Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Camera Yeeg.

I'm falling behind. Falling off the wagon. Disappearing in the rear view mirror.

Sony has just announced its new flagship camera, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A900. A 24.6 megapixel 35mm format camera with a full-frame CMOS sensor. Just a few years back you could buy a one megapixel camera from Kodak for $10,000. The Sony will sell for only about $3000.

A few years farther back I was drooling over a new camera system. I liked the Canon EOS 1N. Too expensive though. About $1400. That was serious money. Insanely serious money.

However, things have changed.

My first digital camera was a Kodak point and shoot three megapixel pocket camera that still works fine and cost around $400. That was a stretch. Back then, around 2000, you could buy a perfectly good point and shoot for maybe $85. I didn't use cameras like that. I was into SLRs, but for $350 to $400 you could get a really solid and capable film SLR camera.

The whole scale of the market has changed. Now for anything like a usable camera you are going to pay $500 and up for a point and shoot, or $1000 and up for a good amateur level DSLR, or $5000 and up for a seriously good DSLR. The Sony seems cheap by comparison.

The other part of the equation beyond cost is complexity. Sadly for me I bought a $1500 4X5 view camera about the time I lost interest in film. For it I have three lenses which about double the cost. So be it. The real point is that a 4X5 has about one tenth the number of options and controls that even a point and shoot camera has, let alone a top tier DSLR.

The new Sony has a bunch of stuff, but it's a lot simpler than what it's competing with. For example: Intelligent preview function, 3 user programmable custom memory modes on mode dial, advanced dynamic range optimizer (5 step selectable), direct HDMI output, user interchangeable focusing screens (3 options), AF micro adjustment, auto program exposure mode, program exposure (with shift) mode, aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, full manual exposure mode, single, auto, continuous and manual focus modes, white balance settings, LCD illumination settings. Drive modes: single frame advance, continuous advance (turn rear dial to swap between L and H modes), self-timer, continuous bracketing, single frame bracketing, white balance bracketing, mirror lockup, DRO bracketing, and remote control. Custom button control for: AF Lock, AF/MF control, D.O.F preview, ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, flash compensation, drive mode, AF Area, image size, quality, creative style (default), D-Range Optimizer (DRO), flash mode, memory. Got that?

I'm getting to like my obsolete Canon S50, other than the fact that the on/off switch is wearing out. It didn't have the best lens and has about half the resolution of new point and shoots, but it's pocketable and if handled right produces great images. I take it backpacking. I love it. It's simple and it works.

Today, right now, I miss the old days. Sort of.

I'm always wondering about what it would be like to shoot 4X10 or 7X11 and do contact prints. Maybe switch over to exclusively pinhole photography. Something timeless. Something dead simple. Just film and light and some surprises. No fuss. No buttons.

References:

Sony A900 Is Officially Announced
Several views of the Sony A900
Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 Preview

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