One of the Beauties of Cameras

There are many beautiful things about cameras and photography, but one of the best aspects of cameras and photography in general is accessibility. Anyone can take beautiful photos and you do not need a whole lot of money to do it if you have a broad vision of what you want.

Many people chase the newest gadget, the highest mega-pixels, the best new features; the truth is you don’t really need the best to capture beauty, you just need the camera to be able to go as far as your vision does and the practice to capture that vision. There is no reason a camera that took beautiful scenery photos that graced posters and prints 50 years ago cannot do so now. Are those old photos that Ansel Adams took any less beautiful because they were taken on an old analogue film camera, or are the photos of women that Helmut Newton captured any less striking? Who would challenge the romance of “Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville” by Robert Doisneau for its lack of fine detail? The truth is that although having a new advanced camera adds more options to your photographic tool belt those features are not your most important tool.

Your eyes and the way you see the world are your base and your ability to capture and express that vision to others with your lens are your photographic expression. I have used everything from toy film cameras to my current Canon EOS 5D MK II and I have had photos I liked out of all of them. There are different things about the photos I like, and for some subjects different cameras gave an effect closer to what I wanted to portray without post-processing (Photoshop and Aperture are a whole different blog). Would I want to give up my 5D MKII and go back to a film camera full time? No, it gives me huge flexibility in what I can do and I can see no advantage to that other than forcing me to pay a bit more attention to the moment when shooting. But would I say that I would not take anymore photos if I did not have my 5D MKII or that everyone needs a camera like that to take photos? No, everyone who wants to capture moments and show others the way they see the world should not limit themselves or give up due to the equipment.

Find a camera that suits your personality or your budget. If you are just learning about SLR’s (Single Lens Reflex) then any modern DSLR or pretty much any decent quality film SLR will allow you to explore your creative vision and produce beautiful images. I have stressed a modern DSLR as older DSLR’s tended to have less satisfactory results that comparable film SLR’s and I would prefer a classic film SLR to a 5 year old consumer DSLR. Learn about Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Autofocus is wonderful and useful, but play with manual focus just to get a feel for it and better learn how to get what you want out of your AF. Play with light and shadow, Depth Of Field and exposure. Add skills to your tool belt as they will benefit you no matter the hardware you use.

Simply enjoy looking at the world in a unique way and others will see that in your images.

My Canon EOS 5D Mark II: 2.5 Years and Counting

Canon5dmk2First of all, let me say that I love my 5D Mark II and have since the first day I got it. I was fortunate to be able to pre-order one here in Japan and get my hands on the first batch out of the factory (which I have been to on one occasion.) It is the successor to my 5D which is still working nicely, and at this point has seen less action than its successor. Being a 21.1 MP full-frame digital CMOS camera using the Digic 4 system the images are as accurate in more light conditions than most other cameras, and when paired with a good lens produce amazing detail. For the types of photography I enjoy the most (casual snaps, portraits, natural/low light, and scenery) it is hard to beat the 5D Mark II with its full frame 35mm equivalent sensor and durable design. Other than some dust on the focus overlay that I am pretty sure snuck in a few months after purchasing it while using a non-L lens and has yet to be cleaned out it is still in perfect working order and condition.

In an unusual move for a camera maker Canon has been consistently updating the firmware for the 5D Mark II, even going so far as to add features (more options for HD video recording) and keep it pretty much in line with more recent additions like the 7D. Although I do not shoot as much video as I would like too, I have used the upgraded features and found them to make the shooting experience even nicer. Having pretty much manual control over the video settings including aperture and speed is a pretty nice feature for creative shooting. It is not surprising that it has been long regarded as one of the best choices for photo and video students alike.

Not everything if perfect and rosy, though. There are two things that hold the 5D Mark II back from being the ultimate non-full size prosumer available, and they are fairly big things for some people. The focus system is rather antiquated and has not really improved since the original 5D. To be honest, I preferred the focus system on my EOS 3 film camera to my current 5D Mark II. I also find that the metering system in combination with the exposure compensation custom settings can cause some bad results in quite a few situations. Luckily, the latter can be worked through by dialing down the custom functions and actually paying attention to what I shoot.

Overall, two-and-half years in and many miles later, I still believe that the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is the best prosumer camera out there, and would recommend it to anyone with the desire to shoot in full-frame and the means to buy it!

I have posted the full specs below just for those who like to check out such things:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Specifications (taken from the Canon website)
Digital, single-lens reflex, AF/AE camera

Recording Media
CF Card Type I and II, UDMA-compliant CF cards, via external media (USBv.2.0 hard drive, via optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E4A)

Image Format
36.0mm x 24.0mm (35mm Full-frame)

Compatible Lenses
Canon EF lenses

Lens Mount
Canon EF mount

Image Sensor

High-sensitivity, high-resolution, large single-plate CMOS sensor

Effective pixels: Approx. 21.1 megapixels

Total Pixels
Total pixels: Approx. 22.0 megapixels

Aspect Ratio
3:2 (Horizontal: Vertical)

Color Filter System
RGB primary color filters

Low Pass Filter
Fixed position in front of the CMOS sensor

Dust Deletion Feature
(1) Automatic sensor cleaning
(2) Manual cleaning of sensor
(3) Dust Delete Data appended to the captured image

Recording System

Recording Format
Design rule for Camera File System 2.0

Image Format
Still: JPEG, RAW (14-bit, Canon original), sRAW1, sRAW2, RAW+JPEG
Video: MOV

File Size
(1) Large/Fine: Approx. 6.1MB (5616 x 3744 pixels)
(2) Large/Nomal: Approx. 3.0MB (5616 x 3744 pixels)
(3) Medium/Fine: Approx. 3.6MB (4080 x 2720 pixels)
(4) Medium/Normal: Approx. 1.9MB (4080 x 2720 pixels)
(5) Small/Fine: Approx. 2.1MB (2784 x 1856 pixels)
(6) Small/Normal: Approx. 1.0MB (2784 x 1856 pixels)
(7) RAW: Approx. 25.8MB (5616 x 3744 pixels)
(8) sRAW 1: Approx. 14.8MB (3861 x 2574 pixels)
(9) sRAW 2: Approx. 10.8MB (2784 x 1856 pixels)
Exact file sizes depend on the subject, ISO speed, Picture Style, etc.

Recording Functions
With the WFT-E4A attached, image recording to the CF card and to the USB external media connected to the WFT-E4A will be possible as follows:
(1) Standard
(2) Automatic switching of recording media
(3) Separate recordings according to image-recording quality
(4) Recording images having the same size

Backup Recording
Enabled with WFT-E4A attached

File Numbering
Consecutive numbering, auto reset, manual reset.
Possible to create new folders and select folders in the CF card

RAW + JPEG Simultaneous Recording
Provided (RAW/sRAW+JPEG also possible)

Color Space
sRGB, Adobe RGB

Picture Style
Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Def. 1-3

White Balance

Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten Light, White Fluorescent Light, Flash, Custom, Color Temperature setting

Auto White Balance
Auto white balance with the image sensor

Color Temperature Compensation
White balance correction: ±9 stops in full-stop increments
White balance bracketing: ±3 stops in full-stop increments
Blue/amber direction or magenta/green direction possible

Color Temperature Information Transmission


Eye-level pentaprism

Vertical/Horizontal approx. 98%

Approx. 0.71x (-1m-1 with 50mm lens at infinity)

Eye Point
Approx. 21mm (from eyepiece lens center)

Dioptric Adjustment Correction
-3.0 to +1.0m-1 (diopter)

Focusing Screen
Interchangeable (Eg-D: Grid lines, Eg-S [point of Focus], Eg-A standard focusing screen provided

Quick-return half mirror (transmission: reflection ratio of 40:60, no mirror cutoffwith EF600mm f/4L IS USM or shorter lenses)

Viewfinder Information
AF information (AF points, focus confirmation light), Exposure information(shutter speed, aperture, ISO speed, AE lock, exposure level, spot meteringcircle), Flash information (flash ready, flash exposure compensation, High-speedsync, FE lock), Image information (Highlight tone priority, monochromeshooting, maximum burst, white balance correction, CF card information),battery information

Depth Of Field Preview
Enabled with depth-of-field preview button


TTL-CT-SIR AF-dedicated CMOS sensor

AF Points
9 AF Points (1 Cross Type) + 6 AF Assist Points

AF Working Range
EV -0.5-18 (at 73°F/23°C, ISO 100)

Focusing Modes
Auto, One-Shot AF, Predictive AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF, Manual focusing (MF)

AF Point Selection
Automatic selection, manual selection

Selected AF Point Display
Superimposed in viewfinder and indicated on LCD panel

AF Assist Beam
When an external EOS-dedicated Speedlite is attached to the camera, the AF-assist beam from the Speedlite will be emitted when necessary.

Exposure Control

Metering Modes
35-zone TTL full-aperture metering

Evaluative metering (linkable to any AF point)
Partial metering (approx. 8% of viewfinder at center)
Spot metering (approx. 3.5% of viewfinder at center)
Center-weighted average metering
Metering Range
EV 1-20 (at 73°F/23°C with EF50mm f/1.4 USM lens, ISO 100)

ISO Speed Range
ISO 100-6400 (in 1/3-stop or 1-stop increments)
ISO 100-3200 set automatically
Extension settable (with C.Fn.I-3-1): ISO 50 (L), 12800 (H1), 25600 (H2)
High Tone Priority settable: ISO 200-6400

Exposure Compensation
Manual: ±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments (can be combined with AEB)

AE Lock
Auto: Applied in One-Shot AF mode with evaluative metering when focus isachieved
Manual: By AE lock button


Vertical-travel, mechanical, Electronically-controlled, focal-plane shutter 1/8000 to 1/60 sec., X-sync at 1/200 sec.
1/8000 to 30 sec., bulb (Total shutter speed range. Available range varies by shooting mode) Soft-touch electromagnetic release 10-sec. or 2-sec. delay Remote control with N3-type terminal. (Wireless remote controller RC-1/RC-5 can also be used.)

Vertical-travel, mechanical, Electronically-controlled, focal-plane shutter

Shutter Speeds
1/8000 to 1/60 sec., X-sync at 1/200 sec.
1/8000 to 30 sec., bulb (Total shutter speed range. Available range varies by shooting mode)

Shutter Release
Soft-touch electromagnetic release

Self Timer
10-sec. or 2-sec. delay

Remote Control
Remote control with N3-type terminal. (Wireless remote controller RC-1/RC-5 can also be used.)

External Speedlite

Zooming to Match Focal Length

Flash Metering
E-TTL II autoflash

Flash Exposure Compensation
±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments

FE Lock

External Flash Settings
Flash function settings, Flash C.Fn settings

Drive System

Drive Modes
Single, Continuous, and Self-timer (10-sec. or 2-sec. delay)

Continuous Shooting Speed
Max. 3.9 shots/sec.

Maximum Burst
JPEG (Large/Fine): approx. 78 (CF)/approx. 310 (UDMA CF)
RAW: approx. 13/approx. 14 (UDMA CF)
RAW+JPEG (Large/Fine): approx. 8 (CF/UDMA CF)
Based on Canon’s testing standards with a 2GB CF card, continuous shooting, ISO 100 and Standard Picture Style
Varies depending on the subject, CF card brand, image-recording quality,ISO speed, drive mode, Picture Style, etc.

Live View Functions

Shooting Modes
Still photo shooting and video shooting

Quick mode (Phase-difference detection)
Live mode/Face Detection Live mode (Contrast detection)
Manual focusing (5x/10x magnification possible)

Metering Modes
Evaluative metering with the image sensor (still photos)
Center-weighted average metering (video)

Metering Range
EV 0-20 (at 73°F/23°C with EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, ISO 100)

Grid Display
Provided (Two-type grid displays)

Exposure Simulation

Silent Shooting
Provided (Mode 1 and 2)

LCD Monitor

TFT color, liquid-crystal monitor

Monitor Size
3.0 in.

Approx. 920,000 (VGA)

Approx. 100% (viewing angle: approx. 170°)

Brightness Control
Auto, 7 levels provided

Interface Languages
25 (English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Portuguese, Finnish, Italian,Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Greek, Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Ukraine, Turkish, Arabic, Thai, Simplified/Traditional Chinese,Korean, Japanese)


Display Format
Single image, Single image + Image-recording quality/shooting information,histogram, 4- or 9-image index, magnified view (approx. 1.5x-10x), rotatedimage (auto/manual), image jump (by 10/100 images, index screen, byshooting date, by folder), slide show (all images/selected by date/folder)

Highlight Alert
Provided (Overexposed highlights blink)

Image Protection and Erase

Single images can be erase-protected or not

Single image, check-marked images or all images in the CF card can be erased (except protected images)

Direct Printing

Compatible Printers
PictBridge-compatible printers

Printable Images
JPEG images compliant to Design rule for Camera File System (DPOF printing possible) and RAW/sRAW images captured with the EOS 5D Mark II

Easy Print feature

DPOF: Digital Print Order Format

Version 1.1 compatible

Direct Image Transfer

Compatible Images
JPEG and RAW images
Only JPEG images can be transferred as wallpaper on the personal computer screen


Custom Functions
Total 25

Camera User Settings
Register under Mode Dial’s C1, C2 and C3 positions

My Menu Registration

Power Source

One Battery Pack LP-E6
AC power can be supplied via AC Adapter Kit ACK-E6 with Battery Grip BG-E6 attached.

Battery Check

Power Saving
Provided. Power turns off after 1, 2, 4, 8, 15 or 30 min.

Date/Time Battery
One CR1616 lithium-ion battery

Start-up Time
Approx. 0.1 sec.

Dimensions and Weight

Dimensions (W x H x D)
Approx. 6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 in./152.0 x 113.5 x 75.0mm

Approx. 28.6 oz./810g (body only)

Operating Environment

Working Temperature Range

Working Humidity Range
85% or less

Greenery Day (みどりの日)

Today is a national holiday in Japan called Greenery Day (みどりの日). For a few years now it has fallen on May 4th, but it used to be celebrated on April 29th. It was once associated with the Showa Emperor but has since been commuted to a holiday celebrating nature and life. It is a nice way to recognize the Showa Emperor in a form that celebrates something he was known for enjoying while avoided certain political aspect of the Showa Era.

Personally, I think the best part of Greenery Day is the free access to my favourite park in Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑). This year my friend Nori and I wandered around and shot some photos with several thousand other people.

Today is also notable as it is the first festival or holiday so far since the disaster in Tohoku that seems to have felt normal to most people. People are finally starting to relax a bit here in Tokyo.

Please enjoy some of my photos from the shoot!

This Year’s Hanami Season

Every year I have been in Japan I have gone out to take some photos of the cherry blossoms in the spring and do a bit of hanami (flower watching). This year the blossoms weren’t quite as nice as usual. Whether it is due to the weather or to the somber mood I am not sure, but they were just not as appealing as usual. That being said, I still got out and shot some nice photos this season. Enjoy!

Shooting Winter Photos in Shinjuku Gyoen

Over the weekend, I went to one of my favorite spots in Tokyo to wander and shoot photos. Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑) is one of the nicer parks in Tokyo and is a good place to see the seasons as well as grab interesting snaps. Famous for its cherry blossoms in the spring and turning leaves in the fall it can get very busy at those times making it virtually impossible to take any wide shots without including at least a few other photographers. Luckily, the park is relatively barren and cold during the winter and is generally underappreciated.

This time I went out with my friend Nori near closing time at the park and we got to wander and shoot a bit. It was quite interesting in the park with the sun dropping creating long shadows and the dry grass to take on a very deep yellow. I would recommend it to anyone who is in Tokyo this winter and wants to get away from the crowds and just shoot.

Sunrise: Easier in the Fall

Sunrise can be one of the best times to grab a camera and get warm shots with rich colours and nice contrast, but for a lot of the year sunrise is just too early. Not so in November. This time of year, before daylight savings changes things, sunrise is close to 8 am. That definitely makes it easier to get up, get ready and head out to my favorite photo spots. The main issue with this time of year is that it tends to be rainy overnight and first thing in the morning, but when the sun does decide to shine it is beautiful. I don’t think there is a better time of year for morning shots. It also helps to be living in such a picturesque city.