Podcast Ep 7 Canon EOS M3

Canon EOS M3 (download MP3)

Canon’s EOS M3 is not a new camera, at this point it’s a year and a half old, but it is new to me. These are my thoughts on my first impressions with the camera. I’ve only had one for a couple of days now, so this isn’t a detailed review. That said, my early impressions are that I really like this camera.

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Podcast Ep 6 Focal Lengths

Download Episode 6 – Focal Length (MP3)

The question came up recently about focal lengths and crop cameras, and that reminded me of an old article I wrote talking about focal length being usually used as a proxy for angle of view. In this episode, I revisit the idea of focal length, the plurality of definitions that the word has taken on (both the optical engineering and photographic ideas), and how I think that’s comet to be.

An Idea, Camera Makers Should Provide Performance Data

A couple of weeks ago, when I was talking about the D500 again, I started to develop the idea that we photographers should be demanding more from the companies the make our cameras. At that time I was just thinking about quality standards. That got me thinking. Better quality is great, but you still need to understand how the camera behaves to use it optimally.

When digital sensors replaced film, the cameras became more than just a vessel to hold the image forming material. They literally became the film too. Yet when this transition happened, we lost information that we previously had at our disposal too.

If you’ve never shot film, or at least seriously investigated it, you’ve probably never seen the graphs below.

Excerpt from the Kodachrome 64 datasheet

These graphs are the characteristic curves for a piece of film, in this case Kodak’s now discontinued Kodachrome 64. More importantly they tell you almost everything you could want to know about the film and it’s capabilities.

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Personal Minimums

I’ve been talking a lot recently about camera acclimation testing, and getting to know your camera. In that same vein I want to talk for a moment about personal minimums for image quality. I’ll be honest, I never thought a lot about how far I can push the quality before the results became unacceptable.

Moreover, I need to be right up front about this. I can’t tell you what you should consider the worst quality you’ll accept. What I can do is point at some areas that I’ve found illuminating or instructive and maybe that can lead you to figuring things out a bit better.

My first real exposure to just how far I could take things was back when I was shooting waterfalls in Alaska at ISO 1250 and 1600. I figured I wasn’t going to get anything worth keeping, but I had no idea if or when I’d have the opportunity again, so I shot anyway. I printed one of those images just for kicks. The quality isn’t great at nose limited distances, but it was perfectly fine at more reasonable viewing distances. Shocker! ISO 1250–1600 on the 5D mark III isn’t as unusable as I had though it was.

Alaskan Falls
Alaskan Falls

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ISO vs. Effective Resolution (5D mark III tests)

Noise is pretty much the enemy of everything in digital photography. Increasing noise levels limit dynamic range, color fidelity, and even cause compressed images files to become larger[1]. Along with all of that stuff it also reduces the effective resolving power of the camera too. And that’s what I want to talk about a little today, at least put up some practical illustrations of.

Of course, the entire premise here ought to be pretty obvious to anybody who’s ever really looked at their images from higher ISOs. They just aren’t as sharp and don’t have the fine detail that lower ISO images have.

Unfortunately, this is also a place where very few reviewers ever really provide any kind of quantitative measurements either. That, of course, means that us photographers have to do the measurements ourselves, or just ignore the situation as a whole.

Figuring this stuff out, at least to a level that I’m satisfied with, is part of my camera testing and acclimation procedure. However, I’m also adding this information as part of my standard review data sets, and will likely be updating old camera reviews to include it when I get a chance.

I used my custom test target for these tests. You can find a download, and overview of that target here.

With that said, before I dive into the data, I do need to get a couple of things out of the way.

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