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Canon 16-35 f4 L IS

Test shot with Canon 16-35 f4 L IS in the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields

London. 08 December 2015 Test shot with Canon 16-35 f4 L IS in the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields Photo: Neil Turner

A couple of months ago I cracked and bought the Canon 16-35 f4 L IS lens to replace my very elderly 16-35 f2.8L having borrowed both this one and the f2.8L MkII to see what all the fuss was about. I shoot quite a few pictures of buildings and having a 16mm lens is very useful – especially when the space is really tight.

My old 16-35 and just about every other super-wide lens I have ever used has suffered from barrel distortion, been less than pin sharp in the corners and generally required a bit of work to get great pictures that are as free from distortion as possible.

I was on a job last night in a tight space where the 16-35 f4 L IS was being pressed into service to do shots of an empty venue before an event. I hadn’t brought a tripod because I hadn’t expected to be doing these shots but I did my best with what I had. The photo above was taken hand-held at 1/60th of a second at f4 on 2500 ISO with the IS switched on with a Canon EOS5D MkIII. I have applied no correction to the uprights and the frame is un-cropped at 16mm focal length.

It was dark down there and the white balance did need a subtle tweak but apart from that this frame demonstrates just how little barrel distortion (can you see any?) this lens has even at 16mm and it also demonstrates how good the image stabilisation is.

The 16-35 f4 L IS isn’t a perfect lens. It’s quite large for what it does and whether or not the maximum aperture of f4 is accurate is something I am still thinking about (my gut reaction is that it is actually 1/3rd of a stop slower than it claims). The lens hood seems to jump off a little too often for my liking (maybe that’s the way I carry it) and my brand new lens has quite a stiff zoom action compared to an equally new 70-200 f4 L IS.

Those niggles apart my verdict is that this is a brilliant lens and more than a match for the f2.8 MkII one that I was otherwise looking at buying. It may not be the hard news lens that the faster lens undoubtedly is but for all other uses and for anyone who doesn’t need to shoot at f2.8 I’d say that this is a better option and represents way better value for money.

How rugged it will turn out to be isn’t something that I can answer yet but the signs are good because it feels really solid and there are no exposed moving parts to get filled with dust.

The addition of this lens to my bag means that I now have a set of f4 zooms and I am very happy with all three of them. Anyone want to get me a 200-400 f4 L IS to complete THE set?

Image rescue software

sandsk_rescue_proI just thought that I’d post a very quick note about the free one year licenses that I got with two new Sandisk compact flash cards that I bought today. As someone who relies on their cards for a living it’s great practice to replace and update your cards so every few months I buy a couple of new ones.

Since I went freelance and got to start making my own purchasing decisions almost six years ago I’ve been buying ever larger and ever faster Sandisks. I don’t always buy the fastest or biggest but they tend to be faster and/or bigger than the last batch. Anyway, you get the idea.

This time it was a couple of 16 gigabyte 120 mbps CF cards that work nicely with the Canon EOS5D MkIII cameras each of which came with a one year license for the Rescue Pro Deluxe software. I was prompted to get a couple of new cards because my last one year license for the software expired a week or so ago. It struck me that this is quite a good way for Sandisk to keep me loyal and for me to keep up to date with the software. Every twelve months I need to buy at least one new card and by doing so I keep the software running. By buying two new cards, I now have two computers with valid licenses!

Everyone is a winner.

The joke here is that I haven’t ever had a Sandisk card go wrong on me. I have rescued a card belonging to a colleague (Transcend Card) and I have had some fun ‘rescuing’ a few very old and very small retired cards of my own.  Earlier today an ancient Lexar 512 Mb card threw up some images shot on a Canon EOS1D in 2003 and some more shot on a 1D MkII in 2005. A 2GB Sandisk card went through the process a few minutes later and that had some personal stuff from 2008 along with a couple of jobs from the same year. If I can find the right card reader in the loft, I also have a PCMCIA card dating from 1998!

This could become addictive…

Five levels of image manipulation

The Curve section of the EPUK website has always been a great source of information for photographers already working in editorial markets and for those who would like to do so in the future. I have written a few pieces for them over the years and my latest piece is about five different levels of image manipulation and how they should be used in newspapers and magazines.

As we celebrate the twentieth birthday of Photoshop we should take a few minutes to think about how the subject of image manipulation is regarded both inside and outside of our profession. In truth there is a sizeable majority of the population who think that every image that they see has been heavily retouched or altered.

Documentary, news and reportage photographers have a real battle to convince a sceptical world that their images tell the truth.

You might find it helps you to form your own thoughts on image manipulation by looking at these five categories of altering pictures and deciding for yourself which are appropriate for the kind of work that you do, and then using them to educate clients, friends and colleagues about how we as an industry view this very important subject.

  1. Normal darkroom practices – correction of colour, tone, contrast and saturation to reflect the way the image should look. Light dodging and burning.
  2. Darkroom interpretation – changes limited to colour, heavier dodging and burning, unnatural saturation and contrast that make the image an interpretation of reality.
  3. Minor alterations – adding or removing elements to or from the image, other than by cropping, that do not change the essential message of the image.
  4. Major alterations – adding or removing elements to or from the image that heighten or change the essential message of the image.
  5. Image montage – using elements of more than one image to make a photograph that is no longer a genuine representation of the scene.

For the purposes of news I would say that 1 is OK, and that 2 might be.

By the time you get to 3 then I would say that was unacceptable for news – unless there is a label attached or there are good public interest reasons for the manipulation (such as preserving the anonymity of vulnerable people).

The real danger here is that much of the public assume everything we do is altered. It does us no favours for this assumption to go unchallenged. The real sadness is that so many photographers supplying news images ignore the ethical implications – largely because they know no better.

Image manipulation is a serious subject and one that should be addressed by every photographer every time they sit at their screen and every time they see their work in print