Tag Archives: digital photography

Nikon – Please help all of us that cannot afford to buy a Leica M10

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.

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Nikon D750 and Olympus OM2n

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.

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In addition to size the Olympus weighs about half as much even though it’s body and lens exterior is mostly metal.

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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.

 

Initial Thoughts On Using My New Nikon D750

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.

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Nikon D750 & 50mm f1.4

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.

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D750 and Lightroom Monochrome B&W setting

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.

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D750

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.

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D750

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.

iPhone X Close Up Photography Issues

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.

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iPhone X using adobe camera app and raw (dng)
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iPhone X using apple’s camera app and jpeg edited in Apple Photos
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iPhone X using Adobe camera app and raw (dng) edited in Lightroom
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iPhone X using Apple’s camera app, jpeg, and Apple Photos to edit.

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.

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iPhone X using Adobe camera app with flower bud out of focus.
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iPhone X using Apple Camera

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.

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Apple iPhone X using Apple’s camera app and Apple Photos to edit.

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.

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iPhone X using Apple Camera app, import into Lightroom CC

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.

Film vs Digital Photos – May 2017

About five years ago I started shooting film again after going with digital only for about 7-8 years.  Now in May 2017 it seems like film is back in a big way.  I have been writing this blog and one other with most of the posts being about photography.  My most popular posts are when I write about film and film cameras.  Recently I saw a post that was in Photoblographer on 5 great but unknown film cameras.  The Minolta 600si was in the five.  Within a few days I had a bunch of hits on most two 600si posts.  Same with my post on Kodak Gold 200.  Few have written about these items and all of a sudden my posts on them have been looked up and read.

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Shot with Minolta 600si with 50mm f2.8 macro Quantaray lens and Kodak Portra 160

For me personally I have settled into using both digital and film.  I have a number of both types of cameras and just pick what I think will give the best images.  The exception to this rule is that I carry an iPhone 7+ with me constantly and take a lot of images with it.  My most recent camera purchase is a Sony pocket camera.  It is a DSC HX80.  This is a very new model of super zoom.  I have had several Sony pocket cameras over the last 15 years and this one takes the best pictures of any I have had.  This is not the highly rated $1,000 one, but looks very similar.  I got it as I was trying to find something a bit better than the iPhone 7+ that had a long lens on it.  I like shooting wildlife and volunteer at the San Diego Zoo so there are times when a long optical lens is helpful.  I have to say the little Sony is a very good camera when you consider what it cost.  It even has an electronic viewfinder (the same one as the $1,000 Sony) that is absolutely essential in bright sun.  I recently took it with me to Arizona and the camera is a very good bridge between a large SLR or DSLR and a cell phone camera.

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Sony DSC HX80
AZ trip with Cathy & Jeff-53
Sony DSC HX80 at about 500mm a little tweaking in Lrightroom

On this trip I took my iPhone, the DSC HX80, and my Nikon D5500.  So no film cameras.  Why, I knew I would be bouncing around between outdoor and indoor, plus back and forth between landscape and people.  We did not plan to go to any epic landscape places like the Grand Canyon or Bryce.  So I spent several days trying to decide on what gear to take and just left the film at home.  I really wanted to take my old Voightlander, but it is just more limited than some of the newer cameras.  I got some very good shots with the gear I took.

The cactus is with the Sony, Casa Grande Nikon, and Route 66 with the iPhone.  All three were easy to edit and organize with Lightroom and Apple Photos.  I pretty much edited the pictures when sitting in the hotel and they organized easily as dates and times were already embedded in them.

Would the images have been better with film?  Maybe.  I would have needed two bodies for both 100 speed and 400 speed.  The 100 would have been Ektar or Velvia, and the 400 Kodak Ultramax or Fuji Superia.  I picked these films as I just have not been happy with my landscape shots using Portra 160 or 400.  I just don’t like the desert look I get from this film.  My two Minolta 600si bodies are just as easy to use as the digitals so I would have taken them.  I would have used my two primes a 50mm and 24mm both with macro.  The long shots could have been with the 70-205 Minolta zoom I have.  Absolutely the 50mm macro is better at close ups than any of the digital cameras I have.  The new Sony super zoom really has a long reach.  So a couple of the animal shots might not have been as close up.

The added reason I picked the digitals is that I am trying to get certain looks with them in camera and post with Lightroom.  I wanted to experiment some more to get the results I was looking for.

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These shots of Casa Grande in Arizona I was trying to get the “Kodachrome” look.  To me this photo (from the iPhone no less) pretty much nails that.  And I could have made the same result with Velvia or Ektar in one of my film cameras.  In this case though it is a bit of a pano that is easy with the iPhone 7.

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Nikon D5500 with 18-55 P lens

The above is with my D5500 and I get the same “Kodachrome” look.  I just used the P setting and landscape mode.  I had saturation turned up +2 on the landscape mode.  Then in Lightroom I just added a small amount of additional color in the sky with the dehaze slider.  And I turned up the shadows a bit.

In summation I would have to say that I have settled into working with both film and digital for stills.  There are some things I like about each process.  As far as gear goes, I like some of my vintage film gear.  Looking at and holding cameras mostly made out of metal and not plastic is a pleasure.  And having full frame film cameras that are not heavy and relatively small is also a pleasure.  I would like to move up to a digital full frame sometime in the near future, but nobody has made the camera I want yet.  The closest is the Nikon 750, but I don’t like the fact that the camera and lens is so large.  And the Sony stuff is just too pricy for what you get.  Plus the lens cost and short battery life are additional problems.  I would really like to get up to the 30 meg area of file size too.  At this point the 750 is the same detail as my existing D5500.

Film Video vs Digital Video

While it seems I can get very good results with digital cameras I have to say I am glad that using film in movies is popular again.  I hate digital video on TV that has not been processed to look like film.  Netflix does that on their in house movies and they look terrible.  I can usually spot movies made with film or TV shows.  For instance HBO’s Westworld.  The cinematography was so gorgeous I figured it was film.  And it is.

Thats it for now.  I am going to try to get out this weekend and shoot some film.  I have some partially used rolls and I want to finish them and send them off to get them developed.

iPhone 7 Plus Camera Review

I got my Apple iPhone 7 plus about 3 weeks after they came out.  It was a replacement for my iPhone 6S that I had for just under a year.  The camera for the 7 plus is a system unlike any I have used before.  If combines two separate cameras, one a wide angle with about a 28 mm equivalent lens with f1.8, and a second camera with about a 56mm equivalent lens with f2.8.  And these two cameras are tied together with very sophisticated Apple software in the phone to give you many extra capabilities.  In addition, the phone camera is designed to work well with Apple’s own “Photos” app on the phone, iPad, Mac or other Apple device.

This camera system using the standard (And very good) Apple camera app takes still pictures in wide or square format.  Plus it takes video in up to 4K.  In addition, to those usual modes the 7 Plus also can take Apple “live” photos, time lapse, slo mo, and excellent pano shots.  And, “portrait” photos which have software that adds bokeh when used properly.

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Taken with the iPhone 7+ and edited with Lightroom 

The Apple iPhone 7+ system for zoom is brilliant.  It is a different level of performance from any other smartphone camera I have used and is likely far better than any other smartphone camera currently sold.  I am fully away that lots of you tubes and other ratings people, and camera magazines test this system and say that several other smartphones are better, but in my opinion that is in the lab and not the field.  My ratings system is based on the images or video I get and not lab test.  If you actually want to get great work out of your smartphone this is the one to get.

I started to realize how amazing this camera system was the first few times I shot zooms where I went well beyond the optical zoom.  The first few times I looked at the result and though, “wow that looks really good for digital zoom”.  I don’t know how Apple does it but their “secret sauce” software amazingly lets you use the two cameras to zoom a lot closer than the optics of the 56mm lens and get great keepers.

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Shot with 7+ and about 8x zoom at dusk into the sun – edited in Lightroom

The above shot was at sunset at about 8x zoom, which is about 4x the optical capability.  And it is shot in low light into the sun.  The result is frigging astonishingly good for ANY camera much less one that was included with a multi use portable computer.

Then there is the pano capability.

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Shot with iPhone 7+ and edited in Apple Photos on a Mac

The image above was taken at the Painted Desert National Park in AZ a few months ago.  It was very simple to take and what you see here is about 180 degrees, maybe a little more.  The Apple software stitched the whole thing together and then made it very easy to edit in Apple Photos even though it is a lot of mega pixels.  I basically just cropped it a little and hit the enhance button.

Then there is the bokeh software.  I tried this a couple years ago with an Android phone and google’s system at the time and it did not work very well.  I am sure google has improved it but the Apple system has to be the one to beat at this point.  The Apple “portrait” mode works extremely well when you use it right.

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Taken with 7+ using portrait mode
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Also taken with 7+ using bokeh mode

The Apple iPhone 7 plus is very compatible with the Apple Photos app on the phone, and iPad, or a Mac.  For most photos the Apple app is all you need.  I use both the Apple Photos app and Lightroom.  I have the monthly charge Adobe Lightroom CC which gives you both the latest version of LR and also Photoshop.  In my opinion this is a bargain.  The Adobe software is big, complex, and takes quite a bit of effort to learn it.  Plus many things are not intuitive.  But after using it a while LR becomes relatively easy.  I have tried organizing my photos with LR and really prefer to let Apple’s system do it.  Plus I always have my master set arranged in chronological order in a standard file set up.  I also like using the Apple system because it sends slide shows to my Apple TV so I can see my latest photos on the big screen.  Generally when I edit I use my MacBook Pro 13″, but like it much better when it is hooked up to my large Apple display.  That said, both Apple and Lightroom have very good iPad and iPhone editing apps.  The LR one is far more capable, but for most photos the Apple one works fine.  One other significant advantage of using Lightroom is that you can take RAW photos with the iPhone.  If you want the most detailed image LR RAW is the way to go.  Plus when you need to make adjustments having a RAW file allows far greater latitude than a jpeg.

I don’t take a lot of videos.  When I do I almost always use the iPhone instead of my Nikon.  Why, the results from the iPhone are usually better and a lot easier.  I do not use 4K.  The files get too big.  For editing video I use the standard iMovie app that comes with the Mac.  It works well and for the amount of videos I take it is good enough.

I have and use regularly a Nikon mid range DSLR.  If used right it does give superior results on still photos than the iPhone 7 +.  Having a viewfinder is very helpful in the sun.  Plus for quick action shots the Nikon is very fast.  When you want to shoot sea gulls flying overhead the Nikon is the way to go.  It freezes the sea gulls in flight even when hand held and not in perfect light.  Plus you do get more details.  As good as the iPhone 7 plus is for longer range tele shots a Nikon with a tele lens is better.  Plus you can put filters like polarizing ones on.  I use a polarizing filter all the time when taking flower pictures.  It cuts down on unwanted reflections.  You cannot do that with the iPhone.  So no the 7 plus as good as it is does not replace an SLR or DSLR, but the two together make a great combo.  And when you are walking the dog you will likely have your smartphone and not your DSLR.

Waiting for the next iPhone?  No, get the iPhone 7+ now.  It is that good.  If you think the next iPhone will be amazing you may be right.  So get the Apple plan that lets you upgrade in a year.  That’s what I did.  But so far I have heard of nothing in the rumor posts about any feature that is completely a have-to-get item for me.  I have already had a couple of phones with OLED and while I think OLED is great for a TV, I am very happy with the excellent screen on the 7+.  Full glass covering?  Who cares.  I use a case any way.  BTW, I have both the leather and rubber case for my phone and the rubber one is better for pictures.  Easier to grip when you want a shot.  The leather one looks better though.  So what is my rating on the iPhone 7+ on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest, it is a 10.  The best compact camera you can buy.

Nikon D5500 DSLR

I have had my Nikon D5500 DSLR for about six months now.  It was an upgrade from a Nikon D3200 DSLR that I had for about 2 years.  Let me start off by saying that I have found the D5500 to be a very good camera and certainly a good value for the money.  In addition to the camera body I bought the new style kit lens that is 18-55mm.

Stock picture of Nikon D5500
Stock picture of Nikon D5500

I also have a Nikon 35mm f1.8 and a 55-200mm zoom.  The zoom has vibration reduction and the prime lens does not.  I was able to sell my two year old D3200 on line at a good price.

The D5500 is like the super deluxe version of the 3200.  The sensors of the two cameras have the same pixel count.  I have mostly taken stills with this camera but it works quite well for videos too.  The video portion of the 5500 has stereo microphones which is an advantage over the 3200.  I take more videos with my cell phone than the 5500, but find the results from the Nikon to be better.  The Nikon lenses are able to isolate the subject much better than the cell phone.  I shoot all my videos at 1080p.  I usually use the setting for about 24-30 fps.

The touch screen of the Nikon D5500 is a great feature.  It is much quicker and easier to use than the older style adjustments of the 3200.  I find the Nikon settings to be very easy to figure out.  Usually they have explanations to help you.  This camera has taken the scene settings off of the top wheels and into the touch screen menu.  There is a wide selection of scene settings and they seem to be quite effective.  ISO settings are now easy to adjust with the touch screen.  But for some reason Nikon put the control for applying auto ISO deep in the menus.  There is also a button now for control of single or multiple shots where you can get to it quickly.

Bodie CA. Two houses come together.
Bodie CA. Two houses come together.

The D5500 has very good color rendition.  I find this to be the case on either landscapes or people shots.  Many of the shots I took this summer using a scene from the menu needed little to no adjustment in post.  I did use the raw settings some of the time, but the D5500 jpeg software does a very good job.  Unless you like to twiddle with the pictures a lot I don’t think you need to stay away from just the standard jpeg settings.  The exception to this is very detailed landscape shots.  I still shot most of those in raw so all of the possible detail would be in the photos.

Bodie CA houses and blue sky.
Bodie CA houses and blue sky.

The picture above was a medium jpeg setting and this is how it came out of the camera.

Why I chose to get the D5500.  As I have mentioned in other posts I like well built cameras that take good pictures and the camera itself has good style.  I especially like the look and size of my Olympus OM2n cameras who’s size and look were based on the Leica M series.  I also have an old Voightlander Prominent from the 1950’s that is the same size as the Olympus with even nicer metal work.  The Voightlander is beautiful industrial design.  In my opinion.

Voightlander Prominent

So when I went to look at cameras I went to a camera store in San Diego that had the Nikon D5500, Nikon D750, Fuji XT1, and Olympus OMD – Em5 II.  The Olympus OMD was the best looking of the four cameras.  However, it weighed as much as the larger Nikon 5500 and would have cost me double what the I paid for the Nikon.  Keep in mind I already have two Nikon lenses.  And the kicker with the Oly is the small sensor.  It is significantly smaller than the 5500 and has less mega pixels.  And then there is no optical viewfinder.  I still like those.  The Nikon D750 is a great full frame camera that is like a big brother to the D5500.  I would rather have a full frame camera but don’t want to drag around twice the weight of the D5500.  The Fuji is a great mirrorless camera, but it costs lots of money to get the body and three lenses.  It is mirrorless, so not through the lens optical viewfinder, and it’s looks don’t do anything for me.

So I picked the Nikon D5500.  A very capable camera that feels very good in my hand.  It is however a lump of black plastic and not in any way a thing of beauty.  I am still waiting for that full frame good looking digital camera that is a similar size and appearance to the Leica M or Oly OM2n.  That I can afford to buy.

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.