Photography in anime – Just Because! Episode 1

The just premiered anime Just Because! features Ena, whose hobby is photography…  and her character and the photography details the anime’s staff put into the show caught my eye.  (As I’m an enthusiastic and experienced amateur photographer.)

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A new series in which I talk about photography and photographers in anime.  I hope both photographers and anime fans find it useful and interesting.

Originally, this was part of my first impression post for Just Because…  But it got to be very long and very nerdy and made more sense standalone because of the potential for a series of such posts.  Plus, having spent over three hours researching, thinking, and writing it deserves the spotlight on its own.

In one scene, Ena captures a shot of Natsume in a pensive moment…

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This is actually a pretty good photograph, and tells us quite a bit about the character.  She’s not comfortable where she is, and appears to feel lost and maybe a bit lonely.

Myself, I’d have tried to shoot it from a little more to the right and maybe with a just slightly lower sightline…  But when you’re shooting street, you take what you can get because you’re shooting fast from the hip to capture a fleeting moment.  (Not to mention the old saying among photographers:  One scene, eleven photographers, eleven different images.)  But still I’d have loved an angle that caught the expressive hunch of Natsume’s shoulders more clearly.

The camera is a Canon PowerShot G5X – a recent (2015) camera and looking at it’s specs, actually a pretty good choice for this kind of photography.  Light, compact, and easily slipped into a backpack or purse but with decent photographic capabilities.  I still have my ancient and obsolescent (2008) PowerShot G10, and still carry it from time-to-time for just the same reason.  There are simply places where I can’t carry my larger and heavier Canon DSLR because of its bulk, or it would be inappropriate or out-of-place.  When I’m wearing a suit it fits nicely into a jacket packet, though it is heavy enough to pull the jacket a little to one side.

The G5X is also what’s known as a bridge camera.  That means it has the automatic features and built-in lens of a point and shoot, but also has manual controls which a more experienced photographer can take advantage of.   It can’t do everything that a DSLR can do, but it’s a very good choice for teenage photographer’s daily carry camera.  Heck, it’s a defensible choice for anyone’s daily carry camera.  Photography is about the eye, the brain, and the heart – not the gear.  You can do amazing stuff with even the cheapest and crappiest camera.  Not the same amazing stuff that a more expensive or capable camera can do, but amazing nonetheless.  All it takes is practice and experience.

Plus, there’s another old saying among photographers – the best camera in the world is the one in your hands.   You can only get a shot if you have a camera with you.  I keep my daily carry DSLR in a sling bag that’s fully packed and ready-to-go with a charged spare battery and extra memory cards.  When I’m headed out the door, all I have to do is grab the bag and I’m ready for almost anything.  (Almost anything because my heaviest and my special purpose lenses aren’t packed.)  My tripod lives in my van for the same reason.

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Again with the G5X, a powerfully framed shot of Eita (on the left) and Haruto.  Four years ago, they played baseball together and were best friends, then Eita moved away and has only recently returned.  All Ena knows is that Eita is a recently arrived transfer student… and she neatly captures the distance and isolation he must feel.  On the other hand, they’re taking part in a shared activity and that shows their bonds as well (though she has no knowledge of those bonds).

Ena may not have won any awards, but she certainly knows her stuff.  Note the slightly-out-of-focus netting, a very interesting stylistic choice that emphasizes the boundaries between the individuals.

Kudos to the animation staff and their researchers for nailing that detail.

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Ena is also shown with a Canon 7D Mark II, and it’s implied that it belongs to the club. (Or maybe the school?)  That makes sense, even though it’s a crop frame (APS-C) sensor, it’s a high-end crop frame.  Even used (it hasn’t been superseded, but people do upgrade to full frame cameras) it will still set you back around $900-$1000 USD.

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And whoa Nellie!  That’s L-glass she’s sporting there.  Translated for non-photographers – a high-end, high performance, very expensive professional grade lens.  Though (unless it’s been swapped out) the tripod mount is wrong, it appears to be an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM.  New it runs around $1800 USD, and used it will still set you back around $1200-$1500 USD in good condition.  (Glass holds it’s value, even if they’re a decade or more old a good lens can command as much as 75-80% of its original street price.)  Though it’s not impossible that I’ve misidentified it and it’s an older lens – by its markings (cream-colored with the unmistakable red ring) it’s still L-glass, and by its physical configuration makes me think it’s a telephoto zoom.  I guesstimate that’s still going to be $1200 USD+ worth of lens.

It’s implied though that the camera and lens is school or club property which makes sense.  A group can afford and share what an individual cannot.  Given the kinds of task school clubs are often shown in anime as taking on, I’m not surprised they own such a setup.

Edit/Update A link from @Jenagsan via @iblessall:
New Japanese Anime to Feature Ultra Realistic Canon Cameras

Which confirms my equipment ID’s.  Always nice.  :)

Again, kudos to the staff for the details…  That’s a heavy lens (1570 g / 3.46 lbs) and very difficult to shoot handheld, especially given the narrow field of view (more on that below).  It almost has to be tripod mounted to use effectively.  Also, she’s put the hood on it (and it appears to be the right hood for an IS II), which is mandatory given the bright daylight conditions.  Most photographers will mount the hood out of reflex, it doesn’t hurt anything and even in lower light can prevent ghosts from lights outside the field of view.  More evidence that Ena has experience and knows what’s she’s doing.

Photographically speaking, it’s an interesting choice of lens though.  Mounted on a APS-C (1.6x) crop frame like the 7D, its zoom markedly increases (from 100-400mm to 160-640mm) and it’s field of view narrows proportionately.  The lens is marketed for sports photography, but that narrow field of view means she’s concentrating on a single player.  (Unless she moved, she can’t get both players in the frame from the position of the first shot.)  Who?  Eita or Haruto?  My bet, given the other things shown, is that it’s Eita.

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Appropriate for a dedicated photographer, her userpic is a camera.  (My Facebook user pic is my trusty T2i.)  I can’t identify the model, but it’s probably a film camera given the styling, that silvery metal top was very common in the film era.  Nowadays with molded plastic housings that’s a feature found only on very high-end cameras that are deliberately evoking nostalgia and higher class.  Not that molded plastic is bad mind you, with a proper choice of plastic the case can be very durable.  High end cameras today will often use molded fiber reinforced plastic, you can damn near take a hammer to it.

The picture stymies me though…  It’s zoomed in more than I’d think a cellphone camera commonly does, and she certainly doesn’t have the time (or the field setup) to transfer from the G5X she’s shown having at this point.  Though, in all honestly, I’m not at all familiar with what the current crop of cell phones can do.

Whew!  This started out as a quick comment in another entry, but rapidly spiraled out of control.  I hope you found it useful and interesting – drop me a line in the comments and tell me what you think!

34 thoughts on “Photography in anime – Just Because! Episode 1”

  1. I’ve done a little bit a photography for work, which means I’ve had a chance to play around with a few nicer Canons, so even if I don’t understand all of the details here, I knew enough to find it fascinating. What a cool way to approach this lovely episode! Definitely hope to see more in this series ;)

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It was fun to write, though in retrospect I maybe should have talked about the photographs more than gear… But scratch a photographer and you’re likely to find a gearhead underneath. I’ve gotten to shoot with some high end gear courtesy of friends, and it’s way cool.

        No, I didn’t see the article, but it’s nice to confirm that I identified the gear correctly. (Though, why then is the tripod mount wrong?)

        The inclusion of the M6 is a bit odd because it uses a different, and incompatible, mount system than the 7D’s. I wonder if it’s a personal camera, the price range is the same as the G5X? With the lens shown though, she’s going to lose a lot of reach. Or maybe, since the M6 is Canon’s shiny new hotness including it was Canon’s idea. I’m going to have to watch for it to show up.

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  2. Whew, it’s pretty surprising how much detail was in this show with all the cameras and such! I’m not really into cameras or photography (I kind of want to…) but it’s nice to widen my knowledge a little bit through this anime. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was a very interesting read, even if maybe a little overwhelming for someone with no photography experience at all.

    Watching this episode, I did get the feeling that she knew what she was doing, but I didn’t really think about it at all. (I wonder what’ll happen to the gear, if they shut down the club? Lie around, unused? Sold off?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried to keep it as non technical as I could… But my inner geek just kept flowing out.

      I’d hate to think it would sit around unused, it’s nice gear.

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      1. It was an interesting read. :)

        Your post also made me realise that I know little about clubs. I know they get a budget from the school, but that’s about all I know. What happens to assets once the club ends? I’ve seen lots of anime reviving a club, and having access to “leftover-stuff”, but it’s usually not something on that level. The way you described the gear made me worry that it would lie around unused. (As a corollary, it made me wonder how many funds the club got in the first place.)

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        1. At least in America, clubs would hold a bake sale, or a car wash, or something. Mostly, outside of sports or other inter-school competitions, extracurricular activities don’t receive much support from the school.

          And pretty much all I know about Japanese clubs is what I know from anime…

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  4. I know virtually nothing about photography, and as someone with hand tremors it’s hard for me to take good pictures without either using some kind of mount or shooting on time delay so I can put the camera down. Image stabilizing helps, but it can only do so much. I do own a camera despite that (a Canon A570 from 2007), but it doesn’t leave the drawer much anymore since I bought my first smart phone a couple of years ago. Anyway, even as a layman I was still able to mostly follow what you were talking about. It’s a unique idea for a series, and I’m looking forward to reading more of these! Are you planning to cover a wide range of different anime, then?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you, one of my points of pride used to be that I could shoot handheld in places and times others couldn’t, but no more because now my hands shake. And yeah, smartphones have put a HUGE dent in camera sales. But phone cameras are getting pretty impressive, at least two (that I know of) winners of the photography contest at the fair were taken with cell phones. And this was in the adult amatuer competion, the rules aren’t that strict but no obvious crap is going to draw above third place.

      I’m glad you were able to follow along… I tried not to geek out too much and keep it to a layman level.

      I’m planning on covering/posting mostly as the spirit moves me or shows appear before me. But I do have a thinkpiece outlined in my head.

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    1. Mostly it’s a matter of getting out there and practicing… Easy to do with a phone that’s always on you. The step most people forget is downloading them to a PC where you can get a good look at them and think about them.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think Photo Kano was going in this direction… it was more about perverted photos than anything else, but it’s been years since I’ve seen it and it was pretty forgettable.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great article. I’ve also had my share of amateur photography before I ended up getting swamped with work at the hospital. Although I was more of a Nikon user, it was still fun seeing actual cameras directly referenced in the show (chances are, they got a Canon sponsorship or something).

    I agree with your thoughts on camera gear not necessarily promising better images, but the added premium translates to better chances of getting the perfect shot at the right moment. It’s one of the reasons why I still prefer traditional SLRs to the newer mirrorless variants, if only because the response times are as quick as your reflexes are at taking them.

    And this is just my nerdy wish, but I’d like to see a rangefinder pop up in the show. I’m a sucker for old school rangefinders, so much so that I blew off a paycheck on a X100T two years ago. People wondered why I prefer a fixed “pancake” for a lens, but I just tell them that’s my style. And that’s what makes photography so much fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kinda fell into shooting Canon (long story which I’ll skip), but it’s worked out. Five of the six semi- and pro photographers I know shoot Canon and have many times let me borrow lenses including L-glass. Because of that I’ve shot with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, and that’s how I knew the limits of the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM that appeared in the show.

      Oh… lordy I’d love to own a rangefinder, I learned to shoot way back when on an Argus C3 rangefinder with it’s fixed 55mm lens. But they’re so expensive for what they are. I’m saving my pennies for Canon’s EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, because with the crop factor that works out to 56mm.

      If you click on the ‘photography’ tag you can see some of my work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll definitely check it out. :)

        Photography was that poison that robbed me of my savings a couple years back. Not that I’m itching to return, but it’s great to read technical posts like this (and your reply) again. I’m honestly thinking of jumping to the FujiFilm camp. The x-mount line is looking interesting, and the old school feel of the newer models really hits that nostalgia bone in me. It’s the closest thing I can get to owning what looks like a Leica M, haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t usually reply to older posts I’ve already replied to, but it just occured to me that, now the you have a series about photography in anime, you’re practically obliged to check out Tamayura. As far as I, who don’t even own a camera, can tell, it’s about snapshots. The OVA is only 4 episodes. It’s the weakest of the lot when it comes to characterisation, but mood-wise it’s consistent, and as far as I remember it’s visually comparable to the tv series. (Not sure where it’s available, though.)

    Yeah, I know, I shill the show all the time. ;)

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    1. If it’s not available, it’s hard for me to watch/write about it. :)

      Which is annoying, as I was planning a piece on Honaka and Encouragement of Climb when Crunchy announced they were losing the license. Maybe they’ll bring it back when S3 airs next year.

      Keeps those ideas coming, never know when one will work out!

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