Telephoto Solution

Posted on Updated on

The Band and Bowfell
The Band and Bowfell

In my previous post I explained the problem I had encountered using the Canon 70-200 L f/4.0 with the Sony A7R. Whilst I did think about simply buying an identical replacement lens, in the end I decided that I couldn’t justify the expense as I seldom use Telephoto lenses in Landscape work.

The first alternative that I tried was an old Canon FD 70-210mm f/4.0 lens. It cost me the total of £28 and the adapter was £10. When I tested the lens I found that I needed to stop it down to f/8.0 to get it sharp into the corners but that it did then perform very well. At least it performed well up to around 150mm. The lens was also quite small and relatively light compared to the 70-200 I had been using. I still have this lens and will keep it (given the low cost) but felt that it wasn’t the right solution to my telephoto needs.

I then found a second hand Canon 70-300 EF f/4.0-5.6 IS USM for £200 which was described as condition 9+ by WEX (which is almost like new). Now I had owned one of these lenses in the past and had been pleased with the performance on the 5D MKII but wasn’t sure how it would perform on an adapter attached to the Sony A7R which has a 36Mpixel sensor.

This last weekend I got the answer – very impressive.

The image you see at the top of this blog is a three image stitch using this lens. At 300dpi the image measures 45” x 15”. What’s really impressive is that if you zoom in to 100% magnification and look around the scene, you can pick out various groups of walkers on the mountain. In fact I have taken a screen grab blow to illustrate.

Example 1 - Walkers on the hill
Example 1 – Walkers on the hill
Example 2 - Walkers on the hill
Example 2 – Walkers on the hill
Example 3 - Walkers on the hill
Example 3 – Walkers on the hill

In short, this lens can produce incredibly sharp images (even ignoring the low price). What I have noticed though is that it’s very easy to ruin your shots with this lens on the Sony A7R due to vibration. So to finish, here are a few of the things I found myself doing:

  • It doesn’t take much wind to make the lens vibrate (even on a tripod) so try to shelter the lens and shoot when there isn’t any breeze.
  • You really do need to use a cable release on the camera. It’s no use being lazy and just using the release button.
  • You should still try to achieve fast shutter speeds even on a tripod.
  • When you reposition or knock the camera, allow at least 5 seconds before taking the shot. This allows time for any vibration in the lens to subside.

Telephoto Troubles

Posted on

Sony A7R with Canon 70-200L.
Sony A7R with Canon 70-200L.

Not too long ago I took the decision to supplement my Olympus EM5 with a full frame camera and purchased a Sony A7R. It was the smallest and most compact option on the market for full frame at the time. I really like Sony cameras for their colour handling (I also have an RX10) and the A7R is no exception. But one of the other features of the Sony is that I can easily “bolt on” almost any lens using an adapter.

In the past, as much as I like the Sony cameras, their lenses have been a bit of a let-down. The choice of focal lengths is limited and the image quality has suffered into the corners. With this in mind I opted to purchase Canon EF lenses which I am familiar with having previously owned a Canon 5D MKII.

My lens choice was the 16-35 L f/4.0, the 24-70 L f/4.0 and a telephoto. I say telephoto as I really wasn’t sure which lens I wanted. As it turned out I finally went for the 70-200 L f/4.0 in the knowledge that this was a super lens and good value for money. Yes it was quite large and heavy but with a lens collar fitted I could expect good results when mounted on a tripod.

Unfortunately my experience of the 70-200 lens was not what I expected. Most of the time, probably 80%, I achieved great images. They were sharp, especially into the corners of the frame and the image quality was excellent at any aperture. This is the sort of lens that you want, where you can simply ignore the aperture and focal length from the perspective of image quality.

The problem with the other 20% of images though was quite an unusual one and occurred quite randomly. I could shoot a sequence of images using the same settings and without touching the camera, some would display the problem whilst others wouldn’t. The problem was that parts of the frame would be in focus whilst other areas would be blurred. In some instances the blurred area would be in the middle of the frame but the foreground and distance would be sharp. You can see an example below.

Full image
Full image
Foreground - in focus
Foreground – in focus
Mid distance - out of focus
Mid distance – out of focus
Distant hills - in focus
Distant hills – in focus

In the end the lens was sent back for a refund and a new lens purchased. Full marks to WEX Photographic for their service. In my next post I will explain which lens I purchased – it might come as a surprise.

Great news also. Lenscraft is back up and running on the new website host.

Please Read – Dire Website Problems at Lenscraft

Posted on

Olympus EM5, ISO200, f/8.0, 1/8". Handheld.
Olympus EM5, ISO200, f/8.0, 1/8″. Handheld.

The Lenscraft website is down yet again although this time I triggered it.

Regular readers may recall some of the problems I have experienced over the past 12 months. In this time I have repeatedly upgraded the site and hosting package to cope with problems. At the same time the support from my hosting company has become sketchy. In recent months the site performance has dropped to what I consider to be an unacceptable level and there has been increasingly regular periods where the site has gone down for no reason.

Over this last weekend two things happened that demanded action. Firstly my email accounts for Lenscraft stopped working. I couldn’t even log in via webmail as the email server reported that it was running too slow to allow me access and I am still waiting on a response to this. Secondly I receive my annual renewal for the hosting and it was large. So large in fact that I can’t afford to continue running the site.

My response has been to find a new hosting company to work with and so far they have been excellent. They have migrated Lenscraft onto their servers and my testing confirms its working as it should. My next step was to have the domains migrated and have the Lenscraft domain pointed to the new hosting company.

And this is where my problems have started again. The domain has transferred successfully but continues to point to the old hosting company who have now closed my server. The new hosting company is working hard to help correct the issue but at the moment I’m not sure whenI will have this resolved. The result is that the Lenscraft website is down, I can’t send or receive email from Lenscraft and if someone sends me an email, it simply vanishes without even reporting a failure to them.

So if you have emailed me and are wondering why I haven’t replied, it’s because I can’t receive your email. If you need to reach me please use my personal email ( until Lenscraft is back.

What a week!

New Topaz Texture Effects

Posted on Updated on

Olympus EM5 with post processing in Topaz Texture Effects
Olympus EM5 with post processing in Topaz Texture Effects


Sony A7r with post processing in Topaz Texture Effects
Sony A7r with post processing in Topaz Texture Effects

Have you seen the new Topaz Texture Effects yet?

This is a new plugin from Topaz that allows you to blend textures with your images as well as add many more effects. I’m having quite a bit of fun playing around with it as you can see from the images above. The effects are quite similar to those produced with Nik Analog Efex which I love, but I am already preferring the Topaz program. I think it helps photographers move their work from traditional photography to photographic art.

As you all know, I like to be lightweight in everything I do and not just camera equipment. Well this program really helps. Previously you needed to do a lot of editing with Layers in Photoshop to achieve results like you can with Texture Effects. This is a real time saver and I can think of lots of applications, particularly in creating those retro styled images that have become so popular recently.

If you are interested in trying out program there is a link below. You can download the trial version or take advantage of the introductory discount which is on offer until the 20th November.

Link to Topaz Texture Effects

My first thoughts

The first thing that struck me on starting the program is the interface has been redesigned and is now clean and modern. Whilst this is a new program from Topaz, they have improved their existing interface designs. The usual features such as the presets browser are all still there. This makes me wonder if they will be changing some of their other plug-ins to move to the new design. I hope so as it’s very easy to use and navigate.

Once your image opens in Texture Effects you can select from a large number of predefined effects on the right. You can see an example below.

Interface 1

As well as the predefined effects that ship with program you can also create your own as well as share effects with other Topaz users. This is very handy given the huge range of effects that can be created. Once you have selected a preset you can make further adjustments to the settings. You can see this in the screenshot below where the Basic adjustments are being tweaked.

Interface 2

Whilst the plug-in is called Texture effects it provides much more adjustment than just being able to add Textures. Possible adjustments include:

  • Basic Adjustment to exposure, saturation, temperature etc.
  • Blend Textures into the image
  • Add simulated Light Leaks
  • Split Tone your image
  • Add areas of Diffusion
  • Add an Edge Blur effect
  • There’s also Film Grain simulation, Double exposure, Borders, Colour Overlay effects as well as the ability to add Dust and Scratches to age the image.

You can see some of these options being added in the screenshot below.

Interface 3

It’s also worth pointing out that you can add an effect more than once. For example you might want to add a couple of different light leak effects to the same image – no problem.

The program ships with a lot of textures, overlays and effects and it looks like you will be able to download more in the future. In addition to those supplied you can import textures, light leaks, dust and scratch effects that you have purchased from other sites. You can see an example of texture manager for Light Leaks below.

Interface 6

The overall effect can be blended into your image using a global mask or you can select areas of the image to mask out the effects from. You can see an example below.

Interface 5

In addition to the Global Mask tool, each of the effects also has its own individual mask that you can use to control the individual effect and how its applied to the image. What I really liked in the mask though is that Topaz has introduced a spot adjustment tool in addition to their traditional brush masking tools. The spot tool reminds me a little of the Control Points used by Nik.

I think this is a great package, even without the current introductory discount. Topaz have really thought this one though and produced a winner.

Friday Image No.73

Posted on Updated on

Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Sony A7r + 16-35mm Canon L lens. ISO50, f/14, 0.6" exposure. 0.6ND grad and polariser.
Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Sony A7r + 16-35mm Canon L lens. ISO50, f/14, 0.6″ exposure. 0.6ND grad and polariser filters.

First I must start with an apology to anyone who has been trying to contact me over the past couple of weeks. I decided to take a break and have been away in Dorset. One of the problems with this area is that the internet and telephone coverage is poor which made responding to people very difficult.

The weather was terrible but I did manage to capture a few new shots such as this one. My new Sony A7r and Canon lenses had a bit of an outing but I ended up reverting to the Olympus EM5 much of the time. The micro 43 equipment is just so handy to throw in a small shoulder bag that I tend to take it with me on most occasions. It’s only when I am going out specifically for photography that I bother with the Sony. That said, the combination of the Sony and Canon lenses produces fantastic quality and is so easy to use.

Anyway, I’m now back and catching up with emails and all the rest of the work. If I haven’t replied to your email I will do soon.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday Image No.72

Posted on Updated on

Woodland stream near to Whitby. Three image stitch from a Canon 5D MKII.
Woodland stream near to Whitby. Three image stitch from a Canon 5D MKII.

I shot this image a few years back on a trip to Whitby. The idea was to shoot lots of nice coastal scenes over a couple of days but as usual the weather didn’t work. Rather than give up or try to fight the light, we went looking for woodland to shoot. Walking through some woodland we came across this tree trunk that had fallen into the river and created the scene you see above.

This is actually a three image stitch shot with a Canon 5D MKII. The stitching was then done using Lightroom and the merge to panorama feature. Post processing was then done using Nik Color Efex and Aline Skin Exposure 7. I hope you like it.

Have a great weekend everyone.

The Importance of Vision

Posted on Updated on

Vision allows you to make important decision about how to shot a scene
Vision allows you to make important decision about how to shot a scene

I’m currently working on a new book which is probably going to be titled “B&W Mastery: Lightroom Edition”. The book is targeted at users of Lightroom who are trying to master the elements of black and white photography in the digital age, using Lightroom. As I was developing one of the Chapters I started to write about vision and realised that this is such an important subject that I wanted to share some key points immediately.

Vision is a term we see and hear a lot in Photography but it can be confusing. In my simple terms, vision is how you imaging the finished image to look before you actually create it. How you create the finished image is what you then need to work out. But if you don’t have a vision for the finished image, you’re not going to create a strong, compelling photograph.

The importance of having a clear vision is most obvious at two points in the photographic workflow:

  1. The point at which you take the photograph
  2. The point at which you edit the image

When you are capturing the image with your camera, having a vision will allow you to select the right settings to control the camera as well as use any special techniques. Important questions can then be answered such as will you use a slow or fast shutter speed to freeze or blur motion? How much depth of field will you use? Without a clear vision you can’t make these decisions and you’re reliant on luck.

When you reach the point that you want to process your image, you again need a strong vision. If you don’t have a strong vision of the finished image you will find yourself simply experimenting and not creating. Whilst experimentation has its place, you need a strong vision of the finished image in order to create the photograph.

The reason I share this particular image is that I shot it almost 4 years ago but never processed it until now. Now that I have come to review the image, I can immediately recognise what I was trying to create when I captured the scene. Recognising this allows me to quickly process the image to create the finished photograph.

So do yourself a favour next time you are out shooting. Spend time to develop your vision for each scene you shoot.