Tag Archives: digital

My Flash Is Dead (Nearly)

My Canon Speedlite 540EZ is now officially a dinosaur. I’d suspected as much a few months ago when I went to use it with my EOS300D and nothing happened. That is, the pilot button on the back would fire the flash when charged, but the camera wouldn’t. It was the first time I’d attempted to use it with the digital body, and (stupidly) I’d not tried it out before going somewhere where I really needed it. So I had to manage, and vowed to test it again soon.

Various factors made me forget to do so, until yesterday, when I remembered to try it again. The same result. At least in all the auto/semi-auto modes I tried. I didn’t have a huge amount of time to play further and have not tried full manual yet. But I’ve just googled for compatability issues between the two, and it seems it’s never going to work any better than in full manual mode. I have to set the shutter speed, aperture and flash power all by hand. Damn.

At first, I thought it was just Canon’s sneaky marketing scam to get you to buy a new flash for the sake of it, but reading a couple of articles has tempered my cynicism a little. Steve Dunn (4th post down) explains here why it won’t work in any mode except manual. Basically, its an old flash which only understands TTL or A-TTL metering which relied on measuring the light reflected off the film during exposure. And of coures, digital doesn’t have any!

So it looks like I’ll have to think about buying new flash gun if I want to use fully automatic metering. I’m wondering whether to bother, bearing in mind how often I actually use a flash. And with the abililty to change ISO rating on a per-frame basis with digital, plus a half-decent image-stabilised lens, the occasions I’ll need it are probably diminishing.

Man Versus Machine

I hope I didn’t come across as arrogant in yesterday’s post about how much difference a good piece of equipment can make. That wasn’t my intention. But further reflection set me thinking that, in these days where consumers expect instant gratification from their purchases, I think it’s sad that some people spend an awful lot of money on the best camera and are then disappointed with the pictures they take with it.

People seem far less willing to learn the art and craft of photography in order to get the best results. Of course I’m generalising here, but there has been a gradual decline in membership of photographic clubs throughout the country, even with the huge rise in the number of people buying cameras. I’m a B Panel Judge for the East Anglian Federation, part of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain. I visit clubs around north London and south east Essex to judge competitions regularly, and their committees are constantly striving to attract new members. Somehow only a trickle seem to be coming through the doors.

A few clubs (and the number is decreasing) have actively shunned the Digital Revolution; it won’t be long before they go under. Some have allowed digital but to be judged in a separate category (and I think, why segregate? It’s the end result that counts and matters to me as a judge, not the technology used to produce it).

Some argue that digital is “easier” than traditional “wet” processes. Usually those who haven’t tried it, I find. And as a judge, I’ve seen just as many badly-done digital prints (if not more) than traditional. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually easier to make a bad digital print than a bad darkroom one – far less effort is required. Plus, you don’t end up smelling of chemicals or emerging from the darkroom like a confused mole! As ever, the skill is in the execution of what you’re doing, not how.

The vast majority of the clubs I visit have embraced digital photography wholeheartedly (without prejudice to those still using film). So much so that at a few, I don’t see any darkroom prints any more. I can tell, if I look hard enough (and it would require an even lenghtier post for me to explain how). I’ve seen some really stunning inkjet prints, not just from a technical perspective, but from an artistic one. Again, it’s all about who’s behind the camera more than the name badge on the front.

Our equipment can and should be used to facilitate the expression of our artistic talents, and not as a points-scoring exercise to see who’s got the best kit. (Again, I usually find those misguided enough to indulge in this kind of behaviour are invariably those who can’t take a decent picture for toffee).

Green-Eyed Monster

Envy is a terrible thing!

I’ve had my trusty Canon EOS300D digi-SLR since Feb 2004, and have used it for capturing countless pictures which I’m extremely pleased with. The vast majority of the images on my photographic portfolio have been taken with it, so much so that I haven’t picked up my Canon EOS50E film body since going digital. In the main, I’ve had no complaints at all about the camera, and in the age when whatever you buy is obsolete before you get the credit card bill, it’s been an excellent tool to get to grips with the peculiarities of digital, as opposed to film.

However, in the last few months, particularly at some of the rugby games I’ve photographed, I’ve noticed I’m beginning to hit the limits of its capablilities. There have been times when I’ve been following the action, only to find that the vital try-scoring moment has passed by because the camera’s buffer was full and still writing to the card. It takes 10 shots in 30 seconds, roughly – the first 4 in quick succession and then you have to wait for subsequent frames to write to the card (it’s definitely the camera, I tried a 100x CF card and it made no difference!)

Similarly, in the depths of winter, when it’s cold and sometimes pretty dim by 5pm when some games wrap up, it can be pretty difficult to get enough photons onto the sensor – its just too dark, even with the floodlights on and the ISO setting cranked right up to its maximum of 1600. This can lead to some interesting “movement blur” type shots, which is all well and good from an arty perspective , but useless if you actually want to freeze the action.

Photographing games in the rain can be fun, and not just for the sight of 30 beefy blokes rolling around in the mud! I have a Cameramac for the body and Sigma 135-400mm lens which I use at the rugby – basically it’s a waterproof “cloak” which slips over the hardware while still allowing access to the lens, top plate controls and LCD on the rear. I remember one match where it was pelting with rain, but even though I ended up soaked below the knees (my Goretex didn’t stretch down to my ankles!), the camera and lens remained pretty dry.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this post was to comment that, having seen my dad’s new Canon EOS20D this weekend, I’m seriously thinking about upgrading to a 20D or probably 30D (which now supercedes the 20D) in the near future. First catch a spare 800-odd quid. Maybe I should take my bass out and do a spot of busking on the Underground?