|... continued from Part 3: 1986–2006 ...|
After our archaic Kodak DC260 finally gave up the ghost, I turned to the popular fixed-lens Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 to help fulfill my loftier photographic dreams. At the very beginning I was somewhat disappointed with the FZ-50 — it seemed like the images were not that great. But after some experimentation, I learned how to get the most out of this outstanding camera. Most of the early photo albums on this Web site, from 2006 through 2010, are comprised of photos taken with this camera.
Over the four-and-a-half years I used this camera I took over 5,000 photos with it. The results have been impressive enough that I have made five beautiful 13 x 11 inch photos book through Blurb.com — you can find out more by checking out my article The Joys of Photobooking. I even had about 12 of my best photos printed at 20 x 16 inches and then framed — many of them are hanging in my office and elsewhere throughout the house. I also made calendars with these photos for a few years. All in all it's been a great time with the FZ-50, but recently my aspirations were calling me even higher.
I encountered another camera — also a Panasonic — on my photographic journey in 2010, but this time it was more accidental than intentional. After recording hundreds of hours of standard-definition video footage on tape, I decided it was time to go tapeless and high-definition all in one leap. After much research and comparison, I settled on the newly-released Panasonic HDC-TM700K. This small camera (only 5.25 x 2.75 x 2.5 inches, weighing slightly less than a pound including the battery!) is truly a high-tech marvel! And because it records the video onto removable SD cards, there's no more tapes to deal with!
At first, I never intended to use this camera for still photos, only video. But rather than dragging TWO cameras around on some of our outings, it made a lot more sense to take only the TM700. A number of the albums on this Web site contain photos shot exclusively with this camera, including Yosemite 2010, Mt. Hood 2010, Eagle Creek 2010, McKenzie River 2010, Albany Autumn 2010, and Albany Snow Feb 2011. For a sample of the excellent video quality of this camera, check out the footage I shot at a David Grisman concert. You should see how this video looks on our 46-inch HDTV — absolutely stunning!
Back to my Lumix still camera ... although it has been a wonderful camera, it also very definitely has its limitations — the most crucial of which is its small sensor size (only 1/1.8"), which can lead to images with quite a bit of digital image noise. But pretty much the only way to have a larger sensor is to move up to cameras with interchangeable lenses. A popular option these days is a Four Thirds camera. But as you can see from this camera sensor size chart, moving up to only that level would be a compromise solution, since the Four Thirds sensors are still somewhat on the small side. Down the road, I would likely want to make the transition from Four Thirds to a bigger sensor, so it would make more sense, and be cheaper in the long run, to go ahead and take a big step now rather than a little step now and a little step later. Full-frame 35mm sensor cameras are professional-level cameras that have numerous features I don't need, which greatly increases the cost. Therefore, it seemed like the best solution was a camera with the fairly-large APS-C sensor.
The journey continues in Part 5: 2011 ...