Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Testing A New Camera

A new camera?  Ah, visions of more pixels, maybe a full frame, better glass to go with it, and more weight to lug around.  Well, actually, no, no, no, and no.  Chase Jarvis has a book out that with a title every photographer should memorize.  It’s “The Best Camera” with the subtext of “Is The One You Have With You”.  The entire book is shots Chase has taken using his iPhone, and it isn’t even the latest iPhone.  The book was published about or before the latest iteration was introduced.  Here’s a professional photographer with tons of equipment and his thought goes back to lyrics from a 1970 Crosby, Stills & Nash song.  “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”  When we go out doing some casual shooting we have two camera bags, a bag of just lights, two gear bags, a selection of different size reflectors, a couple tripods and a pretty full trunk.  Just in case.  And yet, we miss a at least as many shots as we get.  We miss them because they pop up as life goes by.  As a result, we ordered a couple Nikon S3000 Point and Shoot cameras two weeks ago.  They’re tiny, they’re 12 MP, they have a 4x zoom and one of them took today’s image.  Are we going to chuck the big guns?  No!  But I’ve been popping mine in my pants pocket when I dress in the morning.  Doris bought a case and carries her camera in her pocketbook.  Does it compare to the bigger cameras?  Only in the fact that each tales pictures.  Are there things that make me nuts?  You bet!  The shutter lag is something I thought manufacturers had minimized long ago.  Not so.  With 12 MPs will I be able to make 20 x 30 prints?  So far I don’t think so.  The JPG compression appears to be too great.  There seems to be a pretty high noise level with the Auto ISO turned on.  Will I not carry it?  No, I’ll keep it in my pocket so I’ll have a better chance at getting those shots as life goes by.  To find out what “tricks” were done to today’s image in post, hit the “read more”.

Okay, it’s a shot of the mall, I know. To give the camera the best possible chance at getting a sharp image I rested the camera on the rail of the second floor walkway. The problem was the fact that the bottom of the camera is not dead flat, so there a possibility of rocking as the shutter is pressed. So, the first thing that was done was to straighten out the image. The nice thing about a shot like today’s is that there are plenty of reference points. The rails, the floor, the ceiling, anything that should be “on the level”.
Because the camera was set to the widest possible angle of view, the poles canted out on a very noticeable angle. The second “correction” made was to push the Perspective out from the bottom, and then in from the top. The Grid was turned on (CTRL ‘) to give reference lines to be able to tell when the sides of the gallery were upright.

One of the big gotchas is that straightening the image took away a little bit of the image. Correcting the Perspective took away some (a lot) more. What was left had a small piece of a kiosk looking pretty dumb in the lower left corner, so that had to go with cropping. What started out as a 12 MP file, after all the snipping and cutting ended up as a 2 MP file. That’s a pretty drastic reduction. Still fine for the web, or a 4 x 6 print, but I don’t think the mall will be clamoring to buy it to make any garrison flag sized banners out of it any time soon.

I showed the image to a friend who works at the same mall. She said “the mall really doesn’t want people taking pictures there”. Had I brought the big guns and set up on a tripod I probably would have been visited by security pretty quickly. Shooting with a camera that's 2” X 3” X .5” really didn’t attract anyone’s attention. It’s another thing about taking pictures as life goes by.