55-250 IS ii arrived in the post today fortunately all in one piece.

It was advertised as lightly used and in mint condition. I can report thats exactly what it was. I had the opportunity to have  a small play with it. Right from the outset it showed promise and it quickly became evident that this was going to be a nice addition to the equipment list. The photographic shelves are looking a little better stocked as of today.

The gear rack
Top row left to right — Pentax SF-7 with speed-light, Pentax MZ-6, Canon 1000d, Fujifilm s5700, Fujifilm HS20EXR. Bottom row filters & remote for the Canon, Pentax 100-300 lens, Pentax 28-80 lens, Pentax F1.8 50mm lens, Canon EF-s 55-250 & Canon  EF 75-300

It would be nice to see the Fuji XE3 on the shelf but thats a ways off at the moment. Back to the new lens. It does have a tendency to hunt, but I’ve found that it seems to perform best using the centre AF point rather than using the auto multi point for AF. Coupled with the metering set to evaluative this seems to work best.

I was then presented with one of the toughest task you can get, namely photographing a Fantail.  These native birds never sit still for more than a couple of seconds. Even when you think they are still, snapping off a few images will prove that to be not the case, they are almost constantly on the move. This is a tough ask for this lens as it really needs an f2.0 lens or better to really get these little birds crisply in focus. Fast glass equals faster shutter speeds and higher ISO.

I’m also noticing that the 1000d’s sensor really isn’t as crisp as some of it heirs when pushed hard. I’m finding that is many cases the 1000d has plenty of detail but the output is similar to  a high quality 35 mm SLR. Perhaps a 1200d body or similar may well be the next shelf item.

However I did mange a few that I will deem keepers for now until I get better at using this lens and finding the various sweet spots it has.

So far it looks like its money well spent and I’m pleased it turned up today as it will be going with us tomorrow on the photo expedition.

Hand straps….make your own or buy one?

Strap Types

I have never been overly fond of camera straps, most of the neck straps included with your camera are not particularly comfortable and I hate having a one to two kilo brick hanging around my neck, its just plain uncomfortable. Nor do I like wrist straps for the same reason.

My preference is for a hand strap often called a hand grip, which it is not. A hand grip is part of the camera body or an additional piece put on the body to make it easier to hold.

However marketers seem to inevitably label these hand straps as hand grips, therefore if you are looking for one online you need to search both types. There are many varieties of straps and harness gear for photography so theres plenty to choose from.

Inexpensive straps.

Theres a number to choose from at varying prices, your local camera shop will also have some available as well but I have found these to be generally expensive for what they are and often all you are really paying for is brand name. Shop online for better results.

 

Click the images above for a larger view. All the current prices are shown at the bottom of the images.

Even the $6.50 version looks reasonably substantial, but at that price it is likely to be made of inferior products compared with the more expensive leather based options. However you have to pay more for the leather versions. Note prices dont include freight if buying online.

For large DSLR’s all of these items would be good to have, however I’m not sure that the bulkiness of some of the hand straps would be something I would enjoy using, and getting it on and off could be problematic, although the surety of keeping the camera in hand with the additional thumb strap could well be worth it.

Make your own straps.

If like me you have a bunch of old camera straps around, now’s the time to make your own. I have half a dozen surplus straps from various cameras, the best of which are the two below. 20180331_113827.jpg

The Fuji strap is 30 mm in width and the Canon is 40 mm in width. Both are a woven strap laminated to a leatherette backing making for a very durable strap. I decided on the Canon strap which I think gives a better fit and feel.

From the following images you will see that I used the existing eyelet straps for the top connection point while cutting the strap to the required length and punching a hole sufficient to tightly press the D-ring screw through the strap and attaching it to the tripod mount point. I used a flat washer slightly larger in diameter the the head of the D-ring screw to add extra lock-down grip to the strap at the bottom mounting point.

If you are wondering about the use of D-ring screws, its simply a matter of ease of use. Rather than have to carry a screwdriver with me, the D-ring screw is easy to remove if I want to use a tripod mount, and saves me from having to completely remove the strap from the camera. On the larger DSLR one could incorporate a small carabina clip on the top connection for fast and complete removal of the strap. Total cost for the two camera straps is $7.50 and that was for the two D-ring screws plus the freight, which works out at $3.75 for the strap. Thats New Zealand dollars of course.

Pictured below is my EOS 1000d and my Pentax MZ-6, both now sporting the hand straps I made this morning. Pentax users may want to look away 🙂

I will endeavour to find a good Pentax strap at a later time.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

 

Both these cameras are going to be used quite extensively tomorrow on a photo expedition, therefore I will be able to report just how well they do their job.

 

Coming soon ….a new toy

Well not a toy as such but a Canon EF-S 55-250 mm IS ii lens. In the continuing drive to keep photography affordable I was able to get this lens off of Tradme for $142.00 NZD which is approximately $103.00 USD a pretty reasonable price.

Considered as the entry level zoom lens it matches nicely with the standard 18-55 mm lens offered by Canon on most of their APSC cameras.D3S_0297-0600

Whilst it sports a plastic lens mount it is considered by many user to be a lens thats somewhat overlooked but punches well above its price point and spec list, and as such has a very good reputation as a quality mid point telephoto lens. In terms of reach in 35 (FF) equivalence it would be 400 mm.

There are many reviews to be found regarding this particular lens and the review by Ken Rockwell pretty well sums up how it performs. I will add my own thoughts to how this lens performs once it arrives via courier in the coming week.

For those that read my previous post “Is an old camera cost effective” will know to date I have spent a Total to date = $286.34 NZD, on buying a used DSLR. We can now add the recently purchased Telephoto lens to the list, totalling so far a total outlay of  $428.34 NZD or $309.00 USD at today’s exchange rate. Whilst we dont have the latest equipment on hand it has cost relatively  little to buy a very low shutter count DSLR that came with the EF-s 18-55 mm and the EF 50-300 mm lenses and carry bag and we have now added the EF-S 55-250 mm lens to the kit. Definitely still within budget when you consider my seven year old HS20 EXR was $699.00 at the time I purchased it. More to come ….

Canon EF-S 18-55 lens for astrophotos

Canon 1000d & astrophotography

With the 18-55 mm lens mounted on the camera, running at 18 mm the results are somewhat varied. The images were all post processed using Raw Therapee and stacked using Siril. You can find a step by step process in the tutorial section.

One of the limiting factors is the low ISO performance of the 1000d at only ISO 1600. To mitigate this I will likely add a EOS 1100d or 1200d  body to the collection, as the increase in ISO performance and improved pixel density of the newer bodes will definitely help.

Summer is never the best time to image the night sky here in New Zealand as most of the areas of interest lie very near to the south and western horizons. Add to this the sky darkness is not really at maximum until well after midnight, just adds to the problems. The summer evening skies here retain sky-glow well after sunset set. To our east is the city of Hamilton and light pollution is now becoming severe in the eastern sky which at present holds Orion and Canis Major rising above the horizon.

In this first series of images the most prominent subject was the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The first image is a tiff image saved as a Jpeg to reduce the file size. This is how a single Raw file looks after processing prior to stacking.

MAGELLANIC2.jpg

The following image is  the jpeg output from Siril after stacking.

large magellanic.jpg

The image doesn’t look a great deal different from the original but is a stack of 8 images, run with rejection in the stacking to eliminate any image too different from the others. Noticeable too is the borders which are black as no information is available as the stack slightly rotates each image. In the post processing these will be cropped.

large magellanic crop.jpg

The above image is a crop and further processing of the stacked image. One thing that is quickly evident is how colour is not well recorded at these light levels, this is due to several things, primarily how the Canon sensor isn’t overly colour sensitive at high ISO with very low light levels. The lens itself isn’t as critically sharp in this environment and the 230,000 dot LCD screen isn’t refined enough to determine really fine focus. That being said for a 10 year old sensor with  low ISO ability it did pretty well despite its limitations and no doubt had I bought this camera new at the time I would have been reasonably pleased with the results. Of course a much better lens would change a good amount of the issues currently experienced.

Better results would also be yielded in winter with much darker skies and the subjects in better positions above the horizon.

In case you thought that there was a lack of details in the image heres a somewhat over processed image  showing just what is hidden in the sky glow and low latitude of the subject.

MAGELLANIC-EDIT 2.jpg

Again this is a crop, but in this image the excessive sky glow hasn’t been eliminated, but rather slightly reduced. Had this image been taken closer to winter it would reveal much darker skies and more detail.

The other issue that is seen with the images is a certain amount of false colour artifacting which wasn’t present in the XA2, and again shows the progress being made in sensor technology.

As a comparison the next image was taken with the XA2 and the 16-50 mm kit lens at 50 mm and shows both the large and small Magellanic clouds. ISO 3200 @ 8 seconds. Note some star trailing ( or distortion ) upper left and the Large Magellanic cloud is bracketed by a pair of meteors. This image is a good example of how good the Fuji lens is and how noise free at ISO 3200 the sensor is as well. Colour in the image is  better handled than in the older Canon. This image was taken  11 May 2016 in late Autumn when we get some of the nicest nights for astro work.

All that said the cropped Canon image above isn’t to far removed from the Fuji results and as I get better with t he Canon  hopefully so will the images.

DSCF4742 XA2.jpg
Fujis XA2, ISO 3200  @ 50 mm fl, 8 second exposure.

More to come…. Orion rising and the Southern Cross almost at lowest point.

 

 

 

 

The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens

Following on from my previous post, is an old camera cost effective? I would have to say yes. While the 70-300 mm lens isn’t stabilised it is reasonably good on a tripod but how about its little brother the 18-55?

The auto focus is snappy and hits its mark almost every time, low light being a little less reliable.

That being said I have been quite pleased with the lens in general terms. The following image was taken using its macro ability, with the macro selected from the control ring, the lens will focus at a reasonably close distance. The specs say approx 9 inches minimum distance but it seems it can get a tad closer than that.

IMG_2934

 

Shot at f7 @ 1/100 using ISO 200 at 55 mm fl detail is good , colour is accurate and there is a pleasingly blurred background evident, with a thin depth of field, much better than one might expect from a kit lens. Camera set on Macro setting.

Using the lens without the macro setting also yields nice images. The following image was taken on an overcast day and the image was underexposed by 2 stops as I had inadvertently left the Ev setting at -2 EV as the previous shots were taken in very harsh light. While badly underexposed I was able to bring some life to the RAW image in post processing. Notable too is that even at f5.6 the depth of field is less well defined and is a good indication of just what the Macro setting of the camera achieves when switched on.

IMG_3025edit.jpg

ISO 400 @ f5.6 with 1/320 sec using 55 mm fl

While not the fastest or sharpest lens Canon has, nonetheless it does aquit itself reasonably well, and in good lighting conditions certainly can produced pleasing results.

Compared to the Fuji XC 16-50 mm kit lens however, it isn’t in the same class. The Fuji XC kit lenses are very good, which is typical of Fuji’s lens lineup, even in the lower tier kit lenses which as an added bonus are all stabilised, something that Canon still fails to do even in their latest entry level offerings.

The question then is how good does it perform as an astrophotography lens? More on this subject to come.