Digital is “Different” …. Sort of……

 

I’m going to take a bit more structured approach hopefully on this blog compared to my other one and start with more generic things. Plus, of course, photos Smile

Key Differences from 35mm to when I stepped “in”

One of the big things I’ve noticed from the 35mm days to today, I think, is the fact that the advancement in technology has put picture taking in the hands of much more people. I think that’s wonderful. I mean let’s think about this a bit – even phones today can deliver a not so bad pic, and even have some editing. Back in the “good ole days”, you took your pic and that was kind of it. You sent them off to get processed, got your photos – end of story. If you needed cropping, color adjustment, well….. that was “custom”. Another “end of story” J If one was so inclined, setting up a darkroom to process and print your own color or black and white was quite an expensive proposition and one may or may not have had the space to do this sort thing. Today, we can do the same type of work (only more) on our computers. Heck – on some of my gear, I can do some post work!! Amazing to me.

Stepping In

I’ve gone into this discussion off and on before, but I’m going to go into this a bit more here as it will ultimately lead to related posts later Smile I have a plan…. I think…. Smile

I’ve been going at this now for roughly a year to year and a half now at a pretty fast pace. Especially in the last six months or so. It’s not that I haven’t been taking pictures since my 35mm days, I have – just not at the level of the old days. It was more the “casual” photo – kids, “simple” vacation type shots – nothing in what I would deem the “serious” amateur stuff. Other things got in the way (I’m still much busier than I’d like to be) but in the end, I feel I’m back SmileIt’s been an interesting journey for me to say the least.

Decisions, Decisions…..

It’s funny how one little thing, or “something”, can set of a chain of events. It was this short hop to ‘Vegas for a mini vacation with my wife that sort of “set the path”. There we were with our pointy shooties and for me I found that my camera just didn’t cut it for the pics I wanted to get. That prompted the “search”.

Now… when I started to rationalize stuff out in my head on what I might want to do on this it got a little complex, to say the least. I knew just enough about the digital photography world that I knew I had do some research. Interestingly, money was not so much the issue as planning a “path” if you want to call it that. My life has changed quite drastically over the last 20 years or so and with that, of course, my “needs” or “requirements” (that’s a Business Analyst thing… which I am…) also changed.

This was a bit of a two edged sword – I wanted to be able to have a high quality end result – I also did not want to pack a lot of equipment around. Compared to life previous, commuting was engrained into my life as like many others. The other side of things – in order to get back into this, I knew I had to take pics – LOTS of pics – in order to figure out what the current technology could do. At this point, it was more to find a “camera” that could give me a decent launch point. Software had nothing to do with this at that point. Couple this to commuting, and portable had to be it – DLSR’s, as much as I wanted to go there, simply wasn’t part of that equation. If I really really need something in that class, I would simply use my wife’s Panasonic FZ50. The Fuji X10 was my entry point. IIRC, by the time I got the case, spare battery, spare cards it was around $700 that I spent on it.  A little steep, but for me, not bad. 

The “plan” was to use the X10 for a bit to accomplish a couple of things.  First, to get a feel for taking pictures again and see if my interests had changed from the old days (they have a bit), and second, to figure out this “digital” side of things. 

The Photo Side or “Taking Pics”

This sort of meshes in with equipment, to a certain degree, but……

Back in the 35mm days, I had this battery of lenses that ranged from 17mm to 200mm (in 35mm terms, so 9 to 100mm in todays “talk” Smile)  AND for the most part one was pretty well stuck with a prime lens of some sort, usually a 50 mm (25mm  in digital). OK for most things as that’s pretty well what the human eye “sees”.  Anything that surrounded that started to cost.  The rangefinders (today’s basic point ‘n shoots) were also a fixed length.  In today’s world it’s amazing to me what one can get in a basic unit let alone the more sophisticated one.  My X10 comes with a zoom that equates to about 28mm to 112mm in 35mm terms.  For others – slightly wide angle to slightly telephoto.  Scenery to portraits AND a fast lens at f2.0.  For me – a great entry point as one of things I really like – scenery, low light, candids.  I knew at some point I would probably go beyond this but until I got a better “feel” for stuff, this would be more than adequate.

I also knew at the time, that eventually, I would want wider and longer, but for the first little while, this was more than adequate.  To this day, I’m still finding out things about the X10 Smile  AND that was well over a year ago, but I did find that my tastes/requirements had also changed.  I’ve acquired a lot of equipment since then (more on that in another post), but it came about as I took more and more pics. 

I found that for me, the time to take pics was very constrained and aside from the social event thing (families, get togethers, etc.) and dedicated “short breaks”, if I was going to get back into it, I would have to make time somewhere, somehow.  Noon hours was my only shot at this and hence the portability approach.  This was where architecture started to come into play.  I’m an IT consultant, and this current project had me. Still gotta fit in my daypack….  These were just some of the things that ran thru my head as I did my daily work life.  Away from work – well, all of these things came into play, but then I had some other things that I did that involved sort of a light box thing – stills and product stuff.  Portable was not necessarily a requirement here but again something to log and see.

I’m going to blog this in another post, but I do chat about it in my other blog but when I started to study this a bit more, it was pretty amazing what I found from the equipment side!!!

Software

Now this is one space that totally changed from my old days.  Digital has made the “darkroom” side accessible to just about anyone who has a computer or a phone or a tablet..  Amazing to me.  That fact that you can even crop, let alone get rid of red-eye, etc. has the potential to make literally anyone crank out some pretty decent pics.  What I did find, though, that this technology also can make one “lazy” for lack of a better term on the picture taking side of things.  One can simply take a “general” shot and then manipulate later via cropping and image processing.  Fine to a point but I’m not so sure that it necessarily makes one a better photographer.  I guess I’m also a little old school that way – for me, despite what technology has to offer, I’m still a believer in getting the right shot the first time. 

And then, for the more informed, we have this world of of sensors and megapixels Smile  Again, this took a little research to figure this stuff out but by taking a lot of pics and doing some image processing stuff, this has pretty well fallen into place.

Now, in saying that I’m also taking advantage of what the software has to offer and finding out more and more all the time.

The “Path”

My immediate short term goal has put me in what I would call a slightly different path.  My base point was portability.  Running parallel to that, was the fact that I had some specific requirements in what I wanted to do with portability in mind.  One vacation we took was in Hawaii.  I’m going to post some findings on this type of trip in another post, but the one thing I did know from past experience in 35mm was that 4x zoom was not going to be adequate.  Now on the flipside, when you get past this zoom level, there’s the problem of shake, with the exception of maybe the sunlight shots.  Tripod – no, my decision was no.  I knew we would be doing a lot of sightseeing and the sheer extra weight of a tripod took it right out of the equation.  My solution was the mid-sized Gorilla Pod.  I could pack it, my X10, and my iPad quite easily in my Tracker sling.

Before I go into more detail on some things.  I DO look at reviews etc. before I go out and buy stuff, don’t get me wrong.  A lot of the reviews from my perspective, are very good, but I also tend to view them a little tongue and cheek Smile  Feature sets – yes, I pay very close attention there.  Image quality – well, I look at that, but I also look at what I’m doing or going to do and try to correlate that information to what I do or want to do.  For the most part, I feel the image quality is there and in reality, I’m really not disappointed in what I’m seeing.  I’m able to get a good quality shot for what I’m doing, and that’s what I’m after.  Something for me not someone else.  In the future and as I get a little more discerning, maybe.  BUT for now and the near future – getting the shot and a good quality one is the most important.  The other side of this – with the money I’ve spent so far, compared to the shots I’ve gotten so far, a DSLR and lenses would have been a VERY expensive proposition and one that I’m not prepared to take.  We won’t even go into the bulk thing…….

The bigger zoom requirement got me thinking.  So what about a pointy shooty with a bigger zoom.  I went on a hunt and found the Panasonic ZS1 which had a 10x zoom/16 megapixels.  AND it was on sale to boot – BONUS!!  Off to Hawaii we went a few weeks later.  My testing with the ZS1 was actually pretty interesting – for what I was doing and the result I was looking for, this one was more than adequate.  Or so I thought.  Between the wife and myself we ended up with roughly 2500 photos across 8 days.  Lots of great shots, but also lots of missed shots.  There were a few that “got away”.  Not enough zoom!!  Cropping didn’t cut it from a quality point of view.  Low light – awesome stuff with the X10.  I was getting high quality shots handheld.

So…. as I started to analyze what more I wanted in the future, I got thinking about what I wanted to do next.  It would be nice if I could get something that was capable of even lower light than the X10 (not that I couldn’t boost ISO, but I wanted to stay as low as possible and still get a reasonable quality shot AND find something that could get me into a bigger zoom.  In reality, not going to happen – economically anyway.  So my thoughts went this way – what IF I started to consider multiple cameras?  Would the technology be there for what I wanted to do? 

Well, as luck would have it, in the larger zoom camera, the technology was just starting to come into its own, which just a few months ago – 6 or so actually, and I ended up with a series of travel cams at the big zoom end.  In guess you are wondering – I was prepared to spend a bit of coin on this venture Smile  And I have….. 

The one thing with these travel cams – they are pretty neat units.  The ones I have go up to 20x optical zoom and more with digital enabled plus they are in the 16-18 megapixel range.  The more serious amateur might not even consider these, but you know, after working with these, there’s no getting away from their functionality.  They have a lot of stuff packed into a pretty small unit.  My primary users are the Fuji F800, Sony HX30 and Panasonic ZS25.  They each have a lot of similarities but they also have their differences.  Another discussion for later…..  Picture quality – you know, for the most part – if you didn’t know what to look for after enlarging or cropping, they are actually REALLY good Smile  So what do I mean by that, you say.  Well, for what they are designed to do, which is be used for travel, they do deliver an excellent image.  They also have enough manual functionality, that if so inclined, you can fiddle Smile 

Here’s one from the HX30 with digital zoom enabled and using the Gorilla Pod.

I couldn’t have got even got that shot easily otherwise.  Shot that in full manual mode.  Not so shabby, all things considered.

The travel cam side of things has opened a whole new space for what I can do.  Even neater –  this is a unit that fits easily into my daypack along with my daily stuff.  I’ll do a post later with things I’ve discovered in this space.

I also started looking at possible alternates to the Fuji X10.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this camera and what it does, but I started down the path of lower light and possibly larger sensor units – again, very specific things, not necessarily in one unit.  I was also looking at the mobility side of things.  I was starting to hit a point where I was doing the the swap and jump thing – you know, where you are heading out the door and you jam stuff into another bag and off you go.  Usually in a hurry……Ooops forgot that spare battery or something along those lines.  Yes, my life tend to be like that – my wife and I have quite the schedule…..

I happened to be “cruising” thru a camera store and bumped into the Panasonic LX7 – equivalent sensor size BUT it had two things that I wanted very badly – lens speed (f1.4) AND wide angle at 24mm!!  AND it was smaller than my X10!!  For interior shots this is literally the perfect unit for what I currently do with some real estate things I do, plus it’s size made it ideal for my daypack to boot.  I used this one mostly when I am doing renovation work – the before/after stuff, etc. etc.  Also any place where low light starts to come into play.

I started to look at certain types of things I was starting to do over the last few months.  They started to move into that “higher quality image” category.  Not that the X10 or LX7 couldn’t do the job, but I wanted that “safety net”  – The bigger question here was how much bulk was I prepared to take on?  My latest acquisition was the Panasonic GX1 with the 14-42mm kit lens (manual zoom) and the 45-200 manual zoom lens.  I’ve been asked a couple of times now to be the backup photographer for a couple of events.  These events were of the type that manual zoom was the only game in town, but stuff was happening fast enough that even taking time out for battery swaps was not going to be easy.  The X10, as nice as it is, has a short battery life – not so short if you are doing the usual thing, but where you are working with flash, low light, etc., you are dead in the water at around 100 shots.  I had already been thru this with my X10 on a previous event and I did have spare batteries, but I had time to swap.  This time around, I had to go roughly 150 flash shots for the staged sequences (yes, this was a fashion event and I was doing “entry’ shots/ramp – in a poorly lit area….)  The GX1 worked a charm for this with the X10 as my backup.

Now, you ask – why the GX1?  Well, I wanted to do a bit of playing for starters in interchangeable lenses and I again, didn’t want the bulk of the DSLR.  The GX1 actually was bought to accommodate some future stuff where I will be needing that extra length and higher quality.

Onward for now….

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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