I knew I needed a digital camera for Life Nomadic, my 2008 trip around the world. But which one should I get?
Point and shoots just don't cut it. The trip was planned to bring me to some of the most amazing places on earth, and there was no way I wasn't going to capture them in the best quality possible.
I tried to find high end point and shoots - some costing as much as $500. Still, they just don't have that rich feel that SLRs (the big ones) have.
1. Pictures are made out of light. The more light you get inside the camera, the more information the camera has to make the picture, and thus the higher quality it is. Megapixels are a bit misleading once you get past 4 or 5. The size of the lens and the image sensor size matter a lot more. Point and shoots have tiny sensors and tiny lenses.
2. Small lenses have no depth of field. Depth of field is when the camera only focuses on a narrow plane, so everything else is out of focus. This sounds bad, but is actually good because it helps define the subject of the image. Pay attention and you'll see that every professional picture or video has it.
Ok, so no point and shoot.
What about SLRs? One problem:
1. They're freaking huge.
I'm traveling with a tiny backpack - and that's it. An SLR would take up a good third of my alloted space.
The only solution seemed to be the Sigma DP-1, a camera had been rumored to come out for years but never surfaced. It combined a bigger lens with a bigger sensor. Not SLR, but not point and shoot either. It was pretty compact and seemed like a good compromise.
But... we had our tickets for January 7th and there was no indication that the camera would come out before then. I waited and waited.
Eventually I realized I wouldn't get the camera before I left. I researched desperately for weeks until I finally hit the jackpot.
There's yet another kind of digital camera, called a Digital Rangefinder. Why hadn't I heard about it before? Because there are only TWO models ever produced.
Digital Rangefinders use the same size sensors and lenses as an SLR, but are far smaller. This is because SLRs have a large moving mirror in them to reflect light from the lens to the eyepiece. Digital Rangefinders have a separate smaller focusing method.
The two Digital Rangefinders are the Epson R-D1s and the Leica M8. The Epson costs around $2500 and the Leica costs about $4000. I didn't really want to spend either amount of money, but eventually caved and bought the R-D1s.
And I couldn't be any happier.
It is incredible. Looking at it is like looking at a piece of art. It has no digital indicators at all until you flip around the stealthily hidden screen on the back. The top analog gauges show battery life, pictures, white balance, and image mode. Looking at it, most people would mistake it for an old film camera.
The pictures it takes are nothing short of stunning. It's even thought to be better in low light situations than the more expensive Leica. I've never taken a photo with a real camera before, but now my shots could be confused for a pro's.
The only apparent disadvantage is that everything is manual other than white balance and exposure. You set the F stop, focus, and aperture manually. You can also set the exposure manually if you want.
At first this takes some getting used to, but truthfully not as much as you'd think. Now I can shoot all day and forget that it's not automatic. This, of course, gives me a lot more control over the photos.
To see some shots I've taken with it, check out our Flickr Account for Life Nomadic.
If you think life's to short to not take amazing pictures of it, check out ebay deals on the R-D1s. As I write this there are a couple for under $2000, which is a very good deal. The normal "best price" is around $2100.
P.S. The R-D1 is an earlier model that's pretty much exactly the same. A free firmware upgrade makes it identical.
Congratulations with the Epson. I got my R-D1s (bought on ebay) in October and am very happy with it.
All the best for the big trip. I will be delighted to follow you on flickr.
The digital rebels are much larger than this:
Rebel : 3.7 x 5 x 2.6 inches
R-D1s : 3.5 x 5.6 x 1.6 inches
31.4 cubic inches vs 48.1
The lenses for the rebel are also larger because they're autofocus and auto aperture and all that.
This camera is also higher quality than a rebel (although not as high quality as similarly priced SLRs)
Haven't you looked at canon digital rebels!? Their bodies are about as big as a canon A570 + 10/20% in volume, which for an SLR, is tiny. It has the same full sized sensors, and large lens. The range finder lens looks about as big as a point & shoot lens. And canons are some of the best quality camera's out there.
To say that we packed light is an understatement. We packed super light. Someone recently told me a saying that stuck in my mind.
"No one ever wishes they packed heavier."
So true. With fewer baggage comes more freedom, and that's exactly what we're after. Still, when Todd suggested that we take only a small backpack each, I thought he was crazy.
My self imposed LMMM challenge is over as of yesterday Feb 16.
I was looking back and I made approximately 600 or so images over a span of 8 weeks. Not great, but not lousy either. And most of them are photos of my daughter! The other 'topic' I photographed the most, if I can call that is what I see on my commute. I have been intentionally intently looking around when driving, especially when stopped at traffic lights - and now I am amazed that what I thought was a dead subject where I could not make any photos at all - now there are some very nice photos I can see. It is still very very tough to try to make a lyrical, beautiful image out of a bunch of cars waiting in front of me...but sometimes, the way the evening sun falls partially on yellow bins in the middle of the road (what are they? I never saw them before!) making some of their yellows so bright and beautiful juxtaposed with the dark somber almost grey, but sometimes chocolatey asphalt, beautiful!
I was supposed to be shooting in black and white only for the past 8 weeks, and that is what I did - except for two occasions where I had to take color photographs. I think this exercise is supposed to help with seeing luminosity. Now I do seem to see light, glorious light almost all the time, a split second before evaluating the subject - because of Black and White or because I am trying hard to make this into a habit...I am not sure. And I see beautiful color, subtle pastels, glowing bright amazing colors. I wonder how I will fare for one year of no color. I used to think I loved black and white - now I know that I love color too!
I was supposed to use only one lens throughout this 8 week period. And I mostly did - for 6 weeks. I have fallen even more in love with my Konica Hexanon 50mm f1.7 - and I cannot express in words wht I like about the pictures that lens draws...it just talks to me (like my EP5). However I switched my lens out to a newly acquired Leica M Summilux 35mm f1.4 for Week 7 and Week 8. I bought this lens in preparation for my Leica year. I am getting better at using manual lenses. Somewhere halfway, I came across the idea of "zone focusing" manual lenses - link from Ming Thein. And this is what I am practicing now. A method to how to focus manually - without having to look at the focus ring!
During this challenge, I did not use the light meter on the camera, and I tried to manually calculate the correct exposure (in my head). This is still very very hard for me. I wa sinitially almost randomly bracketing - but then over the last two weeks, I have been using the 'Sunny 16" rule and its variants. This is still a project for the future, and I have this link on - learning 'GSOTPANWASTOTZSS' to help me out.