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English Country Garden

Been taking advantage of the recent weather and taking photos.

For all you f/stop philosophers out there the camera is a Sony Alpha SLT-A55V. Lenses used are a Sony 18-55mm and a Tamron 70-300mm. The later sometimes in macro mode. It’s a great piece of kit. Fast as fury focusing and shooting (SLT, not SLR). Purists might object to the EVF but I prefer it. Frankly you’d have to pay a lot more to get a Cannon or Nikon in the same league. All pictures were taken at full resolution – 16Mpixels so I’ve had to crunch ‘em a bit.



Spining thingy…


Tulgy Wood with Auto HDR engaged


St Mary’s…


Tomb without HDR…


Tomb with HDR…


Can you spot the bug?


At actual 16Mpixel size…


There is more to come but I’ll leave it now so the Cats server doesn’t have kittens.


  1. As someone with almost zero knowledge of photography, is there a digital camera I can buy that takes the photo directly not three seconds after I have pressed the trigger? ie what do I need to loook for? I miss so many moments with the toddler and have endless deleted photos of him walking out of shot!

  2. JuliaM says:

    The fact that you can zoom in to see the hoverfly on that flower seems like science fiction to me…

  3. NickM says:

    “endless deleted photos of him walking out of shot!”

    Tends to go with the territory. Continuous autofocus/live-view should help. The one thing probs not to go for is an entry level DSLR. As to compacts. Dunno. One of the problems with the digicam market overall is that it is obsessed by numbers and one number rules them all – megapixels. It’s much the same with other tech stuff. Single indicators don’t really say much about real world performance.

    I don’t know what you other requirements are. Certainly SLR/SLT or “bridge cameras” aren’t as pocketable as some compacts nd that makes a difference to catching stuff. “Boot-up” time is also an issue. I really don’t know on the smaller, handier models because I always wanted a “proper” digicam.

    Cats readers. If you can help I would appreciate it. I myself might at some point be in the market for something cheap and small and suited to shooting as close to instantly as poss. For me, got to be cheap.

  4. john in cheshire says:

    I thought I’d happened upon Amateur Photographer magazine, lol. Nice pics.

  5. NickM says:

    From what I’ve seen of amateur photography mags they are soft porn for folks too ashamed to buy the real thing! Thanks.

  6. RAB says:

    Reaches for smelling salts… Nick has finally shown us some pics!

    I’ve been working on a photo essay too, but the bugger has beaten me to it!

    SAoT, I started with a Nikon Coolpix many years ago now, it only had 3 megapixels but took excellent shots. I was told back then that megapixels are really not that important unless you want to blow your pics up to poster size. But it was slow to start up, had an excellent lens though.

    And that’s what I look for first rather than megapixels, a good lens. We currently have a Panasonic Lumix, with a leica lens. It has x12 zoom, 10 megapixels and HD (which will do me for now) it fires up immediately and takes great pics (you’ll be able to judge for yourselves soon) and slips in your pocket. I always have mine with me.

    The downside is it doesn’t have a viewfinder, which I would like, but what the hell, the screen is four inch, so no real problems there.

    I saw an ad on tv for a Fuji HS20 a while back and it looked like the bee’s knees to me, for a bridge camera. Well worth investigating.

  7. Sam Duncan says:

    Cheaper than your Nikons and Canons, maybe, but still too steep for me. I’m more or less forced to stick to compacts because of my budget. Which is a pity; I’d really like a proper camera. Yes, I could get something second-hand for the same price as a good compact, but I have to consider the use I’d get out of it: as you say, they aren’t as pocketable.

    Having said all that, at the sizes of those previews (if not the 16MP originals) my 5-year-old Nikon Coolpix takes spectacularly good photos. I’ve tried to replace it with something shinier and newer (with some manual control, for one thing) and keep coming back because it simply takes better pictures. Smaller, but better. Again as you say, Nick, the numbers and acronyms don’t tell the whole story: it’s still a camera, and the lens still matters. You could pick something up with ostensibly the same spec as mine for less than £30 these days but I bet the results wouldn’t be half as good.

  8. JonB says:

    Glad you like the A55. I’ve never had a chance to play with one, but how quick is the EVF to recover after a shot? My current toy is a Nikon D90, which serves surprisingly well for the occasional bit of amateur motorsport photography; 4.5 fps isn’t going to set the world on fire, but in my experience ‘when’ is more important than ‘how many’. I do like having the scene instantly back in viewfinder, in real time, as soon as the mirror blackout ends though. It’s not too bad for everything else either.

    For my money (literally, I bought one) the king of compacts right now is the Canon S95. Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap, but the spec was written for people who have realised that megapixels aren’t everything. 10MP, but it’ll behave itself reasonably up to ISO 800 and go to 3200, and has an f2.0 lens at the wide end. Full manual control as well, once you’ve got it set up to your taste. The older S90 is the same sensor and lens, just doesn’t do HD video and has slightly poorer ergonomics, so one of those second hand would be a good buy. Both of them fit in a pocket, or are very unobtrusive in a belt pouch under a normal shirt.

    Panasonic’s LX-3 and LX-5 are in a similar bracket, but I’ve no experience with them.

  9. mike says:

    Oh, better specs than mine (a Cannon 450 D). Still, it’s all about what you do with it compositionally: I don’t know about the HDR function, but the ability to capture subtle changes in contrast can sometimes help to solve the “grey skies” problem, e.g. here.

  10. Canon S95 it is, as apparently it fits in the pocket and takes instant(ish) images.

    Young master SAOT would thank you, if he could.

  11. JonB says:

    SAOT, I hope you’re not just going on my word for that, I’d hate to have oversold you. As I said, it’s a good camera, but you pay a premium price for the ability to have more manual control.

  12. Lynne says:

    Nick, tasty piece of kit! Alas, I have to shoot for HDR the old fashioned way. As for mags, I read Digital Camera because it has very good tips and tutorials. You get the occasional nude but always tastefully done. :D

    Sam, compacts can take really good shots which can be made stunning by using photo editing software. If you can’t stretch to something like Photoshop there is PhotoScape, a nifty piece of freeware.

    SAOT the Canon is a decent compact.

    Mike, I have an aging 350D but it still produces the goods. You did a nice job with the contrast.

  13. Paul H says:

    So you’re all photo buffs too?

    NickM. For decent quality pics, without time delay, you really need to get yourself an entry level Digital SLR with decent lenses. My first was an Olympus E-510 and they can be had secondhand on e-bay for about 200 quid. They give great results, just be sure to research ‘Aperture control’ to get the best out of the camera.

  14. NickM says:

    The EF justkeeps on trucking apart from at 10fps (when it can get a little odd*). Up to 6 it’s continuous and intuitive. This is because it’s not a reflex mirror but a translucent one so it can display to screen or EVF**, do AF, work out exposure and take a piccy all at the same instant. Notably the A33 and A55 (very soon to see the A77) are the first Sony SLR format cameras with video. Sony waited until they could deploy this SLT tech so it can film and track and all at the same time.

    Seconded as to compacts. The better ones are, I would argue much better value, indeed better kit in absolute terms than an entry level SLR. The one thing I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole are the “compact systems cameras” (compact size, interchangeable lenses) unless I had loadsa money. They’re neat, they’re often quite beautiful but do you pay for the privilege!

    If you got a reasonable poke don’t ignore the Panasonic Lumix range. Oh, and a big issue here if you are trying for pics of junior behaving as juniors do ergonomics are really important for rapid shooting.

    In general,
    I do use the LCD on the A55 sometimes. Because it’s tilt-swivel it’s quite handy for taking piccies over walls! I also find it useful for wildlife photography, but more on that in another post. The first time I was shone a tilt-swivel LCD in Jessops the guy said, “Cute but I can’t image what you’d use it for”. Imagination fail in my book – it’s very handy not least because you can flip it around so the screen folds-up back against the body to protect it. I’m not sure what the general state of things is but, whilst my A55 screen is great even in bright sunlight I’m not sure how true this is in general. I suspect lmost everyone has raised their game on this score.

    But I wouldn’t want a camera without an EVF (yes, I prefer them to a pure optical VF), just a screen. You see the later everywhere with itty compacts and folks looking like small children trying to drive a bus.

    *This is a bit difficult to explain but 10fps is a special mode and it plays silly buggers a little with the cont-AF. There is a workaround – practice! What I’m saying is it’s usable but kinda counter intuitive at times. But seeing as it is machine-gunning rather than sniping yu can get away with a lot.
    **Nice feature on the A55 is that it detects automatically (this can be turned off) which one you’re looking at. It’s also a very hi-rez EVF and especially with the “artificial horizon” display on it’s like looking through a fighter HUD.

  15. Paul Marks says:

    You live in the right county for gardens (indeed for being outdoors) Nick.

    Not too cold in winter, but not hot and dry or hot and humid in summer.

    The southeast of England is either hot and dry or hot and humid in summer – and I hate both.

    “But the hard winters of the north”.

    I spent one winter in Lancashire and four winters in Yorkshire – and there was nothing I would call a hard winter.

    So I doubt Cheshire would horrify me.

    If I could have my life over again (I know I can not) I hope it would not be spent in a part of the county that tends to make me feel ill about half the year.

    And, for once, it is not just getting old – the “air” (for want of a better word) down here has never agreed with me.

  16. NickM says:

    I guess we have a mild climate (by English definitions – of course the average Dakotan would regard all British climates as incredibly mild) but I think the real issue here is distance from the coast. Ask RAB about Nottingham in Feb! Your neck of the woods is similarly “continental”. Round here is in between but my wife takes the cold better than this Geordie. I’m used to a sea-moderated temperature.

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