Digital Photography and Web Development
About 10 years ago I played with one of the first mass produced digital cameras, the .8 megapixel auto-focus Olympus Camedia C-820L. And I must admit I was amazed by the quality of the images it generated.
Canon EOS 350D with 80mm ZoomMy semi-professional photographer friend, a Canon 35mm film buff, was equally impressed with its ease of use. Point, frame and click - indoors or out, flash, whatever. It did the job and well. But the big attraction, the thing which instantly won me over was the speed of results. Shoot and view immediately on your PC via USB. What horrified me was the price: £950. I reluctantly handed back the camera to the guy who lent it me - and 6 years later actually bought one, not a C100 but a Fujifilm FinePix 2600.
Digital Photo Website
The FinePix was another 2 megapixel camera offering the same 1600 x 1200 maximum resolution coupled with both digital and optical zoom and produced excellent images for the then more realistic £240 price tag. So began my amateur photography interest, beginning with a trip to Cyprus and one of my first websites, the Hotel Apollo - unfortunately now closed. Image quality was undeniably good with little software enhancement required other than resizing, trimming and some retouching. The contrast and colour levels needed little if any work. Most of the gallery images were taken with the FinePix over a period of 3 years during subsequent visits to the hotel.
Leather Swatch RingDuring a 2003 visit I took some images of leather swatches for a commissioned site, English Leather Sofas. Quite apart from build schedule commitment, I imagined the intense Mediterranean sunlight would reveal the colour and texture of the various leathers. It did; it also exposed the shortcomings of a cheap consumer digital camera. There were two basic adjustments available: white balance and exposure compensation, plus a digital (fixed lens position) macro close-up mode. Much digital retouching was needed to reduce fringing and enhance colour purity, sharpen images and give a level of depth to the leather grain.
Digital SLR Photography
Canon EOS 350D Digital CameraThe FinePix is a typical entry-level consumer camera delivering solid all-round results in a simple-to-operate package. I needed more, especially once my understanding of photography - digital or not - grew. I knew I wanted greater control over photographic parameters. I hit the Web for reviews of contemporary models from the big pedigree manufacturers - Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax... and Canon. I read up on the benefits of SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras and, smitten, plumped for the Canon EOS 350D (in its transatlantic branded guise, the Rebel XT).
And it's stunning! Buy the Canon EOS 350D. It's worth the investment.
18-50mm AF F3.5-5.6 DCI opted for the body without Canon lens and got a couple of Sigma lenses instead: the 18-50mm for general wide angle landscape and group shots and the more specialist 28-80mm zoom macro lens for wildlife and close-up work. They're not top of the range optics but they give good results and don't cost the earth. But a picture being worth 1,000 words... take a look at the colour fidelity and vibrancy of the images opposite, which can be enlarged with a mouse click.
Lens interchangeability is what makes the Canon range of digital SLRs so appealing. There's a lot of glass on the market, either new, secondhand or from decent optics manufacturers like Sigma to choose from. I'm waiting for a client to return from the States with a Sigma 300mm telephoto - where they can, as with most hardware, be sourced far more cheaply than in the UK.
As for functionality - I'm no professional snapper and some of the stuff onboard like exposure bracketing, colour space or custom function settings I've yet to fiddle with but the last 5 months and some 1,800 shots have proved sufficient to examine and experiment with most of its features to the extent that I've yet to find something I need which it doesn't offer. Rather than explain these it's more expedient to present the 350D manual (PDF format) or Canon's own EOS 350D page.
EOS 350D Prime Focus with C6-R TelecsopeOne area where many digital cameras fall down is battery life. Not the Canon. It delivers from 400-600 exposures on a fully charged battery (dependant on ambient temperature, LCD screen and flash usage). Which means at the highest resolution and least compression a 1Gb memory card will meet its 270-shot capacity before power goes.
The 1.8 inch LCD display offers good contrast, even in bright light. Parameter options are set through clear, logical menus and if it all goes to hell there are a couple of reset options available.
There's little else to say other than reiterate that it's a bloody good camera and a joy to use. It feels right, the solid, precision build contributing to the professional look and feel of its satin black finish (silver is available for those who like that sort of thing).
I got a bunch of lens filters - Ultraviolet (UV), Fluorescent (FD), Polarizer (PL) - but now use only the PL to enhance colour or reduce glare and reflection. A spare battery is a must, as are lens wipes, cloths and a spacious tote bag to hump it all around. But most importantly, get a decent tripod. The steadiest of grips will tire during a long shoot and telephoto work under low light conditions demands stability. I picked up one from Jessops, the TP323 but the Hama Gamma 74 Tripod is almost identical but slightly more expensive.