Aperture and the huge difference

First of all: The Digital Picture.com has an excellent page where you can compare the sharpness of different lenses and different apertures.

But recently I did some quick tests with my 50 mm f1.4 myself. It’s a decent lens and regarded excellent for the price range. And it’s pretty fast, featuring an aperture of 1.4. But lenses loose sharpness and contrast at low apertures, and I wanted to know exactly how much. In this lens the difference is huge. Here are two 100% crops:

50 mm @ f5.6


50 mm @ f1.4


Yes. That’s the same lens, the same camera and the same conditions. Only a different aperture value. But will you see the difference if you snap an image at full resolution and reduce the size down to what you’ll need on a web page? Let’s have a look. 21 megapixels from my Canon 5D MarkII reduced down to an image that is 500 pixels wide.

50 mm @ f5.6


50 mm @ f1.4


And I guess you’ll need a slightly trained eye to see the difference clearly. First of all you see the vignetting: darker corners. Then you see that the DOF is more shallow and that the cars at the bottom of the image in the f1.4-version is not completely focused. This is how it should be. A shallow depth of field is one of the beauties of a low aperture value.

But if you look closely you’ll see that the overall sharpness and sense of depth in general in the f5.6-image is better. Even when the image is reduced down to this size.

So, if you want the ultimate in technical quality you should plan your aperture. And buy very nice lenses…

Aperture and the huge difference

Passing a subway station

You need:
1. One train
2. A subway station
3. The Canon 5D Mark II
4. And a Canon 15mm f2.8 Fisheye

Passing a subway station from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

Place the camera firmly against the window. Start video recording just before you approach the station. Add a stupid sound from the default Apple audio library.

Exact location: Nationalteateret station, Oslo, Norway.

…and you can click through to Vimeo to watch the video in HD.

Passing a subway station

New lens: 24-105 f4L IS

Thank you for all the good advice. On twitter and here in this blog. This weekend I did the final shoot-out between the 24-70 f2.8L and the 24-105 f4L IS. Because I do quite a bit of video recording with my 5D MkII I settled with the IS-lens.

Canon 24-70 and 24-105 L-lenses

So now I’m covered with image stabilized L-sharpness from 24 to 200 mm. With the 24-105 and my 70-200. But it’s all at f4 and up. For really low-light work I have my trusted 50 mm f1.4 and when deciding on the not-so-fast 24-105 part of my plan is to add some more primes. Canon have some tempting primes as well. 24mm f1.4 L II and 85mm f1.2L…

But right now I’ll play around with my current range of glass for a while:
50 mm f1.4 USM
15 mm f2.8 fisheye
24-105 f4L IS
70-200 f4L IS

My current Canon lenses

New lens: 24-105 f4L IS

What lenses should I buy?

When upgrading to the 5D Mark II some of my EF-S lenses had to follow my old 400D (EF-S won’t work on the full frame 5D). So I need to buy some new lenses to cover my needs. But I can’t decide. This is what I currently own:

What I've got

Canon 70-200 f4L IS
Canon 50 mm f1.4 USM
Canon 15 mm f2.8 fisheye

And after posting the following question on Twitter:

If you could choose three Canon lenses. Regardless of price. What would you choose?

Here are the results so far:


Seems like the 70-200 f2.8L IS is a favorite. I already have the f4L version of that lens. Mostly because it’s half the weight and half the size of the f2.8L. I like to travel light. And the f4L is razor sharp and very high quality. Here’s a set of favorites shot with that lens. So I’ll keep that one. The next is the fantastic 85 mm 1.2L. Is it worth the weight and the price? Anyone out there owning one?

Still the problem is that I don’t know if I want to go for a zoom or some primes. I need something wide that’s not as extreme as the 15mm. And probably something for portraits that is faster and hopefully smaller than the 70-200 f4L IS. A couple of alternatives:

1. Convenience:
The 24-70 f2.8L

2. Pure quality and speed:
24mm f1.4L II + 85mm f1.2L

3. Travel light + reasonable quality:
28mm f1.8 USM + 85mm f1.8 USM

I’m also considering the legendary 135 mm f2L when I need more speed than the 70-200 f4L can give me. Or how about the very versatile and razor sharp 100mm f2.8 Macro?

What do you think? I need some advice. And at this point I don’t want to spoil the party by talking price. I want advice on the best solution. Your favorites. Regardless of price. Links to reviews. Etc…

I’m carrying my camera in my bag more or less every day. I shoot lots of stuff in natural and low light. Don’t like using a flash. Currently I use the 50 mm 1.4 a lot because of the combination of speed and light weight.

What lenses should I buy?

Dear Canon, please opensource your firmware

Canon 5D Mark II Firmware Update from 1.0.6 to 1.0.7

I just updated the firmware on my new 5D Mark II. The firmware is the operating system in my camera. The software that decides how the menus on the screen should look, what the buttons do, and basically everything about how my camera handles the data from the CMOS that sits in there, collecting light when I snap images.

I didn’t get any extra functionality, but two issues that I never had problems with are now fixed.

Yes, it works fine. But we want more functionality. We want 25p and manual controls for video recording. And in this world of software it is possible for people to make that functionality. For you. For free. Either by hacking the whole camera. Or if you provided an API. Or even better, if you simply published the development tools and software.

Your revenue is based on selling excellent cameras and excellent lenses. And I guess Nikon and your other competitors have hacked and examined your firmware in detail already.

Open your firmware and you’ll see 25p on the 5D MkII before you can say “development kit”. And you’ll see all kinds of stuff that you and your competitors never thought of.

And you know what? People will improve the 5D Mark II firmware anyway. If you help them they will make better solutions.

You’ll be a pioneer. Bringing digital photography to the next level. Do it before your competitors!

I updated this article with a link to canonhack.com. After a hint from @urke.

And because I’ve made the links in this article pretty non-explaining I’ll repeat the link to CHDK as well! A very interesting project that already has enhanced the Canon firmware on a couple of cameras.

Dear Canon, please opensource your firmware

One year worth of images give some amazing videos

I made three new videos of 2009 with my 5D Mark II last year.

One year in 40 seconds from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

So far I’ve made two videos of the images I describe in this article. The one here at the top and another two minutes version. Read on to learn how I did this, to see the other video and to download the videos and images in high quality. And if you want to watch this video here at the top in HD quality you have to click through to Vimeo.

The story

Back in 2005 I did an experiment shooting images out of my window for one year. It turned out pretty cool and in the end of 2007 I decided to do the same. But in much better quality.


So I started shooting images with my Canon 400D. From the same spot each time, but not through my window. I found a spot outside that gave more or less the same framing each time I placed my camera. So, I went out on our balcony snapping some images at pretty irregular intervals all through 2008 .



Each time I snapped the following images:

3 exposures @10mm (Canon EF-S 10-22 F3.5-4.5 USM)
3 exposures @17mm (Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM)
3 exposures @55mm (Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM)

All images shot in RAW. The three exposures where: normal, +2 EV and -2 EV.

In addition to the images I decided to record some audio at the same place. Using my Canon S2 IS and my Canon HF10 I recorded simple background sounds trough 2008 as well. Not with exact connections to each image. More with a focus on getting audio from winter, spring, summer and autumn.

All together giving me a pretty decent range of material to put together some experiments.

Then what? The videos…

Link to this video in HD on YouTube.

At the top of this article you find a 40 second version that show one year. Using the 10mm wide angle images. Right above you find a two minute version made from the 55mm zoomed in images.

First I used Photomatix to make HDR images of the ones I decided to use. Mostly because the HDR effect makes the images flat so that the difference in light and shadows won’t disturb the transitions in my video.

Then I used Photoshop to align all the images. Placing the camera manually at the same spot each time won’t give the exact same spot. So I needed some fine adjustment. Photoshop does this. Here’s how:

First load the images you have chosen into layers by using “File->Scripts->Load files into stack

When you have found all your files make sure to check “Attempt to automatically align…

Give your computer huge amounts of time and get back when it has finished. Now Photoshop has adjusted all the images and put them on separate layers in one file. The next thing you have to do is to crop the image. Because of the adjustments the images are not the exact same size. A crop will do the trick.

When the computer is done cropping you export the layers to files. “File->Scripts->Export Layers to files

Now you have a folder with a bunch of images with the same framing. I decided to do simple dissolves between them.


And ended up with a project in Final Cut Express that looked like the image above. I didn’t want one dissolve at a time. I wanted to make some kind of flow where one dissolve is taken over by the new one before it is finished. As you can see from the timeline my dissolves overlap.

The free downloads

First of all: please comment here or contact me if you use the images. I’ll link to all cool projects made from these files!

All the images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license. In other words: Use them non commercially as long as you give me credit and as long as you share the work you do under the same license.

For commercial use please contact me. Or you can simply buy non exclusive royalty free use by purchasing the full quality file here: OneYear40seconds1920x1080.30p.H264.mp4
It’s $99,- and the money will be spent on hosting for my projects.

For commercial use of the full quality non branded still images you can buy the complete package of high resolution stills here: EiriksoStills.zip


And where are the files?

10mm wide angle aligned HDR images in this flickr set.
All the images from that Flickr set in a ZIP file.
55mm zoomed in aligned HDR images in this flickr set.
All the images from that Flickr set in a ZIP file.

The audio as WAV in a ZIP file

40 second movie, 8 mbit/s H264, 1280×720 25p
Two minutes movie, 8 mbit/s H264, 1280×720 25p

But I know what I’m doing and want the full resolution RAW files to make something really cool!

Please comment here or contact me and I’ll provide you with what you want. RAW files, video footage, more audio from the same spot etc…

Whats’s next?

Eh. Well. I just upgraded my camera to a Canon 5D Mark II. Giving me a possibility of getting even higher quality footage from this nice view of some trees… Guess I’ll snap some images on my balcony through 2009 as well. :-)

One year worth of images give some amazing videos

How wide is wide?

About as wide as this:

Wide angle test
Link to a bigger version of the image.

I snapped the same image with the following lenses:
Canon 15 mm f2.8 fisheye
Canon 16-35 mm f2.8 L USM II @16mm
Canon 24 mm f1.4 L USM II

And marked the reach of the different lenses on the 15 mm image. But I also wanted to see how a Sigma 8 mm circular fisheye did:

Link to a bigger version of the image.

So now you know. That’s the difference between these different lenses on a Canon 5D MkII fullframe camera. And if you don’t like the distortion of the fisheye you can remove it.

How wide is wide?