Jun 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm #1274824
Ah, the dilemma I'm sure we all face.
So I currently shoot with a Fujifilm S9000 most of the time. I've actually been pretty happy with my latest round of shots, but I'm wondering if improved image quality would make it worth upgrading. I've been using it to capture pictures of plants & wildlife while hiking, usually many hundred per day. Here are the specs of this camera:
10.7X zoom, 28-300mm, f2.8-5.6
Full manual modes
No image stabilization
230k pixel flip up screen
The first camera I'm thinking about is its successor, the Fujifilm HS20EXR. It should be an incredibly easy transition for me. The biggest gains would be image stabilization and the big zoom lens. The higher resolution screen might provide enough detail to know if it's actually focusing on the right thing. Other than image stabilization, I doubt this would increase my image quality due to its greater number of megapixels. Here are its specs:
30X zoom, 24-720 mm, f2.8-F5.6
Full manual modes
460k pixel flip up screen
The other camera would be moving up to a DSLR, the Pentax K-r kit with 18-55 mm & 55-300 mm lenses. I would probably only carry the bigger lens while out hiking. Pentax has in-body image stabilization, which I really like for DSLR's, plus it also has AA batteries, which I also greatly love. The screen has even more pixels than the HS20EXR, enough that I could probably manually focus half decently with it. The bigger sensor should equate to higher quality images and lower shutter times. Being able to upgrade the lens later also presents an opportunity to increase image quality further. Here are its specs:
23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS sensor
18-55 mm & 55-300 mm
Full manual modes
Image stabilization in-body
920k pixel fixed screenJun 3, 2011 at 1:19 am #1744348Jun 3, 2011 at 8:58 am #1744432
@ken_bennettLocale: southeastern usa
I would also recommend looking at the Micro 4/3 system cameras. The Panasonic G3 with the 14-42 and the 45-200 would make a very nice, compact, reasonably light kit, with excellent image quality. It will be much smaller than even the smallest APS chip size DSLR cameras.
We have two m4/3 cameras and five lenses in our house, and use them for travel, hiking, and as an everyday carry camera. (And I have a wide selection of DSLR cameras at work, so when I need to step up, I can – but I'll save the weight and space when hiking.)Jun 3, 2011 at 9:22 am #1744445
I'd really like to stick with AA batteries. I've been able to get tremendously long battery life with them–up to 2053 shots on Eneloops with a little juice left over. It can make charging less of a hassle when I get to an electrical outlet. On my next trip I'll be needing to charge a computer, cell phone, and then AA's for my headlamp and camera. At least with AA's I can make that a little easier by switching to lithium batteries. Those smaller DSLR's are nice though, just not for me.
I really do like the Fuji 550EXR, but that would be a secondary camera if I get it. I also like ring lights. I won't get a tripod or softbox since I don't have enough time to set them up. At best I'll try to get an extra bounce off the top of my Chrome Dome umbrella.
You are right about the person behind the lens, that's why I'm thinking I may not upgrade. My only good reasons for an upgrade are image stabilization and a longer zoom, and potentially faster shutter speed for the DSLR. Is that enough?Jun 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm #1744597Jun 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm #1744613
My goal is to take a LOT of pictures. If that can happen in a few seconds, great, otherwise I get what a few seconds can offer.
I just found a thread reported getting 2700 shots on nimh batteries with his K-x. The newer K-r isn't going to suck that much more juice. I see many reports of people getting over 500 shots with Eneloops, and some people reporting 1600 shots with lithiums. I just found a guy that got 1375 shots with his HS20 using Eneloops, although he got less than 600 shots with his S9000 using different nimh batteries. My camera is 'rated' for something like 340 shots on nimh batteries, but I got 2053. Yeah, I'm sticking with AA batteries. There's no sway on that. While I do appreciate people trying to help by recommending other cameras, I'll only consider these three.Jun 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm #1744634
"My goal is to take a LOT of pictures."
Interesting. I prefer to bring home a lot of GOOD pictures.
–B.G.–Jun 3, 2011 at 5:02 pm #1744640
Can we put philosophy aside?Jun 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm #1744665Jun 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm #1744680
The image is worth keeping for me if it's focused on the right thing. Exposure hasn't been a problem except for when I got excited trying to shoot a flying bird and forgot to make the appropriate manual settings, and got a white screen. I may crop, so detail is important. Part of that is sensitivity and glass, but the bigger sensor also helps sensitivity because it means getting less blur of plants moving/vibrating quickly in the wind. I thought that image stabilization and a bigger more sensitive sensor would help, but I don't know how much it would help. Are you saying that they don't contribute at all, or at least not nearly as much as luck?Jun 3, 2011 at 6:37 pm #1744695Jun 3, 2011 at 7:29 pm #1744701
I don't need my shots to be artistic, and I don't see how the camera choice matters. As you said, that's about other factors.
I need my shots to be clear. It's more about plant and wildlife identification. That's why I want detail and less blur. I'd like to be able to see the pollen on a flower in a frame filling shot. Filling the frame isn't a problem, but I seem to be missing some detail when I pixel peep. Let me see if I can examples…
These are some of the better shots in terms of detail and sharp focus:
I think I said in my first post that I'm pretty happy with my last set of shots. I've been using the manual modes to maximize light to the sensor in order to have faster shutter speeds. I guess the thing that I'm struggling with is getting the autofocus to actually focus in the middle of the frame like I'm telling it to. It seems like it'll see some granite on the side of the frame and focus on that instead. Or if the things I'm photographing is very small and has smooth colors, it'll focus on something just behind it…like grass. I swear if I could set the camera to only focus on things within a certain distance, many more of my pictures would come out well. Here's one type of shot where I'm really struggling. Sometimes I can't get close, so I have to zoom. Nothing is sharp. I don't know if it's focused correctly and there's blur, or if it focused on nothing at all. I don't have the experience to tell. Many of my shots into the canopy of tall trees are like this, and unfortunately I don't always have the option to get close to the branches. I want these type of shots to work.
Also, isn't IS good for a stop or three? In reviews they always show it making a significant difference, but with faster shutter speeds and outdoor lighting, does it still matter? What kind of difference would it make with some of the more distant shots? How much difference will it make with the faster shutter speeds that should come with a better sensor? Many of the stabilization tricks require getting further away from the subject, which means less light gets to the sensor when I'm trying to get small plants to fill the frame, so there's a balancing act. I was thinking that IS and a better sensor would make that balancing act less precarious.Jun 3, 2011 at 8:08 pm #1744708Jun 3, 2011 at 8:56 pm #1744720
I'm not within the minimum focusing distance of my camera. It's a very short distance that I can't exceed without getting parts of the plant inside of the lens hood.
My camera has manual focus, but the EVF and screen have such poor resolution that I can't focus finely with it. It's only good for things like a shot I took today of a feature on the inside of my tent fly, shooting through the netting. My camera insisted of focusing on the netting, but manual focus allowed me to get a better focus on the tent fly, although it wasn't great. Closing the aperture might have helped, but I totally forgot to try that, but that might have made for a confusing shot anyway.
I would love to use smaller apertures, but then I really run into the risk of blur due to my movement or the movement of the subject. Using lots of flash would kill battery life, which means carrying lots of batteries. Let me give you an idea of how many pictures I aim to take.
Along the course of a mile, I'd like to photograph at least five plants. Crown, base, bark, macro of the end of a branch, macro of side & end fruit, macro of top & side flowers, and sometimes multiples of each if there is variation within the plant. Let's say 5 shots per plant. On a 10 mile hike this would be 250 shots. Usually I take much more to document the wide variety of plants in transition zones and near water sources. And then there's the wildlife, which is usually bugs because animals have usually run pretty far away before I realize that they were there. If I took more time, I wouldn't go as far, and I wouldn't photograph as many plants.
You see how battery life could be important, and how I have to rely on the capabilities of the camera to make up for lack of tripod and lightbox?
So let's say that any camera accessories won't be used, and flash use will be extremely limited. I could get a brighter headlamp of 500 lumens and use that to supplement lighting for close-in macro shots.
In any case, how small can I get the aperture on a small sensor camera like mine and still have a shutter speed that's quick enough for hand shake not to be a problem? And then, what aperture would that equate to on a APC-C sensor camera? Is there a way to tell by looking at my photos if handshake was the problem?Jun 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm #1744722
What I really should do, and might do, is buy a used DSLR, probably with a single lithium battery and bring it on my next trip to see how they compare. The problem is that I leave for my next trip on the 13th and it's a 3 month trip. That could be a lot of time to know I am carrying the wrong camera.Jun 3, 2011 at 9:20 pm #1744728Jun 3, 2011 at 9:34 pm #1744735
For flower macros in the field, I use about five tall wire stakes (made out of stiff wire) and with a sheet of white cloth about two feet wide and eight feet long. I build a cylindrical cloth frame around the flower this way. If the white cloth is thin enough, subdued sunlight will get through the sunny side and bounce around inside where the flower is. If there isn't enough sunlight, then a small fill flash will bounce around pretty good inside.
The good news is that this doesn't weigh much, and it takes only a minute or two to erect when you find the right specimen.
–B.G.–Jun 3, 2011 at 9:40 pm #1744738
Okay, if image stabilization won't help, and stopping down the lens to f8 produces macro images similar to a DSLR, then I agree that I shouldn't upgrade. I might upgrade later for other types of photography, but for now I just need something that works for outdoor daytime plants and wildlife shots, and it seems that I already have a good enough solution.Jun 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm #1744740
Oh, and one thing I'm doing is geo tagging all my pictures. If I see something really interesting, I'll come back later with better photography gear and much more time.
And I apologize if I've been short. The pressure of preparing to leave in about a week for a 3 month trip plus the time issues of deciding on and receiving a new camera is putting me on edge. I really appreciate the help you've been offering.Jun 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm #1744748
Keep in mind that your camera needs contrast to focus on. To simplify it is easier to focus on a black letter on white paper than just on white or black.
So set the focus on AF and the mode on Center focus.
Now if you point that Center square at something with contrast it will focus almost instantly even on Macro.
If you keep the shutter button half a way down you are activating "focus lock", the lens will remain focused at that distance regardless where you are pointing at.
So practice pointing the lens at something that is at the same distance as the subject, lock it in then recompose and shoot.
FrancoJun 3, 2011 at 10:24 pm #1744750
Franco, I do that, but I don't trust my center focus setting. It seems to be much bigger than the center square because it'll focus on things nearly a quarter of the width from the edge. Unfortunately the EVF and screen are too crude to tell what's actually in focus. That's part of the reason I take so many pictures. I'll try different 'tricks' to get the right focus. Oh, and I'm incredibly familiar with the half press. I had to do that on my first two trips this year. A half press would capture focus, and then I'd have to wait for the wind to stop blowing so the plant would swing back into my frame, and then I'd shoot. At first I was trying to keep my hands out of pictures, but I've given up and I've started holding the plant when it's windy. Oh man, I just remembered another way to use my camera. I forgot that I could use autofocus in manual mode. That would let me hold the plant to get autofocus to work right, and then take multiple pictures in manual mode without my hand in the frame without having to re-focus. Ugh, why didn't I remember that earlier??? That would save battery life too. Although, the way my camera is built requires both hands on the camera…so I need a third hand to hold the plant. Any cameras out there with a third hand? I do have a remote shutter. I might try seeing if that will let me do this with one hand while the other holds the plant.Jun 3, 2011 at 10:30 pm #1744752
That's why they invented plant clamps. It is a plastic clamp with a wire or cord attached to it. You can clamp this very loosely around the stem or stalk without hurting the plant. Then you can pull it slightly one way or the other for stability.
–B.G.–Jun 3, 2011 at 10:42 pm #1744756
Good idea Bob. The Plamp is more expensive, bulkier and heavier than I'd like. In good BPL fashion, I went straight to Google and searched for titanium wire. It's 1.1 ounces versus 5 ounces.Jun 3, 2011 at 11:05 pm #1744766
There are many different sizes of plastic clamp. You know what plants you are going after, and you know the size of the stem or stalk, so you know what size of plastic clamp you can use. Nearly all of the metal paper clamps are too small for me, and I don't want to damage the plants.
–B.G.–Jun 4, 2011 at 7:34 am #1744803
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
My first impression is, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But it seems you are looking for more.
I think upgrading to a camera with a larger CMOS sensor will give better color and modulation. You will get a lot of other features along with the upgrade, regardless of the model you buy. Your Fuji camera is a 2005 model and there have been a lot of changes since.
If you are using the images for professional publication or printing, I would get the best DSLR I could afford, and include a true macro lens, tripod, remote release, ring and off-camera flash, lighting reflectors and diffusers, and enough spare batteries to do the job. I would be choosing a camera system that offers well-integrated off-camera flash features and macro lenses, a good bright viewfinder, and a fast and large CMOS sensor.
I would investigate adding a true macro lens as they are designed to produce a sharp image across the image at those close distances. Many general-purpose zooms incorporate macro features, but always with design compromises to speed, sharpness throughout the zoom range, color fringing, light falloff and other optical aberrations.
If you are making images for your personal enjoyment, then you can modify that list to suit your budget, weight issues, and satisfaction with the images.
I do appreciate your issues with the batteries, but I think you are painting yourself in a corner. I'm sure the Pentax K-r would provide excellent images, but the AA battery performance isn't stellar, particularly with alkaline batteries. I do like the interchangeable adapter, as it is light and allows using both types of batteries without a lot of fuss.
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