Tag Archives: digital cameras

Travel Photography – What To Take

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+”?

Parthenon in Athens, Greece-Parthenon ruins tourism destinations
These are likely conditions in mid day, difficult.  Bright sun and blown highlights.

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).

Sailing on San Diego Bay
iPhone 7+ with significant time spent editing.

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.

gaves overlooking coean
And this was a couple of days later with better color.

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.

big yacht SD harbor
Sony HX80 in full sun.

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.

DSC00651
This was taken on the same day but came out better.

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.

fog with graves leading to trees
The difference here is the polarizing filter and mostly the fog.

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.

DSC_3427
Nikon same aperture priority and Polarizing filter.  And this is after editing.

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.

bird on the cliff
Nikon shot with B&W filter.

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.

The Analog Counter Revolution Continues

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.

newspaper

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.

o-vinyl-records-facebook

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.

The Third Most Important Digital Camera Advantage

Yesterday we went to the San Diego Zoo with my daughter’s family and her two young girls, my grandkids.  Two days before I got back the pictures from a roll of Velvia 50 I had taken with my Olympus OM2n.  The pictures came with the rich voluptuous colors you normally get with this film.

The color is way richer than with a digital camera.
The color is way richer than with a digital camera.
In addition to the rich red color on the rose, look at that bokeh.
In addition to the rich red color on the rose, look at that bokeh.

So I loaded up my Olympus with another roll of Velvia, this time 100 speed and was planning to take it on our outing.  At the last minute I switched to taking my Nikon digital DSLR.  Why, kids move, and sometimes they don’t wait for you to focus.  The Nikon gets the shot almost instantaneously.  The second and more important reason is that I figured I would not take more than 20 or so pictures and the film would sit in the camera for a while.

So, the third most important advantage of digital cameras in my opinion is that you can take a few shots and get the results right away.  With film you normally wait till the entire roll is exposed.

So how did the shots turn out?  Judge for yourself.

My two grand daughters at the Zoo.  Taken with a Nikon DSLR
My two grand daughters at the Zoo. Taken with a Nikon DSLR

Here is a much better snap quick shot from last month.

Here is a snap shot with SDLR.  Note nice flesh tones.
Here is a snap shot with DSLR. Note nice flesh tones.

So am I happy with my decision.  No.  I would have made better pictures by using film.  The lion shot would have come out better with Velvia.  Film’s dynamic range for outdoor photography would have been useful in yesterdays bright sunny day that had lots of shadow on light pictures.  But I did get my pictures back at the end of the day.

The Second Most Important Feature Of Digital Photography

If seeing the results of your camera shot immediately is the most important advantage of digital over film photography, then seeing the image in live view to make adjustments in difficult lighting is the second most important.  What I mean is that you can see what you are going to get before you capture it.  This is very valuable in many instances.  For instance, when the sky is dimming and dusk approaches it is very helpful to use live view.

Desert scene at dusk
Desert scene at dusk

To get this shot I turned on live view on my DSLR and moved the camera around to get the lighting I liked.  When I saw what I wanted took the picture.  This is much much harder using film.  Normally what you do is bracket around and hope that you get some usable-great shots.  Most of the time you will, but digital works a lot better.

Cell phones offer great live views to get sunset or sunrise pictures.  But DSLR camera’s normally give a better result.  If you are shopping for a new camera make sure it has a good back screen or an electronic viewfinder.  I personally prefer an optical viewfinder combined with a good back screen, but I can understand that an EVF has it’s advantages too.  I know of at least one camera that can switch the viewfinder from optical to electronic.  That would be ideal depending on how well it works.

More Pixels Is Usually Better

I run checks with different cameras and I can say in general that more pixels is better.  Makes sense that if you have more information on the image that it will carry more detail, color, and depth.

This is a finely detailed scan of a 35mm film picture taken with an Olympus OM2n.  Originally it is a 38 mp image.
This is a finely detailed scan of a 35mm film picture taken with an Olympus OM2n. Originally it is a 38 mp image.

When you open this image full size on a large monitor the details are very good and the color is very rich.  Some of this richness has to do with the film process as opposed to digital.

Here is an cropped image of a bush taken from our yard.  The first one is from a Nikon image that was originally about 11 mp.

DSC_0001

Here is a crop of shot that was originally about 4 mp.

DSC03939

As you can see there is much more detail in the image with over twice the pixels.

Of course photo quality is a combination of many things.  For example.  Here are four shots with three different digital cameras and one film camera.  The first one is with a Motorola Maxx cell phone.

motorola

 

This is an older Sony compact with a Zeiss lens.  Approx the same mp as the cell phone.
This is an older Sony compact with a Zeiss lens. Approx the same mp as the cell phone.
This is a Nikon shot with twice the pixels of the cell phone or Sony.
This is a Nikon shot with twice the pixels of the cell phone or Sony.
And this is a scanned film shot from an old Olympus Stylus 35mm.
And this is a scanned film shot from an old Olympus Stylus 35mm.

When you blow these up on a good monitor the cell phone shot has the most detail.  Why, the cell phone focused the best on the main image of the subject.  The old film camera has good detail on the leaves because that is what it focused on.  I don’t know what happened to the Sony and the Nikon.

And then there is the problem of software and the affects it adds to perfectly good pictures when it makes jpegs.

So on a practical basis what does this mean.  More pixels is better in general.  But that is highly affected by the lens in the camera, the focus mechanism, and the software used in the camera.  Also, camera engineers are improving the results from cell phones rapidly.  Learn to use the camera in your cell phone and you will get very good results.  I recently went to visit relatives and almost exclusively used my cell phone camera for a week.  Some the the shots were quite good.

This is a shot with my cell phone.  It is almost 10 mp in it's original.
This is a shot with my cell phone. It is almost 10 mp in it’s original.

More Film Vs Digital Photos

We just got back from a two month trip in our motorhome that included an Alaskan cruise.  I got some very good pictures along with some great memories.  This summers trip seemed to revolve around water.  We camped on lakes, oceans, and rivers.  That seemed to make for very good places to stay.

On this trip I used both digital and film cameras.  I took 1.  Nikon DSLR with 3 lenses.  2.  My cell phone camera.  3.  My 1953 Voightlander Prominent 35mm with one lens, a 50mm 1.5.  4.  My Olympus XA compact 35mm film camera.  I used all of them.  Here are some bullets of stand out features of those cameras that I found helpful this summer.  the lighthouse picture

  1.  Vibration reduction on modern digital cameras is very useful when using a long lens.  The above picture is a mid range telephoto and this was an easy shot due to VR.
  2. Quick acting DSLRs are needed when the picture is an action shot and you want to use digital.  When we were in Glacier Bay the glacier calved.  I had a split second to get the action and the Nikon was up to the task.  Auto advance is another important feature in this situation.
  3. Modern film like Ektar 100 is almost impossible to expose incorrectly.  I shot an entire roll of 36 at a wedding with a 60 year old rangefinder camera and mostly guessed on exposure.  All 36 shots came out fine.  Of the 4 rolls of Ektar all of the pictures came out exposed well.
  4. Cell phone cameras are nearly totally useless shooting action.  I tried to get pictures of dogs on the beach in Oregon.  I would push the button and the dogs were way moved on before the shot would take.  By far the Olympus XA was more useful.  The Olympus is a simple camera, but when you push the button the picture is taken right now.
  5. Full frame cameras give you a shallow depth of field.  This is very useful when you want to isolate a subject and have beautiful bokea for background.  I much prefer the size of my Olympus OM2n with full frame than Cannon or Nikon full frame digital.
  6. I far prefer simple manual adjustments of the older cameras.  My Nikon is the 3200 and it is far more difficult to do manual adjustments of f stop and speed than on any of my semi automatic or manual cameras.
This was taken with a telephoto.  Vibration reduction helped me get a good shot of this.
This was taken with a telephoto. Vibration reduction helped me get a good shot of this.
This is an Ektar shot with a 60 year old rangefinder.  People love this picture.  I have had more comments and likes on this than any other picture I have ever taken and posted.  Who says Ektar 100 does not work on flesh tones.
This is an Ektar shot with a 60 year old rangefinder. People love this picture. I have had more comments and likes on this than any other picture I have ever taken and posted. Who says Ektar 100 does not work on flesh tones.
I tried repeatedly to get a dogs on beach picture with my cell phone.  Forget about it.  They had moved on before the picture shot.  This is not a great shot but at least I got all three dogs and froze their action.  This is the Olympus XA with Ektar.
I tried repeatedly to get a dogs on beach picture with my cell phone. Forget about it. They had moved on before the picture shot. This is not a great pictue but at least I got all three dogs and froze their action. This is the Olympus XA with Ektar.

So what is my point.  Just like you need many tools in your garage to fix things around the house, no one photo tool (One camera) does everything “best”.  Mixing film and digital in my case is the best way to go.  I got shots that I loved with both digital and film.  I have to tell you though that I like the film process of taking pictures better.

How Do You Archive & Organize Digital Pictures

When all I used was film I ended up with either negatives & prints or slides.  I made photo print albums and put the slides on Kodak Carousels.  The negatives I put in folders chronologically.  I started buying digital cameras in the late 1990’s and this required a new system to back up-archive and organize.  To complicate matters methods of storing keep changing frequently.

The Beach In Manzanita Oregon
The Beach In Manzanita Oregon
  • Digital pictures can be backed up either locally on some sort of storage medium like your computer, a back up disk, or a thumb drive.  Or you can put them in the cloud on line.  I would suggest using both.
  • If you are a casual picture taker and do not care much about keeping high quality files with lots of pixels you can use Facebook, Google+, Flickr, or any similar site.  The problem is that most of these will reduce the quality of your files when you store them or download them.  Plus no matter how fast your web connection is a local disk is faster.
  • If you care about keeping the file quality as high as possible it is best to keep a local copy on a mass storage device like a back up drive.  You can use thumb drives, but if you use large files like RAW data, disk drives are much less expensive.  I would suggest strongly using some type of photo software and then sticking with it.  I have used free Picasa for my work photos for years and it makes it very easy to find your pictures and if you want sync them with Google+.  For my personal pictures I like a Mac computer and I have iPhoto and Aperture.  I used to use Photoshop a lot and learned many of the complexities of their system.  If you use Windows computers I would suggest some type of Photoshop program.  There is Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.

beach sunset edited

There are all sorts of on line storage options as mentioned previously.  If you want to store full size files, keep them organized, and download them full sized your options are limited.  Dropbox, Onedrive, and a few others can do this, but then you end up with a large amount of storage space used on your local computer when the on line syncs with your local.  Flikr allows you to upload full sized files and gives you a terra byte of storage free.  They also allow you to download your files full size, but only one at a time.  There is a multiple file download app for flikr that I have tried.  It reduces the size of the files.

So what am I doing to archive files and organize them.

  • I still have prints made and put them in photo albums.  This is time consuming, but the books that result are satisfying to hold and look through.  If you want to do this I strongly recommend Kolo books you can get from Amazon or local shops.  The cheap Chinese ones are nowhere near as good.
  • I put my pictures on back up disk drives.  I have the Seagate and Western Digital ones.
  • I also put many of my digital albums on line.  Generally I put smaller file sizes on line for easier handling.  I would not put huge RAW files in the cloud.  Although my film developer sends me my high quality scans through dropbox.  That system works very well.
  • I organize my pictures in albums.  I use both Picasa and iPhoto to do that.  I have found that putting the year before the subject of the album helps you locate things later.
Flower Garden Outside A Store In Eugene OR
Flower Garden Outside A Store In Eugene OR