Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

Alain's Canon 300D Journey

A review diary by Alain Briot @Digital Outback Photo

 

 
This review will be written again in the form of a diary. Most recent findings on top.
 


Improve your Digital Workflow

Testimonial

"If you are just now venturing into the world of fine art digital photography you can immerce yourself in new knowledge about almost every aspect that I can think of. The photographs on the Outback Photo site are stunning, to say the least! The books and handbooks offer a true wealth of knowledge because they are so well thought out and organized in a concise manner, with numerous examples. There are vast quantities of other resources available as well, through linking to other sites. There are interesting and provocative stories and essays written by both Uwe and Bettina Steinmueller and many others. I first found the site while checking reviews of the Canon Digital Rebel and I haven't stopped exploring ... where do Uwe and Bettina find the time to give so much? They are excellent teachers." Eleanor T. Culling 2/25/2004

If you work with Photoshop CS or Capture One our e-books DOP1009 or DOP2000 are the right choice for the Canon 300D. If you use Photoshop Elements we recommend DOP1008. DOP2000 is the more complete handbook.

 

Email: alain@beautiful-landscape.com

 

 
1/29/2005 Telephoto zoom lenses
 
Choosing a lens is always a difficult choice provided the wide variety of lenses available from Canon. This is particularly true for telephoto lenses. While a telephoto can easily be used on a tripod, thereby making maximum aperture of secondary importance, the availability of fast, 2.8 telephoto lenses makes using a telephoto handheld possible. But there is a catch: fast telephoto lenses are both expensive and heavy.

I first chose the Canon 75-300 f4-5.6 III as a telephoto lens for the 300D. While very light and versatile this lens is not at the top in terms of optical quality. However, the compactness of this lens, the fact it is lightweight , its long zoom range and its sub $200 price combine to make it a very attractive purchase.

I have now upgraded to the Canon 70-200 f4 L. This is an L lens, Canon’s top of the line series, with magnificent optical quality. At a price below $600 this lens is also very attractively priced. Sure, it is $400 more than my previous telephoto, but given the dramatic improvement in quality $400 is a reasonable price to pay.

The great thing about the 70-200 f4 is that it is just a little larger than the 75-300 f4-5.6 III. To me that is a plus because my goal is to keep the size of my 35mm kit as small as possible. I do however regret that the lens only goes to 200 while the 75-300 obviously went to 300.

I consider the 70-200 f4 to be a great buy. It is very reasonably priced when compared to the f2.8 version of the same lens, the 70-200 f.2.8L, which costs over $1200 or the 2.8 IS (Images Stabilized) version which costs over $2000. In my estimate this lens offers an excellent price/quality ratio . Since I mostly use telephotos with the camera on a tripod, the maximum opening is of less concern to me than if I shot handheld.

Editors note: Also look at our Canon Lens overview.

 

 
1/28/05 The A-DEP Mode
 
How to get your 300D to calculate depth of field for you.

I regularly get the question "How does one calculate DOF using a lens that has no distance scale (like the Canon EFS 18-55 or the EF 50 1.8)? Is the A-DEP mode useful?”

It always amazes me how few people use the A-DEP setting. Even more amazing is how many do not know what this setting is for or even that it exists. In short, if you are not familiar with this program mode, A-DEP will calculate the aperture so that everything in your photograph is in sharp focus. It will then set the camera at this aperture and finally select the shutter speed for a proper exposure. In short, A-DEP is an aperture priority mode with maximum depth of field calculation for the specific composition in your viewfinder.

The only catch with A-DEP is that you have to watch carefully which of the little red squares in the viewfinder are lit when you focus since objects without sharp edges may not be taken into account by the camera and hence won’t be in sharp focus on the final image. If this is the case simply move the camera slightly to line up the red squares with a sharp edge area so that the camera can calculate the depth of field for all elements in the image.

I personally always use the"A-DEP" setting in the 300D when I shoot landscapes on a tripod. I don't see any reason why I wouldn't want everything sharp or why I would want to guess the depth of field when the camera can calculate it perfectly all by itself. A-DEP is one of the huge advantages brought by camerassuch as the Canon 300D. A simlar setting is available on the Canon 10D, 20D, and so on. I wish there was such a setting on my Linhof 4x5 camera! The A-DEP option is the last one on the "program" ring on top of the camera, just after the "M" (manual) setting.

You can also calculate the depth of field with software programs. However, this is of little use when you are in the field, the sun is setting, you only have a few minutes to work, you don't have your computer with you, and so on. Portable depth of field calculators solve this problem, yet, they are time consuming to use and usually remain in the camera bag. And again, why bother since A-DEP works so well!

If you want to investigate the field of Depth of Field yourself check out the following links:

This link has an online depth of field calculator:

http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

and this one has a free depth of field program for Windows :

http://dfleming.ameranet.com/custom.html

 

 
12/24/2004 Long exposures and hot pixels removal with the 300D
 


Haunted Grainery © Sean McCormick

Have you tried doing very long exposures with your 300D? If yes know that the camera will calculate proper exposures up to 30” in automatic mode. With the Canon RS-60E3 Remote Switch you can do exposures up to several hours if you want.

One of the problems you will encounter with long exposures is what is commonly referred to as Hot Pixels. Hot pixels are sensor pixels that turn white during a very long exposure.
Because the 300D, and all other Canon DSLR cameras, uses a CMOS sensor it exhibits a much lower number of hot pixels than digital cameras using a CCD sensor. However, you will still get hot pixels during long exposures, although far less than with a CCD camera.

An efficient way to remove hot pixels is to use Black Frame NR, a free hot pixel removal tool from MediaChance: http://www.mediachance.com/digicam/blackframe.htm

Black Frame NR uses a black frame taken with the lens cap on to remove hot pixels from a digital image with deadly accuracy. After processing the image with Black Frame NR you can “polish” the image with Neat Image to remove any noise that would be present in the photograph:

PixelZap is an alternative program to BlackFrame NR. It will remove hot pixels without the dark frame, but it does a better job with one:
http://tawbaware.com/pixelzap.htm

Another good program is Image Stacker:

http://tawbaware.com/imgstack.htm

There are two good things about this program. First, it has dark frame pixel removal built in. Second, if you are unable to make single long exposures with your digital camera because you don't have the wired remote, you can take a pile of short exposures and then stack them into a single exposure using this program. This is very nice for people who can't afford Photoshop and don't know how to stack multiple exposures using Screen blend mode.

The combination of the 300D CMOS sensor, hot pixels removal programs and Neat Image will allow you to create very smooth long exposure photographs. At this time of year (Christmas 2004) this may be just what you need to capture Christmas light displays at night!

If you want to see some beautiful examples of images created with this technique visit this page showing images created by Sean McCormick of Edmonton, AB, Canada: http://www.digiteyesed.com/portfolio/lightpainting.php


Infernal Ford © Sean McCormick

Sean creates low light images using a Canon 300D and colored flash strobes. Sean is the inspiration behind this diary entry. The software descriptions above were written by Sean.

Here is Sean’s workflow for the images above:


1. Conversion of Canon RAW file to 8-bit TIFF format
2. Hot pixel removal using Black Frame NR
3. Noise removal using Neat Image and stored ISO 200 profile
4. Manual cleanup of missed hot pixels in Photoshop
5. Level adjustment in Photoshop
6. Apply digital 82C cooling filter at 25% to simulate tungsten-balanced slide film
7. 15% boost to color saturation
8. Unsharp mask

If you have any questions about this technique feel free to email Sean at: sean@digiteyesed.com

Unfortunately none of these programs are available for Macintosh. Since I use a Mac, I’m out of luck… It used to be that graphic programs were produced first for Macintosh and then ported to Windows. It looks like things have changed drastically… so much so that I may have to switch to Windows for my photography work. In fact, I already use a Sony Vaio Laptop to run programs not available for the Macintosh. The times sure are a changing… again.


 

 
12/22/2004 New Canon Lenses
 
I just purchased two new Canon lenses. I plan to use these lenses with the 300D for the time and eventually with other Canon digital cameras as I upgrade them.

These two lenses are:

  • 17-40mm L f4 zoom
  • 50 mm f1.8

I chose the 17-40 L f4 zoom to replace the 18-55 dedicated zoom that came with the 300D. The 17-40 is an L lens, one of the most popular of all Canon lenses. Canon L lenses have a red stripe around the front of the lens. Users praise this lens and for good reason. It is an outstanding lens both in terms of the image quality it delivers, the focal lengths it covers and the USM focus motor it features. Focus is both swift and precise, without any lag, delay or unnecessary hunting around until an appropriate focus point is found. The cost of this lens is also extremely reasonable for an L lens at about $675. Wide-angle lenses on a full-frame sensor often results in photographs which exhibit chromatic aberration in the, especially if you photograph with the lens wide open. However, on the 300D this is not a problem as the reduced frame means you are using only the lens’ “sweet” spot and therefore getting the best image quality from it.

I chose the 50mm f1.8 because of it’s low price -$75 only- it’s compactness and the fact a 50mm lens on the 300D is actually a 70 or 85mm equivalent due to the reduction factor caused by the sensor being smaller than a 35mm film frame. This makes a 50mm lens an excellent portrait lens or short telephoto. The very lightweight quality of this lens, its compactness and its fast speed make it also the perfect lens for low light conditions and/or for when you want to stay inconspicuous or carry a very lightweight camera. This is especially true if you use a metal-bodied Canon digital camera which are far heavier than the 10D and which, when combined with a zoom lens such as the 17-40, can get quite heavy to carry. What do you have to loose for $75, especially since optical quality is actually quite good.

I plan to add the 70-200L f4 USM later on. The relatively low price (about $550) of this L lens combined its excellent optical quality make it a winner in my eyes. Yes, there are lighter and more compact Canon zoom lenses in the same focal lengths, but not with the same image quality, not L lenses either and for a lot more money. There is also an f2.8 version of this lens, also L and with the added benefit of Image Stabilization (IS) but it’s heavier weight make it less appealing to me. Since optical quality and lightweight are my concern more than lens speed and image stabilization, this lens is a very good choice for me.

Find more on Canon lenses here.

 

 
12/20/2004 My opinion of the 300D so far and other remarks about Canon digital cameras
 
After nearly 1 year working with the 300D, and 7400 photographs taken with it, it is time for an evaluation of what I like and dislike about it. Here we are:

What I like

  • It is a lightweight camera
  • It does not look like a pro camera which is great when you don’t want to be noticed
  • The 18-55 dedicated lens is very nice and practical
  • With the 18-55 and a 70-300 zoom you have all you need to cover nearly all photographic situations. Add the new 10-20 dedicated zoom and there’s almost nothing that will escape your lens!
  • It is easy to use
  • The quality is identical to that of the 10D at a lower cost and lower weight
  • I created very nice images with it that I can print up to 16x20, with upresing, if needed
  • I can use any Canon lens on it and most Canon accessories
  • The new Canon 10-20 zoom gives the 300D super wide angle capabilities with excellent glass quality

What I don’t like

  • The plastic body is easily scratched.
  • I suspect the body is also easily broken. It fell several times but always in sand, so nothing broke. On the other hand the lightweight of the camera does prevent a harder fall.
  • The camera has at least a 3 second delay from the time you press the shutter to the time you can take a photo after it goes in sleep mode. I find myself pressing the shutter repeatedly to make sure the camera is ready to shoot at an instant notice.
  • The 18-55 lens broke down once on my camera and on several student cameras. Canon fixes them it for free if it breaks during the warranty period but it is a problem.
  • A super wide angle, 10-20 zoom is available for the 300D but it will not work on any other Canon Camera except the 20D.
  • Similarly, the 18-55 dedicated lens will not work on any other Canon camera except the 20
  • The shutter feels “clunky” and slow when compared to the 10D and other Canon cameras
  • Mirror lockup is not available
  • It does not have the feel or the look of a professional camera
  • The battery is nowhere close to lasting as long as the new 1Ds Mark II battery
  • I cannot use it to take photographs that I plan to enlarge beyond 11x14 or 16x20. This means I have to have another camera with me in case I find a subject that I will want to print large, or I will have to return to the same location with another camera later on. This can be a problem if the subject is far away or difficult to reach.
  • All the LCD displays are on the rear of the camera. I prefer the top display of the 10D, 20D and 1DsMarkII combined with the LCD viewfinder on the back.
  • The software menus are separated under several tabs instead of being all one below the other as in the 10D and other Canon cameras

Would I upgrade to another Canon Digital camera?

Yes, definitely. The 300D has given me a positive experience and a good feel for Canon digital cameras. I would definitely upgrade to either the 20D or the 1Ds Mark II.

Do I have a favorite between these two other cameras?

You bet: the 1Ds Mark II. I had the opportunity to test it during the Fine Art Digital Summit in November and I loved it. In fact, I may very well purchase one soon unless some equivalent camera comes out that outdoes the 1DsMark II price/quality ratio.

 

 
12/18/2004 What do I use the 300D for?
 
I haven not written an entry for this diary in some time. This is not to say I have not used the 300D. In fact, as of today, I have taken over 7300 photographs with the Canon 300D.

What have I used it for? Here’s a short list of what I do with it:

  • I use it to create photographs that I know I will not be enlarging much more than 8x10 or 11x14. However, on occasion, and with a professional approach to upresing, I have created prints up to 16x20.
  • I use it as a lightmeter when I shoot with 4x5. Not only does it give me the exposure, it also shows me the photograph as well as the histogram for this exposure thereby allowing me to visualize the final image. I do make adjustments, when I decide on the final exposure, for the difference in dynamic range between the film I use (Fuji Provia 100F) and digital capture since digital capture has a much wider dynamic range.
  • I use it to create photographs that depart from my traditional style, photographs which I would not do with 4x5 because I am not sure how they will turn out or if I will like them or not. In this sense I use the 300D to “take chances” if you want, because there is no cost in film, very little cost in time and because I can see the results right away. On several ocasions I have returned to do with 4x5 a shot I originally created –and discovered- with the 300D.
  • I use it to document things when I travel, take photographs of people (something very challenging to do with 4x5 :-) and photograph equipment reviewed in my articles (such as my new Epson 4000 diary elsewhere on this site).
 

 
6/28/2004 More Lens Baby
 

I took more photos with the lensbaby today. One of the main advantages of this lens is the possibility to create in and out of focus areas quickly and easily. Normally, to get a pronounced out of focus effect on a specific area of the image, you need to use some sort of gel on the lens to blur specific areas. Cokin even sells a special gel for this use, a sort of Vaseline. You can also use a veil or other semi-transparent cloth

Of course, you can get out of focus areas with any lenses. But, the areas that are out of focus have to be on a different focus plane than the in-focus area. With the lensbaby this doesn’t have to be the case. You can tilt the lens any which way you want to get a specific area in focus or out of focus, no matter if it is close to the in focus area.

Here are some images I created yesterday in my garden. The extreme out of focus effect gets me dizzy sometimes!

 

 
6/26/2004
 
If you enjoyed my previous entry and are now photographing with a lensbaby or thinking about doing so here is a useful tip regarding metering with this lens on the 300D

I previously said the 300D cannot meter accurately with the lensbaby. Well, I was wrong! If you set the metering mode to AV the 300D will meter usefully and you will get properly exposed photographs automatically. It makes sense since in this mode the f-stop is fixed and you control the shutter speed only. Since there is not f-stop control on the lensbaby it's just what we need!

The 300D also meters accurately with the lensbaby in Manual mode. However, in this mode you have to control the exposure via the overexpose / underexpose adjustment. If you forget to adjust the settings to 0 you will get an over or under exposed photograph.

You can even use the built-in flash with the lensbaby. The 300D built-in flash does go off and is metered properly in both AV and Manual mode.

 

 
6/25/2004 Lens Baby
 
Today I got a Lensbaby (www.lensbabies.com) for my Canon 300D. What is it you might say? Well, read on as this may be one of the most unique lenses you can possibly purchase for your 300D (or other SLR’s).

The lensbaby is basically a lens reduced to its simplest _expression. It does not have the conventional aperture and focusing adjustments that regular lenses have. The aperture is set via the use of 3 different aperture rings –f8,5.6 and 2.8—that are made of plastic and held in front of the lens via a rubberized ring.

To change the aperture one pries the rubber ring off with the provided transparent acrylic tool, removes the aperture ring, replaces it with a different aperture ring, and pushes the rubber holder back onto the front of the lens.

The lens has no rotating focusing mechanism. This is replaced by plastic collapsible bellows. To “focus” the lens one pulls or pushes on the lens to either extend or compact the bellows.

Since the bellows can be moved in any direction the lens can be pointed downwards or upwards while the camera remains level.

So what can this lens do that other lenses can’t do? Well, for one it is a lot of fun to use. It also provides one of the easiest ways to create shallow depth of field images. Since the f-stop rings all have rather large openings getting a lot of depth of field is challenging. And since the lens can be focused at an inch or less close ups are easy to do. These two factors –wide f-stop openings and close up focusing range—contribute to create images where depth of field is reduced to a bare minimum. Here are three images I created using some of my personal Navajo jewelry collection:

In these images I was very careful to focus on the area where I want to draw the most attention. Areas out of focus are totally blurred. I like the soft, diffused effect that these areas have.

I haven’t explored the possibilities of the lensbaby any further so far. However, if I do I will make sure to post the results to this diary. In the meantime, if you are ready for a wild purchase, one that will take you as far from high tech lenses as you can possibly get today, the lensbaby may be the one to get.

Do keep in mind that a digital SLR is the perfect companion for this lens. This is because the lens has no electronic connection to the camera. Hence, the camera built-in meter is useless and the camera cannot calculate the exposure. With a digital camera this is not a problem since you can see the photograph right away on the LCD panel and make exposure corrections accordingly. Since you cannot change the f-stop, other than by replacing the ring by a different one (something which isn’t exactly a quick process), the way to increase or decrease exposure is by changing the shutter speed. If you get into very low speeds you can bump up the ISO setting.

 

 
5/13/2004 8-55, f.3.5-5.6 Zoom lens back from Canon Warranty service
 

Today I received my 18-55 zoom lens back from Canon. It was repaired at no cost and works great. According to the letter that accompanied the lens Canon did the following repairs:

- Replaced rear lens assembly

- Adjusted and checked all functions.

There was no cost for this service. It took a month from the day I sent it to the day I got it back.

 

 
4/21/2004
 
I sent my 18-55 lens for repair to Canon last week. Today I received this email from Canon. It looks like the lens is on its way to being repaired under the warranty.
 

 
4/14/2004 18-55 dedicated lens sent for repairs
 

Today I sent the dedicated 18-55 zoom lens, the one which comes with the 300D kit, to Canon for repairs. From what I can tell the lens’ autofocus mechanism does not work. The lens makes a whirring sound when the camera is turned on and immediately an ‘Error 99” message comes up on the LCD panel. This repair will take approximately 2 weeks based on what Canon told me.

 

 
4/6/2004 18-55, f.3.5-5.6 Kit Zoom lens problems
 

As of yesterday I am encountering problems with the 18-55 dedicated zoom lens which comes with the 300D as part of the $999 kit. This is a lens which works only with the 300D and which cannot be mounted on any other Canon camera.

Specifically the lens makes a whirring noise when the camera is first turned on. Then, when trying to take a photograph, the camera cannot focus and the LCD screen displays and "error 99" message. The lens can be focused in manual mode, by setting the switch on the lens to manual focus, but no photograph can be taken since the error message effectively makes the camera inoperative.

The camera and the lens were never dropped so the cause of the problem is not there. Rather, this appears to be a mechanical malfunction unrelated to my use of the camera. It may be due to the
unexpensive built quality of the lens.

The 300D does not seem to be the problem since I can take photographs with other lenses mounted on the camera. The guilty party is the 18-55 zoom lens. I will call Canon and see if I can return the lens for warranty repairs. I will post my findings about how the warranty will work to this diary. Hopefully they won't ask me to return both the lens and the camera.

 

 
3/29/2004 Which lenses do I use with the Canon 300D?
 

I use two lenses with the 300D. My first lens is the 18-55, f.3.5-5.6 zoom which is dedicated for use with the 300D (this lens will not work with other Canon cameras). My second lens is the Canon
75-300,f.4-5.6 zoom. Together with the 300D and a 1gb flash card the total cost for this system is roughly $1400.

Both are simple, inexpensive lenses. They are also extremely compact and light, a great advantage when you have to walk around all day as I did in Paris. I have not compared the images created with these lenses with images created with more expensive lenses but so far I have been pleased with their performance. I made print up to 10x15 from photographs taken with both lenses and I cannot find anything wrong with either lens. There is no vignetting and no visible distortion in the corners.

Here are 2 photographs, one taken with the 18-55 zoom at a 55mm setting approximately, the other taken with the 75-300 zoom at a 200mm setting approximately.



The Horseshoe Bend at sunrise. This is a view of the upstream part of
the canyon.


The Horseshoe Bend at Sunrise. This is a close up of the river and
the cliff. I was attracted by the relationship between the shapes of
the river and the cliff.

 

 
3/24/2004
 

1- Alain’s Digital Rebel Gallery

I just opened a Canon 300D gallery on my website at:

http://www.beautiful-landscape.com/New work 300D.html

This gallery showcases my favorite 300D photographs from December 2003 until today. I will continue adding photographs to this gallery each time I create images that I deem worthy of being part of this portfolio.

I have taken 4300 photographs with the Canon 300D as of today.

2- A note on my previous diary entry on overexposure

I want to add a note in regard to overexposure. Uwe Steinmueller made the point that you have to be cautious when exposing to the right with a camera that has only a single channel histogram such as the 300D. When doing so it is possible you are clipping one of the three color channels (red, green and blue) inadvertently. You will not be able to see if you are clipping one of the channels because the single channel histogram does not show what is going on in each individual channel.

For this reason the only way to expose to the right with 100% accuracy, and not clip any channel, is to use a camera with a 3 color histogram. Such a histogram shows each individual Red, green and blue channels. If you do not have such a histogram and you expose all the way to the right I recommend you take a second photograph one stop underexposed from your “exposed to the right” photograph to make sure you are not clipping any of the individual RGB channels.

If you have been exposing to the right and noticed that some of your photographs showed lost data (highlights with no details) look no further. The guilty party is the lack of a 3-color histogram showing you what is really happening to your image when you are overexposing.

 

 
3/23/04 Why use the Canon Digital Rebel?
 

 

I very much like the Canon 300D. It is light, easy to use and delivers high quality images in print sizes up to 9x12 or so. I like it so much that I use it regularly on workshops and informal photography outings. Of course I continue to photograph with my Linhof 4x5 but when I want to work fast, or when I want to explore a subject without having to set up the 4x5, I use the 300D.

A lot of people have been surprised regarding my extensive use of the 300D. Apparently, when you use a 4x5 it is believed you can only use a 4x5. So I wanted to clarify the issue a bit.

This photograph of Antelope Canyon was taken during a recent workshop while helping workshop participants with their work.

I am an artist. To me photography isn’t different from painting and drawing in its purpose and intent. Only the practice is different: different tools and different technical knowledge regarding how to get the highest quality with those tools. Otherwise the goal is the same: creating a pleasing, artistic and overall exciting representation of nature or cities (in the case of my Paris work).

As an artist trained at the Beaux Arts I created large oil paintings. I also created sketches, studies, watercolors and miniatures. While the large paintings were arguably the overall goal, a lot of the fun of being an artist rested in creating these other types of art. Sketches, studies, and five minute drawings are far less involved than a large oil painting. Creating these “lesser types” of art allowed me to relax, be impulsive and explore new areas with ease and speed.

When doing a large painting weeks, if not months, of work are required. Pauses during the work are required as well. After getting a start on the painting, and working on it for several weeks, a pause may be necessary in order to reflect on how the piece is coming along. On a large project it is often necessary to step back, turn the painting around so you don’t see it for several days, work on something else, and then come back to it with fresh eyes later on. In other words I rarely, if ever, worked on a single piece at any given time. Instead, I worked on multiple pieces. Some of these pieces were brought to conclusion and when completed displayed in galleries. Other pieces never saw completion and were “abandoned” in one corner of my studio, in a folder or a flat file. Others were considered “done” after a few minutes or hours of work. They were studies whose goal was never to be completed the way a fine painting is completed.

This photograph, as well as the two others in this entry, is a straight raw conversion in Capture . No adjustment was made to the contrast, color balance or color saturation of the image. I had never obtained such colors in Antelope Canyon with film.

In other words different types of artistic endeavors have different purposes and goals. They also result in a different end product. They address different audiences and reflect different motives on the part of the artist. One of these motives is the fun and excitement of working fast and intuitively as well as the desire to let your creativity express itself fully in an unrestrained fashion. In some ways the goal of these “lesser” forms of art is to rejuvenate the artist.

This is exactly what a camera like the 300D allows me to do. I have no intent on creating a 40x50 piece when I use it. Rather, my motivation is to create relatively small and unpretentious pieces, miniatures if you would, which exhibit a greater freedom of approach, and a faster approach as well, when compared with my 4x5 work. My goal is to rekindle my passion towards photography by taking chances with my work, explore subjects that I could not explore with the 4x5 (such as street photography) and work fast. Yes, work fast! A most elusive goal with 4x5!

My approach is also to “sketch” with the camera and explore lighting and compositional angles that I would not explore with the 4x5. I am inclined to take chances photographically with the 300D because there is no penalty to do so, either in time, expense or end result. If I don’t like my 300D images no big deal. I had fun creating them, I relaxed and I tried new things anf that is enough. Most likely I learned something new which I would not have learned with 4x5.

Art must be fun. Artists are artists because they are in love with their subject and their medium. To limit myself to one camera format alone would be similar to limiting myself to one subject alone. While this is sometimes the case –George Mancuso photographed only the Grand Canyon- it is not the case for me. I see my subject as being what excites me visually and what makes me want to create a beautiful reproduction of what I see.

This image was cropped slightly from the original composition. One of the difference between 4x5 and 35mm is the format ratio of the images: 4x5 is nearly square while 35mm is an elongated rectangle. This image is perfectly square.

 

 
3/22/04 Shooting at ISO 100, 50 and 25 with the Canon 300D
 

In my last entry I looked at image quality when the camera is pushed beyond it’s programmed ISO settings (underexposed images). Today I look at image quality when the camera is used below its programmed ISO settings (overexposed images).

In effect this approach is similar to “exposing to the right”, an approach pioneered by Michael Reichmann and one now widely used by those “in the know”.

The result of overexposure in digital capture is higher quality files. Why? Because digital cameras capture more levels of information in areas which receive more exposure. Of course, you have to be careful not to overexpose too much and clip some of the information off. The best way to insure this is not the case is to look at your histogram carefully and make sure that the brightest values are all the way to the right of the histogram but not beyond the right side of the histogram. If there is information beyond the extreme right side of the histogram it will not be recorded and these areas will be pure white and without any details.

For this test I used the same piece of Indian jewelry I used in my previous test

Here are the resulting images:

1.
Normal exposure at ISO 100, the lowest ISO setting offered on the Digital Rebel

2.
Overexposed by one stop and corrected in Capture One. Effective ISO 50 setting

3- Overexposed by two stops and corrected in Capture One. Effective ISO 25 Setting.

This test, predictably, show higher quality images at lower ISO settings ond higher levels of overexposure. The “over one stop” image is blurred because it was taken hand held and I moved. The “over two stops: image shows blown highlights. Two stops overexposure was too much for this image and resulted in lost data. If I had been shooting for optimal quality, instead of doing a test, I would not have used this setting.

At sizes like these, and as jpegs, the gain in quality is not very visible. But in a high resolution print it would be. At any rate overexposing images does not hurt the image quality. Instead, it can only help, provided you keep your images sharp and, unlike I did in this test, use a tripod when your shutter speeds get low. Also provided you do not, unlike me again, overexpose your images beyond the extreme right of your histogram.

Editor: I could not disagree more! I avoid any(!) overexposure like hell. But of course I respect Alain's opinion. It all depends what Alain means with the term "overexposure". I always try to be shy of the right side in the luminance histogram as you never know whether you may also clip single RGB channels.

This test was not designed to produce printable images. It was only designed to show you what happens when you overexpose. Incidentally, it also shows what happens when you induce camera shake because your shutter speed is too low to shoot hand held and when you overexpose too much.

 

 
2/21/2004 Shooting at ISO 1600 to 6400 with the Canon 300D
 

Here are the results of the ISO tests I promised in my previous entry. I took three photographs of a small piece of Indian jewelry.

- The first photograph was exposed at ISO 1600, the highest native ISO provided by the 300D.


ISO 1600

- The second image was exposed at ISO 1600 and underexposed by one stop, creating (artificially) an effective ISO 3200 speed.


ISO 1600 (one f-stop underexposed)

 

- The third and last photograph was exposed at ISO 1600 and underexposed by two stops creating an effective ISO 6400 speed.


ISO 1600 (two f-stops underexposed)

The results are enlightening although predictable. As the ISO increases (or the underexposure increases, which is the same in this instance), noise increases proportionally. The lowest noise level is in the photograph exposed at ISO 1600. The ISO 3200 photograph shows a significant noise level. The noise level on the ISO 6400 photograph is quite out of control.

Both underexposed photographs were adjusted in Capture One to match the properly exposed photograph. No other adjustments were made. All three images were exposed under tungsten light with the color corrected for a 5000K setting.

The cropped images show a 100% enlargement at “actual pixels.” The cropped area is in the center of the jewelry piece. This area includes shadows, midtones and highlights.

No noise-reduction software of any kind was used to process these images. What you see is what the 300D created.

 

 
2/19/2004 Pushing the 300D to ISO 3200 and 6400
 

In my previous diary entry I mentioned how nice it would be to have ISO 3200 sensitivity on the canon 300D. David Greenberg emailed me a solution today, one that can be implemented right away without having to wait for Canon!

Simply set the 300D to ISO 1600 then set the exposure compensation to -1. This will effectively result in an ISO 3200 sensitivity.

Agreed, the photographs taken with this setting will be underexposed by one stop. However, as I explained in a previous entry, correcting for a 1 stop or even 2 stops underexposure during raw conversion is not only feasible but virtually unnoticeable in the final image. Since a two stop underexposure can be corrected this means it is possible to shoot at ISO 1600 -2 stops resulting in an ISO 6400 effective speed.

My previous underexposure example was done with photographs exposed in normal daylight. I will conduct tests at night using ISO 1600 underexposed by -1 and -2 stops and publish the resulting images to this diary.

This technique opens some very interesting venues for nigh time or low-light level photography.

Note that this technique can be used with any digital camera as long as it offers exposure compensation.

Here is a 300D photograph taken at ISO 1600. The cropping shows the image at “actual pixels,” or 100% magnification. The cropped area is the bottom center of the glass panels on the door.

No corrections of any kind were done to reduce noise. What you see is what the 300D created. There is no doubt that using one of the noise-reductions utilities will result in a lower noise level.

 

 
2/18/2004 People
 

Photographing people is very different from photographing nature or cities. In Paris, with the 300D. I found a regained interest for photographing people.

From 1980 to 1990 (roughly) I photographed people extensively, mostly in black and white. I actually had a show of my street photography at the Journees Internationales de la Photographie in Arles in 1984. I photographed in Paris and throughout Europe and the United States. I started with an Olympus OM2 then moved on to a Leica CL. I liked these two cameras, especially the Leica CL, because of their compact quality and discrete appearance. I went as far as placing black tape over the white Leica brand on the CL to be even more discrete. With the Leica CL loaded with Kodak T-Max 3200 black and white film I was able to photograph hand held at night at 1/60th and f2. I love the resulting images. I now own a Leica M7 and 35mm Summicron but, as you will see, I may prefer the 300D for people photography…

The 300D allows me to work in a manner similar to working with either the Leica CL, Olympus OM2 or even the Leica M7. This is essentially because of four facts: first, the 300D is a small, compact and lightweight camera. This makes it easy to use all day long. A heavy camera, such as the 1Ds, wouldn’t be as easy to use. The weight of the 1Ds would becomes a burden after a few hours.

Second, the 300D does not have the appearance of a professional camera. It looks just like the original, film-based Rebel and it is used by many tourists. Hence, no one pays much attention to it or to what I am doing with it. I merge with the crowd and become a tourist among many other tourists. This to me is crucial to creating impromptu photographs of people. I don’t want my “models” to pay attention to me. I want them to act as if I wasn’t there, as if I did not exist.

Third, I can push the sensitivity of the 300D up to ISO1600 if necessary, and I can do this at any time during a shoot. While noise is a concern at this speed this option does make the difference between capturing the photograph or missing the shot. I would like to see the sensitivity of the 300D (and other digital SLR’s) go up to ISO 3200 since, with a fast f2 or f1.4 lens, this means you can photograph at night without the need for a tripod. Again, noise will be a concern at this setting but it will be nice to have that option.

Fourth, I have instant visualization, via the LCD screen on the 300D, of the photographs I just took. I can check the composition, the exposure and the focus while the model is still right there in front of me. I can adjust all of these elements as I see fit and then take another photograph if necessary.

Fifth, and unlike any of the M-series Leicas, the 300D has auto-everything. Auto-focus, auto exposure, auto “film rewinding” which in this case is fast digital storage. Furthermore, I can take a lot more than 36 frames on one “roll” in this case a 1 or 4 GB flash card. All this adds up to an unbelievable amount of freedom from all and any technical considerations, allowing me to focus 100% on the subject and the photograph.

Here are some of photographs of people I created in Paris with the 300D. This particular series was created in Montmartre, on the Place du Tertre, where artists set up and sell their work year round. There, many artists offer to sketch your portrait on the spot literally. I was particularly taken by the relationship between the artists and their models and between the artists and their work. I enjoyed capturing the visual aspect of this tension and this intrigue with the 300D.


 
 
 
 

I have been working steadily on my images files from Paris. If there has been no entry to this diary for about a week it is because this process is keeping me very busy. Taking photographs can be fast. Sorting through them can be a lengthy process.

As I work my way through 2300 digital files and several hundred medium format and 4x5 transparencies I cannot help but make comparisons between film and digital. One particular comparison struck me as important today: how film and digital capture handle underexposure.

Among my 300D files I found a series of photographs which have been undereposed by 2 stops unintentionally. I had set the exposure compensation to minus 2 stops, on purpose, to photograph a brightly it white object. However, I forgot to set it back to normal afterwards and proceeded to photograph a scene which required no exposure compensation with a -2 stops compensation.

The result: a greatly underexposed series of photograph. Here is the last image in this series:

When I realized my mistake, by looking at the preview on the LCD screen, I immediately placed the exposure correction to 0 (normal) and took the same photograph. Here is the correctly exposed image:

For comparison purposes I corrected the underexposed image in C1 Pro to see what I would get and compared it to the properly exposed image of the same scene. Here is the corrected image, processed in C1. The only correction made increasing the exposure by 2 stops to match the brightness of the properly exposed image:

As you can see there is hardly any difference between the properly exposed and the corrected image. However, I had increased the exposure by 2 stops in C1 for the second image!

With film, such an exposure increase, either at the scanning stage or in Photoshop, would result in an image with noticeable problems such as increased film grain, lack of overall contrast and a "muddy" quality throughout the image.

In other words, a film-photograph corrected for a 2 stop underexposure does not look like a properly exposed film photograph. However, a digital photograph corrected for a 2 stop underexpose looks like a properly exposed digital photograph!

You may be skeptical so here are two crops from the images above. Each crop shows the photograph at 100% enlargement or "actual pixels." These crops are straight out of the images above without any modifications whatsoever.

and

These two images make the point better than words ever can. To my eye the only visible difference between the two images is a little bit of extra magenta in the light areas of the adjusted image.

The ability to correct 300 D files for underexposure of this magnitude is remarkable. It is truly one of the huge benefits of digital capture. If I had captured this image on Fuji Velvia or Provia, and forgot to ask the lab to correct during film development for a 2 stop underexposure, the transparency would have been useless. With digital, all is takes is a few seconds of my time. What a difference!

 
1/22/2004 Why I worked with the Canon 300D in Paris
 

During the two weeks I spent in paris I took 2300 photographs with the Canon 300D. In a sense, I did what I thought I would not do: take a lot of photographs and sort through them later on. Normally, I take only a few, carefully selected photographs and sort through photographic possibilities in the field, deciding which photographs I really want to take and eliminating those I am marginally interested in taking.

The process I followed in Paris is an exact reversal of the one I follow when photographing the landscape. I followed this reversed process in Paris for the following reasons:

First, I was not able to spend as much time as I would have needed to shoot 4x5 exclusively and think carefully about which images I wanted and which images I did not want.

Second, I had not been to Paris for 12 years (sic.). More on this later as I am sure you wonder "why so long." The matter is that I was rediscovering the city from a new perspective and did not have the benefit of knowing exactly what I wanted to photograph. In this situation, taking a lot of photos was akin to studying the location and discovering the possibilities it offered. It was, in a sense, a sort of "survey" in the sense of the possible images I wanted to create.

Third, using a digital camera saved me (and continues to save me) a lot of time in this discovery/research process. Scanning 2300 photographs would take me months while I am converting my Canon 300D Paris photographs and printing them as I write this, only a few days after coming back from France. You can't beat the speed. I estimate that using digital saved me months of work and, in this specific instance, that it is the fastest approach to creating the beginning of a Paris collection in the amount of time I have available.

Fourth, I was very curious to find out how shooting digital for a large project compares to shooting film, not only in terms of image quality but also in terms of workflow. There was no better way to find out than by actually diving-in and using a digital camera for a significant project at a location that I could not easily go back to. In this sense, the exact digital camera used is not all that important since it is only one piece of a larger "puzzle" which comprises all the elements necessary to follow the workflow to it's natural completion: a fine print.
Finally, it was time I actually worked digitally myself. Most of my students, in workshops and in one-on-one consulting, work with digital cameras. I could no longer postpone not working personally with the same tools for important projects.

 

1/20/2004 Diary started

In December 2003 and January 2004 I travelled to Paris for a two week photography project in my native city. I took along with me a Linhof 4x5, a Fuji 645zi medium format, and a just acquired Canon 300D digital 35mm camera.

In this diary I have four main goals:

First, I want to report my experiences shooting digital 35mm in Paris.

Second, I want to show how the 300D compares to medium and large format film cameras in terms of image quality and ease of use. In this analysis I will also discuss Raw converters such as Photoshop Raw and Capture One. I will also discuss the digital techniques I used to achieve the best possible results from my 300D photographs. Examples will be provided as illustrations.

Third, I want this to be a travel diary. It will be loosely organized according to the different areas of Paris I visited. I also want to include information about photographing and travelling in Paris. Although not directly related to photographing with a digital camera, these informations are relevant because they shaped my experience and determined, in a large part, the quality of my results. Too often articles on photographic equipment are written in such a way that the equipment is presented in a vacuum, as if the environment in which this equipment is used does not matter. In my eyes, this environment matters greatly. In fact, my decision to use a lightweight digital 35mm camera was directly related to the challenges presented by photographing in a large city during a relatively short period of time.

Fourth, last but certainly not least, I want this diary to be a showcase for the photographs I created during my visit. After all, we do what we do because of our desire to create beautiful photographs. And, when all is said and done about equipment, travel, location, and raw processing, what is most important are the photographs we bring back from our journeys.

This diary will be similar to my very popular Epson 9600 Diary. It will be a user's diary, written by someone who is using the camera he is writing about (editor: all of our review diaries do that!). Most important, this diary is for people like yourself, people who want to use this camera themselves and want to know what to expect before they make a purchase and want to get support and help after their purchase. There will a lot to learn from it so bookmark this page now and come back to it often!

 
 
 

Alain's web site: www.beautiful-landscape.com

Email: alain@beautiful-landscape.com

 
 
 
 

 

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