When I started considering a hobby approach to
photography I was using a Fuji DL400 (crappy auto with
very unreliable auto-focus), and a Chinon Handy-Zoom 5001 for later photos (very nice 35-70mm
auto, but just try to get support in the USA). Both of these were
thrown in the trash in favor of a Canon EOS Elan-IIe,
which is an absolutely terrific 35mm film camera that's built like a tank but
not quite as heavy. That camera went literally everywhere, in all
weather, and didn't mind bouncing along in my motorcycle's tank bag for many
thousands of miles. I still have it and it works fine. A little Olympus Stylus
Elite QD (F2.8) was my backup until it developed a light leak, so into the
garbage it went and an old but reliable Minox 35EL went back into duty.
Then along came digital photography.
What a terrific way to accelerate the learning curve of photography!
No more waiting for the developer to find out what you have accomplished.
No more uncertainty about exposure or depth of field, etc. I started with a
Nikon Coolpix 950, which too now-defunct
Egghead.com three months to ship. This
2.11 megapixel beauty was my first introduction into digital photography, and
provided much of the power and convenience necessary to help keep this web site current. Here's a
review and some examples of its abilities. I've since sold it to an
IR photography enthusiast, but I miss it now.
Then I added Canon's EOS 10D digital SLR and
upgraded from the Elan's 380EX flash to a
550EX. The 6.3 megapixel Canon is a heavier rig than what I'm accustomed
to, though still far
lighter than some other pro SLR digicams. I can save some weight and
bulk by using the 380EX instead or leaving off the flash altogether, and it
works very nicely with Canon's 28-105. Here's
a brief review of the 10D.
When Canon introduced the 8.2-megapixel 20D,
I had to have it. The 10D stayed as a backup and got food-chained to
the spouse. The 20D offered a huge variety of improvements that, at
least until full-frame digital SLRs limbo in under the $2000 mark, should making
this the last digital SLR I would buy (for a while at least). A short review is
mostly complete. Along with the 20D I purchased a 4GB Sandisk
Ultra-II CompactFlash card, chosen with the help of
Rob Galbraith's web site. 4GB
can hold about a thousand JPG pictures at the highest quality, or close to
three hundred even when using "RAW+L" which captures both the raw CCD data AND
an embedded high quality JPG.
Lenses are addicting. For the Canon cameras
my all-around lens was a Canon
28-105 USM lens, a surprisingly good
F3.5-4.5 which puts the kit's 35-80 lens to shame. It started getting a
little sticky and loose after many years of abuse so while it was being
serviced I replaced it with Canon's rather beefy 24-105mm F4 L IS.
Some folks are annoyed it's not an F2.8 but I find the consistent aperture
beneficial in light of my terrible habit of live cropping with the zoom.
I also put aside my old 75-300EF - a mediocre but light F4-5.6 - in favor of a 70-200mm F2.8 with Image
Stabilization. This three pound monster approximates a 112-320mm when
used on the digital SLRs, and allows some stunning handheld far field work,
though at the cost of the power-hungry IS widgets reducing the camera's battery life
considerably. This was soon followed by a very nice birthday gift - the Canon 16-35mm F2.8 L
helped regain some of the field of view lost to the digital SLR sensor cropping.
I picked up a 50mm F1.2 but I have not used it as much as I perhaps should.
Canon's 1.4x extender and macro tube fill out the kit for all occasions, and
my most recent lens, the 10-22mm EF-S has mostly replaced the 16-35.
Of course what's all that without a tripod.
A Korean-made Markins ballhead sits on a set of carbon fiber Gitzo legs.
The combination weighs the same as a cheapo Slik but is quite stable and the
Markins is super silky and very well designed.
My handy go-everywhere backup camera is
Canon's SD700 IS. It is always on my belt. After getting
accustomed to the capabilities of the 20D the little guy can be frustrating,
but it has never let me down, and has survived a few inevitable clumsy drops
Recently a friend introduced me to panoramic
photography. Since I'm a sucker for novelty I of course caught the
pano bug big-time. That's why I bought the 10-22mm EF-S lens and to go
along with it, I also purchased a Manfrotto 303SPH tripod head. Not
being able to leave well enough alone, I got annoyed with that ungainly
Manfrotto plate on my camera so I made a little change,
A word about batteries... The only thing
left giving me a choice to use standard batteries is the flash. I have
more or less given up on rechargeables in favor of Energizer lithium AA batteries.
They drastically improve the Speedlite's otherwise
frustrating recycle times, have a shelf life of several years, operate
effectively over a much wider temperature range, are nearly half the weight
of any other batteries, and last at least three times as long as alkalines.
The cost - about $2 apiece - seems prohibitive until you do the lifetime
math, and they are worth their weight in gold in the aggravation they
eliminate compared to NiMH batteries, such as the short shelf life,
potential damage from deep discharging and the need to always check them.
I will continue to use the rechargeables I already own when appropriate, but
don't plan on buying more and will never use them during an important
An old HP ScanJet 4c scanner, Adobe Photoshop and Cerious
Software's ThumbsPlus! helped put many of the images on these web pages.
For color hardcopy I now use an Epson Stylus Photo R1800 after throwing a
Hewlett-Packard PhotoSmart 1218 into the garbage, tiring of its expensive
clogged cartridges and paper detection technology that never really worked.
The Epson is networked using the less than well-known SEH PS03a Print
Server, which I have reviewed
here. The ScanJet is long gone now, that duty being performed with
great mediocrity by a Brother MFC8840DN. But a Nikon slide scanner
fills the gap nicely, thanks.
There's more to life than stills and I'm happy
to say that our Sony DCR-TRV8 Mini-DV Handicam is still going strong more
than nine years after we bought it. No disposable technology here!
Although we now have years worth of tapes featuring that camera's annoying
motor whine in the sound track, it's still a fine camera and is also handy
for doing NTSC/VHS-DV-DVD conversions with its realtime transcoder.
Thank heavens CPU processing power reached a point several years ago where
we could dispense with Pinnacle's finicky
DV300 and DV500 cards on our editing stations. To this day Pinnacle
can't seem to write stable software and it shows in ALL of their products.
Finally, since HD is finally coming of age, we recently added Sony's HDR-HC9
to the stable. Yes, we're sticking with the Mini-DV format.
Adobe's Production Studio has helped us turn out a couple of very nice
wedding videos and Any Day Now we'll get around to committing some of those
DV tapes to DVD.
Many people know me as an amateur photographer
but more so, as a "computer expert." As a result I am
constantly answering the question, "what is the best digicam to
buy?" Much of what I know about digicams comes from painstaking
research and a lot of time on web sites like Imaging
Resource. Of course a quick answer is impossible, but I can't stand
the oversimplifications I often hear either, so I wrote a quick overview of how
to choose the best digital camera for yourself. Enjoy!