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Buyers Guide: Photography Equipment

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      23.07.2002 13:02
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      The choice of a 35mm camera is a personal one only YOU can make. It should take into account YOUR photographic needs. Good luck in your quest! Before you can choose a 35mm camera, you need to decide what you want from it. It helps to make a list of your needs, answering such questions as: * What am I expecting the camera to be able to do? (Do you require automation or do you prefer to take control of such things as focus, aperture, shutter-speed? Are you planning to use the camera to learn photographic technique?) * Where am I going to use it and for what type of subjects? (Mainly indoors or outdoors? Fast-moving or mainly static subjects? Landscapes? Macro-photography? Wildlife? Night-time photography? Do you want to use flash for creative effects?) * Are its weight and size important considerations to me? (Do you want to be able to take it with you anywhere, any time? Does it matter if you will be encumbered by a heavy bag of lenses and accessories?) * How important is the quality of my pictures? (Do you want to take slides or prints? Will you be making big enlargements?) * What is my budget? I have deliberately omitted brand preference in the above list. If you limit yourself to one particular brand, for whatever reason, then your choice is narrower and you could miss out on the 'ideal' camera for you. However, there are good and not so good brands and models on the market, so be careful! If in doubt, refer to user ratings - there are a couple of good camera review sites on the Web. And don't just select from a catalog or a website: go to a camera store and try out a few models to see which ones suit you. You might be able to make your budget go further if you are prepared to consider the used market. A warning here, though: there are many traps for the unwary and, if you feel unable to make a thorough assessment of a used 'bargain', it might be better to avoid it.
      Again, be careful! Modern 35mm cameras fall into three basic types, namely, single lens reflex (SLR), rangefinder (RF) and point & shoot (P&S). The following is a summary of the pros and cons of each camera type. Single Lens Reflex - Pros: * SLRs are, by nature, extremely flexible. Lenses are interchangeable and both 'prime' and 'zoom' lenses can be used. Thus, the camera can be adapted to suit almost any application. * The same lens is used for both the viewfinder and the film, so what you see is what you get. There are no parallax problems in close up portraits. * Focusing can be manual or automatic, depending on the model selected. A manual focus camera is usually recommended for beginners who want to study photography, so they can learn more about the fundamentals. Autofocus is a valuable feature for tracking fast-moving subjects. It can be argued that auto-focus has no benefit for macro or landscape photography, however. * Depth of field (DoF) can be previewed by stopping down the lens to its working aperture whilst composing the shot. This is especially useful, for example, in portrait work. * Film advance can be either automatic with built-in motor or manual. In most cases, you can buy an accessory motor drive or autowinder to attach to manual advance models. * Most SLRs offer an assortment of operating modes for control of exposure, from fully manual to fully programmed. It is important to ensure that the modes offered will give you the degree of control you need. Manual mode is usually recommended for learning the basics of photography and some people prefer the control it gives them. * Some SLRs offer a selection of metering methods, including center-weighted, spot and matrix metering. Center-weighted metering works best with normally illuminated scenes, having an even spread of light and dark areas. This holds true for about 80% of most people&#
      39;s photography. However, scenes that are unusually illuminated, are back-lit or contain light sources or bright reflections are often better served by spot or matrix metering. It's really a matter of how much control you want to have. * SLR is the only type of camera suitable for use with macro or long telephoto lenses. * Some models include lock-up or prefire of the mirror and aperture, to minimize vibration. This is a useful feature for macro photography or when using very long lenses, when vibration would almost certainly result in blurred pictures, even using a sturdy tripod. * Most SLRs incorporate a hot-shoe for connection of flash. Many support TTL flash control, off-camera flash and multiple flashgun attachment, greatly assisting the creative use of flash. * Ease of use (I'm serious!) They may seem more complicated but, once you become familiar with SLRs, there is no easier type of camera to operate. The degree of control they offer is unparalleled. Single Lens Reflex - Cons: * An SLR system is relatively bulky and heavy and can be inconvenient at times. For this reason, most SLR owners also own a smaller camera for 'take anywhere' use. * The viewfinder blacks out for a short time when the mirror flips up as the photo is taken. Some find this disconcerting and claim it can cause unconscious movement of the camera. Viewfinder blackout is also blamed for missing the "decisive moment" or if the subject blinks and the photographer is unaware of it at the time. * Some consider SLRs to be obtrusive, large and noisy, especially those with automatic film advance. However, the flipping up and down of the mirror is much quieter on modern cameras than it used to be and some motorised film transports are really not too noisy. * While there are some cheaper models on the market, a 'serious' SLR system can cost a lot of money. There is virtually no
      limit to the amount that can be spent! Rangefinder - Pros: * Most models enable the use of interchangeable lenses. * An RF is smaller and quieter than an SLR. There is no mirror to flip up and down. The RF is often considered less obtrusive and the ideal camera for street or candid photography, or for taking pictures where noisy operation would be a problem such as at a meeting or in a court room. * The absence of a mirror and fact that the lens doesn't need to be stopped down at the instant of pressing the shutter release mean that RF cameras have far less vibration than SLR cameras. As a result, it is usually possible to take successful hand-held shots at lower shutter speeds with an RF camera. * An RF is lighter and easier to carry than an SLR. An RF camera, a set of lenses and a few accessories can fit into a surprisingly small camera bag and can be less than half the weight of an equivalent SLR kit. * Lenses for RFs are usually of high quality, although equally high quality lenses are available for SLRs too. However, lenses of equivalent specifications are generally smaller and lighter for an RF than for an SLR. * RF viewfinders are much brighter than SLR viewfinders. * Manual focusing in poor light is easier than with an SLR, especially with wide angle lenses. * The better models include parallax correction for close-up use, so you don't chop off the top of your subject's head, for example. This is achieved in most RFs by framelines which move as the focus is adjusted. * The fact that the framelines usually take up only a portion of the viewfinder means that the photographer can see what's happening outside the frame and can sometimes use this to advantage in composing the shot or waiting for the best moment. * Some models have built-in autowinders, others have manual film advance. For some manual advance cameras, motor drives and
      autowinders are available as optional extras. * There is normally a hot-shoe for connection of a separate flashgun, allowing flexibility and creative use of flash. It is a fact, however, that many RF users feel that the use of flash is inappropriate to this type of camera. Rangefinder - Cons: * There is a limited range of lenses for RF cameras, because they are not suitable for use with longer telephoto or macro lenses. Minimum focusing distance with an RF is generally longer than with an SLR, because of the separate viewfinder which makes close focus impractical. * Most RF cameras can't use zoom lenses, although Contax has developed a 35-70 zoom for the G2 and Leica has a lens with three choices of focal length at 28, 35 and 50 mm for its M series. * Depth of field cannot be previewed, although lenses are usually marked with DoF guidelines. * RF cameras tend to be expensive. This is really a niche market. Point & Shoot - Pros: * Normally, auto-everything. Suits quick snapshots or inexperienced users. * P&S lenses can be very good, although this depends on the model. Many models include zoom lenses. * The more advanced P&S models offer a number of optional operating modes, such as red-eye reduction, flash off, fill-flash, exposure compensation. * P&S cameras are generally small, light and easy to carry. * Some models are weatherproofed and can tolerate the odd rain shower - as long as they are dried as soon as possible afterwards! * P&S cameras are usually inexpensive, although more advanced models are available at higher cost. Point & Shoot - Cons: * There is usually little or no user control over focus, DoF and exposure. * Zoom lenses in P&S cameras tend to have small apertures which limits them to the use of fast films in most circumstances. * Flash is a built-in, dedicated unit, of ver
      y limited power, that gives only direct flash illumination and can produce harsh results, especially in portraits. Off-camera flash and bounce flash are not possible. * In low light without flash, it can be difficult to hold a P&S camera steady because it's so light. A Personal Note What type of 35mm camera do I use? The answer is, all three! I use my rangefinder camera whenever possible, just because I like it and, as I get older, I appreciate its ease of focusing and its compactness and light weight. However, if I need to use a longer lens than 90mm or want to take a macro shot, then it's the SLR's turn. I also have a P&S camera that I like to carry around, just in case my main camera lets me down or would be inconvenient to use.

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        25.05.2001 15:16
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        Now I'm not a photographer but a photographer's wife, and if you can't beat them you join them. At first to quote an ad, I didn't know the difference between an f-stop and a bus stop, so I started to read all his photo mags in order not to be lectured at. After all these years I can tell you one thing, if you don't aspire to be an artist but just want memories, don't be intimidated by anyone and get what you can afford and shoot. Once you learn the limitations of your camera. you'll get what you want 90% of the time. My family albums are full of photos taken with anything from a pocket(110) to a most advanced SLR.. Modern films are very forgiving in exposure, lenses are quite good even on cheap models, built in flashes make life easy, and staff at minilabs which give you results on the spot will also tell you where you went wrong, so that within 3 to 4 films you will get a majority of very acceptable photos. My favourite camera is small so that I can use it easily and unobtrusively.It has a 35mm lens, or at most a 28 -80 zoom,( if it's small enough)It's for everyone. For kiddy photos a date imprint is a must if you don't update your albums regularly. Happy memories everyone. I just saw in the comments a meember asking which camera I recommend. I aplogise as I thought I made it clear that I recommend what fits your pocket(money wise). That in essence all cameras produce images, and that the quality of the image is the result of learning the given camera's limitations and working within its capabilities. Mine, as most people's choices are directed by their budget. 10.07.01 I feel the need to update because of some freebies I have seen kids come in with. There is inexpensive, and there is CHEAP. What I am against are these pieces of garbage with an excuse for a lens, a curved film plane and no flash, that are being given out with all sort of purchases. It is dif
        ficult to tell a kid that the best thing he can do is drop the thing in the garbage but that is the best advice that can be given. Where not taken the cost incurred was 1. the price of a film. 2. the price of processing. 3. the price of bitter disappointment. On top of all the previously mrntioned shortcomings these pieces of trash have a very stiff shutter mechanism, so that even if the available light conditions were sufficient most of the pics are blurred . We used to say if you want to get even with a person buy their kid a one quid camera & have them waste five quid on film & processing before they break it in frustration. This is the case with these freebies. My grand daughter fell for it too. She got one with a subscribtion to a kiddies mag, dropped in a film I had given her for a simple GOOD camera I had given her, and lost her memories of an end of the year party. Fortunately Daddy was photographing too, and film and processing was courtesy of Granny, so was the ticking off that I gave. The other money trap are the instant cameras. Though fun and easy to use with instant satisfaction, if you take price per picture as opposed to price per picture from standard film and development you come out at a big loss and making a copy,costs an arm and a leg. Currently the fad is for digital cameras. Their price is slowly coming down, but if you need a hard copy for your relatives not on line you still pay through the nose. Granny's brag album is getting very pricey.

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          16.05.2001 05:33
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          I don't claim to be an expert on all the ins and outs of photography, but here are some things that have worked for me in the past which I have learned along the way: Before you go out to take pictures, decide on your subject matter. There is no point going out on a mission to take photos, ending up in a dark cloisters of a church with 200 speed film and no flash. Once you've decided what it is that you'll be taking photos of, then you can choose your film. Choose whether you want black and white or colour...if you're just starting out, then I would recommend using colour film. Kodak is always a good bet, or Fujicolour is also very good quality. If you're going to be taking photos outdoors on a bright day, then you want to choose a film with a lower speed - 200, 100, 400 possibly. The lower the speed, the more light there needs to be. If you're taking photos indoors and can use a flash, then 400 will usually suffice. If however you're taking photos of a live gig or something similar where people are moving in relatively poor lighting you want to get 800 or even 1600 speed (1200 if you can find it). Taking gig photos is a lot harder than one might initially think. If you're standing behind people and are taking a photo over peoples heads, then it is not advisable to use the flash as you'll just get a picture of a lot of peoples heads lit up and nothing of the actual subject matter. If you're up close then flash is fine, though you'll lose a lot of the colour of the lighting. If you're not allowed a flash then you should ideally be using 1600 speed film. Make sure you time the photo when there's the most light or at least when there's less movement by the band. You're always going to get a lot of dud photos, so the key is to keep snapping away, and some of them will turn out well. Post any q
          uestions as comments and I'll try to answer them... Ken *** I forgot to also mention that it's very important that if you're going to be taking photos where you may need to alter the exposure length, then you will need to get a half-decent camera. You can buy good quality second hand cameras in most traditional camera stores, or you can buy a reasonably good new Canon or Pentax for £120ish. The camera makes all the difference. Ideally it would have auto-detect film speed, or even better that AND manual selection. You should be able to set it to full manual focus, but autofocus is also very handy. A built in flash is good, but make sure you can turn it off, or you'll often end up with irate bouncers in gigs and so on. Look to spend up to £150 for a nice camera, and you'll be paid back with the results you get.

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            15.05.2001 05:01
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            • "They do advertise
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            • im rich'"

            Once you've had one of these babies you wont wanna go back to the pocket zoom job. They range in appearance, you have your digital SLR'S (very expensive), your normal film carrying SLR, and then you can head off into specialist areas. Such as underwater, camo, gadget packed etc…. Now if you really wanna get into this then your gonna need to read my op, which is quiet long, but for the visual stuff either invest in a good book, I own the complete Photography Manual produced by Carlton and it serves me very well. MY BACKGROUND IN USING CAMERA'S -------------------------------- I think I know what I'm talking about basically, I've studied Photography 'A' level for the past two years and I'm now coming to my final exams. I have used a SLR camera all the way through my studies and I don’t believe that I could own another camera now. FIRSTLY WHERE TO GET A CAM --------------------------- JESSOPS is always the B's knees of photography supplies and I will go on to talk about enlargers. In here you will find very helpful staff, who helped me pick out some lenses for my Camera. That’s the other thing whether you want a new Camera or go for second hand. First hand Cameras are very expensive and some are so gimmicked up that the camera practically runs off with its own legs to take the shot. Or a second hand SLR like mine. Now there will be more then one photographer's shop down the back lanes of your high street, or on the high street. I wouldn’t suggest using one of the larger retailers like Dixons/ Curries, the products are good but the staff can range from knowing a little to knowing nothing! SECOND HAND CAMERA'S -------------------- When picking yourself out a second hand camera look for the following. - Bends in the Body (this is the box area of the Camera) - Bends on the edge of the lens. - Missing parts - Usually a good idea t
            o have seen an older SLR before you head off and buy one. - Lens cracks or amount of dust you can see inside. To check this place the camera setting on B. Then hold the shutter and you will be able to see inside the lens. - Whether it comes with extra's, in some second hand shops they sometimes are porned with lots of equipment. So you may get a complete bargain. - PRICE - In some shops you may be able to haggle the price down, I bought a 2nd hand Pentax for £55 and my friend bought the same camera with no extras at Jessops for £110. Well it made me giggle. - Get them to show you how it works, and how to load the film. With some older Cameras it's like taking part in the Krypton factor knowing how to load the film. NEW SLR'S ---------- - With most new Cameras you'd expect them to work when you get them home. So you don’t need to worry about getting them to make sure it works. - Ask them to demonstrate any special features, Japanese instruction manual are mazes within mazes of technical malarkey. - Price in comparison to what it does, and make sure to check that the price displayed is for body AND lens in some shops they will do this for the more experienced buyer. YOU'VE GOT THE CAMERA, YOUR NEXT STEP -------------------------------------- No you can't just leave it alone till you go on Holiday, cause you need to get used to it. Buy films have a practise with using the auto focus if it's new and if its not get used to focusing on items at speed. You can't ask your next victim to stand still for 1/2 an hour while you focus on them. QUICK LOWDOWN ON THE JARGON --------------------------- SLR - SINGLE LENS REFLEX, you are looking at what exactly will come out on film. BODY - The main box of the camera where you will find all the buttons and gadgets. LENS - I think that’s quite self-explanatory. SHUTTER SPEED -
            Or the F No.'s will be how long your shutter stays open. - It can then be set on 125X this is usually for if you are taking pics at night or inside with a Flash. - B setting - this is where the shutter button may be depressed and when released the shutter will close, this is for experimentation with techniques, such as bluring, or panning (don’t worry Ill go on to them) - It will also give the option to whether you would like the light levels set by the Cam before the pic or manually by yourself, again for the more experimental shots. APERATURE - This is the amount of light being allowed to hit the -ve when the shutter is open. It is best to have your F No.s high so play with the aperture. Which is situated at the back of the lens till you get the fastest shot available. Otherwise you may get camera shake, i.e. little bobby, will look like little blobby. :) ASA/ ISO - Now I couldn’t real off what exactly what these stand for but when you load a film you have to change the settings on this dial to the speed of the film, because it changes all the settings for shutter speed in your cam, so don’t forget! RIGHT YOU KNOW THE BASIC'S --------------------------- Lets buy a film, now there are lots to choose from basic colour/ black and white/ infra red/ colour transparent. So work out what you wanna take pics of before you buy the film. Colour is usually used for everything and is probably the cheapest of the range of films to buy and develop. Black and White, has a more artistic sense to it a lot of people doing courses in photography will use this kind of film. Infra red film, for the experimental artistic type or you becoming a peeping tom, you choose. (Extremely expensive) Now they come in speeds as previously explained. 100/200/400/800/1100 For a sunny day use a 100. An everywhere film is the good old 400. And dark/gloomy conditio
            ns the really fast films. 400's can be used for everything usually pretty cheap, and can be bough most of anywhere. I would even suggest buying your films in supermarkets you could save a lot of money. EXTRA EQUIPMENT --------------- Right now if you wanna get experimental of fill your bag with gadgets just to show of with on holiday. Then here's a list of things you may or may not want. - A new lens you can buy from a wide range Telescopic/ wide angle/ fish eye/ macro. - Telescopic - for serious zooming in. - Wide angle - Allows you to get a lot in shot, as the angle of the lens is widened. - Fish eye - bends all shot into a circle, making it look like your looking through a fish's eye. - Macro- allows you to get very, very close to objects to the point of seeing fibres in jumpers with some macro lenses. TRIPODS ------- Now you may already have one, but if you haven't I suggest you get one they are always useful for leaving times shots, experimentation with panning and various other techniques and with the larger lenses the camera may become very heavy on the wrist's. I bought mine a small graphite model for £20 and that serves my functions fine. But again if you like gadgets, there are ones with spirit levels, and if you delve deep enough through your wallet, remote control. LENS FILTERS ------------ For use in changing colour schemes, like making the sky look like its night. So ask for your requirements and id say Jessops would be the best place for this. FLASH ----- ALREADY FITTED - Now you may have a flick up flash in no need of buying another. SLIDE ONS. - Now these may be tiltable, block flashes. These are the cheapest of the flashes. HAND HELDS - Can be very expensive only really for you fashion and wedding photographer wanna be's. STUDIO KITS - very expensive not for the beginner but alw
            ays come in useful for product fashion and people photography, i.e. glamour poses. BAGS ---- Can be expensive or cheap worth getting one for what you've got, rather then buying a flight carrier and only having 1 lens and 1 body. RIGHT YOU'VE GOT THE KIT, JARGON, and BASICS. --------------------------------------------- What can you try, well experiment with different techniques. BLURRING - This is where the camera is held in a fixed position for a longish period of time, where some movement takes place in front of the camera. That object will then leave a trail behind it when you get the photos back, this is how photographers simulate movement in pics like sprinters, or formula 1 cars travelling at high speed. This can be taken further once a I left my camera on the b setting of a motorway bridge I'd seen it done prior to that leaving light trails a very powerful bold shot can be achieved that way. FREEZING - This could be trapping somebody in mid air, you may have noticed this kind of technique in skate border and most extreme sports magazines once again, can really only be achieved well with an SLR camera. In this situation you make sure that the shutter speed is at its fastest when you take the shot, in order to freeze them. PANNING - This is where you follow the moving object and blur the back ground, in this situation its usually a good idea to use a tripod so the camera may be kept steady in the taking of the shot. GHOSTING - Now a good way of doing this is to leave the shutter speed for about 30 secs or around this may be difficult to achieve with the light settings you have around you. But for the first 15 secs leave you camera focused on maybe an intricate background and then for the next 15 place a person or object in front of that. Giving the photo an effect of the person standing there is a ghost. Its quite fab a great way to show off to your mates with that. You
            may even be able to blag to them its an actual ghost, that’s until they realise its your mom. I do intend to extend this review so keep posted. The next area will be based on the purchasing and using of enlargers for home darkrooms and what not to get caught out on. If you're still awake, thanx for reading.

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              26.04.2001 06:25
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              35mm? APS? SLR? 2.3 Megapixels? 3x Zoom? If you’re only now thinking of getting into photography, in however a small way, these are some of terms that you will see bandied around in shops like Dixons or Jessops. Firstly, let me explode the few examples of jargon above. 35mm = Well, 35 millimetre! This refers to celluloid film where its width across its sprocket holes is 35mm. Why does it have sprocket holes? Originally, when the need for smaller cameras was identified before the 2nd World War by companies like Leitz, makers of the famous "Leica", cinema film stock was the only format commonly available in that size, hence the holes. APS = Advanced Photographic System. This is a newer celluloid film format, which adds several user-friendly facilities over and above those offered by the better-established films like 35mm. SLR = Single Lens Reflex. This refers to cameras that allow the user to view the subject through the actual lens that will be taking the picture (known not surprisingly as the taking lens) instead of through a separate viewfinder. Effectively, the viewfinder is an upside-down periscope. 2.3 Megapixels = This relates to the number of dots available to make up the detail of a digital picture, in this case, 2.3 million. As with anything technological, the best available goes up all the time – yesterday’s state of the art being today’s entry level in the same way as for PC processors. 3x Zoom = A lens that is capable of continuously-adjustable magnification levels, starting at its widest angle, “Zooming” into its narrowest angle, in this case being 3 times more powerful than where it started. Camera Types I intend to disregard the extremes, as these tend to be for specialists like magazine or wedding photgraphers or for serious amateurs, with more money than sense (of course, they wouldn't see it like that!). For this reason
              , I won’t be going into any detail over large format cameras, nor, for that matter, sub-miniature (spy) cameras – very James Bond. The two main camera types that you will encounter in somewhere like Dixons, are the pocket camera and the SLR. a) Pocket Cameras Nearly every camera manufacturer has a clutch of these in its arsenal. They range from the downright simple to the downright complicated, with “clever-and-sophisticated” mercifully in the middle. Prices range from £20 to a couple of grand, if you want a titanium-bodied jewel hanging round your neck. Pocket cameras are available as 35mm, APS or Digital – yes even digital has some small ones! Look at the Canon Digital IXUS if you don’t believe me. Most pocket cameras set out to protect the user from having to know much about photography, letting them get on with taking good shots - well that’s the theory anyhow. (I’m still waiting for the camera that can sense alcohol fumes and refuse to take the picture on the grounds that you’ll regret it in the morning!) The vast majority have auto-focus (only the very cheapest don’t focus at all – watch out for the tell-tale phrase “focus-free”, this is NOT auto-focus). Exposure settings are also taken care of automatically, and for the vast majority of shots, this works fine. Don’t expect the camera to get every single shot dead right as you saw it. Everything is a compromise – it can only focus on one subject, and it can only make one set of exposure settings per shot. The human eye has a very narrow angle of view, and what we think of as "looking at something" involves scanning it up and down and sideways. Therefore, our own eye's “exposure readings” (the iris) change all the time, something a camera can’t do. b) Single-Lens Reflex These cameras also come in 35mm, APS
              and digital versions. The latter tend to be (very) expensive. At first sight, SLR’s are obviously bigger than the average coat pocket, having a larger body, and to make matters worse, a lens stuck on the front, rather than partly recessed into the camera. This apparent bulk immediately labels them as being definitely for the keen snapper, or for someone who anticipates “growing into” photography. So why bother with one? Well, as I stated before, a major attraction is seeing the subject from exactly the right angle, with no “parallax*” error. This also gives a visual check on the focus, even when it’s automatic, allowing the user to override what the camera has chosen as the main subject – don’t forget, the camera isn’t clairvoyant. It works to a set of prearranged parameters on things like focus and exposure. If these don’t suit your current needs, then an SLR is more likely to have a full set of exposure overrides, both of the shutter speed (the length of time the film is exposed to light) and the aperture setting (the width of the "hole" that lets the light in) * Parallax Error - In a normal non-SLR camera, there is a small margin of error caused by the fact that the viewfinder is some distance above the lens, which causes close-ups to be framed slightly incorrectly. Then comes the SLR’s trump card - interchangeable lenses. Being able to unscrew, or more normally these days, twist off one lens and put on another is the forte of this camera type. This enables a whole range of additional lenses to be used from extreme wide-angle to extreme telephoto (telescopic), and not just made by the original manufacturer either. There are many other lens firms falling over themselves to supply lenses to fit your Canon, Nikon, Minolta or whatever. The other facility afforded you by this flexibility, is to own one set of lenses and more than one camera body
              , in my case, a Canon 35mm and a Canon IX7, its APS equivalent, all served by the same set of lenses. Canon even makes a Digital camera body for the same lenses. At £1890, it’ll have to wait until my wife isn’t watching, or at least when she’s feeling guilty over some new “treat” of her own! This interchangeability of lens and complex viewfinder system is also the SLR's downfall. Because of the inner space restraints of the camera body, the lens has to be fixed to the front panel, protruding all the way outwards. In a pocket camera, the lens is often partly recessed, which gives the designer leeway in creating a slimline pocketable shape. Picture Media a) 35mm This is still the most widespread celluloid film media, despite having been around since approx. 1930. In the mean time, of course, huge strides have been made both with the films own properties, and with the ease of use of 35mm cameras. The quality and “latitude” of colour shots has progressed by leaps and bounds. By latitude, I mean the degree of forgiveness that the film displays to incorrect exposure. Film speeds (that ASA figure) have improved. For example, years ago, a 400 ASA colour film was regarded as “fast” i.e. very sensitive to light. It was for specialist use only, and results were rather grainy. Nowadays, it’s still “fast” but the grain has all but gone, and it can be regarded as standard, especially on cameras that don’t have a very large maximum aperture – this is particularly true of zoom lenses which tend to have relatively small maximium apertures. In fact Kodak market an 800 ASA film as "Zoom". The basic shape of the cassette has remained unchanged for decades, but modern ones have a metallic bar code on them, which sets the film speed (ASA) in the camera automatically. 35mm remains the cheapest celluloid medium to have p
              rocessed. b) APS This is a newer format, launched prior to the upsurge of digital cameras. Films come with much the same range of speeds as 35mm, 200 ASA and 400 ASA being common. 25 or 40 exposure lengths are available compared to 35mm’s maximum of 36. The camera can be used to select one of 3 picture shapes before each shot, Classic (roughly 4:3 in proportion), HDTV (16:9 like a wide-screen telly) and Panorama (speaks for itself really). In reality, the negative for each picture uses the full HDTV size. The other two formats come from information stored on a magnetic stripe on the edge of the film containing instructions to the process lab. In the case of Classic, the information dictates that the side edges are cropped off the picture, resulting in less paper being used – sometimes this results in these shots costing less. Incidentally, this “Information eXchange” accounts for the IX of IXUS – don’t ask me about the US though! The Panorama setting is a bit more complicated. The process lab not only has to pick out a central horizontal “stripe” from the centre of the negative, but it also has to “blow-up” the result to be the same height as the other two picture types. This leads to panoramas having slightly less sharpness, since they are in effect, a selective enlargement. Generally, the increase in paper used leads to these costing a premium over the normal price. Some process labs quote an all-in price and take a hit on the few liberty-takers that shoot nothing but panoramas. Other features? Well, you get your film back in the same cassette which is bar coded and serial numbered to help with matching to the accompanying contact sheet which is a thumbnail sketch of each picture. This will show the HDTV view of each shot with dotted lines where relevant to show where the other two formats were pre-selected. Not many people realise that you can alway
              s go back afterwards and have, for example an HDTV version of a Panorama or a Classic shot printed. That’s the beauty of having each shot use the whole negative, irrespective of what you chose at the time. Also, APS provides for requesting multiple shots at the time of taking the picture. This could be useful at weddings, but then how many wedding photographers would be using an APS camera. Most of them think that 35mm is too small! My Canon IX7 even allows for "zero" copies to be requested. This allows for someone to come up with a colour slide film in APS - after all, you only want the original celluloid back with slides, not bits of paper. The cassette, which looks a bit like a slightly smaller 35 mm one, has a series of symbols on one end, the one with a white marker behind it denoting the current status of the film. A circle denotes an unused film, a half-circle denotes a part-used film (some cameras allow for "mid-roll film change", and a part-used film can be put back in the camera at a later date, taking up where it left off). A cross shows that the film is completely used, and a square that it is processed. It was rumoured that APS would be allowing for the recording of sound bites too, but to my knowledge, this has never been implemented. Having a slightly smaller negative than 35mm leads to odious comparisons vis a vis quality but to be honest, you can get round this buy lashing out a bit more on an APS camera than you might have spent on a 35mm version. Also, going easy on the panoramas helps, since these are an enlargement of sorts, and will therefore possess inferior definition. c) Digital Now for the tricky one. Firstly there is the ever-advancing march of technology and deciding when to jump. Then consider this. It doesn’t stop with buying the camera. You’ll need at the very least a PC/Mac and a decent printer**. There is no point in havin
              g any one link in this chain weaker than the rest. For example, there is no point in having a 2.3 megapixel camera when your printer is only a basic 300 dots per inch job. If you’re not sure what I mean, you probably need to seek advice on more than just what camera to buy. ** Some cameras can download straight to a dedicated printer, but if you are in the market for a good printer, why not use it with your PC/Mac too? As with all new formats in recent years, the digital memory to hold photos comes in three main types. The trick is to spot the next Betamax! Firstly, there is SmartMedia, a sort of wafer, which can be removed from the camera when full. Then there is CompactFlash, another variation on the above theme. Last but not least comes Memory Stick – a strictly Sony job, but doing the same thing as the others. CompactFlash and its update called, wait for it, CompactFlash 2, are also compatible with a PC Card holder, allowing the media to be slotted into (mainly) laptops. IBM have gone one better, and produced the world’s smallest hard-drives, called Microdrives, which in some of the more expensive cameras, can be used instead of CompactFlash 2. This of course gives you some serious picture-taking capacity before returning to base, expecially in its latest 1 gigabyte guise. Another little gadget, which can be bought for all three media, is a floppy disk adapter, which allows the media to act like a real floppy in your PC, making copying the pictures to your PC very easy. Not unlike RAM for your PC, the camera memory media come in a wide range of Megabyte sizes, which dictates how many pictures they will hold. The other factor here is the Megapixel capacity of the camera. Nothing comes without a knock-on cost. The higher the picture quality of your camera i.e. more megapixels, the less pictures it will take (or the more media memory you need). I can see these IBM drives beco
              ming very popular! Most cameras give you the choice of not using the top quality all the time – if you only want thumbnails sketches for a web-site, for example, then you will get a massive increase in picture quantities on your recording media. Digital cameras, by and large, fall into the “slightly bulky” pocket camera bracket. There are one or two very small ones like the Digital IXUS, and even some very large ones like the Canon D30 (a full-sized SLR body)or the Olympus E-10, but as I said, most are reasonably pocketable. Some have an optical viewfinder AND an LCD screen, one for taking pictures, one for viewing the results and erasing the rubbish! Others get by with using the LCD screen for both. Be warned, this uses up your battery quicker and in the case of my Philips ESP-80 (see separate opinion), is tricky to see properly in bright sunlight. Although they have pretensions to the point-and-shoot market, using one can be a little less instantaneous than you might have thought. Switching on, and waiting for it to initialise can take the spontaneity out of the situation. However, they are getting there. It’s difficult to predict the death of celluloid just yet, but in my opinion, once a camera with a hard-drive, 4 megapixel capacity and a sub-£500 price tag comes on the scene, then Kodak better watch out! The new Casio QV3 has a 340mb microdrive, 3.3 megapixel top level capacity and a price tag of £600 from internetcamerasdirect.co.uk - mmm.....nearly! However, I shan’t be dumping my 35mm and APS gear JUST yet!

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