Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nikon D80: CCD Versus CMOS?

Revisiting an old favorite of mine for this post. This picture was taken in my first year of owning a digital SLR. Compositionally, it's just a few steps away from being perfect, but for my own limited shooting skills, it's right up there for me.

Steveston Boardwalk, Richmond, B.C., Canada

This was taken with a Nikon D80 with a Tamron 28-75. This is the sort of scene that the CCD-based D80 was particularly good at, and at ISO below 400, was not bested by the following D90. This is why I still think that a good condition D80 is a great learning tool photographically. It might be lacking in megapixels, but it'll produce vivid and lively colours if you take it outside. However, every now and then you come across the sentiment that CCD sensors produce more pleasing colours than CMOS sensors. This is malarky; there are so many more variables that come into play, and as it stands, it's a CMOS world now. You can't buy a new CCD dSLR if you tried. My memory was that my D80 at default settings produced warmer colours than my current D7000, but I was using mainly Tamron glass back then, which is quite warm to begin with. Which was perfectly fine for this picture, seeing how "warmth" is it's predominant theme.

However, I'm quite confident that this picture can be accomplished with just about any reasonably decent camera, CCD or CMOS. There's no shallow focus trickery, the focal length isn't particularly wide or long, and I didn't much in post processing except to accentuate what was already there. This incredible glow that you see here was more or less what that late summer evening looked like. It was hot and humid as heck, and the view down the boardwalk was quite hazy. The haze was what really made this picture, as it gave the air an optical denseness.

If you are an available light shooter, then the old cliché applies, you have to wait for the light. Too many budding photographers shoot in the middle of the day and wonder why their colours end up all washed out or why their pictures look flat. If you want warmth, you have to shoot at the end of the day. (Or you could wake up very early, which is anathema for me...) If you want long stretching shows like this, the light has to have directionality; you have to shoot when the sun is low. In other words, you have to wait... and that takes time and practice.

That goes double for this picture. The sun has backlit the girl's hair in an interesting way that gives the left side of her head an outline... otherwise it would have merged into a the shadow of the building behind her. This effect is even more apparent with large prints of this picture. If I had waited just a split second longer, they would have been clear and I would have had a perfect outline against the sun.

Each summer, I've gone back to this spot numerous times to try to recreate the picture. I haven't been successful yet, and I don't think it's because I no longer have the D80 and because the D7000 is a CMOS camera. Why, then? It's because I haven't been able to come for the right time for the light... and by that, I don't mean the time of day. There are only a couple of weeks at the end of August when the sun sets in a way such that it lines up with this section of the boardwalk. Too soon or too late and it will be off to one side or the other. Some pictures you have to wait till for the right time of the day. This one, you have to wait for the right time of the year.

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