Getting back into Photography

I mention in my Project 365 – Photo-a-day Challenge posting that I decided last summer to take up my old hobby of photography. The reason was that I came to the conclusion that there is more to life then just working. During my 25 years of business related travels, 2+ million (real) air miles, I took a lot of pictures. However, most were taken with point and shoot cameras. Since retiring for my active travel in 2006, the only pictures I took were those during family get-togethers. It was time to get back to the type of photography I enjoyed during my teen days.

I was very fortunate in my early teen days to get introduced to photography, not just the picture taking part, but also the developing process of it, granted it was only black and white. It became clear that my P&S camera would not satisfy my needs to get back into photography. So my first step last summer was to explore what options were available to move away from my P&S picture taking.

I found out soon that there were many types of cameras, more then just the SLRs I remembered from way back, there are micro thirds, mirror less interchangeable cameras, traditional DSLRs and a technology that Sony has taken up named SLT. Which one to choose?

After much research I decided to narrow it down to DSLR/SLT. The main features I was after were:

  • Minimal delay to take the picture
  • P/A/S/M modes
  • Fast autofocus
  • Continuous auto-focus when taking multiple or sequential images
  • GPS Geotagging
  • Image stabilization
  • Good selection of lenses

My first task was to understand the differences between the DSLR and SLT technologies. DSLR cameras use a mechanical mirror to reflect the image that will be captured to the viewfinder. During the picture taking this mirror moves out of the way to allow light from the lens to hit the camera’s sensor and moves back into place when done. This mirror movement results in some vibration as well as blanking the viewfinder.

SLT cameras does not use mirrors to relay the image to the photographer, they display the image received by the sensor via an electronic viewfinder. SLT cameras use a single translucent mirror in front of the sensor which allows light to reach the sensor at all times, while directing a portion of it towards the camera’s auto-focus system.

Another technology difference to research was that of image stabilization. There are two types of image stabilization technologies: sensor-based image stabilization, which uses a mechanism to move the sensor to compensate for camera shake, and lens-based stabilization, which moves a floating element within the lens to compensate for camera shake. Canon and Nikon both use lens-based stabilization, while companies such as Sony, Pentax and Olympus feature sensor-based image stabilization. Both types of stabilizing systems have their pros and their cons, but which is better?

I was not able to find a definite answer, reading many articles on the subject provided a long lists of advantages and disadvantages, with conflicting results. It seems that there is no agreed technical answer as to which image stabilization technology is better. As I see it comes down to economics, pay for it once or multiple times.

My last step was to talk to some family members and friends that are active photographers about their experience and views. The cameras they are using are Canon, Nikon, Minolta and Sony. So which one did I pick? That will be the subject of my next posting.