Sunday, 5 September 2010

Project 1 - Getting to know your camera

I should start off by listing my equipment, having worked through the insatiable lens-lust and made it through to the other side, I am now quite content with my kit, although there are a few extra bits that I would like, such as pocket wizards and an external battery pack for the 580EX, a second 580EX would be nice too, but I have solemnly promised my other half that I will rein in the camera spending.

Camera bodies:
Canon 5D Mark II which is a full frame, 21 mega pixel Digital SLR
Canon 450D which is an APS-C sensor, 12 mega pixel DSLR, my first body and now kept as a backup when shooting weddings

Canon 17-40mm F4 L 
Canon 50mm F1.4
Canon 70-200 F4 L with IS
Sigma 15mm F2.8 Fisheye
Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro - not the new L version sadly
Lensbaby Muse - a regrettable impulse purchase that is rarely used
Canon 50mm F1.8 - the £90 "nifty fifty" lives on the 450D
Canon 18-55 F3.5-F5.6 IS EF-S Lens, the 450D kit lens

Canon 430EX mark II
Canon 580EX mark II
Interfit studio kit, EX150 two head kit - bought for a school portrait job, not fully experimented with

Manfrotto 190XProb - chosen for its central column being able to go horizontal
Manfrotto 324RC2 Joystick Head - amazing tripod head - never going back to old style

A variety of different sized bags, the most used being a Lowepro Apex rucksack, still not the perfect bag, I might be a camera bag goldilocks

The first task of the project is to go through my camera manual and make note of any of the functions that I don't understand and ensure that I get it.

Features of the Canon 5D Mark II

  • The 5D uses compact flash cards, it shoots in raw or JPEG or both at the same time.
  • It uses interchangeable EF fit lenses. It will not fit EF-S as they are designed for a smaller sensor.
  • The 5D has autofocus and manual focus. I must hold my hands up to rarely switching it onto manual focus.
  • Autofocus can be switched to different modes, One Shot,  AI Focus and AI Servo. The latter two are used for moving subjects, the former for still subjects. I need to find out the difference between the last two.
  • The 5D has various drive modes,Single Shooting, Continuous Shooting, Self timer 10 secs, Self timer 2 secs. I use the latter as an alternative to a cable release when using a tripod and wanting to avoid camera shake.
  • The camera modes are: manual, AV, TV, bulb, Program AE, auto, creative auto as well as three custom modes that can be programmed in. I like AV and TV but have trained myself to stay in manual almost all of the time. I use AV on occasions when I haven't got time to figure out the settings when events are moving too quickly, such as bouquet throwing etc
  • The 5D is all about customisation, there are many different approaches to controlling the camera and a variety of customisable settings. I have changed the menu screen colour, I use the on switch that allows for all control wheels to be used and I have changed the settings to create a custom menu with my frequently accessed items and also I have expanded the ISO settings.
  • Image quality has quite a wide range:
  • I shoot in standard RAW to get the maximum detail in all shots. Most of the time this is totally unnecessary and I have to resize everything but it means that I can crop really small sections of an image and retain a use-able shot.
  • I edit the RAW images in Adobe Lightroom with occasional use of Photoshop, although my skills in photoshop are limited
  • ISO ranges from 100-6400 but can be expanded to 50-25600, I prefer to stay at 100 or 200 as I dont like noisy images but in low light it is necessary to go higher and the 5D is very good in this sense. The 450D wasn't and as I learnt on that camera it is merely a habit that keeps me in the lower ISO regions but its not a bad one
  • The 5D has various picture styles, I tend to leave mine in standard but probably should leave it in faithful as I do more post-processing, it just saves a little time to leave it in standard
  • There are various white balance settings, I tend to use auto as I shoot RAW which means I can change the white balance afterwards if needs be
  • The 5D allows for folders to be created but I tend to wait till I have taken the images off the camera 
  • There are four metering modes which measure the brightness of the subject, these are:
    • Evaluative - all round metering suited for portraits and back lit scenes, the camera sets the exposure to match the scene
    • Partial - effective when the background is brighter than the subject, covers 8% of the centre of the viewfinder
    • Spot - smaller alternative to Partial, works on 3.5% of the centre of the viewfinder
    • Centre Weighted - weighted to the centre and averaged for the rest of the scene
  • The camera has exposure compensation, but not in manual so I don't really use it
  • the 5D has Auto Exposure Bracketing which I like to use for HDRs, although I am yet to take a HDR that really moves me
  • The 5D can use Live View, which I'm not a fan of as it drains the battery and I don't feel like it helps composition, more hinders it
  • There is a HD film function which I don't use much either, video doesn't do it for me!

Functions that need clarification:

The difference between AI Focus and AI Servo

AI Focus works as One Shot AF but automatically changes to AI servo if the subject starts moving. Interesting, I should consider using this more, especially for large group portraits as it could be very helpful.

Which metering mode to use when:

I have been leaving the camera in evaluative, but I think I need to start thinking more about the other modes, but I also need to consider how to use these features when using different compositions, I don't always put the subject at the centre of the frame.

Things I was surprised to learn:

  1. Lenses with apertures larger than F2.8, the autofocus is more sensitive

Next - I'm off to take some pictures at different focal lengths, I'm going to take my 50mm, wide angle and telephoto. Am hoping that the 'standard' focal length for the 5D does not fall between 41mm and 49mm or between 51mm and 69mm as I currently don't have a lens that covers these distances.


  1. May I ask where the background image was from david? you know the one on the web page? is this one you have taken or a default one?

  2. Yeah it's one of mine, taken in Rusholme, Manchester which is also known as the Curry Mile.
    I got questioned by the police taking this picture as a man with a tripod at night apparently is deemed suspicious.