Confessions of a camera snob
1 Page 1
I fell in love with photography in the days of film, graduating from using a first generation APS point-and-shoot (remember those?) to 35mm SLRs, medium format bodies and eventually a 4x5 field camera. The progression was logical enough, as at each stage I became more and more enamored with larger film sizes. Bigger was better, allowing for greater fidelity and detail in my prints that, with the advent of digital inkjet printing, would commonly measure 40 x 50 inches.
Indeed, by the time digital SLRs became affordable, I considered shooting with the 8MP Canon EOS 20D to be "slumming" – a steep sacrifice in image quality made for the sake of convenience. Technology has progressed rapidly since then, of course. But as a photographer, image resolution, dynamic range and noise performance are still primary concerns for me.
Of the many features I've longed for in a camera over the years, a lower-resolution sensor with smaller, less-sensitive photosites was never on my list. In fact, ever since its announcement last year, the camera currently sitting atop my wish list has been the 36MP Nikon D800E.
From disdain to grudging acceptance
So when we launched Connect last October and I was assigned to write the HTC One X review, I had a lot of baggage to check at the door in order to assess the smartphone's camera capabilities from the perspective of a fair, impartial reviewer. Narrow dynamic range, limited exposure controls, a fixed wide angle lens, poor high ISO performance and of course image quality shortcomings when viewed at 100%, were limitations I was just going to have to accept.
To my surprise, however, I rather enjoyed my time shooting primarily with a smartphone. Sure, it lacked in features and performance compared to even the most budget-friendly enthusiast camera. And checking for highlight clipping whenever the sun was high quickly became a post-capture ritual. But I much preferred using the One X over the point-and-shoot I sometimes brought along as a comparison camera while shooting image samples for the review.
Aside from the lack of an optical zoom, the image quality of the One X was on par with the point-and-shoot, and even surpassed it once I tweaked the One X's default settings. One decided advantage in using the smartphone was not having to struggle with the impossibly small (for my hands) buttons found on a point-and-shoot. And there was simply no denying the pleasure of reviewing images on a gorgeous 4.7-inch high-resolution screen.
Sufficiently intrigued, after the review was completed I decided to replace my own aging smartphone with an iPhone 5. The decision to go with an Apple rather than Android device was based on the nearly overwhelming number of camera apps available for iOS. As the front end for the camera's operation, the choice of camera app is a significant one. It greatly influences the experience of making photographs and many apps can differ in image quality as well. I knew early on that I'd be unhappy with either the Apple or Android stock camera app and wanted as many alternatives as possible.
The app is everything
Right away, the apps that intrigued me most were the ones that allowed you to shoot in formats other than the iPhone's native 4:3 ratio. Shooting with a smartphone is unlike using my standalone camera in many obvious ways. And I decided to embrace, rather than try to minimize, this difference. When I picked up my iPhone I didn't want to try and mimic much of anything about my DSLR. I was after a completely different experience. And It didn't take long before I settled on shooting in square format. This format has a long-standing appeal for me, as it harkens back to the days of shooting with my trusty Bronica SQAi 6x6 format camera. I had always loved composing in a square format yet hadn't done so on a consistent basis in probably a decade.
So I made the decision that all photos taken with my iPhone (outside of family snapshots) were going to be were going to be shot in a 1:1 ratio. The iPhone would become my new wide angle, square format camera. And after being turned on to the KitCam camera app by colleague Kelcey Smith, who covered it in a Quick Review last year, this feature-rich app with a 1:1 shooting option soon replaced the other App Store purchases I had been trying out.
This decision to shoot in square format immediately changed my outlook on the iPhone as a photographic tool. Yes, I added another limitation on a device that already has its share of them. But this limitation was a creative one. One that challenged me to alter the way I see the world around me. And isn't that what attracted most of us to photography in the first place?
With the iPhone I also wanted to shoot a lot of black and white, something I've enjoyed doing ever since I first picked up a camera. Hipstamatic is a popular square format shooting app with particularly useful options for black and white photographers. The app offers literally dozens of "film" and "lens" combinations that emulate, with varying degrees of success, emulsions and darkroom processes of old. You could spend months exploring all the different options, but I quickly settled on the ones you see below, for much of my black and white work.
Mar 12, 2016
Mar 11, 2016
Mar 10, 2016
Mar 9, 2016
|Hot Air Balloons Over Bagan by User9320321874|
|Blue mood by darub|
from Fixed lens shootout.
|Yellow Warbler by LeeS|
from A Big Year - birds
|Waiting for the Parade by tcoker1103|
from - La Vida Loca - (Black and White Street Photography+ A Border)
Peak Design's 'consider every detail' approach shines in the Everyday Backpack. While expensive, it's one of the best options out there for a photographer who needs to pack a lot of stuff in addition to gear.
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not known as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you know where to look. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.
We've reshot the Sony a9 in our studio. The short story: it's sharper! The long story... well you can read it all here.
The collection will be officially launched during the Europeana Transcribathon Campus Berlin 2017 crowdsourcing event which will be held on 22 and 23 June at the Berlin State Library.
Light gives us some insight into the preparations for the launch of the pre-order shipments of its much anticipated L16 multi-lens camera.
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has confirmed in a tweet that the second lens on the back of the OnePlus 5 uses a 1.6x optical zoom and that digital zoom is used to reach the claimed 2x zoom factor.
Fujifilm recently unveiled the second in its series of affordable cine lenses, the MK50-135mm T2.9. We got our hands on it for a couple days and took it for a spin.
Leica's first attempt at an M-series digital rangefinder was rough around the edges, but set a pattern for all of the cameras that came after it. In this week's Throwback Thursday article, Barney remembers the M8.
No stranger to extreme situations, legendary climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin talks to Outside Magazine about his career, and the challenge of filming Alex Honnold's rope-free solo climb of El Capitain.
A company backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin is attempting to make video conferencing less terrible.
Rangefinder magazine asked five professional portrait and wedding photographers about posting on Instagram; no surprise, they got five different answers.
This captivating stop motion film was created by stripping away one layer of wood at a time. It's hard to look away.