My life in cameras 3c: Canon EOS 20D and Canon EF 50mm F1.8 review

I was really happy with my Canon EOS 20D and reviewing my images I saw that I was drawn to what is called available light photography. In short it means using only the light sources that are already in the scene and this mostly under difficult or low light. Prime examples are candids, concerts indoors (like old churches) or evening and night photography. The latter was of interest to me. I like how cities change their appearances when the sun goes down and the only illumination comes from artificial sources.

Usually taking pictures in low light can be accomplished with a tripod as long as one has static subjects. But I am an opportunistic photographer. I like to take long walks and shoot whatever catches my eye. So carrying a tripod was something I wanted to avoid. Besides I do like the grainy, slightly blurry documentary look. So what I needed was a lens with a fast aperture that I could use in low light. Still a student I could not really afford one of the fast wide angle prime lenses. So I bought the cheapest prime available. A 50mm F1.8 lens (link to the successor) made out of plastic.

This was not really a lens for city or street photography and on the EOS 20D it came to about 80mm equivalent. So this was really more a portrait lens but it was all I could afford and I learned to use it.

Canon EOS 20D and Canon EF 50mm: A snowy train station
“Waiting in Orange Snow” (2005) Canon EOS 20D + EF 50mm F1.8@F2 1/50s ISO 800

I took this one on a snowy night somewhere in West Germany. I could have corrected the orange light in post but I do like this eerie look. I like how the background is almost black and one can see only the orange and white train station and a few cars driving by. This is a place one really would not want to be alone at night I nevertheless took a walk.

Canon EOS 20D and Canon EF 50mm: Crane over train station
“Craning over the station” (2005) Canon EOS 20D + EF 50mm F1.8@F1.8 1/15s ISO 400

This is in the middle of Berlin. I think I used a handrail on a bridge to stabilize this shot. Usually one would make this picture with a tripod to achieve a smooth look with high dynamic range. But I find those pictures somewhat artificial. The slight grain and blur makes the scene more akin to what the human eye sees.

Canon EOS 20D and Canon EF 50mm: Lonely Protestor
“Lonely Protestor” (2006) Canon EOS 20D + EF 50mm F1.8@F4 1/400s ISO 200

This one is not low light but I do like the scene. There is a single flag bearer coming home from a protest. The flag reads “Attac”. Remember this anti globalization group? They used to be quite active in Germany but nowadays no one really cares about them. Globalization is an established fact. I used to go to their meetings when I was really young (and naive) but soon saw that they did not offer anything substantial in terms of solutions. They rather basked in the glow of exposing “exploitation” however they defined it. It was a taste of the things to come with today’s woke people. Loud, shrill, accusing and of little substance.

Canon EOS 20D and Canon EF 50mm: Trash Art
“Trash Art” (2006) Canon EOS 20D + EF 50mm F1.8@F1.8 1/400s ISO 200

Another use for such a large aperture lens was to have a narrow depth of field. This is something I rarely use but it felt alright for this little snapshot. Again this is a taste of things to come. Today people use public parks for barbecues and every bin overflows with garbage. Which gets picked up by the wind and crows and deposited throughout the whole park and city for that matter. It saddens me to see that many people no longer respect their surroundings or live under the assumption that public parks are a kind personal garden where they can do as one pleases.

Canon EOS 20D and Canon EF 50mm: Blue Window
“Blue Window” (2006) Canon EOS 20D + EF 50mm F1.8@F2.2 1/80s ISO 800

In 2006 many houses in my neighborhood were being renovated and they often transformed the ground floor apartments into commercial spaces. For a short time there was a glut of commercial real estate and the empty places where illuminated in bright colors at night. Not only to attract potential tenants but also to avoid vandalism those empty rooms. Everyone could look inside…so no space to sneak in for the restless youth.

Canon EOS 20D and Canon EF 50mm: Man waiting for train
“Waiting for Train” (2006) Canon EOS 20D + EF 50mm F1.8@F2.0 1/60s ISO 400

This is one the many serendipitous shots I took whenever I travel through Berlin (which is mostly by public transportation). I wish I could have framed the shot better and aligned it to the two pillars but alas I just had a moment to press the shutter. The station was actually quite busy and people would walk into my shot. Also slowly framing an image as such in public is a bit suspicious.

A subway train
“Open Door” (2010) Canon EOS 20D and EF 50mm F1.8@F1.8 1/200s ISO 800

Just an empty subway car. I am really fascinated by subway systems. I do not care much about the new fancy ones but rather the old systems that where built before World War 2. There is just so much history in these tunnels. You can actually get tickets for an open air ride through the tunnels but those are usually sold out in a short time. Sometimes they offer walking tours trough unused tunnels. Highly recommendable. Again this was a quick shot before people would walk all around me.