Jul 23 2016

Canon A35 Datelux

Canon_Datelux-2651The A35 Datelux is pretty much the same as a Canon A35F but with a date function.  The camera was the first Canon camera to incorporate a built in flash and their last rangefinder if you include the A35F.  This was 1977 and the small fixed lens cameras like the Sure Shot that followed incorporated autofocus and motor advance rapidly bringing to an end the small fixed lens rangefinders.  The exposure system of the A35 Datelux is automatic unless you use flash where you can then set the aperture but forgo the exposure system and default to a 1/60sec shutter speed.
Canon_Datelux-2654
The lens is a 40mm f2.8 with 5 elements in 4 groups very likely the same or similar to that of the Canonet.  The shutter is limited to a maximum of 1/320 of a second which is quite restricting although it can stop down to f22.  The Date function is a very analog affair you set it by turning dials on the lens and rather than being a LED system it is a tiny light projected through a mask onto the film.
CanonDatelux_Datefunction
The viewfinder shows the aperture on the right hand side as well as the date function when it’s enabled. The meter is always on so a lens cap is a good idea to preserve the batteries.
Viewfinder-0011177

A feature of this camera that I don’t like is that it locks the shutter if there is insufficient light, I want to be the judge of that thank you. And with a slow shutter speed of 1/60 second its easy to find yourself in a situation where the camera wont take a picture without turning the flash on. When you do have the flash turned on though the camera selects the aperture based on the focus distance which is handy.

This camera is not going to be as desirable as a QL17 or similar but as a footnote in the camera world it marks an interesting transition point, certainly for Canon.


Jul 15 2016

Ricoh Caplio G3

RicohCaplioG3-2687
I picked up this camera recently, some 13 years after its release, not because it is relevant as a photographic tool any longer but because it is not.  It has a somewhat odd appearance with its lens, screen and viewfinder off to one side, this actually makes for very good one handed operation.  This is further aided by its rounded side that makes holding it very comfortable all be it for right handed operation.
FrontBack

Architect and industrial designer Masayuki Kurokawa had a hand in the design according to Ricoh so its not surprising that it is not like other cameras from that time.

 
“Renowned architect and industrial designer Masayuki Kurokawa, in collaboration with in-house designers at Ricoh, developed the Caplio G3 model S’s unique shape from close observations on how we hold objects such as pens, soda cans, and regular 35mm cameras. The result is a remarkably stylish digital camera that’s been carefully sculpted to fit comfortably in the hand of the user.” – Ricoh

It really is a nice camera to hold. Even from Ricoh’s own marketing material its hard to decipher which of the three variants is made from what material.  It appears that the Caplio G3 shell  is made from plastic and so is the Model M (Maybe).  And then there is the model S which is made from die cast magnesium and weighs 15 grams more.
ModelS
What the difference is between the G3 and the Model M is not very clear but my Model M does not seem to be made from plastic except for the battery door.  The fact that it uses two AA batteries means that unlike many models with preparatory batteries I should be able to power it up years from now for that nostalgic turn of the century feel.

Aside from the design the other major claim Ricoh made at the time was that it had the shortest shutter lag of any camera at the time at 0.14 seconds this is of course if you pre focus and don’t mind that the rest of the operation around the image capture is slow.  The speed of operation of digital cameras has improved considerably since 2003 and it makes for a much better photographic experience.  Another area of improvement is the rear screens.  The 1.6 inch 80,000 dot display on the back of this camera is almost comical by todays standards.

The lens is made from 6 glass elements in 5 groups and provides focal length of 35-105mm (35mm equivalent).  ISO is limited to 125/200/400/800 which is probably a good thing with its 1/2.7inch CCD

One more area where this camera actually makes itself useful is for macro photography.  Set at its widest 35mm (equivalent) focal length you can take pictures from as close as 1cm and at its telephoto end it drops to 16cm.  Because the 3mpixel files are only 2048×1536 I thought I would post them in full resolution for the fun of it.  The Last three images are at the maximum ISO of 800 in case you get nostalgic for 2003 enjoy.


Jul 8 2016

Praktica 900AF

Praktica900-2676

The Praktica 900AF has is a paltry 38-90mm f5.6-10.5 zoom lens in a cheap plastic shell. The only reason I actually tried this camera out was because of its name ‘Praktica’. Its not a common name to hear now around photography if really ever was ‘common’ but they certainly had a long history. The limitations aren’t the zoom alone they continue on to its 1/4 to 1/360 shutter speed range. It wasnt an expensive camera listing for $87 back in 2003 so expectations were low which you guessed it was a good thing. To achieve anything approaching a good image you need a lot of light and even then the images were soft and not in a good 1980′s soft portrait way.


Jul 3 2016

Nikon Af600

NikonAf600-2695The Nikon AF600 is a small camera, not that far off from the Olympus Stylus Epic which I see as the 35mm film small camera standard. The big difference of course is that the Nikon has a 28mm f3.5 lens. I think the lens is better than the build of the camera suggests. The year it was released Nikon also produced the 35Ti a design benchmark for small cameras but they also produced some stinkers like the AF200 and EF100 both with fixed lenses that looked like uncoated marbles. The Af600 lens though has a bluish coating which suggests an effort and is reasonably sharp and distortion free. In use all the controls for the camera such as the flash control are well placed on the top of the camera.

Another post about his camera with some panoramic images can be seen here Nikon Af600


Jun 27 2016

Pentax ME-F

PentaxME-F-2649

Firstly yes this is expired film once again and it shows but that’s not what this post is about I wanted to try out the Pentax ME-F a camera that has a special place in camera history because of what the F stands for, Focus.  Inside the ME-F is a ‘focus assist’ module that provides a viewfinder confirmation when focus is achieved as well as an optional audible beep.  The single central focus point actually works just fine but it could only truly autofocus when used with the motor driven battery carrying Pentax AF35-70 lens one which I do not have.

The Pentax ME-F was the first SLR to provide autofocus although it was very limited due mainly to there only being the one autofocus lens for it.  However with manual focus lenses it provides focus confirmation with  arrow indicators to assist with which way to turn the lens to get to that point of focus.
FocusIndicator

By todays standards its terribly lacking but as a first foray into autofocus it set a milestone but the market was not willing to pay for it at that price as seen by this advertisement only two years later.

MEf_sale
“At $500 it was overpriced – at $179.95 its incredible!”

It worked I can give it that but it seems to be a battery hog. It requires four S76 or equivalent batteries and I only made it through one roll of film with mine.
When you turn the metering on you need to set it to one of two settings depending on the ‘speed’ of the lens your using. For lenses of f2.8 or faster you use one setting and for slower lenses there is another. It’s hard to imagine a limitation like that on a camera today but that was just how it was.

This camera is interesting of course because of it’s early autofocus system but the plain ME or a Super Program are much better choices today primarily because of the battery requirements.


Jun 24 2016

Polaroid Spectra P-11

Jan2016_Polaroid_SpectraThis leaves me with 10 frames of Polaroid Spectra remaining although the quality has started to deteriorate.  This one is of an abandoned house  out in a rural area behind Mission BC.  Driving around I started to noticed that there were a lot of ‘Bavarian’ looking older houses tucked away here.  I’m not sure what the connection is other than houses on a mountain side.

 

 


Jun 17 2016

Fuji DL mini Zoom

FujiDLMIniZoom-2681Just some more nonsense with expired film and the Fuji DL mini zoom a questionable combination.  The main problem with expired film is its loss of sensitivity and when you put it into a camera with DX coding there is no effective way to compensate for the changes to the film.  When possible I tend to expose expired film 1 to 2 stops more but in this case it wasn’t possible and this is the result.  Underexposed grainy film with little detail recorded in the shadows.  Results not indicative of what this camera can do.  A better result can be seen here Fuji DL Super Mini Zoom


Jun 10 2016

Panasonic ZS100 user experience

PanasonicTS100-3730

I had a 24 hour opportunity to try the new Panasonic ZS100 (also known as the TZ100 ). The time was brief but enough to form some opinions.  The camera also had pre-release firmware but I didn’t encounter any issues that could be attributed to that.

The Lens

What makes the zs100 unique at this moment is its combination of its 10 X zoom lens and 1 inch sensor in a small pocketable package. The lens sensor combination provides fields of view equivalent to 25-250mm on 35mm film. That’s an amazing range for the compact size and required a design incorporating 5 aspheric elements among it’s total of 12 in 10 groups.
PanasonicTS100-3736

PanasonicTS100-3737
The focal length of the lens is actually 9.1mm to 91mm and to cover this extensive range there needs to be some compromise and it comes in the form of its maximum aperture or light gathering ability. Starting at the wide end we have an aperture of f2.8 which quickly drops as we zoom in, at the 50mm equivalent we have lost about one stop (f4.1)and by 135mm equivalent we have lost yet another (f5.7) it then tops out at f5.9 from 157-250mm equivalent focal lengths. This light gathering/zoom range trade off again is what sets the zs100 apart. For instance the Sony RX100 IV which this camera will invariably be compared to has a sensor lens combination that provides a 24-70mm equivalent f1.8-2.8 which is about 1 1/4 stops faster than the zs100 throughout that range. That leaves the zs100 all by itself from 70-250mm so saying that f5.9 is slow is a mute point the competition doesn’t come near to touching it. You are not going to be able to achieve extremely thin depth of field with this camera to produce images dominated by selective focus but it is possible to blur the background nicely under certain situations.  The lens of the zs100 is slightly soft and it suffers from chromatic distortion particularly in the corners, which can be handled by the cameras jpeg engine or better yet in software as seen bellow in this 200% crop.
Fringe
It is necessary when considering these caveats that it is the first digital camera to offer this type of range and sensor in such a small form.

Ergonomics and menus
I like the design of the zs100 it seems reminiscent of a small fixed lens rangefinder although not as much as the Fuji X30PanasonicTS100-3741
The buttons are well placed around the back for easy thumb access. PanasonicTS100-3732
Though not an uncommon feature I really like the horizontally placed rear dial on the top plate, this is so superior in use to vertically arranged dials on the rear of the camera it deserves special mention.
.Control_Dials
There is a small ridge along the front of the camera that provides a little extra grip while holding the camera with one hand but it could have been a little more aggressive or have used a less slippery material but if we are comparing it to the Sony RX100IV again it is superior but the Fuji X30 is better yet.
Three of the function buttons are within easy thumb reach and can be configured among a multitude of choices. By default fn1,fn2 provide access to the unique 4k photo modes and I configured fn3 for ISO operation. This set up had the front dial around the lens effecting aperture the rear dial shutter speed and fn3 ISO in combination with the rear dial.  And with exposure compensation one button press away at the four way controller, this is a very photographer centric arrangement. Despite my short time with the camera it made it possible to take pictures un encumbered by the need to delve into the menus. That’s a good thing because from the outside looking in I found the menus to be somewhat disjointed and poorly grouped. Sometimes items that seemed important to me were buried pages deep. An example would be that under the REC menus total of 8 pages ISO is found on page 2 with additional related settings on page 6. So the menus aside once the camera is set up as you like it it provides a great photography experience.

Screen and Viewfinder

PanasonicTS100-9232

The rear screen is a fixed touch screen. With the touch activated you can use it to help point the camera towards the place you want to  focus on which is a fantastic feature. You can go further down the cell phone like interface and activate the shutter through touch but I didn’t like that or zooming using the rear screen, neither felt right ergonomically. There are other things you can do with the touch screen such as pull focus and pan and zoom but I didn’t have time to try them. You can also have a little touch sub menu along the right side of the screen but I managed to make inadvertent changes including launching the wifi several times so ended up turning it off.Viewfinder-9238
The viewfinder surprised me, on paper it sounds extremely small, it’s described as being 0.2inch which is really meaningless because what matters is what it looks like after passing through any optics before reaching your eye and in that way it provides 100% view at 0.46x magnification certainly good enough for intermittent use and when it’s extremely bright out which renders the screen effectively into a mirror. If you haven’t experienced this while using a fixed rear screen to compose an image then you either are sun deprived or love giant floppy hats. And if the viewfinder doesn’t cut it for you there is also the remote app which can be run from a smart phone or tablet.  The app worked very well with my Android LG G4 phone providing easy pairing and plenty of control.

Screenshot_2016-04-10-16-30-46

ISO Performance and Sensor

Sensor performance has been steadily improving over the years within any given sensor size but an increase in the sensor area also will have an impact on the ultimate low light performance of a camera. With that in mind the zS100 has brought what are referred to as 1″ sensors to this category of ‘travel zoom’ cameras. Most point and shoots with extensive zooms including other Panasonics have relied on using small sensors typically 1/2.3″ size with an area of about 28mm square but this sensor ups that by just over 4 times. That’s not the whole story of course as there is the number of pixels and the underlying technology to factor in but an increase in size like this generally results in an increase in ISO performance though not necessarily by the factor of 4. Keeping things in perspective the sensor is still relatively small when compared to a frame of 35mm film or even an APSc sensor. That preamble out of the way how does the ZS100 perform at various ISO’s?

I found that there was a noticeable amount of digital noise at even 200 ISO.  Now this is while looking at a 100% and it itself isn’t that objectionable however the jpeg engine seems to be a little over aggressive in removing it, to my taste giving a slight watercolour effect.

ZS100_200ISOjpeg

The trend continues to progress with increasing noise, as seen from this 400 ISO 100% crop.
ZS100_400ISOdetail
It should be kept in mind though that the image has a resolution of 5472×3648 so there is ample opportunity to reduce any noise or downsample prior to printing. I think by shooting in RAW and with a minor amount of noise reduction you could still print at 11×14 without much evidence of the use of the higher ISO up to around ISO 800

By the time you are at 1600 ISO though there is quite a bit of noise and if you are recording jpegs the cameras efforts to mitigate it are not pretty.
ZS100_1600ISOdetail
While I haven’t printed these files it would be reasonable to say that a further reduction in print size is required at 1600 ISO and that shooting RAW and processing with software would be a better option.

ZS100_1600ISONoise

Video

If the ZS100 with its 10X zoom is a jack of all trades the one thing that it is a master of is video. I shot both in HD and in 4K and reviewed them on a 55inch Samsung 4K T.V. and the quality was fantastic.  The video was clear and well stabilized even at full zoom.  One thing that is a bit of a negative is that for 4K video the entire sensor is not read out which means that only a central portion of it is used for 4K recording. The offshoot of this is that it results in a field of view equivalent to about 37mm at the wide end rather than 25mm.  You can capture still images while recording under most video settings but the images are small 2Mpixel images even if your recording 4K.

P1030021

Still image captured during video recoding

Final thoughts

This short look isn’t enough time to explore all the features of the ZS100 for instance I found the 4K still image recording to work well for capturing action using the 30 frames per second and the post focus worked well for hand held macro.  In the camera you can extract a specific frame and save it separately or you can save the entire sequence as a movie.  There are an abundance of other creative control features like: double exposure, panorama shot, 5cm macro distance, time lapse, and stop motion. If there were one knock I would have to say that in the effort to provide the 10 times optical zoom to cover the 1″ sensor they had to compromise and it seems to be in the form of ultimate sharpness and chromatic aberrations when used at the widest apertures. Stopping the lens down helps but in lower light forces the use of higher ISO settings to achieve shutter speeds for hand holding and there is a noticeable increase in noise as you do it. The Panasonic ZS100 balances all these variables well to create a fantastic all around camera that excels particularly with video centric features.


Jun 2 2016

Chinon 35F-MA

Chinon35F-MA-2682

While the Chinon 35F-MA may not be the only camera to use an infrared beam for focusing it is likely the most prominent of implementations.   On either side of the viewfinder sit a giant IR transmitter or receiver.  When the shutter is half pressed the camera sends out a narrow beam of infrared light that bounces off anything in its immediate path to be recorded by the receiver.  Using the delay of the pulse the camera determines which way the lens  focus needs to move to match.  Once the pulses and the focus setting match the IR no longer transmits.  In the bottom of the viewfinder is a needle that points to icons that represent the rough distance that the autofocus system has determined.  If no pulse returns to the receiver it will set the focus to infinity so if you point the camera at something that causes the beam to not return such as glass or a black hole it will default to infinity. Fortunately you can see that this is happening with the needle indicator and perhaps use the method of focusing on an object a similar distance away with a half press of the shutter and then recompose.  The focusing has a particular sound like an assembly line robot but is quite fast and accurate and because it is active it works in complete darkness which would make this camera fun to use with flash in the dark…SURPRISE!   Once again I feel like a broken record but I have used expired Kodak Max 400 its not as if I’m going to throw film away.

I love that the camera uses two ubiquitous AA batteries. Interestingly the camera also has a 3V power input port although I haven’t seen the need to try and find a way to use it, I think the idea was that you could use an external power pack for faster flash recycling or to shove it somewhere warm in cold weather.


May 27 2016

Pentax Auto 110

PentaxAuto110-2643

The Pentax Auto 110 is very cute but it’s also a functioning camera.  Given its equally cute film size it does a surprisingly good job, but that’s not what it’s all about it’s just fun.  What kind of camera is it specifically?  It is an SLR with interchangeable lenses that uses 110 size film.  That makes it entirely unique in the camera world (The Minolta 110 Zoom SLR has a fixed lens).  With the smaller film if you talk about the lens focal length its easiest to equate it to the more familiar 35mm film focal lengths.  It’s a straight forward 2x multiplier so the 24mm is equivalent to 48mm and the 50mm is like a 100mm.  Because it is an SLR the image you see in the viewfinder is through the lens and there is no issue with parallax.  You manually focus as well through the viewfinder using a split image focus screen an experience much like any other SLR it’s just so much smaller.  The aperture resides in the body and the lenses have no mechanical linkage so  it was necessary for all the lenses to have the same maximum aperture of f2.8.  Little touches like this are what made it possible for the engineers to miniaturize an SLR’s functions.  Exposure is completely automatic but given the varied situations I shot this roll of film in it works pretty well.  Did I mention its fun to use?

Here is a representation of the program line or aperture and shutter speed the camera will select in combination.
ExposureChartAs of 2016 it would seem the most viable option for 110 film is Lomography Tiger color negative film.