Nov 19, 2010

Moving forward, one pixel at a time

I got my first digital camera in 1997. It took some wheedling, but I got my parents to split the cost of an Apple Quicktake 200. 640x480, fixed-focus, 2MB memory, no flash. It took four AA batteries and would hoover them dry in a matter of minutes. NiCad wasn't any better, and NiMH was not in general use yet.

A few years later, I spent a chunk of a tax refund on a Sony DSC-P51. While not top-of-the-line, it was a great camera, and spent a lot of time traveling with me. 2MP (1600x1200), with a flash, autofocus, and 2x zoom. It ran on two AA batteries, and a set of NiMH rechargeables would provide useful run time.

A year or two later, I went for a major upgrade, and coughed up the money for a Sony DSC-F717. 5MP with a 5x Zeiss lens, pop-up flash, hot-shoe, IR night vision... It used a proprietary Sony battery, but I don't recall ever running out of juice. It was this generation of digital imaging that really made semi-pro imaging available to the consumer. It had a thousand-dollar price tag, but it was well worth it. This one went all over with me as well, and some of my favorite pictures came from this camera.

Fast forward to early 2007. Digital SLRs have hit the mainstream and reached a reasonable price point. I picked up a Canon EOS 30D, and have used that extensively ever since. It's a hell of a camera, and takes some great images. 8MP from a reasonable-sized imaging sensor turns out some incredible prints.

Somewhere along the line, I had also picked up a Nikon L3 as a walk-around camera. I was never really happy with it; the images seemed excessively grainy and the focus was slow. For a quick snapshot here or there, it was fine, but that was it.

I'd been thinking about a new point'n'shoot camera since this summer, but held off for a while to see what would be coming out for the holidays. I sold my 35mm camera this week, and turned that money around into a new Canon SX130IS. 12MP, 12x optical zoom, runs on two AA batteries, HD (720p) video recording, fast and accurate autofocus... for two hundred bucks. From a dollar standpoint, this is the second-least expensive camera I've ever purchased. From a technology standpoint, it's only barely behind the 30D as the second-most advanced.

I'm still learning all the ins and outs, and trying to keep in mind that it's not a large-sensor SLR, but overall, I'm impressed. (The images in the last post were taken with the new camera.)

Thirteen years: 640x480 becomes 4000x3000. Four AAs lasting minutes becomes two AAs lasting hours. Same price point.

What's next? (Answer: the recently-announced Canon EOS 60D. 18MP. Zounds!)


Shawn said...

I'm shooting a 50D. Awesome camera; it's amazing what they can do especially when you put some high-quality glass in front of them.

It will be very interesting to see where we're at 13 years from now! That's the reason that my recent purchase was a 50D, rather than a 7D, or a 5D Mark II. I had the money for one of the more expensive models, but I decided that I KNOW I'm going to want to replace the 50D in a few years, so it makes more sense to get just enough camera today and depend on the continuing progress to give me even more a few years from now.

Some of my older photos are here: One of these days I need to upload some of my 50D images.

ZerCool said...

I wish I could justify a 50D or 60D; right now I'm not really using the 30D anywhere near its capabilities.

I fully expect that in another thirteen years (unless the world has gone "Mad Max" and I'm riding a Go-Kart with a colander strapped to my head), we'll be seeing multi-hundred-megapixel images as normal. More important, though, will be the advances in sensor technology and in-camera processing: higher ISO ranges with minimal noise/grain ... who knows what else?!