So I got the camera, I got the lens, and since yesterday, I got the pictures to show for it. I think it’s time to reflect (no pun intended) for a moment.
I haven’t used a reflex camera since school, exactly ten years ago. I did one year of audio-visual arts and failed (though not in photography), and went on to do something else. As a result, I know the mechanics of a reflex, and a few tricks of the trade regarding framing. I know of how “bokeh” works and the relation of aperture, exposure and ISO. Also,… Well. That’s about it. But that’s all there is to analog photography, if you don’t count the development stage. If you then take that knowledge to digital photography, there’s numerous blanks to be filled in. I still haven’t figured out who the fuck Nyquist is and what he has to do with anything.
Ever since, I’ve been using point-and-shoot camera’s. I’ve had two, and while the first one was a 12Mp sensor bathing in junk, the second was quite the pleasure to work with. I think that here and there, I managed to take pictures that looked good regardless of the gear.
I’ve grown used to looking at the screen for framing, a loud but practical zoom, a wide angle of view, and custom settings all around since this thing had the tendency to over-simplify for the tourists among us.
First of all,
When it first arrived, I have to admit, I was a smidge disappointed. It didn’t look as impressive as I had expected, in other words it didn’t have an ass with sunlight beaming out of it. It was lighter and smaller than I expected, which much less buttons (even though I knew perfectly what it would look like). This all changed rapidly once the batteries were charged, and I got to use that baby. Already it has grown on me like a second limb [sic] but with more options. It’s smarter than I am and any “issues” I’ve had with it were mostly from my end.
I chose to get me a cheap lens first, photograph the fuck out of it, and then decide what kind of objective I want. So I went with this one, which cost me €130 and, in good light conditions, it should provide a crystal clear image. It doesn’t zoom, it doesn’t tilt, but it’s a good lens and that’s kind of the point. Any further purchases are the first thing on the agenda when I’m content with the basics, which won’t be before a second battery and external hard drive, so probably not before summer.
I tested a number of settings on the actors of a theater play I do voluntary work for. But the real test came later.
I left home yesterday with the intention of thoroughly testing both my equipment and myself. Some people might have noticed I am going through an increasing obsession with gargoyles, and how they peacefully watch those beneath them, in plain sight but seldom noticed. In that regard, the trip was a success in all fields. The only moments when I was spotted was when I first started climbing. Soon, they would loose track of me as if they were incapable of tracking something above eye level, and for the next hour or so, I was invisible to the city, despite being in the open.
Here’s the things I noticed.
-My camera rocks. As I said, it’s smarter than I am. Since I’m used to my point-and-shoot, I still have that urge to drastically meddle with the settings. If I want a shallow depth focus, I’ll jerk the aperture to the widest possible setting even when dealing with subjects respectively 50cm and 250m away. I have yet to learn to be subtle.
-I’m going to need that one year warranty. Already, I’ve had my camera wet and coated in dust. My objective drum isn’t airtight so there’s a good chance some of that made it into the body. I tend to put my equipment through the worst abuse, whether it’s my bike, rucksack or camera.
-Custom setting are for the pro. I set off with my camera set to “aperture priority” and all sorts of fancy options, with the results shown to the right here. I quickly changed to the “landscape” setting and let my camera do the work, apart from a number of shots where I used manual focus. Auto settings make me feel like a retard, but they keep me from making dumb mistakes. If I set my aperture wide open like I tend to, my camera isn’t always doing to be able to compensate with ISO and exposure time. I think I’ll check around with others if that’s just me being slow.
-I am NOT SATISFIED with my lens. It’s cheap and it shows. It might not be immediately evident, but if you click through to the original of the one to the left, you will notice that every individual out-of-focus point of light comes out as a little pentagon. This is because the meager five aperture blades inside the objective are not rounded, something which theoretically wouldn’t even bring up the price.
It gets worse. Without changing positions, I then focus on the background, with this as a result:
A huge fucking pentagonal blue blob straight smack in the middle of my photo. A potentially successful picture, completely shot to hell. I climbed a forty meter crane for this shit? It would be somewhat acceptable, but lord was I disappointed when I wanted to capture the blinding sunlight reflecting off wet cobblestones. For some reason, I am getting solar flares half the size of the picture, with no way to predict it.
On top of that, I seriously miss my zoom function. A cheap zoom lens is many times worse than a cheap fixed-angle lens, I know that. And it’s not that I miss zooming in as much. It’s zooming out. To compare, I brought my old camera with and shot the same church with both.
To the left, my new camera. On the right side, my old.
Note that I did not zoom in, I couldn’t if I wanted to. I’m sure you can imagine how annoying this can be. The thing is you see, I’m dealing with a portrait lens, and it’s supposed to be treated as such. Landscapes are out of the question. I think I might just get a different objective pretty soon, after all. The gear I have now is the equivalent of a dockworker with a small dick. (The dick is the lens, thankyou)
-Further issues: Where should I start…
I got the feeling that my first pictures were never quite focused well, a problem that seemed to lessen over time. It might be the lens, it might be the habit that I lost of shooting with wide aperture. Or it might simply be due to the fact that I gradually let the camera make more decisions for me, rather than ask the impossible of it.
Also, I’m far from confident about my framing and technical details. I know of the 2/3 rule and I use it often, and I (should) know about portrait framing. But that’s where it ends. I need to do a lot more research on that.
Since I have little contact with “real” photographers, it’s hard for me to say where I stand. I know I’m an amateur, but just how much of one, I can’t really tell. I would ask others but I seriously want to avoid running into that “well first of all, change your lens” advice. I’ll get there eventually, but in the mean time I would like to know how to take a decent picture. You don’t learn to drive in a Ferrari either, do you? This kind of penile compensation only makes me want to give up.
Still, when my bandwidth clears up (overdid it on the downloads a little), I think I might find me a forum or two. I’m not that arrogant to think I can’t learn from the experience of others, even (especially!) when it comes to equipment.
All in all, I think I’m off to a good start. The only thing I am not happy with is, not surprisingly, the part I knew least about, which is the objective. But with my limited budget blown to bits, I’m stuck with it for quite some time to come.