01 May 2007

The Reverse Advice Column

Has digital camera technology sufficiently matured that it make sense to spend a wad on a digital camera?


Mike Beversluis said...

Probably a while ago.

Look for something that works well in low light (high equivalent ASA film speeds and a low f# lens), and is small enough that you'll feel okay taking carrying it around.

I have a little Sony DSC-L1 that is perfect on the second count but awful on the first, and I have a big Nikon SLR with fast prime lenses that reverses that score. Neither one is as nice as my old Yashica T4 Super D film camera, so I am still looking too.

Susan's Husband said...

Yes. Do what Mike did, buy two, one for convenience, the other for power and flexibility.

Harry Eagar said...

No point in matching even powerful digital technology to $2 lenses.

Our staff photographers use Nikon digitals with a full suite of real lenses. Last time I asked (about three years ago), they were spending $8K for a setup and griping that for really fine photography they needed the $16K outfit, which the company would not spring for.

I'm stickin' with my brace of Asahi Pentaxes for serious pictures, though I lug around a Nikkormat with an f/2 50 mm lens for family pictures.

My wife has a little digital, but somehow she misplaced the little card, and all the files on it.

I like film.

David said...

Harry: Exactly. However, Nikon is now selling digital SLR cameras that will take 35 mm lenses for casual hobbyist prices. That's what prompts my question.

David said...

By the way, the link was sort of random, but it does help me focus in on one of my questions. My instinct is that I don't really care about the difference between 6 MP and 10 MP because other things (the lens system, the printer, etc.) are more important to picture quality and actually printing out full size prints is going to get rarer and rarer. Am I right?

And are there any big changes coming in optical chip quality?

Oroborous said...

And are there any big changes coming in optical chip quality?

Yes, of course there are, but do you want to wait another two years to buy a camera ?

Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Eager;

Three years ago is a long time ago. Prices have gone way down since then. I frequently see professional photographers using D70 or D80 cameras. I think those photographers were suffering lens lust, not actual bad results, because the effective resolution of photographs once they are in the newspaper is quite low (seriously, "fine photography" for that kind of reproduction?). My experience is that you can do quite well for a lot less than $8K unless you are doing professional sports photography or plan on selling your work as framed art.

As for megapixels, I recommend getting as many as you can afford if you plan to do any post-processing. The primary reason for this is that it makes cropping much easier, which in turn means you can be sloppier about getting the original picture framed properly. If you're good enough to almost always get the framing right, then no, extra pixels don't help. If you tend to get things off center, then you can toss the extra pixels to fix that. But even if you frame well, extra pixels also gives you the equivalent of more zoom in the lens.

David said...

sh: Exactly. I do a moderate amount of post-processing, but I always do some and, in particular, I crop. But unless I print the photo, I usually don't notice the reduction in resolution from cropping and then expanding. For use on the web or on-screen viewing, it doesn't seem to make much difference. Also, if I can trade pixels for lenses, a good lens will reduce somewhat the amount of post-processing I have to do.

Mike Beversluis said...

Pixels are overrated, and SNR is more important. A lot of causal photography is indoors in moderately lit rooms, and a slow lens (a mini-zoom) with an insensitive, noisy ccd equals blur and noise. My Sony annoys me because I can't take a picture of someone sitting across the table at dinner without the flash, which looks awful.

The Nikon VR lenses are the new hotness, and they can't keep them in stock: Nikon 18-200mm

Also, camera geeks are like gun nuts.

Susan's Husband said...

I aim for printing myself if I bother to post-process, even though most of my pictures will only be seen on a screen. I don't like to crop below being able to print full resolution at 4x6" and with 6MP this is not infrequently an issue. It comes up primarily for pictures of my children's sport activities. For anything involving posing or where I can walk up as close as I like, it's much less important.

As for lenses, the best way to do is to not buy lenses, but notice what type of pictures you fail to get because you don't have the right lens. Then buy the lens you need to get those shots. Otherwise, you're at grave risk of "lens lust".


I use an SB-800 with my D70 and it is a marvelous flash unit, far more cost effective in getting good shots than a faster lens (which has the problem of narrow DOF). It's another thing SLRs have over compact digital.

But perhaps my experience is atypical, as most of my shots are not in moderately lit rooms.