Sunday, August 07, 2005

Adventures with a new camera

Thought I'd report on how it's going with the Rebel XT, particularly since James left a comment to the effect that he was interested, since he is considering getting a new camera himself.


First portrait victim: Bonnie.

This is one of my cats, Bonnie, a sweet tortie. She patiently endured about a half-dozen camera flashes in order for me to secure a shot I liked.



Second victim: Max.

Max, my other cat. This shot was taken with the Tamron 70-300mm telephoto/macro lens that came in the camera bundle deal. It was set on macro, obviously.



Product placement?

A no-name brand of diet cola, if you're curious. I've wanted to take shots like this for years. Across the span of just a couple of inches, the image is out of focus, comes into focus, and goes out of focus again. Look at the detail... you can see the etching of the brushed aluminum. This shot was also taken with the Tamron lens, at a distance of about three feet from the can.



Tribute to Jody.

Jody is a net friend I had for ten years, first in Albuquerque and later in Dallas. He died fourteen months ago today. We never met face to face, but I talked to him just about every day, and he came to be something like a brother to me. Unfortunately for so many people, a rare form of cancer came into his life a few years ago, and finally ended it. The little cedar chest holds a small share of his ashes, given to me by his roommates when I went to Dallas for his memorial. The cheetah figure is meant to be iconic of him, and was sent to me by a young woman he went to college with. The portrait behind is, as you might guess, a picture of Jody himself in happier times.



Big Dipper, little plane, dark field.

Friday night I decided to test the camera's nighttime abilities. Even with my still very limited knowledge, I got some shots I was happy with. I went out to the flood plain where Old Cummer bridge is (if you remember it from an earlier posting; the bridge is about 30 yards away, just off to the right in this shot). This picture was taken at a crook in the East Don River, which is just behind me, as is the beaver dam that diverts its course. This view faces north, and was taken from a tripod; a 17-second exposure at f3.5/ISO 1600. The one thing I bought with the camera that wasn't bundled with it was a $29 infrared remote. With the camera set on "bulb", one click on the remote would open the shutter, and the next would close it again. What I was trying to do was see if I could actually photograph the constellations, down in valley where the light pollution is minimal. What you see here is the Big Dipper — so happily, the answer is yes, it can photograph the skies. The streak near the bottom is a plane, travelling right to left, for the 17-second duration of the shot (basically, I closed the shutter when it reached the tree).

Today, I went out with my friends P-Doug and G to the east end of the GTA, partly to continue putting the camera through its paces. In Uxbridge, there's a gorgeous mausoleum build by, and for, Thomas Foster, one-time federal MP and Mayor of Toronto in the 1920s. It resembles the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.



Approaching the Thomas Foster Mausoleum.

Here is G approaching the entrance to the mausoleum.



Beneath the entrance.

An up-shot from the lower right. I decided to shoot this in black and white, red filter, to make it a little moodier and more dramatic.



Floor detail of the mausoleum.

This is directly under the dome. I was invited by the curators to lie down on this spot to photograph the dome... which I did.



The dome of the mausoleum.

...And this is the result. I couldn't get all this in one shot; this is actually two photographs, mated in Photoshop. The colour quality and lighting were so consistent between them that this took only a couple of minutes to stitch.

If you can't read the gold lettering, it says, "Take this my body for it is done and I have gained a new life glorious and eternal."



Wall detail.

The tile work in the mausoleum is truly beautiful; intricate and a real credit to whomever the artists were who inlaid it.



The pretentious NYC condos at Bayview and Sheppard.

And, just as a change of pace to wrap things up, here are the NYC condos to be seen as one drives along the 401 between Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street. This shot was taken at a mall exit on Sheppard Avenue, just east of Bayview, and faces south. The buildings occupy the narrow strip between Sheppard and the 401.

6 comments:

Spinning Girl said...

a beautiful start!

James said...

Some nice shots there. How do you find the camera? One of the worries that was circulating about the Rebel when it came out was that the plastic body would be flimsy compared to the (very heavy) metal-bodied D30 & its descendants. Does it feel solid? How responsive is it? (My Powershot Pro-1 is a nice camera, but it can be very slow to snap a photo, sometimes up to a second after I press the shutter.)

Lone Primate said...

Hi, James... it's still the honeymoon period, so there's not much I can complain about yet, and the things that I can are probably more my limitations on understanding the camera (it's a complicated little item) than issues with the camera itself. I'm already starting to find ways around things like it giving me shots not quite what I want... for instance, it tends to choose settings that flood woodland scenes in light; my preference is for them to seem cool, dark, and moody. This means choosing my own settings (a lower aperature setting, generally)... but having such options was why I wanted a real SLR camera in the first place. Occasionally I've had to negate the autofocus function because it was guessing incorrectly what I was trying to achieve... not the camera's fault; even another human being would be apt to guess wrong sometimes.

Here's what I've noticed so far. It does feel sturdy, but it's not Sampsonite luggage. Nothing feels like it's going to swing loose or break off... nothing feels cheap about it; in fact, I'd say it's somewhat better constructed than my DC4800 was... but it still needs to be treated gingerly. That's my instinct. I guess another way of putting it is treat it the way you would any camera that cost you more than the cost of a typical dinner for four at Swiss Chalet. Related to this is the weight factor. A couple of weekends ago my buddy Paul showed me his film SLR left over from his days in the photography business. The thing was rugged as hell; it was made of steel, and the lenses were made of glass. But it was a brick. With the lens attached, the thing must have weighed five pounds. Try trotting around with that on your neck for a couple of hours hiking in the woods. By comparison, the Rebel XT weighs a little over a pound, even with the EFS 18-55 II DC lens on it.

It is extremely responsive. It's ready to shoot in the time it takes for you to move your hand from the on switch to the shutter release. There's no noticable lag between when you press the release and you hear the shutter. Sometimes it takes time seeking focal points, but that's how it goes with SLRs; anyway, you want to find focus before you release the shutter anyway. It takes bursts at the rate of three shots per second, which is way, way better than anything I've ever handled before, and right up there with typical film SLRs from the late 80s, from what I've read.

I'm impressed with the battery performance so far. I charged it up on Friday around noon, and I've used it every day since. I must have taken in the neighbourhood of 300 shots with it now, many of them invoking the flash, and only in the last dozen or so did the battery indicator drop to low-power status. My DC4800 typically did that after about 120 shots, even without using the LCD or the flash (at which point, it locked out certain functions like using the LCD to compose shots, thus making the 2X digital zoom augmenting the 3X optical zoom inaccessible).

I'm also impressed with what you can achieve even with the default lens, the EFS 18-55 II DC. Oddly enough, Canon doesn't make much of its macro abilities, perhaps fearing it might prejudice sales of other lenses. But if you set the Rebel XT for close-ups, you can hold your hand in front of the camera and easily focus on it with a shot that will detail the ridges of grooves of your finger and palm prints. I think with a handful of extender rings, you could probably live without a macro lense altogether. I only got mine because it was also telephoto and came as part of a bundled package.

Especially delightful to me personally is the "bulb" setting available when the camera is set to fully manual mode. I never had this in any of my point-and-shoot digitals; the only one that could handle timed exposures was the DC4800, and it was limited to multiples of 2 up to 16 seconds. The bulb setting lets you keep the shutter open as long as you like; seconds, minutes, possibly hours for all I know. I have hopes of taking some interesting night and twilight long exposures; things like waterfalls hanging like silk, stars turning arcs in the sky, clever little things involving strong moonlight (typically, we had a new moon the day I bought my camera)... that kind of thing. I probably won't get everything I want, but I'll certainly manage more than I've been able to with the DC4800. In fact, I already have.

James said...

"This means choosing my own settings (a lower aperature setting, generally)... but having such options was why I wanted a real SLR camera in the first place."

Does the Rebel have a way of saving preferred presets, or modifying the default settings?

"But it was a brick. With the lens attached, the thing must have weighed five pounds. Try trotting around with that on your neck for a couple of hours hiking in the woods."

The D30 body is about 2 lbs by itself, without glass. We lugged that thing all over Tuscany -- camera and three lenses up the hill town of Cortona (650m climb from gate to cathedral)... That was the main reason we got a point-and-shoot. It was a lot of work lugging that around!

"There's no noticable lag between when you press the release and you hear the shutter. Sometimes it takes time seeking focal points, but that's how it goes with SLRs; anyway, you want to find focus before you release the shutter anyway."

The main problem with the Pro1 is that it can take a full second (more in low light) to find focus... The D30 was much faster, I expect the XT would be faster still...

"It takes bursts at the rate of three shots per second, which is way, way better than anything I've ever handled before, and right up there with typical film SLRs from the late 80s, from what I've read."

That's about the same as the D30.

"Especially delightful to me personally is the "bulb" setting available when the camera is set to fully manual mode."

Yeah, this can be very useful. We have it on the D30 as well.

Lone Primate said...

Does the Rebel have a way of saving preferred presets, or modifying the default settings?

The Rebel XT enables you to set, as far as I can tell, two sets of "settings", but they're primarily about colour and softness of the focus. That said, the camera does remember the ISO and f-stop settings you last used whenever you switch from auto or program settings.

James said...

That said, the camera does remember the ISO and f-stop settings you last used whenever you switch from auto or program settings.

Yeah, the other Canons I have do that as well.