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This page:  Fotoman   Kodak DC-50   Kodak 265 Zoom   Sony F707
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JR's Digital Photo History

2003

Many people ask me about the camera I use to shoot the images in Dallas Arts Revue, the White Rock Lake Journal and on my personal website. Those who have seen it in person seem amazed by it. I understand their shock and delight. It does look futuristic. I use it every day, and I am still often amazed at it, and I am still learning about it.

It's a great camera. My third digital camera. It's a Sony F707 CyberCam. More about the 707, below.

To understand what's up with this camera that, after a four years of prideful ownership, I still refer to as "my new camera," it might be helpful to delve back into history and explore its two digital predecessors.

Before my foray into the digital world I had a brace of Nikons. Before that was a Miranda Single Lens Reflex I bought at a base exchange in Tuy Hoa, Vietnam. Before that, I had a Petri 35mm rangefinder. And it all started with a 4 x 5 Graflex press camera with a Polaroid back.

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FotoMan

My first digital camera was a strictly black & white unit from LogiTech called FotoMan. It had a resolution of 1/3 megapixel. Of course that was before any camera had as much as a whole megapixel, so they didn't call it .3 megapixel.

Back then, it was pretty amazing just to get an image. Color and high resolution was still very much in the vague distant future for consumer digital cameras.

Probably my greatest moment with this camera was when it was written up in Wired magazine as "hot" early in my ownership of it. I still have it, but it's in pieces. It had a problem I could not fix, and as usual, when I put it back together, I had pieces left over...

See a typical image from this camera below.

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Kodack DC-50

My second digital camera was a Kodak. It, too, was a very good camera, for its time.

Except, of course, I used it way past its prime and into its dotage.

Still, it provided slightly more resolution than the FotoMan, at 504 x 756 pixels. Which, of course, is dwarfed by my current camera's usual resolution of 2560 x 1920 pixels, but for web publishing, it was pretty good, since it offered twice as much resolution as — and four times the pixels that — I could use on the Internet.

And its images were in color.

The Kodak's colors, however, were never very good. Its contrast pretty much stank.

I couldn't adjust anything but the composition in camera. There were no manual controls. No f-stop, shutter speed, focus distance or white balance adjustments. It was a marvelous opportunity to learn Photoshop.

Most camcorders have automatic white balance. That feature renders the different colors of outdoor and indoor light as if they were all the same. On the DC50, outdoor colors were generally somewhat accurate, but fluorescent lights made images green and regular indoor bulbs made images reddish, which could be neutralized manually in Photoshop. But it woulda been a lot easier to be able to switch a switch on the camera.

It was a point and shoot with minimal 3:1 optical zoom lens and no digital pre- or re-view. I learned to use Photoshop very well preparing images from that camera. I had to.

Oh, and the software was dreary. It got the images from the camera via a slow serial cable into my computer — eventually. And I could sort through the images with it most of the time. But every once in a while— "suddenly," as they say — it would black out, and the only recourse was to restart the computer.

When I complained to Kodak, they insisted there was nothing wrong with the software. The woman I spoke with insisted it was perfect, and she wouldn't even allow me to report an error.

Which is half of why I would never buy another Kodak camera, and why I recommend you don't either.

I should point out that the DC-50 was an incredibly robust camera. I once fell about nine feet, camera first into gravel, and there was no damage, except some minor scratches on both of us.

I did get an error notice once, after I'd left the camera on the transmission hump of my car while driving around. A quick on/off cleared that one up immediately. I never saw another error message.

 

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Kodak DC265 Zoom

 

The next camera I used two very slightly different models of — but did not (and would never) own — was another fatally flawed Kodak — which is getting redundant.

Across the bottom of the front of this ugly, two-tone gray blob of a hand-warmer, was the word Megapixel, and sure enough it rendered images with 1.6 of those. Very exciting in its day, but puny by today's standards.

This little sucker that I used in two differing incarnations on two very different jobs for two very different employers was altogether too popular.

Oh, it produced what looked like some pretty good images. At the time.

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Trouble was, if you shot it a lot — like I did — it tended to get very hot to the touch. So hot it would turn itself off without warning and without recourse. It wouldn't turn back on until it got cooled down — a major drawback if you were in a hurry.

Another drawback was that — even if it was cool to start with — the power didn't always work. It often did not turn on. A major problem for an electric camera.

I developed a routine of turn on, turn off, pop the batteries out, reset, turn on, turn off, pop ....

Eventually, sometimes, it would turn on, then I'd be afraid to turn it off, and it would get hot...

I made many calls to Kodak, and they insisted there was no inherent issue with the power. But, of course, there was.

This is the other half of why I would never buy a Kodak again. Their coporate policy is to lie to their customers, so you never really find out what's wrong, and so, of course, there's no way to get it fixed.

For the second of the two 265s I used, I even ordered a new, plug in the wall, AC Power Supply, hoping to get power to the camera. The replacement worked every bit as troublesomely as the original, which is to say, only sometimes.

In addition, the software that sucked images out of the 265 Zoom and onto your computer was painfully slow and hinky to boot.

The second 265 I had to deal with had significantly improved firmware and software, but it was still hinky as hell.

White balance, supposedly switchable, never worked. You could click the sunlight setting, but it was still entirely likely that you'd have to spend dozens of minutes using Photoshop for each shot to get the color of the image to match the color of the original.

Color balance was always a crapshoot with my Kodak digital cameras.

So I kept learning what I could about Photoshop and color correcting, and composition. I saved my pennies till I had a little more than a thousand dollars — the going price for a prosumer digital camera, then and now, and waited for a camera that would be good enough.

I knew I needed at least a 3:1 zoom, preferably more. At least 3 megapixels resolution, preferably more. And a robust White Balance that would render images without color casts. Especially since, by then I was publishing DallasArtsRevue, and I was shooting a lot of art, which had to be rendered accurately. An image pre- and re-view would be nice, also.

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Sony F707

 

I read all the camera magazines on the stands at my favorite library (book store) for almost a year. First this, then that, then the other, spiffy new camera would catch my attention.

I knew what I was looking for — a great lens, longer than 3:1 zoom, an LCD so I could preview — and delete — images. A battery that lasted longer than a couple of hours. And a manual white balance.

More of what I've learned about this camera and what I've learned to do with this camera on the next page.

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Image Quality

This is a full-sized image from the Fotoman. Note the softness, even though the detail in this version has been maximized.

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This is a typical photograph from the Kodak DC-50. It has plenty of color, of course, but not much detail. Notice all the places where screen fills the spiral staircase. On this shot, it's only rendered as fuzz.

 

And this is a typical photograph from the Sony F707. Well, maybe not so typical. But rendered here at a mere fraction of its original size. Note the tiny details and subtleties of color and textures, even in this image, which is only 20% of the total.

 

This photograph was selected by independent curator Paul Rogers Harris to be in a Digital art show at Mountain View Community College in the autumn of 2003.

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This Digital Photo History continues on Page Two>>