Posts Tagged Canon Digital Rebel T2i

RAW vs JPEG – Usability

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 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?

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 compromise.) But I want to find out how much I lose out by going JPEG – or could I actually gain something when considering more factors…?

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!

The Formats

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…

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 Variables

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 Tools

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!

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Canon PowerShot S95 – Depth of Field

The distance from the closest to the most distant part of a motif that is sharp is called Depth of field (DOF). DOF affects all pictures – sometimes you want DOF to be shallow to bring out and concentrate the interest on your sharply focused main motif while the background is blurred … other times you want sharpness from close up and all the way to infinity – with a really deep DOF! This post is both a general post on DOF but it also contains specific samples that relates to the Canon PowerShot S95!

All cameras with a small sensor – and a correspondingly short focal length on the zoom lens – has a depth of field (DOF) that is quite deep! This applies also to the Canon S95 with its 6-22.5 mm zoom lens. For a DSLR with a bigger sensor it is a little more varied – but usually the DOF is more shallow.  This can be both good and bad – depending on how you want your picture to turn out!
(The picture above is taken with Canon EOS 550D 18 mm and f 11.0 – to get a deep DOF. Not shown full size.)

The DOF is affected by three things:

  • Focal length
    The shorter focal length (you might like to think of it as wider angle) the deeper DOF and (it follows) the longer focal length the narrower DOF.
  • Aperture
    The smaller the aperture (that is bigger f-value) the deeper DOF and larger the aperture  the narrower DOF. You really need a large aperture to get a nice blur!
    One complication with most zoom lenses is that they vary the aperture as you vary the focal length!
  • Distance to the motif
    The more distant you are to the motif the deeper DOF and the closer you are the narrower DOF

All of the above factors are combined so that:
The deepest DOF you will get when you are using a very short focal length, a small aperture and are very distant to your motif!
The most shallow DOF you will get when you are using a very long focal length, a large aperture and are very close to your motif!

Depth of Field diagrams

To keep things reasonably simple I will look only at the extreme values: widest angle and most tele – with biggest and smallest aperture. Moreover I have limited it to two focus points at 1 and 6 meters.These 8 cases I have plotted in a DOF Diagram for the Canon S95 – and as a comparison I have included a DOF Diagram for the Canon EOS 550D 18-55 mm  . The two top rows are showing the tele results and the three bottom rows showing wide angle. The small black marker on top of each bar is the focus point (1 or 6 m) and you can see how the DOF spreads out around it (the green/violet bars). Note that as you goes towards smaller apertures the DOF behind the focus point increases a lot!

Canon S95 DOF diagram. Looking only at the two most extreme combinations – for deepest and most shallow DOF:
Using wide-angle, f8.0 and focusing at a close object at 1 meter we get a DOF of  0.43 m – infinity. That is close to the deepest DOF you can get with the S95! Handy for landscape pictures or whenever you want everything to be sharp! Notice also that it does not matter that much if you focus on something 6 m away instead – you will still get almost as deep DOF of 0.7 m – infinity!

If you use the largest aperture (f2.0) you will still get a relatively deep DOF at a distance but it will get more shallow at 1 m.

Using the largest aperture with tele, f4.9 and focusing at a close object at 1 meter we get a DOF of  only 0.95 – 1.06 m. That is a reasonably shallow DOF! Handy for a portrait (face only) or where you want only the main motif to be sharp! Here it does matter a lot if you focus 6 m away instead – you will get a DOF of 4.5 m – 9 m! At around 6 m this works well for a full picture of a person and a few meters more will handle a whole group of people – who does not have to stand on a line either! You will get a blurred background – but (I am sorry to say) only slightly blurred.

If you use the smallest aperture (f8.0) you will still get almost as shallow DOF at 1 m but at 6 m distance the DOF will increase a few meters! Note that the only way to accomplish a really blurry background is when you take pictures really close up … Also note that due to the fact that the aperture in the tele setting is f4.9 you will not get an extremely blurry background if your motif is a few meters distant!

Canon EOS 550D 18-55 mm DOF diagram. Also with its biggest and smallest aperture – BUT note that this lens has very different extreme values for its aperture!

Looking only at the two most extreme combinations – for deepest and most shallow DOF:
Using wide-angle, f22 and focusing at a close object at 1 meter we get a DOF of  0.43 m – infinity. (Same DOF as the S95 but with a very different aperture!)  Again that is close to the deepest DOF you can get with the wide-angle!

If you use the largest aperture (f3.5) you will still get a relatively deep DOF at a distance but it will get more shallow at 1 m.

Using the largest aperture with tele, f5.6 and focusing at a close object at 1 meter we get a DOF of  only 0.97 – 1.03 m. That is a very shallow DOF! To be used where you want only the (small)  main motif to be sharp! If you focus 6 m away instead – you will get a DOF of 5 m – 8 m!

Here it is a little easier to accomplish a really blurry background when you take pictures really close up … But note that 55 mm is not long enough to give a really blurry background at a distance! You will need 100-200 mm lens to accomplish this on a half-size sensor camera like the Canon EOS 550/Canon Digital Rebel T2i!

I have already said this (in the 3 points above) but want to stress that – for all lenses – as you move away from your motif the DOF increases (can be seen very clearly in the diagrams) giving you less and less blurry background. If you focus at 18 m you will with the S95 at the longest focal length and largest aperture (f4.9) have a DOF stretching from 9 m to infinity – not much hope for a blurry background there – but on the other hand you will get a picture where most of it is in focus – could also be handy sometimes…

Want to dive deeper into the shallow depth of DOF? 😉 Then go to Wikipedia for a much longer and much more detailed take on the subject with formulas, diagrams etc…

Three examples

Blurry background – Portrait or flower
You probably want a nice blurred background to make your motif stand out. Ask your motif to move away from the background (flowers – I am sorry to say – only moves when you want them to be still! 😉 ) – the further away from trees, houses etc the better! Then use your zoom at its maximum tele setting (if you have one of those super-zooms you don’t need to overdo it 🙂 ) and you step back from your motif – but only as far as is absolutely needed to get enough coverage of your motif! Make shure that the camera (or you) select as large aperture as possible!
(The picture on the left is taken with Canon EOS 550D 55 mm and f 5.6 (full open) – to get a shallow DOF. Cropped and shown half scale.)

Possible problems:
If you want blurry background when photographing a flower: On many compacts you can only use the “macro” setting with the wide-angle! Accept it (you might like it) – or try to go as close as possible with maximum tele setting – this is by far the best way to get a nice blurry background!
The whole picture turns out blurry? Then you have shaken the camera – hold it more still – get some support! Tree, rock, table or … maybe even a tripod! You can also get a totaly blurry picture if you have missed the focus completely!

Blurry background – Group of people
Assuming you want the whole group to be sharp – first of all you have to have them all at roughly the same distance! For blurry background you do the same as with the portrait or flower above: Position your group far away (at least 10-20 m) from the background! Use your largest aperture and as much tele as you can and then you walk away – but only as far away from your group as needed – until you get them all to fit in the picture (with the tele setting). The only special handling with a group is if they are not standing at exactly the same distance: focus on one of the nearest persons in the group. Assuming that the nearest and most distant person are not more than a meter or two apart you will get a sharp picture of the whole group and a somewhat blurry background. The longer tele lens you have the nearer on a “line” the group must stand – but the “blurrier” background you will have!

Sharp background – Person or group in front of Eiffel Tower
Or any other picture where you want the surroundings to be seen clearly. Here you probably want a deep DOF so that as much as possible can be seen clearly. First of all you move away from your foreground motif and use your wide-angle. To get maximum DOF you should also use the smallest possible aperture. But also take one picture with what f-value the camera suggests – it might be good enough.

Canon S95 DOF Samples

First of all I must disappoint all of you who is hoping to get a very blurry background in your portraits with the S95 – or any other small sensor short focal length lens cameras! It will not happen – even with a large aperture lens as the f 2.0 one on the S95! But as largest aperture at tele is just f4.9 you will only get a really blurry background when you use max tele in a very close up picture – that will not cover a view big enough for a proper portrait – but might work for a close-up of a flower for example. If you have a super-zoom you are luckier but will need to use the tele setting and hold the camera very very steady!

I have taken two series of pictures samples. You will see a variation of the DOF but it is so small it hardly is worth mentioning.

The first series in which I vary the focal length from 28 mm to 105 mm (equiv – in reality 6-22.5 mm ) and use the lowest possible f-value. This affects the perspective – more than it affects the DOF. The difficulty here is that the Canon lens is only f2.0  at the wide-angle end – and f4.9 at the tele end. So as I zoom to tele I also increase the f-value and thereby keep the DOF almost constant.

The second series I kept the focal length at a mid position and varied the f-value. Also very little variation of DOF!

As the DOF variation is so small I have just put up the extreme samples – but trust me – the intermediate pictures looks much the same! All pictures are taken with AWB – which handles the flourescent energy-saving lamps quite well! The hat sits 50 cm in front of the wall.

           

Looking at the above pictures you can easily see that for the Canon S95 the first picture has the most blurry background. This is due to two factors: I am closer to the motif and can use f 2.0  – this together affects the background most thus giving the most shallow DOF – even if I use the wide-angle! And a hat – contrary to a person – usually does not complain about certain features (like the brim) looking a bit wide! 😉

I will add a few extra samples with the motif further away from the background to illustrate how blurry you can get the background – as soon as the weather improves! (We have had the coldest winter for at least 150 years!)

If you want to have really seriously blurry background with an ordinary zoom compact – you have to fire up your favorite image software and get to work! Or get a super-zoom… If you on the other hand want to have a deeper DOF than you can get with your camera and lens combination – then you can combine several pictures with different focus into one picture with a lot of work in Photoshop or similar – or you cold just use CombineZP that automates the process.

Hope this throws some light on DOF for us photo amateurs!

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Canon PowerShot S95 – Sample Photos ISO Effects #2

This is the second set of sample pictures from the Canon PowerShot S95 and Canon EOS 550D (or Digital Rebel T2i). The main goal is to see how different ISO settings – from low to high – affects the picture quality – mainly the noise levels but also colour saturation. Because this second set is looking – image quality wise – so similar to the first set I will refer you to the first set for comments!

The “Midnight sample” to the left is an extra sample I included. Taken close to midnight with only street lamps to light the scene. The light was very yellow so I used custom white balance. ISO 1600, 1/20 sec f 2.0. Turned out alright I think! For a mysterious effect look at the dark sky on the right and you will see a strange pattern – it can also be seen if you look at the sky between the tree branches! I think it is a combination of noise and the structure of the very dark clouds that was at the time when I took this picture.

Canon S95 Samples – ISO 100 and 200

 

Canon S95 Samples – ISO 400 and 800

 

Canon S95 Samples – ISO 1600 and 3200

 

PhotomanCompareStrip – Canon PowerShot S95

Canon EOS 550D Samples – ISO 100 and 200

 

Canon EOS 550D Samples – ISO 400 and 800

 

Canon EOS 550D Samples – ISO 1600 and 3200

 

PhotomanCompareStrip – Canon EOS 550D

Hope you had some use of this second set!

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Canon PowerShot S95 – Sample Photos ISO Effects

In this post I will be showing samples from the Canon PowerShot S95 and the Canon EOS 550D (or Canon Digital Rebel T2i). This time the main goal is to see how different ISO settings – from low to high – affects the picture quality – mainly the noise levels but also colour saturation.

As  always all of these samples are full size and have not been edited in any way – except changing the filenames! I have taken a series of pictures of the same motif with the two different cameras: Canon PowerShot S95 and Canon EOS 550D (with the kit lens EF-S 18-55 mm IS) – mostly as comparison – but they are interesting on their own as sample pictures from the 550D! I know it is VERY unfair comparison because of sensor size, price … etc but at least there is something that can be used as a sort of “gold” reference. A compact would have to work VERY hard to surpass any decent DSLR as the ISO goes up – and the light goes down! Give me sun (or rather low ISO) and the pictures are very good from all cameras!

NOTE! I forgot to reset the contrast and saturation on the 550D to factory setting – so the pictures can not be directly compared between these two cameras! I will redo this as soon as I have a chance! Sorry for this!

 As I like to see how the cameras work under real world situations (and I am also quite lazy 😉 )I let the respective cameras handle most settings automatically – only intervening at special situations or at price winning photo opportunities!

Both cameras were set similarly: Programmed Automatic Setting (P), AWB, all other settings to normal. Note that the sharpening on 550D is normally set for “soft” from Canon – I did not change that!

The Samples
I will of course put up the full-size samples – but I will also put up what I call “PhotomanCompareStrip” – where I have taken the same (what I think is) representative area of the picture for each of the different ISO values. This way you can very quickly see how higher ISOs affect the picture quality. I have saved the “PhotomanCompareStrip” as PNG-files so the picture quality in the crops will not be affected by one more destructive JPG-compression! Be sure to click them to see the crops in 100% size! Well, you will see below what it is – I hope you will find them convenient ! 🙂 For a more detailed look I do recommend the full size samples!

For the following I think it best to explain what I mean by “pixel-by-pixel” and “full screen”. Firstly “pixel-by-pixel” is when you size the viewing of the picture on the screen so that each pixel in the picture will be show as one pixel on the screen. This means that you can only see a (small) part of the picture but can scroll around to see other parts of the picture. Secondly “full screen” is when you scale (down) the picture so that you can see the full picture on the screen at once.

Canon S95 Samples – ISO 100 and 200

 

Both ISO 100 and 200 are quite good with the S95  I think. No disturbing noise and hardly any loss of detail! definitely nothing that can disturb your eyes if you look att the picture full screen on any normal computer!

Canon S95 Samples – ISO 400 and 800

 

ISO 400 is still quite good – but with some minimal loss of detail that you only can see on a pixel-by-pixel view! At full screen viewing some loss of contrast creeps in. Again you can not see any flaws in sharpness if you look att the picture full screen! The same can not really be said about the noise – which if you look very carefully at evenly lit areas – the sky for example – can be seen or at least “felt” even at full screen – and definitely at pixel-by-pixel viewing! It is not very disturbing – if at all seen in full screen!  ISO 400 is not att all bad and I would say that it is good enough for most purposes!

ISO 800 is still good enough – especially for full screen viewing. You can see differences between ISO 100 and ISO 800 but the later it is definitely still good enough to be used in most situations – even if big size printing will show some noise! Looking att ISO 800 on pixel-by-pixel shows that it is here that the image quality starts to be affected more clearly. Noise, sharpness and contrast are all affected.

Canon S95 Samples – ISO 2000 and 3200

 

ISO 2000 is really an amazing sensitivity – but you pay for it in noise, sharpness and contrast which all are affected. It is still quite alright to view full screen – but now you can quite easily see the noise in the sky and less detail and less contrast in the tree branches at the and of the street. Looking at it pixel-by-pixel you see a significant drop in image quality even compared to ISO 800! Most details have been lost and it has to be said that ISO 2000 should only be used if you really have to to get a picture! Still alright for big objects that fill a bigger part of the picture – but do not at all expect that razor sharpness! Compare it to the Canon EOS 550D picture below for ISO 1600 and you will realize that even if the S95 has a much developed new sensor it is no match for a bigger sensor – but the S95 sensor and processing certainly stands well up against other compact cameras. Compared to my previous “new sensor compact” Samsung WB2000 the S95 has more colour saturation as standard!

ISO 3200 is actually not much worse than ISO 2000 – so much of the same comments apply here! There is some more loss of detail but the big step seems to be between ISO 800 and 2000!

One thing to note: The ISO 3200 sample is slightly over exposed! The camera indicated this – as its aperture does not go any smaller the f 8.0 and the shutter time not any shorter than 1/1600 sec there was too much light for it to handle at such high ISO value.

PhotomanCompareStrip – Canon PowerShot S95

As I have given most comments on the full size samples I will here only observe that you can very easily see the first big drop in resolution when you step up to ISO 800. This is very good – as you normally will not have to go any higher than ISO 400 in outdoors daylight photography. Indoors, restaurant, candle light you might be more willing to accept a little more noise and softer pictures… You can also use the S95 flash – which I seem to love to hate – its annoying but good – if you accept the flat light from a built-in flash. Even if contrast and saturation is affected by the increase in sensitivity there is a very good general similarity between the pictures taken with different ISOs.

Canon EOS 550D Samples – ISO 100 and 200

As this review is of the Canon PowerShot S95 I will not comment the Canon EOS 550D samples.

 

Canon EOS 550D Samples – ISO 400 and 800

 

Canon EOS 550D Samples – ISO 1600 and 3200

 

PhotomanCompareStrip – Canon EOS 550D

A few general comments on the Canon EOS 550D samples. The image quality is amazing with perfectly acceptable results up to ISO 1600 – with very litte loss of detail or colour saturation and very well controlled noise. At ISO 3200 there is an increase in noise and a certain loss of detail but it is still quite enjoyable – especially full screen where you will see almost no loss in image quality. Looking at the picture pixel-by-pixel it looks softer than at lower ISOs and the noise is higher but still well controlled and not very disturbing – especially considering it is a 18 Mpix picture you are looking at!

More in part #2 of Canon S95 samples! 🙂

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Canon PowerShot S95 – Sample Photos

At last I have managed to get the sample photos from the Canon PowerShot S95! The post might as well be titled “Canon EOS 550D – Sample Pictures” (or Canon Digital Rebel T2i) as I will be including – as usual – sample pictures from the 550D – of the same motifs taken at the same time. The cold and snowy weather has – for some time now – kept me from getting comparable pictures from both cameras! The motifs are – of course – much of snow so I plan to do more samples of less snowy things when I get an oportunity!

As  always all of these samples are full size and have not been edited in any way – except changing the filenames! I have taken a series of pictures of the same motif with the two different cameras: Canon PowerShot S95 and Canon EOS 550D (with the kit lens EF-S 18-55 mm IS) – mostly as comparison – but they are interesting on their own as sample pictures from the 550D! I know it is VERY unfair comparison because of sensor size, price … etc but at least there is something that can be used as a sort of “gold” reference. A compact would have to work VERY hard to surpass any decent DSLR as the ISO goes up – and the light goes down! Give me sun (or rather low ISO) and the pictures are very good from all cameras!

The test shots were taken shortly after midday – with hardly any clouds and no visible variation in lighting. Bear in mind though that the sun does not rise very high on the sky here in Sweden at this time of year – giving a sort of afternoon warmth to the light and very much shadow areas!

Both cameras was set similarly: AWB, all other settings to normal. Note that the sharpening on 550D is normally set for “soft” from Canon – I did not change that!

PRESS STOP! I just saw that I had forgotten to reset the contrast and saturation on the 550D to factory setting – so the pictures can not be directly compared between these two cameras! I will redo this as soon as I have a chance! Sorry for this!

Comparing camera pictures is SOO difficult – all cameras should really be set so that YOU think it gives the best possible result – not just left with what the maker thought was the best… well... Hands up all those that have left the setting at what it was out of the box!  Taking into account that both cameras has different resolution is soo tricky – you will have to scale either way and then the sharpness changes…. but it does all the time that you look att pictures on a screen – very few 18 or 10 MPixel screens exist! Printing the pictures on paper and then comparing them is, I guess, the most fair method…

I will be showing sample photos aimed at different goals. First is the wide-angle and tele sharpness samples – with some 100% crops to make comparison easy!. Then – in the next post – the increasing ISO samples – all the way from low to high ISO. These will all be full-size samples from both the S95 and the 550D.

Click on the sample pictures to see them in full size!

Wide angle sharpness samples

 

Starting with the wide-angle samples above (28 mm equivalent) both cameras produce very similar results. Taken in mostly shade with some sunlight on the roofs. Both cameras were set for ISO 100 and the Programme Setting (P). The S95 picked 1/320 sec and f 4.0 – the 550D picked 1/125 sec and f 7.1. Both combinations are ok – the s95 goes from f 2.0 to 8.0 and the 550D from f 3.5 to 22 so I guess it makes some sense in the S95 staying with the larger apertures. Having the widest angle – that is lessening the effect of visible camera shake and image stabilization still does make me wonder why the S95 picked such a short time and such a large aperture? Would it not make sense to increase the depth of field by using a smaller aperture? The visual impression is of  two cameras that produce similar good sharpness – even if the resolution differ quite a lot! Quite impressive!

This is something to note – that some compact cameras will give images of a quality close to that of a DSLRif used with low ISOs and in good lighting! Once again: Quite impressive! That leaves us with the tricky question of lenses – and there is no question about it – the lens do influence the result! The 18-55 mm Canon kit lens is quite alright – for its price – but better lenses do exist – for a price! I have one prime lens – EF 50 mm 1:1.8 II – that is regarded as very good lens – for its very low price! Build is plasticy – but sharpness when stopped down a little is quite good! I will try to include samples of this when I redo the samples!

From the samples above I have cropped an area of the top of the tree in the middle. On the left I have shown these two 100% crops – different in size due to that the cameras have different resolution – 10 Mpix and 18Mpix.

In between them I have also included a 550D scaled crop (70%) to make it the same size as the S95. I scaled it with Irfanview to show what happens with a picture when you scale it down. As you can see the sharpness goes up! In real life you would (for viewing on a computer screen) scale most images much more than  this – increasing the percieved sharpness – and at the same time loosing some detail…! The maximum resolution and sharpness would only be of use when you print out or crop your picture! This is of course good news to anyone mostly viewing their pictures on screen – any camera (almost) will look real good! 🙂

There are many other interesting parts to look at in the sample pictures! Look at the green bin in the shady area by the fence at the left. There you can see slight noise appearing in the S95 picture where as the 550D is almost noise free.

Also on the tree branches in the very top right you can see that the sharpness has gone down a bit and also some slight purple fringning can be seen. This is something that I can not see when I scale the pictures to fit my screen!

Tele sharpness samples

 

At the tele samples above (85 mm equivalent) both cameras again produce very similar results. Taken in mostly shade with some sunlight on the roofs. Both cameras were set for ISO 100 and the Programme Setting (P). The S95 picked 1/200 sec and f 4.5 – the 550D again picked 1/125 sec and f 7.1. Both combinations are ok – but as the cameras both are using a longer focal length shutter times should really be shorter not longer as with the S95 – the f 4.5 is because at 85 mm that is the aperture you get with the S95 lens. This really comes back to the wide angle – why the S95 picked such a very short time for that? Anyhow, again the visual impression is of  two cameras that produce similar good sharpness! Quite impressive!

 

In the crops above you can see that in the tele setting again the sharpness  is quite similar – both in the centre crops (first) and in the corner crops (second)! One has to be a little amazed at the resolution of the little lens of the Canon S95 has to produce on its very small sensor with its extremely small pixels to look as good as the ones from the Canon 550D with its much bigger sensor! It is 43 mm² compared to 329 mm² which – when the Mpixels are taken into account makes the S95 lens over 4 times as sharp! A bigger sensor actually puts less requirements on the sharpness of the lenses!

Till next time – happy snapping!

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Review Wide Angle 0.45x Add-On

Zeikos BoxFront

Several times over the past few years I have seen wide angle add-on lenses and wondered how well they actually worked. So, recently I saw a really low-cost wide-angle add-on that I could not resist – Zeikos ZE-WA58B for just $13.19 from Amazon! Setting my hopes and my expectations as low as the price I ordered it … looking forward to find out how good or bad it was. As I was having a reasonable wide angle zoom already – Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM for $480 – I thought it would be fun 😉 comparing them to each other! Putting up some sample pictures! But I can – even without testing – say that the Zeikos will be worse and the Sigma will be better!  That said, can I bring this little add-on with me as a replacement to my Sigma lens when I am lazy?  At this low price is the Zeikos usable for anything?

I should point out that at no place does Amazon actually say that this is suitable to the Canon 18-55 mm kit lens. There are other similar looking add-ons that states this but I picked this because the picture showed a slightly more wide front lens. This was, I am sorry to say, not the case with the delivered product – it looks very similar to most of the other low-cost wide-angle add-ons!
The assumption that it would be suitable to my Canon kit lens is made by me! Well … the threads should work at least… 
😉

 

Also see my other reviews for Wide Angle Add-Ons!

 Power Pak 0.45x Add-On in part 2!

EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD Add-OnNEW Review!

  $2 Wide Angle clip-on for mobile phones!

 

Now on to the Zeikos ZE-WA58B 0.45x Wide Angle review:

Fair comparison to the Sigma lens? Pricewise – NO! Claimwise – ABSOLUTELY! Just for fun – listen to this from the box of the Zeikos ZE-WA58B:

  • Professional High Definition Wide Angle Lens – this is very hard to understand what it really means – but is sure sounds as if it is supposed to be something really GOOD!
  • Titanium Optics – well your guess is as good as mine where the Titanium is used – I guess it is supposed to impress – and it IS impressive as it IS in fact rocket science (Check this at NASA)
  • Digital multi-coated – this is something the big brand guys use – not that I know what the “Digital” is in this context …
  • Heavy Duty Construction – not that difficult to grasp
  • 0.45x – what does this mean? Guess: 0.45x the focal length? My kit lens 18-55 mm would turn into 8-25 mm which is quite impressive! It would beat my Sigma 10-20 mm in both “ends”!
  • 58 mm – this is just the lens filter diameter – it fits my 18-55 mm kit-lens

The Box
As you can see in the picture at the left, the box contains a (rather flimsy) pouch and the wide-angle lens itself.  The lens is covered by a press-on lens cap at the front and a screw-on cap at the back. There is also a one-page “manual” that says what one-page “manual” usually says! That is not much – but it states that you should not use lens-paper but microfiber cloth. This could indicate that the lens is very sensitive to rubbing – making me wonder about the multi-coating … but you can not expect everything for $13!

The Outside
Starting with the outside it is actually surprisingly well-built. Heavy Duty Construction? Maybe..!  Let me be clear: It is NOT the product that is show on either the Amazon site or the box! It is not at all widening as much towards the front lens.Still, the finish is a good velvety black. It is very difficult to see any of the usual telltale of multicoating – the lens (at least now when it is all new) is extremely clean – not a single little speck of dirt on the lens surfaces! So I once again ask myself is there any multi-coating or for that matter any coating at all? But it is actually stating it right there on the box!

The Test
I tested it on the Canon EOS 550D (Canon Digital Rebel T2i) with kit lens 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 IS
one late afternoon when I hurried to catch the last sun rays of the day. “P“- mode. Most settings in normal or standard except contrast +1, saturation +1, sharpness +1. The sample pictures below has not been edited in any way except the name change! (I might try to test it during daytime to see if that matters in any way.)

Usage
You actually screw this wide-angle adaptor/lens onto your ordinary lens!

The model that I bought fits only 58 mm filter threads. It fits quite snuggly on the camera lens. Weighing in at 120 gr it is not directly heavy … It has 62 mm filter threads so you can screw on a filter or a lens hood if you want to.

(Here I have to comment on the fact that (to my knowledge) all over the world we talk about focal length and filter threads in millimeters! Even in non-metric counties! 🙂 )

Impression
This “lens” consists of two screwed together parts: first the wide-angle lens itself that is the top part – a little bulging outwards –  as you can see in the picture. Then there is a close-up “macro” lens – the narrow part in the picture – with the red text “MACRO“. They can either be used together as the wide-angle add-on or you can use just the close-up macro lens.

 

 

 

 

Autofocus works well, both with the ordinary phase detecting and the live view contrast detecting. There is a soft “thump” when using the ordinary focusing. This is probably due to the extra 120 gr that has to be moved when focusing and the ordinary focusing is much faster than the live focusing therefore starting and stopping more abruptly.

Vignetting (dark corners) is VERY pronounced at the 18mm setting of the kit zoom. In the picture to the left it is extra pronounced because I have stopped down to f 16. It is softer at bigger apertures – as you can see in the samples below. The vignetting can be either very disturbing … or just a cool effect – you decide! I myself would prefer to add it afterwards – if I ever wanted to. Zooming out to 22 mm it goes away completely – but it is a little dependent on the aperture value … I expected the vignetting – therefore I tried to get an add-on that had extra-large opening diameter hoping that it would help – but as you saw above it missed! I have to point out that there exists other wide-angle add-ons that has larger opening diameter – but at a much higher price and I wanted to go cheap!

 

 

How about the 0.45x ?
Before I get into the image quality I want to address the 0.45x – what does it really mean! It is NOT 0.45 times the focal length! Even if that is a reasonable assumption as normally when you talk about a lens you talk about the focal length.

The 0.45x actually refers to the area coverage increase! It would be better to say that it will add 45% more to your picture – but then it would not be so easy to misinterpret it … 😉 I will use % below when I refer to the area coverage. You can see it in the picture – I have marked the original 18 mm coverage with a red rectangle. In this picture the red rectangle represents 55% of the area and the surrounding area is the 45% area increase. (Note that the 18 mm covers the house – so you can see in the other pictures how much extra coverage you will get.)

It IS an increase – even if it is not that much – I am sure that it can come in handy sometimes …! For stationary motifs I would take a panorama picture instead. If you want to get 45% area coverage increase it also means that you have to accept the pronounced vignetting! In the widest setting this translates  roughly to a 11.8 mm lens – giving a focal factor of 0.65x. (This is what should have been put on the box!) If you can’t accept the vignetting you will only get what corresponds to a  14.5 mm lens which translates to focal factor of 0.80x – which is not very much to write home about! You only get 3.5 mm added extra zoom – from 14.5 to 18 mm! But still it might be handy in some situations!

Sample Photos

I took a number of sample photos with Canon EOS 550D + Canon kit lens 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 IS with and without Zeikos wide-angle add-on and Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM. I will not bother to put up all of them but will try to put up the most significant ones and also some 100% crops. (Should you feel different, please let me know!) I will concentrate on the wide-angle aspects as this is a wide-angle add-on! But the add-on works in tele as well.  Just click on the pictures to see them in full size 18 Mpix!

Sigma 10 mm is where it starts for me. This is the widest angle I have access to. This lens is not the sharpest of lenses even if you select a small aperture – but it is quite wide! Vignetting can be sensed in the far corners but it is not very noticeable. The EOS 550D can correct this automatically in camera but I have not bothered (yet 😉 ) to register the information for the Sigma lens. (Corrections is already included for most Canon lenses.)  Calculating the area coverage increase (compared to 18mm) makes it  66% – which actually is much better than 45% – you want the area coverage increase as BIG as possible! I am focusing just below the top centre window in all of the pictures.

 

 

The Sigma at 12 mm. Here I tried to get a coverage that was close to the widest coverage with the Zeikos add-on.

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A_Zeikos 18 mm 7.1The Zeikos at 18 mm. It is close in coverage to the Sigma 12 mm above.  This is the widest coverage you can get with the Zeikos – but you pay for it with a lot of vignetting and some barrel distortion – making straight lines bend.

 

 

 

 

 

The Zeikos at 21 mm. This is very close to the coverage you would get if you do not want vignetting! There is a very small vignetting in the upper left hand corner that I did not see in the viewfinder when I took the picture. I have not marked the 18 mm coverage but as it covers almost exactly the house (see above) you can see that the extra coverage you get is quite small – a little extra sky and a little along the other edges. This is not much – at least if you have a 18 mm lens to start with! Having a lens starting from 22 mm you would get the advertised 0.45x (or a more common 45%) extra coverage area – without the vignetting. This Zeikos add-on is much better suited for a lens starting at 22 mm! But lenses starting at 22 mm are quite scarce!

 

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Image quality

I took one picture each with the three different “lenses”. I have created two 100% crops, center and edge. The have been saved in PNG-format so that the picture quality should not be affected. I tried to get a similar coverage on all of them but  I did not manage to get the exact same coverage … I had to pick the only focal length that was common – around 18-20 mm. Zeikos add-on was zoomed to 27 mm on the kit lens. Just click on the “tripple-crops” to see them in full size!

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 The center crop is alright on all three “lenses” I think. Thinking of the price difference they are all amazingly sharp and clear! There are small quality differences but not that much to complain about. Remember that this is a 100% crop from a 18 MPixel camera – meaning that the full picture would be over 1.5 meters (5 feet) in width on a normal screen – like you are probably looking at now! You make your own decission about sharpness at the center – but to my eye differences exists but are small enough to be ignored – if you have a good day!  😉

The edge crop is something different altogether! Here we can see really big differences on all three pictures! The Canon kit lens is by far the sharpest! Canon and Zeikos was stopped down to f 8.0 and the Sigma to f 11.0. This should be the “easiest” focal length for the expensive Sigma lens but it is not even near the Canon kit lens in sharpness – even though it is using f 11.0! But it is still way better than the Zeikos that is really blurry and is showing a lot of chromatic aberration (splitting up colours).

How does this translate to a picture of a normal size? Amazingly enough, scaled to fit on a 19″ screen with an IPS panel all three pictures are actually looking OK! Note though that there are differences! Both the Canon and the Sigma pictures are looking tack sharp! The Zeikos has just about acceptable sharpness around the edges, the blurriness is not so visible scaled down (as expected) but the chromatic aberration is more noticeable – in the light-dark transitions!

The close-up “macro” lens

Unscrewing the rear part of the Zeikos Wide Angle “combo” gives you a rather powerful close-up or “macro” lens. You screw this single element lens onto your favorite lens and will be rewarded with the ability to focus much closer – how much depends on the focal length of the lens used. I used my trusty old 18-55 mm kit lens once again. I could have used my 55-250 mm also – because that also has a 58 mm filter fitting.

I wanted to compare the Zeikos with a proper close-up lens so I brought out my B+W Macro +10 lens. Both lenses have rather wide brims making them less than ideal for use with wide angle lenses. I wanted to see how different they were considering the price difference. The Zeikos – for “free” with the Wide Angle Add-on and the B+W  for 380 SEK/40 EUR/$53. The question to answer is if the “free” close-up lens is anything to have?

 

I started by going as close as I could focus in wide-angle (18mm) to find out if there was any difference between the two close-up lenses. They were both very similar. This also pins the Zeikos in the area of -10 to -13 diopter – a little more powerful than the B+W lens. Both images look reasonably similar – both with powerful vignetting in the corners. The Zeikos has a little more barrel distortion along the edges. Middle sharpness (the only place where you will get sharpness with wide-angle) looks similar with both lenses.

 

With the kit zoom at 55 mm there is no longer any noticeable vignetting with either of the lenses. Centre sharpness is also quite similar even if  the little darker exposure of the Zeikos makes that seem a little sharper when looking at it full-screen. Looking at the pictures pixel-by-pixel reveals that centre sharpness is as good with both lenses but that edge sharpness – though not very good – is slightly better with th B+W lens.

Coming back to the question: Is the “free” Zeikos close-up lens is anything to have? In the real world – where you are not only photographing flat objects – I would have to answer a clear “Yes!”. You could actually buy the Zeikos wide-angle add-on just for the close-up lens! It is close to as good as the many times more expensive B+W lens! Does it give supersharp and crisp images?It does not affect the sharpness very much in the center of the picture but along the edges it certainly gives a definate blurriness! With as powerful close-up lens as this the field of depth is very shallow – which can be both good and bad – but being aware of it certainly helps – use it to your advantage!

My Conclusion

Is it worth the $13?
First of all I would say that a cheap add-on like this can be used just for some fun effects – and then you probably will not think too much of the disadvantages or might even consider them to be artistic advantages! Into Lomography perhaps …?   🙂
Secondly, using this on a zoom lens starting on 18 mm is a bit of a waste as you will have to zoom to around 22 mm before the vignetting disappears and that will only give you a corresponding 14.5 mm lens – and to get that very small wide-angle effect you have to put up with rather poor edge performance!

This lens  is NOT something to use for serious photography!

Definitely not with the Canon 18-55 mm kit lens – it gives too little wide-angle increase while sacrificing a lot of quality along the edges!

If you have a lens starting at 22 mm or longer then you would not have to accept the vignetting! Also if you have a camera with a non-changeable lens it could definitely have its use – or a with a video camera!

Finally answering my own question: Is it worth the $13? (Note that the price matters much in this answer!)
I would say: Yes – for a 22 mm or longer lens! But be aware of its blurriness along the edges!

Counting also the close-up part of this Zeikos add-on makes this an even clearer “Yes”!

BUT this is ONLY as long as you do not expect a high quality lens for almost nothing…!
This is NOT a high quality lens – but it might be OK for you if you have low expectations!

 

  Power Pak 0.45x Add-On in part 2! Be sure to read part 2 – where you can see how to improve the result!

EMOLUX 0.45x PRO HD Add-OnNEW Review of a higher quality wide-angle add-on!

 

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Radio Remote for Canon EOS 550D

The small and very handy IR-remote Canon RC-5 has a lot going for it and two things against it: It requires the camera to be “On” and this draws power and it must have a free line of view to the camera.

Enter the Radio Remote for Canon EOS 550D/Canon Digital Rebel T2i – and many other cameras! In this case JY-110 from Deal Extreme. As can be seen in the picture on the left it consists of two parts: transmitter and receiver. It has a working distance of at least 100 meters! (If there is no radio wave blocking obstacles in between!) But you do not really have a line of view between the camera and the transmitter. Especially this is true when you are close, 5-10 meters, then its radio waves goes through a lot of obstacles! The kit seems reasonably well-built – without having a super finish.

The receiver
Is equipped with two buttons and two LEDs.  The receiver connects to the DSLR via a 25 cm cable to a small 2.5 mm stereo headphone jack. It can be fitted in the flash hotshoe on the camera or just used “dangling” in the cable. You can pair transmitter/receiver with each other by selecting one of the available 16 channels on a small DIP-switch. This lessens the risk of interference from other radio transmitters.

The simplest way of using the receiver is in “Off” mode. It then works as a wired remote shutter release! Use it to lessen camera shake or just for convenience. The release button has two pressure levels – exactly as on the camera; the first sets the focus; the second releases the shutter. There is no delay – it is as pressing the release button on the camera!

Switching the receiver “On” is by the smaller button just to the right of the shutter release button. This lights up a red LED on the front indicating that the receiver is ready and listening for the transmitter. One more press on this button switches it off again – and extinguishes the LED. Note! This “Power on”-LED is so weak that it is both very easy to forget it “On” and not to see it. I do not know if this is a fault of my sample or if it is by design to save power. Because it uses a press-on, press-again-off button it can be switched on by accident if you keep it unprotected in your camera bag.

The receiver is using a 3Volt type “CR2” lithium battery. Mine ran out very quickly – I do not know if I forgot it “On” or not. I think I had it “Off” but it still ran down the battery!

The transmitter
Is equipped with one pressure button, one slide switch and one LED. The transmitter is always “On” so there is no “Power on”-switch. It also has an antenna that can be pulled out to increase the working distance. The large button is the release button and it also has two pressure levels – exactly as on the camera; the first sets the focus; the second releases the shutter. As you press this button a two-colour LED just in front of the button lights up in green to indicate focus and when you press harder it lights up in red to indicate shutter release. The same happens at the receiver a bright LED indicates green and red. The setting of the slide switch controls what happens next!

First setting (downwards) with the small “G”-like symbol gives a two second delay before the picture is taken! The red LED blinks during these two seconds.

Second setting (upwards) is a little more complex – or versatile – depending on how you look at it. You focus as normal, then a short press triggers the shutter at once! Or if you keep the button firmly pressed you can either use it for continuous shooting if you set up the camera for this – or if you set it up in manual mode where the “BULB” setting is available – you can have the shutter open as long as you press the button! Very handy! Even better is the fact that if you let go of the button after a few seconds the shutter will stay open untill you press lightly for “focus” – this will close the shutter again! Summarizing: one long press to open the shutter and on short “focus” press to close the shutter. (Note that you will have to “focus” to finish the “BULB” exposure! Just pressing the button as for a shutter release will not work!)

It really works over 100 meters – I have tested it – but it is impossible to see the LEDs at that far away distance – it is even difficult to believe that a picture has been taken! But it has!

The transmitter is using a 12 Volt type “23A” battery. This is said to last for 20 000 exposures – which I have not tested 😉 – but I strongly doubt it … but on the other hand I will have to wait very long to find out – even if it only lasts for 5000 exposures!

Controlling video
Using the radio remote will actually focus the camera at the first soft press but then it will not start the video recording when you press harder. It will “only” trigger the shutter – just as it does normally!
I am sorry to say that you can not control the video at all by the radio remote! (Or any other remote that connects to the remote contact!)
You can however use the infrared (see my blog post on that) to control the video recording!

Conclusion

I ordered this radio remote JY-110 from Deal Extreme for less than $20/15 Euro/150 SEK  (incl batteries and delivery) and I think it is well worth it! When you order the remote, at the same time, buy a few extra CR2 batteries as well! Other radio remote brands in the photo shop at the high street costs several times as much for the same functionality. It is reasonably well-built, the cable is soft and flexible. The only quirk of the system is that it might consume receiver battery power even when switched “Off”! (I will test this and update the text here! Looking for a way to measure the very low current consumption…)

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