After some time without a digital camera to speak of, I finally took the plunge and bought the Fujifilm Finepix E900. It’s a 9 megapixel camera in the “serious amateur” price and quality range.
I learned the technical side of photography when I inherited my grandfather’s old 35mm reflex camera. It’s a Prinzflex with an old screw-fit lens thread which meant any lenses I bought for it were all acquired second hand whilst hunting around old camera shops. Having that camera encouraged me to read a few books and familiarise myself with the notions of aperture, shutter speed, film speed and depth of field. Then I started taking loads of pictures, but I hated waiting for development (and the cost) when only one out of every fifty or so photographs were actually any good. You have to take a lot of shots and analyse what’s good about the photos you find most pleasing – it’s rarely the subject that is interesting. It’s all about trial and error.
I’ve always wanted a serious digital camera. A few years ago on a low budget I bought the cheapest camera with an LCD screen that I could find. A lot of the photos on this site were taken with that camera, but it really was a point and shoot box. Nonetheless I could shoot a lot of photos and delete everything I didn’t like immediately. Most of the time that’s actually enough for web quality photos and experimentation. Some of the shots I took with that camera, like the ones on this post, or an early photo of Nathan with Mummy, are actually quite good.
Investing in the new camera allows me to mix the technical aspects of my old Prinzflex SLR and the convenience of digital. Like most midrange digital cameras, you can control shutter speed, aperture and with the E900 even a simulated ISO rating. Fujifilm make their own CCDs for these cameras and they claim – and seem to have shown to me so far – that they can treat natural lighting settings really well. The key point for me is that the shutter delay is very short: when you press the shutter button, the picture is taken almost instantaneously. My previous digital was very slow to actually take the photo after you pressed the button.
Nine megapixels means that I can print big enlargements and they should look very clear. The argument that actually swayed me to allocate the extra budget compared to the 5 megapixel Nikon I was looking at is that even with about half as much zoom, you grab the same information: I can crop out a lot of image and still be left with a 5 megapixel shot. This goes for macro photography too: at almost twice the distance from an object I capture as much detail as an equivalent 5 megapixel camera.
Some other advantages of the Fujifilm E900 are excellent video capacity: it can film at 640×480 resolution @ 30fps which is close to analogue NTSC TV resolution (if you compare with these video resolution specs) and not far from PAL or DVD resolution. You can add audio notes to your snaps as a reminder of conditions, names of places, etc. You can crop photos on the camera itself. This is very handy – you can cut out unneeded stuff from the edge of the frame and save the resulting image at lower resolution, freeing memory for more pictures. The E900 also boasts RAW format, automatic and manual white balance, and comes with rechargeable batteries and its own charger. There’s a review here with some good examples of photographs under different conditions.
At only 250 pixels wide you can’t really see the quality of one of my first photo experiments – Nathan crawling – especially because I compress the images quite a bit too. However, you can see how the colours look very natural even though this photo was taken with flash. The focus is very crisp, and the detail in the cushions is totally clear at full resolution.
So now I can really start experimenting.