Dec 29 2008

Learning photography with the Canon EOS

I was inspired by the hype surrounding the release of an affordable digital SLR camera to go out and buy a Canon EOS 300D model early in 2004. I'd used Canon film cameras in Oman, which had come highly recommended, and decided to advance with technology.

I took the camera with me on a trip to Oman in March 2004. See the photos of Musandam, Iranian smugglers and Dubai at Oman Vistas. I was very pleased with the quality and the resolution although it seemed to me that the camera tended to underexpose shots.

It was only when I was actually in Musandam trying to take a photo of a kingfisher with my Sigma telephoto lens, which had worked perfectly well with my Canon EOS film camera, that I realised that there could be compatibility issues. The lens proved to be temperamental and although I managed to use it to take close-ups of the family at cricket in the 2005 season, I could not rely on it.

This year, I've had requests to use several of my photos on various of my websites, taken variously with a Pentax Optio 430 – see the Muscat, Grand Mosque and Nakhl folders at Oman Vistas, and a Nikon Coolpix 7900 – see my photos at Flickr – as well as the Canon EOS 300D. Although the Nikon claims to have a higher resolution than the Canon, at something like 7.3 megapixels per inch, plus it's small, compact and very handy, I couldn't get over the image quality produced by the Canon.

I felt it was time to develop my photography skills. After all, there's no point in having an expensive camera if you don't know how to use its full potential. Besides, I could see a market in selling my best photos on the web.

Canon outsources its training and information services in the UK respectively to Experience-Seminars and EOS magazine. I booked three courses held over three days last week on 'Making the Most of Your EOS' held at the Huntingdon training centre.

Initially, I was dubious about the cost. It seemed a little absurd to pay almost half as much again as the original cost of the camera body to learn what I should probably have been able to learn from the manual – but I learnt a great deal more than just how to use my camera. I also learnt basic photographic skills – shutter speed, aperture adjustment, depth of field, metering, how to use flash, and also some very basic Photoshop techniques which can bring out the most in a photograph. This is because the trainer is a professional photographer with years of experience.

And yes. Canon cameras work best with other Canon accessories and peripherals. Use dedicated Canon lenses and Canon printers to get the optimum results.

It didn't take long to work out that not only was my 300D now obsolete, but it was also the bottom of the range. Amongst those cameras brought to the seminars last week were four or five EOS 5Ds, which will set you back over £2,000, without the lenses and speedlites.

One lady, who is going on safari to Zambia in October, had brought her new EOS 350D, which impressed me with its smaller, lighter size.

The biggest problem that I could see with the 300D was its slowness. It takes four seconds to bring the camera out of sleep mode to take a photo, by which time, the photo opportunity has passed. This is particularly galling for sports and action photos because the camera takes so long to record to memory before another photo can be taken.

Thus I have been sufficiently motivated to upgrade to the new EOS 400D with 10 megapixels, virtually all the other settings offered by the more expensive cameras and a more compact size to boot. It's also costing less than what I paid for the 300D back in 2004.

Orchid, using evaluative metering, full flash

Orchid, using evaluative metering, full flash

Orchid, using partial metering, full flash

Orchid, using partial metering, full flash

Orchid, using partial metering and bounce flash

Orchid, using partial metering and bounce flash

As an example of what I learnt, here are three photos of an orchid taken with flash, all in P mode with ISO set at 400. One is taken with evaluative metering in full flash, another with partial metering in full flash and the third with partial metering in bounce flash. Unfortunately, I was still suffering from problems of underexposure by the camera – which I shall have to investigate – but I was able to redeem my errors by adjusting levels in Photoshop.

The third photo is by far the best. You see the petals of the orchids as you would if you looked at them in reality. Both the other two photos exhibit what I would call 'pearlisation' on the petals, which gives a false result. This is due to burnout (overexposure) on disparate details by the flash. The second photo displays total burnout in one area on one of the petals.

It's when you can see the visible results of what you have learnt and the added confidence that brings, that would make me thoroughly recommend this training.

This item was first published on 18th September 2006.

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