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.


  1. Very nice purchase. I recently purchased the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS at Costco. It has 20X zoom which is plenty enough for me.

    I have always loved Canon PowerShots and this one is more powerful and has so much auto on it that it makes picture taking easy.

    Enjoy your new camera. I love mine!

  2. I have had the SX20IS the older brother of your camera for a year now, the only difference is yours has a little more digital zoom. I can't believe the quality of this camera, when I was shooting 35mm I had several Pentax Bodies and Takumar lenses that required two camera bags to haul around. Now all I need is one neck and the pictures are better. Did I mention the digital HD video that eliminated the third bag with my video camera and the train pictures and sound being better.You will surely enjoy your new camera.Be safe out there, Sam & Donna.

  3. Looks like a great camera and a nice purchase, now you can enjoy taking lots more interesting photos, and fixing with Picasa a great program too.

  4. Couple little tips on your first photo that have to do with exposure. Fortunately you included more subject than sky. Your automatic exposure meter made adjustments for the darker foreground & properly exposed the subject matter & washed out the sky. Had you included two thirds sky & one third darker subject matter the meter would probably have read for the bright sky, properly exposed it, & made your subject matter too dark. Now, here's the best tip I can give you for outside people shots, even on sunny days. Use your flash to fill in the shadows under people's eyes etc. I know it sounds weird using a flash on a bright sunny day but it will add a touch of professionalism to your photos. Had you used your flash on the first photo it might have put a nice puff of light under that awning slightly brightening up the face of the fellow closest to the trailer. I'm not critisizing here.....just trying to help.

    1. Al, I would never take your comments any other way than constructive. You are my hero.

  5. Your new camera took some great shots. Enjoy it and be sure to post lots of photos for us.

  6. First, thanks for the shout-out!

    As for taking pictures, these new cameras we have with their microchips take incredibly good photos when set on auto. I find they do a much better job than most of us can do when trying to turn each shot into a scientific lab experiment.

    My advice to folks is always to have fun first, take lots of pics (it's free) and you're bound to get some real keepers.

    From the looks of your first pics, you're off to a great start.

  7. I have been thinking about getting a camera like the SX-40. Thanks for the review:)


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