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GalacticSlacker HQ/Canon 10D and Linux [galacticslacker]
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feedback: havoc@harrisdev.com (Updated: Thur Aug 3, 2006)

Things I've learned that help me take better photos. Many of these are applicable to any camera, but I've learned many of them from the great teacher that the Canon EOS 10D is.

For more information on RAW digital photography and Linux, see my Linux and RAW Photography page

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Leave the polarizing filter on!
Because I shoot both indoor and outdoors, I've realized that I'll be much more likely to have the cp (circular polarizing) filter on the camera when I need
it if I leave it on, and only take it off when I don't need it. I've blown more shots by not having the cp filter on, and either not having time or being too lazy to dig it out of the bag when I need it. It's a simple matter to screw off the cp filter when you're shooting indoors.

Get a grip!
I purchased a Canon BG-ED3 Battery Grip (used from ) with the camera (new from KEH), and a second battery. I'd wanted a vertical grip for my Canon A2e for a long time, but I'd never gotten around to justifying the $70.00 purchase to myself. Since I wear a wide-brim hat all of the time, taking portrait-mode shots has always been a pain because I have to either take off or knock off my hat to hold the camera in portrait mode. With the Battery Grip, I can shoot portrait-mode shots without having to take off my hat, and I consistently get them more "square to the world" than with the twisted-wrist method. Since the Canon pro-model vertical grips duplicate the AE-lock, AF-select buttons and program-shift wheel along with the shutter button on the grip, you still have 100% of the shooting-mode functionality of the on-camera grip. As a bonus, the grip for the Canon EOS 10D also holds two batteries, so you double your pleasure, double your fun (at the obvious cost of just about doubling the weight of your camera). I recommend a vertical grip for any SLR shooter who shoots a high percentage of portrait-mode shots.

Canon's Engineers are smarter than you are.
It took me several rolls of film to realize it when I first got my Canon A2e, but Canon's Engineers know photography. I had been using a Minolta 2xi (great, old consumer-level camera if you can find one), and found lots of tricks to get the camera to shoot the photo that I wanted it to shoot. Almost every shot I took, I tweaked something (and the 2xi was not very tweakable). After ruining several rolls of film in the Canon A2e, I started just taking the shot unless there was something that I knew the program wasn't going to compensate for. My pictures got better that day! In the 11 years since the A2e was released, Canon's Engineers have continued to advance their knowledge and pass that on to their customers.

Canon EOS 10D Menu Items:

The dreaded 'Err 99' message!: [ Updated 15.Aug.2005]
    This issue is currently under a new investigation.

    The ERR 99 failure had returned, after the new batteries were ~4 months old. The failure rate then proceeded to skyrocket to a failure rate approaching 30%. As you can imagine, this was exceedingly frustrating. I even, in desperation, paid $70.00 for a new, Canon battery at Kurt's Camera in Albuquerque (I strongly suspect the clerk took the opportunity to bump the price -- I really should call and confirm their price on that $50.00 unit).

    It is becoming increasingly apparent that the ERR 99 problem on my unit was being caused by the mirror not raising high enough to engage the mirror-up sensor (?). My investigation lead me to the point of frustration that I was actually "exercising" the system by shooting (in small-normal jpeg mode) frames with the lens off so that I could watch the functioning of the mirror to confirm my suspicion. Interestingly enough, after ~100 mirror/shutter cycles, the ERR 99 failure started fall off in frequency. After ~200 cycles, it dropped below the limits of my test. I have not taken many photos in the last couple of days since this exercise, but I have not had another ERR 99 failure, since that time.

    Now, I am at a loss as to explain why at ~10,000 cycles, this issue would arise, then suddenly subside at ~12,300 cycles. It very well may have been a spec of dust, or even something caused by the extreme cold or extreme heat to which the unit has been exposed (as a result of leaving the camera in the car at times).

    I am not recommending the exercising of the mirror/shutter as a possible solution, but if you're not in the financial position to replace the unit, the camera is out of warranty, or you can't live without it for 6-12 weeks while it's off for evaluation/service, it might be worth a try to see if you can diagnose the problem yourself.

    [ Added 23.Mar.2005 ]
    One of the most nagging and annoying problems for Canon EOS 10D and Canon EOS 20D shooters has been the dreaded “Err 99” or “Error 99” message. “Error 99” is the “Miscellaneous electrical issue” error, which means that the camera is unable to diagnose the problem.

    The first thing to do is to go over ALL (and I do mean ALL) of the exposed electrical/electronic connections to make sure they are clean. The cleaning method most recommended is to use a soft pencil eraser to remove any corrosion from the contacts. This means lens contacts no the lenses and body as well as battery contacts on the batteries, body and vertical grip. From reports I've read on the 'net, this will solve the majority of the “Err 99” problems.

    If the problem persists, go over all of your contacts again. Take your time. Pay attention. Be paranoid about it.

    If the problem still persists, you may have a battery or batteries that have ceased to discharge properly. The two original batteries I purchased with the unit (the factory unit, and an after-market Polaroid unit) both failed at the same time, so I replaced both of them. After replacing the batteries, I shot over 300 frames under the same conditions that caused the “Err 99” failures, and have not had a single “Err 99” failure.

    My Batteries started causing the “Err 99” failure when the camera was about 16 months old, and had shot less than 10,000 frames.

Why Canon?:
    The most important reason that I purchased the Canon EOS 10D over every other Digital SLR on the market was Canon Lenses, well, actually, the Canon EOS System. Years ago, when Canon was an "also ran" camera manufacturer, and Nikon owned the 35mm world, Canon made the choice to produce their first professional grade 35 mm camera, and the Canon F1 was born. If you're going to produce a professional camera, you'd better have some glass for it, and Canon introduced the 'L' series lenses. ('L' stands for 'luxury,' or so I've read.)

    Interestingly enough, Canon demonstrated the first auto focus system for 35mm cameras at a trade show way back when, but didn't immediately add auto focus to their line. There were decisions to be made. "Do we keep the same lens mount, and allow people to keep using their existing F-mount lenses, or do we jettison the F-mount and start over?" Either way, it was going to cost Canon. The choice was made to start from scratch, and the Canon EOS system and EF-series lenses were born. Nikon chose to stick with the same lens mount, and Monolta has gone through at least three different lens systems.

    In the EOS system, the auto focus motor is integrated into the lens rather than in the camera body. There's a whole set of advantages (I'll find a link later if I can). One of the fruits of this choice is that Canon's lenses are renowned for their auto focus speed. It also means that the chance of damaging the lens or camera is greatly reduced when changing lenses. They also made it expandable into the future, so the EOS lens mount has not changed in the intervening years. The Canon EOS system is one of the best future-proofed engineering solutions I've ever seen.

    Nikon puts some nice features on their cameras, but, like I tell people, "A Nikon body will never grow up to accept a Canon lens."

    Nikon fans make a huge deal about how any Nikon lens fits any Nikon body. That's nice, but I have never seen a Nikon AF body with an old manual lens on it, and I've never seen an old Nikon manual camera with a new Nikon AF lens on it. So, the "all-fit-all" doctrine begs the question, "So what?"
    Canon EOS Lenses:
      Canon boasts the wides line of auto focus lenses... blah, blah, blah. Whatever. You can't own them all if you don't have the resources of Bill Gates, and you wouldn't want to for the very simple reason that Canon has to produce some cheap consumer garbage because that's all some people will buy.

      That said, the http://www.usa.canon.com/eflenses/?>Canon EOS EF Lenses are most impressive.

      Now, here's the really juicy part: Just because you only shoot a Canon EOS Rebel, or a Canon EOS Elan, doesn't mean you can't take advantage of the Canon EOS 'L' series lenses. Reasoning:

      • No matter how good your camera is, you can't take a better picture than your lens.

      • If you put an 'L' series lens on a EOS Rebel (consumer level body), you can keep using your lens later when you upgrade to an EOS Elan, or EOS 10D (amateur level bodies) or an EOS 3, EOS 1v, or EOS 1D/Ds (pro-level bodies).

      • If you spend money to get a high-end body, then put low-quality lenses on it, you're going to get low quality pictures.

      • Given the same lens, a Rebel will take just as good pictures as a 1v, within the limits of the Rebel. With a low quality lens, both will take equally low quality pictures.

      I'm always astonished to see another amateur photographer proudly carrying a Nikon F5 with a total piece of junk, bottom-of-the-line Tamron or Sigma discount lens on it. (I've never seen an amateur photographer with a Canon 1v and a cheapo lens on it, but I suppose it happens.)

      The lenses I have:

      • Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
        example photo of chromatic aberration with Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
        Rating: yuck.
        General: This lens is okay, but it's far from special. The effective 35mm equivalent on the EOS 10D is 38-136mm, which makes it "mostly acceptable" for general, all-around shooting. It's not quite wide enough angle for indoor shooting or landscapes, but it's plenty long to isolation individuals at family gatherings and small crowds. Despite it's failures, I continue to use this lens for 90% of my shooting, and it does fine. It's not so bad as I'd throw it out, but I wouldn't buy it again.
        Pros: Fine for general shooting.
        Cons: This lens (and it may just be the one I have, and not typical of the lens design and manufacture) has the worst chromatic aberration (color shift) I've ever experienced. I do not recommend this lens based on my experience.
      • Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM
        Rating: Film -- EXCELLENT; 10D -- okay
        General: This lens served me extremely well for two years on my A2e, and continues as the only lens my wife uses on that camera now. For the price, it can't be beat. It'll never grow up to be an 'L' lens, but it's a fantastic all-around lens for the price.
        Pros: for film, it's the perfect length for indoor and outdoor shooting.
        Cons: For the EOS 10D (with it's 1.6x magnification factor), it's too long for indoor shooting, and too short to be a true telephoto lens. If you've already got one, go ahead and use it, if you have a 10D, there's no point in picking this one up.

      • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
        Rating: Fantastic!
        General: I have leaned on this lens with both film and digital. Every year I shoot 2.5 days of flag football with this lens, and it is fantastic. There are actually 3 70-200mm 'L' lenses. The other two are faster (with a maximum aperture a full stop wider), but they are also twice as expensive and twice as heavy (the Image Stabilized version is more than twice as expensive, but you probably guessed that). When you're carrying the camera all-day for two and-a-half days, the weight is an acceptable trade-off for the slower lens -- at least it is for me. This lens retails for about $600.00 now. It was much higher than that when I bought mine, and I don't regret a penny of it.
        Pros: Top quality, fast focusing, light weight, least expensive of the Canon EF 'L' series lenses.
        Cons: uh... can't think of any.

      The lenses I want (don't have):

      • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM

      • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM: (I would drop, throw, kick, shoot, etc) my 24-85mm lens in a heartbeat for this lens. I'd gladly give up the extra 15mm off the tele-end for the quality in this lens.

      • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM: This is one of only two non-'L' lens that has my attention. Canon has made a 50mm f/1.0 'L' lens in the past, but it was expensive, and largely a show piece for Canon, "Look what we can do. No one else can!" The 50mm f/1.4 is a great lense for shooting in doors or low light.

      • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM: This is the other non-'L' lens that has my attention. This would be a great lens for indoor sports. It does not have the same quality as the 85mm f/1.2 'L' lens, but it has much faster focusing. I'd be willing to trade the 1/2 stop difference for the faster focusing, but that is not a rule.

        Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM
        : This is the fastest-focusing lens you can get right now. This is one of the favorites for 35mm shooters for indoor sports. My Dad bought one of these recently for his Canon 1v-hs, and I'm planning on using it some at this summer's .

      For more information on RAW digital photography and Linux, see my Linux and RAW Photography page
      I've been running Linux as my primary desktop OS since August, 2001. I'm very happy with it, so I was not interested in being slaved back to a Windows box to use my camera. Happily, since the release of BibblePro 4.0 from Bibble Labs, Linux can satisfy 100% of what I need for post processing of images.

      For the first year, I shot in Large, Fine JPEG only (no RAW images), and I simply copy the images from the compact flash card to the hard drive. Actually, it's a bit more complex than that, but not much. I have a Perl script which uses ImageMagick's identify command to ascertain the orientation of the image. I then used convert to make a copy of the image on my hard drive while adding "Copyright Jody Harris YYYY" into the EXIF comment field. If the image was shot in portrait mode, the script automatically rotates the image to the correct orientation with the -rotate flag. After the file is copied to my hard drive, the script again employees convert to create a 600x400 thumbnail of the image and drops it into a "thumbs" directory.

      I usually use only the ImageMagick libraries for getting images ready to put online. Before sending stuff out for printing, I use the Gimp to adjust levels and do any minor tweaking. On rare occasion, I will use the one Windows machine I have left in the house, and do some post processing work in Adobe Photoshop Elements (in the box with the camera).

      In June 2004, I started shooting RAW when I had the oportunity to be a beta tester for Bibble Labs. With BibblePro 4.0, I can convert my RAW images on my Linux box, and life is very good. I was shocked to discover how much more information the RAW format stores at 16-bits per channel than JPEG at only 8-bits per channel. There are several RAW converters, but dcraw and BibblePro are the only ones I have used. dcraw is command line only. BibblePro is a desktop application. I'm not likely to go back to shooting JPEG.

      I store the images in the same directory structure as Canon has set up with the 100canon, 101canon, 102canon, etc, with the addition of the "thumbs" directories within each of those.

      I have given up on CDs as a backup medium. The number of CDs required to backup my images (2-copies of each) was just killing me for time. If I get a DVD recorder, I may try again.... We'll see.

      As with negatives, I've decided to never mess with the original images. If I tweak an image for any reason -- be it a simple normalization or levels tweak, or full-fledged post processing with filters -- I will store those images in a directory called "processed." This is so that I will always be able to reproduce a specifically tweaked image in the future. The file names will be in the form 110-1023.jpg so that I don't start running in to potential name conflicts after I go past 10,000 images.

      RAW Images:
        Some people have the desire for the most accurate possible images. For them, shooting in RAW mode is their only option. If you want to shoot in RAW, and you want to play with Linux, there several options. Please see the Email me if you see anything missing there.

      Organizing images: (Updated: Fri May 28 10:29:11 MDT 2004)

        Aside from having an HP Deskjet 1220C, I like to order real photo prints, which is what I describe below...

        (update 30.Dec.2003) For prints I no longer mess with Wal-mart. I order them from ClubPhoto.com. ClubPhoto charges $0.25 ($0.17 on sale -- and they have lots of sales) for 4x6s, but they also will print as large as 30x40 for only $39.95. That's big.

        I always adjust the levels before I send images off for printing. Because of the excellent way the 10D processes images internally, this is usually a very simple process of level adjustment, sometimes a contrast tweak is helpful.

        I have started writing a tool in Perl to upload images to ClubPhoto.com since their software only supports Windows and Mac. It uses WWW::Mechanize. It works, it just needs polish. Let me know if you're interested in seeing my code, or helping me. [update: 04.Dec.2004] The Perl uploader for ClubPhoto.com is actually coming along swimmingly. I'm toying with the idea of giving it a GUI wrap with UI::Dialog::Backend::KDialog, but so far all I've added is the ability to select the upload directory with the GUI. I'm not sufficiently inspired to wrap the rest right now. Maybe I would work on the rest of the wrapper if I thought someone like my wife might use it.

      If you see anything that I've got wrong, or you have other tips or suggestions, please let me know. I'm not an expert, I just thought I'd share what I've learned.

      feedback: havoc@harrisdev.com

Canon EOS 20D 8.2MP Digital SLR Camera (Body only)
Canon EOS 20D
8.2MP Digital SLR
Camera (Body only)


Canon EOS-10D
Canon EOS-10D
6.3MP Digital SLR
Camera (Body Only)

Canon 550 EX Flash
Canon 550 EX Flash

Canon BG-ED3 Battery Grip
Canon BG-ED3 Battery Grip

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Standard Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Canon EF 24-70mm
f/2.8L USM
Standard Zoom Lens
for Canon SLR Cameras

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Canon EF 17-40mm
f/4L USM Ultra Wide
Angle Zoom Lens for
Canon SLR Cameras

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