Don’t throw away the silica gel!

Silica gel packs

Don’t throw away the silica gel packs! They are a camera bag’s best friend.

Here’s a little ingenious tool tip that a lot of you probably know, but it’s one that everybody should know!

You know when you buy a new bag, an electronic device or clothes you usually get some of those small packs of silica gel along with it. You know the small bags that says ‘Do not eat’, well they should also say ‘Do not throw away’!

 

I always keep a couple of silica gel packs in my camera bag. Why? Well the whole point of them is that they absorb moisture, and keeping them in my bag prevents moisture from attacking my camera equipment. They cost nothing as you get them every time you buy certain things, they don’t take up space and the don’t add any weight. They’re just there and yet they do a good job at protecting your equipment. So next time you buy a new camera bag, don’t throw them away, simply leave them be!

There are actually a whole lot of other uses for the silica gel as well!

Always keep a couple of silica gel packs in your camera bag to absorb moisture and protect your gear.

Always keep a couple of silica gel packs in your camera bag to absorb moisture and protect your gear.

How to get started with analog photography

Nikon EM, with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 Ai lens and Fuji Superia 200 film

Nikon EM, with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 Ai lens and Fuji Superia 200 film

I’ve written a little about analog photography in the past, but for those of you only used to digital photography and curious about good old analog photography I thought I’d write a little short introduction.

Though the way we capture and process images have changed when moving from analog to digital photography, the very basics of photography remains the same! We compose and expose in much the same way, using the same tools. However some things are different.

What camera should I get?

Find a camera that suits you! There are a lot of cameras to choose from and you can find good cameras cheap on the eBay and in thrift shops. Some are easier to use than others. Cameras from the 90’s are packed with electronics and can be quite advanced. They have highly advanced auto modes. Personally I think they are a little too boring and remind me too much of modern digital cameras in the way they operate. Cameras from the 70’s and 80’s I think are great! They have good metering, are cheap and easy to use, but they still have that classic feel to them. You can still be creative and use them in manual mode. Cameras that are older are often a bit harder to use. They may lack proper metering, and some are less intuitive.

 

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic is a typical classic SLR camera from the 60’s.

There are also different types of cameras to look for. SLR’s are great and is a good place to start. They have good metering and good manual control. You can change the lenses which is handy. They can usually be found cheap, and you can find high quality lenses fairly cheap as well! If you own a DSLR you’ll be familiar with how it operates.

 

 

Olumpus 35 SP

Olympus 35 SP is an example of a rangefinder camera.

Rangefinder cameras are also great! They work a bit differently than SLRs. You don’t actually see through the lens like on a SLR which at first seems odd. However, they have a different, and in some ways better, way of focusing.

Rangefinders are usually smaller and more compact than SLRs, and more quiet due to no flip-up mirror. Some rangefinder cameras have exchangeable lenses, others do not. Rangefinders are typically a bit more expensive than SLR, unless you find a bargain!

Pentax PC-550

Pentac PC-550 is a simple automatic viewfinder camera.

Rangefinders are easily confused with viewfinder cameras because they may look similar. Like on rangefinder cameras, on viewfinder cameras you don’t look through the lens itself. However, unlike rangefinder cameras, viewfinder cameras have no way of accurately confirming focus. Viewfinder cameras are often consumer models and have limited metering and manual controls.

 

Adox Golf 45 S

Adox Golf is a camera that uses 120 film. It’s an older camera from the 50’s and lack metering and focus system.

Older box cameras and twin-reflex lens cameras can be fun and interesting, but often a bit harder to use. Especially older box cameras. They often have limited or no metering or way of telling focus accurately. You basically point and shoot and hope for the best. You should have some skill to handle these cameras well.

 

 

 

What types of film can I use?

There are a lot of different films available still today! First we can look at the different film formats. Most of the films you’ll encounter will be either 135/35mm or 120-format film. These formats are still commonly used by analog photographers today and films in these formats are still produced.

135 or 35mm film you probably know already. It’s what you’ll most likely encounter. Used by most SLRs, rangefinders and compact-cameras this is beyond any doubt the most common film format in use.

120-film is larger than 135. It’s also know as medium format. This format is typically used in older cameras. It’s commonly used in older box cameras. Some films may also be labeled 220, but this only means that the film is a bit longer and can still be used.

There are other types of film formats as well, such as APS, 126,  110, 127, and so on, but most of these are no longer in production and can be hard to get and of poorer quality.

Film rolls

Different kinds of film. A roll of 35mm black and white and a roll of Kodak Portra color negative C-41 120-film

In addition to the film format there are also different film types and different development process. First is regular color film like Kodak Gold or Fuji Superia. Regular color film uses a process called C-41. Other names in use for this process is CN-16, CNK-4 and AP-70. This is the cheapest and easiest film process and most local photo shops with a lab can develop this kind of film.

Next is color reversal films. Also called slides, positives, dias and reversal. Unlike your regular color films which produces a negative image on the film, these kind of films actually produce a positive image. This meant that the negatives could be displayed on a large surface using a slides projector. These films are developed using a process called E-6. Once more common, fewer labs develop these films today and it may cost more to get these films developed. Small local labs will probably not be able to develop these films, so be prepared to ship your films off and get them back in a week or two.

The third alternative is black and white. These films use a very simple develop process. So simple in fact that a lot of people actually develop black and white films themselves! However, like the E-6 process it’s rare for smaller local shops to develop this kind of film, so you may have to ship your films off.

So where to begin?

If you think shooting on film sounds cool and would like to check it out, here’s my advice to you: First find an old camera. Either you go searching in the attic/basement of you parents, grandparents or uncle etc. or you go to your nearest thrift shop/flea marked/garage sale. In worst case you go online. If you end up on eBay you may need to know what you’re looking for. Try searching for a Canon AE-1, Minolta X-570, Pentax K-1000 or Nikon FM-2 and try to find one with a fast prime lens, 28mm, 35mm or 50mm f/2.8 or faster.

One you have your camera in hand, go to your local store and pick up a roll of cheap standard color film, like Fuji Superia or whatever is cheapest. If you’re lucky and have a proper photo shop nearby this is where you’ll go. There you should be able to get help loading the film, and get a quick lesson on how to use your camera if you need it. Once loaded take the camera with you and shoot a test roll. Make sure it’s not just waste, but also make sure it’s not too important in case there should be anything wrong with the camera.

Once you have your roll developed and see that all is well with the camera, you’ll pick up some more film. Now remember that when you buy film, you need to look at the ISO value to find out how fast the film is. Once you’ve selected a value it can not be changed like on digital cameras. Also remember that films are calibrated for different lighting such as daylight or tungsten. So in essence when you buy your film you choose the ISO and white balance and you can’t change it later! When it comes to buying film for the first time I’ll suggest getting a couple rolls of different film to see how they differ in look. Try a couple of different until you find one that have the look you’re after. I’d suggest starting with a couple of Kodak Portra films, a roll of Kodak Ektar and maybe some Fuji films. Also get a roll of Ilford Delta and Kodak T-Max or Tri-X black and white films just for fun. Then go out and start shooting analog!

Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III?

That’s a question a lot of people is asking these days. Finally both cameras are out and people are testing them. I have tested the D800 a little bit. I’ve even done some quick and rough testing of the video function. The 5D however I have not yet tested much.

Never the less, I’ve been asking my self that very question and have plenty of thoughts on the subject. I’ve checked the pros and cons and decided what camera I’m going to buy. With emphasis on the I. While I’ve figured out what camera is right for me, this does not mean it’s the better camera of the two. It’s simply the best for me. Anyway,I thought I’d share my thoughts on the matter. I’ll present some facts and specifications and other reasons I’ve taken into account. If you want to just read my conclusion, scroll to the end.

Why I’m upgrading

To start I’ll explain my reason for upgrading to a new camera. I have a Nikon D90 today. A good camera, that’s served me well. However, it’s getting older and I’m ready for an upgrade. I feel that when first upgrading I don’t want a newer camera in the same range (say D300s, D7000 or 7D) I want a full frame sensor camera. An important reason being less noise on higher ISO. I like to do late night photography, and while I usually use a tripod some times I would still like to go a little further on the ISO. I also generally do a lot of hand-held and being able to go higher on the ISO will let me shoot hand-held in harder conditions. Another reason for going pro full frame is the weather seal. I’ve used my D90 on windy beaches and in rainstorms. Quite frankly I’m impressed it still works. That being said, I’m upgrading my photo camera! I’m buying a camera to take stills primarily. I’ve used the video function on the D90 once. It’s crap. End of story. But new cameras have come a long way since then, so when I’m upgrading I do want a camera with good video capabilities.

Why not other brands?

Some may ask the question why Nikon and Canon? Why not Panasonic, Sony, Pentax or others? Well first off because of the marked situation in Norway. Nikon and Canon control the DSLR marked. While Sony is gaining some percent, Nikon and Canon are the two major brands. Second; they are the leading brands internationally. They’ve been doing this for a long time with lots of experience. Third; the lenses. They produce quality lenses and have a large lens collection available. In addition there are a large number of third-party lenses available. And we all know how important the lenses are!

Video

Ok, so that’s my background. What to choose? We’ll start off with the video. On paper Canon’s all-I codec at almost 100Mbit/s is much better than Nikon’s 24 Mbit/s P-frame based codec. However, I haven’t seen any tests yet. That said, Nikon’s H.264 24Mbit/s codec should match that of AVCHD, maybe even better since it’s based more on P-frames and less B-frames. Meaning it should be a decent in camera codec. Not to mention Nikon offers an 8 bit, 4:2:2 1080i (or 720p) output via the HDMI, so for those heavy projects you could get an external recorder and blow Canon’s all-I out of the park. But, it’s not just the codecs and outputs that’s important. Down scaling is another matter. I have not seen any comparison between Canon and Nikon here, so it’s really hard to say anything, but poor down scaling could give a less sharp image. This is a bigger issue for the D800 than the Mark III due to the higher resolution. Another common problem on DSLR is rolling shutter etc. I did a quick test on the D800; in a dark room I fired a flash. ideal this should light the whole frame. I shot in 720p 50 mode with a shutter of 1/50 so standard video. The flash fired at high speed and it lit the whole frame! This should mean rolling shutter is drastically improved and not a big problem in regular conditions! (with a faster shutter it may become a problem, I don’t know) I can only assume it’s the same or better for Canon. On one note however, D800 do have full autofocus on their video, the 5D does only have semi autofocus. If any of them are any good however I don’t know.

So, both cameras have good video. I would assume (because of the history) that the Mark III may be better. SMPTE time code and all-I codec is ideal if you do documentary. You can sync a sound-recorder and get good quality video straight out of the camera. However D800’s uncompressed output (What? It’s not 10-12 bit 4:4:4 like RED so why do you call it uncompressed?! Because professionally (8)10 bit 4:2:2 is the SDI and HDSDI standard and considered uncompressed in studio and TV production settings) is a great if you want the best quality and do mostly controlled productions like films and commercials and can use an external recorder. It’s also great if you want to use DSLRs in a multi-camera production.

Stills photography

Now, over to the still photography abilities of these cameras. After all they are photo cameras and they’re made to capture still images and not video. I’m not going to go into every detail of the specifications here. Both of these are good cameras, and the specifications for both are good! However, most of the people I’ve talked to have not been impressed with the 5D Mark III. There are no real big upgrades like on the D800. It’s pretty much just what the Mark II should have been. An updated autofocus-system seems to be what everyone is talking about. It also has new ergonomics and improved building quality and of course it has improved ISO-range and less noise so it’s closing in or passing the D700 there. However, according to most tests is does not beat the D800. According to DxOMark the D800 is by far the better camera. It has a dynamic range superior to just about any camera, and if you downscale the ISO performance is better than that of the Mark III. That said the Mark III can be pushed further than the D800, right up to 25600 (expandable to 102400) while the D800 stops at 6400 (expandable up to 25600).

A deal breaker for many is the fact that the D800 is a slower camera than the Mark III. The D800 only delivers around 4 fps while the Mark III can push 6 fps. This may be a deal breaker especially for sports and maybe wedding photographers. When it comes to battery capacity the Mark III (uses the same battery as the Mark II and 7D) is said to have improved battery capacity where as the D800 (same battery as the D7000. Why, Nikon?) is said to have less capacity than the D700 and less than the Mark III.

The elephant in the room is of course the D800’s 36Mpx resolution. Bordering on medium format resolution it’s great for studio use, but it gives you RAW-files at 70MB. It also requires more of your computer and more of you lenses. I’m not happy about it and would much rather have a 22Mpx sensor like the Mark III. I simply just don’t need 36Mpx and many others probably feel the same.

Nikon D800 is probably better in a studio than Canon Mark III due to its resolution. For landscape the D800 is the obvious choise due to the dynamic range. For action and news photography the Canon’s increased ISO range and quicker shooting rate may be the better choise.

Conclusion:

So to sum up. This is how I choose what camera I’ll be getting.

1: Video is good enough: Both have decent video. However, the 8 bit 4:2:2 is more appealing to me for larger projects than the all-I codec. The in camera 24Mbit/s codec is OK for smaller projects, and the quality is much better than that of 5D Mark II. From what I’ve seen the video is good on the D800. The Mark III may have better video, but the D800’s video is still good and good enough.

2: D800 is the better photo camera: As I said, I’m upgrading my photo camera. Nikon’s D800 is the better camera and few seems to be arguing against it. It has a sensor superior to just about any cameras today. I don’t do much sport or action photography so I don’t need the extra speed the 5D offers, nor do I need the increased ISO range. Yes, I’m upgrading to get more ISO range, but I don’t need the range of the Mark III. I’m however very interested in the dynamic range. I do a lot of nature photography and don’t use a lot of flash or lighting. I love to explore natural light and the dynamic range of this camera is a great for my use.

3: Pricing and economics: Today I am a Nikon user, hence I have Nikon accessories and lenses. While I could use Nikon lenses on a Canon body, it would require me getting an adapter. Nikon also offers the DX crop mode. Meaning I can use my old DX lenses and also my FX lenses becomes more versatile than the Canon counterpart. Not to mention that the Nikon D800 itself is cheaper than the Canon Mark III.

There is also the fact that I’m used to working with Nikon and like their cameras, though at one point I was sure I would get a Canon camera this time. Anyway, these are of course the things and reasons I’ve been focusing on when I’ve chosen what camera to get. Because these are the right reasons for me, they may not be the right reasons for you. Only you can answer what is the best camera for you and your use.