Saturday, January 24, 2004

Okay, let's talk about photography. (grin)

I hope to do a webpage devoted to how I take and manipulate some of the pictures, but right now I just don't have the time. So I'll do a quick run down here.

Photography is my second obsession. I used to have my own dark room (still have all the equipment) and I would love to get back into black and white work if I could. I just don't have the time, or even really the space, for something like that right now.

The pictures that show up here and on my regular journal are all digital photographs. 99% of them are taken with my Sony CD1000, a camera that is no longer made. It is only a 2.1 mega pixel, but for on-line work that's obviously enough. I can also print very nice 5X6 pictures and 8x10s of some of the better shots. The few other pictures were taken with my even older FD91, which is less than a mega pixel camera. I grab it now and then because it uses floppy disks and that makes it very easy to transfer to the computer. The CD1000 uses mini CDs, and while it has a USB connection, it turns out the firmware won't work with Windows XP, so I have to wait until I'm done with a disk (about 200 shots) before I can work with them.

I am, however, drooling over the new Sony 8 mega pixel camera. This one uses removable storage like Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Compact Flash Type I/II, Microdrive. You can buy a 1gig microdrive and not have to worry too much about running out of space. Granted, that gig of space can cost you from $300 to $600, but if you have spent the money for the fancy camera, it might well be worth it.

The real joy of digital photography is in three parts:

1. Instant pictures. You can see what you took right away on the camera's playback mode. This can make a huge difference if you are taking pictures of something you want to be certain to get right. Instant pictures also means instant sharing. I often post a picture in chat only a couple minutes after taking it.

2. Cost. Even though my CD1000 cost me about $1500 (it is a very fancy camera for a digital), it has more than paid back that money in savings on picture processing. I take a lot of pictures -- well over 3000 on this camera alone in the last 2.5 years. When I used my 35mm Minolta cameras our vacations usually cost less than the picture processing afterwards. Going digital has saved a lot of money.

3. Reworking pictures on the computer. As much as I love doing darkroom stuff, for color pictures there is nothing more rewarding than being able to fiddle with them in a nice graphic's program. I use Corel Photo-Paint 9. I love it, and as you can tell, it does everything that I need. And I get to play with the pictures as much as I want like crop, change colors, background, blur, texturize -- whatever, and it doesn't cost me a cent in printing costs. I can then print out on my nice little HP color printer that is made for pictures if I want. Or post it on one of my sites. Or delete the reworked version and start over. (Always work with copies, not the original.)

The real question for most people is what to look for in a digital camera. Because I spent years in 35mm, I had certain wants that mean I look at the more expensive cameras. But most people are not going to want 35mm-like controls and worry about aperture and shutter speed, white balance, and various other choices. Most people just want a point-and-shoot camera. For both types, the big thing to be aware of is the mega pixel count. The higher you can afford (they are more expensive as the count goes up), the better. You will get better quality prints with the higher count. Most photo processing shops now print from digital as well, so once you choose which pictures you want printed, you can get it done. For the point and shoot cameras, I've been very impressed with the Olympus brands.

For those who want more, you'll be looking at the far more expensive SLR type digital cameras. There are a lot of them on the market. Everyone from Nikon to Kodak has gotten in to the market, with varying success and prices.

Probably the very best affordable SLR digital is the Canon 6 mega pixel Canon EOS-300D. It's basically a digital body that uses Canon lenses and runs about $1000. The problem, of course, is if you don't happen to own Canon lenses to put on it. They can be very expensive. But over all, this camera has the most flexibility because of that 'any lens' option. The pictures I've seen from this camera are exceptional, though. (Nikon, Fuji, Pentax, and several others offer body-only digital cameras as well, but I think price wise, the Canon might be the best of the group.)

For most of us, however, it's just not an option. I've stuck with Sony cameras since my first digital -- an FD7 years ago -- and I've no complaints at all, except that I hated to see them discontinue the CD1000. However, with the growing mega pixel sizes (meaning they take a LOT of space to save), the CD version just wasn't practical. The new, larger removable storage units are expensive, and I'll miss the fact that pictures aren't instantly saved, but I'm going to have to get used to the change.

The camera I am currently drooling over is the Sony DSC -F828. It is, as I mentioned, 8 mega pixel which makes it the highest one available in the $1000 range. It has all the SLR options that I love -- and a few more than I have on the CD1000 like a burst and bracketing mode. It also uses a new four color system -- red, blue, green, emerald -- rather than the usual three color systems of most cameras -- red, blue green. It does have two problems, both of which I've had in all Sony cameras. One is a somewhat blotchy black at the higher ISO ranges. The second is a tendency to get a purplish halo around things in bright contrast scenes. I had that problem big time in the icicle picture on this page, but I've long ago learned how to use Corel Photo-Paint to easily remove it in most pictures. In the end, it's not much different than correction a color shift on a print in a darkroom.

I have been won over to the digital camera revolution. I've been here for quite a while, in fact, learning the tricks while the cameras improve in quality and catch up to the film SLRs. I won't go back, although I may play with black and white film and print processing again someday. I used to love to do that on my own.

Unless the weather turns horrible, I'll be going to the zoo in Omaha tomorrow. Just me, my tripod and my CD1000. I'll likely take 200 or more pictures before I'm done.

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