Archive for the ‘camera’ Tag

The Camera In My Hand   2 comments

I own 3 cameras.  None of them are perfect for every shot.

Cellphone

I have a 2-year old smartphone, an HTC Thunderbolt.  It shoots 8 megapixel images.  Unfortunately, as you’ll quickly find when you examine the differences between cameras, one megapixel isn’t necessarily like another.

The images taken by cellphones have improved, but they are still inferior to a quality point & shoot or a good SLR.  Cellphones are OK for close images in a well-lit environment … such as the classic self-portrait taken in front of a mirror.  Want to take a picture of your buddies for Facebook?  Perfect.

Want to shoot a vacation picture for printing in a photo book?  That won’t work so well.

Here’s a photo review that shows you some examples.  Unfortunately, there’s just nothing to be done to improve a cellphone photo taken in a challenging environment.

This Smartphone photo shot at LA Live would have been great if the proper equipment could have been used. Shot with a  Smartphone?  Not even worth posting to Facebook.

This Smartphone photo shot at LA Live would have been great if the proper equipment could have been used. Shot with a Smartphone? Not even worth posting to Facebook.

Point & Shoot

My 4-year-old point & shoot camera is a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90.  It’s about the same size as the cellphone … still easy to slip into a pocket or purse.  With a 2 gig memory stick, I can take 246 pictures, that are also 8 megapixel images.  It’s got a 3x zoom, which gives you much more flexibility than most cellphones (though some do “electronic” zooms — they don’t actually move lenses to have an actual zoom).  The quality of the pix are much better than a cellphone, though they are still soft around the edges.  Here’s a review that found their test camera had a slightly misaligned lens.

Well, what do you expect for $150?  A typical point & shoot will take better pictures than a cellphone … but the pictures will still be limited.  Here’s a sampling:

A point & shoot's zoom is handy for focusing attention on a distant object ... such as the superstructure of Mighty Mo, in Pearl Harbor.

A point & shoot’s zoom is handy for focusing attention on a distant object … such as the superstructure of Mighty Mo, in Pearl Harbor.

Distant focus points and inadequate lighting totally overwhelm a point & shoot's capability.  The flash can throw 10' at best; it was of no use in this lava tube.

Distant focus points and inadequate lighting totally overwhelm a point & shoot’s capability. The flash can throw 10′ at best; it was of no use in this lava tube.

A beautiful sunlit day, and you'll get wonderful snapshots with a point & shoot.  The focus on the edges is noticably softer (at least when you enlarge the photo!), but the photo is great for most purposes.

A beautiful sunlit day, and you’ll get wonderful snapshots with a point & shoot. The focus on the edges is noticably softer (at least when you enlarge the photo!), but the photo is great for most purposes.

Nikon D7000

I love my Nikon, which is a good consumer grade DSLR (digital single lens reflex, which means you actually look through the viewfinder to see through the lens).  Most of the photography on this blog was taken with the D7000.

This camera will accept two SD chips simultaneously, so you can shoot hundreds of photographs without changing storage media.  You can also vary the quality of the image … so if you choose to shoot low quality images (WHY???), you can get more on each chip.  I shoot the highest quality in both RAW and .jpg formats, and still can shoot 600+ images with my 2x 16 gigabyte chips.

That’ll get me through any day of shooting I’ve done so far!

I principally use 3 lenses … each of which cost more than most point & shoot cameras.  The cost of my gear means I’m unlikely to leave it in the trunk of the car; I carry it in to restaurants and shops.  Call me paranoid.

The bulk of the gear is also a challenge.  The camera + lenses + bags weighs pounds, not ounces.  When I’m hiking, I’m also constantly changing the lens on the camera body to get the “perfect” shot, which adds to the time needed to use this more complex photo rig.  On the other hand, I’m able to get photographs that are clearer than anything I could get with a point & shoot.

This picture of my in-laws was shot in their backyard last summer.  The depth of field and brilliant colors are just outstanding!

This picture of my in-laws was shot in their backyard last summer. The depth of field and brilliant colors are just outstanding!

Add a tripod, a flash and any other extraneous gear, and you’re simply not able to travel easily.  You travel heavy with a DSLR … but the results can be wonderful.

This shot of our mantle was done from a tripod, with a remote shutter release.  Even the vibration of your hand hitting the button can add shake to the camera; it becomes more noticeable in low light photography.

This shot of our mantle was done from a tripod and remote shutter release. Even the vibration of your hand hitting the button can add shake to the camera; it becomes more noticeable in low light photography.

I’ve found that the camera simply isn’t allowed in some venues.  Sporting venues like the Rose Bowl and Staples Center won’t allow you to take your DSLR into events, so you are restricted to smartphones or point & shoots unless you are a working journalist.  Same goes with most trade shows, unless you have an approved media sticker on your gear.  No sticker?  Security is trained to turn you away.

The Camera In My Hand

So which camera do I use?  The D7000 when I can carry it.  I sometimes have to be “encouraged” to get it out by Velda, who makes sure I avail myself of every opportunity to capture every expression of our lovely granddaughter.

And that’s a good thing.

But it is a commitment.  Carrying a small point & shoot is much simpler, and the photos will work if you’re looking for a snapshot … and not shooting more than 10′ from the lens.  Push beyond that limit, and you will find the results will not always be good.  You’ll always have your smartphone close at hand (right?), but if you intend to use your photos anywhere but Facebook, I believe you’ll be disappointed.

It’s just like everything else:  if you want the best results, you have to do the work.

Five Tips For Better Pictures

1. Think about your pictures before you leave the house.  Make sure you are carrying the camera (and other gear) that you are most comfortable using to capture the scenes you’ll see that day.

2. Always use a stable platform to hold the camera – any camera.  If you’re not using a tripod or monopod, then make a tripod with your body:  hold your elbows in tight, and hold the camera up to your nose.  Stop breathing when you shoot so the camera won’t be moving when you press the shutter release.

3. Think about the background of your shots.  In focus?  Out of focus?  With a landmark in the shot, or with a plain background?  Planning makes for better pictures.

4. Take multiple shots.  You’re not burning film, you’re just rearranging electrons.  Make sure you get enough copies so you won’t be disappointed with blinking eyes or photobombing passersby.

5. Set up the best shot, and then ask a stranger to push the button so you can be in the picture.  Family & friends want to see you, too!

Are Lines Always This Blurry?   1 comment

Every Sci Fi fan’s favorite hand held device, of course, is the tricorder.  Those are almost a reality today, thanks to a $10 million prize offered for the company that develops one.  Here’s some recent news coverage.  So, real tricorders are just around the corner!

Who knew that a tricorder would be proven to be too large and too inflexible just 40 years later?

We’ve had several handheld devices compete to be your favorite.  We’ve had  PDAs, personal audio recorders, watches with news feeds, and many more.  There was a time that an operations manager at Six Flags Magic Mountain had to wear a pair of two-way radios and a beeper (remember those?) to stay in communication with staff.  Thankfully, those days are gone.

I used to know what a camera was.  You know, the kind you put film in?  I did that, a lot.  Those were good days.

Today, a phone is a camera. Oh, and a flashlight, a thermometer, a compass, a level, a phonebook, a clock, a game console, a two-way, a juke box, a radio, a book, a computer, an alarm … and I’m just getting started.

Dedicated cameras have survived in ways that beepers, PDAs and wristwatches have not.  However, it now appears that smartphones and their ever-improving features are having a negative impact on digital camera sales … down nearly a third in England over the last 5 years, for example.  Smartphones have put millions of cameras into consumers’ hands, and in some cases, those phones have replaced cameras.

Since dedicated cameras have better photographic functionality … what should you do?  Carry 2 devices, or “make do” with just your smartphone?

Note: the idea of only carrying a camera is just not possible today!

In the latest twist, according to this article, Nikon may soon introduce a camera that uses 3G to connect to the web and use apps.  Instagram on your camera?  Just wait a couple of weeks, and it appears that we’ll be there.

I guess it only figures.  I mean, an e-reader can use 3G, so why not a camera?  Or will the camera just be WiFi capable, as with the lower models of the Kindle or iPad?  Time will tell.

In theory, this means that Nikon’s extending their CoolPix series with a ‘net capable camera … so that means we’ll have the option of a better point & shoot that runs onboard apps for processing and uploads pix directly.  Just like your smartphone … but with better optics?  It’s hard for me to believe they could deliver better processing, too.

Will that encourage you to carry a web-capable camera in addition to your smartphone?  Or is Nikon barking up the wrong tree?

For today, my vote is with a high quality camera (which is why I carry a DSLR).  I seldom shoot with my smartphone, which, I know, just means that I’m too old to understand.

But I don’t wear a watch anymore.  That’s some progress, right?

This party pic belongs on facebook, right? Immediately, right? Unfortunately, I shot it with my DSLR, uploaded it to my computer, opened processing software to edit and downgrade the file, and THEN I uploaded it. Maybe Nikon does have a good idea!

Posted August 9, 2012 by henrymowry in Photography

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