Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Look at the Latest Automated Cameras

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Look at the Latest Automated Cameras

Article excerpt

A look at the latest automated cameras

Newspaper photographers are finding automation to their liking as professional 35mm cameras move beyond exposure automation to autofocus and complete flash control.

While the emphasis on convenience is borrowed from the amateur market, where it is of paramount importance, these new cameras include such long-desired professional features as higher shutter and electronic flash sync speeds.

Zoom lenses also have become truly usable with maximum apertures of F 2.8 for such workhorse lenses as the 80-200mm and one maker's 28-80mm and another's 35-70mm, and the camera manufacturers are overcoming the skepticism of some professional photographers with automatic features that can be fine-tuned or disabled quickly.

Battery packs and outboard motor drives are being replaced with built-in high-speed winders run by a camera's own power-supply battery or batteries, without which the shutter will not even open.

All this is not without its penalty for the photographer, in addition to the added cost of equipment. Don't count on picking up one of these new cameras, taking it out to shoot a test roll and finding out what it can do.

There was a time when an experienced photographer could use almost any camera effectively after handling it for a few minutes. Not any more. With the introduction of the autofocus camera, years of experience are no match for an hour or more of serious study with the camera's manual.

To get the most out of new equipment, pack the manual in the camera bag for the occasional refresher on the more intricate adjustments that are available.

Though both the Nikon and Canon autofocus systems have been around for a few years now, most newspapers are only now replacing or considering replacement of existing equipment with autofocus cameras and lenses.

Nikon has a considerable edge from the ability of its new autofocus F4 body to function with any Nikon mount lens. Given many newspapers' large pools of expensive nonautofocusing Nikon lenses, they are unlikely to switch makes, except to accommodate an individual photographer, as some have in the past.

Newspaper photo departments with Canon pool lenses will have to maintain F-1 or T-90 bodies to use those lenses because the autofocus EOS cameras cannot. Nor can the EF lenses for the EOS bodies be used on F-1 or T-90 bodies, even in manual focus mode.

Canon has announced a lens mount converter that will allow the use of older FD lenses on EOS bodies, but only as macro lenses because they will not focus at infinity.

The rival autofocus systems of Nikon and Canon differ in two important respects. Nikon puts the autofocus motor in the camera body and the autofocus zone in the middle of the camera's viewfinder, while Canon uses a separate motor in each autofocus lens and three autofocus zones in the viewfinder.

Both systems allow manual focus, but the Nikon system allows the use of the electronic focus indicator while focusing a lens manually. This is referred to as an electronic rangefinder and it can be a real boon when focusing a long, slow lens, such as an F8 500mm mirror lens. The Canon system is favored by some sports photographers for its greater speed, especially with the new ultrasonic (USM) lenses, but manual focus is still the norm in sports, from all reports.

The cameras that use the rival autofocus systems also differ in their controls. The Nikon F4 has the aperture ring and shutter speed dial that most have come to expect on a camera; the Canon EOS-1 has dials on top and in back of the camera body to set those functions and many others.

There is much to be said for the Canon EOS-1. For instance, its dials allow one-handed operation with manual control of aperture and shutter speed.

Ironically, many newspapers and the Associated Press have opted to get into autofocus with the Nikon 8008, an amateur camera that has most of the features of the Nikon F4 and some Canon users are looking at EOS models less expensive than the EOS-1, such as the EOS-10S. …

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