Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Month, New Gadget

At home in Fort Worth...

One of the advantages of reading a number of RV bloggers is that they are a rich source of information based on personal experience.  I can’t count the number of ideas I’ve gotten from these folks, the latest being the purchase of a new camera.  Most of the photos appearing earlier in this blog were taken with a Canon Power Shot SD 780, which is 
a perfectly serviceable little camera that is easy to use and wonderfully portable, but missing some features that I really wanted. 

I had recently been influenced toward a Canon SX-40, a camera touted by Kate and Terry, among others--so much so, in fact, that I went ahead and bought one.  

I can report that I am extremely satisfied with this purchase, the considerations for which follow:

Simplicity.  There was a time when I foolishly decided to get into photography as a serious hobby, going so far as to purchase a medium format camera and all kinds of associated upscale accessories and books to learn more about the craft.  It was only after acquiring this expensive gear that I found I was missing a couple of key elements—talent and tenacity.  My brother-in-law, a semiprofessional photographer, made it look easy, much like Al of the Bayfield Bunch does.  But it soon became clear that their prowess in artful photo composition was more of a gift than something they learned from a book.  Realizing my inadequacy in this area, I sold most of the photography gear and decided that I would rely instead on the next best thing—digital camera automation.  The new cameras were getting more and more amazing in their ability to produce good results in spite of the shortcomings of the users.

The SX-40 has automation in spades, and for those photos that don’t turn out so well for me, there are always the photo editing features of Picasa which, in the world of homely photos, is something like a boob job.  I learned about Picasa from bloggers like Al and Rick, and I’m forever grateful.  So, at least I know my limitations:  I will point and shoot and let the camera (and Picasa) do the rest.  I should add, however, that my brief foray into the more esoteric elements of photography was not all in vain.  I did take away some basic appreciation for the influences of light and shadow and some rudimentary recognition of scale and balance, but that’s about all.

Video.  Some of our most treasured possessions are videos or home movies from years ago that captured memories of loved ones and friends, and we wanted our next camera to have good video capability.  The SX-40 takes great HD videos with sound captured through stereo microphones and yes, it’s simple and wonderfully automated.

Zoom.   I’m just not going to be bothered with changing lenses, so I needed a robust zoom capability, which the SX-40 does with its incredible 35x zoom feature.  It even has an instant zoom-out-and-return button when you lose a target at a long focal length.

Value.  At a tad over $300, this camera is a steal, in my book.  There are many more features that I didn’t bother to mention, but I doubt if I will use any of them.  An Ansel Adams I will never be.

I took a few photos with the new camera that may not interest you at all, but I'll include a comment on each from the standpoint of a novice using the automatic setting and no flash:

This photo showing Sandy and Bubba at Lake Grapevine near nightfall is remarkable in how much light the camera grabbed in the very low light setting (note the illumination of the interior of the fiver).  It was much darker here than the photo indicates.  

This is a closeup of wild Mexican plums in the yard.

This is an intriguing shot I took as I was panning around with the zoom in the front yard.  The features on the bark of this river birch tree looked for the world like a face expressing great alarm.

Here's the same tree with no zoom.