Saturday, October 06, 2007

D day

As a reward to myself for finishing the Master's (or, at least, handing in the final draft of the dissertation, of which more soon), I bought a new camera. One of the recently launched Canon EOS 40D digital SLRs, to be exact - pretty much the digital equivalent of the EOS 30 film camera I've been using for the past few years. So on Friday, a glorious Autumn day, we took a trip up to Harewood House, where I put the camera through its paces. 200-odd shots later, I felt I was getting the hang of it.

While the basic controls are much the same as the trusty 30, there seems a hell of a lot more wee buttons on the back to play with (or, more often, to try not to press by accident). The 1.6x increase in effective focal length (because of the sensor being smaller than a frame of 35mm film) takes some getting used to, with my standard 50mm lens now a minor telephoto - great for portraits, but less useful for other subjects. The 19-35mm wide angle, on the other hand, now covers that mid-range, but loses the far wide angle that I like. Still, that's no surprise - while I'd have liked one of Canon's full-frame models, I couldn't really justify the extra cost. Physically, it's a lovely body - heavier and more solid that the film equivalent, and much more comfortable in my big hands than the cheaper 400D. My one complaint is the absence of eye control autofocus, one of my favourite features on the 30 - the different AF grid is easy enough to adapt to, but I do miss the eye control.

Anyway, here's a few of the first results (substantially reduced in size from the output images, of course).



Blogger Ben Austwick said...

I'd imagine the camera might take a bit of getting used to after using film, but at least you can review your images straight away to see where the differences lie.

I'm thinking of getting a film SLR (might as well at those silly prices) for black and white, where I think you can really see a difference.

What's eye control autofocus?

12:23 pm, October 09, 2007  
Blogger Tim Chapman said...

Hi Ben,

Even though the 40D has a pretty big image screen, I'm not sure it's good enough to really judge fine focus or exposure - though you can zoom in to parts of the image and access histograms, which could be useful if time-consuming. Not really experimented with that yet.

One big difference I'm finding is that digital does allow you to be a lot less disciplined - rather than getting it right in one or two shots, it's as easy to blast away with various settings in the hope that something works out. Which can be hugely useful, of course, but can seem like sloppy practice. I like to feel that all those years with an all-manual Praktica and no money counted for something...

Going from the Praktica to the Canon EOS30, the eye control AF seemed the real geewhiz technology. Basically, sensors in the camera tracked the movement of your eyeball and automatically selected the point on the AF grid that you were looking at. It wasn't perfect at following your gaze, but pretty good - you had to calibrate for each lens, for both landscape and portrait orientation, but the body remembered the settings so you could still swap between lenses easily. Don't know why Canon aren't including that on their digital models.

I'm planning on still using the film SLR as well - it can be a lot easier to just drop a film in for processing, especially when you know you'll be keeping prints for the album. Last time I did B/W, the processing was a lot more expensive and slower than for colour, though. Of course, that's not an issue if you're doing the dark room work yourself. I did that a few years ago when I did a photography course at the local college - I enjoyed it, but it's a hell of a lot of work.

12:48 pm, October 09, 2007  
Blogger Ben Austwick said...

I did black and white processing at art college, and it nearly put me off photography for life (I'm not very practical like that). The stuff I learnt about actually taking the photos has stood me well though.

Histograms I'm only starting to learn about, but I've found the screen very handy for judging focus (by zooming in on an image), though potentially very misleading on exposure. I used to take a few shots at different exposures, but got fed up of the amount of pictures I'd end up trawling through on my PC - so discipline is still handy.

That eye focusing system sounds well sci-fi - and you say it actually worked? Wow. I wonder why they dropped it?

3:04 pm, October 09, 2007  

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