2.07.2010,9:52 AM
Photography Rants
I'm a poor photographer. Moreso, in the context of money and equipment. I can't afford the right camera that I want, but I'm not drooling over the top notch professional units. Every tool has disadvantages and advantages. Everything is a trade-off. My current model was a decision based on economics and convenience.

Compact cameras versus DSLRs

I see many photographers look down their noses at compact cameras. Their big clunky expensive DSLRs hang off their necks like trophies. Mine is bigger and more expensive than yours, I have more and bigger lenses, I carry multiple DLSRs, etc. I call it the Big Truck Syndrome. Many times it's a tacit syndrome, more show with equipment without transfer to the final results: the images. A camera is only as good as the eye behind it.

My current camera is a hybrid superzoom, and a good one. My decision was two-fold: price and compactness. Can't afford a full DSLR with all the kit, and they are too big for using on a bike. Many riders I know that have DSLRs don't use them enough because they simply aren't as convenient as smaller cameras. My hybrid is convenient, so I use it alot.

In the name of technological progress and consumerism, a new generation of cameras is about to hit the market. An article I read Friday night discussed the various types of viewfinders, including the new(er) electronic ones. There are two types of those and the newest is referred to as EVIL: electronic viewfinder interchangeable lenses.

Despite that electronic viewfinders have been around now for a couple years, the newer EVIL cameras offer great advantages over the DSLRs. Without mirrors, the bodies are smaller and less bulky than the typical DSLR. Most also have the same size sensor as the larger DSLRs. Add the benefit of interchangeable lenses, the quality of both camera and images of these EVIL cameras can be equal to their larger cousins.

Some of the current EVIL models have no viewfinders. A few retain them, or a viewfinder can be added, like a plug-in accessory. Samsung is rumored to have a prototype with a built-in electronic viewfinder. Considering that I am tied to viewfinders and rarely use the LED monitors, I eagerly await its release and reviews.

Why electronic viewfinder? My Canon Powershot SX10 IS has an electronic viewfinder. The largest disadvantages are the viewfinder is small and resolution is terrible. The biggest benefit is I have live preview in the viewfinder. Live view can only be accessed via the LED monitors on the current DSLR with their optical viewfinders.

No matter what mode my camera is in -program, auto, manual- I see in the viewfinder what the sensor will see as far as exposure, focus, etc. Of course, the resulting image is significantly better on the sensor. So I can live with that trade-0ff. The early morning I shot Santa Elena Canyon using all manual really hit home that advantage.

A disadvantage of my camera, and most of the hybrids, is lenses are not interchangeable. While this is frustrating at times, the zoom on mine surpasses most DSLRs without big clunky and heavy lenses. And still maintains exceptional quality.

Related to that, I can't take advantage of the wide variety of filters that a normal SLR/DSLR can (other than UV and polarizers, which I use nearly all the time). I miss that feature, which I used often on my old SLR (especially gradient density filters).

The concept of the new generation of cameras with electronic viewfinders, such as Samsung's NX, is genius. They are analogous to DSLRs except they lack mirrors for the view finders. That allows for reduction in size and weight while still offering interchangeable lenses and all the associated benefits. No clunky mirrors, smaller and lighter camera bodies, even smaller lenses. All while using the larger sensors for better resolution than hybrid and P&S.

I'm going to keenly watch these over the next few years. They will have to work on improving the quality of the electronic viewfinder to match optical viewfinders and offer a wider variety of lenses, but I suspect they will before too long.

Old versus New

New isn't always better than old. But new technology sometimes prevails just because it is 'new' and considered 'progress.' Ironically, many photographers are suspicious of new technology, as with the EVIL cameras, just because it's 'different'.

I still have an older Minolta SLR. But many photographers from the Baby Boomer generation and before still use their SLRs. My Dad and ex-husband, both free-lance professionals, will never convert to digital. (Plus they are technological luddites.)

Regardless, in conversations and reading, current professionals use both; some still prefer film and SLR for reasons where the digital units can't or don't perform as well. Full frame and larger (portrait size, 4x8, etc) digitals are still outrageously expensive (the latter go for ~$4-10K just for the body). I still don't think any digital can compare with a 2x4 or 4x8 Hasselblad SLR. Even a pin hole camera has no equal and you can make your own.

It's one of those cases again where modern technology beats 'old school' just because of convenience and its 'newness'. Sure, some are top quality, but very expensive. The same with the wave of post-processing software. Again, the 'old school' put more thought and effort into capturing a shot than post-processing. (don't misinterpret that as a denial they did any post-processing; it's the ratio of pre and post.) But, new is not always better. Nor is old always better. The twain can meet and it is a dynamic marriage.


Now we have a huge selection of post-processing software. One of those specialties is high dynamic range, better known as HDR. At first I was excited about the concept, because I am a shadow chaser. I love contrasts. But have a dickens of a time capturing it with digital equipment.

One inherent fault of digital is its inability, or relative deficit, to capture detail in challenging light conditions. Their dynamic range is still less than a good SLR with the right film.

Now we have RAW and post-processing software in the digital darkroom. HDR software provides us with a tool to achieve those high dynamic ranges once only obtainable with SLRs and good film, with a bit of masking in post-processing, if need be.

But lately I see a plethora of hyperrealistic, sometimes garish photos. They lose their depth, often looking like cartoons or flat pictures. It reminds me of the old metallic paintings; even those retained some depth. It's reflective of the prevalent 'more is better' attitude. Because of that, I have had no interest in HDR technique and software. I didn't like the results.

After reading a critical article on its use, I now see that it can be a valuable tool and it does not by default render the hyper/surrealistic photos that I see too often (flat with no depth, too saturated, etc). It's a matter of subtlety. Unless one is trying to achieve a hyperrealistic/cartoonish image, HDR can be an asset to increase detail in dark and light contrasting areas of an image, resulting in an image matching what our eyes really see.

Now I'm ready to explore the new technology.
I need a better tripod


posted by Macrobe
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