When Tech Aligns – The Canon TS-E Lenses, The Apple iPad and an EyeFi X2 SD Card

The Part Where I Remember the Good Old Days..

I used a view camera, more or less exclusively, for over 20 years. I can wallow in nostalgia, but my much reduced Large Format kit sits in a drawer. it sits in a drawer almost all the time.

I do miss the accurate, loupe-up-in-each-corner, precision of a a good View Camera. I also, and this has been said by others, really miss the upside down and reversed left to right world of an image projected on a ground glass. Having a landscape image arrive upside down and reversed side to side made it an abstraction. With practice, it is easy to “fix” the projected image and imagine the final shot (or as an alternative, just look at the scene without using the camera) but the abstraction of the image was always part of the process.

The Part Where I forget the good old days – Canon TS-E Lenses

The Canon 17mm TS-E lens along with the TS-E 24mm II are best in class Tilt Shift Lenses. While Nikon may be close to the 24mm in sharpness (they don’t make anything wider so the 17mm stands alone), the Canon handely beats the Nikon mechanically with it’s ability to rotate the shift and tilt aspects of the lens independently. The 45mm TS-E and the 90mm TS-E are very good lenses as well but have not gone to “Mark II” design status and lack the independent tilt and shift feature.

If you have questions or are unfamiliar with a TS-E type lens click here for a nice review and tutorial that features the original Canon TS-E 24.

However good a tilt and shift lens is on a 35mm camera, it simply isn’t the equal of a view camera. A well made view camera had (at least) 4×5 inches of ground glass to wonder around and check for focus. A real view camera has more movements that just front tilt and shift. But I already wrote about the good old days, anyway… Shift on a TS-E lens is basically as good as a view camera, but tilt is course compared to a view camera, I use it carefully and not often. I will say that it has become better with live view. It is useful but lacking precision.

Building the New View Camera – EyeFi X2 SD Card with Direct Mode and an iPad

In early January, EyeFi announced that they would make available (When? I’ll  speculate late spring…) a firmware upgrade that would turn their any EyeFi X2 card into a WiFi hotspot. Your camera can now interact with any WiFi device – well any WiFi device that runs their free App. Or to quote the quick YouTube Video. “With Direct Mode full resolution Photo’s and Videos from your camera fly directly from your camera to your phone or tablet.” I would have used “transferred” rather than “fly” but I’ll give the presenter a pass – this time.

So, with an EyeFi card in direct mode and an iPod nearby I can preview my composition, including the imprecise tilt, on a nine inch screen. Since I use a Canon 1DsIII which has two card slots, I can send over a medium sized JPEG while recording the full size RAW. Nine inches of high resolution iPad screen compared to a 3 inch camera back is hardly a fair fight. Pinch to zoom should allow me to retire my well worn loop.

Problems. There Are Always Problems

I’m no fan of juggling thousands or even hundreds of dollars worth of tech so the iPad need a good, safe home. I’d mount it on a tripod leg and make it easy to mount and remove. I can do that using a Vogel iPad Holder and a bit of imagination. The Vogel holder also acts as a cover for the quarter acre of glass that is the front of an iPad. And, although I don’t shoot at noon, a hood might be handy. Here is one (on eBay so the link will die.) There may be others – pretty much any netbook shade should work.

Yep, it sounds a little cumbersome and fussy. But I spent 20 years under a dark cloth, 8x loop in hand, staring at the back of a view camera. I do fussy and cumbersome if the results are worth it.

Now, if the EyeFi folks would allow the app to mimic a real view camera and make it possible to reverse and flip the image…

On The FujiFilm x100 – What We Don’t Know

The Camera

Fuji has done a masterful job of revealing, in a death by a thousand cuts sorta way, the specs of the X100. If you don’t know much about the camera go here and for a brochure go here. Anyway, the executive summary is that it is a Retro-styled, fixed lens, APS-C sensor digital camera. It would look fairly comfortable sitting next to the Bolsey camera that my Dad let me use when I was a teenager. Yeh, it’s that retro.

Earlier this week, Fuji announced that the camera had, at long last, gone into production with shipments to the USA due in March.

The Gallery of Pictures

As has become the custom, Fuji posted a sample of pictures made with the camera. As has become the custom, folks formed hard opinions based on the pictures in the gallery.

A collection of JPEG’s reveals very little about a camera, any camera. And if the JPEG’s are straight from the camera you can learn even less. Serious photographers don’t shoot JPEG’s except at family Holiday Gatherings and the Occasional Birthday. Combine that with the nearly infinite variations available in a modern camera’s JPEG output settings and any pronouncement about the quality of a camera is pure BS.

It Has a Fixed, Prime (non-zoom) Lens

We live in a world of interchangeable cameras. Tack sharp primes and zooms are the norm. Other than size, it makes very little difference if the camera behind the lens is a DSLR or one of the newer Mirrorless varieties. They all have lenses that can be swapped out for another. The Fuji X100 does not.

About that Fixed, Prime Lens and, Not Incidentally, a Real ViewFinder

I am in line to buy a FujiFilm X100 for two reasons. First is the fixed, prime lens. I am beyond sick of cleaning senors and dust busting files. It’s a massive waste of time that somewhere along the way became a normal part of the photographic workflow. If Fuji can ship me a camera with a clean sensor having the lens firmly fastened my life will be simpler. At 35mm equivalent, its a great focal length to have fixed on a camera.

I loath point and shoot cameras that rely on holding the camera away from the body while framing a shot. It’s a fundamentally flawed way to take a picture. It’s fine for a snapshot – it’s beyond worthless if precise framing is important. The Fuji X100 has a hybrid viewfinder that allows you to bring the Camera up to your face, hold it properly with both hands and actually frame a photograph with all the precision your right eye provides.

Fine, is there Anything that the Gallery can Tell you about the Camera

The gallery does tell us this. The lens is sharp and there seems to be very little chromatic aberrations. It also appears that the nine blade diaphram results in an nice out of foucus efffect also know as Bokeh. It tells us nothing else.

Absolutely nothing.

The gallery does not speak to the ergonomics, the focus speed, the focus speed in low light or the quality of an image run through a good RAW session.

Aperture 3.1 and OS 10.6.5

Apple released a gargantuan upgrade to OS 10.6 today. In the long list of things fixed, patched and otherwise fiddled with Apple writes:

Addresses performance of some image-processing operations in iPhoto and Aperture.

Aperture is much faster on a version 1.1 MacPro (the original MacPro) with an aging ATI Radeon 1900. Apple has steadily improved both the stability and speed of Aperture and 3.0 was a big jump. OS X 10.6.5 running Aperture is a revelation.