Mount Elinor

Last weekend I hiked Mount Elinor at the southeast corner of the Olympic Mountains.  It was great weather but a little too cloudy to get great views.

Mount Elinor - 19mm, 1/60 @ f/13

Mount Elinor – 19mm, 1/60 @ f/13

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2nd Camera Body for Infrared

Last time I got really wordy talking about my experiment with cropping a high resolution image file as a substitute for not having a longer zoom lens.   This time I don’t have a lot to say that I have not said in previous posts about infrared photography.

Pavement in the Forest - 17mm, 1/10 sec @ f/11

Pavement in the Forest – 17mm, 1/10 sec @ f/11

This is an asphalt trail between animal enclosures at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.  I like to come here to get photos of wild animals – a lazy alternative to stalking a wild animal for days in rough terrain and inclement weather.

When I realized my Canon EOS 10D body purchased in early 2004 for $1,200 was worth less than $100 on eBay, I had it converted to dedicated infrared.  The “hot mirror” (anti-infrared filter) was removed from over the sensor, and a 720nm filter installed.  I can just use regular lenses with no filters to shoot infrared photos now, and at shutter speeds fast enough to hand hold.  Though I should clarify, the above shot was in very dim shade (not ideal for infrared), and on a tripod.

Winter Lake in August - 17mm, 1/20 @ f/16

Winter Lake in August – 17mm, 1/20 @ f/16

For both of these photos, I used the Split Tone feature in Lightroom 5, after converting the image to black and white.  It applies one color to shadows and another color to highlights, and allows you to control the balance between the two, and the saturation of both.  I’m finding that “less is more” when it comes to color in this type of photo.

Bottom line, it’s really great to be shooting with my Canon 6D (as I was at NW Trek), and then see something that would make a good infrared photo, and be able to pull out my old Canon 10D.

Focal length & cropping with a full size sensor camera

About a year ago, I traded in my Canon EOS 7D for the Canon EOS 6D.  The 7D is much faster, with a more complex focusing system and shoots 8 frames-per-second, compared to the 6D’s 4 fps.  The 7D also has better weather sealing and a tougher body.  So why would I “down grade”?  I shoot primarily landscape and scenic photos, and the 6D has a full frame sensor, which uses nearly all of the “image circle” from EF-mount lenses.  So my 17-40mm f/4L became a whole new lens on the 6D, because the angle of view on the 7D was 27-64mm, and on the 6D it really is 17mm at the wide end.  Also, I love the shadow detail and better noise/high ISO performance of the larger sensor in the 6D.  But while my 17mm lens has become a superstar, my 200mm lens has dropped from an angle of view of 320mm to… well, only 200mm.

I want to be sure not to confuse “angle of view” with “magnification”, because they are not the same.  My 200mm lens on my APS-C sensor 7D had the “angle of view” of a 320mm lens on a full frame sensor, like the 6D.  It’s not bringing the subject any closer on the 7D, the image circle coming from the lens is just getting cropped by the smaller sensor, which results in a narrower angle of view.  And a 300mm lens has a narrower angle of view than a 200mm lens.  So the 6D photos are showing more environment around a sports or wildlife subject, but the magnification of the optics is the same on both cameras.

Now here’s another thing to consider: The 7D had 18MP on a 22.3mm sensor, and the 6D has 20MP on a 35.8mm sensor.  If you do the math, the individual photo receptors (pixels) on the 6D sensor are roughly 35% larger than the 7D’s photo receptors. This means they are better at gathering light and showing fine detail.  The 7D was a fantastic camera which I got some amazing photos with, but the 6D renders images in a way it can’t match.

Put the last two paragraphs together, and the theory is: if I shoot at 20MP on the 6D and crop the image (using the 1.6x crop factor of the 7D) to get “closer” (compensate for having a wider angle of view), I could still have slightly better image quality.  But there are a lot of variables involved.  The tighter you crop, the more noise shows up, and ISO setting is going to affect this, even on a 6D with superior noise performance.  Also, the tighter you crop, the more total resolution you loose, which means a medium to large print won’t look as good.  You don’t need 20 megapixels for computer screen viewing (if you have an iMac with a 5K retina screen it’s nice), but printing the photo is different.

So after all that, here is an example of shooting a distant subject at 200mm on a 6D and cropping severely to isolate the subject.

Swan - 200mm, 20MP file, EOS 6D

Swan – 200mm, 20MP view, EOS 6D

Let me clarify, the image I’m posting is a 1500 pixels across JPEG export, not a full 20MP image. But it has not been cropped, so this is the full angle of view. For comparison, here’s a crop down to a mere 1.1MP.

Swan - 200mm, crop to 1.1MP, EOS 6D

Swan – 200mm, crop to 1.1MP, EOS 6D

This is obviously cropping MUCH more than a 7D sensor would, but you can see on a computer screen that detail is still pretty good, and noise is not a problem.  But I’d certainly run into issues trying to make a large print.

Now a 300mm or 400mm lens would have gotten me more “magnification” AND a narrower “angle of view”, so I wouldn’t have to crop so much and I’d have a better end result for printing.  Guess that means it’s time for an upgrade to a longer lens.  I use wide angle lenses more often, but it’s nice to have that reach when you need it.