Friendly df-H

Hey guys – so one of my latest projects is moving my various databases (mysql) from my web host to a physical computer at my home.  Because I want to keep power consumption to a minimum I’ve adopted several BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi devices for this project.

Now that I have mysql installed on my BeagleBone (called BeagleSQL1 internally) I want to make sure I do not fill it up with data and have corruption on my databases.  In order to keep track of this I intended to use ‘df’ or ‘di’ and have it email me the results weekly.  We do this where I work and it works pretty well though the formatting is terrible in Outlook.  After scouring to find out ways to output df to tables, columns, etc., I finally got it working properly and would like to share how I did it because it seems a ton of people are trying to do this with poor results.  I am using ssmtp to do the sending and will go over that in another post.

Here is the typical bash script you’ll find posted on hundreds of forums on the internet:

#!/bin/bash

#This script is for disk space reports

SERVER=(hostname -f)

df -hH | column -t | mail -s “Disk report for $SERVER” you@youremailaddress.com

Here is the body of the email you would receive as a result as formatted by Outlook 2013:

As you can see, it’s not very readable.  The info is there but if you’re cruising your inbox in the morning to check out disk reports and have to look at this for a hundred servers you’re going to lose your patience sooner than later.  No combination of piping it to columns, different switches on df, etc. would work – it’d still come through Outlook all messed up.  The solution was to generate the email and indicate to Outlook that it’s an HTML message.  I tried to actually send an HTML message by echo’ing the HTML before sending but it was just messy and beyond my abilities.  Instead, you attach <pre></pre> tags and set the content-type of the email message as HTML so Outlook interprets it as such.  Below is the code for that version of the bash script:

#!/bin/bash

#This script is for disk space reports

touch /tmp/file.html #touch the html file

echo “<pre>” >> /tmp/file.html #add the pre tags

df -H | column -t  >> /tmp/file.html #the actual df output

echo “</pre>” >> /tmp/file.html #add pre tags

SERVER=$(hostname -f) #hostname variable so you can use this script on any host

mail -a ‘Content-type: text/html; charset=”us-ascii”‘ -s “Disk report for $SERVER” you@youremailaddress.com < /tmp/file.html #send an email using the html file we create
rm /tmp/file.html #delete the temp html file

Using the script above, it creates a temp file, does the <pre> tags, sets the content type, and sends it using the mail call.  The resulting email is this:

df better format

As you can see this is much easier to look at especially in bulk.  I can clearly see that the total use % of ‘/’ is 45% without squinting or turning my head 45 degrees.  Because I am running df with the -H switch it puts everything in Megabytes and Gigabytes where applicable instead of everything being in bytes.

I will go over setting up the cron job and ssmtp for sending mail from the shell using the ‘mail’ call, but for now this should help people who are 90% there and just need to get a more friendly format in their inbox!

Enjoy!

Microsoft-logo

WSU(ck)S

So if you use WSUS to manage patching on your server environment you will eventually come across some issues with the WSUSContent database becoming too large, too lame, and corrupt.  After extending volumes and drives in VMWare and it just filling right back up the only option was to delete all of the content and reset the instance of WSUS.

How to Do a Reset:

Note: You may want to execute the procedure below during off hours as your WSUS server will be downloading quite a bit of data.

1) Correct any settings above or disapprove any unneeded updates.

2) Close any open WSUS consoles.

3) Go to Administrative Tools – Services and STOP the Update Services service.

4) In Windows Explorer browse to the WSUSContent folder (typically D:\WSUS\WSUSContent or C:\WSUS\WSUSContent)

5) Delete ALL the files and folders in the WSUSContent folder.

6) Go to Administrative Tools – Services and START the Update Services service.

7) Open a command prompt and navigate to the folder: C:\Program Files\Update Services\Tools.

8) Run the command WSUSUtil.exe RESET

Mantis Macro

One of my favorite things to do is go outside and take pictures of nature and wildlife.  Sometimes, though, I don’t feel like staking out a spot to try and get pictures of birds.  There’s a whole little world around us that we rarely even notice.  Usually when I attach my macro lens (Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS USM) it’s to take product photos.  I admit that the lens provides so much more ability than I often use it for – so, every now and then I throw it on and go looking at the small details.

The other day, however, I didn’t even get out of the front door before seeing the “details” hanging from the screen door.  It was completely coincidental that I had my 7D and macro lens with me when I saw a praying mantis relaxing attached to the door.  I went outside and grabbed some photos.  While taking the photos (which is really creepy because the head of a praying mantis can swivel, so it turns its head to look at you and that’s just a little weird…) the thing jumped from the screen door, flew over my head, and landed in the grass.  While it was there I planted my rear in the wet ground (I didn’t realize at the time that I was about to sit in wet grass and dirt) and spent a little while taking photos of this fella’.

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After looking more information up on praying mantis’ I learned that the rumor of them being endangered and carrying a fine should you kill them is just that – a rumor.  Officially, the bug is not endangered and there is no fine or penalty in the event that you smash a praying mantis (other than you looking like a jerk).  This one was pretty brown though most of the ones I have seen have been quite green – not sure why that is…  do they camoflauge or change color during the seasons?  We may never know (actually we could do some research and find out but I am too tired).

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Enjoy!

Terrible 24′s

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24mm?  To ordinary people that measurement means nothing.  To Canon gear nerds photographers, that measurement brings one thing to mind – twice.  24mm lenses are not extremely popular.  If polled, most photographers would likely say that they use their 50mm, 85mm, ulta-wide angle (UWA), and 70-200mm – any of these lenses – more than anything in the 24mm range.  If someone were to ask for a suggestion for a professional lens wider than the 50mm ƒ/1.2L but not as wide as say the 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L (or perhaps they want a faster lens…) then they might be referred to the Canon 35mm ƒ/1.4L or even the Sigma 30mm ƒ/1.4.  It’s true – the 24mm lenses are usually “forgotten” in Canon’s offering line-up.

Canon offers two very unique 24mm lenses (actually Canon offers 6 lenses in the 20 – 28mm range when talking about primes).  One lens is the 24mm ƒ/1.4L II and the other is the TS-E 24mm ƒ/3.5L II (and of course there are first generations of both lenses though they are discontinued at the time of this writing).  The first lens mentioned, which I will just call the 24L II, is fast.  It auto-focuses fast and the huge ƒ/1.4 aperture makes taking photos in the lowest of light possible.  Because of the generally accepted 1/<focal length> rule for shake-free, hand-held photography, you could take a photo down to 1/20 – 1/30 sec shutter without worrying much about shake.  Combine that with an aperture of ƒ/1.4 you can imagine how much light this thing will gather.  Combine that further with modern camera ISO performance and the 24L II makes almost any  photograph possible in almost any amount of light.  We’re talking real, real low light here!

So what of this other weird lens?  The TS-E 24mm ƒ/3.5L II is surely a weird looking lens even if you are not very familiar with photography.  The first thing you notice is the TS-E in front of the name.  This stands for Tilt and Shift.  A what?  Well, the mechanism in this lens allows you to tilt the front element away from the camera’s sensor plane – this lets you turn the “plane” of focus – or, rather, if you think of things being in focus as a “toward or away” then what the tilt allows for is a focus “toward or away while at an angle”.  It allows for wider aperture to maintain larger depth of field – it can also allow for “selective focus” – you can creatively isolate objects in the frame by tilting.  The “shift” part is a little more confusing and I will be honest I don’t know why it works – but, what it does is shift the entire lens up or down, left or right parallel to the sensor plane.  This allows for “perspective correction” – when using wide-angle lenses you will notice that buildings and other vertical  objects can look distorted and lean back in an image.  Shifting the lens allows these lines to stay parallel.

So, what’s the difference?  Well obviously one is a ƒ/1.4 max aperture and the other is a ƒ/3.5 max aperture – but that’s just the obvious differences.  More subtle is the fact that the TS-E 24mm is a manual focus lens while the 24L II is a very fast very accurate auto-focusing lens.  The TS-E is geared more toward architecture, landscapes, and product photos while the 24L II is a wide angle “take the picture easily” lens.  The truth is that both lenses serve two specific and different purposes – but, that’s only if you listen to articles and forum posts.  The reality is that both lenses are amazingly good lenses and offer a photographer two different 24mm experiences.  On one hand the 24L II can gather inordinate amounts of light through its huge aperture and auto-focus the scene.  On the other hand the TS-E 24mm, though with a slower aperture and manual focus, can offer one of the sharpest, most distortion-free images out of any wide angle lens.

The neat thing about the 24mm range is that on a full frame 35mm camera a 24mm is a “wide angle”.  On a crop body it’s a “wide” maybe “wide-normal” lens.  The field of view crop is narrower proving an approximate field of view of that of a 38mm lens on a full frame 35mm body.  38mm is still considered a “wide angle” on the 35mm film/sensor standard – so it offers an approximately-equal view as the 35mm ƒ/1.4L but offers modern coatings and better glass design offering lower distortion, a sharper image, and less ghosting and chromatic aberration when compared to the much-older-in-design 35mm ƒ/1.4L.

So, what does the field of view look like when comparing a full 35mm frame and a crop body (1.6x) frame?  I took these four images to demonstrate each lens on each body (5D Mark II and 7D).  The images are too small to really notice the sharpness differences and all of the shots were at ƒ/3.5 so the depth of field advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your taste) of the ƒ/1.4 aperture on the 24L II is not made apparent, but you get the idea.  The images below are in order – 5DII w/ TS-E 24L II, 5DII w/ 24L II, 7D w/ TS-E 24L II, and 7D w/ 24L II, respectively:

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Hopefully some will find this useful!  I know it’s not a test of sharpness, vignetting, ghosting, aberration, or any of those other technical aspects of lenses, but there is plenty of that out there.  For instance, I recommend the reviews over on www.The-Digital-Photo.com if you care to see ISO 12233 crops or critical review.

Pad & Quill

I am not usually one for super trendy things as most of my friends would likely admit.  That said, I do own an iPad.  I’ve always used it around the house and I have brought it to work a half dozen times or so.  I have never really felt like I had a reason to use it.  It’s very cool to watch movies on, go on the internet with, check email, etc., but without a case I never really wanted to carry it around since its kind of slippery and easy to drop and scratch.

I searched a long time for a case – over a year!  I wasn’t searching constantly/actively, but I never saw a case that really made me think, “Wow, I need to have that!”  Instead, I am usually left reading reviews and thinking that I am better off without a case.  Until now.  A co-worker recently picked up a DODOcase for his iPad 2.  I thought the case looked awesome as it resembles simple book with an elastic strap closure.  Of course I hit my usual places like Amazon and they didn’t have it for my iPad (first generation).  I realized that I should probably read reviews before I spend on a full price case from the manufacturer.  The reviews are mostly good – an occasional “it didn’t fit at all” rating would show up but I see that with almost everything on the internet.  The only problem was that the iPad 1 version was not very available.  Hrm.

I did more searching and came across Pad & Quill.  It features the same overall design as the DODOcase but for the iPad 1 it features a slightly different wooden frame.  It’s a little bit thicker (not such a bad thing in my opinion) but functions and looks just like the DODOcase.  Some reviews say the DODOcase is loose when holding the iPad (though my co-workers isn’t at all) and the Pad & Quill case is definitely not going to let go of the unit – my iPad is held in so tight I am not sure how I am going to pop it out should the need arise (I didn’t stick out the iPad-puller-outter-ribbon thing).

Anyway – more about the actual case:

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The case resembles a book as you can see above.  The birch frame is made in a layered style which actually resembles pages of a book if you glance quickly.  The binding is very nice and the elastic strap holds it shut adequately.  All in all a very nice subtle inconspicuous case.

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From the side you can see the routed openings in the layered birch frame.  This allows access to the buttons on the side and top of the iPad.  On the bottom there is routing for the charge port.

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The inside of the case is a nice conventional lining like you would find in a well-made hardback novel.  It is a very nice size when opened up and it feels comfortable to both write on with a stylus as well as manipulate with the touch screen.

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One feature that I appreciate is the speaker area.  By default, the iPad provides very good audio but the placement of the speaker makes it difficult to hear.  The speaker points down into your lap if you’re sitting with it or out away from you if you’re watching a video in landscape mode.  The Pad & Quill case has a routed out area for the speaker with a ~45-degree ramp.  So, even though the speaker itself doesn’t move, the ramp angles the sound forward out of the front of the iPad – it makes a HUGE difference.  I had been cupping my hand around the speaker when using it prior.  Now, the case provides the redirection for the sound and you can hear much, much better!

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And one last feature is that the case stands up in landscape mode.  It seems to stand up pretty well on most surfaces.  Where it really comes handy is in bed.  It can sit on your lap while you watch a movie in a laying/seated position or stand up next to you on the actual bed since the bed covers provide a surface for the case to not spread on.  It’s perfect for watching Netflix before falling asleep!

All in all, I am very happy with this case.  It took nearly a year or more for me to justify purchasing one but since getting it I’ve used the iPad a whole lot more.  Now I can carry the iPad around at work and no one really thinks twice about it – it looks just like a bound notebook!  Perfect!

Bokeh showdown!

The Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II – considered  the “best value” lens  by many reviewers all over the internet.  It is probably the most-owned lens amongst Canon’s offerings because it’s well… cheap.  Real cheap.  I picked this little guy up to replace the one I had.  Back in college a friend picked my camera bag up off of the backseat of my car with the back unzipped and a lot of my stuff fell out.  Fortunately my 70-200 ƒ/4.0L rolled out onto the backseat and my flash did the same.  However, my 50mm ƒ/1.8 II fell to the street and plop – the front element popped out of the body of the lens.  I put it back together later in my room and it seemed ok, but I realized the next time I went out with it that the autofocus would jam after a little turning.  That, and the element would pop out if you rotated the lens.  Oh boy.

So, years later I have another one.  I already have the 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM so many people are probably wondering why I’ve got the ƒ/1.8 II as well after picking up the ƒ/1.4!  It’s simple really – I had a gift card for Amazon (only like $10) and the lens is $100 free shipping with my Prime account.  So, I picked it up as an alternative to higher dollar lenses should I want to go out some place where I might want to bring less expensive-looking optics.  That, and it’s kind of a reminiscent piece given mine broke (not due to my own doing and all) a long while back.  Another convenience about having it is that my 35mm film body (Canon Elan 7NE) had the 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM on it when I set i t up in my Pelican Case.  But, without the lens on, the camera fits loosely in the compartment and flops around.  So, I can leave the ƒ/1.8 on and all is secure.

I had to write up some instructions for a photography station at work and as part of that process I had to provide pictures of the setup.  I used the 50mm ƒ/1.8 II to provide wider angle shots of the station which was fun because it reminded me of my first DSLR and my former 50mm ƒ/1.8 II and how simple my setup  was back then.  I set the lens to ƒ/1.8 and fired off a shot showing the station in focus but the background out of focus:

This lens is so  easy to make things “look good” with the wide aperture and relatively sharp output (for what it is!).  When you view images from this lens its hard to believe that the lens costs so little.  I have never used the 50mm ƒ/1.8 original version but I understand that it performs about the same as the II but has better construction.  Compared to the 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM, the ƒ/1.8 is cheaply made, light, small, and relatively “toyish” – heck, the lens mount itself is plastic!  If that doesn’t convey cheap, then you won’t find a single issue with this lens.  The 50mm ƒ/1.8 I, which performs almost identically to the ƒ/1.8 II but the first version is metal with a metal lens mount.  Of course the 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM offers great build quality including a metal lens mount and beefier focusing ring.  The ƒ/1.8 II doesn’t really feel like a real lens, comparatively.  But, if you put all of that aside then the thing performs amazingly:

So, like almost all review sites, I figured I’d show what the biggest difference is between the ƒ/1.8 vs ƒ/1.4 aside from a slightly larger aperture.  The biggest optical flaw of the ƒ/1.8 is that it produces some of the harshest bokeh of all.  The 50mm ƒ/1.8 II has curved aperture blades however it only has 5 of them.  So, when taking a picture with a subject in the foreground, the highlights behind the scene will exhibit very hard, 5-sided polygonal bokeh balls.  This is not an issue with the lens wide-open at ƒ/1.8 because the aperture blades are cleanly tucked away, but as you stop the lens down to gain more sharpness (given this lens isn’t that sharp at ƒ/1.8) and depth of field, you will notice the harsh bokeh.  Here are the 50mm ƒ/1.8 II aperture blades at ƒ/8.0:

The 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM also has curved aperture blades but  has 3 more for a total of 8 blades.  The result is that any highlight bokeh balls in the background of an image produced with the 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM will demonstrate a much smoother bokeh.  The smoothness of bokeh can be attributed to both the ƒ/1.4 maximum aperture as well as the additional blades.  In geometry class you learned that if you drew tangential lines around the circumference of a circle, you could in theory draw a perfect circle (with infinite lines).  But, since we cannot have infinite aperture blades, we deal with what we’re given – the 8 blades do not form a perfect circle stopped down to ƒ/8.0 as  can be seen above, but at slightly wider apertures (ƒ/1.8 – 4.0 for instance) the aperture still provides relatively round, smooth bokeh highlights:

If you desire the look of smooth, completely round bokeh highlights throughout all apertures and want a 50mm lens then your only option from Canon is the 50mm ƒ/1.2L USM.  However, that lens is now retailing at around $1,550 USD – a huge leap above the ƒ/1.8 at $100, and the ƒ/1.4 at $379.  Of course, the 50mm ƒ/1.2L performs great, even if it isn’t very sharp, but we all know that and expect that from a professional L-series lens with a huge price tag.  The 50mm ƒ/1.4 and 50mm ƒ/1.8 trump it in value, weight, and being inconspicuous.  That said, I want to follow this brief review/article up with some example photos at various apertures to show bokeh highlights.

The photo set below are from the 50mm ƒ/1.8 and 50mm ƒ/1.4.  I will shoot each lens as wide as they go, then offer the following image from the opposite lens.  Since the 50mm ƒ/1.8 cannot shoot at ƒ/1.4, I will start with the 50mm ƒ/1.4 at it’s widest aperture:

Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/1.4
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/1.4
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at ƒ/1.8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at ƒ/1.8

 

Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/1.8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/1.8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at ƒ/2.8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at ƒ/2.8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/2.8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/2.8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at ƒ/4
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at ƒ/4
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/4
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/4
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at ƒ/8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at ƒ/8

 

Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/8
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM at ƒ/8

It is fairly easy to see the differences here even if you aren’t a photography expert.  As the aperture number (f-number) goes up, the aperture opening size goes down, the blades close, the roundness is lost, and the background detail becomes more in focus and as a result more harsh in appearance.  I feel that people  would agree unanimously that shooting these lenses with an aperture of ƒ/8 or smaller will result in a rather distracting background highlights.  But, I suppose that one would expect that to happen with almost any lens.  Wide angle lenses, though, tend to simple render the background as a sharp, detailed scene compared to longer normal and telephoto lenses which render them still out of focus but busy.

This isn’t mean to encourage or discourage the purchase of one lens over the other but rather to show the potential in a $100 lens (even if it is cheap-feeling and completely plastic), while also showing that the mid-range 50mm lens offers better build quality but also better optical quality especially in the  bokeh department.  Other things like sharpness at varying apertures, flare control, vignetting, contrast, etc., are all improved when using the 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM over the ƒ/1.8 II, but all in all, the ƒ/1.8 II is a very good performing lens especially given how little it costs.

Strollin’

This afternoon I went out for a stroll because the temperature really cooled off outside.  I had put some bird seed out in a couple bird feeders so there have been a ton of birds around the last few days.  I managed to snag the shot above.  It took me a few laps around the area because as soon as I would line him  up he’d fly away.  I finally got close enough before he had realized I was there and got a nice photo.

Before going inside I noted how cool the moon looked behind somewhat stormy looking clouds.  I didn’t bother to swap lenses so I grabbed the shot with the same lens I was using for bird photos (400mm):

Flash! Pow!

A lot of people hear the term “flash photography” and instantly think of pictures of people with their eyes glowing red and harsh shadows being cast.  It’s true – the typical interpretation of flash photography has a bunch of negative associated ideas about it, but that’s because most people are familiar with on-camera flash units and point and shoot flash photography that emits the flash straight out from the camera causing terrible shadows and glowing eyes and reflections and…  it’s just bad.  It’s unfortunate too that most cameras in their basic settings tend to automatically pop the flash up and start spraying that terrible harsh light all over the place.  But, flash photography can be  great – it can be a real lifesaver making almost impossible shots completely possible while also looking great!  It’s all about using an external flash (even with the external flash attached to the camera the results are often awesome) and bouncing the light rather than shooting it directly forward.

In the video below I outline REAL basic methods of using external flash to make a photograph which will save people a lot of money and frustration.  Money?  Yeah – a lot of people chase crazy fast primes for all the wrong reasons – usually they want to be able to take reasonably fast shutter-speed photos without a flash in extremely low-light conditions and end up looking at lenses with ƒ/1.2 and ƒ/1.4 apertures, shooting wide open, getting shots that are lit poorly with low depth of field but getting the shots.  I love super shallow DOF, bokehlicious (lol), moody shots created with large aperture lenses!  But, sometimes a scene requires more  than that, or sometimes you can’t even focus due to how low the light is!  Enter the external flash:

And here is a few examples of how external flash can make photos that you didn’t think you could:

Good enough to eat

Just a bit of an update on my BMW (specifically, the DTA ECU it runs on).  After rushing to get a replacement unit in the car back in July and prove it worthy enough for a 300 mile trip without issue (former configuration was using hall sensors which really, really gave me a headache in June or so), I wanted to just give a quick follow up.  The unit has been performing 100% flawlessly.  The unit in the image you see below is my original unit (slightly larger than the one currently in the car).  I have been using the factory BMW VR crank sensor without a single issue – it starts right up.  In fact, I had been daily driving the car for the last few weeks of July, last couple weeks of August, and even had to drive it to work a couple times in torrential rains recently.  The car starts up and runs great in all conditions.  A few people were asking if the new sensor setup or the new ECU setup was responsible for curing any issues and I am certain its the new VR sensor – so, I am going to swap in the “old” ECU tomorrow to confirm that it wasn’t a hardware issue with the actual box.

Further, I’ve got a “dyno box” coming which is basically a couple knobs and buttons that let you real-time tune the fuel and ignition tables (along with boost pressure if you wish) with a box rather than using the laptop which can be cumbersome.  Once I receive the box from Martin (mef on DTAForum.com) I will post up images and a review on the whole process.  I think it will make fine tuning much more simple.  We’ll see!  But anyway, the car is going great, once again, and I haven’t had a single concern when taking the car out ever since the crank sensor issue that had developed back in June.

A welcomed return

A while back I decided to sell my Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM.  I don’t know why I did that – I think it was to fund a car part or something and I realized I hadn’t been using the 50mm for many photos at the time.  Recently, I went to a few different car meets and found myself using basic fast aperture prime lenses and loving it again.  I was using my 85mm ƒ/1.2L II and loved the results but wished it were a little wider and shorter focal length so that I could fit a little more in the frame and shoot with a slightly slower hand-held shutter length without worry.  It was then that I regretted selling this 50mm.  I had the 50mm ƒ/1.8 II at one point and while it did it’s job, it reminded me on a daily basis that it was a $99 lens.  The build quality was the worst thing about that lens – the optics (yes, for $99 it actually had glass in it!) were pretty good considering the entire body (and lens mount) was plastic.  The manual focus ring was useless, really.  A buddy had dropped that lens (actually, dropped my whole bag, long story) and so anyway I had ended up picking up the ƒ/1.4 but because I had several other lenses (85mm, 100mm, etc.) it was seldom used.  As soon as I sold it I missed the fact that it was so small and light and no one noticed it and that it took such great photos.  I had been meaning to replace it.

I considered the 50mm ƒ/1.2L but that wasn’t really in the cards money-wise and honestly I didn’t want another slow focusing lens like the 85mm ƒ/1.2L and I don’t really like the electronic-mechanical focus ring either and reading reviews again show the 50mm 1.2L producing the best bokeh and contrast/saturation, but also produced the worst sharpness wide open and it really doesn’t make sense to stop a 1.2 down to 1.4 when a 1.4 is available that produces sharper images, right?  Anyway – enough nerd camera chat.  I picked this guy up and I love it again – its so small and compact even on my 5D II with the battery grip – it will be super nice and small with the grip off.  Can’t wait to take it out.  I think this lens is definitely the best value out of the three Canon 50mm’s that are available.

(You can see the smooth bokeh and overall good sharpness this lens displays – yay!)

I should mention that in this most recent search for a replacement 50mm I was not set on the Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 initially.  I had looked at and considered a Super Takumar 50mm ƒ/1.4 in an M42 mount, a Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 EX DG HSM, and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm ƒ/1.4.  The Super Takumar and Zeiss units were both manual focus only – a bit of a bummer especially considering I had ruled the Canon ƒ/1.2 offering out due to slow focusing – manual would be slower yet.  To get the most desirable Super Takumar 50mm, the early 8-element version, would require about $160 – $200 and an adapter to mount it to the Canon body.  Not too bad, but it would also require manual aperture control which can be annoying when using it for video.  And, of course, since these units are 40-years old you hope that you get one that is in good condition and doesn’t have aperture oil all over the inside  waiting to dirty your digital sensor. I might check one out in the long run, but for now the Super  Takumar doesn’t meet my needs.

Next up was the Zeiss Planar T* 50mm.  Excellent build quality.  Excellent flare control and coatings.  However,  the three independent reviews I  had read described the lens as “just average” in terms of sharpness, contrast, saturation, and overall optic performance.  This information wasn’t terribly exciting considering the Zeiss costs $725, you would really expect it to perform.  So, Zeiss was off the list.

Finally, I had to give Sigma a consideration.  They have an excellent lens in the 50mm range.  Its a fast, sharp, contrasty lens and it’s not too, too expensive. It has two drawbacks though – firstly, it’s big – its almost as large as the 50mm ƒ/1.2L!  That’s huge, especially considering it is only an ƒ/1.4.  That’s not really what I am after considering I kind of wanted the compact-ness of the lens I once owned.  But, I could set the size and weight aside if the thing performed great.  Problem is, there seems to be a negative aura around the Sigma lenses but especially their 50mm involving the focus system.  In fact, the problem is so pronounced that people call it the “Sigma lottery” – eek.  So, I hopped on over to The-Digital-Picture.com  and read Bryan’s reviews since I hold them in high regard and appreciate the truthfulness he injects.  After reading all the good I absorbed the bad – his example that he was provided with missed focus more often than it hit it.  That’s harsh and it coincides with what many people post on the forums (though people like to exaggerate issues from time to time).  At $499, the Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 EX DG HSM should be better than other offerings.

So, after an adventure through various reviews on Sigma, Zeiss, Super Takumar, and Canon offerings  I decided on the Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM from a cost-benefit, optical performance, build quality, and ultimately a practicality standpoint.  I feel good about this choice.  A lot of people will say “Yeah the 1.4 is good, but you really want the L” and sure, with most lenses, I would want the L model.  I have the 85mm and its a great lens but it focuses slow and the manual electronic/mechanical focus ring is a bit annoying, and if we are to take into consideration all the things that make the L a good lens and all the things that make the 1.4 a bad lens, I think the latter list would be shorter.  If the 85mm ƒ/1.2L II didn’t have such character and great looking images I would likely get sell it for something else but there’s something special about the 85mm.  For $379, you simply cannot beat the Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 USM in an auto-focusing lens – L or otherwise.  Hopefully this quick blurb helps others decide.  Maybe you can justify the cost and short-comings of the Canon 50mm ƒ/1.2L USM and if so please leave a comment as I am always interested to hear what other people think!

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