Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Canon EOS 630

Louvers

Auto-everything film shooting isn’t normally my bag. I’m more a match-needle, twist-to-focus kind of guy. But even I have to admit, sometimes there’s charm in letting a camera do the grunt work.

Canon EOS 630

This is a very early EOS camera, dating to about 1989. I’ve only shot this camera once before, that time with the pictured 35-80mm lens. I shot my former favorite (now discontinued) b/w film, Arista Premium 400.

Barber Shop

I reached for black-and-white film this time, too: Eastman Double-X 5222. But I used my sweet little 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF II lens.

Footbridge

It was gray and cold most of the time I had film in the EOS 630. I’ve never shot Double-X in those conditions and I was surprised by how muddy everything turned out.

Flowing

These photos are from Flowing Well Park on 116th St. in Carmel. That bridge there carries 116th.

Creek

I got a little sun one afternoon and in a spare 30 minutes I took the EOS 630 out on a walk around downtown Fishers. I’ve photographed this area so much over the last year that if you were to look through the photos you’d watch the area change rapidly. It’s heavily under construction. New buildings go up all the time.

Downtown Fishers

Which means parking is becoming a problem. Fishers is solving it with parking garages. I’m not a fan.

Parking

The EOS 630 kept metering for the shadows, I guess, because the highlights were nearly washed out. Tweaking exposure and contrast in Photoshop helped a little. And lest you think that it’s only new buildings in Fishers, a few of the old houses do remain, tucked into alleyways and along side streets.

House in old Fishers

One old house was converted into a little tea room. This is its gate.

Gate

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Canon EOS 630 gallery.

I wasn’t enamored of the EOS 630 the first time I shot it. But I’ve used several more auto-everything SLRs since then, enough to know that this really is a pretty good tool. Focus was always right and exposure was at least good enough. I wished that the body were a little smaller and lighter, like the later EOS Rebel cameras. If I have to shoot a camera this bulky, I might as well reach for my semi-pro EOS A2e. It’s a much better camera. And for that reason, this EOS 630 must go. There’s room for at most one EOS SLR in my collection.

Verdict: Goodbye

I’m selling some very nice cameras from my collection. See them here.

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Photography

Comparison: Canon PowerShot S95 vs. Pentax K10D and 28-80 SMC Pentax-FA

Welcome to probably the least likely camera comparison on the entire Internet. But these are the two good-quality digital cameras that I own. So I’m comparing them.

I’ve loved my compact Canon PowerShot S95 from the moment I got it. It’s so small and capable. But I’m not impressed with the JPEGs the camera generates. So I shoot RAW all the time and use Photoshop to do a handful of adjustments that give the results I want.

I’ve yet to fully figure out my large, heavy Pentax K10D DSLR, but I do respect that it can use all of my manual-focus Pentax lenses. For this comparison I used my 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC PENTAX-FA lens, which offers a zoom range close enough to the S95’s 28-105mm (35mm film equivalent) range to make the comparison useful.

For the comparison I set both cameras to set white balance automatically. I meant to set both cameras for automatic ISO selection as well, but it looks like I inadvertently left the K10D set at ISO 400. All other settings were whatever they happened to be, which is essentially camera default.

I’ve written several times how I wish the S95 returned usable in-camera JPEGs. The photo below might be the first time I’ve shown you a JPEG straight from the camera. This photo shows both common S95 faults: how white balance runs cold, and muted colors (typical of all Canon digital cameras, I hear).

CR 800

Here’s what this photo looks like after one minute of work in the Photoshop RAW processor. First I manually adjust color temperature until I’m satisfied. Then I click “Auto” above all the basic settings (exposure, contrast, etc.) and then tweak them. I finally use the built-in lens profile to correct distortion, because the S95 doesn’t go far enough to correct it in camera.

CR 800

In contrast, the K10D gave me usable in-camera JPEGs in every shot.

CR 800

A tiny bit of work in the Photoshop RAW editor brought out what is, to my eye, more natural warmth and color, and helped un-wash-out the sky. All I did was tweak the basic settings a tiny bit.

CR 800

From here on out I’ll show just the RAW-processed photos. At this cemetery gate, the S95 struggled to navigate the shadows, and I had to bring out the details in Photoshop.

Salem Cemetery

The Pentax K10D handled the shadows much better.

Salem Cemetery

I was surprised and disappointed by this photo from the S95. This is exactly the kind of scene I’ve shot over and over using this camera, with lovely results. I couldn’t Photoshop this one credibly to the level of warmth I saw at the scene.

Salem Cemetery

The K10D nailed it.

Salem Cemetery

Maybe the S95 was having an off day. Maybe comparing it to the K10D with its larger sensor makes the S95’s performance just seem worse than usual. Maybe my eyes see more keenly now than in 2010, when I got my S95 and it impressed me so. Maybe the camera really does perform worse now than when it was new — although I can’t imagine how that is physically possible.

Salem Cemetery

Whatever: the K10D blew the S95 away in most of these photos, in that the K10D’s photos are simply more appealing. And the K10D is even older than the S95, having been released in 2006.

Salem Cemetery

One place where the S95 did edge out the K10D was in focusing close. I should have put the camera into macro mode — it’s not hard to do, and it would have let the camera focus on the C. But even in regular mode it focused on the E immediately with a cheerful bee-beep and I made the shot.

Salem Cemetery

In contrast, the K10D would simply not focus on anything in this frame. That 28-80 lens hunted like mad. So I turned on manual focus with a single lever flip and brought that C in sharp with the lens’s focus ring. The S95 has a manual-focus mode, too, by the way. But it involves using the tiny wheel on the back of the camera to focus, and you have to trust your eyes reading that 3-inch screen to know when you’ve focused correctly.

Salem Cemetery

This is the only pair of photos where it’s hard to tell which camera I used. First the S95.

Salem UMC

Now the K10D. On the in-camera JPEGs, the church’s doors were lost in the shadows. Photoshop fixed that easily in both RAW images.

Salem UMC

I have really loved my Canon S95. It is so tiny yet has returned wonderful images for years. Over the last few years I’ve been shooting it RAW+JPEG, which coincided with the time my satisfaction with the in-camera JPEGs trailed off. I think I’ve figured it out: lots of in-camera JPEG-optimizing settings are unavailable the minute you turn on RAW. I think the camera assumes you’re going to post-process and don’t therefore need the in-camera boosts. Well, I want those enhancers and the RAW file. I guess I’m out of luck. But I’m growing weary of all the post processing. I’m ready for a camera that delivers good-enough JPEGs at the second I touch the shutter button.

The Pentax K10D delivers usable in-camera JPEGs. But it slips into no pocket in any coat I own. Slung over my shoulder I am keenly aware of it at all times — it might be the heaviest camera I own, heavier than my wonderful Nikon F2AS. And I haven’t found the right lens for it yet. The 28-80 I used here tends to a little chromatic aberration and too frequently blurs the foreground in long shots. My 35/2 delivers good work, but I shoot it in manual-focus mode most of the time because the K10D focuses it accurately only 1 or 2 out of 10 times.

Because do a lot of documentary work, such as on my road trips, I really want a camera that slips into my pants pocket, offers a zoom range starting with at least 24 or 28mm and running to at least 85mm, does credible close work, and yields usable JPEGs. The S95 ticks all but the last of those boxes.

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Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Kodak VR35 K40

Lafayette alley

I knew as I loaded a roll of expired Kodak Max 400 into this camera that I wasn’t going to keep it. I was only shooting it one more time, for old time’s sake.

Kodak VR35 K40

My mom bought me my first Kodak VR35 K40 as a Christmas gift in about 1986. I used it heavily through college and in the first few years after. Even though it’s a simple fixed-focus point-and-shoot camera, it was the most capable camera I’d ever owned, returning consistently good results. Here’s a photo I made in 1989 of my brand new car parked in front of the Terre Haute, Indiana, house where I rented an apartment. It was a wonderful place; read about it and see photos here.

My first car

I used that K40 to record the glistening aftermath of a 1990 ice storm that shut down our city. That was such a great day! It was the first time I ever went on a photo walk, just me and my camera, alone, exploring. I wrote about that day here; it’s one of my favorite posts ever.

After the ice storm

I set the K40 aside after I married my first wife, who was a skilled photographer and took most of our family photos. It wasn’t until after we divorced that I started making photographs again. My K40 was nowhere to be found, so I bought a used Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 on eBay and moved on.

Years later I came upon this K40 at Goodwill for a few dollars. I love cheap nostalgia. But it turns out this simple point-and-shoot camera is pretty good, returning bold color on consumer-grade film. Its lens is sharp enough for credible enlargements to 8×10. Here are some wintertime photos I made with it recently.

Whitestown Meijer

I’ve been up to Purdue a lot lately to see my son. This is a great little candy store in downtown Lafayette.

McCord's

This scooter seems always to be parked by my son’s dorm. I love how the K40’s 35mm lens captures so much context. It would be a fine film camera to take on vacation even now.

Scooter at Tarkington Hall

I suppose this camera qualifies as compact. After shooting a couple rolls through my tiny Olympus XA recently the K40 felt pretty large. There’s no way the K40 fits into any pants pocket, but it fits fine in my winter-coat pocket. It weighs next to nothing, but then it’s made almost entirely of plastic. This pocket park is on the block behind my church on Indianapolis’s Near Westside.

Pocket park, Hawthorne, Indianapolis

The K40’s automatic winder is pretty loud. That’s typical of point-and-shoot cameras of the day, but it really attracts attention now. Fortunately, when I made this shot in the foyer of my church, worship had not yet begun.

Stairs and window

I stepped outside on this frigid day for this quick exterior photo. I cropped to 4×5 to get rid of my finger, which got into the frame. A few of my quick outside photos were so marred. It’s not surprising: because the temperature was in the single digits, I was moving fast and not taking my usual care.

West Park Christian Church

You can see more photos from this camera in my Kodak VR35 K40 gallery.

I suppose I’m fortunate to have so many lovely cameras that one that performs this well doesn’t survive Operation Thin the Herd. But nostalgia isn’t enough to keep any of my cameras in the collection.

Verdict: Goodbye

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Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Konica C35 Automatic

Craft Brewery

I asked a lot of my Konica C35 Automatic — probably too much, shooting it mostly at and beyond dusk as I did. Late afternoon sun was the best light I gave it. That’s what happens when you shoot mostly after work in late autumn. Given that this autoexposure camera forces wide apertures and slow shutter speeds in dim light, I risked softness and camera shake nearly every time I pressed the shutter button.

Konica C35 Automatic

Let’s look first at a couple late-afternoon photos. This lens has a character that, to my eye, enhances the film’s grain. It’s a pleasing effect, but it does rob images of a little sharpness.

Tree

But as I said, it’s quite pleasant. It could be put to excellent use for the right subject.

Scenery

The C35 struggled with reflected light. The late-afternoon sun cast this black fence with a delicious glow. I’d admired it for several days on my drive home from work, and this day with the C35 in my pocket I stopped to photograph it. This isn’t a bad shot, especially after I toned down the highlights in Photoshop. It just doesn’t capture the scene’s warmth. I own cameras that could have captured that glow. Of course, those cameras are large, heavy, and complicated compared to the C35.

Plug

I made this photo in downtown Fishers on a cloudy afternoon. I focused on the front bench. Shooting Fujicolor 200 in this light, the camera chose a wider aperture and softened the background just a bit, to a pleasing degree.

Benches

I was lucky to pick up this little rangefinder camera for about 30 bucks a few years ago, as they routinely go for up to $100 in online auctions. While this camera is pleasant enough to use, I couldn’t remotely justify trading a C-note for one.

Autumn

I gave the C35 some challenging assignments, such as this light sculpture inside the lobby of the office building where I work. I made a similar shot here with my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 on Tri-X earlier this year. I like it better. See it here.

Lights

I was downtown for a work-related event and had the C35 in my coat pocket. The event wrapped late. I wondered if the spotlight illuminating this sign provided enough light for a photograph. It did.

Biltwell

Of course, it’s hard to focus a rangefinder camera in the dark. I love how the C35 rendered the light within the bells of this clock tower, but man, I wish I hadn’t muffed focus.

Clock at dark

If you’d like to see more photos from this camera, check out my Konica C35 Automatic gallery here.

My experience shooting this camera was pleasant enough. It’s certainly a breeze to use: in Auto mode it is a focus-and-shoot camera. But as I shot it, I couldn’t shake a strong feeling that if I kept it, I’d probably never shoot it again. I own other capable compacts that I just like better.

Verdict: Goodbye

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Kodak Retina IIa

Retina-Xenon
Canon PowerShot S95
2012

Working on a personal project I had reason to search through my whole photo archive. It led me to find a bunch of photos I never uploaded to Flickr, an oversight I corrected. This was one of those photos.

This is the lens of my Kodak Retina IIa, which I reviewed here.

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Collecting Cameras, Photography

single frame: Retina-Xenon

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Image
Photography

Shooting the 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL lens on my Pentax K10D

It was totally an impulse purchase, the 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL lens I bought. I’d been toying with buying a fast prime for my Pentax K10D. Then a Black Friday email from Used Photo Pro pushed all of my buttons: the lens was already marked down and then they offered an an additional 15% off.

It is also the single most expensive bit of photo gear this cheapskate has ever purchased. Because of that, the bar is super high — I’d better absolutely love this lens.

I took this kit to Coxhall Gardens, a park in Carmel, an Indianapolis suburb. I harbored a fantasy of man rapturously bonding with machine to produce fine-art images for the ages.

Pond at Coxhall Gardens

Instead, I experienced a camera whose autoexposure frequently couldn’t find enough light to fire the shutter and a lens and autofocus system that often struggled to guess what I meant the subject to be. Even when it got the subject right, it sure hunted a lot trying to focus on it. Here, I wanted the pump to be in focus.

Coxhall Gardens

Here the K10D focused on the pine tree out in the mid-distance rather than the large tree trunk right in front of it. What the? I checked: I had multi-point autofocus on.

Wood by the street

I drove home disappointed: I just didn’t bond with this kit on this outing. But I think I need to give it another chance. I’ve only had the K10D a few months and have yet to learn its ways. I remember that it took a few months to really become one with my beloved Canon S95. I need to give the K10D time, too.

Coxhall Gardens

It is, however, telling that the camera behaved better for me on my previous two outings: the first in Chicago with a 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M manual-focus lens, and the second on my October road trip with a 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA lens.

Coxhall Gardens

If after a couple more major outings with this lens I don’t start to make it sing, I’ll probably just sell it. The great thing about lenses like this is that they tend not to depreciate. This lens in particular is highly regarded and should sell with no trouble for at least what I paid for it.

Coxhall Gardens

For fun I did a bokeh test. Here’s the lens at f/2, 1/500 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/4, 1/160 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/8, 1/50 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

f/16, 1/30 sec.

Coxhall Gardens

When the lens manages to focus properly, it is plenty sharp and offers reasonable bokeh.

I think my next trial of this lens will be on one of my Pentax film bodies — this lens has a manual-focus ring and should work great. If it passes muster, I’ll know that my meh experience here was not the lens’s fault, but the photographer’s.

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