Canon EOS 7D on my shopping list

When I bought my EOS 50D in fall 2008, I thought it would last me for a few years. But I was wrong. I’m ready for the EOS 7D.

I wish the 7D came out last year. But this is what I always say about new D-SLRs. There’s no end to it. One key feature of the 7D is the viewfinder with 100% field of view. This is what I really want, and really miss.

The 50D’s viewfinder coverage is only about 95%. That 5% sounds minor, but it actually makes a significant difference in how it affects your composition of the shot. What you see is not what you get. I often find myself reshooting a shot after noticing that the image has too much space on one side.

The 7D’s weather-resistant construction is also very welcome. It often rains/snows in Japan, so it’s quite essential. The faster continuous shooting speed of 8 fps is nice, even though the 50D’s 6.5 fps is nothing to complain about.

I really hope the 7D will last me a few years. I cannot afford to buy a new D-SLR every year.

I also take videos, so video cameras with better image quality is always of interest to me. It’s really amazing to see how much the image quality of videos taken by compact digital cameras has improved in recent years. Everything is now HD at the 16:9 aspect ratio. It makes me want to reshoot all my old videos with a new camera.

I looked at the Lumix GH1 which is causing a lot of excitement among video enthusiasts. But I decided against buying one because of the lack of power zooming. You have to zoom manually, and since I zoom a lot while shooting videos, manual zooming won’t work for me. I think if Panasonic offers a D-SLR camera geared more for video than for still shooting, than it would be revolutionary. Right now, all D-SLRs are mainly for still shooting.

Which forces me to look at conventional video cameras. The problem with conventional camcorders is that they do not have very wide-angle lenses. Maybe 35mm or 40mm at the widest. I need a 28mm wide angle at the very least. It is possible to attach a wide-angle lens attachment to the camcorder, but it’s pricey and I wonder about the distortion. My temporary solution is the camera I just bought last month. It’s a compact digital camera with an incredible 25-300mm zoom range and takes HD (but not Full HD) videos. The image quality is quite good and I’m happy with it. I wish I had a camera like this a few years ago.

There’s no doubt that we’re witnessing a revolution in video technology and video culture with the popularity of YouTube and so many people taking and uploading video clips. Of course, the quality of the clips is another story. Most people are amateurs shooting video which often is too shakey or not good at all.

I’ve always taken movies or videos with a conventional movie film camera or camcorder since high school. My first digital movies were taken with my first compact digital camera in 2003. Then came YouTube. I started uploading videos to YouTube in July 2006, and I’ve come a long way since then. New digital cameras improved the video quality by leaps and bounds. I can still remember Casio’s super slim digital cameras which could shoot videos, but without sound. Made no sense to me. My Canon Powershot S50 at least recorded sound as well.

At first, it was a very casual thing. I shoot a video clip, then upload it to YouTube. I was happy just to record some motion and some sound, to add some background info to my still and silent photos.

But now, I’ve become much more seasoned and sophisticated, taking videos more seriously. I now shoot to create a story or record a logical sequence of events. I also use professional and amateur video editing software to edit my videos. I try to make each video as interesting as possible. And also add annotations. If you watch my early videos on YouTube (uploaded in 2006) and my most recent videos, you can see the difference in not only the image quality, but in the content quality as well. I would have to call myself an “advanced” amateur videographer (instead of just an amateur videographer).

My problem, though, is shooting both video and stills at the same time. When I’m shooting video, I’m usually shooting stills at the same time with my D-SLR. Yes, I’m holding two cameras at the same time. That’s why in most of my videos you may hear my D-SLR taking pictures or see the flash being fired. I’m doing a pretty good job at shooting both stills and videos at the same time. I won’t tell you how I do it, but often there’s a compromise between the still shooting and video. Of course it’s hard to shoot very well with both cameras at the same time. But if one or the other is much more important, I will stop using the other camera and just concentrate on shooting stills or video. Note that in most situations, I cannot use a tripod.

But I continue to perfect my techniques for shooting both stills and videos at the same time. It is a challenge.

Update: In Feb. 2010, I sold my EOS 50D body and bought the EOS 7D body.

Summer 2009 festivals

I got a lot of summer festival videos online at YouTube, especially awa odori:

Koenji Awa Odori 2009 1/3
Koenji Awa Odori 2009 2/3
Koenji Awa Odori 2009 3/3
Minami-Koshigaya Awa Odori 1/2
Minami-Koshigaya Awa Odori 2/2
Aoishin-ren at Minami-Koshigaya Awa Odori
Mitaka Awa Odori 1/2
Mitaka Awa Odori 2/2
Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 1/5
Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 2/5
Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 3/5
Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 4/5
Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 5/5
Kita-Urawa Awa Odori 1/3
Kita-Urawa Awa Odori 2/3
Kita-Urawa Awa Odori 3/3
Otsuka Awa Odori, Tokyo
Matsuri Tsukuba and Nebuta Parade
Sendai Tanabata Matsuri 2009 1/3
Sendai Tanabata Matsuri 2009 2/3
Sendai Tanabata Matsuri 2009 3/3
Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri 2009
Fukushima Waraji Matsuri 1/2
Fukushima Waraji Matsuri 2/2
Asakusa Samba Carnival 2009
Hachioji Matsuri, Tokyo
Yokohama Port Opening Expo
Kanko Maru Yokohama cruise
Yokota Air Base Japanese-American Friendship Festival 2009
Fussa Tanabata Star Festival
Asagaya Tanabata Matsuri

Here are the photos:
Koenji Awa Odori 2009
Minami-Koshigaya Awa Odori
Mitaka Awa Odori
Kita-Urawa Awa Odori, Saitama
Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 2009, Nerima
Otsuka Awa Odori, Tokyo
Matsuri Tsukuba and Nebuta Parade
Kaminoyama Castle, Yamagata
Yokota Air Base Japanese-American Friendship Festival 2009
Fussa Tanabata Star Festival
Asagaya Tanabata Matsuri
Fukushima Tanabata
Hachioji Matsuri, Tokyo
EXPO Y150: Yokohama Port Opening 150th
Edogawa Fireworks

Tohoku summer festivals in Sendai, Yamagata, and Fukushima

I finally revisited Sendai during Aug. 6-8 to see the famous Tanabata Festival, the grand daddy of all Tanabata Matsuris in Japan. I was not disappointed. Sendai’s Tanabata is definitely a few notches above any other Tanabata in Japan. Most of the streamers are made of paper instead of plastic. And all those origami paper cranes. I shudder to think how many man-hours were spent to make them. Click on the image to see more photos.

From Sendai, I took a day trip to neighboring Yamagata to see the Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri, an evening parade of dancers wearing a flower hat.

On the way back to Tokyo, I stopped by Fukushima to see the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri Festival which is another evening dance parade with a twist. Sometimes you see dancers wear waraji straw sandals.

Nathalie Daoust exhibitions in Tokyo, Aug. 2009

Montreal-born photographer and friend Nathalie Daoust will have two exhibitions in Tokyo from late Aug.

Hide and Sex
At the Vanilla Gallery from August 24 to September 12, 2009
2nd Kamata Bld.4F, 6-10-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku Tokyo,104-0061
Business Hours: 12:00-19:00 weekdays,
12:00-17:00 Saturday and holidays, closed on Sunday
TEL&FAX 03 5568 1233

Her second exhibition:

Frozen in Time, Switzerland
Aug. 21-25, 2009

Rocket Gallery
〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前6-9-6
HOURS: 12:00-19:30

These images are set in an ambiguous territory where dream and reality clash. In this altered state of reality, stillness and silence permeate each image, each is a moment frozen in time. Here memory and introspection create a labyrinth of illusion, mystery and fantasy. Although the images are part of a series, each is unique and non-sequential. The narrative that evolves throughout the works is a personal one, a journey, steeped in self-scrutiny, towards coming to terms with one’s identity through life experiences, loss and sorrow as well as pleasure.


「Hide and Sex」Exhibition at the Vanilla Gallery from August 24 to September 12

〒104-0061中央区銀座6-10-10 第二蒲田ビル4階
電話 03-5568-1233

「Hide and Sex」とは、サディズムとマゾヒズムに対して現代の日本人女性が非常に特殊化しているということを前提に、彼女達の精神世界を多角的に検討しようという試みである。


現実よ りも幻想の中で生きようとしている彼女(もしくは彼)達へ。ナタリーのメッセージは、そのような現実社会を逸脱した、きわめて個人的な≪誰か≫のために発信し続けられるものなのだ。


現実と非現実――その境は曖昧で不明瞭で、意識下において行われるという意味ではむしろ同じものだとも言えなくはない。今回は、そのあやふやな〈虚〉と〈実〉の間を揺れる、極めて抽象的な感覚の視覚化を試みた。もちろんそれは非常に実験的なものであったことはいうまでもないだろう。茫洋とした中で模索を続けながらも、 旧来の技術に基づいた新手法を用いて、「写真」という媒体をさらに次のものへと昇華させる。それが、わたしが考える一芸術家としての使命なのである。

Frozen in Time, Switzerland
Nathalie Daoust
2009 8/21(fri)-8/25 (tue) 12:00-19:30

〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前6-9-6
tel&fax 03-3499-1003

カナダ、モントリオールに生まれ、世界を舞台に独特の世界を表現し続けている写真家Nathalie Daoust (ナ
タリー・ドースト)。本展では、彼女が6ヶ月にわたるスイス滞在の間に撮影した写真シリーズFrozen in Time を
Nathalie Daoust

モントリオール生まれ。Cegep du Vieux-Montreal にて写真を学んだ後、ニューヨークに移り住み、処女作となる「New York
Hotel Story」を制作。2001年より東京のネオンドキュメント作成のため日本に2年間滞在。その後、「Entre Quatre Murs,
Berlin」「Street Kiss, Brazil」「Frozen in time, Switzerland」など、世界各所にて斬新なシリーズ作品を制作。カナダ、アメ

More digital cameras in Japanese only

If you cannot read Japanese, beware when buying a digital camera in Japan. More manufacturers are starting to provide only Japanese (and maybe English as well) as the interface language that appears on the menu screens.

Lumix, by Panasonic, is one popular camera brand which provides only Japanese language on its menu screens. If you cannot read Japanese, think twice about buying a Lumix in Japan. Other brands might provide at least English.

Digital cameras for the Japanese market used to include all the languages provided on export models including English, European languages, Chinese, etc. But not anymore. Be sure to check if the camera you want will display in your preferred language.

Apparently, this is to stem the export of Japanese-market cameras to overseas. But this is not good for people living in Japan and cannot read Japanese. Let’s see which camera makers will provide at least English in addition to Japanese. Or which will continue to provide all the available languages in their digicams.

Spring 2009 festivals

Went to see a slew of matsuri during April-May 2009. Here are a few of them in videos and stills.

Inabe Shrine in Toin, Mie Prefecture, Japan holds the Oyashiro Matsuri festival on the first weekend of April. The main event is the Ageuma (Leaping Horse) ceremony when six young lads ride a horse at full speed and try to leap up and over a steep earthen wall.


The Saio princess was an unmarried, young Imperial princess, often the Emperor’s daughter, who was appointed (by divination) to be the High Priestess of Ise Grand Shrines in Mie Prefecture from the 7th to 14th centuries. For about 660 years, over 60 Saio princesses served at Ise Grand Shrines. The new Saio princess traveled from Kyoto to her Saiku palace near the Ise Shrine. The journey took 5 nights and 6 days, and passed through Tsuchiyama in Koka, Shiga Prefecture. Held on the last Sunday in March, this festival reenacts the Saio Gunko procession in Tsuchiyama to Tarumi Tongu which was one of the five temporary palaces where the Saio lodged along the way. You could call this festival a continuation or sequel to Kyoto’s famous Aoi Matsuri procession which has a Saio-dai princess.


Held for the first time in six years on May 4, 2009 by Nyu Shrine in Yogo, Shiga Prefecture, Japan, the festival features sacred dances, three floats topped with lofty “balancing act” decorations with dolls and teacups, and a procession of colorful dancers and musicians mostly performed by local children. Chigo-no-Mai, Miko-no-Mai, Suzu-no-Mai, Ogi-no-Mai, Hanagasa Odori, and other dances were performed. Also see Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada pulling a float.


In Shiga Prefecture, Japan, Nagahama’s most famous festival features authentic kabuki plays performed by boys in mid-April. A few ornate floats on wheels serve as the stage for talented young actors. This video was shot on April 15, 2009 and shows clips from kabuki performances from all the four floats.

Held by Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (not to be confused with the Sanno Matsuri held in Tokyo), the annual Sanno Matsuri is held during April 12-14 and features processions, torches at night, violent rocking of portable shrines, and a boat procession on Lake Biwa. This Part 1 video shows the festival on April 13, 2009 which climaxed with the violent rocking of mikoshi portable shrines at night.


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