Saturday, October 24, 2009

My new toys

I’ve had my new camera now for over three weeks, enough time to learn how to use it and give it a fair trial. Moving from a consumer camera (Canon EOS 450D with the 18-55mm f4 – f5.6 IS kit lens) to a pro version (Canon EOS 5D MkII with the 24-105mm f4 L USM IS lens) you would expect to see a big difference and you can.

The first noticeable difference is in size and weight but that is only the start. The 5D has a full frame sensor as opposed to the compact sensor of the 450D. The immediate benefit of that is a larger pixel count - 21.2 megapixels against 12.2 which to be fair is almost irrelevant when you are only printing up to A4.The real bonus is that you can use the 5D in low light and not get digital noise. Actually the 450D's sensor is very good up to 800ASA and even useable at 1600ASA. However, the 5D can go up to 3200ASA and produce the same clean results as the 450D at about 400ASA. That is a huge bonus as is the larger and much brighter viewfinder.

However it is when you compare the two lenses that the differences really start to show in terms of image quality. The pro series L lens has USM which stands for ultrasonic motor. That makes it focuses much faster and in virtual silence. Both lenses have IS which means that they compensate for image movement at slower shutter speeds. Apart from those features, the L series lens is just that much sharper throughout its range. I can blow pictures taken with it up to pixel size and still see the sharpness even when the lens is used at full aperture.

Now to the bonus. The 5D takes high definition movies. Although it is no substitute for a dedicated camcorder, the results are just stunning. For those occasions when you are taking stills and just want a short movie clip it is perfect. You can even take still photographs at the same time as movies. I haven’t tried that yet but will when my grandchild is born in February.

Call me spoilt because I also have a new netbook computer to play with. I admit now that cost saving on the Acer Aspire One was a bit of a mistake. It came with a lot of compromises that were becoming hard to live with. Surprisingly it wasn’t the open source Linux software that caused the most problems although it did impose certain limitations. It was more the fact that the machine ran so slow whenever you gave it a difficult task to perform. Damn it, the Acer was even tardy on some routine tasks. I never expected it to rival my desktop machine but I did think it would be faster than my ten year old Dell laptop and it wasn’t.

So Pam now has the Acer and finds it a lot easier to get around than my desktop and I have one of the ubiquitous Samsung NC10s.

First off the Samsung has a slightly larger screen but more important a larger keyboard. It isn’t that the Aspire keyboard was bad, it is just that this one is better for my manly fingers.

Inside though is where the real differences become apparent. The Samsung runs Windows XP which is a more familiar environment for me. It means that I can use all the programs I am used to including my favourite email client Thunderbird. The Vodafone USB dongle I bought works on it and I can even connect my new Canon camera using Canon EOS Utility to download images which can be processed in Digital Photo Professional.

Did I mention the battery life? The Acer came with a 3 cell battery which last about 2 to 3 hours before it dies. The Samsung has a 6 cell battery which seems to last an amazing six hours or more. Oh yes and the wireless connection is almost instantaneous with the Samsung.

The lesson I have learnt from all this is is buy cheap and replace more often. Still the Samsung wasn’t available when I got the Acer so there wasn’t that choice at the time and the 5D was on Mk1 which had far less features.

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