Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Against plastic

For those that didn't yet work it out, the answer to yesterday's question was the top photo was taken with my cellphone, the middle photo was taken with an elderly zoom compact and the bottom one with a digital SLR. The zoom compact used to be sharper but was sent back to Canon for a new sensor after it failed with a repair that was a free repair (even after it was several years old). It came back with a color cast and not that sharp. It's not important though. I might end up donating that camera and getting myself something nicer.

I was looking at my Canon lenses today and noticed they are noticeably bulkier than my old Nikon manual focus lenses. My old Nikon lenses were metal with very little plastic used in their construction. I have never ever been a fan of plastic in things. It's far too flimsy and doesn't last at all. I have heard people saying that it withstands knocks better but I have yet to see plastic not break when it gets a bump. I remember a take of somebody that dropped a big glass Leica lens down a cliff. He got to the bottom and there was a small dent in the filter ring that he straightened later with a toffee-hammer. Otherwise the lens was unharmed. A similar plastic lens would have been trashed. I reckon the bulk of the cheap and nasty plastic lenses is because plastic is so flimsy they need far more of it to make the lens reasonably stable. Give me metal and glass any day. In terms of weight, there's not really much weight penalty.

Another thing about manual focus lenses is that they all had a depth of field scale on them. Those scales worked well and even had an infra-red focussing mark. I miss those on the modern AF lenses. There have been times when I have had to guess the correct focus point and pray I got the aperture right. The following photo is a classic example.
I had to focus mid-way between the reflection and the text then choose an appropriate aperture. If I had let the camera do the focussing then either the text or the flag would have been in focus rather than both. A classic example of why autofocus is such a diabolical load of garbage. Everybody is convinced by autofocus which is fine if all you want is bland, mediocre photos.

The one bright step toward the future is the Nikon DF that apparently works with manual focus lenses. It lacks a proper manual focusing screen which I hope some enterprising Chinese fellow will start making and marketing on ebay. Installed that should make photographer rather fun again.

As far as commercial photography is concerned. What the heck is that? As far as I know the successful professional photographer is an anomaly. Anybody that claims otherwise is a complete liar. There are no photography clients out there, hunting for work. Pretty much anybody will give you $5 for a portrait if you badger them enough. They'll probably pay you just to shut you up and might even sit for a portrait and act pleased but put it in the linen closet until you visit. They won't really want your prints - they just don't want to be badgered and figure buying you off is the quickest way to shutting you up. The last I heard, most companies found somebody within their organisation to take the photos they needed then fixed problems with photoshop - all in-house.

I laugh when I see books on "how to be a successful photographer" because they are all written by failed businessmen. They always start off by describing how to get the small fry - the non-paying clients that just want to get on with their lives without having to tell you no but who agree to photography as long as it's free or low cost - just to get shot of you. Then suddenly the books go into multi-million dollar model shoots with teams of make-up artists as though one led straight to the other. This is a complete load of fantasy. I have not yet seen a photography business book that does not totally leave out the important middle part.

What we have is an industry peddling plastic cameras, plastic lenses to pretentious individuals that think they're God's gift instead of realising they annoy everybody. Then we have the fantasy of people that think they're going to make money from photography. What a load of garbage!

Yesterday I posted 3 sample images from a cellphone, a zoom compact and a digital SLR. At the resolution shown, they all looked very similar. The exposures were different as were the colors but otherwise the images were similar. Both the superzoom and the cellphone had similar detail, beaten only on a larger image by the digital SLR. None of the images were of stunning quality but then I have rarely seen anything that stunning that hasn't been photoshopped to death. It's like the days of film where everything got airbrushed to death.

We live in a very false world and the plastic lenses with their bulk and cheap-plasticness epitomises this. Whatever happened to the real world where men landed on the moon armed only with slide-rules and people used Hasselblad 6x6 film cameras? We now have spray and pray wedding photographers where a monkey in a suit turns up, takes 3,000 photographs and then spends weeks working out which half-dozen photographs are worth giving to the bride and groom.

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