Archive for Wedding Photography

Canon 24-70mm f2.8L vs Sigma f2.8 IF EX DG HSM

Posted in Articles about Photography, Lens Review, Photography Gear, TCBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

On full frame cameras a 24-70mm lens is the standard zoom lens for most professional photographers whether you shoot weddings, portraits, journalism, sports, travel or landscape. A 24-70 f2.8 gives you a fast lens with a wide angle, normal and short telephoto capabilities. Almost every professional I know owns and relies on a 24-70mm lens.

For years I owned a Canon 24-70mm f2.8L lens and it was a workhorse lens for me especially for my photographs of dogs and kids and outdoor recreation.. I also used it for landscape photography (until I started using tilt-shift lenses). I sold my lens about two years ago anticipating that Canon would release a Mark II version of the lens that was image stabilized and a bit sharper and with less distortion at the wide end. To date (August 2011), that lens is not yet out. So for almost two years I lived without a 24-70mm lens, waiting for the new and improved Canon. In the meantime, Sigma lent me their 24-70mm f2.8 pro lens to test out. I borrowed Wayne Simpson’s Canon 24-70mm Canon and spent three days in the field shooting with the two lenses. Here is what I found out:

Prices:

Canon 24-70mm f2.8L at B+H Photo = $1399.00 (weight 950g)

Sigma 24-70 f2.8 IF EX DG HSM = $899.00 (weight 790g)

The Sigma 24-70 f2.8 and the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 lenses side-by-side

As you can see from the photo above the Sigma lens is significantly smaller (and lighter) than the big Canon 24-70mm lens and the Sigma costs 40% less than the Canon lens. Can the smaller and less expensive Sigma lens hold its own in the field?

First a note on the design of the lens. The Canon lens physically gets larger when zoomed to 24mm and is shortest when zoomed to 70mm. This is a strange design feature because most lenses are physically longer at longer focal lengths like we see with the Sigma lens (see photos below).

Sigma at 24mm (left) aad Canon at 24mm (right)

At 24mm the Sigma lens is short and compact but the Canon lens is fully extended at 24mm.

The Sigma (left) and the Canon (right) at 70mm

At 70mm both lenses are the same size. Canon’s design means that the lens is larger and extends even longer at 24mm. This may seem counter-intuitive but it is actually kind of clever because the lens hood on the Canon then becomes fully functional at all focal lengths. The hood attaches to the lens body with a bayonet mount right above the red line on the lens. The hood is long and when the lens is extended to 24mm, only about 1/3rd of the hood is used. Pulled back to 70mm the full hood length is used. The Sigma lens has a short hood that is optimized for 24mm and when the lens is zoomed out, you still have a 24mm effective hood. So with the Canon you have a fully functional hood but with the Sigma it only works its best at 24mm.

So… the price you pay for the clever functional zoom within a long hood is that the Canon lens is bigger lens that weighs 20% more than the Sigma lens! If you do a lot of backlit photos then the Canon 24-70mm and its functional lens hood will better prevent flare.

A 24mm is a 24mm right?

Both the Canon and Sigma lenses are 24-70mm focal lengths so I expected both lenses to give me the exact same coverage when I swapped the lenses on the tripod-mounted body. I was surprised that with the camera in the exact same position that the two zooms gave very different angles of view at the same focal length!

The Sigma 24-70 at 24mm

The Canon 24-70 at 24mm

What the heck??? How can the two lenses both zoomed to 24mm and mounted on the same camera body on a tripod (nothing was moved) give such different coverage? Is is because the Canon extends out at 24mm and so the front of the lens is closer to the subject?

If this is the case, then at 70mm when both lenses are physically the same size then we should see the angle of view be exactly the same. But both lenses produced different coverage even at 70mm even when the camera was fixed in position on a tripod. Note how Brando the dog is slightly larger in the frame with the Canon lens.

The Sigma lens at 70mm

The Canon lens at 70mm

The Sigma gives wider angles of view than the Canon when both are set to the same focal lengths. Which one is more accurate is hard to say but for reference I tested both against my 24mm TS-E lens and the Sigma and the Canon 24mm TS-E had almost exactly the same coverage. I don’t think the Canon 24-70mm lens is truly a 24-70!

What About Close-Focus Abilities?

This one is easy, the Canon can focus significantly closer than the Sigma at both 24 and 70mm.

Sigma close-focus at 70mm (top), Canon close focus at 70mm (bottom)

But which lens is sharper at close focus? Below is the same scene at the closest focus for each lens. The camera is tripod-mounted, live view, manual focus was used, mirror lock-up and an aperture of f8 was used.

The detail close-up scene

Sigma lens at 70mm f8 (top); Canon lens at 70mm f8 (bottom)

Center sharpness (above 100% magnification in Photoshop) was similar at close focus at 70mm for the two lenses but with the nod going to the Canon 24mm F2.8L lens.

Edge sharpness at closest focus at f8 for both lenses was disappointing and both lenses suffered from fairly severe chromatic aberrations at closest focus at 70mm (see below).

Edge sharpness at f8 for the Sigma lens (top) and the Canon lens (bottom)

What about Bokeh?

Bokeh is the the aesthetic quality of the blur in the out-of-focus areas. With fast lenses like a f2.8 zoom, the quality of the blur is important as a counter point to the sharp areas. To test how each lens rendered out-of-focus areas I shot various scenes at different focal lengths all at f2.8. Below are several sample photos. For me both the Sigma and the Canon seemed to render the out-of-focus with similar pleasing blur (but I give the nod to the Sigma for softer bokeh at 24mm).

Sigma lens at 24mm f2.8

Canon lens at 24mm f2.8

Sigma at 55mm, f2.8

Canon at 57mm, f2.8

Sigma at 70mm, f2.8

Canon at 70mm, f2.8

Overall Sharpness

I tested the sharpness of both lenses using my Canon EOS-1ds Mark III. I always use Live View and manual focus to test sharpness because auto-focus can vary with various lenses and each lens needs to be micro-adjusted for precision of focus. Live View with manual focusing gives consistent sharp results.

Both lenses are optimized for sharpness in the f2.8 to f8 range. Higher apertures like f11-f22 suffer from diffraction and yield less resolution than wider apertures. For example check out the 100% magnifications of the images below. The top photo is f2.8, the middle one is f8, the final one is f22. You can see that f8 is the sharpest, f2.8 next best and f22 trails far behind in sharpness. This was true for both lenses at all focal lengths.

Canon 24-70mm lens aperture resolution; f2.8, f8, f22

At 24mm the Sigma performed better than the Canon at all apertures in both center and edge sharpness. Below are two samples the first center sharpness at f8 where there is only a minor difference between the two lenses and then edge sharpness at f8 where the Sigma does a better job.

Center sharpness at 24mm at f8, Sigma (top), Canon (bottom)

Edge Sharpness at 24 mm at f8, Sigma (top), Canon (bottom)

In tests at 35mm, 50mm and 70mm, the Canon was slightly sharper in the center and at the edges of the frame than the Sigma but not by much. At f4 both lenses performed equally at all these focal lengths. From f5.6 to f22, the Sigma was sharper than the Canon at all of these focal lengths. As well, the Canon lenses produced darker photos than the Sigma lens even when both were shot at the exact same shutter speed and aperture. The Sigma photos were lighter and a bit more contrasty.

Center sharpness at 50mm at f8, Sigma (top), Canon (bottom); both at 1/30s - note differences in angle of coverage at 50mm

Overall I give the edge in sharpness to the Sigma lens which was a better performer at 24mm and as good or better than the Canon at all other focal lengths from f4 to f22. The Canon was better at f2.8 at 35, 50 and 70mm. If you are a landscape photographer the Sigma has less diffraction than the Canon at f16 and f22.

The overall scene - Sigma at 24mm, f22

Below is a 100% magnified view of the scene above shot with the Sigma and Canon lens at 24mm and f22 — the Sigma lens handles diffraction at small aperture openings much better.

Sigma at f22 (top), Canon at f22 (bottom)

Auto-Focus Tests

Both lenses were fast and responsive in auto-focus. I could get sharper photos with both lens using manual focus and 5x Live View, but auto-focus was pretty close in sharpness. I calibrated each lens using Lens Align and micro-focus adjustments in-camera and once calibrated each lens accurately popped into focus. Neither lens seemed better nor faster than the other when it came to action photography.

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 24-70mm lens at 34mm, f2.8

Image Look

Both lenses produced images that looked similar. The Sigma lens produced slightly brighter and slightly more contrasty images than the Canon lens when both were shot in the same light at the same settings but overall both lenses produced crisp, sharp images.

Sigma 24-70mm lens

Canon 24-70mm lens

Final Considerations

The Canon lens has a filter size of 77mm which is common for Canon L lenses. The Sigma lens has an odd size filter thread of 82mm. If you use filters the odd size filter size on the Sigma might be a serious drawback requiring an investment in larger sized filters. For me, I use a Cokin Z-Pro Filter holder on my lenses and to get filters on the Sigma lenses was just a matter of buying an 82mm adapter ring for my filter holder. It would have been nice if the Sigma lens use 77mm threads which is a more common filter size than 82mm.

So Which One Should You Buy?

As always that depends. If you are a wedding or sports photographer who always shoots at f2.8 and likes to use back light, then I think the Canon is a good bet because it has better lens sharpness (by a small margin) at f2.8 and at all focal lengths except at 24mm. As well, the well designed lens hood/zoom mechanism on the Canon helps to prevent flare my having a more functional lens hood. Also the close focus ability of the Canon is better and sharper at 70mm than the Sigma lens and for detail photos at a wedding (rings, flowers, cake, tight face shots) this close-up capability would be welcome.

On the other hand, if you are looking for an all around travel and landscape lens, I would give the Sigma higher marks because it is smaller, lighter, sharper at 24mm and at all other focal lengths at apertures f4 and higher and it suffers less from diffraction at small f-stops (like f16 and f22). I also like that the 24mm setting on the Sigma is more true and more wide than the Canon 24mm setting. Also the Sigma lens is much less money which is always good. Both lenses seem to be robustly built and should handle the rigours of use well. Personally I prefer the mechanics and feel of the Sigma lens over the Canon lens.

Wish List

For both the Canon and Sigma lenses I wish both manufacturers made a 24-70mm lens with image stabilization (optical stabilization for Sigma). Having a stabilized lens would really help photographers get the most of a fast f2.8 lens so that we can hand-hold at lower shutter speeds. Both lenses also suffer from chromatic aberrations at the edges of the frame and are not as sharp as they could be when focused close. I expect better performance from such high end pro lenses. Overall either lens is a fine tool that will serve most photographers well. Which one you choose, depends on your interests and budget. I have no idea whether Canon or Sigma plan to update these work horse lenses but it may be worth waiting to see if they do unless you just can’t wait. Either way, you’ll get great images with these two lenses but be aware of their shortcomings.

©Darwin Wiggett - Canon 24-70mm f2.8L - great for tight close work!

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 24-70mm lens - great for landscape, travel and general use!

Note: I am sponsored by Sigma Canada and they provide me with lenses to use. I report things the way I see it and am not paid or influenced to bias the review. I use Sigma lenses whenever they perform better than Canon lenses. When they don’t I use Canon lenses. For my style of photography the Sigma 24-70mm lens is a better choice for me. Your mileage may vary.

Sigma 85mm f1.4 vs Canon 85mm f1.2L II

Posted in Camera Review, Event Photography, Good News, Lens Review, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

Sigma Canada gave me their new 85mm f1.4 lens to review. I thought it would be a cool lens to use on my dog portraits and maybe for street photography but I have been so busy with landscape shooting that I have not had time to give the lens a serious spin nor a detailed review.  So… to solve the problem I am letting someone more qualified to do the review for me (smart eh?) and share his findings here.

My good friend Wayne Simpson is a full-time portrait, wedding and landscape photographer who owns and uses the coveted Canon 85mm f1.2L lens daily in his work. I thought Wayne was the perfect guy to give the Sigma a test run and see how it performed for a working photographer. Both the Sigma and the Canon 85mm lenses are designed for portrait, sports, event and wedding photographers where prime lens performance (a fast wide aperture) is needed either for low light shooting or for an ultra-thin slice of focus. Wayne was interested in just how well the Sigma could stand up to his much lauded Canon 85mm. So I gave the lens to Wayne and he played… here is his report and results:

Note, neither I, nor Sigma Canada have sponsored, paid nor bribed Wayne… not even with beer! I simply wanted Wayne’s honest impressions as a working photographer. Wayne receives no cut, no commissions on sales, and not even a ball cap for his review (not too smart eh?). Wayne just wanted to see how both lenses performed so that he had the best choice for his own work. Plus like any guy, he likes to play with toys – can you blame him?!


Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX DG HSMprice $969 US at B+H Photo

image from Sigma Canada – available in Canada at The Camera Store

Canon EF 85mm F1.2L II – price $2149 US at B+H Photo

image from The-Digital-Picture.com

available in Canada at The Camera Store

Wayne Simpson reviews the Sigma 85mm f1.4 vs the Canon 85mm f1.2L II

Okay, first the disclaimer:

This is a practical comparison, and by no means scientific in any way. The following is simply my opinion as a working wedding and portrait photographer.

All shots are done with a Canon 1D Mark IV. The only adjustment done to the images is the odd exposure adjustment to the  RAW image, however, any images being compared will have had the exact same adjustments. White balance was either set to daylight or cloudy and was not changed after capture.

Here we go…

When I heard about the new Sigma 85 1.4 I must admit that I was curious, but  never really considered it as an option over my Canon 85 1.2 II. Even when the opportunity came to take the lens for a test drive I was not overly excited, but decided to give it a whirl. Well, once I had the lens in my hands I could immediately tell that this lens is for real!

Lets have a look at the build quality…

While I love the build quality of my beloved Canon 85 1.2 II, the Sigma appears just as good… just different. The actual diameter of the Canon (especially the lens hood) is much larger than the Sigma. I have always found it annoying that my Canon 85mm is big lens and it never seems to fit comfortably into any of the bags I have tried. This always  slows me down when changing lenses. The awkward size of the Canon prevents me from carrying as many lenses as I would like since this beast seems to take up the space of one and a half  “normal sized” lenses. This would not be an issue with the Sigma which is significantly more compact.

I tend not to use manual focus very often with my Canon because I don’t feel confident with its incredibly loose and touchy focus ring. The Sigma focus ring is more snug and less touchy which inspires confidence especially to use manual focus. However, the AF/M switch on the Sigma seems a little too exposed and prone to being bumped out of place; however it never happened to me while using it.

When shooting in bright light and using flash, I often like to use screw-on neutral density filters to cut down the light and maintain my sync speed while shooting at wide apertures. As a Canon shooter with other L series lenses, I have come to expect the filter diameter to be 77 mm.  However the Canon 85 1.2 II uses a 72mm filter size. I was happy to find that the Sigma uses the popular 77 mm size, which may save you money on filters especially if you already own other Canon L-series lenses!

If you have ever used the Canon 85 1.2 II you know how careful one needs to be when changing lenses. The rear element is basically level with the lens mount, which is a little scary. As if that wasn’t scary enough, Canon has hidden the red dot to align the lens and mount so that it’s not easily visible when changing lenses. Again, these issues don’t exist with the Sigma.

So it’s built well, but how well does it autofocus?…

Very well actually! I would guess that the Sigma is about twice as fast as the Canon in decent light. After using my Canon 85 1.2 II for a few years now, I have come to accept the fact that it is very slow to focus. In fact, if I’m photographing kids, or anything moving I will reach for my Canon 70-200 f2.8L lens instead. I missed many, many shots due to slow auto-focus before I learned the limits of the lens. While I did not test the Sigma on any moving subjects, I can confidently say that it would beat the Canon hands down when tracking a moving subject.

In backlit situations, the auto-focus of both lenses go a little crazy. At first it seemed that the Sigma reacted worse, however I think it just seems that way because the auto-focus bounces around faster!

Next, I tried the two lenses in a dark room shooting at f1.4, ISO 6400 at 100/sec (very dark). In this situation (without focus assist or flash) the lenses seem to focus almost the same speed on my 1D Mark IV, with a slight edge going to the Sigma. The Sigma seems to lock focus a little faster and with a bit more authority than the Canon. The one thing that the Canon has over the Sigma in this situation is that it can open up to f 1.2 allowing you faster shutter speeds for hand held shooting. This can potentially save your bacon as long as you can lock focus in the first place!

So, can the Sigma compete with the image quality of the legendary Canon 85 1.2 II?…

In short, yup! As you will see in the images below, it’s pretty much impossible to tell which lens is which when looking at image sharpness and bokeh. You don’t really see much of a difference until you look at the colour and brightness. Originally I thought that the difference in colour might be due to using an automated white balance (daylight or cloudy) and that the camera might be compensating somehow because of one lens having a larger maximum aperture than the other. Keeping this in mind I quickly set a manual white balance and re-shot, but found the same shift in colour.

©Wayne Simpson - The sharpness test subject

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 at f4

©Wayne Simpson - Canon 85mm f1.2L II at f4

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 at f1.4 - Bokeh test

©Wayne Simpson - Canon 85mm f1.2L II at f1.4 - Bokeh Test

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 - Colour

©Wayne Simpson - Canon 85mm f1.2L II - Colour

One thing that is pretty much inevitable when shooting at very wide apertures is some amount of chromatic aberration or fringing. Now I’m no scientist, so I can’t explain exactly what causes it, but I do know that I don’t like it and it can be difficult to fix in post production (for me anyways!). In scenes with little contrast I found that both lenses where acceptable by my standards – even at f 1.4. Once you enter a high contrast scene however, the story changes. I found that the Sigma needed to be stopped down to about f 2.8 to eliminate the fringing, while the Canon still had a tiny bit of fringing still visible at f 2.8, although very minor. At f2.8 the sharpness is absolutely incredible with both lenses! I honestly can’t say which one is sharper, which is amazing considering there is something like a $1000 dollar difference in price!

©Wayne Simpson - fringing in low contrast light, Sigma 85mm at f1.4

©Wayne Simpson - the high contrast test for fringing

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 at f1.4 showing fringing

©Wayne Simpson - Canon 85mm f1.2L at f1.4 showing fringing

So, lets sum up the pluses and the minuses for the Sigma…

The pluses:

–          faster auto-focus

–          77mm filter diameter

–          rear element is not dangerously exposed

–          slightly better focusing in low light

–          much less expensive

–          lighter and more compact

The minuses:

–          does not open to f 1.2

–          slightly warm colour cast which means extra work in post to match the colours of othere Canon lenses

–          darker exposure and a little less ‘pop’ than the Canon lens

–          Exposed AF/M switch can be dislodged accidentally

So, would I sell my Canon 85 1.2 II and buy the Sigma 85 1.4?…

Heck, it’s not out of the question! I guess the real question is do I really need to shoot at f 1.2, and do I need the faster autofocus offered by the Sigma? I have had the odd occasion where shooting at f 1.2 has saved me, but they are very few and far between–-I’m guessing I could live without it. The faster auto-focus though would be a very, very welcome change from my slower  Canon 85mm f1.2.

The major problem for me however, is the warm colour cast (visible in the comparisons)the  and slightly darker images  produced with the Sigma lens. I realize that these can both be fixed in post production, however it would mean that I would have one lens that produces a different colour than all of my other lenses. which means lost time in image correction. The images from my Canon just seem to have that tiny bit more pop to them… I don’t know how else to explain it! Maybe it’s something to do with the amount of money I spent on the  Canon lens, or maybe I’m still having a hard time accepting the fact that the Sigma is almost identical for about half the price!

If you are looking to buy one of these two lenses, my official advice is … go for the Sigma. For the difference in price, it is definitely the best bang for your buck. I will likely end up holding on to my Canon. However if I could do it again I would likely choose the Sigma especially for its zippy auto-focus. Unless you shot the two side-by-side, you likely would never notice a difference in the images. Who would have thought that this lens could hold it’s own against the legendary Canon 85 1.2 II!

Other reviews of these lenses:

Sigma 85mm f1.4L – dslrphoto.com summarizes numerous reviews here

Canon 85mm f1.2L II – Photo Zone review, The Digital Picture Review

See also the latest issue of Popular Photography for further comparisons

©Wayne Simpson - Sigma 85mm f1.4 at f1.6


A Few Good Links

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Controversy, Inspirations, Marketing with tags , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by Darwin

Below are some links that got me thinking and a couple just for fun!

I always tell people to shoot from the heart.  If you are shooting to please others, to get an easy iconic trophy, or to to get kudos for your ego then your art is shallow. To make more meaningful work, you need to shoot for yourself. You should make images that move you and reach deep into your soul and you should care little what others think. You need to shoot to please your heart. Along this line I really enjoyed one of Guy Tal’s recent excellent essays entitled The Futile Pursuit of Happiness.

 

©Darwin Wiggett

Check out the video in this link – – friggin awesome! If you are not blown away by the time lapse work you see in this video, then you must be dead!

Speaking of videos, if you want a laugh check out Charlie Borland’s Hiring a Cheap Photographer or read Zack Arias’ blog post on Top Ten Ways to Become a Professional Photographer.

And finally I leave you with Shooting Strangers


Photographer of the Month – July 2010

Posted in Inspirations, Photographer of the Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2010 by Darwin

I am happy to announce this month I am featuring the amazing work of Wayne Simpson. I first found out about Wayne’s work though his postings on Nature Photographers. I was blown away by his work. He could photograph wildlife, grand scenics and intimate landscapes with equal fortitude. I think Wayne has an amazingly creative eye and his style is strong and personal. Only later after we met and shot together a few times did I find out about his wedding and portrait work. He applies his love of nature photography into his wedding photography and boy does it show! I am not very moved by most wedding photography but Wayne’s is evocative and stirring. Even though Wayne uses flash to give his environmental portraiture some ‘snap’, the flash never overpowers and only only accents the existing natural light. A lot of wedding photographers could really use a lesson from Wayne on the subtle use of flash. For anyone interested in learning how to use flash I highly recommend this e-Book. Maybe one day Wayne will offer up his own e-book on how he does his work!

It’s funny, the most talented photographers I know always seem so humble and they are never afraid to share ‘secrets’. Wayne is no exception, he believes in sharing and he is down-to-earth and modest. What a great guy, easy going, fun to hang with and sensitive and artistic. No wonder he does well with nervous wedding clients. I should point out that on weddings and portraits Wayne often works with his wife Candice and they are a dynamic duo coming up with fresh perspectives and helping each other with the politics of wedding photography (e.g. managing people and expectations). Wedding photography is stressful, personally I could not do it… yikes! But Wayne and Candice make magic happen even with hard to please people. That is why I hired Wayne to do our family portraits. If anyone can get the Wiggett family to look good it is either a plastic surgeon or Wayne Simpson. We chose the latter! Watch for Wayne to be featured in the next issue of Outdoor Photography Canada. Be sure to check out Wayne’s blog to see what he is up to both as a wedding and nature photographer

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson

©Wayne Simpson