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Equipment

The lowly “kit lenses”.

I’m not a fan of kit lenses, rarely did i bought a kit lens alone, habitually they come with the camera. So i was curious and looked in my camera bags and sorted all the kit lenses i have, to my surprise i have more than i thought i owned.

So here they are, i only bought 2 of them alone, the 3 others came with the cameras but didn’t especially wanted them. Starting from the left side: SMC Pentax A-50mm/2.0, Sony 18-55mm OSS for NEX, Canon 18-55mm IS II, 18-55mm IS and 15-85mm IS. The only 2 i bought alone are the Pentax A-50mm/2.0 and the Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS which is the kit lens of the 7D. The build quality vary from very good (Pentax 50mm) to very cheap (Canon 18-55mm IS II). BTW only the Pentax is a FF lens.

Sony NEX-3 with 18-55mm OSS, handheld.

They can all deliver some good to very good IQ if you know their limits and stop down the aperture 1 to 2 stop. The one that i use the most often is my Canon 15-85mm because of it’s very good IQ and range, in fact during my last vacations i used that lens for most of my shots.

I would use my Pentax A-50mm/2.0 more often, but since i already have the excellent DA*50-135mm, i use the latter because it’s more versatile. But the Pentax A-50mm is the best of my kit lens when using extension tubes for Macro shots, it delivers very good IQ and can be a good alternative to a Macro lens if you want to save space and weight in your camera bag. Those old 50mm kit lenses are cheap to buy and are worth looking for them, there is a lot of them on the used market.

I wouldn’t trade my best lenses for a kit lens but they can be useful especially if you don’t want to risk damaging your best lenses. So don’t dismiss them and gave them a try.

Canon T3i with 15-85mm IS, tripod.

Pentax K20D with SMC Pentax A-50mm/2.0, Polarizing filter, tripod.

Canon T3i with 15-85mm IS with Polarizing filter, tripod.

Canon T3i with 15-85mm IS, tripod.

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Canon 15-85mm/ 3.5-5.6, my impressions after 2 weeks of vacation.

I bought that lens just before going to vacation (New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) because i wanted a Zoom lens, taking photos with a complete set of Prime lenses during family vacation is just too slow and you always change lenses and kids don’t wants to wait too long while dad is taking photos 😉

The comments below are based on that 2 weeks trip, so it’s not a long period but it was the lens i used for most of my photos and that 15-85mm was glued to my T3i. I’m not a fan of zoom lenses, so i’m critical about sharpness, habitually i found that zoom lenses are too much of a compromise in IQ but there is some very good ones out there. One of the negative point of zoom lenses is that their minimum focusing distance is not close enough when used at their shorter settings! This one focuses down to 35cm, not bad but when you’re at 15mm it’s too far, for comparison my Pentax DA14mm  focuses down to 17cm !

Dickson Creek in Fundy National Park, NB.

The 15-85mm was very useful along that creek and around the waterfall.

At 15mm, ISO 100, 2 sec. at f/11,Tripod and a Polarizing filter.

The IQ of the lens never disappointed me at any settings, not always as sharp as a good prime lens of the same focal length but still very good in most situations. The versatility of that lens compensate for the little things that are not perfect like minimum focusing distance, some distorsion at 15mm and some vignetting at wider apertures especially at 15mm but easy to correct in LR.

The EF-s 15-85mm is a big and heavy lens compared to the 18-55 kit lenses but the built quality is higher and the 15 to 18mm range is very useful. I didn’t had problem with zoom creeping yet since the lens is brand new but i know from what i’ve read that it will come eventually. I really liked that lens for family vacation and will be using it for my regular photography from now on.

Some more shots taken with that lens:

Here is a shot to show the sunstar effect of that lens, i did use a Polarizing filter but the flare resistance is not bad, need more shots to have a final judgement and without any filter.

Handheld with IS activated at 15mm at f/8 at ISO 100.

The Confederation bridge, from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island in about 10 minutes.
This is a 12.9 kilometre (8 mile) long bridge, it’s the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water.

At 15mm, at f/13, ISO 100, tripod and Polarizing filter.

At 80mm, ISO 200 at f/6.3, handheld with IS.

Zoomed in at 100% to show the details, crop from above after PP and sharpening.

Baie des HA! HA!, Bic Park, Quebec

At 15mm, ISO 100 at f/11, tripod.

Corner crop of the shot above.

Acadien day on August 15, La grande Tintamare, they make as much noise as they can to commemorate that day every year, Bouctouche, NB.

15mm at f/8, ISO 200, Polarizing filter and fill-in light with the built-in flash of my T3i.

Old School in Avonlea, village of Anne of Green Gables, PEI.

19mm at f/8, ISO 400, handheld with IS.

Dickson Fall close-up, Fundy National Park, NB.

At 40mm, ISO 100 at f/14, Tripod and Polarizing filter.

Dickson Creek in Fundy National Park, NB.

At 85mm, ISO 100 at f/11, Tripod and Polarizing filter.


Canon 70-300mm IS, my impressions.

I wanted a telephoto zoom lens to go along  my 400mm/5.6 L and 7D. I didn’t want to spend too much because my goal is to buy a 70-300mm IS L or wait to see if Pentax would come out with the 135-400mm WR that was on the roadmap. It’s a lens that will be used in vacation or when i don’t need or want to carry my 400mm lens. I read many reviews and user opinions before i finally bought one when a store here in Canada was selling brand new ones for 420$ . I could also have bought the 70-200mm/4 L as it was 600$ (i already own a TC-1.4XII), but i wanted to have a lens with IS.

The built quality is cheaper than my 400mm/5.6L and all my Pentax lenses (i don’t own cheap lenses for my Pentax cameras). I was aware of this before buying it, so not a problem. The focusing ring is not the best i’ve used and MF with LV is manageable at best.

Male Green Frog in the morning light.

Canon 7D with 70-300mm IS, 21mm Ext. tube, at 300mm, ISO 250, 1/320 sec. at f/11, tripod.

100% crop of the shot above with PP in Photoshop and sharpening applied (amount around 95 and radius at 1). You can see some CA in the highlights.

One of the reason i bought that lens was to photograph frogs which would need the use of Extension tubes on some occasions. At 300mm with extension tubes the sharpness is quite good , not as good as a Macro lens but good enough for publishing photos in a magazine. At shorter focal length the IQ is quite good, but with extension tubes and zoomed out from 200mm to 300mm the set-up is not very rigid and is prone to vibration so you need a solid tripod, i also use LV to focus and 2 second delay with a remote release.

7D with 70-300mm IS with 65mm of Ext. tubes, at 190mm, ISO 320, at f/10, tripod, remote release.

I’m lucky to have a young Cottontail Rabbit that likes to live in my backyard and he have a favorite spot just in front of a black spruce where it’s well hidden from predators. He’s now quite accustomed to see us in the backyard and i can get close to him with my camera and he even sleep when i’m close to him!

Here it is looking at me, below are crops from that shot, i was also trying Spot AF.

Canon 7D, at 300mm, 1/250 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 800, tripod, RAW.

Zoomed to 100% with no PP and no NR.

With some PP, sharpening in PS7 (Amount 89, Radius 1.0).

From what i’ve shot with that lens up to now it reflects what i’ve read on some reviews and user reviews, it’s quite good up to 200mm when stopped down 1 stop, at 300mm IQ drops but by stopping down to f/7.1 IQ is relatively good, not up to a prime lens.

This shot was taken near the minimum focusing distance of the lens using LV at 10X magnification.

7D with 70-300mm IS at 170mm, ISO 500, 1/25 sec. at f/6.3, tripod and Polariser filter.

This is a 100% crop of the previous shot.

A shot taken at “normal” distance, more standard use of the lens.

7D, lens set at 90mm, ISO 100, 1/50 sec. at f/10, tripod.

Sure it’s not as sharp as a prime lens at longer focal lengths but when stopped down it can produce very good photos until i can buy the 70-300mm IS L ! I’m now getting to know that lens and use it more often for photographing frogs and it’s doing very well. For the price i paid it’s a good value even if the built quality could be better especially the focusing ring that could have a better feeling. I wish that Canon would give at least the lens hood with their lenses like Pentax do.


Rain protection for lenses and your Cards.

Raincover for lenses

Back in March 2013 when i bought a Canon 7D and a 400mm/5.6L i knew that this combo was not as weather sealed as my Pentax K20D and DA*50-135mm and i didn’t want to use plastic bags  like i did with my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4. So i looked on the Net to find a Raincover that would fit my new kit, i finally found a rain cover sold by Rainydays2008 for 20$ (Canadian) for the Canon 400mm/5.6L (they sell raincovers for different lenses). At that price it was not a big risk, it’s been a good investment for protecting my gear from the rain.

You can see in the photos above that the raincover is kept in place on the lens hood with a rubber band and it also have a small ruberized band inside to keep it from sliding on the lens hood. On the second shot above it shows that you have enough space to put your hands under it and use your gear without any problem.

Even if it’s for a Canon 400mm/5.6L it would certainly work for other lenses and camera combo, the 400mm/5.6L has a 72mm filter size and i can use Extension tubes with or without my TC-1.4X II. It would certainly fit on a Canon 300mm/4L with different cameras but also for Pentax lenses like the FA*400mm/5.6, F*/FA* 300mm/4.5 or even  Sigma 400mm/5.6 and 300mm/4 APO Macro.

Waterproof card case

My camera bag was becoming full of SD and CF cards all piled in a pocket in Ziplock bags and it was not easy to find the one i wanted for a specific camera, so i bought a Gepe card safe Extreme case, which is waterproof and crush proof. Up to now i like it and will probably buy another one.

The advantage of that case is that you can put 4 SD cards and also 4 CF cards above them as seen above. Also when it’s closed you can see through so you can quickly know which cards are in the case.

In the field

I tested in several occasions the Raincover and the Card case and both performed very well. Last week i was able to photograph Frogs and a Great Blue Heron for over 3 hours in the rain with periods of heavier rain fall and i had no problem at all, my camera and lens stayed dry and i kept the Card case in one of my rain suit pocket.

Here are some shots i took during that morning.

Bullfrog with decorations !

Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L with TC 1.4X II and an Ext. tube, tripod, remote release.

Great Blue Heron stretching, i stayed with him for over 2 hours sitting at the edge of the pond, patience even in bad weather is sometimes rewarded !

Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L, tripod.


2nd outing with NEX-3 and underwater case.

Yesterday i tried my NEX-3 with my 18-55 kit lens with my underwater case for photographing frogs. Well this morning i switched to my Sigma 19mm because it can focus closer than the Sony kit lens. It was a good decision, i got better shots because i could get closer to the frogs, 5 cm closer makes a big difference at 19mm !

All photos were taken at ISO 400 and f/5.6.

I like that one because we can clearly see it’s legs and body that are under the surface!

This one was cropped on top and right side for composition purposes.

This morning it was sunny and i had difficulties seeing the LCD, too much reflections on the case.


1st Frog shot with Underwater casing and NEX-3.

During the winter i bought a MEIKON underwater casing for my NEX-3 and 18-55 kit lens. My goal was to made different photos than the usual view of frogs. I wasn’t sure if i would be able to view the LCD of my NEX-3 clear enough to be able to compose correctly$. Finally after that 1st try i’m really pleased with the set-up!

Here is my NEX-3 in the underwater casing.

The controls are relatively easy to operate, didn’t had any real problem using all the controls on my NEX-3. You can only use AF since you don’t have access to the focusing ring. Now i need to practice to get better at composition with part of the frog underwater, there is a lot of branches underwater that prevents from a clear view of the frog’s body parts that are underwater. The 18-55mm kit lens was set at 19mm and it can focus down to 0.25 Meter, not close enough. Tomorrow i will try my Sigma 19mm which can focus down to 0.20 Meter, i will loose OSS but i will gain sharpness and i can go to f/2.8 is necessary.

Well here is my first shot.

I cropped the right side and some of the bottom part of this shot, the 18-55 don’t focus close enough and i can only set it  from about 18mm up to 19mm within the casing.

Stay tuned, i will try again tomorrow morning, practice will make me better at this!


Canon 18-55mm IS kit lens.

I’m not a big fan of Zoom lenses, i prefer prime lenses, so imagine shooting with a kit zoom lens for serious photography !!! I did use the Canon 18-55mm IS kit lens on my Canon XS for family photos but never for serious photography. Not long ago i bought a 7D and 400mm/5.6 L for my wildlife photos and also a set of Extension tubes. I like to try my lenses with Extension tubes to see how they performs, sometimes they are good but sometimes not so good.

So lets start with regualr distance shots without Ext. tubes, i took some photos with my 7D to see if that little lens can stand the 18Mp sensor ?

All shots taken in RAW and processed in LR and PS.

Here is a shot of my 2 young girls:

Taken with 7D and 18-55mm IS, handheld with IS activated.

Set at 32mm, 1/30 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 500, handheld with IS.

Here is a crop from the shot above, i zoomed-in to 100% in PS. From the TIFF files with no PP and sharpening, just resized and saved as JPEG.

Some tests with Extension tubes.

7D with 18-55mm IS with 34mm of Ext. tubes on tripod.

Set at 37mm, 1/80 sec. at f/8.0, ISO 200, tripod.

Some photos taken inside my house, sorry for the boring subjects!

7D with 18-55mm set at 44mm with 13mm Ext. tube, ISO 400, 1/200 sec. at f/8, handheld.

Zoomed at 100% and cropped in PS with no sharpening.

Same cropping but with PP and sharpening set at 90 % and radius at 1.0.

Close-up of my SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm f4.0.

At 45mm with 13mm Ext. tube, ISO 125, at f11, tripod.

Zoomed at 100 % with PP and same sharpening as above.

At 24mm with 13mm Ext. tube, ISO 125, at f11, tripod, same crop with same PP.

Well at normal distances that lens is sharper than i was expecting and certainly can be use for serious work if needed especially from about 20mm to 45mm where i found it to be at it`s best on my sample. Also it`s not too bad for close-up work, sure not as good as a real Macro lens but can be useful to shoot close-up at 24mm.