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Black and White Photography of New York - Dave Beckerman

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E-Mail Bag (50d II or 5D)

27 September, 2008 (20:50)

Mr. Beckerman,

All I wanted was to ask you is: why don’t you use a full-frame camera body? Why did you choose a 40d over a 5d?

W.
———-

Hi W.

Good question.  At the time that the 5D and 40D were available, the 40D had something that I was very interested in: highlight priority.  This is a setting that allows more info to go into the higher end of the histogram, and makes one of the problems with digital cameras (getting decent highlights) easier.

I had used the 20d before, and sold it because I had too many issues with “blown highlights.”  The 40D with this highlight priority setting immediately solved that issue for me.

Now that I have to choose again (or do I), between the 50D or the 5D II, I’m inclined towards the 50D for a few reasons though it’s a VERY close call.

- I have a sigma 30mm f1.4 cropped sensor lens which I love.  Almost all my shooting is done with that.

- When you are using a cropped sensor, you can “cut out” the softer parts of the lens (i.e. the corners) so you’re always using the best part of the lens.  On the other hand, they are building fixes for this light drop off into the 50D and the 5D II, so maybe that’s no longer an issue.  Though it doesn’t solve the issue with most lenses where the best resolution is in the center of the frame.

- The 40/50/d cameras are a bit smaller and lighter.

- For street photography, the cropped sensor gives you more depth of field than when you’re working with a full-frame sensor.

- I don’t think I need, or want 21mp, at least in terms of storage / archiving / backup that’s going to be an issue; though on the other hand you can just set it to 21mp when you want something that you know you’ll want to go really large.

All in all — frankly — I don’t know myself what to do and I’ve been going back and forth between the 50D and the 5D II.  The II can go a bit further in terms of ISO, but I don’t know if that’s overkill or not.

And I suppose, that finally - there’s the price / lifecycle of a digital camera.  The life cycle of the digital camera is say 18 months.  Then the latest and greatest comes out.  I think I’m more comfortable going through the 40D - 50D - maybe the 60D etc. rather than plunking down more money for the 5D II and whatever comes next in that line.  If I were shooting commerical studio work, etc. then maybe the top of the line is necessary.

BUT  as I say — I could go either way right now.  If I bought the 5D II, then I would need to buy a fast 35mm f1.4 Canon lens and a good one is costly.

That’s my thinking.  If you follow the blog and find out that a few months from now that I’ve decided to go for the 5D II - don’t be surprised (though I don’t see that in the cards right now).  But I could just as easily go for the 50D (given that I  love the 40D).  In fact, my only reason for upgrading is for a few more pixels and an extra stop or two of ISO.

So that’s it.  I hope that shows you that my thinking is as confused as everybody elses :)

Best,

DB



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Comments

Comment from Craig M. Nisnewitz
Time: September 27, 2008, 10:04 pm

Hi Dave:

The same is true with the Nikon cameras. The D 80 has features for highlight control. So does the D 300. Going to the D 700 which is a full sensor would be overkill like with the Canon cameras. The new Nikon D 90 is the same except that it can take HD movies. problem is that the buffer only allows about 2 gigs of movies at one time. Meanwhile, I still use my D 50 and D 70 having figured out how to deal with the blown highlight problem. Progress is a nice thing but not always necessary as use of the older less expensive models of these cameras prove.

Comment from Elliot
Time: September 27, 2008, 10:27 pm

FF is just beginning to become affordable, and the technology is moving so quickly that it becomes less and less likely that these days pros will use the same body for more than two years, as you yourself are finding. So, spending $3,000 now on something that will require some new lenses (for what might be only a small added benefitin prints), only to expect to move onto something improved in a couple of years … well, you need to have the need for that as well as the income to handle it.

As a separate but related issue, the next year or so will probably see the last trumpting of the golden age of (quasi-traditional) still imaging before the video tide rises to swamp the market. Like it or not, the convergence of still and video is coming, pushed by low additional cost using new technologies and pushed from below, where digicams and cellphones do video. You may not need or use it, but in a couple of years you won’t be able to find a DSLR that doesn’t do video, and in 5 years you’re apt to see two more changes: the elimination of the ‘reflex’ in new cameras, and video quality so good that you’ll (or at least most people will) be able pull high enough quality still from digital video.

And the video in the D90 and 5D2 is comparatively primitive (manual focus is a pain, audio and audio sync issues, etc), so the resale value of anything sold today will go the way of recent gear. (Today you can easily get a 30D for $650, or a D100 for $250). So I am very wary of putting my money into bodies.

Most curently selling DSLRs will give you the quality you need, but if you shoot on the street you need fast and accurate AF. since you use Canons the 50D is probably everything you need, including tweaked AF and lens micro-adjustment. If you shot a lot of static subjects I’d say just to get a sub-$600 XSi (or two) and be done with it — great camera, but discussions from owners suggest occasionally unreliable AF.

If you’re interested in FF it’s too bad you’re a Canon shooter, as the D700 is designed more for street/PJ work, and the D90’s 11-point, 3D AF is more regularly dependable in most situations. (Though I hate all the freaking buttons, placement, and menu system.)

Comment from Mike
Time: September 28, 2008, 2:40 am

“Like it or not, the convergence of still and video is coming, pushed by low additional cost using new technologies and pushed from below, where digicams and cellphones do video. You may not need or use it, but in a couple of years you won’t be able to find a DSLR that doesn’t do video…”

I most definitely don’t like this convergence of still and video and it will be a major factor in my choice of camera going forward. I’m looking to upgrade right now and I was considering the 5D, or 50D or even snapping up a 40D as a reduced price when the 50D is in the shops. But the news that the 5D II has video means it’s out of the question for me. I want a SLR camera for photography, I have no interest in video, I don’t own a video camera, never have and never will.

“and in 5 years you’re apt to see two more changes: the elimination of the ‘reflex’ in new cameras, and video quality so good that you’ll (or at least most people will) be able pull high enough quality still from digital video.”

I hope this day never comes because it just might be the reason to go back to film…

Comment from dave
Time: September 28, 2008, 7:45 am

Mike. I’m with you as far as the video convergence goes. If I want to make hi-def videos, I buy a video camera with the bells and whistles that I need for that purpose. As far as pulling individual frames from a movie - man - it may be coming but I’ll never work that way. I have enough trouble editing and storing my one-shot mode digitals and can count on one hand the number of times the camera has been used in burst mode.

Frankly, I may just stick with the 40D for a longer time and wait for the price of the 50D to drop.

Comment from Elliot
Time: September 28, 2008, 10:33 am

“I most definitely don’t like this convergence of still and video and it will be a major factor in my choice of camera going forward.”

Mike:
(1) It’s being added in at practically no cost, so there’s no reason not to buy a camera with it.

(2) If that’s a “major factor” then you probably won’t be buying any new cameras after 2012. :)

“I may just stick with the 40D for a longer time and wait for the price of the 50D to drop.”

Dave:

Canon and Nikon have been very circumspect about their pricing of DSLRs above the intro level. Best street prices — XSi = $570, D90 = $999, 50D = $1350, D300 = $1550. They’re trying not to step on each other’s toes, especially when you’ve got #3 Sony clomping around ovvering in-body IS bang-for-the-buck (A700 = $1100). They’ve given each other enough breathing room so prices can go down without directly competing with a competitor’s model, while also giving room for the competition to also drop prices. But if you’re really waiting for better prices, don’t expect more than a $1200 body price in January.

“If I want to make hi-def videos, I buy a video camera with the bells and whistles that I need for that purpose.”

Sure, but if it’s included FREE there’s no reason to hate it. Just ignore it. (Others won’t.) Besides, if you ARE looking find me another camcorder with a full-frame chip for $2700. Find one with an APS-sized sensor for $999. That’s what makes these game changers — for thousands less than equivalent video cameras you can shoot some excellent video:

http://www.usa.canon.com/dlc/controller?act=GetArticleAct&articleID=2086

http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/

Comment from dave
Time: September 28, 2008, 11:42 am

Elliot - yep. I’ve seen the video samples and there’s no doubt about the bang for the buck / quality. But (now I look into my foggy crystal ball) the day will come when rather than a convergence, there will be a split. You’ll be able to buy video-only high-def machines which sell for the same price as the current top DSLR movie-makers.

The manufacturers put 30 fps hi-def on DSLRs because they can do it without increasing the cost. Same technology that’s already built-in for the still shots.

But when you take that technology and put it into a black box that is aimed at pro- semi-pro movie maker you can add a bunch of stuff that it just going to get in the way on a still dSLR (and force the price up).

So true - you can just ignore it for now - but according to my crystal ball - if you wait two or three years - you’ll have SONY / NIKON / CANON high-def X-RECORDERS for similar prices (or lower) than the current top dSLRS.

Comment from Elliot
Time: September 28, 2008, 3:39 pm

We’re in agreement. Video is the next big thing, now that the tech is here and essentially a free add-on and hard drive prices have plummeted (1Tb external Firewire drives for under $190), making video storage/backup affordable. Pro moviemakers will always gravitate toward focused solutions, but for everyone else, from homemakers to film school students, this beats hi-def (and its generic all-DOF all-the-time) right now, and new cameras will only build on this.

Looks like Flickr was smart to add video earlier this year….

As for “top sSLRs” — I’ll bet that this is the end of the Golden Age for these cameras. The market for top dSLRs will likely shrink, unless some superior post-Bayer technology cannot be used in video.

Photojournalists are adding video as quickly as possible (pushed by news agencies desperate for repurposable web video and additional revenue streams), wedding and event photogs similarly see the u$e of it, so do real estate/architectural photogs … the group of people, pros and amateurs, who are opposed to video or convergence devices will shrink as we saw the base of film-only photographers shrink to a fraction of what it was in 2001. And with less demand you’ll see fewer still-only DSLRs sold, less focus on them in the pro realm, and then less focus on the consumer end. (In fact, the lower end, used to cellcam video and stabilized digicam video, is ready for this in DSLRs now now now.)

So yes, higher-volume convergence cameras will realized lower production costs, and competition will keep prices down, just as we see today in digicams and dSLRs. And still-only digital, if it lives in 5 years, will be a smaller, more expensive niche. But as long as you can shoot quality still images on a video-capable camera, who cares?

To date, my M7 II negs scanned on my Coolscan 9000 give me better tonality than any DSLR I own or could afford. (Digital gives me 256 tones, my 6×7 negs yield continuous tones which I scan at 16-bits. Current DSLRs have better noise handling and dynamic ranges somewhere between negs and slides, but the subtle range of tones in a medium format neg cannot be matched. And I miss it dearly.)

But digital is much faster, ultimately cheaper, and give me more excitement in the hobby, and more flexibility. I suspect that the time will never come when a $1,000 DSLR comes into being which matches the tonality of my 6×7 negs in Rodinal, in part because the tradeoffs that add the benefits of video/sound will change the focus of the marketplace.

It reminds me a bit of audiophiles in the iPod age — most people have given up on the best sound quality in favor of the tremendous ease of use and portability of audio that’s “good enough” for most of them. And people who are growing up in the iPod age don’t even know what superior sound quality is, or why it might be desirable.

Comment from Luke
Time: September 29, 2008, 1:09 pm

To me video is irrelevant. It takes a vastly different set of skills to produce a good short, never mind a feature-length film.
Both HCB and Frank made films. They’ll be known for their photographs not their films.

The game changer in the 5D Mk II and the new Nikons is extreme high ISO shooting. On the D700, B&W ISO 12,800 shots are better than 3200 film.

As with his digital IR experiments, Dave and the 5D Mk II will be able to do some really interesting work at 12,800. I want to see what Dave does with that, not videos.

Besides, Dave can shoot and post a credible photo within an hour. I’d not want to be waiting months between videos.

Comment from dave
Time: September 29, 2008, 1:44 pm

Hey - don’t forget. I made lots of films too. (NYU Grad Film School) and beyond. And I surely won’t be remembered for any of them even though Lester appeared in some of the slapstick short films I did at school. And don’t forget, I worked on what I think was the first film by New Line: Alone in the Dark (look me up in IMDB).

Comment from Luke
Time: September 29, 2008, 3:56 pm

I’ve not forgotten your film background. :)
But how many hours of footage would you have to shoot to make a credible 15 minute short? And could you do it all on your own?

I can certainly see you playing with the video feature as your 2009 experiment, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed it won’t distract you too much from regular street work!

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