My Blog

Electronic or Mechanical – The Latest on Shutters

If you own a recent camera, particularly a mirrorless camera, one of the features you likely have access to is a choice of shutter modes.

In the good old days, the shutter, which is the mechanism in your camera that lets the light in your scene into the camera and onto the film plane or the sensor plane, was mechanical. Originally, it was something as simple as a rotating wheel with a hole cut into it. Mechanical means moving parts.

Shutters until recently were still all mechanical. But we recently were treated to the first professional camera with no mechanical shutter at all. In fact, today, you may not have any mechanical parts in your camera body at all. We’ve come a long way.

So if not mechanical, what? Electronic. Of course. Just as everything else in the world has moved from analogue/mechanical to electronic, so to have the mechanisms that control cameras. Virtually all controls in mid-to-higher-range mirrorless camera bodies are electronic. But the technology is not perfect and so most cameras also still include a mechanical shutter and give you the choice of selecting one or the other, or even a combination of both.

My latest camera, the Canon EOS R5 includes both. I’ve never tried the electronic shutter. Thought it was about time that I did. But first, in my usual geeky fashion, I had to learn when and why to use it. Here’s what I found out.

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You Are Offline!

Missed my regular post date a couple weeks ago. It’s been a crappy July so far. Long story short – I’m recovering from a non-Covid illness that floored me as much as Covid likely would. Just getting on my feet again. After close to three weeks.

And to top it off, the Internet provider I use had a massive country-wide outage recently that took everything down. Lasted only a day, but you realize exactly how dependent you are on them and on it when it is not there. That’s today’s piece: why are we so dependent?

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Realistic or Artistic – Which is Right (For You)?

I recently listened to an absolutely superb podcast by Brenda Petrella, creator of the Outdoor Photography School. This episode was in response to several viewer questions about how much creative license is appropriate in landscape photography.

This has been a long standing debate, as you will see in Brenda’s piece – very long standing. Artists have been the subject of critical opinion for centuries. The difference since the invention of photography is that photography, by definition, is a documentary record of the light and colour in a scene. Its starting point, by definition, should be realistic. Or is it?

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One Door Closes…

I seem to be full of metaphors today: “one door closes, another opens”. Or “Nina has left the building”. Or “The End” followed by a mike drop.

Three years ago I said yes to a volunteer role with my local camera club. That role had the lofty title of Program and Education Director. Having worked in corporate Canada for 35 years, I knew a Director was a big deal and that taking it on meant a serious commitment of ideas, time and energy. Three years later, one pandemic later (hopefully) and more than 35 club meetings and events later, I can honestly say that was true. I ended my stay in that role today, turning it over to another club member who I hope will enjoy it as much as I did.

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Are Workshops Helpful?

This past week, I attended a photography workshop. The subject was bird photography. It was held at a location known to be a key flyway for spring migrating birds here in Canada, particularly for warblers and related species.

I am not a bird photographer – my nature interests lie in landscapes. So I thought it would be interesting to experience the event and to learn about this fascinating subject that seems to delight so many of my friends.

The workshop was held over 5 days, with each day offering an early morning and a late afternoon outing. Outings were only marginally planned, to coincide with weather, wind direction and the observed arrival of birds that day and the day before. Our workshop leader was experienced, with many decades of knowledge about birds, bird photography and this location in general. So how did it go?

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Cornering the Market

What do you do when you are the recognized leader in a market, have high demand but cannot bring product to that market? You abandon some of your market, apparently.

Canon has teased us with some new product announcements over the past year, but in comparison to their typically prolific advertisements prior to Covid, the announcements have been like raindrops in a desert. Eagerly sought out, with immediate impact, but within a split second, evaporating into nothing.

It seems that camera manufacturers are rethinking what it means to be in this business. With raw materials unavailable, production lines decimated and even transportation options a mere shadow of years ago, it’s definitely time to rethink the business.

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Backing Up is Hard to Do

I’ve had conversations with photographer friends from time to time about the strategies they use to back up their files. In those conversations, we discuss camera cards, computers, hard drives and both connected and remote offsite storage. More on that in a bit.

But as we all know, computers are not the only way we capture our photographs now. In this age of mobile devices, many of us take pictures on our cellphones equally often and keep all of those images on our cellphones only. I discovered this when talking to customers in the camera store who come in looking to print their cellphone images for friends and family. Many don’t have data plans, so backup of these images is not generally something they consider and they are genuinely surprised when I casually ask.

Some cellphone operators provide an unlimited pseudo-storage service where a thumbnail sized version of the original image on the phone is always accessible in the cloud. These take up virtually no space but also can’t be downloaded and printed to share or put up on a wall. Great for social media only. If the phone dies or is somehow corrupted, the original images are gone forever.

To complicate this further, many of us now include video in our collections, again on the phone or through any of many other recording devices. Video has become a major element in my media collection now so it too requires some type of backup solution.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve considered all of the sources of my media and have come up with options that I feel comfortable with. Likely overkill for most, but might be worth a read…

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But I Can Get It Cheaper on Amazon

I work at a camera store.  Have been for the past 5 months.  I love talking with customers about their photography interests and options.  So many different experiences, so many peculiar situations.  Everything from those who have accidentally attached an accessory incorrectly and can’t detach it to those who have a peculiar photographic need such as surveillance in their role as a private investigator.

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Crop Mode in Camera or Crop in Post

There was a bit of a Facebook exchange recently in our camera club about how best to achieve a fill-the-frame image when your lens can’t provide enough reach. This wouldn’t even have been a discussion a few years ago – the only two ways to do it would have been to zoom with your feet (get closer) or to crop in post production. DSLRs offered no other options.

But today’s higher end DSLRs and all (most?) mirrorless cameras offer another option where you can isolate how much of the sensor read-out is captured in the RAW data for a particular image. When converted, that reduced RAW data then “fills the frame” appearing to create a zoom or magnified effect and brings you in “closer” to your intended subject.

The exchange on Facebook fell into two camps: those who called the result magnification and those who said that was misleading. Well, in fact, they are both right.

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I Like It – That’s All That Matters

Some of us amateur photographers participate in competitions, in our local camera clubs and even more broadly in open events such as national competitions or perhaps in specialized events such as landscape or wildlife photographer of the year in our own countries or globally.

The reasons we enter competitions vary widely. For some of us, it is about seeking recognition, so let’s just admit it out of the gate. For others, it’s validation, confirming that others see your work the way you do. Still for others, it’s about self-development and improving our own scores year over year. We also seek out points of comparison to see what we might work on next.

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