Photography - Overview
Over the years, I have owned several different digital cameras. In the mid 2000s, I really started to become more interested in taking higher quality pictures, and started with a "bridge" camera. So, in reverse chronological order the cameras I've used since photography started to become an interest are: Nikon D90 DSLR, Fuji S100FS, Olympus C8080WZ
As outlined below, I previously used a Fuji S100FS and, prior to that, an Olympus C8080, which is still regarded as one of the best bridge cameras, ever. Thing is, if you want to be creative with the camera, nothing else affords what a DSLR does. Based on great reviews, the fact my Brother-in-Law owns a Nikon D300 and some hands-on playing, I ended up with a D90. To get this, I sold all the old gear (and some other possessions I no longer needed)...
I gather that some people treat lenses like baseball cards, and try to collect them all! While I'd love to do that, I have budgetary constraints that won't allow for that... My walking around kit is comprised of the D90, along with the 18-105VR, 70-300VR and the recently introduced 35mmf1.8. I also have had the opportunity to play around with a 50mmf1.8.
I cannot mention sensor size enough; this is a biggie, for me - it should be a biggie for anyone with a camera! My wife and I just had a daughter (our first child), and I've taken many, many pictures. None have been taken with flash (to avoid the harsh lighting on her eyes). This simply would not have been possible with my other cameras. They are many other situations were flash is not allowed / not possible - museums, weddings, etc. This feature alone is worth the extra expense, to me.
This was taken at a local steakhouse, so you can imagine how dark it was inside, but you'd never know and flash WAS NOT used @ ISO 1100:
With the DSLR, you have far more control of what your image looks like, including control of the focus. This is such a useful function... Unless I'm taking pictures of the landscape, I probably want to try to isolate the subject, whether it's a bird hiding in the trees, someone standing in a crowd of strangers, or just to focus on my daughter's feet (no post production, other than resizing):
You're probably starting to get the idea - the D90 is far more camera than I've every had / touched, before. The 11-point focus engine works quite well, rendering far more keepers than the Fuji, even with the consumer grade glass that I'm using. The D90 handles low light admirably, and can produce high ISO captures with very printable results. The battery life is great - I have gone for hikes, where I've fired off no less than 1500 captures, and ran out of memory (8GB) before I ran out of battery. At 4.5 frames per second, the D90 is far faster than pretty much any P&S, and can capture the action of a bird in flight, or the fastest car in motion. Live view is nice to have, but rather gimmicky, in a DSLR... It works, but slows down the focusing speed of the camera (though oddly enough IMPROVES the focusing accuracy, as it uses a different algorithm altogether). Overall, the D90 is a great body, and the flexibility of lens changes should allow me to continue to grow my skills, and provide me with many printed memories to come.
I really liked the Oly 8080, but definitely needed a long zoom. Ever since my parents got the farm as their retirement property, I started trying to take pictures of the wildlife. I found that telephoto and image stabilization were desperately needed, and without those features, I was often left walking away from fantastic shots, that "could have been". In August 2008, I didn't think I wanted a DSLR, because I needed long reach of a telephoto lens, but wasn't ready to put out the big bucks for an equivalent DSLR and lens(es). I'm not a pro, and wasn't sure if this "hobby" will be a lasting interest, or a fun fad...
For the first time since my first digital camera, I broke away from Olympus. I tried the Oly SP570, but I just couldn't put it in my hand comfortably. Also, the image stabilization (a critical factor for me) was not up to the task, when dealing with my hand shakes. So what did I get? A Fuji S100FS, offering a 14.3x zoom (35mm equiv. 28-400mm); it's a physically large P&S, with a bigger / better than average image sensor. At the time, it was the most sophisticated "bridge" camera on the market, offering very good image quality, great zoom and image stabilization that worked for me.
I went to my parents' retirement home, the first weekend I had the camera... It's about 70 acres of land, near Brighton, Ontario. There's a lot of wildlife there (well, way more than this city-boy is used to seeing), and I started to put the Fuji to use. Here are a few photos taken, with no post done, other than resizing (no cropping, either):
Taken from the widest end of the lens:
Same picture, from the longest end of the lens:
Picture taken from about 12 feet away from the flower:
Focusing on a Great Blue Heron through long grass:
Unfortunately for my wallet, the Fuji was not a good decision; not for me, with my evolving needs. In less than a year, I felt I had outgrown it; I was finding myself frustrated by the Fuji's limitations, more often than I was pleased with the output. Under ideal circumstances, the camera took very nice images, but the fact I unloaded it in less than a year should say something...
It's like in racing, there's a saying "Fast, reliable, cheap. Pick two." Cameras are also very much about compromises. A lens covering this wide a range, affixed to a reasonably priced camera HAS to have compromises. These compromises are most commonly seen on the lower and upper ends of the range (which gets used the most, as you're often shooting at full wide angle, or fully zoomed), and the Fuji was no exception. At varying degrees, I dealt with a lack of contrast, colour inaccuracies and chromatic aberrations (odd colours fringing high contrast areas, usually purple). That I could live with, as it wasn't that pronounced, but it was another layer of concern...
EVERY point and shoot camera will suffer from the sensor size limitation. The sensors are smaller, resulting in pixel densities that are quite high, so that the manufacturer can win a battle of "specmanship" with more MP. Low light imagery will certainly suffer, forcing the use of flash more often. Regardless of how many megapixels are advertised, the image quality when zoomed to 100% will look rather, uh... Crappy. This is again tied to the small pixel-dense sensor. If all the images you want to capture fill the frame and are taken under good lighting conditions, you'll be fine. If you need to crop the image to get the picture you want or are taken pictures in lower light/less than ideal conditions, you'll not be very happy.
Lastly, the Fuji was often quite slow to focus. As said, I really started to develop an interest in capturing images of the wildlife I happened to meet along the way... Well, the wildlife ain't posing for me, so I had to catch the image quickly, before they scurried/ran/flew away. Far too often, I ended up with many images of blur, with absolutely nothing in focus.
I first got into the digital world, with a pocket-sized Olympus digicam - I don't even recall the model number, it was so long ago, but it was a 1.3MP camera. From there, I jumped up to the Olympus C2100 UZ (the uzi)... a 2.1MP 10x zoom camera, that was much more sophisticated than any other camera I had touched, at the time. It was a great camera, and served me well. Image quality was top notch and it included image stabilization, but over time, I wanted something with the ability to print in large scale...
In 2004, I moved up to the Olympus C8080, which is still regarded as a camera with excellent image quality. 8MP, and 5x zoom. The images it has taken, including those from my honeymoon can be, quite simply, breath taking. The limits of the camera (primarily the low zoom range and lack of image stabilization) ended up leaving me wanting, as my photographic aspirations grew.
Here are a few photos taken, with the Olympus C8080WZ: