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Top trumps


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Top trumps

16 Oct 2020 7:53AM   Views : 211 Unique : 128


I suspect Iíve said this a few times before, maybe even in this concentrated form. You donít need the best, the fastest, the longest or the widest. Probably.

My daughter gave me a set of Camera Top Trumps Ė I think it may have been last Christmas. Like all TT cards, the aim was to win by choosing the right criteria, and itís a game that photographers play, as do car owners, boat owners, stereo buffs. I admit I donít really understand why youíd choose a camera for ĎStreet Credí though!

OK. Letís take cars, because most people drive, and take pride in their vehicles. So think of your car, and how often you take it near any of the TT limits. When was the last timeÖ No, Iíll rephrase that. Have you ever redlined the engine in each gear from a standing start to the national speed limit? If you havenít, youíre excused the next question, and possibly excused from ever buying another camera if its predecessor hasnít broken.

Ready for the first camera question? Have you ever taken a shot at your highest shutter speed? Actually, what is your highest speed?

Iíve had a progression. 1/300 was the top speed on the Super Paxette I inherited from my Dad, and 1/500 on the Exa 500 that was my first SLR. A Pentax Spotmatic II upped that to 1/1000, and my first Contax RTS took it to 1/2000. I peaked with 1/12,000 on a Minolta Dynax 9.

As Iíve always had a taste for shooting with fast film, the highest speed mattered a bit: Agfapan 1000, the first fast film I used routinely, required f/22 with the Exa in bright sunshine, which limits the options a bit. By the time Kodak introduced T-Max P3200, the combination of derating the film a little and the Contaxís highest speed allowed me to shoot with a modest aperture, even if I was caught with the wrong film in the camera. I donít think Iíve ever used the highest speed on the Dynax 9.

So thereís a point at which chasing a higher figure (a topper trump if you like) is pointless.

Iím less like that with apertures. I regard a reclining portrait shot at f/1.4 with an 85mm lens as a signature shot, and so the weird SLR Magic Hyperprime that I take to shoots these days is permanently set at f/0.95 Ė thereís even a lock that allows me to avoid accidental stopping down. I used it, with a 4-Dioptre closeup lens, to take the shot of That_Model_Jasmine at the top of the blog today. But if that sort of extreme depth of field effect isnít of interest, you may be happy with an f/4 kit zoom.

Frame rate? Iím actually fine with a manual-wind film camera, thank you. I shoot so little action that it really doesnít matter what the high speed rate is on my Alpha 7. And if you donít shoot wildlife or sport, you probably donít need it either, where Ďití is numerically above one frame a second.

How about battery life? This will depend a bit on how serious a shooter you are. If you want to spend all day taking pictures and anticipate filling a card or two, it will matter if you can only take 350 shots on a charge: but itís generally good practice to have a spare with you anyway. But itíll be a real consideration as your cameras (and batteries) age. By the time youíve had a battery ten years, itís extremely likely that its capacity will have halved: and if youíre making the switch to mirrorless, you will be likely to want a spare.

One area where we donít often go to boast of big figures is weight. But just so you know, an EOS 5D Mk 4 with 24-105 is a kilogram and a half, while my carry-about Alpha 7R III and 85mm f/1.8 is just over a kilogram. Apples and oranges? Yes. Iíll stick with the lighter one, thanks. And I know an EOS 2000 is lighter, but so is a packet of Players Navy Cut, and Iíll pass on that, too.

I could go on, but I hope you have the picture Iím painting by now. The same will apply to ISO, or close focus, or number of modes.

All Iím saying is that you should invest your cash in what you need, and not in things you will never use when they cost extra. You may ask about the facilities you donít need Ė but thatís another blog entirely!


dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1715 England
16 Oct 2020 7:59AM
And the 'another blog entirely' is written and waiting for tomorrow...
mistere Plus
7 6 4 England
16 Oct 2020 11:29AM
Upgrade syndrome is an issue with almost everything, TV's, cars, mobile phones, computers, cameras. It keeps the multi Billion £ consumer market going
and is the marketing departments lifeblood. The problem is that most of us don't 'need' most of the things that we have. 400 tv channels? 15 different washing machine programs?
the ability to turn the kitchen light on from your car?. Once the stuff's available, it quickly becomes a 'must have'. Who's going to buy a new car if it only has 4 gears, or a phone without
Wifi. And who can say that what we don't 'need' today may not become 'essential' in a few months time. 10fps, 14fps, 62,000 iso. Scientists have made the fastest camera ever.
The technology is dubbed STEAM, short for serial time-encoded amplified microscopy. It can take 6.1 million pictures in a single second, at a shutter speed of 440 trillionths of a second.
All done with lasers, who doesn't need one of those baby's SmileSmile
4 31 1 United States
16 Oct 2020 1:12PM
I am going to take a different view.
With the car analogy, you focus on speed. I have owned BMW's for the past 10 years, not for it's top speed but for:
1- The way the car handles, even in around town diving
2- The comfort
3- The ability to get out of the way of danger
4- The looks

Regarding cameras, my first "real" camera was a Canon T3i. I shot it in auto and used it to take snapshots initially.
I then bought some old used telephoto lenses and started shooting wild life and youth soccer for parents. I discovered that the slow frame rate was a drawback, so I bought a used Canon EOS 7D in 2014 and used it for several years. In 2018 I bought a 7D MII for the action shots. I still use this and see no reason to change.
In 2015 I decided to get my first full frame camera and bought a used Canon EOS 6D. In 2019 I upgraded it to a new EOS 6D MKII. In 2019 I also bought a new EOS 5D MK IV.
My reasons why?
The EOS 6D MKII with the fully articulating display made shooting Soccer Video a lot easier. It is also my back up camera for player head shots and team shots.
The EOS 5D MKIV is my utility camera. I can use it along with the 7D MK II to shoot action with a 5-7fps rate as well as use it to take player and team pictures. It has focus features for this function that my other cameras do not have. The camera also has a wonderful ability to track moving subjects. The fact that it is full frame gives it an advantage over the 7D MKII in low light settings.
The EOS 7D MKII is a great camera for fast moving action shots.

I have 3 battery grips that are mounted permanently on the cameras. This affords me balance with the "L" glass I use, two batteries for extended shooting, a comfortable grip.
When I am in the woods, I carry what I need in a backpack. When I am on the field, I use a tripod and either a vest or strap to carry either one or two cameras.
The weight is not an issue for me yet.
Once it is, I will look to alternatives.

dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1715 England
16 Oct 2020 1:39PM
That's sensible, George - you have cameras that match your specific needs. If you were playing Camera Top Trumps, you'd settle for nothing less than an EOS-1D X Mk II...

My only experience of driving a BMW was 30 years ago, an original M5, which was lovely, but, I'm told, utterly untypical of mainstream BMW models of the time. I mentioned speed, but in the context of acceleration, not maximum - that's sort-of the same thing as your ability to get out of trouble. My intention was to suggest that if people buy something on the basis of performance, and then never explore the envelope, they might as well not have bothered. In order to gain safety from a faster car, you need to have tried driving it fast, otherwise you can't be sure that clogging it in second gear on a corner won't lead to heading for the rhubarb, backwards. So I suspect we're on the same page, really. You know why you bought your cameras and your car: and I know why an alpha 7R and a 1.4 litre äkoda Octavia work well for me.

Dave - I wonder if that acronym explains why a former boss once instructed me to 'Steam ahead1'?

GeorgeP Plus
13 62 26 United States
16 Oct 2020 3:16PM
That's what I like about your blog John - so practical. (and I am not being sarcastic.)
Using this logic I will never upgrade my aging Pentax K5. So, while I am looking forward to the release of the rumored Pentax/Ricoh new APS-C body, I honestly doubt I will be a customer. When my current K5 camera body fails, another gently used K5 (perhaps the iis version) will continue to satisfy 95% of my needs . . . . if not my desires. Maybe that is the difference between a hobbyist and a professional. For the former, it is about allocating discretional income. For the latter, it is about capturing that income so the best tools are important. The same goes for cars. The Jag XJ8 Vanden Plas was wonderful to drive - but my current KIA Sorento is so much more practical for transporting dogs, mulch, DIY supplies, etc.. . . and who needs go go above 85mph anyway (even in Texas)?
altitude50 16 20.1k United Kingdom
16 Oct 2020 5:23PM
Interesting read. I have owned a lot of different cars since about 1961. I have driven more than I owned including a NSU Wankel Spyder a Citroen DS 23 for a year a Ferrari Testarossa a diesel Mercedes G-Wagen in the Arctic in Winter and several enormous American cars from the 60's.
I think that the most enjoyable car I actually owned was a secondhand Audi 80 automatic from 1982 - then it cost me less than my current new Tamron 28-75 lens and unlike the lens it only did 22 mpg so it had to go.
A Citroen Visa 2 cylinder was fun also.
4 31 1 United States
16 Oct 2020 7:25PM
Of course I have tested each car, redlining each gear, just to see how the car handled. I typically do that during the test drive, just in case.
I think that many of us, at lease on this site, purchase based on a desired function improvement and not marketing hype.
I wish I could cost justify a EOS-1D X Mk II, however I just can't.
Frankly, even if they come out with a MK III at some point in the future I don't see myself buying a used 1D X series.

My basic philosophy towards buying anything is:
1- Identify the needs
2- Identify the wants
3- Purchase the best I can afford that meets all or most of the needs. Chances are it will have most if not all the wants.
4 31 1 United States
16 Oct 2020 7:35PM
BTW, I also bought a used "96" Audi A4 in, I think 2000, and had it for 10 years before it started falling apart. I loved that car as well.
The A4 turned me onto 4 wheel drive/all wheel drive performance cars. My BMW's have all been xDrive.
4 31 1 United States
16 Oct 2020 7:37PM
One term I don't see used here, at ephotzine, is GAS or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. The need to buy the Latest, Greatest simply because it is new.
kaybee 16 7.4k 26 Scotland
17 Oct 2020 10:04AM
I may be doing that base about apex by reading (and commenting) on the other blog first - but as in life, I have been known to do things a bit differently.

I have never (well, maybe once) had my camera on machine gun mode - I don't 'need' to catch the moment but when I do it gives me more satisfaction because I know it is down (mainly) to my skill and judgement.
I love using narrow focus - again, it requires much more skill.
'Hand holding' is a skill that seems to be going by the wayside with modern cameras too. I put that to the test in the pub after a club meeting a couple of years ago when ISO and shutter speeds were set to the same and I was able to get a sharper image using no image stabilising than the guy with the guy with the fandabbydozy all singing, all dancing newer camera.
dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1715 England
17 Oct 2020 10:42AM
On the cars... Four wheel drive makes a lot of sense for sheer performance: my choice of 3 (out of 7 owned since 2000) cars has been Subaru, with their simpler, straightforward 25% to each wheel, all the time approach. Stylistically, they veered from disastrous (an Impreza diesel, 2009) to 'like a Passat that's had a charisma bypass' (Legacy saloon). I clocked up a lot of miles in those, and never felt less than utterly secure. RWD BMWs tended to get in the way on bends, and romp away on straights.
bobby55 Plus
10 47 United Kingdom
18 Oct 2020 7:49PM
No...never red lined anything, but then like me they are too old to take it. I did have a 1999 Skoda for about 10 years (My newest car at just under 3 years old, that was the first of the VW styled Octavias). Then I go backwards in years (and price) to the old Ford Maverick 4x4 diesel till it Rusted in Pieces. Currently I'm sticking with a 1.8 Rover 45 which goes out 6 miles once a fortnight,that will most likely see me out.
BMW.....yes but as an instructor I had the 1988 K100 1000cc motorcycle that went from 30mph to 137mph in top gear. I've toned down once again to a sedate 250cc scooter.
I'm the same with cameras..Burst mode??? never used the a dazzling 2fps on the Sony A100 and A330. Shutter speed is almost always in the tripod speeds. I did pick up a cheap preloved SLT A35 but I'm not overly fond of it with the EVF. Trouble is the others are just a bit too heavy for me these days.
Safe to say I don't suffer from G.A.S Grin
dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1715 England
18 Oct 2020 9:50PM
I still have an Alpha 55, and the viewfinder is rather nice: unlike the A57 that I got after its shutter died. But the 6000 series might meet your needs, and be nice and light...

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