Usually in late December the cold is here to stay, and the streets of downtown Asheville are devoid of the street musicians I love to listen to and photograph. But El Nino has given us some uncommonly spring-like weather so far this winter, and some of the local "buskers" were out performing Sunday afternoon.
My new little Lumix proved a near perfect tool for this kind of photography. Small and unobtrusive, it renders me nearly invisible in a crowd. I always felt so obvious with the big, black DSLR. The long zoom of the Lumix makes it easy to get the tight shots I like of individual performers, no matter how far back I have to stand. Clean files at ISO 400 or 800 keep me shooting as the winter sun stays lower in the sky. Here's a few from Sunday afternoon. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
I took an early morning stroll around downtown Asheville yesterday to further test out my new Lumix digicam. Last week on a short hike in Pisgah National Forest, I was impressed with how clean the photos were at ISO 400. This week, I shot strictly in Program mode at ISO 800. I was expecting to see more digital noise, especially in the shadow areas, but like last week, they were very clean! At high magnification on my computer screen (200% +) I could see some evidence of the camera's noise cancelling software at work. I wouldn't make poster size prints from these ISO 800 photos, but 8x10s would look fine. This exercise really increased my confidence in this camera, especially for street photography.
And what a pleasure it was not to have that big DSLR slung over my shoulder! I felt so much freer carrying a camera that fits comfortably in my hand. My shirt pocket is now my camera bag. I shot more, and I enjoyed my walk much more without that boat anchor tugging on my shoulder. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Wow, it's hard to believe that it's been two months since I've posted anything to this blog! During the fall months, I posted some photos on Facebook, but I didn't feel motivated to post here. I guess I've been in the doldrums photographically for the past few months. However, I think that's about to change.
1977, comedian Steve Martin told America, "Let's Get Small"
when he released a comedy album by the same title. In 2015 I'm taking
his advice by relegating my DSLR cameras to second string, and going
back to where I started with digital photography, with a small sensor
first digital camera was a 2002 Canon Powershot G3. I bought mine in
2003 for a great price at the
end of its production run, just as its successor, the G5 was being
It was a great
camera, far exceeding my film-biased expectations. With that camera,
with its mere 4 megapixels and 2002 technology under the hood, I was
able to produce some absolutely gorgeous 11x14 prints, a couple of
which still hang in my living room today.
however, I discovered that starting out with only 4mp made cropping
a very iffy proposition. Cropping a little too much left me with a file too small to do much
with. I also began to be dissatisfied with a zoom lens that was only
140mm on the long end. I'm a telephoto man, and that just wasn't
enough reach for the kind of photos I wanted to make. I began to look
at bigger (and more expensive) cameras.
the time, I had dreams of being a semi-professional location
photographer, and also trying to sell some of my scenic photography
as “fine art”. Rolling up to a portrait session with a little
digicam will not inspire confidence in your clients, so I decided a
big, black DSLR was called for. I finally decided on the Olympus
E-500, which could be bought as a 2 zoom lens-kit at the time. It had
8 mp which allowed me to crop with more confidence, and the longest
zoom lens went to 300mm, giving me the kind of longer reach I
wanted. Problem solved, for the moment anyway.
for the last 10 years I've been toting around various combinations of
big, black camera, and big, black lens. With a full time job and
other obligations, I never had the time to market myself properly as
a portrait photographer. The rise of the “Mom Photographer” with
a Canon Rebel and plenty of time on her hands to shoot during the
week did me in. I wasn't willing to sell all the files from a sitting on a CD so the customer can make their own prints at Walmart as seems to be the trend today. The sale of scenic photographs never panned out
either. Our area is super saturated with Ansel Adams wannabes, all
shooting the same barns, waterfalls, and sunsets. It's very difficult
to distinguish yourself in such a crowded market unless you really
have Ansel Adams talent. I don't.
friends got me interested in backpacking a couple of years ago. A
seemingly excellent opportunity to to bag some good outdoor photos,
but carrying a BIG camera along with all the other gear just didn't
seem practical. Mountain biking also provided other opportunities
for outdoor photos, but carrying the big camera was a hindrance there
too. Finally, I've become more interested in street photography in
recent years, and the big camera/big lens combo attracts too much attention when going
for candid street photos. Now
that I've decided to go back to shooting strictly for my own
enjoyment, the allure of the big DSLR is gone for me. I
needed a smaller camera!
demands for a replacement were demanding, and unattainable just a few
years ago. I print less that 1% of my photos, but I want to be able
to print quality 11x14s if desired. I wanted a zoom lens with a range
of at least 28-400mm. That would cover 99% of what I like to shoot. I
also demanded an electronic viewfinder. Trying to compose on a LCD on
sunny days is a fool's errand as I've discovered on other digicams and
Finally, I wanted all that in a package that was truly pocket size.
Not a large coat pocket, a shirt pocket. Was such a thing available
at a price I could afford?
search finally came down to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 and the Sony
DSC-HX90V. (Why do cameras need such long, complicated names?) Both
had almost identical specs. These two cameras were obviously designed
to compete with one another. The Lumix has a viewfinder that is built
into the body, with a sensor that turns it on automatically when you
put the camera to your face. The
has a viewfinder that pops up out of the top of the camera. That
design seems like something else to break to me. I also liked that the Lumix has a Leica lens on it. The deciding factor,
however, was price. The Sony was $100 more than the Lumix after
Panasonic lowered most of their camera prices around Thanksgiving.
That made my choice between the two fairly easy! A couple of weeks ago I made
Amazon aware of my choice.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50. (I'm going to skip all that nomenclature from now on and just refer to it as "the Lumix".)
camera arrived this week, and I'm eager to see if it's everything I'm hoping it will be. Early results are very encouraging. Can a camera
with a sensor the size of my pinky fingernail give me the print
quality I'm looking for? The old 4mp Canon did, so I'm confident that
a camera with 12mp and 13 years of advancement in technology will do
as good. A zoom that extends to 720mm will exactly double the
my DSLR zoom. And all that in a package not much bigger than a deck
of cards! No longer will I be hindered by the bulk of that big camera
and big zoom lens on hikes or other excursions.
new camera never makes anyone a better photographer, but sometimes it
can re-light the creative fires. I'm ready to get back out there and
start making photos again. Stay
tuned for the
River Cane, Canton, NC - 2015
(Click on photo to enlarge. From first test shots with the Lumix. )