A camera decision turned inside out

For the last few months I’ve been on a mission. A camera mission. I’ve been looking at digital SLRs to replace the Pentax point and shoot I’ve been carrying around for the past two years. The Optio has done right by me – it’s been dunked, dropped, generally beat up just fine, and it still works like a charm. But I wanted better pictures, particularly when fishing, and had convinced myself that a DLSR was the ticket.

After pouring through specifications, perusing a wide variety of opinions, comparing prices, and even toting a loaner around for a few weeks, I’ve come to a decision. I’m not going to get one at all, at least for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of reasons: new offerings seem purposely handicapped in one way or another until you hit the “professional” level, and I’ve got no interest in upgrading next month; some older models are much more sought after, which tells me the manufacturers have a ship that will soon need righting; people are way too optimistic about what units are worth second-hand, a hint that prices may soon come crashing down; and last but certainly not least, it seems a lot of folks buy these DSLRs, set them to auto, and never touch anything but the shutter button again.

Which is pretty much what I’ve done with my little point and shoot, until now.

Instead of dropping a grand that would be much better spent on single malt scotch, I’m going to embark on an experiment: how much can I get out of a point and shoot if I turn off the “automatic” setting, read the manual front cover to back, and really learn how to use it under every possible set of conditions.

The Pentax Optio W30 Manual
Out with the old (automatic mode), and in with the new (program mode)

Leg one of this journey has already ended: I figured out why pictures taken at my desk always turned out yellowish. I reset the white balance, manually via shutter, and the problem was solved.

I wonder what else I’ll discover as I pour through an instruction manual for the first time ever.

MG signing off (to take a bunch of photos with an old camera, betting they’ll turn out decent once I do a little reading)


The Professor says:

RTFM my friend … RTFM

Murdock says:

Reading the manual isn’t really like stopping to ask directions is it? I am inspired!

Now that you have found how to set the WB, the next menu item you have to find is the Make this photo look awesome option, and make sure you have it set to “yes.”

@Prof – You’re smarter than I. What does RTFM mean? 😉

@Murdock – I think so. Then again though, people have told me it’s high time to find a nice girl and settle down too. Just please don’t call this particular act a precursor!

@FGF – You were supposed to be teaching me the basics. Instead, I obviously got the super technical stuff. Thankfully I found that setting on the W30. At least I’m hoping I did. Thanks for the advice…anyway. 😉

ADDITIONAL: Cameron Mortenson also added his 2 cents (times 1,000) via twitter (@fbrglssmnfsto). Mr. Neal Osborn knows plenty about getting the most out of point n’ shoots, exemplified here and here. Thanks Cameron (and Neal)!

Wait, where is this “Make this photo look awesome” feature? I can’t find it anywhere.

Good call. I’m thinking of buying the w80 for next season. My father has a Canon Rebel I can use if I need to with a few different lenses, but that 12mpix Pentax looks tasty. I just hope the manual is simply to understand, my last canon one sucked.

@Pete – I spoke too soon. Alex has a patent on that feature, and won’t release it to lowly point n’ shooters like me without extracting an exorbitant fee (paid for in kegs)

@Ben – I’ve heard the W60 is a better bet.

M.G….glad that those links helped you out. I guess I might to take my own advice. Your BEFORE and AFTER photos are quite impressive just of the manual. Let’s see what you can do outside now!

Mike T says:

I have the same camera and I always have it in my vest for a quick snap. Read page 78–interval shooting.

Mike T – Thanks! Very cool!

ADDITIONAL NOTE: I’ve already seen Nikon drop the price of the D3000 kit $50 for the holidays – it’s now priced at $500 with an 18-55 VR lens. So at minimum I’ve already gotten that economics hypothesis right.

[…] in the water or dunk for the occasional fish release picture. For now I’ll take a page out of Michael Gracie’s book and read the manual of my camera from front to back. Gotta love Christmas […]

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