Home Open Account Help 179 users online

Railfan Technology > Do Cameras Matter?

Date: 10/09/18 07:55
Do Cameras Matter?
Author: ETFuller

September saw a flurry of exciting new camera announcements. In this month's Editor's Notebook on The Trackside Photographer, we consider where all the new technology might lead . . . or not.


Edd Fuller, Editor
The Trackside Photographer

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/09/18 07:55 by ETFuller.

Date: 10/09/18 08:24
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: seod

To a certain extent yes cameras do matter. If you want sharp clear images you might need more than the $25 Barbie digi camera from Toys-R-Us. But once you get a decent camera from one of the big boy manufacturers it will take great pictures. The rest is a male member measuring contest (I got this what do you have!).

I do agree that the digi cameras do not seem to last as long as a good old film camera. I am on my second body since 2006 and I will probably get another one in a couple of years. I have had my current body a Nikon D7100 in the shop already to fix some problems they are pretty complex machines not like a simple old film camera.  They are making a lot of advancements to the digi cameras the non mirror ones are looking pretty good.

Scott O'Dell

Date: 10/09/18 10:49
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: SN711

One thing that tends to improve with each newer model from a manufacturer is the low light capability. The right out of the camera capability from the Nikon D90 to D600 to D750 is very noticeable with much less the noise the higher you go.


Date: 10/09/18 10:59
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: refarkas

Do cameras matter? Here is a redo of a 2004 image using my late dad's 3MP Kodak camera. NS 8410 is eastbound at Warwick, Ohio on April 23, 2004. While it may be acceptable taken from the internet as seen on a computer monitor screen, it soon loses detail, etc. if viewed in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Still it is the photographer and the camera, not the camera itself, that makes for a winning photo.

Date: 10/09/18 11:03
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: TCnR

With all the advancements and refinements in modern cameras I believe there is a minimum level that most photographers should be taking advantage of, sensor size and AF tools for example. Generally I do agree with the idea that the content or composition of the photo is the larger part of the photographers goal. The newer tools make that quite a bit easier, as always if someone understands those tools and how to use them effectively.

Generally agree with the linked comments except that a new camera often gives a person an excuse to get back into the hobby, by way of exploring the camera as well as photography subjects. Even duplicating old photos or locations with a new camera for comparison will encourage more critical thinking of what goes on with the camera and also the composition side of photography.

+ Should also mention that one's technique does not need to be static, unless the repetitive nature is something that makes a person happy. There are all sorts of interesting techniques from Landscape and Sport Photographers related to the new cameras that are well worth exploring. Another excuse to get out there and shoot something, metaphorically speaking of course.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/09/18 11:18 by TCnR.

Date: 10/09/18 11:31
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: seod

Back in the day (old geezer talk coming) we bought the top of the line or near the top of the line film camera because they had the fastest motor drives so we could get extras to trade. My Nikon F4S was a tank of a camera but it shot at 6 fps it sure ate film too. I used that F4s for about 15 years and it still is a pretty good camera (not worth a plug nickle anymore though). Now even the entry level Nikon D3400 shoots at 5 fps but with digi the need to shoot fast for extras does not exist as you can make an infinite number of perfect copies on the computer . I even have my D7100 set at mid advance speed most of the time.

There was a guy around in the early 90's that said many times if you did not have $10,000 worth of Hasselblad you were wasting your time. I probably had $5,000 worth if Nikon at the time because when you shot Kodachrome 25 you needed the faster lenses now with digi just spin up the ISO a bit and it still works out most of the time.

Scott O'Dell

Date: 10/09/18 11:38
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: sphogger

Anyone familiar with the Nikon P1000 and its 125x zoom?   Amazing and somewhat scary from a privacy standpoint looking at the YouTube demo’s.  


Date: 10/09/18 14:20
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: CCMF

Good glass is more important than the camera itself.  MHO.

Bill Miller
Galt, ON

Date: 10/09/18 14:55
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: NormSchultze

The glass and the sensor need to be matched. Mediocre glass on a 45mp sony sensor will not give the results you want. Now slap on that Zeiss Macro-Planar and the difference is stunning.  
I almost cry when I look back at some of those early digi pix.   And I think I need to see my friend Jim Beam when I look at some of those earlier slides.       

Date: 10/09/18 20:51
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: Lurch_in_ABQ

My Nikon 8008 and D50 matter only in their ability to gather dust while my Samsung Galaxy Note-4 has all the picture-taking tech I will ever need. I think Samsung Galaxy is at gen 9 or 10 now.
Although I wish I'd kept my Argus C3 and a few rolls of Plus-X and Tri-X to play with.

Date: 10/10/18 16:14
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: BRAtkinson

Do cameras matter?  It depends on who is taking pictures and who the expected audience will be, in my opinion. 

From a railfan perspective, in todays' world, a $500 DSLR camera 'kit' bought at Walmart will likely suffice for many photographers, especially if the majority of their photography is on bright sunny days, or even 'cloudy bright'.  The 'auto' setting works perfectly.  Take that same kit indoors and shoot some family photos, and the limitations start showing up, especially in 'auto' mode.  The built in flash will sufficiently illuminate people up to 10 feet away, but beyond that, they're dark blobs with facial features.  The toddler running around the room and is photographed 5 feet away will likely end up with a blurry toddler 50% of the time or more.  Those that buy such a 'kit' are likely novices that are satisfied with the results of their 'snapshot' photography.  More than likely, they'll email a couple of images to their friends/families or put them on various social media sites and that's the end of it.  With the ever-increasing photographic capabilities of cell phones these days, I'd tell someone to use their cell phone for their photos and spend the $500 somewhere else.  

Then there's railfans and non-railfans that buying the $500 kit as their first camera and soon discovering they actually have to learn how to use it to get more than just sun lit train (or kids) shots.  On various photography-oriented web sites, I shudder every time I read posts like "Help!  How do I take wedding (or nighttime high school football games) photos with my <fill in the blank> $500 camera kit?"  With Auto only, it's impossible to get more than 4-5 'keepers' out of hundreds of shots.  Believe it or not, their cell phone will get better results than "A" on their cameras!  At least those sites have various threads and respondents about someone trying to learn photography by 'playing with the settings' and getting terrible results.  Until they understand the exposure triangle and the trade offs often necessary, there's no hope for them.

Once the exposure triangle is understood to the point it's 'automatic' in the photographers' head, great things start to happen when starting to use various exposure controls, including 'semi-auto' functions such as aperature priority or shutter speed priority, etc.  As one progresses in their learning, the limitations of their gear will start showing up.  Most often, it's ISO speed (ASA to us old timers) that some think setting it at the highest possible setting on their camera will still produce decent results.  High-end DSLRs can get some surprisingly good results at their max ISO speeds (with some noise correction), but knowing when to use it is more important.  For stationary objects, a 5 second or longer exposure with the camera on a tripod will yield a far better image.   At some point, to address low lighting issues, such as taking images of trains at night, 'faster' lenses (f2.8 and lower f-stop numbers) become the tools of choice (think $1000 and up for a single lens!) and/or powerful flash unit(s).  Sometimes a newer camera and stepping  up to full-frame models becomes necessary.  It's not cheap, by any means!

From the purely image-making technical issues for most rail fans, depending on how much time, education, and money they put into it, what is 'good enough' is strictly ones' personal perspective, and is rarely based on how much did they spend to get high end gear only to shoot on 'auto'.  For what it's worth, I have a full 'spectrum' of gear from my cell phone, cheap point and shoot that fits my pocket, a compact camera with full manual capaibilities that also fits my pocket, and a lot of 'big artillery' when I want the best results and can carry a gym bag full of equipment.  My 'camera of choice' depends first on who will be seeing my work (me, only, many times) and how 'critical' of an audience are they?  Family and friends are happy to see photos from cell phones and point and shoot cameras...no need for the $500 DSLR kit.  No need for post processing in Lightroom,  Photoshop Elements, or Photoshop (the full deal).  $10/mo to 'rent' both Lightroom and Photoshop and learning to use them is a good investment for anyone looking to produce the best results possible.  I recently ran a friends' family photos from their cell phones through Photoshop and they were absolutely blown away with the printed results I gave them for framing.  So yes, even cell phones can make very acceptable pictures.

Then you get to the 'gear heads', 'pixel peepers', and anyone wanting to print poster-sized images with absolute clarity.  DSLR marketing these days tends to over-emphasize number of mega pixels their cameras have and their dynamic range.  It's more "mine's bigger than yours" <whatever> one-upsmanship for far too many individuals, particularly among amateur photographers that don't make a living from their photography.  The camera makers need something to make their products better than the competition, so it's become a race of pixels and dynamic range....and to all but a few, perhaps 1-2% of rail photographers (even less to snapshot folks), super-mega pixels and super-dynamic range have little to no meaning, and wouldn't know the difference between images shot with 'lesser' cameras.  And fewer still are the number of images where high-end either MP or DR capabilities make any difference at all in the image, and even less difference to the viewers.  If ones' interest is more towards bragging rights than great images, spend your childrens inheritance and go for it!  I've known a number of now-deceased trolley modelers that scratch built superb models in O-guage from photographs taken in the 1930s.  They had details right down to the number of rivets in each row perfectly modelled.  They certainly didn't have 36 MP digital cameras with $2000 lenses 80+ years ago!

In the discussion above, I've intentionally left out the most important part of photography...the photographer themself.  The 'mechanics' of exposing pixels to light - camera, lens and lighting - are perhaps only 10% of what's needed to produce images of 'great', 'fantastic', and 'unbelievable' quality.  The magic here is 'composition'.  How are the various elements of the image combined, emphasized, obscured, blended, positioned, and on and on.  Converting 3-dimensional things such as trains to 2-dimensional photographs is far more than making settings and pressing the button.  If that's all there is, robots would have taken over photography 20 years ago!  It comes down to 'the eye of the photographer' as well as the 'eye of the beholder'.  How does one convey the 'feel', 'texture', 'motion', 'sound', and even 'emotion' in a photograph?   THAT'S the ART of photography!  There is no constant or repetitive 'rule' of composition.  What 'works' in one image fails in the next one, photographed 2 seconds later.  What 'works' for you may completely 'fall flat' to me.  It's like music, some genres appeal to me, and they are likely different than what you prefer to listen to.  In some cases, I perfer some musical artists and disdain the others, all in the same genre (country music being one of them).  In my opinion, the art of composition, like that of a Davinci or a 4 year old drawing pictures for mommy is a combination of genetics, talent, previous experiences, and education.  No single combination of these 'works' for more than 1 person.  Yes, there are great art forgers in the world, so it's possible to closely imitate the photographs of others, but there will be differences, even if standing side by side with another photographer taking a picture of the same subject!  Everyone is different and produces images whose composition is different than those of everyone else.   That's what makes us unique individuals rather than a world of robots.

It's been long-said that "it's not thje gear, it's the photographer!"  I've seen many examples of that truism including giving a professional photographer a low-end point and shoot camera and a non-professional a higher end DSLR and giving them the same assignments.  The professional produced far more stunning/excellent photographs than the amateur.  Once one has mastered their gear and how to use it, including its capabilities as well as limitations, the sky is the limit!         


Date: 10/11/18 11:03
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: colehour

I taught a high school photography class for one semester some 40 years ago. The kid with the most expensive camera (a Nikon F) took mediocre photos. I'm also rather surprised that some of the photos I took with early, low megapixel cameras, turned out so well. 

Date: 11/02/18 19:23
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: roustabout

sphogger Wrote:
> Anyone familiar with the Nikon P1000 and its 125x
> zoom?   Amazing and somewhat scary from a privacy
> standpoint looking at the YouTube demo’s.  
> Sphogger

Read the reviews on Bestbuy.com.  Mostly, it's a good long-range camera, hampered by its size and weight (5 lbs), sensor and mediocre wide angle abilities.

Date: 11/12/18 14:50
Re: Do Cameras Matter?
Author: SD45X

BNSF just published their 2019 calendar with two IPhone 6s photos in it.........

Posted from iPhone

[ Share Thread on Facebook ] [ Search ] [ Start a New Thread ] [ Back to Thread List ] [ <Newer ] [ Older> ] 
Page created in 0.1027 seconds