About What to Use Where

Last nite, I good friend of mine came over for a long overdue visit.  He does live in Calgary, but consults out of the city.  We try to get together for a visit every time he’s in town.  We’ve been friends for over 30 years and despite the fact we don’t see each other all that much, whenever we get together, it’s like he lived next door.  We did a lot of biking together and he’s family, for all intents and purposes.

From a photo standpoint, he’s still discovering the more advanced aspects of digital photography.  He was looking to upgrade and his son, who used to take photos for a living, gave him a Sony DSLR with a couple of lenses.  He’s been taking a lot of photos, but the one big realization, was that the DSLR was a bit big to take everywhere.  Especially on his bike.  He not a big shooter – in other words, he doesn’t take all that many photos, but he does want reasonable quality photos.  He has discovered that his old pointy shooty wasn’t good enough, but at the same time, in using other people’s, they don’t work all that well in low light, something he wants to do.  He had never really played with any of the travel cams either, so I started to drag out my cameras and explained a few things while he was “playing”.  Sound familiar?  OR starting to?

Over the last couple of years or so, I’ve been diving in fast and deep into digital – restarting in the digital age so to speak.  When I jumped in, I started with the primary purpose of mobility coupled with good quality photos.  So… what do I mean by good quality?  As picky as I am (I am a bit of a pixel peeper :-)), I’m also understand that there is such a thing as “good enough”.  I want to able to take a photo that displays well enough that I can crop a bit and still have a razor sharp image in the 8×10 inch to 11×14 range.  Gee… guess what – most pointy shooties can do a pretty good job there :-)  I also shoot across a very wide spectrum of subject matter – low light, landscapes and scenic’s, stills – plants & product photos in a light box, architecture, events, family, and on and on. As I progressed, compared to the last time in 35mm, money wasn’t really on obstacle and on my journey thru this, I did know that I would ultimately end up in DSLR land, which I am in today.  Not deep – Nikon D3200 (entry level for the less knowledgeable), but I have the kit zoom, the 55-200, 50mm f1.8, and 40mm f2.9 Micro Nikkor.    My range of cameras goes from simple pointy shooties like the Nikon S3000 or Pentax Optio P70, through 5 or 6 travel cameras (Panasonic SZ1, ZS15 & 25, Nikon S9400, Canon SX270, Fuji F800, ), and also include Compact System Cameras with my Panasonic GX1 and Nikon 1 J1.  My low light cameras include a Fuji X10, XF1 and Panasonic LX7. Do I take a lot of photos?  Well, yes :-)  More on that later.  I’ve blogged about most of these units before, so I won’t spend a lot of time on details.

In using all of this gear, one of the things that I’ve found out, is that if you want to stay mobile and at the same time, have the capability, it’s gonna be pretty hard to do with only one camera :-)  Bumping up ISO is one thing, but you lose image quality pretty quick as well.  The dedicated DLSR users will be exactly that – dedicated.  Anything less will be a compromise.  Find a more portable unit becomes a quest, and in the end, it still won’t be as good as a DSLR.  That’s fine for them IMHO.  I used to be like that, but back in the 35mm days, there simply wasn’t anything else.  In today’s world, I’ve found that for the most part, as I’ve mentioned before, the technology has reached a point where good quality photos can be gotten pretty easily and inexpensively.

There’s also perspective.  If you are coming from one of the older pointy shooties, the picture quality will be stunning compared to what was available before.  I’m just as picky as he next person in wanting the highest quality photo, but I’m also prepared to give a bit of quality to get the shot.  I personally would like to have a camera when the shot is there :-)  I’m not in a position where I can have my DLSR with me all the time.  My life simply doesn’t revolve around photography any more.  It’s becoming more of a part of my life, but it’s not everything either.  Serious hobby ?  Absolutely – it grows by the day, but at the same time, I don’t go out of my way all that much either.  I do have a camera always available though. 

I have enough equipment at this stage, that  have something for literally anything I encounter.  I know there are many who  say to take the one camera and use it for everything.  OR to use it to a point where you know enough about the camera that you know what you want to upgrade.  I sort of agree with that, but I also am of the mind, that there’s no reason to have a couple or more cameras at any one point in time either.  For the things that I do in my normal realm of things, I find that having a travel camera AND one that I can hand hold in low light is pretty normal for me.  This theory  proved out for me when I was on holidays – my Panasonic SZ1 had a 10x zoom, but I wanted more than that.

Back to my friend’s quandary.  He wanted to do very much the same type of things that I would do, but more towards the travel and social side of things.  Low light was one place that he noticed was a shortcoming with a lot of cameras he had used.  By low light, I mean, not using a flash in certain situations.  With most pointy shooty types, this has been a common area.  One needs to get into a more advanced  camera to achieve results here.  My first “serious” camera was actually the Fuji X10 with it’s F2.0 lens.  It was purchased after a ton of research.  It was actually the beginning for me.  And then I sort of went ballistic from there 🙂

For low light cameras, I have 3.  The Fuji X10 is my workhorse camera. It has a manual zoom.  I also have the Panasonic LX7, which I acquired due to it’s smaller size and slightly faster lens.  Then came the Fuji XF1 which is the smaller version of the X10, but has the same sensor for all intents and purposes. 

Back to my friend.  In owning all this gear, it was a good experience for him to evaluate each of these units.  I showed him the features that interested him and had him take various shots and let him be the judge.  I told him about the types of shots I take and showed him how to take the shots he wanted to take.  No clerk trying to steer him one way or the other.  My recommendation, when he asked, was something like the Panasonic ZS25 or better and the Fuji XF1.  The Panasonic because I’ve found it to be generally to be one of the best for all around use with little fuss and muss.  Excellent color renditions for most things.  The Fuji XF1 for it’s low light capability and it’s sheer small size.  Both of these are very close color wise, so make a good pairing.  For the things that he was going to be doing, they would be good additions to his DLSR.   I also like the Nikon S9400 due to it’s slim lines.  Both the Sony HX30V and F800 were a little more sophisticated and with more complex menu systems. Not that they were bad, they are very good, but a little more advanced.  The Canon SX270 is also a good choice, but I’ve found it to be slightly “flat” in color.  Not that one would notice but in reality, not a dumb choice either.

In reality, any of the travel camera series wouldn’t be a bad choice.  They are meant exactly for that – travel/holidays and for the most part, one could easily use the one camera and it would accommodate just about every situation on a holiday.  They are quite small and highly functional and deliver a high quality photo for the intended audience.  Because of their big zooms, you can crop tight  and reduce the need to do any post processing, exposure being correct of course :-)  For what they are designed to do, they do a great job.  Note:  I said for what they are designed to do.  That’s a very important perspective to understand.  No, it’s not full frame 35 – in fact the sensor size is not even close.  BUT – for what they are designed to do, they do a good job   I read about and hear all the time about these types of cameras not being as good as the larger sensor cameras – that’s right they aren’t.  But for the average person, they work fine.  Even for me, as fussy as I am, do not mind at all what I get out of them.  They are not meant to be prize winning shots they are designed to “capture the moment”  If I was really wanting to get those prize winning shots, I would have brought the “big stuff”.  Now, in saying that, I have gotten some pretty awesome shots with them too.

It should be very interesting to see what m friend gets:-) 


About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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