Photo: What does Barry think of the Canon EOS M?

Wow, what can I say? +Barry Blanchard is a true Gentleman. He managed to bag one of the first Canon EOS M mirror-less cameras in the country yesterday, but rather than keeping it to himself, he hot-footed it over the hill to San Jose and generously let me try it out all night!

Joined by +Ricardo Lagos and Gregg we really put the high ISO performance to the test around the bars and restaurants of Santana Row, and I'll be sharing a full gallery of sample images with you very soon - along with some sample movies - and of course our first impressions of Canon's debut mirror-less system!

But in the meantime to whet your appetitie, here's a handheld shot at 6400 ISO with the 22mm kit lens at f2. It's reduced resolution as I'm on a slow mobile connection right now, but my sample images later will all be full resolution, straight from the camera...
Photo: Two Towers, San Francisco

Columbus Avenue has long been one of my favourite streets in San Francisco. I love the way it defiantly cuts diagonally across the grid, connecting the tacky tourism of Fisherman's Wharf with the cafes and restaurants of North Beach before terminating at the Financial District, satisfyingly punctuated by the pointed tower of the Transamerica Pyramid.

The Pyramid has of course become an icon of San Francisco, appearing in countless logos and posters; it's funny to remember that, like many classic buildings, it was less than popular when first proposed. But today most of us love the Pyramid and its constant presence on the horizon when walking up Columbus Avenue away from Fisherman's Wharf.

Like all classic buildings, the Transamerica Pyramid presents a broad selection of smart views whether face-on, or tantalizing glimpses between other blocks. +Thomas Hawk  generously shared a great viewing location on Montgomery Street during a recent North Beach photowalk; you can see my take of that earlier in my stream. One of my other favourite views though captures not one, but two classic Columbus Avenue towers: the Transamerica Pyramid and the Sentinel Building.

The green Sentinel Building is on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Kearney Street and is the home of Zoetrope, the production company of Francis Ford Coppola. The whole area is steeped in modern history. Just up the road is City Lights Bookstore and Vesuvio, haunts of the original beat poets, and popular legend has it, that Coppola penned The Godfather in a nearby café.

San Francisco locals can confirm the history, but what I can tell you is the Sentinel Building and Transamerica Pyramid line-up beautifully if you stop on the corner of Columbus and Kearney and step out a meter or so onto Columbus itself. By shuffling around and crouching down you're able to pretty much position both towers as you wish. I'd like to take the credit for the composition, but of course many others have been there before me. I actually first saw it on the cover of a Lonely Planet guidebook ages ago and decided I'd try and find it in person.

Over the years I've photographed the view many times, but this shot, taken just a couple of weeks ago, is one of my most successful. It was dusk and just dark enough for the building lights to look good, while retaining the twilight blue of the sky. It's much nicer than during daytime hours. You'll need a short telephoto lens for a similar composition, and I had a great one in my bag: the Olympus 45mm f1.8, fitted onto my Panasonic GX1 Micro Four Thirds body where it delivers a 90mm equivalent field of view.

Problem was, it was getting dark. Even with the lens fully opened at f1.8, the GX1 was metering shutter speeds around 1/10 at 200 ISO. Without stabilization or a tripod, I had no choice but to gradually bump up the sensitivity until I could grab a sharp image. I ended up at 800 ISO and a shutter speed of 1/40, which I managed to handhold while leaning against a post. Ideally I'd have used a tripod and reduced the ISO for a cleaner image, while also closing the aperture to its sharpness sweetspot at around f4-5.6, but to be honest the image holds up reasonably well under close inspection - testament to the quality of that lens. Given a tripod for steadiness, I'd also have moved a little further into the road to ensure a small gap between the buildings, although it may have made them literally look a little detached.

But you have to make do with the gear and conditions you've got, which for me was a handheld snap shortly after a delicious meal of Salt and Peppar Crab at the R&G Lounge just moments away on Kearney Street. That's another SF classic and, coupled with Columbus Avenue, yet another reason why I rarely stay away from the city for very long.
Photo: Drinkin' and a-tinkerin'

One of the most common misconceptions about mirrorless cameras, and Micro Four Thirds in particular, is their inability to achieve a shallow depth of field effect. As I've hopefully illustrated here and with previous photos in my stream, this just isn't true. Sure, you may not achieve as shallow a depth of field as a larger format camera with the same equivalent focal length lens and the same f-number, but you can still enjoy some nice blurring if that's your thing. And it is my thing!

This shot was taken with the Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens, which as many of you know is one of my favourites in the Micro Four Thirds catalogue. Indeed it's a no-brainer for anyone wanting a short telephoto. Like all Micro Four Thirds lenses, the equivalent field of view is reduced by two times, so 45mm works like 90mm on a full-frame body. Unfortunately this also applies to the effective depth of field too, so f1.8 becomes equivalent to f3.6 on full-frame. So in terms of coverage and depth of field, this lens is equivalent to using a 90mm f3.6 on a full-frame camera.

But f3.6 at 90mm is still enough to achieve a shallow depth-of-field effect, especially if your subject is close to the camera - and ideally if the background is also distant. I took this shot at a bar in Las Vegas waiting for my drink to arrive. The bar had these funny little egg timers every few feet, and like most photographers who are by themselves, I started playing around with various compositions. I noticed when I focused on the egg timer that the lights at the back of the bar were rendered into nice out-of-focus circles. All I needed to do was adjust the angle until I liked their arrangement on the frame.

Well that and hold steady of course. At 160 ISO (the base of the GX1), I was metering an exposure of 1/13 at f2. What I should have done was increase the ISO to, say, 400 or even 800 ISO to ensure the shutter speed was fast enough to eliminate any camera shake. But the bravado brought on by just one previous beer made me think I could do it at 160 ISO by simply bracing the camera against a nearby napkin box.

It almost worked. The shot is almost completely sharp, but there's a small amount of motion blur if you look at 100%. It's a shame as what started as a bit of fun while I waited for my drink turned out to be one of my favourite shots later on. This proves that however many beers you drink, and however casual the shot might seem at the time, it really is worth putting in a bit more effort to be careful with your settings. A bit of noise is much better than a bit of camera shake, and this would have been a better shot had I just bumped the ISO up a couple of notches. Alternatively had I shot this with an Olympus body, I'd have enjoyed three stops of compensation with their built-in stabilization, allowing me to avoid camera shake even at 1/13. Situations like these are exactly when this capability becomes really useful, allowing you to shoot in low light with nice low ISOs without always carrying a tripod. Great for lazy photographers like me.

Now where's that drink?

cc +Olympus 
Photo: STOP! In the name of photography - take two!

I took this photo during a North Beach, San Francisco photowalk organised by +Thomas Hawk  a few weeks back, and at the time I wondered if it might look better upside-down... anyway, I posted the 'correct-way-up' version and moved on. But i've just now been browsing through my images and this version suddenly stood out at me - inevitably because the text is readable.

Which do you prefer? It's clearly upside-down, but somehow more fun. You can see the correct version earlier in my stream. or you can just turn your screen (or head) upside-down!

As for the technicalities it was taken with a Panasonic GX1 and 7-14mm at 7mm (14mm equivalent), then turned to B&W in photoshop with a boost in contrast.

PS -once again I'll admit I shamelessly plagiarised this location from +Karen Hutton !
Photo: NASA Flame Trench. Taken with Panasonic GX1 and Lumix 7-14mm at 7mm (14mm equiv)
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Gordon Laing
Public
Drinkin' and a-tinkerin'

One of the most common misconceptions about mirrorless cameras, and Micro Four Thirds in particular, is their inability to achieve a shallow depth of field effect. As I've hopefully illustrated here and with previous photos in my stream, this just isn't true. Sure, you may not achieve as shallow a depth of field as a larger format camera with the same equivalent focal length lens and the same f-number, but you can still enjoy some nice blurring if that's your thing. And it is my thing!

This shot was taken with the Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens, which as many of you know is one of my favourites in the Micro Four Thirds catalogue. Indeed it's a no-brainer for anyone wanting a short telephoto. Like all Micro Four Thirds lenses, the equivalent field of view is reduced by two times, so 45mm works like 90mm on a full-frame body. Unfortunately this also applies to the effective depth of field too, so f1.8 becomes equivalent to f3.6 on full-frame. So in terms of coverage and depth of field, this lens is equivalent to using a 90mm f3.6 on a full-frame camera.

But f3.6 at 90mm is still enough to achieve a shallow depth-of-field effect, especially if your subject is close to the camera - and ideally if the background is also distant. I took this shot at a bar in Las Vegas waiting for my drink to arrive. The bar had these funny little egg timers every few feet, and like most photographers who are by themselves, I started playing around with various compositions. I noticed when I focused on the egg timer that the lights at the back of the bar were rendered into nice out-of-focus circles. All I needed to do was adjust the angle until I liked their arrangement on the frame.

Well that and hold steady of course. At 160 ISO (the base of the GX1), I was metering an exposure of 1/13 at f2. What I should have done was increase the ISO to, say, 400 or even 800 ISO to ensure the shutter speed was fast enough to eliminate any camera shake. But the bravado brought on by just one previous beer made me think I could do it at 160 ISO by simply bracing the camera against a nearby napkin box.

It almost worked. The shot is almost completely sharp, but there's a small amount of motion blur if you look at 100%. It's a shame as what started as a bit of fun while I waited for my drink turned out to be one of my favourite shots later on. This proves that however many beers you drink, and however casual the shot might seem at the time, it really is worth putting in a bit more effort to be careful with your settings. A bit of noise is much better than a bit of camera shake, and this would have been a better shot had I just bumped the ISO up a couple of notches. Alternatively had I shot this with an Olympus body, I'd have enjoyed three stops of compensation with their built-in stabilization, allowing me to avoid camera shake even at 1/13. Situations like these are exactly when this capability becomes really useful, allowing you to shoot in low light with nice low ISOs without always carrying a tripod. Great for lazy photographers like me.

Now where's that drink?

cc +Olympus 

32 plus ones
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