Better shooting with a cheaper, older camera

One disappointment of my Canon 30D camera is that the colors, while almost clinically accurate, are not as rich as they were on my old Nikon Coolpix 5700. The Coolpix is now a five-year-old model, with only 5 megapixels and no switchable lenses or anything. Yet it took some outstanding shots. The one above was taken at SBA, the Santa Barbara Airport, through a chain link fence. Shots in that series are still among my faves.

13 comments

  1. Jackie Danicki’s avatar

    I bought a Nikon Coolpix, after my Panasonic Lumix was stolen by a mugger, because I liked the look of the pictures various people took with theirs. It has been a huge disappointment to me, a camera I have hated since day one. So I’m curious: Does yours take more blurry photos than it does decent ones? Mine (which is one of the newest models) sure seems to. Doesn’t seem right at all.

  2. fensterm’s avatar

    I’ve used a series of point-and-shoot cameras for a few years. I finally caved in to the pressure and bought from among Philip Greenspun’s recommendations.

    An attempt to embed the appropriate link.

    My Canon Rebel XT with Sigma lenses is 20 times more expensive than my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ2. Only in special circumstances is it 20 times better.* My Pany fits on my belt, goes with me all the time, and doesn’t make people nervous. My XT requires I wear a vest to carry the lenses [I don't own a car or a helicopter] and it puts people on their guard – even with no lens mounted. As Philip points out, being in the right place at the right time with an OK camera is better than being somewhere else with a Hasselblad.

    randy.f
    the guy by the door

    *My marginal utility of money is enormous compared to Philip’s. Grrrr….

  3. Sean Reiser’s avatar

    That is a fantastic shot, Doc!

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Jackie, I don’t have any experience with Nikon digital gear other than the Coolpix 5700, and the occasional D70 or something like that. So I have nothing to say, really, about the newer Coolpix cameras.

    What’s the model number for your camera?

    As for blurry photos, that’s a common problem when shooting subjects that are outside the focus point. The most typical example is shooting two people facing the camera. The people come out blurry because the camera focuses on something distant between them. The trick there is to focus on the subject, hold the focus (different cameras have different ways of doing this), recompose and shoot.

  5. Jim Thompson’s avatar

    If you miss the over-saturation of your CoolPix, the answer is to post-process in software.

    Or, sell me your 30D cheap. I could use something to bang up when the environment is wrong for my 5D. (heh heh)

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Randy, I’m with ya on the Lumix advantage. The Coolpix wasn’t inconspicuous, but it had a flip-out viewer that made it easy to shoot candids, and often from angles that didn’t freak the subjects. I miss that with the SLR.

    Jim, I not only post-process, but also increase saturation on the shooting end. Still, doesn’t compare. The Nikon’s are richer.

    That said, before I bought the 30D I moved the same CF card through the backplanes of many cameras, including the Nikon D200, shot lots of stuff, especially human beings. Then I went home and threw away all but the pictures with the best automatic white balance and flesh-tone color on human faces. I was left only with shots from the 30D and the 5D. Both also beat the crap out of everything else at ISO 800 and up. Those aurora shots I got would not have been nearly as good with a Nikon, I’m sure.

    So, whatever. Perfectionists are never happy. Which causes a lot of good stuff to happen, too.

  7. Leading’s avatar

    Looks wonderful! Reminds me of tropical sunset.

  8. Stephen Lewis’s avatar

    D. A few thoughts on this. The Canon gives you more margin for control but in turn leaves you more margin for error. Also, your Canon SLR’s sensor and software optimized to yield images for input to photoshop for further work; the Coolpix is optimized for good snapshots directly. Also, Nikon seems to go for a more color-saturated look from its software and sensors than Canon does. There is also a cultural factor (Europeans tend to lack low color saturation; Americans, high saturation). Last, don’t make the megapixel mistake. Megapixels are about print size only and have nothing to do with quality (to the contrary, on small sensor cameras, the more megapixels, the tiny the pixels and the greater the chance of noise and other aberrations). S. PS. One comment above shows the laziness of many people in the digital world — as to right place and time vs. figurative “hasselblad,” some of us spent years and years learning by experience how to both be in the right place at the right time AND use our complex heavy manual cameras! The more complex the tool the less chance of it working right out of the box!

  9. Canon T1i’s avatar

    I really miss my Nikon 5700…it was a great camera that produced some amazing shots!

  10. Nikon D400’s avatar

    I just find Nikon cameras in general are better, mind you I’ve always had a Nikon so I’m biased because they are familiar to me. I agree with Stephen Lewis though, a very insightful post.

  11. magicarm’s avatar

    I have an old manual 1975 canon. with a 135 mm lens and it works fine. Still my best camera.

  12. Chris Cork’s avatar

    That picture is gorgeous. Any chance of a high resolution copy?;)

  13. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Click on the photo. It takes you here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/sets/72057594050682567/

    There are high-resolution versions of all those, if you click on “all sizes.” You may need a Flickr Pro account for that. Not sure.

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