We flew down to Orlando, Florida last week for our semiregular escape from the Frozen North. My parents live near the Gulf Coast so the usual plan is to go down, spend a few days at one of the tourist traps and a few more at my parents’ home. We visited the Disney parks in 2006, so this time we headed to the Universal Orlando resorts.
I’ve been shooting with point and shoot digital cameras for about 9 years now, starting with a sub-2 megapixel Agfa CL30 with a fixed lens through progressively more capable models with larger sensors, zooms, and ever more advanced program shooting modes. Small digital cameras have gotten very good over the last decade. Though I like to think I’m pretty adept at getting decent results out of the small cameras I’ve owned, the fact remains that point and shoot cameras have some serious limitations that become maddeningly apparent after you’ve spent some in-depth time with them. They usually trade of lens and sensor size for a smaller physical form-factor. They tend to be slower overall — it can take several seconds recovery time (while the camera writes the images to storage) before you can take the next photo (an eternity when you’re trying to record the actions of small children or animals.) I can’t count the number of times I’ve missed shots because I was waiting for my camera to cycle.
This year brought an early Christmas present: my first SLR. My new toy is a Canon EOS Rebel XS. Despite Canon’s apparent affection for product naming schemes that recall Apple’s in the Sculley/Schindler/Amelio dark ages, they really make a quality product. In many ways, the camera (at least in my week’s experience) is one of the most powerful (in a “number of cool things I can accomplish with it” sense) pieces of consumer gear I’ve ever owned. I am continually astonished with the sorts of things I can accomplish with it, even with minimal experience.
At the most basic level, I can now shoot pictures-per-second instead of seconds-per-picture. I can capture images in a range of lighting conditions and at distances far beyond anything that would have been feasible before. I’ve now got a big zoom lens so that I could shoot this tortoise at a considerable distance without disturbing him.
There are adjustments to make, too, of course. Physically, the camera (with its accompanying accessories) is much larger than any camera I’ve ever carried. One nice thing about pocket cameras is that they’re, well, pocket cameras, so taking one along with you is literally just a matter of grabbing it and going. Indeed, I’ve taken a large number of shots with my iPhone just because it’s always with me (that, and the auto-geotagging…) Conversely, taking the SLR anywhere mandates taking along a big camera bag. (I found a very nice bag, though, at the local Meijer.) I’m taking many more shots now (no, not really a bad thing), and the file sizes are much larger, which made this round of Flickr uploads an exercise in patience. :)
I’m sure there’s some sort of Murphy-style law for photographers with multiple lenses that states that, at any given moment, you will always have the wrong lens attached for the type of picture you want to take. When this beautiful blue heron landed on the boat dock 40 or so feet in front of us I, of course, had the wide lens instead of the big zoom attached. I’m still at the point where that means many painful lost seconds bumbling around in the bag and fumbling with lens caps and sensor covers and the like, all the while trying not to make a lot of noise and fuss.
There’s also the fact that when you’re in an amusement park, you’re spending a lot of time on water rides and roller coasters where managing large and costly bits of electronic kit can occupy an inordinate amount of your attention. Thankfully Universal’s come up with a fairly elegant solution for that in convenience. In further posts I’ll talk a bit more about our experiences in Orlando, the resort, and Spring Hill/Brooksville.
You can observe a lot just by watching.
— Yogi Berra