by Harry Flashman
Changing cameras - but to what?
Many years ago, when looking at medium format photography, I was enamored of
a Pentax 6x7. It was just like a larger 35 mm camera, so would be easy to
learn, whilst the alternatives of Hasselblad and Bronica looked far too
daunting in use.
A pro photographer friend solved the dilemma very simply. “Go and hire one
for a weekend,” was his simple advice. So I did and spent the weekend with
what I found was a camera with which I was incompatible. When taking
photographs the Pentax 6x7 huffed and puffed and eventually the shutter
opened with a clunk that could be heard in the next street. No, the Pentax
6x7 and I were never going to be bosom buddies.
Cameras unfortunately become like a pair of favorite shoes. You know you
need new ones, but you are loathe to throw the old ones away, even though
they are on their third pair of heels and second set of soles.
For the avid photographer, the camera is almost an extension of his or her
mind. You become completely at one with the camera, you know how to focus,
change aperture and shutter speed - the whole magic black box is under your
control. How can you turn your back on such a miracle of engineering and
photo-science? The answer is: with difficulty.
However, is this the crossroads that you have found yourself? At my
crossroads I had used 35 mm Nikons for years. Several FM2n’s, a brace of
FA’s, a full complement of prime lenses (I have never owned a zoom lens in
my life), and yet here I was looking at ditching the lot. Why?
Quite simply, Digital had arrived, and I had to get used to it. And that
meant me too. At the crossroads of film and digital, digital was going to
win, no matter how many film cameras I owned.
Once again I hired, begged, borrowed (but drew the line at stealing) a range
of digital cameras. It was then I found one of the best reasons to go
digital - the ability to know after just firing the button as to whether you
really did get the shot. No agonizing wait. Any re-shoot can be done
immediately, not days later. Crossed eyes uncrossed while you wait 10
seconds. Just how valuable is that?
It took several months after I began to seriously look at what the
replacement would be for the Nikon system, for me to try many brands and
models. The one I chose was made by an electronics manufacturer, in
conjunction with an optical camera lens manufacturer. It was the Panasonic
This camera has 10 megapixels and can be run fully auto, and all other modes
in between up to fully manual. Now this is an interesting camera, being
neither the usual compact, or an SLR, but something in between called a
“Mega-Zoom”. Looks like an SLR, and to be honest, when I was using it I did
not know it wasn’t an SLR, but the FZ-50 has a fixed lens like a compact.
However, this lens is a 12 times optical zoom going from 35 mm to 420 mm,
and made by Leica. And what is even better, you can manually focus and
manually zoom. For an old “film camera” buff, this represented the best of
One of the more recent advances in electronics has been image stabilization.
The camera technology is making it easy for you to end up with super-sharp
shots, and the Panasonic Lumix answer is called MEGA O.I.S. (optical image
stabilization). With this system, you can do hand-held photography when
working at a 250 mm range at 1/60 second shutter speed. Normally you would
have to use at least 1/250 sec.
Another new addition is the Intelligent ISO Control. When the camera detects
movement of the subject, the ISO and shutter speed are adjusted in a way
that ensures the movement of the subject will be frozen. All good
applications of electronic technology to make it even less likely that you
will end up with a blurred picture.
So after trying before buying, for me, it was farewell film, and welcome
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