"Gear" doesn't Matter .... Does it?

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Andy
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"Gear" doesn't Matter .... Does it?

Postby Andy » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:23 am

Last weekend, I spent two days photographing waterfalls and the last of the fall Color in Michigan's "UP." My sister and her husband were with me the whole time. Last fall, I was in Vermont for a week in October and they were with me for 3 or 4 days of that trip, too. I shoot with a Nikon D200 DSLR and several different lenses, 99% of the time on a tripod with a cable release.

My sister carries an Olympus Point & Shoot. For most of that time, she used the "all automatic" features on the camera (something I cannot wholeheartedly recommend), handheld. Last weekend, a couple of the shots we took were side-by-side and she started looking at my LCD after the shot was taken. Her comment was "my skies are all white" or my subject is too dark" led me to take a minute to see if her P&S camera had a way to control the exposure. She had an exposure lock button and for a "quick fix" I explained to her how to "meter" the area she wanted to have properly exposed and lock it and re-compose. I know that was a gross oversimplification of metering and not entirely correct, but in the field, shooting was not the best time to delve into that.

This weekend, I found some time to "surf" and downloaded the Use Guide to her model camera. I found that it has a spot-metering feature, a choice of Manual, A-priority or SS-priority, up to 2 stops of exposure compensation both directions (+ or -) in 1/3 stop increments, as well as a few other features. I would like to see her have a DSLR, but the economics aren't there, presently. So I will be trying to work with her to begin to learn some of the techniques and theory of metering and shutter speed and aperature choices with her P&S.

We have all heard the ("hackneyed" IMO) phrase, that Ansel Adams could have made a beautiful photo with a cardboard pinhole camera. I don't dispute that, but I don't really want to do it, because for me, it is like trading my table saw for a handsaw. But, it makes me wonder just how viable a P&S with a tripod is for the kind of photo scenics we often see on this site? I wonder what people think, after we dispense with the above argument, about whether "gear" really does matter, and why. And whether anyone here has had experience making high quality photos with a P&S digital?
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .


pwt54
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Postby pwt54 » Tue Nov 06, 2007 6:38 pm

I had an olympus a couple years ago and did not like the picture quality. I bought a canon SD500 and had a great time with it. I gave that to my neice so she could have a camera and bought a canon A 710is. I like this camera, but I think the SD500 took a better picture. For P&S cameras it's picture quality over features. There aren't that many features. My experience and many reviews rate canon number 1 for P&S with nikon and panasonic right behind. I'm not sure about the olympus, but I've had better luck with the AE setting than with shutter speed on both my canon and panasonic.

abby
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Postby abby » Wed Nov 07, 2007 9:09 am

Hi Andy,
As you know, I have a point and shoot, and you also know I am in the process of getting the most out of my camera that I can. My point and shoot in a Panasonic FZ8, and it has a few more "features" than some of the other point and shoots. It has the look of a DSLR, yet it is surprisingly lightweight and it feels very comfortable in my hands. I have bought some filters that I can attach to the lens, (a neutral density filter and a polarizing filter.) I also bought a tele converter lens that I can use, but I had to buy a lens adaptor for it because it doesn't fit on the one that comes with the camera. I can securely put it on my tripod, and if you saw me shooting with it, you might even think I was shooting with a DSLR.
Noise can sometimes be an issue too with this camera, especially at higher ISO settings or sometimes after I crop a picture I can see some noise. I know there is noise removal software, but I don't know how to use it yet.........YET being the key word. :D
I know when used properly, my camera can take some pretty impressive photos. BUT, I know I will never get out of it what I would get out of a DSLR. I did a lot of research before I bought this camera, and I felt it was the right "bridge" camera for me to use to learn with. In a few years when I feel ready, I want to take the plunge and get one of the big boys! :)

I'll post a couple of photos I have recently taken with it...you have probably already seen them, but others reading this post haven't so to give them an idea of what a point and shoot can do here are a few examples:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image


Andy, You sister is very lucky to have you as her teacher. I'm sure in no time at all she will be seeing improvements in her photos. I am pretty happy with these photos that I posted, but I am still making some mistakes and sometimes either not understnading, or just plain forgetting what I am supposed to do. By this time next year, Im hoping to be much more confident in my abilites.

Carol (Abby)

Andy
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Postby Andy » Wed Nov 07, 2007 10:14 am

Paul: Picture quality, in my opinion, is a function of the camera to an extent. But it is also a function of what digital photographers now call "post processing."

Back in "the day" we all shot some version of a film camera. Most P&S shooters shot color negative films, while a lot of so-called "serious " shooters shot either transparency (slide) film and/or B&W film. Most of us realized that there were a number of film choices out there and the each offered a different "palette" of colors.

Digital cameras have a strong parallel, in that each different electronic sensor can have its own characteristics. And, to complicate matters, each manufacturer (particularly in the P&S models--because the consumer wants a "good" out of the box result) has its own software algorithms build into the camera processor. The majority of P&S cameras offer jpg format images (which is sort of a final result). This requires in-camera processing.

My research pretty much agrees with yours. I strongly considered the Canon G series when I bought my first digital camera. I ultimately purchased a Nikon because I know it was a "bridge" to a DSLR and did not want to have too many different electronic file formats (I don't shoot in jpg, but take advantage of my cameras' RAW formats). But the Canon's do produce a pretty nice out of the box result.

However, most digital electronic image need some post-processing work to really get the most from them. The pure digital image is made from (usually square) pixels (you can see that if you magnify a photo enough in your viewing software). Because of electronics I cannot begin to understand -- much less explain, virtually all sensors have a filter on them which by its nature creates some "unsharpness" ( I am sure that is a word in SOMEBODY's dictionary :) ). So, virtually every image needs to be "sharpened" by software. Again most cameras provide for the ability to do that in camera. The sharpening algorithms in the camera vary by manufacturer (and, I suspect, model). But generally they are thought to be a rather blunt instrument and if you have post-processing software can do a much better job of sharpening. I leave all the adjustments for sharpening, color, contrast, etc. OFF on my camera. At first download they are immediately disappointing. But they always look better with some processing. Of course, its a matter of preference. Most folks, I would guess, want a good image straight from the camera and do not want to spend hours working on them after the fact. Some of us find the "digital darkroom" nearly as fascinating as being there to originally capture the image.

I guess my point is that the un-adjusted image from a number of different cameras might surprise people with good post processing.

Nice to have some discussion here, especially since we are all going through foliage - withdrawal.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

pwt54
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Postby pwt54 » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:01 am

Abby, I see you like doing close-ups of wildflowers. I got hooked on that this spring. I went up to the northeast kingdom and got some great shots of painted trilliums and pink lady's slippers along the 4 Mile Road and other roads in that area. On June 18th I was wandering around the back roads in Woodbury when I found a cluster of Showy Lady's Slippers on the Dog Pond Road. WOW, they are beautiful ! Take route 14 to South Woodbury and take the Nelson Hill Road across from the Church. Drive about 1/2 of a mile and look for the Dog Pond Road on the right. Drive about a mile and the Dog Pond Rd goes right with the Tebbets going straight ahead( this road goes under a barn about a mile ahead). Turn right onto the Dog Pond Rd and look for the Wheeler Hill RD on the right. About 1/2 a mile further look for a mail box on the right with the number 1580 and park just past it. The flowers are across the road. Bring boots.
I'm still not sure how to post photos, but if you go to webshots.com and put "vermont springtime wildflowers" in the search engine you can see the photos of the wildflowers I photographed this spring.

abby
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Postby abby » Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:24 pm

Hi PWT,
Your flower pictures are really beautiful! Thanks for showing them to me. Also, thanks for the directions. I have seen pictures of that barn that has the road running under it before on your winter pictures. I have always wanted to visit that area. I'll try to get there in June!
It's funny you should say to "bring my boots". I have learned that if I want to get a good photograph, there are times when I have to become a contortionist, and there are times when I have to not mind getting dirty! :)
Carol (Abby)

Andy
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Postby Andy » Fri Nov 16, 2007 11:07 am

I have a small portfolio of flower closeups -- wild and "tame" (hopefully to be viewed on my website which is now "Under construction." I always keep barn boots, kneepads a tarp and coveralls in my car during that time of the year. My wife used to worry about what the neighbors would think about me lying on my stomach with my tripod as flat to the ground as I could get it, trying to get that "just right" view of the flower. I never worried -- I already know I am "nuts" anyway :)
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .



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