After several days not being able to see any of the birds I could hear when I went for a walk on break from work, I saw a whole bunch of them hanging out on a lawn, eating seeds or bugs or whatever it is that these particular birds eat. Of course since I’d been walking to lunch, the only camera I had with me was my phone. No optical zoom, and I couldn’t get too close without spooking them. I figured what the heck, I’d give it a shot (or several) with the phone and see if I got something clear enough to post to iNaturalist.
I didn’t, as you can see, but it’s a great example of something I’ve found fascinating about digital zoom: The way it can make a photo look like it’s been painted with brush strokes rather than captured with pixels.
Personally, I’ve never understood why digital zoom is implemented as a resize instead of just cropping to a lower resolution. Even back when the full resolution on cameras was low, I’d rather have a clear 640×480 image than a blurry 1280×960. The only reason I even enabled digital zoom on an actual camera (rather than just cropping it later on my computer) was because it made a difference to the auto-focus, exposure, etc. choices the camera would make.
I suppose it’s marketing: They promised you however many megapixels, after all!
I read a bunch of reviews and asked around for advice, finally settling on a Sony Alpha a6000. It’s a few generations back in their advanced amateur line, making it a bit more affordable.
We brought the new camera to WonderCon, and I made some discoveries:
It actually handles the light level inside the convention center!
I’ve gotten waaaay too used to just capturing costumes when shooting cosplayers, instead of composing interesting shots. Most of the photos I took on Saturday had good image quality, but were ultimately just snapshots.
Because of #1 and #2, I ended up with a lot of busy backgrounds. I tried to cut down on the distraction by adding vignetting to some of the photos afterward.
Originally we planned totrade off who had the good camera, but he ended up wearing his giant Minecraft Spider Jockey costume the entire time, so he didn’t have much opportunity to take photos. In the end, he only took one all weekend…but it was the best-composed shot of the entire day!
I took the lesson from that, and while most of my pictures on Sunday were still utilitarian snaps, I did manage to take a few that I think worked out better, like these three:
We got the negatives and scans back from the two rolls of film we shot with the old manual film camera. Despite the damage to the case, it seems to still be light-proof, as the second roll of film came out about as well as the first.
It was an interesting experiment. We mostly took night/indoor photos with the tripod and handheld photos outdoors in daylight. He’s not used to focusing, so a lot of his photos are blurry. The light meter app on my phone seems a little off in sunlight, so our outdoor photos are all either over– or under-exposed. (The zinc-air batter has since shown up, so with luck we’ll be able to get more accurate light readings with the next roll.) But it gave some of the photos a retro feel.
Here are a few of the better shots, plus one of the light-polluted, smoke-filled skies of Los Angeles with enough stars to recognize Cassiopeia.
Google has a new camera mode on its Pixel phones called Night Sight, for handling low-light conditions. The short version is that instead of taking a long exposure, it takes a series of short exposures and stacks them to avoid motion blur from hand movements (plus a lot of additional processing). The long version is fascinating.
My Pixel 2 already takes better low-light photos than I would have expected, but I couldn’t wait to try out the new feature when I learned about it. When the updated Camera app finally hit the Play Store, I had to give it a try.
This is adjusted slightly to keep the colors from being too light. And it actually isn’t the best example, as it turns out the nighttime city scene already has enough light for the existing HDR+ mode. I’m going to have to try it on some darker scenes somewhere, but it’s still pretty cool. After the cut I’m posting a version with the phone’s regular mode, and the unaltered Night Sight photo. You can see they’re pretty close, but the Night Sight version picks up a bit more of the color, and it’s a little brighter.
A couple of weeks ago, the almost-8YO found my old manual SLR camera – the 1967 model my grandfather gave me. I bought some film, and picked up a light meter app while waiting for the battery to arrive (the light meter is the only powered part of the camera), and I showed him how to load the camera, focus, choose the shutter speed and aperture, etc., and the two of us shot a roll of film, trading off between us.
As I showed him how to unload the camera, I managed to knock it off the table, where the open camera crashed to the floor.
I couldn’t believe it! This camera is older than I am, and I was fairly certain it still worked…until we shot one roll of film!
Amazingly the lens didn’t break, and nothing seems to have damaged the shutter mechanism either. The only thing that I’ve noticed is that the door in the back of the case is bent slightly. I can still close it, but I have to shift it about 1/8″ to do it. I hope it’s still light-proof…
We shot another roll of film, again taking turns, and tomorrow I’m taking it into a photography store to get them developed. I really thought the slow turnaround would be frustrating to him, but he’s finding it fascinating.