Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolution: Re-thinking High ISO photos

The websites that compile painstaking reviews of digital cameras do a really great job. and are two of the best, in my opinion.

But they get wrapped around the axle on the topic of high-ISO photos and the noise-reduction most digital cameras apply to these low-light photos. They use words like "smearing" and "watercolor."

Here, I say: get over it.

High-ISO photos aren't meant to be Louvre-worthy portraits. They're just not. But the semi-embarassing photos below -- taken at a local high school's "air band" concert a few nights ago -- aren't hideous. They're fine as snapshots, and you could probably print reasonable 5x 7-inch prints from them with little objectionable results.

I shot these photos using a Kodak Z1012 IS camera in High ISO mode. These are absurdly high -- ISO 1600 and 3200 -- and obtainable only with the camera's lens at full 12x zoom.

These photos will not win any prizes. None at all. Nor do I expect them to.

But they will elicit an emotional response, most likely laughter, from people who see them. And any emotional response created by a photograph is better than not having a photo to start with.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Afterlife for a Konica rangefinder, sort of

This may be useful for those of us with far too many classic film cameras, and no real market for them.

Today, there's very little demand for the 1970s-era 35mm rangefinder cameras I love. I have a handful of really good ones: Olympus XAs, Vivitar 35ES, Canonet GIII QL17, and a few Minolta Hi-Matics. Plus a few that need a little work, but I simply couldn't devote time to resuscitating. These have "DOA" tags on them. And on their own, they're useless.

But in trolling for a Konica Auto S3 on fee-Bay** the other night, I found 27 separate auctions for parts for the camera. Only one actual S3 camera, but more than two-dozen parts for sale.

So if you have the patience and precision screwdrivers to disassemble and tag the working pieces of a camera -- and the skill to photograph them using your digital camera's macro mode -- parting out a non-working 35mm camera might be a way to get some value from that old buddy on your shelf.

And, in case you're wondering: my Auto S3 works fine, and no -- it is definitely not for sale.


** I rarely sell items on fee-Bay anymore. When they decided to become, and abandoned the individual casual seller by messing with their fee schedule, I went to Craigslist.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Would Adorama lie to you?

Addendum: One more "one" camera that earns a raspberry for one of my favorite photo merchants.

Adorama, where I've bought my share of digital and film camera bits, sent me an email hyping a deal on, among other items, the Polaroid One 600 Classic Ultra Instant Camera.


"Classic" is only partly right. In a few weeks, it'll be a relic. Polaroid's discontinuing its line of instant film for these beasts. What would I do with this camera in, say, 8 months? Make a hood ornament for my wife's SUV?

C'mon, Adorama. I trust you guys, usually.

But selling this photographic equivalent of the AMC Pacer isn't playing straight. Unless you're going to be carrying Polaroid 600 instant film well into 2010, you should have a disclaimer somewhere that tells would-be buyers that the One 600-Classic is destined to be as useful as my Kodak Six-Sixteen Junior camera is today.

Admission o' Guilt Dept.: I've always had pricey habits; my first film camera was a Polaroid Colorpack II, and you had to apply lacquer to your B/W prints as soon as they developed. When my Dad gave me his original SX-70 instant camera in the early '80s, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I was a big Polaroo for a long time, then the digital revolution steamrolled the company. The guys who own it now have all but lost their shirts in the investment bank disaster, and they're threatening to dismantle what's left of Polaroid today. Sad, sad conclusion.

Never Buy a One

Today's observation: never buy a digital camera with the "1" or "One" in the name.

My first Panasonic digital camera was the fabled Lumix FZ-1. It was a 12x optical zoom, and the aperture stayed at a constant f2.8 at all focal lengths. It took incredible photos. But it was only 2 megapixels and fairly slow to operate, even in 2003. The next iteration of FZ models fixed a lot of these issues, but I had already invested in the FZ-1.

Now Panasonic's come out with this new DMC G1, roughly the same size as my old FZ-1, but with interchangeable lenses like a digital SLR. And a bigger DSLR-like sensor. And an $800 price tag. Right, $800 for a baby DSLR. I can buy a Nikon D60 with lens for much less than $800. What are you thinking, Panasonic?

Other "ones" worthy of this list: the Kodak EasyShare One (a wireless digital camera that's about as slow as my old FZ-1). Sigma DP-1 (also slow, and $999 buys you a camera with performance characteristics worthy of a 2005 model). Samsung's upcoming HZ-1, which has lots of promises -- from a company best known for TVs and toasters.

In my experience, digital cameras with the number "1" in their name should set off a neon light in your brain: it means that version 2 is already in the works. If you need to be an early adopter, go right ahead -- but most of the books talking about the G1 now allude to the next version having, among other things, digital video capability that the G1 doesn't.

Panasonic fooled me once with the FZ-1. And as much as I think they make pretty good cameras, I'm not forking over 800 clams to be the guinea pig with the G1. When they're up to a G4 or so, give me a call.