From Point-and-shoot to Digital slr – and Mirrorless
I have loved photography since childhood.
Around 1980, I was given a Kodak Ektra 100 (or 200) point-and-shoot, which used 110 film cartridges. It was small and had a wrist strap, as well as a flip-down handle. I took it everywhere with me. However, I was often frustrated by the images I captured. I didn’t know about composition, or framing of subjects, or what film to use in what conditions. There were no dials to adjust the exposure to get different effects.
I saved up my pocket money to buy a flashbulb attachment that fitted into a little socket on top of the camera. The ten bulbs were arranged in a zigzag pattern. Each bulb only fired once – and blindingly so – so you had to choose your moment carefully. It was called a flipflash, because you fired 5 bulbs the one way, and then had to turn it over to fire the other 5 bulbs. (Image found here)
Various film cameras later (one of them a Vivitar), I went digital.
Olympus C-1 Zoom
My (our) first digital camera in 2002 was a small point-and-shoot: the Olympus C-1 Zoom, also called the Olympus D-150Z.
Technically, when I say ‘I’, it was actually bought by hubby, although I soon claimed ownership. 😉
Its most exciting feature was that it had a 3 x optical zoom (woop-woop!). It was slim, very lightweight, and easy to use, with an LCD screen on the back that so I could instantly review my images. A handy little flash popped up when I needed it, and the lens retracted very elegantly into the slick shiny camera body. This was definitely an improvement from the film cameras I had used so far, where I usually had to wait a week or longer to get my prints! (Image found here).
Canon PowerShot A75
When the Olympus died in 2004, it was replaced by the Canon Powershot A75. This too was a small point-and-shoot camera that I could tuck into my pocket with ease.
Technology had improved significantly by then, as you can see from the review of this lovely little camera (Image and review found here). It offered full auto mode, as well as full manual exposure, shutter speed and aperture priority, as well as numerous presets – including a short (15 second) movie mode! Like the Olympus, it too had a pop-up flash. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, it even featured a 3.2 digital zoom – although this reduced image quality. Nonetheless, its 3.2 megapixel resolution (2048×1536 pixels) was quite something at the time!
Unfortunately, it too died, because the little zoom lens didn’t survive an impact. Lesson learned: Don’t try to take photos with one hand while cycling!
Canon PowerShot S3 IS
In November 2006, a generous colleague gifted us with a Canon Powershot S3 IS. It was a bulky 6 megapixel hybrid or bridge camera, with an impressive 12x optical zoom, and I absolutely loved it. Suddenly, the world of photography opened up to me.
It could be used in full auto mode, but also had full manual, shutter speed and aperture priority modes, as well as numerous presets. Its image stabilisation was excellent, and very necessary at the longer range of the zoom. It recorded really nice video, with stereo sound. The articulating LCD screen was brilliant for low-angle or high-angle shots. (Image and review found here).
I used it for several years, until it too died. What is it with cameras?! Although I eventually located a camera repair shop in Tamboerskloof, the repairs would have cost more than a new camera. Sigh.
Clearly, it was time for a new camera.
APS-C and full-frame
Canon EOS 550D
In late 2010, I became involved with the Defence Reserves in the Western Cape and was granted behind-the-scenes access to the Cape Town Military Tattoo at the Castle of Good Hope. And then my beloved Canon Powershot S3 IS died.
After much agonizing and reading up, I finally made the leap to the digital single lens reflex system. I bought a Canon EOS 550D with two kit lenses, an 18-55mm wide-angle zoom and a 55-250mm telephoto zoom. (Image found here).
Several years later, I traded it in to partly pay for the replacement of the shutter on my Canon 70D, which I had (incredibly) worn out (!).
Canon EOS 70D, 80D and 6D
Over the years, I slowly, slowly, upgraded my gear. My favourite camera shop is definitely Orms in Roeland Square!
My current go-to gear is (from left to right):
- a Canon EOS 6D with either the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM or the Tamron 24-70mm F2.8 DI VC USD G2
- a Canon EOS 80D with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM
- a Canon EOS 70D with the Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS USM Nano.
I also sometimes use the Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-f/4.5 USM for wide-angle situations, and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM when I don’t feel like carrying much bulk and am feeling artistic!
The particular configuration depends on the requirements of the particular shoot – and how much extra weight I am willing to carry with me.
Sometime in 2018, I had enough of the uncomfortable standard Canon camera straps. I was often carrying two bodies with two heavy lenses, with the straps across my body, and invariably got entangled when switching rapidly from one to the other. My neck and upper shoulders were complaining all the time.
So, after much debate and internet browsing, I bought a BlackRapid Hybrid Breathe (single) and, because it felt so comfortable, a few months later a Hybrid Breathe (double) strap. When I wear the double strap, I feel a bit foolish, because I look like a gunslinger from the Old Wild West who’s about to march into the saloon to sort out the bad guys. But I don’t care, because the more balanced weight distribution has made a huge difference to my back and neck!
In May 2019, after months of procrastination and more internet browsing, I bought a mirrorless camera – a little silver Fujifilm X-T20. It was on special at the time, as its successor, the pricier X-T30, had already been released. It came with a kit lens, the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS.
I promptly fell in love with its cute vintage look, the amazing Fuji colours and film simulations, the fun clicky dials ontop, the ease of changing settings on the fly, and the fact that I could turn off the mechanical shutter and take silent photos. Its small size and light weight made it a delight to carry everywhere. I also loved the fact that changing the settings while looking through the electronic viewfinder or at the screen gave me immediate feedback on what the final photo would look like. It really made me feel much more comfortable playing with the exposure triangle of aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
At the time, we were planning a trip to the UK, with a brief sideways hop across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland, to attend the Belfast International Tattoo in early September 2019. One of the organisers had graciously given me permission to take photos during the performances, and I really wanted to take along my normal professional gear to take full advantage of this opportunity, and capture the best quality photos I could possibly get.
However, that would have meant taking the Canon 6D plus the Tamron 24 – 70mm lens and the Canon 80D plus the 70 – 300mm lens. My go-to Canon 24 – 105mm was still being ‘serviced’ and ‘recalibrated’ by Orms. It had been sandblasted during the Armed Forces Day Parade on Tableview beach in February 2019, and badly calibrated by their service department afterwards. It took months for me to get it back.
Neither of the possible combinations of those two cameras and lenses are all-day-walk-around sight-seeing options, so I would have also taken the 18-135mm lens, which only fits on the crop-sensor 80D. But it was hard to justify transporting two bulky camera bodies and three heavy lenses in my cabin luggage on several international flights… never mind the devastating expense of replacing them if they were damaged, lost or stolen!
So I decided to take the little Fuji X-T20 instead, and to get a telephoto lens, the Fujinon XF Zoom 55 – 200mm F/3.5-4.8, to give me the longer zoom range that I needed to couple with the 18 – 55mm range. As I had only the one body, I ended up switching lenses constantly during the Belfast International Tattoo, but it was fine. I loved the lightness of the setup, and the fact that I didn’t need a sturdy strap or a big backpack. It was perfect for sightseeing, and I sooo enjoyed not having aching shoulders and a stiff neck after long days of traveling and walking and using public transport. Overall, the Fuji X-T20 coped with all the photographic challenges I threw at it during our trip. And the 55 – 200 zoom lens is surprisingly good!
However, the camera is not great under low light and/or when the action is fast paced and/or when there is artificial light with a difficult-to-expose-for white balance. Under normal daylight, the photos are brilliant; even up to ISO 800, the photos are fine. At ISO 1600 or ISO 3200, which is where I needed to take most of my photos during the fast-paced Tattoo, as well as during the various live music gigs I’ve attended over the last year, something weird happens. There’s a kind of smudging of details, a smoothing effect, that gives people a waxy skin, or weird wriggles if you zoom in. It’s as bad in JPGs as in RAW files, even if you turn off in-camera sharpening or smoothing. Unfortunately, it can’t be corrected in post-processing. I’m assuming it’s because of the smaller sensor size.
So, for important or official events, I will always prefer to use my Canon gear; but for sight-seeing, spending time with family and friends, going out to music concerts, etc., that little vintage-style Fuji X-T20 has totally captured my heart.
A learning experience
The Canon Powershot S3 IS opened the door for me, because it encouraged me to adjust the exposure manually rather than relying only on the Full Auto or Pre-set Scene modes. As I was clueless about how this all worked, I attended a couple of digital photography courses in a quest to learn about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, depth of field, composition, and all those mysterious aspects of photography!
The courses included:
- Photography for Beginners with André Claassen (2009), who partners with his wife Selma to produce exquisitely beautiful wedding portraits. Go and have a look at their website, Expressions Photography.
- An Introduction to Digital Photography (2009) and an Intermediate Digital Photography course (2011) by Ian Walton and his wife Shélagh, who too make a wonderful husband-and-wife photography team. Do hop on over to their website, African Light Photography.
- Several online photography courses from UK-based Mike Browne, who must be one of the most down-to-earth, likeable, unpretentious photography teachers in the world. There are loads of helpful, informative and free video clips about every conceivable aspect of photography available on his website, in addition to several courses for download. If you are looking for a great teacher, who explains complex things in easy-to-understand non-jargon terms, do check him out.
- His e-Books on Beginners’ Photography, Wedding Photography and Lenses, are filled with practical hints.
- I can also highly recommend the 7 Building Blocks of Photography and the 7 Steps to Workflow Mastery in Lightroom. Even though I have not yet finished all of the lessons, I can tell you that they are brilliant.
a passion for Photography
I love taking photographs at events, which have included birthday celebrations, concerts, military parades, memorial services and functions, and even a couple of weddings.
The events that most stand out for me were the Cape Town Military Tattoos from 2010 until 2015, the South African Tattoo of October 2018 in Pretoria, and the Belfast International Tattoo of September 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At these events, I was allowed to roam freely with my camera, which was awesome!
I also took photographs at several of the annual Western Province Youth Marching Drill Festivals: Vygieskraal Stadium in Athlone in 2011, 2013 and 2017, at Florida Park in Ravensmead in 2012, and at Goodwod Rugby Stadium in 2018. Youngsters of various impoverished areas of the Cape Flats performed marching drill routines with pride, confidence and teamwork – an inspiring sight!
Since 2015, I have also taken photos at the annual prize-giving parades of the TS Woltemade Sea Cadets in Zandvlei; these are youngsters between the ages of 13 and 18, most of whom come from underprivileged areas of Cape Town. Under the instruction of qualified volunteer adult instructors drawn from the SA Navy, maritime occupations, ex Sea Cadets and parents, they spend their weekends learning about seamanship, boating and sailing, as well as teamwork and discipline. Many aspire to join the SA Navy or the Merchant Navy when they are older.
My blog titled Memories of the Cape Town Military Tattoo is becoming the new online home of all my writings and photographs taken at the Cape Town Military Tattoo from 2007 to 2015. It is a work in progress; the last years have been so busy, that I have not done much work on it. In 2020, that is going to change!
I was ‘official photographer’ at the Working Cart Horse Show on Heritage Day in 2012 and 2013, an event organised by the Cart Horse Protection Association of the Western Cape as a competition for cart horse owners and drivers that is intended to motivate them to look after their horses better. I also took photographs for their 2013 Calendar. In 2015, I visited the CHPA’s Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre at Firlands Equestrian Estate outside the Strand. Here I took photos of cart horses that were available for adoption, after they had been confiscated or retired.
In addition, I love photographing children and pets. Both of these are very entertaining (though sometimes challenging) subjects.
In 2014, I completed a 365-day Photography Challenge, which I tracked on my blog: http://findingfrohsinn.wordpress.com.
I frequently combine my twin passions for photography and writing, by taking photographs at events, on hikes and on trips, and writing about my experiences afterwards. You can find many of my photographs on my various WordPress blogs, which are listed below:
- Grains of Sand – my primary blog
- Finding Frohsinn – a 365-day photography challenge in 2014
- Memories of the Cape Town Military Tattoo
- The Fantastical Voyages of Flat Kathy