Monday, 22 September 2008

On perception of reality

One person's mundane is another person's extraordinary. This weekend I visited the National Wetland Center, Wales (near Llanelli). It was a stunning day. Lots of interesting birds to see - including a number of little egrets. I've only ever seen one before - briefly, in Salisbury a year or so ago. Certainly I've never got a camera to one. From one of the hides I could see three of them - all too distant to make a reasonable photograph. As I commented on this fact to my companion someone overheard and asked what we'd seen. "Just the egret in the rushes," I said. "Oh. I thought you'd seen something interesting," they replied.

The next hide we visited was empty and right outside it was another little egret. Over the next half an hour or so we watched as it zigzagged ever closer. At the end of it's approach it afforded me some excellent close-ups even if the light was not in quite the right place to make every shot count. I don't care if they're as commons as sparrows on the west coast - for a city-dweller like me this was a real treat.

Monday, 8 September 2008

On technology versus art

A few days ago Canon released the EOS 50D - the latest successor to the camera that I use (EOS-20D). This is the third upgrade since I bought my camera, and the first one which has made me seriously consider upgrading - although I will probably wait until the price inevitably drops. Both the 30 and 40D were very good cameras - but for my requirements they were only minor upgrades. There were some new features that I wanted - but not enough to get me to part with any cash.

What I find very interesting is the number of people who are almost outraged with the 50D. Online forums are full of people complaining. Never mind that this is the most advanced camera that Canon have produced with that sensor size and at that price point. The biggest area of contention seems to be it's "poor" high ISO noise characteristics. The comparison is with Nikon (who until very recently lagged Canon in terms of image quality quite significantly).

For me this is simply not an issue. The high ISO performance of the 50D looks at first glance to be at least as good as the 20D, and probably significantly better. I came to Cannon from a Minolta A2 which had significantly worse noise performance than the Canon. With the Minolta I only ever shot at ISO64. ISO 100 was usable and anything beyond that was a waste of time. With the Canon I routinely shoot at ISO400 for equivalent quality and have had decent results at ISO800. Despite that, I still think that some of the best ever shots I have taken were with the Minolta. Actually two of my favourite shots were taken with a two mega-pixel point-and-shoot.

With a significant investment in Canon lenses a move to Nikon is simply not on the cards for me, but even if it was, I probably wouldn't move. Why? My current camera is already a far better picture taking machine than I have ever had. It is more than capable of getting excellent results under most circumstances. And Canon are not that far behind. Shooting real world pictures most people probably wouldn't even notice the difference.

Sometimes I think people get so bound down in the technology - they forget that photography is art.