Monday, May 07, 2007

The Role Of A Fun Camera

O.K., so you are a serious photographer with ambitions to be come known and most of the time are willing to work hard. But sometimes it's nice to just relax and goof around, to be silly, to experiment.

It might be a Holga, or a compact digicam that can slip in your pocket, or perhaps you use your good equipment to take family snapshots (all ideas discussed in recent comments and blog entries).

Problem is, if you do get lucky with your 'play' camera, aren't you going to regret that you didn't shoot with your best equipment?

Think about it this way:

- these are a different kind of image - and they don't have to be so good that they can make mural size prints for sale - after all there are serious photographers who only make contact prints from their 5X7 negatives
- perhaps the images aren't for sale at all, strictly for your own amusement, but even if they might have value in future for submission for show or publication, you just have to think of them differently - these are small images, not inferior images.
- keep in mind that some of the shots you take when having fun you wouldn't have taken if you'd had to haul out your tripod and 4X5 or whatever so the comparison isn't between good camera and poor, it's really between not taking a shot at all and having a nice, all be it small image.

The definition of a 'fun' camera can be pretty loose - how about a hand held 4X5 for street shooting, or a panoramic camera. It can be digital or film, large or small. It should however be easy to use, probably not require a tripod and painless to use - zone spot metering doesn't strike me as 'fun'.

I happened to choose an ultrazoom largely because of going on holiday where I felt I'd need the long reach and it would act as backup to my 'serious' equipment. I also considered the 16:9 ratio Panasonic LX2 - great lens, 10 MP, decent wide angle and the fun of a different format, but in the end was sold on the long zoom large camera FZ50. That might not be to your taste for a variety of reasons but my first digital was the 10X Olympus 2100 which had a Canon IS lens and could take pictures I'd never been able to take before. I next had the Sony 707, picked for it's excellent lens - I didn't buy into Zeiss lenses being automatically better but it tested out by far the best at the time. I did miss the long zoom though. One advantage of a long zoom is if you stitch, you are essentially dividing the image up into small sections which automatically require a longer lens.

You might prefer the low light functionality of the Fuji F31, or perhaps want something that will fit in a shirt pocket so you can have it with you at ALL times. I did think that if I were to avoid a tripod, IS would be important. I wanted as many pixels as I could squeeze in - assuming the lens could use that many. I was prepared to use raw since that wouldn't dramatically impact the shooting - ok it's a bit slower between shots and I wouldn't use it for people pictures but the FZ50 isn't bad at ei 100 and noise suppression at it's lowest setting.

I quite liked my little Canon S3IS and it does make decent 7X9 prints but my daughter has it now and so far the fact that the FZ50 is quite a bit larger hasn't bothered me. I guess that anything feels pretty light and small after the Canon 1Ds2.

What do you do with your fun camera and which camera do you think of as 'fun'?


doonster said...

I actually posted on this a couple of days ago I like to use mine for B&W street shooting - pictures of people going about their lives. I'd be quite happy with a B&W pocket camera (

Dave New said...

I'm still waiting for someone to make an affordable digital version of my Olympus Stylus weatherproof compact 35mm film camera.

It has essentially no shutter lag (unlike just about every digicam currently on the market), has a full-frame sensor (35mm negative or slide film) and a selection of ISOs that these days are practically noise free up to about 400 (or 800, if you squint). And you are free to make enlargements, if you take that 'special picture'.

The zoom range is mediocre (4x) but pretty useable, and it is pocketable.

The thing I can't stand about it, is the fact that I have to shoot film with it.

So, come on, digicam manufacturers, where's that compact film camera replacement? Paying thousands for a Leica doesn't count.