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Yet Another New Toy

Every now and again I post an entry here talking about a new toy I have bought. For many years now (like about 30) I have been a serious amateur photographer. Technology moves on and its worth updating camera equipment every 2 or 3 years so now was the time to do it again.

In fact the time to do it was near the end of last year but my previous attempt at updating my camera went terribly wrong! As I have commented on in the past I am a great fan of on-line auction sites, mainly TradeMe, New Zealand’s main (almost only) site.

Last year I bought a new camera and lens on TradeMe and paid up my NZ$2300 (good cameras aren’t cheap) and patiently waited for the camera to arrive. After a few days it became obvious something was wrong and it turned out the whole thing was a scam run by a trader who is currently being prosecuted by police.

I have always used Canon cameras but that camera was a Nikon (a D90) which I chose because it had features Canon didn’t have at the time. Since then Canon has introduced an even better (and cheaper) camera than the Nikon which I have also bought on TradeMe. As long as it turns up in the next few days I will be happy. Every day delay will be a cause of concern!

But really on-line auctions are fairly safe. I have bought thousands of dollars worth of gadgets on-line and only been ripped off once. It was unfortunate that the rip-off involved one of the most expensive items I bought though!

So what progress has digital photography made since my last camera? Well quite a lot actually. My previous camera was a Canon EOS 350D, an 8 megapixel digital SLR, and its still a very fine camera, even 3 years after I bought it. Its fast and reliable and can produce brilliant quality images.

The new camera (an EOS 500D) has a few advantages though. First, it has almost twice as many pixels (but I have never seen more pixels as necessarily critical). More importantly it has a high definition movie mode, live preview, better low light performance, a much bigger and better display, an image stabilised lens, and a few other enhancements.

Ironically this has given the dSLR feature parity with many compact cameras which have had most of those features (in some form) all along! But compact cameras really just can’t compete for real photography. I had to use two of them (a Canon and a Kodak) recently and the speed, responsiveness, flexibility and quality was rubbish compared with even my old dSLR. In ideal conditions (plenty of light, slow moving objects, etc) they are OK but push the limits even slightly and they often don’t work well at all.

A great example of the superiority of the SLR was an air show I took photos at a few years back. The previous show I had used a fairly advanced (at the time) compact camera (a Canon G6) and the photos were OK but lack of magnification (with just a 4x zoom), inferior performance at higher sensitivity settings, and slow general responsiveness meant none of my photos were that great.

When I used the SLR instead things were so much better. The speed meant all the aircraft were right in the middle of the frame instead of escaping out the front! And the long telephoto (equivalent 450mm) meant I could zoom right into the action, including shots of the pilots actually sitting in the aircraft.

So when the 500D turns up (it will this time because I have used a reliable trader) I expect that my photos will be even better, especially in low light, but also I should be able to create some nice high definition movies. They should look great on my plasma TV!

I do have a lot of expensive toys but at least I use them a lot. The previous camera had done 15,000 photos (Canon say the shutter is good for over 100,000) so it go a lot of work. I also upgraded my telephoto zoom lens which I had been using for 25 years. It still worked fine but I got the opportunity to do a minor upgrade for almost nothing so I took it.

I’ve owned a lot of Canon (film and digital) cameras over the years: An AL-1, an A-1, two T-90s (that’s another story), and EOS-5, an EOS 350D and now the EOS 500D. They have all been brilliantly reliable and easy to use. If the 500D is up to this standard I will be happy enough! I’ll do a review once I’ve used it for a few weeks.

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