the sort of things that if they went missing or broke I’d be down the shops the same day to get replacements.
For video work (even though I only do basic YouTube type stuff) I really do like using a proper Rode external microphone. The ones built into your usual video camera are at best ‘adequate’, the ones in your video capable dSLRs are usually terrible. Getting the sound nicely sorted can make such a difference; to be able to clearly hear the story being told or to enjoy the music without having to struggle is more important that having a perfectly crisp image.
If being used outside, then going with the microphone is its windshield, a usually grey coloured furry cover, often known as a ‘dead cat’. This things really can cut out the wind noise, that loud ‘woosh’ sort of sound that can so overpower the sound you want to be recording.
My Manfrotto MP3-D01 fold flat mini tripod adds an extra dimension to slow shutter speed photography. It’s small enough and light enough to be left attached to the bottom of my camera and provides basic tripod support where ever I am. It’s three rather stubby legs can be adjusted to provide a stable platform on almost any surface. Great for night shots or where you want to prop your camera up at a slightly odd angle. It means you can also take ground level pictures but without putting your camera directly onto what could be a rather wet or dirty surface. Small, light, it’s one of those ‘fit and forget’ type devices.
Not that often used, but when videoing in low light situations (I do like to get out to castles and that sort of thing) my battery powered LED lighting brick (F&V Z-Flash) is so useful. Attaches to my camera with a hot-shoe adapter, it means that whenever I go into a relatively dark room I have enough light for my camera not to have a fit ramping up ISO setting or doing weird thing with aperture or shutter speeds.
It runs for hours off its (rechargeable) battery pack so I don’t need to worry about constantly having to switch it on and off. It’s also useful for still photography as a fill-in light and helps to take the edge of the harshness you can get from flash. (Also a great source of light at home in the event of a power cut!!!)
A couple of years ago I bought a Panasonic TZ10 point-and-shoot (current Amazon price; from £130) which has lived in a pouch on my belt and has had regular, often daily use. Recently though I found myself with a Samsung Galaxy S2, and like all the current smartphone devices, great publicity has been given to the quality of it’s camera.
So I thought I’d put my Panasonic to one side and give the S2’s camera a bit of exercise and see what all the fuss was about.
For some time now I’ve being doing a’take one picture a day’ task and for the first 9 months I had almost exclusively used the Panasonic, for the last 3 months it’s been the S2. Combine that with my usual usage and I have more than enough to give me a smartphone vs point-and-shoot picture comparison.
The Panasonic has a greater sensor pixel count, however the S2 has a more modern sensor and processing electronics, so I was uncertain what to expect between the two. I did think the Panasonic would have the edge ( though was quite willing to be proved wrong in this respect).
Under good daylight conditions both produced great results, however as soon as you were away from those conditions (even into mid-afternoon lighting levels) the point-and-shoot totally blew the S2 out of the water with a sharper image and far greater range of contrast.
This really comes down to two things. 1) The physically larger lens (a typical smartphone lens is only 3 or 4 mm across, a point-and-shoot say15 mm) allows for more light to reach the sensor. 2) Physical size of sensor. Regardless of pixel count and that sort of thing, the larger sensor size of the point-and-shoot allows for a far greater collection area for light.
So under good conditions where there is a ‘surplus of light’ there’s more than enough light available to allow either device to produce a really nice picture, but when light levels fall and things move away from a ‘surplus’ condition, then the greater light collecting ability of the point-and-shoot leaves the smartphone way behind.
So my Panasonic is back in its pouch attached to my belt, though I still do use the smartphone’s camera now and again. It’s certainly not that my smartphone has a bad camera, but when it comes down to it it just does not compete with a dedicated picture-taking camera device.
It was a while ago when I started looking around for a nice but basic camera. I wanted something a bit better than point & shoot, but did not have the money for a digital SLR, so was looking at one or two of the cross-over type cameras.
I was in the city centre about to go into a camera shop (possibly to actually buy) when by chance I ended up talking to someone I knew a little bit from internet / social networking but had never met in real life till now. In conversation he said he has a Canon 400D dSLR, two years old but hardly used which he was willing to sell. We came to a mutually agreeable price, and so began my love affair with Canon cameras. That was about 3 years ago.
Moving forward a bit, it was about this time last year I started seriously thinking about replacing / upgrading this 400D; the Canon range had progressed from the 400 to the 450 to the 500 and now everybody was raving on about the 550D. My old, second hand 400 was starting to show its age, technology had moved on, especially with the ability of these newer dSLRs to be able to do good quality video too. A 550D was quite tempting.
Then last summer the 60D came out, which though expensive, seriously got my attention. Then earlier on this year, the 600D.
So decisions and arguments with myself last autumn over wanting but not really having the money for a 60D. Then when the 600D came out do I go with it as a cheaper but similar specification alternative to the 60D. More arguments, more procrastination, and an eventual decision to go for the 60D. Physically more robust, a faster focusing system, faster frames per second, better viewfinder and a few other things tipped the scales in its favour. The one thing that made me hang back was its bulk. These digital SLRs are getting bigger and bigger. Compare a current high spec. dSLR to its equivalent spec. old style 35mm film SLR and the size (and weight) difference is considerable.
Then by chance I was looking at the Digitalrev.com site where they were comparing the micro four-thirds Panasonic GH2 to the Canon 60D. Both had their pros and cons, both produced great pictures (and video). The 60D had a slightly larger sensor, but the GH2 had more advanced electronics for processing the sensor data. However the GH2 may be digital but it is NOT an SLR, it does not rely on a mirror to reflect the light up to a viewfinder which then has to be flipped out of the way to let the light get to the sensor. Its viewfinder is electronic, this image being fed directly from the sensor. Eliminating this mirror system really reduces the size and weight of the camera (and lenses) considerably.
This changed everything for me. More research done, more reviews read, more camera shops visited and now I am a happy Panasonic owner.
So a few camera thoughts for you. If someone wants to go the route of a dSLR, then get whichever of those Canon cameras you can afford and you won’t be disappointed. However just remember that there’s more out there than just dSLRs.
I always try my best to be friendly to shop assistants, I know their wages are not brilliant and at times they can have a pretty shitty job, but sometimes they can be such arseholes.
Looking for a camcorder type thing, and went into my local Currys. O.K., it was fairly near closing time, but went in and headed off to the camera counter to look and see what was on display. (I knew the features that were important to me, just uncertain on the exact model.) Around the shop were one or two customers, but also various members of staff all busy talking to each other. So after 10 minutes waiting and then seeing that they were starting to close the entrance, gave up hoping to be served.
Next day (having researched the exact model I wanted) went to Jessops where a reasonably O.K. assistant wanted to sell a shop-soiled item at full price, which did not impress me. Down to John Lewis where despite saying I was after High Definition, the assistant really did not know what he was doing and started showing me anything and everything. Off to a different Jessops and a sales assistant girl who I will just describe as ‘rather ignorant’ and that you can interpret that in whatever way you want!
So chilling-out in Starbucks before returning to Jessops and look for a different assistant and hopefully, without too many silly questions, just get the model I’m after.