Digital Evolution

I thought it would be interesting look at the digital cameras I own.

Canon Powershot A85

It’s hard to get too excited about this little camera now, but at the time when it was purchased in 2005, we were thrilled. Our first test-drive with the camera was a walk through Colonial Williamsburg. We ended up taking 90 photos (after deleting the poorest images) and we just kept thinking how many rolls of film this would have been, how much it would’ve cost and how long we would’ve had to wait to have them processed. During this time we had a fully functional B&W darkroom in a spare bathroom. Needless to say, shortly after we received the camera we sold the darkroom equipment.

Olympus SP-550UZ

Even though this camera still qualifies as a “point-n-shoot”, it is a major upgrade from the A85. The primary reason I purchased the SP-550UZ is the incredible 18x optical zoom (equivalent to 28-504 mm at 35 mm)! It’s remarkable that a small, little camera can go from wide angle to super-telephoto for a fraction of the cost of a dSLR body. The camera is able to capture RAW images and provided me with a good introduction to developing a workflow. Among the other features that I found most helpful, was the capability to auto-bracket exposures and modify metering modes (evaluative, spot metering, etc…). While the camera does have it’s shortcomings, it proved to be incredibly useful as an intermediate camera to bridge the gap between a simple point-n-shoot and a full-blown dSLR.

Canon 5D

At the end of 2009 I purchased used Canon 5D. It was a great feeling to make a big investment in a piece of equipment like this and to know that the features you are paying so much for, you really do need! I pushed the Olympus to its absolute limits. One thing I found our rather quickly is that not all ISOs are created equal. Even though the Olympus allows me to shoot with ISO 50, the image still requires significant post-processing to reduce noise. On the other hand, shooting with an ISO of 200 in the 5D I have no problems with noise (and wouldn’t be surprised if this is true for higher ISOs – but I typically only shoot at 200).

As it turns out about 2 years passed between each new camera purchase. This was a sufficient amount of time to both explore all the features of each camera but also – and more importantly – to discover the limitations. For example, in the summer of 2009 I took several hundred waterfall photographs with the Olympus during a trip to central New York. I was able to capture RAW images, use a neutral density and polarizer filters. However, even though I was shooting at ISO 50, noise was a continual problem in post-processing. Many of the images were processed as high dynamic range (HDR) and although the camera could capture RAW images, when the shutter speed exceeded 0.5 seconds, the time to write the file almost 60 seconds. Thus, a 5-shot HDR image began taking upwards of 5 minutes! If I wanted to continue taking these types of images I knew I needed a dSLR for, among other things, the improved noise reduction and for the ability to quickly write RAW files.

I get the sense that there are many instances when people jump to a dSLR without a firm grasp of the fundamentals of photography. These invariably leads one of several consequences:

1. they invest thousands of dollars in the newest camera body only to shoot strictly in Auto-mode
2. not recognizing the steep learning curve associated with a dSLR, they simply become overwhelmed and give up
3. they assume that buying a dSLR will inherently make them a better photographer and upon finding that to be untrue, they give up

Although I had been wanting a dSLR for quite some time, I’m glad that I went the route of working my way up from a point-n-shoot through an intermediate camera and then to the 5D.


One Comment

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  1. Great photos. I appreciate the background and technical information in your blog.

    Mike Ludovici

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