I recently had a chance to use my wife’s new Nokia 822 and the camera on that mobile phone really took me by surprise with its image quality and lowlight performance. It also got me to think about why I carry around a large DSLR with me for photography and a bit about the often misconstrued statement that “the best camera in the world is the one in your hand”. This post is some of my thoughts on the subject matter.
First of all the above mentioned quote in my humble opinion is about opportunity and not a statement on technical abilities of any instrument. Photography is a creative art where timing plays a critical role, as Einstein once called photographers are light monkeys and the light we chase after only lasts for a brief time on any given day and if you are a photo journalist you opportunity lasts even less. So timing plays an important role and utilizing the time you have with whatever camera or lens in your procession is very important, this doesn’t mean that not to strive for better equipment but don’t wait for them to start taking pictures.
My days with film were few to create any significant impression here and I really started taking photography only after I was in USA and had a chance to get a Kodak ZD710. It was a 10X super zoom point and shoot (P&S) which I loved because it only cost me $120 and it had manual controls. Under great conditions it produced amazing results but as soon as you pushed past the camera’s comfort zone it struggled to create decent quality images and needed a lot of post production which was a drag considering that it had no RAW ouput. Shooting at night was a big challenge too as its iso performance was horrible but I still took some great pictures with it. As soon as I was able to afford a better camera I bought my first DSLR which was brand new D5000 the biggest reasons for the change were a larger sensor, RAW output and the optical viewfinder. Let me just take some time and explain why these are important, first of all the larger image sensor, sensors in a P&S is about the size of your fingernail and the sensor on a DSLR (APS-C) about 6 times larger which gives them much better dynamic range and low light performance (indoor low light pictures eg. During a birthday party won’t be orange in color). Another indispensable feature if you take photography even a little bit seriously is the optical viewfinder as opposed to an electronic viewfinder (evf) or the back screen of the camera.
There were some unintended advantages too like the focusing system, a much better metering system, ability to use filters and stunning ISO performances. As an entry level DSLR in the Nikon range the 3D Color Matrix Metering II with Scene Recognition System and 3D Tracking Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with 11 AF points are just basic but they are miles ahead of my old PoS Kodak. ISO performance from the 12 MP Nikon sensors were nothing short of legendary by that time and the ability to use filters truly helped me in capturing landscape shot the way I had always imagined. Cokin’s P system of filters with their horrible colorcast and all still provided me with the ability to shoot nature like I have never been able to before.
I will follow up this with another post regarding my shift to a Nikon D7000 and my reasons for the upgrade..