Choosing a digital SLR: why I bought the Fuji S5 pro
I began to consider buying a digital SLR camera about one and a half years ago, in mid-2006.
Before that, I was still happy shooting film, particularly slides. At that time, I felt that it would be better to buy a dedicated film / slide scanner and convert my slides and negatives into digital files.
That way, I could obtain extremely high resolution digital images -- as high as 54 megapixels or higher if I wanted. Well, I did not have the budget; I never bought that scanner.
Also, as recently as two years ago, digital cameras did not offer good value for money. Even the very costly top of the range digital SLR cameras still lost out to modest film cameras.
I considered myself a "die-hard" user of film.
I think in the last two years, digital technology has finally reached the stage where it has become comparable, or sometimes even superior, to film and slides. Even in the case of relatively affordable compact cameras. What do S5 Pro images look like -- including images straight off the camera, with little or no Photoshop adjustments.
Make no mistake about it. A well-exposed negative or slide is still far superior.
Digital technology still has its limitations. Just the other day, I saw in a magazine an example of color rendition gone seriously wrong even with a 39 Mps Hasselblad digital camera that is way beyond my affordability.
But for everyday practical purposes, I believe digital technology has finally come of age.
My interest in digital cameras was sparked when my photography buddy Joe bought a Sony R-1. It is not even a digital SLR, just a P&S (point and shoot) camera, although considered the "Rolls Royce" of digital P&S, with a price tag -- of about USD 1,000 -- to justify its "Rolls Royce" image.
Among other things, the Sony R-1 came with a Carl Zeiss lens. Joe has been a connoisseur of cameras and lenses for decades. He knows what he buys. If he were to make a mistake, he would not hesitate to sell off his camera / lens within weeks -- as he once did for another digital SLR camera about a year earlier.I trusted Joe's judgement. I could also see that the photographs taken on the Sony R-1 were really superb -- far better than my scanned slides / negatives -- no doubt helped by the fact that Joe is also an excellent photographer. On his part, Joe was impressed by an advertisement for a Sony R-1 which featured photographs taken by a National Geographic photographer.I did not, however, want to buy the Sony R-1, partly because I wanted a digital SLR but mainly because the Sony R-1 had a serious limitation -- shutter lag. The picture would be recorded a fraction of a second after the shutter was pressed, long enough to make photographing moving people / objects a challenge.
Yes, even as recently as mid-2006, relatively high-end digital cameras had limitations such as this. But no more. Digital technology has certainly improved by leaps and bounds.
So I seriously considered instead the Sony A-100 digital SLR. In January this year, I won myself a S$1200 Sony voucher, as Second prize for a photo competition organised by the Singapore National Museum and sponsored by Sony and resorts operator Banyan Tree.
Looking back now, it was a good thing I did not have the additional S$600 or so that I needed at that time to buy the Sony A-100. When I recently went to examine the camera more closely, I did not like the feel of it at all. It lacked the "professional feel" and felt to me like a "toy camera", just as some of the lower cost Canon and Nikon digital SLRs do.
Apart from the feel -- which I feel is important -- the reviews I read of the Sony A-100 were not that impressive.
At the Sony showroom, I met an old acquaintence who was a sales person there and he told me about a new Sony digital SLR that would be released soon. This turned out to be the Sony A-700. When it was out, the news, previews and early reviews failed to excite me.
I was more excited, instead, by another digital SLR camera which another photographer friend recommended...
My friend Hin Mun, who has won lots of photography awards in his close to 50 years of photography, is very much a Pentax fan. This is partly because he used to work at a company that was the agent for Pentax. Nevertheless, he had always been very happy with his Pentax cameras. And he used a word to described the Pentax that really caught my attention -- a "boutique" camera.
The word "boutique" connotes high quality, exclusivity and, usually, a high price tag. But in this case, Pentax is much better known for its affordability and reasonable pricing.
True, the Pentax is not a populist brand like Canon or Nikon. And I have always been attracted by alternatives rather than by the mainstream (as evidenced, for example, in my interest in natural health and alternative medicine).Hin Mun was not the only person excited about the Pentax K10D, however. Camera reviewers, magazine publishers and other industry people were equally excited -- and the Pentax 10D won a good number of awards, including the TIPA 2007 (Technical Image Press Association) and the Innovations 2007 Design and Engineering award presented by the Consumer Electronics Association.
It was truly deserving of the awards, for the Pentax K10D came with a slew of advanced features. Of these, the one feature that attracted me most was the body-based Shake Reduction system, to reduce the effects of camera shake. At the time the Pentax K10 was launched, I think the Sony A-100 was the only other digital SLR with such a system, whereas both Nikon and Canon had their Vibration Reduction / Image Stabilization system built into their lenses -- which meant costly lenses.
I thought this was really a useful feature -- especially for me because I use long telephoto lenses a lot and I use them in situations, such as religious festivals like Vesak and Thaipusam where tripods are not practical. in the past, had a lot of images wasted because of camera shake.
No point having great cameras or lenses if the images are shaky, I thought. Meanwhile, Hin Mun had kindly made me offers that I almost could not refuse -- he would sell me several of his lenses, plus a flash and an older Pentax digital SLR body, at giveaway prices once the newer range of Pentax lenses became available.
And so for a while, my mind was set on the Pentax K10D. I was just waiting for the day when I have enough money to proceed with the purchase.
A few people, however, were less encouraging about the Pentax. Thus I widened my search for my digital SLR... click here to read part II of this sharing