Need an upgrade ? Full Frame Camera ??? "L" Series Lens ???


posted on 28th of april, 2013

Hi you all, and welcome to my second blog:

Since i did my recent first ever photo shoot with a model (circa 6 weeks ago), i have stopped to reflect on what i produced in that shoot and comparing it with what i want to produce in the future. Looking back, i consider my first shoot actually a little of a disappointment to myself. If i were to redo that shoot i would produce more lighting in the background to give the walls a brighter “white”, and possibly I’d have painted the wall an appropriate color to remove some of the “blandness” on the gift opening photos, as seen here from my first photo shoot



I have also been looking at the differences of having better equipment before i start my summer people & model shoots too, and here is what i reviewed:

I tried out a Canon 70-200mm 2.8 “L” Series lens, and also a Full Frame Canon 6D camera....the local camera shop by my house was gracious enough to help me with this, so here are my findings:

First, let’s look at what i currently use for shooting: I have a Canon T2i (1.6x)crop sensor camera with a Canon 85mm 1.8 prime lens, 50mm 1.8 prime lens (aka nifty fifty) and also a Rokinon EF 85mm 1.4 manual focus prime lens. Naturally i have a tripod, but it is a cheap 19 dollar model and i believe even with the remote shutter switch that i use, the movement of the sensor lifting when i shoot causes a little “shake” every once in a while. You could almost sneeze and move this cheaply made tripod, which i won’t name here.

So I went down to my local camera store and here is what we did, in this order:

We mounted the 70-200mm “L” Series lens to my T2i camera and i started taking shots inside the store. Most were at 150-170mm focal length. Image stabilizer was turned on position 1. I started taking shots around the inside of the store, and also a few pointed outside into the daylight.

Then I removed the 70-200 2.8 “L” Series and mounted my 50mm 1.8, shooting with the exact same camera settings.. To my surprise the 50mm 1.8 photos were very dark and you could barely see them using the same camera settings that i used with the “L” lens. The 70-200 “L” was letting in that much more light ! It was unbelievable ! I would not notice until i got home and viewed these at 100 percent, but with me effectively shooting at a 240-270mm focal length with the “L” lens (150-170mm x 1.6 crop factor) the IS was not that impressive at all. It was almost identical to me shooting handheld with my 50mm 1.8 prime lens(non IS). Granted though, I am certainly not “Mr. Steadyhands”, but i had hoped to get a little “help” from the IS, but at those focal lengths (with the shutter speed i was using) it just wasn’t happening for me.

On to the next step. We mount the 70-200mm L Series onto a Canon 6D full frame camera. This is where the magic happened. The Canon 6D full frame camera lets in SO MUCH MORE LIGHT than my crop sensor T2i, even so much that i almost did not want to give it up. For stock photography this is a world of difference: much faster shutter speeds are possible (as compared to my T2i) with the same amount of available light. Or using the same shutter speed, aperture and ISO the amount of additional light let in to the full frame camera is just absolutely astounding !

So the bottom line is:

Can you just rent a 70-200mm “L” Series lens and use with your crop sensor camera ? Well, you can but keep in mind that the IS will be outstanding only at the lower zoom levels unless you have unusually steady hands or enough light to use blisteringly fast shutter speeds. Even using the 70mm focal length on a crop factor you’d ideally want to use a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second minimum, even faster as you zoom out. Any extra light you gain with this lens will be needed for extra shutter speed to avoid camera shake, so I’m going to say you’d be better off going with a rental of the 17-40 “L” Series lens instead to pair with a crop sensor camera, even though it does not have Image Stabilizer.

Do you need a full frame camera ? Not necessarily, and keep in mind that you will also need to pair the full frame camera with the “L” Series lens to get the maximum benefit for stock, with that benefit being the fact that it gives you the maximum available light. You might wonder why the “maximum available light” is necessary (or even desired) ???

Well, my friends, that is the big secret. Let’s say for this example that you have some basic Alien Bee strobe lighting. With a crop sensor and a good prime lens you can use the lighting “properly” and get great shots. With a full frame and the “L” Series lens, you can use your lighting creatively and have totally even, “stock” lighting and compete in the world class category. Using that same “creative” lighting with the crop sensor camera and your prime lens will leave you with lighting that just isn’t quite up to par, let alone “World Class Stock Photography” type lighting, although you can correct some of that in Photoshop.

There is a way to “fake it” with the crop sensor camera and get results that are pretty close without spending a fortune, but it will require some extra money spent on quality lighting (if you do not already have it) and I’d recommend reading the book “Light: Science and Magic” by Fil Hunter and Paul Fuqua because you will have to improvise on your lighting depending on room size, colors, reflectivity of your walls, ceiling and subject, etc....

BOTTOM LINE:
I am not in the market for a new full frame, but i think i am going to browse Ebay for a quality “used” full frame camera from someone with a good feedback rating, and my local camera store rents the 70-200mm “L” Series lens for forty bucks a day (plus a credit card deposit that only gets charged if you lose or break the lens).

Hopefully this summer will see me move up to that level. Until then, my next shoot will have to make use of my “creativity”... Look for my next shoot to show up here sometime in the month of May.


Comments (11)

Posted by Alvera on May 05, 2013
I like your enthusiasm but also I agree with Bradcalkins comment. Get some lights for indoor and don't spend money on rental expensive lenses, your 50 mm is perfect for now. The lighting equipment is more important. And in this business, on first place is the concept.
After 4 years of stock, this is my short list of IMPORTANCE:
1. concept (having ideas).
2. having human models.
3. a decent place for indoor shoot - I have a 5x3 meter room for this.
4. lighting equipment.
5. a photo camera :)
Posted by Peanutroaster on April 30, 2013
Keep in mind that Yuri shoots with $45,000 medium format camera. That said I did just order a 6D. I shoot for multiple markets and figure the difference between a full frame and the micro four thirds sensor should be significant. I'll probably end up using the 6D for studio work and still walk around with the smaller camera. I had good results with a long lens on the 4/3 thirds which would be ridiculously expensive on a full frame camera.
Posted by Peanutroaster on April 30, 2013
I also shoot with a mid-range micro four thirds camera and prime lens mostly for stock. Had to ditch the kit lens early on. Stock is about volume so if a smaller camera allows you to carry it around more then you'll end up with more images to sell. But of course it all depends on your view of this as a business or hobby. The people with the most expensive cameras and lens I see in my travels are hobbists who probably never sell any image.
Posted by Komar on April 29, 2013
I would agree with some of the comments here. A few months ago I bought a small $400 camera, with a 2/3 sensor and a fixed zoom. It does however stop down to f/2 and the image quality is very good. It wouldn't be a suitable camera for many people and maybe also not suitable for your needs, but for me it fits just right. It's so lightweight that I carry it everywhere, which is what I want to do. I don't want to lug around a large camera. My AR of images submitted with this camera is pretty good. Not a bad result for such a cheap camera. Example shot.
Posted by Bradcalkins on April 29, 2013
Something is definitely odd about that test you did. Exposure wise with the same scene f/2.8 should be the same on any lens, crop or full frame. In terms of upgrading equipment, I would argue that stock photography drives the opposite conclusion - unless your stock photography genre favors available light. There are lots of situations where faster lenses and larger sensors make some difference, but shooting at f/5.6 or f/8 with studio strobes is not one of them. Certainly there is no reason your 50mm f/1.8 stopped down shouldn't be as sharp as almost any lens out there... You have the enthusiasm, but I'd focus on lighting and concepts before upgrading if I were you. And I'm saying this as someone shooting with a micro four thirds camera :)
Posted by Mudplucker on April 29, 2013
Hi Honkamaa: Yes i got very different exposures from my photos between the 50mm 1.8 and the 70-200 2.8 L using all 3 same settings on my aps-c camera. The "L" lens apparently lets in much more light than the cheaper glass is all i can figure ? At any rate, I'm going to try and get great compositions and use Photoshop to make up the difference.
Posted by Robinstockphotos on April 29, 2013
Yeah, but don't upgrade just for the sake of getting a whiter background or something. You'd barely earn back enough from such a huge investment! You will earn back enough only if you're shooting and uploading thousands of photos a year or you're a full time photographer. You already have perfect gear for a wide, WIDE range of subjects.

To get your lighting right, just over expose all photos. You'd get different results with different lens only depending on the peripheral illumination correction settings or the extent of the problem. The L series lens doesn't seem to have that problem as severe as other general lenses, so you may have observed some difference related to that maybe? Peripheral illumination makes a huge difference when the corners and majority of the photo is white.
Posted by Honkamaa on April 29, 2013
If you use two different lenses (i.e. 50/1.8 and 70-200/2.8) with same settings (aperture, shutter speed, iso) the exposure will be excactly the same, one photo will not be darker than the other.

Also, a full frame camera do not let in more light than a crop camera allowing shorter shutter speeds. I.e. if you get a correctly exposed photo using 1/100 sec and f/5.6 with a crop camera you will get the same result with a full frame camera using these settings.

If you have experienced something else I think something is fishy.
Posted by Cjmgrafx on April 28, 2013
I came up on this dilemma a few years ago... upgrade my camera body or buy a better lens. I concluded that the lens would be the better upgrade at the time, which is usually the case. The f/2.8 vs. the old cheapy I was using has served its purpose 10-fold.

I have sense upgraded camera bodies twice, but that lens has been my go to for almost everything I shoot since buying it. I have used it for weddings, birthday parties, you name it... but especially my stock shoots. The old cheapy didn't shoot bad photos, but low light was a no go with it and anything dark against a bright background was a CA nightmare that made post take forever.

As for the old camera body I had at the time I bought the lens, it's still around, being used by a friend that recently started submitting here. ;)
Posted by Mudplucker on April 28, 2013
Gmargittai - I totally agree with you that the stock photography business does not justify that kind of a large purchase. Maybe back in 2004-2005 but today there are wayyyy too many people doing great work, and many are happy and willing to do it relatively cheap. One thing i have not tried is the 50mm 1.4 prime lens, which may end up being my solution to letting in a little more light to go along with my softboxes and remote flash units for indoor shoots. I do want to try and build a decent income from stock, but i also realize that living off of it is going to become harder and harder with each passing year. Thanks for reading and commenting, i appreciate it !!!!
Posted by Gmargittai on April 28, 2013
I think about it this way:
In order to upgrade my camera system and my lenses to FF and L lenses respectively and justify this with the stock photo argument, you will need to sell at least 5000 photos just to break even. Realistically when will this happen? For me it may take many many years.

These monster machines with the even larger and heavier lenses are justified for event photographers, weddings, parties etc. where one is forced to use available light. Also the event photographers need to show he/she has the largest and most menacing looking photo equipment in order to justify taking money for his work.

Don't think stock photos justify all this. One has controlled light, willing and patient models.

But this is just my opinion.



Comments (11)

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Photo credits: Mudplucker.

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