Both my cameras are having problems so I’m grumpy; I’m cheering myself up by watching the digicam market, appreciating what I have, and enjoying flash photography.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Back in December I wrote about the joys of using a flash bounce-card. It’s totally the single biggest step forward in my camera technique in years.
For anyone who hasn’t figured this out yet, start doing it, it’s easy. You grab a piece of white paper and figure out a way to hold it up to the front of your camera so that it bounces the light from the flash off to the side, ideally against a not-too-distant reasonably-light-colored surface. You could carry around a prepared piece of paper, but I just use the nearest business card or envelope or whatever, and usually get good results; in the picture above, a monthly bank statement. The magic that makes it work is that digicams fire the flash twice, the first time to set the meter; so it figures out how to compensate for whatever weirdo lighting effect you’ve created.
Most of my interior shots are the kids so I won’t show them to you, which is a pity because I’ve been getting perfect warm creamy flesh-tones almost every time.
So I have a question; why don’t the cameras come with built-in apparatus to do this automatically? Most digicam flash pictures come out bleached and glaring and awful. For example, those Seven Lucky Gods have a pretty pleasing colour balance to my eye; contrast the horrid lighting in the dinner-table photo of one of the visitors who brought them over; for some reason I didn’t use a flash card.
Pocket Camera · My darling Canon S70 is sick; the zoom control sometimes zooms, sometimes doesn’t. It’s been in my pocket more or less every day since 2004, in some really inhospitable places; I’ve used it on beaches and in rainstorms and prairie blizzards and dropped it a couple of times. It doesn’t look as bad as Willie Nelson’s guitar, but it doesn’t look good. I guess I’ll try to get it repaired but I’m not that optimistic.
I have to say that, four years after getting into this camera format, I’m still in love with it. It’s a pocket cam, it’ll do point-and-shoot all right, but it’s a bit bigger, a bit fatter, has pretty extreme wide-angle capabilities and as much manual control as you want to exercise.
Sure, other things being equal, the big Pentax DSLR is more flexible and can capture a more beautiful image. But other things are notably unequal, in that the pocket cam is always there in my pocket when the beautiful image occurs.
There’s a problem in that if the S70 is toast, it’s not obvious what to replace it with. The follow-on S80 has been well-reviewed, but doesn’t do RAW. Announced in 2005, it’s getting a little elderly and notably doesn’t have image stabilization, which is basically the only really interesting new digicam feature to have arrived in the last couple of years.
There’s not much else in the niche; Digital Photo Review, on which I rely perhaps a little more than I should, savaged the Panasonic LX2. Hmm, I see that the about-to-arrive Nikon P5000 is in a similar niche, and the Pentax A20 is also a candidate. Also, I bet that there’ll be a Canon S90 pretty soon.
DSLR · I haven’t regretted for a moment snapping up the Pentax *ist D in early 2005. It’s been a complete joy to work with, and I still haven’t come close to putting all the things it can do to work.
Unfortunately, there’s some dust on the sensor now—you can only see it against a flat background like sky or skin, and you can usually correct it with Photoshop, but it’s really irritating—so something has to be done. Apparently, you can sweep out your camera’s innards yourself, but I’m a little fumble-fingered and a lot impatient and the notion makes me nervous. Hmm, the *ist D’s owner’s manual has detailed instructions, it doesn’t sound that hairy.
Gosh, I observe that the reviews on the Pentax K10D are positively glowing. Also that it has image stabilization. Also that it has a self-cleaning sensor. Down, boy.