So last weekend we had our annual Trogland meetup. As I do every year, I spent most of the meetup taking pictures. As I did last year, I rented some gear from lensrentals.com (another great experience, btw) to test drive. This year, I got to play with a 7DII along with the Sigma 8-16mm APS-C ultrawide I rented for my 40D last year - two pieces of gear I have been considering purchasing.
I've had my 40D now for about 7.5 years, and I love this camera. It's a bit old at this point, and doesn't have the stats of newer models, but I love the way it works and, aside from some processing issues I've been having, I love what it produces. I've also spent quite a bit of time shooting with the 5DIII, particularly at our company's annual members' meeting (where I play photographer), and I've now spent a solid weekend+ shooting with the 7DII.
The 7DII is a solid camera, and I had a great time shooting with it. It's shutter is one of the quietest I've ever heard - which is great if you're shooting over someone's shoulder. It outperforms my 40D in every way, but it still works the way I'm used to. I also like that it has a lens focus microadjustment as I've been having some backfocusing issues with my 50mm 1.4 close at wide apertures. It is a worthy upgrade and I may be looking to pick one up, but I'm not completely sure.
I think the main reason I'm still on the fence is the camera's high ISO performance. I was hoping for parity with the 5DIII. I don't have a side-by-side comparison, but it feels like the 7DII doesn't handle, say, 12,800 quite as well as its big brother. It's definitely a lot better than what I have and it's quite possible my expectations were a little too high. It's even possible that the 7DII does every bit as well and it's only my perceptions that are skewed. As the 5DIII ages its price continues to come down, so at this point I'm considering jumping to that instead - though that would mean a change in the lenses I'm looking at.
As I mentioned last year, the Sigma 8-16mm is a pretty solid lens for a consumer-grade, crop-frame ultra-wide. Images are nice and sharp, particularly at the wide end of its zoom range (where I generally want it anyway). People do look a bit skewed at that focal length - an effect that is sometimes interesting and cool, and is somtimes a bit too "carnival fun house mirror". In addition to the meetup (where I mostly shot people with it, for better or worse), I also went on hike out to Laurel falls and took just a couple of nature shots with this lens and the 7DII. Those look beautiful. If I do end up going with the crop-frame, I think this is the lens I'll end up with - unless canon makes a not-ridiculously-priced 10mm f2.8 before I get around to it...
This is unlikely to interest many who read this blog, but I feel the need to record some current thoughts for posterity and/or later reference - mostly because i've spent a lot of time thinking over and researching this stuff, and I like to post something about anything on which I spend this much effort.
As you many know, I've spent a *lot* of time with my camera since I got it back in December of 2007. I've taken about nearly sixteen thousand pictures with it since that time, and I've greatly enjoyed learning all kinds of things about photography and how to do certain things and what works and what doesn't for a given application.
I knew before I even bought my 40D that there would be other pieces of camera equipment in which I'd want to invest in order to get the most out of it. One of the great things about having a nice DSLR as opposed to a point-and-shoot (or even a compact, all-in-one dslr) is that there is a wide array of supplementary equipment that can make your camera into the perfect instrument for many different photographic applications - and the more I shoot, the more I realize what the advantage to having this or that lens or some other accessory would be.
Unfortunately, if you're going for high quality (and if i'm going to spend much, I am), camera stuff is expensive. Really. I've been saving since they day I got this thing, and i'm still a considerable ways from having anything i'm after. Fortunately, this doesn't really bother me. It's fun to daydream about how it'll be cool if I can get this stuff someday, but other priorities dictate that I wait a while.
I have so far been able to buy one additional item for my camera: over christmas last year I was able to pick up my flash, the 430ex II Speedlite, with which I have been extremely happy. It was about the cheapest thing on my list at ~$250 (apart from things like 'an extra battery' - yeah, i told you this stuff was pricey), but it was probably the most important for the most applications. The lighting this flash gives is unbelievably better and brighter than the pop-up flash and the ability to bounce light off of walls and ceilings has all but negated problems with red-eye and harsh shadows typically experienced with built-in flashes. It's nice enough that I don't actually *hate* using a flash anymore.
So that leaves me with the more expensive stuff...
I decided a quite a while back what lenses I wanted, and I still think the array is good. Specifically which lenses make up that array are the subject of frequent change, but in general, here's what I want (I have briefly mentioned this before; a little has changed):
1. A wide-aperture lens for low light, fine depth-of-field, etc. For this one, I've pretty much decided on the Canon EF 50mm f1.4. It's a relatively inexpensive yet very well-reviewed lens, and there's little that compares with it in this price range.
2. A wide-angle lens for landscapes, indoor photography, large group shots, etc. Probably the Canon EF-S 10-22, or possibly the Sigma 10-20. Really, I'd rather have a 10 or 12mm prime instead of a zoom here, but apparently no one makes one.
3. A long telephoto for wildlife and other subjects I'm unable to approach very closely. And this one is the one for which I change my mind every few days. It's also by far the most expensive (not that the others are cheap). It's *also* the one I want the most. I generally look at all of these lenses in turn; each of them have very specific pros and cons. As opposed to the other lens types, I just don't think there's a 'perfect fit' for me that works for what I *want* and what i might be able to afford at some point.
This is the first one I looked at, and I think i've come full circle back to figuring it's the one I should save for - it just seems to have the nicest mix.
• The Canon 100-400 4.5-5.6L IS
Pros: L-series (pro quality), Zoom flexibility, IS (image stabilization), good reach
Cons: Clarity/sharpness maybe not *quite* as good as prime lens, most expensive
But, there are also these:
• The Canon 300mm 4L IS
Pros: L-series, Prime clarity/sharpness, IS
Cons: no zoom flexibility, shorter reach
• The Sigma 120-400 OS
Pros: least expensive (but well reviewed), Zoom flexibility, IS, good reach
Cons: Clarity/sharpness probably not as good as prime lens, esp. at long end
• The Canon 400mm 5.6L
Pros: L-series, Prime clarity/sharpness, good reach
Cons: no zoom flexibility, no IS
I have spent a ridiculous amount of time reading reviews and looking at photos taken with all of this stuff - which, in itself, has taught me a few things.
So there we have it, my list of expensive toys outlined and documented. Maybe someday I'll get to buy some of them. Heh.
And now, on to other stuff...