12.05.2010

Taking a walk and thinking about old tech versus entropy.









Here's an interesting exercise:  Grab any old camera and go walk around somewhere eminently accessible for two hours and shoot whatever you find interesting in a style that you find....interesting.  I've recently become interested in the idea that some of the technology that we've casually tossed aside over the last ten years may have had some hidden talents.  I've tossed aside the new Canon stuff and taken, over the last week,  my old Olympus e520,  my newish Olympus EP-2 and an old, old Contax T vs film camera out with me when I leave the house or studio.  I'm always pleasantly surprised that for every weakness I find in a "vintage" camera I also find some hidden treasures.

Yesterday I went to swim practice (crowded and rowdy) had coffee afterwards where I spilled a cup. (I was trying to be "green" and brought a cup with a lid that's damn hard to get off......).  Belinda, Kirsten (our "Yard Coach") and I spent most of the afternoon clearing brush and doing Landscapy things.  At four I'd had enough strenuous physical exercise and decided to grab a camera and take a two hour walk around downtown Austin with my old, Sony R1 camera.  In my opinion the R1 was the ultimate "bridge" camera:  APS sized chip (reportedly the same basic chip that the Nikon D2x sported....) a really cool swivel screen in addition to a usable EVF and, the capper,  a fabulous Carl Zeiss 24-120mm equivalent zoom lens.  A lens that DPReview proclaimed to be worth the entire price of the camera alone.

None of the photos is earth shattering or particularly tricky but I'm happy with them all.  Even the last one, hand held at some obscenely slow shutter speed with an almost unusable ISO 3200.  The camera just flat out works.  I'd done a bunch of jobs with this camera and a twin back in 2006 and 2007 and I remembered it as a great performer when you could use it at ISO 160 or 200 but it was a recent reviewing of a review that reminded me of it's really good long exposure capabilities.  I didn't have a tripod with me but I stabilized the camera on the railing of the pedestrian bridge over Lady Bird Lake and made a series of 15 and 30 second exposures of the afterglow from the sunset, behind the Lamar Blvd. bridge.  I think they turned out well.  Not something I usually shoot but I guess there's no law that says I have to spend all my time shooting beautiful people.......

While the R1 has a raw mode it takes five or six seconds to write a raw file to the buffer and during that time the camera locks up and won't shoot.  With that in mind I always shoot Jpegs.  My last technical observation about the camera is that its ultra-quiet shutter will synch with flash all the way up to 1/2000th of a second, its highest shutter speed.  I put this camera into the "under rated, under praised tools of the decade" category.  You'll never shoot sports with this camera but portraits and still life are natural subjects.  In many ways it reminds me of medium format cameras.

Along the same lines, the previous blog essay showed off images taken with two Kodak cameras that came on the market back in 2001 and 2004 respectively, the DCS 760 and the DCS SLR/n.  I was so happy to look at those images that I went online and ordered two new batteries for each camera.  I fully intend to shoot the heck out of them before something goes south.  Why?  Because they look different and in some ways better to me than my cameras that embody current tech.  And because I already own them.  And when I pull them out of the drawer after a hiatus of months and months it also satisfies my urge to buy something new......

We are nothing if not creatures of trained habit.  I've traded in too many cameras that I later wish I'd kept.  The lure and allure of the new is powerful.  The Sony R1 is a reminder that previous technology is also fun.  A formalist exercise?

What did I learn from my exercise?  I tend to shoot tight so I made it a practice to shoot near 24mm when I could.  I tend to believe AF, sometimes to my detriment, so I concentrated on placing focus manually, exactly where I wanted it.  I took hyperfocal distance into consideration instead of just arbitrarily assigning a focus.  I played with the edges of the frame more.  I'm trying to loosen up my composition.  Got a lot done in two hours.....



the holidays are upon us.  I humbly submit that a good book about photography will be most welcome by the photographers on your list.  Here are a few suggestions:

   















   















   















   

7 comments:

Marino Mannarini said...

Kirk,
let's not pull back memories of old cameras and lenses sold, lured by the "new and better".....i already feel my eyes getting heavy.. and I'd like to kick myself for the naivete of always wanting the better toy when the best toy you can have is the one already in your hands.. :((

Dave Elfering Photography said...

I had a bit of an epiphany when I used my son's Nikon D40 during the family's summer vacation. I loved the color and found out that with the little 35mm f/1.8 lens and an IR filter it takes nice infrared shots. Honestly for street shooting I fell in love with the D40/35mm lens combo. Heck when I mounted my fast focusing 80-200mm af-s it did a great job of shooting ski jumpers in mid-air. I still have a fascination with the old Yashica rangefinders and with I had the time and budget for another large format camera. No the world doesn't have to revolve around the latest super, uber digital camera. I really think we've reached an interesting point in the digital camera timeline and it could cause some shakeout in the market as some get left behind and others advance by reading the market correctly. My dream camera is no longer the D700 as much as a more advanced PEN style camera but with the controls of a Leica (hate the Sony software menus from hell).

Alan Anderson said...

If your still here now, fredmiranda.com has a listing for a Kodak 14mp camer w/ batteries,for less than $800. I wish I had the money.

Anonymous said...

I"ve been using four of the DCS 760's, each bought for less than $400, and they are remarkably good as long as you don't exceed ISO 100. Not as hard as you might think! It's a great studio camera. I often use mine with the AC adapter.

Dave Jenkins said...

I've wanted a Sony R-1 ever since I read an article about Gerald Brimacombe in Studio Photography a few years ago. Did you see that one?
At the time, he was using a Sony R-1 and DCS-828 to create stunning travel photographs. Unfortunately, never had any spare cash laying around that wasn't needed more urgently in some other phase of my business. I'd still love to have one, but if I had the money would probably spend it for lenses and an EVF for my E-PL1. :-)

Abraham - ODL Designs said...

Hey Kirk,
As usual i really enjoyed your writing. I have promised myself not to buy any modern lenses, and have pulled away from "performance" as an attribute to desire for.

I have also decided to walk away from DPR :) as that is too often where the subject ends up.

It has been a while since i scrolled through here, and the last few articles have been very interesting.

Thanks
Abraham

J. R. said...

Kirk, I hope you didn't forget that the early Olympus E cameras also used Kodak sensors. The colors and look out of the old Olympus E-1, 300 and 500 are great! I just bought a mint condition second E-1 body and plan on buying some high end Oly lenses soon. Also, just bought 2 battery grips (used at a great price) for my E-1's.