Is Nikon surpassing Canon in the race for the 2012 Olympic games?

Why you will (most likely) not see many Canon EOS-1D X cameras at the Olympic Games and Formula 1 races this year.

Yesterday, I posted a comparison on Google+ of the 2 new flagship cameras from Canon and Nikon - here:

Today, Nikon officially released the D4 and I was looking for one particular spec with regards to autofocus:

11 focus points (five at center with an additional three to each side) are fully functional when lenses with a maximum aperture of f/8 are used. This enables very precise focus acquisition with sports photography and the like when super-telephoto NIKKOR lenses are used with a teleconverter (2.0x) at a combined aperture value of f/8.

Why do I mention that?
Well, here is what Canon specifies with regards to autofocus and aperture values in their spec-sheet for the EOS-1D X:
One to five cross-type AF points at f/2.8, 10 to 20 cross-type AF points at f/4, and 15 to 21 cross-type AF points at f/5.6.

Sounds all good, right?
But what this means is that lenses with an aperture smaller than f/5.6 will loose auto-focus. Most of portrait, landscape and studio photographers will not worry about this as they're not using those kind of lenses but given the really fast frames per second specs, the great ISO performance this camera is made for wildlife and sports photographers who use very long lenses and extenders. As of today, every 1D body supported autofocus up to f/8:

List of EOS bodies that can AF at f/8
Source: Wikipedia

Canon EOS bodies that have a high density, high precision auto-focus sensor with 45 AF points are able to autofocus at maximum apertures of f/8.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
Canon EOS-1D Mark III
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
Canon EOS-1D Mark II
Canon EOS-1D Mark II N
Canon EOS-1Ds
Canon EOS-1D
Canon EOS-1V
Canon EOS 3
Although the upcoming Canon EOS-1D X, the replacement for both the 1D Mark IV and 1Ds Mark III, will have 61 AF points, it will not autofocus with any lenses or lens/extender combinations whose maximum aperture is smaller than f/5.6.

By using the 2x Extender, you're loosing 2 f-stops of maximum aperture. This will make 3 of the most used Super Telephoto lenses unusable with the 2x extender:

- Canon EF 400mm f/4
- Canon EF 500mm f/4
- Canon EF 600mm f/4

The longest focal length with autofocus on the EOS-1D X will be 840mm by using the 1.4x extender on the 600mm f/4 compared to 1200mm on the previous 1D models by using the 2x extender on the same lens.

If you are a photographer working at those focal lengths, will you keep shooting Canon by not upgrading to the 1-D X or will you switch to Nikon?

The Dumpster Pod

You should always carry a tripod when shooting night-scenes like the one below. Well, let's be realistic, carrying a heavy, sturdy tripod while walking through a city like New York sucks but luckily there are some "natural" tripods available (almost) wherever you go.

I was using some dumpsters to keep my camera steady - you can see parts of them in the lower left corner (shouldn't tell you that, I know).
It's not the perfect solution but for a 1/2 second exposure like this it was quite convenient. Alternatively, I could have used a higher ISO instead to shorten the shutter speed but I wanted the motion blur and light-trails of the passing cars in the frame.

Exif Info:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

  • Exposure Time: 0.5s (1/2)

  • Aperture: f/4

  • ISO: 100

  • Focal Length: 24mm


The Dumpsterpod

Heavy Machinery or how to kill the autofocus of the Canon 50mm f/1.4

The light or better the remainder of the light was awesome and the sky was about to explode - which it actually did just a couple of minutes after I took those pictures but more of that later.

I was walking the dog that evening and only brought my fast 50 with me (translation: Canon 50mm f/1.4) - no tripod of course. The light level was so low I had to shoot fully open at f/1.4 and ISO 6400 to get a shutter speed of 1/40. To create a wide-angle panorama with a 50mm I shot a total of 17 frames and stitched it together using Photoshop CS5.

I adjusted the white-balance to reduce the color temperature even more - (I shot in the tungsten setting as always for night photography - and used the built-in noise-reduction of Lightroom 3 on the 17 RAW files before exporting them to smaller JPG's to process in Photoshop. I do this most of the time for big panoramas to save time and to see if it actually works - it doesn't all the time and that's a optimistic statement.
I can still process the full-res RAW's the same way later if I want to - I didn't feel like for that one as I'm generally not patient enough to wait 4 hours.

It was a fairly quick process in Photoshop - thanks to the small JPG's. After I cropped the produced panorama I created a black-white layer using the awesome Silver Efex Pro 2 by Nik Software using a green filter and blended it using the Soft Light option to get more drama.

15 minutes after I took that shot a really bad rainstorm hit the area (and me without rain-protection), almost killing my 50mm lens. My Canon 5D Mark II is weather sealed but I forgot that the 50 was not. I usually don't mind the rain and keep shooting but the autofocus in the lens stopped working after a few minutes - that was the last time I shot with that lens in the rain, btw.

Check my blogpost at for details on how I created that image.

The best of 2009

Ivan Makarov inspired me with his "Wrapping up 2009" blogpost to do something similar and therefore you can find below my - in my opinion - best pictures I shot in 2009.

I would be interested to see your comments on which one you like most....

1. Wait a sec...
We went to Lake Compounce near Hartford, CT and shortly before we left the park, the light for that kind of shot was perfect.

Wait a sec...

2. The Dark Side
I went to the Explorer's Club in Manhattan to visit a presentation by photographer Rick Sammon that night. It was raining when I was on my way to Grand Central to catch the train to Stamford when I took that shot.

The Dark Side

3. The Wetlands of Cape Cod or the day MJ died
It was a beautiful day in Hyannis, MA (Cape Cod) and I took this shot just before I headed back to the Hotel where I heard the news that Michael Jackson has died.


4. Shithouse
This is another picture from the Cape Cod trip and I took it from a whale-watching vessel while leaving the harbor. That roof of that house was really full of bird poo and those 4 seagull were standing there and looked like that were about to p.... again.


5. A bright Monu(ment)
It was a beautiful but very cold day in February when I took that shot of the Washington Monument.
A Bright Mo(nu)ment

6. ...and there was light!
I took this picture at Mystic Harbor, CT inside the cord factory building. I really liked the side light and the bright spot at the end of the hallway.
...and there was light!

7. Yellowwwwww
I think it's pretty obvious where I took that photograph. I shot around a dozen images of that scene and this was the only one where the policewoman stood still while yellow cabs were passing. I was leaning against a traffic-light pole and thanks to the IS in the lens I was able to hand-hold it still despite the quite long exposure of 1/5 sec.

8. Drips from the topfloor
This is my first picture (and the only one so far) that made #1 on Flickr's Explorer site. I was walking down broadway from 42nd to Washington Square Park when I noticed the great tones and I was sure that this would end up as a black and white.
Drips from the Topfloor

9. Where is the ocean?
This is one of the first pictures I took when I got back to Switzerland in Summer 2009. It shows a yacht under construction that gets built in the middle of a corn-field. The owner plans to sail the world with it once finished.
Where is the ocean?

10. View from Rigi Scheidegg towards Lake Lauerz and Mythen
One of my last shots of 2009 shows the area where I live. The light was great as was the clear air.

View from Rigi Scheidegg towards Lake Lauerz and Mythen