Five Easy Tips for Using Nifty Fifty

After using the 50mm prime lens with my Canon DSLR for some time, I think I’m getting a hang of it. It is undoubtedly one of the first non-kit lenses you should purchase. I am no expert, but it does give me the result I expect from a DSLR. The images are tack sharp and sufficiently stuffed with the creamy bokeh or blur effect. This post is based on what I learned after using the Nifty Fifty for some time:

Use Appropriate Aperture

As I continue to explore (and define) the limits of the lens, I find that just because the lens allows me to use an aperture that’s as wide as f/1.8, I shouldn’t go for the wider aperture. As is the case with every other lens I have used, the workable sharpness lies between the maximum and minimum aperture, excluding both the extremes. This means, though I can go as wide as f/1.8, the usable, workable images have an aperture that’s ever so slightly smaller than f/1.8. At f/1.8, notice how shallow the depth of field gets (Notice only the brim of the glass is visibly sharp. Of course, I held the camera at an angle to explain you the effect):

7585943552_IMG_0795

You are the Zoom

This one takes some time getting used to, especially if you are a novice photographer like me and are used to using the kit lenses. You, too, would find how easy it is to zoom in and zoom out of the kit lenses to capture just the right frame. I know, this means that you would be compromising on the aperture (and hence light), but that’s plain convenient. A prime lens, like this one, doesn’t zoom. It captures what truly you see with your eyes. This means you must move around, go near to or farther away from the subject, to get the perfect shot.

Walk Around

Try experimenting with the lens. It might take you a lot of practice, capturing, composing, and recomposing before you get the combination of light, aperture, setting, and subject. So, walk around the subject and try experimenting. This lens allows you to push the limits of your photography. Try low light situations, capturing silhouettes, with facing into the Sun, or just at the widest aperture. Much like me, you might get surprised with the lens’ capabilities.

7585943552_IMG_0791

Take a step or two forward or backward. Location credits: Pind Balluchi, Indore.

Take Multiple Images

When possible, take multiple shots. Bracket those shots in a range of apertures or shutter speeds. Let the subject move around. You can always take the best pick later.

Use a Tripod

I know that not everyone would recommend it with the prime lens. But, if you have one, I’d recommend. I believe this is one of the most versatile lenses I’ve used. I can take portraits, landscapes, panoramas, and low-light images with it. It is lightweight and comfy. And, if you love experimenting with your photography, like me, a tripod will help you push your limits. Try getting a long exposure, capturing a panorama where you horizontally pan the camera to capture motion, or simply clicking a portrait in low-light. This lens does it all.

I’m still experimenting with the lens. But, if you like this list and could add to it, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy clicking.

Why I Bought a Nifty Fifty

Why I Bought a Nifty Fifty

It has been some time since I wrote on photography. Not for that sake though, here’s a list of reasons I bought a fixed focal length lens, also called prime lens, also called the Nifty Fifty:

Small and Lightweight

This lens is right for everyday use; you can carry it everywhere. It is hardly around 140 grams; probably as light as my cell phone. In fact, you can put it on your camera and forget it. That’s now become one of my favorite lenses.

Versatile

I read a lot of reviews before I purchased the lens. But, after using it for some time, I realize how I missed buying it for all this while. It takes portraits and landscapes alike. In fact, I’ve tried a few macro photos as well. And the result has been satisfactory.

Just the right field of view

I know this one’s subjective. But, if you are more into portraits, this one gives you just the right bracket of focal length. While the focal length stays at 50mm on a full-frame (Yes, the same lens works on a full-frame, at least the one I bought – Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM), the focal length changes to [roughly] 78mm on an APS-C camera. I find the focal length just right for me, for it lets in just enough view for me to capture.

Fast: Good for Night Photography

It is a wide aperture lens. So, wide open at f/1.8, it can take a picture even in low-light conditions. That makes it a go-to lens for me. I can use it for presentations, portraits, landscapes, and street photography. That brings me to my next point.

Sleek: Good for Street Photography

Some of us are camera shy, let us just accept that. Even further, in some cases, for example, traveling, you would wish to capture the day-routines of people around you, without disturbing either the routine or the people. This lens makes it possible for you to do that. Of course, provided you have the required subject in focus.

Price

This is, by far, one of the cheapest of non-kit lenses available in the market. I remember, Canon used to have the older 50mm f/1.8 II, which was expensive, and the first generation 50mm f/1.8, which used to have a plastic mount. This one has a sturdy built, comes with a metal mount, and has auto-focus with a stepped-motor construction for smooth and easy focus, and I bought it for less than 8,000 INR in 2017.

In the featured image you can see how I could get a really shallow is the depth of field with this lens.

So, what are your reasons to buy a Nifty Fifty?

And that’s why I’d go for a DSLR

In February, this year, I released a post on why I’d prefer a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC) over a digital SLR (DSLR). Over time, I continued my analysis and reading. Not that I chose to change my choice, given one, but I definitely liked to see the other side of the story. And, that’s exactly what this post is about.

As was with that post, too, the following premise stands:

  • I am an amateur enthusiast photographer. And, I am happy with my current point-and-shoot Canon IXUS HS 300. But, because I’ve tried the gear to its limits, I am looking out for a new one.
  • I know that the best camera is the one that I current hold in my hands. Other than that, it all depends on my imagination and creativity.
  • And, that none of the big or small companies have ever paid me to write for them. So, no imaginations on that part.

Here I go.

The battery life isn’t good enough, yet

As an enthusiast, I want my gear to be ever ready for me. But, with mirrorless cameras, the battery has always been an issue. Yes, I can carry multiple batteries. But, why would I choose to do that? Besides, how many batteries would I be required to carry? As of today, the mirrorless provides a battery that’s only about half of that of a DSLR. Unless there comes a technology that helps batteries retain their power for long or help extensively improve the battery efficiency, I’d choose to use a DSLR.

What about options (Or, is it choices?)

The mirrorless is still mostly a new technology for users like me. And, for the APS-C sensor market, there aren’t, frankly, as many options, leaving out the likes of Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, Samsung, and, very recently, Canon, of which the majority isn’t available in India. And, if the choices were available, they wouldn’t be any cheap, either. Hey, that should count as two points, and not one. And, what about the retailers and repair facilities?

See, I’ll tell you how I look at it. For me, a product can only be sold once. After that, the product has to sell for itself. So, a network that can help users get access to sufficient choices in accessories, and sufficient outlets for sales and repairs, should be established even before bringing products into new markets. But, mostly, it happens the other way around.

The (way too) expensive lenses

First, the lenses aren’t available. A lens as basic as the Sony Zeiss 50mm f1.4 was released as recently as July 2016, until which time the customers had to make do with only the f1.8 one. And, the f1.4 lens comes at whopping 119,000 (INR) in December 2016. Again, this is not specific to a brand, but, given the choices, I’d prefer waiting until the market matures.

The rolling issue of the rolling shutter

The jello effect is apparent in videos taken from even the full frame mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7r mark II. But, going forward, this issue might meet resolutions (no pun intended), I believe. It is just that we’ve found a new technology, but are yet to realize its full potential. So, for now, I will stick to the conventional DSLR and bank on its lens-feature-price combination until we are, at least, close to hitting any such sweet combination for the mirrorless siblings.

Because size does (not) matter

Remember I said that mirrorless cameras can be easier to carry because of their compact form factor and lighter weight? Well, I realize I was partly true. That’s because, despite how carry-able my camera is, I am never going to use it ALONE; that I will always have a lens attached to it. For enthusiasts, it is easy to assume that they will continue to experiment with lenses. They will buy or rent heavier, longer lenses on the same camera. And, this is where they might face issues. The overall system of the camera and the lens will somehow feel unbalanced and difficult to carry with a heavier lens attached to a light-weight camera. In my case, I anyway will carry at least two-three lenses, and a mirrorless camera will mean I will also have to carry an extra battery, too. This, sort of, negates to overall size and weight advantage.

There’s more. The compact size means that you have lesser real estate to grip in your hands. That’s not an issue for me, because I have small hands. But, for those with bigger hands, things might be different. I reckon they have a look at the Single Lens Translucent mirror (SLT) cameras from Sony. The new Sony A99 mark II is the new candidate on my WANTED list.

The Viewfinder that’s yet to reach its maturity

I agree, this one is as debatable and subjective as one’s taste. Although I would love to promote a newer technology, it is the dependability on the technology that bothers me the most. The truth is, a share of the power goes to viewfinders on mirrorless ILCs to power your vision through the lens. This means – you guessed it – additional battery drain. I would love to see a combination of optical viewfinder on a mirrorless, if that’s possible. But, let us just strike off this point from the list for now. That’s because amateur photographers, like me, rely on the Live View for taking pictures.

So much for the benefits?

The benefits – that’s the term the marketing experts use to sell you a product – that we are talking about are Wi-Fi sharing, in-body image stabilization, better burst rates even in the APS-C sized sensor category, and a remarkable ease in video creation. Benefits is the word here, because it brings in ease of accessibility and almost an exhaustive feature set. The question is if these benefits are worth your investment.

Amongst the many benefits that we see a mirrorless has over a DSLR, we must accept the above discussed points, although with a pinch of salt. Until the mirrorless category matures enough to address at least the battery and the lens option issues, I would choose remain rather conventional.

How do I Understand and Use Shutter Speed?

I am continuing from where we left off when we previously talked about photography. This post is a part of the series of posts on Photography Basics, a series born out of my interest in the subject. In this series, I write and share with you what I get to learn about the topic. The impressions are entirely mine, and you are free to differ. (Though I don’t wish you to.)

Shutter speed is one of the most important things to consider in photography; the others being the aperture, focal length, and ISO. So far we’ve covered aperture in detail. Before we get to talk about shutter speed, we must first understand what a shutter is.

What is Shutter?

Shutters are like curtains. And, what do curtains do? They control the amount of light entering a room. Similarly, shutters help control the amount of light falling onto the imaging sensor through the lens. The basic mechanism in cameras is that when you click the shutter button, or tell the camera to capture an image – by releasing the shutter (that’s what it is called, technically), the camera opens and closes the shutter to expose the imaging sensor to the light. The imaging sensor captures this light and produces an image that is then written into the memory card and displayed on the LCD panel of the camera.

What is a Shutter Speed? And, what are fast and slow shutter speeds?

Shutter Speed is a representation for the length of time for which the shutter remains open. But, why speed? Speed, in photography, is more than just a figure of speech. Understand that the imaging sensor, by default, captures the image for only a frame of time. In some advance-level DSLRs, this frame of time can be as fast as 8000th of a second. But, you can regulate the image by manipulating the amount of time for which the shutter lets the light pass through to the imaging sensor – hence, fast and slow shutter speeds.

A fast shutter speed means that the imaging sensor is exposed to the light for only a fraction of a second; that the shutter opens and closes speedily (as speedily as 8000th of a second, as we just discussed). So, the light is exposed to the imaging sensor for only a short amount of time. So, if you see photographs of people hung in the air as they jumped, it was probably the camera that captured them at higher shutter speeds. Here’s a picture that my friend Arun shared with me specially for this post! Arun is a blogger, too. I love reading his blogs IdleMusingz and Lulling Lores.

arun-with-his-daughter-riddhi

Whereas, a slow shutter speed means that the shutter remains open for anything longer than a second (technically, anything slower and longer than a 100th of a second should be called slow shutter speed). Today’s cameras can have slower shutters that open for as long as 30 seconds to capture one frame. That’s actually slow. And, then there’s this bulb mode, where the shutter remains open for as long as the shutter button is in the released position. It is like 30 seconds of slow shutter speed multiplied by the amount of time the shutter button is released – something of that sort. But, that can be controlled by an intervalometer, which, as the name suggests, can be used for taking pictures at regular intervals.

How do I apply the understanding of shutter speed while capture images?

To capture an image, as you already now, you need the right focus, an aperture that lets in sufficient light onto the imaging sensor, an ISO that’s set to sufficient light sensitivity, and a sufficient shutter speed to capture the details. Irrespective of what or where you are capturing, you will need a combination of all these.

If, for example, you are shooting in the dark (or want to create a dramatic effect that shows flow), to set your camera to capture for longer shutter durations, because to capture a sharp image you will have to let in more light onto the imaging sensor. But, this again is subjective.

I prefer to shoot in the Aperture Priority mode. So, all I am supposed to do is control the aperture. The camera system controls the other elements based on the aperture I choose. This means that if I choose f/4, the camera system will analyze the scene and then set the other values automatically for me. Typically, a 2:1 ratio is associated for the aperture and shutter speed calculations.

How do I create special or artistic effects?

To capture images creatively, you have to learn to adjust your creativity to match the capabilities of your camera. There are lot of techniques available on the Internet that I found were easy to try. The motion blur effect that you see in all those utterly-clichéd photographs (Sorry, but no sorry.) of waterfalls, seascapes, and clouds are the result of slower shutter speeds. Here’s what I captured on my way to Harihareshwar (Konkan area), some years back.

zippy-drive

Feeling dizzy looking at the picture? Me too!

You can combine a relatively slower shutter speed with panning to create a motion blur. Some photographers use this technique in sports and automotive photography. For those who don’t know about panning, it is a technique where the camera is fixed to a tripod and then moved from one point to another keeping the motion horizontally parallel to either the ground or the movement of the subject.

Are there any rules?

Yes; Keep the shutter speed inversely proportional to the aperture. The wider the aperture, the slower the shutter speed. Otherwise, you may end up over exposing or under exposing your photographs.

Rain Rain Come Again.jpg

That one’s from my Flickr profile.

I am still experimenting with the shutter speed: My Canon IXUS HS is a Point & Shoot, which powers up to only about 3 frames per second. So, I don’t have a lot of ground for a high speed action. The truth is:  Your creativity is your only limit.

Until next time, happy clicking!

What is Aperture?

This post is a part of the series of posts on Photography Basics.


I’ve been reading about it ever since I decided on nurturing my interest in photography. And, the more I read about it, the more I feel the need to read about it. Of course, experimentation follows reading – in fact, experimentation trumps reading – but it is always good to know things before you try them. And, hence this post.

In photography, what is aperture?

In simple terms, it is the hole/space through which the light (and hence the image) travels through the lens onto the imaging sensor and, if available, through the viewfinder. The aperture is one of the most important points to consider while capturing images. The other important points are the focal length, the ISO, and the shutter speed.

Basically, it is the right setting of the aperture that helps you bring either everything into the focus or only the subject by blurring the background. But, how does that happen? That happens because the aperture controls the amount of light entering into the lens and onto the imaging sensor. And – unfortunately – here’s the catch! A large aperture doesn’t mean more light onto the sensor. In fact, it is the opposite; A small aperture means that the lens is open wide enough to pass abundant light onto the imaging sensor.

How does the aperture affect the depth of field?

You can control the light entering the lens using a diaphragm. A diaphragm is a device (if that is the right word) that functions much like the pupil in a human eye – Diaphragm controls the diameter of the lens opening. The structures within this diaphragm are called stops. Each stop represents are definitive number that defines the opening of the lens.

The lens aperture is typically written as an f-number, which is also called f-stop. This f-stop represents the ratio of focal length to the opened aperture diameter. The following picture, which is taken from the Wikipedia page for aperture – which I think best describes the concept – represents the range of aperture. Remember that lower the aperture number, larger the opening of the lens.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Lens exposure per f-stop: Wikipedia (Image Credits) best describes the concept of aperture. Look how the aperture settings change for each f-stop

 

Wikipedia mentions, “Reducing the aperture size increases the depth of field”. This means that you will choose a smaller aperture number when you want to cover everything between the subject and the photograph’s actual plane of focus, with the subject and the plane of focus included. For a shallower depth of field, and to isolate the subject from its plane of focus (Yes, for that creamy bokeh!), you will use a large aperture – typically something like f/4.

Let me make it simpler for you:

  • If you want the entire picture in focus, use the following formula:

Entire Area in Focus = Greater DOF = Smaller Opening in Lens = Higher f-stop

(f/8 through f/16)

  • If you want only the subject in focus, use the following formula:

Only Subject in Focus = Shallower DOF = Larger Opening in Lens = Smaller f-stop

(f/5.6 through f/1.4)

You can have f-stops that are smaller than f/1.4 and larger than f/16, but I am only using those figuratively here – to give you the idea.

How does the understanding of aperture affect my photography?

Switch from the automatic mode on your camera. If you are using a DSLR, switch to the “A” mode from the “PASM” modes available. For those who are new to this setting, the DSLR allows modes other than the two at the extreme ends of the spectrum – the Automatic and the Manual modes. The PASM here stands for Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual Mode. For those of you who are using a point and shoot (P&S) camera, use the manual mode and set the aperture. You will have to dig into the menus, because every P&S has its own style of menus.

Select Aperture Priority as the mode for shooting. Aperture Priority is like a semi-automatic mode of shooting – but with a difference. Based on the aperture you set, the camera calculates and chooses the best possible ISO and shutter speed. You can use this to practice and master your understanding on aperture. Once you are habitual with the change in the shutter speed and ISO based on the aperture you choose, you can experiment with the Manual Mode, while changing any of these elements – Experimentation, as I said, trumps theoretical knowledge.

Do “fast” and “slow” lenses have anything to do with aperture?

A little background before we come to that question… Lenses come with either fixed aperture or variable aperture. For example, the 70-200mm f/2.8 denotes that across the focal length of the lens (70mm and 200mm, respectively), the lens will maintain fixed aperture of f/2.8; and the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 means that at 70mm, the lens will get you f/4.0 aperture and at 300mm, the lens will get you f/5.6 aperture.

Let us go back to the basics now. The lens aperture, as we discussed, denotes the lens opening diameter (managed by the diaphragm). A larger opening – which means a smaller f-number – will help you capture a lot of light, and a lot of details in your image. So, for a smaller f-number, opt for faster shutter speed. If this is too technical, read how simply Wikipedia defines this for you, “The aperture is proportional to the square root of the light admitted, and thus inversely proportional to the square root of required exposure time, such that an aperture of f/2 allows for exposure times one quarter that of f/4.”

Note that for both the fixed and the variable aperture lenses, we consider the maximum aperture opening as the most useful. This value of the maximum aperture opening is also called the lens speed. Lenses with aperture openings equal to or wider than f2.8 are called faster lenses. These lenses will give you faster focusing (usually, in combination with sharper picture, better detail retention, and faster shutter speeds). And, because you can focus faster with these lenses, they are called “fast” lenses. The lenses, though, are typically expensive.

I hope I have understood the concept of aperture, and that I was able to reproduce my knowledge correctly. I’d like you to let me know if there are any improvements.

Happy clicking!

What are the Advantages of DSLRs over Point and Shoot Cameras?

This post is a part of the series of posts on Photography Basics.


From all the question I’ve had on the subject, this one was perhaps the most common: What’s the advantage of a DSLR (or a mirrorless) over a Point and Shoot digital camera? This post lists down the points I gleaned.

Though it is true that the new Single Lens Translucent Mirror (SLT) or Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras (MILCs) are technologies that are different from the DSLRs, for the purpose of the post we will consider those as part of the DSLRs. I could have used the Interchangeable Lens Cameras (ILCs) as the differentiating category, but the sensor size is smaller than the commonly used APS-C in the popular SLTs and MILCs by Sony. And, the sensor does make a difference to the picture quality.

If you are a novice, and are yet to explore the limits of your Point and Shoot (P&S) digital camera, I recommend that you to look into the controls other than the Automatic mode to learn photography. This will help you learn about the things that your P&S is capable of doing, other than clicking pictures and shooting videos.

So, here are some of the advantages of DSLRs over P&S cameras:

Speed: I use a P&S. And, I’ve noticed that those of my friends who use a DSLR are able to start their cameras and shoot pictures, while my P&S just starts and focuses correctly. I’ve noticed a considerable difference in the focus speeds, too. In fact, the time lag between the shots is considerably lesser in a DSLR. The time lag is on account of the processor writing the captured data into the memory card.

Focus and Auto-focus: Though today’s P&S are equipped to focus faster, there’s still no way you can manually set a focus point. Of course, there are settings like spot metering that can help you restrict the area of focus, but setting focus manually can help you get shots even when something stands in front of your subject. Also, you cannot lock the focus point once the focus is set correctly. With DSLRs, you can do that, too.

Lens: I know how frustrating it is to not be able to change the lens. And, the basic-level P&S do not provide enough zoom, too. Besides, even if they do, I would compromise because of the variable aperture (and hence on the low-light photographing capabilities, if any). And, not having the capability to change lenses means that you can neither upgrade the lenses that you use on those cameras nor can you experiment with your photography.

Large Depth of Field (DOF): The P&S can never provide a shallower DOF, unless you are using the advanced P&S, which still are no match for full-frame DSLRs as far as the beautiful, creamy bokeh is concerned. The lenses on a P&S are designed to provide you zooming capabilities. But, because those lenses are fixed and come with the in-built variable aperture, you cannot manually set the parameters of the camera to capture images.

Lack of Controls: A P&S has lesser controls on the body. Of course, the controls are still there, but are limited and are rolled into the menus. So, for each shot, you have to dig into the menus to change the settings. This is time consuming.

Image Quality: This is purely subjective to opinions. Some say that the quality is more than enough. In fact, I am one of those who stand by this argument. But, the truth is, the sensor size is perhaps too small to capture the details. And, all the copper wiring and circuitry in the sensor is placed just too close to receive enough light to capture the details. This affects the image quality, mostly negatively, and pixels and white dots appear in the images that are capture in insufficiently lit conditions. And, that is why I will not go for the advanced point and shoot or the interchangeable compact system camera (CSC), because irrespective of how good my lenses are, I will not be able to get good quality low-light images. After all, there are, and will always be, some images that I would wish to capture in low light.

Should I go for a DSLR?

Big question. And, to answer that, we must break the requirements in parts. What are the requirements: Events and Weddings or Casual and street photography? If you are serious with photography, if you have tested the limits of your current P&S (and feel that it is time for you to upgrade), if you think that you can invest more money into the ecosystem (for example, batteries and chargers, external flashes, tripods, memory cards, and remote release cables), and if you have interest (or want to make money capturing) events or weddings, go for a DSLR.

What all should I buy?

It depends on your requirements. Consult a pro. I am an enthusiast photographer – this in one way increases my challenge with what equipment I buy, because I love experimenting with my equipment. I will probably never take up this hobby as a profession. Consequently, I do need a high-end camera. I might go for a full frame camera. But, I will certainly buy one macro lens, one fixed aperture zoom lens, one prime lens, a tripod, a shutter release cable/remote, a couple of filters (UV and ND), and – may be – a tele-converter. But, this is not a definitive list; I might skip one or two things. I think the question zeros in on what your requirements are. A pro knows what industry or vertical they specialize into, so they will go for equipment and lenses that deliver quality in only that vertical. But, for people like me, the sky is the limit. Or, maybe not.

Right, so back to where we started. I hope I have been able to help you find an answer to your question; I hope you now know what you can and might buy. I would love to hear from you!

What are “full frame” cameras?

This post is a part of the series of posts on Photography Basics.


I like to share what I learn. And, photography is one topic that I talk about quite often, these days. Here’s the answer to one question I researched for, recently…

As this skilful artistry of photography evolved after the invention of the camera, for some unknown reason, the 35mm became the standard size for all film cameras. All the film cameras, like the Yashica I used when I was a kid, contained film rolls that sized a picture at 35mm (width) and 24mm (height). And, this trend continued as we moved over from the film cameras to the digital cameras.

Based on the timeline, it is somewhere back in 2002 that the first digital “full frame” cameras were introduced. And, because the Canon’s marketing guys needed everyone to get attracted with a larger sensor on a camera, they chose to refer to it as “full frame.” Although, “full frame” is not technically correct, because there may be a time when a new sensor develops with larger dimensions.

There are different sensor sizes available on different cameras. Some of the commonly used ones, in the descending order of the sizes, are (in WIDTH by HEIGHT):

  • 35mm “full frame” format, which contains a 36mm X 24mm sensor
  • The “cropped sensor” APS-C size, which contains approximately a 23.5mm X 15.7mm sensor
  • Micro Four Thirds, which contain approximately 17mm X 13 mm sensor

What difference does the sensor size make?

The simple answer is: The bigger the sensor, the more light it captures. And, the more light a sensor captures, the better your photograph looks; even in low light. But, just having a bigger sensor does not make either your photographs better or you a better photographer. There will still be the other elements and the skilful artistry that unique to only you.

A full frame sensor gives you about 84° angle of view on a 24mm lens. But, an APS-C sensor will give you about 1.5 times of the same image, and consequently about 63° angle of view on the same lens. This means an additional zoom-in into the subject. Such image sensor sizes are popular amongst the wildlife photographers, who would like to zoom closer to their subjects.

On a micro four third sensor, if the lens is compatible, a 24mm lens will deliver almost twice the zoom. Consequently, the 84° angle of view will look like 42° angle of view, and will produce an output of about 48mm.

Does the sensor size impact Depth of Field?

Yes, it does. The simple rule is: Depth of Field (DOF) is in an inverse proportion to the image sensor size. So, you get a shallower DOF for a larger image sensor.

What are the advantages of a “full frame” sensor?

From what I’ve read, there aren’t any advantages other than the following:

  • In comparison to the other, smaller sensor sizes, such as the APS-C, a bigger sensor captures more light. And, more light means more details. However, the image quality is a combination of the sensor size, the pixel count, and the sensor circuitry and image read-out mechanisms.
  • We read that DOF is inversely proportional to the sensor size. This means that for a 24mm lens, the DOF will be different for APS-C and full frame cameras.

Photography Basics

Lessons for the Novice Photographer in Me!

Photography has long been a subject of interest to me, and I will – someday – like to test the limits of my knowledge on the subject and the equipment (that is a camera). I would like to call myself a hobbyist photography reader, and not even a hobbyist photographer, because I hardly get to experiment with my currently owned point-and-shoot camera.

Based on what I have learned on the subject, I am bringing this new series of posts on Photography. I hope you will like reading posts from this thread. In this thread, I will talk on different topics – from what I learned or have read on the Internet.

Happy reading.

And that’s why I’d go for a mirrorless camera!

For the last couple of years, I have yearned for a camera. And, as usual, my tech-writer’s brain told me to begin researching, reading, and observing on the topic before I made purchases. So, over the years, I have developed an opinion. But first, some points for the premise:

  • I am an amateur photographer. That said, my Canon IXUS HS 300 is enough to do the job for me. In fact, I am now able to explore the limits of the hardware. And, that’s why I want an upgrade.
  • I realize that it is not the hardware, but the creativity that makes great photographs. So to say, the thoughts/vision, and not the camera, make for a good photographer.
  • None of the big/small camera companies have paid/will pay me to write this post. My opinions are my own, and right/wrong, the interpretations are entirely mine. You may please feel free to disagree.

Right so, here are those reasons that made me make up my mind in favor of a mirrorless camera:

Past vs. Present and Future

The story of cameras dates really-really long back in time. Once upon a time, there were those double-lens reflex cameras (also called the twin-lens reflexes or TLRs). Over time, the SLRs replaced the TLRs to make for the parallax errors. And, since then SLRs and eventually DSLRs have been waiting for their time to pass. Roughly for the last fifty years, the basic concept of capturing image has remained same: SLRs and later DSLRs have helped users see through a prism or mirror to view and capture images.

The DSLRs have a mirror, which reflects light from the lens to the viewfinder. When you click, this mirror flips out of the way to let the light (and hence the image) pass through to the sensor to capture the image. The mirrorless cameras do not contain the flipping mirror. This is a step ahead of the long-followed conventional DSLR style. And, I’d like to invest in a technology, which has a future. Mirrorless, therefore, rightly sounds like a choice.

Price

Photography is not what I do for a living, so it is kind of obvious for me to NOT spend on the gear, unless I have money lying around in my account. Think about it: Would you, as an amateur, go for a camera that costs 70-80 thousand bucks in India? Hobbyist-level DSLR cameras are expensive in India in comparison to many other countries. Mirrorless are priced more so at par.

But, how is that a point in favor of the mirrorless cameras? Well, that’s so because the features that you get with even the entry-level mirrorless cameras, such as a higher frames per second (FPS) rate, come in the rather expensive full-frame DLSRs, which are quite an investment. So, you get the same output, but you pay only about half the price. Though not all amateurs will use such features, but I’d certainly like to experiment.

Size and Weight

Wait! But, you said you are an amateur. So, why would you talk about weight when you would carry the camera and its accessories for barely about a couple of hours across a week? The answer is: I am not the only one who will use it. And, I don’t expect my wife to carry a heavy gear when she’s capturing any precious moments with our daughter. Neither of us is a photographer by profession. In fact, professional or no professional, smaller cameras are easier for anyone to carry.

There’s another perspective to this point. Why does anyone get a DSLR? Let me give a hint: It’s to do with the oomph factor (of being one techy-geeky person in the room). Sadly, people’s opinion about technology in cameras is directly proportional to the added bulk in those cameras. The bigger, heavier the camera, the longer people’s oohs and aahhs are. And, if you buy a DSLR just for the seeking a longer ooh, please think again.

Let’ me get into the details now:

Live View and EVF

Almost all those professional photographers that I’ve met so far, have failed to understand the ease of using an electronic viewfinder (EVF) or the live view. I realize that it may be subject to habit as much as it is to choice. But, when you take your eye to it, you’ll see what you’ll get – much like the WYSIWYG editors in technical communication.

As an example, try capturing a picture with a DSLR with the sun glaring into your eyes. And, then try doing that with the electronic viewfinder. I’ve tried that. The electronic viewfinder shows only what the camera is about to capture. So, the viewfinder doesn’t let the extra light pass through to the eyes, because it intelligently shows only what the final picture will look like. It’s like viewing the picture before clicking it.

Another point: For a conventional DSLR, there will always be a time lag (usually in milliseconds) between taking the picture and getting it displayed on the live view of the camera. This time lag is on account of the flipping mirror. After you take a picture, the mirror takes some milliseconds to get back in the position. This time lag is not there on the mirrorless cameras, because there is no mirror.

If you are a professional photographer, you are most likely to fiddle with the camera settings for almost all pictures you take. On conventional DSLRs, such operations will have to be done using the live view screen. This makes it a little time consuming. I found that I could view the same things on the EVF. This means, I can do all the settings without taking my eyes off the EVF. Faster, isn’t it? But, for an amateur-level photographer that I am, I may not even need the viewfinder to take pictures. Some mirrorless cameras do not come with viewfinders. Perfect space and money savers for amateurs like me.

Video Mode

My friends who own DSLRs find it difficult to capture videos. Their DSLRs fail successfully especially in situations that demand continuous tracking of moving subject or changing of the focus. But, I’ve tried capturing videos on mirrorless cameras. The autofocus is a lot faster and accurate. The new mirrorless cameras can even capture 4K videos.

It is also to do with the focus systems. Most DSLRs have limited focus points. Also, by design a focus point guides the system to adjust the focal length of the camera based on the horizontal and vertical alignment of the subject and its closeness with the focus point. So, any change in the position of the subject will demand the photographer to readjust, track, and peak the focus. It is challenging in situations when a distraction comes between the subject and the camera. Mirrorless cameras are equipped with predictive, hybrid focus systems, which can help track subjects frame-by-frame, moment-by-moment. Chances are, you will never lose the subject even when there are distractions between the subject and the camera.

Burst Mode

Try capturing a fast moving object using the burst mode. If you are a pro photographer, you’ll know that most of the great picturesque moments lie between the shutter clicks. And, DSLRs can never match up to the burst speeds of the mirrorless rivals, which can impressively produce as many as 12 frames per second – In absence of the flipping mirror, the sensor can produce more images in the same time.

Megapixel Count

Mirrorless cameras, as I said, are a newer technology. The advanced sensors can accommodate more pixels into an image. This does not translate as a plus point. But, the additional zoom sure sounds like a deal. I am an amateur, and I’d like to zoom and print my pictures, assuming that I might not always get the right subject in focus. The added pixel count will mean that I can zoom in a little extra before printing my stuff.

Battery Life

I am not a professional. I do not do photoshoots that last 8 to 10 hours a day. But, I do understand that because everything in the mirrorless cameras – including the viewfinder – is dependent on the battery, the performance of battery goes down. Consequently, the cameras fail to get anything above 300 shots on an average. But, this doesn’t bother me as an amateur. I anyway don’t take more than 300 pictures in a day. Also, I can always switch entire to the viewfinder by shutting off the live-view mode, and save the battery for some extra pictures. Or, I can just carry an extra battery, if required. On these justifications, I count this point in favor of both the mirrorless cameras and the DSLRs.

Connectivity

Those DSLRs that fit into my budget do not offer connectivity options like NFC or Wi-Fi. And, those DSLRs that have those options are out of my budget. But, that’s not the thing with mirrorless cameras. The mirrorless cameras in my choice are social-media friendly – much like cell phones (only with a better image quality).

Lenses

Some of my friends, and well-wishing shop sellers have suggested me against my wish of going for a mirrorless camera. Reason? Lack of lenses. But, that doesn’t bother me much. I am not a professional. So, even though I would want to learn about this artistic skill of photography, I will hardly use more than four lenses across the lifetime of my camera.

This brings me to the following choices: 18-55 (regular, daily use lens), 55-250 or 210 (for zooming), one prime lens (35 mm or 50mm), and one telephoto zoom (something like 70-400mm). But, that’s not only what I think is suitable. Most of the professional photographers I know, use the same lenses in their kits. I am not sure about what they mean by not having enough lenses available. Despite what the companies continue to offer, these four lens lengths will continue to be there.

Some of the professionals take this point in the light of the kit lens configuration with cameras. But, then I am not a pixel peeper. I can never poke my nose into the tiniest of spot to see if the zoomed part will be worth printing or if it will provide me the most natural colors out of the box. I can always use computer applications to adjust the colors.

Conclusion

The truth is, I just want a nice interchangeable-lens camera that gives me some added capabilities on top of a point-and-shoot camera; is nice enough to make room for the future; is light in weight and easy to carry; is easy to handle and operate; and will be tough enough to stand the test of time. And, that’s – precisely – why I’d go for a mirrorless camera.


I’ve started a new thread on the blog: Photography Basics. In this thread, I write about what I’ve learned on photography.