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D. S. Smith




Location: Central CA
Joined: 02 Oct 2011

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 6:23 pm    Post subject: Question for the photo gurus         Reply with quote

Hello all, I've got a question for the photo gurus out there. I've seen some very impressive photos on this site and I have some camera advice to ask you guys/ gals specifically regarding sword photos.

I use a Canon 5DmkII, and currently my only lens is the 24-105f/4L. In the past, I had a 70-200f/4L IS that I really loved, but I sold it when I needed cash. I used the 70-200 to take this photo:


I'm debating if a wide angle lens would be better for sword photos, like a 17-40 f/2.8L. Would it give me any real improvement over using the 24-105 at the wide end? I definitely want to avoid distortion since swords need to be very straight to look appropriate. I recently came across the great photos on Albion-Europe's Flickr site, and it made me want to try my hand at more sword photos. I'm wondering what focal length would be best for shots like this:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/albioneurope/609...7420064281

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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Ian S LaSpina




Location: Virginia, US
Joined: 01 Jun 2010
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 6:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Any wide angle lens will result in the distortion of the geometry of the sword, or whatever object your photographing. If you really want to use a wide angle and avoid distortion you would have to fix it in lightroom or photoshop or whatever you prefer to use. I like to shoot my swords with a 50mm 1.8 prime. If you start to get much shorter than a 35mm you're probably going to introduce a significant amount of distortion.

I would recommend a faster zoom lens (any 2.8L lens since you're a canon shooter) so you can better control depth of field, or a really fast prime like a 35 1.4 or 1.8 or 50 1.4 or 1.8, at least that's what I have the best luck with.

These are all with a 50mm f/1.8:






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D. S. Smith




Location: Central CA
Joined: 02 Oct 2011

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 6:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the info Ian. I'll start looking into primes. So far my lenses have all been zooms and I haven't really considered a prime. That is probably to my detriment. Laughing Out Loud Faster lenses are nice, but they can sure get pricy fast.

I really enjoyed your photos. The poleaxe and carbine especially. I feel like I should be giving you crap for using an EOTech (I'm a die-hard Aimpoint fan), but after you've been so helpful I just can't bring myself to do it. Laughing Out Loud

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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Michael B.
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Location: Chugiak, AK
Joined: 18 Oct 2007

Posts: 356

PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 8:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I hate Canon L series glass, primes included, they aren't very sharp, have distortion, and the zooms are slow comparied to the competition. (Although, the 70-200 F2.8 IS USM is pretty nice). If you want a wide angle zoom, check out the new art series Sigma 18-35mm F1.8, it's constant aperture, low distortion, under a thousand bucks too, and blasts every other wide angle out of the water including most primes. Their prime 35mm Art lens is actually the sharpest 35 on the market right now as well, beating out even Leica and Zeiss.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 9:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Your 24-105 f/4L is more than adequate. I shoot most things on a 70-200 f/2.8. I'm generally around 70-85mm at f/10 or so.

That photo on Albion Europe's site was shot on a Hasselblad at f/20.

Don't get so caught up in the equipment side of things. Photography skills trump all equipment conversations. You're more than adequately equipped already.

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D. S. Smith




Location: Central CA
Joined: 02 Oct 2011

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 9:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I appreciate the input Michael. I had to admit I was VERY pleased with the image quality of my 70-200f/4L IS. I would buy one again in a heartbeat if I needed a lens in that range. And that was the f/4. Supposedly the f/2.8 is even better. I will admit that I have not been enamored with my 24-105. It has a very usable range on a full frame camera, but I've been a bit disappointed with the sharpness and image quality. A lot of it is me, I'm a complete novice, but some of it is for sure the lens. I know this because as I said, the difference between my 70-200 and the 24-105 is just incredible.

I did a little reading on the Sigma 18-35f/1.8 you mentioned. People do praise it's sharpness, but according to at least one reviewer, it is sort of horrible on my particular body, the 5DII. Evidently since the 18-35f1.8 is designed for crop sensors, the vignetting is horrible between 18-24 and noticeable from 24 to 35. They said at 18mm more than half of the picture is vignetted. Not sure if that is the case or not, just parroting back what this particular reviewer said.

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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D. S. Smith




Location: Central CA
Joined: 02 Oct 2011

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 9:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Your 24-105 f/4L is more than adequate. I shoot most things on a 70-200 f/2.8. I'm generally around 70-85mm at f/10 or so.

That photo on Albion Europe's site was shot on a Hasselblad at f/20.

Don't get so caught up in the equipment side of things. Photography skills trump all equipment conversations. You're more than adequately equipped already.


You beat me with your reply Nathan. I'm sure your advice is sound, and I would do well to follow it. I don't have mounds of spare cash laying around, but I have to admit, it sure is fun to read up on new toys, even if I don't end up getting anything more than a case of the "wants". Laughing Out Loud

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 9:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

D. S. Smith wrote:
You beat me with your reply Nathan. I'm sure your advice is sound, and I would do well to follow it. I don't have mounds of spare cash laying around, but I have to admit, it sure is fun to read up on new toys, even if I don't end up getting anything more than a case of the "wants". Laughing Out Loud


Equipment is addictive. There is no doubt about that. This is likely especially true for the "collector personality" types that we see on a site like this.

Having said that, photography really is more about skill and technique than about equipment. This has always been true and always will be. Grasping fundamentals about light, composition, proper camera handling technique and those such things will achieve better results than simply buying a new lens.

I'm often surprised at how few people know how to properly hold a camera, as one example. Improper technique will turn a $2400 lens into a $24 lens.

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Michael B.
Industry Professional



Location: Chugiak, AK
Joined: 18 Oct 2007

Posts: 356

PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 9:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:


Equipment is addictive. There is no doubt about that. This is likely especially true for the "collector personality" types that we see on a site like this.

Having said that, photography really is more about skill and technique than about equipment. This has always been true and always will be. Grasping fundamentals about light, composition, proper camera handling technique and those such things will achieve better results than simply buying a new lens.

I'm often surprised at how few people know how to properly hold a camera, as one example. Improper technique will turn a $2400 lens into a $24 lens.


Too true! My camera gear ranges from the latest greatest stuff that just came out, to lenses from the 1940's. One of my favorite lenses is from 1947. Too many people think that the camera and lens will make the perfect photo. That, and people can get caught up in the pixel peeping, sometime imperfections can become character. And yes, sorry, the Sigma 18-35 is not for for the full frame cameras...bad suggestion on my part, haha.

To the OP, are you shooting jpeg? Or are you shooting raw?

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Michael Bergstrom
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D. S. Smith




Location: Central CA
Joined: 02 Oct 2011

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 10:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm shooting RAW Michael. I used to shoot both, but just ended up wasting disk space with JPEG since I do PP on all the photos anyways, even if it's nothing more than cropping. I have Lightroom 4, but that is the only post processing software I have. One day I'll bite the bullet and get photoshop.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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Christine Munro




Location: Oxford
Joined: 01 Jun 2007

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Sun 06 Oct, 2013 11:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael B. wrote:
I hate Canon L series glass, primes included, they aren't very sharp, have distortion, and the zooms are slow comparied to the competition. (Although, the 70-200 F2.8 IS USM is pretty nice).

They seem to be quite variable, from what I've seen. I also love my 70-200 f2.8L, it has a wonderful image quality, whereas the 16-35 f2.8L is without doubt the worst lens I've ever owned, with its replacement being a close second; I eventually sold it at a loss and bought a 17-40 f4L which is far better. A more professionally-oriented friend found that the 24-70 was good on an APS-sized body but less impressive when he went full frame: they seem quite variable, shame the QA isn't a bit more consistent. I should note I'm speaking strictly as an amateur though!
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Richard Eskite




Location: Northern California
Joined: 27 Jun 2006

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Tue 08 Oct, 2013 7:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:

Having said that, photography really is more about skill and technique than about equipment. This has always been true and always will be. Grasping fundamentals about light, composition, proper camera handling technique and those such things will achieve better results than simply buying a new lens.

I'm often surprised at how few people know how to properly hold a camera, as one example. Improper technique will turn a $2400 lens into a $24 lens.


So true. If you aren't using a tripod, don't even bother with the minutae of comparing one brand or focal length of lens to another. With a 5DMk2, your resolution it great enough to see a difference between hand holding a camera and using a sturdy support. Do you shoot tethered with your camera? That's one way to improve your results. If you are looking for a lens with little distortion and maximum versatility, Canon's 90mm TSE is a highly versatile tool and one of my favorites for product illustration. I don't shoot that much Canon these days, but Nikon's 85mm tilt shift is just as good.
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Quinn W.




Location: Bellingham, WA
Joined: 02 May 2009

Posts: 197

PostPosted: Tue 08 Oct, 2013 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are infinite angle for any subject so what the best lens is depends on your distance and angle. For a full frame camera like yours, a 24mm basically is wide angle. I have found primes to be ideal for portrait and studio work. The ones I did for the Albion photo contests were on a crop frame with a 50mm prime.
You're operating with some really top level gear. I would-be a very happy man with a loadout like yours so don't stress too much about having adequate supplies for the job.

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D. S. Smith




Location: Central CA
Joined: 02 Oct 2011

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Tue 08 Oct, 2013 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I appreciate the continued feedback, it is very helpful.

Richard, yes, I do use a tripod. I have a Giottos carbon fiber tripod that I really like. It is not too heavy for backpacking but it is pretty darn stable, especially for the size and weight.

I'm on vacation right now visiting with my sister, who I never see because she lives back east. She's the one I sold my 70-200 lens to and she brought it with her...wow I miss this thing. Laughing Out Loud That said, I completely agree with what is being said, that it is "the indian, not the arrow".

PS- Richard, I noticed that you are in Pacifica, and Nathan is in San Francisco. I'm on the old Ft. Ord...I've noticed a number of California myArmoury members. We ought to have a get together and drool over each other's swords and cleave melons and water bottles asunder or something. Laughing Out Loud

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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Loring Palleske




Location: Peterborough
Joined: 01 Jul 2012
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Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue 08 Oct, 2013 7:25 pm    Post subject: your current glass is plenty sharp...         Reply with quote

As stated earlier - skill will trump the best equipment - having said that L glass is some of the best quality you will find out there (Nikon has the edge on wide zooms - Canon for variety and fast glass). The Sigma looks intriguing but what Michael didn't state is from what I've read - it won't function on a full frame camera like your 5D. (I may be wrong - it says EF mount not EFS but the reports I've read say extreme vignetting).

Sigma does make some outstanding lenses but it seems to be a lottery on the QC side - many more returned to find the one that is sharpest (this has been lessened somewhat with AF micro adjust).

The way light hits a blade and the different POVs that you shoot it at will be far more interesting that having a perfect lens (when you can't tell the difference on any web sized image anyways).
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Bruno Giordan





Joined: 28 Sep 2005

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PostPosted: Wed 09 Oct, 2013 2:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

D. S. Smith wrote:
I'm shooting RAW Michael. I used to shoot both, but just ended up wasting disk space with JPEG since I do PP on all the photos anyways, even if it's nothing more than cropping. I have Lightroom 4, but that is the only post processing software I have. One day I'll bite the bullet and get photoshop.


You might want to try a free, open source photoshop alternative at http://www.gimp.org. It has practically the same features and power, minus the price. i have been using it for years and never felt the need to switch to photoshop.
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Christine Munro




Location: Oxford
Joined: 01 Jun 2007

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Wed 09 Oct, 2013 4:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bruno Giordan wrote:
You might want to try a free, open source photoshop alternative at http://www.gimp.org. It has practically the same features and power, minus the price. i have been using it for years and never felt the need to switch to photoshop.

I'll second that. Although there are some bits and pieces that Photoshop does better (it wouldn't sell otherwise!) Gimp is an astonishingly good piece of software. I've done all sorts of things with it over the years and feel I've only scratched the surface of its capabilities. It's just a shame they chose such an awful name for it, but I guess it's just following the trend set by Unix ("castrated Multics").
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