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Potatoes ain’t what they used to be

A day in Fife. Leaving Glasgow at 7am in the rain and darkness it was little wonder that I didn’t think to throw the camera into the boot of the car. By the time I’d reached the Kincardine bridge the sun was out and I was regretting me forgetfulness. It got worse as we walked up Tentsmuir beach and all I had in my pocket was my Nexus 5x phone.

A quick history lesson. My first digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix which had a mighty 5 Mp; this was replaced by a Sony alpha 200 with 10.2 Mp. A some point during this time I also had various mobile phones with cameras ranging from 1 to 3 Mp. And yes, they took horrible, forgettable photos (and were thus dubbed a potato).

Times appeared to have changed, my Nexus has a 12.3 Mp camera and it takes annoyingly satisfactory images (at least, until the battery ran out).

The lens is not going to be great but the software does a lot to make the end result impressive. The odd thing is that it takes images at about 27mm focal length and yet there’s no barrelling effect that you’d see from a normal, grown up lens. Not sure if this is physics or corrective software, but the horizon in the photo below is dead straight. How’s that then?

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Just testing the Facebook feed from WordPress

How to place a post in Facebook

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New lens and back to RAW

This week I took delivery of a new lens for the Sony a57 – a Minolta 50mm 1.7 AF prime. Small, light and relatively cheap (50mm usually are for some reason) I got to play with the new but of glass at the Glasgow Transport Museum this weekend.

Taken indoors at 400 ISO, f/1.7, shutter speed 1/250sec

Something I had noticed from the Minolta (for which I only have one lens, a 50mm prime too) when how natural the images appeared. Often referred to as “normal”, looking through the view finder should look as you eye would see it (hence normal). The difference between the Sony and the Minolta (DSLR vs SLR) is that the SLR is full frame whereas the DSLR crops the image on the APS-C sensor (to a factor of 1.5).

Spending most of the time with just the prime lens changes the way you shoot: to zoom out you have to walk further away. So again, generating less shots compared to a zoom where I might be tempted to take a number of shots from the same position and varying the zoom to explore compositions. This isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a different approach.

All in all I was happy with the outcome and could see me keeping the 50mm lens on quite a lot. My standard, all purpose lens has been my 28 – 200 zoom – I love it but it is heavy and only goes down to f/5 so struggles in poor light. Let’s see how it goes.

Meanwhile, after a long time shooting JPEG only I’ve decided to go back to JPEG + RAW, the intention being that monochrome images should be generated in Photoshop rather than doing it in camera. To be fair the Sony has been doing a pretty good job but I need more control over the level of contrast and also work to avoid blowing out highlights and lowlights – a real problem if you want to do any additional work in Photoshop.

The limitation here is the time it takes to process RAW files and the amount of space the files use on my memory card. If I’m on holiday where taking 1000+ photos is normal then RAW isn’t an option (for space and time reasons).

Transport Museum triptych

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Getting it out there #2

I’ve noticed recently that Instagram is becoming more commonly referred to as a standard of social media (rather than just Facebook and Twitter). I’ve had an account for a couple years but rarely ever posted to it, or even looked around at what’s out there. I’d had a similar attitude to Pinterest (and I’m still not convinced I understand how you’re supposed to use it) but with this apparent growth in the public (well ok, my) visibility I’ve started to spend a bit of time engaging with Instagram.

One thing  I noticed with Flickr is that I have zero followers and I don’t follow anyone – unless you’re  a really big-wig I wonder if it’s possible to get noticed on Flickr – not that I’ve tried very hard. Nonetheless, going to twitter recently hasn’t raised my profile since initiating that but just 3 posts into Instagram (and some appropriate hash tags) and already I have 20-odd likes and a couple of new followers. Not exactly viral but a damn good start I’d say.

www.instagram.com/timrpbrown

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How they compare

So why bother film? If you compare digital and 35mm of the same subject the most obvious thing to note is that the digital image: it is sharper, the colours are truer, it took less time to compose and take (as I took perhaps 5 or 6 shots to get it right), it was cheaper (i.e. free), and took far less time to process and tidy up in Photoshop.

Both images below were taken from the roof of the MNAC Museum in Barcelona.

Minolta 35mm

 

Sony SLT

A part from the difference in focal length (50mm top, 28mm below) there’s not much to call it, and on that basis you have to give the award to digital.

So again, why bother? Well I think it’s the surprises you get from the film shots that didn’t come out as you expected. Here are a couple of more extreme examples of celluloid oddities that you would ignore as failures on the preview window (though you’d never of pressed the shutter in the first place you saw that down the view finder):

Dark Tay

 

Leith Dock

To be fair, the latter was more to do with very battered, 30-year-old negatives but not something you’d try to fake in Photoshop.

As mentioned in a previous post, it’s the process that’s fun, and the final output just feels more crafted and hand done, more honest, even. I’m still trying to work it out really, but the point of all of this is just to have fun, and learn something along the way. To this final point I do wonder if my last outing with a camera (to Loch Ardinning) saw me using the digital a little more thoughtfully than normal. Maybe.

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For Comparison

So here are DSLR (actually SLT but let’s just stick with what we understand) versus 35mm (both via Photoshop):

DSLR

 

35mm

It should be noted that the Minolta was on a tripod, the Sony hand held , a few inches above this. The Sony is focused on the leaves rather than the pineapple surface – not sure why I did that and regret it now. Also not the had a 24-200 zoom lens, set to 42mm f/5.6, the Minolta with a 50mm prime at f/1.7

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