Home  Index  Calendar  Member art  Join  Resources  Feedback  Contact us  Reviews  Submissions  Search

OTHER PAGES: How to Photograph Art   My Panasonic G3 Journal   my Canon s90 Journal
Canon S90/95 Tips & Accessories   Art Camera Shootout  
Cameras & Lenses: History + Future  

INFO ON OTHER PAGES:
Cameras with Manual Exposure Options  Cameras with Articulating LCDs
Credible Camera and Lens Review Sites   Micro 4/3rds Cameras   Digital Photo Terms
THIS PAGE: Cameras & Lenses  Cameras I've Been Lusting After
Cameras & Lenses I Have Known or Lusted After
This page is all but defunct.

Read The Advantages of an Articulating LCD on DigitalShotsGuide.com.

You will also need software to improve your digital images and correct mistakes. Probably the best, comparatively easy program is Adobe Photoshop Elements. The full-blown version of Photoshop is expensive — $700, and more difficult to learn and work well, but you'll need it if you get into image tweaking full-time. I got my first copy free with a long-ago scanner and update it every third major number version.

Elements and a P+S is a good-enough beginning for photographing your work (so you remember what you did and how you did it and what you named it for every piece you ever make), entering competitions, submitting work for invitationals, etc.

Janet Chaffee - Underneath and In-Between - Photograph Copyright 2010 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Read The Advantages of an Articulating LCD on DigitalShotsGuide.com.

 

Cameras I Have Known & Used
or Lusted After enough to thoroughly investigate

Although some of the following cameras are excellent or outstanding, most of them are here, primarily because I have owned them. These boxed reviews are here to show some aspects of camera use that go wrong and go right. The cameras I actually recommend are several clicks below.

For its day, the Sony F707 was a fabulous camera, but I no longer use it.

 
Point+Shoot Compacts
Sony        

Sony F707

Sony F707 "Prosumer" camera

Mp
density
$
+
JR
Reviews
5
8
99
38~190mm f/2~2.4 (very bright ), EV±2, EVF, 23.5 oz, vertically twisting LCD, MWB, 123,000-pixel 1.8" LCD; 1.5 fps, no IS, can only address (write to) 128 megabytes (max) on memory card
4
DPR

Before my Panasonic G2, Nikon D200 or D300, or my Canon S5, SD 780 or S90, I owned a Sony F707, when there were darned few P+S or Compact cameras available.

The whole F707s camera section (including the smallish 1.8-inch color LCD) tilted up and down from the lens section. That was so convenient working on a tripod, I only looked at articulating LCD cameras to replace it for my art-shooting small studio camera, which is when I discovered the Canon S5 IS.

Tilting F707

F707 body articulating up and down from the lens, which is attached to a tripod.
In my hand, it was the lens that tilted.

The Sony had an amazing Carl Zeiss 5x f/2~2.4 zoom, and it's still available from Amazon and other sellers, though rarely new. Its biggest drawback was its maximum 128-megabyte (not gigabyte) Memory Stick card that compares very unfavorably with cards up to 32 gigs for other, newer P+Ss. Don't do it.

It was amazing that the 5x zoom maintained such wide (bright) maximum apertures, even at full telephoto. No affordable, contemporary lens does the same. New in 2001, the F707 cost $1,000 and was called a Prosumer camera — a cross between a Pro-fessional and con-sumer.

I should mention that like all other cameras, it was not perfect. Its sensor — like many Sony cameras still are — was oversensitive to red, which tended to blur out in images. There was a one-frame-per-second burst mode, but after the first shot, you just have to guess where the subject would be next, because the viewfinder would go blank during the next shots.

Note: Rather than go on and on about all my old digital cameras, I'll just link to some pages I started in 2003 that do that.

I no longer use by Canon S5 IS. 

Canon

Canon s5

Canon S5 IS P+S

Canons S5 with LCD
Mp
density
$
+
JR
Reviews
8
32
350
2.5-inch, fully articulating LCD (aL), full manual exposure mode, EV±2, 10:1 zoom, good flash, LCD doesn't show true color in Tungsten light, noisy over ISO 80, VGA-only movies, weighs 1 pound,
4
DPR, LL, IR, S,

The JR number is me rating usefulness, 1-10.

Until early 2010, the camera I used at Joel Cooner Gallery was A Canon S5 IS with 8 megapixels at 32 MP/cm² pixel density (high, meaning comparatively lousy high ISO performance), introduced in May 2007. It has a fully articulating LCD and a full manual exposure mode. Compact cameras with full manual used to be rare. Some cameras advertise "manual controls," but they are not manual exposure, so beware of the hype. Read reviews carefully.

For art, I put it on a tripod, click to M for Manual exposure, aim the camera and zoom for composition, close down to f/4 or f/8 for 3D work, then adjust the shutter till the image on the LCD looks exactly like the art. At wide-angle, this zoom focuses very close. At tele — like most zooms — it does not.

Manual mode lets us change aperture or shutter speed independently, so we can finely tune exposure and what all is in focus (depth of field) in the LCD or viewfinder. Cameras that are strictly auto-exposure do not. I used my S5 with the LCD twisted so I could see into it, no matter where the lens was pointed. For careful work, it was extremely convenient. See Small Cameras with Manual Exposure Options and especially, Cameras with Articulating LCDs [both lists on the other page].

Intelligent camera reviews will describe and rate a camera's manual capabilities. When I open a review, I command f (control f on PC) to find the word "manual" in longer reviews, though that doesn't always mean exposure.

I paid $350 new for my Canon S5 in mid-2007. For awhile it was only $250. Then, suddenly, it was $800 new — probably because it was discontinued. It's not worth $800 — or $200. Much as I liked mine, these are old cameras with ancient digital technology and a comparatively short (!), 10x zoom, although that zoom made it very convenient for photographing a variety of object sizes and shapes and still focus very close at wide angle.

I only rarely used ISO higher than 80 for serious work. The articulating LCD is also useful for shooting surreptitiously.

I replaced my S5 IS with my new Canon s90, though it does not have an articulating LCD. It'd be better for photographing art, if it did — although its ugly step-sister, the Canon G11/12 [below] does, although it [$453] is more expensive than the s90 [$360]. Most Point+Shoots have to be replaced after three to five years, if they last that long. My s5 still works, but not dependably.

The S5's live-view LCD used to stay on for about a minute. Now, it's just a few seconds. Never long enough to do anything with it, so I have to keep tapping. Old cameras die slowly.

I hope Canon has fixed it in later S series cameras, but I won't know till I buy another one, and I've never seen it mentioned in a review. Lots of problems with aging cameras don't show up in new camera reviews, because it takes months or years for those problems to show. 

I rarely use my Canon SD780, although I sometimes stow it in my pocket, just in case.
Last week, I found it stuck in a jeans pocket just before I tossed it into the laundry.

Canon SD780-is  

Canon SD 780 IS Pocketable P+S

12.1
43
$175
SD 780 easily pocketable, EV±2, tiny optical VF, IQ better than most, 4.2 oz with card and battery, MWB, LCD hard to see in bright light, HD movie, easy to use, cwa,  35mm wide angle ideal for art (just back off a little sometimes or zoom in slightly), 3X zoom  33~100mm, HD 720, usually shoots at max aperture even in bright light, easily scratched body and LCD, often will not turn off, shows low battery even when it's fully charged, slow dark 3x zoom, nearly useless tele, dark recessed buttons hard to push, especially in the dark, often the only way to turn it off is to slide the battery/memory out, replaced 6 mos later (without notice) by the sd940, not a low-light camera, mostly useless over iso 400, wide-angle distorts objects shot close
6
KR, IR,DCR,

Now, my Canon SD780 costs more, just under $200 (although I paid more than that), and it has 12 megapixels at 43 MP/cm² pixel density (too high) and a meager 3x, painfully slow ("dark") f/3.5~5.8 ("darkest") zoom for a walk-around camera. The 780's price is falling now that Canon has replaced it with the the SD 940 (and probably by now something else), which has to be a better camera. This one has too many failings.

DO NOT BUY THIS CAMERA.

The best thing about the SD780 / SD940 was how small they were — same height and width as a credit card — and only 3/4-inch thick, lightweight and pocket-able, although the image quality [IQ] is not as good as my newer s90.

According to Consumer's Reports, the 780's IQ is better than most sub-compact P+S cameras. I still use this camera, despite all its faults, because I paid for it, and it still works — better after it came back from Canon the second time. I use an LCD protector and am careful not to put it in the same pocket as keys or coins.

Because it easily fit in a pocket, so it was always there, I shot everything with it — even art — more often than any other camera till I got my S90. The 780 was excellent for web work, but optically not as good, nor as versatile, as the S5, and with nowhere near the IQ of my Nikons, although I have exhibited Super A3-sized work (13 x 19 inches) from it in several art galleries.

When I'm using it, however, I usually miss having manual exposure, so I can control every aspect — aperture to get more (or less) depth of field or shutter speed to stop (usually) or blur action.

Something else this camera has that most point & shoots — including its replacement — do not, is an optical viewfinder that shows zooming. The 780's is tiny and difficult to use, but with it, I can hold the camera firmly against my forehead (like photographers who wanted unblurry shots did before LCDs blurred everything) when I shoot in low-light.

It's handy to use after I turn off the LCD when the battery is running low — or says it is, but I don't use it as often now I have the s90. The SD780 has HD video that, like all the other images it makes, look substantially better with more light.

All three Canons have Custom White Adjustments that allows filling the LCD with a solid white object, push the a button, and watch the color on the LCD adjust, so we can shoot in that lighting and be sure the color is correct.

Lenses usually render better IQ stopped two stops (using smaller apertures), but the 780 (and probably many other P+Ss) almost always shoots at maximum aperture. Stopped down lenses render deeper depth of field [See illustration on that other page]. Wide angle — or zooms at wide — render more depth of field than telephotos or zoomed to telephoto. I rarely use this camera at tele zoom because, it is too dark, and requires too slow shutter speeds.

I am being picky here to show that otherwise "perfect" cameras can often be annoying. Oddly enough, I still appreciate this light little camera and I use it often, even though I will soon be sending it back to Canon — again.

Ken Rockwell said it was the best pocket camera available, but he was wrong. Then he said the Canon S90 [below] was and now it's supposedly the Canon s95, and he may be closer to right with that guess. In bright light or when the subject either doesn't move or doesn't move fast, my SD780 can be amazing.

Like most P+Ss, this camera focuses on what it wants to, regardless of where the subject is in the frame. It shows us where the focus points are with bright little boxes. Unfortunately, we cannot decide where the stupid boxes go, and it sometimes focuses on something we don't want focused, but there's little we can do about that., except change our angle of view or give up.

Two-dimensional art that fills the screen almost always catches one or all of the focus boxes, although sculpture often does not.

SD 780 ravaged by pocket

Canon SD 780 ravaged by being in a pocket without a protector
 

This is an actual photo of my SD780 after it'd rattled around in my pocket with keys and coins a couple months. This marred body was replaced for free by Canon under warranty. Its body is not sturdy, but the fix was quick, they paid return postage, and now I usually keep it in a bag or an otherwise empty pocket.

I love the size of this camera. I actually forget it's in my pocket sometimes and have to root around to get it. It has other, less-than-ideal qualities, but its size is fabulous. My Canon S90 is a better and more controllable camera, but it's way bigger and has sharp corners that actually fractured three of my ribs in a very short fall.

The 780's has no official replacement, because they're still trying to sell it, but both the Canon SD940, which also has 43 MP/cm² pixel density, so it's probably the same sensor — and the SD4000 have been named (if not by Canon) as replacements for the SD780.

The SD940 costs $200, has a wider 28mm equivalent wide-angle (instead of 35mm — meaning we are more likely to get linear distortion when photographing paintings, drawings and other art up close. The unzoomed SD780's maximum wide is less wide, so less likely to distort. For purposes other than photographing flat art, the 940's wider angle is beneficial. The 940 also has a slightly longer 112mm telephoto.

The replacement's wide is a half stop faster (brighter), but it's darker at the tele end — although the new camera is the same size and comes in black, brown, silver or blue, but not red. It does not have an optical viewfinder, just a slightly larger LCD.

I won't get one, because I need a more versatile pocket camera, with a full, interactive manual mode, which neither of these cameras offer, a brighter maximum aperture and a lot less than 43 MP/cm² pixel density. Besides, my 780 still works most of the time.  
 

The following cameras are good enough that I can recommend them, although the dSLRs are almost always better than the Point-and-Shoot and other compact cameras, they are usually also bigger, heavier and more expensive.

I own a Canon S90, and until several of the features I liked best about it failed, it was my favorite pocket camera. Now I don't use it nearly as much as I used to.

The differences between the S90 and the S95 are listed on my S90/95 Tips & Accessories page.

Canon s90

Canon Powershot S90 P+S The S95 was introduced in August 2010

Mp
density
$
+
JR
Reviews
10
23
337
EV±2, barely pocketable, full manual exposure, MWB, 6.9 oz, good IQ, 28~105 zoom, RAW, LCD hard to see in bright light, cwa, smarter menu system than 780 or 940, internally corrects lens distortion in JPEGs (but not in RAW), slow, actual exposure not always what the LCD shows, VGA-only movies,
7

LL, IR, KR, S, DPR, DCH,  CL,W, ETL, & oft-updated reviews on my S90 Accessory Reviews page

The Canon s90 is a great little, slow, Point + Shoot camera. Its newer replacement, the S95 is mostly similar, with improvements that are being added to my S90/S95 Tips & Accessories page. I also add to my S90-95 Journal, which meanders around the ownership of my s90 with photographs and experiences.

Both are siblings of the larger, clunkier and longer-zoomed Canon G11 [below] and its new replacement, the G12. It's got the same 10-megapixel sensor at 23 MP/cm² pixel density — less than half the pixel density of most its competitors but only one less than its chief rival, the Panasonic's LX3-5, of which it is as close a copy as Canon could manage. And they all have a slightly larger sensor than most P+Ss.

My Nikon D300 dSLR is a much more versatile camera with substantially better IQ, but it has neither built-in image stabilization nor an articulating LCD. With lens, the Nikon also weighs 3.5 times as much, and many cheaper tripods will not support it, though it's still much more versatile overall. Both the SD780 and the S90 fit in a pocket. No way the Nikon would, so it's a much bigger deal to carry around.

The s90 is my carry-around camera when I know what I'll be photographing. If I don't have specific photo plans, I tuck in the much smaller and less controllable SD780, just to have something to shoot with when occasions arise.

The S90 ($336) and the 95 ($399) are expensive, but the Panasonic LX5 [LX3 info on the other page] that uh ... inspired ... the S90/95 is more so at $499. The S-90 is not perfect. Read CameraLab's thorough review of the S90, especially the verdict page comparing it to the LX3.

The S90/95 have full manual mode and a remarkably fast f/2~4.9  3.8x zoom (28~105 equivalent) lens [Well, the wide-angle end of the zoom is bright/fast. The tele end is dark/slow.] on a 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.9 inch body. It is a fine little camera for general shooting, but it is not fast enough to shoot anything that moves, unless you're very careful.

I'm still watching the growth and expansion of the new Micro 4/3rds [on the other page] cameras that have been mostly a competition between Panasonic (that has Image Stabilization in some lenses) and Olympus (that has Image Stabilization built into the camera, so it applies to all its lenses).

Then Sony entered the fray with a larger, APS sensor, and more companies are following.

(I waited more than a year to try RAW on my big Nikon, then loved it so much I use it almost all the time, and inevitably miss it when I don't.) Any distortion in the S90's JPEGs, especially those taken at wide-angle zoom, are automatically corrected in JPEGs but not in RAW, unless we learn and use Canon software (although it's in the box), which I have not.

My s90 is a really good art camera, although with its articulating LCD, the Canon G11/G12 wood be handier, if chunkier, thus less likely to be carried. Unlike the SD780 that rattles around in pants pockets, the larger and thicker S90 and slightly thinner s95 are a very tight fit.

The G12 uses an essentially similar sensor as the S90, and I know several
professionals that use it, but I have no personal experience with it.

Canon G11 with LCD

G11 with articulating LCD

Canon G12

Canon G12 "Compact" camera introduced in September 2010

Mp
density
$
+
JR
Reviews
10
23
440
EV±2, MWB, good IQ, 28~140 zoom, OVF, articulating LCD, cwa, Like the S90's, the G11's sensor is 1/1.7" — bigger than most P+S cameras, weighs 12.5 oz., big, clunky, VGA-only movies,
6

DPR S LL KR

The late 2009 10-megapixel and comparatively lower 23 MP/cm² pixel density Canon G11 with its slightly larger sensor (than most P+Ss), fully articulating LCD, on-camera dials that allow directly changing important settings without spelunking through menus, a good quality lens, fairly unspectacular 5x zoom (slight wide-angle to slight telephoto) and RAW shooting capability is, for about $470, a sweet, though expensive and not-at-all pocketable, camera.

For the price of a G11, we can get an older or factory-refurbished dSLR and get substantially better IQ and speedy shooting, to boot.

Ultimately the G11 is too chunky to put in a pocket, and that is my primary criterion for an every-day P+S. The next camera, however, has most of what that makes up the G11, in a smaller package.


I have read extensively about the SX30, and for awhile I lusted after it, but I have no personal experience and no longer care.

Canon SX30

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS P+S  introduced in September 2010

12.1
43
$370
SX20 EV±2, 28~560mm f/2.8~5.7, cwa, 720 HD, full manual exposure, stereo sound, 2.5-inch  fully articulating LCD 21 oz, color fringing with hi-con subjects, no RAW, 1 fps continuous shooting, no superfine JPEG,
5

S, DCR, CL,  PCW
 

14.1
50
$430
SX30 21 oz, 24~840mm, f/2.7~5.6. 4.8 x 3.6 x 4.3 inches 21 oz, 5 x 3.5 x 3.4 inches    

The latest extension of the Canon S, for Super Zoom, series from the s1, through my S5-IS [above] and beyond — is the PowerShot SX30 IS, which has a 35 zoom (ranging from an equivalent 24~840mm), the latest Canon tech, a fully articulating LCD, 12.1 megapixels at 43 MP/cm² pixel density, and it costs $370. It's newer, better and faster than my aging S5, but I'm still hoping for a bigger, less dense sensor for my main carry-around (to art openings and shows) art camera next time.

Like my cars, I usually keep cameras until they stop working, fall apart or both, and I do a lot of research before I buy a new one‚ although I always buy new cameras and used cars. When I got the S5, I it was the best for shooting art, although it's always been less-than for other uses. It does have nice (non HD) video that's been useful for family events, although the zoom has only one speed, that I always find too fast.

The SX20's main competitor is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 ... I have had little experience with Panasonic cameras, but it may be inevitable. They make superb ones.

In July 2010, DPR tested Super Zoom cameras, and the SX20 is the only one of those with an articulating LCD, and it was judged co-best, with the Panasonic FZ-35 (no articulating LCD and shorter zoom at 27~486mm). DPR awarded the FZ-35 two more points, 75 over the SX20's 73.
 

Micro 4/3rds cameras   (m43)

m43 is a good idea as an upgrade to photographers with existing compacts — even enthusiast's cameras like the Panasonic LX3s and Canons S90-95s, because the m43 sensors are five times the sensor size and thus IQ. But it's a slight quality downgrade from DX- and substantial downgrade from full-frame, FX- sized sensors, even if smaller cameras are more convenient to carry and use.

So, m43s are worth serious consideration. My Panasonic G2 m43 is significantly better than my Canon S90 was because it adds speed of operation, lens interchangeability, and that amazing electronic viewfinder (EVF) that lets us see the exact exposure, so we can adjust it to otherwise impossible or unlikely lighting conditions — like back lighted situations or unusually dark or light subjects. It also has a large LCD that swings and tilts.

My Nikon DX SLRs' sensors are only 50% larger than m43 sensors.

NOTE: For lens comparison, m43 cameras have a 2x crop factor, meaning for 35mm equivalence, we double the stated mm rating to have the same viewing angle.
 

For a long time, I lusted after Olympus' EP-1 and EP-2 m43 cameras and studied them extensively.

Olympus

Olympus EP2

Olympus EP2 with Electronic View Finder Attached:
great IS, great lens, great EVF, slow focusing

Mp
density
$
+
JR
Reviews
12.3
5.1
502 w 17mm f/2.8
in-camera IS, LV, .7 pounds, optional OVF, better high ISO performance than competition, many external controls, now focuses as fast as competition,
 
expensive, messy menus,
7

DPR 69%  IR LL CL

For too long, I watched and waited as Olympus and Panasonic played leapfrog with their respective m43 technologies. First one, then the other would introduce slight advances, while they figured out where their real sales numbers would come from. Unfortunately, neither company made products that significantly advanced the m43 form, and too often they simply copied each others' lenses.

The big differences between Panasonics, which make somewhat more professional or enthusiast's cameras, and Olympus, who has, so far, at least, hung back from that highly competitive but smaller market. Because the two originators of the m43 standard are so uncompetitive with each other, owners of either camera are likely to eventually get a newer version of any of the other company's steps forward in lens design.

Now that the EP-2 focuses fast as the competition, I long considered the Olympus m43 EP-1 then EP-2s, especially with its amazing add-on EVF, which is its great leap forward from the essentially similar EP-1. Except for plugs for its new, very high-resolution electronic live-view viewfinder and a macho black façade, the E-P2 is mostly the E-P1. Before firmware 1.1 it was slow to focus, but fascinating in its potential directions, some of which may have been disturbed by the introduction of Sony's APS-C NEX-3 & 5 cameras, which use APS-C sized sensors (50% larger), but are unwieldy to use and so far, lack EVFs.

NEX is not the answer for the ills of compacts. Not with those big honking lenses. If larger-sensor cameras have to have big lenses that add to the size of cameras that will never fit in pockets, we'll still need m43. If, however, new, smaller lenses can be designed and built less expensively than old, big lenses, watch out. Especially if the NEXes acquire EVFs.

Now available are Oly's new, small, light, quiet (especially useful for video) and smooth 14~150mm (28~300 35mm equivalent) f/4~5.6 zoom for $600, which, of course, was followed by Panasonic's 14~140mm IS zoom for $850 with Image Stabilization.
 

Olympus builds their image-stabilization into their camera bodies, while Panasonic builds it into their some of their lenses, meaning that even if Olympus does sometimes make lenses that us Panasonic owners would love to use (m43 lenses work on any m43 cameras), none of them would have image-stabilization.

What's really unfortunate is that the two companies keep coming up with the same or very nearly the same focal length lenses. Choosing one company over the other for their lenses makes no sense. Meanwhile, both seem stuck with the same zoom ranges and mostly dark, maximum apertured lenses, with only one large maximum aperture medium wide-angle lens each. And one short zoom, although Panasonic is rumored to be almost ready to offer a near-copy of Olympus' 12-60mm bright, short zoom to medium telephoto.

There's an excellent comparison of the Olympus EP-1, the newer Olympus EP-2, the newest, dumbed-down, all-menu-driven Olympus EPL 1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 on the verdict page for CameraLabs' review of the Olympus 'Pen' E-P2, and there's a thoroughly intelligent review of the EP-2 on Luminous Landscape, and another on Imaging Resource.

That Luminous Landscape page also mentions Olympus' stunning 1440k dot resolution VF-2 live viewfinder, about which CameraLabs says, "In short it looks fantastic and is a huge step-up in quality over the optional LVF-1 for the Panasonic GF1, while also avoiding the rainbow tearing artifacts we experienced with the G1 and GH1."
 
 

Since I wrote some of the text above, I have bought a Panasonic G2, and I
have journaled the ups and downs of my learning curve with it on
My G2 Journal.

Panasonic

Panasonic G1 with articulating LCD

G1 with Fully articulating LCD

Panasonic G2

Panasonic G1 and G2 — Fast focusing, good EVF except in low light,
great articulating LCD, slow lenses, no built-in Image-stabilization

Mp
density
$
+
JR
Reviews
12.1
5
600
G1 With kit lens weighs 28 oz.(My Nikon with a similar zoom but with constant f/2.8 aperture and no IS, weighs 56 ounces), trouble with yellows and oranges,
5
CL DPR LL
Pop IR,  ND.
12.1
5
500
G2 With kit lens weighs 21 oz., articulating LCD, hi-res EVF, AF tracking, LCD touch controls for AF, fast AF, shutter speed preview, AF assist, uses Olympus or Panasonic lenses, fast 1280x720 HD video in AVCHD Lite,
slow video startup, typical G series yellow & orange tint (which I have never noticed)
7

Steve's  IR DCR

12.1
400
GH1 body-only  
7
 
16
1,000
GH2 with kit lens and pretty much everything the G2 above has, plus full HD video  
9
 

For about $600, you can still get a new 4/3rds Panasonic G1, if you really wanted one, but it has since been replaced by the new G2, which is significantly better and is going for $500 with the new (unimproved but smaller than the 14~45mm original kit lens) 14~42mm, or $350 body-only, or — well, I cannot find a current price for it with the 14~140, which may mean the factory in Japan that made those was affected by either the tsunami or the nuclear situation there.

The nearly two-year-old Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 had 12.1 megapixels at 5 MP/cm² pixel density, Digital SLR with Lumix G Vario 14~45mm f/3.5~5.6 ASPH Mega OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) "kit" Lens (optically superior to the G2's similar zoom kit lens) and a fully articulating LCD. Same as the G2.

Panasonic's short, bright fixed lens (often called prime), the 20mm f/1.7, which I own and love and love to use for people, abstracts and photographing art for DallasArtsRevue, has had its price rise for the same reasons. I paid $359 in March 2011, they now ask $379. I love this lens, even though I wish it were image-stabilized.

I had hoped for a Panasonic Lumix GH2, which has slightly better IQ (image quality) but they were — and are again — difficult to find new in the USA. So I settled for a G2, which cost half as much. I've had a ball learning the G2, and I use it every day and in almost every way, but I have since learned that the GH1 and GH2 both offer better IQ. Some sites say the GH1's IQ is actually better than the GH2, which is a much more contemporary camera, especially for video, which I rarely want.

The big deal with GH cameras is that their built-in video is professional quality. The GH2 is, in fact, an all-around superior camera, netting the highest test score I've ever seen at Digital Photography Review, my favorite online photo review site. I'm linking the Conclusions & Ratings page, but there are 20 other pages that precede it, and one that follows, all with worthwhile information and images. DPR is the most thorough and professional camera review site.

While tracking down current (late April 2011) prices for the Panasonic G series, I see an Amazon search-results page with two Panasonic GH1K (black) camera bodies. One is $400 and the other is $1,000. You have to pay close attention to Amazon prices. It is unusual to see prices that vary that widely, but not at all unusual for them to be offering the same product at different prices on different pages, sometimes (as here) from different sources. Prices often to go up precariously on products in short supply.

The $1,000 camera only has 13 left. The $400 one has them "in stock" from a non-Amazon source. From watching prices on this camera there, I know the $400 body-only price is about right, and the other one is a blatant rip-off.

 

Somewhere on that other page (my other Cameras & Lenses page about the history and philosophy of digital photography) are two lists: Small Cameras with Manual Exposure Options (both of which are seriously out of date) with subdivisions of P+S and m43, and Cameras with articulating LCDs. Three of the latter, that are also of the former, are the Panasonic GH1, G1 and G2 cameras. If anybody can do it, Panasonic could make a m43 camera with both manual modes and a double-jointed LCD fit in a pocket, but they haven't and probably won't. All three have 5 MP/cm² pixel density, which is very good.

Many of the specs are the same from the G1 to the G2, but the G2's new touch interface makes a significant difference. It seemed abstruse at first, but moving fingers around the LCD is a lot like twisting dials and pushing buttons, only easier and with more direct access to more features, and anything that speeds those chores is a good thing. The regular dials and buttons and full set of menus still work, too.

The G1 was the first Micro Four Thirds camera. Panasonic calls it — and now, finally, since thee are so many more accessories now, it may actually be "a system." And many other lenses can be attached with an adapter, which usually loses you important feature(s) like auto focus, which is not as important with specialty lenses like shifting architectural or close-focus. With Micro Four Thirds cameras, the mm ratings of lenses double for 35mm equivalence. I.e., a 14~42 lens is equivalent to a 28~84mm lens on a 35mm film or FX (full frame) digital camera.

Lenses available for Micro Four Thirds cameras are limited, but in a few years, there will be many, including, perhaps, some innovative possibilities. Read Andy Westlake's "On Lenses for Small Cameras," complete with reader feedback, in DPR January 2010 for an overview of lenses now available and lenses that should be available.

The G2 is irregularly discussed on DPR's m43 forum. You only have to register if you want to join in the conversation; I generally just lurk, because they sometimes get snotty with newbies or oldies who haven't posted much, and they can be very contentious. I learn a lot by lurking (not joining the fray), but I have locked out some of the more contentious forum members.

Panasonic has a page of PR with lots of pix and several tabs and links to other info links, for their G2, and DPR had a hype-filled preview with darned few pictures of it and no images shot with the camera after having one around the office for a couple weeks, which seems very odd. I mean, what did they do, just stare at it?

Then they tested it fully, and mostly liked it.
 

Nikon D300 with Canon S90 - Photograph Copyright 2010 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Nikon D300 and Canon S90

Because my Nikon D300 is so big and my Canon S90 is so small, I used to carry the Canon around with me, even when I didn't expect to be taking pictures. The Nikon is just too big and heavy to be my always-with-me camera. The s90 fits (barely) in a pocket, but the SD780 fits a pocket with room left for other things in there, too.

My G2 doesn't fit in any pocket I own, so I carry it on a camera strap around my neck and shoulders.

I don't mind carrying my go-with camera around my neck instead of in my pocket, because I want a large, yet low-density sensor. The s90's is tiny. All the Panasonics in the middle of the boxes below are medium-sized, light and fast. They focus fast (enough for most subjects except sports, children, pets and birds), shoot fast and their sensors are low density. I've seen full-size exposures from them, and they are good enough for the 24 x 30-inch prints I want to show in art galleries.

I had been holding out for Nikon to enter the mirrorless competition, but looks like they want to have smaller lenses as well as smaller bodies that — they think — can only be accomplished by using smaller sensors. So it looks like I'm stuck with all my Nikon lenses and need to enter a new paradigm. Panasonic and Olympus pioneered m43, and the G1 was the first m43 camera, so I feel like I'd be in good, experienced hands with Panasonic.

The GF1 (and eventual GF2) is smaller than the G1, G2, GH1 or GH2, and certainly smaller than my Nikon D300. In fact it weighs about 1/3 of what the D300 weighs. But it doe not have an articulating back, and it probably won't in the future, either. It's whole thing is that it is small. Adding and articulating LCD won't help that any.

The GH2 is more expensive because it is also an excellent movie camera. I'd like to shoot videos, but I decided long ago that what I'm best at is still photography, although it wouldn't hurt to have video, so I could play with it sometimes, too. Which seems to point me directly at a Panasonic G2, which is not terribly expensive.

Since I would also use it on a tripod to photograph art, the touch LCD seems like a great and useful feature. I can move the focus point around the EVF or LCD somewhat on my Nikon, but there's nearly nothing I can do about it on my Canon S90. It would be great to just point where I want focus concentrated on a studio shot.

I needed a new smaller, lighter camera, so I eventually bought my G2. I liked it enough to go ahead and buy the 200-600mm equivalent zoom and the very bright 40mm equivalent f/1.7 'pancake' (because it's so close to flat and, of course, round) lens that I adore.
 

Here's some figures from Digital Photography Review.com's apparently no longer available "Side-by-Side Direct Comparison Buying Guide," where one could directly compare any digital cameras in their extensive database and my own research. Sometimes I just have to map out the differences, so I can understand them. Bold Greens are the best. Bold Reds are the worst.

Nikon D300
Nikon D5000
Panasonic G1
Panasonic G2
Panasonic GH2
Panasonic GF1
Canon S90
5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in.
5 x 4.1 x 3.1
4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 in.
4.9 x 3.3 x 2.9
4.9 x 3.5 x 3 in.
4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 in
3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 inches
32.6 oz.
20 oz.
12.7 oz.
13.6 oz.
13.9 oz.
10 oz.
6.9 oz.
body only
 
18~55mm VR
28~90mm f/3.5~5.6 IS kit
28~84mm f/f/3.5~5.6 IS kit
14-140mm F4.0-5.8
or 14~42 lot
20mm f/4 kit
28~105 f/2~4.9 zoom
no in-camera IS
lens only
lens only
lens only
lens only
lens only
built-in IS
922k dots on 3-inch LCD
230k on 2.7-inch LCD
460k on 3-inch
articulating LCD
460k Touch-sensitive 3-inch articulating LCD
460k on 3-inch
articulating LCD
460k on 3-inch
461k on 3-inch LCD
no video
1280 x 720; 24fps, and lower
no video
1280 x 720 (AVCHD Lite, 30fps) and less
AVCHD :
1920x1080p 24fps
1920 x 1080i 60fps
1280 x 720p 60fps
no video
640 x 480 30fps movie clips
12.3 megapixels
at 3.3 MP/cm² pixel density
12.3 megapixels
12.1 megapixels
at 5 MP/cm²
12.1 megapixels
at 5 MP/cm²-
16 megapixels
6.6 MP/cm²
12.1 megapixels
5 MP/cm²
10 megapixels
at 23 MP/cm²
pixel density

$1,600 my original price
now

$503 refurb
$525 new
$470 at Amazon
$672 at Amazon
$1,500 w 10X lens
$1,000 w 14~42
$620 w 20mm
$550 wi 14~45
$125 optional EVF
$392 original price
This is heavy but fast and truly a great camera.
darned good cam that uses all my Nikon lenses
Only slightly worse than the G2, and cheaper

Images with ISOs over 800 aren't as good as APS-C/DX sensor's. Tight dynamic range results in clipped highlights, lower noise but lower detail, too; new kit lens worse than the last one.

This is a good camera, not a great one.

Remarkably good camera for a Point & Shoot, with it slightly larger than P&S sensor size and mechanical dials.

The Nikon D5000 has since been replaced by the D5100 with a fully articulating LCD and other niceties inherited from the D90 and D300s.

Eventually, like I keep saying, I bought the G2 and two additional lenses, and I still like it, but wouldn't mind acquiring an Olympic m43 camera with its built-in image stabilization for my 20mm Panasonic f/1.7 lens (40mm 35mm equivalence)..
 

I have no personal experience with the following camera. For awhile, I thought I'd wait for the NEX-7 or NEX-9, but since I have the G2, it seems unlikely. The NEX-7 is a remarkably good camera, but there's not much of a system to go with it. I need a "super" zoom for birds, and they don't have one. Yet.

DX/APS-C

Sony

Sony NEX5

Sony NEX-5

Sony NEX-5

Sony NEX-5 with vertically articulating LCD

14.2
3.9
550
small body, 10.1 oz body w batt & card, 330-shot battery, 920k LCD, 1080 HD video (720 on NEX-3), continuous focus and exposure adjustment in while shooting video, bright 3-inch LCD, superb high-ISO, low-light shots, quick startup, fast focus, good for kids and pets, max burst rate of 7 shots in one second, or 2.3 with focusing, Auto HDR combines 3 photos in one, LCD shows shutter results and depth of field, NYTimes says its is better than Oly or Pany m43 cameras, exposure bracketing, excellent color, partially articulating LCD works well in bright sunlight, aimed for P+S users stepping up, full manual modes,

big lenses, no VF, few direct controls so everything is in the menus, and they are slow.

This camera is designed for amateurs, so there's few manual controls. It's not an enthusiast's camera, it's a compact concept with big lenses and a big sensor.

oversaturated reds (like Sony's been doing for decades), lousy battery life, idiot menu spelunking required for exposure alterations

4

DPR IR PC Pop PCW


Giving the m43 format a run, this new camera with a sensor size the same as DX and APS-C formats offers many of the features professional and advanced amateur photographers — usually called "enthusiasts" — seek in a small camera to carry around between professional shoots.

It's got manual modes, that intriguing larger sensor and is supposedly easy and quick to operate. But its lenses are huge, leading me to believe that either making smaller lenses for this format is impossible or too expensive. I hope not. I'd love to have a DX-sized sensor in a small camera with small lenses. Small enough I could carry the whole package in my pocket, so my carry-around camera doesn't take over my non-professional photographer life. But I may have to wait awhile for that dream.

But it would take a bump to NEX-7 before any of this will be easy or useful for enthusiasts.

Nikon

Nikon D300

Nikon D300

12
3.3
1,522
body
EV±5, cwa, fast operation: I click, and the shutter fires within .05 seconds. Focuses almost that fast. Interchangeable lenses — even 20-year-old ones still work great. Six frames per second. LCD allows 20x enlargement. Good high ISO IQ. Nikon lenses are among the best in the world, and there's lots to choose from. It's not full frame FX. High ISO shots could be better. No built-in Image Stabilization. weighs 32.6 oz. with battery,
9
CL 
 

Until my G2, my first choice camera was my big, chunky, heavy dSLR, the Nikon D300 with 12.3 megapixels at a mere 3.3 MP/cm² pixel density and a 3-inch LCD. I liked it because it had a large DX sensor, the best pixel density, the most features, the best overall quality, the widest choice of interchangeable lenses, and was is the fastest and most versatile camera I owned.

It's also big and so heavy it tilts my puny tripod at any setting but pure horizontal. It has no image stabilization unless the lens does, and its LCD does not articulate. Mine is a Nikon D300. The D300s update came later but is almost the same camera. The original D300 is no longer available new.

It's not a camera I'd be likely to carry around just in case a photo opportunity presented itself, although if I did, it would be the best camera I have.

Ideally, I would use a single focal length, so-called prime lens, perhaps my little 50mm f/1.8 D lens that's one of Nikon's best-ever, sharp as a tack, nearly distortion-free or my big 17-55 zoom, if the subject sizes and accessibilities vary. The photo atop this page, currently a Van Gogh-ish Peacock by my friend, long-time client, and popular Dallas artist Kathy Boortz, was shot with a D300 and the 50mm f/1.8 lens [elucidated below].

See The Great Camera Shootout for visual IQ details from some of my cameras.

I don't have much experience with the Nikon D40, but Anna does, and I am sometimes envious of her for it's light weight and comparatively simple operation.
 

Nikon D40

Nikon D40 dSLR

6
1.6
400 nr
18~55 3.5~5.6 kit zoom, full Manual exposure modes, OVF, cwa, 18.5 oz. with card + battery,
8
DPR, KR,

Nikon D5000

Nikon D5000 dSLR

12.3
3.3
640 n
525 nr
vertically articulating LCD, 1.3 pounds with a battery that gets 500 shots, great image-stabilized short zoom lens

More D5000 info below.

 


Anna loves her D40, but the newer Nikon D5100 with 3.3 MP/cm² pixel density is easier to find new. I had no trouble finding Anna's D40 for Christmas 2009 for $450, and D40s are sometimes available refurbished by Nikon, but new D40s are difficult to find, and they may be subject to a second recall.

Amazon charges $719 for a new D5000 (up from $575 last winter), Nikon still sells a factory-refurbished D5000 for $504. and the newer and improved D5100 is $900 — all with the 18~55 image-stabilized kit lens. The D5100 has a fully articulating LCD that swings and tilts from the side, so we could use it on a tripod.

Nikon D5000 

Nikon D5000 with articulating LCD on imaginary air tripod that
does not interfere with the LCD like most real tripods would
.

At Amazon, the new D5100 costs $800 body-only or $900 with the kit zoom.

Nikon D5100's articulating LCD

Nikon D5100 with fully articulating LCD floating in space

Either new or factory-refurbished, the Nikon D5000 is a good camera, and it is a single-lens reflex camera with a DX sensor so has outstanding IQ — better than any compact or P+S.

Nikon had D5000s to refurbish because there was a big recall earlier in its run, due to "an electronic component related to power control ... prevent[ing] the camera from turning on." Kinda important. Later, Nikon discovered that some D5000's refurbished in 2009 needed another refurbish. I don't know if units sold in 2010 and 2011 as refurbs will need further refurbing. Check your serial numbers here.

With its kit lens, the D5000 has image stabilization and a partially articulating LCD, though the silly thing is hinged at the bottom, making its use awkward, especially on tripods (unless your lens has its own tripod mount). Better articulating LCDs hinge at the left, and swing as well as tilt, although the D5000's LCD will twist. This, however, is the only Nikon dSLR with any kind of articulating LCD, although its other tech is aging fast.

I was seriously considering getting one, mostly for the partially articulating LCD for use in "studio" situations. About the same cost with kit lens as a Canon G11 but faster and with interchangeable lenses and a sensor that's 8.5 times the size of the tiny G11's. The kit zoom is a fine little wide to mild tele lens with image stabilization. Its Live View seemed fascinating for awhile, till I learned just how slow focus is in Live View.

I still look with fondness at the 5100, but even that does not work with all my lenses, because the recent four-digit camera numbers from Nikon and the D40 and D60 cameras only work with lenses with their own focusing motors, and all Nikon lenses don't all have that — although a good number of them do [Nice Reading's List of D5000/51000 Compatible Lenses].

Almost all compact (Point+Shoot) cameras have Live View, but none of the growing number of dSLRs with Live View do it particularly well yet, because it's new technology for them and their much-larger mechanisms. I was attracted to the Nikon D5100, because all my lenses would fit, and most would still focus automatically.

But my Panasonic Lumix G2 has wonderful 'live view' all the time with its purely electronic viewfinder, which I like unless I'm trying to focus on something that is moving fast. Birds flapping or moving around on the ground quickly, often make it difficult to see or focus in on.
 

All zoom ranges in 35mm equivalence, cwa = Custom White Adjustment: fill screen with white object, push button for optimal White Balance, EV2 = +2~–2 adjustable Exposure Value; fps = frames per second; JRR = J R's Rating 1~10; IQ = Image Quality, LV = live view; MWD = manual white balance; n = new; nr = Nikon Refurbished; = I have owned or used; OVF = optical viewfinder; VF = viewfinder; wn = when new, * = I never consider Canon dSLRs, because all my lenses are Nikon.

Valuable Lens Info

Before we get going on lenses, there's probably some stuff you need to know about them. These links are to stories I should have written, but these guys (almost always guys) got to the subject before I even thought about it, and they know their stuff. Presented in alphabetical order by website.

Digital Photography Tutorials:
Using Telephoto Lenses   Using Wide Angle Lenses
Understanding Camera Lenses
   Camera Lens Quality
Depth of Field   Hyperfocal Distance   Understanding Camera Autofocus  
Understanding Lens Flare
   Sharpness
Macro Extension Tubes & Closeup

Image Resource - Getting Started   Better Pictures   How to:
Understanding Sharpness - Resolution & Accutance

Ken Rockwell:
How to Use Ultra-Wide Lenses by Ken Rockwell
- direct, honest, no BS
Why Fixed Lenses Take Better Pictures by Ken Rockwell - not zooms
Lens Sharpness by Ken Rockwell
Nikon's 10 Best Lenses-ever

Luminous Landscape Tutorials:
Understanding Bokeh - Exploring Out of Focus by Harold M. Merklinger
Changing Perspective by Peter Cox
Do Wide Angle Lenses Really Have Greater Depth of Field Than Telephotos by Nick
Focusing In The Digital Era - Part One by Gary Ferguson
Focusing In The Digital Era - Part Two by Gary Ferguson
Understanding Lens Contrast and The Basics of MTF by Mike Johnston - Different kinds of photographic contrast
Flare
Pinhole Photography by David F. Stein


 

Lenses I Have Used and Appreciated

Nikkor 50 1.8

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens

Probably the best lens I've ever used, and that I wholeheartedly recommend, is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8, which Anna gave me for Christmas 2008, back when it cost a little more than $110. Photozone tested it and found that, "at medium aperture (near the middle of f/5.6 or 8) settings the resolution figures are exceptionally high, and [it] is surely a benchmark to beat. Ken Rockwell lists it first in his Nikon's 10 Best Lenses-ever.

Photozone said, "Distortions are negligible and vignetting is very well controlled." They also liked the build quality and Auto Focus speed. It's $125 at Amazon, which is an amazing bargain for this good a lens, although for awhile it sold closer to $100.

Turns out it's a great lens, and since its maximum aperture is so bright — especially compared with most compact camera or any other lenses, I didn't need a tripod, so my back doesn't hurt later from bending and stretching in all the wrong directions. And it's tiny, weighing 5.5 oz.

The Kathy Boortz sculpture at the top of this page and all of the images on her DallasArtsRevue.com Supporting Member page were photographed with this lens on my Nikon D300 camera.

NOTE: Canon dSLRs have a very similar lens, also a 50mm f/1.8 that is as inexpensive and as outstanding for IQ.
 

Nikon has since come out with what may be a better, yet more expensive 50mm f/1.8 G lens. The older one is now called the 50mm f/1.8D lens. The new G cost $370, and now the D cost $160. Their half-stop brighter 50mm f/1.4G SIC SW Prime Nikkor Lens costs $550.

You can see the obvious differences between shots rendered with this lens and all the other lenses firmly affixed to all my other working cameras in my The Great Art Camera Shootout.

 

Nikkor 18~55 un VR zoom

Nikkor 18~55mm zoom
 

The 18~55 f/3.5~5.6 non-VR lens is a very different animal from my large, ungainly yet awkwardly amazing un-VR 17~55mm f/2.8 [See it below], although because of the similarities in the numbers of their respective names, there will always be confusion, until it comes to the price.

Plus, there are two varieties of the 18~55 Nikon lens I'm talking about — with and without VR. The VR Version is, of course, better, but either is a fine little lens that focuses close, especially at wide-angle. Adding VR helps, because at any zoom toward telephoto, these lenses close down (become darker, requiring longer shutter times) considerably (as inexpensive "kit" zooms tend to.).

I tried to use a non-VR version, briefly, without a tripod in a gallery photographing art, which it did very well at — excellent resolution, color, etc, but at full tele zoom where its field is flat (that is, the lens does not distort the image), it required disappointingly long shutter speeds. As I got into the darker reaches of that gallery, the shutter speeds got so slow the images blurred.

Without a lot of practice, most photographers cannot hand-hold (as opposed to putting it on a tripod) a camera slower than 1/60th of a second. The general rule is not to even try to hand-hold slower than 1/125th of a second.

With good IS (Image Stabilization; also called VR — Vibration Reduction; OS — Optical Stabilization and probably some other acronyms), one can usually hand-hold a camera at longer (slower) shutter speeds, if one knows how to do it, has seriously practiced and is very careful.

The basic rule is to aim, take a deep breath, hold it, then let out the saved breath as you click, supposedly when you are at your most relaxed, but  or some other comparatively unmoving object. Waving it out in front of you will likely blur the image every time.
 

Christmas Card Flower Close-up

Christmas Card Flower Close-up shot with Nikon's non-VR 18~55mm f/3.5~5.6 lens at 1/40th at f/5.6 with the Nikon D40 held against a coffee table. At 100% original size, I could count fibers in the paper. This image is three times larger than on the original Papyrus Holiday card copyrighted by Chrisina Ladas. Nice card, Dottie. Thanks.
 

On a tripod or outdoors, or at wide-angle, the non-VR version works great, although the D40 (like all other older dSLRs) does not have the 'live view' that almost every new point & shoot does, so you can't properly judge exposure, color, shutter speed etc. till you make a shot.

The normal and mostly correct procedure for figuring out the correct exposure for dSLRs or other cameras without 'live view,' and several cameras with it, is to shoot, check the resulting image on the LCD, adjust either aperture or shutter speed, then shoot again. It takes longer and seems stupid, but that's the way it is.

Even with live view, it's often a good idea to check your work often.

The 18~55 f/3.5~5.6 non-VR lens weighs just under 8 ounces.
The 18~55 f/3.5~5.6 VR lens weighs 9.3 ounces.

My 17~55 f/2.8~2.8 non-VR lens weighs 26 ounces and cost more than a thousand dollars.

Photozone tests the non-VR, 18~55 that comes with the D40 (and that I used) and finds its resolution remarkable but the build-quality lacking. They say "if you use its apertures from f/6.7~f/11, you'll be a happy camper in most situations." Which means it'll do better on bright days or on a tripod, where you can use those smallish apertures and a slow shutter speed.

DPR tests the new VR version that comes with the D5000 and probably the 5100 and recommends it, citing its "decent optical quality, effective Vibration Reduction [what Nikon calls Image Stabilization] system and very good macro performance," although it has some distinct drawbacks, too. Don't point it anywhere near the sun.
 

Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8

Nikon 17~55 f/2.8 — It looks a lot bigger in reality.
I wouldn't dream of using mine without the lens hood,
but this is the only image I could find of it online.

What I used to always use for both three-dimensional and flat art and people was my 17~55mm f/2.8 Nikon zoom, set somewhere in the middle of the zoom range, so there's less obvious distortion in flat art. Three-dimensional art makes far fewer demands on rectilinearity. So I felt safe using any wide, tele or in-between zoom on sculpture, which is my favorite art form to photograph.

But now I usually use the much smaller, lighter and significantly cheaper 50mm 1.8 [above], although for my shaky hands, I'd be well disposed to a VR version, it's hard to imagine a better quality lens than the 50/1.8.

The big 17~55 f/2.8 weights 26 ounces.

The 17~55 is sharp with a constant f/2.8 aperture (Reviewers now call it "bright.") throughout its zoom range. Most, cheaper lenses — especially on Point & Shoot cameras have smaller and smaller apertures ("dark") as you zoom to telephoto, requiring longer shutter speeds at full zoom, where you most need shorter shutter speeds. It shows the least linear distortion at 24 and 55mm, but I have often wished it had image stabilization, because my hands tend to shake.

The 17~55 zoom is ten times the price of the wonderful little 50mm f/1.8 lens, which is a great lens for shooting art or anything else, especially without a tripod. For flat art — drawings, paintings and prints — the fifty is great, especially with its bright f/1.8 maximum aperture. Sculpture, too.

Documenting an exhibition I'd curated — and especially wanted good documentation, I brought both the 50mm and the borrowed 18~55mm non-VR zoom kit lens that came with a Nikon D40. I was experimenting and didn't want to lug my huge 17~55mm zoom.

Diana Chase - Jump Right In - Photograph Copyright 2010 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Diana Chase   Jump Right In   cast and fused glass   16 inches diameter
 

The 50 acquitted itself well, but I kept trying to make it zoom. I ended up using the 18~55 non-VR zoom for most of the afternoon. This shot from the 50mm turned out so well it's now on my How to Photograph Art page illustrating the rule about photographing translucent materials with light coming through them instead of just on them.

Prime lenses (non zooming ones) almost always have better IQ (image quality) than zoom lenses.

 

With zooms, you can set up the tripod and camera, then zoom to the desired composition. With a single focal length lens, you have to move you, your camera and your tripod. Every choice brings a trade-off.

Shooting small and medium-sized sculpture — like Kathy Boortz', whose work always tops the How to Photograph Art page, a zoom lens is handy to hone in on details like tiny faces and feet and hands, without seriously adjusting the tripod.

Because the Nikon's sensor is so large, I can use its comparatively high, base ISO of 200 or the next bump up to 320, and even hand-hold it in a gallery or artist's studio under a variety of lights.

My Nikon also shoots RAW, a format that saves more information than JPEG, making resulting files significantly larger. JPEG is a compression format, and we have to be careful never to save it at less than 100%, because once it is compressed any, you can never get that quality back.

With RAW, I don't have to worry what kind of light I'm shooting in (daylight, tungsten, fluorescent...), because I can adjust that later in PP (Post Production — in Photoshop), where I can usually save over- or under-exposed images. Regular, old, JPEG format is less forgiving. The Nikon also does TIFF, but I don't, although many people insist upon it.

DPR has the best review of the D300s, but Ken Rockwell's is good and Ken also has an extensive, step-by-step guide for it, and other popular cameras.

DPR reviews the Nikon (officially "Nikkor" for optics) 50mm f/1.8 lens and Photozone gives much more detail. Ken Rockwell also reviews it. Photozone also reviews my Nikon 17~55mm zoom, which is not as sharp, nor as distortion free.


My Latest Camera Lusts

Lately I've been lusting after a Panasonic GH2, which, when it is available in this country, costs twice as much as my G2 did, but it has significantly better IQ.

I like my Panasonic 100~300mm zoom lens, and use it almost every day, especially for birds (See my now 5 year old Amateur Birder's Journal for lots of examples of images from that great little (!) lens. But I'd still like a longer lens. There have been rumors of a Panasonic 500mm lens that sound intriguing. The zoom gives me a 35mm equivalent angle of view of a 600mm lens, but 1,000 mm would be more helpful, if its IQ is spectacular.

Panasonic is also rumored to be working on a 12~60mm f/2.5~3.3 zoom. If it has image-stabilization and great IQ, I think I could really use it.

My latest email address is always on the Contact us page.

Support this site. Become a Supporting Member of DallasArtsRevue to get your own
web page, entry in DARts shows & other benefits

DARts Index
Art Calendar

=

top

 hit counter since the major rewrite on April 25 2011