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Camera Obscure

I’m in the market for a new camera. I’m also in the market for a new PC and as I’m 36 possibly a convertible to drive through Paris… Life is getting expensive. But that’s good because it only means I have more of it to live with. Anyway, I’d pretty much consigned myself to DSLR and spending… Well, FPS is an issue for me and has been since I failed to get a shot of a pelican just entering the water in Florida three years ago. So that means a grand roughly. And if you’re gonna spend a grand then why not 1200? And that way penury lies.

But what about this… Any thoughts. The spec looks good. The FPS is good, the 28mm wide-angle is good and 15x optical is great – that range would seem to obviate the need for several lenses and they cost beaucoup for DSLRs. As someone brought-up on a Pentax Super-A I couldn’t give a flying one about “face detection” but anything more sophisticated than a pinhole these days seems to have more modes than London, Paris and Milan… My brother’s Nikon seems moderately more complicated than the flight-deck of the Death Star. It’s got a mode specifically for children skipping. Not hopping – that’s a different mode and it automatically calls out the Paedofinder General and supplies him with your exact location via GPS.

All I really want is a light meter, focus control and to set aperture and exposure but then I am old skool. I was taught photography at university way back in the ’90s when things were primitive (it was a mandatory part of a physics degree – and yes it involved dark-room stuff and loading 35mm film from a big roll – not cartridges – by touch in the pitch blackness). My brother’s even newer camera doesn’t even have a view finder and it doesn’t need one. You could tie the bloody thing to a shoe-lace and whirl it around your head and it would still take the perfect shot. But where is the fun or artistry in that?

And that’s another reason not to go DSLR. If I’m going to drop a grand on something I don’t want to be thinking two years hence that I wish to drop another grand on something even more whiz-bang. You know – something that also makes the tea or whatever those wizards of the Far East think of next. I mean 150 quid is something I can spend and not get upset that it gets out-moded but over a grand… Well, I’d want it to voice-coach me through shots sounding precisely like Ansel Adams. I’d want it to take that piccy of Half-Dome without leaving Cheshire.

Any advice will be appreciated and there must be some f-stop philosphers reading this tripe. What I’m really curious about is… Well… I almost caused a riot in a camera shop when I asked about manual focus (the old Pentax coming out again) and whilst this machine has what it calls “manual over-ride” I don’t think that’s the same thing. But I would like to set the focus automatically and then re-compose and get a different light-meter reading if you see where I’m coming from. Because I don’t always want to focus on what is at the centre of the image. Anyone who has used an auto-focus camera to take a pic of a cute bug or beautiful flower through grass will know exactly where I come from here.

Anyone has a proper review of this camera then they get a CC in Z virtual cigar. Deal? I did find one but it was in Thai which was about as much use to me as an ashtray on a motorcycle.

PS. It also uses SD which is good. I have many SD cards. Why do Canon DSLRs still use CF? I thought that went out with the sodding Vikings.

11 Comments

  1. RAB says:

    I must go down to Jessop’s again,

    To lonely Jessop’s in the High,

    All I want is a light meter

    And a star to steer her by.

    Best of luck mate. I’m perfectly happy with my Panasonic Lumix.

  2. Rob Fisher says:

    Those half-and-half “prosumer” not-quite-SLRs don’t seem like a good deal to me. I don’t think they have DSLR-sized sensors in them. The bigger sensor is one of the two main reasons to get a DSLR — it means you can get higher ISO with less noise, and thus can take decent pictures in less than perfect light. The other reason to get a proper DSLR is speed. DSLRs turn on instantly, take the picture the instant you press the button, and usually have pretty good FPS.

    My preferred tool is a Nikon D90 with the Nikon 18-200mm lens. The D90 is fast and can do something like 4.5 FPS. The lens focuses fast. The lens has such a wide range of zoom you can get any shot. The lens has image stabilisation so you lose fewer shots to camera shake. In short, it’s a great combination for not missing opportunities. There are cheaper, similar Nikons, like the D5000, but I found it skimps on physical controls, making it harder (slower) to use. The D90 also uses SD.

    Google Ken Rockwell for reviews of DSLRs and lenses.

  3. Rob Fisher says:

    PS — that combo should be < £1000. Also, have a look at the Flickr groups that are named after the model of camera you are interested in. You can see the sorts of shots people are able to achieve.

  4. NickM says:

    Rob,
    Your final thought is genius. I shall do that!

    It ain’t just sensor size. Lens size is a factor too. I hate “gay” cameras which are sold purely on the size of handbag they’ll fit. Some of them are actually pink. Step forward Casio for it was you what started it!

  5. Andy says:

    First let me point you at dpreview.com. They are very consistent and thorough in their reviews, and their database of cameras is far better for browsing than any online shop.

    As was mentioned above: sensor size is the key measure of quality. The bigger the better. Megapixels are irrelevant (especially these days, you would be hard pressed to find a camera with an inadequate number of pixels). That kind of implies DSLR as the route to go — and you can spend anything from 250 quid (which a friend of mine spent on a Nikon D40 and is very pleased) up to infinity.

    The whiz-bang features of any camera probably won’t interest you if you are photography savvy, so ignore them. All DSLRs have a manual mode, and a light meter. The thing to check for is that some have a spot metering mode and some don’t (and as a photographer that’s what you’d want).

    Manual focus… I think most DSLRs have their focus controls on the lens. There are two factors: (1) there is always a manual/auto switch on the lens, I often focus at the distance I want using auto focus, switch the switch to manual to prevent the camera refocussing when i have composed. (2) some lenses have what’s called full-time-manual. Typically those that focus with an ultrasonic motor. This feature lets you change focus even when the lens is in auto mode. It’s effectively an override — after the camera has focussed you can overrule it. I have to admit, I don’t find much use for it, but it makes the focus control lovely and smooth.

    (Sorry I’m blathering now). Another thing that is relevant for focus is the size of the viewfinder. I have a Canon 400D, and while the viewfinder is adequate, it’s not terribly easy to be sure you have focussed properly. On the Nikon D40 (a much cheaper camera by the way), the viewfinder is much bigger and subsequently is easier to manual focus.

    It’s a shame that manufacturers don’t include that handy little split focus thing that was on old film camera view finders.

    If I were buying today, with a “not too worried” about price attitude, I would be looking at a Nikon D700. Don’t know if that helps, it’s just my tuppance worth.

  6. Bod says:

    Would it be at all helpful for me to mention that my firm upgraded my BlackBerry today, and it’s got a built in camera?

    What’s more, with the wonders of the Electronic Age, when you press the button (can’t bring myself to say ‘shutter’) – it makes a sound *just* like a Zenit-E.

  7. Sam Duncan says:

    With you on pinkness, Nick, but my Nikon L3 (which is getting on a bit, but I can’t afford to replace) fits nicely in an inside pocket and is way better than any phone.

    (It’s also better than the Samsung compact I bought a year later because I was getting annoyed at the lack of manual control on the Nikon, but that’s another story. The Samsung sucks balls in low light, despite the bigger lens – and the reviews I read, damn them. And while there’s not all that much difference in size between the two, once you get below a certain threshhold of portability you might as well have a DSLR and get some decent pictures.)

  8. Sam Duncan says:

    Actually, reading that rant over again, I had a thought which is probably rather more germane to the discussion:

    I don’t regret buying the Samsung, for all its faults. I’d rather have a compact with manual focus, exposure, and aperture control, that gives me some of the creative benefits of an SLR without the disadvantage of having to lug the thing around, than one of those pretendy “bridge” DSLRs that have all the convenience failings of a real one while lacking a lot of the advantages.

  9. Mrs R says:

    “FPS is an issue for me and has been since I failed to get a shot of a pelican just entering the water in Florida three years ago.”

    It isn’t just FPS is it, it’s how quickly the thing will focus and fire the shutter if there isn’t a manual over-ride.

    DSLRs are big-ish, but you get the camera system you want rather than what the manufacturer thinks you want, and you don’t have to use any or all of the ‘special features’.
    Some little, pocket sized, point and shoot cameras are very good.
    Some newer DSLRs are relatively small and light – see the Olympus range.
    Canon S2 1S has a handy flip-out rear screen, so do Olympus and, I think, Panasonic – but you’d need to check.
    Suggest you try before you buy, and also check 2nd hand cameras.

    You could try lurking on places like Photocamel and also brand-related camera forums to see what people say about their gear.

  10. Rod says:

    I favour Nikon, having a D80 myself. Tameron 18-300mm lens and another macro lens as well, sees me good for most things. Not that I really take many photos. My kit is overkill for what I do.

    Canon (and for that matter Nikon, on some models) still use CF cards because they are faster. Sometimes a lot faster (in theory, up to 10x faster).

    Only advice I have is choose a make you are happy supporting. Once you start buying extra lens for a particular model, you are either stuck with that manufacturer or face having to replace all the extra bits you have brought.

  11. John Sabotta says:

    You know, you can still buy real cameras. That take film.

    I’m just saying…

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