5D SR Review Part 2

OK, well that first pair of shots in Part 1 of this review about the new 5D SR camera using both the Canon 70-200 f4 and the Tamron 180mm macro was certainly sharp.  I knew both of those lenses were good ones, at least for my other camera bodies including the 1Ds MkII (16.8 Mp) and the 5D MkII (21 Mp).  I had selected my lenses individually, sometimes comparing two or more at the store.  Often, when getting a new lens, I discovered that lenses in the same packaging and looking identically did not perform identically, especially as the pixel count grew and therefore the pixel size shrank.  Usually it was a matter of manufacturing date but not always.  Manufacturers are always tweaking things to make them better and to work well with the latest greatest bodies and sometimes you would have no indication of this other than to shoot them and compare results as I try to do.

But none of the lenses in my kit were purchased even imagining they would have to perform with this new 51 Mp camera, so it was important to see how they performed and if, as Canon implies, they have created a near magical sensor that will shoot well with almost anything.  Color me skeptical.  I admit, I know just enough to be dangerous but what I do know would indicate that not all lenses will match this sensor all that well for reasons outlined in Part 1.

Sure, I would love to believe my hand selected lenses will perform admirably and REALLY am hoping the Hasselblad-Zeiss lenses I use for mosaics and the Rhinocam will look good.  But there is only one way to find out… shoot them. That will also give me a chance to play with the new (to me) menuing structure and body layout of this camera. It is like a musician learning a new instrument that is similar but different in some critical ways.  It simply will take some dedicated practice.

Toward that end, I was hoping my shooting partner Cynthia was free since she has a 5D MkIII and according to Canon they are nearly identical so she could help me find things without the ego shattering requirement (for men) of referring to the manual…  But as a working pro she had a gig shooting on Saturday when I was free.  So Steve Burns and I headed to the Campo Transportation Museum where I could give the camera and a few of my other lenses a chance to prove themselves.  He had never been there so was anxious to see it.

Along the way we stopped at the Buchman Springs turnoff to Campo and shot a couple of old abandoned structures there.  First I used the Canon 17-40 mm f4L and the Canon 8-15mm fisheye at the remaining foundation of a stone house.  The resulting shots are sharp so the lenses work fine, but the lighting was at a bad angle and the shots were, for me, BORING, so I’ve not shown them.  As Adams said, there is nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy concept… and I managed to prove the truth of that.   However using at Canon 24mm TSE at an abandoned business nearby, the angle was a little better.  Here is that shot.

By the way, for this post I’ve uploaded some very large files so you can click on the image once or twice to zoom in tight and see how the camera performs vis a vis rendering detail and texture.  I have done basic tonal and color editing but there is no sharpening done to any of these example images since the object was to see how sharp the lens

Abandoned building in Buchman Springs, CA.  Shot with Canon 5D SR and Canon 24mm TSE

Abandoned building in Buchman Springs, CA. Shot with Canon 5D SR and Canon 24mm TSE

A slight “swing” of the lens to align the plane of focus with the building via the so-called “Scheimpflug Effect” allowed me to see all of the graffiti on it and still shoot at a good mid-range aperture.  One of the advertised uses for this niche camera is architecture and though I do not think this is exactly what they had in mind, it did prove to work fine with that lens.

Then it was off to the Campo Museum.  You all have seen shots from there on previous posts since it is an interesting lace to shoot.  By now the temp was 96F and climbing with a bright clear sky and a fair amount of humidity so the second we stepped out of the car and its air-conditioning I was hot and sweaty.  This is not my favorite weather but I was on a mission.  And it added an unknown variable: heat.  The black camera body was instantly very hot to the touch.  I was wondering how that might effect noise so I ended up using my hat to protect the camera more than my own head.

Anyway I tried out several lenses here, including the Canon 85mm f1.8 that was, as always, tack sharp. The one that I really wanted to work, the Sigma 50-500mm beast was next.  I took several shots with it but one I like that I think really shows off the detail is this near-macro shot of a rusted, broken fender on an old truck.

Macro shot of rusty fender at the Campo, CA Transportation Museum.  Shot with Canon 5D SR and Sigma 50-500mm f3.5

Macro shot of rusty fender at the Campo, CA Transportation Museum. Shot with Canon 5D SR and Sigma 50-500mm f3.5.  Remember there is no sharpening applied to this shot but if you zoom in all the way you can even see the tiny highlights on the rough rusty surface.  I can certainly live with that level of detail!

I no longer will worry about this lens working with the new camera…

Then of course I also had to try the Rhinocam and at least one of the Hasselblad-Zeiss lenses.  I chose the 180mm since I had shot it with this rig and the 5D MkII at the Perris Railroad museum and knew how it looked there so this could be a good comparison.  Here is a shot of the grille of an old Fageo truck.  The full size, full res shot is 1.6 gigabytes in size.  This also gave me a chance to shoot something where the potential moiré pattern issues might surface.

Grill and front of old 1920s vintage Fageol Truck at the Campo, CA Transportation Museum.  Shot with Canon 5D SR mounted on Rhinocam adapter for a 6-shot mosaic using a Hasselblad-Zeiss 180mm lens.  Do click on this image to see some serious detail and texture.

Grill and front of old 1920s vintage Fageol Truck at the Campo, CA Transportation Museum. Shot with Canon 5D SR mounted on Rhinocam adapter for a 6-shot mosaic using a Hasselblad-Zeiss 180mm lens. Do click on this image to see some serious detail and texture.

Holy Megapixels Batman, that does seem to work pretty well!  What is really frustrating is that at the reduced resolution of 100 ppi I used for these posts, even when they enlarged full screen you cannot get the full impact of how they look at full 300ppi resolution; it does however give you a good idea.  It may at first look like moiré in the grill but if you zoom in you can see it is actually bent grill and radiator fins.

I also did a monochrome version of this shot that I like but to show off the lens/rig capability I left this example as a full color shot.

The only lenses I shot that were really so-so in their results were my cheap little Canon 50mm f1.8 and the Lensbaby Velvet.  The 50 was not as sharp and though the Velvet lens worked OK its effect was no better than it had been with the 5D MkII.  Clearly something has been done in the Canon’s system that, to me, defy some of the normal optical problems associated with tiny pixels.  The 5D S and 5D SR share the same pixel pitch as the new 7D so they’ve had time to work on the issues and it appears to me they have done a very good job of it.  I did not find a good subject for the Petzval lens but am still looking…

But after a couple of hours in the blazing sun, I was beginning to melt and vulcanize my boot soles into the hot ground so it was time to pack up and go.  But this exercise was enough to give me an idea about the camera.  It is definitely a “keeper” and performs superbly when capturing fine detail and texture is a goal when used WITH a top quality high res lens.  For softer shots I think the 5D MkII or MkIII are still a better choice.  I still have to test it with the Linhof-Schneider lenses on the digi-cam rig but that will need to wait a bit.

I was just asked to give a presentation at the Fair on the 4th of July on shooting Fireworks.  I’ll put some data from that here when the presentation is ready.

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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