Wednesday, March 25, 2020

My Canon EOS 1D X Mark III Real World Review

As many of you know, I have been lucky enough to have a Canon EOS 1DX Mark III in my possession for more than a month now. People have been asking me to review this new top-of-the-line camera, but I really wanted to put it through it's paces in order to do a fair review.

There are lots of photographers or tech reviewers who write reviews of a new product, basically looking at the spec sheets, or holding it in their hands for a couple of minutes. But in my mind, there is no better way to review a product than to use it as my primary camera for a while and really get to know it in detail.

Now that I have become pretty familiar with the ins and outs of this camera, it is time to share my findings with all of you.

So...on to the testing...

I took the camera out of the box and was happy to see that the body is very similar to the previous models, with buttons and joysticks right where I expect them. I was also happy to see a familiar battery and charger, that is basically the same as the previous model.

The one big difference is that the new camera has two CFExpress card slots, which as many of you know, I was really hoping for. I like this for two reasons:

1. I like having the two extremely fast cards instead of one fast card and one legacy card format which slows everything down. This is really important because I always shoot RAW images to both cards for redundancy.

2. I like having 2 card slots using the same card format. I always found it frustrating to have a CFast slot and a CompactFlash slot in the same camera.

The first photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark III were taken in my backyard. I like to use a new camera for non-client shoots for a while to build trust and familiarity with the camera and memory cards. The last thing I would do is use this camera on a paying job before I knew how to control it. I need to know that the images will be captured correctly in the camera and stored correctly on the memory cards before using it in a real-world situation.

This was also a time for me to try out the new CFExpress cards from ProGrade Digital. I had inserted a 512GB card in slot 1 and a 1TB card in slot 2, so capacity was not a problem!

The first couple of photos were of my dog, Cooper, who was nice enough to pose for me. It was my first time holding the camera and trying to the new smart controller for moving the focus point (more on that in a little bit). No fast action here, but it gave me a chance to inspect the image quality of the camera, which looked really great.

We were dog sitting for a friend and our dog Cooper decided to play with Milo and give me some action shots. This was the first time trying the fast burst shooting of 16fps. The first thing I noticed with the 1D X Mark III was that it felt totally familiar in my hands. Having used a 1D X and a 1D X Mark II in the past, I felt right at home shooting with the new body. The one big difference is that the new model has a touch screen LCD. I have gotten used to this on my Canon 5D Mark IV and find it very useful when shooting in the field.

Shooting at the fast burst rate enabled me to catch this shot of Cooper with all four paws off the ground. (Cooper forgets that he is 8 years old and still thinks he is a puppy).

This was my first chance to play around with the new smart controller. What is the smart controller? Canon took the back button focus button and added a new twist. This button now acts as a virtual joystick, so that if I move my thumb along the back of the button, the focus point will move accordingly. This can be incredibly handy, but also takes some getting used to. There were a couple of times when I pushed the back button to focus and inadvertently moved the focus point to a location I did not want. But, with time, I have gotten used to this and really appreciate the feature a lot. What I have found is that the smart controller is optimum when shooting portraits, but I still prefer a locked single point of focus for sports.

My last trip, before all this Covid-19 craziness, was to Las Vegas for the WPPI show. I was not planning on bringing my 1D X Mark III to Las Vegas, but right before leaving, I had the offer to meet up with my buddy Drew, Canon USA's top tech guy, who offered to help me customize the settings to get the most out of the new features of the camera. That turned out to be awesome, and I will tell you more about that in a minute.

While at the show, there was a rain booth set up for people to photograph models dancing in water. I saw this as a perfect time to try out these new settings.

I used the new 1D X Mark III at it's full speed at 16 frames per second, with a Canon 24-105mm lens to capture the dancers. The super fast frame rate of the camera allowed me to capture them at the peak of action.

The newer focus system also did a very good job of locking in on the dancers as they moved around at a fairly quick pace.

As I mentioned, Drew sat down with me to give me pointers on the new camera. And there is a lot to learn on this new piece of hardware. The Canon 1D X Mark III looks a lot like the Canon 1D X Mark II, but looks can be deceiving. What is under the magnesium alloy body is very different from the previous model. One of the biggest differences of the 1D X Mark III is the new face and head detection. I was shown how to tweak the camera to take advantage of the face and head detection covering most of the frame. This means that once I locked in on a person, it would follow them even if they moved off center from the lens.

I got credentials to shoot the San Jose Earthquakes game, and put the camera to a test. I mounted the Canon 200-400mm lens to the 1D X Mark III and found the focusing system to be noticeably faster and more accurate than the 1D X Mark II.

I would lock focus on a particular athlete and then let the camera follow them from that point. As long as I kept the athlete in the frame, the tracking stayed on them, even if someone briefly ran in between them and me. This allowed me to capture images like this, where the Earthquake player is in perfect focus even though he is not in the center of the image.

The camera is capable of shooting 16 frames per second (fps) when using the shutter and 20 fps when in live view mode. This is great except that I can not imagine shooting a sporting event in live view, and trying to follow fast action using the screen on the back of the camera. But, needless to say, 16 fps is plenty fast and allowed me to easily capture the peak of action during the game.

Even though I was shooting in RAW mode, using the ProGrade Digital CFExpress memory cards, I never once filled the buffer of the camera. These cards can transfer 1600 MBs per second which is nothing short of amazing.

I kept the camera in Auto White Balance for the entire afternoon and found it to be very accurate in the representation of the colors.

Some of you may be wondering about the video capabilities of the new camera. But since I am primarily a still photographer, I will leave the video review to the experts who know that side of the business way more than I do.

My next test of the camera was in a completely different environment.  My niece and her husband asked if we could take portraits of their one year old son. This time I was using the camera at higher ISOs indoors and going outside with different lenses.

Patrick did not move at the speed of a soccer player, but he definitely moved faster than a year ago, when I took his baby photos. Once again, the 1D X Mark III (this time combined with the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 lens) was tack sharp on his eyes.

After taking a bunch of portraits of the little guy on the grass and standing, they asked if I could get some photos of him in the swing. As soon as I started photographing him, I realized that this was a perfect test of the new focus system.

The following images really help tell the story of this new face and head tracking.

Using back button focus, I locked focus on Patrick and then hammered the shutter at the full speed of 16 fps. Even though his head was moving off center of the frame, the focus stayed perfectly on him. You can scroll through the following images to see how accurate this was!

I figured that the black swing would interfere with the focusing of his face, but that was not the case.

This sequence is a perfect example of how I set up the shot. In this image (above) I locked focus on Patrick when he was dead center and the focus point was right on this face.

Then, as he was going back and forth, I just held down the back button and the focus points moved with him.

You can see here that his face is well off the center of the image, but the focus is still perfect. If I were to try this with the previous Canon models, I would have had to move the camera and lens to keep the focus point on his face. This would have been very difficult to do, and would have yielded a lot less useable images.

The Canon 1D X Mark III has a newly designed 20.1 megapixel CMOS sensor which is ample for most of my photography. Do I wish for a little more resolution? Maybe. I do like the file sizes of the Canon 5D Mark IV which captures at 30.4MP, but having clean images at higher ISOs is still the most important thing to me. And I know that cramming more megapixels onto a sensor can degrade the high ISO sensitivity.

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing a portrait shoot for a young lady who was about to have her bat mitzvah. Well...until it was postponed due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak. For this shoot, I used the Canon 1D X Mark III with a Canon 600EX-RT flash mounted on the hot shoe of the camera.

Canon has designed a new low pass filter for better lens sharpness, and the image quality of the camera is exceptional, with the colors, skin tones and clarity being everything I was expect from a pro camera. I don't fully understand how the new DIGIC X image processor works, but I can tell you that everything in this camera is fast. From focusing speed, the processing of the image, to data transfer to the card.

There was one anomaly though. When I take portraits, I almost always do so in a slow burst mode. There is no need to shoot at 16 fps, and yet I never have my cameras set to a single shot mode. I don't like the single shot mode since I always want to be prepared to shoot multiple images when if a perfect moment arises. With every other Canon DSLR I have used, the slow burst mode is a predictable sequence of shots. I hit the button and I get "". Weirdly enough, when I had my flash on the camera and I was shooting outdoors, the frame rate was a bit erratic. I expected "" at a predictable pace and instead I got "" or "". I am hoping that this is something that Canon will fix in a future firmware update.

After using the new camera for numerous shoots, I felt comfortable using it to create images at a client's bar mitzvah. For their portraits, I loved using the smart controller to easily move the focus point out of the center and taking full advantage of the 191 focus points.

While spending time with Canon in Las Vegas, I was also shown how to use the 1D X Mark III in mirrorless mode. Since the mirror is locked out of place, this allows me to shoot with absolutely no shutter noise at all. Combining this silent mode with the face tracking auto focus is a real game changer. For this bar mitzvah, I was using the Canon 200-400mm lens on the 1D X Mark III, mounted on a Gitzo gimball fluid head and tripod. It was awesome to lock focus on the boy's face and let the camera track his movements while I silently took photos.

While shooting this way, I came across another weird anomaly. As I mentioned earlier, I like to shoot in a slow burst most of the time. When taking these photos, I had the camera in Live View mode (essentially shooting mirrorless) and also had the camera set to slow burst. But when I hit the shutter release I saw that the camera was capturing at the fastest burst rate of 20 fps. This is complete overkill for an event like this. I sent a text to the Canon expert from the back of the Temple and he replied back and told me that when in Live View, the camera will capture either a single shot or full speed. There is currently no in-between. This is something else that I hope is changed in a future firmware release.

When I photograph events, it is quite common for me to shoot full RAW for the service and then switch to a smaller file size for the party. In the past, that meant that I would switch my files from RAW to MRAW. On the Canon 5D Mark IV, that meant that I was switching from a file size of 30MP to 17MP, and a resolution of 6720x4480 down to 5040x3360. So you can imagine my surprise when I got to the party and went to change the 1D X Mark III to MRAW and it wasn't there. All I saw was RAW and something called CRAW, but both were listed at the same resolution of 5472x3648. It was time for another text message to my Canon contact asking for urgent help. He explained to me that MRAW has been replaced with CRAW (in the new CR3 files) and that even though they are the same resolution, the CRAW file is more compressed. I recently tested this and found that an image taken in RAW was 25.8MB and the same exact image at CRAW was 14.3MB in size. When zooming in at 400%, I could see how the increased compression decreased the quality a bit, but it was only a slight difference. I love the idea of having the same resolution with higher compression than a smaller resolution.

There are certain key moments during a bar mitzvah celebration, and the family members being lifted in the chair is one of them. For the last 6 years I have relied on the Canon 1D cameras to capture this moment. Why? Because the focus system is more accurate than the Canon 5D and the camera can write to two cards faster than the less expensive cameras. The Canon 1D X Mark III definitely proved that it could lock focus even in low light, and wrote to the two CFExpress cards faster than my flash units could keep up.

With all of this said, there are still features of the Canon 1D X Mark III that I have yet to explore, and I look forward to doing so in the near future. As many of you now know, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo has been postponed. This postponement is a major disappointment for the organizers, the athletes, the public and me. I was so excited to use this new camera at the Games. But I guess that will have to wait for a while longer before I get that chance. Looking on the positive side, it gives me that much more time to get familiar with the new camera before the big event.

I hope that this review has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to email me or leave a comment here on the blog.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The new normal - things to do to keep us sane during social distancing!

Normally when I write a blog post, I figure that I am speaking to a small subset of the world. As a reader, you might be into photography, sports, wildlife or maybe you just like looking at photos or reading my stories. Today's blog post is written to try and help fellow photographers and a broader group, as so many of us try to stay home, and stay sane in an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It has been less than a week of "social distancing" for me, with my family spread out across the western US and me holding down the fort here in the Bay Area. As I looked towards the numerous weeks ahead (or god forbid - more), I knew that I needed a plan to stay sane during this time of self isolation. And for those of you who know me well, you know that I am really "Type A" and not used to staying in one place.

Since all of my events have been cancelled for the months of March, April, and probably all of May, I needed to keep myself busy, in order to keep from going nuts. Here are some of things which I am planning on doing, many of which might help all of you:

1. Catch up!

First and foremost, I have been getting caught up on my photo retouching. I am retouching not only for clients who have placed orders, but also for vendors who have asked for photos for their marketing use.

2. Clean up!

With my usual crazy schedule, my office has not been cleaned and organized in years. I have started cleaning up a little already, but plan on going through every drawer and really doing a deep clean in the coming days or weeks. My goal is to purge accessories that I have not used in a long time. And yes, I may sell some stuff here on the blog in the near future.

3. Learn something new

I have been using Adobe Photoshop for more years than I can count, but I also know that there is more to the program than I have ever used. I am planning on using KelbyOne, YouTube, LinkedIn Learning and other resources to see what other features of Photoshop might be useful to me in the future.

I also diving deeper into my online services, like 17 Hats and Zenfolio to see how I can improve my use of those tools. Both services have automated workflows which I am currently not using to their full potentials. Now that I have the time, I want to get in there, learn them, and turn them on for future business.

4. Update the website

Speaking of Zenfolio (which powers both my website and web galleries for clients), I am planning on making changes to my site. I also know that I am not the typical photographer in that I keep my site fairly up to date. Many photographers do not do this, and this is a great time to get your website current.

I am planning on doing the following:

* Updating my web site with new images,
* Deleting images that are no longer favorites
* Changing the order of images in my primary galleries
* Creating automated messages to clients when a gallery is about to expire
* Updating the text in my current automated messages to be clearer and more concise
* Look for any errors or old links which are no longer needed

5. Update the workflow

I have to admit it, I get really stuck in my ways. I have been using Photo Mechanic and Photoshop as my primary workflow for a really long time. I do not plan on changing that since it is working so well, but we are switching our album design to Fundy Software. During this time, my wife is taking the time to learn this new software, so that she is comfortable using it moving forward.

6. Blog

Since I am using time now to write this, I had to add this to the list. Yes, I can use all this down time to share my photos and advice with all of you. If you have ever thought about starting a blog, now could be a great time to create content.

7. Read the manuals

What??? This is crazy! Did I just suggest to read your manuals? Yes I did. There are probably features in your camera, your flash, your computer, or something else in your life that might be helpful to you. I just got the new Meural Canvas digital photo frame from Netgear, so I am reading the manual on this product. I know for a fact that most people do not use the custom menus of their camera. Learn how to use these and you will thank me later!

8. Listen to some interesting podcasts

About a year ago, a friend turned me on to some really great podcasts, which was really life changing. I like to walk between 6 to 10 miles a day, and this is a great way to entertain myself on those walks. Here are some of my favorites:

* How I Built This
* American Innovations
* Business Wars
* TED Talks Daily

If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments. I would love to explore others, as I am sure other would too.

9. Get out and take a walk (keeping your distance from others)

I just mentioned that I like to get outside and walk, and this is something that is easy to do. Your local gym is probably closed right now (as is my local ice rink), but this does not mean that we all have to stay inside and be couch potatoes. As long as we are allowed to leave our homes (and I hope this does not change), get out and get some fresh air. This will help lift your spirits.

10. Binge watch Netflix and Amazon Prime

Both of these services offer a plethora of programming that is sure to interest everyone out there. When I get tired of working, I find it really relaxing to kick back and watch some fun shows.

11. Catch up with family and friends (local or remotely)

This may be the last tip, but is surely not last in the order in which you should plan your day. This is a great time to spend quality time with your friends and family. Even if you can not be together physically, you can use Facetime, Skype, or other services to stay connected visually. If that is not practical for you, there is always the good ole phone.

I hope these tips give you some good ideas on how to pass the time. Hopefully you will stay productive and entertained during this tough time.

I hope that all of you stay safe, healthy and happy.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Coronavirus is effecting all of us - in ways we never might have expected

I just received an email from a reporter asking how the Coronavirus is effecting my business. If he had asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have told him that my biggest concern was whether or not the Olympics would go on in Tokyo this summer as planned.

Last Tuesday the IOC announced that the Olympics would go on as planned (at least for now). After two years of preparations, this was good news.

Then, last weekend, as I was driving to photograph a personal event, I got a text from a photographer friend of mine asking if I had any cancellations or postponed personal events yet. We both photograph a lot of Bar Mitzvah, but I was surprised to hear that an event this small (averaging 150 people) would be effected by the COVID-19 virus.

Then a couple of hours ago I got a text message from a coordinator notifying all vendors that our Bar Mitzvah for next weekend is being postponed. And of course, the future date they picked has been booked for quite some time.

An hour ago I received an email from the UCSF Hospital that their annual prom for their patients (which I have volunteered to shoot for many years), has been cancelled.

I also saw a message from a very well known photographer / videographer in the business saying that he has no jobs left on his schedule. Every one of his corporate clients has cancelled on him.

This situation is like nothing we have ever encountered in our businesses and it leaves me with more questions than answers, like:

* Are more people thinking about canceling or postponing small personal events?
* Are people overreacting, or is this justified?
* How do I handle a client's deposit if I can not photograph their rescheduled event?
* How long will all this last?

It is a scary time right now, first and foremost for health reasons, but also for the stock market, for big business, and small businesses too.

I just hope that this Coronavirus goes away quickly and we can all be healthy and get back to normal.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Photographing the Taj Mahal for the first time - Some different views of this epic site!

Teaching on photo tours has lead me to some really amazing places and given myself and our tour guests a chance to check off some bucket list locations. Visiting the Taj Mahal last month was one of those times that we will never forget.

Sure, we have all seen countless photos of this white marble mausoleum and its reflection pools, but being there is totally different.

In this blog post, I want to take all of you on a photographic tour of the Taj Mahal and show you some perspectives that you may not have seen before.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 55mm, ISO 160, f/8, 1/800 sec)

This is the epic view that is heavily photographed, and with good reason. The reflection pool allows for a beautiful composition, especially when the photo is taken low to the water. We were also lucky enough to have blue skies above the building. The week before we were there, we heard that the skies were smoggy and yellow. We all took turns shooting low from this center position. I was using the Canon 5D Mark IV with a Canon 24-105mm lens. After we were done with this perspective, we then ventured off to see what other views we could capture.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 55mm, ISO 160, f/8, 1/500 sec)

I took this photo just 15 feet to the left of the center shot you saw before. I really liked the pattern of trees and grass on the left and how those worked with the pattern of minarets (and reflections) on the right.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm lens at 200mm, ISO 250, f/5, 1/2500 sec)

As we walked closer, I used the Canon 5D Mark IV with the Canon 100-400mm lens to isolate certain parts of the main building.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm lens at 200mm, ISO 250, f/5.6, 1/2500 sec)

Shooting in even tighter allowed me to show the intricate pattern of semi precious stones which are inlayed into the marble.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 31mm, ISO 160, f/6.3, 1/800 sec)
We all stepped back into this archway to frame the Taj Mahal. I was showing our guests how, standing in the right position allowed us to fill the archway with the main building. I also wanted everyone to make sure to keep the top of the building in the frame, but leave enough blue sky so that it was not too cramped. We also had to wait until others were not standing directly in front of us, blocking the view. (Photographer's note: I brought this photo into Adobe Photoshop and increased the adjustment to the shadows slider so that more of the archway would be visible.)

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 35mm, ISO 1250, f/4, 1/40 sec)
After I was done photographing through the archway, I turned and saw this lone man praying. I loved how the late afternoon light was hitting his back and the wall in front of him.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 24mm, ISO 1250, f/4, 1/8000 sec)
We were walking back towards the mausoleum when a pack of monkeys crossed in front of us. I got down low and grabbed this photo.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 97mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/1000 sec)

I followed the monkeys over to the wall (near the arch we had been shooting from), and photographed them as they climbed on this historic monument. Our tour guide told us that the monkeys like to lick the salt off the stone.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm lens at 312mm, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/320 sec)

I saw this mother and baby and had to take the shot. I felt like I was back in Africa, except that instead of trees, we were surrounded by red stone and marble.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 24mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec)
The sun was about to set, so some of us walked over to the sunny side of the building. There was a small building at the edge of the platform which had 3 or 4 steps going up. I climbed the steps to try and get a straight-on shot of the building. Getting higher causes less distortion. But, of course, there still will be distortion when using a 24-105mm lens at 24mm and being low to the ground. I knew that this could easily be corrected later.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 24mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec)

I brought the same image into Adobe Photoshop and used the "Perspective Warp" tool to straighten everything back up. It still amazes how well this tool works!

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 105mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1600 sec)

We walked around the perimeter of the mausoleum and we watched as the sun was setting. I brought us over to a location where the sun would be right behind this other building within the Taj Mahal grounds.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 105mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec)

The next morning, we got up early to watch the sunrise over the Taj Mahal. We were hoping to get a reflection shot over the river, but this area is now closed to visitors. So instead, we stood back and photographed from our vantage point looking over some ruins. I decided to make this bird my subject, with the building slightly out of focus in the background.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 105mm, ISO 160, f/4, 1/250 sec)
After photographing the Taj Mahal from the river area, we went and toured the fort where the emperor Shah Jahan lived. He commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal to house the tomb of his favorite wife (who had 14 children with him and died on the last childbirth). This was the view from his room. I got down low and shot through the intricate stone carving, which gave me this really cool effect, and something very different than most people have seen before.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of the Taj Mahal.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.