The Cantax

The Cantax Today’s (linkless) photo is for Eddie, who tragically turned down a 300D because he didn’t like the color and it didn’t look “Reuters” enough.

C’mon man, your Contax G2 is silver too (and the Leica as well? Tsk!) You know darned well that the camera body is just a little dark box at the back of the lens, with an extra little hole for peeping through.

It’s also for Michael Johnson, who has rollover pains with regards to cameras that aren’t made of metal. (You should subscribe to his newsletter anyway — here’s hoping he can manage to keep printing it!)

Now to doctor-up a logo…

The Cantax

(Sorry for the obvious pixel noise in this quick snap — shot with my old Canon G1…. which has been recently borrowed often by my daughter. A mere 8MB card? Not a problem when you’re enthusiastic as she is….)

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The Proof

London, 2003. Click image to see 100% crop Since I was asked, here is a sample of one of the proof sheets I’ve been making using XnView. The original is 3075×2175 pixels, for printing at 300dpi. This is enough to see detail on the page. For a 100% detail showing the level of detail that’s visible, just click-through on the image at right.

This week marks the last one of the SFMOMA show, Diane Arbus Revelations. We’ve been there twice now. I’m tempted to return.

Some of the surprising things in the exhibit (which may be in the expensive companion book) are a few of Arbus’s proof sheets. Some are about what you might expect: a suite of similar shots from which just one was selected. But for most of the others, what’s astonishing is their variety — proofs where each photo is markedly different, of a completely different person, sometimes in another location. The photos that were printed weren’t one from a set — they were just the one photo.

I know that Arbus was constantly dismissive of her ability to know what was in the photo until she saw it. But the proof sheets tell a different story. In, nail it, and go on to the next thing. Pretty impressive. Scary, even.

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Hacking the EOS

Santa Clara, 2004 - low-light, manual guesstimation focus in a crowd As I mentioned before, I like the feel of an 85mm ƒ/1.8 on my 35mm SLRs. On the Canon D300, the 50mm ƒ/1.8, with the 1.6× multiplier in effect, is almost the same lens — an equivalent to an 80mm for the 35mm camera.

Sale! Sale! Sale! An awkward feature of that particular Canon EOS lens is its complete lack of distance scales. The 50mm ƒ/1.4 has them, but at a much, much higher cost. So I just wrote some on the side of my lens.

First I marked one of the knurled edges on the focus ring with an office white-out marker (model paint might have been better, but I didn’t feel like digging that stuff out of the garage). Then I cut a scrap of cloth first-aid tape (which I also use for framing and matting) to the right length, with a notch for the MF/AF switch. Finally, I did some quick measurements in my kitchen, focused to the appropriate spots, and made marks on the tape with a ball-point pen for infinity, 10, 5, 2.5, and 1.5 feet. Close enough for wandering around shooting from the hip.

Total upgrade time: less than ten minutes. I’ll happily sell this lens for $200, now that it has the cool ƒ/1.4 feature. That’s cheap compared to Canon’s price!

One thing that’s missing is depth-of-field indicators. By my estimation, ƒ/22 markers would be quite close together — about three notches, or a little bit less on each side than the distance between the infinity and 10-foot marks.

(PS: This later entry gives more detail on DoF for digital cameras. I realized I was slightly wrong — the markers would need to be closer-together)

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Camera technology and photo style

In reading Bill Jay’s and David Hurn’s On Being a Photographer, I was struck by Hurn’s comments about shooting many photos of a static subject, but fewer of a moving one, which was much harder to get balanced and well-formed for the camera.

Static subjects with lots of subtle variation — perfect for consumer digicams with their low cost-per-frame and inability to react quickly.

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Contax G, Reprahzent

London, 2003 (C) 2003-2004 K. Bjorke In the past couple of days I’ve run across notices for two established and Contax-related sites — based on photos, not gear.

An interview with Luc Delahaye talks about his experience shooting, among other things, his series “Wintereisse,” which was reputedly made with the G2. Delahaye also is no slouch when it comes to kicking over a few cans around the Magnum Agency crowd, with comments like “Cartier-Bresson… didn’t really need to put the film in the camera — the importance for him is the act of taking pictures … being in the right position and being fast.”

(Supposedly Josef Koudelka had a similar moment of Magnum-founder-busting, leaning into frame during a Cartier-Bresson TV interview to say “Henri, you are so full of it!”)

Or again from Delahaye: “[Salgado]… is a cliché-maker. He is producing what everyone has in mind.” Another good healthy Photo Rant.

Best of all, the photos are terrific.

On the other side of the planet is our own Contax homie Eddie Ng, whose website I’ve just found featured in the December issue of the UK <a href=”http://www.gmcmags.com/bw/index.html” target=linkframe”>Black and White Magazine.</a> I’ve known enough to mark his site (even without an RSS feed) on the PhotoRant blogroll for a long time.

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