Reflecting On The 50th Anniversary Of The Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Fifty years ago today, July 20th, 1969, NASA achieved what many still consider mankind’s greatest achievement; landing a man on the moon.

Now, trying not to give away my age, all I can say is I don’t remember the actual lunar landing 🙂

However, as a geeky kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, astronomy was always a passion even as a child. And it remains so today.

So if you grew up in the same era as I did, I’m sure you can agree with me that almost nothing makes you feel as old as knowing it’s been fifty years since that first moon landing! I still remember watching the nightly news when it was the twentieth anniversary! Damn man 😦

CAMERAS USED ON APOLLO 11

The above photo was taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II at prime focus on a Meade 90mm f/11 ETX Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope. But what were the cameras used on that first historic lunar landing?

According to NASA itself, the cameras used were three Hasselblad 500EL cameras. One was used in the command module Columbia, and the other two were taken to the moon on the Eagle lunar module.

These had special modifications to minimize what the astronauts had to do. Basically, they made it as “point and shoot” as possible. The lenses from what I have read were the 80mm f/2.8 Planar and the 60mm f/5.6 Zeiss Biogon. A Kodak Stereo Camera was also used for close ups of the lunar surface.

The film was a specially formulated Kodak 70mm film. I’ve often wondered what the ISO rating was for the film, and it seems like there are a lot of educated guesses but nothing official. I guess only us geeky photo nuts would be interested in knowing this 😀

At any rate, many skeptics over the years have mentioned how could the astronauts have possibly taken such fine photographs in their bulky cumbersome spacesuits.

The only thing I can say is…hey, in addition to the cameras being modified for ease of use, don’t you think they worked all that out? Practiced countless times?

This was not just a trip of a lifetime, it was a trip for the ages!

HOW FIFTY YEARS CAN CHANGE YOUR VIEWS

Can you believe that something so technologically astounding and complex as landing a man on the moon was something that was done fifty years ago? Are you kidding me?!

And can you believe that after that series of Apollo moon landings that I believe ended in 1972 with astronaut Eugene Cernan as the last man on the moon, we’ve done nothing ever since!

Of course, I’m speaking tongue in cheek but you know what I’m trying to say. When Neil Armstrong  said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as he became the first man to step foot on the moon, I think we all can relate to that statement even today.

Yes, I know that out of space technology we have so many things that have helped humanity. Lasers, GPS, microwaves, and many more things we probably don’t even know about.

But what I’m talking about when I say we’ve done “nothing” since, is this; where are the colonies on the moon? Where is the promised man on Mars?

Yes, I know putting a man on Mars has been gaining a lot of momentum in recent years. The way they’re talking, it seems it will happen in the next decade. But the older I get the more skeptical I’ve become. Sadly, I now feel I won’t see a man on Mars in my lifetime.

But even more than that, I now wonder why would we even bother getting a man to Mars? Let me explain further. As a child with endless fascination, and all throughout my young adult years I would have been all for a manned Mars mission.

But now, with all the probes that NASA and other space agencies have sent to Mars, I think it’s very clear that there is no significant life there. Note, I didn’t say there is no life on Mars. I wouldn’t rule that out. But based on all I have seen, Mars is as barren a world as you can imagine.

There is no hint of an ancient civilization. No buildings. No drawings. No artifacts. No animals. No vegetation. No nothing. Just a cold, barren world with a very thin atmosphere not suitable for human beings.

I am a man of science at heart so I marvel at all the discoveries they have made on Mars. Yet at the same time, I believe all the Mars missions have done is to finally take away the romanticism of Mars.

The Martian “canals” of Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell, the notion of desperate Martians building a canal system to save their planet, all just imagination. The invading Martians of H.G. Wells, just imagination.

They talk about terraforming Mars. To terraform the planet would take centuries, and would humans be able to survive even with all our best laid plans?

A trip to Mars will be a one way trip and most people who want to go there know this. They may know it, but how many would actually be able to deal with this frightening reality once the spacecraft heads off to Mars?

Anyway, I’m drifting too far off! What I say is, if they plan to go to Mars, they probably should start first with the Lunar colonies. The Moon is a lot closer than Mars. If an issue or emergency arises, it’s possible with our technology today to do something about it.

If an emergency arises on Mars, or on the way to Mars, forget about it!

THE LUNAR LEGACY

All my skepticism about Mars aside, I just want to say that it still amazes me to this day, whenever I look up at the moon and get lost in deep thought. I say to myself, wow, people actually walked up there!

Now even though neither I nor anyone I know personally has walked the moon, the fact that those brave men walked the moon, I think it makes us all united. They didn’t just walk the moon for themselves. It really was an achievement for all mankind.

And it helps to make an otherwise totally alien world seem a little more friendly. More than just a moon that happens to be locked in orbit with our home planet the Earth.

In a time today when celebrities are paid millions for just looking good, the brave men and women (in Mission Control) of the Apollo missions are to be admired.

Can you imagine dealing with the discomforts of doing in outer space, even the simple things such as eating, going to the bathroom (in their spacesuits I think!) and facing such unknowns, not knowing if you’ll ever make it home?

These astronauts and the people who worked behind the scenes are heroes for making one of mankind’s oldest dreams come true. As I said, they are to be admired, respected, remembered. Not just then, but now, and for always.

If you lived through that first historic Apollo 11 mission, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Fright Night Special: Friday The 13th

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“Black Cat” 2011. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 85mm f/1.2L in Bangkok, Thailand.

Yes, it’s Friday the 13th. It is a day that causes fear, hesitation, and all sorts of other anxieties in people. Heck, they even made movies and a tv series out of this! Here is a little tribute to Friday the 13th. I hope it is full of good luck for everyone! 🙂

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“Bad Asses” 2011. Ricoh 8.1mp GRD in Chinatown, NYC. It’s “Child’s Play” for Chucky, Scarface and the entire badass crew 🙂

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“The Camera Monster” 🙂

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“Flashback Fri…” No, no, wait a minute. This is NOT Flashback Friday. For Samuel J. Voorhees, every freakin’ day is FRIDAY!! shh…shh…shh…shh…shh… 🙂

The Canon 5D Mark II: A Retrospective

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“The Mad Duck” 2015. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40mm f/2.8 STM.

With Canon recently announcing its latest 50.6 megapixel 5DS and 5DSR, I thought this would be a good time to look back on the 5D Mark II. Already the most versatile bargain in the digital camera world, the arrival of Canon’s newest is bound to drive prices down, making the 5DII an even more attractive offering in the used camera market.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II is a 21.1 megapixel full-frame camera introduced by Canon in 2008. It was the follow-up to the ground breaking 12.8mp 5D of 2005.

The 5D Mark II was a significant upgrade. In addition to the new 21.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, the Mark II offered a high resolution 3 inch LCD, built in sensor dust reduction system, live view and 1080P video, and a native ISO range from 100-6400 (you can also get ISO 50, 12800, and 25600, but the latter two are very noisy). It retains the original 5D’s 9 point AF system, but offers micro adjustment for up to 20 lenses.

BUILD QUALITY

The 5D Mark II looks like the original 5D, but feels very slightly better to my hands. It’s still the same lightweight, magnesium alloy bodied camera you have grown to love in the 5D Classic.

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“Z Cam” 2011. The 5D Mark II remains, as was the 5D Classic, a lightweight, but durable camera. Canon 5D Mark II, EF 50mm f/1.8, ISO 4000.

AUTOFOCUS

Although it shares the same 9 point AF system of the original 5D, the Mark II felt very slightly faster or at least more ‘sure’ to me.

I have read a lot of complaints about the 5D/5DII’s AF system over the years on various photo forums, especially in AI Servo mode. However, I cannot comment on that as I’ve almost always used the camera with the center point only, recomposing as needed, and have always found it fast and effective, even in tough lighting conditions.

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“The Blues Man” 2011. British Blues guitarist Matt Schofield, shot for Premier Guitar Magazine. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 85mm f/1.2L, ISO 3200.

The one time I recall using it in AI Servo mode was at a wedding shoot and it was fine for a moderately paced bride and groom. I never needed to use the micro adjustment feature, but it’s good to know it’s there.

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“The Mule Guy” 2011. It seems the “Mule Guy” has been photobombed! 🙂 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 85mm f/1.2L, ISO 100. Batangas, Philippines.

LIVE VIEW AND 1080P HD VIDEO

These are the features that made the 5D Mark II a Camera Legend. The live view, which was a relatively new feature for cameras in 2008 and thought of as ‘gimmicky’ by some detractors, has been incredibly helpful when using the camera with manual focus lenses. The ability to magnify the live view image helps a lot when using my manual focus Nikkors, Olympus OM, Contax, or Leica R lenses.

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“The Artist” 2011. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Contax 50mm f/1.4 Planar MM lens.

The Mark II did not have the cool focus peaking feature we have all come to know and love (or loathe) on the cameras of today. However, I believe there was a firmware hack from Magic Lantern that could do this. In fact, I think I installed it once, but it messed up my camera in other functions so I returned the camera to its original state. Many others have installed the Magic Lantern hack with no issues, so your milage may vary. Install with caution.

Although not the first DSLR to offer HD video (the Nikon D90 has that distinction, but offered only 720P video), the 5D Mark II was the first DSLR to offer 1080P Full HD video and this is what the Mark II will always be remembered for! The 5D Mark II offered video makers a budget solution for filming broadcast quality video with the ability to use a wide variety of lenses.

Especially popular was its ability to use fast lenses to create that highly desirable (but maybe overused) shallow depth of field look in video. One early complaint was that the 5DII could only do video at 30 frames-per-second, however Canon later updated the firmware to offer the much requested 24 fps for that “cinematic” look.

I’m not really a video guy so I can’t say much other than the home videos I took with the 5DII looked great to me.

The 5D Mark II was a very influential camera in terms of DSLR video and has been used to film television shows including a much publicized episode of Fox’s “House” in 2010, the new Hawaii 5-0 series, and a host of other professional productions. Hey, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you and I 🙂

IMAGE QUALITY

The 5D Mark II is capable of superb quality images. When I first got the camera in 2010, I was a little disappointed. As I told a friend, the first test images I took indoors looked like a 10mp file, but upsized.

But knowing that a true assessment cannot be done with one week of shooting, I had faith that the Mark II’s true strengths would shine through and it did, and continues to do so after five years of ownership.

The thing is, you will get the best out of the 5D Mark II if you use your best glass in their sweet spot. Also, while the camera does offer very good quality up to ISO 3200 or even ISO 5000, you will see the 21.1mp difference at low ISO settings, which is probably true of most cameras.

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“Hide & Seek” 2011. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 135mm f/2L, ISO 200. For a larger and better view, please click on the photo.

I found the colors from the 5D Mark II files at factory settings neutral and pleasing, not overly contrasty as in my Nikons from that era or even my 5D classic, which had a contrasty look to the files that I actually liked. Anyway, all this can be tweaked to your liking either in-camera or in post-processing.

The 5D Mark II was released in 2008 and thus might be considered “old” in the digital camera world, but the camera and its performance remains a beauty!

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“Old Beauty” 2011. I met this charming lady in Batangas, Philippines. Just like her, the 5D Mark II from 2008 is an “old beauty” in the digital camera world. Canon 5D Mark II, EF 85mm f/1.2L, ISO 100.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The 5D Mark II is the ultimate “jack of all trades” camera, but everything it does, it does very well.

This camera has been the “bread and butter” camera for thousands of photographers since it came into market in late 2008 and despite the introduction of the 5D Mark III and 6D in 2012, the 5D Mark II remains a viable lower cost alternative that still delivers competitive stills and video. It is incredibly popular with professional portrait and wedding photographers.

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“The Kiss” 2011. Canon 5D Mark II, EF 85mm f/1.2L, ISO 500. Manila, Philippines.

If shopping for a 5D Mark II, prices are trending at $1000 to $1759 (refurbished from Canon). Sometimes, you may find them for under $1000.

The 21.1mp full-frame sensor, the live view and broadcast quality HD video, the ability to use some very fine and unique “L” lenses…what’s not to love? 🙂

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“Z3” 2011. Trying high-key lighting, although I much prefer natural light. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 50mm f/1.8

While the 5D Mark III may offer better AF, dynamic range, etc, the 5D Mark II can probably do all you need at a much lower price.

The 5D Mark II is the camera that took the legend of the 5D series to the next level, and a very high level at that. And at current used prices, it is a sure-fire bet, a proven, time-tested workhorse for a pro quality DSLR that still delivers state of the art stills and videos. The 5D Mark II can just about do it all, and that makes it a Camera Legend.

CANON EOS 5D Mark II

PROS: Superb image quality possible; resolution; good high ISO performance; dust reduction system built-in; sRAW modes; live view; 1080P Full HD Video that’s good enough for Hollywood!

CONS: Same AF system as 2005 5D Classic (not necessarily a bad thing); AI Servo not up to 1D standards; jpegs a bit soft; WB a little off in certain lighting; ISO 6400 and up not great

FINAL WORD: A superb camera for stills and a pioneering camera that changed video for DSLRs.

Amazon has a good selection of the 5D Mark II cameras for sale. Prices can change at any time so be on the lookout for price drops!