Neptune Photo Newsletter
March 2017 Volume 62
by Steve Zimic
Getting Sharp Images
Back in the latter part of the last century - boy that makes me feel old - I had a discussion with the late Galen Rowell regarding image quality. This all came about when I queried him about why he used a tripod in the middle of the day when there was plenty of light. Besides the benefit of helping to lock down the composition, he explained that when hand holding the camera, even at shutter speeds of around 1/125 second, the mirror movement - AKA mirror slap - created enough movement in the camera to cause a slight loss of sharpness in the image. I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not this loss of sharpness was significant, so I ran tests with my trusty Nikon F3 loaded with Kodachrome 25 using several lenses both on and off my tripod. Sure enough, upon examining the slides there was a noticeable difference even at shutter speeds normally deemed safe when hand holding your camera, i.e. 1/125 sec with a 24mm lens.
Manufacturers have made significant strides in reducing mirror slap in DSLR's, and mirrorless cameras obviously won't suffer from this problem - right? Wrong. Modern interchangeable lens digital cameras are capable of resolving much more detail than even the finest 35mm film. As a result, the slightest shock delivered at the moment you activate the shutter can cause a significant degradation in image quality, and image stabilization does nothing to correct the problem. Worse yet is that this problem most often occurs with the most commonly used shutter speeds of 1/30-1/250 sec. Even mirrorless cameras or DSLR's in live view have this problem due to the shutter first having to close, followed by the shutter then opening and closing to create the exposure. This problem caused by the initial closing of the shutter has been commonly described as 'shutter shock' and you'll find many on-line discussions, regardless of the camera brand. Fortunately, many cameras now have a setting called "anti-shock" or "exposure delay" mode. Engaging this mode will delay the exposure by either a fixed, or user variable amount of time, any of which will be enough time for the dreaded shock to have dissipated. Usually this time is so short that you will barely notice a difference when shooting, however it still may be enough of a delay to miss a fleeting moment.
So what does one do if you choose not to use this exposure delay feature or worse yet, don't have it available on your camera? Much the way a heavy car will ride smoother over a rough road than a lighter car, adding weight to your camera will eliminate or significantly reduce those troublesome vibrations. The most effective and often least expensive solution is to use a sturdy tripod which is the choice of most pros, as I discovered during my conversation with Galen. You can even hand hold the tripod mounted camera and get the same benefit because it's the added weight that's making the difference. When I was testing to see what the easiest solution would be for one of my Olympus cameras I found that just securely attaching a 1/2 pound ball head completely eliminated the problem. Understandably many of you may not find either of those two solutions very convenient, so another solution would be to add a battery grip to your camera which is available for almost every camera made. Personally I found this option the most convenient, plus it makes the camera more comfortable to hold and adds the extra battery. Of course you could just avoid shutter speeds between 1/30 and 1/250 sec but for most of us that's not a very practical solution either..
So whether you're using a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, if you've ever had an unexplained loss in image quality you may want to try that same lens and camera setting, both with and without a bit of additional weight on the camera and check your results. I find it rather amusing that the camera companies have given us exactly what we all clamored for, lighter weight cameras with more resolution, which in turn has created a new set of problems, solved simply by putting the weight back on the camera.
Canon M6 Mirrorless
It looks like Canon is once again taking the mirrorless market a bit more seriously, now offering a camera almost identical to the M5 at a slightly lower price. Spec wise the camera is identical to the M5 including 5 axis image stablization and a 24MP image sensor. They've removed the built in viewfinder but have included the tilting LCD which now tilts both up enough for those all important selfies, and down for overhead shots. The flash has been changed to the pop-up type and off to the side compared to the one on the M5 over the viewfinder. This change required the mode selector to be moved more conveniently to the grip side of the camera. The camera is expected to be available by the end of this month at $780 which is around $200 less than the M5. If you add the optional non-tilting electronic viewfinder for $249 - shown below - you'll basically have an M5 with a bit more versatility.
Why Canon named a lower priced camera with a higher number is not logical in my opinion. What is logical however is allowing folks to enter the mirrorless market at a lower price. And if you're a current Canon DSLR user you get full functionality of EF lenses with an adapter. Read more on the Canon website.
Canon 7Ti and 77D
Despite consistently declining DSLR sales, Canon has added 2 more bodies bringing the total number of DSLR cameras on their website to 15, although some are just older models. Both these newest models use identical 24MP image sensors and Digix 7 processor. Spec, size and weight wise the cameras are almost identical with the 77D weighing a mere 8 grams more. The 77D adds an LCD panel atop the camera, an eye sensor, AF on button and a few more customizable options when you dive into the menu. The 7Ti basically refreshes the 6Ti with a faster processor, slight increase in frame rate and will invariably replace the older model, while the 77D is a new niche lying between the Rebel lineup and the 80D. The cameras will be available in April at $749 for the 7Ti and $899 for the 77D, body only. You can compare the two cameras side by side on Canon's website.
Canon EOS 1D X MK II - version 1.1.3 - Increases the maximum allowable shutter actuations that can be displayed, improves reliability of the USB connection, and corrects the problem of the drive mode not being displayed properly when using custom modes.
Panasonic Lumix G80/81/85 and GX80/85 - version 1.2 - eliminates IS noise when in standby mode and reduces IS noise when shooting video. The G80/81/85 cameras gains Dual IS 2 for use with the Panasonic 100-400 IS lens.
Leica M10 - version 184.108.40.206 - Shortens the LCD blackout time between shots, allows the optional Visoflex EFV to automatically review images, plus delivers faster menu navigation.