The Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM lens

There are not a lot of native lenses found in the Canon EF-M series, but this is changing with a number of new offerings. There is a new 18-150mm general purpose zoom that looks pretty good.  The new lenses include a rather specialized lens, the EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM, a purpose built macro lens.

EOS M5 and 28mm f/3.5 macro lens
EOS M5 and 28mm f/3.5 macro lens

This lens is different. The lens is designed from the start to be a macro lens, not a general purpose lens that also does a little macro as a secondary feature.  There are a number of features that are quite unusual found on this macro lens.

The first, and most obvious feature is the built-in ring light, a rather useful feature in very close macro photography where light is everything. A set of bright white LEDs is arranged on the front of the lens behind a diffuser. The LED’s are powered by the camera, no separate battery is necessary.

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Shooting the Canon EOS M5

The Canon EOS M5 is the latest offering by Canon in the mirrorless form factor. Offering the same sensor and much of the performance of the mid-range DSLR’s, the mirrorless bodies are far smaller. This allows the photographer the chance to use these cameras in places a full sized DSLR would be too cumbersome.

The Canon EOS M5 and the 22mm f/2 EF-M lens
The Canon EOS-M5

I am a veteran of the original M and the M3, carrying both cameras extensively. From Nicaragua to Alaska, and around the islands, I have used these little cameras to capture some excellent images.

I had issues with the original, returning my first copy. I eventually gave the camera another chance and have learned to like the capability the cameras provide a mobile photographer. I carry the camera on the job atop the incomparable Mauna Kea, a place where you always want a camera handy!

A trio of EOS-M's, including the original M, the M3 and the M5 (left to right)
A trio of EOS-M’s

The critics have not been kind to the previous M series cameras. While they are decent cameras, offering excellent photo quality, they have lagged behind the competition, particularly the Sony mirrorless, on the features.

The M5 marks a change in this, several reviews from the key sites note that M5 performance and features places it among the best on the market in terms of features and cost. The comment echoed by several critics… This is the camera Canon should have built to start with.

Yeah… I wanted one.

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Canon EOS-M3 Review

Despite a rough introduction the Canon EOS-M series is developing into a solid product offering. And it was a rough start, the first model with the first software version was so bad I sent the first camera I ordered back in frustration and disappointment.

Canon EOS-M3
The Canon EOS-M3 with the 18-55mm EOS-M lens

In time, and after receiving a withering round of criticism, Canon fixed some of the most striking deficiencies in the original EOS-M, in particular the sluggish and erratic focusing. With the fixes in place, and steep price discounts, I gave the camera another try. I have gradually come to like this little camera. The photo quality is quite good, the EOS-M lenses are nice and sharp, and the touch screen a very usable feature I have often missed in my full size DLSR’s.

After a couple years of shooting with the EOS-M I decided to order the EOS-M3, the latest offering in the product line. For reasons a mystery outside Canon the camera was originally not released in the US, available in Japan since early 2015. Only in the last month has news come that the camera will become available for order here in the US. Not willing to wait, and the start of an adventure looming on the calendar I ordered a Japanese version on eBay. No issue, there are YouTube videos that explain how to navigate the kanji menus and set the language to English. Thus my fun with a new camera began.

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Street Photography with the Canon EOS-M3

Packing the camera for a trip always presents a set of vexing decisions for a photographer. What do you plan on shooting? What gear will be needed? This particular trip would be to a place I have never been and would present a range of unique photo opportunities. Nicaragua for the first time!

Cobbler
A cobbler practices his trade in the Boaco market

While I had never visited Nicaragua I had been in Mexico many times, I expected the photographic situation to be much the same, an expectation that was not disappointed. Each town in Latin America may be unique, but at at the same time looks much the same as the last. The character of these towns offers varied photo opportunities. Best of all to my thinking… Many towns feature markets, a sampling of the people and goods unique to the region, a condensation of the local culture in one convenient place.

Thus I chose my gear uncompromisingly for street photography. Leaving the big DSLRs and lenses at home I loaded two EOS-M bodies. I have one original model and one of the new M3’s purchased just before the start of the trip. These two cameras would take very little room in the luggage and offer a good range of capability. Traveling with only a single backpack meant space was at a premium. The primary lens would be the 18-55mm to allow a good general purpose walkabout capability.

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A New Camera – The Canon 6D

What to do when you get a check from selling some time-lapse footage? Go out and buy another camera, of course. Just a case of using hobby income to support the hobby. The curious coincidence of the check arrival and a very nice package deal at B&H Photo helped in the process.

Rasalhague
Rasalhague mugging for the camera. Canon 6D and 50mm f/1.8 lens
The new camera is a Canon 6D, my first full-frame digital camera. I have been considering the purchase for quite a while, basically since the camera was first announced just over a year ago.

The real attraction to me is the low noise performance of the full frame sensor. This is critical when shooting in the dark for nightscapes and for astrophotography. The camera is currently one of the best on the market, beating out the more expensive Canon 5D MkII and MkIII’s. I am looking forward to what this camera can do when mounted to a telescope or paired with a fast lens in the dark.

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Shooting Film Again

Photography was not always a process of pixels, megabytes, SD cards and Photoshop. Once it was chemicals, paper, darkrooms and something called film. I learned to shoot in another age, when every shot counted, there were only 24 or 36 frames available. When it was a week or at least a few days before you knew if the shot worked.

Marble Grotto
The stream flowing into marble Grotto makes a tempting target for a medium format film camera, photo by Randy Zelick
I still have a few relics of those days, cameras kept for the memories they carry. Traveling through Europe or the Desert Southwest, capturing images on celluloid and silver. Several experiences over the last couple months have served to remind me of those days… Walking into a camera store in Portland, a store that is as much a museum to the era of film, shelves filled with beautiful machines from the past. Watching Randy load roll film into a classic Pentax 6×7 on a glacier in Alaska, hearing the soft click of that mechanical masterpiece. Reading blog posts from a friend on Oahu about his adventures in film.

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