Tuesday, February 24, 2009

40D at ISO 6400

ISO 6400 is achieved in the 40D by choosing ISO 3200 and -1 EV of exposure compensation, then pushing it a stop during RAW processing. Actually, ISO 3200 in the 40D is really ISO 1600 and -1 EV manipulated in firmware — it's why it says "H" instead of 3200. Anyhow, it worked out okay.

You can see some banding in the shadow areas in the shot above. Shadow areas were rendered poorly using this digital push process. I came away from this experiment believing that black-and-white conversion was the way to go.

The shot above shows banding, too, but it's sorta kinda useable. If you printed it fairly small it wouldn't be as noticeable. And as long as you stay away from the shadows, the 40D does pretty well considering it's being pushed two stops past its limit.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Juggling cameras

Sorry, it's not a funny clip like when Father Carlos Las Vegas de Cordoba shows Navin Johnson underground footage of cat juggling in Mexico (thanks, paranoid losers at NBC Universal for removing the clip from YouTube).

Nope, it's how I shoot my pictures lately. I've had this urge to shoot film recently, and I've been doing so with three cameras: a Holga 120N, Ricoh 35 ZF, and Canon AE-1. And, of course, the Canon 40D still does most of the work. But I carry the Ricoh around with me during the day in case anything interesting reveals itself. And I'll see something that screams "Holga shot" and go out the next day to shoot it. The AE-1 has a roll of ASA 1600 Fujipan B&W film in it now for indoor use.

The cameras tend to collect on my mantle, mostly out of convenience so I can grab whatever camera strikes my fancy (I often grab two). But today has proved to be a tipping point — I scored three EOS lenses to test out over the next month. So now the mantle looks like this:

Even I can't live amongst such clutter. It shall be cleaned up this evening.

I've been testing out various films lately, and I plan to do a post about their pros and cons as I see them sometime in the future — I need to acquire a scanner that can handle transparencies first.

I got the first few B&W rolls developed at Stubblefield's Photo Lab here in Charlottesville. They do great work, and I really thought their scans were great. Then I had a roll of Fuji Superia and Kodak 400CN (the C41 B&W film) developed at CVS 1-hour photo and scanned to a CD. Not so good. It looked like they had Mr. Magoo hammering on the sharpening control in the scanning software. They weren't even email-worthy, but at least I have the negatives. And sorry, Stubblefield's, I'll never stray again.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ricoh 35 ZF

I got my first roll back that I shot through the Ricoh 35 ZF. Let's just say that sucker's sharp when you guess the focus right.

It's a zone-focus, shutter priority point-and-shoot camera. A distance scale is printed on the 40mm f/2.8 lens, starting at 0.9 meters/3 feet and ending just after 5 meters/15 feet. Since 1 meter is roughly 39", or 3-1/4 feet, the distance scale is an approximation. Landscapes are easy, you just twist the lens to the "mountain" setting. That's helpful, because I live in a mountain town.

In the shot above, I'm probably 3 feet away and have it set on the "torso" setting. Look how sharp it is! That's Tri-X film, probably 1/500 (the maximum) shutter speed, maybe f/11 or so.

Since the lens can open to f/2.8, it's usable indoors under good lighting conditions. Take, for example, the following shot. My daughter's room has a double window off to the right, and it's covered by a set of wooden blinds. You aim the louvers just right and it directs the light where you want it to.

At ISO 400, I'll guess it's 1/30 exposure at f/2.8. My hand is pretty steady, so I feel good about shooting at 1/30 all day long. I'm guessing around f/2.8 here because of the vignetting (which I love, anyway).

I really like this little camera. It's so simple to use. The toughest thing I've encountered so far is remembering to set the distance scale. But if you're thinking just a little, it'll give you razor-sharp images. It also makes almost no noise at all when the shutter clicks — street photographers will have a field day. Get it or any other old camera from Collectible Cameras in Phoenix, AZ — nice folks, great selection.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Point and shoot

I'm always halfheartedly shopping around for a point-and-shoot camera. I never pull the trigger, though, because (a) my wife has a perfectly good one, (b) we have an old one that still works fine, and (c) I want a bunch of features (RAW capture, wide angle, low pixel count, etc.) but don't want to spend any money. It's really more of an exercise in impulse control.

Well, until my recent film shooting bug hit me, anyway. I started looking around at old rangefinders, folding 6x6, and other old cameras, thinking it was a way to get what I wanted in a point-and-shoot: quality images, manual control, low low price. So here's what I got:

The Ricoh 35 ZF is a 1970s point-and-shoot camera that takes ASA 25-800 film. It's extremely easy to use and has a 40mm f/2.8 lens. This one came from Collectible Cameras in Phoenix, AZ. Check them out if you're looking for a used camera of any kind. Their selection is amazing, and they're very nice to deal with.

The little lever to the right of the lens is the self-timer.

The "ZF" stands for "zone focus," I think. You focus this thing by guessing the distance from your subject, and the distances are divided into three zones: torso (1 meter), person with legs (2.5 meters), and mountain (infinity). You just twist the dial to one of those settings and fire away. It does have a distance scale with intermediate values, however, so I'll have to test that out as I go.

Like my Canon AE-1, this is a shutter-priority camera. You choose a shutter speed (1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, or bulb) and its light meter determines the aperture. Manual override is also possible (f/2.8-16). The light meter originally ran on a 1.3v mercury battery, but it works fine on a 675-type hearing aid battery (1.4v — we'll see if that affects metering at all).

It has a viewfinder, but it's just a hole on the side of the camera. The lens is visible when you look through it. A needle shows the chosen aperture if you're in automatic mode.

The manual proudly boasts that this camera is "small enough to carry in your pocket." Maybe if you're wearing a jacket or cargo shorts. It's bigger than the Canon G10, and would be best suited to wearing around your neck. This was definitely a no-nonsense tourist's camera in its day.

So why did I bother dusting off my AE-1 and acquire this old, featureless clunker? It's because I want to force myself to think about photography in different ways from time to time. I still shoot 99% of my photos with my 40D. But every now and then I plan to rip through a roll of film on these two cameras, both of which take away most of the features I take for granted when I use a digital body.

In theory, this should get me thinking more about composition and pay off down the road. We shall see!