Category Archives: Tests

The Canon 5D Mk IV and A Visit to The Texas Renaissance Festival

The Bordello Sisters Ready For Action

The Bordello Sisters ready for action in the King’s Feasthall.  Texas Renaissance Festival 2016 (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L lens, f7.1, shutter 1/40, ISO 3200, no flash)

I am staff photographer for The Merchant Prince – a vendor out at the Texas Renaissance Festival (aka TX Renfest).  I worked for him and his wife as a serving wench and then Feast Gift Shoppe store manager for oh, about 9 years, before “retiring” and then returning annually to focus on photographs for their marketing purposes.  It’s a sweet deal:  I do my favorite thing of photography on their behalf and they make sure I get access to venues both in front- and behind-the-scenes, as well as provide me food and beverages during my entire weekend stay.  It works!

I like to go during the Halloween-themed weekend, so the photos here reflect the occasion.

Pirates Performing in the Feasthall

Spooky pirates onstage in the King’s Feasthall, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 1DX, Canon 24-70mm f4L lens, f5, shutterr 1/40, ISO 4000, no flash)

Meaghan At The Photo Booth

Bartender at the Wonky Wally Pub, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5DS, Canon 50mm f1.2L lens, f8, shutter 1/125, ISO 640, no flash)

This year, in addition to my Canon 1DX and 5DS cameras, I rented the new Canon 5D Mk IV.  I wanted to run this camera through its paces – mainly its low-light paces.  My 1DX works quite well in low-light.  The 5DS and 5DSR are not that great at all in low light.  I was hoping the 5D Mk IV would be a game changer.


You won’t read about any pixel-peeping minutiae here, nor do I go into depth regarding technical specs.  I’m just going to tell you what I think about this camera based upon the shots I achieved after a full weekend of using the 5D Mk IV.   Would I purchase this camera to use alongside my others?  Should you purchase this camera?

The 5D Mk IV provides quite a bit more resolution than the 5D Mk III, but not as much as the 5DS/5DSR.  That said, the extra resolution (~30 mp) creates lovely sharp shots in good light. Actually, if you use a flash, it creates lovely sharp shots in low light as well.  And that extra resolution allows for nice crops and enlargements.


Blackheart, 2016 Texas RenaissanceFestival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 100mm f2.8L lens, f9, shutter 1/60, ISO 400, no flash)

The Cannibal Tudors

The Cannibal Tudors, 2016 Texas Renaissance Fesstival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 50mm f1.2L lens, f9, shutter 1/60, ISO 320, flash used)

This camera, however, is not as great of a high-ISO, low-light performer as I had hoped for.  In reality, even with all of it’s technical upgrades, I feel it’s only marginally better than my 5DS cameras. Of the three Canons, my 1DX provides the best images in low light.  Judicious use of my Imagenomic Noiseware application helped to reduce the graininess, which I basically applied to all of my low-light images taken with this and my other two cameras.

Regarding speed, the Mk IV’s 7fps is nicer than the 5fps provided by the 5DS/5DR.  The shutter is relatively quiet (nothing at all like the machine-gun sound of the 1DX). Nonetheless, you still would have a difficult time using this camera at a sporting event. I photographed birds at the Royal Falconer’s Show using the 5D Mk IV and really didn’t get any clear shots to speak of when the birds were in flight or getting ready to take off. I would have been better served using the 1DX, in hindsight. 7fps would certainly help for wedding events, even though you still might have trouble photographing movement to some extent without a flash.

Ronin The Lanner Falcon

Ronin the Lanner Falcon, Royal Falconer’s Stage, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II lens, f9, shutter 1/320, ISO 500, no flash)

King Vulture Portrait

Rey the King Vulture, Royal Falconer’s Stage, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II lens, f9, shutter 1.640, ISO 500, no flash)

I was impressed with the focus upgrades.  Even in extremely low light, the camera never once had to search for something on which to focus.  Where ever I pointed the lens, that’s where it focused.

Broadside Onstage

Broadside onstage, Pirate Pub Sing, Sea Devil Tavern, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 100mm f2.8L II lens, f4.5, shutter 1.40, ISO 6400, no flash, noise reduction applied during editing)

Fiddler Onstage

Fiddler onstage at the Pirate Pub Sing, Sea Devil Tavern, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 100mm f2.8L II lens, f4.5, shutter 1/25, ISO 6400, no flash, noiseware reduction applied during editing stage)

Melissa In The Prince Of Wales  Pub

Interior shot of the Prince of Wales Pub, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 14mm f2.8, f6.3, shutter 1/50, ISO 3200, no flash)

Because I had the GPS function turned on for about half the day on Saturday, it used up battery juice much faster than the analogous battery in my 5DS (the batteries are interchangeable).  If I had left GPS turned off – which I did later that day, the battery life would lasted longer and I would not have been forced to switch out batteries later that same day.  I do think the GPS function is cool and would be an awesome enhancement for landscape shots. I never used the WiFi function but think that’s pretty cool too – provided it works.

I didn’t really have much use for the touchpad, but it was kinda neat as well, and it was especially helpful during my microfocus adjustments for all of my lenses, which is the first thing I do with a rental camera to ensure my lenses focus clearly.  As I reviewed a shot, I’d zoom in and instead of having to use that little button to the side of the LCD to move around the shot, I simply swiped my finger across the LCD to move the image around for further inspection.

This post is not meant to be a thick-paged documentation of the camera, so I’ll bring this to a close.  All in all, I think the Canon 5D Mk IV would be a worthy upgrade to the Mk III, just for the extra 2 fps, the faster focus, the GPS/WiFi and all the other technical improvements. But if you own the 5DS or 5DSR, I don’t believe you really need to get this camera (I LOVE my 5DS/5DSR cameras for landscapes). For photographing action, you would be much better served with the 1DX or 1DX Mk II. Same for low-light imagery, I think.  For me, the low-light results were the tipping point to keep me from purchasing this camera.  Had I seen miraculously little noise in my images, I would have probably purchased that very camera I’d rented (you can do that with  Alas, that was not the case and all of the improvements were not enough for me to want to add this model to my existing gear.

I know this sounds critical of the 5D MkIV and I don’t mean it to be. Camera choice, like photography itself, tends to be subjective. It’s a very nice camera, has more resolution than the 5D Mk III, and has GPS and WiFi in addition to improved focusing. If you can rent it (I rent from, then do so and try it out to see for yourself.  I recommend you do that with any camera or lens that interests you.  Try before you buy.

Bordello Sisters Iin The Feasthall

The Bordello Sisters in the King’s Feasthall, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 14mm f2.8L lens, f4.5, shutter 1/50, ISO 4000, flash used)


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Filed under 5D Mk IV, Events, Flash Photography, Tests, Texas Renaissance Festival

Flat As A Pancake – The New Canon 40mm f2.8 STM Lens


I had never in my life heard of a pancake lens until one of the photography sites that I frequent trumpeted the announcement of the Canon 40mm STM f2.8 pancake lens. I then discovered other pancake lenses: Samsung puts out three of them: the 20mm, the 30mm and the 16mm, and Voigtlander also sells three of them: the Ultron 40mm,  the Color Skopar 25mm, and the Color Skopar 21mm.

A pancake lens is a reallyflat lens – in the case of the Canon model, the lens is about one (1)  inch tall. Really!  A 1-inch tall lens on a DSLR.



It looks like this on my camera:


When Canon announced this lens, with a price of $199, I said to myself: “Self, you should get this lens. It’s not that expensive, it sounds fun, it’s certainly smaller and lighter than your 50mm f1.2 lens.  Plus, it’s got a slightly wider view for those group shots. Granted, it’s not an L-lens, with that supreme L-lens quality, but nonetheless…..”

So, I placed a “pre-order” for this lens, since it was not yet in stock. A pre-order means the camera company has your order on record (i.e. in the queue with all of the other pre-orders for an item not yet in stock), but until said item arrives, they won’t charge your credit card or Paypal account.

Two full weeks later, still no lens. I lost my patience, rationalized to myself as to why I really didn’t need the 40mm pancake lens, cancelled the “pending” order and instead opted for the Canon 2x teleconverter. We all know how that worked out.

So, I re-ordered the now in-stock lens.

The 40mm pancake vs. the 50mm L lens on a camera:



First impressions right out of the box: It’s so cute! ;D

Ok, now for a little more helpful set of first impressions:

  • The pancake lens is so very light.  And, as you can see, the glass itself is pretty small, compared to the glass of the 50mm lens.  This gives me an indication that the L-lens  probably allows in more light than the pancake lens will.
  • The pancake lens feels relatively sturdy.  I’m comparing this to what I remember of the 50mm f1.8 lens I used to own, which both looked and felt a little on the flimsy side (my apologies to those of you out there who own and love this lens – remember, this is just my opinion).
  • The pancake lens was easy to attach to the camera.  I’ve read reviews where it’s a little difficult (especially for larger hands) to work with the manual focus.  I haven’t tried to use the manual focus because I generally don’t use manual focus on any of my lenses; my eyesight is not what it used to be at 51 years of age, so I generally rely on the AF.
  • Speaking of  AF, you probably want to know about this fancy STM focusing.  In a nutshell, that means the lens is supposed to ensure smooth and silent continuous focusing – especially important to those using the video mode on their cameras.  I personally found the focus motor noise to be practically non-existent.  There might have been a teeny bit of noise, but I could only hear it in total silence.  While using the lens outside with all of the background noises of birds singing, cars driving past, lawn mowers working, etc., I heard nada, and focusing was definitely smooth.  Actually, focusing was smooth even under interior low light conditions.
  • Of course, neither my 50mm nor this new 40mm have image stabilization (IS), but the 40mm lens is so small and light that shake seems to be less of an issue.  Just about every image I took, the focus was spot-on from the first click to the last, with very few blurry images.

So what’s that little rubber cup I have attached to my cute little lens?  Well, when using a non-L lens, I generally don’t bother with any sort of filter unless I opt to use a circular polarizer (CPL). There is a school of thought out there that says filters are simply another layer of glass through which the lens must focus, thus distorting the original image and reducing its clarity.  For non-L lenses, I apply that school of thought.  For L-lenses, I like using the slim versions of filters for UV / protection and (in the case of the CPL) to eliminate vignetting for wide angle shots.  For the non-L lenses I prefer to simply use a lens hood as protection and shade from sun flare. With this lens, there is not – yet – a dedicated hood.  However, there are all sorts of lens hoods for 52mm filter threads, which is what I ended up ordering.  I purchased this little rubber wonderfor nostalgic reasons  in addition to price; I fondly remember during my high school years using a rubber lens hood. It works fine and I never have to remove it if I don’t wish to.   Plus, it takes up very little room in the camera bag.  It’s not exactly sturdy (like if you accidentally slammed your lens up against the wall), but it still does the job for me.

I’m sure you all want me to quit babbling and get to the meat of this post, which are comparison photos, right?    Ok, but first, you need to understand a few things.  I am not a technical person; no tech-speak here in this post.  I’m simply doing this review straight out of the box, from a Joe(sephine) the Photographer point of view.

Below are comparison photos of the 40mm STM f2.8 pancake lens and the 50mm USM f1.2L lens on a Canon 5D Mark II body. Now, I’m pretty sure some of you are saying “comparing those two lenses is like comparing apples to oranges, rather than comparing apples to apples.”  True, but it’s all I have to work with.

Normally, what I like to do with a Raw photo is start my editing in Lightroom 4, then export it to Adobe Photoshop CS5 and run the Auto Tone, do any other little artistic tweaks, and then the final Unsharp Mask.

However, for this comparison, the first photos  you initially see here are straight out of the cameras. No processing whatsoever except to import the Raw files into the computer and convert them to TIFs and then to low-res JPGS. Same settings for both lenses; yes, I know that although I am using the same brand and make of cameras, no two cameras of the same brand and make are ever totallyalike. Deal with it.

Low-Light Interior Shots – unedited

Canon 40mm pancake f2.8, ISO 200, shutter speed 1/30


Canon 50mm f2.8, ISO 200, shutter speed 1/30


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Canon 40mm pancake f2.8, ISO 400, shutter speed 1/30


Canon 50mm f2.8, ISO 400, shutter speed 1/30


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Canon 40mm pancake f2.8, ISO 640, shutter speed 1/30


Canon 50mm f2.8, ISO 640, shutter speed 1/30


Bokeh – unedited

Canon 40mm pancake f2.8, ISO 200, shutter speed 1/30


Canon 50mm f2.8, ISO 200, shutter speed 1/30


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Canon 40mm pancake f2.8, ISO 400, shutter speed 1/30


Canon 50mm f2.8, ISO 400, shutter speed 1/30


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Canon 40mm pancake f2.8, ISO 640, shutter speed 1/30


Canon 50mm f2.8, ISO 640, shutter speed 1/30


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Exterior Shots – unedited

*Note:  For the exterior images, I had to keep changing the shutter speeds because the 50mm L-lens definitely lets in a little more light than the 40mm (as I originally surmised).  So, I wasn’t consistent with the speeds.  I did remain consistent with the aperture (f-stop) and the ISO.  All of the exterior images were taken hand held.

Canon 40mm pancake f5.6 ISO 250


Canon 50mm L f5.6 ISO 250


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Canon 40mm pancake f5.6 ISO 250


Canon 50mm L f5.6 ISO 250


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Canon 40mm pancake f5.6 ISO 250


Canon 50mm L f5.6 ISO 250


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Canon 40mm pancake f5.6 ISO 250


Canon 50mm L f5.6 ISO 250


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OK, so you’ve seen what the images from these lenses look like straight out of the camera with no processing. Now let’s see what some post-processing magic does to these shots, since I am one of those photographers who believes that just about every photo taken – no matter how perfect the in-camera exposure settings – has room for improvement with at least some post processing.

I imported these same Raw images into Lightroom 4, where I applied Lens Profile Correction, moved the Highlights slider all the way to the left, ran the Clarity slider up to between 30 – 50 and  on some of them, lightened the exposure.  Then I exported the results over as TIF files into Adobe Photoshop CS5.   For the images you see here, all the TIFs were ultimately saved as low-res JPGS after processing.

In CS5, I applied Auto Tone and/or Curves adjustment, then Unsharp Mask . That’s it.

*Note #1:  Lightroom 4 currently doesn’t have any sort of profile correction for the 40mm because this lens is so new.  I’m sure Adobe will eventually send out a patch for this.

*Note #2:  Looking at the exterior image 100% crops captured by the 50mm, I noticed sometimes they were not as sharp as they could/should be, and I attribute that to user error.  I’ve applied in-camera micro focus adjustment, and with a tripod, the 50mm images are beautifully sharp and smooth.  As mentioned above, though, I was not using a tripod for the exterior shots, my hands are small, and the 50mm lens is a “meaty” lens – especially compared to the teeny 40mm.

Here’s what the images look like now.

Interior – Edited

40mm pancake lens – edited original and 100% crop


9664_Edited_f28_ISO400_1-30_40mm CROP100pct

50mm L lens – edited original and 100% crop


0090_Edited_f28_ISO400_1-30_50mm CROP100pct

Bokeh – Edited

40mm pancake lens – edited original and 100% crop


9654_Edited_f28_ISO400_1-30_40mm CROP100pct

50mm L lens – edited original and 100% crop


0079_Edited_f28_ISO400_1-30_50mm CROP100pct

Exterior – Edited

40mm pancake lens – edited original and 100% crop

9584_Shrimp Plant Flower

9584_Shrimp Plant Flower_CROP100pct

50mm L lens – edited original and 100% crop



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40mm pancake lens – edited original and 100% crop



50mm L lens – edited original and 100% crop


9968_fig_edited_50mm CROP100pct

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40mm pancake lens – edited original and 100% crop

9616_Wrought Iron

9616_Wrought Iron CROP100pct

50mm L lens – edited original and 100% crop


0017_WroughtIron_edited_50mm CROP100pct

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40mm pancake lens – edited original and 100% crop


9611_Oleander CROP100pct

50mm L lens – edited original and 100% crop


0011_Oleander_edited_50mm CROP100pct

My concluding impressions:

  • I really really like this lens!  It’s a fun little lens! I’ve read other great reviews for this lens, and now I can add my own support.  It doesn’t let in as much light as a larger 50mm lens does, but it just requires a change in aperture, shutter speed, or ISO to remedy that issue.
  • It’s nice and light and easy to carry around on the camera.  Plus, it doesn’t call as much attention to the photographer as a larger lens might.  I don’t like to have attention called to myself when I am busy taking photos – it’s about my subject(s) and not about me.
  • I like the slightly wider view on my full-frame camera because I plan on using this lens not only as a walk-around lens but also (mainly) as a group/portrait lens.  This wider view means I can get more of a group in without having to back up as much.
  • I do wish they had made the lens a little faster (i.e. 1.8, 1.4 or 1.2 as opposed to 2.8).  Just a quibble though.  For me and my purposes, it’s still a decent low-light lens and I can increase the ISO if I need to.
  • It’s a damned sharp lens!  Canon actually did a great job with a non-L lens (I hate their kit lenses, and for a full-frame camera, it’s been L-lenses all the way for me….until now).
  • And finally, the price is right.

So there you have it:  my 2-cents worth of a review for the Canon 40mm STM f2.8 lens.  If you don’t feel like spending $200 right away, then just rent it for a few days (it’s a cheap rent) and decide if you want to have a lens like this in your camera bag.  Every lens I think about purchasing, I rent first (well, with the exception of this little gem).


Filed under lenses, Photography, Tests