playing with photos

Friday, I finally got the digital SLR I had been planning and saving for during whole this spring. I did the purchase order first into a German net store (for obvious price reasons), but after several weeks of delays (they sell stuff they do not have in store, or even do not exactly know when they’ll get some) I went to a local shop (Rajala). The arbitration between Nikon D70s, Canon EOS 350D and 20D was long and hard, but finally I decided to go for 350D. The price of the kit was practically at the same level with D70s, which would have offered better controls, lenses and a more robust design. But when testing, I realised that I have been shooting with a Canon EOS camera from 1987, and the “Canon language” has become so natural that transfer to Nikon felt hard. And Nikon was not getting as good reviews for the picture quality – there was the moiré issue, for example. None of these were perfect cameras of course, but on the other hand all of them were very good. 20D was a bit pricy, and instead I decided to go for 350D, but equipped it with the vertical battery pack (BG-E3) which made a real difference to how the tiny camera handles. The glassware I could afford at this point was not so great (including the plastic-feeling kit lens), but I bought also a Sigma 70-300 F4-5.6 II APO which is a cheap “Macro Super” zoom, meaning I can go pretty close to those details, textures, insects and other little marvels I love to look at and photograph. In the post-processing, I am currently getting acquainted with the RAW data format; it seems that Adobe Elements 3.0 which I bought as the editing and archiving software can handle 350D RAW, but only after installing a separate update file. There are many features in this program I already love (take a look at the sample web photo folder it created from the originals with a couple of clicks), but it also appears still a bit unfinished and unstable (getting crashes and Visual Basic errors tonight, probably my photo library is just too large for it or something). I also realised that Elements 3 does not retain exposure, aperture and other tech data when you export RAW files into JPEGs, so it is perhaps best to shoot both files at the same time; RAW for print jobs and archiving, JPEG for web publishing. Need to study this some more. Other stuff: a Wacom touchpad for editing, Manfrotto tripod for support (got a remote control, too). The Manfrotto (055PROB) seems actually versatile enough, with its horizontally adaptable center column and legs that can be tilted absolutely flat against the earth, if need be. But the mini ball head (484RC2) is unfortunately not really compatible with it, so I have to get it switched. The first dozen or so pics, taken at a nearby Tohloppi lake shore at sunset should give some idea how rich in details and how huge a colour and tonal range these things can deliver when shooting in full 8 mega-pixel resolution. (I am going to need lots of hard-disk space soon…) Never having worked with a digital SLR before, I am just so dazed! 🙂

hi-quality mobile photography?

The future of mobile blogging is dependent on the quality of keyboard (do I want to type anything with this?), the quality of visual technology (do I want to photograph anything with this?), as well as on the speed and reliability of networks and overall ease-of-use of the service. There are many things current generations of gadgets and services can do, but none can yet do all necessary things right at the same time. My inspiration? Reading and looking at the direction Nokia is going with their latest N90 model. Story: New Nokia boasts Carl Zeiss lens: Digital Photography Review.

animal crossing and spring potatoes

This weekend has proved finally to me too the addictive powers of Animal Crossing by Nintendo. Discussing with cute (or irritating, depending on your view) little animals in a colourful little town that you learn to know and which learns to know you, decidedly carries much charm. In terms of addiction creating qualities, AC:

  • is easily accessible, yet immediately rewarding
  • provides a form of personalised content and characters which you form personal relationships with
  • is endless in offering new upgrades or extensions into your house, clothing, fashion designs, insect & fossil collections and so on.

This last part got me thinking about the similarities of this game with so-called real life. You all have seen how people spend their free times acquiring, fixing and maintaining their houses, cars, clothes and other belongings, while their working days are providing money to get more of those things. AC is one of those games that nicely captures the endless and addictive character of our lives as consumers: running around in our little errands, trying to get the new parasol with the design of this summer’s fashion. There is something deeply rewarding and even instinctual in all this; maybe some kind of echo from our hunter-gatherer days?

Btw – Nikon has been promising a late April release of an upgrade for D70, as well as an entry level digital SLR (D50?) So, I might wait until May to see the situation before getting my new system.

Tried to shoot some extra-close details shots of earth, sand etc. today, but Ixus and its optics just cannot handle so close macro work. Particularly the auto-focus did not work at that range. Well, here are some Easter-time pictures instead: the first spring potatoes and the first spring beers in a (freezing!) terrace by our merry hyperlab group.

camera comparison aches

In Saturday I took a quick check-out of the Canon EOS 350D in a local warehouse in order to get a better idea of how it actually feels and behaves. And to check that my old EF lenses work with it. Oh damn. The first I tested was my old Tokina AF tele-zoom, and then it happened: the lens jammed. It just did not get off from the 350D body! There were several of the shop personnel trying their best, but it started to look like they would break it, so I agreed to leave my lens there. Lets see; they promised to contact a Canon service, and I have their phone number.

The incident really got me rethinking about the whole deal; if my old lenses do not work, I might as well got something different than the EOS. So this weekend I have spend way too much time looking at several sites and hunting for more information particularly on Nikon D70, which couple of people I know own and are happy with. For more, read Phil Askey’s review: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond70/

The comparisons are really interesting, and when put to side-to-side, with real money involved, this is not an easy decision:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/compare_post.asp?method=sidebyside&cameras=canon_eos350d%2Cnikon_d70&show=all
http://www.digitalreview.ca/cams/NikonD70versusRebelXT.shtml

There are many differences, but both are clearly good cameras, so it really comes down to the possible future uses. Whether to emphasise the light weight (Canon), or more extensive range of functions (Nikon)? The decision of which lens(es) to take adds even more elements into the equation. Created an Excel sheet already to keep track of the options, oh dear…

digital photography

The pictures I took in San Francisco/GDC are finally online: http://www.unet.fi/pics/2005-03-GDC_San_Francisco/ — While working on them, I was overall disappointed both to the technical quality and also to the quality of them as photography. Travel photos are probably generally one of the lowest species among their kind, but still there should be some reason behind every picture one takes, and that idea should be communicated through the image. A mass of blurry, unrecognizable shots has no value whatsoever.

Partially as a reaction to this, I revisited the reasons behind my interest into photography. I bought my first “systems camera” in 1980, if my memory serves me. There is one bookshelf filled with photos, mostly in collage-like album books from those active years (1980-1997). After that, other interests have taken precedence. A good photograph, like any other activity if well done, takes time. I remember spending hours after hours training my drawing skills, then those of photography, then spending most of time writing; and the quality of output has indeed some kind of correlation with that investment. It really is simple like that.

It is Good Friday today, and enjoying the day off, we drove into south, then walking a bit around Nokia. I took a quick series of black-and-white photos around Nokia’s church and Hinttala museum: http://www.unet.fi/pics/2005-03-b_white/ (shot number nine is Laura’s, btw.)

Canon IXUS v3 that I used does not have much of a zoom, and its possibilities for manually configuring the image settings are rather limited. But, as you can see even from these scaled-down images, a 3-megabyte CCD and DIGIC processor does rather nice work on conveying the textures and shades when you have proper daylight and can use the ISO 100 setting.

Currently, I am considering of upgrading either into Canon EOS 300D or 350D, since my old EF lenses would work with those bodies. The reviews I have read seem promising, too:
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos300d/
http://www.dpreview.com/articles/canoneos350d/

Any comments or user experiences of those, or competitive models are most welcome.