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)

1 min read

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.

4 min read

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.

1 min read

Fixer Fingers

(C) 2004 Three rolls of Tri-X, X-tol 1+1 for 9 minutes.

Amazingly, I still have a film backlog from November — the three rolls now hanging are from a trip to Speaker’s Corner and a following visit to Copenhagen. Glancing at the negs it seems clear to me that I still have quite a ways to go with the DSLR before I’m as comfortable using it as I’ve grown to be with the Contax.

I’ve decided my next system expansion will be to hybridize slightly — to take the advice of Sean Reid and, for about the price of the Canon 28mm ƒ/1.8, get the Contax 28mm ƒ/2.8 and an EOS adapter (Better sell the rest of that older Canon gear, huh).

There’s just comething about the Zeiss lenses, whether its the design or the coating I’m unsure, but it’s there — I could see it just glancing at the first roll of negs when I bought my Contax. They were visibly different from Canon negs, even before they were printed. Sharp? Snappy? Sure. But it’s more than the photodo measurements, even as high as those are. Even Canon’s own lens designers have said it: “Sometimes what the eye perceives is slightly different from what is expected, even if all the measurements meet the proper values. We’ve experienced the fact that the perceptions of an expert surpass the precision of measuring instruments.”

1 min read