This journal documents my experiences with a Canon 50D, my first DSLR camera, purchased on Oct. 16, 2008. It has some of my photographs taken with the 50D, comments about the camera's usability and suggestions for improvement. It also has links to photography-related sites which I found interesting.
My first digicam was the S30. I chose the Canon brand after playing with a Canon EOS SLR camera (belonging to a faculty member in the department). What amazed me about that camera was that Canon developed technology that tracked your eye and focused the lens wherever you looked (ECF, eye-controlled focusing). My most recent camera was the Canon S60, which is in need repair.

Canon 50D First Impressions

"delusions of grandeur"

Thu Oct 16 22:02:13 2008

Yesterday, one of my colleagues came in with a Henrys flyer which had a promotion where the purchase of any 50D body or body and lens kit would get a Canon camera bag, a grip and an extra battery. So this afternoon, I called the Toronto store to confirm they had one in stock and I picked one up just after 5PM along with the 50mm f/1.4 USM lens; my boss and my colleague walked down to the store with me. During check-out, when the salesperson asked if I wanted a UV filter, I turned to my boss quizically and he nodded and suggested I get one— it's $50 protection for the $420 lens from poking fingers of young children. As I was paying, the salesperson asked if I was a student (I had earlier said that I was calling from Ryerson when he had asked if I wanted him to hold the camera for me); Ryerson has a popular photography program.

After I got back, I cleared my work counter and while the battery was charging, I read through the manual. After the battery charged (100 minutes to full charge), I had to call my colleague over for help with attaching the neck-strap, as the single diagram showing the procedure was rather cryptic. Fortunately, he is experienced in this, as his wife has a Canon Rebel (film). Next, I tried to open the battery compartment and I gave-up, as I turned to the manual; he calmly reached over, opened it and inserted the battery. I took the 1GB CF card out of my S60 and inserted it into the camera and powered it up. I took a couple of shots and I was quite impressed with the bokeh (photos will be uploaded later). The view-screen is HUGE and AMAZING; it seems to have some sort of optical coating where the oil from one's face that rubs-off on the screen, does not seem to distort the image being viewed.

We had a difficult time configuring the inside of the camera bag using the velcro partitions, to hold the camera. More on this later.

The true test of this camera's capabilities will be in low-light. I tried taking some in my darkened apartment and it had trouble focusing on the far door; it instead kept focusing on a near-wall (I tried manually focusing but the results were blurry; I haven't figured out how to tell it to focus on something else.)

It's easy to take great shots in good light with this camera (in full auto mode). I am now thinking of going professional, hiring an extremely pretty female assistant (interested parties please include a recent photograph with your résumé) to walk around and take readings with a light-meter. Since Toronto Fashion Week starts next week, I wonder where I can get credentials to be able to photograph the models.

Time to watch Blowup again.

Update Thu Oct 16 23:16:43 2008: David suggested getting a Gorillapod.

Canon 50D Second Impressions


Sat Oct 18 10:48:20 2008

One of the problems I'm having, is adjusting to the weight of the camera— my right hand and wrist are sore after a shoot. Having become accustomed to holding my lightweight pocket cameras in my right hand with my index finger extended over the shutter button, I instinctively began doing the same with the 50D. However, since the 50D weighs 2+ lbs. and the body is taller, it puts a strain on my wrist and hand. I have to keep reminding myself to hold the camera with my left hand under the lens, relax my right hand and index finger and only use it when i need to compose and shoot.

Settings I have customized:

I am finding the 50mm lens rather limiting for "landscapes" and large group shots, requiring me to stand quite further back than I am used to with my S60 and also not being able to get the same view angles as with the S60. My next purchase will likely be a wide-angle lens rather than a macro.

Update Sat Oct 18 16:34:15 2008: David responds:

The 50D has a 1.6x crop factor, so your 50 mm lens is acting like an 80 mm one--that's basically a portrait lens.

If you want a lens that has a field of view roughly as wide as your eyes, you would need to get something like the 28mm (f/1.8 available). Multiplying by 1.6, it will act like a 45mm lens; much closer to the "standard" 50 mm view of the old 35 mm film cameras (and current full- frame dSLRs).

If you're planning on doing more wide shots, it may be worth considering getting a wider lens. In a lot of cases it's easier to step in to get a close up than it is to step back to get a wide shot. Also, you can always "zoom in" my simply cropping the picture to get the proper framing that you want. If it's not possible to step back any further you're stuck.

Update Sat Oct 18 21:45:58 2008: Eric has a follow-up to David's comment above, about a, "lens having a field of view as wide as your eyes":

Your eyes have an angle of view that might be as much as 120° (wiggle your fingers off to the side while staring straight ahead to see what I mean). On the other hand, your perception of detail anywhere but straight ahead is atrocious, and then of course there's the "blind spot". So it's meaningless to talk about your eyes' "angle of view".

I'm pretty sure that standard lenses are standard because: the 45° field of view happens (for reasons I don't understand) to be the easiest lens to make so for a given price, the 45°-field-of-view lens is the fastest and has the highest quality.

Lenses have easily-determined fields of view; it's your eyes that don't.

Maybe I should start blogging on so people can comment publically. I had created a test blog some time ago but it remains unused.

First 50D Photos


Mon Oct 20 14:32:22 2008

Tell me exactly what you saw and what you think it means.
—Rear Window

I have finished reading the manual once. I am planning to read it again until I can explain the function of each button to anyone who asks. I estimate about six months before I can shoot comfortably with this camera.

The second photograph I took (full auto)— Jim reading the camera manual in my office. (The first one was fine, but unflattering, so I deleted it.)

(L-R) LEGO photographed with the built-in flash and without. The purpose of this pair of photographs is to demonstrate that use of the built-in flash even in the most expensive camera should be limited to AF-assist only. Flash photography should be done with the external flash bounced-off the ceiling. The parquet colour on the flash photograph is closer to the actual colour; however I prefer the muted, no-flash colour.

Accidental bokeh: I was playing with the camera in LiveView mode and the focus was locked to an earlier depth. When I turned the camera to my window, the lace curtains and the lights outside gave this nice shot. (This is the best of 4 photographs). The Bourne Supremacy has great examples of bokeh.

As noted in one of the reviews, this camera displays chromatic aberration under certain conditions. This appears as purple fringing at the interface of the plant and the overexposed background. This is particular example is quite prominent; typically, this is only visible at 100% crops.

(L-R) My dining room chair. 1, shot in full auto; 2 in Program mode; 3 in Program mode; 4 in Creative Assist mode with monochrome enabled. I prefer the colour in No. 3 which was different because the camera autofocused on the grey wall between the first and second spindles on the right, but the grain is much more prominent.

Canon 75-300 mm f/4.0-5.6 III USM Lens


Wed Oct 22 22:10:03 2008

The New York State sentence for a Peeping Tom is six months in the workhouse.
— Rear Window

Jim brought in his 75-300mm telephoto lens and I had a lot of fun shooting with it today. He said this lens was purchased in the days before there were digital SLR cameras.

First impressions (I have nothing to compare it to): the lens is great for daytime shooting. I managed a few twilight shots but I found that it had the annoying habit of losing focus completely for no discernable reason (maybe because I was shooting through glass?) which required me to manually recompose/zoom-in and focus again. I was able to read the text on a letter-sized sign (in 48pt font?) from half a block away. I was able to read the text in the photograph; it was too shaky to read-it while shooting hand-held. The best descriptor of the the zoom-ring would have to be, "clunky with a bit of wobble". Update Wed Oct 22 23:51:38 2008: This is not an internal zoom lens; the length of the lens changes as you zoom in, unlike the EF 75-200 mm f/2.8 L IS USM (US$ 1700, that Eric recommends, non IS version US$ 1200).

I was hoping to catch someone undressing in front of their window in the many apartments around the university, or a murder being committed, but no such luck.

Update Fri Oct 24 18:36:20 2008: Photos now available.

Update Fri Oct 24 22:12:23 2008: David suggests some alternatives:

What are you planning on take pictures of?

If you're going to take pictures of objects far away that you need to zoom into, then the 75-200 would be useful (remember to multiple by 1.6x to get the "true" length though).

If a good portion of your pictures will be indoors, or for close- to medium-distance objects, Canon's 24-70mm may be of more use.

There are also 70-200 f/4 lenses (IS and non-IS). Both are about US$ 700 less expensive than their f/2.8 counterparts.

Choosing the 50 mm lens


Wed Oct 22 22:22:57 2008

The article that convinced me to choose a 50mm prime lens over the usual multi-function lens that Canon ships as a kit with the camera body (Wed Jan 21 16:00:26 2009I noticed I had the wrong URL linked).

This review looks at the three Canon 50mm lenses, el-cheapo, mid-range and high-end; additional review sites are listed at the end.

And of course, there is the famous Zeiss 50 mm f/0.7 lens that Kubrick used to shoot the candle-lit gambling scene in Barry Lyndon, without additional artificial lights.

What the Duck


Thu Oct 23 03:51:36 2008

Jonathan sent along a link to a comic about photography— What the Duck.

EOS 3000


Thu Oct 23 22:03:33 2008

Jim brought his EOS 3000 film camera with a 25-70 mm USM lens (which cost ~$500 at the time); this Rebel model camera was first introduced in 2002. The camera had 7 shots of ISO 200 film remaining. At the 25mm end, the lens showed no noticeable barrel distortion at the edges, while through the view finder. The other noticeable difference was the camera weight; compared to the 50d it was a feather. The lens also had trouble focusing in low light (indoor office flourescents).

I'll be testing the lens on my camera at a later date. I didn't get a chance to upload any photographs due to a meeting I had to attend.

75-300mm Photo Album


Fri Oct 24 18:37:34 2008

The photos taken with Jim's 75-300mm lens are now available.

Depth of Field Study

aperture f-stop exercise

Sat Oct 25 17:05:14 2008

This morning, I decided to do a study suggested in an article I read last night about understanding the concept of depth of field.

I set-up three objects (a LEGO box, a vase and a LEGO object) in a straight line, each about a foot apart, switched the camera to aperture priority (Av), dropped the f-stop value to the lowest setting (f/1.4), focused on the middle object (the vase) and took a picture. Then, I changed the f-stop to the next highest setting and took a picture, and continued until the maximum f-stop (f/22).

Below are three selections of the study: a low f-stop, a higher f-stop and a large f-stop.

f/1.4: only the vase is in focus; the LEGO in the foreground and the writing on the label in the background is out-of-focus.

f/2.2: a larger area around the base of the vase is in focus and more of the label in the background is in focus.

f/18: the text in the label is readable and the LEGO piece in the foreground is in sharp focus.

Reviewing the series of photos, I observed that at the lowest f-stop only a small area around the focus-point was in sharp focus; the rest of the photo gots progressively blurry. As the f-stop increased, the amount of the photo that was in focus increased and the shutter-speed decreased (stayed open longer)— at f/22 the shutter speed was at 0.6s. I now have a better understanding of the relationship between the f-stop, the "bluriness" and the shutter speed.

(Aside: I think "depth-of-field" should really be called "area-of-bluriness".) Eric noted that digital cameras make it easy (i.e. inexpensive) to experiment like this and that an alternate name is "circle-of-confusion".

First Shoot

Sun Oct 26 23:01:47 2008

Today, I got the opportunity to shoot photographs in the scenario for which the camera and lens was purchased— three kids running around indoors in low light. From the results, I have to say that I LOVE both the Canon 50D and the 50mm lens. The shots came out absolutely amazing (I shot all the close-ups (less that 3 feet) at f/1.4). The only minor complaint I have is that the camera didn't detect the tungsten light and I had to manually correct the white balance setting.

Todo: 1) figure out how to tell the camera to track a subject as it moves through the autofocus points (I remember reading about it but forgot how to do it.) 2) figure out a rule-of-thumb that correlates f-stop to distance from subject and area of the circle that is in focus (e.g. if I am 5 feet away, and I want everything in the frame in focus, what f-stop do I have to dial; alternatively, I could always switch to full-auto or program mode).

I also took some closeups of a lit candle which turned out quite nicely. Photos below.

Candle at f/1.4 focused on the flame. I should have focused on the
candle body and not the flame.

No photos please (f/1.4 again).

A page from my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook (unfinished).

Beijing Press Box

360 panorama

Mon Oct 27 12:56:18 2008

Quicktime VR of the Beijing Olympics Stadium Press Box, 30 minutes before the 100m finals.

Stickers seem to be popular addition to lens hoods. I can't tell what the most popular camera is (Nikon or Canon). I wonder if the white balance is off as all the telephoto lenses are beige rather than white.

Portfolio: Richard Reinsdorf


Tue Oct 28 17:29:54 2008

Richard Reinsdorf portfolio; the last photograph in editorial no. 11 is technically amazing.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM


Tue Oct 28 17:31:42 2008

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM is on sale for $1250 at Downtown Camera. Seriously considering getting it (but having second thoughts after only shooting about 100 shots with the 50mm and that the 24-70 weighs nearly a kilogram).

Need to shoot some more downtown landscapes with the 50mm to see its limitations. Maybe I'll just get a 24mm prime used by the backstage photographers featured on Behind the Lens.

Firmware Update


Tue Oct 28 18:34:08 2008

David sends news of a firmware v.1.0.3 update for the 50D. My firmware is 1.0.1.



Thu Oct 30 16:14:17 2008

More settings I changed:

Fall Shoot


Thu Oct 30 16:22:22 2008

I left the house early this morning so I could take advantage of the beautiful fall weather which, at 6 degrees Celcius, was quite a change from yesterday's high-winds and near-freezing temperatures.

On the walk between home and work, I shot more than 100 photos. I kept my camera in aperture priority at f/1.4 most of the time as an experiment to see how photographs would turn out. I was expecting some accidental surprises from shooting large vistas at f/1.4 but naturally, they all came out blurry.

Channeling Bill Cunningham, NY Times street fashion photographer, at Bay and Front.

On the GO train this morning.

Fall bokeh.

Beautiful maple tree in Port Credit.

Update Sat Nov 01 11:15:32 2008: The fashion shot was the only photo I took, just as the light turned green; the GO Train photo was also a single shot; the red plant was one of eight; the photo of the maple leaves was one of 18. I also increased the LCD brightness to 2 notches above the default, to be able to review photos in direct noon sunlight.

luis fernandes / / Canon 50D October 2008 Journal / Main Journal Page