A few weeks ago it really rained “cats and dogs” so I thought that I would do a small “research” into how rain turned out at different shutter times! I was standing under cover on the front porch in a small cottage out in the country. I had an apple tree nearby which contrasted well against the falling rain! I would say that the rain was pretty much constant during my picture series!
Depending on how much of a “rain feeling” you want in your picture you can pick different shutter times! I did 4 different times 1/25, 1/50, 1/125 and 1/320 sec. The shortest time gives a very short “line” for each drop, whilst the longest time gives a pretty long line! Also remember that (naturally) it will be more rain seen in a picture taken with a longer shutter time …
This is not “rocket science” exactly but I thought it would be nice to have a small reference series of pictures to simplify the guesswork a little! (Just click the pictures to see a bigger version!)
Using even shorter shutter times than 1/320 will gradually make the rain drops to appear as dots! Using longer times will turn the rain into a sort of “haze”.
A few weeks back a Singapore based firm that sells the EMOLUX series of filters, conversion lenses and accessories, contacted me and asked if I was interested in doing a review of a wide-angle add-on! I naturally said YES! 🙂 It has sort of become an interest of mine and a lot of my blog readers! I was allowed to pick from their quite extensive selection of lens add-ons. Being a Canon photographer myself and also being a blogger I naturally picked an add-on for the most common Canon lens, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens with 58mm filter thread! For those of you that are not so familiar with Canon products this is a lens for a APS-C size sensor Canon camera.
The company has NOT interfered with my review in any way and has let me write this review in my usual style and all the results and opinions are my own!
I picked the EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD 58mm as I thought that was the one most people (well at least many Canon photographers 😉 ) would be interested in. I would hope, though, that this review also would interest photographers with other camera brands as well as this wide angle add-on or conversion lens comes in many other sizes for other cameras as well! I have seen prices on the web of around €80/£71/$95 for this (November 2017). As with my previous tests I wanted to compare the add-on and kit lens combo with my $480 Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM. Well, let’s start from the beginning!
The EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD comes in a rather stylish black, green and silver box with the usual writings on the mostly black box. I will just mention a few: 0.45x magnification, Broadband Multi Layer Anti-reflection coating and it also states that Lens Compatibility is f=28mm. I will comment on these claims in the following text.
You get the add-on packed in one of those double boxed solutions. With a nice looking outer box and a sturdy brown carton inner box. The lens add-on is packed in a proper faux leather, slightly padded, lens pouch with a 86mm lens cap and a 58mm rear lens cover.
As can be seen from the picture the wide angle lens add-on is much wider then the Zeikos ZE-WA58B that I tested previously. The Emolux looks as if it could actually do the job – properly! It is weighing 312 gr on my scale – bare! And 375 gr with covers and lens pouch. Together with the kit lens the combo weighs 512 gr. That is very close to the same weight as that of the Sigma (508 gr) – albeit the Sigma is then including a lens hood!
Removing the large spring loaded plastic lens cap reveals the almost(?) flat front lens. It is obviously anti-reflex coated as one can see green, blue and purple slight reflections from the lenses inside the add-on. They call it “Broadband Multi Layer Anti-reflection” coating and I can not dispute that.
What puzzles me a little is that it states that Lens Compatability is f=28mm. It is very natural to assume that is means that it works well with a wide angle lens with equivalent focal length of 28mm! In my case it would have to mean f=18mm as that is the equivalent of f=28.8 – using the Canon crop factor of 1.6 – maybe even with 0.8 mm to spare! It does NOT say anything like that on the box so these (in my opinion very reasonable) assumptions are my own! As you will see from my following testing this seems to be correct!
The EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD is a rather impressive looking add-on. It widens in two separate steps from the 58 mm filter thread at the back. First it widens onto a rubber coated grip-friendly ring and then the second widening is to the full 88 mm outer brim – filter thread is slightly less at 86 mm. It is quite easy to hold it both on the rim and especially well on rubberized inner ring. It looks quite impressive screwed onto the rather anonymous 18-55mm lens. Want to impress someone? This add-on is the thing to get! 😉 All the lens surfaces are clean looking and looking through the lens is like looking trough crystal clear water! It is built as one single unit. Nothing that can be screwed apart – as with the other add-ons. The rear lens is opening a full 52.5 mm towards the original lens – boding good for the light transfer! We will soon see if this bears out in the testing!
Using the Add-On
These types of add-on lenses you screw onto the front of an ordinary lens using its filter thread. That said the add-on must naturally have the proper size to fit in your lens filter thread. In my case 58 mm. It will fit on all (most?) lenses with 58 mm filter thread. These types of wide angle add-ons makes most sense to use either on a fixed prime lens or on a zoom lens. It is also worth noting that as the reason for having a wide angle add-on is (naturally) to get a wider angle of view so the zoom lens should (naturally) be used in the wide angle end! There is no idea using the tele side of the zoom lens with this type of add-on! There exists instead teletype of add-ons for that particular purpose!
Screwing the EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD onto my Canon EF-S 18-55 mm was quite easy. You want to be a litle careful as the Canon lens is made of plastic and the Emolux is made from metal! A trick is to place it against the thread and turn it slightly backwards till you feel a little “bump” – then carefully try to feel if it will catch the proper thread. Repeat until successful! Works best – I think – with the camera on the back with the lens pointing upwards!
This review would not be complete if I did not mention that this is a substantial piece of lens to put onto your original lens. It is quite an impressive chunk – it booth looks impressive and feels it too! (See the picture to the left!) It works surprisingly well with automatic focusing – you feel the focusing move a little clearer but it focuses almost as quickly as normal. The contrast focusing in live view seems to need just a little bit extra time. Manual focusing I think feels actually a little better than normal, because of the bigger diameter – especially the rubberized ring! As you can see i the picture it is much bigger than the original focus ring!
How about the 0.45x?
Is the EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD converting the 18mm of the kit lens to 0.45 x 18mm = 8.1 mm? Well, I have to say no! It is the same as other wide angle add-ons with the same statement. They are not stating that it is actually converting the focal length that much – but it is sooo easy for us consumers to jump to that conclusion! As I have calculated earlier the focal length you get is around 11.8mm which gives you an additional 0.45x the area or 45% more area coverage. If you are interested the resulting focal length factor is around 0.65x. At the wide angle end of a zoom lens every mm matters a lot – even just 1.8mm difference to Sigmas 10mm! You can easily see in the comparison pictures that the Sigma has a wider angle at its 10 mm setting – which I think has proved this point!
First of all: How should you test two “lenses” like this? What is a fair comparison? How would you use a wide angle lens combo like this? Well, I would use it at its widest angle – naturally depending on the motif! 😉 What I mean is that I would not want to keep off using the widest angle – so it would have to be good enough! I have refrained from any detailed comparison of the Emolux and other add-ons I have tested because this is a real add-on conversion lens! It is much more relevant to compare the Emolux add-on to a proper wide angle lens like the Sigma!
Also to consider is how you intend to use the pictures! Is it smaller pictures shown on the web? Then you are lucky as you can pick as you please – because it will matter very little – sharpness wise. No one will see any direct fault with your pictures whichever alternative you pick! Do you intend to make large meter size prints? Well then only the best lens and the best aperture for that lens will do!
Emolux sample picture of the reddish leaves and the tree trunks. The slight hill is emphasized by the lens being pointed slightly downwards. Another sample taken straight up into the trees with their yellow leaves. (Click the sample pictures to see them full size!)
The first test spin I took the EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD was on a lovely, sunny, but a little cold autumn day shortly after lunch. Here in Sweden we are just finishing autumn and will move into winter any day now! I naturally brought along my Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM for comparison.
The local park with its colourful autumn leaves I thought would be a great place to try it out. I screwed the EMOLUX onto my Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens and, with the camera on a tripod, I took a number of comparison pictures with the help of a infrared remote control and I also took a number of free hand sample pictures. My main camera nowadays is Canon EOS 760D, an APS-C cropped sensor camera, and I naturally used that for this test. I got a number of pictures done!
The second test spin was a few days later and I thought that winter slowly had begun because of a thin layer of snow and a few degrees below frezzing. I was waiting for the light to improve and it was a little late in the afternoon before I could go out for the test. The light was fading so quickly that I decided to go out a third time.
I really had to wait for the third test spin to get a day with decent light! Finally it arrived and I brought along all my stuff outside once more. The list of all the settings and different combinations that I wanted to do, the tripod, all the lenses, camera, warm gloves and a nice knitted cap! Now all the previous (little) snow had disappeared and turned into water and mostly been sucked up by the grass and soil. The temperature a few degrees above freezing. A pale sun barely crept over the horizon.
At last I had all the comparison pictures of all the settings and with all the lenses in reasonable similar lighting conditions, that I wanted! I have compared the EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD + Canon EF-S 18-55 mm (“the Combo”) with both the Canon EF-S 18-55 mm (“the Kit Lens”) and the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM.
According to my calculations with the “Combo” you will get a new wide angle zoom with the range 11.8-36.1 mm.
Full Screen Viewing
Full screen viewing is when the picture is shown on the display screen so that you can see the whole picture at the same time on the display! That also means that it is scaled down to the resolution of the display screen. All viewing was done on a 24″, 1920×1200 pixel, factory colour calibrated, DELL U2410 computer display. All comparison pictures are taken with “Av” mode (aperture value selection) and fully automatic exposure.
First of all, vignetting is practically zero – this really works as a wide angle add-on should work! Vignetting is the darkening of the corners and can be seen on the other wide angle add-on reviews I have made. I could use it at my widest angle of the 18-55 mm lens and no noticeable vignetting! This is clearly where the Emolux has its greatest advantage compared to some other smaller add-ons! Or, as I already have said, rather it works as one would expect a wide angel add-on to work – with no vignetting! It would also be really super on a video camera or any camera with a fixed lens – when this is the only way to get the wider angle! In the sample pictures above you can easily see that there is no vignetting! (Click the sample pictures above to see them full size!)
Lets start with the widest angle for the Combo 11.8 mm and compare that to the Sigma. At the largest aperture (shown in the TrippleCrop) I think that the Emolux Combo corner actually is a little sharper than the Sigma lens. Also, as you will see in the following comparison the Sigma generally gives a slightly darker exposure. ‘
As we stop down the lenses the difference gets so small that I would call them both as sharp or at least extremely difficult to differentiate from each other. The optimal aperture for all lenses is around f11.0 give or take 1 f-stop.
Continuing with widest angle that all three lenses have in common – the resulting focal length of 18 mm with full aperture. I have included that focal length here for completeness sake as you would probably not want to unscrew the Emolux every time you need something else than the widest angle! So it is interesting to see how it performs also at this focal length!
For the resulting focal length of 18 mm: ALL the pictures from ALL the lenses look perfect in the major centre part of the pictures when viewed full screen on a 24″, 1920×1200 pixel, factory calibrated, DELL U2410 screen. I will not bother to show cut outs for this as they all look very similar!
At their largest aperture you can see a slight softening or blurring at the very corners for the kit lens and then naturally also a little more for the Emolux – while the Sigma, that at 18 mm not is used at its widest angle, is nice and sharp. The Sigma though shows similar slight blurring at 10 mm – when viewed at full screen. The TrippleCrops shown above were all taken at the largest aperture opening of each lens (from left 3.5, 4.0, and 5.6). (Click TrippleCrop above to see it pixel for pixel on your screen!)
Less blurring is visible at the top and bottom sides.
For 18 mm corner softness improves a lot by stopping down the lenses. At each lens’s optimal aperture there is practically no difference at all in full screen viewing for any part of the picture! That goes for all other focal lengths as well. There is slightly more corner blurring at the widest angles 11.8 mm and 10 mm – both for Emolux and Sigma. Nothing to get worked up about and at lesser picture sizes not noticeable! And this is also probably the way that most people will use the pictures! BUT if you need pin sharpness then stopping down might be good enough for you or else you will have to shift lenses!
At the maximum tele setting for the Combo 36.1 mm the sharpness at full aperture is respectable with the Emolux but it is better with the kit lens. Even if sharpness gets better for both lenses as you stop down the kit lens is slightly sharper. The TrippleCrop illustrates this well – a difference but not that big.
Summary full screen viewing:
Very similar sharpness for all three lenses for the major centre part for all apertures and all focal lengths! Slight blurring of corners for the wider angles for kit and slightly more for Emolux at larger apertures – but diminishing at smaller apertures. All in all very similar sharpness.
“Pixel Peeping” or “Microscope View”
If you intend to do large scale prints – maybe meter (several feet) size – then you should chose your photo equipment accordingly! You should probably go for a full size sensor and very expensive lenses. You would also need to use the best aperture for your lens and naturally also a sturdy tripod – this is not for everybody!
“Pixel Peeping” is when the picture is shown on the display screen so that you can see each pixel of the picture on the display! That also means that you can only see part of the picture and will have to scroll around the display screen. All viewing was done on a 24″, 1920×1200 pixel, factory colour calibrated, DELL U2410 computer display. All comparison pictures are taken with “Av” mode (aperture value selection) and fully automatic exposure.
A typical 24″ full HD screen is 20.5″ wide with a horisontal resolution of 1920 pixels. The pictures from my Canon EOS 760D has a resolution of 6000×4000 pixels. Looking at such a picture on a pixel for pixel basis would result in looking at a picture with a total size of over 3 times the width of my screen. It would actually be over 64″ /5 feet/162 cm wide! We should always keep that in mind when we now look at the following TrippleCrops and comparison pictures on the pixel level! Here any difference will be seen!
At the widest setting – 11.8mm
Looking att the pixel level the corners of these pictures does not look very sharp at fully open aperture. The shock is that “the Combo” is actually better than the expensive Sigma – the aperture for the Emolux is f4.0 and for the Sigma at this focal length it is f4.5. Here you can also see that there is some chromatic aberration – cyan (bluish) for the Emolux and magenta (reddish) for the Sigma. Also the difference in exposure is quite big!
Stopping down aperture to f11.0 improves the sharpness quite a bit! Also the chomatic aberration is less and now both are in the purple range. But still I think that the Emolux is sharper than the Sigma – and that goes for the entire f-stop range!
The centre sharpness is very good through the whole f-stop range! Fantastic that the low price Combo is actually as good as the Sigma all over the f-stop range! Here the exposure difference is small.
Comparison and Sample Pictures
Click them to see the full size pictures!
Above: Sample pictures with the Emolux and the Sigma lens at their widest 11.8 mm and 10 mm at f11.0. Not directly comparable but you can easily see the difference in wide angles! The Sigma is slightly wider.
Above: Full size comparison picture from Emolux and Sigma at optimum f-stop.
Review Summary of the EMOLUX 0.45X PRO HD
This is altogether something completely different from the cheap wide angle add-ons that I have tested previously. (Read those reviews here!)
Here the Emolux is tested on the popular Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens.
First of all, I can see NO vignetting – this really works as a wide angle add-on should work! I could use it at my widest angle of the 18-55 mm lens and – and no noticeable vignetting! This is clearly where the Emolux has its greatest advantage! Or, as I already have said, rather it works as one would expect a wide angel add-on to work! It would also be really super on a video camera or any camera with a fixed lens – when this is the only way to get the wider angle!
With the huge front lens gathering a lot of light I saw no change of exposure times compared to using only the kit lens – even if that was not in my testing scope. That is always good! As I took natural pictures in a naturally varying environment this could also be due to natural variations between lens swaps. It could go either way!
The centre sharpness is very good through the whole f-stop range! Practically as good as the Sigma and almost as good as the kit lens.
Talking about corner and edge sharpness gives a more mixed result. I can not say that the corner sharpness is good! But this has to be considered in comparison of what to expect! The sharpness can naturally not be any better than the lens on which it is attached! The corner sharpness is naturally the toughest to master as this is the widest of angle of the picture.
Comparing the Emolux to the Sigma shows that surprisingly the EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD has actually better corner sharpness than the $480 Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens for just 1/5th of the cost! Remember that the Sigma gives you a little wider angle at its 10 mm setting. Even if the Emolux beat the Sigma neither is really as super sharp as I want my dream wide angle to be! But I wonder at what cost…? 😦
The EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD is definitely a quite usable alternative to a wide angle lens with quite good quality. For this low price though you have to accept some compromises concerning corner sharpness.
So is the EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD worth having? I would say yes – if you want a wider angle of decent to good quality at a reasonable price! Most especially if your camera can not swap lenses – then this is a very good solution! For this price though you have to accept some compromises concerning corner sharpness.! Also remember that this combo is bulkier, but need not be heavier, than a single lens solution.
Once again I return to testing a Wide Angle Add-on but this time it is actually a Wide Angle and Fish Eye Clip-on and it is for a mobile (cell) phone camera. Again it was very cheap! Ebay £1.20/$1.80 – so I was not expecting much! The question is naturally if you are entitled to expect a lot? For that low price! Well that is an open discussion without much of chance of a single correct answer! So … I will mostly be checking out if the kit is usable at all and show you a few sample pictures so you can see yourself what to expect!
I have used my iPhone 6 for all the sample pictures! But you should get the same results with any decent camera. It will fit any mobile (cell) phone camera as long as the camera is surrounded by a, mostly, flat area. You might have to slant the clip-on to one side so that you will have something for the clip-on to clip on! See the picture above or on the side – in which you can see that the bottom part of the clip-on is actually shorter than the top part!
Be sure to check out my review of a 0.45x Wide Angle Add-On for ordinary cameras!
What I got was 7 parts; clip-on holder, 0.67x wide angle + macro combo, 180° fish eye, two plastic lens covers and a small pouch to keep it all in. That is if you do not count the two small plastic bags that contained the lenses. You could get it in several different colours – I got a rather nice shade of blue!
Looking at the lenses mechanically they are very well built! Made from anodized aluminium and have threads that work very well. Here you can see the two-part wide angle clip-on as separate pieces. This is not a very advanced optical construction – just two lenses. But they are at least made of glass! As far as I can see there is no anti reflex coating on the lenses. You screw them together to use the 0.67x wide (as you can see on the first picture, above) and unscrew the “front lens” and use only the part marked “MACRO” when you want to take macro pictures. 😉 You only get two lens covers – for the front of the lenses but no back covers! So the plastic bags are kind of necessary to keep the rear lens elements clean! The clip-on is (naturally) made from plastic and is spring loaded and also padded to keep it attached to the phone without leaving any marks! It will fit on almost any mobile phone camera – as long as there is at least some flat area around the lens! It does not matter if the lens protrudes a bit as long as it is less than 3 millimetres – just over 1/10th of an inch and the diameter of the protrusion is less than 9 mm! It is OK attached tho the phone but it will fall off if you are a rubbing it a little bit too much and too hard against other items.
Looking at the lenses optically the story is a bit more varied! Starting with just the macro lens. First of all – it gets you very close to your subject! Its depth of field is very narrow – just a few millimetres or 1/10 th of an inch! It does give reasonable sharpness in the centre of the picture so pictures like the sample picture on the side works surprisingly well! But note that this type of motif is ideal for this lens as that there is nothing along the edges of the picture so except for the middle of the picture everything else is in a … rather nice soft blur! You can also see the difference in close up limit without the macro lens. The two first sample pictures illustrate how close as you can get with and without the macro lens. By taking into account the shallow depth of field and moving the camera you can get more of the flower in focus as the third picture (of another flower!) illustrates. Just click on the pictures to see them full size!
I have added two more sample pictures that I think shows very well the sharpness that is obtainable with the macro lens. Skittles – I love ’em! 🙂 Note also the difference in the depth of field between the both photos! The second one – without macro lens – is practically sharp all over the (too) small bag of Skittles! Check out the full size macro picture and see how sharp the printed dots are! I also think that the colours comes out as they should – with no changes at all! The iPhone was set for fully automatic and I used the standard Apple camera app! That software can naturally have compensated for any change in colour temperature – but I do not know if it has! These are the results you will get also!
Using the macro lens with a flat motif, the shortcomings of this lens is very obvious! It will not give a sharp picture over the whole area! Feels a little like you have twisted the zoom during exposure! Is this really useful? As always it depends on what you want to use the pictures for! It is rather cool to be able to get as close as this and the pictures do have a sort of novelty feel for macro pictures with a mobile camera – at least for the flower pictures above! The two pictures to the left also illustrate how close as you can get with and without the macro lens. The macro picture is taken at the very centre of the other picture.
Conclusion is that this macro lens is OK for “natural” non-flat motifs but is not very suitable if you want to document your stamp collection!
The other two lenses
First of all I have to really stress that these clip-ons does NOT give sharp pictures!
But as always there are different levels to sharpness – and also the position of sharpness! Another important factor to get maximum sharpness with this clip-on is how well centred it is over the camera lens!
There are two clip-on lenses to compare; a 0.67x wide angle and a fish-eye.
All lenses can be attached to both the ordinary front facing camera and to the “selfie” camera. It is actually a little easier to attach the lens to the side where the “selfie” camera is, because it is located further from the edges of the phone. I expect that the close-up lens will not be of any real use for the “selfie” camera! There is soft plastic area on both clamps of the clip-on that press against the phone so as to not scratch it.
You need to be very careful about centring the clip-on exactly in the middle over the camera lens! Look through the clip-on lens when you do this – you will then see the camera lens very clearly! Make sure you get the camera lens exactly in the middle. Also, when you switch on the camera you will see the dark vignetting in the outer edges/corners. If it looks as if the picture not is centred then move the lens a bitt to get it centred! Be careful once you have it in position as the whole clip-on – lens combo is quite easy to knock off the camera or move it away from the centre position.
Wide Angle Lens 0.67x
I will start with the wide angle clip-on. First picture is original iPhone lens with no clip-on. Second picture is with wide-angle clip-on. Click on pictures to see full size pictures! The wide angle does give very powerful vingetting, that is: dark corners! It also gives a big drop in sharpness, especially along the edges and the corners. Or I should maybe rephrase that and say that it is only reasonably sharp in the centre of the picture – sharpness drops significantly as you move away from the centre part! But even in the centre there is not as good sharpness as without the clip-on! The picture also has most other forms of distortion!
The difference to the original camera lens is striking! So picture quality in just one word: BAD!
As above the first picture is the original iPhone6 picture and the second picture is with the clip-on. The fish-eye clip-on gives almost a circular picture with black sides and corners! Notice the very unsharp branches on the left! Not much good to say about the picture quality at all!
As for the wide angle clip-on: the quality in just one word: BAD!
Well, this is very cheap product and the wide angle and fish eye lenses are almost useless due to their low picture quality! Still, the close-up lens is quite fun – but only when you have the motifs just in the centre! The clip-on is also quite large and is easy to knock off.
As the close-up lens does give ok sharpness (at least in the middle of the picture) I still think it is a fun thing to have for less than $2! But you might as well loose the other two lenses!
You can buy the same lenses – for a few dollars more – with magnetic attachment instead of clip-on. Probably even easier to knock off – but if you are just using the slim close-up lens it might be a more handy and compact solution!
In my previous review of a Zeikos ZE-WA58B 0.45x wide angle add-on one aspect that I forgot to write about is how sharpness is affected by aperture. As this is one of my most popular articles I wanted to rectify this shortcoming! I talked to one of the readers of this blog, Somu Padma, and he kindly offered to do the test and has sent in the resulting pictures he took with a similar wide angled add-on, the Power Pak. Thank you! It seems very much like my own wide angle add-on – except for the name!
Especially interesting is the ones he took with his AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1.8G DX – a very good prime lens. This is a good use for an add-on like this – to widen a lens with a “normal” focal length. Somu had a real challenge to take pictures with all apertures – on that sunny day! So much that the pictures that I selected start at 2.8 – a little stopped down. This is also good in that the lens in itself will not affect the sharpness of the pictures too much. The Nikkor lens is especially good if you stop down to f2.8.
A recommendation is to unscrew any filters (UV or similar) before screwing on the wide angle add-on to get the add-on as close as possible to the front of the lens. This minimizes the vignette if you use it with a wider angle lens to start with! Remember from my first article on the subject that the vignette is very pronounced up till around 22 mm focal length (with APS-C sensor). Read about that and also what “0.45x” really means here!
Pictures have all been taken with the camera, a Nikon D5200, on a tripod. Automatic setting on both exposure (A for aperture selection) and focus.
These three pictures I think illustrates very well the effect aperture has on the picture sharpness. Here we can see that the smaller apertures give a much better sharpness.
The f2.8 picture is very very soft along the edges – too much to be ignored really! Can maybe be used for an “old-time soft” effect though … Please see the full resolution picture to really appreciate the amount of softness and the linked loss of contrast!
At f8.0 it is acceptably sharp (for the price!) – especially if you intend to use it only scaled down for web publication or similar. Centre sharpness is naturally best and optimum seems to be around f8.0. Edge sharpness and contrast have picked up very well but there is still some softness left.
At f16 it is still acceptably sharp and stays with similar sharpness also at f22. It is difficult to say exactly but centre sharpness seem to have gone down very slightly and edge sharpness have improved still a little bit!
Just click on the pictures to see them at full resolution.
I have also included two “Tripple Crops” where you can see small 100% pixel for pixel sections from the original full resolution pictures at centre and edge. Click it to see them at 100% size!
It is a very cheap way of getting a wider angle lens – but remember that it is at a quality loss! Might be the only alternative for cameras with a fixed lens! For moving motifs it is hard to beat the price for this type of wide angle add-on! There exists more expensive products – that might give higher quality!
If you are photographing stationary motifs I would certainly recommend you to take a panoramic shot instead! Either just two or more pictures side by side to get a wider panoramic picture or take a matrix of pictures to get the normal wide angle height as well and join them together with Microsoft ICE – read my article about how to do it here! This way you get top quality with higher sharpness and more pixels for an even lower price – free! 🙂
Once again, thank you Somu for your help with the pictures for this article!
NOTE! This Arduino Battery Capacity Tester has been updated!
See the new, more general, improved and still simplified version of the New Battery Capacity Tester here!
To automate the testing of camera batteries and to make the tests repeatable I came up with a small circuit controlled by a Arduino microcontroller – you can see the battery capacity tester circuit on the left. (If anyone is interested I can put up the Arduino program that controls it.) I have used this on my tests of camera batteries – check them out!
Someone was! 🙂 (Interested in the Arduino program!) Link at the bottom of this post! The program outputs measurements to the serial monitor. I just copy it from there to Excel and do the calculations and graphics in Excel.
After some consideration about the measurement process I decided to try to approximate the real world picture-taking – but I also wanted a repeatable and reasonable easy and quick way of comparing different batteries. The circuit I decided on can handle the three most common batteries: 1.2 V NiMh, 3.7 and 7.4 V Li-ion by changing the load resistor. I wanted the load to mimic the actual taking of pictures by applying the load for a number of shorter times – like taking pictures.
For the 3.7 V Li-ion batteries on test here I decided that, as the battery according to Canon should give about 300 pictures, I would apply the load in around 300 short intervals. That ideally translated to a 5.2 ohm resistor giving around 500 mA load for 16 seconds each. Settled for a more standard resistor of 5.6 ohm. The load in this case is around 2.5 watts so use an appropriate resistor – with higher rating unless you want it to get very hot! 🙂 I also decided to let the battery “catch its breath” for 16 seconds between each “picture” – again mimicking (very oversimplified) the real world behaviour while keeping the testing time down. Initially I wanted to follow a “real” standard like the CIPA one – but it was much to complicated for me and would involve far too much manual work. More to read about battery measurement in the CIPA document – but be warned it is very technical!
PEPs This 16 second 5.6 ohm load followed by a 16 second rest period just had to have a name so I called it Photoman Equivalent Picture samples (PEPs) – cool eh? 😉 NOTE that this is not real pictures taken but gives a good enough approximation – especially for comparing camera batteries! . The circuit takes into account the resistance of the MOSFET transistor used – just below 0.4 ohm – but it lowers the load a little bit. Running through the whole test takes about 3 hours per battery. Cut off voltage is 3.0 V for Li-ion batteries so that is where I stopped the tests. (This goes well with my Canon S95 that signals empty battery at that voltage.)
mAh My testing method also gives the capacity in mAh under the above “simulated real world picture-taking” conditions. Note that under other (“laboratory”) conditions these batteries can give other mAh capacities – but as I do it the same way in all my tests you can compare the results between the batteries that I test.
Here is a link to the Arduino program: BatteryCapacityTester
NOTE: Right click on the link and select “Save target as…” Due to limitations with WordPress this Arduino source code file has been given the extension “.doc”. After saving this to your disk rename the extension to “.ino”.
Also note that a NEW Battery Capacity Tester with a more general focus for all kinds of batteries can be found here!
As usual if anything goes wrong or gets broken by using this information I am sorry – but all the decisions are yours!
Thanks Allan for setting me up to write this posting on the best way to set up the S95 to handle most situations – for beginners! One is pretty easy and the other is a little more involved.
First of all I was going to write a very short answer to Allan saying that he should go with the green “AUTO” setting and then forget it – like in “set and forget” but thinking more about it I thought that he deserved a proper answer – even if it has taken some time … This posting will be kind of like a reasoning about advantages and disadvantages with picking certain settings – and telling my favorite setting that handles everything …well almost! Some of the settings are particular to the S95 but the general reasoning applies to most compact cameras!
Green “Auto” is the obvious and first candidate – after all the camera maker has put some effort into making this setting for people who want to “set and forget”. This is one type of setting that every (well almost every) camera has. Sometimes on extremely simple cameras this is the only setting – even if it isn’t green!
Picking this setting will let the camera handle almost all settings – actually stopping you from changing some settings! The idea being that you should not be allowed to mess things up! This setting has a lot going for it! The camera evaluates the photo motif in front of it and tries to set up the camera to best handle that motif; it selects the photo mode: landscape, portrait etc – and thereby changing a lot of different parameters like shutter time, f-stop, saturation, color balance; it also selects focus setting normal or macro or face recognition. On the S95 you are allowed some freedom with the flash setting: to select flash auto or flash off – good if you don’t want to spoil the nice lighting on the restaurant with the cold flash light. Generally – the more you help the camera to “understand” what kind of picture you want to take the better pictures you will get! Without going through all the good this setting does we will instead see if there is any real drawbacks with this “green” setting?
Well the first drawback that I see is that the camera will select focus point(s) itself. So is this something to be worried about? Usually it will select the nearest object for focus – this works reasonably well and as the selected focus points are shown (as green rectangles) you can always try to trick the camera (by moving it around) to focus on the objects that you would prefer! In the wide-angle setting the large depth of field will make the focus point less of an issue – most of the picture will be sharp anyhow. Even if the works most of the time, as a keen photographer (with some slight ambitions) this is not what I would like to have. I want to tell the camera what I want to use as the focal point! This is especially important when you use the tele setting where some parts of the picture actually will be out of focus.
The next drawback is the you can not change the white balance – the camera will select what it thinks is the best white balance setting! It might be argued that this is not a setting for a “set and forget” type of photographer to bother about anyhow… Still it is something a lot of cameras will not do very well – especially in shadow situations. Look at the two sample pictures where the left one was taken with Automatic White Balance (AWB) and it would on its own look OK – especially if you were not the photographer so you had not seen it with your own eyes. I was there (Nice in France) and when I saw the cold “blueish” first picture I changed white balance to “Shade” and took the second picture – on the right – and that was much more like it actually looked! This is by far – according to what I think – the most severe drawback with the green setting!
Tip: Set up the “P” mode to have “shade” white balance – the camera will remember this. Then use the normal “green” setting for most pictures but switch over to “P” mode when you have a shaded scene that you want to photograph. This way you get the benefit of all the “artificial intelligence” built into the “green” setting but still get beautiful pictures in the shade – without going chasing into the menus. Only two simple settings to use: Green for everything except shade scenes! … and maybe flash on if you want a clear well lit picture in the restaurant or flash off if you want to capture the restaurant atmosphere.
If you don’t mind the “blueish” pictures in the shade then you need only to use the “green” setting and you can really practically “set and forget”!
The second contender – the “P” setting for the “set and forget” is requiring the photographer to do more than in the “green” setting above – but also gives a better control over the pictures. Here you will have to do more – thereby distancing you from the typical “set and forget” and this might therefore be a good second step when you have outgrown the above “green auto” setting.
First of all you should go into the menu and set AF Frame to “center” and AF Frame Size to “small” . These are the two first settings that you will see after you have pressed the menu button. This will require you to be more active when you take your pictures: You will have to set the small white focus rectangle (in the middle of the screen) to where you want the focus to be on the motif and then (while holding the shutter button halfway down) recompose the picture to your (artistic) liking and then pressing the shutter button full down – taking the picture. I used the word “require” but I actually see this as I get the ability to set focus where I want it! A little more involved – but very good I think! This will definitely develop you as a photographer – especially that you recompose the picture after focusing!
The “P” setting gives you the ability to change the white balance – but to simplify this you should go into the menu and program the shortcut button to give access to the white balance settings. Then you will have direct access to the white balance by just pressing the shortcut button – much simpler and quicker than through the menu! You will have access to many different settings for white balance but AWB and Shade are the two I use most!
With the “P” setting you get a lot more settings that are available to you – settings that you initially can skip over untill (if ever) you feel ready to use them!
This “P” setting is very popular with many photographers because it gives a lot och set up options – but you should not be intimidated by this – you will not have to use them all! 😉
The most “set and forget” like setting is by far the “green auto” setting which will handle most situation in a reasonable way. Combine this with the “P” setting for pictures in the shade and you will get beautiful pictures in most situations!
If you want more of a challenge – go for the “P” setting!
RAW versus JPEG. Which should I use? This is a very interesting and delicate subject involving many aspects! First of all I must say that I think that there is no doubt about the fact that a RAW file is superior – information-wise – compared to a JPEG! It is lossless, has more information per pixel (more bits/pixel), … etc. There are drawbacks also: very large files (25-30MB/picture for Canon EOS 550D), always having to postprocess…etc. There is also no doubt that you get the greatest abilities to adjust your picture with a RAW file. I have had this question in my head for a long loong time and now is the time to finally try to get it resolved:
Is there much to be gained from using RAW for an ordinary photographer – like myself?
Are there BIG advantages – for me? Or is it more like carrying two spare wheels for a car? Something that could be of use – but only “once in a blue moon”? Is RAW something I ought to use? Is it worth the hassle, time and space? If I pay good money for a DSLR or a premium compact am I throwing away good money by not going RAW?
I will try to stay out of the technicalities – as this post is really about usability for a normal everyday photographer – with some slight ambitions! (That is like myself! 😉 ) I want some time over for other things as well! This is not for pixel-peepers – but we will peep at pixels now and then to get at the answer! My idea for this post is to find out how close I can get with RAW and JPEG. I will be trying to get the same – or close to the same – results from post-processing both RAW and JPEG – and then comparing the result to see if it can be accepted by someone like me – an ordinary everyday photographer – with some slight ambitions! In ordinary everyday photography with ordinary everyday camera settings will I get enough room and flexibility to handle the ordinary everyday photo situations – if I go the JPEG way? Is is better or as good to take a few JPEG photos with varying exposures than to go with RAW?
As most photographers – especially those with compact cameras – uses JPEGs all the time the answer should be given already: JPEGs are good enough! (Or at least a good enough compromise for most occasions!) But I want to find out how much I lose out by going JPEG – or could I actually gain something when considering more factors…? Naturally your camera’s ability to hit the ‘right spot’ when it comes to your preferences is very important in a comparison like this! The better your camera is at producing pictures you like – the less important it will be to adjust them a lot afterwards! That will have to be valid under a lot of lighting conditions …
Summer is quickly approaching here in Sweden and it’s beginning to look and feel wonderful! I am saying this so you will understand why this task might take some time before reaching an answer. While on this journey to find the answer – my answer – I would very much appreciate your input and ideas on what to look for and what to compare!
UPDATE 2020 July: I clean forgot about this as so many other cool thing have happened. It might take some additional time until I finish this article – so do not hold your breath! But it IS a very interesting subject – to go at from a less technical point of view! So I will definitely go through with it – but I do not know how soon … 😉
RAW is really many different file formats – specific for most cameras or camera brands Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc … – containing more or less unprocessed info directly from the camera image sensor – and need a special program (or a plug-in to your favorite image software) for your computer to process. Software and/or plugin are usually included with the camera when you buy it. It is sort of a “digital negative” – which you then process – in your computer – into a JPEG or several with different settings. The fact that each RAW format is a manufacturer specific format does raise some (small?) concern in me about the usability over time… Moreover it is usually not even a published or openly documented format but reverse engineered by the software maker! Some camera makers even encrypt part of their RAW files to stop others from reading them! There is some light in the cloudy RAW sky though in the name of DNG RAW file format from Adobe and also an ISO standard … which some camera manufacturers have announced support for!
JPEG or JPG files are standardized picture files (JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group) that can be viewed, processed and printed with all (?) image software! Not that all standards survive over time but still it is calming to know JPEG is a proper standard so (almost) any type of software with image support will open a JPEG-image – hopefully for many years to come! These JPEGs are created in-camera by the cameras image processor. The process in the camera can usually be adjusted in a few ways: White balance, Contrast, lightness, saturation, sharpness, etc … and also in more general terms like for portrait, landscape, neutral, vivid, vintage … etc.
The are quite a few factors/variables that influence the look and quality of pictures and to even contemplate evaluating them all is quite mind-boggling! It gets even worse when trying to weigh in such things as time spent processing, flexibility, storage space, fun(!), etc.. I would have to limit myself to just a few of all the factors – but I am open to suggestions as to which! Hopefully this journey will help me to decide what really matters – at least to me! Hope you will tag along and find your own set of what you believe are the most important factors! The following are a few of the different variables to compare: Exposure, Dynamic range, Colour saturation, White balance, Sharpness, Contrast and Noise…
The Photo Mission
I set out with my trusty Canon EOS 550D/Rebel T2i to take a bunch of pictures like any tourist (with some slight photographic ambitions) would do. I set the camera for saving both RAW and JPG. The plan was to let the camera do its automatic “magic” so I set it up for what pictures I like to get out of the camera: one notch up on contrast, saturation and sharpness! I know from comparing the different Canon picture settings that “Neutral” actually gives quite good likeness to the original – but rather soft picture – that I would not be satisfied with but that I always would have to post process. “Standard” is my most used setting + every now and then I use “Landscape” settings. Sometimes throwing in a “Portrait” or two. I have tooled with the idea of creating a RAW to JPG processing of my own and download it to the camera. (The Canon EOS 550D/Rebel T2i allows you to do this – giving you access to loads of settings!) The more I think about it the more I wonder why I haven’t…!
The software I will be using is Canon’s Digital Photo Professional, Adobe Photoshop Elements and IrfanView. I am also using a 24″ 1920×1200 pixel Dell UltraSharp U2410 display.
The fine print:
The above was a lot of technical stuff – don’t be scared of it because my intention is to mostly use my eyes to make up my mind and include samples so you can use your eyes and make up your mind! I will of course give you my opinions of how the pictures should look! The reason why I stress that you make up your mind is because as we all know taste and liking is not universal! You might like a different look on your pictures and because of that you will have samples to look at so that you can make up your mind! Hopefully we can all arrive at a good understanding of this tricky question!
I will update this posting to contain the complete article as I go along!
Till next time!
After a few more months of usage of the Canon PowerShot S95 I have one more slightly curious thing that I have noticed. Even though I think that flash pictures often turn out rather flat and often lose much of the natural atmosphere I – at times – find that natural light is not enough and switch on the built-in flash. I have now finally gotten used to the fact that the flash pops up exactly where I usually hold my left hand fingers! 😉 Using the “P” setting and auto-ISO I have noticed that the S95 quite often ramp up the ISO value to 500 or 640 resulting in rather unnecessary noise in the picture. This happens even when the motif is quite close (about 1 meter or 3 feet) – both to the camera and the background! It is quite possible to manually select ISO 80 and take the picture – which will turn out much better! This is puzzling me as the built-in flash can produce such a strong flash! I can take virtually noise free and well-lit pictures with ISO 80 at 5 meters (15 feet) – if I set the ISO value manually! The disadvantage is this will load the battery more as the flash will have to be much stronger.
Remember to set your ISO value manually to ISO 80 if you want your flash pictures to look their best!
Having a camera like the Canon IXUS 210 IS (also called PowerShot SD3500 IS) should – I think – place you in the category where you want good pictures without too much hassle! At least that is the assumption I have made during my testing for this review. Here I should add that this is what many many photographers want! To be able to concentrate on the motif and forget as much as possible about the technical side! Still it would go too much against my grain to use “Full auto” so I have set the camera to “Program auto” when comparing it to the Canon PowerShot S95.
Under a few common lighting conditions the two cameras will battle it out to see what kind of sample photos they will produce – on their own – with the setting “Program auto”. There are a number of differences between the cameras – and we will see how that affects the pictures! As I have pointed out earlier on these pages the differences between most cameras on low ISO-settings when lighting conditions are good (sunshine or very light clouds) are very small – even between DSLR’s and compact cameras! Ok, Ok – when pixel peeping you will see differences … But the differences are not much to write home about – not when the full picture is shown on the screen – not even when viewed on my 24″ 1920×1200 pixel screen! (As you probably know that translates only to just over 2Mpix – roughly like a FullHD television screen! On (large) printed pictures is where the differences might show – if you are very close (sort of pixel peeping again… 😉 ) BUT as the light gets weaker – even just a day with proper clouds – the differences start to show very clearly!
Note that what I will be testing is each cameras ability to produce good pictures – under similar conditions! Not what pictures you will get using the same exposure time, the same f-stop, etc..
First out will be indoors sample photos. The one not so common circumstance was to use a table for support on these pictures. Most people tends to take handheld pictures but they would have been very blurry …! Low light is not be the easiest – but quite common – task for these cameras!
As always the pictures are unchanged and unedited – this is how they came out of the cameras – only filename has been changed!
Let’s start by looking a little at what settings these two cameras chose – and try to guess why the camera chose those settings! The IXUS 210 chose 1/20 sec and S95 1/15 sec, both picked f3.5, but chose very different ISO values 800 and 80(!). It is not very easy to guess why the cameras picked so different settings for this albeit lowly lit but evenly lit subject. Also why S95 picked f3.5 instead of f2.0 – that would have been the logical selection when light is sparse. If I would have picked settings I would have chosen to go with the full opening f2.0, 1/30 sec and let the ISO sort itself out. ISO would probably stop at around 80 – so I would probably have gotten away with slightly shorter shutter time or slightly higher f-stop. Considering the image stabilization my picking 1/30 sec is probably very conservative – for a stationary subject… But the great MYSTERY is how the cameras could have picked so very different ISO values – 800 against 80 – and that the lightness of the pictures still do not look soo much different! Agreed the IXUS 210 picture looks a little on the light side – but 800 to 80 – that is over three steps!
As can be seen the difference in chosen ISO-values makes a lot of difference when it comes to sharpness and noise in the picture. The S95 picture is clearly the winner here – even if I do not understand why the cameras picked so different ISO-values! The IXUS has clearly overexposed this motif a bit and also the white balance is a little on the cold blue side. The differences are so big that any deeper analysis of the two pictures qualities would not contribute to anything! Of course any (at least from a compact camera) ISO 80 picture will be better than any ISO 800 picture! Click on the pictures and see for yourself!
Even if my idea for this test aims to show the above – how the pictures from a camera will look during different but common lighting conditions – I am a little baffled by the above … so for those of you that – like me – wonder how much the IXUS and S95 differ at the same ISO-value I will include another indoor sample – this time forced to the same 800 ISO-value!
Now the differences are not that big – but first let’s look at the settings the cameras picked when forced to use ISO 800. The IXUS and S95 chose 1/15 sec and 1/50 sec, f3.5 and f2.0. Again this baffles me – a little at least! The IXUS could not do much but pick the largest aperture f3.5 and then got 1/15 sec as a result. But why did the S95 pick such a “short” shutter time 1/50 sec this time? And used the widest aperture to achieve this – when it not did so in the umbrella picture above?
Looking first at the noise levels they are somewhat similar but still it is quite clear that the S95 has much lower noise levels generally – both in dark corners and in “well-lit” areas! The saturation and contrast are slightly higher on the S95 picture – also affected by the lower noise levels. Sharpness in a ISO 800 picture is always very much affected by the rather high levels of noise but also here the S95 trumps over the IXUS.
The above is while pixel peeping (Click on the pictures and do it yourself to see what you think!) but most of it is not visible on my 24″ 1920×1200 pixel display. That is not to say that there are no differences – flipping between full size images I can both “sense” and actually see a little better saturation and slightly better sharpness in the S95 picture.
Conclusion – Indoor Pictures
The S95 has a clear edge over the IXUS 210 with sharper pictures that has better saturation and better contrast. The S95 also has lower noise with higher ISO-values.
Time for an outdoor picture taken in good light.
Here a slight tonal difference is clearly visible – with the IXUS going for a slightly colder colour and the S95 for a slightly warmer look. I brought along my trusty old EOS 550D for the comparison as the “gold” reference. Based on the EOS colour I would have to lean to that the S95 probably is the most correct one. My memory of the sky colour at the time is not so exact so I could not say which is the most correct. These three pictures are similar enough that except for the tonal differences I can see no other differences when viewing full screen. This was expected – as the lighting conditions were so favorable! The settings for the pictures were – in the above order – 1/1250, 1/1000, 1/320 and f3.5, f4.5, f11 and ISO 80, 80, 100. Both compacts going for shorter shutter times – probably both because of there being fewer* F-stops to choose from and because of their intended target users … (The last is just a guess!)
(* Compacts very often has just a few f-stop settings. Some cameras go as low as two settings! Full open and something around f5.6-f8.0)
Conclusion – Outdoor Pictures
As expected – in good lighting conditions – all three cameras produce good results! Both the IXUS and the S95 faring very well when comparing them with the EOS 550D.
Well, the main reason for me wanting to test the Canon IXUS 210 is really that it is a camera that is equipped with a touch screen! I have always been keen to find out how well such a camera would work during ordinary every day usage – and now I got the chance to do that – without having to buy the camera myself! 😉 I should admit that I am a little doubtful about how well a touch screen will work on a camera – it will be exciting to see if I will have to revise that opinion!
First of all: the screen is just huge! Its 3.5″ covers the absolute major part of the cameras rear side! The only area not covered by the screen is a small, slightly rounded area on the right – that is adorned with a slightly raised edge – to improve the grip.No buttons of any kind can be found on the rear! It is of the nowadays quite common 16:9 widescreen format. The screen has a reasonable resolution of 460 kpixels – that being quite necessary for that big screen to keep the resolution up! It is a good screen but not as good as the S95 screen that has the same number of pixels but on a smaller 3″ screen giving it better resolution – a slightly crispier image. The difference can easily be seen! This is no great issue though – the IXUS 210 screen is good enough!
I have to say that I did not find it easy to figure out a good way to hold the camera while gripping it front and back – the area on the right is not big enough to give a good grip. Top and bottom is the way to hold this camera – because it is otherwise very easy to accidentally press the touch screen and achieving some surprise settings!
The wide-screen screen (is that really how to write this?) is really super when you shoot movies in 16:9 (the 210 manages 1280×720 HD-movies in .MOV format) when the whole of that BIG screen is used! It is less super when you shoot 4:3 pictures when only the middle portion of the screen is used – adding a few “touch-buttons” on the sides of the screen – so the sides are still not a complete waste!
How is it to use a touch screen camera? The short answer is (as you probably guessed) both good and … less good! As I have written above – knowing how to hold the camera is not so easy. It is handy that buttons can be displayed – or not – depending on the mode and situation. Using the touch screen is not bad at all – but it requires harder presses than an Apple iPhone and the response when dragging is not as good. Still it works – but not perfectly! The implementation of settings and using the camera on this IXUS 210 model is very similar to most other button centric cameras – like the S95 for example. This makes it quite easy to change between cameras but should that really be the goal? The touch screen is at its best when you on the screen can see the button (or setting) you want to use without scrolling! I find it a little sad that the user interface is using this advantage so little – it is mostly implementing the ordinary button interface – but on the touch screen – with too much scrolling required! With such a large screen no scrolling – to show available settings – should be necessary at all! One area where the touch screen is used to its advantage is that you can touch the screen where you want it to focus! Very handy, very quick and much more intuitive than on most other (button centric) cameras. Enlarging a picture while viewing is easy by just touching it – and you move around by dragging it (but not with perfect tracking). Cool is that you view the next picture by tapping the camera slightly on either side!
Conclusion – The Screen
As the touch screen is used by the IXUS 210 today and as the user interface implemented on it – I would prefer the ordinary non touch screen cameras. Not because the touch screen is a catastrophe – it is quite adequate as it is – but it could (and probably will in the future) be used more to its advantage! At the moment it is just an implementation av an ordinary button centric camera with the buttons appearing on the screen – and as such I would actually prefer ordinary buttons! (I put in a small note here: I have just used the camera for three days and it might be so that some aspects of the touch screen takes longer than that to appreciate!)