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Re: Cameras (long rambling techie stuff on fish portraits)
Regarding my picture of a Preston springfish with the Sony D770.
Al Anderson wrote:
> That is a good shot indeed.
Much of the credit should go to Doug Habersaat, who provided the portable
field tank, background and the whole setup. All I had to do was walk up and
snap when the fish was in a good spot. It does show that the camera has
superb macro capability, though. The picture wasn't cropped at all. Same
with the tiny desert butterfly. [Try sneaking close to one of them, some
time!] It was all of an inch or so wide. You can't *use* much closer macro
on most killifish. I actually use a mild telephoto most of the time, for
quasi-macro shots. It looks best (no "big-nose Ernie" effect) and the fish
can fill the frame, nicely.
Ellen Siegal, my DSAC buddy (and who was in some of the pics), came all the
way over from Bishop to make me a wonderful turkey dinner. I broke off the
first note to go do the dishes (least I could do, no?), but decided more
information is in order. Wish *I* had this about three cameras ago. ;-)
The 10:1 or 14:1 zoom lenses developed for camcorders, and adapted to still
cameras, simply never can have the good quality that a well-designed 5:1 or
3:1 zoom can have. To get more range without compromising quality, I use a
1.5X tele-extender to get to 222mm equiv. (distant big game) and a set of 1,
2 and 3X portrait attachments for really close tiny work (smaller than
I only use the close-up lens set to deliberately reduce the depth of field,
when I want the background or plants less focused. Otherwise, the 5:1 zoom
handles everything from wide angle to telephoto, with an incredible focus
range (auto or manual). It's the equivalent of a 35mm-camera lens of
28-148mm focal length. [It's macro is not really capable of working as close
as the Nikon 9xx, though.] Small ccds give too much depth of field, so the
nice blurry Anubias is hard to do, until they make them bigger.
This, BTW, was my *4th* digital camera! I got stung by the limits of
Point-And-Shoot, and by one camera that used NiCd batteries that had no
lifetime at all. Proprietary flash storage (bad, indeed), and physically
weak, swiveling bodies were rough bumps in my learning curve, too.
A hot-shoe and/or PC remote-flash cable *and* a cable release or IR remote,
like on the Sony, are truly vital for getting decent fish pics, I think.
Most P&S cameras are missing those important characteristics. Good shots
require a good strong external flash, and having it in the camera is just
about the worst place for it, usually. The puny ones in the cameras don't
hack it, really, anyway. They just cause glare on the glass, most of the
time, and leave the fish still too dark to be even seen. You need a guide
number (at ASA 100) of 150 or so, IMHO. I use a Vivitar 285HV, plus I have a
couple of slaves -- one weak and one overpowering.
Shooting at an angle to the glass (to avoid glare) introduces astigmatism,
and can even make the autofocus do really bizarre things, sometimes. It does
reduce your depth-of-field dramatically, if you need that.
Some good questions to ask when buying a camera that needs to take fish
Does it have remote flash capability?
Can batteries and memory be changed without disturbing the tripod setting?
[Many must be taken clear off the tripod! A genuine PITA!]
BTW. Forget hand holding. Hand jitter added to fish motion can defeat even
quite fast flash! Use a tripod.
Are the optics suited to the task? Are adapters available? [BTW, I have yet
to see a 3.3MP camera with optics that could even support 1MP adequately.
Beware market hype!]
Does it have a review histogram to show the exposure distribution, so you
*know* it will be an editable picture?
Does it have a remote cable or IR release so you can stay out of the way and
shoot without bothering a very spooky fish?
Does the unit memory size permit many pictures with many Megabytes of data?
[Floppies are pretty useless, BTW.] Compact flash is best, Smart Flash is
OK, but may or may not last. Sony stick memory is like buying a Beta tape
unit. No way it can survive as things look for now. Might change some day.
CD-R is too slow, I think. Microdrives are super, but do not work in my
Can you independently set the EV, the shutter speed and aperture, so it
works with a normal automatic thyrister flash gun, either direct or bounce?
My friends with Nikon 9xxs despair of getting good fish pictures, for the
camera doesn't lend itself to the task. You can build a DIY shutter release
kluge, and put an opaque cover/mirror on the flash to get it to trigger a
remote slave flash. Even with the full manual control, it's still rough
getting exposure right, unless you have an incredibly adjustable slave
flash. Without a histogram, you are never *sure* until it is too late.
Last, but far from least, is a little-speced feature called "shutter delay."
If you cannot fix focus and exposure, the auto system must fiddle around for
a significant fraction of a second. All you will get is pictures of tails
leaving the scene. Many cameras will let you half push the release button
for focus and exposure setting and then get a low-delay shutter release when
you push the rest of the way. Unfortunately, most of them are truly hard to
use, as the difference between half and full is just about a tenth of a
sneeze. Try before you buy! Once the flash spooks the fish, you may have a
long wait for him to settle down and regain normal color.
Things I wish the Sony D770 had:
Microdrive capability. It takes any Type-II PC-card or adapter (flash,
smart, stick), but doesn't power the microdrives.
IR remote sensor on the back where it belongs. I have to bounce it off the
aquarium glass, sometimes.
A ccd or CMOS sensor at least 4X as big in area. Lower noise, hence higher
ASA speed, needs bigger individual cells. [The 3.3MP camera pics all have
noisy dark areas in almost any lighting. Look at the blues, particularly.]]
Interchangable lenses based on a good 35mm design.
The closest thing, yet, to having all the goodies (if you can afford it and
can find one in stock) is the brand new Canon EOS D-30. My 770 costs about
$600 and the Canons are more like $3000. It uses the famous tennis player's
"Image is Everything" EOS lenses, and some are really quite good. It's a
true SLR, so the mirror must flop for every shot. IDK if the shutter delay
is quite as low as on the 770.
Hope that helps David and any others looking for a surprise from Santa.
There are a number of more-or-less independent reviewers on the web. One I
like a lot is:
Steve has links to other sites, there, besides his own reviews. Check any
prospective purchase with these sites to see what you are getting into. My
comments above are mostly fish-portrait specific. You'll have lots of other
uses for the camera, so make sure your investment will pay off for what
*you* want to do. OK?
Wright Huntley, Fremont CA, USA, 510 612-1467
An aquarium is just interactive television for cats.
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- Re: Cameras
- From: "Nonn Panitvong" <npanitvong at hotmail_com>
- Re: Cameras
- From: Wright Huntley <huntley1 at home_com>
- Re: Cameras
- From: "Al Anderson" <killiman at indy_net>