Sunday, December 22, 2013

2006 Vistek Christmas Catalogue

It's time for another edition of Retroscans, and this time it's for the Vistek 2006 end of year flyer. Looking back on how far technology has come in only 7 years makes you wonder what kind of gear we'll be using in another 7.

By that point, DSLRs had become affordable to the masses though the Canadian dollar was a year away from hitting parity with the greenback, so it's refreshing to see just how much prices have come down since then.

Click on the images below to see them full-size. Some pages were omitted since they contained stuff that hasn't changed much, like tripods, bags, and studio supplies.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Canon EOS M & 90EX Review

By late 2011, all of the major industry players had jumped onto the mirrorless camera bandwagon...except for Canon. When they did finally enter the ring in summer 2012, they did so with a compact entry-level mirrorless body containing an APS-C sensor. And to date, it remains the only camera using the EF-M mount as Canon have yet to announce a successor.

The result was in all likelihood a commercial failure - and it deserved to be. Despite having a feature set similar to the $500 m4/3 and Sony bodies of the time, the $800 EOS M had little to go on in terms of value or differentiating features. But now that it's around $300 with one of the two kit lenses, it's suddenly a tempting buy. That latter price point is the one that I caved at, making the EOS M the first camera I've ever bought new. After using it extensively for the past 4 months, I've grown to like it, though it has its quirks.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Canon EF-M 22mm f2.0 STM Lens Review

Announced alongside the EOS M (review) itself in July 2012, the EF-M 22mm f/2.0 STM remains one of three lenses for the system, and its only prime lens. Fortunately Canon went in a different direction than the competition when it came to the focal length and speed on offer for their mirrorless system's kit pancake lens. Whereas Panasonic, Sony, and Nikon have all made their kit pancakes f/2.8 lenses of 24mm or 28mm equivalent, Canon has produced an f/2.0 35mm equivalent.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Test of Time Review: Nikon D50

Rewind to 2005 and you'll find that Canon and Nikon were locked in a pretty heated war over the entry level segment of the DSLR market. While Canon tried reaching for the bottom first with their $900 feature-crippled 300D in 2003 to compete with the Nikon D70 and their own 10D, they later backpedalled and launched the higher-spec'd 350D in 2005. At that point, Nikon was left with only their higher-end D70/D70s, and lacked anything that could compete on price. Enter the D50 that same year, a body that could best be considered a 'D70 lite', giving users most of the important features, while reducing the price to a more mass-market level. Nikon would continue this strategy over the next few years, offering the D40 as the D50's replacement.

But when the D40 came out, it omitted an important feature that had been present on all other preceeding Nikon DSLRs - the built in AF drive screw. Without it, any lenses that didn't feature 'AF-S' in their name would be manual-focus only, including Nikon's range of D lenses, and virtually all of their primes. Since then, no entry-level Nikon body has had a screw-drive motor, but at least they started rapidly updating they lenses to the newer G type, so the lack of an in-body drive isn't too much of a problem. Nevertheless, there's a huge selection of good quality D lenses on the used market that can be had for cheap. One can get a D50  and a 50mm f/1.8D for about the same price as the G version of the 50/1.8. Plus, many of Nikon's older macro and telephoto lenses can be had for significantly cheaper than their updated counterparts. Current users of the D3XXX and D5XXX series will likely find it cheaper to a D50 as a second body than upgrading to a D7XXX if they want to dabble in D lenses.

These days, that budget-conscious market for the D50 hasn't changed since they can often be found for around $100 used. But with low resolution and dated tech, does it still perform well in 2013? Read on.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Nikon Lens & Body Brochure 2006

It's a long weekend, but I don't feel like writing too much so it's time for another retroscan entry. This time it's the back few pages of a 2006 Nikon system booklet. A lot's changed since then, that's for sure.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Quick Review: Meike EF-EOS M Adaptor

When the EOS M (review) was first revealed 13 months ago, Canon announced an adaptor that would let owners use their EF lens collection on the mirrorless body. While I personally find this ability to be more of a novelty than anything else (after all, you lose the size/weight advantage with EF lenses on the M), the lack of EF-M lenses leave plenty of gaps that need temporary filling for some users. Not the least of which is a telephoto lens for the system.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Top Five Fridays: Silliest Photography Forum Arguments

Top 5 Friday is being brought back from the dead, or at least this edition (which I started back in February). This one's a little more editorialized that usual, so have those grains of salt prepped and ready. forums can be a great place to learn, but in reading them, certain hot topics will just bring out the worst in people. Some of those topics tend to be recurring, and some are so dubious and repetitive in nature that they play out the same way just about every time, leading to endless bickering between users. Forum arguments and flamewars are of course best enjoyed from the sidelines, though reading them can occasionally brain damage, depending on who's involved in the discussion. Top 5 are below, in order of how trivial they are.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

New Family Member

Earlier this week, there was a new addition to my small collection in the form of an EOS M and 22mm f/2, which I rather begrudgingly got after several stores in Canada lowered the price to a pretty insane level. After 7 years of having nothing but a DSLR, it's nice to finally have something compact and light that's also capable of decent image quality.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Macro For The Financially Challenged

Macro photography is one of those things that a whole bunch of photographers plan to do, but rarely actually get around to doing. That's probably because of the prohibitive costs involved in getting somewhat specialized gear - a proper autofocus macro lens of 60mm or more is going to set you back nearly $500, with longer focal lengths costing even more.

There are numerous ways to get decent macro performance without a dedicated lens, including bellows, extension tubes, and close-up lenses. Each comes with their own set of pros and cons, but proper equipment for each will still run you $150+ in general. On the other hand, using a vintage 50mm lens and a couple of cheap adapters, you can accomplish similar results for a fraction of the cost, and with (almost) any DSLR.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Canon EOS 70D Coming Soon

I came home from work today to find a bombshell on CanonRumours in the form of leaked 70D specs and a (likely) July announcement for it. Having been 3 years since the 60D was announced (a record wait for this class), it's about time something new came along...not that the 60D was aging badly or anything.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Radioshack 2003 Flyers

Up next are a couple of flyers from Radioshack Canada from September and December 2003. In addition to the camera sections, I've added the computer and gaming sections, since those have aged a whole heck of a lot in the last decade. Things of note: Minolta was still around, a 256mb SD card cost $130, Wireless cards were necessary to get wifi, and Palm Pilots were still 'a thing'.

Canon 2004 Digital Camera Brochure

Starting today, I'll be uploading a fairly chunk of my flyer and catalog collection, dating as far back as 2003. I'll start it off with the old pamphlet for Canon digital cameras. The cheapest one on the list was $249, while the Powershot Pro 1 cost $1500, which is $100 more than the Digital Rebel w/kit lens cost at the time. Click the pictures to view them full-size, but files are large so mobile users beware.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Canon Mirrorless Announcements (at long last)

Earlier today, Canon (finally) announced a third lens for the EF-M mount, and more importantly a new firmware update for the system's only body that claims to fix a longstanding issue.

First up though: the new lens. The system's first new lens announced since its genesis 11 months ago is surprisingly an ultrawide zoom in the form of the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. Prior to that, I (as well as the rumour sites) had expected the next few EF-M lenses to be a consumer telephoto zoom and a superzoom before anything else. But a surprise like this isn't exactly unwelcome, because unlike the somewhat disastrous launch of the system last year, several things were done right this time around.

The obvious difference between the 11-22 STM and the existing EF-M zoom (aside from focal length) is that it's been made collapsible to minimize its size while not in use, just like the kit zooms for Nikon 1, Sony NEX, and Olympus m4/3 bodies do. It does mean having to unlock the lens every time you want to use it, but anything that keeps an ultrawide zoom that small can't be called bad. If there's one thing Canon does seem to have an understanding of when it come to mirrorless cameras, it's the need to make them small...small enough to differentiate them from their own DSLRs. Though the size gap closed after the canon SL1 was announced in March, the EOS M is still impressively small, even when compared to the Panasonic GF 3/5 and the Nikon 1 J3.

The best news by far about this new lens is the price, at 379 (like going to be $399 CDN), would make it the cheapest ultrawide lens on the market for any large-sensor system, currently by a margin of $50 over the next cheapest option. This means somebody could get an EOS M, 22/2.0, 90EX flash, and 11-22mm IS STM for less than the price of a 17-40mm f/4 L. That's a pretty good value, especially if somebody only wants an ultrawide for casual use but couldn't justify getting one before due to the high entry cost.  Plus the 11-22 IS STM joins the Sony 10-18 and Nikon 16-35 as the only ultrawides with optical stabilization (albeit only 3 stops worth). Of course optical quality remains to be seen from the lens, but if it's even half-decent it'll be worth the price.

Along with the new lens came the announcement of a new firmware update for the EOS M, one that claims will make autofocus in one-shot mode 2.3 times faster. Since the slow AF was undoubtedly the #1 complaint about the camera after its launch, this may finally allow it to start getting back on par with industry standard speeds. A similar treatment 'fixed' the Fuji X-Pro1 last year, so we know it can be done.

The system still has along way to go before it can catch up to the rest of the mirrorless systems (especially m4/3), but at least today's announcements were a step in the right direction. Waiting less than 11 months for the next announcement would be another step, too.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Test of Time Review: Canon EOS 350D/Rebel XT

The Canon EOS 350D was the successor to the highly-innovative 300D, the body that helped make DLSR photography cheap and accessible to the masses. But unlike its predecessor, the 350D didn't suffer from an intentional crippling of its feature set to avoid cannibalizing sales of the XXD series. In 2005, it offered incredible bang for your buck at $900, an amount we'd laugh at today for a body of its performance level. Nonetheless, a 350D can run as low as $80 on the used market, less than even the lowest-end point-and-shoots from major brands. The low price, combined with small size and ease of use, make it a tempting buy for those who want to get their foot into the DSLR door without risking much cash.

Fast forward eight years and the industry has changed drastically, with entirely new categories of interchangeable lens bodies, and a multitude of affordable bodies available. With seven newer generations of digital rebels available since 2005, is the 350D still worth its low used market price of <$100? Let's find out.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Canon EF 24-85 F/3.5-4.5 USM Review

Thanks to increased work hours, lengthy home renovations, and a new PC, I was out of action for quite a while, but things have settled down now that I've put things back together (that's less figurative than you might think). I had this review nearly completed about two months ago before things ground to a sudden halt, but with most of the obstacles out of the way, these reviews should come slightly more frequently now. Anyways, enjoy!

Once included as a kit lens with various film and digital bodies between 1996 and 2003, the Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM met its demise around 5 years ago when it was discontinued by Canon. Since then, the used market price for this standard zoom has dropped to under $200, making it an attractive option as a walkaround lens for full-frame bodies. It serves the same purpose well on APS-C too, but there are better options out there for just slightly more money (EF-S 17-85, Sigma 17-70). But despite all this, it remains the only non-L EF standard zoom made by Canon to start at 24mm, making it pretty unique in the lineup. So how well does it fare in the crowded land of standard zooms? Let's take a look.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Top Five Fridays: Most influential interchangeable lens cameras of the past decade

Another Friday, another countdown. This week it's what I consider to be the five digital camera bodies that left the biggest imprint on the industry. This isn't a countdown of 'best' camera bodies, but those that exerted their influence in the industry. I say 'influential' in a fairly literal way, meaning those bodies that introduce features or characteristics which were imitated and duplicated in other future bodies down the road. They don't necessarily have to do these things first - they could just popularize whichever important features they brought to the table. In other words, some aspect of these 5 bodies is seen in many cameras to this day.

I'm narrowing the scope of this countdown to the last decade for a pretty simple reason, and that's to allow me to disregard most of the industry 'firsts' that came to define their class, like the Nikon D1, Canon D30, Canon 1Ds etc. Anyway, here they are:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Top 5 Friday: Canon lenses in need of updating

Before anyone asks - yes, I know it's Monday today, I was a bit late posting this. 2012 was the year that saw most of Canon's pre-1990 lenses finally got refreshed, for better or for worse. Even with those out of the way, there are still quite a few lenses out there that are showing their age in one way or another

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A nickel for your thoughts?

Today is a bit of a special day in Canada, as February 4th marks the beginning of the withdrawal of the penny of circulation, meaning all cash transactions starting today will be rounded to the nearest five cent value. It's been a long time coming, too - each one-cent coin cost 1.6 cents to make, and the last of the darn things was actually minted back in March. Don't bother collecting them though, they won't become rare in our lifetime since there are billions of them floating around. Pennies are still legal tender and electronic transactions remain unaffected (details), but the nickel is now our smallest denomination of circulating currency.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Test of Time Review: Canon EOS 20D

Originally released in 2004, the EOS 20D was a major step up from its predecessor the 10D. With increases in framerate, the introduction of the now commonplace 9-point AF system, an EF-S mount, and the first non-pro Canon body to feature instant startup, the 20D moved the XXD into semi-pro territory after the 300D rendered the 10D slightly redundant.But in the nearly 9 years since, its four direct descendants, the 7D, and even the T4i have matched or surpassed just about all of its features.

So what does the 20D still have going for it after all this time? Mainly price - it can be had for $150-$200 used, a pricepoint that no comparable body can approach presently. Anyone looking for a cheap backup or secondary can easily justify the cost, or someone with only a full-frame body might want to pick one up in order to have a dual-format setup without breaking the bank. With that said, read on to find out just how well it stands up against modern bodies, and whether or not the low pricepoint involves too many compromises for your needs.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tokina AT-X PRO DX 12-24 F/4 Review

The AT-X Pro DX 12-24 F/4 is one of Tokina's two entries into the APS-C ultrawide zoom category, the other being the more popular 11-16 2.8. Plenty of other competitors round out the category from both first and third-party manufacturers so I recommend checking those out as well to help you make your decision. This lens differs from the rest in that instead of starting at 10mm like almost all of its brethren, it begins at 12mm but goes all the way to 24mm on the tele end, allowing it to extend into 'normal' lens territory and compliment the 24-XX zooms very well. The lens in the following review was tested on a Canon 50D, 20D, 350D, and 5D (that last one wasn't a typo), and was purchased for $450 retail in 2012.

Reviews Inbound

Starting later today, there'll be a new reviews section of this site. My hope is to eventually get all my gear reviewed over the next several month. The first one will go up later today, and that's of the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 ultrawide, and moving forward from there in an order I haven't yet decided.

Body reviews will be a little different than at other online review hubs. Since I buy virtually all my gear used, and all my bodies are bought when they are at least 2 generation old, the reviews will instead focus on how they hold up today, against the current generation of DSLRs. Hopefully this will be of value to those who scour the used market or are just budget-limited.

Anyway, each review takes a while to complete, but I hope it'll be worth it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Consumer Lens Gap

Back in 2006, anyone with a full-frame (or even film) body had plenty of choices when it came to decent consumer-level zooms. Ignoring the existence of the 28-80, 28-90 etc, there was the 20-35 3.5-4.5, 24-85 3.5-4.5, 28-105 3.5-4.5, and 28-135 rounding out the wide angle and standard zooms. There was also a 28-200 superzoom, for better or for worse.

Fast forward to today, and the situation is very different. Anyone looking for a wide angle or travel zoom in a consumer price range is forced to look to third parties, since Canon doesn't offer anything. Meanwhile, anyone wanting a non-L standard zoom can choose the aging 28-135 or...the 28-135. The telephoto end is similarly sparse, with only the (awful) 75-300 and 70-300 IS to choose from as the 100-300 4.5-5.6 had been discontinued a few years back.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Buyer's Guide: A Review of Reviewers

If you're like me an often find yourself trying to research that new piece of gear, finding online reviews is probably the single most important factor in your decision least until you get a chance to try said item out yourself. That said, finding decent places can be a pain in the ass since Google results are flooded with dubious customer review sites that are of little to no help. To help you wade through the web's cesspool of reviews, here a bit of a compendium of what's out there:

Monday, January 14, 2013

How many licks does it take to get to the sensor of a camera?

Back in August 2012 I encountered the wonderful combination of a heatwave and an exceptionally boring weekend. I also had 3 camera bodies and a tub of ice cream lying around. Unfortunately this coincided with a shortage of cones and clean bowls, so it was only a matter of time before some MacGyver flashbacks forced the inevitable collision of food and surplus camera gear.

After a few minutes of careful thought (or lack thereof), I realized that an EF mount is almost the exact same diameter as a scoop of ice cream, thus making it a perfect cone substitute. Of course I had no intention of turning a camera body into a dairy infected brick, either. That made step one selecting my most expendable body, which in a collection consisting of a 5D, 50D, and 20D (review), was obviously the 20D. Next up was finding a way to ensure the camera would still be easy to clean and usable afterwards, yet still allow the ice cream to sit inside the lens mount. After raiding the kitchen I ended up with a few materials that would do the trick: