Jim's Glasgow West End Photo diary September 2007

Here are some of the photographs I have taken while out and about in the West End of Glasgow - I hope you find them interesting. Click on the images to view larger versions. You are free to download and use for non-commercial purposes any of my photographs as long as you put a link to this site and give me credit for the photograph (Jim Byrne)

Some months the images are a mixture of photographs of the West End, photographs of Glasgow and photographs of Scotland.

19th September 2007

Photo: Poppy at Kirklee Allotments.

Introducing my new Canon D400 digital camera

A new era dawns in my photo diary; I've finally bought an SLR Digital camera - after years of resistance. Trying to buy film has become more and more difficult - as shops seem to have stopped stocking it. So I was getting the message loud and clear - and the message was - get a bleedin' digital camera Jim and join the modern world!

I surfed ebay and put in a bid for a Canon 400D - a camera I'd seen some good reviews of. I was the winning bidder - at a price well below retail - so I'm please about that.

Photo: Poppy at Kirklee Allotments.

I've lived with it for a few days - and been reading the manual to try to figure out how to use it. Bear in mind that the cameras I normally use are a Canon A1 from the 70s and a Canon T90 from 1986 - so this is an immense leap covering 3 decades of camera development. I'm sure the first space shuttle must have had less technology in it that this camera I now have in my hands.

There must be people in the world who understand every function of modern cameras, but my bet is that there aren't many. The amount of knobs and options available is mind-blowing.

Ok enough of the, 'I'm awe struck', and on to some photographs and first impressions of use.

I'll start with the negatives - though there are also plenty of positives.

Photo: Poppy at Kirklee Allotments. Photo: Poppy at Kirklee Allotments.

To start with I was a little disappointed with the photos I was taking. I think this was due to me struggling with how to use the metering to gain control of the exposure. I'm not trying to suggest I'm an expert at getting photos with perfect exposure - I'm not - but I like to be able to control it and I'm used to metering using a single spot - which allows me to find a suitable surface to meter from when looking through the lens.

Photo: Swee peas.

The new camera has automatic focus and at the same time it automatically sets the exposure for you. I like the auto-focus - as it's one less thing to worry about, but having the control of the exposure taken away from me seemed very dis-empowering. I figured that this must be something I could change - so I read through the manual and discovered that I can indeed meter separately - by setting up a custom function via the cameras settings screen.

Another things I struggled with was setting a shallow depth of field, i.e., trying to make the background blurred to ensure the object in focus stands out. The lens that comes with the camera is an 18-55mm zoom lens - but it's not a very 'fast' lens (I think that's the term). In technical jargon I can't set a small f stop - it only seems to go down to f5.6. I expect I need to buy some lenses - and that problem will be solved.

Photo: Sweet Peas at Kirklee Allotment.

Additionally - shooting into the sun doesn't produce the same results as my old cameras. I just get a big white blob rather than an artistic looking flare and low evening sun atmosphere. There may be a trick to achieving this with the digital camera - but at the moment it escapes me.

One other problem I've had, which I've still not figured out, is trying to turn the flash off in low light, while still retaining control of the aperture and speed. I rarely want to use the on-camera flash - so it's annoying when it keeps popping up automatically.

Some photos with the Canon D400

Photo: Teasal. Photo: Teasal.

I went down to our allotment this evening - cycled down on my bike no less - and took a few photos of the flowers and plants we are lucky to have in left at this late stage of the season.

Photo: Lettuce from Kirleet Allotment. Photo: Marigolds.

Once I got used to the camera and figured out how to work the controls - the positives in relation to digital photography in general and this camera in particular start to mount up - forming a big tall pile. Despite the decades of difference between my old cameras and this up to date one - it still feels like a traditional Canon camera - with the most important nobs in the places I would expect to find them.

First to show itself as a major positive is the instant feedback - with photos available to view within seconds of them being taken. Apart from the satisfaction of seeing the photo quickly and the ability to decide whether you want to keep it or not - it means the process of learning is speeded up enormously.

It's easy to play with different exposure settings and instantly see the results from each change. It's easy to see how different aperture or speed settings effect the resulting photograph. Combine this with the large number of photos that can be taken at any one time - with no need to change film (or buy it) - and photography becomes a different sport all together.

Photo: Bus stop Byres Road.

Next is the ability to change the ISO speed setting - and choose speed up to 1600 - which makes indoor photography without a flash simple. The idea of a digital camera having an ISO speed settings appears bizarre to me - as it seems like something that would only be relevant to film. However it works great - so I'll accept it without further thought.

Other positives include: accurate colours, no delay between pressing the shutter and the photo being taken, being able to adjust the settings for white balance easily (i.e., tungsten light, florescent light, sunny day, dull day and so on) and no need to buy film or pay to get it developed.

Photo: Old coffee maker.

Photo: Sugar shaker at Tinderbox.

Photo: Venician blind.

Photo: Sad news about Colin Macrae.

The photos above are from Byres Road, some photos I took in Tinderbox - which were the very first I took with the camera as I'd just bought a memory card for it - and some photographs from inside our new flat.

The photographs shows the story in the newspaper about the sad death of the rally driver Colin Macrae - his son and two friends. I was absolutely shocked when I read about the accident, as I've been a big fan of Colin's for years and have always followed his career. What a terrible thing for his family and friends to endure. My heart goes out to them.

Photo: Pat, Michael, Ryan.

There is much more that could be said about the Canon D400 if someone was paying me to do a review - but as this is just my personal impressions I'll leave it at that for now. Feel free to add your comments about your own digital experiences, or what it was like for you to be a first timer, having moved from using a film camera to digital.