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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Landmarks in Time

I've been taking photographs for over 20 years now. Prior to that I'd taken snaps for memories using disposable or compact cameras, but when my father-in-law showed me his photos and Minolta 7000 camera, from that point on I was hooked. My first camera was a Pentax P30n and with no Internet I looked to photo magazines to learn technique. It's important to understand that technology alone won't give you desirable photos on a consistent basis, and  that good technique and a creative eye are key to producing a good image. Yet since that day I've found there have been key landmarks in time where my photography evolved as technology progressed. This blog post highlights what my landmarks have been during this period.

The first key landmark was my move to an autofocus camera, the Canon EOS 100. This didn't necessarily produce better photos, after all I still used the same film, but it did bring with it a new level of convenience and ability to capture photos I might have missed. This remained the mainstay of my photo gear for a number of years, but being vegetarian the use of gelatin in film weighed heavily on my mind.

Craig Goch Dam in the Elan Valley from the days of film

The Digital Compact
I keenly watched the development of digital SLRs, but in the early years bodies such as the Kodak DCS system were huge and prohibitively expensive. The next key landmark for me was the Nikon 990. Finally a digital camera I could afford that would provide acceptable quality. It didn't have interchangeable lenses and came with a number of other limitations, but I learnt to work with these.

Taken with the Nikon 990, my first 3 mega pixel digital camera

The Digital SLR
The 990 was a fantastic camera for its time, but I missed the feel and utility of an SLR. Finally with the release of the Canon EOS D30 the digital SLR came within my reach. This was a great camera, and I felt my photography improve immensely with the immediate feedback of the shot I'd just taken, enabling me to quickly learn from my mistakes. I use to hate the wait for processed slides to come through the post.

Full Frame
The next big leap for me was when I moved from the Canon EOS 20D to the Canon 5D. This had a full frame sensor with increased resolution and lower noise. It was like returning to film without any of the negative sides. An added benefit was the ability to use a shallower depth of field for selective focusing, and my lenses returned to their actual focal lengths without having to multiply by 1.6 to work out their effective focal  length.

Micro 4/3 rds - Electronic Viewfinder with Interchangeable Lens (EVIL)
I'm currently using a Canon 5D MKII, but in recent years I have supplemented this with a micro 4/3rds camera. The 5D2 is a heavy camera by my standards, and when out with the family it became a chore to carry and use. For me having fun taking the photos matters as much as a good end image. When the Panasonic G1 SLR was released I saw this as a solution to the problem. Technically it's not an SLR, as it has no mirror and an electronic viewfinder, but it turned out to be a great camera. The two sat side by side each complementing the other in different areas of photography.

The Micro 4/3rds Switch
I love the 4/3rds format and have since upgraded to a Panasonic GH2. I increasingly find I'm reaching for the GH2 over the 5D2. The output is plenty good enough for general use and I see similar results to Jordan Steele (Jordan has recently made the switch from Canon DSLRs to the micro 4/3 system, you can read his blog post here). Moreover the cost of the 5D3 replacement for the 5D2 is prohibitive, thereby preventing any future upgrade path, and the GH2 replacement will likely be a 6th of the 5D3 price. With these points in mind, my thoughts have turned to moving more of my lenses over to the 4/3rds system, and possibly leaving the Canon system altogether.

 The two areas I still have concern over are low light hand held photography, and shallow depth of field. The reason is I enjoy photographing castles and stately homes where flash isn't allowed, and I also prefer natural illumination and often a shallow depth of field. I've therefore decided to purchase the Panasonic 25 f1.4 to explore this further. If it meets my needs I'll sell the Canon 50 1.4 and begin to further my transition to micro 4/3rds. This will either become my next landmark, or the lure of full frame will mean I keep using the best of both systems.


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