One Month With a 350D

If you read my previous post on transitioning from an F707 to a 350D, you'll be glad to know that I've been getting the hang of things (mostly thanks to the folk with whom I've been swapping e-mail with), and that I'm thoroughly happy with my new camera.

Although the "cognitive dissonance" associated with the viewfinder (i.e., the lack of some sort of "preview" from camera settings) and the UI gripes are still there, I've been slowly getting to grips with the way the camera handles by going methodically through the presets and taking a lot of test shots.

The Good

  • I'm getting to like the wider viewing angle I get from the stock 18-55 lens. Although I've sold the Sony in the meantime and can't really compare, its typical viewing angle was comparable to the Canon's 28mm setting - maybe a bit less (the first add-on lens I bought for the Sony was a wide-angle, since despite its amazing zoom it was a bit hard to get everything in the shot in some instances). 18mm makes for great landscape and indoor photography, and the aprox. 4 by 6 file aspect ratio is also more pleasing (the joke being that it's pretty much iMac-sized).
  • The wider range of shutter speeds I have available (on the fast side of things) is a very welcome change indeed. Thanks to the excellent weather (and lighting conditions) we've been having, I've been able to snap a good amount of "fast" outdoor shots. I expect that as we move into Autumn I'll start exploring the "slower" side of things and get a better feel for the CMOS sensor.
  • Photo quality is an order of magnitude better than my previous Sony camera - smoother color patches, softer transitions, a bit less saturation (Sony tends to go a bit over the top there). The added resolution helps a lot, of course (and markedly improves downsampling for publishing), and close-ups/pseudo-macro shots are amazingly detailed.

The Not So Good

  • The LCD is hard to see under strong sunlight (and the view controls are a bit counter-intuitive, so it takes a while to check if a particular shot was adequately focused, whether I made a mess of the highlights, etc.)
  • The stock 18-55 has a very short "reach" considering what I was used to. It is good enough for individual portraits around a table and the occasional close-up of architectural detail, but it leaves me wanting.
  • Not having a decent zoom means that I tend to crop photos a lot more - which also means I'm spending a lot more time inside iPhoto duplicating and cropping shots (which is a pain on my iBook, although fairly enjoyable on my iMac). I don't relish this kind of chore - mostly because I'd rather rely on my eyes and want to avoid becoming one of those obsessive color level tweakers - but I see this becoming a big bottleneck in my photo workflow.
  • Full manual is hard to get the hang of. I'm constantly overexposing or under-exposing shots, but the exposure bracketing setting is turning out to be a good way to learn - even if a slow one, as I can only compare shots properly on my desktop.
  • The slightly larger file size (averaging 4.6MB, with some files going up to 5MB) means I'll be running out of disk space on my NSLU2 before the year is out (time to budget for a second - or a larger - USB drive). But the 1GB CF is proving to be enough, at least for now.

Next Steps

I'm now planning to buy an extra lens sometime between next month and Xmas (probably the latter, since I parcel out my cash in a self-alloted "allowance" to avoid gadget overload, and there isn't that much spare cash to begin with...), and I've pretty much settled on the Canon 17-85 with image stabilizer - mostly to get a better zoom, but also because the feedback I got from everyone is that it seems to be a good, all-purpose lens that will perform well for low light/long exposure shots without a tripod (within reason, of course - I'm not talking about really long exposures).

I don't think I'll stop there, though, and have also started looking at other types of lenses (pfig might yet offload some of his old gear on me, if the price is right ;))

You can keep track of what lenses I'm looking at here, although inclusion in that list doesn't mean I intend to actually buy them - expensive hobbies like photography need to be enjoyed at a slow pace...

Speaking of expensive, I'm strongly considering grabbing a copy of Photoshop Elements 4.0 for the Mac when it comes out - if it works properly under non-administrative accounts. My experience with the 3.0 trial was less than stellar - not only did it take forever to install on my G3 iBook (which is what I carry on my personal travels), but it also failed to actually run, and judging from the feedback I got and a cursory investigation round the net, Adobe needs to get their Mac developers sorted out (my suggestion would be for them to expand Fireworks, but I fear they will divest themselves of it sooner or later...)

In the meantime, I found my old 2.0 CD (which came in a bundle with a scanner way back when I got one of my first Macs, and have half a mind to try that out again on the iBook - we'll see... I remember it had mostly the same problems.

As the weather starts shifting, I'm now looking forward to see if I can capture some of bright Autumn mornings we usually have over here (provided I can drag myself out of bed, obviously) and getting a proper grip on exposure.

It's still too early to say I've got the hang of the 350D (and I've had little chance to take the camera out this past week), but I think my photo album (pardon the finicky navigation and the occasional K750i shot) shows I'm at least doing adequate progress...

And that's it for now. I was hoping to have ironed out my photo workflow for now, but real life sort of cropped up on me and I think that will take a bit more to sort out.

But never fear, I will keep the world posted on my photo endeavors.