A Gear Post Masquerading As A Project Update

The Fitting V

You've probably noticed I've spent a bit of time discussing things like portable strobe kits and non-fuji gear of late. Of course I've worked on the various sub-projects this site is dedicated to as well. An if you didn't guess, of course I didn't lug two completely different camera kits along while traveling via train by myself.

I just happened to be in the same area as Dianna who I've been chatting with about the chastity project for quite a while when working on some other stuff. Our schedules matched up so of course I made a few pictures. The big question was how it would go with a big camera and strobe gear. It was far too dark to shoot with ambient alone where I was staying. There were a few bright spots that might have worked but those were severely constrained in terms of space and movement.

Above is one of the first few fames made. The bottom line is that shooting this project with strobes and a big camera was a mixed bag in terms of what my intent is and the kinds of images I speculate I could have made with the Fuji X gear and ambient light. On one hand I couldn't have made many of these at all due to lighting realities of the day and the space. On the other hand I definitely believe there were fewer opportunities than if I was using the tiny Fuji XPro-2 and no lighting gear. Of course that's impossible to prove but I would say my speculation is more accurate than not given the vast number of similar sessions I've made for the project.

The Canon 5DS R vs. The Fuji XPro-2

Let's cover the technical differences first then move on to the more subjective. The Canon was vastly superior in the extremely low light conditions such as the hallway in the frames so far. By superior I mean focus speed and accuracy. It was 100% reliable even with a darker subject than background (a situation that causes even the EVF to back focus a lot on every Fuji I've used eliminating the possible focus point error of using the OVF). That was certainly a plus.

From an IQ perspective using the 24-105L provided far more resolution and even edge sharpness than the XPro-2 with the 18-55 XF. If I happened to use my favorite Fujinon primes it would be a toss-up but the 50 megapixels probably would have won the day especially given the apertures in use (f/5.6 thru f/8). Not that that matters a hoot for this project and is not really a giant criteria.

Other technical considerations were a wash for this particular scenario given the XPro-2's optical viewfinder is just fine for this kind of work. That being said, if I was using longer focal lengths or required very precise framing I still overwhelmingly prefer an OVF for thru-the-lens viewing.

Moving on to more subjective criteria… The Canon full-frame body is huge but honestly is one of the large cameras that feels fine and I actually like the controls. It was perfect using a large lens attached (face it, full-frame zooms, even the f/4 zooms are pretty huge). Overall I much prefer the XPro-2 with it's tiny primes but would rather the 5DS R body with larger lenses which is why the Fuji f/2.8 "pro-zooms" or for that matter the Sony's make no sense to me and what I want.

As for the fewer number of opportunities to grab frames I wanted in terms of feel, reaction, expression, and gesture with the Canon… It probably wasn't the sound. The sound of the 5DS R specifically is very very smoooooth, not at all harsh. It probably wasn't the size in this particular situation given I made a lot of full-length pictures at distances that were not in-your-face close and honestly I was in the dark so myself and my black camera probably blended in pretty well.

This wasn't a controlled set of circumstances as the biggest thing I believe influenced the number of opportunities was the strobe gear/light stands/etc. This is typical of my experience using lighting gear of any sort, the camera is secondary in terms of influence on the subject. The bottom line is if I am using lighting gear I'll optimize for that and use whatever camera best fits (The Canon). The only time I would decide otherwise is if I had a mixed bag where the ambient conditions were the majority of shooting.

The Why Of Lighting Gear Impact

With what I am going for on this project in terms of fly-on-the-wall, semi-documentary, candid, etc. The huge difference is in the constraints and distraction lighting gear imposes on the scene and the subject.

  • Far less flexibility of movement. Any significant movement causes a break in flow. Adjustments need to be made, tests, etc. I'm quick but that break in the flow is a total reset.
  • Zero opportunity to just follow my collaborator around and grab frames here and there. It's far harder to blur the "picture time" and "not picture time" lines.
  • Fewer opportunities doesn't mean zero opportunities. You just have to work harder to get them and focus more on those in between moments — typical of more formal set-ups if you want something candid. It also takes longer to get there. Combine that with the breaks anytime you move or want to change rooms, areas, etc., you get fewer opportunities. Better than zero for sure.

The frame above is typical. Let's call it simulated candid but very camera aware. It's picture time. It's a staged reaction vs a candid reaction. Below is an in-between moment.

Of course there are a hybrid of the two which works only because Dianna was not quite there yet with her intended pose.

Lens Performance Ratings

I've dwelled on and on about this in more ways than I can remember but here's a great example of what I mean. I'm not going to bother with pixel-peeping 100% views of 50 megapixel files. In many cases there's no need to since the visuals will be very clear at any image magnification. If they're not just trust me as I've evaluated the microscopic view as well.

Let's take the above (one of the far fewer candid opportunities of what I am going for on this particular sub-project). Shot with the Canon 24-105L f/4. The whipping boy of Canon L series glass as you'll find plenty of internet shooters that will tell you it's worthless and absolutely shouldn't be considered if you want any sort of "good IQ". Hell everyone knows that the 24-70 L version II "blows it away". You can see for yourself over on DXO or whatever where it has a terrible rating as compared to many other L series primes and definitely the 24-70 V2.

Hold on there a second, does that rating number mean the entire lens is just bad across the board and the better rating is absolutely superior in terms of IQ everywhere all the time? No, that's not at all what it means. I would say I tend to use the edges of the frame a bit more than most. Definitely in the above example shot at f/5.6 fairly close at 40mm.

Where does the 24-105L fall down? Well the biggest place it falls down is in the absolute corners at 24mm at larger apertures. Where else is it not on par with the best you can buy? Well in the absolute corners wide open. Take a look at the pictures so far. Any particular corners we give a shit about? Nope, will any lens at all at any price render any of those corners with more "IQ/resolution"?

Nope, as all those corners are hopelessly out of focus which will trump theoretical resolution every time. Oh even a tiny bit of not in focus will as well, even at f/8 or f/11. So how about the not corners but that top edge? Well theoretically you could get better resolution on a few lenses there but again where's the focus point? I will assure you it's not on that last bit of hair on that edge. In fact on all of these it's around the eye lashes a bit further into the frame and as with a lot of zooms they get really better really quick. Would better glass at f/5.6 or f/8 or even f/11 shot close to a subject give me "better IQ" in those areas or even the eye lashes? As for the edges where a hell of a lot of "useless" lenses drop those points on ratings absolutely not, no improvement because all of them are out of focus by a hair. On the eyelashes? I doubt it given what I'm seeing at 50 megapixel where the actual focus point is.

Does this mean nobody wants really good edges and corners? Of course not but you must know what you shoot and how you shoot it to make any sort of reasonable decisions as to what is best for you. I can count the number of shoots I've made where I have stuff in the absolute corners or even edges actually in focus on one hand, even when I do it's usually at f/8 or f/11 or f/16. If you are a landscape guy that shoots with focus points far away this might make a difference. How often do you do that or do you usually shoot things in the foreground that only take up a small portion of the frame and rely on "DOF" for the background? I can assure you at 50 megapixels (and even less) you'll see that things not exactly in focus look the same in terms of detail on most lenses. (Screw the zoom, what you really need is one of those really great new T/S wides anyway)

For me, smaller is better especially given the distances my subjects are (close). I also don't shoot 24mm much, if ever. I shot literally one frame at 24mm over the 5 days of my road-trip. Here's a secret where is the 24-70 really really really "better", well... that would be at 24mm mostly due to distortion, and CA/IQ deficiency in the absolute corners as well as massive vignetting wide open at 24mm on the 24-105. Hmmm, I don't give two shits about 70mm in fact I would rather a lens be 24-50 and smaller or "better". I do however give a shit about 85mm and when I am shooting 28, 35, 50 guess what else I use a lot? Well that would be 85-90-100-ish. Now which lens is better??? You get my point. Never decide what you need based on moronic end-all be all lens ratings and definitely not based on common internet logic of "betterness" you cannot make optimal decisions without considering how you actually use your gear and the details of how that gear performs in those typical situations.

/end rant (again)

End Notes

All images made with the Canon 5DS R, Canon 24-105L f/4 (version I) using a Profoto B2 with Umbrella Deep Silver L and diffusion. Processing in Lightroom CC (well now it's called classic) with a generic very grainy TMAX 3200 like preset applied on import, no other adjustments.