Thursday, May 31, 2012

Photography And Rving

I am not a professional photographer.  By that I mean I do not make my living by taking pictures.  But I have taken a lot of snapshots, slides, and short videos over the years.  And of course I have my opinions.  My father took many thousands of pictures with a couple of different cameras.  He too was no professional, but I think a good picture taker.  I still have and use (occasionally) his Voitlander Prominent from approx 1953.  When I was first an adult with a family I decided I would learn about photography and getting good pictures.  Then in 1980 I bought an Olympus OM2.  And extremely well made 35mm that has worked flawlessly since new.  I read a number many many "how to take good pictures books."  I had a whole series from Time-Life who seemed to put out quantities of book series in the 1960's - 1980's.  After getting all this gear and knowledge I bought a bunch more hardware and used up hundreds of rolls of film.  Until recently I have boxes of old negatives from decades of pictures taking.

So now we are in 2012 and you know things have changed as Eastman Kodak has now declared bankruptcy.  But to take the kind of pictures you normally use with RVing such as

  What are the things we need to be concerned about?

  • If you just want to take simple pictures for putting on Facebook what do you need?  The answer is almost anything will work fine.  A good smartphone with a minimum of 5 mega pixels and an HD video capability will take pleasing pictures for posting on Facebook.  In my opinion phones will less than the above capabilities are not good enough.  Almost any compact point and shoot digital camera will work fine also.  I have had three Sony's and they have been reliable and the results have been good.  In addition, almost any camera you have around the house that uses film will work fine too.  You do not have to toss out your film cameras.  This week I took a roll of film with one of my oldest point and shoot cameras and sent it to a lab in San Clemente.  They developed it in 24 hours and I already have my shots back through the internet.  I will get a CD with higher resolution files in a day or two.  And guess what.  The old film camera shots really look better and more detailed than digital pictures I took with my 8 mega pixel phone.  That is because standard film cameras operate with 100 mega pixels.  Even with less than fabulous lenses film is so finely detailed that you can get great detailed pictures using film.  
  • Lets say you want to go just beyond Facebook and have good looking shots to put on your TV or large computer monitor.  We have now just made a big leap.  In my opinion as a minimum you need a camera with a well made lens and about 15 mega pixels if it is digital.  And once again pretty much any old film camera will work as well.  Just make sure when you get your digital scans back you specify the higher setting as far as fine detail.  My processor offers 5.6 mega pixels as standard and 16.5 mega pixels as optional.  Since most film has that 100 mega pixel capacity, getting digital with 16.5 mega pixels is a cake walk.  
  • If you want to really have the images "pop" on your big screen TV or blow up prints beyond 11" x 17" you are going to need to be picky with a digital camera.  You will need a camera with a fine lens and a camera capacity of at least 16 mega pixels.  Or you can use you old film SLR and have the processor send you back the high pixel digital.  
  • Keep in mind that Ansel Adams used a big camera with a huge piece of film to get the finely detailed images that he is famous for.  
I have lately decided to use all of my old cameras with at least one roll of film each year.  Plus I have started to research getting a better digital camera.  In the first case I have found out that my old cameras work pretty good.  And in the second I have found that digital cameras have a lot of ins and outs and are a technology that is still very much in development.  In no way (in my humble opinion) are fine digital cameras a perfected technology.  The absolute top end digital cameras offer up to 36 mega pixels.  Old film cameras are 3 times that.  And top end SLR cameras from the best makers like Nikon and Cannon are bulky big things.  Way bigger than my elegantly made OM2.  Olympus has just come out with a new digital camera that looks a lot like my old OM2.  The size and look are similar.  But to get it that size they had to compromise the sensor size and were not able to include an actual optical viewfinder.  

Lenses.  Back when I read all the books about taking pictures all of the experts said the same thing about lenses.  The most useful lens is a standard one of about 45-55mm.  It is the one you will use the most.  The second most useful lens is a wide angle of between 28-35mm.  Next is a mild telephoto lens or a portrait lens of about 80mm.  They advised that very high telephoto lenses were for people that want to take nature shots.  Usually of animals.  I have taken thousands of pictures.  I have had a telephoto lens for years.  I have hardly used it.  The problem for me is that it is almost impossible to take people and standard "place" shots.  People shots you normally need a standard lens or lower.  And when you go see a cathedral somewhere you need a wide angle lens not a telephoto.  

Fixed lenses almost always give finer details than zoom lenses.  My old Voitlander had as a standard lens a 50mm 1.5F.  Most zoom lenses only stop down to 3.5 or more.  Plus there are all those moving parts in the lens and it is nearly impossible to keep everything aligned exactly right at every length.  Zoom lenses for the movies made by Panavision cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Consumer camera lenses with zoom do not compare with fixed lenses by the same maker.  You can easily see the difference if you look at the results closely.  

My conclusions.  If you just want Facebook quality pictures anything will do.  If you want sharp clear pictures on a big screen you need very sharp lenses with lots of pixels.  Don't throw out you old film cameras.  Just like any hobby or sport it is almost always more important that the person have the skills and talents than the gear.