7D in the field (or at Cedar Point)

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 25, 2009, 12:39 AM | comments: 0

I took the camera out to Cedar Point tonight, for the purpose of shooting some stuff at night. Between the SNL opener, and stuff I keep seeing from this guy on Vimeo, there's little doubt in my mind that there's enormous potential for what you can do with this camera. I'm gonna need a lot of practice.

First off though, I still find that using the 24-105mm f/4L IS hand-held works really well. There's virtually no camera shake to speak of. It's the only zoom that Canon makes with image stabilization that wide, and also with an aperture that goes that wide. I shot quite a bit with it, mostly wide with big stuff not close to me, and it's great for that. I got one shot of a person up close in daylight, even moved around him a bit, and at f/4 the depth of field was reasonably shallow. Wish I would've known that so I would use it more later. This lens is so kick ass for practically every application. The only thing I'd add is to make a f/2.8 version. Can't imagine what that would cost.

The 70-200mm f/4L zoom works as expected, and you can get beautiful shallow depth on it. With the field crop though, you're looking at as much as 320mm in the virtual sense, so you can't realistically use it without a tripod. Hey, the IS version of the lens is twice as much, and at a price of around $600, this is already one of the best lens deals Canon has, especially for "L" lenses.

I thought I'd be all clever by using the 50mm f/1.4, at f/1.4, but that was naive and a little stupid. Trying to track moving people manually focusing was damn near impossible. I closed it down to around f/2 and it was still really hard. And with the lens that wide open, I wasn't paying attention to ISO. Which leads to my next issue.

The mistake, or learning moment, if you will, that bothers me the most is that I decided to manually set the ISO the whole time. I mostly wanted to do this because I was shooting blocks of stuff at a particular setting to see what the noise would look like when I got back home. Generally speaking, stuff looks pretty good at 1600, and I bet when the video is down-res'd you won't even see it. Even more impressive though (and not surprising given the still capabilities) is that there were several situations where I could easily use ISO 100 with the 50mm wide open. So aside from situations where lighting keeps changing rapidly (rides going by), I have a feeling that setting to auto ISO is probably a good idea. Being in manual with the 1/30 shutter speed and f/4 aperture is good enough for the "look," but let the camera work out ISO.

The biggest problem is that focusing is hard, and I don't have the practice yet to turn the right way the first time. Having one of the rigs from Redrock Micro or Zacuto would likely help a great deal, but I have to decide if I'm willing to commit to that kind of expense. I also have to fight the urge to use the 50mm at f/1.4 because, duh, the depth of field becomes impractical with moving people. That's why I should stick with the wide zoom at f/4 and IS.

So the next time I go out, hopefully next weekend, I think I'm going to bring only the 24-105, and nothing else but the spare battery. Set it to 1/30 and f/4, and let the camera decide the ISO except where there are weird changing lights.

I've got a little bit of stuff to show... I'll try to cut that in the next day or two.

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