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Canon 70-300mm IS MK II review

This is about the new Canon 70-300mm\ 4-5.6 IS II Nano USM lens, Canon finally updated their consumer grade version of the 70-300mm. I did owned the previous version (70-300mm IS USM), it was a good lens for the price but the IS was loud and clunky, this new version will certainly be better in that department. As soon as it was available I pre-ordered one, I currently own the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) which is a very good lens but i’m often in needs for more reach and i’m missing the IS. Also I have a big gap between my 70-200mm and my 400mm/5.6 L.

My expectations for this newer version of this lens are: better AF, better IS and better IQ than the older version.

OVERVIEW

Canon still doesn’t supply lens hood with their consumer lenses compared to Pentax and Fuji (2 brands that I’ve owned or still use, which supplies hood with virtually all their lenses). Unfortunately the hood of my 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) doesn’t fit even if the filter size of both lenses is the same 😦  So I had to buy the Canon ET-74B for 73$ (Canadian), this hood have a release button on it, so the hood is really solidly locked to the lens, good design but is missing a window to turn polarizer filters.

The minimum focusing distance is closer than the previous version (1.2 meter versus 1.5 meter) but the magnification ratio is the same 0.25 x which means that the version II is framing wider than the MK I version.

The LCD display on the lens is something new in lenses, ZEISS have it and now Canon. Is it a gadget, will it endure years of field abuse ….. only time will tell but the LCD on my 7D is still working and if the quality of the LCD on the 70-300mm is equal it should last the life of the lens ! Personally I don’t see any use for it on such a lens …… maybe on a Wide angle zoom lens the DOF marks for the f-stop would be useful but not on a telephoto zoom lens, and focal lengths are not useful to me since they are already marked on the lens barrel, but I find it more useful in the EXIF data anyway. As for the IS info it’s completely useless in my opinion !

Build quality is very good, certainly a good step above the MK I version. The lens feels solid in the hands and the zooming ring is well dampened but the focusing ring is more like most AF lenses a little loose but I’ve seen worst than this one.

The lens have a button to lock the zoom ring at 70mm for transport, it would have been great if it could be locked at different focal lengths …… maybe too much to ask 🙂

Autofocus

I really like the new Nano USM AF system, very silent and fast, certainly better than the one on my 70-200mm/4 L non-IS ! Works quite well up to now. The Nano AF system will be very useful for video shooting.

Image Quality

All the photos posted here were taken with my old 7D in RAW. In short the IQ is quite good at every focal length, it’s not as good as an L series lens but better than a consumer grade lens….. a good compromise in term of price versus IQ and size.

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Taken at 300mm at f/5.6 in RAW with IS activated.

 

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Here is a crop of the photo taken above with no PP and no sharpening.

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Taken at 300mm/5.6 during a snowstorm at a local ZOO.

 

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Taken at a local Zoo at 250mm at f/5.6

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One of the reason i bought this lens was because of it’s close focusing ability. Here is a “close-up” of ice taken at 213mm at f/10

Lens Flare 

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Here is a backlit photo taken at sunrise, it was -20°C no lens flare, the sun was just out of the frame on the top. Taken at 176mm at f/10

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Same location and morning as the above shot but with the sun directly in the frame, still no flare. Taken at 81mm at f/10.

Up to now i have to say that i’m really satisfied with the flare resistance of that lens, certainly better than my 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS). As you can see in the photos above even with the sun directly in the frame the lens didn’t show any flare.

70-300mm IS MK II vs 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS)

One of the reason I bought that lens is because that I often missed the 200mm to 300mm range. I don’t expect the IQ of it to be as good as the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) , especially wide open, but if it’s close enough it will be worth it.

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70-300mm MK II at 200mm at f/5.6

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70-200mm/4 L at 200mm at f/5.6

You can see from the crops above that there is not much difference in details resolution, the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) is a little sharper but not by much. The 70-300mm produce more CA in the OOF areas and at the same setting it’s wider than the 70-200mm and the 70-200mm produce a smoother “Bokeh”. I will not post many crop because it’s always nearly the same difference in framing and sharpness between the two lenses.

Conclusion

This is my impression after about 1 month of field use, i will post updates as i gain more field experience with that lens but it’s already proved to be a very useful and versatile lens.

It’s a very good lens that delivers very good results in the field, good contrast, Bokeh is not too bad and sharpness is certainly very good. This lens is doing good to very good in most department but it’s not an “L” lens, if you want the best IQ possible in all department then buy the 70-300mm L IS lens, but if you don’t want or need the “L” version this 70-300mm IS MK II is worth considering. I already like it and can’t wait to use it for photographing my Frog friends next summer !


Canon 24mm STM review.

I love “Pancake” lenses because they don’t take too much space and don’t add a significant amount of weight in my camera bag ! A Pancake lens needs to have some compromise optically to be so small, so you can’t have it all for such a small lens and low price. Usually they are slower lenses, it’s inevitable if you want a pancake lens, if you want a fast lens it will be bigger and heavier. I’ve owned some Pancake lenses over the years, very good ones like the Fuji XF 27mm and some not so good like the Sony E-mount 16mm.  Pentax makes some great Pancake lenses in the DA Limited series, currently I own the Pentax DA 40mm/2.8 XS which is a derivate of the Pentax DA 40mm/2.8 Limited but even smaller …. it’s the smallest lens available for an APS-C camera.

Canon finally came-up with two Pancake lenses, the 24mm STM and 40mm STM. For me the 24mm was more interesting since I already had the Pentax DA 40mm XS in my bag and also because of the close focusing ability of the 24mm which is interesting for it’s focal length. So I bought one last fall (2015) and I now have enough experience with it to share my thoughts with you.

The built quality is not as good as the Pentax Limited lenses which are all metal construction, even the front lens cap is made of metal. But for a plastic lens at that price it’s quite good, especially if you compare it to Canon’s 50mm/1.8 or the 18-55mm kit lenses !

Here are my two Pancake lenses that I have in my camera bag: on the left side the Pentax DA 40mm/2.8 XS and on the right side the Canon 24mm/2.8 STM.

This photo was taken the next morning I bought the Canon 24mm. It was -4°C and all the vegetation was covered with a thick layer of frost. Taken at f/11 on a tripod.

This photo of an old canal was taken on a cold morning, I used a Polarizer to obtain a longer exposure. Taken with the Canon 24mm at f/11 on a tripod.

I arrived at the Rouge River in Grenville before sunrise in late October, suddenly close to sunrise the clouds behind me took a pink/orange color that casted that warm glow on the landscape. Taken with my 7D and 24mm STM, ISO 100, 25 sec. at f/11, tripod.

The IQ of the Canon 24mm STM is quite good at normal distances and also at the closer focusing distances but some distortion can be seen. It’s not as good as my Pentax DA 40mm XS but it’s not the same focal length, maybe I should try a head to head battle between my Pentax and the Canon 40mm STM ( would have to buy one first) !!! So, in term of sharpness I would rate it as very good.

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It was useful at the ZOO to take close-ups of more accessible animals.

 

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This is a crop of the previous shot after processing and some sharpening, it was taken at 1/640 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 400.

 

 

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If you look carefully you can see that the Canon 24mm STM still produce some CA along the edge of the ice even when stopped down to f/11. But it’s easily removed in LR.

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Another shot taken at sunrise along a frozen river, at f/11.

 

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A more abstract shot, this is a rock covered with snow. Taken at f/11

 

I find the new STM AF system “strange”, it take some times to get used to it, the lens tend to hunt in some situations. I’m using it mainly in LV and on a tripod so even if the AF is not top notch I don’t mind. Keep in mind that i’m using it on a 7D, so a more modern 70D or the new 80D certainly are better cameras to take advantage of the STM motor.

With this photo I was able to test the close focusing ability of the Canon 24mm. The Bokeh at f/7.1 is not too bad.

Again, the close focusing ability of the Canon 24mm was useful to get the composition I wanted. I usually don’t place my subject in the center but this time it was what worked the best to my eye.

A small river in a forested area, I used a Polarizer to remove the reflection off the water’s surface. Taken at f/11.

What I like about that lens is when i use it for “close-up” shots, it produces a feeling of being more intimate with the subject compared if I had used a longer lens like a 100mm Macro lens which produce a more compressed look due to being a telephoto lens. The minimum focusing distance of 0.16 meter gives you a maximum magnification of 0.27, which is very good for a 24mm lens. Most of the 24mm lenses don’t focus close enough, i think manufacturers could make an effort to design more lenses with a closer minimum focusing distance. Tamron new SP 35mm/1.8 VC and 45mm/1.8 VC are very good examples of lenses that focus closer than the competition and really interest me.

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This photo of Cedar leaves was taken on a cold Canadian morning (-28°C and with the wind chill factor it was -38°C). Another good example why I really like that lens for more intimate shots. Taken at f/11.

 

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A leaf on a road covered with ice. This is the kind of subject that I really like to photograph and the 24mm STM is a very good choice to render the perspective I want. Taken at f/11 on a tripod.

 

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Ice fishing cabins in B&W, taken at f/10.

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Freezing rain was still falling when I took that shot of a frozen Blueberry shrub with a rock in the background. I converted it to B&W and processed it until it looked how I wanted. I was able to handhold it at 1/100 sec. at f/11, ISO 200

Update on CA

I wanted to update my review about the CA that I didn’t talked much about. It might not be evident on regular subjects or even on more prone subjects like high contrast but during this winter I was able to find some CA on ice and snow shots. Sure it’s not visible at regular viewing but when zooming in you will see it but it’s easy to correct in LR.

As you can see there is more to a lens than sharpness, sure I like very sharp lenses but when buying a lens i also look at the lens in general, not just how much details it can resolve. Usually i prefer a lens that will focus closer to a lens that is the sharpest lens on earth but can’t focus close enough for my needs. It’s because of my shooting style, it will probably be different for another photographer.

Conclusion

The more I use that lens on a crop sensor camera the more I realize that I like shooting at that focal length. It’s a very useful FOV and especially with the closer focusing of the 24mm STM it makes a great all around lens. I now see more and more potential photos as I become more familiar with it. At one moment it’s a “Wide angle” lens and then it becomes a Close-up lens.

Canon came out with a very good lens with some compromises (CA and distorsion), but because of it’s small size, very good IQ and minimum focusing distance, it now have a place in my camera bag with my other Pancake lens, the Pentax DA 40mm XS, especially since I paid less than 300$ Canadian for 2 lenses ! I can’t wait to use it for photographing Frogs up-close next summer and I think it will do a great job even if there is no IS incorporated. The only thing i’m missing now to take full advantage of it’s small size …… is a Canon SL1 !

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This shot was taken around sunrise along a frozen river. Taken at f/13.


Pentax DA 16-85mm WR early review.

It’s full name is : HD Pentax-DA 16-85mm/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR. I did owned the Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 and liked it a lot because of it’s range and quite good IQ, it was especially useful during our family vacation we took 2 years ago in the province of New Brunswick and P.E.I. here in Canada. The Pentax is even more desirable to my eyes because it incorporates WR, is cheaper than the Canon as well when there is no rebates. The Canon quickly developed zoom creep, which it’s known for, hope the Pentax will do better in that department. They both focus down to 0.35 meter and uses a 72mm filter size.

First impression

My first impression when i removed the lens from the box was it’s solid feel in my hand, always a positive thing to feel that a lens can take some abuse. The zooming ring feels stiff enough for the moment to prevent zoom creep, will have to wait after some months of field use to see if it will maintain that stiffness and not suffer from zoom creep.

IQ and field experience

One of the most important selling point of lenses is sharpness, if a lens can’t deliver in that department most people will not buy it. Do you need to absolutely have the sharpest lens available, probably not, but a lens needs to be at least very good. Does the Pentax DA 16-85mm is good enough …….. after shooting for some weeks with it in the field i can say that it’s a very good lens.

My first test shot taken with it on my tripod not long after i received it. Lens set at 43mm, at f/7.1, ISO 400. Well, BTW it was taken in RAW, no PP and sharpening and it’s a 100% crop !

Here is the full shot.

 

This photo was taken on my first field shooting the next morning i received my lens. It’s an Old Canal close to my home, i like to go there to try out my newly purchased lenses. I converted it in B&W. Taken at 39mm, ISO 100, 1/13 sec. at f/13, tripod.

This is a 66.7 % crop from a photo of my older girl, i wanted to see the performance of my K50 and 16-85mm in low light. I was shooting at ISO 2500, at 39mm at 1/15 sec., f/4.5, handheld using AF in LV. This is a processed image, i applied some NR and sharpening.

The focusing ring is placed close to the mount, which is not my favorite place to put it on a lens, which seems to become a “trend” with lens manufacturer, i prefer the “old” way. It’s probably because now peoples are using lenses mostly in AF mode and it’s a better place to put the zooming ring more at the front of the lens. I would have liked the focusing ring to be larger also but i will live with it.  It’s my first Pentax lens with a DC motor and it’s quite fast and silent. The AF is very good in LV at any distances, works really well in the field with most subjects.

Flare control is always very good on Pentax lenses, so this lens is no different than all the other Pentax lenses i’ve owned.

The more i use it the more i find that it’s a very useful lens for nature photography because it’s a complete package.

It was very useful for showing the Skunk Cabbages in their habitat. Taken handheld with the SR activated. 16mm, ISO 800, 1/15 sec. at f/8.

Sometimes wildlife get you by surprise, that spring morning i saw a Canada Geese couple swimming on a lake near the shore among old weeds from last year. They swam closer and closer, i was following them with my 400mm lens, but they eventually were too close, so i grabbed my Pentax K50 which was equipped with my DA 16-85mm. They walked very close and i was able to take some shots, this one was taken at 28mm, 1/80 sec. at f/8, ISO 800, handheld.

It’s a crop to show the Bokeh at 85mm and f/7.1,

The lens doesn’t produce CA in normal use, but in this shot I was able to produce some purple fringing, but it was an extreme situation. Full sun, white letters on a black T-shirt. Taken at 16mm, f/10. BTW, it’s a 200% crop, so at normal viewing you can’t see it, it was easily removed in LR.

 

Close-up , does the image quality is maintained ???

The lens alone can focus quite close at 35cm resulting in a reproduction ratio of 0.26x, which is not bad. My Canon 15-85mm was not so good at 85mm at the minimum focusing distance, the IQ dropped, especially in the corners. Does the Pentax 16-85mm will perform better, will it make a good occasional “Close-up” kit ?

I gave it a try this morning, mounting it on my tripod i photographed some leaves on the ice. First thing i have to say is that the fact that it’s a Zoom makes it easier to change my framing, when using a prime Macro lens if your too close you have to play with the legs of your tripod, not as fast and effective.

I wanted to try it out for some close-ups in the field with a real subject, i found some leaves on the ice on the shore of a lake. i photographed them at different focal lengths and found no real difference in IQ. Here is one of the shot taken at 53mm, ISO 250, f/13, tripod.

 

I compared it with my Tamron 90mm Macro (model 72E) to see how it really performs at close range. It’s not fair in term of pure sharpness but i needed a benchmark, i’m not expecting the same degree of details from the DA 16-85mm, especially in the corners. But if the quality is good in the center it might be helpful for some Frog shots.

Here is my test subject:

This shot and the one below are 100% crop of the RAW file with no PP or sharpening. This one is from the Pentax 16-85mm at 85mm at f/8.

 

This one is from the Tamron 90mm Macro also at f/8.

At f/5.6 the Tamron has the advantage by a slight margin but at f/8 (the crop posted here) there is no real advantage, i would call this negligeable for field work. Adding the PP and sharpening and both could be printed quite large with very good IQ.

Here is the same 100% crop of the shot of from my 16-85mm at 85mm, f/8 with PP and sharpening (radius 1, amount 85).

 

Final word

Pentax came-up with a great lens, from my experience it’s a better lens than the Canon 15-85mm that i was using  in the past and it has the bonus of weather sealing !!! It makes a very good combo with my K50 and tough enough to shoot in very bad weather. It fits perfectly for the kind of photography I do, it can be landscape, Close-up or even family photos. With that lens i can do all that in good or bad weather while producing beautifully detailed photos. Like i said, my only complaint is the placement and size of the focusing ring, but that’s a personal thing because i’m using MF a lot in my photography.

Well, some will say that it’s pricey but if you look at how many lenses it replaces and how good it is, even for close-up photos, i think it’s well worth the price. Sure it’s a “slow” lens, if you need a lens with a faster maximum aperture to use in very low light it’s not the lens your looking for. But for a nature photographer who want a good lens that is not too big or heavy, for travelling or for everyday use, i think it’s one of the best option in Pentax land. Pentax really proved with that lens that they can make some excellent zoom lenses, not only small prime lenses. I will post updates when I will be able to try it out on Frogs.

The DA 16-85 mm is perfect for what i call “intimate view“, not the big landscape but not Macro either, just intimate enough that you can tell a story. Like here, the leaf that is on the edge of melting ice and a small water channel that run through the ice. Taken at 53mm, f/11, tripod.

 

 


Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro, Review update.

I wanted to do some updates about that lens since i now have more “in the field experience” with it. In short, i’m now using it more often than my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro lens, which was supposed to be my main Macro lens ! There is 2 main reasons for that: more working distance and better looking Bokeh ! 

The more i use that lens the more i like it, sure it’s not the toughest lens in town but it’s certainly better than a full plastic kit lens. The Sharpness and Bokeh quality surprised me considering the age and price of that lens. Apart from W/O at f/5.6, this lens is quite sharp, i consider it as sharp as my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Model 72E.

Chromatic aberrations

One aspect that i was able to test in the field recently is the CA at f/5.6, i was shooting ice lately so i can now say that this lens is very well corrected, see the crop below.

This shot was taken W/O at f/5.6, not the sharpest setting of the lens but the Bokeh is very clean and the highlights doesn’t show CA.

Bokeh

As i said earlier, the Bokeh of this little Sigma is very pleasing, smooth and good looking.

This photo of ice covered moss was taken at f/11, very nice looking Bokeh !

Another photo of ice covered moss, here i selected f/8, the Bokeh is still looking good and sharpness is very good.

 More photos

Here the lens was stopped down to f/13, very good details in the leaves.

Here i did use a polarizer to cut off some of the reflections, again, i selected f/13.

I still don’t like the aperture ring but i’m getting used to it …. sort of. The lens is doing well with my Fuji X-E1 (all the photos posted here were taken on my X-E1) because of it’s size and weight. I just bought an adapter to use the lens on my Canon 7D, i didn’t had the time to try them together but i’m sure they will work well even if the 7D don’t have focus peaking like the X-E1. That Sigma 180mm/5.6 Macro is now part of my regular kit and it’s always in my camera bag, it makes a very good combo with my X-E1 and produces great images !


Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro, my first impressions.

Why this old and slow Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro lens ?

When i bought a Fuji X-E1 it was to have a smaller and lighter system, so i try to keep the lenses small and light as well without compromising the IQ. The Fuji short registration distance is an advantage when you want to adapt older lenses. I already own a Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro (1:1 ratio), so i wanted a longer Macro lens for photographing frogs or subjects that are difficult to get close. Then i remembered that Sigma did produced a 180mm/5.6 APO Macro in the film days. I was lucky to find a  MF version in Olympus OM mount in good condition but without the lens hood, so i bought a rubber hood for it. I paid around 170$ Canadian for it, a good price for a Macro lens that long.

Sigma didn’t produced many of these probably due to the slow maximum aperture which was not that useful in film days when slow films were the norm to obtain better IQ, the f/2.8 version was probably more popular. But now with digital sensors a slow lens is more manageable, especially for a 180mm Macro lens that will be stopped down anyway to gain some DOF.

At only 435 gr. and a filter size of 52mm it’s a surprisingly small lens, if you compare it to my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro (model 72E) which is a 1:1 repro ratio lens and weights 403 gr. with a filter size of 55mm.

Both side by side, the Tamron is at infinity focus so it’s at it’s shortest length.

Here is the specifications of both lenses:

Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro:

http://www.sigmauser.co.uk/images/stories/museum/199018056APOUC.htm

Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro model 72E:

http://www.tamron.co.jp/data/af-lens/72e.htm

Handling and built quality

It’s clear that in those years Sigma lenses were not the best made lenses, i’ve owned other Sigma lenses made in the same years as this one and they all felt like this one. Good but not as well made as Pentax, Fuji or Canon that i’ve used. The aperture ring is not smooth in operation, but i can live with it, if i drop that lens i think it would not survive unlike some of my older Pentax lenses especially the Takumar M42 lenses !

The positive thing is that the focusing ring is large, which i like to have on my lenses, i hate those tiny small focusing rings that some AF lenses have. On my lens the focusing ring is not constant, when i turn it it goes from smooth to some tension and then back to smooth, maybe it would need some tune-up of the focusing system inside. In general it’s easy to use with the OM adapter on my X-E1 because it’s a lightweight lens, if i would have bought the newer 180mm f/3.5 version the combo would have been bigger and heavier.

IQ

Usually Macro lenses are sharp and choosing from one or another one is a matter of functionality but also of focal length. This Sigma certainly can deliver images with very good details when stopped down. At f/5.6 i think it’s the weakest aperture of that lens, but from f/8 to f/16 the lens produce very good images. Being an older lens that was design before the digital era, the contrast is lower than modern Macro lenses but it’s easily corrected in PP.

Just for fun i decided to take some test shots with this Sigma 180mm and my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro (model 72E) to really see how good it really is. I found dead leaves in my backyard as my  subject and started at f/5.6 then f/8, f/11 and finally f/16. I was not surprised to see that the Tamron was the winner at f/5.6 since it was already stopped down 2 stops and the Sigma was W/O, if needed the Sigma can be used at f/5.6 since it’s good but not as good as the Tamron here. From f/8 to f/16 the Sigma closed the gap but i think the Tamron can still produce a little more details, but the Tamron 90mm Macro is one of the best Macro lens, in any of it’s versions that was made. Even then i think that the Sigma is more than sharp enough from f/8 to f/16 to be used without any problem, you just need a little more PP to bring some contrast in the photos.

As for the color reproduction, the Sigma has a colder rendering than the Tamron but again now with PP it’s easily corrected to your preferences. The Sigma can produce images with beautiful rendering and the Bokeh is not too bad either probably due to it’s 8 blades diaphragm.

This Green Frog was taken in a shallow pond, my tripod was nearly all in the water to get that view. I printed that photo at 8×10 inches and there is plenty of details, sharpness is very good for that size and i wouldn’t hesitate to print it bigger than that. Taken at f/8.

Here is a crop of the eye of the frog from the above photo after some PP, very good details in the eye.

For this photo i used a Polarizer to cut some reflections off the leaves. Taken at f/13 on a tripod.

Leaves frozen in ice with frost. Taken with the help of a 10mm extension tube at f/11 on a tripod.

Taken at f/13 on a tripod.

Crop from the above photo after some PP.

 

Conclusion

That’s it for now, they are my first impressions after some weeks of using it in the field, i will post more photos in future articles. So, if you need more reach in your Macro work but don’t want to break the Bank, give this lens a serious look. The Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro might not be the best in any department but certainly can deliver sharp and beautiful images when you have learned how to use it at it’s best settings. Sure the newer f/3.5 and f/2.8 versions from Sigma would certainly get you sharper photos but at a big cost in size, weight and price (especially the new f/2.8 version). So if you’re on a tight budget or don’t want a heavy 180mm Macro lens this f/5.6 version can be a very good option.


Fuji XF 55-200mm, field review.

Telephoto zoom lenses are very popular because of their versatility and space saving compared to having several prime lenses to cover the same range. I’ve owned some of them in different mounts, so when i switched to Fuji i wanted to cover the maximum range with the minimum lenses. So i bought the 18-55mm and not long after i bought the XF 55-200mm because of it’s attributes (aperture ring, built quality and OIS) and IQ. Sure the XC 50-230mm is smaller and lighter but i wanted the better IQ and built of the XF 55-200mm.

I will be talking on how this lens performs in the field as a Nature photography telephoto lens, covering landscape, close-ups and some wildlife. Telephoto zoom lenses in that range are very useful in my photography, a big part of what i photograph is covered by the XF 55-200mm.

This was the first photo i took with the Fuji XF 55-200mm in the field. It was before sunrise and the grass on the right side of the frame was lit by the street lights. Lens set at 67mm, 85 seconds at f/10, ISO 200, tripod.

Here i isolated a part of a bigger waterfall with the lens set at 55mm and selected f/11 to obtain a long exposure to blur the water.

Handling

Currently i’m using it on my X-E1 and mostly on a tripod, i would say that this lens is the limit in size and weight that i would use on this camera, bigger than this lens and it would require an X-T1 with a grip (which i plan to buy eventually). One of the reason i went with Fuji is because they have designed their system like the old days with an aperture ring on the lenses and direct dials on their cameras. As already pointed often in reviews and by users the aperture ring can be accidentally knock off from the aperture you had selected, but i don’t think it’s too bad as i always check the info in the EVF or on LCD before shooting to see my settings. With some time now after using it in the field i’m used to the balance of the lens on my X-E1 and it’s not too bad after all, sure not the best combo but worth it.

The lens hood have some play when installed, i bought a JJC hood but it also have the same loose fit, so Fuji still have some work to do on the lens hood locking system. Another thing is the zoom ring that is not too smooth, it’s on the stiff side but i prefer that than having a zoom ring that is too easy to turn and having a lens that suffers from zoom creep …. i really hate zoom creep because i’m mostly a tripod shooter so i’m pointing the lens up or down quite often to get the compositions i want in my photography and i want a lens that keeps steady during the exposure. On the plus side about the Zoom ring, i really like it’s rubberized finish, easy to grip and to differentiate it with the focusing ring. I would have liked the focusing ring and aperture ring to be like the XF 14mm but i guess we can’t have it all !

IQ 

The lens focuses relatively close at 1.1 meter which is about the same as the Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8 and Canon 70-200mm/4 L that i was using before i switched to the Fuji X system. You can get some good “close-up” shots and still maintaining good IQ (see crop below), the lens also performs really well at normal and long distances, for a zoom this is very good indeed.  Sure a good prime lens in the same range might resolve more details at wider apertures but the convenience of that zoom wins over ultimate sharpness. Up to now i like how the lens performs in terms of color rendering and sharpness. That lens have nothing to envy to other brands top quality lens, i’ve owned Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, Canon 70-200mm/4 L and Sony 70-300mm G Series Telephoto zoom lenses and the Fuji is as good as all of them.

XF 55-200mm at 200mm, f/11, ISO 200, polarizer, tripod, RAW.

Crop of the photo above after PP, not bad at all.

I was walking in an ATV trail after a rainy day and night when i found those Raccoon tracks , it was like walking in butter in that Clay soil ! Lens set at 105mm, ISO 200 at f/11, tripod, Polarizer.

Here is a Crop of the photo above, you can see the details in the leaves, so quite good even at f/11 and with a Polarizer.

This photo of a Chipmunk was taken from inside my house, i slowly opened my door just enough to pass the tip of the lens. It was a good test for OIS, sharpness at f/4.8 and Bokeh. Taken at 200mm, 1/28 sec. at f/4.8, ISO 640, handheld with OIS.

Here is a crop of the Chipmunk photo, not bad, i missed the focus on the eye just slightly.

The lens produce nice details of my younger girl’s face after a long day outside. This is a crop of the photo taken at 55mm at f/3.5, ISO 1000, handheld.

With Extension tubes

Well, when i bought it i was hoping to use my extension tubes with that lens to photograph Frogs when they are in the water and are difficult to get close. After using it on some occasions the results are not as good as i was thinking it would be. I tried the lens with my 2 extension tubes (with the 10mm or with both for a total of 26mm) to get closer focusing when photographing Frogs. The IQ in the center remains very good but even the in-focus areas in the borders and corners looks smeared, (see below the crop from the border of a photo of a frog) … btw the eye of the frog is perfectly sharp. I don’t know if it’s because the lens was designed to be close to the sensor are it doesn’t work well with extension tubes. I’ve never had such problems when using FF lenses with ext. tubes on my Pentax or Canon cameras, maybe it’s because it’s an APS-C lens or OIS and as the lens gets farther away from the sensor IQ of the corners suffers more ???

This adult Green Frog was hiding in the leaves in a shallow pond, as you can see it was in autumn. I used a 10mm extension tube, the lens was set at 190mm, at f/11, ISO 800, tripod. The Frog is sharp but because of the extension tube the borders and corners suffered and are not that sharp, they look smeared.

Here is a crop from the border that is in focus but looks smeared.

The next 2 photos of a small river near my home were taken on a cold morning (0°C), in fact it was our first time that we had frost on the ground during the month of September this year. It shows how useful is the XF 55-200mm for landscape photography because you can quickly change the composition, especially with fog it’s important to work rapidly because when the sun start to warm it up, the fog will quickly evaporate.

Taken at 55mm at f/11 on a tripod.

At 128mm, f/11, tripod.

Taken on a foggy autumn morning, it’s an Old Canal for boats that is now closed. I tried to keep the mood of the moment when i did my PP so i added some contrast but not too much. Taken at 86mm, f/9, ISO 200, tripod.

Same place as the shot above taken just the day after, nothing special but it was a good occasion to test lens flare, the lens did quite well and i would say that it is better than my Canon 70-200mm/4L was in those situations. Also taken at f/9.

This is the kind of photo i like to do, isolate a small part of the subject, the XF 55-200mm is a lens that is perfect for these shots. Taken at 200mm, 6.9 seconds, f/11, ISO 200, tripod, Polarizer.

To photograph those mushrooms growing on a dead tree my tripod was set at it’s maximum height and my lens zoomed to 200mm. I used an aperture of f/9.

Conclusion

For the price i paid (550$ Canadian in sale for a brand new one) i think it’s a great buy ! Fuji did an excellent job with that lens, a good compromise between IQ, size, weight and maximum aperture. It’s a lens that i really like and is doing very well in the field when i need some reach for my landscape photography but also “close-up” and some wildlife. I don’t know if i will switch to the new XF 50-140mm WR when it will be available because i think i would probably miss the gap between 140-200mm ….. i was missing that gap when i was shooting with my Pentax DA*50-135mm.

This lens might not be for everyone, some will find it too big and heavy for their taste or use, but for me it ticks most cases. I would recommend that lens to any Fuji users because it’s a versatile lens backed by a very good IQ and renders beautiful images.

This photo of the Rouge river taken on a cold foggy morning is one of the main reason i bought that lens, it’s to zoom-in to isolate part of the landscape. At 200mm, f/11, ISO 200, tripod.

 


National Geographic NG A2540 Camera Bag Midi Satchel Africa Series review

I recently bought a National Geographic “Earth Explorer series” Holster bag 2342, it’s a small shoulder bag when i want to carry only my Fuji X-E1 + XF 27mm, see my post here:

https://steevemarcoux2.com/2014/06/08/national-geographic-earth-explorer-series-holster-bag-2342/

But i wanted a bigger bag to carry everyday in which i could fit my X-E1+27mm and accessories and sometimes with an additional lens like my XF 14mm or my Vivitar 100mm/3.5 Macro lens. Also it would be large enough (but not too big) to carry some personal items like my wallet, keys, Cell phone, medications …

Since i liked my National Geographic bag (2342) i looked at other models from this brand as well as other brands. After some research i decided to pull the trigger on the National Geographic A2540 Midi Satchel ” Africa Series ” bag.

In the photo above you can see the size of the bag compared with my Fuji X-E1 + XF27mm.

On this Tag you can write your name, address and phone number in case you loose your bag somewhere.

For photos and dimension of the bag take a look at the link to the official site of National Geographic bags:

http://www.geographicbags.ca/product/85657.28918.0.0.0/NG%2BA2540/_/Midi_Satchel_For_personal_gear%2CDSLR%2C_netbook

The prices on the site or in Canadian dollar but you can select another country. I didn’t pay that price, i found a store here in Canada that was selling them for 50$ (in sale), so i didn’t hesitated very long. I also bought the shoulder pad to go with the bag, … it’s stiff , i tried to bend it and form it to my shoulder but i still don’t find it comfortable .

The bag is made of very tough material and it feels like it can survive anything you can throw at it, so it should be with me for many years to come. The bag is not rated as waterproof  but i used it in light rain without any problems, if you need it to be fully waterproof there is a waterproof cover available.

What i like about this bag is that all the pockets and the main compartment are closed with a zipper which is great to protect the equipment from rain and dust, some bags have just the big flap with 2 buckles to close the main compartment. As you can see in the link of National Geographic there is a removable insert bag which contain the camera and lenses and can be removed from the bag to make it a regular bag. I can fit my Fuji X-E1+XF 27mm and my XF14mm (or 18-55mm) as well as some SD cards in a Ziplock bag and a dust blower. Even with the insert in position in the main compartment of the bag i can also fit my Vivitar 100mm/3.5 Macro in the remaining space. Inside the bag there is another compartment to fit an Ipad or a small Laptop. I don’t use it for this but i fit my Extension tubes, cable release and quick release plate just in case i would need one of them.

In the photo above is my X-E1 + XF27mm, in the second compartment it’s my XF14mm, both in the removable padded bag. You can see that there is a place on the far right for another lens, i sometimes put my Vivitar 100mm/3.5 Macro (in Pentax K-Mount).

I’ve been using it as my everyday bag for some weeks now and i really appreciate it, feel solid and for my needs it’s a good size without being too big and heavy. I’m now used to get my camera quickly out of the bag, the zippers feel solid and are easy to operate. When i choosed that bag my goal was also to have a bag that didn’t looks like a camera bag so peoples wouldn’t know i’m carrying a camera with me. So on some occasions i went to the Bank and stores and peoples said to me ” so you just finished working” when they saw that i had my bag they probably thought it was a Laptop inside with papers from my work.

So if you’re looking for a well made, tough and practical bag that don’t look like a camera bag you should take a serious look at the Africa series from National Geographic!