Thursday July 5, 2012

The camera solution

Last week, Marco described more or less the exact problem I’ve been having: we both have an amazing camera. In fact, we have the same one: the Canon 5D Mark II. But we’ve both found ourselves using an iPhone as our primary camera. The reason is simple: modern iPhones have very good cameras build in, and the 5D is a beast to carry around all the time. Marco has been going back and looking carefully at his photos, and realizes that, “photos from the iPhone 4, and even from the 4S, don’t hold up. They look fine on a 3.5-inch screen, but they look terrible on my big desktop monitor.”

I’ve got an additional problem now: a blog that benefits from me having a decent camera with me all the time. The iPhone camera works fine for certain kinds of blogging (I took the downtown school board banner photo with it), but it just doesn’t have the same level of detail, is useless in low light or backlight, and is pretty much impossible to crop and end up with something usable. I actually went back to Pinecrest Gardens with my 5D for this post.

Marco’s solution is to make a concerted effort to use the 5D more. That may work for him, but I’ve made that effort plenty of times, and it just doesn’t work. It’s really heavy for something that you carry around in addition to everything else. Pancake lens or not, it’s too big to fit into the medium-sized bag I carry most of the time. Too, it’s hard to shoot with in places where people are iffy about cameras, not only because of the size but because of the prominent shutter sound. No way you’re sneaking it into a concert. (I actually have a pocket camera that I’ve used for this. It is small enough to carry around all the time, but it makes photos that are on par with the iPhone. The only advantage it has is a wide-angle zoom.)

So what’s the solution? A new camera of course. Something that’s small enough to carry around all the time, big enough to demand to be used over the iPhone, and that’ll take top-notch photos. I give you the Fujifilm X100. It’s got a large sensor, a non-zoom lens, 12 megapixels, and it’s bigger than a pack of cigarettes but smaller than a sandwich. Depending on your monitor, this picture may be about actual size (it’s just under 5 inches wide). At almost two years old it’s a bit long in the tooth and in danger of being replaced with something better in a few months. But I got a good deal on it. We’ll see how it goes. With any luck it’ll be small enough to wear around the neck or in a bag almost all the time, easy to sneak into places, able to be operated without the screen being on, silent, and take amazing photos. Hopefully I’ll be able to get into the habit of carrying it everywhere and using it instead of reaching for the phone. Stay tuned.

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