The First Sony Cybershot Camera…Plus A Look At The Sony RX1R II

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“Cyber Cam” The Sony DSC-F1 from 1996 is an 0.3mp digital stills camera and is considered to be Sony’s first digital Cybershot camera.

Sony has just announced their latest Cybershot camera, the Sony RX1R II.

It’s a premium quality fixed lens camera with 42.4 megapixels and a superb 35mm f/2 Zeiss Sonnar T* lens. Wow. To appreciate how far we’ve come in camera technology, let’s take a quick look at the very first Sony Cybershot camera.

THE VERY FIRST SONY CYBERSHOT CAMERA

Now here’s a camera not many of you today remember, heard about or even knew existed. Web searches are scarce, this is a forgotten camera and probably justifiably so. But it was a first for Sony.

The very first Sony Cybershot camera is the Sony DSC-F1 from 1996. This camera featured a 0.3 (!) mp sensor, a fixed 35mm equivalent f/2 lens, and a 1/3″ sensor that produced VGA quality 640×480 pixels. The camera has a unique swiveling lens. This could’ve been one of the first “selfie” cameras 🙂

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From 1996, the DSC-F1, Sony’s first Cybershot camera.

It does not say “Cybershot” anywhere on this camera, but it has the distinction of being the first “DSC” stills camera from Sony which is why it is considered a Cybershot. Before entering the still camera market, Sony had been known for producing quality video camera for years. It is interesting to note that at the time of its introduction, Sony was so new to this that the lens on the DSC-F1 says “Sony Video Lens.”

I got this camera for ten bucks. I have no samples to show you because it requires a hard to find, old school serial PCI type cable to download the images. The camera also has an IRDA port to transfer images wirelessly. Ahead of its time!

If you wonder what that 0.3mp quality would be like, just imagine an old school web-cam. It’s dreadful. That’s what this camera basically is.

You don’t see them for sale often, but they are not worth much if anything. And I don’t know if it ever will be. But being the first Sony Cybershot camera, the DSC-F1 is indeed a Camera Legend. I love the design and the way it looks, that’s the only reason I got it.

Now let’s go into details about Sony’s latest Cybershot camera…

THE LATEST CYBERSHOT: The Sony RX1R II

Sony has just announced the Sony RX1R II. Major specs from reading the Sony press release are: 42.4 Megapixel full-frame sensor, apparently the same BSI-CMOS sensor as the A7RII, 35mm f/2 Zeiss Sonnar T* lens, retractable XGA OLED viewfinder, faster AF (same system as A7RII) and the world’s first optical variable low-pass filter. You can actually choose whether or not you want the AA filter in front of the sensor and if so, the levels, i.e., off, standard or high. There is of course a lot more to this camera, but you can find all you need to know by checking Sony’s site or searching the internet.

The original Sony RX1 was a high-end point and shoot camera introduced by Sony in 2012. It is a fixed lens camera with a 35mm f/2 Zeiss Sonnar lens and a 24.3 megapixel full-frame sensor.

I must admit, the Sony RX1 was one of those cameras I coveted, but could never get myself to buy. I loved the way it looked, I loved the way it felt, and I loved the files I saw from the camera. However, I couldn’t plunk down $3000 for a fixed lens digital. I didn’t have the cash and even if I did, I just couldn’t do it.

I buy and sell cameras. I’m not rich and I have a family to feed so I have a budget. For me to afford the next camera I get, I have to sell the last camera I got. And with today’s flooded market, that’s not always easy to do. All the cameras I’ve reviewed here, I bought with my own money. I don’t get cameras sent to me for review and I don’t get invited to press events.

My blog is relatively new and I thank each and every one of you who have stopped by, left a comment, or help support it. It’s just the grassroots blog of a guy who, just like you, loves cameras and wants to share what he’s found along the way. There IS a reason for those horrible low-budget selfies 🙂

As mentioned elsewhere on my blog, I would pay for quality but I like cheap. For me to get an RX1, I would have had to sell off a lot of stuff for a digital camera that would depreciate over time. I would rather get a Konica Hexar or Ricoh GR1 and deal with the hassles of developing film, but that’s just me.

That said, I would have to say the files I saw and downloaded from the RX1 were among the most impressive I have seen from a digital camera or any camera for that matter. The camera felt great and the files had a look, depth, and ‘pop’ that you only see when you have a near perfect camera/lens/sensor combo. The RX1 had it. I’m sure the RX1R II will take this to the next level.

Below are images of the RX1R II distributed by Sony, so you may have seen the images on other blogs as well. While the RX1R II is not available in stores yet, I’m sure it’s going to be a HOT seller. People love this stuff man, we all do! 🙂

Anyway, if you want to sign up for notification when the camera is in stock, you can do so HERE.

But if you’re like me, you’d probably go for a used RX1 or RX1R first version which is a deal at $1200-1500 used. For that I would check Amazon and their vast network of dealers. Even if what you find is showing $2700 etc, etc, etc, when you click on it and scroll down, you will find the USED or REFURBiSHED units. That’s where the deals are.

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A Look Back At The Sony DSC-F707 and F717

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The venerable Sony DSC-F707. A killer digital camera that was only limited by the technology of its time.

The DSC-F707 is a 5.24 megapixel camera released by Sony in 2001. The DSC-F717 is the upgraded version of the same camera released in 2002.

The bulk of this article is based on my experience with the F707, but indeed I have used the F717 and their similarities are close enough, not only in looks, but in form, function and image quality.

The camera had a 38-190mm f/2-f/2.4 (35mm equivalent) lens and a 2/3″ sensor. It was an immediate sensation due to its futuristic looks and radical design.

Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit Sony is an innovative powerhouse in the camera world. The electronics giant is well known for their attempts to dominate every area they compete in, whether it’s television sets, the video gaming world or cameras. They are competitive, and that can only mean good things for us consumers.

This is a very old camera, digitally speaking, so I’m not going into a full review with this one. I will just touch upon some key areas of interest.

CAMERA AND LENS

The camera is well built with a magnesium alloy body and light thanks to good integration of plastic parts.

The camera is certainly “different” thanks to its radical and futuristic design. No doubt this eye-catching quality helped to make it a hit with camera buyers in 2001.

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The Sony DSC-F707 and its upgraded, but nearly identical twin the Sony DSC-F717 were unique cameras with a radical and brilliant design, not to mention a Carl Zeiss lens.

The ergonomics are for the most part good, although as with most Sony cameras of that era, controls can be a little confusing at times. You may want to access the manual for certain features.

The camera has a 1.8″ LCD which will seem small if you’re used to today’s 3″ and larger screens, but it presents with good visibility and colors. The F707 also has an electronic viewfinder which you can access with the flick of a switch.

The body swivels 36 degrees down and 77 degrees up. A really cool feature for street work or tight situations.

The lens is a 38-190mm f/2-2.4 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar. It’s interesting to note that early on in their camera history, Sony sought acceptance and credibility in the camera world by making key moves such as licensing the Carl Zeiss name on many of the lenses on their cameras.

There are many Zeiss fanatics out there, and sometimes that name alone is enough to sell cameras.




The lens on the F707 is excellent and provides wonderful colors and sharpness, but keep in mind that this is a small sensor point and shoot camera with 5 megapixels. Almost any 5 megapixel point and shoot with a decent lens will provide sharp results. In 2001, we’d be nitpicking over these things. In 2015, we won’t 🙂

That’s not to cut down the Carl Zeiss lens. On the contrary, I am just saying that I feel the lens is limited to the technology it was mated to at the time. It’s a fantastic lens, but compared to similar cameras of its time, you may have a hard time making out the differences. That said, there are certain situations where you might coax that “Zeiss look” out of the camera, thanks to the great lens, but you won’t see it all the time.

The AF is good, but not instantaneous. There is a noticeable lag when taking pictures. The Hologram AF assist works well for low light, but the camera only has an ISO range of 100-400 so it’s not like you’re going to be shooting in ISO 128,000 situations with this camera.

There is a TIFF mode, but it is slow and uses more memory. Unless you’re a real stickler for RAW, I wouldn’t bother with TIFF’s for a fourteen year old, 5mp camera. The jpegs may have some compression artifacts, but it’s not something you’d really notice or care about. You’re not using this camera for exhibitions 🙂

The camera’s biggest failing for anyone planning to use this camera today, in my opinion, is the use of Sony’s Memory Stick. The largest the camera can take is 128mb (that’s megabytes) which can be somewhat pricey for the amount of memory you get. It’s a rip-off, but basically you pay for it because it’s the price vs availability thing. I tried one of those 256mb “128mb X 2” cards, but it didn’t work on my camera.

This was supposedly remedied with Sony’s upgrade to this camera, the F717. I’ve heard that this camera can take up to 2gb Memory Sticks. However, in my limited experience with the F717, I tried a 1gb Sony branded Memory Stick, it didn’t work.

If you get an “error” message don’t give up on the camera right away, it’s probably the card. Try a lower capacity Memory Stick first.

IMAGE QUALITY

The Sony DSC-F707 is capable of excellent results, especially for daytime shots. Details are crisp, colors can be beautiful, although as with most digital cameras of its time, it has a tendency to bleed the reds. The resolution is about as good as you can expect for 5 megapixels. For best results, stick with low ISO settings.

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“Stars” 2011. Sony DSC-F07. I stood above these flowers and shot in macro mode. Note the wonderful whites and yellows.

Bokeh is not easy to come by with a small sensor camera, but can be had with the F707, especially if used towards the telephoto end of the lens and the right situation.

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“Summer Breeze” 2011. Sony DSC-F707, ISO 100. Autumn is right around the corner! A shot showing the sharpness, details, color, and bokeh possible with the Sony DSC-F707/F717.

The bokeh has a bit of that “nervous” look, which to me is actually quite typical of Zeiss, so feel good that you’re getting a real Zeiss lens!

Dynamic range is quite good for a small sensor point and shoot, but cannot match today’s cameras and highlights can be clipped easily if you’re not careful. Remember this is a nearly fifteen year old camera.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE DSC-F707 AND DSC-F717

If shopping for one of these, prices are trending at $30-70. I would probably go for the DSC-F717, which is the upgraded version of this camera. Prices for the F717 are trending at $50-130. Go for the F717 if prices are similar, if only for the peace of mind knowing you got the one with all the upgrades. If the price is really low, go for the F707, be done with it, and never wonder about how much better your shots would look with the F717. They look the same.

IQ wise I don’t see much difference, but the F717 offers improved Auto ISO, supposedly improved autofocus, improved shutter lag time, a hotshoe for dedicated flash vs the cold shoe on the F707, and the ability to take larger Memory Sticks. The F717 also offers a higher 1/2000 shutter speed vs the 1/1000 max on the F707, but the F717 only provides this in program mode.

There are probably more improvements that I can’t think of at the top of my head. But again, IQ wise I don’t think you will see a big difference.

These cameras DO NOT have Sony’s much vaunted “Steadyshot” image stabilization.

BOTTOM LINE

When I got this camera a few years back, I initially thought it would be fun to shoot with. However, that has not been the case. Perhaps it’s the slow lag times or the small screen, I don’t know, but it’s one of those cameras that looked cool, but I hated picking it up to shoot. I can’t complain though. For the low price I paid, I think I got more than my money’s worth for a “play around” camera.

The Sony DSC-F707 and its siblings are uniquely designed and very interesting cameras that represented the best digital camera technology had to offer in the early 2000s. Even today, they offer excellent image quality in context to what they are, that is, nearly fifteen year old digital cameras.

However, these models stand out in a world of ever increasing “prehistoric” digital cameras. They will no doubt add to the Camera Legend that Sony has become.



The Minox DCC 5.1

The Minox DCC 5.1mp digital camera from Minox. Let’s make no mistake about it, this is a toy camera and I only got one for my collection as it is cute as a button 🙂

The Minox DCC 5.1 is a 5.1 megapixel camera introduced in 2010 by the famous miniature camera maker Minox.

While it obviously mimics the looks of the legendary Leica M3, an M3 it is not. This is pretty much a toy camera, pure and simple.

The camera is clunky to use and the image quality is quite bad. You can forget about shooting it at night or in low light unless you have the accessory flash. Over the years, I have been known to take cameras to their low light limits, and if the camera is half way decent, I can get something usable out of it. But this one, for low light shots, I said “Fuggedaboutit” 🙂

Sure, you might if you are so inclined, get some cool effects with it, but it’s a novelty, not an everyday camera.

There will be no “official” reviews on this one. In fact, everything you need to know about it, I just wrote it in the sentences above.

I got it for under $50 and it’s purely for my collection as a camera buff. One thing I will say is that, just like the model holding the camera, it is cute as a button…which is why I got it 🙂

As bad as these cameras are as a “camera” they still have their appeal as collectibles and in that respect, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these “Leica” Minoxes end up as an interesting footnote in the Camera Legend of Minox.

Although the Minoxx DCC 5.1 is an older model, there are a couple of other similar cameras Minox put out, including the last 14mp model. Although I still think they are very much toy cameras, if you’re interested you may be able to get one at a good deal on here for Minox cameras.

 

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!

 

The Olympus E-1

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“Cuckoo” 2014. Olympus E-1, Zuiko Digital 25mm f/2.8 pancake lens. Sorry for the funky treatment…one really did fly over the cuckoo’s nest 🙂

The Olympus E-1 is a digital slr that was introduced by Olympus Corporation in 2003.

It was their first digital interchangeable lens slr and an attempt to tap into the prestigious pro digital market that was dominated by giants Canon and Nikon.

The E-1 was also the first dslr to sport the new “Four Thirds” or 4/3’s sensor that was heavily promoted at that time by Olympus and Panasonic.

If you want to get into all the technical aspects for the 4/3’s sensor, just go to the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Thirds_system

Basically, 4/3’s is a sensor smaller than full-frame or APS-C, but still much larger than any point and shoot camera in 2003. The sensor has a 2X factor, meaning for example, a 50mm lens will translate to a 100mm lens on the E-1 and other 4/3’s cameras. Olympus definitely went against the stream on this one, as they did many times in the past. I’ve always been an Olympus fan, so this is one for the “little guys” 🙂

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“The Fly” 2005. Olympus E-1, Zuiko 90mm f/2 macro.

The E-1 used a 5mp Kodak sensor, back in the days when Kodak made some amazing sensors. In fact, one of the main reasons for the E-1’s cult-like following is due to what Olympus enthusiasts like to call “those Oly colors” and of course, a large part of that is due to the Kodak CCD in the camera. The mount was also highly adaptable to use with “alternative” lenses and I greatly enjoyed using the camera with various Leica, OM, and Contax lenses.

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“Evergreen” 2009. Olympus E-1, Leica 90mm f/2 Summicron-R. My little girl used to pick flowers for me. How I miss those days 🙂

The E-1 had superb build quality utilizing a magnesium-alloy, “splash-proof” body. I found the ergonomics to be great with the controls nicely laid out. The AF was sure and speedy in daylight, but struggled a bit in low light conditions. The ISO range was from 100-800 with ISO 1600 and 3200 available in the settings as “ISO BOOST.” I tended to stay within the 100-800 range as I found the “boosted” settings too noisy for me.

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“Sprouts Of Life” 2005. Olympus E-1, Zuiko 90mm f/2 macro.

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“Fields Of Gold” 2007. Olympus E-1, Panasonic 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 Vario-Elmarit, ISO 800. Note the “noise” beginning to show. I don’t find it objectionable, but some might.

The E-1 also had one of the most quiet and smooth shutters I’ve ever used in a camera, and one of the most effective dust reduction systems. I’ve never seen a speck of dust in my E-1 images and I’ve used these cameras a lot over the past ten years.

If you’re looking for one of these, prices are trending at $65-200, with the average around $100 or less for the body alone which I feel is a killer deal for a fantastic camera.

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“The Kill Master” 2005. Olympus E-1. For less than $100, the E-1 is a “killer” deal for a Camera Legend.

Around 2004, I was in the (sadly) now defunct J&R electronics store in lower Manhattan. There were a lot of beautiful prints hung up on the wall of their photography department. Still a firm believer in film at the time, I was marveling at the prints and saying to myself…wow, look at what people are giving up by not shooting film! Guess what? All those shots I admired were done with an Olympus E-1 🙂

It’s hard to believe that the Olympus E-1 was introduced almost twelve years ago. It still remains a favorite among Olympus fans for its great color, superb build, and reliability. Although 4/3’s is now a dead system, it doesn’t mean you can’t use those cameras and lenses to take great shots.

The Olympus E-1 was the first of its kind and it has left a legacy that continues today with its successful Micro 4/3’s offsprings, which became the true fruition of what 4/3’s was supposed to be. The Olympus E-1 is a classic and will go down in history as a digital Camera Legend.

Pros: Superb build quality, splash-proof; Colors; Good AF in good light; Cheap in today’s world, a bargain!

Cons: “Only” five megapixels; Slow start-up; Slow write times to CF card; Digital grain begins to get objectionably “noisy” at ISO 800 and up; Part of the now dead 4/3’s system.

Important Note: While they share the same sensor size, please remember that 4/3’s and Micro 4/3’s are not compatible. For example, if you have a mirrorless OM-D EM-1 or EM-5, or a Panasonic Micro 4/3’s camera, you CANNOT use your Micro 4/3’s lenses on a 4/3’s body like the E-1. You CAN however use the 4/3’s lenses on Micro 4/3’s with the right adapter. Thanks for stopping by!

The First 35mm Full-Frame Digital SLR: The Contax N Digital

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Introduced in 2000 and brought to market in 2002, the Contax N Digital is the world’s first 35mm full-frame DSLR.

Many people mistakenly believe that the popular Canon EOS-1Ds of 2002 was the first, but it wasn’t. The 1Ds may have caught the public’s attention in 2002, but the short-lived N Digital was actually the first.

The Contax N Digital sported a 6mp full-frame sensor made by Phillips of the Netherlands. The camera was designed to take lenses from the Contax “N” series of Carl Zeiss autofocus lenses. As expected, many of the lenses were outstanding.

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“Z 3D” 2013. Contax N Digital, Zeiss 50mm f/1.4N Planar, ISO 50. I think you might see some of that famous Zeiss “pop” in this image. Please click on the photo for a larger and better view.

In 2013, I was able to procure the use of the N Digital through a good friend. The camera, as might be expected from a camera from 2002, was a bit limited in its ISO range. It had a cool ISO 25, but only went up to 400.

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“Jok” 2013. A rice porridge that is a Thai comfort food. Contax N Digital, Zeiss 50mm f/1.4N Planar, ISO 400.

I was not expecting much from such an old sensor, but found the images to be superb when mated to the 50mm f/1.4N Planar and with reasonably good light, although as always, I tried to stretch its abilities to see what I could get.

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“The Fence” 2013. Contax N Digital, Zeiss 50mm f/1.4N Planar, ISO 100. One of my “boring test shots” as I call them. Contrary to what a lot of people say, I usually find Zeiss bokeh to be “busy” but eye catching. You can get “smooth and silky” bokeh, but you need to get in close without a lot of clutter in the background.

The Contax N Digital is pretty rare on the used market, although they show up once in a while on eBay, and once in a blue moon on KEH’s website. Prices are trending at $2K or above for minty, working samples.

Now here’s the CAVEAT…A few months after giving back the camera, my friend reported that the camera had a sensor failure! Thankfully, I was not to blame 🙂

With my help, we sent the camera back to Tocad, who were still servicing Contax cameras at the end of 2013. I am not sure if they still are.

Anyway, Tocad sent the camera back to Kyocera in Japan for servicing. Guess what? It came back a couple months later, UNREPAIRABLE. I guess if the sensor is gone, you have $2000 brick as a souvenir 😦

I felt bad for my friend, but he took it all in stride. Still, this is a lesson to be learned especially when buying older and expensive digital cameras. They are not a good buy.

And while I loved the Contax brand, there has always been one thing I’ve known since using Contax film cameras in the 90s: They are fragile. They may feel tough and well made, but the insides are brittle, especially the electronics which are prone to failure.

I still use Contax film cameras now and then, but would never buy a Contax N Digital unless the price was really, really good. That said, there is no denying that the Contax N Digital was a pioneering camera. It was full-frame digital before anyone even thought about full-frame digital! In working condition, when mated to those spectacular Zeiss lenses, the N Digital is capable of superb images. And with its distinction of being the very first 35mm full-frame digital, well that alone makes it a Camera Legend.

The 4mp Canon EOS-1D

Introduced in 2001, the 4.15 megapixel EOS-1D is a digital camera legend.

While they had collaborations with Kodak before with the EOS-D2000/Kodak DCS 520, the 1D was the first “all” Canon pro “1” series body that continues today with the current 18mp 1DX of 2011. Today, the 4mp 1D is also known on the web as the “1D Classic.”

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“Camera Nut” 2009. Canon EOS-1D, Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-R

I got my first copy in 2004 and really loved the body and files from the 1D. I remember spending my time with the 1D trying to eek out as much quality as I could from those 4 megapixels! I shot, I printed large, I tried Genuine Fractals (anyone remember that program?).

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“Portrait Of Midi” 2007. Canon EOS-1D, EF 50mm f/1.8

As many 1D owners can attest, the camera is capable of producing very sharp files with really nice color, a combination of a great Panasonic sensor, and what I like to call “PHAT” pixels from the lower resolution.

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“My Adidas” 2004. Canon EOS-1D.

The 1D was a hit with sports photographers and photojournalists, as well as enthusiasts like myself and many others. The camera could do 8 frames-per-second, though I never used it at that rate. Couldn’t stand to blow the shutter that fast, even if the camera could take it 🙂

The 1D Classic is plentiful on the used market and they can be had in good condition for around $200 and up. Lower priced samples are usually in rough shape. Remember, a lot of these cameras were in professional hands and probably have high mileage although the 1D shutters have been documented to have gone well into the hundreds of thousands.

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“Tribute” 2004. Canon EOS-1D, EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5.

Other negatives include poor battery life, which can be remedied if you buy one of the newer aftermarket batteries. The color can also be off at times, most notably images will sometime take on a greenish cast, especially in jpegs. All this can be fixed with some work in post-processing. The camera is also a heavy, bulky beast!

The positives are fast and accurate AF, great sharpness, and 4mp files that are a joy to work with, especially if you’re now used to 18-36mp files (Sony A7R, D800, etc, etc). And just the “feel” of the 1D series body will make you want to shoot it more, even if you don’t necessarily want to carry it around all day long.

In the 2014 world of 40+ megapixel cameras, it’s hard to imagine enjoying a 4 megapixel camera! However, I can tell you that the files from the 1D, when they’re good, they’re awesome. There is a reason why this camera has a cult like following.

The Canon EOS-1D Classic is indeed a digital classic and today, a great bargain entry into the wonderful world of the giant “1 Series” pro bodies from Canon. For the prices that they go for these days, the Canon EOS-1D Classic is a smokin’ deal for a Camera Legend!

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“Smokin” 2004. From my “Portrait Of An Addict” series. Canon EOS-1D, Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.8

PROS: Superb build quality; Fast AF; Sharp files with the right lenses; Bargain prices in today’s world for a 1 Series Canon

CONS: Battery life; low resolution in today’s world; Greenish color cast, at times

Prices: As of today, trending at $75-300 depending on condition, accessories, and where you buy from.

Note: I’m sorry that I do not have full sized or larger images from the 1D to share. I lost most of my original files from this camera some years back.

Canon EOS D2000

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From 1998, a true digital pioneer, the Canon EOS D2000 aka Kodak DCS520.

The Canon D2000 (and its Kodak DCS520 sibling), was one of the first digital slrs with the looks and design that resembled digital slrs of today. The camera featured a 2 megapixel, aps-c sensor, pretty “amazing” in those days.

Gone were the huge, cumbersome battery packs and wires of the early digital slrs, and in was a new “compact” design and a nice slim battery.

However, by today’s standards, pretty damned BULKY!

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“Portrait Of An Addict” 2004. Canon EOS D2000, EF 50mm f/1.8

So about ten years back in 2004, when I found a sample for under $300, I jumped on it. Unfortunately, after the initial ‘fun’ the limitations of this pioneering camera became apparent.

“Nam Prik” 2010. Canon EOS D2000, EF 50mm f/1.8, ISO 200.

The lcd was sub-par, and menu system seemed more antiquated than using a Commodore 64. Battery life was horrid, and I needed to do manual white balance every time I went from indoors to outdoors. However, the images could be quite sharp thanks to the removable AA filter.

Today, the camera is not worth much, and only desirable for collectable value more than anything else. Any modern dslr will beat it in image quality, if not in “fun” 🙂

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“Portrait” 2004. Canon EOS D2000, EF 50mm f/1.8

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The Panasonic DMC-LC1/Leica Digilux 2

“Toe Curling Fun” 🙂 Panasonic DMC-LC1, 2009. For a larger and better view, please click on the photo.

The Panasonic DMC-LC1, aka, the Leica Digilux 2 was a 5mp point and shoot camera introduced in 2004 and featured a 28-90mm f/2-2.4 Leica Vario-Summicron lens.

I have fond memories of this camera. I remember lusting after it and getting one in 2005. I’ve never had more fun with a digital point and shoot than I did with this camera!

Now, I also had a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 before this and was not impressed with the “Leica” lens on it. It was sharp, but lacked any character.

The LC1 was different. The lens on this camera was phenomenally sharp. And it did have character. It had a Leica signature for sure.




Now being a small sensored point and shoot you’re not going to get any crazy bokeh with it. However, you CAN get some decent bokeh with the right technique/situation, but you also get resolution that looks better than you’d ever expect from five megapixels.

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“JD Omniac” 2006. Panasonic DMC-LC1. As mentioned in the article, you CAN muster out some bokeh from the Panasonic LC1 if you shoot wide open and get in close. Please click on the photo for a larger and better view.

The build is also very good and it almost reminds me of the Fuji X-Pro 1 with a big lens on it. I absolutely loved this camera for street shots.

“Fine Arts, Ten Bucks” 2005, NYC. Panasonic DMC-LC1. He had some good stuff for ten bucks! I asked the man what his name was, he said “Call me Papi”…I said “Ok Papi” 🙂

I am sure Panasonic built everything on this camera, including the lens, though it really seems like a Leica designed lens rather than just a Leica “badge” as on other Lumix cameras.

You can also get this camera under the Leica name as the Leica Digilux 2. The Digilux 2 comes in a silver/chrome finish. I much prefer the black body of the Panasonic version, it works much better for unobtrusive street work. The Leica is also more expensive, as expected. Ignore the “red dot” and get the Panasonic! Trust me on this one 🙂

If buying one of these, be forewarned that many have had sensor failures, and you always have to be careful when buying older digital cameras, especially expensive ones.

That said, the Panasonic DMC-LC1/Leica Digilux 2 are cult classics and fantastic cameras that prove megapixels aren’t everything.

“Doc Spock” 2007. Panasonic DMC-LC1. Please click on the photo and check out the man’s face to see the outstanding resolution from this 5mp camera. You may have to double click it to see it properly.

Note 11/10/14: I have found the hard drive and some “lost photos” from the DMC-LC1 and have updated the post. The post is now current.

Note 11/4/14: I will be updating this post with more images from the LC1, but first I have to find the old hard drive which contains my images from this camera! It’s been a while since I’ve seen that old drive 🙂

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