With the last birthday I’ve decided to get back into photography. I got away from doing any serious shooting while it underwent the migration from analog to digital. I’ve been involved with the back end, i.e. “digital darkroom” since Photoshop 3.5 replaced the behemoth Scitex Prisma. In those days the images were still shot on transparency film and scanned with a Linotype-Hell Chromagraph drum scanner.
Now that the film and scanner has been replaced with in-camera capture you could probably get a good deal on a film camera and drum scanner, of course you’d also have to find a place that still processes E-6 transparency film and really how much longer is transparency film going to be produced? That’s an incredible amount of infrastructure being replaced by a sensor in a camera.
Personally I don’t miss any of it, I never liked the darkroom that much although the water running through the print washer was kind of soothing. With the complete digitalization of the entire process, photography is undergoing something of a reinvention (that will be a future post).
Much like the film formats, there are about 4 sizes of camera sensors on the market. The point and shoot camera sensors are about the size of the finger nail on your pinky finger. The digital SLR sensors are in 3 sizes, the 4/3rds sensor which is a little bigger than a postage stamp, the APS sensor which is based on a failed film format back in the analog days is a little bigger and a full frame 35 mm size sensor. Now within all those different size sensors you can fit as many pixels as you want but there are definite trade offs in image quality. 12 megapixels stuffed onto a tiny point & shoot sensor is going to produce a lot more unwanted image noise than 12 megapixels from a full frame 35 mm sensor. It all depends on what you intend to do with the images you’ve captured. If you intend them to stay in the digital world and only post them online or e-mail them a point & shoot digital camera is all you need. The higher resolution of bigger sensors only matters if you plan on printing them back into the analog world in something bigger than a 5 x 7.
So after a couple of weeks familiarizing myself with the current dSLR market which seems to be as volatile as any futures market, I’ve narrowed down my choices.
The following is really intended for camera geeks as it’s my own rather exhaustive deductive reasoning.
I don’t have any legacy lenses or systems to consider, I intend to shoot RAW at a lower ISO and post process the images. The sweet spot in the market appears to be the last versions of the 10 MB cameras. The Canon XTi while having the best sensor to price ratio was ruled out as too cheaply built and not having a spot meter. It’s 12 MB replacement the XSi is too expensive for the feature set. Live view is something I’d never use and don’t want to pay for. The Pentax K10D is a bargain now that it’s been discontinued. I like the weather proofing, although I’d be concerned with the dust cleaning/image stabilization of the sensor. That’s a lot rocking and rolling to the most sensitive part of the camera. I ruled out the Sony as down right primitive, it’s far too early in that cycle to buy into it although I think my little Sony DSC-P200 is great. After Olympus punted on their film cameras when auto focus was introduced I’ve never trusted them. Which brings me to dear Nikon, it was easier to love them when they only made film cameras. As digital cameras they don’t even reach half their life span when their replacement is introduced. The D300 replaces both the D200 and the D2x...ouch. The D80 is looking pretty good right now especially bundled with the new 18-55 mm Vibration Reduction kit lens for less than a grand.
Don’t even get me started about lenses.