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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Light Is What You Live For

Well, it just goes to show. I hopped in the car this afternoon and headed to the nearest hell of shopping malls to see if I could find a Fuji F30 locally to counter-fondle (three stores, no luck). But on the way back a fierce summer storm swept through the area. Everywhere I looked the scenes were stunning. Oversized American flags whipping in the gusting wind, cars launching huge flumes of spray, headlights shimmering on rain-spattered pavement that reflected the blackened sky. The evening light everywhere was dramatic and gorgeous, and, of course, if you're a photographer, light is what you live for. A car is not the ideal shelter from which to photograph a storm unless you want to shoot through the windshield, but it would have been helpful in any case if I'd had a camera with me. Where was that pocketable digicam when I needed it?

I think that's what's called irony.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

17 Comments:

Blogger pbizarro said...

Mike, if you are looking for a capable digicam with good results at high ISO, I can recomend the Canon Elph SD700 IS. Results at 400 ISO are good, and even 800 ISO is usable. Besides that, it has IS, a nice interface, and histogram in playback mode.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Ugh! Mike! How could you not have the 7D with you???

1:40 AM  
Blogger Robert Roaldi said...

You don't need a camera. Just call it a conceptual photograph and put it into an exhibit.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Mike F said...

My father's then boss once told me, way too many years ago, a profound truth which went along the lines of "the best camera you can use, to take any photograph, is the one you have with you".

This is on par with another of his bosses who told us, regarding English weather, "go anyway: the weather won't get any better".

An advantage of growing up around sour but realistic military men.

You've had a number of recent posts recommending the Canon SD/IXUS line of pocket cameras. I'll endorse 'em. Going with my first comment, I always have one with me. They're good little cameras. I've always gone for the cheap/nearly obsolete end of things with my purchases, but those lovely, and my way cheap, little cameras have always done well by me. (SD110 and now SD300 in America-speak. Both very beat-up, and both have taken the beating without skipping a, well, beat.)

BTW I'd really love to have the new little IS Elph/IXUS - but I don't have the cash. Yet. I can scrape..

...Mike (the other one)

8:51 AM  
Blogger Max said...

On point-and-shoots, I think there's still some people who are happy using film cameras. My parents just came back from a trip to Russia. They have had a nice Canon 6mp digicam for a while now, and the thing is they never printed a picture, it all stays in the pc, and even there, they don't look at them much. After that, they don't even shoot a lot, because they don't look at the pictures. A person that doesn't use email or the web a lot just misses a lot of the digital fun.
So I made them take for this trip a little Yashica T4 Super I've had for a long while now. All the pictures came out gorgeous, printed and into a big album, and this is how it should be. It can be done in digital, but some people just don't get used to digital workflow and stop shooting.
The film camera is more accesory independant, and it records on hardware, and the batteries last for years, and you just pick it and leave, no cables, no transformers, no cards, I still like that.

8:58 AM  
Blogger chantal stone said...

I'm all too familiar with this exact situation.....I almost always have my camera with me but the moment I decide to leave it at home (thinking I'm only going to be out for a moment, nothing good will happen between here and there) I always seem to be witness to the most beautiful sky, or something else absolutely brilliant.

I'm reminded of a time when I was picking up my son from orchestra rehearsal...a 10 minute trip...of course, no camera. I was in the middle of a very powerful rainstorm, very dark and ominous sky right above me, but in the near distance the sky was was absolutely clear with the most breathtaking sunset visible on the horizon.

It was a peculiar juxtaposition, and a lesson learned.

10:43 AM  
Blogger arie friedman said...

On that same note, I have been using my old Pentax MX with a 50mm/f1.7 lens as a point and shoot. Somewhat larger than my Panasonic digicam, but MUCH smaller than my digital SLR. It's not quite small enough for a pocket, but neither is the digicam (the M in MX originally stood for "miniature"). What it lacks in super duper compactness, it makes up for in its absolute simplicity and durability. No menus, no grain of sand sized buttons, no impossible to see LCD. If I use decent film (Tmax for B&W is my current favorite), I get excellent 8x10s - just like I did in high school too many years ago. My digicam gets used far less often. I can toss it in my bag or briefcase without a second thought and 90% of the time have a camera with me now that can take fast and uncomplicated photos.

10:49 AM  
Blogger ENS said...

I know you said you plan to pick one up and kick the tires, but I thought I would give my personal thoughts on this camera since I own one.

First of all, I got it from adorama.com, and if you buy before July 15th, there is $50 rebate from Fujifilm.

For me, it was between the Canon SD700IS and the Fujifilm F30. I liked the size and IS capability of the Canon better. As far as responsiveness, they both were very similar, according to my memory. The F30 is quite responsive to turn on, auto-focus, put into play mode. The only issue I have with it is it's focus speed in very low light levels -- could be faster, but overall not bad. Also, the time it takes to delete a photo seems a little long and is a bit annoying. Other than that, it is quite nimble.

The thing that sold me on the F30 was it's ISO performance. I have taken some very usable ISO 1600 pictures with this camera (read 8x10). I don't think any other digicam at the moment can compete with this camera in the ISO arena. At ISO 1600, I dare say it may be as good as the Canon SD700 at ISO 400. That is saying something. You have to see it to believe it. Images, are a tad softer than the SD700, but not soft.

So, I could of had 2 stops of IS capability or ISO performance that is roughly 2 stops better. I went with the latter because I personally find the ISO performance to suit my needs more. IS dosn't help with subject motion, only shutter speed can stop that so the ISO ability wins for me.

Of course, if I bought te SD700 IS instead, I am sure I would probably be writting a similar blog about it as well. Anyhow, just one man's opinion.

I like the F30 alot, but it's not perfect. If I could make a wish list I would want the F30 with IS, a 5X+ zoom lens, zoom capability in movie mode, and a constant 2.8F. Yes, I'm dreaming...but not for long!

11:20 AM  
Blogger Motto! said...

Missing a shot isn't a crime, you know. It seems there is a law that as a serious amateur photographer you must always be prepared. Sometimes you've got to just leave the camera at home and enjoy life.

This reminds me, incidentally, of an event which is to take place next week. It's Non-Photography Day, on July 17. You can read more about it here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5121856.stm
http://www.nonphotographyday.com/

While I appreciate the fact that it is handy to be prepared, one wonders where the line is that you stop having the hobby and the hobby starts having you. Eventually both lugging the gear and being in the mindset ruin perfectly good moments like MJ mentions.

1:52 PM  
Blogger mike said...

The serendipity factor: always have your camera; always have it ready. (From film days: always have it loaded).

And You Write A Column!! Twenty lashes with a wet noodle.

I never leave my loft without my Fuji F10. I don't even go the mailbox without it. It is my journal.

3:33 PM  
Blogger David A. Goldfarb said...

My usual go-anywhere camera is a folding Voigtlander Perkeo II--smaller than most 35mm rangefinders and produces a 6x6 negative. I think of it as the "Pocket 'blad."

4:22 PM  
Blogger C Midyet said...

I too was deciding between the Canon SD 700 IS and the Fuji. I would've preferred the Fuji's high ISO performance, but there were a few issues that pushed me to purchasing the Canon:

1) Optical viewfinder ...not especially acurate, but good enough. I really don't like to be forced into always using the LCD on the back to compose. Battery power is conserved when I can turn off the LCD and simply use the optical finder. Also, in certain bright sun situations, the LCD just doesn't work.

2) Memory card is SD vs. XD ...I already own multiple SD cards.

3) Ergonomics ...personal choice, of course, but the Canon was easier for me to hold steady and I disliked the thumb rocker on the Fuji for zooming.

4) Additional telephoto capability with IS. (35mm - 140mm equivalent)

5) My family would also be using the camera and I felt that the menu system was slightly (we're splitting some hairs here) easier for them to work.

Overall, I'm reasonably pleased with the Canon. Still, when I'm able, I try to bring the DSLR for all of the normal reasons. Like the previous poster, I'm sure that I could've made an equally informed decision had I selected the F30.

4:35 PM  
Blogger UncloudedBeing said...

Irony.

Is that anything like Goldy or Bronzy or Silvery?

[Thanks, Black Adder]

6:06 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

Mike,
I hear you. It is only this year that I've started carrying a camera everywhere. And this has netted me a few otherwise missed pictures like this.

It can't be long now before we get a pocket digicam with snappy autofocus also, pleeease.

6:18 PM  
Blogger aizan said...

the recently announced samsung nv10 looks neat.

http://www.letsgodigital.org/en/camera/specification/1298/show.html

9:17 PM  
Blogger snappity said...

I too have a 7D that I use when I can haul it around, but have been wanting something I could just carry in my pocket all the time. After agonizing over this choice for months, I finally purchased a Casio EX-Z850. Generally I've been quite happy with it. It's tiny, fast, easy on the battery and has a decent lens. It has lots of manual controls, although having only two apertures is kind of a drag. ISO 400 is kind of the limit, though, and the results there are obviously processed. Still, I've convinced myself that it may be close to optimal, considering what I wanted out of a little camera.

As a bonus, the camera came (at least from Costco) with a really nice, leather (or possibly pleather) case with a magnetic closure. I'm actually a bit amused by the extent to which this stupid case makes me happier with the camera, but I know that without it, it'd be naked in my pocket, or I'd have to get some clunky, overlarge case that doesn't fit in any pocket.

A few months back, I bought a Panasonic FX9, but returned it after a week because it was just too noisy. It took me until a couple of weeks ago to try again. I was seriously considering waiting on the F30, but I had a vacation deadline to buy one, and I wanted something I could inspect and possibly buy at a local store with a decent return policy. Having all manner of trouble deciding on which camera to buy, I wound up making a table of every camera I was considering, with all the factors (a) I cared about, and (b) by which they differed. I decided I had to reject the idea of "deal-breaker" factors, because pretty much every camera I considered was deficient in some way that I really cared about -- thus, I set out to figure out which camera would suck the least.

Cameras I considered included some Sonys (T9/30, W70/100) the Panasonic FX01 and LX1, the Fuji F30 and E900, the Casio, the Canon S80 and the SD700 IS. Factors included high ISO, image stabilization, weight, reported noise levels, manual controls, SD memory over xD, flash power, range of shutter speeds, slow sync, LCD resolution, sensor aspect ratio (3:2 over 4:3), raw support and a price under $400. I ignored stuff like the optical viewfinder, zoom range (heck, for decades I shot with nothing but a 45mm rangefinder, and then with a 50mm on an SLR), movie quality, USB speed, etc.

I scored the cameras two ways: with all factors weighted equally, and with all factors weighted on a importance-to-me scale of one to three. I was actually surprised at the results. The top three finishers, weighted and unweighted, were the same: The Panasonic LX1, the FX01, and then the Casio EX-Z850. Even more surprising to me was the fact that the Fuji F30, which had been on the top of my list pending what the reviewers had to say, was near the bottom.

Even though the FX01 is supposed to be a bit less noisy than the FX9, I just couldn't bring myself to go for it. And Michael Reichmann's opinion notwithstanding, the LX1 (a) was the most expensive of the bunch, and (b) wasn't available for sale at any store within 20 miles of my home, although one local shop carried the Leica version for a stupid amount of money.

The Casio, on the other hand, was available at the Costco a couple of blocks from my house, and they have the best return policy of anyone, so I gave it a shot. In the end, I don't think I'll be taking advantage of Costco's excellent return policy after all.

11:20 PM  
Blogger MJFerron said...

Reminds me of the time I saw a very large, hairy man walking down the sidewalk wearing a dress. Middle of the day, not Halloween either. I, unlike you was ready with digicam to capture the moment. Turned it on, aimed and damn, nothing. The batteries went dead. I shook my fist at the heavens and cursed the photo gods. Later as I drove away I heard a faint voice saying, MJ we provided you with the opportunity. It's up to you to charge the batteries. Lesson learned. :0))

6:23 AM  

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