60D the minute I picked it up and (with a few caveats) I've liked it more and more as I've used it. But it wasn't until I capriciously stuck the Carl Zeiss 50mm 1.4 ZE lens on the front of it that it became my favorite camera to take out shooting. It's more responsive and feels about one and half generations better than a Canon 5Dmk2. It's at least as good a camera for most non-ultra-sport shooting as the Canon 7D. And I like the way it feels in my hands.
I originally bought the 50 Zeiss to use on the 5D2. I thought it would create very cool looking images with impressive DOF effects and it did that just fine. But what it didn't do well was manually focus. And when I used the focus indicator or the focus indicator+obnoxious beep I found that the combination missed the point of sharp focus, no matter how I had the camera set. The 7D was a bit more accurate but even with the micro adjust feature of both the more expensive cameras I was never quite sure I'd get what I wanted in sharp focus. Which led me to believe that the mis-focus anomaly must either be non-linear or intermittent.
On a whim I put the lens onto the 60D and set the menu items for "stupid operator in need of much help" or SOINOMH mode. That means, center focus point, beeping confirmation and steady green light indicator hand holding. I proceeded to shoot and the oddest thing happened: Every time the camera told me I was in focus I really was in focus. I was soon able to lose one set of training wheels. The beep.
Although I leave the beep on if I'm around a bunch of really pretentious gear nerds because it seems to drive them crazy and, as they flinch and clutch at their 1DS mk3's, I have a moment of selfish entertainment......)
A benefit of this newly realized focusing capability is the new knowledge that the Zeiss lens is sharper wide open than I originally thought and the saturation and color rendering is pretty darn good. This leads me to leave that lens on that body all of the time. This combo gives me a solid platform, great images, smaller form factor and the satisfaction of having a tool combination that's working at optimum efficiency. If you don't shoot sports and you don't need the full frame chops of the 5Dv2 this is really a wonderful little camera with good high ISO performance into the bargain. I grab it first when I leave the house or studio. When I'm being reckless this is the combo I keep in the car.
But I'm not writing this with the intention of slagging the 5 or the 7. It's just that this whole circus of lens madness and focus brought me to realize that there may be an optimum lens and camera combination for each body. I spent a while looking through images I've taken and I think it really breaks down like this:
1. The 60D and the Carl Zeiss 50mm is my favorite combination for casual portraits and walking around just making photographic trouble. I like shooting with the rig between f2.2 and f3.5. I like what it does to the backgrounds when I get in close. Works for me.
2. The 7D is the perfect match for the 15-85 and that combination is rarely rent asunder. For some reason I feel like they ultimately compliment each other. I love the wide angle end and I find more and more that it's a lens that was made for wide open shooting. The 7D sensor and AF seem to wring out every scintilla of performance from the optics and vice versa. If it's commercial and I've got to get the shot this is the camera I'll grab. Doubly so if it involves "smart flash" or HS flash. Really. Almost as good as the Nikons........sniff......(meaning as good with flash as the Nikons are. Not anything else.)
3. The crazy anomaly. The 5D2 has the best overall image quality of the three and not just by a whisper. But it seems harder to extract that extra five to ten percent of quality for me. Sometimes, when all the stars line up I get incredible stuff. And for high ISO I am consistently impressed and amazed. But it can be a goofy camera to work with. The body doesn't really feel as solid as the other two. And instead of one there are two lenses that I think are synergistic with it. One is the 85mm 1.8 which seems to ride on the body about 60% of the time. The other is the 70-200 f4 which comes out of the case when we do traditional portraits, lit with softboxes and perfectly metered. Every frame is sharp from f4 on down and it has no weird CA's or soft spots. I thought I'd love the Canon 5D2 with the 50mm focal length but that's been a non-starter for me. I love using it on a tripod and with the mirror locked up. That's "sharp mode" and it really reaches down and pulls out great performances when used that way.
If I had to choose one of the three to go and shoot personal work with? It'd be the 60D. More to come.
I was thinking about this whole subject as I was "nerding" around in the studio getting used to my new LED light fixation. I decided to do a photograph with which to illustrate this blog and I wanted to see how the new lights would do on a product shot. I wanted to see what, if any, the advantages of using LED's over florescent or hot lights would be.
Right off the bat I found that I could use the lights closer than I every have before. That means even a small panel with some diffusion on it yields the same soft light as other fixtures in bigger fixtures used further away. I could also use fixtures right next to my camera without worrying about being blinded by the flash or heating up the camera. In the same situation the florescents would probably have held their own. But compared to tungsten and flash the whole setup, visualization process and shooting was easier, more comfortable and more straightforward.
I even included a set up shot.....just for fun.
The lights are the ePhotoinc LED 500's I've mentioned before. I took a chance and it turned out well. So far I've done a handful of assignments and my only real issue is that getting perfect white balance has to be more intentional at the front end of the process now. Also, the lights can cause polyester fabrics to go a bit purple. I'll experiment with some UV filtration when I get back by gear. For everything else? Charming. And cool.