I was supposed to start photographing new pieces for the site this week and had prepared by buying a shiny, new 14 megapixel camera. Very exciting. It was when I began taking some test shots that I realized things looked a bit… off. In the macro shots I was seeing way too much grain for my liking. Depth of field was also a real problem as well as a general, overall flat feel to the photos. I use photo bulbs and light tents, so I didn’t think that was the problem.
I freely admit I’m a point-and-shoot person and I think this should acceptable, even celebrated, in 2011. When we regularly bounce our text messages off satellites, when we drive cars that are near super computers and when we can manipulate the DNA of our produce to alter its flavor or shelf life… then I think expecting a point-and-shoot to work well is not unreasonable.
After two days of becoming increasingly annoyed with my new Canon, I looked back at some macro photos from my old Nikon and realized… these look better! How can that be, the Nikon is a 12 year old, 2.1 megapixel camera.
After more test shots and speaking with several photo knowledgeable folks, I got the impression that on the newer mid to high-end point-and-shoot cameras… some things had been gradually sacrificed in order to give us more features. Today a typical point-and-shoot camera in the $120 range gives you 12 megapixels, a 10x or better optical zoom and even pretty good video capability for a family outing or a day at the beach. Where these cameras fall a bit short is close-up and macro photography. They can do it, but with mixed results in my view.
I suppose this makes all the sense in the world. Let’s face it, more people want to take good quality snapshots and family videos than want to photograph a window sill from a Z scale laser kit. It’s an ugly truth for model railroaders, but a truth nonetheless. So as I was boxing up my brand new camera tonight for a return to the store I was deciding on what to do about a new camera. I could spend a really large chunk of money on a good DSLR and macro lens and get ready for a healthy learning curve or… I could go retro and get great results quickly. You betcha, retro won.
On this note I hope to have a new and improved, 8 or 9-year-old Nikon in my hands in a week or so. Well, it’ll be new to me. There’s just too much small detail in Z to skip over with a camera that just can’t get in there. When you’re building a brass or wood laser kit or looking closely at a dirty locomotive gear to illustrate a point… you want to see it and see it clearly.
Once I add these close up Z photos from my new old camera, I think you’ll see why I’ve gone slightly retro. Now if I can just figure out a way to bring back Pong…