Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Slow to Change

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I don’t claim to be one who gets a new gadget and masters all the bells and whistles within twenty-four hours. I’m a bit of slow-poke. When I bought the 40D, I had my eye on a short list of key features. I had always found having to look at the top of the camera for ISO when everything else was in the viewfinder an absurd arrangement. Furthermore, I was elated to leave behind that annoying business of being forced to jump from ISO 400 to 800 when I needed just a little more light. The ability to adjust ISO in 1/3 stop increments rather than full stop ones was a major draw. Having schleped the 20D through traffic to Samy’s Cameras far too many times to have the sensor cleaned, I was elated over the notion of a sensor that would clean itself. As for the LCD screen, once I saw a three-inch screen, I knew there was no going back. Those, then, were the main features that had me reaching for the checkbook, and I immediately found that they more than fulfilled my expectations.

Of course there were other features being touted in the sales hype, but they had little impact on my decision. I never even remember how many pixels my camera shoots. That’s often a source of embarrassment because people will ask. You’d think I would learn the number to avoid that awkward moment, but it isn’t that critical to me. Live View wouldn’t have sold me, but I will end up using it occasionally and the improved viewfinder is a welcome change, but neither of those would have convinced me to spend the money. On the other hand, the capability for three combinations of camera settings available on the mode dial not only didn’t sell me, they sat there for months while I ignored the possibilities. I shoot mostly in Manual mode and I wasn’t looking or a change.

But then one day, I stepped outside a friend’s house near twilight, and while I stood mesmerized by the scene in front of me, I became aware that something or someone on my left was watching me. When I turned my head, I was eye to eye (well, he was probably thirty feet away) with a beautiful big buck. I had my usual walkabout lens (the 24-105mm 4f) on the camera—not exactly a wildlife setup—but I was determined to give it a stab. In my excitement, I fumbled frantically with my manual settings and meanwhile the space was made in my brain for a major change in shooting habits. I got a decent shot, but only because the buck was deeply curious and looked me over quite thoroughly before he sprang over the edge of the hill and out of sight.

That evening I got out the manual and investigated custom settings. I now have all three set up for different situations in which I might have little time to make decisions and change a number of camera settings. One of them is set for TV (shutter priority) 1/500, ISO 400 (to provide some leeway) and AI Servo. Already, they have come in handy, and I’m looking forward to the next wildlife encounter—so long as the encounter doesn’t involve one of the mountain lions that have been spotted up here. Canon doesn’t have a custom setting to cover that situation.


  1. Uh, Anita. You're starting to sound a bit 'geeky' there! ;-) Soon you'll be in the forums discussing things like ... pixels and stuff! "My daddy's pixels can beat your daddy's pixels anytime! So there!"

  2. Paul - Thanks for another laugh. I suppose that I did reveal my "inner geek" The trouble is that I just told you practically everything that I know about my camera. If you ever saw me fumbling with the custom functions in the menu, you would know how deep that inner geek is buried. Yikes! I hope that I haven't opened a dialogue with any serious geeks. That could prove embarrassing. But, don't forget: "My daddy's pixels absolutely can beat your daddy's pixels hands down."

  3. Ah yes, my friend, this is where it starts. Soon you'll be delving into the manual, reading it from cover to cover. :-)

    Actually, I don't know a lot about my camera. I know just enough to get it to do what I want it to do. I tweak it just enough ... then I forget all about it. I will go between 3 modes, primarily, shutter priority when shooting sports, aperture priority 90% of the time, then manual. That's it. Most of the time I will shoot wide open as I'm a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) kind of guy, unless I really have a reason to use smaller apertures.

    It's kind of funny: I had my D2x for a little more than 2 years before I knew that you could fine tune the adjustment! Nikon cameras tend to "expose to the left", that is, they try to protect you from blowing out highlights. When I found that I could tell the meter to automatically add up to 1 stop of overexposure for every shot, it was amazing. :-) And it only took me 2 years to find it! LOL!

    No need to know everything about the camera, at least from my point of view. I'd rather spend that time out with it and seeing what it can do out in the wild!

  4. I find that for the most part the number of pixels is quite meaningless.

    As an example the older Nikon D70 (6M) produced way better large printable images than most of the 10M point and shoot camera.

    So to have an answer in case they ask how many pixels is to just say.

    ‘enough and they all great’

    I also find that the newer cameras being made are all so wonderful at handling and automating the camera settings that you almost don’t need to know how to use a camera except to point and shoot.

    When I am walking around in accident mode which can either be that I am not paying attention and an accident may happen or mostly that a good image will just accidently pop-up in front of me, I tend to use the camera in all seeing and all doing mode (P).

    I do turn off auto iso and if I can remember when I am not panicking too much in trying to get an image I will check the Shutter speed and F-stop in viewfinder to ensure that it will be within the useful range for evolving scene in front of me.

    But sometimes I am just too excited an forget and it isn’t until I review the images that I then wished I had paid better attention.

    Niels Henriksen

  5. BTW, I love the shot of the buck and am glad that it wasn't a mountain lion checking you out!

  6. Paul - Thanks for you "confession". That makes me feel a little less inadequate. I do kick myself periodically for not having spent enough time with the manual. When I read the typical advice, "Read your manual cover-to-cover before you take your first photograph," my eyes immediately glaze over.

    And, that makes two of us on the lion observation. I have yet to see one and that's just dandy with me.

  7. Niels - I like your answer on pixels and thanks for reminding me that I'm not the only who sometimes gets a trifle over-excited when an opportunity pops up unexpectedly.


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