a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: New Toy

Sunday, March 06, 2011

New Toy

SUMMARY: New camera.
I have a nice DSLR camera with a couple of decent lenses. I use this camera when I want to concentrate on my shots, when I want photos of more difficult situations, when I want better-quality shots (part due to the camera itself, part due to the control I have), when I'm thinking of photos that people might want to buy, I use this camera.

When I'm out hiking with crazy people (like the sierra club--average speed on hikes could be competitive at Indionapolis), or when I'm hiking with my dogs so need to focus on them (so to speak), when I'm dashing around madly from here to there, or any other time when I don't want a heavier, larger camera hanging around my neck--say, for example, walking an agility course, dashing around an agility site with or without the dogs, working at the score table but wanting a camera readily at hand--I like to have a little point-and-shoot that fits in my pocket and that i don't have to think too much about.

This old Olympus, which I bought in 2003, actually takes pretty good pictures. As long as--[fill in a long list of restrictions--it's not too dark, it's not too bright, nothing's moving, it's not too small for the camera to notice and focus on, you don't care about depth of field (where the background blurs out to emphasize something in the foreground), the graininess of the photo (ISO setting, just like film ISO values), being able to crop in (because it's only 4 megapixels compared to most nowadays are >10.].

Lately I've been too frustrated at missing too many shots because it took too long for the camera to open, or things were moving (it just won't take the photo if it can't clearly focus), or they're so grainy that they're pretty unusable (e.g., some sunset shots).

A couple of weeks ago, sorry old Olympus, one day this came home with me.

There are a lot of purely physical things that appeal to me. Like: The size of the viewing screen:

Or the width of the camera--slides much more easily into a pocket.

Start-up speed: From completely turned off, the new one is ready to shoot much more quickly. My timings--old one: 3.5 seconds; new one: 0.7 seconds.

Low light: The new Canon seems to work better in less-than perfect lighting conditions--the photos above of the Olympus (using the Canon) were done in natural light near a window, and it took perfectly lovely shots without the flash. The Olympus insisted that it needed the flash.

Controls: The old one has no control over ISO, speed, or aperture. Well--minimal, but only by inference. For example, you can tell it to not use the flash in a low-light situation, and it accordingly uses a slower shutter speed. Which is usually insufficient. The new one--I can set it into full auto mode just like the old one, or partial auto (which I use a lot on my SLR, too), or go aperture priority, shutter priority, or full manual if I want! And sometimes I want!

Sheer raw data:
Old OlympusNew Canon
Megapixels 3.2 10
Aperture f3.1 to 5.2 (auto only) f2.8 to 8.0 (controllable)
Speed 1/2 sec to 1/1000 sec (auto only) 15 sec to 1/1600 sec (controllable)
ISO 60-400 (auto only) 80-3200 (controllable)
r7c1 r7c2 r7c3
Weight 213g 193g (.7 oz lighter)
lens Equiv to 35 to 105mm on 35mm Equiv to 28 to 105mm on 35 mm
Focus modes Single Single, AI servo, manual
Zoom optical: 3.0
digital: 3.8, total = 11x
optical: 3.8
digital: 4.0, total=15x

Video: They both take video--I never used it on the old one for some reason; seemed difficult to me although it's not, really: Press one button to see the Settings display, another button to switch to movies. The new one seems easier--it's a dial setting on the top. I've been playing with the new one's videos a bit, as you may have noticed.

Dislikes: One thing I don't like so much about the new camera: The battery and card are under the same little door. The card pops out with just a little push. So, when I'm inserting a fresh battery, I keep popping the card out. That ranges from minor annoyance to the possibility of the card falling out at a really bad time. 

One thing I haven't decided about yet. The new camera takes a special rechargeable battery. The Canon brand costs $40-60 each. (Generic for $20ish, but they don't seem to rate well.) At least they're rechargeable, so if you have 2 of them, you can switch them and never throw one away or pay more. On the other hand, there's something to be said for being able to drop into a drug store or supermarket and buy a new battery on the spur of the moment for the Olympus when you've forgotten to, say, recharge. And, in a pinch, I can use two AAs in my Olympus. Sure, the longer-lasting battery packs for the Olympus typically run $9-12 each, but i don't spend any electricity recharging them, and they're available instantly. But, when done, they became hazardous waste. I probably spend $60 a year on those batteries. So--still pondering.  The rechargeable/cost/convenience issue is similar to my DSL battery.

Oh--and my current card reader doesn't read the card from the new camera, so I actually have to have a separate cord and actually plug the camera into the computer to be able to transfer photos. I'll have to see whether I can get a newer version of the card reader that'll handle these cards.

Results: Does the new one take better photos, that's one big question, and does it solve my issues with the old one, that's the other big question. I've only just begun to play around and can't actually yet answer yet, although the start-up speed improvement is a biggie.

Here's a quick comparison of both cameras on full auto setting. They're pretty comparable. The first one has slightly richer color, is slightly sharper (although that could be me rather than the camera), doesn't blow out the brightest whites quite so much, and the background's blur is more pleasing, less distracting. It's good that I like it better, because it's with the new camera.

Here's another set in automatic. They picked essentially the same exposure, so the lighting is OK in both, although achieved it with slightly different aperture and shutter speeds. What's obviously different is the automatic white balance settings--the first is much bluer and the second is much yellower. My slight preference is for the first one (again, the newer camera), and indeed, if I open them both in Photoshop Elements and apply auto color correction, it makes the 2nd look much more like the first. So my judgment matches that of software. ;-)

Here they are, cropped in--I'm not sure whether the softness (that is, not quite in focus) aspect of the 2nd (from the older camera) is due to the camera or due to me trying to take two quick snapshots without picking my focus point carefully. Will have to experiment more.

That's all the camera geeky stuff for today! The weekend's almost over and we haven't practiced ANY agility once again, except for lots and lots of tunnels (because they're fun). Oh, and while on my knees in the garden doing some weeding, I'd tell Boost "weave" or "thru" without any body language involved, and she'd have to find the obstacle and do it correctly to get the toy. She was really good at it! Hmm. So it's *my presence* that's messing her up! Maybe I should shoot some vids with the new camera--


  1. My point and shoot is an Olympus too! Bottom of their barrel though, and yup 3.5 seconds start-up time sounds about right. Bleh.

    I am shocked and amazed to learn that some point and shoots allow full manual control -- so cool!

    Have fun with the rest of your testing!

  2. The Olympus has taken some great shots through the years.

  3. I have the Olympus too :)

    I have a newer camera but I keep ending up back with the Olympus - of course i'm so lazy that too many of my pictures are from the camera phone - BLECK!

  4. That is the thing, isn't it--CONVENIENCE! We put up with a lot of less-than perfect results because the actual usability is perfect. That's why those flip video recorders are so popular, too--pocket sized, one big button to start/stop, one button to zoom. What more could one want?