5D MK11 And Your Lenses

Shot at f/2.8Shot at f/4.5The replacement Canon EOS 5D MK11 arrived from Roberts Imaging yesterday, as promised. If you didn't get to the end of my previous entry discussing the 5D MK11, I had a problem with the first one I received. To my mind, a new camera that fails within a couple hours of taking it out of the box is terminal. I don't want it fixed. I don't feel I should wait to have it fixed... I want a new one. Fortunately, Roberts Imaging shares my point of view. As I wrote previously, Roberts' customer service is second to none. One phone call to them (on a Saturday, mind you) and I was provided a return number and the confirmation a new camera will leave their warehouse on Monday. No question. No drilling me about "have you tried this or done that?" Or, "have you called Canon?" None of that... Roberts' phone rep apologized for the inconvenience, shared my disappointment and took every step to rectify the problem as quickly as possible. A replacement shipped Monday, I received it on Tuesday. This is why I have been dealing with them for years and why many of the other pro-shooters I know deal with them too.

Shot at f/2.8Shot at f/5.6Just to recap my original statement about these discussion: I'm only going to share with you MY experience with the camera. I'm not going to measure things. I'll only compare things through my own experience and I'll only talk about the results, the hands-on use and the images in layman's terms. I'm just a guy with a camera trying to take the best pictures I know how. I'm not a lab technician, an engineer... and I DO NOT pixel peep. I'm just going to give you my personal opinion with along my likes and dislikes. The pictures I'll typically post will be processed the way I process all my images... in Aperture. The descriptions will be a conversation. If you're looking for an in-depth review, I'm not your guy. For amazing in-depth reviews, I highly recommend DPReview.

Canon L Series 70mm-200mm f/2.8 LensSo, new camera in hand, I took the time Tuesday to set everything up to fit my head and hands, charged up the batteries and I was back in business. I didn't do much other than goof around with it a bit... tried out my Sigma 12mm-24mm lens just to see what 12mm looks like. All I can say is... it is wide. Maybe... just maybe... stupid wide. I'm going to take to a race and see if I'll get much use out of it. The jury is still out.

This morning I took a 10 minute walk and shot about 50 frames with the Canon L Series 70mm-200mm f/2.8 mounted up. This is a great lens. I've never bothered with buying the IS model as I don't think there are benefits to it shooting motorsports. However, I think I'll be using it differently with the 5D MK11, so probably the next one I purchase will be IS.

Both images here were at f/2.8. When you get it right, you can really blow out the background and create a wonderful mood.One of the reasons I chose this lens this morning, is ever since deciding on the 5D MK11 I've been anxious to work with shallow depth of field on a full frame sensor. [side note here: Are we always going to use the term full frame? It's a relative term to 35mm film and I realize 35mm is the standard lens are configured to. But I wonder if this will remain nomenclature for sensor size... not unlike the fact we still "dial" a phone?" Sorry... one just wonders.] You see, when your lens is mounted on a camera with a smaller sensor, the image projected through the lens and onto the film plane or sensor, actually "spills" off the outer perimeter. Remember showing home movies on a screen and part of the movie would spill over onto the wall behind the screen? Same thing. So, on a 40D we end up over scanning or over projecting and, in fact, cropping the image actually produced by the lens. Interestingly enough... there are things going on in the cropped portion that can be of interest in how we create and compose our shot.

Working with shallow depth-of-field, you can use selective focus to make a part of the image stand apart from the rest.For instance, a wide angle lens can add a lot of drama to a scene. I've always like a wide angle and low shot of a pit stop... almost like a worms-eye view. With a 16mm lens on a Canon 40D, which has a 1:6 crop factor to the lens, your finished show results in the look of a 24mm. Not nearly as dramatic.

Of course on the telephoto end... well, it's all good. All of a sudden your 500mm f/4 is performing like an 800mm f/4. Pretty nice.

But my true fascination with using a full frame sensor is capturing shallow depth-of-field and seeing how it can be used creatively. Once you get comfortable with focusing a fast lens, you can start playing with selective focus and other applications that really leverage the visual impact of images out of focus areas. The full frame sensor will retain more of the area NOT in focus as it is produced by each lens.

Of course, there are some lenses that do this better than others. Fast lenses are the obvious place to being. But like anything else in life, when you begin pursuing "extremes," ultra quality fast lenses are expensive to produce and extremely subjective. Trust me, there are people that can wax on poetically about the infinite subtleties of high quality glass well into the next century. Simply put, it's one of "those" conversations.

The shot on the left was at f/2.8 while the shot on the right was using f/4.5When a lens is wide open it is using a greater area of the lens' face... hence the quality becomes more critical. If you want to understand this, go and look at the cost of those beautiful Leica f/whatever lenses. These lenses out perform everything else when it comes to smooth creamy "bokeh." They produce a look that when applied right looks almost 3D.

Now... let's clear up a common misunderstanding. The term bokeh is not describing the measurement of the out of focus area. It is a term used descriptively to appraise it. So, while a lens can produce good shallow depth of field, it doesn't mean it has good bokeh. The term bokeh is used to describe its quality and characteristics.

In my brief outing this morning, I did a few quick shots in the yard of flower blossoms, shooting with the lens open to f/2.8 and stopped down a bit to f/3.5 and f/5.6. The results were all pretty good. Though I think it's safe to say images shot at f/3.5 and smaller were a little more predictable while still producing nice shallow depth-of-field. Even at the low resolution here online, you should be able to see the difference.

Just to be clear, this morning's conditions were partly cloudy and some pretty good gusts now and then. And, again, this was just a quick walk around... no tripod or anything. I just wanted to get a quick look at how this lens was going to look shooting wide open on a full frame (there it is again) sensor. I think if you wanted to really work at it, you could push to shoot wide open... but I'm not convinced (at least with this lens) the benefit is really apparent. I think this is why the 85mm f/1.2 Canon is so popular. You're not going to necessarily push it open to f/1.2 ... but it'll cruise at f/2 and f/2.8. So there you go... I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Later in the week I'll try to get out with the Canon L Series 24mm-105mm f/4 IS and see how that works out as a walk around lens.

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JT