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Friday, 25 April 2008


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Pretty good theory. I don't carry the D100 w/18-70 near as much as I do the Canon SD800 Elph, but if I'm going out to take pictures, then the D100 is nicely sized.

As to your desire to have some life left over from pixel peeping pursuits, I'm even beginning to, forgive me, question RAW.

By the way, is there a different persona when you're Mike and when you're Mike J.?


In theory I'm strongly in favour of DNG. However, in reality I'm shooting PEF. The reason? Size - on my K10D, DNG-files are more than 50% larger than PEF's.
The problem is not in the camera, since 4 GB HCSD-cards are cheap these days. But with several thousand pictures on my harddrive and backup-discs, a 50% increase in size is problematic.

Dear Mike,

From your keys to my eyes! I haven't always evaluated that correctly. I did one smart thing, which was to stick with Pentax 67, even though I always have had the darkroom equipment to print large-format (just in case). I knew that I would never routinely haul a view camera around. I have only found the occasional situation where I really needed a view camera to make the photograph I wanted to make.

On the other hand... an entirely appropriate but substantially useless purchase (I will explain) was my Bogen model 3051 tripod w/3047 head. It's rigid and incredibly stable, and that's exactly why I bought it to photograph the solar eclipse in 1991 (http://photo-repair.com/ctein2.jpg).

It's a really great tripod, with leg releases right under the head and solid two-segment legs with adjustable struts. But...

It weighs 16 pounds! I very quickly discovered, after trying a couple of road trips, that there was no way I could lug that with my camera gear more than about 100 m from the car. And even that was a strain. And as for airline travel, forget it. It won't fit in standard luggage even with the head removed.

I do not regret having gotten the Bogen for that one-time situation, but since then... well... except for the very occasional camera and film test, it has sat in my closet for the last 15 years. Your column reminded me that it was there. Why keep it?! Unless someone here is desperate for it, I'll just put it up on eBay and be rid of it.

I was smarter in 2002 when I went to Hawaii to photograph lava formations. I bought myself a Gitzo 2227 carbon fiber tripod with a Manfrotto 329rc4 head. Not quite as stable and rigid as the behemoth, but solid and stable enough with my largest kit.

It breaks down small enough to fit in an airline suitcase and it only weighs 7 pounds. I can hike long distances with it and my camera gear when I want to.

Sometimes it's not the camera that's too big, but the support!

~ pax \ Ctein
[ please excuse any word salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com

I have just been out shooting with an Olympus E-510 fitted with the--heavy!--12-60 telephoto lens. That combo is the heaviness limit for me.

But I am still holding on to my Toyo Field 4x5 . . . just in case.

Somebody I read once (it may have been you) said that when photographers meet they ask what camera, what lens?

Whereas when two artists meet they would not ask, what paint, what brush?

Rather, they would talk about loftier things - how to paint the nature of reality, things like that.

That is supposed to illustrate something about photographers and I am sure I once thought I knew what it was, but now I am not so sure.

No I just want that painting machine you are reviewing, the one that describes such subtle colours.

mike, you're the best

"By the way, is there a different persona when you're Mike and when you're Mike J.?"

No, it's just that I'm the only Mike who writes posts (if there are any exceptions, I can specify them), but there are many Mikes who post comments. I think there was a comment once where the commenter assumed that another Mike was me. I know that the name of the commenter appears near the comment, but I just thought it would help clarify.

Mike a.k.a. Mike J.

Who says painters don't talk about painting technology? Has anyone tried to verify this? I haven't seen even anecdotal proof ...

Lars - Download a copy of Adobe's DNG Converter and run the DNG files from the camera through it. It will allow you to (losslessly) compress them and make them about the same size as equivalent PEFs, if not a bit smaller. The Converter can do batch conversions on a folder, and is fairly quick.

Needless to say you'll want to use DNG Converter before importing into Aperture or Lightroom or whatnot.

The K20D only shoots uncompressed, presumably because the CPU isn't powerful enough to quickly compress them, so the files are much larger.


Dear Ben (Ben Rosengart),
In truth I don't know whether painters talk about paint. I know that in earlier periods painters guarded their formulae, so perhaps they specifically did not talk about paint.

What I was trying to say is that seeing the shots on this and the previous post on the K20D is a little like someone showing me his paints.

And I would like to get my hands on that nice painting machine.

Where do the Fuji S8000fd users fit into the grand scheme of bigness?

I don't know--I guess just smaller than whatever's just bigger than it is, and just bigger than whatever's just smaller than it is.

Mike J.

Ben, no idea about painters (I have never met one), but I do know that artists working with ceramics obsess endlessly about paint formulations, clay types and oven temperatures. And graphical designers can be amazingly obsessive about having just the right drafting pencil, with the correct grade lead from that specific manufacturer. I have little doubt painters are exactly the same.

Ben Rosengart: "Who says painters don't talk about painting technology? Has anyone tried to verify this? I haven't seen even anecdotal proof ..."

I have some experience with painters, and they do talk about paint and brushes, and some well-known painters actually order paint directly from the manufacturers to their own specs. However, they talk about tools far less than photographers. For one thing, their tools tend to be idiosyncratic. Painters apply paint with their fingers, with rags, with sponges, with spatulas, painting knives, brushes, or basically anything that comes to mind -- I think it was Yves Klein who used to apply paint to the bodies of naked women and then roll them around the canvas. Also, their tools tend to be cheap -- you can get on quite well with two or three brushes, some small squares of plywood from Home Depot, and some paint. After their training, when they are taught the qualities of oil paint and water colors (which really haven't changed much in a couple of hundred years) they then become wildly diverse in what they do. And experimentation is cheap. Van Gogh could have painted a masterpiece with $25 worth of equipment in todays terms, or maybe two or three of them...So painters, although they are doing roughly the same thing, rarely use precisely the same tools, or want to, so they don't really have that to talk about.

Cameras, on the other hand, are expensive, as is the other technical equipment needed to be a serious photographer -- computers, printers, and so on, so there seems to be a constant search for the optimum camera (taking into account such diverse things as shooting style, megapixels, ISO range, computer abilities, cost, and so on. Better to invest another $5000 in a camera, or in a computer, or in a printer?) To take part in the search, you have to be pretty focused on technical aspects of the art. Is it really worth upgrading from the K10 to the K20? Who knows, really? The question has dozens of contingencies -- but if you do upgrade, it'll cost you, so you're forced to think about it. It's not a $6 tube of paint, it's hundreds or thousands of dollars.

I also think photographers, and especially those on the internet, tend to be more machinery oriented, or engineering oriented, than painters are. They just like it more. But that's another topic.


I used to date an artist and she used to talk technique quite a bit with her artist buddies. Yes, they even talked about brushes. I won't deny that photogs like their toys, but we're not the only ones who talk about them.

Painters absolutely, positively talk about painting techniques and technology. Not hearsay, firsthand knowledge I can assure you.

The big difference is that there isn't a multi-billion dollar market built around trotting out myriad new, shiny painting trinkets.

pax / Ctein

I think they talk about women and sports, just like everybody else.

For me, the rule would rather be to buy the smallest camera that does what you want. The "does what you want" being features and resolution.

For me that translates in to a small film slr like a Pentax MX or the great but unloved Chinon CE-4.

My wife is a fine artist. Believe me there is a lot of talk over mediums used. There is also a lot of snobbery attached to them as well. oils are king of the hill. When she gets asked what she works in and replies acrylic she usually gets the dismissive "I only work in oils" line. But never ever admit you work in water-colour. You will then hear the term "Sunday painter". Don't get me started on canvas or board, brushes, easels, plein or studio.

Mike, I have to say that your insights into human nature are uncanny. I had my heart set on the K10D. The final step in my due dilgence was to put one in my hand, and that was the killer. It was just too much kit for me, so I got the K100D SUPER instead. Simple as that. Its all about psychophysics.

Remind me again Dr. Johnston, where did you get your degree?


The smallest camera that shoots images I like is too big for me to carry most of the time, and the biggest camera that I can carry all the time doesn't quite shoot the images I want.

So, I have two (three actually): A Canon G9, which I can always carry, and a Leica M8/Nikon D200, either of which can shoot images I like but rarely do because they are at home.

But, the G9 sometimes takes great images that I'm glad I took, and, when I feel like it, the Leica or Nikon get to go out.

I bought a D200 a while back and I find it right on the edge of too big. It's not too big to carry it around with me in a bag, but I find it tiring to actually shoot with. I soldier on because I get a good payoff when I do the work necessary to get a good picture. But I'm hoping the D80 update is more my speed, and size.

My wife paints in oils. She isn't snobby about it and doesn't disparage acrylics or water paint. I have never heard her talk about brushes but I have heard her say that some paints were better than others. She's thrifty, however, and will fret over whether to spend $15 or $5 on a tube of paint. This kills me because the tube might last her for years, so who cares.

One of the other responders got it right I think. If a painter buys a brush that they don't like, they toss it. If you buy a $1500 camera and 6 months later realize that you're not using it much because you don't like it, that hurts.

Your theory clearly applies to my small collection of lenses. The fast, silky-smooth, but heavy and large Nikkor 35-70 2.8 sits in my camera bag, while the cheap-feeling, slow, plasticky, with preposterously tiny focus rings, but light 18-55 and 55-200 are used constantly. A little part of it is that a 35-70 is neither fish nor fowl on an APS-C sized sensor, but mostly it's the weight and bulk.

I agree, sort of, with Marc above. I always carry my tiny, and it really IS tiny, Panasonic FX33 everywhere. It fits into the smallest camera case, even with a spare battery, and still fits into my jeans pocket. Therefore it gets used. And I have just received an underwater housing for it that I am just itching to try out soon ;)
I just really love the idea of super-compact, yet competent packages.
So when I am deliberately going out to take pictures, or traveling further afield, I pack my Pentax K100D and it's three pancake LTDs. That's about as much as I want to carry around. There are other priorities to consider as well when traveling! The camera is important, but not the most critical of all, for me at any rate.

I can second that notion in Mr. Johnston's article. My regular gear consists of a KM 7D, too. Recently, when prices for the Pentax K100D Super dropped, I got myself one of those so I could use some of my old primes I had used with my venerable Pentax MX. I soon succumbed to the dreaded Lens Buying Addiction and bought the 40mm limited. The K100D Super and the 40mm ltd. make for a reasonably priced very small image-stabilized and lightweight combination I really like to carry around. It even fits in the pocket of my winter coat. The image quality is flawless. Caveat: The AF could be better and the 7D's inbuilt image stabilizer is also superior to Pentax's solution.

Hand size counts as well as weight - some cameras feel better than others.

For me, the Canon 5D is the absolute largest I would ever consider - so that rules out the 1D and 1DS even if I would like the improved AF performance.

I take it even further - the kit has to fit into my small camera bag (Billingham Alice or L2) - that means camera and 35mm, 85mm, 135mm primes. My BD ("before digital") kit was similar - 2 EOS RT bodies with 35mm and 135mm primes in the same bag.

Also in the bag: 3x 4 GB CF cards, 3 batteries, 1 polarizing filter and a passport and it's always ready to go.

I subscribe to the "biggest camera I can carry" philosophy, with the recognition that the "right size" is all very relative.

My smallest format is 35mm and the largest is 11x14". Bigger than that just feels like "too much camera" to me. In some ways 8x10" feels like the most intuitive format when I'm actually photographing (depending on the task at hand, of course), but if I look at my negatives of the last few years, the vast majority of them were made with a 4x5" Linhof Technika V, just because it's versatile and can function equally well as a handheld rangefinder press camera or a tripod mounted view camera. So with 8x10" as the standard, and 11x14" or 7x17" as the really serious, 4x5" feels light, compact, and flexible. Maybe if I want to shoot more 8x10" I need to get a 20x24" camera.

I've been saying for years on other forums that a person should buy the camera that best fits their hand, regardles of who manufactures it. This makes some people massively annoyed when I state that their camera of choice doesn't fit in MY rather large hands.

My small camera was a Minolta Dimage A1 (which wouldn't fit in a pocket) and my large camera was a KM 7D. I carried it with me everywhere with a 24-105 on it, my 11-18 and 100-300 in tow. I almost never used the tele and only sometimes used the wide. I sometimes felt a little awkward showing up to business meetings with my banker clients with this strapped around me in my suit and tie (I wasn't there as a photographer after all), but I did it anyway - you never know when you'll see something.

Then I traded in the Dimage for a Canon G9 and carried it in my jacket pocket and eventually sold enough of the Minolta gear to almost buy a D300 with a 24-120. I was shocked to discover how much larger and heavier and difficult to use the Nikon is than my 7D was. Nonetheless I carry it with me everywhere - to work every day, to the corner store for a quart of milk, everywhere. I'm putting my chiropractor's kids through college, too. I admit I haven't taken to the G9 and now seldom touch it (and as the weather gets better I don't have a pocket it fits in). One reason for buying it was the optical viewfinder, which turned out to be useless in practice. Also, the files are gigantic (I think they're bigger than the D300 files though I haven't checked that).

As for painters and their gear, while I'm sure many painters talk alot about material and equipment, (and paint may be cheap, but pre-stretched, gessoed canvases of any size sure aren't!) it doesn't detract from what I take to have been Mike's original point: pay at least as much attention (and probably more) to your composition as to your tools. True artists are concerned with the final image less than the niceties of their tools. For the rest of us there are mega this and giga that.


"My smallest format is 35mm and the largest is 11x14". Bigger than that just feels like 'too much camera' to me."

LOL! I'll say.

My mentor, Steve Szabo, used to work with an 11x14" Century. To me it was about as small and handy as a boxcar!

Mike J.

I was with you up until the end. "True artists are concerned with the final image less than the niceties of their tools" certainly doesn't sound like anything I'd say, or mean. Sure you didn't mean to write "more" instead of "less"?

Mike J.

You caught my attention when you singled out HCB and Ansel Adams as your choice for the two greatest photographers of the 20th century. Not many will argue over HCB, but these days there's no lack of folks who want to belittle Adams. There's much more I could say about Adams, but mainly I want to say thanks, Mike, for giving Ansel Adams his due.

"There's an obvious penalty for choosing a camera that's too big: it sits at home."

Similar advice applies to firearms.

If DNG files require specific camera support, doesn't that defeat the purpose of DNG files completely?

This week I was checking out the live-view implementation on several of the new SLR's at a local big-box store. I noticed that they had a Nikon D300 set up, with the big zoom that is being bundled at a "special" price.

Wow, this is a bee-you-tee-full rig. I already knew that the image quality, even at high ISO's, is stellar. I began to fantasize shooting with it. Imagining how my street cred would soar. But really...

The camera is just plain too big. Maybe not for you, but for me. The camera that will retire my Canon G9 will probably have an APS sensor, deliver 85-to-95% of the image quality of the D300 (with no neck pain) and fit in a jacket pocket.

The Johnston Theory certainly seems to apply to me...

As I get older (at least during the phase of getting older where I can still see), I find I'm more and more intolerant of large cameras. To me, the Nikon D40/D60 is in a class by itself because it's the only DSLR that seems to have broken away from 35mm SLR form factors; it's almost too small to be a film camera. Hopefully in a few years we'll have something of similar weight and size with a D3 sensor in it; there's almost no limit to what I would pay for such a camera today.

I'll confess to susceptibility to format creep. I was out shooting a few months ago with a friend who had a Wisner 14x17" camera, and I was thinking, "that's not too much bigger than my 11x14"." Of course film is harder to get in that format, and everything else needs to get bigger as well--processing trays, proof prints, light box, storage boxes, mats and mounts, wastebasket...


Thank you for the advice. In fact Lightroom is capable of converting to DNG on the fly while importing. I have just never done that before, in fear I might loose some information and/or image quality in the proces. However, I decided to try it out. To my surprise the DNG's were smaller than the original PEF's - and looked just as good and had all the Exif-data. So this is probably the road I will follow from now.

Given the nature of the photographic process, I think it’s legitimate to have a profound interest in our tools. But I try to discriminate: web-reviews that consist mainly of feature comparisons or advice from some expert in pixel-peeping with no record as a real photographer doesn’t count very high with me. However, even though I might disagree with them, I have a great interest in the opinion of people who uses the gear for actual photography. And the better the persons photos or the more interesting his or hers generel opinion on photography, the more faith I have in their advice.

As I've told the readers of my blog ad nauseam, my breast-pocket-sized Canon Ixus 960 (or SD950 in the USA) has image quality to match any camera I've ever used, an astounding feat.
If I never needed a short DoF or fast autofocus, or extra-good low-light capability (it has great IS), it'd be the only camera I ever used.

There are reasons to have cameras in several sizes.

I have always found that if I carry a camera around all the time I tend not to shoot much with it. For me, the most productive times are when I'm on a planed shoot. So I think that the ideal camera size depends a lot on how you work, not just on what is a comfortable size.

And with arthritic knees I tend to shoot within a 2000 foot radius of my car. So for me I'm content to lug around a mammoth superstable tripod and a heavy 1Ds MkIII. But when I do walk around with a camera it's a Digital Rebel which I can carry all day with no pain. Something like the 40D, on the other hand adds a bunch of weight to the capabilities of a Digital Rebel without really adding much, if anything to the image quality. So my inclination is towards the small or the large but not towards the middle.

The one that sits at home is the 40D. The ones that get used are the Rebel and the IDs MkIII.

I had to shoot my EOS Elan IIe & my OM2n today and yesterday because my digital developed a probem. I was surprised how even with the grip on, how well the EOS handled size wise compared to my E-500. I was only using it around the house for some family event pics but using it again was fun and has given me second thoughts about selling it along with the 50/1.8 v1. I got the pics back this afternoon from Sam's Club and there were the scratches that they leave me 20% of the time.

Anyways back to the size thing. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the 25/2.8. My Sigma 30 is a bear to get the DOF were I want it. And just like the EOS I was pleasantly reminded of how much I like the size of my OM2n along with the IMAX like viewfinder. Memories are short, forgetting is long.

Mike, maybe it's time to retire the chunky 28-75 mm zoom and acquire a Minolta AF 28 mm 1:2.8 lens off eBay?

-- Olaf

Carry "the biggest camera I can" is spot on. FWIW, I have a disability. At 7 months of age I contract polio (yes, I'm that old) which affected my left leg; ever since grade 6 or so I've been walking with a crutch. At age 59, an extra pound of body weight (of which I have more than one ...) is like two or more for a "normal" person.

But I insist on using 4x5 (though not exclusively) for as long as I am able. Hell, I'll even conscript my friends (hopefully young, female and nubile, if available) to carry my Zone VI tripod, the bag with Toyo 45A, Fujinon lenses and film holders if necessary. Why?

Because a big camera FORCES me to be a better photographer. Don't get me wrong. I use 35mm, both OM and various RFs, and they have their place. Modern films such as 400TX & TMY-2 are so good that shooting 35 is better than it ever has been.

But much of the time that is shooting, not photographing ... yes, it's all a state of mind, but tool selection has a huge influence on that state of mind, which greatly affects the quality and type of work.

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