Monday, January 25, 2010

The venerable DCS-520

After reading my posting on my "Neglected Gem", my good friend Huggies Chew of Singapore commented; tongue-in-cheek in Face Book:

"U are back to your old hobby of keeping sunset cameras..
Remember Kodak DCS 520? Only got 0.8 Mega Pixel and cost $23,000.00. I brought one to cover the 1999 Malaysian General Elections and wow! Don't need to process films !"

Those were the good old days my friend! But I remember you actually took a Kodak DCS 3 to Malaysia, take a look at the picture above :)

1997... I was back with The Star as their Picture Editor, THIRD time round!

The 1998 Commonwealth Games was just round the corner and I realised that the number one "People's Paper" of Malaysia do not even have a digital SLR with acceptable resolution!

Unlike Huggies's DCS 3 with a miserable 0.8 mega pixels, I am aiming for a 520 which packed a whopping TWO MEGA pixel!

It was a hard won battle to convince the top gun in the paper to agree and purchased TWO units of the fourth generation digital SLR!

To the bosses, the RM 70,000 (US$ 25,000) camera body is just a very expensive camera; to my immediate lady boss... "C.Y.Leow at it again, buying expensive toys!"

To please our suppliers, we bought a Kodak DCS 520 from Kodak Malaysia and a Canon D2000 from Canon Malaysia. Both are exactly the same cameras except for the different brand names.

Both machines used the well proven Canon EOS 1n body and both CCD were manufactured by Kodak.

You might look down at the 2 mega pixel resolution now, but believe you me; it was the best you can get in 1998!

I for one was stunned by how good the 2 MP sensor in resolving detail and sharpness. Take a look at the portrait shot of Fannie, this shot was taken shortly after we got the 520. Illumination came from a tungsten studio lamp, the auto white balance was spot on!


A 100% crop from the photo above, Kodak you beauty!

The day I got hooked on the DCS 520, was the day I realised the 35 mm film days are coming to an end, fast! To us photojournalists, it is a case of DSLR-where-were-you-all-this-time??

Armed with the DCS 520, photographers from The Star were able to transmit their Commonwealth Games Opening pictures from the stadium instead of getting stuck in the notoriously bad KL traffic jam! The Star was able to use pictures their rival papers cannot, their photogs have to rush back to process their films! DUH!

The Floral Dance from the children of Malaysia at the opening of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

The Royal Oops!

Taken at the closing of the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Queen E was supposed to say "I now officially declared the Games closed." And THEN the firework will go off.

The blast went off before she finished her sentence much to the amusement of the others... the moment was captured with a Canon D2000 digital camera and a 300mm f2.8 lens plus a 1.4 times converter.

Alas The Star ran this shot in 2 column, black and white!

Thus confirming again what I think of the Editors! They are VISUAL ILLITERATES!

When that happened, the MOST expensive camera in the hands of the BEST photographer are irrelevant!

Easy Bets Tim...

Tim Lambe, the creator of Easy Bets; an internet gambling site that really upset the mainland Chinese authority because it took away huge revenue from their Hong Kong gambling houses.

I was commissioned by the South China Morning Post to take a shot of him at his start up company in CyberJaya, Malaysia.

The venetian blind with diffused back light made an effective backdrop.

A flat TFT monitor was used to avoid the scanning lines of a normal monitor screen.

The shot was e-mail to SCMP in jpeg format. I was amazed of the print quality when I saw the near half page blow-up of the picture in their Sunday issue!

Atria aquarium, Singapore.

Being a tropical fish nut, when I was working in Singapore I always admired the huge aquarium at Wisma Atria. I took many pictures but was not satisfied with any because the popular attraction is crowded at all times.

I was in Singapore while I was working at The Star, attending a Kodak digital seminar. After the seminar I went to Wisma Atria to look at my "lost love".

Two minutes after I was there, two little girls decided the railing surrounding the aquarium can be put into good use....

I took 12 shots with my Kodak DCS 520 digital camera and a 15 mm Canon fish-eye lens. In 5 of the shots there were no other "distracting" onlookers. This is the shot I like best.

Goes to show you do need lots of luck in getting a good shot, be at the right place at the right time?

Apart from the DCS 520, Kodak also have a DCS 560 spotting a SIX MEGA CCD! This big brother of 520 will set you back a whopping RM 160,000 (US$ 57,000)!!

Kodak Malaysia was actually kind enough to loan me a DCS 560 when I went home to Wellington to attend our eldest daughter's graduation!

On that faithful day, however; the most expensive DSLR in the world just conk out without warning! Ahhhhh...Grrrrrr!

I am Sailing...

The township of Hataitai and Evans Bay, Wellington; New Zealand. A view from Mount Victoria lookout.

The channel crosser, the Interislander ferry is seen leaving for Picton.

Shot at ISO 100 with a Kodak DCS560 digital camera that was on loan to me. A Canon EF 80-200 f2.8 lens on a Manfrotto carbon monopod were also used.

Professional digital SLR has come a long way, we now take for granted of 12 MP resolution as "standard". But the 2 MP DCS 520 sure left a lasting impression!

Using the Kodak DCS 520 in the studio, but that's another story! ;)

 More on DCS 520...

Some of my friends envy my encountering of some stunningly beautiful women in my job as a Picture Editor in various papers!

What I did not tell them was those encounters were to shoot photos of these pretty-young-thing for publications and that can be a pack of nerves just to prepare the "shoot"!

I recall with a smile when I was asked to get a shot of Erra Fazira, Malaysia's top singer and actress.

I cornered her at a TV recording session.

Her performance under the spot lamps were easy to capture, I was shooting with a Kodak DCS 520 digital SLR and Canon 80-200 f2.8 zoom lens.

But those were not the shots I need for the front of the features story I was shooting for! We need a strong, glamorous profile of her!

After all, Miss Fazira was the Miss Malaysia/World in 1992. She was also the 3rd runner up for Miss South East Asia for the 1992/1993 session!

My gastric juice started to rise when I was given only five minutes to get my portrait at the gloomy, dark; back stage!

Luckily there was a window with some diffused light, that was where I placed her.

In the short five minutes, I managed three different profile studies, blasting away with my 80-200 at FULL f2.8 and 1/15 S-L-O-W speed; the monopod help but half of the shots were still blurry because of movement! (Anti-shake was not invented yet!)

This was my best shot!

Some comments...

Steve Chong (well known Malaysian photographer) exclaimed:

"Hi Leow! What?? Five minutes and this is what you came out with? This is amazing! Such beautiful portrait! The exposure and the details are simply wonderful! You are damn right she is a "WOW"!
 Now, Leow can you fix me a shooting session with her? "

Rick Del Prince sighed:

"YES... she is a WOW!! Look at those lip's!!"
Famous Last Words:

Face with same photo situation...

1. Check out your locality quickly, in this case; the back stage room. Decide what light source you are going to use, bounced flash? Available light?

2. Check exposures before shoot and set them! Five minutes do not give you the option of mucking around with your camera settings!

3. Decide on your best lens for the job. I wish I had my 100 mm f2.8 with me, so I have to make do with the 80-200.

4. Finally, shoot as fast as you can to get as many shots as you can for selection. Thank goodness for digital!!

Somebody had to get this shot, right? :~)
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1 comment:

Ashley Pomeroy said...

Wow, this was a great read - I owned a D2000 a while back, although I didn't pay $25,000 for it! Thus have the mighty fallen. The colours always seemed a bit purple but the images were detailed. The camera was huge and heavy though, and so were the batteries, so I sold it off.

And it had pong!

Keep going,