Friday, June 29, 2012

Dancing in Glendale

The thing about being a photojournalist is that you get to meet the most interesting people. Yesterday I went out to Glendale, about 20 miles from downtown Phoenix, to photograph a group of senior citizens who stay fit by dancing. 

Dancing seniors are nothing new. Almost every senior citizens' center in the Valley (and there's probably close to 100 - we have lots of senior citizens) has a dance program of one sort or another. What makes these dancing seniors different is that they perform traditional Mexican folklorico dances, with the billowing skirts and ranchera music. Many, but not all, of the dancers are Latino citizens. It was a lot of fun watching them twirl around the dance floor like a bunch of kids. They may be older, but they don't miss a step. The young lady pictured above is 71 years young. Several members of the group are in their 80s. The youngest is in her 60s. 

I used my 5D Mark III and 5D Mark II cameras for this assignment. I've been using the 5D Mark III as my main camera since I got it in March, before a trip to Vietnam. The more I use this camera, the more I like it. 

It's not that image quality is better from the Mark III (although it is). It's that the Mark III is a much better camera - by that I mean everything about it is better. Although it's essentially the same size and weight as the Mark II, it feels much better in the hand. When you turn it on and start working with it the difference is night and day. 

The Mark III is much, much faster than the Mark II. The autofocus, in particular, is so improved that the Mark III could be a sports camera. Certainly the Mark II was used for sports (I even shot some basketball and football with mine) but I don't think many people ever considered it a sports camera. As much as I liked my Mark II bodies, they can't hold a candle to the Mark III. Even with something like senior citizens performing folklorico dances, the Mark II's autofocus would have struggled to keep with the dancers. The Mark III, on the other hand, is spooky fast. Images snap into focus instantly, and the camera's buffer clears so fast that's no appreciable lag shot to shot.

I still use my Mark II body as a back up or second camera to my Mark III and that works out well. The image quality off the two is so similar that it's easy to batch process the files together. At low ISO, below 1600, the Mark III is a little better but above 1600 the Mark III's advantage gets more dramatic with each stop increase in ISO. ISO 12,800 from the Mark III is better than ISO 6,400 was on the Mark II. The amazing thing is that five years ago the thought of photographing at ISO 6,400 (and getting acceptable results) was just a dream. Back in the days of film, ISO 400 was considered "high speed film," especially for color slide film. Working at 12,800? You would've been locked in an asylum for suggesting that. 


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