Photography

My Digital Camera Journey

My Digital Camera Journey

The only recording medium that I am comfortable with, at this point in time, is the digital camera. And here is my journey with digital cameras.

I bought my first digital camera in August 2009, an Olympus U-Tough 6000. I didn’t know much (anything) about digital cameras then (I have owned a Nikon FM2 and FE2 for 3 years in the early 80’s). The only reason that I bought this camera was because my wife and I were going to the Maldives (Thuralgiri) and we needed a camera which can also be used underwater up to a depth of about 15 feet and this camera fits the bill. I didn’t know or understand about megapixels, dynamic range, iso, size of the sensor and image quality then. At that time, I thought the images from this camera were great as it looks good to me then. Here are some photos to illustrate the point.

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Yours truly with the sony camcorder in Thuralgiri Resort, Maldives

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Olympus U-Tough 6000

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In February 2011, I was advised to upgrade to the Canon Powershot S95. Supposedly, this camera’s image quality is miles ahead of the Olympus. So I bought it. See if you can find any difference in the image quality of the following photos taken with the Sony S95.

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Bandos Island, Maldives
Hangzhou, China
Hangzhou, China
Shaoxing, China
Shaoxing, China

The beginning of GAS (Gear acquisition syndrome)

It was after I had purchased and used the Canon S95 for a few months that I started reading and begin to understand more about Digital Cameras. Eventually, I decided that an interchangeable lens camera is the way to go and after reading a very favourable review on the Olympus E-PM1, I bought one around October 2012 (as I was soon going on a trip to China). Again, see if you can find any difference in the image quality of the following photos taken with the Olympus E-PM1 and the Olympus 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 IIR lens.

Beijing, China
Beijing, China
Qinhangdao, China
Chengde, China
Chengde, China
Chengde, China
Qinhuangdao, China. The end of the Great Wall of China
Qinhuangdao, China. The end of the Great Wall of China
Qinhuangdao, China
Qinhuangdao, China

About two months after I bought the Olympus E-PM1 and before I left for a trip to Vientiane, Laos in December 2012, I bought the Fuji EX-1 together with the Fuji 18mm f2 lens. The following photos were taken with the Fuji EX-1 and Fuji 18mm f2 lens. Any improvement in image quality?.

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Vientiane, Laos
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Vientiane, Laos
Snow Dragon, Lijiang, China
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China

In early 2013, I started to really get involved in digital photography and would read reviews after reviews of all new cameras on photography blogs and Digital Photography Review. It was at this time that I came across Steve Huff Photos’ blog. Steve is really a Leica fanboy, no doubts about that. Steve is always talking about the Leica POP (apparently only images taken with Leica cameras have this image quality). It was through Steve’s enthusiasm that makes me finally caved in and bought the Leica X2 sometime in October 2013 (just before I was leaving for a trip to China in November 2013). The following photos were taken with the Leica X2. Any better or can you see the Leica POP?

Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China (Leica X2)
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China (Leica X2)
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China (Leica X2)
Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, China (Leica X2)
Naxi Scholar - Lijiang, China
Naxi Scholar – Lijiang, China
Tiger Leaping Gorge - Lijiang, China
Tiger Leaping Gorge – Lijiang, China

Post Processing (Lightroom and Photoshop)

The Leica X2 comes with a free Lightroom photo editing apps. Real digital photography doesn’t begins until you start post processing your photos. This is when I really began to learn and understand about (inter alia) dynamic range, ISO and the dreaded noise. It is generally agreed that full frame digital cameras have better dynamic range and less noise under high iso.

Before long (actually in January 2014) I bought my first full frame camera, the Nikon D610 with the Nikkor 35mm f2D lens. To my eyes, there was a discernible difference in the image quality of the photos compared to the other cameras of mine before this. Take a look at the following photos and see if you agree with this statement?

Hatyai, Thailand (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
Hatyai, Thailand (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
Shantou, China (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
Shantou, China (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
Shantou, China (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
Shantou, China (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
near Shantou, China (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
near Shantou, China (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
Portrait of a friend from Shantou, China (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)
Portrait of a friend from Shantou, China (Nikon D610 + Nikkor 35mm f1.8g lens)

Unfortunately, I also got to learn a lot about megapixels and resolution. Before long (July 2014) I acquired the Nikon D810. Are the photos better than the Nikon D610? Well, can you see the difference in the following photos taken with the Nikon D810?

Angkor Wat-Siem Reap, Cambodia (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-85 f3.5-4.5g lens)
Angkor Wat-Siem Reap, Cambodia (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-85 f3.5-4.5g lens)
Angkor Wat-Siem Reap, Cambodia (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-85mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Angkor Wat-Siem Reap, Cambodia (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-85mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Zhou Zhang, China (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-120mm f4g lens)
Zhou Zhang, China (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-120mm f4g lens)
Zhou Zhang, China (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24.120mm f4g lens)
Zhou Zhang, China (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24.120mm f4g lens)
Zhou Zhang, China (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-120mm f4glens)
Zhou Zhang, China (Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-120mm f4glens)

Well, for good measures, (just before the end of 2015) I also bought the Nikon D5500 for use when I feel like travelling light. I am using this camera paired with the Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens, which give me an equivalent focal length of approx. 27-52mm in apsc format. Again, are the image quality of the photos inferior to the Nikon full frame cameras. Can you see the difference in the following photos?

Hue, Vietnam (Nikon D5500 + Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Hue, Vietnam (Nikon D5500 + Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Hue, Vietnam (Nikon D5500 + Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Hue, Vietnam (Nikon D5500 + Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Hue, Vietnam (Nikon D5500 + Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Hue, Vietnam (Nikon D5500 + Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Hue, Vietnam (Nikon D5500 + Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens)
Hue, Vietnam (Nikon D5500 + Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5g lens)

Conclusions

In my view, if you are only interested in documenting your travels and do not intend to print very large prints, any apsc cameras on the market nowadays can give you very good image quality. I have discovered that, any improvement in the image quality of my photos will not be easily achieved just by acquiring the latest and the most expensive cameras. As for me, I realised that any improvement in my photography will be through practice and understanding composition and light better. Of course, learning about better techniques in post processing in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop will help a lot as well, but, I am not one who believes in heavy or extensive post-processing.

All photos in this post were processed in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

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