Not being the sort of person to ever do anything by halves if I can possibly avoid it, I’ve actually got two DSLRs. In fact there’s a very valid reason for that… all to do with dust on sensors. But that’s another story entirely.
So, as regular visitors here (that’ll be me!) may be aware, one of these little beasties is a Canon – the EOS 400D or “Digital Rebel”.
When I first contemplated getting this perhaps I should have given it rather more thought than I did but, in fairness to myself, at the time I didn’t know a great deal about this digital photography stuff (nothing, in fact) so did what any sensible person would do and sought the advice of a trusted friend.
And not just any old trusted friend (not that I’ve too many of them) but a guy who actually knows what he’s talking about – a professional photojournalist/photodocumentarian.
Now, a bit of context wouldn’t come amiss here (so grab a coffee, settle down, and be prepared for a lonnng read!).
It was in fact this same guy who rather mischieviously encouraged me to launch into this digital photography caper in the first place.
I’d been involved in some form of activism/protest for quite some time as a direct spin-off from my rather over-the-top commitment to the anti-war protests of a few years ago and one of the conclusions I’d come to therefrom was that much of the “move to war” (we’re talking here about the Iraq war) had been driven by media spin.
This led me to look rather more closely at world events in general and it seemed to me that in many cases our “world leaders” are allowed to “get away with” particular courses of action as a direct effect of the (possibly premeditated) shaping of people’s assumptions, perceptions, and their “received wisdom” in general, by the mainstream media.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be of quite such serious concern but for the fact that much of the mainstream media (or “msm” as its known) is vested in the hands of just a very few individuals and corporations.
So for someone as opposed to the direction in which world events appeared to be (and seemingly still are) going as myself, clearly one of the main “battlefields” is in the world of media… encouraging/supporting alternative reporting and interpretation of the news, and indeed trying to secure coverage for events that the big boys (for one reason or another) choose to ignore.
Fortunately, with the increasing popularity of the Web (a social and cultural – to say nothing of technological – development on a par, to my mind, with the invention of printing and the discovery of radio) the ordinary citizen – that’s you and me – now has within their grasp, possibly for the first time ever, a relatively easy and accessible means of communicating with and informing, virtually instantly, the world at large. (Easily accessible at least for the developed countries… that’s an issue for a discussion elsewhere.)
And it seems that the much talked about Web.2 has encouraged (if not actually been in part responsible for) the phenomenon known as “citizen journalism”.
Which clearly feeds directly into the conclusions I’d already reached regarding the influence of the msm and which, slowly and circuitously, is bringing us back to the point of this post.
I don’t imagine for one moment that anything I can do will make much or indeed any difference to world events nor, at a more personal level, the way the society in which I live appears to be changing, but that very rational conclusion has never stopped me before… my middle name isn’t Don Quixote for nothing! (In fact, it isn’t Don Quixote at all but let’s not even go there cos otherwise I’ll have to start talking about tilting at windmills and stuff.)
Through the medium of the Web under-reported news can be given coverage, media spin can be balanced by alternative takes, in-depth background information on the issues of the day can be published widely (or “exposed” if you prefer), incredibly extensive research can be undertaken, and even activists can be organised and co-ordinated on a scale never before imagined possible… as witness for example the world-wide, unprecedentedly huge, anti-war movement of a few years back.
Given my fondness for gadgets, computers and stuff like that, and my former background in graphic design and PR, it was almost inevitable that the Web would prove the ideal outlet for much of my activist leanings, and so it was.
All well and good but, as the old saying has it, “a picture’s worth a thousand words”. Which was of course the lever with which my trusted friend maliciously beat me over the head to propel me into the world of digital photography (not sure whether or not I’ve forgiven him yet… I know its cost me a small fortune so far). I suppose I have to be truthful and admit that wasn’t the only incentive, but it was certainly a significant part of the inducement.
Anyway, my first acquisition was a Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6 point & shoot – but that simply didn’t hack it for all sorts of reasons. Not least of which was the rather dubious although very compelling one that, when mixing with other “news gatherer” types (full- and part-time, professional and amateur) at various events the KM simply lacked “street cred”.
There. I’ve said it. No, don’t laugh. It may be a stupid reason but that sort of motivation plays a significant role in a lot of folks’ lives if they’re brutally honest with themselves.
In a word (um… many words in my case) I was a bit embarrassed to be mixing with other news gatherers with all their super-duper kit sporting only a touristy-type KM.
(The other, more reasonable motivation, was that whilst the KM had proven to be an easy and comfortable intro into the world of digital photography, it didn’t really “flick any switches” for me, so in that sense it was a bit disappointing. But I was sufficiently hooked to want to get something slightly better.)
Given these separate but converging impulses I once again consulted the oracle of all photojournalistic endeavour and he told me I really needed to get either a Nikon or a Canon DSLR. He even went so far as to admit (in a roundabout sort of way) that the precise model wasn’t quite as significant as the fact that it would be sporting the “right” neck-strap!
He actually recommended the Nikon D40. As much as anything else this was out of consideration for my learner status. Its small, relatively cheap (and getting cheaper almost every day), reasonably easy to use for someone of my expertise (or lack of it!), yet it still provides the features necessary to produce reasonably acceptable (in a pro sense) photos. And, most importantly, its got the right name!
So I went out and got the Canon EOS 400D. My middle name isn’t “contrary” for nothing y’know.
Right… imagine the story about dust on sensors being inserted here (otherwise I’m gonna have to ramble on for another ten thousand pages).
Having decided I wanted/needed a second DSLR, the only question remaining was, which one?
I suppose the most sensible thing (and certainly the best from a cash point of view) would have been to simply get a second 400D body. But that’s boring. And, having made up my mind to get a second DSLR I didn’t see much point in getting one of lesser spec, so found myself being drawn to the Nikon D80… or possibly the D40X.
(As an aside, it tends to be a habit of mine to get variations on a piece of kit serving the same purpose. At a practical level I’ve discovered its one of the ways I can learn most rapidly about the principles behind how things work. I’ll just not say anything about the five – at last count – computers I’ve got, in various shapes and sizes. But you need to know this to appreciate any comments I may make in future posts along the lines of “Hmm… its about time I got another computer”.)
Well, fortuitously at about the same time I heard of the Samsung GX10. Read a few reviews, liked what I read, read a few more, didn’t come across any significant negatives. And thus was plunged into a bit of a quandary. For I was still hung up on getting a Nikon (tried Canon… now wanted to see what the opposition had to offer). I must admit to a bit of the “analysis paralysis” creeping in that a new-found mate so accurately describes in a blog post here.
Which prompted me to do some more serious thinking. Along the lines of “What’s my real reason for being hung up on getting a Nikon?”, and “So what have I got against the Samsung that’s causing me to hesitate?” And I suddenly realised it was all to do with the name. Had the Samsung had a Nikon or Canon label on it I would’ve bought it like a shot, based purely on the reviews I’d read.
In all my reading and research its become clear to me that in the world of the pro photographer, the photojournalist, the photodocumentarian, even the serious enthusiastic amateur (which is pretty much how I’m beginning to regard myself), at the budget end of the range nothing else exists other than Canon or Nikon.
“Why should this be?” I asked myself. “Are they so far ahead of all the competition in terms of quality and results that nothing else can hold a candle to them, or is it all simply brand snobbishness?”
Of course, I’m not talking here about the truly pro cams like the Nikon D3 or the Canon EOS 1DS III but the more “serious enthusiast” models… i.e., the lower end of these manufacturers’ product ranges. And in that fairly wide price band there’s plenty of alternatives to choose from.
At this point I have to acknowledge that magazine reviews and the like aren’t always to be totally relied upon when it comes to providing a level playing field for different brands of a given type of product. They seem to indulge a sort of “flavour of the month” (or decade maybe) approach that doesn’t always best serve the consumer.
I know this from my much more extensive experience (in the dim and distant past) of high-end stereo equipment. And from computer gear. So why should cameras (another geeky-prone type gadget) be treated any differently?
I’m not saying that such publications consciously or premeditatedly promote particular brands over others regardless of the relative merits of other brands, but that they unwittingly follow a culture where some things are considered to be “in” or “cool” or “chic” or whatever whilst others are simply beyond the pale for little reason other than that their brand name doesn’t fit.
And, human nature being what it is, lots of people quite innocently just buy into the hype, which in turn encourages others, and so it goes in a snowball-type effect. (Hmm… we’re getting dangerously close to ranting on about media spin again here!)
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not knocking either Canon or Nikon. I’ve got a great deal of respect for the quality and reliability of their products, and I know there are thousands if not literally hundreds of thousands of folk out there who are committed Nikon/Canon fans based purely on quality considerations.
(But I can remember another brand being flavour of the month amongst pro photographers a few years back. When I had a brief dabble with film photography way back in the early 80s where were Nikon or Canon then? Well, one was making photocopiers and fax machines and I dunno what the other was doing. But the big name then was Pentax! (It was in fact an upper-range Pentax that I invested in, and rapidly discovered how truly crap I was at taking photos). And where are they now in the field of pro or serious enthusiast photography? Of course, there’s always been Leica and Hasselblad but they’re in a different league entirely… aren’t they?)
So, having reached this conclusion I decided to say go to hell with the street cred, the received wisdom, and opted instead to commit to the Samsung.
(Incidentally, I think I’m beginning to develop a bit of a love affair with Samsung. I’ve now not just got one of their cameras, but also replaced both my Nokia mobile phones with Samsungs and they’re brilliant! The styling is superb, they’re easy to use… oh, I could go on and on. Have Samsung always produced this class of kit and I’ve just never noticed I wonder, or are they aiming to go a bit up-market with their products? Also incidentally, I now notice that they’ve produced a rather tasty point & shoot which I’d be seriously tempted to get – in preference to Canon’s G9 – were it not for the fact that it doesn’t shoot in RAW. Damn!)
Ok, I’m fully prepared for someone to come along and shoot me down in flames for this decision, someone with a lot more experience of digital photography than I, but I settled for the Samsung… and mighty glad I did too!
The Samsung’s become my baby. Its great. I’m in love with it! Much better than the Canon. And its chunky, feels solid, built to last. Ok, it has its foibles (which I suspect are actually more to do with the kit lens than the camera itself) but I still prefer it to the Canon. And its coffee-proof (see this post)!
Coincidentally, its actually a clone/rebrand of a Pentax DSLR!
Here are all the most relevant specs:
Max resolution: 3872 x 2592
Low resolution: 3008 x 2000, 1824 x 1216
Image ratio w:h 3:2
Effective pixels: 10.0 million
Sensor photo detectors: 10.8 million
Sensor size: 23.5 x 15.7 mm
Sensor type: CCD
Colour filter array: RGB
ISO rating: Auto (custom), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
Image stabilization: Yes, Sensor shift
Auto Focus: Yes
Manual Focus: Yes
Auto focus type: TTL 11-area AF
White balance override: 8 positions, plus manual
Min shutter: 30 sec + Bulb
Max shutter: 1/4000 sec
Built-in Flash: Yes
External flash: Yes, hot-shoe
Flash modes: Auto, On, Off, Red-eye reduction
Exposure compensation: -3 to +3 EV in 0.5 or 0.3 EV steps
Metering: Multi-segment (16), Center-weighted Average, Spot
Aperture priority: Yes
Shutter priority: Yes
Focal length multiplier: 1.5
Lens thread: Pentax KAF2, KAF, KA mount
Continuous Drive: Yes, 3.0 fps, unlimited JPEG, 9 RAW
Movie Clips: No
Remote control: Yes, IR optional
Self-timer: Yes, 2 or 12 sec
Orientation sensor: Yes
Storage types: SD/MMC card
Uncompressed format: RAW (PEF or DNG)
Compressed format: JPEG (EXIF 2.2)
Quality Levels: Normal, Fine, Superfine
LCD Pixels: 210,000
Battery: Lithium-Ion rechargeable
Weight (inc. batteries): 793 g (28 oz)
Dust and weather resistant seals, based on Pentax K10D
And for anyone who’s really interested my mate of the wayward nose (see comment appended to this post) shot a load of pics of the camera the other day and has uploaded them as a set to his Flickr photostream here.