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.
We usually travel by RV in the USA and deciding on what camera gear to take is easy, Take everything you want. But in 10 days we are going overseas by plane and if you take more than you need then you have to lug it around. So for the last few weeks I have been trying to decide what should go. At first I watched Rick Steve’s video and he is a minimalist and says, “1 compact camera”. I have a very good recent compact that is a Sony super zoom. It does a good job and critically, has a viewfinder. For sunny days viewfinders are a must. But here is the thing, I asked myself, “when you are taking pictures of the Parthenon in Greece is a small Sony enough plus an iPhone 7+”?
Travel pictures always seem to run into the “mid-day” problem. Even though for best photos you are always supposed to go out before dawn and an hour before sunset, the reality is that this is not always possible, or something you want to do. Last night I listened to a very popular and very good you tube couple talk about what they do when traveling and they said, “take pictures early morning and the golden hour before sunset, and spend the rest of the day in museums”. (Tony & Chelsea Northrup). Thing is if you are on a tour you go when your tour goes. Or maybe you want to have breakfast and a shower before going out. Faced with the fact that many of our best shooting opportunities in our upcoming trip will be between early morning and late afternoon I have been testing my cameras to see (once again) which handle bright sun in mid day best. The contestants were iPhone 7+, Sony HX80, Nikon D5500, Olympus OM2n (film), Minolta 600si (film).
The picture above was taken with my iPhone 7+. It was taken last weekend at mid day with mostly bright sun. I spend a lot! of time trying to get this picture into any kind of decent shape. The result is OK.
I then shot some photos a few days later with the iPhone and the colors were much better, but this required some work in Lightroom to get this shot to come out.
The Sony HX80 to me is a slightly better camera than the iPhone. It still struggles with mid day photos. I spent some time trying to get anything out of the above shot that was passable.
The above shot was taken with the Sony while I was sitting in the shade and at a different angle to the sun than the yacht shot.
Yesterday I went down to the same general area and got this shot with my Nikon and just the kit lens with a polarizing filter.
I like the above shot. It is lightly edited and pretty much just came out of the camera this way. I was just shooting aperture priority and fine – jpeg. The key difference in this being a good shot is the fog. So no bright mid day sun.
Shortly after the cemetery shot the sun came out and the Nikon failed to take memorable pictures. I got so frustrated with the color in this group I turned most of them into black and white.
The reason I was so frustrated is that I went to the same location the day before with one of my old film SLRs, a Minolta 600si, some inexpensive Kodak 400 negative film, and an Quantaray 50mm f2.8 lens. I had this film locally developed and they fouled up the scan and only gave me tiny files. But the fact is that this lower end film with poor scans gave a much better balanced color result, by a wide margin than any of the three digital cameras I have used this week. Imagine if I had shot Kodak Ektar 100 and had a fine scan done. The film would have won by a wider margin.
So after all this work, what is the best camera gear for me to take? Very likely I am going to duplicate last year and take the Nikon DSLR with the 18-55 P kit lens & 35mm f 1.8 for low light, iPhone, & Olympus OM2n with my 50mm f 1.4. I will likely add the Sony too as it is small and could fit in my pocket on the flight over. We have booked a number of tours in places we are going to and many of these will be during mid day and sunny. If I was to lighten this up just a little I would leave the Nikon home and add a couple of lenses to the Oly kit + a flash. I would likely take the 28 mm f 2.8 and the 135mm f 3.5. The flash is a T32.
I don’t know why I keep needing to re-affirm the fact that in natural light film usually gives a far superior result to digital. If it is dark digital works better. The iPhone 7 plus is a very good low light shooter.
6 Days later —– OK, I just could not let this issue rest. So I went down to the same beach cliff location today and shot my Nikon D5500 with raw and my iPhone 7 plus with Adobe camera raw in the iPhone. The results from the two digital cameras was the closest I came to the film. Of the two I have to say I preferred the results from the iPhone to the Nikon. I edited both as with Lightroom as best as I was able and the color was just a bit more pleasing from the Apple. But it does not change the fact that an 15 year old Minolta camera with and off-brand (but very good) lens and low cost Kodak print film gave superior results. I am so disgusted with the whole effort I don’t even feel like posting samples. If you want to see some write me a comment and I will do so.
Bottom line. Digital daytime still shots suck compared to film. Sure digital is better for more difficult lighting and interior shots, but in typical vacation type family shots film still rules. I guess that is why more and more people are going back to film. The scary issue for the camera makers is that this means for most snapshot /family shot shooters they don’t need a fancy digital. Sure if you make your living with a camera you should get a high quality rig, but if you are a family shooter an iPhone (or better Android) smartphone camera is fine. If anything my recommendation is for family shooters to consider a film camera, maybe an instant. Polaroid is back with a new camera and Fuji Instax ones are all over the place. Analog rules. Digital is mostly for convenience not quality. I am writing this as I listen to a 45 year old LP record on my good quality Hi-Fi system. Analog music is easily superior to any digital I have heard. Analog music is just not nearly as easy to use. Same with photos. Digital is easier and analog is better.
Digital information technology has changed the World in the last 50 years. Much of this change is beneficial and here to stay. I have embraced advances in digital for decades, but now when almost everyone predicted that photography, movies, music, newspapers, magazines, and books and much more would go digital there is an analog counter revolution happening as you read this post.
This week I realized that the analog counter revolution is here to stay and going to get bigger. I got fed up with trying to read the news on digital and started getting the newspaper delivered again every day. This is after a two year break of getting almost all of my news via TV & Internet. I live in a big city and we have a good local paper. When I stopped getting the paper newspaper two years ago I kept getting their digital version. I finally realized that it is just not as enjoyable to get your news digitally compared to print. Why, because it is organized, you don’t have a light box staring you in the face, and you just pick it up and read it without worrying about charging the batteries, anywhere. Plus source shopping from 100,000 outlets is just a brain pain and your head spins after 12 youtube videos of people shouting at each other or complaining about Trump or Clinton or immigrants or 50 other current topics.
The fact is that unless you are the President you don’t need to know about every news story in the World. You only need to know about the news that affects you. If there is some time left over you can look at some special interest news items. That said digital news is very good for looking up special interest pieces or specialty news like dog news, or audio news, or news on the planet Pluto. So for me the best thing is to mix analog and digital. Does this mean that newspapers will get as big again and as powerful as 50 years ago, no. But it likely means that a lot more people than I are not happy with digital only.
Lately I have started buying records again, vinyl records. I bought a new phono cartridge and bought several LP’s from eBay. As in getting the news, digital music is great, but I missed the other benefits of buying analog records. Some of those benefits are, an album that is organized by someone other than me, usually beautiful covers, lots of times words to the songs on the inside envelope, I own it no monthly fees, oh and it sounds better. If you have a good turntable and cartridge a vinyl record has more information in it than either on line or CD’s. It helps to have good speakers too. In speakers size matters. Bigger ones are usually better. Sure you have to clean the records and be careful with them, but many of my 40+ year old records sound better than CD’s of the same music or high quality on line. For me, and I have older ears, it is very easy to tell the difference between vinyl, CD, and on line music. The difference is hard to describe but easy to hear. I am not alone in this opinion as vinyl record sales last year I believe totaled to more money than downloads.
I have no intention of only listening to vinyl. I like digital music if the quality is good and I don’t have to be bombarded with ads. I have an Apple Music and Pandora subscription to listen to ad free music at home or in the car. But when I want to sit down and enjoy some music I think I am going to mostly go vinyl.
I have never switched to reading books on digital except for things like wikipedia. If I want to read something I just buy it. When I finish I sell it on Amazon.
I have written a number of blog posts about analog vs digital photography. To me these are two different art forms. Of course they are close substitutes for each other so they get compared a lot. But when you shoot film the structure of the image is just not the same as a digital image. You can clearly see this if you enlarge the photos enough. And of course with film you have to scan the image if you don’t print it. That means you are once removed from the initial image and the result is it just looks different. Most images in my opinion look better from film than digital. However, photos of children, pets, friends, and action are just so much easier to do with digital that most people should stick with that method. But for pictures of things and in many instances people (street photography) just comes out way better using film. Kodak, Fuji, and other film makers have spent a lot of time getting the result to come out well. Again last year my best photos mostly came from film shots. And I took way more pictures digital than film. On the other hand I have never taken super 8 movies, which are coming back. I shoot most of my video on either my smart phone or DSLR. I am not going to change that.
On the other hand I find movies shot with film and not digital to be much more pleasing to view. I can easily tell the difference and I would expect that the movie business is going to go back to more film and less digital. There are ways using software to make digital look more like film. In some cases when this is not done I find the resulting product almost unwatchable. Netflix original movies being a case in point.
The other really strong advantage of personal film photos is that there is so much really good gear still at great prices. Good digital lenses for a DSLR can run over $1,000. Many good lenses for film cameras can be bought for under $100. I have both, and you cannot tell the difference most of the time. Camera bodies for digital can easily run over $100. Very good SLR camera bodies cost less than $100. Improving your skills with new digital gear is very expensive when you start buying news lenses and bodies. If you buy right older lenses can work on newer digital bodies.
So to sum up, the digital counter revolution is upon us and I suspect this will continue as people realize that not everything new is better than everything old.
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