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The Canon IX-7 is one of a fairly rare breed, that is to say, it’s a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera whilst also being an APS camera, with all the usual abilities such as three picture sizes that the film format possesses. For the uninitiated, there’s Classic (your usual 4:3 sized print), HDTV, (a wide-screen print using the whole negative) and Panorama, (which is really a strip from the middle of the HDTV print blown up to the same height as the other two, making it about 10” long)
Minolta and Nikon are also in the same market, and if you are starting from scratch, you may want to check these out as well, for the simple reason that they have a range of dedicated, and, it has to be said, daintier interchangeable lenses. The Canon, however, uses the same EOS fitting lenses as its 35mm counterparts, which makes them somewhat bulkier, when used on an APS camera.
However, EOS-type lenses are more freely available, made both by Canon, and a rash of independent lens manufacturers, giving an impressive range, so if flexibility is paramount, and you MUST have a 500mm mirror lens AND an APS camera in your arsenal, then the Canon IX-7 is for you.
In my case, being the owner of a Canon EOS 500n as well, this makes particular sense. In fact I bought both together from Jessops for £400 the pair.
My only regret is that the IX-7 does not have a “body-only” option, so I ended up with two short zooms, one shorter than the other. In fact, when I put the “standard” 22-55mm lens from the IX-7 on the 500n, it is so wide angle, that I can see my belly in the viewfinder!
Coming back to the IX-7, it is extremely easy to use in its “idiot-proof” modes, but has plenty of others to grow into, as the fancy takes you.
The exposure-mode control (EOS) dial is almost identical to that on the 35mm job, so it has been a very easy task to get the hang of both of them at the same time. Exposure modes are grouped into two specific ranges –
a) “Creative”, designed for those who know a close-up from a landscape, and can tell a moving object from a still one!
b) “Programmed Image Control Zones” for those who can tell a moving object from a still one!
Then there is “fully-programmed mode” - a point-and-shoot setting for those who don’t know nuffink ‘bout cameras ‘cept they’ll get killed if these photos don’t come out.
Here is a comprehensive list of the modes and their uses.
The Creative Modes include :-
Shutter priority –
i.e. you choose the shutter speed and let the camera find the aperture setting to go with it. A thumb wheel over on the right around the shutter release enables you to “scroll” through all the shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/2000th second. Suggested uses for shutter priority include the ability to freeze action of moving objects by choosing a fast (short) shutter speed, and the ability to blur action, say to make a waterfall look ethereal, by choosing a slow (long) shutter speed.
Aperture priority –
the boot is now on the other foot, with the camera matching a shutter speed to the aperture chosen by you using the thumbwheel again. Possible uses for a small aperture would include obtaining sharp focus on a wide range of objects, some nearer to the camera than others. (The smaller the aperture, the less critical the need for focussing). By the same token, a large aperture makes focussing critical, and can throw a background into a blur, making close ups of flowers etc very effective.
You also have a full manual mode where you can set both the aperture and shutter speed yourself, using the light metering in the camera to find the right reading, although you could of course ignore the camera’s “advice” completely.
There is also what Canon call Depth-of-Field Auto Exposure.
The way this operates is rather nifty. If the three separate focussing spots in the view finder detect major differences, i.e. the subject matter towards the centre of the picture is at varying distance from the camera, like a train at an angle for example, then it biases the exposure towards a smaller aperture to improve the apparent focussing accuracy over a wider range of distances.
The Programmed Image Control Zones include,
A sports mode – this takes care of all exposure functions whilst giving a bias towards faster shutter speeds, making it more likely that moving objects will be captured correctly without blur.
A landscape mode – this is yet another programmed mode, which gives a bias to towards smaller apertures (for sharper focussing) at the expense of fast shutter speeds.
A close-up mode which sets the camera up to be better suited to the taking of close ups including activating the flash.
A portrait mode, which is biased towards a large aperture where conditions allow, to throw backgrounds out of focus.
In addition to these modes, the EOS dial also allows the user to over-ride the film speed previously set by the camera, and the number of prints required of each photo – this has to be set before you take them! The default setting is 1, naturally, but up to 6 can be requested. This puts a signal on the magnetic stripe on the edge of the film that the processing bureau is SUPPOSED to do something with. However, when I asked Boots, what their pricing policy on multiple copies requested by the camera was, they looked at me as if I was from Mars, or Slough at least.
Believe it or not, you can actually request zero copies – why?, you may well ask. Well, this allows for the advent of colour slide film (yet to appear) where you would only want the celluloid back, not bits of paper.
Another feature that puts “fully-loaded” APS cameras ahead of 35 millimetre is, what is known as mid-roll film change. This allows for removal of one film, and the insertion of a new one. The old film can be re-inserted at a later date and will resume from the next free exposure. Useful, if you decide to change film speed mid-stream.
Bearing in mind that most cameras, even silver ones are plastic these days, build quality is fine, and styling is OK, if that matters on a functional piece of kit like this.
Full marks for initial ease of use, whilst leaving you with plenty to learn (if you want to).
Full marks for picture quality from such a small negative.