Photography July and Beyond

14 August 2008

While preparing for last night's No Fear Photography meeting, I realized that I've had a pretty exciting month of photography!

Nikon D40

18 March 2008

I've had a new Nikon D40 for nearly 2 weeks now, and I think it's working nicely for me. The noise at ISO 400 on my PowerShot S2 was just getting to be too much of a hassle for me, and the opportunity to drop some cash came around, so I went for it.

Stacey and Doug were a great help while I shopped. They're both Nikon shooters, so I knew I could borrow equipment and draw on their vast experience. Dinger also has a nasty case of NAS paired with an odd DIY flair.

The extra couple hundred dollars that a D40x would have cost didn't seem worthwhile just for some extra pixels, so I just went with a D40 with the kit 18-55mm lens. I added a Nikon 55-200mm VR lens to try to get nearer to the telephoto capabilities I had with the PowerShot S2.

After a quick read through the manual (I don't seem like the type, though, do I?), I could pick up and find everything on the camera pretty quickly. The camera doesn't have quite as many buttons and dials as the higher-end Nikons, but I can still change my basic settings pretty quickly -- the dials default is shutter speed, then I need to hold a button for aperture, and I mapped the Fn key to change ISO, so I'm in business. I found the built-in flash configuration to switch it to manual 1/32 power, so I'm in business with my slave strobes.

The minimum ISO of 200 means I'll definitely need my ND4 filter to get some longer exposures, but that's fine. 3200 ISO (HI1) is pretty noisy, but not terribly disappointing. 1600 is surprisingly clean. Indoors I try to stick around 1600, but I'll gladly kick up to 3200 if needed. I can clean up the noise in post production.

I've had to introduce UFRaw to my workflow to get images down to 8-bit for Gimp. I really like having the extra range and flexibility -- I can make some dramatic changes in RAW without losing detail, but it took me a little while to learn what I was doing, and some things (base curve) still sort of allude me. I'm still sort of slow at processing, but I think the results are much better. I'll figure out batch processing soon, I figure. I would get done much quicker if I wasn't consistently holding the camera 1-3 degrees off of level -- I'll have to work on that.

I got to try the camera for travel for the first time on Sunday at Baltimore's St. Patrick's Day Parade. I can barely fit the camera and its lenses in my old bag, so it wasn't too difficult. It's a little cumbersome to have the 55-200mm lens hanging from my neck and chase the kids, but it's possible.

I was feeling some pain having to switch between lenses to shoot the passing parade from the curb, but I quickly settled into my 18-55, and I was really glad I had it. I used the 55-200 later to shoot the kids running and playing. The photos have a surprisingly noticeable "telephoto" feel, though.

I've been able to get much shallower depths of field with this new gear -- that makes me happy, since it was really hard to do with the PowerShot S2. I find myself actually having to work the other way, and closing down the aperature to get a bit of depth back. It's nice to have that control now.

My kit's pretty complete right now, but I hope to get a hold of some old strobes my Mom doesn't use, and her old camera bag. That'll give me a little room to grow. I also have an old full-manual 50mm f/1.8 lens on loan from Dinger which I'd love to have for indoor party photography and maybe portraiture, though I think an 85mm prime would be more comfortable for portraits.

I can't really think of anything more that I'd need the camera itself to do, so I'll probably use this thing for a pretty long time. Pair this thing with a couple more lenses, strobes, and some radio triggers, and I'll keep myself busy for quite some time.

Experiences with the Canon Powershot S2

05 October 2006

I've had the S2 for about a month now, and I must say I'm very happy with it.

The latest gPhoto libraries from Debian's unstable release work wonderfully to pull images from the camera. I had to add myself to the camera group to give my user account access to download the pictures. As soon as I plug the camera in, gThumb pops up and shows me the thumbnails and gives me the option to import the photos. It's very fast about it too, since it's USB 2.0. I'm pleased that I won't need to buy a card reader.

I got about a day of use from my 4-year-old set of 1600mAh batteries. Using the flash destroys those batteries pretty quickly. I've been using a new set of 2500mAh batteries for a couple days at a time, having taken at least 250 pictures on a charge. The charging of the flash seems to slow after a bit of use, but it's still usable.

I read the manual in a couple days and figured out how to use almost all the features. I didn't bother with the odd color swap options, etc. I shoot mostly in aperture-priority mode, but I have played a bit with long exposures too. The camera doesn't do RAW, but I set the image quality to Large-Superfine, so it doesn't compress out any of the detail. Each image is around 2-3MB on the card. I prefer to capture them huge like that and let Gimp save it smaller (200-300kB) after I've finished processing it.

My first large stash of examples are from Ocean City, MD. (The first 10 or so images are camera phone pictures, so ignore those.)

Claire's been doing well with the camera as well. She can just flip it to Auto, and it undoes most of the weird options I've set.

This camera can take lens adapters, so I thought I'd be hitting eBay in pretty short order to buy a 1.5x or 3.0x telephoto adapter lens or maybe a wide-angle. After using its existing 12x zoom, I'm not really feeling a need for the extra tele. 12x is usually plenty for my purposes, and when it's not, the resolution is high enough that I can tightly recrop and still keep lots of detail.

Canon PowerShot S2

27 August 2006

I've been relatively quiet about it, but recent technolust turned me toward purchasing a new camera. I have a Canon PowerShot S2 on the way.

Claire recognized that I was serious about getting a more featureful camera and trying to take some decent pictures, so she suggested I actually get the thing instead of just look at it (and tell her about it obsessively).

I chose the camera for its 12X zoom, very good reviews, and lots of priority and manual modes. I'd like to try to understand more about some of the mechanics of photography. The super-macro mode is intriguing too. The S2 has shown up at the top of the comparisons for advanced SLR-like point-and-shoots, and it's one of 2 point-and-shoots in the top 10 list of cameras used by Flickr users.

Maybe I'll use the old camera for taking pictures like these.

All the Posts

August 2008

March 2008

October 2006

August 2006