As I said, one of my hobbies when I’m mobile is photography – this is my outfit.
My digital first camera was a Fuji S602 Zoom, above. Fuji claim their CCD is equivalent to 6 mp, and I can’t argue with that as the results are excellent. The problem I have with the camera is the sheer number of settings – I once set out to count them all, and lost the will to live somewhere in the seventies That’s ludicrous. (Mind you, that was before I graduated to a D-SLR!). That, and the fact that Fuji cameras seem to eat batteries, drove me back to film for a while. There are some photos from this camera here Click the images to see them full size. Aside from my admittedly mostly personal gripes, this is a fine camera that yields excellent results, and Steve’s Digicams has a very comprehensive 5-page review.
Update: I’ve finally found some reliable batteries, 2800mAh AA, from 7dayshop.com which hold their charge excellently.
Rather surprisingly, the film camera market is thriving to an unsuspected degree, and equipment prices are very reasonable. I have a comprehensive manual Minolta SLR outfit, but because my eyes are failing, I’ve had to buy an autofocus outfit, a Minolta Dynax 500si super, with a 35-70mm lens and a 70-210mm too, both Minolta items. Luckily, several months of illness meant that I hadn’t been anywhere, so unspent petrol money paid for it – there’s not always a silver lining to every cloud, but this time there was. Details are here, as well as some of my previous cameras and a link to my manual-focus outfit.
I haven’t had much chance to use this outfit so far, but when I have, pictures will be posted on my website. It handles nicely, though, and is well balanced, and the noise form the auto-focus motor isn’t intrusive. There are enough controls to cover most eventualities, but not so many you get lost in the confusion.
I notice that digital SLR outfit bags come with a special pocket for the manual, and you can get dedicated CDs/DVDs to teach you how to use your new toy, but for me that’s not what photography is about. It took me half an hour to find my way around this one – I don’t expect to have to carry a manual with me in case I forget! Many of the world’s best photographs have been taken on cameras labouring under the terrible “handicap” of having only three controls – shutter, aperture and focus. Cameras really shouldn’t have more controls than the average car!
Oh dear – I may have to eat my words. As I said in Photography Update I’ve splurged on a D-SLR (above – crappy picture, I know, but matt black is a bugger to photograph, and feel free to ignore the batteries I used to jack up the camera and lens!). To be honest, this pic should be far better than it is – I don’t really know why it’s so lousy, except that matt black is very unforgiving; there’s little you can do in Photoshop to enhance it. I’ll try and take a better one later.
Anyway, it’s an excellent camera, though as I expected, the learning curve is extraordinarily steep.
In addition to the Olympus 17.5-45 zoom lens (35mm equivalent 35-90mm), that came with the camera, I’ve just bought a Sigma 55-200mm zoom (35mm = 110-400mm). The Sigma was a mere fraction of the price of an Olympus lens – the Zuiko 50-200mm lens is £949, the Sigma cost £85.
OK, there’s no doubt the Zuiko 50-200 will perform better (and if it doesn’t, it bloody well should!), as it has a far superior specification. In use, though, the image quality is at least as good (possibly a tad better – time will tell), as the Zuiko 17.5-45mm lens that came with the camera. Colour rendering, auto-focus, auto exposure, image definition and chromatic aberration (none apparent with either lens), are all absolutely fine.
One area in which the Sigma scores Brownie points is its switchable manual focus – flick a tiny switch on the lens body and you have a proper, old-fashioned, manually-focusing lens – none of the usual electronic “manual” focus which, for me, doesn’t get the job done at all. This function, which I wasn’t expecting (it’s not mentioned by Sigma), will be invaluable, as I often take photos of birds in woodland, and auto-focus is easily confused by foliage that intrudes between me and the subject. Sigma also have a compatible 18-50mm (35mm = 36-100mm), with the same manual function, at £80. That’s on my shopping list for later.
Or maybe not. I’ve recently (Feb 2009), splurged on a Zuiko 70-300mm lens (35mm equivalent, 140-600mm).
This should be perfect for birding, though I haven’t been able to get out to play with it yet, thanks to the crappy weather.
It’s almost impossible to hold a long zoom steady (anything over 210mm is hard to hand-hold), so I need a monopod. This creates its own problems, as I don’t have a spare hand – I walk with the aid of a crutch, so carrying a monopod too, even for the very short distances I’m capable of, isn’t really an option. The solution is to buy a very basic monopod, from 7dayshop.com,
without the usual pan and tilt head, and to fit a ballhead, with a quick-release plate, instead, from Scopes ‘n’ Skies. Who, unforgivably, have sent me the wrong item. Did I get an apology? In your dreams! It’s the last time I’ll be dealing with these clowns – before I can return it I had to phone for a code number. Trouble is, no-one was answering their bloody phones! I eventually got the code, grudgingly, by email.
The q/r plate will be screwed to the camera, and the monopod will then be used as a walking aid*. When I want to take pictures, the camera can be quickly clipped in place using the q/r plate. It should work well enough, with a little practice.
* That didn’t work out, so it’ll be attached to my outfit case and deployed at need.
Note: The monopod was abandoned in favour of the Konig Neckpod, which is far more successful.
I also bought myself a printed manual, too, from Old Timer Cameras. They’re always worth a look if you buy a used camera, or even a new one where the manual comes on CD, as is the case with this one. As I’ve said, at 216 pages the manual is large, and computers are not the handiest things to carry round.
The Minolta auto-focus outfit (above), will be appearing on eBay shortly. (Which I still haven’t got around to!)
And I still stand by what I said earlier – cameras really shouldn’t have more controls than the average car! For me, though, there is one feature which makes the switch to a D-SLR worthwhile, despite the complexity, and that’s weight. My 35mm Minolta X-700 with a 70-210mm zoom lens and motor drive weighs in at well over 3lb. My complete digital outfit, including spare batteries and memory cards, dust blower, a few odds and sods, and also including the holdall, weighs 2.25lb, and that matters quite a lot.
Update, Feb 11 2009: E-500 with 70-300mm lens attached, plus the 17.5-45mm lens, a couple of filters, spare battery and a Hurricane air blower, all tucked into a LowePro Topload Zoom AW case (click thumbnail)
weighs in at 2.73 kg – a whisker under 6lb. The bulk of the weight is the 70-300 lens and the case, which as well as providing a high level of protection has a waterproof cover, so it’s worth the weight penalty. I’m also going to add my outfit to my household insurance – I already have an archery outfit covered for £1,000, which I don’t use now, so I’ll transfer that to my photography gear.
See also this post for a camera support solution for disabled photographers.