Monday, September 28, 2009

Film-Like Performance of the Canon 35-350 L Lens

I like the look of film. When I've used a film camera, it strikes me how different the photos look compared to the ones I normally get from my digital SLR.Film often has a smoother, "analog" look to it.

Well, this past weekend, I did a high school senior portrait session. Often I bring two DSLRs with two lenses: one covering the wider end of the spectrum (e.g. 24-70mm), and one covering the telephoto end (e.g., 70-200mm). At the last moment, I decided to just take one camera and use one lens: my Canon 35-350 L.

Sometimes I hesitate to use my 35-350 lens because it's not particularly fast (max aperture is f/3.5 at the wide end and f/5.6 at the telephoto end), and it's relatively heavy without image stabilization. (My 70-200 lens is heavier, but it's faster--constant f/2.8 max--and has image stabilization.)

I've noticed, however, if I increase my ISO setting one stop over what I would use with a f/2.8 lens, the shutter speed is usually fast enough so that blur doesn't become an issue.

So, anyway, I photographed the whole portrait session with the 35-350 attached to my full-frame 5D. (I had my 24-105 f/4 IS along in case I was having issues with the 35-350; but it stayed in my camera bag.)

Well, having the 35-350mm range available in an instance is *really* handy. No matter where my portrait subject was and where I had to stand--which was sometimes not very close due to the terrain--I could zoom out for a full body or environmental portrait; and the next minute fill the frame with a tight headshot. I love that.

Canon 5D + Canon 35-350 L

The thing I forget about is the "analog" look of the images I get when I use the 35-350. They're smoother and more film-like than the images I get with my other lenses. If you like lots of sharp detail resolution, you probably won't like what this lens delivers; stick to prime lenses.

But lots of sharp detail is often not very flattering for portraiture. A smoother film-like rendering is.

I'm not sure if Canon's newer 28-300 IS L lens (which replaced the 35-350 L) gives a similar film-like performance. I suspect it doesn't, but I may try to borrow it one of these days to compare. If you've used the Canon's 28-300 IS L, please share your experiences with it in the comments area below...:-).

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography. His main website is:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Large Sensor, Digital Compact Cameras are Coming!

If you follow this blog, you have probably read about my using compact 35mm film cameras in part because there haven't been any compact digital cameras with large, DSLR sensors...or at least not any that seem to work that well, especially in terms of autofocus performance (e.g., the Sigma DP1/DP2 and Olympus E-P1).

Well, both Panasonic and Leica (who often work together to produce digital cameras), are coming out with some new compact digital cameras sporting DSLR-size sensors that may finally lure me away from my compact 35mm film cameras...!

Panasonic announced the new GF1 which sports a 17.3 x 13.0mm four thirds sensor in a compact camera body that is similar in size to the Olympus E-P1 (note: a APS-C sensor--e.g., as used in Canon's Digital Rebels and 10D thru 50D DSLRs--is 23.6 x 15.8mm). The GF1 allows interchangeable lenses and initial reports indicate the autofocusing system is significantly improved over the Sigma DP1/DP2 and Olympus E-P1...more akin to the ones you find on DSLRs.

The GF1 will sell for $899.95 with a 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens (35mm equivalence: 28-90mm) and is reported to be shipping in October 2009.

Leica has announced three new digital cameras: one with a medium format camera sized sensor (the S2), one with a full 35mm sized sensor (the M9), and one with a APS-C sized sensor (the X1).

While all of these are interesting entries into the digital camera marketplace, it's the X1 that most interests me. It's a true compact digital camera with a true APS-C DSLR size sensor. The lens is a fixed 24/2.8 Leica ELMARIT ASPH lens (equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm film camera), which may not appeal to people who have become accustomed to zoom lenses.

The compact 35mm film cameras I use are all fixed lenses as well--usually somewhere in the range of 28mm - 40mm--and I have found I like having the higher quality optics you can get in a fixed range lens for my more personal, fine art work anyway.

The Leica X1 will sell for $1995.00 and begin shipping in January 2010.

Of course, I've got some high-quality compact 35mm film cameras I've picked up used for under $100! The differences in price ($899.95 - $100 = $799.95 and $1995 - $100 = $1895) pay for a *lot* of film and film processing...:p.

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography. His main website is:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Camera Giveaway! A Holga 120 GFN Medium Format Film Camera

I recently--kind of mistakenly--bought two Holga cameras with glass lenses. The original Holga has a plastic lens; the glass lens is supposed to yield sharper image detail than the plastic lens. Even though it has a glass lens, it still has all the other quirks that make Holgas beloved: light leaks, vignetting, focussing and framing irregularities, only two aperture settings, etc.

I decided to keep the one without the built-in flash and sell the other (the one *with* the built-in flash). Well, it went unsold on eBay.

Instead of relisting it, I've decided to give it away right here on my blog!

There are two requirements to enter this giveaway:
1) You must have a shipping address in the United States.
2) You must subscribe to this blog by email (just click the link in the righthand column that says "Subscribe to Lightmanship by Email").

On October 15th, 2009, I will randomly select one email address from this blog's email subscribers and notify that person of their free gift. The person I notify will have 2 days to email me a valid shipping address in the US. If the person isn't interested in receiving the Holga or doesn't return my email message with an address, I'll randomly select another person from the list of email addresses and repeat the process.

If you decide to enter, good luck! Feel free to notify anyone else you know who might be interested in getting a free Holga too...:-).

Here's more about the Holga camera:

This is a genuine Holga camera with a glass lens (instead of the usual plastic lens) and a built-in flash: model 120 GFN. The glass lens is reputed to give sharper images than the plastic one. I bought this new and have never used it (except to put 2 AA batteries into it to see if the flash did!). It comes in the original box with the camera, strap, frame insert (that switches between 6x6 and 6x4.5), and instruction manual.

The new Holga 120 GFN is a medium format camera with integrated flash and a glass lens. This new model has a standard tripod mount, a bulb exposure selector for extra long exposures and comes with two frames to take pictures in 6x4.5 cm or 6x6 cm size. The format arrow has been revised and slides smoothly between 12 and 16 exposures.

- Bulb exposure selector for extra long exposures
- Standard tripod mount
- Revised format arrow
- Includes now two frames for the 6x6 and 6x4.5 cm format!
- Multiple exposures
- Vignetting
- Soft focus
- Integrated flash can be switched on and off
- Film to be used: 120 mm colour/bw film, instant film (only with polaroid holder), 35 mm film (modification)
- Glass lens
- Leaf shutter

- Lens: 60 mm
- Aperture: f/8, f11
- Shutter speed: 1/100 s, B
- Focus range: 0.9 m to infinity
- Dimensions: 140x102x76 mm
- Weight: 0.2 kg

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography. His main website is:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Where is Photography Going?

Whenever I photograph a wedding, there are usually several people among the guests taking pictures...and it's not uncommon for a few of them to have digital SLRs with flashes and even flash diffusers attached.

An increasing number of people perpetually have a digital camera with them, whether it's attached to a neck or shoulder strap, in their pocket or purse, or built into their cell phone. Digital cameras are virtually everywhere.

When Kodak came up with the Instamatic 35mm film camera in the 1960s, many more people started carrying around cameras. But that's nothing compared to the percentage of people walking around with cameras now in the digital camera age!

So, what does this omnipresence of digital cameras (usually with built-in video capabilities as well) mean for photographers trying to make a living from photography? This is an interesting question for me because I'm one of those people trying to make a living from photography.

It's a dual-edged sword. It means that:
  1. More and more people are interested in photography because digital cameras are so readily present and available.
  2. More and more people are making and trying to sell photographic images (often as fine art prints or to stock photo agencies) or parlaying their photograph-making into income-producing services (e.g., portrait and wedding photography).
Item #1 is a good thing. I have sold a non-trivial percentage of my fine art prints to photography enthusiasts. Also, photography enthusiasts are interested in paying successful and established photographers for some of their acquired photography knowledge and/or tools and shortcuts they've developed.

Item #2 tends to be a bad thing, especially if you are trying to sell photographic images and/or services to the same audiences. (More about this: a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle called "Photo hobbyists snapping up more business".)

Photographers of the "weekend warrior" type threaten to bring wedding, portrait, and other event photography prices down. However, from my experience, there will always be customers wanting to pay extra to know they're hiring an established full-time professional who has proven him/herself over and over and who they can depend on to deliver the "goods". I believe a very small percentage of weekend warrior photographers actually end up becoming professional photographers. (Once you turn it into a professional occupation, it's not that fun little hobby anymore...!)

My quandary is what if it's really from the fine art and stock photography markets that you want to make most of your income?? For some reason, this reminds me of something photographer Chuck Close said (next 3 paragraphs):

"The thing that interests me about photography, and why it's different from all the other media, is that it's the only medium in which there is even the possibility of an accidental masterpiece. You cannot make an accidental masterpiece if you're a painter or sculptor."

"This is simultaneously photography's great advantage and its Achilles heel: it is the easiest medium in which to be competent. Anybody can be a marginally capable photographer, but it takes a lot of work to learn to become even a competent painter. Now, having said that, I think that while photography is the easiest medium in which to be competent, it is probably the hardest one in which to develop an idiosyncratic personal vision. It is the hardest medium in which to separate yourself from all those other people who are doing reasonably good stuff."

"A recognized signature style of photography is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve."

What Chuck Close said about photography has not changed. And if--as it seems--many more people are doing photography now with the advent of digital photography and (another important factor) photo-sharing websites, it can only be *more* difficult now to distinguish oneself and one's photography from the mass of photos being produced and displayed on the web and elsewhere.

If fame is your goal, that's one thing. If making a living from photography is your primary concern, it would be good to remember an important marketing principle that hasn't changed: you must find a market for what you have to offer; this applies to photos and any other product. Photographers who are successful in fine art and stock photo markets will have found that market for their photos.

It's easier to find a market, then produce what that market wants. Doing it in the opposite order (producing, then finding the market for the product) can be much more difficult...and could, ultimately, exhaust one's resources (time, money) before success is achieved.

So, "where" do I think photography is going?

Having so many suppliers of photos/images--and even photography services, like portrait and wedding photography--does tend to push market prices for these products and services down (it's a basic economic principle!). However, I don't think this large supply is going to reduce people's interest in photographic images or services. Quite the contrary, I think it's expanding people's interest in photography!

As a result, those photographers able to distinguish themselves and rise about the heap of suppliers out there, will actually benefit from the increased interest in photography! Photography enthusiasts is a great market for photography-related goods and services, like fine art prints, books, training, consulting, portraiture & weddings (yes, photography enthusiasts want the best photography for their weddings!), and so on.

Related to what Chuck Close said, the tricky part is distinguishing your work from the work of the other thousands of photographers out there jamming the Internet with digital images! This is where such principles as "branding" come into the discussion. But branding is a topic I'm just coming to terms with and which I will likely expound upon further in future blog posts...:-).

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography. His main website is:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Canon Announces New Canon 7D...So What?

I heard the announcement regarding the new Canon 7D today. Apparently, the name is confusing people because many think it's the new 5D. Well, it turns out it's closer to the new 50D, because it's Canon's latest APS-C sensor (1.6x crop factor) DSLR, which is like the 10D, 20D,...and 50D that preceded it.

So, why did they leave the multiple of 10s naming convention? Probably just to indicate a significant "break" with that line in terms of technology and capabilities.

It seems that most people are excited about the HD video recording capabilities the 7D has (better than the 500D, comparable to the higher-priced 5D Mark II). But I'm still steeped in still photography and don't care that much about it's HD video functionality.

What I'm most interested in is that they *finally* updated the 9-point AF system (has a single cross-type point in the middle of the 9-point array) that has been on *all* their APS-C sensor DSLRs and on both the 5D and 5D Mark II. It's now a 19-point AF system where *all* the points are cross-type! (Cross-type points are able to use *both* vertical and horizontal edges to lock-in focus.)

In addition, not only are there more than twice as many focus-assist points with 18 additional cross-type points, but the autofocussing system will now have its own dedicated processor. That's right: they've put in dual processors....which previously, was only available in their high-end 1D and 1DS professional series!

One other professional-level upgrade: weather-sealing. Again, only their high-end 1D and 1DS professional series used to have weather-sealing.

There's no doubt in my mind that this new 19-point, dual-processor, AF system--as well as the weather-sealing--will be making its way to the 5Ds quite soon (the 5D Mark III?), and finally put the 5D series at a truly professional level...:-).

You can buy the 7D or get on the shipment received notification list for the 7D at B&H's website. You can read more about the Canon 7D at Canon's website.

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography. His main website is: