Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Post Industrial Photography

EOS 650, Fuji Superia 800 Colour Film, B&W Conversion By GIMP

Much of the time, I'm just taking pictures, as most camera people ought to "admit" (not that there's anything wrong with that). But there are other times when my picture making goes beyond "taking", and is based on an idea. Here's how it works with me- I am a very sentimental nostalgias, which tends to be the primary idea behind my photography. More specifically, I am nostalgic for the past industrial age that dominated North America right up until the early 1980's. This was a time when most people had jobs, were in high demand, paid well, able to retire well, and could live out their entire lives with a feeling of worth and accomplishment. This, of course was all based on "Industry" - the manufacture of hard goods that were built to last, and required not only the initial manufacture, but also a lot of job- creating servicing.

Sadly, this age has all but gone, and all that's left are crumbling ruins. Occasionally, in any town or city, there are remnants still standing that remind us, who experienced the very tail end of it, of perhaps our first job, or our trade-based education - things that our Gen-X children can only wonder about if they happen by these lonely remnants - "what was it for?" I take note of such locations, and if I don't have a camera on me, I try to get back at a later time to photograph what is becoming for me a small but growing body of work.

Crumbling factory ruins represent more than what they have become in themselves. They represent a crumbling, deserted way of living which we, of a certain age, took for granted. It says - there was a certainty, and now that it's died, nothing is certain. Sad and pessimistic, I know, but it's a North American reality. It's also my art. When I'm photographing old abandoned workplaces, I can visualize the outcome, and every element in my frame becomes significant. I photograph very thoughtfully and carefully. This is my story.

The above picture is a pair of old water tanks next to an abandoned Industrial Park. Interestingly enough, these are still in use, with a delapitated, though still working Diesel shed next to the tanks - check out the blue smoke from the roaring engine:

EOS 650, Fuji Superia 800 Colour Film, direct from V500 Scanner

I also made a digital version of the same thing, just for comparison sake:

EOS 600D, EF 40 f2.8 stm, Post Processing in Photivo

In both cases I was trying to emphasize the smoke from the running Diesel. I think the digital shot did slightly better this time, although it took a lot of post-processing to get it that way.

Here are a few more lonely shots of abandoned industry I've done recently, all with the EOS 650 and Fuji Superia 800 Film:

Think of these as "lonely landscapes", and if you once were a part of this way of life, be very thankful.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Another Little Boost To My Colection

Pentax Zoom-90, Fuji Superia ISO 800

Yard Sale season has started up again, meaning that Spring has finally arrived in 2013. My opening shot doesn't look very spring-like, but believe it or not, this was taken a little less than a month ago.

At one of the several yard sales this past weekend, I was amazed to find another Pentax Zoom-90, identical to the one I already have and like a lot. Aside from needing new batteries, it was in perfect shape, including the leather case, and for $5.00, it became mine. For such little money, I didn't get to thinking that I already have one, so why would I want another. This is a camera that has already proven it's mettle to me, so having twins seemed like a great idea. After getting it home, I transferred the batteries (a pair of CR123's) from my other one, and "yep" - everything worked, so I went to the drug store to buy another pair of batteries and some Kodak Color Plus 200, and I now keep both of these in the car, one with the Kodak ISO 200, and the other with some Fuji Superia ISO 800. I do live an exciting life, don't I?

As much as I love the image quality of these admittedly forgettable looking cameras, I'm learning a bit more about film cameras over time - enough to discuss some of the shortcomings of the Zoom-90. First, it has a small aperture lens (f/3.5 to /7.5 when zooming from 38mm to 90mm), and it struck me rather odd that I've never heard the auto-focus actually doing it's thing - it just seems to be always at the ready. The fact is, with apertures this small, the lens would be in-focus for most any picture anyway, and experience has proven me right - it's more like a fixed-focus mechanism that's always ready. This is not a camera that provides much in the way of selective focusing, except hopefully in it's Macro Mode, which I have yet to try. In Macro, the lens auto-extends all the way to 90mm, and allows focus at 0.6 metres instead of 1 metre. In normal mode, this picture shows pretty much the best it can do, with nice sharpness in the foreground, and a slightly perceptible falling away of focus toward the back:

Sure - there's not much to be had here for creative focussing, but it is an ideal keep in the car camera, especially when you can have two of them for 10 bucks, with one equipped for daylight, and the other for low-light.

Another weak point is the Zoom-90's viewfinder. Although it looks big and bright, it is also very vague, with extreme barrel distortion at the wide (38mm) end. I have to remind myself that I'm not actually looking through the camera lens, and the real picture will not be so distorted. The finder "zooms" from 38 to 90 along with the lens - well, sort of. Actually  all that's happening is the magnification factor is changing from 0.47X (wide) to 1.05X (telephoto). Cheap and dirty, yes, but as long as you keep it in your head what's happening here, at least the framing will be accurate. And speaking of... the finder actually has Frame Lines, with a parallax corrected line at the bottom for close-ups. These lines are very bright and thick to the point of being distracting, and I'm never quite sure if I should be framing to the inner edge of the lines or to the outer edge - that's how "fat" the lines are.

The camera is ready almost instantly, as soon as you turn it on, which is really nice, but the zoom motor is slow and noisy, and you will be heard if you're thinking of using this one for street shooting. The film advance motor is not overly loud, but again, it will be heard at close range. It is best to stick with a mechanical fixed lens camera for street shooting.

Compact cameras have certainly come a long way since the Pentax Zoom-90 era, but for one thing - you can be absolutely sure that the Zoom-90 will give you a far, far, right out of the ball-park superior image quality to any Digital Compact, or Camera Phone being sold today. And that's about all the Zoom-90 will do - you just turn it on, zoom the lens if you want to, compose, and press the shutter, without the words "focus" or "exposure" even entering your mind... very nice at 2 for $11.00! If I want a film camera that'll do a lot more creative stuff, and with slightly better picture quality, then I turn to my Canon EOS 650, which was $40 with flash and case. And finally, if I want to make pictures that look like like everybody elses, I get out the Canon Rebel T3i, which I'm finding strangely less an less appealing.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Magic of Leonard Cohen

Off Topic, and sorry, no concert pictures - no pictures no hassle!

In what was originally designed as a dream date for my well deserving bride, Kathy, we caught LC on his nearby Moncton stop of his Old Ideas Tour. You see, I've never been much of a Cohen fan, that is, until now. My thoughts were always "great songs, when somebody else is doing them", as with the iconic Jennifer Warnes album "Famous Blue Raincoat", and the zillions of others who have covered the songs of LC. Somehow, Leonard Cohen had gained the reputation as a depressed singer for depressed people. Even the Royal Canadian Air Farce comedy troop did a skit along these lines. For me, last night's performance at the Moncton Coliseum completely blew away that myth.. here was a man of 78, who ran and leapt on and off the stage, with an anything-but-depressed glimmer in his eyes, keeping the music going for three and a half hours with no opening act, just as he has been doing for the past five years, and has been scheduled to do it all over again through many evenings to come - no signs here of being a depressed poet, but rather, the almost vengeful triumph of an ageing star who has completely come to terms with his own mortality, and is now out celebrating it with the world. In fact, the only signs of depression, or at least weariness I saw on stage were on the faces of his three much younger and adored female backup singers - perhaps these ladies are growing road-weary!

I love watching bands perform, which is the intent I went in with - Cohen uses a full quiver of top-notch band mates, who can adapt to all of the jazz, rock, klesmer, and gypsy styles demanded by the very familiar songs. The band, of course, was exquisite. The big surprise for me was Mr. Cohen himself. I came out with a very different point of view.

Live music has a funny way of doing that. When Kathy puts on one of LC's studio CD's while working in the kitchen, I'm bored to death (or maybe it's depression?) When music is recorded in a studio, it looses all of its subtle nuances in a quagmire of endless takes, and digital re-mixing. Not so with a live performance - for example, when he sang the autobiographical song "Going Home" with it's opening lyrics:

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

... there was a nuance he gave to that line, with it's pregnant pauses and the smirkish smile on his face- "now I get it!"

His "gift of the golden voice" - of course, his totally unique smoky basso - baritone, had usually been a turn-off for me; last night it became for me more like the voice of God, whether the man was speaking or singing - "this is what God sounds like", I thought. Not far from appropriate either. Although women find him seductive (and I hope Kathy was so seduced), I myself find LC to be an incredibly spiritual man. When you take the body of his work as a whole, and listen to the turns of phrase, or sometimes just one single word will do, you readily learn how passionately this man knows God, starting with his family legacy of Rabbinic Judaism, but not ending there - it goes on and on through the Catholic Montreal through which he was raised, his years spent as an aesthetic,  and with a reference to "the Word who shed his blood" gives more than a glimmer of the truth in his heart. He's almost "not of this world" so to speak.

There's no sign that this gruelling tour is going to be the death of Leonard Cohen, even though he is remarkably ready for death - something we all need to learn in these times.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Up At Dawn

EOS 600D, Cosinon-S 50mm f1.4 Lens

Finally, the weather is doing us a kindness here on the East Coast - after a very wild, rainy, windy night, I looked out this morning and noticed one of the most spectacular sunrises I've seen for awhile, and the streets were still soaked from rain. I quickly abandoned my thoughts of going back to bed, and without even taking time to put on the coffee, I went out. It's true what they say - if you take your pictures at either sunrise or sunset, you will be rewarded, even if you don't shoot at the sky directly. These are the times when every object is bathed in the most spectacular light. 

I also had a lens to test. It was another find at the Salvation Army - a Cosinon-S 50mm f1.4, for which  I paid $10. It's a cheaply built thing, but with the widest f-stop being f1.4, it is now the fastest lens in my kit - better suited to night shooting than sunrises, so I set it at f8, and walked downtown. 

Here's what I came back with, in addition to the first photo above - 

Like I said, this is a cheap lens, intended for a plastic bodied Cosina film SLR from the early 80's, and so not highly regarded, but nonetheless, it's fairly capable - a good find for mounting on a modern Canon or Pentax DSLR, but no good for Nikon, because the incompatible flange-to-film distance does not allow this lens to focus to infinity on Nikon.

Using old "film lenses" is a great way to give your digital photos a different colour signature. One thing I noticed here, as with all of my other old lenses, is the absence of the all too familiar "Canon colours". To my eyes, this looks distinctly closer to Pentax. Most digital camera and lens brands these days make their own unique colour signature, and it's great fun getting away from that from time to time - especially as it can be done so very inexpensively. I would say, that in spite of being so poorly put together, it has good enough glass inside to create a distinct atmosphere, and excellent foreground capture.

This was sure a great way to start my day!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Working With TIFF Files

Pentax Zoom-90, Fuji Superia ISO 800

I would like to give you a very brief overview about manipulating the TIFF Image File. "TIFF" is either an abbreviation for the Toronto International Film Festival, or Tagged Image File Format - we will be looking at the latter.

First of all, what is TIFF? Here is a technical page that should answer some questions, for those who  are deep into computing. I hardly understood a word of it to be truthful - all the talk about "Tags" and "Offsets" simply had me slack-jawed...

So here's the Dave Definition, intended for those of you who really know something about this to crap all over - please, PLEASE add your comments below - I don't get many comments here, and I want some!  Now is the day!

- TIFF is an uncompressed image file format which is quite old; it first appeared in the mid 1980's seemingly to provide some flexibility in creating files within Fax Machines. It is also capable of compression in a loss-less manner, meaning the file size can be reduced without compromising image quality (which is good). It is also capable of bit-depth of up to 32 bits (which is very good). Finally, it is "tagable" and this is the part I don't understand at all, but evidently, it means something along the lines that certain extra bits and bytes of data can be placed as needed within all the other data that makes up the lines and colours of the picture. I hate to ask - who wants to ad extra data, and how is it done?

Then a little light came on. You'll recall when we discuss the RAW files that are generated by "good" cameras are really not picture files at all, but rather all the data about the picture, for which special RAW conversion software is needed to generate a preview of the image, and allows very heavy manipulation to really enhance it's appearance, and finally exports the data as a real picture file (usually JPEG). Well, maybe, TIFF is a "meet you half way" kind of file which is a real picture file, but at the same time can be made to carry some extra data payload about the picture too.

Well then, whether I'm right or wrong, lets go with that. So, it turns out that my Epson V500 scanner puts out 8-bit or 16-bit TIFF files, as well as 8-bit JPEGs. I always keep it in 16-bit TIFF mode, so I've got plenty of samples to work with. But what are we dealing with here, really? To answer my question - "who adds the extra data tags?" The answer must be "my scanner", because it sure ain't me. "What is my scanner adding?" I have no idea. Finally, the only question that really matters  - "Do the data tags that my scanner is adding create any value to the final product?" Well, maybe, to a limited extent. So, I set out with a simple experiment. First, I scanned a specific image in JPEG mode, and here it is:

Epson V500 JPEG Scan

Next, I  scanned the same negative in TIFF-16 mode -

Epson V500 TIFF-16 Scan

The only difference I can see is slightly better contrast - look at the snow in the foreground, or at the trees against the cloudy sky - you'll see it there best. Also I should mention the JPEG file size is 4.3 MB, but the TIFF is 24.9 MB! A file size of six times bigger is hardly worth a little extra contrast, is it?

However, there is an up side, I think. When you import the TIFF into your image editing software (Lightroom, Photoshop, Photivo, etc.), it turns out that the TIFF format allows a better range of enhancement. Here are two TIF to JPG conversions I made using Photivo:

 Photivo Conversion #1 - Enhanced Dynamic Range

Photivo Conversion #2 - Enhanced Brightness and Contrast, Reduced Saturation

I especially like what happened in Conversion #2 - the detail really comes to life here. Also, I discovered what the "extra data tags" of the TIFF format output of my scanner might contribute to the process. I noticed things in Photivo such as, when trying to manipulate the JPEG file, the Gamma adjustment doesn't do anything, whereas with the TIFF format, Gamma works as it should. I noticed a couple of other similar things, where certain adjustments were far more effective with TIFF than with JPEG. But I expect these things would be quite dependant on to what degree the software is reading the data. Photivo is primarily a RAW manipulation and conversion package which provides full functionality of all its features with RAW files, and limited functionality with TIFF and JPEG. But then, GIMP does not work with RAW at all (except by way of a plug-in called "UF-RAW), but seems capable of massive manipulation of JPEG files in it's hundreds of Filters. GIMP also does a good job of converting 16 bit TIFF to 8 bit JPEG. Confused? So am I. But eventually, you get a feel for what works best, and you don't really need to know what's going on under the hood.

Finally, I want to bring up one more important discovery. My experiment verifies that when working with either Epson's TIFF or any JPEG files, you can "enhance" the look of a picture on your screen, but such enhancements are considered by some to be "destructive" in nature. I find this curious, that a picture can be made to really look better, but "under the hood", things are seemingly getting worse. I always notice what the histogram is doing while working with my images, and when doing any kind of "contrast stretch", which seems to make a picture look better, there is always what looks like a loss of data that happens, as clearly seen below:

 Photivo Histogram of TIFF File When First Opened

Same Histogram Showing "Comb Filter" After a Contrast Enhancement for Conversion #2

This only occurs when working on JPEG and TIFF, but not with RAW. It is important to realize that with a RAW file, enhancements can be made, over a much wider range, non-destructively. But to be fair, it's not exactly a destructive process with TIFF and JPEG either, although the Histogram might appear so at first glance. So what's really going on here?

Remember this particular example is a contrast enhancement. This will enhance a photo by making the bright highlights stand out, or "pop" against the pictures darker regions. Here, Photivo is selectively adding some "0" (black) values into the mix, and at the same time, adding some light peaks, which look like little noise spikes on the Histogram. There is a specific algorithm which the software dials in here, and it actually works quite well, although the Histogram looks as though data is being lost and noise is being added, it is being done in a way that results from the software's analysis of the picture. The result is that the rather dull looking untouched file ends up with well computed additions and subtractions designed to give a nice rich contrast stretch. 

Remember with JPEG especially, nothing can be changed in the original picture data, so to enhance a JPEG, the software has to add and subtract from the existing picture data. That's all it can do, and in many cases, the results are good enough. But with a RAW file, remember it consists of nothing but data, all of which can be changed, with no addition or subtraction relative to what is there or not there. Therefore, if you want to do some kind of contrast enhancement to a RAW file, the adjustments you make with your software while watching the picture preview can accomplish it in a far bigger variety of ways, none of which make the Histogram end up looking like a "comb filter". You are effectively "re-making" the picture from all of it's data building blocks, none if which are ever lost. But with JPEGs and to a slightly lesser degree , TIFF's, the true picture data can never be "remade" but only enhanced artificially.

This is great for digital cameras that create RAW files, but not so great for cheaper cameras which do not. It's also not so great for film cameras, because with film, there is no RAW file. Fortunately, film has the advantage of requiring little or no manipulation to look good, so the limited enhancement that can be done with JPG or TIFF are usually more than adequate, with TIFF seemingly having the advantage of it's built in "data tags" to allow a slightly greater variety of enhancements, but at the expense of a huge file size. 

I haven't written anything this technical for a long time, but I hope you found it helpful.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Attaining Quality Over Quantity

EOS 650 Film Camera, EF 70-210 f4 Zoom, Fuji Superia ISO 800

I find it extremely difficult to refrain from showing the large quantity of pictures I take, especially with so many on-line galleries available, like Flickr and Picasa. It's common now for people to shoot hundreds of photos per week, which makes photography, including video one of the most popular means of expression ever. This is wonderful to see so many people discovering a creative outlet, and for the most part, it appears that most people are displaying their best works on-line, and attaining for themselves a way to raise quality over quantity. I think most people out there taking pictures have already discovered their own sense of what is best for display. However, there are so many people doing it, the result is that everybody's photographs are getting swallowed up in the vast ocean of everybody else's work.

To rise a little bit higher, one must find a way of distinguishing him / herself and get involved in a tighter market, I believe. I've done the former, but have yet to do the latter. My way of distinguishing myself is to exercise my best work using historic equipment - I either use film cameras, or adapt "film lenses" on my digital camera. Both techniques succeed in contributing to my personal style. However, I still haven't "paid my dues". By that I mean I still haven't taken my images further, than Flickr... or this Blog. Two ways I can think of to accomplish this would be to enter Photo Contests, and to put up a display in local Art Galleries.

Meanwhile, I'll just keep on doing (and hopefully improving) what I do. These are a few of my latest shots using the Canon EOS 650 (film SLR):

EOS 650, EF40 STM Lens, Fuji Superia ISO 800

 EOS 650, EF40 STM Lens, Fuji Superia ISO 800

EOS 650, EF40 STM Lens, Fuji Superia ISO 800

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cat Show Photography

A Perfect British Short-hair

One thing Kathy and I look forward to every spring and summer are the regional cat shows. If you think that the dog is man's best friend, well you just don't know cats. Especially once a feline bonds with it's owner, there's no turning back - you'll enjoy a lifelong loyalty that no other creature can give you.

Photographing the shows is very enjoyable, of course. A cat show can be somewhat boring I guess, if you're expecting the cats to perform like idiots (read - "dogs"), perhaps you don't realize that cats just aren't into that - they only do the fun stuff at home when they think nobody's watching. When seen in public, however, their dignity is everything to them, and so they're either in cages, or being hoisted around by the show Judges.

Last year, I did a brief article on what kind of equipment you'd need at a cat show. This remains true. This year, I'm going to provide a little info on how to set up your equipment for best results. This will all be in reference to the Canon DSLR line, but if you know your stuff, you should be able to translate the terminology into Nikon, Sony, Olympus or any other brand of reasonable quality camera that meets the minimal requirements I spoke of last year. So here it is, point by point:

  • Forget about RAW - this is a golden rule for most any type of event photography - expect to come away with at least 300 pictures - you don't want to have to process that many RAW files later.
  • Make sure your flash is turned off completely. A flash might startle the cats, and to me it's cruelty, as their eyesight is super sensitive. This applies to any situation when photographing animals in general. I did notice lot's of people with small point 'n shoot cameras were flashing away at the show, but this doesn't make it right.
  • Use the largest and finest JPEG setting you have, because you're going to want to leave lot's of room for cropping each photo afterwards.  You might be shooting at 16 MP, and cropping down to the 4 to 10 MP range; this will still give spectacular results.
  • Cat Show venues vary greatly in terms of lighting, and distance between yourself and the cats. This particular show in Riverview NB was by far the worst venue I've ever seen, and I wasn't prepared for it. The problem was space - it was unbelievably small and crowded, although the lighting was exceptionally good. I started in with my 70-210 Zoom, but soon found I couldn't get far enough way because of the over-crowding - most of the cats had to loose their tails, as with the magnificent specimen above. I soon went back put to the car to put on my EF 40 STM lens, which gave me lot's of the needed crop space. In all other venues, however, you'll need at least a 70mm (APS-C 110mm equivalent).
  • Auto White Balance is essential - the lighting varies from fluorescent to incandescent and any mixture in between.
  • You need to stop motion blur, so you'll need at least 1/125 shutter speed and to get reasonable sharpness, you'll want to stop your lens down a notch. Set your ISO accordingly (do not use Auto ISO). You might need to go as high as 3200, but in Riverview, I was able to shoot at 800, and the lighting was so good, I could've gotten by at 400. You might get a bit of noise - don't worry about it.
  • Remember the Picture Mode setting ("Standard, Landscape, Portrait, etc")- it is totally according to your own preference; the only important thing is to make sure you set it to what you prefer, because you're shooting JPEG only - no RAW means it cannot be changed afterwards, although with photo editing software, you can adjust contrast, brightness, saturation and sharpness individually on your computer. However, it's best to get your JPEG settings closest to your personal preference inside the camera.
  • If you're auto-focusing, there is a fair amount of motion involved - the judges tend to move the cats around a lot (you'd be surprised). So set your camera for "AI Focus", and make sure all of your Auto Focus Points are engaged. If you're experienced (you're probably not wasting your time reading this are you? heheh); but if you know how, you'll do better with a manual focus lens.  I used to use my Jupiter-9 at f4, and got pretty good at manually following the focus as the cats were whirled about. Since then, I've gotten lazy, and use my EF lenses.
  • Burst mode is useful  but purely optional. Keep in mind if you're shooting at 5 fps, you'll end up throwing most of your shots away. I find it better to wait for the best shot and click once, although I've experimented with Burst on occasion. You can always leave your camera in Burst Mode anyway, as it only comes into play if you hold your shutter button down steady.
  • For most of your shots, make sure the cats eyes are in the picture, and set your focus on the eyes. The eyes are the cat's best feature. Sometimes with Auto Focus, the camera might focus on another part of the cat than what you intended  which makes a good case for taking time to practice your manual focus technique.

That's about it for the camera. Now on to Post-processing:

  • Like I said above, you'll want to "shoot to crop", probably. This means you should have some space and surroundings about the cat, which you can re-compose and reduce down by cropping. Make sure you leave a little space, typically in front of, and above the cat.
  • Make full use of the one-click auto-fix in your editing software  in GIMP, it's called (strangely enough) "auto white balance".
  • Finally, you might want to raise the highlights with the "colour > curve" function.

That's about all. The rest is up to you. These guidelines could be used in many similar situations, like the now popular reptile shows, or even canine events.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Canon EOS 650 Film Camera - A Great Minimalist

EOS 650 With EF 40 f2.8 STM, Kodak Advantix 400

I mentioned yesterday how I had procured a nice vintage EOS 650 SLR from the local classifieds  and today, as promised, I have some test shots to show. I guess what we have here is a case of  "what goes around comes around" from Canon, because they are now producing the EOS 650D, also known as the Digital Rebel T4i. Perhaps Canon is thinking that the world has forgotten their very first "EOS System Camera" which came out as the EOS 650 in 1987? If so, then we've forgotten a very nice piece of history. To give you all of the detail, Ken Rockwell has provided a very thorough review, including good advice on how to best use this camera.

I wonder how many of these are out there just sitting on people's closet shelves? I ask this, because in a way, it is a lot like some older automated SLR's, which are generally shunned by professionals, and abandoned by ordinary people who've gone to digital. But yet, in many other ways, it is so different than all this. First off, it does use the amazing EOS system, which remains, 26 years after it's introduction, the best selling auto-focus, interchangeable lens camera specification of all time, and it's not about to go away any time soon. And secondly, unlike other abandoned SLR's that were perhaps equipped only with Aperture Priority shooting, so as to embrace people who wanted SLR quality but didn't want to learn all the ins and outs of a manual camera system, the EOS 650 is set up with every shooting mode (PASM) available.

But there is one small and strange caveat - the "M" (full Manual) is present in name only, because when shooting in M Mode, there is no exposure meter available, other than three cryptic indicators, called "OP", "CL" and "oo". This effectively means that you might as well consider this to be a fully automatic camera, and be done with it. It is a strange setup - all Canon had to do was equip the Viewfinder with it's very familiar green LED meter, instead of having the LED display indicate "CL, OP and oo", which means "Close Aperture, Open Aperture, and Correct Exposure". This is the only fault I can find with the camera's usability, and I consider it a small one, because the other important modes are all present and accounted for, including an excellent Exposure Compensation setting, (which allows you to manually over-ride the exposure decision made by the camera in any of it's automatic modes).

I am calling the EOS 650 a "Great Minimalist", because it is not bristling with control buttons and knobs all over it. It is also of exceptionally good build quality - close to being a Professionally built piece in every respect. The way in which this camera is controlled is perhaps the most clever and logical setup I've ever seen. It consists of a few small buttons strategically located (read: "placed exactly where they should be"), combined with Canon's very familiar front control wheel behind the shutter button, and a generous LCD display on top. So, you want to change shooting modes? Simply press the Mode button and spin the wheel. Want to  do Exposure Compensation? Just press "Exp.Comp" and spin the wheel. Similarly for  everything you'd ever want to do - just press the right button, spin the wheel and watch the LCD display. No endless menu settings - I love it!

I also find the camera's weight and handling to be just about the very best I've yet to experience, with the possible exception of my Soviet Leica copy FED-5. It is a real pleasure to shoot with. Shutter response, as it is with every film camera, is immediate, as is the motorized film advance, but somehow, this camera's speed "seems" even faster than immediate.

Another notable feature is the introduction of Evaluative Metering, which Nikon calls Matrix Metering. Now here's where I come away with egg on my face. Recently, I was ranting on about Canon's implementation of Evaluative metering on their Digital SLR's to be the bane of my existence. I made a statement - "in a real camera, there is no such thing as "evaluative metering". ". Well, I was wrong, because I now own a real (film) camera which has it - Canon's first, I believe. It is, in fact the default setting, although Centre Weighted Metering is also available at the push of a button. I knowingly shot all my test shots using the default, because I want to prove something - that maybe it works better with film. Let's look:

With EF 40 STM Lens

 With EF 40 STM Lens

 With EF 28-105 USM Lens

 With EF 40 STM Lens

With EF 28-105 USM Lens

Looks pretty nice doesn't it? Everything straight from the film negative, scanned with my Epson V500 at 200 DPI, with no post-processing. Everything's nice and bright, yet with good detail in the shadows, very natural colours, no noise, and proper textures. All this with the default "Evaluative Metering" - yes it does seem to work very well with film. I'm finding this to be true time and time again - film photography just works, but frequently with Digital, you need to fiddle with it to make it work.

So, what's the final word? Well, I hope there won't be one, because this is looking like it'll be my "go to" camera, with lot's to talk about in days to come. Film is my preferred medium, and the EOS 650 is a total joy to use - it's the best "grab and go" SLR I've yet to see, and did I mention it also has a wonderful viewfinder? The only downside is that to get good lenses in Canon EOS-Land, you have to put out a whole lot of money. I've only got three EOS System lenses, and none of them are as good as the old M42 Pentax and Russian glass I've been using, both on my Spotmatic and Canon DSLR's. Although it's true that I can use the M42 stuff on the EOS 650, just as I always have on all my Canon Digitals, the thing I mentioned above concerning the Manual operation of this camera will make this more difficult.  I'll have to do some experimenting before I get confident enough to use my old manual focus lenses on a roll of film with this camera.

Oh yes, one more thing. The camera doesn't come with a built in flash, but I got the rather large, external 300EZ Speedlight with the deal. I did one flash test shot, and like everything with this camera, nothing is complicated - you simply put the camera in "P" Mode, turn on the flash, and shoot. The camera's internal computer calculates everything about the flash for you, including the zoom-factor if you're using a zoom lens.

Heeere's Larry!

With EF 40 STM Lens and 300EZ Flash

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Too Good to Pass Up

EOS 650 Film Camera

I broke my New Year resolution, and bought another camera. However, if it were considered as a replacement for this one, then it's not so bad. And besides, it's hard to beat $40 with flash, never-ready case and a quality camera bag included.

I try to keep a tight lid on the size of my collection, and seeing that I was firmly set on my Spotmatic being the principle SLR film camera, given my good collection of M42 lenses that fit it, I saw little need to keep the EOS 55, so I sold it on Ebay.

I think I've come out better for it.. the EOS 55 was very nice, especially as I had the rare Japanese model with a boat-load of feature, but this one, the EOS 650 - I find it even more endearing - a much nicer grip, better construction, and a limited feature set that still manages to accomplish the essentials - there's scarcely a knob or button on this camera, yet it has very clever ways to set it's shooting modes on the fly. Also, it is a historic camera, being the very first model from Canon sporting it's new "EF" System of automatic focus lenses, which are exactly the same as those still in use today.

I should have some test shots to show tomorrow.
'Til then...

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Bible Miniseries - a Review

Off topic? Let me just say the cinematography in The Bible Miniseries is as professional as it gets, superbly done, and very engaging. I wish I had PVR'd the whole series to watch it a few time over again. I'm sure (and hopeful) there will be re-runs. There - I mentioned the photography, so I'm on topic.

Did I like the series? Oh yeah! It is indeed remarkable, when you view the world as a whole, it seems like Christianity is under greater attack than it has been for decades, maybe even centuries that this miniseries is getting such a good reception all around. I am also very surprised that most criticism of the series is indeed coming from the camp of non-believers, those who typically want Christianity, or aspects of it, destroyed from off the face of the earth - non-believers aren't pulling any punches! Christianity over the most recent hundred years has been very busy doing nothing but attacking itself from within - maybe these kinds of critics simply haven't weighed in yet, but it's encouraging to see the generally positive reception, not to mention the tremendous number of people who tuned into watch the series.

I was expecting huge criticism from the Christian right wing concerning the many inaccuracies portrayed in the series. I noticed many, but I'm not going to name them. I understand that there have been a set of "home study" kits released in conjunction with the show, which is very good - it will allow the fundamentalist critics to air this all out in Sunday School, and I hope they keep it there. What really engaged me the most personally is how the series gave me the courage to move my Christian faith one more step from out of my head and into my heart. When this is taking place, then it follows that in-discrepancies in the story telling matter a whole lot less. What this series accomplished, hopefully for everybody who watched it, is to show us in modern times the way all of these things actually transpired to the people who actually witnessed the real events, long before Theology came along to spoil it all. Man's theology always seems to disconnect the real events from our hearts, doesn't it? When people witnessed Samson's laying down his own life to conquer evil, when he leaned on the public building of the Philistines, why would it matter that in the series, it only shows him leaning on one pillar, when the Bible says there was more than one?

The best accomplishment of all is how the series shows the "centrality of Jesus the Christ" and his gospel throughout human history. The episodes provided us with a very quick journey through the Bible, and it could've been far longer and deeper, but the events chosen were those which look ahead to the Christ from the Old Testament, then it slows down considerably in portraying his life and teachings on earth, and his death, burial and resurrection, followed by a very quick wrap of the beginnings of his movement early in the First Century. I| personally would've liked one more episode, to have gone deeper into events of the New Testament; however, in keeping with the intent of revealing the impact of the Christian narrative had on real people in real time, then it was enough. As an example of what I mean, we are very clearly shown how, as he hung dying on the cross, there were only three people who remained steadfast - Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene and John. These three in fact, although others who failed him at the crucifixion would rise up and serve later on, became the seed of the earliest witness of the Christian faith. The sheer beauty of these three being the ones strong enough to not abandon Jesus, and the visual impact of it portrayed in the photography of this series has done some great things in my own heart. Perhaps the real gospel as it was seen and felt has once again, through this miniseries, gone into the whole earth as it already had been accomplished in the First Century? If so, I rejoice!

I give it four and a half stars, only because I would've liked to have seen more portrayal of the "Acts of the Apostles" in a final episode.