About camera equipment and the future

These pages on photography have been included to answer questions I often get and some hints and tips I find useful, that may also be useful to you.

The future is digital. I would not consider a film camera purchase today, unless you just shoot a few frames per year, and want reasonable quality without spending more than US$ 100 - 200 on the camera. Shooting digital has many advantages, the most important being an immediate feedback on how your shot turned out, and improving your chances to correct it on the spot. Shooting is also basically free, no film costs, and you tend to shoot more frames. More frames = better chance of a good shot. Digital quality is improving every day, and in my opinion, the best digital SLR cameras are better than their film based counterparts with one exception still valid in 2004: Purchase price. The fantastic 16 Mpixel Canon 1Ds Mark II costs about US$ 8000 at the time of writing. As an amateur, I'll keep my old Nikon FE a bit longer for my serious photography. If I was buying an SLD for the first time today on a limited budget, I would seriously consider the new Canon EOS 20D, but since I already own the FE, I'm going to stick with it a little longer. If I won $10 000 and had to spend it on photographic equipment, it would include the Canon 1Ds Mark II. We have to put our trust in Moore's law so that we can pick up something like the 1Ds for $2000 in 2006.

Megapixels, chip-size and and quality. Small cameras have smaller light sensitive chips (usually a CCD). Many megapixels on a small chip means very small size of each pixel. A small pixel receives less light than a large, and in a digital camera this means a weaker signal that needs more amplification. Amplifiers introduce noise, the more amplification, the more noise. Summary: Smaller chips create more noisy images, particularly when there is little light, like in a night-scene. This is the price paid in the small but otherwise fantastic compact digital cameras from today's leading manufacturers. For a high quality SLR, I would go for a chip the size of a 35 mm film frame, also referred to as a full frame chip.

Before buying an SLR, you should also consider the extra hazzle: A small camera is easier to carry, and you may carry it even if you don't plan on any photos. My Canon S45 has captured a number of good shots this way that I would never get with an SLR - the SLR would have stayed at home. The Canon 1Ds Mark II is BIG, also compared to film SLRs, and will certainly be visible when you carry it, and even possibly intimidate your subject.

For more on photography, I can recommend a look at Michael Reichmann's Luminous Landscape. Lots of photos and articles about photography in general. He also posts some more personal opinions about some camera models. For tecnically detailed camera reviews of a wider selection of cameras, Steve Askey's Digital Photography Review or the Norwegian Alamera.no is recommended.

(c) Thomas Høven 2004