Sunday, 9 December 2012

Image capture - a few thoughts

I was just reading for what was for  once an interesting discussion on Amazon and feel like writing an extended response here.
Man has been in love with images for a extremely long time, noting his favourite or most important images in caves or drawings on paper moving into what we call today painting with paints. They document his times, his civilization and important events he wanted permanent records of to share with subsequent generations. The Victorian era saw advances in chemistry making it possible to store images using emulsion based film moving through ever more easier to use film based cameras before in the last decade of the twentieth century it became commercially viable to store such images as digital images on silicon chips both in cameras and also other devices such as cellphones and tablet computers.
That series of changes over time fuelled millions of people to create and store their own images of family, vacations past, their local communities as well as those who were paid to create images for local media initially newspapers and magazines but increasingly internet based sites.
For much of this era regardless of the final means of capture and storage their have been two main types of camera made depending very much on personal needs.
The first group were mainly for ordinary people who required something simple to use usually a single item of equipment for capturing family pictures and vacation snapshots with a single unchangeable lens.
The second was more around people who needed equipment that allowed a higher degree of control, the options of many interchangeable lenses for specialized uses such as close ups, sports, etc, elaborate flash systems for low light photography and so on.
These were aimed mainly at professionals who work for the press, magazines and the wedding and glamour market.
A secondary line was established using less expensive  camera bodies designed for more delicate usage by amateurs who wanted more control  than everyday cameras supporting a smaller and usually less expensive set of lenses and accessories, trading on the image of the professional models.
Such cameras were the first to use plastics initially for levers and take up spools and later on to the whole outer body.
The digital revolution  has to an extent blurred the line between so called compact cameras and  the pro sumer all in ones that offer the equivalents of 7 or more fixed focal length lenses on a single long zoom lens. Often compact cameras have 3.4 or more times zoom lenses fitted too.
Equally for all those whose employers wanted digital from the mid 1990's,  it led to Nikon and Canon ditching their professional single lens reflex film bodies with interchangeable lenses, that move lead to packaging plastic digital bodies and lenses to offer the same immediacy to enthusiastic amateurs.
The battleground for sales it seems is routed in the numbers of megapixels each body uses in much the same way that in pre-digital times the numbers of exposure modes offered and their metering options were pushed.
It always amazed me the number of times I showed people of photographs shot on a camera system focused by hand, carefully metered by a human, shot using a single focal  length high quality lens properly supported.
They didn't understand my equipment with less bragging rights than theirs produced better pictures for intervention, human knowledge and an oft forgotten maxim an image is only as sharp as the optic focused on it itself permits.
Many of the cheap zoom type lenses packaged with them, were of lower quality and critically offered less scope for controlling how much in front and behind of what you had focused on was in sharp focus.
An unfortunate by-product of using lenses designed originally with film use in mind on digital bodies is that it's harder to get background out of focus because the focal length for any setting is bigger and also the sensors don't render as much out of focus at wider aperture settings. The only real cure would be to have designed new lenses to work with digital sensors in  mind which is what Olympus did with their digital single lens reflex bodies.
This problem may not be an issue for vacation snapping where most of the time you want most things in sharp focus but is for creative photography.
It is one reason apart from some undoubtedly preferring the kind of image film makes for some of us to continue with their older film systems for work with less of short time frame requirement having our images scanned at the point of processing 

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