Digital Cameras    Edward Frank
   Mar 23, 2004 15:33 PST 


How many of you have digital cameras? I am a serious photographer. I like to shoot slow speed slide film, use a tripod. I have a quality camera and a better primary lens.

Last Friday I purchased a Kodak Easy Share DX 4530 digital camera. I wanted to have a camera that would give me quick snapshots with an adequate picture. The camera is a 5 mega-pixel and can be bought at Wal-mart or Staples for just under $300. It is a relatively inexpensive starting digital camera.

I took it with me when I went to videotape the floating of a large log raft built to celebrate the bicentennial of Clearfield County, Pa. When I got back I downloaded the images to my laptop. I was blown away by the quality of the images. I took about 20 pictures, some in good light, others in pouring rain, all of them hand held. Viewed at a screen resolution of 1024 by 768, the images were amazingly sharp. The colors were saturated, giving the impression of old saturated Kodachrome slide film.

When viewed at 2580 x 1932 some blur is apparent in the images. I am not sure if it is the imaging of the camera or just shake from the handheld shots. The bottom line is that the images are exceptional for web usage, digital projectors, and prints short of poster sized enlargements.

I am still waiting for slides I took in a week and a half ago to be
developed and returned. These images from the digital camera are available for viewing immediately on the camera back or in a matter of minutes on a laptop in the field. You can see if you got the shot you wanted. If not you can reshoot now. There is now two-week lag time between shooting and seeing the pictures.

Cost wise the digital camera is great as well. The images are stored as a 2 MB digital file. I can burn 350 of them on a 10 cent cdr. If you want prints, you can choose to print only the images you want. The images can be emailed or posted to the web without digitizing them, just a bit of resizing. Cost in the raw digital format is negligible. You can take 5 shots of that leaf and not think about the money.

I bought a 256 SD card for in the camera- the manual says it will hold, between it and the camera internal memory 166 shots. I bought rechargeable AA batteries, so the cost of operating the camera is extremely small also.  I am sure I will want a better camera with more options, interchangeable lenses etc on down the road, but I strongly recommend trying one of these cameras. It is small, it fits in your pocket, takes great pictures,
negligible cost, digital format images, 3 x telephoto lens, with decent wide angle and close up capabilities. Go out and buy one.

I posted one of the images to my website at this address:
crashing_into_bridge_.htm (offline now)

This is a smaller version of the raw image at 1024 x 768, 360 kb, clicking on it will take you to the full sized image 2580 x 1932 1.8 MB image from the camera- unretouched.

Ed Frank

Re: Digital Cameras   greentreedoctor
  Mar 23, 2004 17:38 PST 
Ed & ENTS:

I bought an EasyShare DX6490 (my third digital camera).   It's quite small in size, with only 4MP's, but will zoom in at 30X (10 optical X 3 internal; 38 to 380mm).   Some photographers and computer techs recommended this $450 camera over a thousand dollar camera.   I took decent pictures of Will inside the thick crown of the Middleton Oak, as well an alligator, turtles and waterfowl over a hundred feet away (although I can edit these images substantially afterwards, I did little editing on these shots). Such distances sometimes require a tripod, although leaning against a tree also works.   I also find the B.R.A.S.S system, used to fire military small arms, helps (breath, relax, aim, stop breathing & squeeze).   You can tell when you have a sharp image if after several enlargement clicks the subject remains clear. This camera will hold about 177 shots of 1.75 MB images (3 out of 4 star size).   The flash & zoom all work on the same charge from a charging station that also downloads my images to my desktop (no replacement batteries like my other 2 cameras).   This camera also has a mode for taking pictures in near darkness (you may remember me posting some Spanish moss-draped live oak images, taken in Susannah at night, a few months ago).   It's important for me to take shots in poor lighting high up in the crown.   As a backup on important trips, I still take my 35mm (just in incase I can't download).   So far, my digital images were good enough that I didn't even bother developing the film.   Where previously, I kept thousands of photos, which I would have to scan, I now have 10's of thousands of images on my desktop.   I tire of hearing arborist's yarns without photo backup.   It's great to back your story with photos, as well as include them in written reports.   I would encourage anyone that has not already gone digital to come up to the 21st century.

RE: Digital Cameras   Ed Frank
  Mar 23, 2004 21:21 PST 


Thanks for the comments. I think that photographic documentation is a valuable scientific tools that is often under utilized and is under appreciated. With the advent of small digital cameras, I hope that this aspect of field research will be explored more fully. One more tool easily used in the field to better our understanding of the natural world.

RE: Digital Cameras   Miles Lowry
  Mar 24, 2004 07:47 PST 

Digital ENTS:
Just a word of caution about digital cameras...they have great
capability when dealing with the web and desktop publishing. But a big
HOWEVER regarding Dale's comments about "big blowups"...inkjet prints
(or prints generated from a drop-off printer) have notoriously short
periods of color accuracy when displayed in sunlight. I am completely
turned off by faded and color-shifted images put on display to excite
me about some public feature.

Secondly, the issue of enlargements is one common to all of photography.
You must have lots of "information" (either a big negative or lots of
pixels on your memory card) to pull off a serious quality enlargement.

There are a lot of snake oil salesmen in the digital world and many of
the public have become rapt to their pitches. Research and learn, then
hope your budget can accommodate both web and print applications.

Miles Lowry
analog and digital photographer
Re: Digital Cameras
  Mar 24, 2004 09:43 PST 
Ed and Miles,

For the serious photographer, digital is a very tempting medium. The instant feedback and ability to immediately work with the images you take are a major advantage. The ability to take as many pictures as you want without being limited by film and development costs as well as scanning and processing costs is also a significant bonus. A lot of professional photographers are switching to digital for these reasons. All of the photojournalist, sports, and wedding photographers I know have made the switch already and a surprising number of nature photographers are switching as well.

I own two digital cameras: a 5 megapixel point and shoot I use for snap shots and while in the field doing wildlife research, and a 6 megapixel DSLR I use for my photography business. I am a very picky photographer when it comes to quality and detail in a photograph which is why I shoot some of my pictures with an old style 4x5" large format camera when I want to make really big enlargements to sell at shows and galleries. But I also sell images taken with 35mm film and the 6 megapixel camera at these same venues. To tell you the truth most of my customers have a hard time telling the difference between formats.

I would probably feel comfortable making prints up to 11x14" with the 5
megapixel. I regularly make prints up to 12x18" with the 6mp DSLR and usually can not tell the difference between these and the ones shot with 35mm film except for the total lack of graininess in smooth areas (a major advantage for digital). I know several photographers using the same camera and making prints for sale up to 20x30 inches but if I get closer to these pictures than a normal viewing distance I notice the lack of detail.

Right now film and the high end digital cameras are very close in quality
with each having slight advantages in different areas. If you have a spare $7000 hanging around you can get a digital camera that will top 35mm film and even hold its own against large and medium format film. As soon as the top end cameras come down to an affordable price in the next year or two my 35mm and perhaps even large format camera will be retired for good.

You can see some of my photos at: 

though at this compressed size you can not judge the quality. In the Western Gallery both Emerald Bay Surprise and Teton Sunbeams were taken with the 6mp digital. I also took a version of the Teton Sunbeams with 35mm film.  The digital version wins hands down due to the silky smooth sky.

RE: Digital Cameras   Will Blozan
  Mar 24, 2004 17:51 PST 

I just bought a Canon Powershot A80 and am SUPER impressed with it. The clarity and low-light capability is superb, and it takes decent video clips as well. It can function as a completely manual "SLR" (with optional lenses as well) or as a automatic point and shoot.

I think 5.0 mega pixel relates to appox 12" x 10" print.

RE: Digital Cameras   Edward Frank
  Mar 24, 2004 20:29 PST 


I am very pleased by the quality of my 5 mp digital camera. It is the way to go with many specific applications. If I want something from which I can make big enlargements, I am still going to go with my 35 mm and fine grained film. I am not convinced yet, or at least I can't afford a high end digital for big enlargements. I expect to use both if I am trying for a particular shot. The film with my fingers crossed that everything will be ok when I get it back, and the digital to make sure I got the shot while still in the field. For point and shoot shots digital is the way to go.
For many standard applications it is cheaper, handier, and provides instant images so that you know you have the shot. For big enlargements film still has the upper hand by a little. I have a slide scanner. Not high end, but it generates a 40 mb+ uncompressed TIf file from a slide scan. That is bit larger than the 2 mb compressed jpg generated by my Kodak Easy Share digital. More data, the greater potential image quality. Actual image quality depends on a lot of other factors as well.

RE: Digital Cameras   Joseph Zorzin
  Mar 25, 2004 03:37 PST 

About 5 years ago when I decided to buy my first great camera, I spent a
lot of time tying to decide between digital and film. At that time a
decent digital would cost $1,000 and it was obvious that such an
investment would rapidly depreciate as the technology advanced. So, I
bought a Nikon F100 35mm with a wide angle and a telephoto lens, a high
quality tripod, etc. Cost a lot, but this is equipment meant to last a
lifetime. And, it gave me a chance to understand the complexities of
photography dealing with shutter speeds, aperture and other such
features- regarding depth of field, the trade off with film speeds, and
many other issues. I could see that eventually digital would overtake
film, but film seemed a good way to understand the basics of

I can see now the very high quality images produced with digital cameras
and the convenience. But, in a perfect world, it would still be nice to
have both- and, in fact to go a step further and get one of those
ancient "large frame" cameras that take huge negatives. I've seen very
large blowups from large frame negatives and they blow the socks off
anything you'll see from a digital camera, for some years yet. If you
make a poster with a digital image and stand back 10', it may look just
fine because you can't see the detail from that distance, but if you
walk right up to it, you'll how blurry it really is. If you make a
poster from a large frame negative, the detail is microscopic up close.
So, it's a decision as to what you really need.

I'd love to take pictures with the largest sized camera that exists, and
I don't know what that is- but I'd love to make blowups the size of
billboards of different forest scenes which would clearly show ideas I
have about forestry- silviculture, tree maturity, etc. Perhaps after I
make a fortune practicing forestry, when I retire, I'll offer a few
million bucks to build a museum, where these wall sized photos will be
viewable by students and my fan club. <G>

Re: Digital Cameras   Miles Lowry
  Mar 25, 2004 18:36 PST 

Joe, Check out Clyde Butcher's a google search for it. I think
somewhere within it there are references to his lab and the fairly large
prints he can make of his beloved Okeefenokee (sp?) Swamp.

I've had my 8x10 images enlarged for billboards that were 8x26 feet. The
largest field (portable) view camera I know of is 16x20.
Some early classic photographers had monsters. If you are really serious
about ultra-large format cameras, I can help.

Many of those guys contact printed with a different type of paper rather
than the projected enlarging we do today.

Finally, check out the ENTS website and go to the gallery section...most of
the images I have there are available as 15x45" sepia prints output with a
converted Epson 3000 printer.

Miles Lowry