As you all know, I purchased a Digital Rebel last month. I haven’t posted anything about it since I received it, and with reason. Basically, I was having serious trouble getting good pictures. I’ve received a handful of complements on some photographs I’ve taken with my previous digital camera, the Canon Powershot S30. I knew that camera just about backwards and forwards, except for the white balance settings. Anyway, I didn’t expect a huge learning curve with the DReb. I was wrong. The first few hundred pictures I took using similar settings to what would have worked on the S30 all looked like crap. Either the white balance was so off that everything looked sickly grey or stark yellow or the depth of field was so shallow that a mere percentage of my desired frame was in focus or, most common, it was blurry! I’ve gotten better, but I’m still surprised at how great my “cheap point-and-shoot” S30 is.
This past weekend, I decided that I need to go outside before it gets to dark and learn how to use my new damned camera! I had to get used to SLR “features” like added weight and bulk, no LCD preview, viewfinder XOR picture and mirror slap. Though the camera came with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, I also picked up the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II as well. This prime lens only cost $80 and I figured it would help me learn the camera better by removing one variable, the concept of zoom. I went out with my prime to walk over to the nearby park. Just my luck, there was some sort of fire going on over at a nearby business complex! Unfortunately for my photographic experience and fortunately for the building, the fire was out with no appreciable damage. I played around with the available light and the engines, but nothing came out terribly well:
1/40th sec f/8 ISO 400
I continued on, noting some odd “NO TRESPASSING” signs and a “THIS IS NOT A PARK” pipe:
1/25th sec f/6.3 ISO 400
As I made it to the park, it was roughly 3:45 PM and the sun was completely obscured by clouds. The lack of direct light would make it easier to photograph most subjects (no harsh shadows), but it was also getting closer to dusk. My available light, the light I needed, was waning. I took a few photos of dark trees against the swirling clouds. Most of them would look better in pure black and white seeing as there was such little color:
1/50th sec f/10 ISO 400
At this point, I realized what they said was true, you really end up walking around a lot more trying to set up shots with a prime lens. In addition, a 50mm lens acts more like an 80mm on a digital SLR like mine. 80mm is a little bit to much on the telephoto side for good landscape pictures. I kept trying to back up. That works fine, until you back into another tree or a ditch. There was a clump of bamboo hidden in an alcove of the park that I wanted to photograph. The only problems were that I couldn’t get far enough back to get full stalks in the shot and the lighting was completely blocked. I decided to play around with the flash and I’m no longer flashphobic! The flash on the S30 was so harsh that it was worthless. The DReb cast strong shadows and darkened the background dramatically, but I kind of like it:
1/20th sec f/10 ISO 400
1/40th sec f/8 ISO 400
At this point, it was time to play with depth of field. I took at a look at this blue flower and over estimated its depth. I figured I wanted to stop down the lens a bit to get the whole flower in focus. I took it a bit too far and the surrounding bush wasn’t as blurred as I would have liked:
1/13th sec f/5 ISO 400
In contrast, with the lens one step from full-open, this flower is in focus with a nicely blurred background:
1/40th sec f/2.8 ISO 400
Overall, I’m much happier with the camera now that I’ve learned some of the basics. Lots of reading on the web has given me a basic understanding of the physics of photography and that will let me take much better pictures. Honestly, I know the S30 didn’t have any sort of image stabilization, but I was able to take pictures at 1/13th or slower in moderately lit conditions and get sharp photos. I guess having one of the greatest point-and-shoot digital cameras has made the transition to DSLR less impressive.
On a side note, I’ve already picked out what lens I want next.