Archive for the ‘Cameras’ Category

I shoot several film cameras including a Canon 7 rangefinder and an assortment of old cameras, mostly 120 folders. I’ll have to write some of those up in the next few months. But today I want to talk about modern film cameras. In particular a sort of modern, Canon EOS1. The EOS1 is the original professional grade camera for the newly minted Canon EOS system back in 1989. Canon introduced the EOS 650 and then the 620 as consumer models in 1987 and ’88, but the EOS1 was the big dog for the pros. The camera was replaced in 1995 with the EOS1n which had upgraded guts, faster drive system, better AF etc. I found an original EOS1 on ebay for less than $100 in great shape a couple of years back.

This camera actually handles a lot like the modern Canon DSLRs. It has the rear thumb wheel that I have always loved about Canon’s mid to high-end EOS cameras. This camera will shoot at 2.5 fps and 5.5 with Canon’s booster grip attached. I chose not to seek a booster grip as I will simply use my 5d Mk III if I need such speed. When using film I tend to stick with black and white. One, I can develop it at home (XP2 excluded of course) and two, I feel like color images are better suited to modern digital cameras that just do such a great job, don’t they?

What I like about the EOS1 is that it uses all my awesome EOS glass! It has surprisingly good auto focus for being a nearly 30-year-old design. No wonder Canon kicked Nikon in the crotch with the EOS for the first decade of autofocus. No it is not as fast as my Mk III but it is close considering it is a single focus point. Don’t expect any performance out of continuous focus mode on these old ones, but for single AF it is pretty quick.

I can shoot my 16-35L, my 70-300 DO, my 50 prime or 85 prime and a variety of classic glass with an adapter. Black and White film definitely gives off a vibe especially when scanned to digital. I’m sure there are photoshoppers that can do a great job of imitating film, but I like just shooting it now and again. For those not interested in personal home developing or waiting a long time for custom local black and white, Ilford has XP2. This is a 400 ISO black and white film that uses the C41 color process to develop. That means any lab that can do color film and prints can do XP2. The prints you get may have a warm tone if they are printed on color paper. I always just do a develop only and then scan to digital at home.

The EOS1 is a solidly built camera that offered up weather sealing just like the 5D cameras. Its weather seal isn’t quite as good as the modern cameras, but it is solid. I can’t believe people are selling these so cheap! This is a well made quality machine being sold for chump change. this camera will use a 2CR5 lithium battery which are still available and there are even people who have made a rechargeable version of the 2CR5 so I got one of those too. The camera will get a great deal of pictures on a single battery or charge. Not sure how many but I haven’t charged the battery in months.

The camera has 14 programmable custom functions and an impressive shutter that has speeds from 30 seconds to 1/8000 sec. I absolutely love this Canon EOS1. You can still find them in the low 100s and if you want a little better performance you can find EOS1n models for upper 100s to low 200s. The EOS1RS was a motor drive film fiend with a blistering 10fps. Those still fetch $300 or more.

This may look like a modern EOS DSLR, but be aware that the technology in 1989 was very limited especially in the light meter. Although the EOS1 does offer a pattern type meter it has only a few zones and the camera’s processor is not sophisticated enough to make complex lighting calculations. You will need to either bracket or use old school tactics for dealing with harsh lighting conditions. Subjects with strong back lighting will likely be at least partially silhouetted unless exposure is increased. But all of that aside, what a fantastic way to explore film for the first time or to revisit the ‘good ole days’. This EOS1 is fast and easy to use and is dirt cheap. What’s not to love?

Maggie, EOS1 with EF 70-300 DO, on Ilford XP2

Use caution when shooting as film and processing are not cheap. Don’t just rip through the roll snapping away. Use a digital for the casual, crazy, snapping away like mad moments. Film cameras require you to stop and think about the scene, the image you want to get and the lighting. Take your time. A roll of Ilford XP2 or Delta 400 36 exposures will run in the $7-8 range and it will be at least $4-7 to process negatives only.

Now I always feel a bit bad for users of Nikon or other camera makers when I focus on Canon so much. It isn’t that I don’t like Nikon or Pentax, I just happen to shoot Canon. But I did a little checking and one can still find Nikon F4 bodies for less than $200. The F4 was Nikon’s first top-level pro AF camera. It is a true “system” camera like the Nikon F heritage models the F, F2, F2a, F3, etc. Canon has not made a true system SLR since the New F1 back in the 80s. A system camera has a HUGE selection accessories and attachments. Typically they have interchangeable viewfinders as well. That old F4 is a tank of a camera. The big problem for Nikon users is the issue with lens compatibility. The story is rather interesting how it all worked out.

Back in 1985 Minolta (now Sony) made a huge decision to abandon their old legacy Minolta MD lens mount and create a new line of modern auto focus SLRs. It was ground breaking technology and the Maxxum 7000 became first SLR with auto focus that actually worked worth a crap. Canon and Nikon soon decided they needed to step up or get crushed. Canon also made the decision to abandon their legacy FD mount. They created the amazing EOS system we still use today. But Canon’s approach was very interesting in that they had absolutely no mechanical connection at all. The entire connection between lens and body was electronic. The mount was also wider and fairly shallow giving Canon lens designers room to build some exotic glass. Canon was the largest camera maker in the world at the time with a huge amateur and prosumer market share. They were a distant second to Nikon among working pros however. That was about to change.

Nikon had been using the F mount since the 50s and were determined not to alienate their sizable base of working pros with a new lens mount. The end result was a bit of a hybrid system like Minolta using a drive shaft to focus the lens from the body and maintaining the original Nikon F mount. Early Nikon AF SLRs still had the same mechanical connection to the lens as previous Nikon AI bodies did. The hybrid system in the early days was clearly inferior to Canon’s fully electronic system and Canon made a solid push to convert photographers in the events, sports, and nature fields where the sheer speed of Canon’s system was just to good to pass on. For the first time ever, Canon was the top professional brand for 35mm SLRs. They haven’t yielded that position back in the digital market today. Nikon spent the next ten years tweaking the lens to camera connections to compete with Canon. Now here we are in 2017 and Nikons focus just as fast as Canons and they still use that old Nikon F mount. But all of the various changes in lenses have led to a confusing list of this lens works on that camera but not this camera and that lens works here, but not there, and… It is so ironic that in trying to keep pros by keeping the common lens mount they lost the pros to superior tech. In order to catch up and be competitive again, they had to abandon compatibility with older gear. Monday morning quarterback says you should have changed the damn mount Nikon!

Be careful if you decide to buy an old Nikon AF SLR, your modern lenses may or may not function on the old bodies. The aforementioned Nikon F4 will work with the largest selection of lenses of any Nikon AF body. All Nikon F mount lenses with an AI style or non-ai that have been converted dating to 1977 work fine in manual focus and limited metering modes M or A. Pre 77 non converted lenses will mount to the F4 but remain uncoupled from the light meter requiring stopped down metering. Almost all AF Nikkors will work perfectly, except the latest AF-P which will not focus at all on a F4. Go ahead Nikon fans, get an old Nikon F4 or even the spendier and newer F5 and shoot some film. That camera for less than $200 is like buying a GT40 for the price of Fiesta. It is soooooo worth it.

The irony continues as an old Nikon lens like my Nikkor 105 f/2.5 that I wrote up on this blog a few years ago, click here. works better on a modern Canon DSLR than it does on a Nikon. Some higher end Nikon cameras offer a menu option for older non-cpu lenses and they can be used although they remain cumbersome. On any of the Canon SLRs I have ever had and this includes the following film and digital bodies, EOS1, EOS A2e, D30, D60, 10D, 30D, 40D, 50D, T2i, 7D, 5DmkII, and 5DmkIII that old manual focus Nikkor lens works perfect with either Aperture Priority Auto or Manual exposure even with the camera’s sophisticated multi-pattern metering. Of course an adapter ring is needed to mount it, but nothing else need be done.

Their you have it a little modern tech and a little old school film mixing it up together.


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Last fall Canon released a completely new EOS M series camera to elevate its game. To those not married to Canon, the newest member of the “M” line up is finally competitive with the established brands in this arena, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, etc. But the M5 for a Canon DSLR user is ‘camera nirvana’. I owned the EOS M, the M3, and now the M5. I wrote about them on this blog.

As much as I like the M3, it still wasn’t that effective when using the EOS DSLR lenses. The focus was too slow. Let’s be clear, the M3 with an EF lens mounted on the EF adapter was not quite as fast as my original Canon EOS 1 film body from the early 1990s. Ouch! The M3 was plenty fast at acquiring focus with the EOS M series lenses but Canon has a weak stable of proprietary lenses for this camera. The trick with these M cameras is to use a fixed focus point. The AF tracking is not that good.

The M5 however is not monkeying around. With the EF adapter and any of my many EF lenses the M5 can acquire focus as quickly as an older DSLR like the 50d, 60d, etc. It is close to the speed of my 5d mk II or a 7d. It isn’t going to threaten the performance of Canon’s latest 80d or 5d Mk IV. But it is fast enough. With the EF-M lenses it is spot on and lightning quick. The camera does have focus issues with slower lenses like f/5.6 in low light.

picture of drink

M5 with 18-55mm at 55mm, 1/80sec at f/5.6, 800 ISO

All of this focus improvement comes under the aid of Canon’s dual pixel autofocus system found in its latest DSLRs. The camera features the all new Digic 7 processor and can shoot at speeds up to 9 fps. Although the camera does not support 4k video, which has surprised every professional reviewer, it does benefit greatly from the dual pixel AF.

At first glance one may wonder why Canon called this the M5 and not the M4. Well the M3 was a replacement for the M2 which replaced the M. The M5 is not a replacement for the M3. it is a bold step up model with a built-in electronic finder that gives the camera a mini SLR appearance like the Sony A7 cameras. So skipping a number seemed to make sense… well to Canon at least. I sort of see the logic. You see Canon has announced a replacement for the M3 and it is the M6. The M6 looks and feels almost exactly like the M3. The only difference is that it gets the internals from the M5. It will use the same EVF as the M3 or a newer, slimmer version of the EVF Canon just announced.

The revised lineup for Canon EOS-M cameras will be the entry-level EOS M10 which looks and feels like the original M, the M6 which is an updated clone of the M3 and the M5 that I have.

The M6 will be available in black and a new silver trimmed camera, reminiscent of the old “chrome body” SLRs or the 60s and 70s. The M5 comes in black only thus far.

I really like the performance of this new M5. I take the lion’s share of my photos with these M cameras so I have no regrets dropping the king’s ransom of $979 on the body. I will say that I am a bit disappointed in the “feel” of the camera. Although it appears to be built with the same basic pieces, the M3 had a better finish on the body and dials. I don’t think it is better built, just a better finish that looks richer. The M5 is a barn burner of a camera and finally does everything well enough that I have no worries about what Sony or Olympus are doing.

Canon has added a digital in body 5 axis stabilizer for video. I believe that Canon could unlock this with firmware in the future to allow for a digital IS in camera for use with vintage lenses. This is something Sony has on the A6500 camera and I would love to see Canon give us that. It won’t deter us from buying Canon’s IS lenses, so hopefully the bean counters will let them unlock it for manual lenses and still image use. Canon has either failed to see or refuses to accept that a bold number of people buying these mirrorless cameras are doing so to operate older rangefinder glass and other oddball lenses that cannot be used on ANY DSLR due to the mount flange to sensor distance. Sony’s A6500 runs about $1300 for the body and offers the 5 axis image stabilization for both still and video use.

picture high iso

M5 22/2 1/640 sec at f/4. Shot in mirror ISO 25600 no edit except flip

So as far as the performance goes the M5 is excellent. Picture quality is great, speed improved and ISO is better than the M3. My M3 delivered solid results up to ISO 1600 and this camera seems to get an extra stop of ISO before really degrading. That said, here is a shot at the maximum ISO, 25600. The shot is completely unedited other than a mirror flip to compensate for the backward image created by shooting into a mirror. Yes, it is noisy, but frankly it is pretty good since the shot was taken at 1/1600 sec at f/4.0 at night, under dim interior light. This is a usable ISO setting, it won’t yield any gallery grade detail, but it will get you that elusive shot of the Sasquatch at night that you keep failing to get at ISO 6400 😉

The new M6 will be equally as good since it will have all the internals of this M5. The price range for the new lineup will look something like this:

  • EOS M10 w/15-45mm             $449
  • EOS M6 w/15-45mm               $899
  • EOS M5 w/15-45mm               $1099

Frankly, the M6 is too much money. It does share all the juicy tech guts with the M5 but the control setup is stripped a bit, the screen is lower resolution and it has no built-in EVF. Canon gets some $230 for an EVF to fit the M6 (same one as old M3 or a new slimmer model) Why not just buy the M5 and be done with it? Without the EVF the M6 is smaller on all dimensions, but just by a millimeter or two. When you add the EVF to the M3 or M6 the camera is taller than the M5 and the EVF when mounted to the camera makes the camera awkward to get in and out of a bag.

The M10 is completely different. It is a basic aim and shoot with interchangeable lenses and the old M2, 18 MP sensor. It is truly a stripped down entry-level unit. I am glad Canon has it as it allows new users to buy into the system at a low price and know they can upgrade later to more serious models, and for those foregoing a DSLR it can be a great second body.

Canon still trails its competition in a pure spec shootout. The Sony A6000 compares well to it and some may prefer it. Sony has a better AF tracking system. But the Canon will make better pictures with less tweaking in post processing. For users not interested in adapting virtually any lens ever made to the camera, a Rebel SL1 is only slightly larger and actually a little lighter and may be the better choice. It is dirt cheap, not quite as well made, but faster at almost everything.

But the Rebel takes the EF lenses and EF lenses are by default BULKY as the EF lens mount is one of the widest mounts in the market place. The Rebel SL1 will never offer the same tight compact design and minimalist travel size with multiple lenses as the M series cameras can. With the M series (or a Sony A6000 series) I still get to carry and use classic rangefinder and custom old school glass. I bought the original M to use old glass and just happened to discover an AMAZING travel camera. Whether you buy a Sony A6xxx or the Canon M series, you will NEVER fail to be amazed by its indomitable travel spirit. I have been shooting seriously for nearly 40 years, I have owned Leicas, 4×5 Linhof, Hasselblad, and literally more than a hundred cameras over the years, I have never owned a better camera for travel than this EOS M series. NEVER. I made a video showing just how much stuff can fit into a tiny travel bag.

I talked about how I resurrected and old Tenba travel bag I have had since the late 1980s when I wrote the original M camera up. I am still using that little bag for this M5. I can carry the M5 and as many as 6 lenses in a bag as small as a lady’s clutch purse. That ain’t happening with a DSLR, even the world’s smallest DSLR, the Canon Rebel SL1. My standby, carry set with the M5 in the tiny Tenba includes the EFS 55-250 IS, EFM 11-22, EFM 22/2, Zeiss M 35/2, Samyang 8mm.

This M5 and presumably the new M6 will work exceptionally well with the entire lineup of EF lenses and all the after market EF mount stuff as well. Sure, some of the EF lenses are unwieldy on the little mirrorless camera, but some are not. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and the 85mm f/1.8 USM are both great on the M5 and they focus very fast. The 50 is comparable to an 80mm on full frame and the 85 is like a 135mm on full frame. So until someone releases a fully coupled EF-M prime portrait lens my EF 50/1.4 will have to do, and it does. I was goofing around with the camera and the EF 50/1.4. I really think Canon should unlock the 5 axis digital stabilization for still photos, it is hard to hold the little camera steady and even at 1/80 sec I see a little touch of camera shake in these images.

man holding camera

M5 EF 50/1.4 1/80th@f1.4 ISO 320

Lab (dog)

Betsy, M5 EF 50/1.4 1/60 sec @ f1/4 ISO 1600 some camera shake 😦

Sheltie (dog)

Maggie, M5 EF 50/1.4 1/200 sec @ f/1.4 ISO 1600

picture of woman

M5 18-55 at 55mm 1/50 sec at f/5.6 ISO 3200

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