Monday, November 4, 2013


EOS Digital Rebel XT, EF 40mm f2.8 STM
I suppose most people with a camera have tried photographing fireworks, and most towns and cities offer plenty of opportunities to do so throughout the year. I've seen so many amazingly beautiful shots of fire in the sky, I just thought that I could never do anything to compete... and I'm certainly not trying to compete here. But every so often, some neighbour's kids up the street have plenty of fun by shooting off about 15 minutes of their own backyard show. It strikes me as a rather expensive hobby, (although not nearly as expensive as photography I suppose). Anyway, a few nights ago, I heard the first pop, and I had a camera at the ready, (thanks again Mike!) so I ran downstairs and out-doors with no jacket and no shoes, in the hope that some of their efforts would at least make it over the roof!

Happily, quite a few of them did. Far.. far from being a professional fire show, in fact about as far as I am from being a professional photographer, at least half of their whistles and bangs went high enough for me to photograph. I had to make a few hasty on the fly adjustments, and if you're curious, I settled on 0.7 seconds (hand-held) at f3.5, ISO 1600, ending up with a metered EV of -2.25 in Manual Mode.

It sure didn't look like July 4 at the Golden Gate Bridge, but I probably had almost as much fun as the kid's who were setting these off did.

Just to make an observation relevant to the camera, this is a Rebel XT after all- Canon's most affordable DSLR, announced way back in 2005. What really impresses me is the almost total absence of noise. As it is with my EOS 5D Classic, these older cameras have a much lower Pixel Density, which means a much larger per-pixel surface area on the sensor, making these to be tremendously good at low-light shooting. You may want a modern "high resolution" camera, with a minimum of 18 Megapixels for a lot of your photography, but when it comes to low light situations, even with an EV of -2.25 with this old camera, 8 Megapixels on the 24mm sensor, or in the case of the 5D Classic, 12 Megapixels on the 35mm sensor behaves much better when it comes to high signal with low noise. Keep in mind how the very earliest professional DSLR models back around 2001 only had 4 Megapixels on a large sensor - those were pioneering days, but not long after that, some truly great consumer grade DSLR's like the Nikon D70 came along, with only 6 Megapixels - these cameras are still highly regarded, but for totally different reasons, that being superb image quality with low noise.

Coming ahead to late 2013, we find a perceived obsolescence factor in the camera market, all based on the race for more Megapixels. You don't need to fall for that. Sure, there are many other good reasons to buy a brand new camera, but I am daring to say that noise immunity and image quality for still photography are not among them. "High resolution", sometimes as great as 36 Megapixels, now available, is designed for true HD Video capabilities, not for still photographs. I know this all to well, having recently owned (and re-sold) two High Definition DSLR's (the hapless EOS 7D, and the much better behaved Digital Rebel T3i, both with 18 MP), and aside from not focussing properly in the case of the 7D, I was fighting high noise levels that would pop up in post-processing a lot more often than I am now with these older cameras, which gives me a lot more freedom to under-expose when needed.

It all comes down to what you need, really. If you want to make spectacular videos, yo'll need a newer DSLR, but for still photography, don't fear the old - have a search through the local Classifieds, and spend the bulk of your money on better lenses.

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