The Digital Journalist
Tech Tips

by Chuck Westfall

April 2006

I'm a member of the Canon Professional Services (CPS) program in the U.S.A., but will be working in France for a month or so. What if I need service or a loaner in France?

Canon Professional Services programs are run by individual Canon sales companies. Canon U.S.A.'s program is independent from (and has different policies than) for instance, Canon Canada or Canon U.K., or Canon France, etc. In practice, on-site support consisting of repair service as well as equipment loans at major media events like the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Cup, etc., is offered to all professional photographers accredited for that event, regardless of their CPS status, although CPS members in good standing usually have priority when it comes to borrowing equipment at such events.

When a Canon U.S.A. CPS member has a job in a foreign country (a job that may have nothing to do with a Canon-supported media event), and wishes to borrow equipment in that country, the foreign country's CPS program will typically try to help if it can. However, they are under no obligation to do so. In these situations, we usually recommend that a Canon U.S.A. CPS member obtain loan equipment from Canon U.S.A. prior to leaving the country to work on a job. On a related note, Canon U.S.A. typically will not ship equipment out of the country, even to members of Canon U.S.A.'s CPS program. This relates to import/export and tax issues, not to mention shipping costs.

Looking strictly at repair services, CPS programs around the world usually provide expedited service to all CPS members in good standing, regardless of their home country. But again, each sales company runs its own Factory Service Center(s), and consequently they control their own repair and pricing policies. If you run into a problem, it's best to contact the manager of your country's CPS program to find out if they can contact the other country's CPS program on your behalf.

Is it true that f/2.8 lenses work better on EOS-1 class bodies? If so, please explain.

Most of our current cameras, including the EOS 20D as well as the 30D and the 5D, offer the same level of high-precision AF on their center focusing point as the EOS-1 series cameras. When an f/2.8 or faster lens is used with these cameras, the baselength of the rangefinding portion of the AF sensor is tripled, thus increasing autofocusing precision.

On EOS-1 class cameras, 7 out of the 45 total focusing points achieve maximum precision with f/2.8 or faster lenses, compared to just 1 such focusing point on a 20D, 30D or 5D. Also, the center focusing point on an EOS-1 class camera has high-precision capability with lenses as slow as f/4 and can provide standard precision autofocus with maximum apertures as slow as f/8, so one could say that the EOS-1 class cameras offer more autofocusing functionality than other EOS models. But when comparing the center focusing points of each camera, the EOS 20D, 30D and 5D are equal to the EOS-1 class in terms of autofocusing precision.

I have searched some of the archives on a couple of the bigger forums including Rob Galbraith's, but I can't find a definitive answer to this question, and opinions are all over the place on it. I have an EF70-200/2.8L which I have been using as my main portrait lens for the last couple of years. Although I own an EF200/1.8L and an EF85/1.2L, this is still my favorite lens mainly because of the tripod collar as I always shoot on a tripod. This leads me to my question, I was about to buy the newer IS version of the EF70-200/2.8L since every once in a while I inadvertently forget to lock down the tripod collar or my ball head and I get a little movement which results in a few soft images. Yesterday I lost 6 images in a session where I had found the most spectacular light. This is totally my fault of course. But would the IS version help here on a tripod? Would the electronics kick in if I bumped the tripod or the camera otherwise moved because the tripod collar or ball head was not tightened down?

The EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens shuts off its stabilizer automatically when the degree of motion falls below a certain threshold, as would be the case under most circumstances when using a tripod. This is a better arrangement than the early IS lenses like the EF75-300mm f/4-5.6 of 1995 or the EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS, where the IS system would actually increase blur when using a tripod. But it is not as sophisticated as the IS system in our super-telephoto lenses like the EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM, which can detect and compensate for mirror slap at slow shutter speeds even when the lens is mounted on a tripod.

You can get a sharp image on a tripod at slow shutter speeds with the EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS without turning off the IS system, but in order to do so, you would need to observe the following precautions:

1. Use the self-timer, or keep the shutter button depressed half way for at least a couple of seconds to allow the IS system to stabilize prior to exposure.

2. Use mirror lock to eliminate mirror slap.

In the situation you are describing (tripod use, but no self-timer and no mirror lock), you cannot expect the IS system of this particular lens to help you.

I am looking for the best solution to solar charge my Canon 1D batteries (NP-E3, 12V) during my trekkings in Nepal. Can you give me advice about the minimum requirements needed to charge such a battery and what accessories are recommended to safely connect and charge this battery (with the solar charger)?

I haven't seen any type of solar charger on the market that is specifically compatible with a Canon NP-E3 battery pack. After researching the issue as well as I could on the Web, I think I understand why: There is no easy way to protect the pack from overcharging. Additionally, the NP-E3 uses a proprietary plug. One could easily cannibalize an NC-E2 charger to get a connecting cable, but then one is faced with the problem of controlling the input from a solar panel. Here are some Web discussions that may be of interest:

Under the circumstances, you might be better off carrying 2 or 3 spare NP-E3 battery packs and then conserving power while you shoot, as I outlined in previous issues of Tech Tips:

Also, keep in mind that the Mark II versions of the EOS-1 Digital SLRs consume far less power than the original EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds. The Mark II cameras are rated at 1200 shots per charge in normal temperatures, and many photographers have reported even better results than that. At 1,200 shots per charge, you could get nearly 5,000 images with 4 packs.

If you have occasional access to a portable generator with 12-volt output, you might want to consider using an AC-DC inverter that would allow you to plug in an NC-E2 charger while you are in camp.

I understand the difference between ASA (ISO) films 50 vs. 1600 - speed vs. grain -- But on my 5D, will the ISO 50 setting give me less noise than ISO 100? (And I don't have noise at 100.) I've noticed you have to use custom function 8 to get to ISO 50 and 3200, so is shooting at these speeds not recommended?

Some customers claim that they see less noise at ISO 50 than ISO 100 on a 5D, but in my experience both settings are about equally noiseless. There is about a stop less dynamic range in the highlights at ISO 50, which is the reason why this setting is normally locked out. It's still a very usable setting for most professional photos, as long as you are not trying to record an extreme range of contrasts. I find ISO 50 useful for studio strobe shots, since it provides more flexibility in aperture selection.

The new EOS Utility software application appears to have no facility for uploading a tone curve to my 1Ds MkII. Must I also have EOS Viewer Utility installed just for this purpose? Or have I missed something?

You can upload custom tone curves to your 1Ds Mark II with the new EOS Utility software. Here's how:

1. Connect the camera to the computer and power it up.

2. Launch EOS Utility.

3. Click on Camera Settings/Remote Shooting from the main menu. (The remote shooting screen appears.)

4. Locate the camera icon (next to the setup menu [wrenches] icon) in the lower right corner of the screen. A new menu extends from the bottom of the remote shooting screen.

5. Click on Parameters in the extended menu. The Parameters setting dialog box appears.

6. Load your custom tone curves and/or make other parameters adjustments as usual.

I've got an EF300/2.8 that came out of service from the White House Press Corps that has its ET-118 lens hood cut down. I've been looking for awhile to find a new or at least different hood. Canon wants $520 for a new one, ouch. I know the ET-120 will fit, but it's not cheap either. I'm trying to find a different solution because I love the lens so much. Anyway, I know a guy in LA who's got a hood from the old FD300/2.8, EH-123, and was wondering if there was anyway to figure out if it would fit. Any other suggestions would be welcome. It just doesn't make economic sense for me to put $500 into a $1,500 lens that is more than 10 years old.

I checked a sample of the EH-123 hood on a current EF300/2.8L IS lens. It's a loose fit, but close enough that it could be tightened up by anyone who is mechanically proficient. Canon would not offer this service, but you might be able to get it done by an independent repair facility. If you really want to save money and you don't mind that the lens won't look as pretty, just attach the hood to the lens with a few layers of gaffer tape wrapped all the way around. The only disadvantage to this approach, other than cosmetics, is that you won't want to remove the hood to store the lens.

Thanks to one and all for reading Tech Tips! That's it for now. See you in May!

You are invited to submit questions about photo equipment, imaging technology, or photo industry trends that may have a bearing on your work or interests. I cannot promise to answer everything, but I pledge to do my best to address the issues that concern you. (Please use the e-mail link provided at the end of this article.)

© Chuck Westfall

After earning a degree in Professional Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and accumulating some valuable on-the-job experience during a 10-year stint in commercial photography and photo retail, Chuck Westfall began his corporate career with Canon U.S.A. in 1982 as a Technical Representative. He has steadily advanced through the ranks to achieve his present position as Director of Media & Customer Relationship for the company's Consumer Imaging Group, working out of Canon U.S.A.'s headquarters office in Lake Success, N.Y. Among his many assignments, Chuck Westfall is currently Canon USA's main media spokesman for new camera products. He also provides a unique insider's perspective to financial analysts who follow the company's CIG sales and marketing activities.

Chuck's involvement with digital cameras began in 1994, when he assisted Canon and Kodak engineers in developing the EOS-DCS series of professional SLRs. Since then, his responsibilities have expanded to include participation in the development and launching of many other Camera Division products, including Canon's professional and consumer-oriented digital cameras. Over the last 10 years, Chuck has continued to participate in the design, development, introduction and marketing support of camera products. Most recently, he supervised the launch of a comprehensive on-line and on-site dealer training initiative for the Camera Division.

On the personal side, Chuck married his beautiful wife Ying in 2000 and they have been blessed with a wonderful 2-year old daughter, Anna. As Chuck says, "Bringing up the baby is a blast, and we're enjoying every minute of it."