As to my experience: I'm not a professional photographer; my "day job" is
coding, like many here. I started with an Olympus 35RD
rangefinder given me by my dad, then in October 1997 I bought a Nikon F50 (N50
in USA), returned it for the Nikon F90X (N90s in
USA) (more control), after realizing the benefits of an SLR (Single Lens
Reflex), i.e. what you see is what you get, and interchangeable lenses. Over
the past few years I've picked up a nice collection of lenses (all Nikkor
except a Tamron zoom I got with the body: 20/2.8D, 50/1.8, 105/2.8micro,
180/2.8ED-IF), mostly used, and taken literally thousands of photos. For
flash, I use the SB-28 speedlight, usually on a bracket or handheld (SC-17 cord
to preserve TTL and matrix metering) to eliminate red-eye. I shoot mostly
candids and scenery, and my gear has survived four week-long canoe trips into
Algonquin Park (Northern Ontario)
plus numerous shorter trips. I've been photo editor at Imprint (the University of Waterloo student paper), and
taken a lot of photos for it during my university studies (Nikon FM-2ns,
F90Xes, and Coolpix 950s; usually Ilford HP5+ B&W film, developed ourslves then
scanned with a Nikon LS2000 negative scanner; yes, we're a Nikon shop :-). I
know my way around a darkroom and am proficient in Photoshop. I've shot a few
weddings for friends, conventions, etc.
I was led by an earlier
article to determine I'm an
anyway, I'm definitely a "System builder"; I have (almost) every roll of film
I've shot cross-referenced to a database. But this organization is a
lot of work:
That was then. This is now.
- Taking the photos to get developed, waiting, then having to go and pick
them up - or - developing the film yourself, which might be faster but isn't
all that cost effective and those chemicals can't be good for you;
- Filing the negatives in a plastic sheet in a binder;
- Making a database entry, which involves looking up various records to check
dates and times (I confess to being a little obsessed with correct
- Sorting through the photos themselves to determine which ones to keep in my
- (Optionally) scanning the prints (HP ScanJet 4200C flatbed) and tweaking
them in Photoshop (standard size, eliminate artifacts or blemishes);
- Organizing the scanned images online in a useful manner (e.g. my Chronicle, which is a bit out of
date now, but the design was a good learning experience, or various sites (1 2) for the aforementioned canoe trips).
Those sites evolved over
several years, using a PHP system with an
extensible parser that I wrote (this was pre-XML, but today I'd probably use
The Sony F707 is a five megapixel camera, which means that it's sufficient for
all my purposes (usually 4x6 prints, and that size will go to 8x10 easily).
Local chain computer stores like Future Shop will now
make prints from digital media (memory sticks etc.) fairly cheaply, and the
price of good photo-quality printers like the HP
PhotoSmart is falling daily.
The F707's lens is a Carl Zeiss, which is among the best, and it does very well
in reviews (and here); the 5x
zoom is equivalent to a 38mm-190mm 35mm, and it has the usual auto-*, shutter
priority, aperature priority, and manual modes, good controls for managing
stored photos, hooks up as a USB storage device (I built and installed Linux
kernel 2.4.17 last night, pursuant to being able to read the images in Linux),
or can be connected to a TV to view the photos on the screen.
So far, it compares well to my Nikon system; the only problem is the flash. As
I said, I shoot a lot of candids, and that means the multiflash standard
red-eye reduction is useless. The flash is right over the lens, which makes
red-eye pretty much guaranteed. This isn't Sony's fault; my Nikon F50's pop-up
flash had the same problem. What is Sony's fault is not providing a
standard hot-shoe (there is one, but it's not live) so I can use an external
flash. I'll probably end up buying Sony's flash (proprietary connection, not a
standard flash sync cord), because it preserves the TTL metering.
So, what benefits do I get from "going digital"?
First, the system is a lot lighter and more compact than my gargantuan
Nikon rig, and the memory cards are tiny (it comes with a 16M but they sell up
to 128M; 16M will take 50 standard-quality 1280x960 JPEGs, so 128M holds ~800!), it should also fit
handily into a Ziploc bag to keep it waterproof in the canoe :). That's a
significant gain right there, seeing as the image quality is, for my purposes,
equivalent. I weighed in my fully loaded camera bag at 20kg (35lbs); the
F707 is about 5kg. Means a lot when you're trying to move around quickly,
or are carrying a canoe or backpack.
Next, look back at the process above that I go through for each film I shoot.
Granted, not everyone is that thorough (fastidious, obsessive, whatever), but
these advantages are still relevant.
In conclusion, I think the digital camera's time has come, and I see little
reason to stay with film unless you need very large prints or five megapixels
isn't enough detail. The digital camera is one high-tech device that actually
does save time and add convenience - a true labour-saving device of the
modern age - and, provided I can get my flash troubles worked out, this one's a
- No developing. Period. Instant viewing of results, and the ability to
preview, discard, and reshoot immediately (edit, compile, run...);
- No negatives to file. The closest I come to that is keeping thumbnails of
each photo, which I can load into a single web page (by date, subject,
whatever) to quickly find an image. The thumbnails can be generated
automatically by programs such as ImageMagick's mogrify tool,
as I've already been doing with my sites. And for storage/transportation, CDs are cheap, and so is HD space, for that matter;
- The database becomes a lot simpler, because the camera automatically
records the data, time, and exposure of each photograph; all that remains is to
sort them chronologically (c'mon, ls will do that), rename them
to something useful, e.g. in Paint
Shop Pro's browser, and break them down by event, possibly throwing in some
PHP code to allow annotations;
- Sorting just involves going through the images on the memory stick, marking
the ones to print, and dropping it off at Future Shop. Assuming their printer
isn't utter crap, I already know what the results will look like, so I don't
have to (as I would with film) print shots I don't like or that didn't turn out.
I usually cull one third to one half of my shots (dupes or mishaps, like
- No scanning, but I like to crop photos down to standard size and make
various adjustments (yes, the GIMP is good,
and open source is great, but
 The numbers are focal length (the usual standard lens is 50mm, although
this has been getting wider esp. in point-and-shoot cameras) / maximum aperture
(here, the lower the better). "D" means a lens equipped with pins for Nikon's
"3D" flash metering; ED-IF is Extralow Dispersion glass and Internal Focussing.
(I provide this info so those interested don't have to stare blankly at a list
of numbers and can learn something if they want.)
 TTL metering is Through The Lens metering, allowing the lens to communicate
to the flash how much light is incident on the CCD in this case, whereas if the
flash has to use its own sensor it wouldn't compensate for zoom or being moved
laterally e.g. onto a bracket or tripod.
 Red-eye is caused by light from the flash reflecting off the blood vessels
in the back of the eye. Thus, if the flash is offset from the camera, the
reflected rays will generally not return to the lens. (The preflash method
instead causes the pupils to shrink, making less of a "target" for the