If you have followed me recently you know that I don’t always throw out old technology just because it is old. Some things still have a use even after several years, despite being replaced by newer, fancier things. I still have a record player in my closet. I used my CD player for the first time in a year…for something my kid brought home from school. Most of my CDs were copied to the PC and stored in the attic long ago.
My GPS was another example of this. Despite advances in technology, I’m still using my 2003 model GPS, with it’s little 2 inch black and white LCD screen and serial plug. For now it works, but it’s reaching the end of it’s life span. The battery case is cracked and little parts are missing…so it won’t be long. GPS units improve like computers though, and things just get better and better over a short time.
Cameras are like that, too. And much like GPS units, I like to take one hiking. I have a really nice one, but it is NOT a hiking camera.
Sure, if you’ve seen that Peter Lik show, he carries big cameras and huge tripods around, with tons of gear. He also has a lot of help and has a good reason to carry it all – he makes a ton of money and his sponsors give him free gear to use. I just want to record my adventures and try and take some reasonably good pictures.
I don’t take it for several reasons; It is bulky. It is heavy. It is expensive and the outdoors are rough on things. I do not even like taking my phone, I keep it in a Ziploc bag. Have you played with an iPhone through a Ziploc bag? It is not really the preferred way to use one.
Which is where this steps in:
This has been my main hiking camera for the last six months. Why is it pink?
First of all, it’s LIGHT. The little lithium ion battery barely weighs anything and looks like two quarters stacked together. It’s perfect for hiking. It’s thin, has a lot of different settings, a reasonable lens range between wide and zoom, and the little battery lasts forever on a charge.
Oh, and it is really easy to find in the underbrush, as it is BRIGHT pink. Why pink? It is bright pink because it is my wife’s camera. I have the ginormous thing I can’t take hiking, so I have to borrow hers. It is also a lot less costly to replace when I eventually fall in a creek.
But I miss RAW mode.
What is RAW mode, you ask? Pick up just about any camera or cellular phone. Take a picture and email it to yourself. Odds are you will get a photo named something like “img_0345.jpg”. A jpg or jpeg file is just an image file… and actually jpg is a format involving a lot of compression, so the picture takes up a lot less space on the hard drive. A Jpg image is fine for most anything. But for photographers, only having a jpg image means you are missing out on a lot of stuff – The camera has made a decision on what your image should look like based on the camera settings, and spit out your digital image. Then it throws out the “blueprint” for how it made the picture.
What if you want to change stuff? Sure, you could drop it into photoshop and start manipulating colors and hues and contrast, but what if you could have all that original information back? All the stuff the camera threw out?
Enter RAW mode. If you have a serious camera, you probably know what RAW mode is. By serious camera, I mean one where if you take the lens off the front you don’t say “OH CRAP!”, but instead: “I’m taking the lens off so I can attach a different one”. The thing is, serious cameras are getting cheaper and more popular, especially among the fauxtographer and momtographer crowd.
* By Serious Camera I really mean any DSLR, and a lot of larger fixed-lens cameras. All the DSLRs will do RAW, and a lot of the new larger “point and shoot” ones will do it too.
*Momtographers are moms with Serious Cameras who get way to into taking pictures of their kids: the paparazzi at the dance recital or the football game. Fauxtographers are just as bad. Often with a Facebook page as their only advertising, they buy a Serious Camera and immediately seek out friends with babies, with the ambition to be as famous as Anne Geddes in a month. May be found advertising on Craigslist. Both varieties usually don’t know what an f-stop is. The terms are derogatory, although some momtographers have co-opted the term as something not to be ashamed of.
So, why is RAW so full of awesome goodness? If you ever took a picture on Auto and it came out “kind of funky looking”, with odd colors… you’re kind of stuck with it. Usually that’s a white balance problem. Maybe you had it set for daylight but you were inside under dim tungsten light. Stuff too green or blue? Oops, you set your “scene” mode to landscapes last week at the lake, but now that you are taking pictures of grandma at the family reunion, her hair looks even bluer than normal.
If you don’t have RAW mode…you are stuck with what the camera thought you wanted. With a RAW image, the camera keeps all the raw data from the sensor, and on your PC your can change all those settings. Pick a new white balance, change hues and intensities, vary saturation, adjust for noise and lens aberrations. Then let the PC make your jpg file before send it to facebook so the world can see the seventy-three pictures of your kid playing in the dirt yesterday.
I was spoiled by RAW mode, but the little pink thing didn’t have it. New small “Serious Cameras” cost hundreds…a big price to pay for RAW mode advantages, for something that will wind up in the creek eventually. Enter technology from 2006.
In 2006 I bought this. Its smaller than the big camera, bigger than the small one, and runs on 4 AA batteries that it eats like Whitney Houston at a crack house. I still had it, although I have not used it in a while.
It has a few advantages over the pink monster. A full manual mode, for one. If you really want to get artsy and screw up your pictures, full manual is sometimes the best way to go. It has a nice panoramic assistant, right on the camera to help you take nice panoramic shots.It will “bracket” shots too… if you don’t know what that is, you’re probably a momtographer, so google it.
But it doesn’t do RAW either. At least, not out of the box. The nice guys that designed the Canon Hacker Development Kit fixed all that. See, that camera was one of a number of Canon cameras using the Digic-2 chip, including some of Canon’s DSLRs of the time. So the processor was capable of dumping RAW files onto chips, it just wasn’t an option on that camera.
God bless the Hackers.
While researching stuff, I found out that the CHDK program works with my old A620 camera. It was a little tricky to add to the camera. I had to load it on the memory card, and trick the camera into loading the software from the memory card at bootup, but it’s pretty seamless now. It adds an extra menu set, and bam… there you are. RAW files from a point and shoot.
Unfortunately, that camera was one year short of the new SDHC card standard. The biggest cards it will hold are 2GB SD cards, which will only hold about 160 Raw images. 2GB SD cards are cheap, around $5 each even for SanDisk cards… but I have to load the CHDK software on EACH card, a painful process that takes about thirty minutes to go through all the steps. And if I forget and format the card, I have to start over.
But for a weekend hike, 150 pictures should be plenty.