Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Photo fiasco


(new camera on the left - old camera on the right)


I have had the same point and shoot camera for almost 10 years now. It is a great little camera - it has taken all the photos on this blog. It is a true point and shoot camera in that I do nothing with any of the settings of the camera other than turn the flash off and toggle between the macro feature for close up work and the “normal” picture mode. When I first got the camera, I changed some of the settings - the image quality, the image size etc. but nothing too involved.

After I take a shot, I plug the camera into my Mac, turn on the camera, the camera pops up on the desktop and I copy the images onto the desktop. I delete the images from the camera and unplug it. I open the images and crop them if I need to and label them accordingly. That is it. No muss - no fuss. Easy-peasy.

The camera is a Nikon Coolpix 4300 and is very basic.

About 2 weeks before Christmas, the camera started to die. The mechanism that moves the 3X zoom lens in and out was making some sad noises. I knew its days were numbered. I managed to squeeze a few more shots out of it, but I knew it was time to replace it. So I jumped in the car and drove to Henry’s to get a new camera.

I should back up a bit. Ten years ago when I bought this camera I went into our local Henry’s in Toronto. I had a plane along with me and walked in and told the sales person that I was committed to buying a camera today as long as I would be able to photograph this object (the plane) and see how the images looked in Photoshop. No problem he said, and proceeded to show me several cameras. The Nikon Coolpix 4300 was the clear winner by a long shot.

Fast-forward to a month ago and I went to our local Henry’s to repeat the process. No such luck. Apparently, they did not have Photoshop on any of the computers in their store. I explained the situation - the camera that I was using and that I was looking to replace it. The sales person showed me a few and said the Nikon P100 was the closest evolution to the Coolpix 4300... but it was “much, much better”. So I bought it - all pleased as punch that my camera issue was really a non-issue. Everything about it was pretty familiar - there were a few more bells and whistles - but the interface felt similar. It was the white balance that concerned me the most. I was working on a plane at the time and did what I normally do throughout the day - take photos as I go and send the customer a mid-day report on what I had completed.

I walked into the house at lunch and copied the images onto the desktop and opened them in Photoshop. No problem. Until I saw them. They were dreadful. And I mean really dreadful. Here is an example;


Some of the above image looks ok - the mallet in the background is color accurate... but the Mystery Rosewood handle is horrible. The blacks are not black and everything has an odd haze to it. Here is another photo of the front bun block;




Notice how the color of the wood is kinda wonky while other colors like the Record blue vise are pretty good. For comparison - here is a photo of another plane taken with the old camera. Both photos were taken with planes in the same vises.



The blues are ok, but the clarity and accuracy of the wood is very different. I spent about 20 minutes color correcting the P100 photos and realized there was no way I was going to spend this amount of time monkeying around. So I decided to return the camera.

As I was driving home, it occurred to me that I may be able to find a used 4300 on Ebay. When I got home I checked, and to my delight there were half a dozen to choose from. The new to me camera arrived on December 24th. I was like a kid would be on the next morning - I tore into that package as fast as I could. I ran out into the shop, took a few photos and ran back to the office to see how they looked. Part of me was a little worried that I had totally lucked out on my first 4300 - that it was a photographic anomaly. Thankfully - the photos were just as good. I was elated (and very relieved). I quickly turned right around and bought a second 4300 from Ebay ($60.75 delivered) so now I have a spare. The back-up camera is just as good, so I should be covered for the next 5 years at least. Fingers crossed.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised the salesman told you the P100 was way better than your old camera. From all that I have heard, as well as seen with my own eyes, the P100 is one of the worst cameras Nikon has ever made, at least in the digital age.

-phil

19 January 2011 21:08  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Phil. Now you tell me! :)

Yeah - it was a pretty disappointing experience to say the least.

Cheers,
Konrad

19 January 2011 21:09  
Blogger Ed Eubanks said...

At least part of the problem with the P100 looks/sounds like a color balance problem, which could be rectified with some work on the white balance. For less than $10, you can get a small, hard plastic color/white reference card that you include in the first photo in a series, say, under certain lighting conditions. Then in a photo-editing application, you balance the color by pointing to the white reference card. It's fairly straightforward, and not a lot of hassle.

That said: we owned a Nikon 4300 for a long time, too, and they are great cameras. If you're satisfied with it, there's no reason to switch (or "upgrade").

19 January 2011 22:44  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Ed,

My photographer friend stopped in with her D70 and D700 and we compared settings, white balance and a rather long list of other possible variations to get what I was after. At the end of the day, this kept it from being simple and would require a lot of work on my part. I was looking for a very simple point and shoot camera that was able to capture what I was seeing. The 4300 is by no means a professional camera, but it does take pretty accurate photos with minimal effort. I would certainly consider a D70 or D90, but there was a lot more work involved in getting photos. The 4300 is so basic, it does not really have a white balance to set. Makes me almost wish I could still run film through my F2!

Cheers,
Konrad

19 January 2011 22:50  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

Complete agreement on the P100

Bought one for my office as our camera for samples: found it utterly horrid to work with, took it back to Henry's the next day, bought a Canon T2i.
More money (yikes)
but utterly painless to work with.

My "home" camera is an old Canon S5 which works well for macro work and photos of my wood turning: one shot white balance and then perfect color.

Glad to hear you're happy with your "new to you" 4300...

19 January 2011 23:21  

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