Title: Blue Bloom
Location: RHS Hyde Hall, Rettenden
Camera: Canon EOS 5D MkIII / 50mm EF f/1.4 USM
Notes: There are still a few flowers in bloom at Hyde Hall gardens. I liked the strong contrast between these blue specimens and yellow leaves behind. The bees were still busy amongst them too.
You may recall that I had been contemplating a change from my Canon 70-20mm EF f/4 L USM lens a few months ago. It’s main failings for me were insufficient focal length at the long end to justify carrying it around with my 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM and lack of Image Stabilisation which was a hindrance in low light situations.
Since then I’ve been thinking hard about a suitable alternative. Recently Canon’s 70-300mm EF f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM caught my attention. So a couple of weeks ago I decided to invest. I purchased a second hand model from Camera World in the West End, who also took my 70-200mm lens in part exchange, which helped my wallet somewhat!
I had not previously heard of the DO series – it contains a Diffractive Optical element that, according to Canon, “delivers compact size, low weight and superb image quality”. Sounds great! The DO is designated by the green band around the front of the lens.
I have used it a few times since buying on 11th June. The weather has been rather appalling or I would have taken it out more!
I photographed Utopia during a dingy evening out at Heybridge Basin with the GNPC folks. The IS in the low light was a great help! This one nearly made it for Day #1627.
Yesterday I managed to cram in two photoshoots. I made these during the first, a family visit to RHS Hyde Hall:
I loved the soft background bokeh and clarity of the main details in both images.
During the evening I went to Maldon for another outing with the GNPC members. There was a Morris side practicing on the quay who proved to be fruitful photographic material:
The long focal length really helped to isolate them from their background and meant that I wasn’t trampled underfoot (or clog) to get the shot I wanted.
The evening light was very pleasant. I made this shot of the Thames Barge coming back to port with an evening excursion.
So, my first impressions are very positive. The size and weight of the lens is great (a mere 100mm long and 720g). The Image Stabilisation seems to work well, and I have no worries with the low-light performance. Certainly if I’m going anywhere and don’t want to lug the 100-4oomm zoom about with me, this makes a great alternative.
When I first got my Canon 70-200mm EF f/4 L USM lens secondhand from a friend in February last year, it was to have a smaller, lighter alternative to the monster 100-400mm EF f/4.5-5.6L IS USM which I also own. And I hoped it would make a good companion to the Canon 24-105mm EF f/4 L IS USM which is my regular standard zoom for days out.
My thinking was that I would use this one more frequently as it’s much less strain on the arms if you are using it without a tripod (which I tend to do – I’m too lazy to drag a tripod everywhere and it slows down my spontaneity).
Looking back over the last fifteen months or so, I realise I’ve actually used it more than I thought – but only on relatively few photographic outings.
The first real run out was a day in Brighton in April 2011, meeting photographic friends for a shoot. The light was mediocre but I was reasonably pleased with the results. Here’s one of the West Pier:
A group from GNPC went to RHS Hyde Hall in May to photograph the magnificent floral displays. It was a beautiful sunny if windy day and the images from that shoot produced some vibrant colours with great bokeh in the background. This yellow poppy illustrates it perfectly.
With plenty of light around, the 70-200mm focal length is a cracking option for this sort of picture, especially if the flowers you want to photograph are in the middle of a well-manicured bed and you can’t get any closer to your subject!
It’s not really suitable for macro or close up work, as the closest focus distance is 1.2m. The 705g weight isn’t too onerous on the shoulders – either in the kit bag or on the front of the camera – and only 35g heavier than my 24-105.
The next trip it went out on was the Shoot Maldon Live event with Upminster Camera Club, where I was judging the images made on the day, straight out of camera. I thought it only fair that I had a go myself!
This classic view of the Thames Barges at the Hythe shows the weather was occasionally sunny, but mainly overcast. It’s not a bad lens for landscape work, but the 700mm widest focal length can be a bit limiting for this type of photography, depending on your location circumstances.
Later on in May I was out again with the Chelmsford Flickr folk for their 30th Photowalk. We attended the Essex Young Farmers’ Country Show.
The lens was great for isolating interesting details from the shiny old tractors and farm equipment, but proved a little bit short on zoom length for the aerial motorbike displays – many of which had to be cropped in post production to fill the frame a bit more compared to straight out of the camera. The light had also gone very dim by that stage, so I was struggling for a decent shutter speed, even with the lens wide open at f/4. And the lack of Image Stabilisation meant I was a bit disappointed with many of the resulting shots. The one on the right shows one of the bikers taken at 200mm, with a 100% pixel comparison of part of the rear wheel – it’s not terribly crisp.
I had another go in low light at the beginning of June, when I found myself on the South Bank to witness a rather impressive dusk after sunset.
I made this image of Charing Cross by steadying the lens on the railings by the side of the river. Otherwise the lack of IS would have given me quite blurry images – and I didn’t dare push the ISO too much beyond 800 for fear of losing some of the details in the shadows and vibrancy of colours in the highlights.
I would have liked a slightly wider view of the scene but at 70mm, this is as wide as it got. Once again, I felt I was hitting a few of the lens’ limitations on this particular shoot.
In July I went with some friends from GNPC to the War & Peace show in Paddock Wood. I was hoping for some good candid portraits of the re-enacters so packed the lens in my bag.
It did prove to be a great portrait lens during the day. I loved this picture of a young “German” airman – which nearly made it to image of the day for Day #1299. But I did feel a bit conspicuous wandering around with the “white” lens and got asked several times if I was from the press!
In September a friend and I attended the London Tattoo Convention for the first time. We weren’t quite sure what to expect but knew there would be plenty of opportunity for people-watching – so again, the 70-200 was packed in the kit bag.
The folks there were very friendly and approachable, many of them more than happy to pose for photos.
The halls where the event was held were quite dingy, so I was once more hampered by the lack of IS with the lens. The best shots I got all day were in the central courtyard which has huge skylights in the roof. This red head was being pursued by many paparazzi so I was lucky the 200mm focal length got me a shot between other people’s heads!
There was quite a hiatus before I took the lens out again – a few days ago I attended the GB Olympic Canoeing Trials at the White Water Centre in Waltham Cross.
The primary lens I took along to capture the action was the 100-400 as I wanted to fill the frame as much as possible. But I packed the 70-200 as a backup and I’m glad I did – a few shots into the event and my 100-400 lens started playing up!
So the 70-200 proved to be a useful alternative, especially when the sun was out. The image above was made from a few feet away from the edge of the course. I didn’t have a press pass so wasn’t allowed “inside the ropes” but I still got some reasonable pictures.
Ultimately, I’m still undecided if I want to keep the lens. It didn’t cost me a lot as it was second hand. But I think 70-200 is just the wrong focal range for my current kit lineup. It overlaps the 24-105 by quite a lot, yet doesn’t really get much further at the long end to justify carrying it around. I prefer the 100-400 for sports and action shots, mainly for the versatility of zoom range and Image Stabilisation, which I do really miss on the shorter 70-200.
It’s certainly a great lens for some subjects such as flowers and portraiture, given enough light. Sadly the UK’s record for sunny conditions aren’t that great though! I’ll probably have a think about alternatives to this lens and write more when I’ve come to a decision.
A small group of us from the GNPC went on a photowalk to RHS Hyde hall on 1st May, with the intention of doing some macro flower photography. However, we were somewhat thwarted by the fact that it was VERY windy! Never mind, I did manage a few reasonable shots, and this rather splendid purple Iris (complete with added fly) nearly made it on Day #1217:
After my stint at the BBC finished, I had a couple of days to draw breath before I went out with the Upminster Camera Club to judge their Shoot Maldon Live competition. I had a great time, despite the weather being rather variable. One of my own favourite images from the day was this detail [right] from the chandelier in the pub dining room – it would have been picture of the day had it fitted one of the six themes we were supposed to be shooting!
The Chelmsford Photowalk Flickr group had an early outing this month to visit the Essex Young Farmers’ Club Show in Roxwell. Plenty of photographic subjects to see, and there was an excellent turn out. Again, it was very windy so some shots were a bit limited by the conditions (the sun was in and out all afternoon). My multi-shot composite of the mad motorcylists had to be picture of the day, but if I hadn’t have had such a good image, then this rather striking (and clean!) picture of one of the old tractors on display would have been my choice:
Ingatestone Camera Club had their first summer photowalk on 31st May, where we had the free run of the grounds of Ingatestone Hall to ourselves. My macro shot of water lilies in the pond was ultimately what I chose for the day, but it was nearly this mono image of the Hall and pond. It had taken innumerable goes and oodles of patience to get all of the elements in the right place – when the sun was out, the swan had invariably swum off!
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A small group of us went to Hyde Hall this morning. The idea was to take lots of plant portraits, but it turned out to be extremely windy, which made things a bit difficult. Nevertheless, I managed a few shots I was quite pleased with: