Am I a Shutter Bug?

I like cameras.  Check that. I love cameras, always have since as far back as I can remember. So, over the years I have acquired then de-acquired many different ones. Allow me to explain that. It’s all part of my life as a functional sufferer of SAS (Short Attention Span). Well, I don’t exactly “suffer” from this common malady, more like Loretta does. My SAS behavior had been very evident in my love of all things photographic.

Yes, I own quite a few cameras.  From DSLR’s, to Point & Shoots, to digital video cameras, and a lot of vintage film cameras (that last category is somewhat redundant, no?) Anyway, I have a small collection of “keepers”. I say keepers because of our agreed upon camera-buying protocol. You see, I promised Loretta a few years ago that I would (attempt to) abide by the “One-Out, One-In” rule.  In other words, I would have to sell a camera in order to buy another one. This friendly, somewhat loose-knit arrangement has worked fairly well with the more expensive equipment, no so much with the lessor costing items. This statement rings true here, “My biggest fear is that my wife will find out what I really paid for some of these cameras!” (for some dudes, insert in place of the word “cameras”: guns, auto stuff, coins, Betty Page photos, etc). Loretta being such a wonderful spouse, she pretty much gives me free hand to manage this area of the household without much kibitzing…and I appreciate this to no end.

I have never considered myself a great photographer.  Perhaps a seasoned enthusiast would be more accurate…I have my moments! I did have a good run at doing it “professionally” a few years.  Doing weddings and portraits provided some income for a period of time. But, my SAS in addition to my absolute and total aversion to the wedding photography process nixed that. Hmmm, I seem to have become a tad bit nauseous just thinking of my wedding photography days…’nuff said for now except two words: Bridezillas and their evil wedding minions, Mothers-in-Lawzillas. Phew! I move on for now.

I won’t display photos of my camera collection here and now. For one thing, I’m not home…we’re on a short RV trip. But I will show you one of my latest acquisitions. Before I do, here’s the juice on cameras in general. An expensive camera does not a good photographer make. That being said, here is one of the best Point-and-Shoots I have ever had (and I’ve had quite a few). The Hasselblad Stellar (Limited).

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Having recently worked for a few years in the camera department of a large retailer, I got to vicariously “own” most every little camera that came down the pike during that time, i.e., I played with them all in my “down time”. Mind you, this retailer did not carry higher end items, but enough to get an idea of what was out there camera-wise. From $69 point-and-shoots to near $500 low end DSLR’s, I fondled them all. Sony, Nikon, Canon, Samsung, and even Kodak…there were many…most of which of dubious build and image quality. However, I always found the little Sony’s that came along standing alone in image quality…8 out of a possible 10. The ergonomics on Sonys, not so much…perhaps a 5 out of 10…they’re just a bit more difficult to master than say the Canons or Nikon.  That being said, I opt for image quality. Hence…my purchase of the Hasselblad Stellar because, my young padewans, this camera is actually a Sony RX100 re-badged with the Big “H”.  Yes, I own a Hasselblad digital camera, albeit not the $20,000+ model but a $999 one. It’s one exquisite-photo-taking little camera! So now I own a Hasselblad AND a Sony digital camera in the same package. So be it.  It takes great quality images, is not difficult to master with minimal effort, is a great street photo camera (very unobtrusive), and is somewhat of a collector camera being a Limited Edition Hasselblad…(comes in a nifty, black piano laqurered box with nice Hasselblad embroidered wrist and shoulder straps, etc).FullSizeRender 2

Now, unless you are a camera nut like me, I wouldn’t recommend shelling out that much scratch for a camera like this. The Sony version runs about $500 now. A newer version of the Sony (RX100 III) about $800. As I’ve said before, a more expensive camera will not make you a better photographer. When I was hawking cameras retail, I can’t remember the amount of people who wanted to “upgrade” from their point-and-shoots to a DSLR in order to take “better” photos. Almost always, it didn’t happen. “Skip, how come my photos from my new Nikon D600 aren’t as good as my little, old, beat up Sony pocket camera?”  I would bite my lip and NOT say, “Because you stink! You’re a lousy photographer!” I would however say to them before and after their purchase of a $550 Nikon, “Put this thing on full Auto or P, let the camera do all the hard work, and have fun with it. If you start messing around with all the manual options…well, caveat emptor I guess”.

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Here are my two best tips for novice shutter bugs.  Set the Mode dial to “P”.  This is a full auto mode but allows a few manual tweakings, most importantly turning on the “Fill Flash”. The on-board flash works well for filling in shadows when there appears to be plenty of light or when there is a lot of back light. Play around with it.  It’s one of my favorite tips. I personally put all my cameras on the “A” or “Av” setting (aperture priority) because I like to manage my lens opening (the camera will manage the shutter speed on this setting).  Why do I do this? Because of the bokeh factor, i.e., out of focus backgrounds. I will do an entire blog on these simple tips in the near future.

One last thought on my new Sony RX100…er, Hasselblad Stellar. I hesitated buying it for one reason: my iPhone 6+ takes kick-ass photos with optical image stabilization. A few of the downsides of cell phone photography, at least for me, are the ergonomics (it’s smooth surface is just awkward to take photos, it tends to squirt out of my hands…so far, I’ve managed to catch it before hitting the pavement), slow focus, limited options, and it’s a fixed lens. On the other hand an issue for me with the Hasselblad: it’s tiny and a little inconvenient for my large hands. I’ll suffer. I’m getting used to it.  Besides, Loretta has teeny tiny hands and she uses it on trips when I put it in those little hands. She’s a good sport as always.

My final thoughts. Unless you have unlimited spendable hobby income or are an experienced novice or both, don’t spend a lot of money on ANY camera.  How much? Less than $200 for a pocket digital. Don’t mess with a DSLR unless you can afford the other lenses which can cost way more than the camera body. Cheap DSLR lenses, generally speaking, are made of plastic (break easily), and don’t usually produce the sharpest images.

Two final tidbits of photographic wisdom. Learn how to frame and take a lot of pictures…after the cost of the camera, the photos are free!