I hate the Canon 5D Mark II.  I hated mine copy so much I sold mine within weeks of purchasing it.  Not because it busted while on assignment in Nara, Japan.  Not because it didn’t make some amazing shots because it did.  I hated it because of the handling.  I hated the feel of the body.  I hated the focus points.  I really hated the focal points.  But in reality, I hated it because to me, it wasn’t a 1D series camera.  I purchased it as a back up to my full frame Canon 1Ds Mark II body.  Canon’s 1Ds Mark III body didn’t match up to my expectations and I figured why bother doing an expensive upgrade when the gains were so little.  But I sadly found the 5D was a fancy toy that non professionals used, not something serious pros would consider as a primary camera. (Just another GWC uttered in disgust as a wannabe wandered over to work next to us with a 5D.)

Yet, 5Ds were flying off the rental shelves at Hawaii Photo Rental.  Major photographers were using the camera to make amazing stuff.  TV shows and movies were being made with it.  I made a timeless shot in Kyoto with the camera.  The 5D Mark II can take some pretty amazing pictures and videos!

Maiko in Kyoto, Japan with a 5D MII

I know so many people who use it as their primary and love it.  There are thousands of photographers and cinematographers who use it and do amazing work with it. But for me, a rough-and-tumble kinda photographer who uses a t-shirt to clean his lenses, the 5D Mark II is and was a toy.  Mind you, so many pros, from White House photographers to travel-in-the-jungle photogs use and love it.

I didn’t.

Low and behold, Canon released the new Canon 5D Mark III with some major improvements.  As I’m faced with upgrading my 1Ds Mark II (this is a whole different story…the Mark II is amazing…at times it feels like there is enough flaws within technology that its like shooting film…you get organic-ism, not perfect-ism.)

So thanks to Josh and the crew at Hawaii Photo Rental, I had the chance to test drive and review the new Canon 5D Mark III for the shop. What made it more exciting was I was going to lunch with two amazing photogs, Eugene Tanner, AP and commercial guy, and Jamm Aquino, full time bad ass staffer at the Star Advertiser.  I pitched my review idea to Josh and he liked the idea that he’d here from three professional opinions on the newest Canon camera.

I picked it up from Austin and Natalie (and Christine) at Hawaii Photo Rental and immediately, I felt the camera was built a thousand times better than the 5D Mark II.  Natalie quickly pointed out how the flash card door was now lined with a piece of “leather” making it harder for the card door to slip open.  She, and Austin, noted the seals, feel, and design of the body stating Canon must have listened to pros and made major improvements.  The selection dial on the left of the body now has a lock to keep your settings in place.  That feature alone was one of the better and noticeable upgrades that can make it a winner.  The menus were updated and a bit complicated with numerous upgrades and features.

We rattled off the motor drive and it was fast for a prosumer camera.  Its about 4.5 frames a second?  Plenty of time to do moderate action.  But the greatest thing about the camera as the increased focus points.

The 61 focus points ROCKED.

Oh what joy to see a camera where you can actually find focal points throughout the frame.  The ability to move your focal points to almost any part of the camera gives the camera a major improvement in handling.  This was the main Achilles tendon of the camera for me…along with it just feeling like a toy.  The Mark II always reminded me of my first Canon digital camera, the 10D.  Just a prosumer camera off the shelf.

So I walked out with the camera and went to meet Jamm and Tanner for lunch over at Murphy’s Bar and Grill in downtown HNL.  We were having a late birthday lunch for Eugene but it was a celebration none the less as it was good cheer around.  We passed the camera around and all took pictures and made pro comments on the feel, style, and responsiveness of the Mark III…all over burgers, fish and chips, and a few adult beverages.

Kramer by Tanner.

Jamm, being a bit snobby in the use of in his gear, said immediately it was a GWC camera but after playing with it for a few minutes, he changed his tune.  I think all three of us are snobs with gear as we rely so much on our cameras to give us 110% all the time that its hard for us to “trust” a prosumer camera.  But again, we were quickly proved wrong.

The handling, structure and feel of the camera was reasonably good and beyond our expectations.  Eugene liked the fact the Mark III could easily fill the void a Canon Mark IV’ cropped sensor lacked.   But as we started to feel out the camera further, we three quickly noted several shortcomings and issues…all in reference to professional standards, conditions, and situations.  Immediately we all said the response was good but was it good enough, rather quick enough?  I stuck my Canon 35mm f1.4 lens on the body and took it for a spin down Ft. Street Mall.  I immediately felt it wasn’t responsive as a professional body.  Both Jamm and Tanner said roughly the same thing.  It doesn’t fire when you want it to.  Jamm pointed out it was probably a custom feature but we just felt it didn’t snap when you snapped.  Those instances when the decisive moment appears, you need a camera that will do what you tell it to do.

Knocked kneed on Fort St. with the Mark III

Now, we really only had this new tool for a short time and can’t really speak with any major authority about the camera and its functions but the responsiveness was noticeable.  So it could have been the custom function in the menu.  Knocked kneed was out of focus.  I aimed, fired, and the camera didn’t catch it.  There are so many quirks that we are not accounting for (my lens being out of tune, the camera settings, my lack of precision to catch the focus properly…there are numerous things to ask before I judge this scenario) but I would have expected some reasonable sharpness on the girl.  Who knows.  On the elevator in my building, I tried to sneak a few frames of one of the maintenance girls in our building and shoved the camera in her face.  Wouldn’t fire.  Nada.  Again, I have to refer back to Jamm and the custom functions in the menu but alas, no book and no time to fuss with buttons.  I feel strongly that if you gotta mess too much with the menus, etc…then you can’t take a picture.  Fire away and deal with the after mass later.

Lunchtime Stella

The one noticeable and wonderful feature was the lack of noise in high iso.  25600 is ABSOLUTELY useable.  Why you, the average user, would need to hit this high is beyond me but its absolutely useable.  Butter as some would say…silky smooth as butter.  The above shot of the lunchtime Stella was shot at 2000 iso.  Clean.  Amazingly clean.  Like shooting at 640 0r 800 iso on an older body.  Just simply amazing a prosumer body is capturing files like this.

Padded elevator rising to 32nd at 2500 iso with the Mark III.

Now the issues we all agreed upon was the focusing and the buffer were not 1D series standards.  Does that matter?  Should any of our shortcoming decision force you to spend $6700 over $3500 for a little bit faster focus and longer buffer (think renting for at least $150/day versus doing a three day rental from Hawaii Photo Rental at $185)?  I think not.  Most of you who have been renting from Hawaii Photo Rental have probably used a 5D Mark II and know its a fantastic camera.  Whatever short coming I (we) found or you might have figured out shouldn’t discount it.  Now with the new Canon 5D Mark III, the game shifts drastically and you can now rent a semi pro camera that works as close as to a professional 1D standard as you can get.

Deep thoughts with Tanner by Jamm and a Mark IV.

In reality, the 5D Mark III is a super camera.  The fantasy world we live in in reference to long buffers, etc…also reflect a world where we sometimes don’t live.  90% of what I shoot could be done with an iPhone.  The camera, priced a little too high (a strong demand and possibly a lack of production due to tsunami damaged factories or last year’s Thailand flooding) but it is a camera well worth its weight.  To rent it is to see where you stand with it.  Jamm, Eugene, and I all felt it was a superb camera but lacked just a little bit to make it a professional grade body.  Now does it matter as I stated above?  To 99% of you GWCs who are going to use it to shoot your dog, family or friends, absolutely not.  To those of you who will rent to shoot a wedding or paid job?  Absolutely not (maybe if you are picky) but no way if you’ve done well shooting with a 5D Mark II.  For a picky pro, its a great tool and if you are a pro you will have to know your limitations like anything.  If you are shooting a sporting event and your timing and focus mean the difference between a paycheck or going home empty handed, you’ll have to know your limitations with the tool.  And again, its a tool.  You can’t shoot an elephant with a bb gun, but how often do you get the chance to shoot an elephant?  The high ISO range expands your horizons drastically.  You can literally shoot in the dark now with little notice.  I find that option fantastic.  What a great new tool.

To note, I didn’t process any of the raw files as my version of Photoshop isn’t upgraded to open the new Mark III files and I couldn’t be bothered to deal with downloading it at this moment.  But the damn jpgs files are so damn good, its almost as if you don’t even need to shoot raw.  The files are amazing.  This is a superb camera and well worth renting from Hawaii Photo Rental.

We three photographers did not do any technical testing.  This is just talk over beer (and a whiskey) over the use of cameras, handling, and whatnot.

I highly recommend renting this fantastic camera from Hawaii Photo Rental.  Its a really, really nice camera and its a huge improvement over the Mark II.  Well worth the rental fees.


M9 nuptials…I do…or maybe not?

M9 nuptials...I do...or maybe not?

A colleague and friend here in Hawaii invited me to her wedding and, of course, the big question loomed…”Can you bring your camera and snap a photo of us?”

Sure!  Audrey is a close colleague and we’ve done plenty for each.  I was planning to attend her wedding to her fiancée, Mike, anyway so to bring a camera isn’t much of a stretch as it keeps me occupied.  There is nothing more annoying than to sit still through an event all the while wiggling my toes, itching for something to kill the voices in my head and quell the restlessness.  Why not just view it all through the port of a camera and document it as it goes down?  Sounds crazy, no?

So thanks to Josh at Hawaii Photo Rental, I took out his new Leica M9 digital camera along with a brand spanking, and rare, 21mm F1.45 Summilux lens he currently rents out of his shop here in Oahu and Maui.  As many of my past posts have dealt with Leica and shooting film, this would be my first time to shoot a digital Leica in a “work setting” and see how the results turn out.

Shooting with a 21mm lens might not be the ideal choice for general photography but I made it a point to really capture the “big picture.”  Maybe I should rephrase that and say capturing the big and

W   –   I   –  D   –   E

picture as this lens really stretches the view beyond what is really expected.  I’m used to shooting wide lenses but there was something uniquely different with the 21mm.  My “never take off” lens on my Canons is the Canon 24-70 F2.8 lens.  So the 21mm stretch isn’t all that much more but its enough to keep me on my toes and forced me to compose differently.  But what I found strange about shooting such a wide lens is that you don’t really see any distortion since the Leica is a rangefinder, not a SLR.  You don’t exactly see all you are going to get and the rangefinder framelines are much different.

Hence, Hawaii Photo Rental also rents out the hot shoe 21mm viewfinder that takes a bit of getting used to as you have to focus through the lens then more or less compose with the view finder; two steps that takes a bit of getting used to, especially if you are shooting at a shallow depth of field.  Using the external view finder did become a bit bothersome as I am a compose, focus, and shoot type of photographer (or a combination of the two, maybe even all three put together) that I found myself being bothered by the additional step.  However, it did help me see that I was cutting off feet, and missing things that I normally wouldn’t have seen, considering the 21mm extend beyond the M9 frame lines.


The one noticeable difference the lack of strong distortion on the corners with the Leica 21mm versus the Canon 24-70.  Sure there was slight bending at the ends but it was much more tolerable to me than the distortion from a 24-70 on a full frame Canon body.  Also, since the 21mm Summilux is a bright F1.4 lens, a noticeable vignette is apparent wide open and it is pleasingly so.  The Hipstamatic app on the iPhone has a pre-programmed vignette so I don’t see how the flawed (yet perfect) optics of shooting at 1.4 on the Summilux is a bad thing.  The darkness at the corners is limited though yet its quite nice as it naturally aligns the eyes to the center of the photo.

At the shop when I picked up the camera and lens, Josh did suggest I take his new 28mm F2 Summicron lens along with the Summilux but figured the difference in the focal length can be compensated.  Little did I know those 7 degrees of separation would make that much of a difference!


It was my first time to shoot “a job” with the Leica M9 and I was surprised at the handling of the camera along with the files and images themselves.   I won’t review the camera other than to write the camera surpassed what I expected.  It is surely the Mercedes of the camera world.  Lexus makes a superb car mind you but its just not German engineering.

The Leica is not a Canon or Nikon DSLR so don’t expect the camera to respond, handle or create images like they do.  It is not going to auto-focus, shoot 30 frames in two seconds, or correct your mistakes when you put it on auto.  In many ways, the Leica is as stupid as you.  Whatever you don’t know, the camera won’t solve it for you.  So if you are don’t know what the hell you are doing, don’t use it.

Hence, before you run out and rent one at Hawaii Photo Rental, remember, it takes a bit to get used to, unless you’ve shot with an M series camera in the past.  When I’ve shot my M6, I find myself more careful and a bit more cautious when I snap an image.  A digital body creates such a freedom away from the constraints of 36 frames and allows continuous shooting.  Again the drawback I found with shooting the digital Leica is the additional editing at the end of the day.  In a way, digital takes away the craft of a Leica because you know you can just keep shooting till you get the shot.  With film you are actually more cautious as you are limited to >36 chances to get it right.  Digital allows unlimited, uninhibited, and uninterrupted shooting.

Again to argue about the editing side of “unlimited shooting” also brings to mind the fact that I consistently overshoot with a Canon body so its really not an issue to me.  I guess with a Leica, I just expect to be a bit more concise.  Now if I shot with one everyday, I would have a different feel for the camera but it’s a tool that isn’t always available.

Although I doubt the original Leica was designed with Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment in mind, the M9 does put you into a situation where you are further staring through the viewfinder.  You wait….watch… compose…capture.  With my DSLRs, I just shoot and hope it will be there.  I am being to simplistic with my shooting style as I write this but compared to shooting with the M9, I feel like it is a much more composed and visual act.  The M9 forces me to think a bit more about the art.  Again, because of the nature of digital, I am shooting more in the hopes of getting the right shot when I should concentrate more and focus on that decisive moment.


A few weeks ago, when Josh got the M9, I took out the camera and played around with it in Chinatown.  I think the lens was my 35mm Summilux.  Now the image is nothing to spin about but I seem to have impressed Josh with the shot.

To note, all the images in this blog were taken with the Leica but were all treated by me at the end to give the look I felt the images deserved…or got stuck with…either way its a little bit of how I saw everything unfold.