What To Use Where…

TheGuys

In my current adventure into the world of digital photography, I’ve been reading a lot of reviews, articles, studying photos etc., and seen a lot opinions on “stuff”.  I also have acquired a lot of gear over the last couple of years.  I also have about 10 or more years of photography experience from my 35mm days.  I’ve developed my own opinions as well Smile  Here are a few:

First, let’s start with the gear I’ve acquired in the last two years:

DLSR – Most recently acquired a Nikon D3200 with the kit zoom (18-55mm)

Compact System Cameras – Panasonic GX1 w/2 zooms, Nikon 1 J1 w/2 zooms

Advanced – Fuji X10 and Panasonic LX7

Travel Cameras (larger than 10x zoom) – Panasonic SZ 15(15x) and 25 (2 0x), Canon SX270 HS, Nikon S9400, Sony HX30 and Fuji F800

Point and Shoots – Panasonic SZ1 (10x), Pentax Optio P70, Nikon S3400, Nikon S3000

In addition, my wife has a Panasonic FZ50 (quasi DLSR, 12x zoom).  We’ve also had some sort of a digital camera or two always kicking around, but in the last few years our picture taking has ramped up quite a bit.  Our photo scope ranges from family photos to event photos.  My wife gets her photos published in her volunteer events newsletters on a VERY regular basis.  These are, of course, electronic including Facebook pages for these volunteer groups, of course Smile      We also take photos, probably like everyone else, doing vacations, family events, etc. and I like to do light box stuff and close up work.  I also get called on the odd time for things like fashion shows, or other events as a backup to the pro that is usually working that particular event.

We do use all of this gear quite consistently.  Some more than others but nonetheless, they do get used.  Everything was bought with some specific purpose in mind.  The Nikon D3200, I’ve gotta admit, was a little impulsive on my part Smile  I wanted to “dip my toe in” and also it gives me enough information for myself to see if I want to go further here. 

Realities of Taking Photos

When it really comes down to it, the camera is a “tool” for capturing a moment in time.  As is a painting or a drawing. Everyone has a different perception of what that moment looks like. I’m sure you’ve heard that comment “Say…that camera takes pretty good pictures.”  Smile  The reality here, is that in many cases, it’s not the camera Smile  Have you ever asked someone what they mean by that?  I have – and one of the comments I get more than others, is that “good” means the picture is clear and colourful.  Not necessarily the “art”, if you want to call it that of actually how that photo was taken.    I recently, was chatting with a friend of mine who is more of the “snapshot” crowd and he asked how I took such “nice” landscapes.  When I asked him what he meant by that, it had nothing to really do with color, etc. but more about composition. I explained the Rule of Thirds and his comment was “Is that it?”.  Well, there is more to it than that, but for what he was trying to figure out, it solved a puzzle for him.

So… what I’m seeing here is a bit of a two edged sword.  The reality is, that if you want to take a “good” picture as the general public is concerned, there’s a bit of a tradeoff.  Photo knowledge with the resulting a“good” photo, but also quality  which correlates to equipment.  Also, when it comes down to the “quality” aspect what does one mean by that?

I think perspective is critical here.  I hear a lot of “IF you want the highest possible quality shot, you should have a DSLR” or, I also get the attitude of “IF you don’t own a DSLR, you’re really not in the game.”  To me, this basically shows a lack of knowledge or “something”.  People tend to leave out the caveats surrounding their “opinions”. 

I look at this this way – sure a DSLR might deliver the highest quality photo, but that also comes at a price.  AND, depending on what I need to do, it could be at a HUGE cost.  More important – that price also includes mobility.  AND let’s also not forget the knowledge that’s required to get that quality shot.  Even more important – is that quality going to be noticeable for “normal” stuff.  Even more important – WHO is going to even notice that difference?  To me, I find that for most things, any camera will deliver a pretty high quality photo.  The more sophisticated cameras simply give you the ability to exert an “effect” you want to achieve.  That “effect” requires knowledge. 

When I started getting a bit more serious and started acquiring equipment, a DSLR was simply not  in the equation.  AND depending on what I’m going to be doing, it probably still might not be in the equation Smile  You see, when I was commuting, a DSLR was simply too bulky to lug around.  A pointy shooty of sorts, however, would simply fit in my daypack.  If I didn’t have a camera, in saying that, I wouldn’t have gotten many of the photos I’ve taken in the downtown core.  In other words, what good is the camera if it’s not with you Smile  If you don’t take that many photos, not a big deal.  If you do, well….I guess it depends on whether or not you even want to catch photo ops.  I used take these noon hour jaunts(when I was working downtown) thru the downtown core.  I had a sling bag that usually housed a couple of cameras – usually something like the Panasonic LX7 plus a travel zoom.  There were days when I didn’t take one photo, but then there were days when I did Smile 

Perceptions

You know, for me, when I look at the type of photos I’ve taken using digital, I’m actually pretty impressed with the sheer quality of photos that we’ve gotten.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still pretty picky when it comes to the quality of the photo itself, but I also tend to look at things in a very “grounded” manner.  I look at it like this – I take a shot with a camera that might show edge distortion under a lot of cropping, OR the image might start to break apart or lose detail at a certain magnification.  The reviews even mention this.  OK – fine.  Will I see that “flaw” under normal conditions?  Probably not.  Do I care?  NO. I got the shot I wanted at the time.

The more serious amateur or pro will likely take this into considerations, but you know what, from what I’ve seen, most folks, including myself, just simply want to get a reasonable shot.  As I progressed toward a DSLR and then I probably won’t use my DSLR in a lot of casesSmile  Now, don’t get me wrong – I simply LOVE my D3200 now that I have it, but for the most part, it’s simply not going to be that practical for what I do on a daily basis.  My other cameras will actually work better.  For instance, we have a social event tonite – the cameras will likely be the Panasonic LX7 and one of my travel cams.  Well, maybe two travel cams….  Why?  It’s a “snapshot” environment – I’ll need wide angle and probably a bit of flash, maybe a couple of group shots.  Do I need anything more than that?  Not really.  I COULD take one of my compact system cameras or even the D3200, but you know what?  It’s bulkier and it’s simply not going to be needed.  AND, neither of those has the wider angle that, to me, is so critical in social event type photos.  My LX7 and travel cams all have the equivalent to a 24mm lens for wide angle. If I need to take a group shot, I don’t have to be very far away.  End of story.  My compact system cameras and D3200 – the widest angle is about equivalent to a 28m lens – fine for most things but interiors and indoors… well, I’ve found that it’s just not wide enough.  I also have done and still do a lot of real estate type shots – I do renovations, as well as own real estate, and this is where the travel cams and some of my pointy shooties really come in handy.  That wider angle can capture complete walls without having to be contortionist or having to take multiple shots. 

When I started on this equipment acquisition thing, going the way that I did, I think has proved very beneficial to a certain degree.  No, I didn’t have to buy near as much stuff as I did, but you know, in the end, it’s working out quite nicely.  What I was trying to achieve, and I “think” I’m there now or at least close, was to be in a position where I wouldn’t miss a photo op if one showed up.  I look at things like this:

The pointy shooties are really great for those “quicky” shots.  The travel cams have the big zooms.  The advanced and Compact System Cameras give me more functionality and a higher quality shot, if needed.  The DSLR gives me more control against a given type of shot as well as a higher quality shot.

Noting Differences

You know, when it comes down to the crunch, what really matters is what you are happy with.  In reality, it’s all about capturing the moment and really – in many instances, the quality may not even creep into it all that much.  For instance – I’m not all that pleased with the photos that come off of smartphones, but you know, I’ve had occasion where I’ve used my phone to capture something and I simply needed the shot.  It got me what I wanted.  End of story.

When one realizes that their “picture taking” is lacking “something” and that person starts to become more inquisitive about improving, is, to me where the differences start to emerge.  I hear a lot about “squeezing out” everything that a camera can do before progressing to a better model.  I actually agree with that a lot – it basically means you know every function of the camera, it’s capabilities, and based on it’s shortcomings you get something else that fulfils those shortcomings.  What that doesn’t tell you but only implies, is that one must also learn the “craft” too Smile  Really – if you already know a bit about the craft of photography, one could get a great shot with any camera available.  Sure, there are shots that perhaps another camera could handle easier, but from a general sense, does it really matter?  I got into the travel cameras for exactly that reason – I can get to 18 to 20x zoom, I have ISO/EV control, I have a reasonable quality sensor – result – a shot that is more than adequate for what I want.  A camera with huge functionality that can fit in a jacket pocket or back pocket.  I use my travel cams probably more than the others since I’ve gotten them.  Again – perspective.  Based on what I’m doing at the time……..

I think that’s something that gets lost along the way a lot, actually.  Or at least distorted a bit.  One I run into a lot – I have a DSLR so that IF I have to crop, I don’t lose any quality.  That’s fine and true, but first – if you took the shot right, would you have to crop?  If you didn’t need to crop, would have needed a DSLR?  Smile  To me, if you have to crop a lot, there’s something else wrong Smile  This also leads into software.

Again – to me, I’m still a little puzzled to a certain degree about software and how it’s used.  I agree that pros and serious amateurs will often use software to enhance their images.  In fact, I read about this all the time.  The industry standards are sort of implying that LightRoom and PhotoShop are the ones to own.  There are probably others out there as well.  These, to me, are the new “dark rooms”.  When I was in the world of 35mm, we had to rent darkroom time.  It was not a cheap proposition by any stretch.  The alternate was to get the shot correct in all aspects and NOT have to go to the darkroom.  In order to achieve this, you had to learn the craft and also have the gear to match.  I think digital, in one sense changed all that.  I hear a lot of “take the shot, fix it in software”.  I get puzzled by that Surprised smile   Why not take the right shot the first time and not bother with the software?  OR, if you plan to fix it later, but you have a lot of shots, how will you remember that shot in the first place?    I find that in digital, I’m not doing too much differently than what I was doing in 35mm.  I try for that right shot all the time.  I like digital in that I can take “safeties” easily (I did that in 35mm as well), but also bracket exposures depending…..  I do very little cropping unless it’s for something that requires it.  My light box stuff for instance – there are some objects I’ve shot that I simply couldn’t frame without a bit of interference from lamps or something – those get cropped out post.  The photo at the beginning of this post was cropped quite drastically – the original is going to be used in something else.  Color correction – it depends. 

Does it sound like I’m against software?  It shouldn’t.  Again, this is a depends thing.  AND it’s a personal thing.  For me, I’m not THAT serious of an amateur but I use software to accomplish what I need to get done.  There are couple of things around this.  First – I don’t have time to learn.  I’m simply too busy with other parts of my life to spend too much time here.  The other side – if I’m learning the software, am I NOT learning the craft?  Shouldn’t I be out taking pics instead of spending it in front of a computer?  To each his own, I guess.  I prefer to be out taking pics, that’s all.

Back on track a bit – so – quality and differences.  What have I noticed across the various units I own?  Have I seen the differences?  When I do some comparison stuff, for normal size stuff (say for viewing on my iPad), the differences, to me are very subtle.  The more advanced cameras have better metering so the overall photo is more balanced.  That can also be offset by using the equivalent of a vivid setting Smile  When I segregate say the travel cameras and below to the more advanced units, the one big thing I’ve noticed is the “fullness” or “richness” in certain types of shots.  It isn’t easy to see (for me at this stage anyway), and it isn’t always obvious, but it’s there.  If I didn’t compare, I probably wouldn’t notice – it’s that close.  I’m saying the more advanced cameras as when it comes down to say the Fuji X10 against the Nikon D3200 – there is literally no discernable difference until to you start to enlarge at 10x or more that the difference becomes glaring.  But at that point, for me, it doesn’t matter.  The reviews mention that the kit lens that comes the D3200 is not as good as others in the line, but you know what?  For your average type of shooting, this lens is no slouch either. 

Ok – about the Nikon D3200 – and why did I get this one over say a D5200 or a D7100 series camera?  I mentioned a bit about this in a previous post.  This took a lot of thought on my part.  Believe me, it was not the money.  It had more to do with functionality.  In very realistic terms – This got me into the newest technology AND it had more than what I needed anyway.  At this point in time, I was only interested in an “entry point” to see where this world would lead me Smile  I also wanted to see what the difference was between the Micro Four Thirds sensor in my Panasonic GX1 and the APS-C sensor in the D3200 compared.  Believe me, there’s not a lot of difference I can see in most shots.  There are differences though and where I see it most, is in certain flower shots I take.  The D3200 simply works better there.  Setup is touchier though compared to the GX1, but it’s a no brainer on the travel cams.  Wierd or what?  Smile 

The D3200 also does a few things differently.  Aside from being a DSLR, there are two things that really stand out initially.  The first is how fast it starts up – man, it’s literally instant on compared to the second or so on the GX1. The other big thing I noticed was more in low light or flash situations.  No lag between shots.  When I’m doing light box stuff, control changes are much faster on the D3200.  Actually, in general, the D3200 is much quicker with controls – this isn’t overly that critical in most situations, but then again, it’s worth noting.  The other BIG plus, that I found out, was the ability to control flash power.  Some of my other cameras can do this as well, but it’s not easily gotten to.  The other key reason – battery power.  By default (though I’ve got to test to be sure), I’m going to get roughly twice the battery power that my other cameras can deliver.  My others, like the GX1 or Fuji X10, I have extra batteries for those bigger shoots. 

Metering is slightly better in certain conditions. It doesn’t do well in super bright sunlight, but then the others don’t fare much better either Smile  Nothing that –EV 5 – 1 or 2 can’t cure though….. Again, knowing…..

Better than the others?  Well …. this is a depends thing to me.  I’m not so sure I’m going to be adding lenses yet – haven’t been in enough situations where I can “push it” too much.  I’ve only owned it a few weeks and only taken about 1,000 pics or so.  I went and got the bigger zooms for the GX1 and Nikon 1 J1 and have hardly used them, so I’m going to really think this one out first Smile  The viewfinder is a plus – a HUGE plus for certain shots – the other cameras tend to capture just a tad more than what the LCD panels show, the D3200 is pretty dead on to what you see is what you get.  For some of my light box work, nice to have.

The Bottom Line

When it comes down it, it’s all in your perception of what you consider to be a good photo.  I’ve always looked at it from the standpoint of learning from previous experience.  One takes a shot or shots and then evaluates how to make the shot better.  Does it mean learning the craft or getting better equipment to achieve that better shot or both.  Sometimes, getting better equipment forces you to learn. I’ve always found that you have to take a lot of photos and also not be scared of experimenting – digital makes this pretty easy and inexpensive, so why not?

Onward….

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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