Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Canon 5D Mark IV - My Real World Review

I am going to start this blog post by starting this: The Canon 5D Mark III is my workhorse camera and the model that I rely on heavily for my photography business. Yes, I do have the Canon 1D X and the new Canon 1D X Mark II, which I do use quite often, so you might be wondering why I rely on the 5D series so much. Here are the main reasons:

1. The Canon 5D Mark III is a smaller camera body and easier to take with me when traveling. Unless I am shooting sports, fast moving wildlife, or portraits in my home area, I prefer the smaller and lighter 5D. I usually take a 1D X and a 5D with me to photograph events, using the 1D for portraits and the 5D for everything else. When traveling to other cities, I prefer carrying the 5D over the 1D X, not only for the size and weight advantages, it also looks less conspicuous.

2. The Canon 5D Mark III has a silent mode which makes it way more advantageous to use inside Temples and Churches, and I do this a lot! Using the Canon 5D Mark III, I can shoot in silent mode from the back of the room, even during a silent prayer, and nobody can hear the shutter. This is not true for the Canon 1D series. that we have that covered, let me tell you why the release of the Canon 5D Mark IV was of so much interest to me.

1. The Canon 5D Mark III has been out for almost 4 years now and I was looking for a new workhorse camera body with improved performance in ISO, focus accuracy and more.

2. I have always disliked the slow speed of the SD card slot in the 5D Mark III and been looking forward to a much improved buffer clear using the new memory card technologies. More on this coming up...

It has been a long wait for this camera, with rumors and expectations being really high. And now that Canon has announced and starting shipping the Canon 5D Mark IV, and I have received my camera, it is time to determine if this new camera is different enough to warrant upgrading from the Canon 5D Mark III.

And for those of you hoping to get my conclusion right away, without reading through the blog, I can tell you this: There are some features of the Mark IV which were not as improved as I was hoping for, and there were a lot of surprises for me that make this new camera very interesting to me. Hopefully you will read through my findings and determine for yourself if the Canon 5D Mark IV is for you.

First reaction when picking up the camera

It is always fun for me to pick up a new camera for the first time, and trying to see how it differs from what I have been using in the past. I am not talking about the technical specs here, I am talking about the feel of the camera, the sound of the shutter, and the layout of buttons. In the case of the Mark IV, there were a couple of notable differences that I noticed immediately.

As I took my first look at the new camera, I was greeted with familiar placement of most of the buttons, dials and inputs. This is very important to me, since I am so used to where all the key buttons are located on previous models. But as I looked closer, I noticed a couple of new things. There is a new, tiny little button, on the back of the cameras which Canon calls the AF Area Select Button. I think that this is a bad name for a cool button. It can be modified to many different functions, with me changing mine to act like the ISO button on the top of the camera, which I often mistake for other buttons. This button can do so many things, I think Canon should have called it the "Custom feature button" or something like that. But hey, the name withstanding, it is nice to have.

I also noticed that they moved the remote connection input to the front of the camera. This is handy, since I use this all the time when shooting on a tripod. I always found it a little frustrating to open up the large rubber piece on the side of the camera to just use the one input.

The first time I took a photo with the new camera I was immediately surprised by the sound of the shutter. It was VERY different from the 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III. It is a much softer, quieter sound. It almost sounds like the silent mode of the Mark III, but just a little louder. The silent mode of the Mark IV is supposed to be quieter as well, but that was not as noticeable to me.

Once I had taken some photos, I encountered one of the bigger user interface changes on the 5D Mark IV, and there is no button for this. The screen now supports touch, so that I can now move from one image to another, zoom in and out, all from the LCD. Basically, the screen of the camera now works much like the interface of my iPhone. This is really handy when I want to zoom into a photo to see if my focus is where I want it. There is also another advantage to this touch screen while shooting, but I will get to that in a second.

Better ISO or not? 

Let's start with the ISO, since this is very important to me. I shoot a lot of parties which are in dimly lit rooms, and so I am often shooting at ISO 3200 or higher. I was really curious to see if the new Mark IV would make a similar jump in ISO cleanliness as the Mark III did over the Mark II. And at ISO levels of 1/100 to 1/3200 I would say the answer is no. Where I see a bigger difference is at ISO 4000 up to ISO 20,000. People might scoff at shooting these crazy high ISO levels, but you know what, the images look pretty darned good. Look at the images below, the first photo was taken at ISO 4000 and the second photo at ISO 5000. Is there digital noise in the images? Yes, but you can't tell me that most clients would not accept these. I think they would.

You can click on this photo to see it larger

Above you will find a comparison of the same image taken at ISO 160 (on the left) and ISO 20,000 (on the right). They both look pretty good, right? Sure, if you zoom into the high ISO shot, you will see grain, but better to get a shot with some noise than no shot at all!

In my tests, I did notice that when shooting at the same settings (using both the Mark III and Mark IV) that the camera's shutter speeds were different. In other words, if I had the cameras both set to Aperture Priority, ISO 3200 at f/4, the Canon 5D Mark IV shutter speed was slightly slower than the Mark III. I am told that this is not uncommon, and that every camera model has slightly different sensitivities due to the sensor, processors, and other components. Since shutter speed is important to me when I am shooting events, I decided to cheat the ISO up to 4000 (I usually stay at 3200) for the mitzvah that I photographed last weekend.

Dynamic range and black levels

When comparing the same images taken with both the 5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV, the first thing I noticed was that the color saturation, sharpness and black levels were not as strong. My first reaction was "Oh no, this camera has gone backwards in image quality!!!"

Image taken with the Canon 5D Mark III
Image taken with the Canon 5D Mark IV
I did the test late at night and went to sleep feeling a little let down. But, believe or not, I actually woke up at 4am and thought "Wait a second...I have always thought that the 5D Mark III black levels were too dark!" After going back to sleep, still thinking about this, I woke up later in the morning and did some more tests, and sure enough, the new Mark IV has more accurate black levels and contrast, and improved dynamic range. What at first appeared to be a let down actually has proven to be a positive.

And two days ago, I was shooting images with the Canon 5D Mark IV before and after sunset at Newport Beach, and I noticed that the dynamic range of the camera is vastly superior to the Mark III. When I shot photos with great contrast of bright and dark areas, I was surprised to see less of the highlight alerts blinking on the back of the camera LCD than I am used to seeing on the Mark III.


If you have seen me teach in the past 10 years, you know that I am not one to buy into the hype that more megapixels is better. I was plenty happy with the 22MP of the Canon 5D Mark III and rarely ever saw a need for more pixels. In the Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon decided to add more pixels, cranking up the total to more than 30MP. This will allow me to crop into my photos a little more while retaining better resolution, which is nice, but it also means that my file sizes are larger. I guess, in this world where hard drives are so inexpensive, this is fine. It is not a huge selling point to me, but I am not going to complain about more pixels, unless it is at the expense of high ISO noise, and that does not appear to be the case here.

Memory card slots

As many of you know, my only real complaint with the Canon 5D Mark III was the ridiculously slow SD card slot that they put into the camera. I like to write RAW images to both card slots to make sure I get all my images, even if one card were to become corrupted. And I have had countless times with the Mark III would not allow me to take more images, as it loaded images to the slow SD slot. Well...I was looking forward to a new model with much faster card slots. I figured that Canon would go with a combination of CFast (the newer replacement format for Compact Flash) and a SD UHS-II so that both cards could offload images from the camera's buffer quickly.

It turns out that I was wrong on both guesses. On the first slot, Canon went the ultra conservative route and kept the Compact Flash slot. This means that instead of offloading at 3500x speeds to a CFast card, we are limited to the 1066x spec, which is as fast as CF will ever go. This is not as critical in the camera, since you can still capture a lot of RAW images to the CF card before it hiccups, but I would like to be able to use a faster card to download faster. With that said, I do understand that most photographers out there have a large collection of CF cards and do not want to spend hundreds of dollars more on new cards. I am sure that this factored into Canon's decision to go CF and not the newer, and more expensive CFast.

And then we need to talk about the SD slot. This is where Canon really missed the mark! After all these years of waiting for the "SD issue" to be solved, Canon opted to only use a UHS-I slot in the Mark IV. What the heck???? Canon's competitors have been using the much faster UHS-II slots for 3 or 4 years now. I have no idea what the engineers in Japan were thinking when designing this part of the camera. So...the SD card slot is faster than the slot in the Mark III, but not as fast as it should be in 2016! This was a dumb decision.


The Canon 5D Mark IV now has the better and faster focus system that I am used to from the 1D X Mark II. And this is awesome. As you know, I relied heavily on that focus system at the Olympics in Rio and it is excellent. Compared to the older Mark III, the focus points are spread out wider, which helps me get focus easier on my subjects without doing as much focus and recomposing. But the one focus mode that I did not know about, and surprised me the most, was the facial recognition.

Last weekend, I was photographing a Bar Mitzvah and using the Canon 5D Mark IV for the first time in a real world scenario. (I was waiting for Adobe to support the RAW files in ACR before really relying this camera for real work). I had the camera on a tripod in the back of the Temple, and switched it to Live View mode. I touched the screen and saw a small box show up on the subjects face. And then I noticed that it was moving with them as they moved positions. I thought to myself "Will this really track my subject well?" and "Can I trust this enough to rely on it?" Since I was shooting for a client, I used the face detection mode at times, but then also turned it off and shot with back-button focusing and manual focusing like I have always done. I had to cover my bases just in case it was not dead on. Well...guess what? It was EXCELLENT! I was blown away when I got home to my big 32" 4K monitor and saw the results. Canon calls this Dual Pixel AF, but I just call it awesome!!! I will now rely on this for all future mitzvahs and weddings!

Click here to watch a short video of the focus tracking


Canon finally added GPS into the 5D camera body. For those of you who want to track the exact location of each of your photos, you will like this feature. For me, I am not as interested in this and keep the setting turned off. This might change in December and January when we are in Cuba and Africa. Time will tell.

Dual Pixel RAW

Canon has added a new feature called Dual Pixel RAW into the Canon 5D Mark IV. This new technology is supposed to allow photographers the ability to make small adjustments to the focus in an image, even after the image is captured. For those of you who are familiar with the Lytro technology, it is nothing like that. This is only capable of making very small adjustments to an image. Since Adobe does not currently support this feature, and the files are twice as big, I am not planning on using this feature at this time. This is not to say that my focus is always 100% spot on, but...

Wi-Fi connectivity 

Many consumer cameras have had Wi-Fi connectivity for years now, but the pro cameras from Canon have not included this as a built-in feature. Since I shoot only RAW files, I have not really been interested in Wi-Fi connectivity, since it would be way to slow to move 30+MB files from the camera to my computer wirelessly.

When I saw that Canon had now included Wi-Fi in the 5D Mark IV, I figured that this would go unused by me. But then I read about the connectivity and found two features that I really love!

1. I can connect my iPhone to the Mark IV and take photos remotely, even seeing the live view on the phone and making changes to the focus, aperture, ISO and more. That is really cool.

2. I can take RAW photos on the Mark IV and transfer them (in reduced size) to my iPhone to post to social media or email to a client. If you have seen some of my recent posts to Facebook or Instagram, you will see some of the photos sent directly from the DSLR. I love this!

I did notice that the Wi-Fi feature drains the battery faster than normal, so I only turn it on when I need it.


If you have read through this entire blog post, you might be looking to buy a new camera or you might be looking to upgrade your Canon 5D Mark III to the Canon 5D Mark IV. Many people have asked me for my opinion of the new camera, and I think that it can be summed up this way: For those trying to determine whether it is worth upgrading their Mark III to a Mark IV, my response will be to send them to this blog post to make their determinations. Depending on what features are important to them, they can make that decision.

Going forward, the Canon 5D Mark IV will be the camera I use and recommend to most professional event photographers. Like the Mark III, it is a workhorse camera with tons of capabilities.


And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

Monday, September 19, 2016

One of the worst days ever, and a huge loss for this world! - A tribute to Billy

About 90 minutes ago I received a phone call from my wife that put me into a state of shock. One of my daughter's closest friends, and a kid that has second shot and modeled for me died in a freak accident this weekend. Billy, 19,  was not only an avid hiker and outdoorsmen, but he was one of the best kids I have ever met. And I am not saying that because he passed away. He was genuinely an amazing kid who had passion for hiking, sports. working out, photography and more.

If you have watched my videos on YouTube, you have probably seen his face.

I took these senior portraits of Billy a couple of years ago, and used these photos from some of my teaching. I was excited to capture photos of this quiet and confident young man.

And soon after I took these photos, Billy graduated high school with my daughter.

I took this photo of Ali and Billy at the end of their graduation as he was about to leave in his old white Toyota pickup. I always enjoyed coming home and seeing his truck out front, because I so enjoyed his company. OK..I have to admit it (even though I never told anyone this), for quite a while now I had hoped that my daughter would date Billy.

Not long after I took these photos, Billy started working out religiously and was one of the most fit kids I have ever known. He was not only physically fit, but he was incredibly well balanced mentally. As someone said earlier today, he was one of those guys that everyone loved. Even though he spent time here at the house and worked with me in the photo business, he always called me Mr. Cable.

Last May I had a client ask me to shoot their Bar Mitzvah, but I was double booked for their evening party. I offered to send my daughter to shoot the event on her own. A huge risk, but one that she was willing to take on. As it turned out, she and Billy decided to tackle the job together and they did an amazing job! I was so proud of both of them, as the client sent me email after email expressing her gratitude for the exceptional photos they took.

He even used the Canon 5D Mark III to take a selfie with Ali.

Billy passed away while leading a group of backpackers from San Jose State. He was so excited about the opportunity to do this. I remember him talking about this at our house before I left for the Olympics. As I sit here and write this blog, I am still in shock and find it hard to believe that this awesome young man is gone.

Billy had passion for a lot of things, but when we would get together (and my daughter would let us break away and talk), he was always excited to talk photography with me. I even took him out and let him play with the Canon 1D X. He was so excited to try this "big boy" camera instead of his Rebel.

What started as a really good day, has ended as one of the worst. This young man had a big future ahead of him, and losing him at 19 is just heart wrenching. I can't even imagine what his family is going through right now.

Billy, I hope, wherever you are, that you can find the best trails and take the best pictures ever!!! I feel lucky to have met you and to have spent the limited time here on earth with you. You left us way too soon, even if it was doing what you loved the most.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Monterey, California - Whale Watching, Dolphins, Sea Lions, the coastline and more

Last week, my wife and I decided to make the short drive to Monterey, California to spend the night and go whale watching. We looked online and saw that there were plenty of whale sightings right now, so we figured that it would be a fun excursion.

So we hopped in the car and drove along the California coastline.

Neither of us had ever been to McWay Falls (which is about an hour South of Monterey), so we made that our destination on the afternoon of day one. As we were driving there, we encountered a lot of fog and figured that we would not see anything when we arrived. But, even though it was not ideal photography conditions, it was still cool to see this pretty scene. Unfortunately, due to the wildfires that are burning nearby, most of the hiking trails (including the trails by McWay Falls) are closed right now. But we do plan one coming back, hopefully in clearer weather.

Here is my wife taking some photos with the Canon M3 mirrorless camera.

The next morning, it was whale watching time!

It was reported that the previous week had pretty rough seas, but we got lucky and only had small swells for the trip. But we did have overcast skies for the entire 4 hour outing, which yielded monochromatic images. But hey, there is nothing wrong with monochrome, and in some cases, I decided to remove all of the color and convert the photos to black and white.

We were lucky to see numerous Humpback, Fin and Blue whales.

The first whale that we came upon was a Humpback. I have photographed this species many times before, both in Monterey and in Hawaii. I know that when they arch their backs, they are making a deep dive, and their tail usually comes out of the water. I was ready to hit the shutter of my Canon 1D X Mark II to grab many frames of this occurrence.

For all of the photos in this blog post, I used my Canon 100-400mm lens. For this shot, I zoomed out to include the Blue whale and the boat. The Blue whale is the largest mammal on the planet, often weighing in at 150 tons and reaching lengths of 100 feet long! By zooming out, you can see how even a small portion of this whale is almost as big as the boat. To give you an idea of how big these creatures are, just their tongues weigh as much as an African elephant!

At one point, we saw two Blue whales side my side and it reminded me of my shooting synchronized swimming pairs in Rio a couple of weeks before. They were in perfect harmony as they swam along.

Here is a closer look at the back of a large Blue whale. It is surprising to see such a huge whale with such a tiny dorsal fin.

Here is a Humpback whale tale photographed from the side.

I liked this photos and converted it to B&W.

That is one large blow hole!

When looking at this photo, you might be thinking "Uh Jeff, you missed the whale in the photo!" But I took this photo to show you the smooth water that is left just after one of these large whales submerges under the surface of the water. These "footprints" help to pinpoint the location of the whales as they move from one spot to another.

As we made our way back towards the marina, we came across a small pod of Risso dolphins.

I did not get a great shot of them, which really killed me, because I love dolphins. If you look closely at this photo, you can see a baby dolphin next to it's mother (in the front, middle of the pack).

As we came back towards the harbor, we cruised along the rock wall and saw endless sea lion.

I liked this shot of the seagull flying over the sea lion.

This guy was just coming out of the water as we passed by.

This sea lion reminded my wife and I of our dog, who likes to lay down on our couch in a similar position.

Here is a grey pup swimming in the water beside our boat.

And this guy popped up in front of me as well.

I think these sea lion were having their own presidential debate, and it was a loud one.

After the boat returned to the dock, we had some lunch and then decided to walk along the coastline. I said to my wife "I will leave my camera behind and just walk with you", trying to be the good husband. But as we walked along the trail, and I saw all kinds of good shots, I had to run back to the car to get my camera. I just couldn't help myself. Annette sat down and waited for me to return.

We saw this squirrel hanging out on one of the nearby rocks, so I stooped down low to get a photo of it. As soon as I got down low, it started coming towards me, thinking I was one of those tourists that was going to feed it. Nope - not me.

We are so spoiled to live so close to the ocean and the amazing California coastline. We sometimes take it for granted. It really is a beautiful and special place.

As we walked back to our car, I saw these two other squirrels who were hanging out on the rocks. The sunlight (which was out over Monterey, but still not over the water) was perfect. I loved the separation of the squirrel and the deep blue water in the background. I shot this at f/5.6 using all of the 400mm range of the lens, which diffuses the background nicely.

This squirrel was on a rock just passed a bunch of ice plant. He too was looking out over the shoreline, so I got down low and took this photo.

Overall, we had a great little outing in Monterey, and are already planning our next visit there. If you love taking photos, this is a great place to visit. And for me, after spending a month at the Olympics, it was fun to relax and take photos at a slower pace. :)


And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Upcoming photo workshops to exciting places like New York, Cuba, Africa and Australia!

Yes...I survived my fifth Olympic Games, and made it home safe and sound. No Zika virus and no equipment losses! And now that this monumental event is past me,  it is time to start planning for the next year. And what a great year it is going to be! Working with M&M Photo Tours and UDesign Photo Tours, we have some unbelievable trips coming up.

Each one of the workshops has limited space, since we want to keep the groups small, so don't wait too long to reserve a spot. If you have watched any of the videos of me teaching photography, you know that I am very passionate about the art, but I also like to have a lot of fun. These trips combine both of those elements. We shoot and laugh a lot.

Here are the details:

New York City

How would you like to spend the day together shooting photos in New York City? We are going to take a small group of people around the city to capture photos and learn. When we are done, we will head up for a rooftop Australian BBQ and a photo editing discussion. We have 2 half day sessions, or a combined price for a full day together. This also includes gift bags with a lot of photo goodies for you.
Date: October 19, 2016
Capacity: 12 people
Price: $225 for half day and $450 for full day (includes meals)
Detailed Information


You have undoubtedly seen the news that Cuba is now open to American citizens, as long as you are part of an approved group. Well...with the help of M&M Photo Tours, we have that approval and are doing a photo tour of Cuba this December. You should come along and experience this amazing country before it is overrun with all the new western influences!
Dates: December 12-21, 2016
Capacity: 14 people
Price: $6800
Detailed Information

Tanzania (African Safari)

This will be my second safari with M&M Photo Tours, and if it is anything close to the last one, it will be epic! You can see some of the photos from our last safari [here]( We just had 2 spots open up for this trip.  Regardless of whether you are a beginner or a professional photographer, you will come home with amazing photos.
Dates: January 14-28, 2017
Capacity: 2 spots left for a total of 8
Price: $13,000
Detailed Information

Australia (Outback and Sydney)

This trip is going to be totally unique, in that it combines 4 days in the outback and 5 days in Sydney for the annual Vivid Lights show. What excites me most about this trip is the ability to capture amazing nature images and night photos in the same photo tour. Come join me in one of my favorite places in the world.
Dates: May 24th - June 4th, 2017
Capacity: 10 people
Price: $5290
Detailed Information

Free Classes at the Canon Learning Centers

Along with the photo tours, I am also presenting at the Canon Learning Centers in Northern and Southern California this month.

Sept 13, 2016
Canon Learning Center
San Francisco, CA
Photographing the Olympics in Rio - FREE

Sept 28, 2016
Canon Learning Center
Hollywood, CA
Photographing the Olympics in Rio - FREE

Sept 29, 2016
Canon Learning Center
Costa Mesa CA
Photographing the Olympics in Rio - FREE

I will also be teaching a night photography walk where we will be shooting in the Costa Mesa area. There is a $49 charge for this.

Sept 27, 2016
Canon Learning Center
Costa Mesa CA
Night Photography Walk - $49