The following is a 4000+ word exchange of emails with Kevin in Vietnam.  I chose to run the entire exchange because this is a very typical situation when someone upgrades from a crop to full frame camera, or sometimes to any new DSLR.  There is a lot of information in the exchanges.

 

Hi Steve,

Decided to cheer myself up last Friday so flew to Saigon for 5 hours to pick up a new 5DM2. Cost $2240US. Also bought the Canon battery grip, spare battery, SanDisk Extreme 16gig memory card, screen protectors and a Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX DG HSM. I also have, apart from that stuff, the 500D, the 16-35f2.8 L ii, the 85f1.8, and the 70-200f4 L USM (that you recommended when I first got the 500D last Xmas), and the Canon 1.4 extender ii. Plus a few other odds and ends. 

I'm hoping to get patched up in time to return for Chinese New Year in February. Will have to wait and see. Am going to buy the Canon 15mm fisheye and the 580EX ii flash unit and that'll be enough to keep me busy for a long while. I have Photoshop 5 (pirated) Elements (pirated) and a genuine copy of DxO Elite Pro Optics. ($200 from memory) All I've got to do now is get well, fit, and learn how to use it all. Have attached a few photos. I don't like downsizing them. They seem to lose so much when I do that and I feel I'm doing the photo a terrible injustice.  

Kevin. Vietnam.

 

P.S. All taken with the 500D (Too wet to try out the new camera.) The first 2 were with the 70-200 + the 1.4 extender, handheld from about 100 meters away. The guy and his wife with the net in Vung Tau is a personal favorite. When I put it up on the Samsung HD TV and stood back and looked at it I started to shiver. I could feel the cold I felt the day I took it and I could smell the rain. Its lost a lot of its appeal with downsizing. Number 10 is 3 photos stitched together and the young woman is my wife of 8 years, Miss Nhu. K. 

P.S.S. Is there a way you can downsize your photos in batches. One at a time is laborious, time consuming, and I lose interest very quickly?

 

Decided to cheer myself up last Friday so flew to Saigon for 5 hours to pick up a new 5DM2.

Cost $2240US. Also bought the Canon battery grip, spare battery, SanDisk Extreme 16gig memory card, screen protectors and a Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX DG HSM

When I put it up on the Samsung HD TV and stood back and looked at it I started to shiver.

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Kevin –

Sorry to hear you were ill, I deleted the details for the column for your privacy, but I’m sure the entire readership wishes you the best health.

Your new kit sounds fantastic!  I’m sure you’re going to love it.

Thanks for the images.  I’m sure the readers will greatly enjoy them.  I especially love the one of the man casting the fishing net.  What a great shot that is!  Your images are great and more great is how you feel about specific imagest!  Exactly how a good outing should feel when reviewing it later.  I’ll bet you felt very satisfied.

Downsizing does almost seem criminal.. but it’s very necessary to match the size and compression of your images to your audience or application.  You should be able to provide highly detailed 800pixel (long side) images within a 100kb size limitation with very few artifacts or other image degradation.  This is what I shoot for when making images for my column both on Stick’s site and on www.bangkokimages.com my own site.  A quality server charges a lot for storage, so you want a fine balance between quality and size. 

If you look at the galleries on my site: you’ll notice the display image is something like 700 pixels on the long side.  However, in the lower right corner of the control panel you will find a “full screen” button.  Most of my gallery images were 1600x1200 which provides a great look as I intend them to look, and some like my more recent galleries of Mae Hong Son are 1900x1200 which is the new size all my ‘full size’ gallery images will be.  Take a look and you’ll see that while 1900x1200 is far from the full size, that they still provide a great web view. 

Yes.  Most programs that allow downsizing (virtually all of them) allow batch processing.  Have you read my special on preparing readers submissions?  It’s titled Readers Submissions, What Why and How  and goes through a lot on downsizing. 

Take a look at www.bangkokimages.com .   Look at the header images, the small images in the 3D carrousel on the home page.  These images are all under 50kb! 

With Lightroom or CS5 (using Bridge) you can merely select your images (the same way you select files in Windows Explorer) and then ‘export’ them all at once.  You can do one, or five hundred.  Other programs I’d have to check on. 

Also remember, it helps image quality a lot to shoot RAW, have a really good raw engine which takes the raw images and processes them to your tastes, and which then allows you to ‘export’ jpegs, tiffs, or whatever your requirements might be.  A poor quality raw processor, or shooting only in jpeg, really cuts into your quality. 

Right now, IMO, Phase One’s Capture One Pro is the best quality RAW processor.  I’ve been using them for years, but I don’t use this program on all my images.  I only use it on select images which I’m going to process for gallery quality prints. 

The second best RAW processor is ACR (Adode Camera RAW) used in both CS5 photoshop and Lightroom.  This raw processor is so good, and the UI (user interface) of Lightroom is so user friendly and capable, that I use LR to process 99% of my raw images. 

The others like DxO, Bibble, etc.. are all good in their own right, but they’re not my choice for a reason.  And even have licensed copies of all of them.. because I carefully watch for areas where they might excel over ACR or C1pro.. where they might process a certain type of image, or remove CA, or something which sets them apart.  Right now, nothing stands out.. so I’ll continue using LR and CS5 for the bulk of my images, and C1pro for those very special images. 

I hope this helps. 

Steve

 

Hi Steve, 

               To be brutally honest when I logged onto your site and saw the Chinese village photos my immediate thought was, apart from, ''Is that marijuana growing in front of the Lisu Village sign?'' ''What the hell have I gone and done?'' ''I've spent $2600 on a 5DM2 set up and if that's the best a professional can do with it what chance have I got?" ''My, cheap by comparison, 500D takes much better photos!"  

Of course I soon realised that downsizing had sucked the very life out of them. Not so much for you because you have the original in your mind and on your screen, but for me a rank amateur, it was a shock at first, especially when I saw the gear you'd used. It didn't take long for me to work out why and just now I downsized some of my favourite photos to the size you suggested and did a comparison. Chalk and cheese. So much so I just wouldn't send them out like that. I couldn't. A picture is worth a thousand words but downsizing them that much reduces a paragraph to a one liner.  (I fully understand why you need to do it though.)  

When I first arrived here the Internet was so slow. It would take forever to attach photos so I downsized them for email using the camera. (I had a Sony point and shoot) They didn't attract the comments I was hoping for so I started sending them out at half a mega pixel or more figuring if people wanted to download and view them after looking at the size of the file, they could. If they thought it was too much they could simply delete them. No one did and the favourable comments began to flow.  

I send my good ones out at 1 or more mega pixels sometimes and no one has complained. I've got a beautiful sunrise photo I took last time I was in Nha Trang that I was going to send to you but after downsizing it to 800 on the long side it looks very average and wouldn't warrant a second look from your audience.                                    

I remember reading a comment you made ages ago about keeping and re doing old photos. Up until then I was deleting the ones I didn't like. I have a 1 terabyte external hard drive and started storing the photos I thought weren't up to the mark. A case in point are the 3 photos I've attached. I came across the girl and her grandmother very early one morning in Nha Trang and they asked me to take a photo. I snapped one off and moved away to photograph the bridge in the background bathed in the rays of the rising sun. When I got home I almost deleted the photo of the girl and her grandmother.  

I didn't like it. Instead I filed it away. A week or so later I was cropping some images and that photo came to mind. Dug it up and cropped out the grandmother + the foot. Man I'm happy I kept it. Attached it the original, the cropped version and a B & W version of the crop. What a cutie, one with attitude I'd suggest! 

Question without notice: What is your opinion on dry boxes for storing equipment? I'm thinking of buying one like the one on the site below. Worth the money do you think?  http://phuquangkts.com/phuquangkts&module=product&view=detail&record_id=467814    

                                                             

Kevin.

 

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Kevin

LOL!  This is what I’ve been preaching about in my weekly for a long time.  It’s not about the camera, or more accurately it’s rarely about the camera.  On a given well lit scene a $150 point and shoot compact will do very nearly as well as a professional DSLR.  In such circumstances the only advantages a DSLR will give you in the way of image quality, will only be seen when zoomed in and looking very close 

There is also the difference between taking a shot when the conditions are right, and ‘documenting’ an outing no matter what the conditions might be.  In the case of the picture you’re referring to.. there might be slight differences a photography could make, but not much any camera would make. 

I thought that looked a lot like weed too.. nah.. couldn’t be.. 

It took me a long time to come to grips with putting my images on the web.  And it started a long learning curve with downsizing and compression.  There are more professional ways of downsizing I’ll use when working with clients, but not for the web.  The “Stair Step” approach being the most common.   

Basically, downsize only 10% at a time until you get to where you want to be.  Fortunately the new CS5, Lightroom, and C1pro software has made this redundant, but it’s still a popular method among pros.  Did you take a look at last week’s feature photo?   This pretty well summarizes the issue.  Especially the last photo taken with a 10 year old point and shoot. 

The only difference between an 800x800 pixel image, when viewed on say a 1024x1000 resolution screen.. and a 5000x5000 image.. will be how much you can zoom in.  If properly downsized you won’t see any other difference.  Let’s say an 800 pixel image is occupying a 8 inch by 8 inch area of my monitor at its native resolution of 800x800 pixels.  That’s 100 pixels per inch of screen.  A 8000x8000 pixel image will not look any different in that same 8x8 inch area of the screen.. because the screen cannot display more than its native resolution of 100 pixels per inch (assuming that’s it’s native resolution).   This is a very common subject I get during workshops and it’s much easier to explain and demonstrate in person.  

I like your images.  Do you mind if I post them in the column?  Yes.. it’s very important to realize future software will greatly improve todays files.  Most recently, Lightroom 3.0 and ACR 6.. came out with their first new raw engine since 2003.  It was greatly improved.  When you go to an image in LR processed with 2003, it will ask you if you want to upgrade the process to 2010, and do you want to see a side by side comparison before accepting the image.  The differences are huge, especially in the noise and tonal qualities.  And this is only the last seven years.  In 20-30 years software will improve so much, powered my much faster computers (remember Moore’s Law?), and will have a significant positive effect to the raw files we capture today. 

I tried for about 20 minutes to get this site to work, and it never did fully load.  Maybe you could do a screen shot and send it to me? 

Take care Kevin

Steve

 

Hi Steve,

              Sorry to hear you're crook. Believe me when I tell you I know how you feel. I've had the 5DM2 for 12 days now and I'm bitterly dissappointed with the focusing and the image quality of this camera. The 500D smokes it with all my lenses. The 16-35f2.8 L ii, the Canon 85f1.8, the Sigma 50 1.4 and the Canon 70-200f4 L IS USM are all superb on the 500D but not so on the 5DM2. Don't know what to think. Very poor in overcast conditions and inside the house. Have spent days on the net trying to see what I'm doing wrong. What I did wrong of course was assume that because it cost 3 times more than my 500D, it would produce 3 times the image quality. Big mistake, it can't even match it let alone beat it! 

I almost purchased the 7D and I now regret not doing so. It was a toss up. The shop where I bought it offered me a 2nd hand 5DM2 that looked in perfect condition for $1000 less than this new one. I should have taken it. The only thing I haven't done is download the last firmware. The camera has 1.07 and I need to download 1.08, which I will do when I get to Oz and the laptop is up and running. Don't trust the power supply here. I even tried Ken Rockwell's preferred settings. Have  David Busch’s Canon Eos 5d Mark II Guide to Digital Slr Photography on order so perhaps I'll learn something in that. Have taken a 1000 photos with about 10% keepers, and they were all taken in almost perfect conditions.  

Not impressed. Kevin. 

Hi Kevin –

Interesting feedback on the 5d Mark II.  You’re the first person I’ve heard say this. 

How do you use the camera?  Which exposure modes?

Ken Rockwell’s settings are unique to him.. he has a certain style and likes a certain look which isn’t exactly mainstream.

There is no question a properly used and properly functioning 5d Mark II will provide significantly better image quality than a 500d.. so we need to figure out if the camera is defective in some way, or the way it’s being used.

Steve

 

Hi Steve,

              I'll get back to you on this. I punched focusing and IQ issues with the 5DM2 into my search engine and up came a whole host of gripes about the camera, in particular those 2 issues. One guy said everything changed when he updated the firmware. Rockwell said something similar from memory. I just updated the firmware on both cameras and will go out on another shoot later on and see how I go.  

Kevin.

 

Hi Kevin –

The last firmware shouldn’t make any difference.. but hope it does.  The .03 was the big one and it was mostly related to the video.

Sure, you’re going to find a bunch of references on the internet about these issues with any camera.. and when you carefully read them you’re going to find they’re mostly new users coming from APC cameras like you are.. and they haven’t yet learned the nuances of DOF, the settings, and so forth.

Without you providing examples listing specific issues I can’t really do more than ‘guess in general’.

I do remember.. a while back when the 1ds Mark II first came out.  It was and continues the be one of the best cameras for image acuity out there.  It might be 5-6 years old, but in some ways it’s superior to my newer 5d Mark II.  The 1ds Mark II was 16mp’s.. until then most people had only seen 8mp’s.  They were looking at the 16mp images at the same zoom settings as the 8mp images and saying the image wasn’t sharp.  They were comparing apples to oranges.  They didn’t know how to judge what they were looking at.  This was a huge issue at the time.. and all due to a misunderstanding of what they should be looking at.  With a 21mp image compared to a 10-12mp image.. it might be something like this. 

Have you made sure your ‘micro-adjust’ settings are in their default positions of zero?  Each lens can be ‘dialed in’ for maximum sharpness, but frankly this requires you to be very familiar with your equipment so it’s best put off until then.  If the settings had some values, they could be throwing off your lens. 

Anyway.. if you go out there and you’re still not happy.. send some example images with specifc issues listed, and your camera settings to include: 

a.     Exposure mode

b.     AF mode

c.     Which AF points you’re using

d.     All Exfil data for each image.

A while back one guy.. was swearing his camera wasn’t focusing properly.  He had the camera AF-Cont mode with all the AF points activated.  The camera was choosing the AF points for him, but he thought he was doing it by putting the subject in the middle of the viewfinder.  Instead, the camera was set up to use the AF point on the closest object in the frame, without regard to it being centered.  When I looked at the image and brought it up in DPP (DPP shows the AF point overlay) I could see where his camera was focusing and it was tack sharp at this point.. but he thought he was focusing elsewhere. 

The 500d is made for consumer level shooting.. it automatically selects the settings most people will use who use the camera in automatic modes.  The 5d Mark II assumes you’ll make your own settings.. so it’s different. 

Steve

 

Hi Steve,

              Yes, in all liklihood it is me not the camera, and that's the reason I didn't rush back to Saigon to exchange it in the 10 day exchange period I was quoted. I don't use the 500D on auto, never have. I use Program AE and Aperture Priority AE on both cameras. I shoot the 5DM2 at M, 11 megapixel and the 500D at L, 15 megalpixels and can't get over how quickly the batteries run down in the 5DM2 compared to the 500D. Both have genuine batteries and grips but the 5DM2 lasts half the time the 500D does.  

I use only the center focusing point unless I shoot landscape.There has only got to be the slightest cloud cover and I've got to crank up the Expo comp on the 5DM2. Have never touched it on the 500D.Looks like its going to rain so I mightn't get out this arvo. When I do get out I'll send you a couple of photos. I'll use the Sigma 50mm 1.4 on the 500D and the Canon 85mm 1.8 on the 5DM2 and see how we go now that they've both been updated.You saw that shot (First on the list I sent you.) I took with the 70-200 + the extender on the 500D. Cannot reproduce anything like it with just the 70-200 on the 5DM2 unless the sun is  out and there ain't a cloud in the sky.  

Kevin.

 

Kevin –

How fast do your batteries wear down?  I routinely get 2000+ images per charge with mine, but my shooting probably used less IS and LCD use than most.  Others I know average 1200-1700 images.  If you’re not getting at least 1000 images per charge something is amiss. 

You’re shooting jpegs?  And reduced resolution jpegs?  This is a giant red flag when someone says they’re not getting the image quality or focus they’re after 

You know that jpegs are tagged with the shooting style selected?  Do you have both cameras set to the same shooting style? 

Personally I don’t  think you can properly evaluate a camera unless you’re shooting full size raw images.   Adding shooting styles is something you can do after the fact to a raw image.. and for sure affects the way the image looks.  They go from dark and muddy looking to bright and colorful depending on which style is selected.  I don’t teach “styles”, rather I teach my students has to easily manipulate the raw data to develop the look they want and get the most from the image. 

When you’re comparing both cameras.. are you comparing them side by side at the same time?  You can’t really compare shoots from different days, or even a few hours difference as the light changes so fast. 

One more thing.  Due to sensor size, you get approximately the same DOF on a crop frame DSLR at F5.6 as you get on a full frame camera at F8..  Sensor size is one of the four variables in the DOF equation, so consider this in your settings. 

Curious how your shoot goes..

Steve

 

Hi Steve,

             Things have improved considerably although I have used 32% of my dual battery power today for 100 shots at 11 megs but this may be due to the time I spent fooling around with the settings and looking at the photos. I've probably had the live screen working 5-6 hours solid today after a full charge overnight. I will be watching it though. Use the live screen on the 500D a lot as well when I think about it and don't seem to wear down the batteries. 

I read a post on Dpreview this morning where a guy was having the same problems as me with his recently bought 5DM2. Focusing and image quality. He then came back in and mentioned that he'd updated the firmware and although its not mentioned by Canon there was a big improvement in IQ and focusing speed. I remember Rockwell saying something similar just after he got his first 5DM2.Ayway I downloaded the firmware and while there was significient improvement, it wasn't enough for me to be over enthused.  

Then I remembered another post I read yesterday. Guy said he was having focusing probs and asked for advice. He then came back later and said he's fixed the problem by deleting all the settings and starting again. I did as well and can assure you there's been a significient improvement in both IQ and focusing speed even with the 70-200f4 L IS in poor light. Can't show you the photos because all my software is on the laptop and I'm not familar with whats on this old desktop but I'm hopeful that the problem has been solved. Besides David Burch's book on the 5DM2 I'm also purchasing Bryan Peterson's book on Understanding Exposure. In fact I may do an online course with him when I get back from Oz. $400 from memory.  

Kevin.

 

Hi Kevin 

Interesting turn of events for sure. 

Let’s hope this solved the issues..  

Courses are good.. understanding exposure is an essential skill and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the course. 

Keep me up to date on this.. I seriously have never had anyone unsatisfied with the 5d Mark II.. most are thrilled with the improvements..   Having personally used the camera for a while now I can assure  you it’s capable of very high quality images.. but it’s not the miracle camera some profess.  I often still use my 1ds Mark II (even over my 1ds Mark III) for image acuity when in the studio and using low ISO’s..

 

Steve

 

Hi Steve,

             I'm pleased to report that its all systems go with my new 5DM2 since the firmware update and I cancelled all settings and started over again. I don't know why that is, I can only tell you what I see with my own 2 eyes. I'm glad I remembered this paragraph below from Ken Rockwell's site... 

“”If you played with one before, the newest version 2.0.4 firmware makes it a completely different and better camera than when it was first released. I know; this free and easy update makes my 2008-vintage 5D Mark II handle and respond instantly to inputs, and not slow and pokey as it was when new. Be sure your 5D Mark II is running the latest firmware, since it gives a huge improvement in just about everything. “”                                                  

After reading another guys post about focus issues and what he did to remedy them I remembered  Ken Rockwell's comments. After downloading the firmware and then resetting the settings the camera came to life and the focusing issues are now completely gone, even with the 70-200f4 L IS. Is it something I did wrong? No, couldn't be. When I'm in doubt I flick the dial to f8 on P and work from there. The settings I'd added were all the recommended ones Ken uses and could not have possibly interferred with the focusing of the camera..  

My other big disappointment was the 16-35f2.8 L ii. It was just OK on the crop sensor, and although dissappointed I thought it would be better suited on the full frame. It was the first lens I tried on the 5DM2 and I was so underwhelmed I put it back in the cupboard thinking I'd have to send it back to Canon. It certainly did not produce images you'd expect from a $1600 lens. Tried it again yesterday in bleak conditions and WOW, it's also come to life! Got some great shots of my dogs and the Sigma 50mm1.4 is an absolute dream now as well. I was panicking after reading heaps of posts and reviews about this particular lens.  

People did say however that if you were lucky to get a good one to hang on to it. Well its apparent now that I did and I love it! The images are razor sharp. When I get back from Oz I'll post you a disc. I can't see the point in sending you a downsized photo then asking if there's something wrong with my camera or tecnique. I got a shot of one of my dogs on the patio. To his front, just to the right of me is a chair. Its out of focus.  The railing behind him is  out of focus as well. When I looked at it on the camera screen it looked a bit iffy because he appeared to be slightly of of focus as well and I was about to delete it.  

I then put it on a stick and put it up on the Samsung. Absolutely incredible! Stunning photo! Then I got a pile of before and after firmware/setting shots and compared them. Chalk and cheese! Don't know what the problem was Steve but its fixed now. The jury is still out on the batteries. Book says 480-500 per battery. Will wait until they run right out and I do a full recharge. Who knows, perhaps firmware has fixed that as well. We can only live in hope.  

Kevin.

 

Hi Kevin –

I’m glad you got it worked out..

I’m still not buying the firmware.  I’ve had every version of it from the beginning of the model and the focus and image quality has never changed.  Ken Rockwell needs to be more specific in what he writes..

I do believe resetting your camera to default could have helped.  Especially if you put his settings in the camera in the first place.  One of the first things I do with a client is go through each menu item of their own camera and discuss what each function does and help it match their style.. often important settings are screwed up.

In any case, if you see improvement then I’m glad you’re finding the charms of the camera.  It’s an easy camera to love.. very forgiving.  Unfortunately the heavy AA filter hurts it for really pro use.. I’m thinking of sending mine in and having the AA filter removed..

Let’s see some pictures!

 

Steve

Please submit your questions to info@BangkokImages.com   All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.