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Thank you for this. It's been a looong time since I've had a camera, I used to have a little point and shoot camera, let a friend borrow it and never got it back, so I've been using my cell phone camera which I'm thoroughly unsatisfied with. I've never had a fancy camera before and have no idea where to start really, but this was really helpful! I'm thinking a small format SLR would be a decent fit for what I'd like to photograph.
I've always leaned toward Pentax, mostly because they were the primary choice of my stepfather, and my photography teacher in high school... my stepfather is the one that bought me the K1000 back in '83. He simply said... "you'll never find a more rugged and versatile entry-level 35mm camera on the planet." Right or wrong, I loved that Pentax and haven't purchased any other brand (mostly out of loyalty, not any concrete evidence that one brand dominates over another). ~peace
My Pentax K1000, bought new in 1978: fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art… I still have it and it is one of the few cameras I have that I refuse to sell. Another one is a Canon A-1: fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art… In my opinion (and I have a lot of experience, no brand loyalty and have owned and used a LOT of cameras, from Adox to Zeiss), those are two of the very best manual and nominally manual SLR cameras ever made (the A-1 has automatic exposure too, when you need it, but works best in manual).
As far as what your stepfather said went, I'd remove the qualifier and say that it was not just the best of the entry level cameras, but the best manual 35mm film camera, period. In almost 40 years of continuous use, with only routine maintenance, mine has not given me any problems at all and has performed flawlessly. That K1000 is the most reliable things of any kind that I have ever owned. By contrast, I've worn out 6 digital cameras in the last 12 years.
Obviously on some level I knew all of that to be the case, but as a young 20 something struggling to pay the rent, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I looked for my mid-90's Pentax SLR today, but couldn't find it in storage. I'm curious what model it actually is... I bought it as a graduation gift for a friend. It was about $500 at the time, and as it turns out, I ended up marrying that person so it ended up in my possession after all. I'll have to look a little deeper apparently. ~peace!
Well, that works if you only have one camera, and if you are not asking more of it than it can give you. If you are, then you need something better than the useless POS that you have.
I am a camera repairman and I have 40 years experience as a photographer. I also restore vintage and antique cameras. I have somewhere around 150 cameras at present, and I know what all the buttons, levers and dials do on every single one of them. I know all of their quirks, weaknesses and design flaws as well as their strengths. I have box cameras, SLRs, rangefinders, ranging cameras, zone focusing cameras, view cameras, TLRs, and pinholes. I have some worth about $20 and some worth thousands -- so, which one of mine is the best? Well, I select my cameras before a shoot based on what I expect to be shooting, what format will be most apt and under what conditions I'll be shooting. Some cameras are better at night photography, for example. Some are better for shooting people and some are better suited for landscapes, If I'm going to need to make a 24X36 inch print, a large format camera will be a better camera choice than a 35mm, while if it is something I am going to post on DA, then a 35mm or digital camera will be just fine, and so on.
What is best depends on what you are shooting, the size of the prints you want to make, and a host of other variables. Only if your camera meets the criteria for all these variables is it even an adequate choice, let alone the best. In real life, the best camera is usually the one you left at home or don't own. There is a difference between the best camera and making do with the best choice that you have.
All you have done is say the same thing I said, but with just a lot more words. A basic modern digital camera will serve most people's needs, and is versatile enough to handle a few more specialized tasks. There's no need to spend a lot of money on high-end gear, if you don't understand how the basic gear works.
Several things you might want to consider changing/updating here:
- there are interchangeable TLR's. - your opinion on rangefinder type camera being better for posed studio work seems a bit far fetched. Could you elaborate a bit on this? Quiet shutter doesn't seem like a reasonable argument unless you are shooting very, very easily spooked folks... - both tilt and shift are not limited to view cameras. You can have them with pretty much everything that allows for changing lenses. - there are other film sizes available with medium format - you mentioned lomo, yet totally missed instant cameras
Also, you might want to include the mirrorless into this list, they're getting more and more popular, just as the point and shoot gets slowly pushed out of the market by cellphone cameras
I've tried editing it several times, and can't do it. Apparently making it into a sticky post disables the edit button.
Yes, the Mamiya C-series TLRs have interchangeable lenses.
Sorry, but on this next one you're wrong. SLRs have retrofocus lenses and rangefinders don't. Retrofocus designs just don't work very well with normal lenses and they are exceptionally bad with wide angle lenses, often requiring numerous additional elements in order to work adequately. On the other hand, the retrofocus design works exceptionally well with telephoto lenses. In small format, the SLRs/DSLRs really start to come into their own with right around 135mm lenses (film) or 85mm (digital). Additionally, because rangefinders use non-retrofocus lenses, there is less compression distortion, and the lenses are sharper over a wider spread of apertures. SLR lenses are usually really sharp at only one f/stop and that is usually f/8 or f/11. Since most people photography and posed portraits are taken with shallow depths of field, this means you get sharper photos at those wide apertures if you are using a rangefinder.
Tilt and shift are limited to view cameras. You are talking about tilt and shift LENSES. The cameras themselves do not have tilt and shift unless they are view cameras. You are right in that you can put weird attachments on pretty much anything though and convert it into something else. For instance, you can put a split image focusing screen on an SLR and make it into a rangefinder.
I missed a bunch of different cameras, not just instant cameras. However, that said, instant cameras are not really different from other film cameras. In fact, some cameras use both kinds of film. and right now there is a thriving market in converting Polaroid rangefinders into conventional sheet film cameras. It's the film that is different, not the camera. Instant cameras are pretty much all just rangefinders, folders, view cameras or zone focusing cameras.
The only film currently available for medium format cameras without being custom cut and/or spooled is 120 film. All other medium format film sizes are defunct. I mentioned 127 film merely because it was so common (lots of Kodaks were made for it), because there are people who will cut down 120 film for you and make spools, and because plastic film developing reels can still be adjusted for it. The last company making film in 127 size though, was Efke, and they have gone out of business. Some 116 and 118 box cameras, like the Agfa Buster Browns, can be easily converted to 120, but no one makes 116 or 118 film anymore and 220 became defunct a few years back, along with medium format sheet film. Everything else is long gone.
As mentioned before, I can't edit this article, so I can't add mirrorless cameras.
If you can't edit, maybe it would be better to just make a new edited version and ask the mods to delete this one?
I'm not sure I understand this retrofocus thing. The retrofocal designs are made so that you can focus lenses of shorter than flange distance focal lenghts. Once you hit somewhere around 50mm there are no more retrofocus lenses for 135 slrs (fifties are usually pretty much symmetrical). Then you have the telephoto designs, (which are kinda inverse retrofocus) made so that you could focus lenses with focal lenghts longer than flange distance. No telephoto lens that I know of is retrofocal. This includes the be all and end all of portrait lenses for 135 - the 85mm. Softness of the telephoto lens has much more to do with design of the lens (like aberration correcting elements, special low refraction glass etc) and production quality. I can understand that leica portrait lenses are good because they are good (not to mention bloody expensive), but I don't believe this has much to do with retrofocus, and even if it were so, then like I said before, portrait lenses aren't retrofocal. Also, the rangefinder, while great for standard lenses, is not so good for teles, for obvious reasons. The standard split image focusing screen is both more convenient, and precise. Of course, this is just opinion, but so is yours I guess...
Tilt and shift - ok, but even accepting this definition, there are at least two medium format cameras (two that I know of anyways), that have tilt/shit in their bodies. These are Rolleiflex SL (pathetically limited tilt, but still not in lens), and Fuji GX680 which has both tilt/swing and shift in its front standard (again, not as flexible as a true view camera, but definitely not in lens).
Polaroids are also used as film for medium/large formats. I'm just pointing this just to fill in the blanks so to speak.
Medium format: I'm sorry, I made a mistake. I wanted to write frame size, not film format. There are more frame sizes for medium formats than you listed. Like the 6x8, or 6x12, or 6x17. This is also just to improve your article.
Retrofocus (retro = back): thus, a more accurate description would be that they focus farther back into the camera, because there is a mirror box between the lens and the film or sensor. Because of this mirror box, the lens can not be placed at the optimal distance from the film or sensor for a wide angle lens or a normal lens. The Leica rangefinders, to use your own example, have the lens placed at the optimal distance for these lenses. To correct for this, retrofocus lenses have to use extra elements to focus the image farther back than non-retrofocus lenses.
BTW, just as any lens with a shorter focal length than normal is commonly referred to as a wide angle lens, anything with a focal length of more than a normal lens is commonly referred to as a telephoto. An 85mm lens (digital, is the be all and end all of portrait lenses for a digital camera, but a 135mm lens is the classic portrait lens for a 35mm film camera. As said, this is where telephoto lenses (as I am using the term) reach equality with (and begin to surpass) rangefinder lenses, because of the magnification factor. Rangefinder lenses have no magnification factor and, with longer lenses than normal or wide, this works better as a means of accurate focusing, and because a telephoto lens needs to be placed farther from the film or sensor than a wide angle or normal lens would be to be optimal. It's why there are no Leica rangefinder lenses longer than 135mm. It is pointless to compare rangefinders with long telephoto lenses to SLRs with long telephoto lenses simply because there are no rangefinder lenses like that -- UNLESS you consider that the split image focusing screen in an SLR uses rangefinder technology, and thus it transforms an SLR into a rangefinder. This gives you the advantages of combining a TTL viewfinder with rangefinder focusing, and thus you get the magnification factor of an SLR's long lens along with the advantages of a split image type rangefinder like the Argus C3.
Ok, I think you have some facts wrong. You need to check out what focal length of lens really means. Retrofocus lenses have their distance from the exit pupil to the image plane increased usually by way of extra optical elements, that can indeed degrade the image quality (not necessarily though - pretty often extra elements can improve on the image quality). Once you hit the focal length equal to the unincreased distance, you don't need these extra elements. This happens a bit above 40mm for most of the slr designs. So, once again. No telephoto lenses are retrofocal. Not even the "standard" 50mm's are retrofocal (they're usually a very simple symmetrical gaussian design, with exception of a couple newish designs from Zeiss and Sigma). No 85mm lens made for 35mm film or digital slr format is retrofocal, it would make no sense, they simply wouldn't work. Quite the contrary is true, they need to shorten this distance between exit pupil and image plane, to make it shorter than their focal length. The same is true for rangefinder and slr designs, only the focal lenghts are different. Image quality has nothing to do with rangefinder cameras, and a lot to do with lens design. Precision of manufacturing, use of exotic glass, aspherical elements etc. This is where expensive lenses like Leica shine, because, well, they don't have to cut any corners. As for the teles on a rangefinders - I have big problems focusing on a 90mm lens in standard portrait crop when using M6 - and that's what makes this camera pretty much useless in studio as far as I'm concerned (plus it being a 135 format camera makes it infinitely inferior right off the bat).
I think you need to check on basic optical mumbo-jumbo, at least as far as the lens terminology goes, and what it really means for the design and image quality.
Edit: Actually, I was not clear enough I think. Telephoto lenses can't be retrofocal, because in terms of optics, telephoto is the exact opposite of retrofocal. And, lenses that are longer that the diagonal of the imaging area don't necessarily have to be telephoto. But at least in the case slr design, lenses shorter than image diagonal do have to be retrofocal because of the whole mirrorbox deal you mentioned before. But once again. Past the magical mirrorbox depth, no lens has to be retrofocal. And certainly no telephoto lens. Because it can't. As I said before. Duh.
Yes, I know that telephotos are not retrofocus. That's one of the relatively minor reasons why they work so well on SLRs. Telephotos have a much bigger advantage than this though. The biggest advantage to using a telephoto lens on an SLR is that they have a magnification factor. One of the biggest problems with any camera is focusing it accurately. With any kind of camera, especially those that rely on the "now it looks fuzzy and now it looks sharp" method of focusing, there is always a range of adjustment that will appear to be in focus; depth of field is usually relied upon to compensate for the margin of error. The shorter the focal length, the wider the margin of error, and this even applies to those cameras with split image focusing screens. The magnification factor that is inherent in telephoto lenses narrows this margin of error by a significant amount, simply by letting you take a closer look at the subject.
BTW, about 45mm, not 50mm, is a true normal lens on most 35mm SLRs. In common usage though, 50mm is considered normal.
Ok, so now that we're on the same page, let's track back to my original question: Why is rangefinder better than slr in posed studio work? It's not the retrofocus thing, not the quiet shutter thing, rangefinders are bitch to focus with anything longer than the nifty fifty, that leaves what?
And if we're to nitpick, it would take a roughly 43,266615305567871517430655209646 mm lens to be really "normal" in the definition sense.
Okay, first off, posed studio portraits are not necessarily, or even usually, head and shoulders. If they were, then yeah, an SLR would be better. They are usually full length, head to knees or even groups. For those, a normal lens is the lens of choice. Rangefinder lenses are simply easier to make than SLR lenses and even a mid-priced rangefinder lens tends to be superb, compared to an SLR lens. Coincident rangefinders and split image rangefinders are far easier to focus accurately at 10 - 20 foot ranges, particularly compared to SLRs with autofocus. If you want to try this out, go on eBay, pick up a cheap Argus C3 or a Yashica Electro 35 GS (both are often under $20), clean it (those two are easy), and give it a shot. You'll see.
I really don't care about the camera. In my opinion, photography plays the most important role. Apart from that fact, there is a load of Image - Editing programs, that help you to make a photo better. Anyway, really helpful post, as I learned so much things about cameras! Thank you!
Absolutely, but, even if some camers cannot do the whole job, the use of some helpful programs is allowed. But you're totally right. The most important is the fact that the camera is able to do most of the job. This is the point of top - quality cameras.
Well, that's true, but only to a point. Two cases in point (large format view camera versus small format DSLR camera): 1. Let's say you have a custom built $15,000 8x10 large format Ebony view camera (one of the very highest quality view cameras out there), but the fastest you can shoot with it is about a photo every two minutes. If you need something with tracking autofocus that can shoot rapidly moving subjects at 8 frames per second, that isn't going to be able to do it -- not by a long shot. It's hopeless, no matter what programs you have. 2. Now let's say that you have the very best small format DSLR that money can buy and you have struck the photography lottery and are offered the chance to shoot for what will be a series of 6x9 foot framed photos of moving racecars, shot in excruciating detail, that will be displayed in a museum. Sorry, but your camera will not be up to the job, because no small format lens or sensor ever made has adequate resolution to make sharp and detailed 6x9 foot prints. The cars are moving, so you can't zoom way in, shoot a couple of dozen photos and stitch them; you only get one shot. Not even a $10,000 Hasselblad medium format DSLR can do that. Once again, it's hopeless.
Programs are not helpful if your camera can't capture enough for them to work with.
Fantastic post. It really comes down to which camera feels best, each has it's own "personality" so to speak. While I have many antique cameras, and digital as well, I always return to my 4x5 view camera. I am most comfortable with it, like an old friend!
4x5 view cameras, along with medium format cameras and even those vintage and antique cameras are great, unless you need to shoot a lot of photos quickly or are shooting something that is moving fast. Nothing is perfect for everything though, and in an ideal world you really want a selection to choose from. Currently, I have a little bit too much of a good thing though, and I am planning to sell a dozen or two.
Yeah? So everyone on earth should throw away their cameras and buy Nikon L820s? Is it any good for astrophotography? Is it good for photographing goldfinches (the size of your thumb) at 100 yards? Is the shutter fast enough to freeze a hummingbird's wings? Can you shoot fireflies at night with it? The point is, that NOTHING is good for every kind of photography. What the best camera will be for you will depend on what kind of photography you are doing and it might not even be a DSLR or SLR or even digital. To cover everything would require a rather wide selection of cameras and the purpose of this article is to show what most of the various types of cameras excel at.
I have a Nikon L810 and a Canon Rebel T3 (EOS 1100D) I love them both but favor the Canon. The quality is much better than the Nikon but with the Nikon I can zoom in a lot more. If I want an extreme amount of zoom I go with the Nikon (or use my Canon with my telephoto lens) if I want more quality like for portraits I use my Canon. I'm considering selling my Nikon but I'm unsure if I really want to or not. I just use my Canon a lot more and the quality is superior to that of the Nikon. I might sell the Nikon and get a longer telephoto lens for my Canon. I currently have a 75-300mm lens and the standard 18-25mm.
Well, you're comparing a p&s camera with a DSLR. It isn't going to perform as well in low light and at anything but ISO 100 and lower, like most p&s cameras. It won't shoot as fast and it won't work well with certain kinds of lens filters either. That said, I use my ancient Canon A630 p&s a lot more than either of my DSLRs (Nikon and Olympus) for the stuff I post on the web. Why? Because it is built like a tank (so I don't worry about something happening to it), it is simpler and easier to use and is far more than adequate for that particular purpose. All of the vintage cameras I restored get photographed with my A630. No computer monitor made is capable of more than about 4mp worth of resolution and no one can tell the difference between photos from film cameras, photos from a DSLR and photos from a p&s, just looking at them in my gallery.
There's some excellent details in here, thanks! I saved it so that I could effectively study and think about it again when I've gotten some rest. I'm usually quite bad at different kinds of cameras so this should really help me especially for wedding photography camera. www.shakkya.com/
Well, let's see... I like film, so for posed portrait-type wedding photos taken after the wedding (I've done three weddings) using a 4x5 view camera made the most sense for me, but for shooting during the actual ceremonies I mostly used a Voigtlander medium format rangefinder camera. The lighting at most wedding venues usually sucks and rangefinders are the easiest type of cameras to focus accurately in crappy light. I tried using SLRs and TLRs, but the light is usually pretty low and it is hard to get the focus spot on with those. Luckily, I had a rangefinder with me too, during that first wedding. Also (because good rangefinder lenses tend to be really super sharp), with a good medium format rangefinder, and with an ultra-high resolution film (b&w) or with Kodak Portra (color) you can make really sharp 16x20 enlargements if you need to, with no visible lens defects. I've never been asked to make an enlargement of a wedding photo bigger than that, but if I was, I'd probably use an old-fashioned 4x5 Speed Graphic press camera; they have rangefinder systems built into them (each camera has five viewfinder systems), they can take modern Schneider, Zeiss or Rodenstock lenses, and they can be shot handheld, so that would probably work out to be the best for me in that situation.
There's some great info in here, thanks! I bookmarked it so that I could properly read and think about it again when I've gotten some sleep. I'm generally quite bad at different types of cameras so this should really help me.