Out and about

Plus a few random photography remarks.

I missed a few shots this past week (including a marmot) as it is impossible to grab a camera and turn it on and frame up the subject and take the picture while you’re driving down the road. Even if the road is a gravel logging path and you’re only doing 10 KPH at best. I did manage to stop upon hearing a rat-a-tat-tat noise in some dead birch trees, thinking it was a woodpecker. I spotted something red moving in the viewfinder and clicked, waiting to figure out what it was until later. It was this:

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Red-breasted sapsucker

This image was shot with the Canon T100 using the 55-250mm zoom at full extension. (This is a 640×480 view cropped from the full frame, not reduced.) With the crop factor this works out to about 400mm on a 135 camera. Why the Canon? Why not the famous Nikon P610? A couple of reasons. First, the Canon ‘fires up’ quicker; turn the dial and it’s ready (the Nikon works its way through some motor gymnastics before it’s ready). Second, the Canon’s optical finder is easier for me to see through. This is getting to be a problem, especially when trying to spot small subjects like birds in the distance.

Which brings us to point number three: optical and digital zooming. The Nikon can outdo the Canon optically by a factor of over 3X (1440mm vs. 400mm). This is because it has a smaller “2.3” sensor (which also reduces its effectiveness in low light). But the Canon has a slight edge in MP of about 12% so it’s better at post-shoot digital zooming. This has lead me to the decision that a T7 with its 24MP sensor would be even better for me – 50% better you might say. So in a weird way post-shoot digital zooming helps make up for my failing eyesight. Something to think about as the Nikon keeps producing out-of-focus pictures due to the loose lens (no, I can not tell if the image is in focus in the finder of any camer: I am dependent on autofocus and depth-of-field).

Now here’s a tiny butterfly. Not being a lepidopterist I don’t know what kind.

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These were taken with the Fuji F80 EXR, of all things. Not really the camera for the job but it did it fairly well. The first shot is full frame, the second digitally zoomed (as is the third). You may notice a colour shift between the two shots as the camera tried to come to grips with the scene. The second image is somewhat washed out in the dried grass but the colour is better on the butterfly.

Now here’s what the Nikon did with a much larger version of what looks like the same butterfly (the first one was perhaps an inch long, the second closer to three inches):

The Nikon has utterly failed to focus a couple of times, usually when the lens is pointing down (which is telling). Here’s a shot that shows the motor-driven lens isn’t as quick as it should be. Look for the bird.

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Top of the frame

Of course if the subject will sit still, it’s fine:

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Duncan Dog wondering how long this picture business will take

Or if the conditions are right and you don’t need maximum magnification on one small object far off in the distance:

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One goes up, one goes down
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Raven again

And back to the Canon for a combination of maximum optical zoom with a bit of digital as well:

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Young mule deer doe

A discussion elsewhere about zoom lenses and whether or not you need them reminded me of an old movie camera I used to have: the Kodak Medallion 8. It took 8mm cartridge film, and had a 3 lens turret that allowed you to switch between wide-angle, normal, and telephoto just by pivoting the lens elements around (not while shooting of course). A cheap version of a zoom, and easier than changing the whole lens!

The difficulty with spotting a subject at the ‘normal’ focal length of your eye and then getting a camera fixed on it with a telephoto lens is sometimes aggravating. Being able to spot it with the zoom at wide/normal and then twisting a ring to close in on it is much better. Motor zooms are slow for moving subjects like birds. Sometimes even the fastest autofocus and shutter release is slow; birds can be really, really quick!

But I can see where if I continue shooting wildlife I would stay with the medium-to-long manual zoom lens, quick center-spot autofocus, optical finder, and as many pixels as possible to facilitate post-shoot digital zooming. This is not the best combination for everyone, of course; I just like shooting wildlife and that’s mostly best done from a distance. Even butterflies are reluctant to hold still while you move in closer.

Addendum: Since writing this I came across another blog wherein the author made a statement along the lines of “like many people I like the effect of limited depth-of-field”. Am I the last person on Earth who wants sharpness in photos? Yes sometimes it’s nice to blur the background, but not always! And if the whole of the subject isn’t sharp … well to me it just looks like someone did a bad job photographing it.

Shutting up now. Do what you like.