My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

The Canon and cannon, first impressions

On Thursday, I picked up my new Canon 60D body, and the Sigma 150-500 mm zoom lens that I had ordered after my old Nikon D50 had died. I didn’t have very much time that day to do too much other than charge the battery, get everything set-up, and shoot a couple of photos before work.

Day 1

First impressions.

The Sigma lens is huge! and a handful! It weighs four pounds by itself, it will be a chore to carry that thing around as a walking around lens, but it was the best choice I could make as far as getting the biggest bang for my limited bucks.

The Canon and the cannon

The Canon and the cannon

I love the viewfinder of the Canon! It’s so much larger and brighter than the viewfinder of my old Nikon, I can actually see what I am shooting!

I’m still getting used to the controls on the Canon, but they seem to be well laid out and easy to access. I especially like the buttons for metering mode, ISO settings, drive mode, and AF mode selection on top near the shutter release button. No more paging through a menu system as required on my old Nikon to access those settings.

One negative thing, the on/off switch on the Canon is on the left of the body, requiring me to use my left hand to turn the camera on. On my Nikon, the on/off switch was under the shutter release, and my right index finger would flip the camera on even as I was bringing the camera up to my eye. But, I’ll live with the Canon for now. 😉

After the battery was charged, I checked to make sure everything functioned. This shot was taken indoors using available light.

The very first photo taken with my new camera

The very first photo taken with my new camera

And here’s the shooting info…

Shooting Mode Program AE
Tv( Shutter Speed ) 1/10
Av( Aperture Value ) 6.3
Metering Mode Evaluative Metering
Exposure Compensation 0
ISO Speed 800
Auto ISO Speed ON
Lens 150-500 mm
Focal Length 500.0mm

1/10 of a second handheld zoomed to 500mm!

It may not be tack sharp, but it’s still almost unbelievable!! The Sigma lens has Image Stabilization, they call it Optical Stabilization, but I think that the weight of the Sigma also helps to steady the camera and lens. I harken back to my days as a target shooter. A target rifle is very heavy as the weight helps to steady it while you’re shooting. It’s a matter of inertia, a large, heavy object requires more force to make it move than does a light one. I doubt if I’ll be able to shoot at less than 1/100 of a second, but still, that first shot was darned impressive!

I stepped outside and shot a couple of photos of an English sparrow just to see how the camera and lens performed.

Male English Sparrow

Male English Sparrow

Male English Sparrow

Male English Sparrow

Male English Sparrow

Male English Sparrow

Those are far sharper than any photo that the old Nikon produced, but I think the reason is because of the lens I was using, not so much the camera.

After those quick photos, it was off to work for the night.

Day 2

A beautiful day, I had high hopes, tempered by the fact that things seldom go as I plan. Such was the case today. I couldn’t find many birds to try my new equipment out on.

I started out shooting a couple of photos of a crow perched in a tree, those photos seemed to have disappeared, at least they didn’t show up when I downloaded from the camera.

I had trouble getting the crow in focus while using the auto-focus, the Canon has 9 auto-focus points, and it kept locking on branches around the crow rather than the crow, as the branches were closer. Being an idiot, I hadn’t brought my glasses or the manual to correct the problem. I did shoot a couple in manual focus, but like I say, they seem to be gone.

The Sigma lens is heavy, large, and awkward to use, but then, I’m not used to it yet. That, and I now have too darned many controls to get used to. The Sigma has a zoom lock, I have to remember to unlock it. It also has two auto-focus modes, one for stationary subjects, one for moving subjects, I’ll have to get used to that as well. I will get used to it when I’ve used it for a while, but I doubt that I would ever recommend it to any one for use as a walking around lens. Because of my size, strength, and determination, I will make it work for me. But I’m sure that an average size person would find it too heavy to tote. The tripod mount does double as a great carrying handle, but I’ll have to find a better way to lug it around.

The on/off switch on the Canon is in a bad location, just as I was worried about. Being tucked in under the mode dial, and behind the mounting point for the strap, it is hard to find, at least at first. I’m sure that I’ll get used to it.

It’s tough switching gear, everything is different, but that didn’t stop me from getting this shot.

Male pileated woodpecker

Male pileated woodpecker

I wish that I had been able to get closer, but I’m very happy with the sharpness and color rendition! I missed a shot of the woodpecker in flight, because I couldn’t get all the switches set right before he disappeared from view.

I shot a couple of a robin for practice and to judge the performance of my new gear.

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

Again, the sharpness and color rendition are great!

Not finding any birds, I shot a few photos of the first open crocus of the spring.















I wasn’t as concerned with composition as I was just getting used to the camera and seeing the solutions it came up with as far as exposure settings in the program mode. I’m impressed!

Again, color rendition and sharpness are much better than my old camera and lens, and the Canon does what I think is a much better job of setting the exposure “triad”, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

My old Nikon made most of the exposure adjustments through shutter speed alone, leaving the lens wide open almost all the time, and never bumping up the ISO until after the shutter speeds were so long that camera blur was inevitable.

The Canon seems to optimize between the three, keeping shutter speeds high enough to lessen camera shake, stopping down the lens for sharpness and depth of field, and balancing the ISO to make it all work.

To begin with I saw some ISO settings up to 800, with my old Nikon, picture quality would have suffered greatly at that setting! I can hardly tell the difference in ISO settings up to 800 with the Canon, I had it set to limit the ISO at 800 when I started. I am impressed again! There’s very little if any sensor noise visible in any of these photos, a huge increase in quality over what I was used to.

But, I didn’t know that while I was shooting, so I set the ISO to 250. That’s another big difference between the Canon and the Nikon, the Canon has smaller increments in the ISO settings, one-third of a stop between settings. The Nikon was 200, 400, 800, and 1600, nothing in between.

By the way, I was shooting in program mode to test it, I know that’s not the preferred mode for highest quality. My hope was to get to shoot some birds in flight, and program mode is better for that in my opinion, not always, but most of the time. That, and I wanted to get the feel of the camera and lens, and learn basic things first. I’ll get to the good stuff later.

Maybe the best way that I can sum of my first real day of using the Canon and cannon is this, I didn’t delete a single photo because of a quality issue. No blurred photos, no out of focus photos, no poorly exposed photos, 100% usable. I don’t think that I ever had a day with the Nikon when I could say that.

And before I forget, the focusing speed of this camera and lens combination is incredibly fast when compared to the Nikon! I press the shutter release halfway, and the focus locks before I notice that it’s focusing. The only times when the new combo hunted for a focus lock was when I was too close to the flowers for the lens to focus at all. Nothing like the old Nikon of having it cycle through the focus range several times, then give up until I tried a second, or third time. I need to catch a few birds in flight to give the new combo a real test.

Day 3

Turned out to be a torture test, for the camera, the lens, my arms, back, and shoulders. I think that the day was worthy of a post all on its own, so I’m going to end this here, and continue on later. I have done a post about day 3 and the performance of this camera/lens combo under low light conditions here.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


19 responses

  1. superb…I have canon but not like this one. Cheers….:)

    April 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    • Thank you!

      April 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm

  2. That is pretty amazing. Loved the flower photos. I am now expecting some pretty incrediable things from you.

    April 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    • Thanks, but I can goof up just as well with good equipment as bad!

      April 6, 2013 at 5:37 pm

  3. Robins and crocuses? Where have I seen those before? I am very much looking forward to your efforts with the new kit. I bought a second hand 150-500mm lens but as you say, they are hard to carry about and I haven’t used it as much as I should have.

    April 6, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    • It’s part of my new fitness program, combining weight lifting and photography!

      April 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm

  4. That lens really is a monster, but you’re right-it’s nice and sharp. I’m surprised that they put the on/off switch on the left-mine is on the right. I think your frustration with it will wear off quickly. Mine lasted about a week and now using the camera is like breathing. I’m glad to hear that you like it!

    April 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    • It’s all what you get used to, it’s hard changing after several years of knowing exactly where everything is and it does become as natural as breathing. For the price, that lens is incredibly sharp!

      April 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm

  5. What a wonderful first two days you’ve had with your set up. This is great news. For your focus issue, what you can do is select the center focus point only and all you have to do is hone in on your bird dead center in the frame. I scoff at four pounds for a lens now that I’m used to carrying the 500mm. When I step down it seems too light to me. 🙂 Hope you find some great birds soon.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    • Thanks, I did just that as far as setting to the center point, and also to finding some birds to shoot!

      April 6, 2013 at 6:59 pm

  6. I simply hate that learning curve frustration, but we all go through it to get to a better place. You should be able to adjust your focus points to eliminate focusing on branches, though maybe not in the auto mode. I simply love my Canon, but figuring out all the buttons has taken longer than I like. I would hate to have to scroll through menus like you described in the Nikon.

    That is one huge, monster lens though. I expect to see some fantastic bird shots whenever you get comfortable with the new kit.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    • Thank you! Actually, it isn’t taking me long to get the hang of the new Canon, except for the placement of the on/off switch, it is very well laid out for me. I’ve been trying for some good bird shots, when the weather was nice, they weren’t around. Today was cloudy, cold, and windy, the birds were out in full force, go figure.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm

  7. How exciting! I have the same gear and it was like a weight-lifting/photography program at first for me too 🙂

    April 7, 2013 at 8:47 am

    • Thank you, but now I feel like a wimp for complaining about the weight. 😉

      April 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

      • You’re no wimp! I think you go on much longer treks than I do.

        April 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm

  8. Congrats.
    I am glad fo you.
    I will look forward your photos.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:49 am

    • Thank you, Cornel, I always look forward to yours as well.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:22 am

  9. Nice, was thinking of getting that lens!

    April 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    • Thanks for commenting. I think that the image quality is very good or better. This is the best lens that I’ve used on a digital camera, but my experience with them is limited, I stuck with film until a few years ago. The only downside I can find is its weight, but you have to expect that with a quality lens of that length.

      April 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm