Re-learning curve: Canon 1Ds

“Re-learning”? Not with this camera! This is the ‘full frame’ DSLR, and as such has the largest and brightest viewfinder. Seeing what I’m trying to photograph is the biggest problem these days, and with the 1Ds it’s almost not an issue. Likewise the Canon G11 with its optical finder gives similar performance. Only the EVFs and smaller, dimmer optical finders present much difficulty.

Okay this camera still has poorly-thought-out controls, but I know where they are and don’t have to change them often. Also it weighs a lot. But what about the all-important results? Well I took 28 photos and only 6 of them are actually bad. That’s the best post-eye-problem ratio of any camera I’ve got.

All these photos were taken with the 75-300mm Canon EF lens. Some are the full image, some are cropped to varying degrees. This is not the best lens either, but it was cheap and it works.

Landscape view. Or ‘lakescape’ perhaps.
Squirrel!
Shrouded in mystery.
Birds fly in the lake of the sky.
Natural guitar pick. (Stone full of mica.)
Bird in a tree.
First of this year’s wood harvest. (640 x 426 segment of full frame.)
Goodnight.

The success with using this camera reinforces the validity of my revised plan. In fact replacing this camera and the T100 with a 5D Mk II would by viable, but unlikely to happen. At this point I’m aiming for keeping the Fuji F80, Canon G11, Nikon P610 (which needs replacing at a later date), Canon T100, and this Canon 1Ds. Also I will use various adapters to allow the use of classic lenses with either Canon DSLR (the full frame cameras are not quite as good with this due to some lenses getting in the way of the larger mirrors).

To that end I have purchased some new equipment which hasn’t arrived yet but will result in further posts when it does. I’m not doing so well at selling off the superfluous stuff, but then there’s a lot else going on around here now with the start of the annual wood harvest.

Loose ends

Time to bring you up to date on what’s been going on around here.

First of all, the picture I forgot to include in the blog about the Olympus E-410:

640×480 crop of full image.

This shows that the camera used with a good lens doesn’t have problems. You see grain, not blur. That means the Olympus lenses are where the shortcomings are with that system. Goes with this pic, btw:

Lorne’s boat using the 50mm Takumar on the E-410. It’s fine.

Second, we had a visitor on Thursday:

Mr. Otis Bear

He spent most of the day crashing around in the foliage by the creek, just beside the cabin. He was stripping off berries to eat and driving the dogs crazy. I believe it’s one of the cubs that were coming ’round here with their mama this Spring. Seems to have gone now.

Third item is that the smoke has rolled in again as of Friday. Along with a high of 97F. Fires are still bad and people are being warned to stay away from certain areas, not just the evac alert/order zones. Honestly anyone vacationing in BC right now must be certifiably insane.

Beautiful view, wasn’t it?

Fortunately I was able to do some photo work before it got like this. Can’t even breath out there now. It’s looking a bit “life crisis” for me in fact. Bad enough I have to re-arrange my camera arsenal without having to re-arrange my entire way of living.

So I forgot about ‘back button’ focusing of the Pentax, and can’t tell if something is sharp or not anyway. This is a ‘salvaged shot’.

I’m actually working on a new “Master Plan” to go with my failed eyesight. The best camera I’ve got for working with my vision right now is the Canon PowerShot G11, which not only has a purely optical finder and limited zoom range (so basically anything I can see I can shoot), but also the nice colour tones of a CCD sensor. Beyond that … well I’ll explain the equipment shift at a later date. It’s still in flux anyway.

Butterfly, taken with the Canon T100.

More to come …

Re-learning curve: Olympus E-410

I really like this camera, but I think it has to go. There’s no problem with using it, there’s just limitations. These start with the choice of only two zoom lenses as I can not afford the longest range one which would probably be excellent for birding. I can’t see well enough for birding now either. The other issues are that the 10MP sensor is fairly low resolution for doing digital zooming with, and the fact the lenses I have for it aren’t that sharp.

This I tested this two ways. First I tried the 40-150mm (the one I use most) on the Canon T100 to check its sharpness on the 18MP sensor that camera has. Looked okay at full (shrunken) frame, but when you crop a 640 x 480 segment out of the full-size image it’s blurry. Even my eyes can see how soft it is.

Olympus lens on Canon body, full image.
Cropped segment of the same image at full size.

Second I tried the E-410 with the Pentax 50mm which I know is sharp and got sharp results. So the image softness on the Olympus is down to the lens. (Side note: in order to use these lenses on the other bodies I had to hand hold them together and move to get focus as no auto or manual functions are available. It was a bit tricky.)

Lorne’s boat using the 50mm Takumar on the E-410. It’s fine.

As far as straight-forward, uncropped pictures are concerned the Olympus does well. It has a lot of nice features too, 90% of which I don’t use. The other quirk is it stores images on either CF or xD cards so transfer to the computer is via cable. Not a problem but something of a nuisance.

Ordinary uncropped photo and the Olympus does just fine with its 10MP and stock lenses.
Even slightly cropped the Olympus does okay.

As you can see it is quite capable of taking very good photos under reasonable circumstances. It’s only when you try to push the limits that it comes up short.

Chipmunk won’t complain about the camera, so neither will I.

Why am I doing this? Because my eyesight is changed and I need to change my camera arsenal to suit. It’s obvious I still do most of my pictures in the telephoto range, and that means I need long lenses and good digital zooming ability to accommodate my style.

And if you think this was bad, wait ’til you see the results from the Pentax K100D Super. Oh boy. That was horrendous.

Meanwhile the fires continue but at the moment the skies are clear here. That probably won’t be the case for long.

1Ds with 28mm

The weather has gone lousy again so it looks like photo shoots stop for a while. Of course it could all turn around tomorrow: it does that at this time of year. Still not clear enough to go to the cabin, but maybe next week? We’ll see.

In the meantime I took a few shots with the 28mm f3.5 Super Takumar on the Canon 1Ds. This is not my favourite lens for this camera. It works fine and is plenty sharp of course, but it doesn’t ‘fit’ right in terms of taking pictures. In fact the lens-body combinations that work best (to my eye) are the 50mm on the full-frame 1Ds, the 35mm on the Pentax K100s, and the 28mm on the Canon T100 (the last two are APS-C sensors with 1.5 and 1.6 crop factors respectively). Not really a surprise as that’s as close to ‘normal’ lens/body combinations as you can get with these equipment choices.

So let’s see the pictures.

Dead rose hips. Square format for purposes of composition.
Hat tree chain saw carving made by my friend Lorne. Remember digital doesn’t have to have rigid dimensions.
Detail of the carving showing the woodpecker peeking out.
Marley napping. This is a segment of full-frame to see how well it stands up to magnification. Okay.
Winter colour. The tones of this camera are subtle.
Sit, Marley! Checking the dynamic range which is good.

A quick on-line check shows the shutter count on this camera is less than 31,000 – which means it will probably outlast me since they are supposedly good to 150k.

I have yet to try this out on night photography due to lack of weather co-operation. We have already got to the point where you have to stay up ’til 10:00 PM to get a truly dark sky, and that will get worse as we near the Summer solstice and get almost 16 hours of daylight!

There are only two things I don’t like about this camera. The first is the weight, which is enough to relegate it to studio-only work. I can’t imagine even a young photographer gaily toting this 3.5 lbs. body plus lenses over hill and dale. Sure, I’ve handled heavier cameras but that was when there was no choice. It makes me wonder if this wasn’t the driving force behind mirrorless design; all for the sake of weight!

The second issue is the controls are pretty badly thought-out. Many of the most-used items (like ISO) are stupidly complex to operate or are in dumb locations. That big turning wheel on the back for selection is absolutely moronic: four simple arrow buttons like everyone else uses would be infinitely better. The major selections for operation are again stupidly done, where a simple PASM dial would be welcome. Even the ON/OFF switch is poorly located. I think no photographer was involved in the design. For my purposes this isn’t a major issue because I usually “set and forget” things in advance – a particular camera has a particular job and doesn’t get altered from the best settings for that job. The exception to this is the ‘experiment’ camera (Canon T100) which suffers all sorts of changes depending on the experiment of the time.

Otherwise I like the larger sensor size for giving exactly what was expected of it. I don’t see it as the miracle solution for bad photography it is often subliminally touted as – by the same people who think more megapixels cures the same problem. I still haven’t tried it for astro or landscape really, and that’s what I really want to do with it. I don’t think I’ll be buying any more lenses for it specifically, other than in so much as the T100 also takes EF lenses.

Time will tell.

6 with the 35

Struggling to find anything like light around here lately, but at least I did clean the sensor on the Canon 1Ds! These were taken with that camera on manual, using the 35mm f2 Super Takumar.

Camera Decision says this camera is no good for landscapes. I disagree.
First shot was looking West down my road, this one is looking East.

Okay the landscapes themselves aren’t very good pictures, but there’s nothing wrong with how the camera captures them.

Big rock in my front yard. You can do a lot of photos with this rock.
Berry close up. That lens is very sharp, like the other two Takumars I have are.

That’s a segment of the full-size image of the berry, by the way. So much for the “11MP is very low resolution” crowd.

A section across the road. The colours from this camera are not the rich, saturated tones of the T100 but I like them anyway. Very realistic.
Subtle, moody shades. More artistic than what I usually shoot.

Next for this camera I will try the 28mm f3.5 Super Takumar. I am debating buying additional lenses for this camera because I’ve come across a deal on a couple, and I find I like the camera fairly much – aside from the absolutely idiotic controls arrangement. No photographer was consulted on the layout of them, obviously.

I will be ordering a larger CF card because this “ten picture limit” is driving me nuts. I can’t really go out in the field and shoot a “whole roll of film” because of the storage limitations.

Not possible to get out to the cabin yet as snow and ice is still all around and keeps coming back. I have q few pictures taken with the Nikon P610 to share, and a photo shoot ‘job’ to do this week. Who knows; maybe the sun will shine long enough to capture it.

That which we call a lens

Even though I still haven’t cleaned the sensor on the ‘new’ Canon 1Ds, I have tried a couple more lenses on it. So far I’ve used the two Canon EF lenses I have (40mm and 75-300mm) and the 50mm Pentax Super Takumar. All okay so far.

Now a brief explanation of Canon EF lenses. There are two types: the EF, which has a red alignment dot, and the EF-S which has a white alignment square. Both will fit on a crop-sensor camera such as my Canon T100 (the body of which has both the red dot and the white square), but only the red dot EF lenses work on the full-frame cameras like my Canon 1Ds (which has only the red dot). The EF-S lenses will not fit due to the rear of the lens intruding into the camera body. Don’t try it, you could damage something.

That said, the next lens I tried was my old M42 mount Vivitar 135mm f2.8. It’s a pretty good lens too.

I like this.

How sharp is it? Here’s a portrait of Marley the usually silly dog:

Marley being sensible.

And now we take a 640×427 segment out of the full frame, right around her eye:

Up close and sharp.

It is not the sharpest lens I own, but it’s hard to fault it. There’s no trickery like ‘unsharp mask’ used here either; it’s all in the lens.

But the lens does have its failings. Of course it’s manual, so that means manual focus and manual exposure. So no quick ‘grab shots’ of anything. Also, for most of the things I shoot the focal length is pretty short:

Three snow geese far away.

That is again taking a small segment from the full frame, and the birds are still very small. I even used the unsharp mask to enhance their shape, but no amount of computer processing will make up for the physics. Really: you’ve got to stop believing those TV shows that pretend a satellite in orbit can read a license plate that’s perpendicular to its lens as clearly as if it were ten feet away.

Now back to the EF vs. EF-S issue. I have one more lens in my collection which claims to be EF, in that it has the red alignment dot and will fit the full-frame camera. There’s just one little problem:

Say “nyet” to vignette. (The bird lost in the middle is a black-capped chickadee.)

This is the 18-200mm Tamron, which also has sharpness issues at any setting. Here we see the vignetting that showed up as a minor thing on the APS-C sensor at the 200mm length becomes full-blown-artistic-whatsit whether you want it or not. Yes you could crop this out, but then you’d notice the blurry focus all the more.

It’s a dark-eyed junco. Take my word for it.

Nope. That lens is not good enough for me. BTW it also focuses noticeably slower than the Canon lenses, and sometimes inaccurately.

I still have the 35mm and 28mm Super Takumars to try on this camera. But first I absolutely will clean the sensor. I promise. Or at least make a try at it.

I also need to get a larger CF card because at full resolution I can only fit 11 images on the 64 MB one I have. That isn’t even a ‘half roll’ equivalent.

Canon 1Ds, Part II

(I hate not being able to edit a post with the classic editor; it’s create and go with no going back!)

Okay, now let’s see if this Pro-Cam can deliver a decent photo. I haven’t cleaned the sensor yet, but here we go anyway.

Canon 40mm EF lens.

Not bad, and of course sharper than the 75-300mm zoom. Let’s go for really sharp with the Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 on all manual:

Ubiquitous shed shot is sharp.

This sort of makes me want the Canon 50mm EF now, but that would be further expense and I don’t imagine I will use this camera enough for ‘standard’ shots to make it worthwhile.

Marley has found snow.

I had to ‘fix’ this one a bit as it was slightly over-exposed (f16 is the minimum aperture and at ISO 200 & 1/250 it wasn’t enough). That’s what snow will do to you.

Duncan: less snow = better exposure.

Nice, subtle colour from this camera. It’s a CMOS sensor but it comes across like CCD.

Wood is good.

At full size this image has a lot of detail. The “very low resolution” sensor (11MP) isn’t lacking no matter what the megapixel promoters insist.

Here’s a bit I found on-line regarding the original price. EGAD! Glad I didn’t pay that!

And now for something completely silly:

Fujifilm F80 vs. Canon 1Ds – the small and the large.

One fits in your shirt pocket, the other breaks your neck!

Next experiment includes trying some different lenses and resolution settings. I also hope to try an astronomy shot, as that is one of the reasons I got this monster.

So far I’m happy with it. Also it’s the only exercise equipment I own. I’m sure it’s building up my biceps.

Say hello to my large friend

The new tool in the kit: Canon 1Ds

One of the cameras I’ve wanted to try is a full frame, any full frame, DSLR. My preference was the Canon 5D, but despite being plentiful they continue to command indecent prices. I’d about given up finding anything when along came this offering from within Canada which eliminated the cross-border hassles. I managed to get it on a last-moment bid for about 1/3 what similar ones are going for and about 1/2 what an in-Canada 5D costs. In all a pretty good deal, especially as it showed up with all the manuals and discs and a firewire cable and three batteries plus charge and an AC adapter! I’m not sure how good all the batteries are as I’ve only managed to get one charged enough to activate the camera.

So, the acid test: how good does it do ‘out of the box’?

Ambulance coming, but not for me this time!

Not bad. I was using the slightly fuzzy 75-300mm Canon EF zoom, which on this camera is 75-300mm because it’s full frame!  As expected the contrast needed a little help, partly because it was a gray day (heavily overcast) and partly because it’s an old sensor. But I like the colour rendition.

Main problem: dirty sensor.

Yes the sensor will need cleaning. Do people never look after their equipment? Mostly the camera looks good with only a few minor scuffs and expected wear. The dirt shows up more on a full-size rendering.

Cropped close chickadee.

Here we have a 640×427 section of the full-size 4064×2704 frame. It’s a little blurry even with the application of unsharp masking. There are three factors at work here: it’s ‘only’ an 11MP sensor, the lens used is not the sharpest, and the camera has a reputation for being ‘soft’. I have not got into the settings yet to see how much it can be improved on its own.

Coming in for a landing.

This shot is cropped square just to eliminate annoying clutter on one side. I’m hoping for some better weather (i.e. sunshine) and a chance to try it out with the 40mm prime lens (it won’t work with the EF-S lenses) and the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar on manual. That should be something to see!

Large, medium, and small artillery: 1Ds, T100, and G11.

This is no lightweight camera, btw; it tilts the scales at 1585 grams without a lens. The T100 is only 436 grams. We’re talking three-and-a-half pounds of camera; more than most film SLRs weigh. I don’t expect this to be a ‘daily’ or ‘street’ camera by any means; it is intended for quite specific use which I hope to get to soon.

Until then, I will do such testing as I see fit and can think up.

As good as can be

It snowed Sunday night, after being 8°C that day. Then it warmed up and melted off again. This has been one weird Winter!

Anyway it was nice and sunny so I got out and walked around with the dogs and the Pentax K100DS a little bit. I wanted to see if I’d managed to polish the 18-55mm Pentax-DA lens sufficiently for use, and how well I’d manage a bit of activity. Oh, I have got the autofocus working off the ‘back (OK) button’ – but not from the shutter release. I don’t really like the back button focusing method; seems unnatural to a long-time photographer.

Here are the results. In some cases I had to do some post-processing to correct exposure errors it still makes, but over-all the camera is usable now.

The new snow.
Puddle remnant.
Marley being incredibly silly.
100% crop of 18mm shot. Fairly sharp.
50% crop of 55mm shot. The gossamer is blurred by wind.
100% crop of 55mm shot.

I don’t think any further cleaning will improve the lens any: it is what it is. I need to take some more “general” shots to see how it handles medium and distant focusing. On the whole, usable but of course not as good as the Super Takumar manual lenses. One nice thing about this camera is that it automatically adjusts for the yellowed 35mm lens, making the two an ideal combination.

Although it’s a nice camera to use, I probably won’t use it much except in instances where I want to employ one of the old lenses like the Hanimex 80-200mm zoom. I might try the old Soligor on it as well, but that is one heavy monster lens and it doesn’t have manual stop-down so it’s either full aperture or I’ll have to wedge the pin.

K100DS at 500-ish pictures

Believe it or not, I’ve almost got all the dirt off the Pentax K100DS sensor. Only “almost” though, as it seems every time I’ve scrubbed one bit away another appears. At the moment there is still a small dot in the lower right. So far I’ve gone through half of a cleaning ‘kit’, or about six swabs and an ounce of methanol. This in addition to a lot of air, some isopropanol, and regular lens cleaner & swabs. Maybe I should have started with a shovel.

Meanwhile the autofocus has gone from working occasionally to not functioning at all. I’ve also used up two sets of AA batteries. If I ask myself objectively “is this camera worth it?” I have to answer “no”. True it can produce some good pictures (with a lot of effort) but so will my other cameras – with a lot less effort. With a ‘success rate’ of around 2% at best, the infamous “Mystery Camera” is destined for a shelf somewhere.

In the meantime, here’s some scenery shot with it. Some have had the spots retouched, but the last one hasn’t.

Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4

Lens used was the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar, all manual settings.

I should do a piece on how I preset for ‘all manual’. I also want to do at least one comparison shot between this APS-C camera (1.5 crop factor) and the other, the Canon T100 (1.6 crop factor), using the same lens (Super Takumar 35mm f2 which is close to ‘normal’ for this format) and settings on both to show how the sensors compare (6MP vs. 18MP).

Maybe after I clean the sensor. Again.