Anton Aylward

I Acquire a Panasonic GF-1

Subash RamanLast weekend I paid a visit to my friend Subash Raman.  He has returned recently from a trip to California and is staying with friends in King City.   Unlike Toronto where there’s a coffee bar at nearly every intersection, you really need a car to drive a few miles to the nearest gas station or even a mall to get a coffee out there in the boonies.  So we headed out to Upper Canada Mall at Younge and Davis.  Starbucks – ah well.  They also do juices.

There’s a Sony Store in Upper Canada Mall and Subash goes in there for something to do with his cell phone, and Sony-Ericson Experia.  I forget what, but later he ended up with a screen protector, but that’s by-the-by. We walk out of the store an hour later and Subash is now the proud owner – and I do mean proud, his grin splits his face – of a Sony NEX-7 digital Camera.

WOW!

Older Cameras

Yes, I’m stunned.  I know that Subash has a collection of Cameras.  I’ve offered him my old  Miranda Sensorex, if I can ever find it.  Things get lost in travels and life changes …  But I’m not a collector.  its bad enough that I still have my Canon A1 and my fathers’ amazing Minolta 7000.  Both represent landmarks in development of camera technology in their own way.   The A1 had two innovations: it was the first SLR to offer an electronically controlled programmed autoexposure mode, something now considered standard on a camera, and it was produced on an automated production line, which nt only ensured consistent quality but allowed Canon to produce and sell this camera at a remarkably low price.

Canon A1 with FD 80-200mm f4 zoom

Canon A1 with FD 80-200mm f4 zoom

I first encountered the A1 while at university; a German friend who was a ‘mature student’ at UKC bought an early one.  It wasn’t until I decided to come to Canada that I bought mine – and it was promptly stolen.  Yes I replaced it.  I still love the handling of that camera

History of the single-lens reflex camera

Minolta 7000

I inherited the Minolta Maxxum 7000 when my father died.  I’ll write about my father and my involvement in photography during my teens another time.  This is a wonderful camera and my father has a full kit with it.   The autofocus and other automatics take a real load off and should let me concentrate on the composition.  In fact I find them distracting.  I’ll write more about these cameras another time.

Digital vs Film

One of the things that Subash and I agree on about photography is that for all its other potential benefits there are a few inherent problems with using film rather than digital.

  1. We both find that we get maybe two good shots out of a roll of film, two that we feel good, proud about.
  2. Processing film is getting expensive.

They go hand in hand.  It costs about $20 to have a roll of film processed at Blacks, the high street photo store.  That works out at just under a $1 per frame.  Or $10 per “good” shot.  Then there’s the cost of printing.  But wait!  lets digitise those negatives.

In the Days of Old the only way to show people photographs were to have them printed.  Now with digital technology we have other ways to display – and distribute – images.  Not just digital photo frames, but Flickr, blogs like this, and of course sending them by e-mail.   And thanks to the digital processing we have at Blacks I can upload any digital image and get it printed in various sizes at low cost.

But digital cameras let us address the first point as well; we can instantly see the result of the shot and if its not what we want, not satisfactory, we can re-shoot right away.  And we can delete the dogs.  Heck, that 16G card can take a few hundred high definition photos, things that could be blown up to magazine-sized spreads if printed out.  I’m not going to run out of ‘digital film” quickly.  Battery power perhaps 🙂

Four Thirds

The Sony NEX range are the new “Four Thirds”.  Some years ago when digital cameras first came out with viewscreens on the back, I commented to a friend who was an early adopter that this made viewfinders redundant,  and it meant that the bulky pentaprisms of SLRs were no longer necessary.   But there are other benefits as well.

Subash already had a four-thirds camera, the GF-1, but despite the supposed “open standard” nature of four-thirds, each manufacturer has decided to use different mounts and coupling.  Bummer?   Well, perhaps not; at the store the salesman showed us a site where you could purchase “adaptors” to mount other lenses on the NEX.  That probably influenced the sale.

By the time we returned home there had been a lot of discussion about the practice and technology of photography.  Subash was feeding ebullient and brought out the “old” Panasonic GF-1 to compare with the NEX.  The end result was that he offered to lend it to me.  I suspect there was a subtest of competition in all that, he and I seem to have some very different ideas about photography and about photographic “art”.

So of all the lenses Subash had for the GF1 I chose just one: the Panasonic Lumix G 45-200mm f/4-5.6 Mega O.I.S. On the Minolta I use a 35-105mm as my normal lens and on the Canon a 35-70mm.  Yes I do a great deal of composition with the camera.   The why of that is a subject for another post.  What was important n that choice was the “O.I.S.” That means the lens has stabilization.  I’ve ruined too many photos because I have shaky hands.

I passed on the add-on viewfinder.  I see its relevance but its difficult to use with my glasses and it can’t be adjusted for the strong correction I need.

Going Live

So today I got a card for the camera.  My grocery trip took me out and I detoured via Kennedy to Canada Computers at 1306 and bought “Transcend SDHC 16GB Card“.  This is a “Class 10“, so its fast no?

I get back in the car, unwrap it and put it in the GF-1, tun on the power ad poke camera out the windows and press e\the shutter.  Does the image record to the card?  Yes it does! Success! All 4.3M of it and another 12M of the raw file.

And even just looking at the image in the 3” screen on the back of the camera I’m impressed by the clarity, the sharpness.

F5/45mm 1/320 sec, 100ASA, Mode: Auto, White balance: Auto

What you see above is not the 4M JPG but a reduced size image, only .5M.  The full size didn’t want to upload.  There is some loss of resolution in the resizing.

From Underground

And on to get groceries … at the No-Frills at The Golden Mile, the junction of Eglinton and Victoria Park.  The store has an underground parking garage, away from the bright sunlight.  As the garage door rolled up the view to my eyes, still used to the right outdoors sunlight, was of darkness with the hanging lights in a row off into the distance.  I thought it would make a great photo, so after parking the car I went back.  By now my eyes had adjusted and I saw the greys and shadows.  I set the camera to [B&W] and tried my best.  In the low light I could barely make out the image panel, and the auto-stabiliser didn’t have enough light to work.  But here are the results.  First, view as I first saw it, then a view across the garage.

Now the view off to the left, with rather a lot of shake.

Well, those were my very first shots 🙂

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