Sunday, 16 December 2012

New camera review

I’d been putting back the purchase of a new photographic equipment since the discovery of my Canon’s breakdown in early autumn this year. My first preference towards the new device was Canon Powershot SX130, which I found in Euro RTV AGD in late October. The camera could be picked up only in one of their shops in Warsaw, but due to busy and stressful period at work in the last days of October I postponed the visit to the shop for 2 November to find out owing to my procrastination they’d run out of stock. Then in November I was focusing on sitting for the exam and gave up on looking for the new camera. Last Saturday, while browsing Media Markt leaflet I found Olympus D-760. The camera took my fancy, so I checked its technical specification in the web, settled for the purchase, rushed to the car and drove to the nearest shop (Warszawa Krakowska).

The camera offers a decent trade-off between price and quality. For a device offering 12.5-fold optical zoom, 15 mpx matrix, optical picture stabiliser, HD filming and tens of useless gadgets I paid 419 PLN. Enough to have my needs met, as I wouldn’t have probably made use of a better equipment and this one is small enough to fit into inner pocket of a jacket and stay invisible. On the other hand, as any newly produced device it appears fragile and gives an impression of being designed to endure 2-year warranty period and some two days beyond it before breaking down.

I regret not taking it with me on Wednesday, when Ursynów witnessed the biggest blackout in last 15 years. I drove to P&R Stokłosy shortly after 7 a.m., it was still dark and the only lights emitters were vehicles. Reminded me of North Korean power outages and was worth documenting, but would I have taken decent-quality photos with a new camera I’d not been familiar with?

I took the camera last Friday to capture beauty of a frosty, sunny morning (-12C). To the right - having parked the car, I roam around Metro Stokłosy bus terminus. I use ‘snow’ theme to take shot of the intersection of ul. Ciszewskiego and al. KEN, it’s shortly before sunrise...

To the right – I walk out of Świętokrzyska underground station. It’s slowly getting light. Camera’s settings remain unchanged. Machines in the background belong to second underground line builders. As I’m familiarising with the new device, I’m focusing more on the quality of the photo rather than its content.

To the right – ten before eight, sauntering towards my office I turn aside to make a picture of ul. Towarowa towards Plac Zawiszy. If you enlarge, you might come to the same conclusion I’ve reached – I’d focused on the wrong object, hence key parts of the picture are not as sharp as I’d want.

To the right – another try, night-time shooting. No tripod, flashlight turned off, camera held in slightly quivering (in attempt to do my best to prevent any motion) hands. Could it have been done better?

Today I ventured to Piaseczno to play with the camera again. To the right – I focused on the Christmas tree on the town square and even forgot to cover it all and ‘cut off’ the star at the top. My old Canon used to put out more ‘granular’ photos, while shots from Olympus seem still kind of blurred…

Around half past two magnificent fog, which I’d been lingering over the whole day, began to descend and grow thicker. To the right – intersection of ul. Okulickiego, ul. Powstańców Warszawy, ul. Nowa and ul. Mleczarska. I’m standing some 100 metres from it and use optical zoom to the limits. I focused on the tree in the background, but given the acuity of other objects on the photo relative to the tree, there was some fail.

I walk homewards and cross the single-track coal line. Similar shots have been taken by me here in June 2009. I somehow adore the theme of lines converging onto the horizon. Here they disappear, swathed in the fog. I focus on the horizon.

Then I turn around and capture the view eastwards. I took several other photos today, but for sake of practising how to handle the new camera rather than to document something. Gave me much joy on this gloomy and short day.

I was used to my old camera, so using a new one means picking up new habits. The Olympus has a few features that wind me up, e.g. when it turns on it’s always in photo-taking mode and I think it can’t be set to go into photo-watching mode after switching on. The other thing is that it runs on its internal battery, rather than on AA batteries, which is good, except for the fact its battery begins to charge up every time I plug the camera to the computer to transfer photos or to the TV set to watch it. This will diminish durability of the battery, due to ‘memory effect’.

The new camera has more settings, many gadget-like, this translates into opportunities to tweak with something and more chances to screw something up = take an unsatisfactory photo due to choosing wrong settings. Unlike with my old Canon, I wouldn’t fall back on ‘automatic’ mode, which fails to properly adjust setting to the scenery. The best choice is to desist from using themes and use a ‘P-mode’, where you can change key setting manually.

The biggest challenge is sharpness adjustment. I seem to be mastering how to control it, although I’m more skilful in it in shots taken outdoor rather than indoor, some progress is made since first snap, albeit there’s still a way to go. Again I’m proven the more complex camera, the worse the photo taken by a skill-deficient photographer will likely be. To make a good use of this camera, you’d rather not just press the button…

I haven’t tried out its filming capacity. Due to much higher resolution, my new Olympus will offer much better quality than the Canon, but at the expense of film size. At the moment I have a 1GB memory card taken from my old camera and the new one says it can save up to 3 minutes 56 seconds of decent-quality footage on it, so I should consider upgrade to 8GB card.

To recap, the camera fully meets my needs of occasional documenting reality for pleasure. It has now almost 100 snaps on the counter and, as I notice, just like a brand-new car, needs running in before its capacity can be fully utilised; this process is under way. Am I right?

In the meantime, my old, defective was put up for sale on Allegro. 12 minutes before the end of the auction the highest bid is 10.28 PLN. If a new user knows how to fix it on his own, after buying a shutter flex for another 10 PLN on Allegro, they will have a decent, slightly obsolete compact for a dirt-cheap price.

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