Thursday, February 27, 2014

First Shots From Repaired 5D

 I managed to do a few city-scapes in Moncton yesterday with my newly acquired EOS 5D Classic, which needed a minor repair. It performed perfectly - enjoy the shots!

EOS 5D, EF 28-105 USM, DxO Raw File Process

EOS 5D, EF 28-105 USM, DxO Raw File Process

EOS 5D, EF 28-105 USM, DxO Raw File Process
In spite of being big, old and heavy, it's just hard to beat the original EOS 5D for image quality, noise immunity, and ease of use. Has digital image quality surpassed this since 2005, when this camera was first introduced? I don't think so. Other things have improved, such as Auto Focus performance (that's important - the original 5D doesn't do very well trying to focus itself in low light, and occasionally does frustrate me), and faster burst shooting or "continuous drive" (the original 5D does 3 frames per second, while most newer cameras will do 8 fps - this is important to some people, but it doesn't matter to my style of photography). Other things such as bigger and brighter rear screens, with live-view shooting may or may not matter so much, and I realize that people have been talking about this for over 5 years, and so, the 5D Classic's rear screen is terrible by even yesterday's standards, but I can certainly live with that. I simply use it to display the histogram, and the over-exposure indicator, both of which can be done with newer cameras, and in this mode, the old 5D is almost as good.

Now, what about that all important question of "how many MegaPixels"? The 5D Classic "only" has 12.8, and even most new pocket cameras have 16 or more. Well, my first digital camera ever was a Pentax Optio 230, which stood for 2 MegaPixels, and a 3.0 optical zoom lens - I bought this in 2002. I used to make 8X11 prints from those real small JPEG files, and they looked just great. So, doing the math, the surface area of an 8X11 sheet is 88 square inches, meaning a 12 MP camera would print just as well on a sheet 6 times that size, which is 528 square inches - a sheet with 19" X 28" inch dimensions. This means, if you're concerned about print quality for prints bigger than 19" X 28", maybe the 5D Classic would not be sufficient, and you should consider a newer camera.

What about noise? Well, I've owned two of Canon's new DSLR's - the horrible 7D and the much better Rebel T3i, both with 18 MP 24mm sized sensors. Both had extended ISO of 128,000, while the 5D "only" has extended 3200. But because the original 5D spreads it's 12.8 MP over a 35mm sensor, and the other cameras mentioned "pack" their 18 MP over 24mm, I can extend the 5D noise floor by 2 EV (stops) - in other words, under-expose by -2 stops, then recover the exposure on the Raw File using software with a bit of noise reduction. I've proven many times how well this works, and I did this again in the two "night" shots above. I'm convinced this works much better than the newer cameras which pack too many pixels in to o small a space. I know I'm repeating myself here, but hopefully, I'm getting some new readers who need to hear this message afresh.

In conclusion, I must say how nice it feels to own two of these great old obsolescence proof cameras!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yet Another Score

EOS Rbel XT, EF 40 STM Lens
I'm not sure if the word "score" is appropriate this time or not - it sounds offensive somehow, and yet, in so many ways, it'll probably be the best buy of 2014. I picked up another EOS 5D Classic, with a battery grip this time, for $200, which comes out to roughly $80 for the grip, based on Ebay bidding (not the outrageous "buy it now" prices), leaving $120 for the camera. This was a great deal, considering that these cameras are still bidding over $500. I bought it in Saint John from a real photo enthusiast who I will only identify by her initials - GB, for the sake of anonymity.

There was a bit of a hitch - nothing comes this cheap in real life - well maybe my deal of the year last year would count as well - a Rebel EOS XT with two lenses for free! Nothing can beat that!

However, this 5D had the mirror fall off, which is such a common problem on the original 5D that Canon has issued, and is still honouring, a recall to fix the problem with a more robust mirror arrangement. But I wasn't sure of the camera's total state of functionality, being unable to take a picture in the absence of a mirror. Even in Mirror Lock-up Mode, you can't get focus or correct exposure, because the mirror is actually part of both of these functions. While at GB's house, I was able to get at least something very blurred and over-exposed, and all non-shooting functions seemed to work OK, so I paid a price we both agreed on, and I now own the camera.

I could've sent the camera to a Canon service depot, absolutely free, return freight for the mirror recall, but I am an impatient sort, and besides, I was still uncertain about a few other things, and so I went ahead and re-glued the mirror into place myself. Note- this is NOT what Canon does with the recall - instead they secure the mirror in a more robust frame - basically it's a re-designed mechanism. But my other 5D Classic has not had this recall modification done either. The way for which people are experiencing this failure happens mainly when the camera is left in a hot car in the summer, or for those who live in very hot climates. The heat causes the glue to break down. My fix involved re-gluing the mirror's four rubber pads onto the plastic frame, using a slow curing "Krazy Glue". "Slow" is a relative term here - it's still an instant glue, but it gives you about 30 seconds to align your pieces correctly before the initial set takes place. The brand I used was Lepage Ultra Gel. Besides having a slowed down set interval, it's also much more shock resistant and shear proof than the original Krazy Glue.

Anyway, I'm glad to say it worked fine - I gave it about six hours to cure (24 is recommended but I'm an impatient sort). I tried a few single shots, and some burst shots, and I also tried to pry the mirror away from it's frame - but it's all fine. The camera also exposes and focuses perfectly with the mirror in place.

The next point of attention was the sensor. I took a picture of a blank white monitor screen to test it for dust - well, there was plenty of dust, but even worse, a weird pattern of smudging all over the entire sensor. Now, GB had also sold me an "Arctic butterfly" for $40, so I gave that a try. It got rid of the dust OK, but not the smudging (which almost resembled a part of a finger print, but who would stick their finger deep into the sensor of a camera???) Fortunately, I had a liquid / microfibre swab cleaning kit (also from the Visible Dust company) on hand I had bought a few years ago. The liquid had almost all evaporated, but there was just enough left, along with one clean swab, to do this job. Happy to say, this worked just fine too and the sensor is now pristine, just as it is with my other 5D.

Th only other thing was a missing battery cover. I found one on Ebay for $3.99 from China, so I ordered it immediately. In the meantime, the camera still has the BG-E4 battery grip, so the cover isn't needed immediately.

So what am I doing with two of these prehistoric monsters? GB herself now favours the much smaller and lighter mirror-less system cameras, and this sale will help on her end to buy another lens for her new system. I really like big cameras - I'm a big guy with very big hands, and as I've probably mentioned before, I suffer from Dystonia, which involves quite a bit of Parkinson's -like hand tremor, so I need the extra stability, super-sized control points, and weight of a big camera. I also find the 5D Classic to be particularly nice because of it's lack of extra features - read "extra buttons" that pollute the new 5D Mark II and III versions. The 5D is set up pretty much like an EOS film camera as far as control points are concerned - no movie mode, no live-view, no quick-menu, no redundant function buttons; and it rewards you with the best, ultra low noise 35mm (full frame) pictures imaginable.

There's only one down-side of "big" - that is, a big camera is never ready. You can't keep one in your pocket, and you shouldn't keep one locked in your car on a hot day - the same goes for film cameras by the way. What I am going to do is sell one of these 5D's, after I've used the one I just bought from GB to make sure it's OK in the long term, and use the money to buy a high -end pocket camera - something along the lines of a Canon Powershot S120, or a Fuji XF-1. This will give me a camera with Raw Data output that can literally be the camera I have with me all the time that isn't a cell-phone afterthought. And besides, I usually do not have my cell phone with me all the time, once I discovered that it's built-in 8 MP camera is really not so good.

So, for the next little while, any pictures I include here will be taken with the "new" 5D Classic. The picture above is not; rather it was done with my FREE EOS Rebel XT (thanks again Mike!).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Monocle Lens

GIMP FIL Script Monocle Effect
The Russians are at it again. Aside from making a slow rise in the Medal Standings in their home turf of Sochi, they are also out there on the fringes on photography - not doing anything on the Digital side mind you, but they seem to have a love affair with optics, and setting the world on fire with a rather cool phenomena called "Lomo". The Lomo (Lomography) movement is named after the Russian's continued production of primitive film cameras which somehow make photographs with a unique and splendid charm, by combining many imperfections, like vignetting, ghosting, flare and light leakage into one.

One such device is a recent addition to their product line - the single element lens, or "Monocle Lens" (not to be confused with the monocle eyeglass worn by Mr. Peanut, and at one time also seen on Leon Redbone). I'm sure that Mssrs. Peanut and Redbone, both being true purists would both approve of the Monocle camera lens. Here is the official Lomo product, called the Petzval Lens, and it's a beautiful thing to behold, isn't it? Here's what it would look like on your typical DSLR cameras:

The Lomo Petzval Lens

This is a reproduction of a design that goes back to the dawn of Photography - the 1850's, with the difference being that it can be adapted to any modern DSLR camera. As you can see, it is little more than a brass tube with one single lens element (the meniscus) and several sizes and shapes of slide-in Aperture rings.

Ah, but the industrious Russians aren't content to wait on a pre-order of the Petzval from Lomo. Indeed, why not make your own version, by removing most of the innards from an old, preferably broken lens? Here's the idea, available at a fairly reasonable cost from a Russian Ebay seller - simply take a fixed focal lens apart and remove everything but the front glass element, make the element easily removable so you can drop in some Aperture rings in behind it... I think that's the general idea. And what do you end up with? Here at Flickr, are over 600 photos made using a Monocle Lens.

I really love the look, don't you?

But, frugal as I am, I set out to find some way of getting this for free, and I found it. It can be done with software, thanks to the great minds at GIMP. You simply download this Script Plug-in, and add it to your GIMP Script Folder, as per the instructions. When you re-start GIMP, it will appear under "Filters > RSS > FIL". You'll notice this is actually just another form of Film Emulation, but it has that little Tick-Box to add a Monocle Effect.

Here's the two horses again, this time in black and white, using the same tool (FIL) with Monocle Effect:

To my eyes, it's quite a bit less subtle than having the real lens, as seen in the Flickr pool of photographs. Software implementations often are less subtle than the real thing, I find. Unfortunately, the FIL Script doesn't offer any way of varying the Monocle effect (yet). For the sake of reference, here is the "perfect" photo I started with:

EOS 5D, Sigma 50mm f1.4, DxO Optics Pro
In one big way, I suppose the software method has the advantage of keeping a perfectly executed original, made with your high end gear, and then follow up with various filters, simulations and effects such as the Monocle Lens. However, if you shoot the original picture with a real Petzval or Monocle, then that's all you'll have - a picture with that pleasing Monocle distortion.

Finally, here is another shot to which I applied the FIL Script, this time in Sepia:

To my eyes, it's quite authentic looking - enough to be fun, except for being a bit too sharp, and the Sepia tone is a bit too bright. Again, the FIL Script doesn't offer any means of varying the effect (yet). One could experiment by combining it with other filter effects, for which GIMP now has hundreds available. My wish list is to have a software simulation that will provide a genuine copper tone, somewhat like caffenol processing. I could either do it the real way, in a darkroom, using Caffenol chemistry, or try creating my own GIMP script - I'm not sure which would be more difficult.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Don't Fear the Kit Lens

EOS 350D, Kit Zoom Lens
Yesterday, I finally got out for a good 2 KM walk for the first time this winter. It's been so brutal here, and just overnight, the weather has turned horrible again, with much more snow to come this week. I was starting to fear for my health, being cabined-up for so long, not getting the much needed fresh air and exercise.

The camera I took with me was the great old EOS 350D (or EOS Rebel XT), with it's standard EFs 18-55mm little plastic wonder kit lens. This camera was given to me by a friend last year, and I really like it a lot, in spite of it being ten years old, it's still great! The Rebel XT was Canon's second "consumer" DSLR - the follow-up to their very first, the EOS 300, which was otherwise badged simply the "Digital Rebel", about a dozen years ago. We're talking real ancient history here when it comes to digital camera innovation and technology, where twelve years is like twelve life-times. Nonetheless - that may be an illusion, as this camera with it's kit lens still takes great pictures, and performs pretty much the same as any modern Canon Rebel Series DSLR, all built in a very compact and lightweight shell.

But you see, the thing with Canon's Rebel kit lenses (the lenses that are packed and sold with the EOS film body) is that they are built so horribly cheap that nobody really seems to take them seriously, and this is still true to this day. I'm not sure about the inner construction, but the outer shell is 100% plastic, with a plastic mount also. They are loosely put together, completely void of features (such as distance scale, manual focus over-ride and internal zoom), and easily broken if dropped or mis-handled. But they do have on thing in their favour - that which really counts the most - good image quality. And that is a very good thing, because Canon no longer has a "mid-range" line of zoom lenses like they did a Decade ago (talking about the awesome EF 28-105). Since around 2008, you either had to settle for the kit lens, or jump up to the hyper-expensive and professional orientated "L" range, with nothing in between. Either that, or go for the very good third-party makes such as Sigma and Tamron - this is in fact what most Canon Rebel DSLR owners do, I'm sure.

But, just because Canon's Kit Zooms, along with their not much better range of USM Telephoto Zooms look so cheap on the outside is no reason to just leave it in the box and go out to buy something better. There certainly is merit in putting most of your investment into fine (and expensive) lenses, but if you just give that little plastic tube lens a chance, I think you'll be surprised with the results you get. They might even be more durable than they look -after all, mine is ten years old, and still works perfectly, although I think it was lightly used and handled carefully by it's original owner.

EOS 350D, Kit Zoom Lens
These lenses aren't exactly "tack sharp" as they say, and that seems to be the holy grail which digital photographers are chasing after - "sharpness". Rather, I would characterize the Kit Zooms as being more "painterly", with more emphasis on great colour, good contrast, but perhaps somewhat lacking in sharpness.

If you're really on a tight budget (which is what my Blog has always been about; low-ball photography), you might be happy to know that EOS 350D's wth the EFs 18-55m Kit Zoom are now selling on Ebay for less than $125.00. Stay away from the "Buy It now" ones for $200 or more and try bidding for one instead.

EOS 350D, Kit Zoom Lens
This was a great mid-winter walk, and here are the rest of the shots I took with this now amazingly inexpensive DSLR "Kit". When I look back, I realize how every one of these photos is far and away better than anything I took with the EOS 7D, which I quickly realized was a terrible camera for me, and promptly got rid of it - launching me instead into a very active film shooting period.

I still think that the EOS 5D Mark-1 (The Classic) is one of the finest cameras ever made, and as I've mentioned before, the EOS 350D is roughly of that same vintage; I still think there's something to be said for these older DSLR's with a low Pixel Density (the 5D is full-frame 35mm with 12.8 MegaPixels; the 350D is APS-C 24mm with 8 MegaPixels). It seems to me that the 350D even has an edge over it's successor, the 400D, which is 24mm with 10 MegaPixels. I owned a 400D for awhile, and found it's output to be just slightly ho-hum in comparison with the 350D. although I'd highly recommend both cameras now as ultimate digital bargains. Don't fear the old, and don't fear the kit lens - regardless of what level of photography you're at, there are tremendous bargains out there right now, as people are selling off these older models simply because they are enticed by more megapixels and more features.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Re-Thinking Film

The Marshlands Inn, Sackville NB
As life goes on, I find myself re-thinking almost everything, and at times can easily go full circle. Perhaps this is a sign of an open mind that is far too open? Or (hopefully) I'm gaining some wisdom with age. Anyway, many of my regular readers (at least both of them) will recall how that last summer, I was doing a lot of shooting with film cameras, and riding a wave of loving the film medium. But this was before I bought my EOS 5D Mk-1. You may have noticed that since then, I've been quite silent about using film - the last article I did about it was "Film Versus Digital - My Final Word", in which I compared the output of my newly purloined 5D Full Frame Digital to that of my excellent Canon Elan-7 Film SLR, both using the same lens. Somehow, this also turned out to be my final word about film photography, period. I had concluded that overall, the results from the 5D had a slight lead, but also how that the film results gave me certain qualities that cannot be measured, that are hard to get with a digital camera.

This is not a comparison, but just a little bonus shot to show how beautiful film can be. The Marshlands Inn Picture above was taken with the EOS 5D, while the shot below was taken with my Elan-7.

Rail-road Museum, Eastern Shore, NS
To my thinking, these both have their endearing qualities, and both reveal so very well the importance of having high quality equipment at hand (I believe that gear does matter).

Does this mean that I've turned 180 against film? No, not at all - but obviously something has happened, and I'll let you know what factors have, for the moment, turned me back to doing exclusively Digital shooting:

1) My purchase of the EOS 5D at a real bargain price of $500
2) My purchase of a true high-end lens - the Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX DG
3) My purchase of an amazing piece of Software - DxO Optics Pro-9
4) My learning how to use the 5D Mark-1 Camera in the proper way, for more consistent results

These four things have shifted the balance for me. Naturally, I could use the Sigma lens on my Elan-7 film camera, and I could also set it up to work exactly the same as the 5D, because Canon's lineage from film to digital has been remarkably consistent over the past 28 years when they first introduced the EOS System - very little has changed. However, I cannot make the most of using the DxO Software with my scanned film - it is intended to fully optimize Raw Data files, which I do not get from my film scanner. The main point is that my most up to the minute digital package gives me photography nirvana, and there's nothing about film that'll take me to the same place.

My expectation for this year, 2014, once things warm up and my blood thaws out, is that film might take me to a different place. My digital gear and software take me to perfection, yes, but I'm looking at film as a possibility of attaining a great "funk factor" for me, using my Russian Rangefinder, and the possibility of more shooting with the Yashica Lynx 14e as well. Both provide a much simpler shooting experience, and the Russian camera especially has such a bad lens on it, that, when combined with bad film, I get the most delightful form of "yuch" you've ever seen! In spite of how "bad" this lens is, the FED-5 Russian camera gives me some of the most charming pictures I've ever taken. Also, as it is an interchangeable lens camera, I can put far better lenses on it, including Nikon, Canon and even Leica! I should also mention how the fixed lens Yashica Rangefinder includes one of the most highly regarded lenses ever made.

So, there is still some film photography in my future, but I believe that now, most of what you'll see from me will be from the remarkable first generation EOS-5D.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Lone Traveller

A Lone Traveller
Nothing real exciting today, except that I finally broke through the winter blues yesterday and got up early to go out and take pictures. Thank goodness the daylight is increasing at both ends, and my little trek began at around 7:30 AM.

Actually, I got quite a few really nice shots - not extraordinary, and definitely not gallery material, but being out at the "golden hour", that is, near sunrise or sunset makes for the best colour and contrast. Here is a subset of the best - in my usual style of just plain ordinary "folk" photography, and mostly of scenes close to home which I have shot dozens of times at various seasons, with various cameras, and in all kind of weather.

What really shines here is not so much about me as it is about the camera I used. All of these were taken with the EOS 5D Classic and the Sigma 50mm f1.4 lens. This is by far the finest combination I've owned, and the amazing depth, perfect colours and exciting textures will never fail to disappoint, as long as I manage to get my focus and exposures right - and here's how. For all of these shots I used the "back-button focus" and Centre Averaging Metering, instead of "Evaluative".

My only wish now is to add some excitement to my photography, (and my life maybe?). But there's a lot to be said for a tranquil, simple life too. If I find the light and texture of the pictures I take exciting (which I always do), when I achieve it, it makes me feel great for the day. Even more importantly, I'm learning how to achieve great light and texture, so I'll be ready for it if a time ever comes when I can travel to some far off exotic location, like Romania to see some of Vlad's castles, not to mention the favourite pastime of Prince Charles! This would be my dream holiday. Yeah, I really dig this stuff!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Silver and Gold Photography

The Trailer We'll All Be In

I thought I'd treat your eyes to a little silver and gold colour scheme today. Everybody knows that silver is an essential ingredient in photographic film emulsion, and in fact, as such it is now a declining industrial use for the precious metal. But were you aware of an early photographic process called Chrysotype? I was not aware, until my much recent interest of reading about investing in precious metals - there's a great article about it here. And this is what the results look like. With today's price per ounce, even though it is falling, this must be a tremendously expensive way of processing, but it certainly does posses a unique beauty!

Actually, much of my interest and reading lately has been toward silver, not gold. Silver is extremely scarce right now, because it's a losing proposition to mine more of it, given it's extremely low price in relation to the high cost of energy. Many are saying that silver is the ultimate bargain, because, although most of the above ground silver in the world is rapidly being used up, it is very much needed by industry, in many applications - electronics, aero-space, medicine, solar panels, and yes, even photography, still. Most silver analysts believe that the price of silver (and gold) are being heavily manipulated downward right now by the world's federal banks, to prop up the crazy bubble-filled economy we're now in, but this can't go on forever.

All the analysts are right - silver has nowhere to go but up, once all the price-fixing stops, whenever that'll be. And because every currency in the world right now is rapidly de-valuing because every nation is madly printing Trillions of dollars worth of it, silver and gold will go up a lot. But especially silver. Some are predicting five-hundred per ounce, or even more.

It sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime doesn't it? But be careful, for it is really a trap! Think about it - you can walk into a Bullion Dealer today, and pay them some cash for their silver coins or bars, which are right now priced amazingly low, pay no sales tax on it, and walk out anonymously with the coins in your pocket. But because of the fact that the rocketing price of precious metals is directly tied to the inevitable collapse of all world currencies, you certainly might turn your thousands into millions, but then what? Will your friendly neighbourhood Bullion Dealer even be around to pay you back what your coins are supposed to be worth? Remember, all currencies will be worthless, so even if your Dealer is still open (which will be highly unlikely), they couldn't possibly be holding enough dollars to buy everybody's silver and gold back. Nor would they even want to, given that at this new game-changing level, silver and gold will have nowhere to go but down.

What about the Banks? Wouldn't they cash in your booty? Well, no; again, assuming the banks even survive, even today, if you bring them a silver coin with a $5.00 face value, that's all they'll give you - the face value, even though the $5 coin is now supposed to be worth close to $20 for it's weight in silver. When it's worth $500, is this policy going to change? I wouldn't expect so.

Many other survivalists are saying that because these are "real wealth" (as opposed to promissory note currency - and I admit, they are right in saying this) you'll be able to use silver and gold to barter with, once the dollar fails and the SHTF. "Stock up on the Three-G's - Grub, Guns and Gold" they say. Well, again - once everybody has lost their savings, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pensions - once these have all become worthless paper, silver and gold will probably be the last thing that anybody would want, and the whole world will finally be economically on equal footing - doing everything possible to find their next meal! It will become a barter economy al-right, but keep in mind, you cannot eat gold and silver.

There's a verse in the Bible that seems to predict exactly this situation -

"They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their stomachs" Ezekiel 7:19

Don't be trapped! I know it sounds very frightening, but the Bible also offers real hope with another kind of gold, being sold by God Himself -

"Therefore I counsel you to buy of Me gold refined in the fire that you may become rich, and white robes to put on, so as to hide your shameful nakedness, and eye-salve to anoint your eyes with, so that you may be able to see.  All whom I hold dear, I reprove and chastise; therefore be in earnest and repent. I am now standing at the door and am knocking. If any one listens to My voice and opens the door, I will go in to be with him and will feast with him, and he shall feast with Me." Revelation (Apocalypse) 3:18-20

There's the answer - to become eternally alive in God, no matter what happens in this failing world. How is this done? It's even more simple than buying silver at the Bullion Dealer, and can happen as quickly to you as it takes to compose and take a photograph -

"whoever comes to me I will never on any account drive away." John 6:37

"every one who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Acts 2:21

God's eternal promises are far, far more valuable than any form of worldly wealth - always have been and always will be. He has always promised us - "call out to Him and he will hear you".

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Some New "Back to Basics"

EOS 5D, EF 28-105 @ 105, f11 and ISO 200, Photivo Raw File
Here we are in February, and I hadn't taken a single picture during the month of January, except or the one above on the 30th. It almost feels like starting over again! I realize this picture won't win any contests, but it does have what I personally like to see - lot's of light, contrast and texture.

Perhaps more important, I've finally entered the 20th Century and completely re-configured my marvellous EOS 5D Mark-1. Modern DSLR cameras, even my particular "ageing" favourite, are meant to be customized, with all kinds of different modes available around exposure and focusing. I was noticing last year that I was losing more than half my shots to bad focus, and pretty much 100% of my shots were under-exposed, in a very "lifeless" sort of way, requiring quite a bit of Raw file processing to get the exposure up to snuff.

Here's what I've done:

1) Stopped using "Evaluative Metering" ("Matrix Metering" if you use a Nikon), in favour of "Centre Weighted Average". From everything I've read about this, I'm committing a real blasphemy here! Evaluative Metering is supposed to be the de-facto for DSLR's -one of their biggest advantages, having all of those built-in metering points by which the camera's computer does many, many spot-metering checks through the entire frame, top to bottom; left to right, and then sets the best possible exposure value. Well, if that's true, then why were so many of my pictures so badly exposed I wonder, especially back when I was using the less valuable APS-C cameras?? Simply following the advice of the experts! Then I read somewhere that Leica cameras (supposedly the best, but if not that, certainly the most expensive) use a Centre Weighted meter, and at the other end of the scale, the humble point and shoot digital, the cheaper ones that don't give you a choice of metering mode, also use Centre Weighted as the only choice? I can't let one single picture of a cow be the ultimate judge, but with this Raw file, I didn't need to lift and tweak my exposure at all, but merely added some local contrast for better texture.

2) Hopefully I've resolved my bad focus issues. This picture tells nothing, as it was shot stopped down to f11, which would put everything in focus. But what I've done is assigned my back-button, the one marked "*" to be my Auto-focus button, instead of the shutter half-press, and I've also set my AF Mode to what Canon calls "AI-Servo" (strangest name you could think of for this function, Canon). This Mode is supposed to make the lens continuously maintain focus on a moving subject, and it does this very well. I don't often encounter a moving subject, so I always had it set to "One Shot" instead. But read carefully - with the AF function assigned to "*", when you quickly press and release the "*" button, this locks the focus for the shot as if it were set to "One Shot", but if you press and hold the "*" button, the focus will continually track a moving subject, as if it were set to "AI-Servo". It takes a little getting used to -that is, not having the half-shutter-press do your Auto Focus, but once you're set up this way and used to it, I must say it is very neat-oh! It also eliminates the need to "focus on the subject, and then re-compose", which I believe was the cause of my bad focus issues, especially with wide open apertures.

3) This is always a bit trickier for me, to select a focus point other than the one in the middle, but with the EOS 5D, and any other Canon DSLR or film SLR with a rear control wheel, it's a snap. You need to remember to press the "window-pane" button, the one next to the "*", and then quickly spin the dial to select the focus point you want. (Alternatively, you can move the Joy Stick to select the focus point - this is more direct). I prefer the dial, because it's more readily under my thumb, and seems less fiddly, although it is less direct, because as you spin it, the focus points light up in a sequence, whereas with the joy-stick, you can move to the point you want directly. Another choice is to have all focus points light up, and let the camera pick the right point for you. This is fine if you're using a small Aperture, but more of a crap-shoot as you open the Aperture up wider.

Previously, I didn't want to fuss with all this stuff, but ever since Canon introduced the EOS system way back in the mid 1980's, this very same functionality has been available, pretty much enabled in exactly the same way, and is always used by the pros. There are very good reasons for having these features enabled, and I hope to make the most of them going forward.