The DSLR Dilema…

25 04 2012

Canon T2i DSLR...

Now that I have a DSLR in my camera fleet again I’m making an effort to use it as much as I can. It’s a big camera and I feel the need to treat it gently so the hassle level of taking it along on a ride or even to an event I drive to is significant. That’s okay if I get really great photos from it, but the trouble with a camera like this is that you also have the potential for some exceptionally craptacular photos. Point and shoot cameras have less potential performance and give you less control of the photos you take. However, they tend to deliver reasonably consistent picture quality within that performance envelope. A DSLR on the other hand offers the potential for a much nicer image IF you use the correct settings and that’s a big IF.

Since getting the Canon T2i I have been rewarded with some really spiffy photos that my Canon S95 couldn’t deliver. I have also been punished with a whole bunch of crappy photos that made my S95 snicker at its big brother and puff out its diminutive chest a bit. I can live with a bad photo in my backyard when documenting a bike upgrade, but when I am out and about taking shots of something that’s special – like an event – it’s critical I don’t f**k sh*t up often. Having been disappointed by the pictures I’ve taken on two recent “important” occasions I’m starting to worry about my choice of picking up the DSLR vs. point and shoot for those type of missions.

I know logically that I just need to learn from my mistakes and that unless I keep using the DSLR I’ll never master it. I also know I could set the DSLR to auto mode and have it do all the heavy lifting, but my ego get’s in the way of that!

I’ll just keep plugging away at my DSLR with the hopes of becoming a photo Jedi. Excuse a few less than rockstar images in the process!….;-)



15 responses

25 04 2012

I can’t carry a body that big anymore. Switched to a Fuji X10 recently. Love it.

25 04 2012
Ian W

Hey Vic,

I found that the Panasonic GF-2 was a perfect compromise between point and shoot size and DSLR performance. It also has a metal body making it fairly sturdy (save for the giant screen on the back of the body… sigh). The lenses are reasonably fast and offer many options. I’m looking forward to picking up a larger lens in the near future.

I have had no problem sticking the camera in the pocket of my Gore-tex jacket when I was on the move. I don’t think I could do that with a full size DSLR.


25 04 2012

But that’s Ok to have a lot of crappy photos, you’ll see, few will be really great anyway! With time the proportion crap/masterpiece will shift more towards the latter. Then you can return back to the point and shoot cameras, those will start producing great pictures too 🙂

25 04 2012

I’m in a similar position. I have my S100 that I’m liking more every time that I use it. I also have access to my g/f’s 7D and assorted lenses. However I won’t even think about taking the 7D out on the bike (the cargo bike, maybe). But I know how ya feel. There’s been shots with the 7D that I forgot to change something back after playing with it (exposure, shutter, etc) and certainly did NOT get what I expected. On the other side, the S100 has been producing some amazing images. I took it to a criterium race last weekend, got some wonderful corner shots with a look that my g/f says would be hard to get with the 7D.

Either way, its nice to have options.

25 04 2012

I took a Nikon D80 with a 16-85 VR (nikon for image stabilisation) lens on our 28,000km Americas trip. I padded an old style Ortlieb Classic bar bag using closed-cell foam blocks (picture in a blog post in the near future) and then rode down and up all that I could find. The camera did just fine with that. Not saying that you’ll want to set yourself up that way though.

I’m also not saying that I’ve in any way mastered the camera, but things do improve with ‘knowing’ what settings will be needed in different situations. It’s a bit like being able to ‘see’ what gear you’ll need in a few seconds time and going straight to it rather than wasting energy etc finding it by trial and error.

Hang in there, and you’ll feel better about it soon.

Mindyou, I’ve just ordered an Olympus EMD E5, following the m43 lead of Cass Gilbert, Joe Cruz and others….


25 04 2012

@Dylan – the major reason for the DSLR is gloomy rainforest action MTB shots. The S95 simply can’t do the job there. I don’t mind the size weight terribly except that I have to take my pack off to get the camera out as opposed to just opening the case strapped to my waist belt.

The T2i with the mediocre kit lens does pretty good in the forest. When I get a fast prime lens it should be great.

@Misha – I agree, but say I am shooting some riders at a brevet and I mess up some key shots….that opportunity is gone and I either have to make do with shots I am unhappy with or an important moment of the event doesn’t get documented. For anything I can re-shoot I’m not terribly worried about it.

@Ian – in decent light the S95/100 is a great camera and for web use is all I would need. However, even in good light the image quality and DOF control is not comparable if you are trying to do something special.

25 04 2012

@Tom – I think what it comes down to for me is to mentally run through a checklist of all the key settings to ensure they are what I think they are. I can live with poor shots where I’m trying new stuff and it doesn’t work out as expected, but I hate it when I overlook the fact I’m in a different focus mode than I think I am or I’ve forgotten to dial back the EV compensation.

On the plus side I know what a good shot looks like and I can see those moments as well as getting interesting shots from everyday situations….I just have to learn to bend the camera to my will.

I’m interested in those smaller interchangeable lens cameras, but I got the T2i for free so I can’t complain and my main photo need at the present is deep forest action shots which seem to be a worst case scenario for cameras…fast moving target, minimal light with patches of high contrast where there is small opening in the trees. I’m not sure how the smaller interchangeable lens cameras would do there andI like the fact I can get just about any lens/accessory for my T2i as I work out how to solve the problem.

I’m not sure what I’ll do for bike touring. I suspect I’d just carry the S95 – assuming I’m expecting normal light levels.

25 04 2012

The T2i is an awesome camera. It will take sports action shots that a compact camera simply can’t, like this cycling shot in low light:

CP 4107

There’s nothing wrong with using the T2i in full auto like a snapshot camera. The T2i is so wonderfully advanced that it can react faster than a human in difficult situations. Otherwise I would use the T2i mostly in aperture priority mode and let the camera do the rest (except for auto ISO).

I wrote a report for Crazyguyonabike on the differences between compact cameras (like the S95) and big cameras like the T2i:

The S95 and the T2i make an ideal combination and if you were me I could not live without both cameras. For sports events you can use them both at once.

Lots of people use the T2i for touring. It’s very light for a DSLR. You just have to find a place on your bike where it’s easily accessible for opportunistic shots. Most people put it in their handlebar bag as far as I know.

25 04 2012

Aaaak! I made a mistak! That Flickr link (above) should be:

Triking through the forest

25 04 2012
Pat S


I always look forward to your photographry-related posts, since you and I are share the same gear and are both kind of figuring out how to use what and when, and how to carry it all as it relates to rides. I am so enamored with both the S95 and T2i (and even the iPhone 4s), but all on different levels. And randobarf, I think your comments are spot on.

When I have nothing with me except my iPhone, it’s so rad to just know I can pull out the 4s and take a reasonably good pic in order to communicate some point with no confusion. Utility at a really high level. Sometimes art even sneaks in.

With just a minor amount of added bulk, I’ve got the S95 on board and my level of confidence in taking a picture that potentially crosses over into the the realm of art just took a giant leap. As I get to know it more and more, I am just amazed at the images this camera can produce, like this, which didn’t involve a tripod, just me resting my hand on a guardrail of the bridge I was standing on.

But it’s impossible to cheat physics and as I get more and more experience with the T2i, I am so amazed with its capabilities and I find myself wanting it with me as much as possible, given my appetite and enthusiasm for some basic understanding of photography right now. I think (I know) that with some experience on board, I will know more about what I am doing and will want a smaller form factor package, but during this steep section of my learning curve, the T2i is an excellent teacher. It’s just hard to beat a full-bodied, full-featured DSLR when you’re trying to get things all figured out IMHO. This isn’t a great picture by any means
, but it was what came out of a lot of trying and I was pleased to be somewhat successful. I don’t think I could have managed it if I had tried a hundred shots with the S95.

So for now, I’m working on all kinds of methods of carrying the T2i with me as much as possible. I’ve read and have been told ad nauseum and am totally starting to understand that the only way to get the hang of this is to take literally thousands of shots. I feel really fortunate and excited have these three cameras available as I work towards that goal.

26 04 2012
Steve Fuller

Vik, the best thing to do is leave pressure at the door, and work your way into the camera. I tend to use my 60D in P mode most of the time and it does an adequate job. As I got used to shooting with the camera, then I started using it in Aperture priority or full manual mode as the scene permitted. Spending some time, and taking a bunch of photos on different settings helps. I learn something just about every time I take my camera out of the bag.

Shooting in RAW and then doing post in something like Lightroom can allow you to make up for the occasional issue with exposure settings, although it’s not substitute for getting them right the first time. Shooting in RAW also means that you’re going to spend a bit more time with the photos before posting them to the web.

FWIW, I bought my Lumix LX5 just so I had a high quality P&S to take with me when I didn’t want to drag the 60D out. It has a F/2 lens and can shoot in RAW if I want it to. I’ve seen some other people generate spectacular photos with the LX5.

26 04 2012

@Steve – the pressure is self-inflicted. If I get a rider to come out and spend half their ride in photo-shoot mode I feel some obligation to make that time worthwhile. At an event I try to capture all the riders so when I screw up a bunch of photos and can’t post them I feel crappy for not properly documenting the occasion. Neither is really life or death, but at the same time there is a big difference between folks that can take some great photos occasionally and those that can take a great photo reliably almost every time. It would be nice to be in the later group…=-)

27 04 2012
Micheal Blue

Vik, I don’t buy that. DSLRs can be set to A or P mode and thus they function exactly like point and shoots. SInce they can have more sophisticated exposure metering than point-and-shoots, they also give at least as good exposure. The only thing that many times needs tweeking is exposure compensation, but theat goes for all digicams. Exp. comp. is easier to adjust on a dSLR than on a point-and-shoot. DSLRs may not have as deep depth of field as digicam, but it’s not bad. Hey, so no more excuses 🙂 It’s a nice camera. I’ve been into photography for a long time and I use both digicams and a dSLR.

29 04 2012

@Micheal – If I am going to use my DSLR in auto mode I’m not much further ahead than if I just used my Canon S95 which takes great photos and is much less hassle to use.

10 05 2012

This is another thing to add to your list of stuff that makes a good blog: Every now and again admit something that makes you seem like an idiot, until the reader actually sees himself in it too.

SLRs were the camera to have. Either you gunned it with a motor drive, a big budget, and a lot of skill, or at the other extreme, you used mastery of the features to get just the right shot, and burn hardly any film. But yeah, with digital, something is bound to turn out great, at least if you can compose a shot.

The only reason I own a DSLR was that at one point you needed 6meg pics raw to get a picture published in a magazine. Think of that. Magazines? What the heck were those?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: