Yearly Archives: 2012

Canon 70 – 200 IS or no IS? Is it worth the difference in price?

Ask Me Anything About Photography • Canon 70 – 200 IS or no IS? Is it worth the difference in price?:

Canon 70 – 200 IS or no IS? Is it worth the difference in price? If I was a full time wedding shooter then I think the IS would be worth the difference simply for the ceremony shots in bad light where the 200 is an important focal length for those conditions. You can live without it though. I have the non-IS version to save the money. I barely use it. Been thinking of selling it.

Going to add another question to this to make it one post… Anonymous asked…

Are there times when you do not use the image stabilizer function on image stabilized lenses?

I only have one IS lens and that’s mainly bolted onto a 5d2 on a product set. I take it out on occasion and have yet to get used to the IS function. I feel the lens vibrating and my image in my viewfinder is moving around and it’s, initially, a pain. I don’t like it because it feels different.

I think the rule of thumb on IS lenses is to not use them when you have the camera on a tripod. When I have used this IS lens I’ve turned it off because I wasn’t shooting at shutter speeds where I needed it. I guess it would be helpful around the 30th of a second mark or below. I don’t know.

As you can see… IS (or VR for Nikon heads) isn’t that big of a deal for me.

Been really enjoying Zack’s tumblr blog as he does a Q&A with the greater world around him.

I did want to take on this question for him from the view of someone who’s both a nature photographer and an owner of various IS lenses.

Whether it makes sense to buy an IS lens or not depends on what you’re doing. To the degree that you’re in control of the shot and the environment the shot is being taken in, you’ll find IS doesn’t matter much, and I’d spend my money elsewhere. A simplistic way to think about it is this: the more your shooting is:

  • In a Studio
  • Surrounded by lighting gear
  • On a tripod

The less you need IS. If you’re building the light for the shot with gear, then IS will rarely make a difference for you.

Where IS shines is where you’re reacting to a situation and making a shot rather than creating a situation for the shot to be made. To that degree, the more you are

  • Outside
  • Hand-holding your gear
  • Dealing with whatever light life brings you
  • Not in control of your models (or your models are actively running/flying away from you)

you want IS if it’s available. A bird that is flying between sun and shade and back to sun — as the sun goes down — and refuses to stand still or let you get close enough for that 85mm lens to be useful; those are the times you’ll appreciate having IS, because it can mean the difference between getting the shot and showing off pictures of fuzzy blurs. There is a very fine line between this:

Clark's Grebe running

and this:

Eared Grebe

So there are times where every edge comes in handy.

Nine months ago I did a significant upgrade to my lenses, going to the 24-105f4IS and the 70-200f2.8IS, along with my trusty 300F4IS. I upgraded from a Tamron super zoom (nice, but effectively a kit lens quality) and the 100-400F5.6IS. (Look here if you want to understand why I made these choices. )

Having lived with these lenses for the better part of a year, you’ll tear the 24-105 out of my cold, dead hands. I fell in love with that lens quickly, it’s got a look that I think is awesome, and it’s just a great lens. My 300F4 (usually paired with a 1.4x tele as a very cost effective birding/wildlife lens) continues to create really nice, sharp images, even if there are days when I want more reach (but price out that combo and then a 500mm lens…. yeah…)

The 70-200F2.8IS? It’s a great lens, but honestly I still struggle to take advantage of it. In practice, I can only think of two outings where the combination of it being F2.8 fast and the IS made a significant difference in my getting some shots or not. The IS is not a huge benefit for me right now, and honestly, neither is the speed of it being F2.8. And it’s big, it’s hefty, and you notice it when you carry it around. It saves me neither size nor weight off my former friend, the 100-400.

So if I had to do this again, I would EITHER upgrade to the 70-200F2.8ISII (IS II vs. IS), which would have cost me another thousand dollars or so, or I’d have gone with the 70-200F4IS, which would have saved me a few hundred dollars, but it’s a lot smaller, a lot lighter, and the quality of the glass is right up there. The primary reason for considering the shift from the IS to the IS II is that it would allow me to use a 2x tele on the lens (the Art Morris birding combo), allowing me to sell the 300F4 and take that weight out of the camera bag. The thought of carrying two hefty lenses and two teles instead of three hefty lenses and one tele makes me smile. I may still do that one of these days.

But for most people who aren’t chasing small flying things through cold damp marshes? I think the 70-200F4 is an awesome choice. Think long and hard whether you need the cost (and weight) of F2.8. You probably don’t.

Heck, I have — I’m not joking — seriously considered buying the 70-200F4 non IS ($700 at amazon) just to have the option of leaving the heavy artillery at home. At that price, it can almost make sense to own both for the situations they work best for.

So really, this is two questions if you’re looking to buy the 70-200 for a Canon: F2.8 or F4? and IS or non-IS? Canon has made variations for all comers, just to make life a bit more complicated for us all. And my answer is: for most people, the F4 should be fine. Given what I shoot, I will typically buy the IS version. If you’re someone working under lights or in a controlled environment? don’t bother. Can you put the camera on a tripod? don’t bother with IS: spend the money (about $600 difference between the IS and non-IS lenses) on a better tripod.

Words like street? hand-held? walking around? dark shadows? Wildlife? late-night paparazzi? Then IS is probably a good investment.

Otherwise? I’d recommend spending your money elsewhere.



Canon EOS M mirrorless less camera has been announced.

Canon has (finally) announced the EOS M system, it’s first mirrorless style camera body. Canon rumors has a good overview of the announcement and the product stats (for geeky goodness, try

I’ve been looking at the various sites and taking in the overall reaction, which is mostly positive, although there are the usual suspects in the usual blog comment areas with the usual babble, which all boils down to variations of “haven’t touched it, haven’t used it, just read the press release (maybe), and here’s why it sucks and won’t replace my brand new [name your favorite camera]“. All great reminders why I try not to read comment sections on most of the popular blogs.

One of the stronger negative responses to the new release is from Kirk tuck at Visual Science Lab. I take this one fairly seriously, because he’s been working a lot with other forms of this camera style and is a strong supporter of this emerging form factor, so his comments can’t be easily ignored.

It is a $799 camera that’s effectively a repackaged T4i. It has a new mount, but there’s an adapter that allows existing EF and EF-S lenses to work with the body, which caught my attention as a Canon user.

My interest in the product? Unclear. But I have been thinking through a personal project with some complexity to it, one that involves a lot of field time including video and time lapsing, and this has me, god help me, thinking about adding some gear to the kit, including audio capture and a body I can use for “B roll” style environmental and behind the scenes video. One option I’ve been considering is the GoPro, which would be about $300. Another has been a T4i, which is in the $850-1000 range depending on lens options.

So this body fits somewhat in the middle between the low end option that has some interesting possibilities but is video only, or going with another full-sized, consumer-oriented DLSR body that have good video/audio capabilities.

I’ve been thinking this through this evening, and I’m leaning towards Kirk Tuck’s negative view, however. One of the first thoughts I had was “street kit!” but I don’t think the new lens for this mount (18-55) is what I want; I’d want to use it with my 24-105, and honestly, with that lens, the size advantage of the smaller body is mostly lost. Unless the 18-55 is incredibly sharp, I don’t see this body as a street kit addition to my existing kid.

There is only about a $50 difference between this body and a brand new T4i. If I’m only adding a body, it’s hard to see how this body would work better for my needs than a T4i. Just from not having to learn more new control system quirks, going with a T4i to supplement the 7d and T3i minimizes my chances of brain cramping on an image at a key time. Especially for a first generation, I think I’d want a bigger price difference for me to bring it on. If I decide to go video only, the GoPro is enough cheaper to definitely be worth it. Heck, the GoPro is almost down to “impulse buy” levels.

For me, I don’t think this camera is a good fit at this time. None of the mirrorless are, unless I choose to build a street only kit around a mirrorless body, and if I did that, it’d cost me enough for the right lens that I’ll likely stick with the DLSR and 24-105 and use the iPhone when I want maximum portability. I just haven’t seen any of the new mirrorless camera systems to make me squirm and start counting nickels. Having said that, I think this new form factor is the evolutional future of interchangeable lens cameras, and over time, the mirrored units will fade to a specialty niche. But this will take some time, and I’m in no hurry to jump in front of this parade.

I think this camera is a good camera, but I think it’s going to be most interesting to people upgrading into the interchangeable lens world from pure point and shoots. For those people, this is a nice upgrade. As a supplement to an existing Canon DLSR kit, I’m not convinced. And is it as good as or better than competing models like the sony or the fuji? I have no clue — go ask Kirk.

So I think it’ll do well, and I’m going to be watching as they expand the lens options and they grow this unit into future generations. I must admit I’m a little disappointed that the mount form factor prevents a sensor bigger than APS size, but I’m not surprised. I’m of mixed feelings whether the industry should be pushing towards lower cost full frame sensors, or whether the future is improving APS sensors until even the 5D bigots agree they’re okay. I’m guessing that down the road the market differentiator between mirrorless and DLSR will likely be sensor size, and DLSR will shift more towards the full frame (more expensive) offerings. The mirrorless platform seems to slide in nicely as a replacement to the existing Rebel-class APS sensor DLSRs — eventually.

We’ll see. It’s something I’m watching, but until I get my hands on one and see how it operates, I’m just speculating. I do know if/when I move forward on my project, the EOS M won’t be the addition to the kit. Maybe next generation, but not now. And if someone asks me for a recommendation, at least for now, my answer’s going to be the T4i, not the EOS M. At some point, we’ll see if that changes.

Jury Duty!

Yes, the letter of doom has appeared. Okay, not really. Unlike some, I understand jury duty as part of my responsibility as a citizen. I don’t exactly jump for joy when they call, but I don’t play the entitled spoiled brat game of complaining that jury duty is for all of those other people who’s time isn’t worth as much as mine. I go in when asked, I sit and answer questions when they want me to, and then I get thrown off by one lawyer or the other and I get to go home.

See, the last seven times I’ve been called in over the last 20ish years, I’ve been a preemptory dismissal by one of the lawyers. Why?

I guess I could say “ask them”, but that’d be a boring blog post. Some juries I’ve been ask to sit for I honestly haven’t wanted to be on, mostly because I (in one case, for instance) didn’t want to sit on a six week jury.  But in one case, it was expected to be a three day trial, and it was for solicitation at a massage parlor. How could I NOT do my civic duty? (she claimed entrapment, by the way…)

The problem is, lawyers don’t want people who think things through too thoroughly. Simply being a geek and a software architect seems to be enough for some. And a funny thing has happened along the way. I seem to have hit a point in the system where I get bounced by a lawyer for the simple reason that I’ve been bounced by all those lawyers in my past. One question asked at all jury selections is previous jury duty action. I dutifully answer how many times I’ve been called, and how often I’ve been dumped at the preemptory stage. And I’ve actually watched two lawyers now tick my name off on their lists as soon as I say it and dump me at the first opportunity. After about four in a row, it seems to have become a self-replicating decision.

Of course, if you don’t want to be on a jury, there are ways you can answer that are completely truthful but still put the germ of an idea in a lawyer’s head to go with the housewife instead of you. One jury, for instance, I noted my professions as both computer professional and fiction writer (true, I’m published), writing both science fiction and police procedurals. Which was technically true, because I’d started one because being called for jury duty gave me an idea, and I was hoping to use the jury time as research into the story. But evidently, lawyers don’t like amateur detectives on their juries. 

I used to have a hardcover first edition of Joseph Waumbaugh’s The Onion Fields that I carried to jury duty and read during breaks. On two occasions, I swear I saw lawyers do spit-takes when they checked my stuff out. Which they will quietly do, as they try to figure out how to build a jury that’ll work for their case. 

My most recent jury duty? In 2008, a case about [redacted] where the accused pulled out a [redacted] and [redacted] two people. he was a member of the Nortenos, a fact he displayed most prominently on his neck with one of his many tattoos. He was, however, going to be sitting in on the trial in a turtleneck for some reason. I thought about it, decided this was not the jury I particularly cared about being on, mostly because it was going to be a 3-4 week jury. So when asked if there were things material to the case the court should know, I disclosed that I’d been a financial contributor to the California Three Strikes initiative campaign. 

Best $50 I ever spent. The defense lawyer almost wet himself. We had a nice discussion about what that meant and if I understood the details of the initiative, and I was asked a couple of ways whether that would impact how I judged this trial, which I said it wouldn’t (and it wouldn’t). But as the defense lawyer assumed, someone who was behind that initiative would have specific opinions about whoever did the crime this trial was about. And he was right. And that was the idea. And I got to go home shortly thereafter. 

Unfair? It was the truth. Would it have been more fair to not say anything, when I was clearly not the type of person the defense lawyer wanted on the jury? (then again, I was clearly the type of person the prosecution DID want, but the joy of jury selection is neither gets exactly what they want, and then they have to make the mix work. In many ways, I find the politics of jury selection fascinating, which if I admitted to in court, would probably get me kicked off by both lawyers in unison). 

I’ve seen the men and women who play the angry bastard game and I don’t blame the lawyers a bit for getting those little balls of hostility out of their court, but man, I hate seeing them get away with playing that “how dare you interrupt my life you bastard” game and get away with it. 

Whatever you do, you don’t lie. Lying is called perjury, and that’s potentially really, really bad. But that doesn’t mean you can’t promote the reality that helps the lawyer make the right decision for all involved. After all, isn’t that what both lawyers are doing in the case, too? So I feel no guilt planting little seeds in the brains of the lawyers at times to encourage them that I’m not the person they want judging their case. 

If I end up on a jury? I do. It’s part of being a citizen, of paying back to this country that’s given me what I have. But if I get called in and sent home, that’s also part of doing your duty. No waumbaugh this trip, I think that joke’s a bit dated. no, a lot dated.

But just once, I’d love to have the guts to sit up in the jury box and look at the judge and see if I could say “but they wouldn’t have arrested him if  he wasn’t guilty, right?” with a straight face, just to see what they and the lawyers would do. Of course, there’s some chance what they’d do is a contempt charge, but heck, there are times when I’m really, really tempted… 

Here’s to jury duty. It takes a little time out of your life. That’s a small price to pay for what we have, and what so many take for granted.