Thursday, 10 November 2016

To downsize, or not to downsize, that is the question.

This week I committed the worst possible photographer's faux pas. My photo-backpack is always kept fully packed, camera batteries charged, at the ready to pick up without thinking when I head off to do whatever my next photo-outing requires. So, when I arrived for a photo-hike on a cold, frosty and very promising dawn I removed my backpack, boots, tripod and so on from my car boot, got kitted up, then opened my backpack to find no camera!!! After a few moments of panic, I remembered that a couple of days previously I'd removed it to take some shots at home of our grandson - and failed to return it to my backpack.

So, not stolen or lost, but, regretfully, a case of forgetfulness. I could have returned home to collect it, but that would have been a 40 minute round trip meaning I'd miss out totally on the promising sunrise. So, making a virtue out of necessity, my contingency plan swung into action. I always carry a pocket camera (a 6 year old Canon S95) in my backpack as a fallback in the event of equipment failure or for occasions when carrying a lots of kit just isn't practical. So, I left my back pack and tripod in the car and hiked several miles unencumbered. Just my pocket camera for company. What a revelation. Whilst the camera is just 10MP compared with my usual 24MP full frame camera (Sony A7II), it shoots in RAW and is a very capable camera with a 28-105mm equivalent zoom. I quickly found that there's an unexpected freedom and pleasure when hiking light. And equally quickly I found that I was taking the same photographs I imagined I'd be taking with my full frame gear. On return home I processed my images and found to my delight that I'd achieved a similar hit rate to that which I achieve with my full frame equipment.

There are, however, two downsides to this revelation. The dynamic range of the little camera is significantly smaller than I'm used to, and smaller than I often need, and the smaller pixel count means the maximum size of images is smaller than I'd really like. But I must ask myself, what do I really need? Nowadays I produce far fewer prints than I ever did, and those are invariably smaller than in the past. And most of my work is now seen via the web on computer screens and tablets rather than in print form, for which far smaller pixel counts are more than sufficient.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed hiking unencumbered by a load of kit. And, I found that I can achieve (almost) everything required for prints of A4/8x10 size, and at a push A3/12x16 and absolutely everything for posting on the web. And stitching images allows far larger prints. I need to give some more thought to whether my faux pas will give rise to me changing what I carry for my photo-hiking projects. My ageing Canon S95 has shown me once again the pleasures of lighter hiking. I'd already downsized a few years ago from hiking with a 5x4 film camera and all of the weight that entailed. I'm now thinking one of the latest compacts with higher capabilities might be a serious proposition.

But, if I downsize does that stop me being a 'serious photographer'? Hmmm ...

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