If you cannot see the back LCD on your DSLR maybe it is not a good time to take pictures or video? Or you should stick to film that has huge room for bright highlights in full sun? 95% of my best digital outside photos or video are taken when it is not bright overhead sun. So instead of a new camera with EVF or reading the zebras to make sure your highlights are not blown you should just take your shots or video when the light is good? Even if you turn down the exposure on digital so you don’t blow your highlights in full sun you have to pull your shadows up so much that you get a lot of noise. The best digital cameras like a Nikon D850 only have about +2 stops of highlights before the pictures are unusable. The best film like Portra have about +4 stops. Many times when the photo is overexposed a stop when you try to improve it in post you just don’t get a good result even using raw.
The flower below was taken with a digital camera about an hour before sunset and mostly in the shade.
The shot below is what happens to many digital photos when taken at mid day.
On the other hand here is some film shot at mid day with full sun.
Right now you have a ton of people switching to buy mirrorless cameras from DSLRs to get an EVF. That way you can control your exposure better when you can’t see the back screen. My suggestion is that if you cannot see your back screen maybe your camera is telling you it is not a good time to be taking pictures.
Now if you are switching to mirrorless because you want to take more videos with your camera then I think that is a good reason. But if you are going to take mostly or all photos and not video there is no reason to ditch your DSLR or not buy a new one. Both Nikon and Canon offer very good DSLRs at modest prices. I have a several year old Nikon D5500 that takes sharp clear detailed photos and is half the price of a comparable mirrorless.
Two posts ago I put up one talking about taking a ton of camera gear with me on our current long extended trip. I wish I had not done it. If I had it to do over again I would take – 1. Cell phone of course. It is always with you. 2. Compact pocket camera with long zoom. About the same quality as a good cell phone but with the ability to optically zoom. 3. Digital changeable lens camera. 4. Changeable lens film camera. And if I was flying somewhere out of the USA I would leave the film camera at home.
Why? The number one most important rule in taking good photos or video is to know your camera. Lots of cameras means you never really get really familiar with them. This is really true of digital cameras, but also a bit true of film ones. Today even good smartphone cameras have many many options. It seems like every year more are added and they become more complicated. And my compact Sony pocket zoom has so many menu options that it is almost impossible to understand them all. On the other hand I have found Nikon DSLR cameras easier to figure out. And my D750 full frame digital is pretty simple if you are using raw.
What lead me to write this post was today when I was using my Olympus OM2n film SLR that I have owned for 38 years. I was in a public place and my dog was with me on a leash. I loaded up a roll of expired Ektachrome I had been saving for some Montana shots. The OM2n film loading is tricky. You need to make sure the film is loaded securely or you can think your film is going through when you cock the wind lever and it is slipping over the sprockets. I have leaned by past bitter experience that you need to look at the rewind winder when you cock the shutter to see that it moves a bit. If it does not the film is not moving. Today the rewind winder did not move. So I just opened the back and sure enough, loose film. Now with lots of leader out I got it loaded fine. Then when leaving the left side of my Peak strap came loose. The little black flexible string had fit through the break in the circle holder on the Olympus camera. Fortunately I caught the problem before my almost 40 year old camera was broken from falling.
If you use only one or two cameras then this sort of problems become rare. You know what to look for. Before the days of cell phone cameras I would say that you should only have one camera with you, but today you almost always have the cell phone one with.
We travel regularly by motorhome. We don’t live in a motorhome, but we do go for local and extended trips with one. One of the benefits in doing this over either going somewhere by car or flying when you like to take pictures and video is you can take everything. Another benefit is that if you are a hybrid shooter who uses both digital and film you have a refrigerator with you to store your unused and exposed film. We left mid June and I had with me.
Nikon D750 Full Frame digital DSLR with two lenses
Nikon D5500 Digital DSLR with three lenses
2 Olympus OM2n’s with six lenses
2 Minolta 600si SLR’s with six lenses
1 Voightlander Prominent rangefinder with 50mm f1.5
1 Sony compact HX 80
1 iPhone X
At least 30 rolls of film
3 tripods. None have been used yet.
We are now still on our trip. Since I bought the D750 shortly before the trip I have used that the most so far to see how well it performs.
And the answer to that question is pretty dam well. Other than the two little corner imperfections that I should get rid of with Lightroom the above photo from Bryce National Park is very nice. Yes there is a little bit of sky issue caused by too wide of a lens for a polarizing filter, but when you look at the file in full size on a good screen the detail and color of the rocks is stunning.
The above shot was a couple of days earlier near Page UT. This was taken at dusk and the file was taken raw and it allowed me to bring up the foreground of the photo so that it blended well with the top of the frame. When you see this file full size it is very detailed. Again I have not done as much Lightroom as I could and the top corners need a little fixing.
My experience using this camera when traveling is that if you put my 50mm f1.4 prime lens on it and one of the Peak larger camera straps you can carry it around pretty well without feeling weighted down. It is nowhere near as easy to use like this compared to the Nikon D5500.
All three of these photos above were with my D5500 and the latest 18-55 P model zoom. I took the D5500 with me this day because it is much lighter than the D750 and I felt like using it instead of the 750. To me the 5500 files are as good as what would have come from the 750. But when I work with files from both these cameras there is no doubt that the full frame 750 and full frame glass gives more details and less noise. It seems like you can crop the 750 files forever and they still look great.
And a few times I have put the little compact Sony in my pocket and come up with these results.
All of these were shot hand held. You cannot do raw with the Sony so these were jpegs only.
Plus I did use my iPhone X some.
For the iPhone X pictures I used for these three the native Apple app that comes with the phone. Sometimes I use the Adobe Lightroom camera app which allows you to use raw. This works very well with the Adobe Lightroom mobile app on the phone and my iPad. But as you can see from these three shots that the standard Apple app works pretty good. The middle photo is taken using Apple’s portrait mode. This now gives what I would call excellent results in most of the times I use it.
Now here is the bad news. No matter how many cameras you have with you you cannot control the weather. We have been in the mid west USA mid summer heat dome and we have had bright overcast days for at least a month now. Blue skies and puffy clouds have been as rare as Leicas. Bright overcast skies are the enemy of good outdoor photos. Bright overcast skies are almost impossible to shoot with a digital sensor camera as all digital cameras do not handle highlights that well. Even if you shoot in raw you might have only two stops over on the best digital camera. What happens is this.
So with too much contrast in the sky you only solution is to take shots without sky like the one above. The problem with this is that when you are at places with natural things to see like National Parks you need to put some sky in the shots sometimes.
To me not being able to handle over-brignt highlights as well as photo film is digital photographies biggest weakness. In one very well done you tube video I have watched a couple of time “The Slanted Lens” showed how the Nikon D850 compared with Kodak Portra film. The Nikon shots were not usable at 2 stops over and the film was OK up until about 4 stops. This is a very big difference. Remember that each stop doubles the amount of light.
Mirrorless cameras with good EVF’s and indications in the viewfinder are helpful at knowing when the highlights are too bright. However, this does not fix the problem. It tells you to turn down the exposure, but then you can plug your shadows. Or if you don’t plug your shadows, you darken them. And when you turn up your shadows in post it increases noise.
Film tends to work better than digital in situations where you have very bright highlights and lots of contrast. At least film with lots of dynamic range does.
Thats it for now. Time to go shoot some film in the classic western town of Medora with classic old SLR.
I bought a Nikon D750 a few weeks back. I love the images I am now getting out of it. I hesitated buying this camera for a couple of years for one main reason, it is big and heavy.
This afternoon I took out the camera bag that holds my two Olympus OM2n’s. I removed the winder from one and took the ever-ready leather case off the other. I then put the new Peak strap on the Oly and was kinda shocked at how compact and light it is. The above picture gives you an idea of the size of both. Both cameras are full frame, both have a 50mm f1.4 lens on them. Of course the Olympus is film and manual focus.
In addition to size the Olympus weighs about half as much even though it’s body and lens exterior is mostly metal.
Going by what I have seen on the Nikon Rumors pages the most likely camera in their opinion will be a lot like the size and look of the OM2n/ Leica M10.
Please Nikon make this reduced size mirrorless full frame camera a reality. I cannot afford a Leica M10 unless I sell all of my camera gear and then throw in a few extra grand. And even after all that the Leica will have no auto focus.
Once again Nikon, I love the image quality out of my D750, but I hate the size and bulk. And a Sony A7iii by the time you add a lens is not much smaller.
After thinking about it for 3 years I finally bought a full frame Nikon D750 camera. When I looked at new DSLRs just over three years ago I went to a camera shop and had them put the Nikon D5500, Fuji XT1, Olympus OMD EM5 II, and Nikon D750 on the counter. I went for the D5500 as I had been using a D3200 for two years and got very good images from it and no repairs. The D5500 added new features including a very useful touch screen. I checked out the Fuji as many reviewers were talking about it having a very high quality body with direct dials on it to make the most important adjustments. I looked at the Olympus because I have been the happy owner of several Olympus cameras since 1980 and really liked the brand. I looked at the Nikon D750 as I had been shooting full frame film for many years and liked the perspective of that size image capture media.
The D5500, Fuji, and Olympus all were about the same size and felt like they weighed about the same in the hand. The Nikon D750 was a lot bigger and a lot heavier, and critically, would have been much more money than in my budget at the time for a new camera once lenses were included. The Olympus had a smaller sensor than I wanted. The Fuji was nice but not smaller or lighter than the D5500 and would have been a lot more expensive for me to buy with lenses than the Nikon D5500. At the time I thought that if money was not a problem I would have bought the D750.
So after three years I had the bug to buy a new camera before our summer motorhome trip this year. I bought a Sony compact last year that fits in my pocket and gives me great results that are a step up from my iPhone X. So I thought, why not try a Sony full frame. I rented an A7rIII and Zeiss 58mm f1.8. I got some really great files from that rental. I would have stepped down to the A7iii though as the file size from the R were just bigger than what I want/ need. I did not find the A7 comfortable in my hand. I did like the size of the body. But when you add lenses much of the time it is the same size as a DSLR. The Zeiss 58 f1.8 is much bigger /longer than the Nikon 50mm f1.4 and costs more than twice as much. And there is the Sony menu system. I have used it through all of my 4 Sony compact cameras. I find the Nikon menus & controls easier to use.
I very rarely take video and when I do I use my iPhone. My main reason for wanting EVF is to avoid blown highlights. But Nikon offers an exposure setting that auto reads for highlights and avoids blowing them. DP review and many others place the Nikon D750 and Sony A7iii about the same in overall quality. So why did I get the Nikon? I just could not pass up the deal and I am very happy with Nikon. I still very much like my D5500 after three years. I still think it is the best camera in it’s category. It is so easy to use compared to my Sony compact. It just does not fit in my pocket.
The deal. Nikon sent me an email offering me the D750 plus battery grip plus 24-120 f4 lens for 2 grand. The Sony A7 body was 2 grand. And the Sony 24-105 f4 is $1,300. So if you don’t count the grip and only the lens and body the 750 is $1,300 less. But I bought a 50mm f1.4 from Nikon for $369 (refurbished) and I did get the grip. The 750 was about 40% less than the Sony comparable package. Now I have had it for a week. I made a good choice. What is the single thing I like the best about the Nikon deal, the grip I would have never bought if it was not free. It makes it so convenient to go to portrait mode and has and extra set of controls and one of those easy adjusters for setting focus. What is the thing I like the least, the size and weight up from the D5500. But the Sony A7iii would not have been smaller with the 24-105 on it and would have been just 8 oz lighter. Plus after a week I am kinda used to the heavier weight. Yesterday I went hiking with the 750 and used a Peak snap connector on my backpack strap. The size was fine.
So what do I like about the D750 so far. It gives great images, fast. No waiting for focus or anything else on this camera. The files come up looking really good and the jpegs too. I usually shoot raw, but tried using raw + fine jpegs. I ended up using mostly jpegs of the photos I have taken so far. I tried editing the raws in LR Classic and ended up about the same place between the finished raw and jpeg files. The focus set on auto just seems to find the subject 9 times out of ten. If it does not I just center and reposition. I have been experimenting with the exposure. The no-overexpose setting works about 80% of the time. Bracketing and using LR to merge works well too. I very quickly just set this camera on manual (not manual focus) on the top dial and used the two wheels to adjust f-stop and speed. The individual buttons are faster than the touch screen on the D5500, but not by much. I very much like two adjust wheels. Makes using manual a breeze. And I love love the big viewfinder.
So right now I am very happy with my purchase. The files do seem a bit better than the D5500. Even when I do a lot of cropping the result is fine. So not getting a camera with 40+ megapixels seems the right choice. If Nikon was introducing their mirrorless at the end of the summer I would likely have held off, but a year till next Spring was too long to wait. If Nikon blows me away with a mirrorless that has normal size lenses (normal Nikon size), does not break the bank (Leica style), and comes with reasonable size files and not huge ones, then I might spring for one of those when they come out next spring.
So how does this affect my fondness for film. It does not. The only thing I am going to change with this summers trip is to only take one camera (besides cell phone) on each day and not a film and digital. Last time I took film and larger digital cameras most of the time to compare shots. That is done and now I need to concentrate on working with the tool in hand to make the best composition.
Final comment. Right now I still think my Olympus OM2n and the Nikons from the 1980’s like the FE were a better design than what we have today. I would like to buy an Olympus full frame digital that had a body the size of the OM2n and lenses the same size as the ones I have from the 1980’s. Why is it only Leica seems to get this? If my budget would stretch to a Leica M10 and 50m Summicron? Well one can hope.
I have had an iPhone X since last fall. It has an excellent camera system both hardware and software for most situations. This time in the area where I live we have a super abundance of flowers and I take lots of shots of my yard flowers, public gardens, and wild flowers. Using the iPhone X for this can be frustrating. It is certainly possible to get excellent shots with sharp focus and good color rendition.
These were all taken in the late afternoon, but not all on the same day. When using the Adobe camera app I activated the zebras to avoid any overexposure. With the Apple camera app you just have to guess on exposure. I usually turn down the exposure as Apple shows you in their camera videos. These photos show that things can work out well with this camera. But I have to say that many times the results are poor. The Adobe camera app has a much harder time focusing using the longer lens on this camera than with the wide angle. And the Adobe app has a great deal of difficulty in bright mid day sun. Why? I have no idea.
The Apple camera app does seem to have more difficulty during mid day bright sun to focus too, but not as bad as Adobe. The issue with using the Apple camera app that comes with the phone is that the Apple software sometimes smears the heck out of the finished image file.
This flower was too bright so I turned down the exposure. When I brought it back up in Apple Photos the computer smeared the image significantly.
You can tone down the noise reduction smearing some by importing the photo into Lightroom CC and doing the edit there. But there is still some of the smearing issue, just less.
So what is my solution? Right now the most reliable solution is to use my DSLR during the day for better focus and raw output. That camera has no problems with getting good focus in any sun conditions. I am also thinking about finding another raw camera app for the iPhone X and giving that a try. I suspect that the reason the Adobe app does not focus as well as it should is that Adobe has just not tweaked their software as well as they should have for the iPhone X.
The films I have used in the last 12 months have all been either Kodak or Fuji. In my opinion you can characterize products from both companies by just looking at the colors on their boxes. Fuji – green and Kodak yellow-red. My overall experience is Fuji tends green, Kodak warm yellows, oranges, and reds. You can correct much of this in post but it is still there.
If I was to guess why, I would say that Japan is where Fuji is from and it is overall a very green place. On the other hand the most iconic Kodak shots are of the Grand Canyon and southwest USA. There is even a State Park in Utah named the Kodachrome Basin. The color pallet of that park is orange, red, and yellow.
I will start with lowest price first.
Kodak Gold 200 and Color Plus 200. I have shot both in the last couple months. Both basically the same price in California and very similar.
This is a very good low cost film except you need to be careful of getting too much grain in shadows. Personally I cannot tell the difference between the two Kodak films on my large monitor except to say that color plus seems a little brighter. In some cases when I get this film the box says Kodak Gold and the film can says Kodak 200.
Fuji 200. – This is the Walmart 24 exposure rolls.
This is a beautiful detailed shot of my dog on my large monitor. This hardly needed any editing.
This one needed a bit of post to get something I liked, but the Fuji did very well in forest scenes. Fine grain throughout even in shadows.
Even in the dark areas there is little grain. I brightened this quite a bit in LR and still minimal grain.
This is a beautiful picture of one of my grand daughters with great skin tones and minimal grain in the out of focus shadows.
I bought this roll of film at Walmart for $250 a roll. Only 24 ex. There are 36ex rolls for sale at B&H and elsewhere. I mention B&H because they sometimes have some very good sales on this film. Currently 36ex rolls are selling for $4.
My comments. If I was shooting the southwest or the beach I would prefer the Kodak Color Plus or Gold color rendition. Both almost as good as Kodak Ektar. Just this morning “The Darkroom” posted on my Facebook a comparison of Kodak Gold 200 and Fuji C200 with two beach shots. To my eye I preferred the Kodak on their example a lot. I have to say the Fuji 200 gave a much more elegant rendition of my forest scenes, far less grain, and beautiful skin tones, much better than Kodak. So which is it? These are both great low cost films. I would only remember to buy 36ex rolls so you can save on processing and watch the shadows on the K Gold.
Lomography 100. Lomography sells 100 speed print film. It is in the same range of price as the Kodak and Fuji products but a slower speed. I have been giving some thought to buying a 3 pack and trying it out. I have looked at the samples on Flickr and they look good.
Kodak 400 and 400 Ultramax 400 & Fuji Superia 400.
I have had very good luck with both the Kodak and Fuji. Kodak has kept their prices level on this film to the same range as the Kodak 200. Fuji used to sell at the Kodak price but now is usually about 2 dollars more. At 2 dollars more I will always buy the Kodak, but this past Christmas I snagged 10 rolls at under the Kodak price. That said here are some samples.
In the end I think I prefer the Kodak Ultramax for landscape and Superia 400 for people and green. The Fuji seems a bit finer grain, but not much. The issue with Superia is that at $6.00 a roll it is almost up to Ektar 100 price and I think Ektar is one of the two best landscape films you can buy. And the Superia is also right in the Portra price range. Portra just outclasses the Fuji on skin shots and anything not in bright desert sun. But you cannot go wrong on either the Superia 400 or Kodak Ultramax 400, buy on price and depending on subject. I plan to work through my supply of Superia 400 this summer but since I have several film cameras I can load them with black and white plus some Kodak for punchier “National Park” type shots.
The ones I have used in the last 12 months are Fuji Velvia 50 & 100, Kodak Portra 160 & 400, Kodak Ektar 100.
Velvia 50 – A classic slide film that is known for highly saturated colors. If you like this level of saturation it does a great job on landscapes and not good at all on skin tones. The speed is a slow 50 but in full sun this works fine. I have used this film often in all of my cameras with built in light meters. It is somewhat fussy about exposure, but I really have not had that much problem with ruined shots except when I ran a roll through a very old mechanical camera from the 50’s with a slow shutter spring. The other thing to watch out for is limited dynamic range. If you average your exposure and have a great variety of shadow and highlight it is easy to underexpose your shadows. Two summers ago I had problems with the bodies of bison against bright backgrounds. The animals had mostly blocked shadows which I could not correct well in Lightroom. Since the big animals were up close and scared me a little I did not change the settings fast enough on my manual Olympus OM 2n. My more auto Minoltas would have worked better. I used Ektar 100 shooting bison and had much less problem with blocked shadows due to that film’s wider dynamic range.
These were taken a couple of months ago and as you can see Velvia pops the colors but then does not do a great job on the skin tones.
But on landscape you can’t fault it.
Ektar considering everything might just be the best overall landscape film available. It is 100 speed which is about what you should have for daytime landscape shots. The landscape color is similar to Velvia 50 without quite so much excess. The grain is very fine. It handles exposure better than Velvia. And it costs about half as much as Velvia. I have shot a lot of rolls of it.
I have had some issues with Ektar going red on skin but as you can see from the next two pictures it is OK with skin.
This is my favorite film but not if I am shooting mostly people.
Portra 160 and 400
Portra tends to be most peoples favorite film. Here are some of my results. It is one of mine too. I find both 160 and 400 to be great with 400 having a touch more saturation.
Portra 160 or 400 are both very forgiving of exposure error. They both have tremendous dynamic range. I do prefer Ektar for landscapes, but if you only want to take one film Portra is a better choice. Very fine grain. Much lower price than the competing Fuji product. Only slightly more money than Fuji Superia 400.
Ektachrome. I had planned to shoot some Kodak Ektachrome this summer. The problem with that is I have not been able to buy any yet. Ektachrome is not Kodachrome, but if I do see some Ektachrome soon I will buy some.
Black and White.
I usually shoot color, but recently have used some TriX and Tmax. I have beautiful results with both. These are both gorgeous films and here are some recent shots.
If I had to pick only one of these I would take TriX, but both are sure to give you B&W results you will like.
So what am I taking with me this summer on our long trip? All of the ones mentioned with a couple of rolls of Ilford black and white. I have just looked up the price of Velvia 100 and Provia 100. They seem to be about $7 a roll. I will call to see how long to expiration before I buy, but that seems like a good price. I have never shot Provia and would like to try it. I usually take about 5 camera bodies with me and I load them up with different films and take what I am in the mood for that day or fits the likely subjects. If I shoot any new films before we leave I will update this post.
All around films. Any of the ones mentioned in this post Kodak 200 or 400. Fuji 200 or 400 will work well and not cost a lot. But if you have to pay $6 for a roll of Fuji 400 I would pick the Fuji 200 for $4 or either Kodak for $4.
Higher end film. I will not pay $15 for Velvia 50. But Kodak Portra or Ektar make great images at about $6.50-7.00 per roll. Fuji Velvia 100 seems like a good buy at $7 but I have to check the expiration. Don’t forget that slide film is harder to shoot and costs about $3 extra to develop.
Black and White. I love both Kodak TriX and Tmax. Both run about $6 a roll.
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