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Digital Photography Revisited


This month's column was supposed to cover the topic of raster screening and specifically how that applies to Calamus. However, since I've recently acquired some additional digital photographic equipment, and since this equipment spans the high and low ends of the digital spectrum, I thought I'd take a break and write on this topic.

If readers recall I've mentioned that digital cameras were reaching a point where they could rival true 35 mm film. That point has been reached. Aside from the slew of high-end consumer cameras that output at 5 Megapixel levels, in the last year both Nikon and Canon have released cameras based on their high-end professional 35 mm film cameras. The Nikon D1x has a 5.33 Megapixel sensor and is based on Nikon's F5 film camera. This machine uses interchangeable lenses and is essentially a professional camera which is also a digital camera. The TIFF files produced by this machine are 16.9 MB in size and are stunning in their clarity and resolution (3,008 x 1,960 pixels). You can also shoot in 2,000 x 1,312 pixel mode. The camera allows me to make full use of available Nikon or third party lenses with all the flexibility that implies.

At the same time as I purchased the D1x I picked up an Olympus 510z (now the 520z) consumer camera to carry around either in my car or pocket. I bought this camera so it would always be available for me to take images that I happen to run into. I also purchased this machine because if it broke or was lost, I would not wind up joining the Foreign Legion. This is the equivalent of a 110 point-and-shoot camera. Once again to my surprise it has excellent quality and features for a digital camera under $300.

So in essence I'm going to be reviewing a camera that costs $5,000 and a camera that costs $269. No I'm not going to be putting them head-to-head for the reader to decide which is the best machine. They are both excellent and both take great photographs. The D1x, however, has few if any limitations that one associates with digital photography.

[Photo: Nikon front]

Front view of the Nikon D1x.

[Photo: Nikon rear]

Rear view of the Nikon D1x.

[Photo: Olympus closed front]

Front view of the Olympus 510z in closed position. This and subsequent pictures of the Olympus were shot with the Nikon's auto white balance.

[Photo: Olympus open front]

Same camera, ready for action.

[Photo: Olympus rear]

Rear view of the Olympus camera.

The cameras

The Nikon D1x is more or less indistinguishable from other professional 35 mm SLR cameras. Turn it around and the LCD monitor becomes visible and you wonder why this guy is carrying a camera with a built-in TV. As with other such cameras, buttons and wheels abound. Just what do these things do? My last 35 mm camera was a wonderful machine I purchased in 1970. It had a built-in light meter and that was it for its automatic features. This Minolta 212 was easy to learn but it certainly didn't come with many buttons and wheels. I expected a long learning curve as I dealt with the complexities of the Nikon. To my surprise everything about the camera's design is thoughtful and well laid out. Within an hour of coming home with this machine I was out taking pictures, within a day I understood more or less every aspect of the machine. Within a week I had completely mastered it. A good manual didn't hurt. 220 pages, well laid out, with information cross-referenced. A good beginners' guide. Yes, a good manual doesn't hurt.

Looking at the rear of this machine you can see some of the main controls. The wheel at the upper-right (main control wheel) allows altering of many functions, aperture, speed, full automatic mode, full manual mode and anything in between. This same wheel is used to set white balance and ISO (film speed). It fulfils all these functions by holding down an appropriate button. For example, hold down the white balance button, and turning the wheel changes the white balance settings. Hold down the ISO button and rotating the wheel will change the ISO. Hold down the Mode button and turning the wheel changes the options from full automatic to aperture priority. This mode gives priority to the selected f stop and automatically adjusts speed. Continue to turn the wheel and you can select shutter priority. In shutter priority mode you manually select the shutter speed and the camera controls the f stop. Or you can select full manual mode. Once a mode is selected, that same conveniently placed wheel will change either the selected speed or the selected aperture. There is even a copy of the wheel and the shutter release button located on the bottom of the camera for shooting in vertical mode!

The wheel at the upper-left of the camera is used to change the shooting mode. Continuous shooting (three frames per second, up to nine shots), single shot, or shooting while connected to the computer (tethered shooting). The camera, while in tethered mode, allows connection to a television to play a slide show on your TV (or computer) of the images already taken.

Since this machine can make use of auto-focus lenses, there are options for that as well. There is a three-position switch on the front of the camera which allows single focus, continuous focus or manual focus. Continuous focus is quite interesting. This allows the user to focus on a selected area and the lens will continue to re-focus if the target is in motion. In practice this means that holding the shutter release half-way down will start the motor in the lens focusing on your target. The lens will continue to focus and change focus until you actually take the shot. Single focus means that pressing the release half-way down will focus the lens and that remains the focus point until you either take the shot or release the button and press it down again. Strategically located next to the main control wheel are two buttons which allow, on the fly, changing from continuous to single focus which resets after the shot is taken.

A word about the use of auto-focus is in order. The D1x auto-focus system is an absolute marvel. There are five little squares arranged in a diamond pattern, with one square in the center. It is these squares that the camera uses to focus. So if I am shooting a target in the forest the camera will unerringly focus on the actual target no matter how many trees or bushes fill the screen. What if you wish a target that is off center? Using the push wheel in the back of the camera you can select from between these five squares and thus change the focus point. It's a wonderful system and works perfectly.

[Photo: Chato the beach bum!]

Wunderhund at the ocean.

[Photo: Detail with boats visible]

Crop from the above image revealing detail only a camera with a large Megapixel sensor can record. Where the heck did those boats come from?

Custom settings

Some aspects of the camera must be learned. At least in the sense that I had no idea what the results would be before I started using these options. The camera allows setting "tone" which basically means the contrast of each shot. Another option is "sharpening". The camera allows control of the degree of sharpening done in-camera by the built-in software. So initially, since I turned both sharpening and tone off, I found my images to be flat and lacking in contrast. This is not necessarily bad. It's another option. I then played with the settings until I knew what the results would be. While digital may be expensive, you can't "waste film". Aside from the built-in choices you can also create custom versions of all these settings, something I have not yet found necessary. And of course you can always manipulate these images later on in your image processing program.

There is a total of 35 custom settings that will affect your images. They are accessed by hitting a button which turns on the LCD monitor and presents you with a menu. In the center-rear of the camera is a four-position button that you push in various directions to bring up a sub-menu and then push your way to the desired option and setting of that option. It's easier to actually do than explain. This is a very well thought out machine. The built-in battery of the camera, which Nikon rates at ten years, will keep track of these options so when your main battery runs down the settings are retained. I've found that basically I can set 'em and forget 'em. But there are actually more options. These settings can be allocated as "banks". There are four banks and each of them has the same 35 settings. So you could, if you wish, have four versions of these settings and switch between them. I don't do this but I can imagine that, for people who make their livings with photography, this would be a truly life-saving ability.

To make things even easier for the user some of these custom settings can be allocated to either the main control wheel or the sub-control wheel (located on the front of the camera). So for example I can change image format from TIFF to JPEG, from fine quality JPEG to basic JPEG without having to access the menu. My ability to control white balance is another custom setting that can be allocated to one of the control wheels, in my case the main control wheel.

How flexible is this machine?
Let us take two important aspects of photography, ISO and white balance. I am shooting in a dark shady forest. I set my white balance to shade and my ISO to the slowest the camera is capable of, 125. This, by the way, is one limitation of this digital camera, the lowest ISO is 125, whereas with a film camera I could go down to 25 or lower. At any rate with the described settings I can set a relatively high shutter speed and still get wonderful images of objects in the woods as long as they are not moving. Now assuming that I see a deer running through the forest, I might not be able to capture the animal in motion because the combination of film speed and ISO do not allow a higher shutter speed. With a conventional camera I would have to either change the film to one with a higher ISO rating or "push" the film in a lab to get a higher rating. The first alternative is only possible if the deer decides to patiently wait for my changing of the film, the second alternative will result in a markedly grainy shot. The digital equivalent of grain is called "noise". The higher the ISO the more noise in the resulting picture or more grain, if you are using conventional film. With the D1x there is no significant noise up to an ISO of 800. It's possible to set the ISO all the way to 3,200, but this will result in noise. 800, however, is a very high film speed indeed and there just isn't that much noise being produced by the camera.

In fact, while I could set up a situation that would show the noise at 800, under all but the most extreme conditions, no noise is visible. In this scenario, I merely rotate the main control wheel while holding down the ISO button and I still have time to catch the deer clearing the forest and hopefully making a good shot. The auto-focus lens don't hurt either.

Another reason this shot is possible is that with this high-end camera there is no "shutter lag". Shutter lag is the bane of consumer digital cameras. There is a delay, short or long, while the camera prepares to make the shot. Shutter lag is non-existent or at least not measurable to the user with this camera. Also, many consumer grade digital cameras may have an option for "burst" mode, meaning taking five shots in a row while you hold down the shutter release, but none will allow you to simply squeeze off shots as fast as you can push the button. This is something only higher end machines can do. Consumer cameras all have a wait time while in single mode. This time can vary but is always at least 15 or 20 seconds if not more.

Another important option of this camera is the mode of adjusting for light. The D1x allows three different settings. The first is called by Nikon, "3D Matrix mode". With this option on, set by a three-position lever conveniently located on the top-front of the camera, the camera adjusts according to various samples of light selected from 1,000 points in the entire image area. This method is incredible. I am used to areas of my image being too dark or too light, especially in a background of mixed sunlight and shade. Using 3D Matrix mode results are incredibly well-balanced. Truly stunning images. Nikon claims that this mode imitates the human eye and except for some odd situations I found this claim to be true. The second method is called, "Center Weight". The settings are still made from samples throughout the entire image area but more weight is given to a user-defined center. This mode can come in handy but is the least useful of the three modes. Finally there is "Spot Meter mode". In this mode only a tiny area of the image is used to set the various controls of the camera. It is very useful, for example in shooting birds in flight. Normally the brightness of the sky would make your target bird very under-exposed, but using spot metering allows the film to be exposed for the actual target and not the entire image. There are quite a few other uses for this mode. Generally I shoot in 3D Matrix mode but can easily switch to Spot Metering mode.

[Photo: Seagull 1]


[Photo: Seagull 2]

The two images above would be very difficult to take with a consumer camera but are relatively easy with the D1x.

Power for this camera is provided by a proprietary battery. One is supplied with the camera and I've purchased two additional batteries. At roughly $100 a piece they are not cheap. However, the batteries provide much better life than the normal AA batteries that power most cameras. I can expect about 120 TIFF files, even with a motorised lens, from each battery. An AC adapter, which should have been provided with the camera, is optional and costs another $100. It should come with the camera because the only way you can clean this camera is by using the AC adapter to hold the lens curtain open while you spray the inside (delicately, very delicately) with air to remove dust. In the consumer cameras the machine is sealed, but the interchangeable lens cameras expose the insides to dust every time you change lenses. No matter how careful you are, after a while some dust gets into the camera. Once the dust accumulates the resulting images can be described as artistic - little irregular dots appear. Somehow clients or your mother do not appreciate this artistic rendition. So every once in a while cleaning is necessary.

If you've noticed I've been referring to "film", when actually I mean various kinds of digital memory. The D1x can use either Type 1 or 2 Compact Flash cards or the miniature hard drives. I use 1 GB IBM Micro Drives and 500 and 640 MB Compact Flash cards. With a 1 GB card I can shoot 60 TIFF files or hundreds and hundreds of JPEGs without changing the "film". Nikon makes use of one additional format called NEF (Nikon Electronic Format). While the other formats, TIFF or JPEG, are useable by any Atari (as long as you have a SCSI card reader) NEF files require special software and has unusual advantages and some disadvantages compared to the other formats. I should add that the Nikon has no serial port, only Firewire, so the SCSI card reader is absolutely required for Atari users.

As I've mentioned, many settings of the camera are determined by the user taking advantage of the built-in software of the camera. When a TIFF or JPEG is taken these settings (such as sharpening) are embedded in the image. While you can manipulate an image later on with your computer's software, this is never quite as good as getting it right the first time. The NEF format allows the user to change these settings after the image is taken. Another aspect of your image that can be changed in the NEF format is the exposure level. You can go up or down two f stops after the image is taken. White balance can also be changed after the image is taken. These are things I simply didn't know were possible. In essence the NEF format is raw digital data that with a simple editing program can be altered according to user control.

The disadvantage of this format is that the entire process is slow. The software supplied by Nikon requires two minutes just to bring the image up to be manipulated (450 MHz PowerMac G4). Nikon now includes a simple editing program for NEF format images but the entire process is ridiculously cumbersome. PCs have an advantage over Macs in this regard. Loading NEF images is twice as fast on a comparable PC than a Mac. Even so it is slow. I should pause and mention that an Atari developer is now attempting to develop software which would allow Atari computers to make use of this format, but at this moment I can say no more and certainly make no promises. I suspect that if such software is developed it will be far faster than on either a Mac or PC.

Personally I make use of a shareware program called, "Bibble", which is far superior to the bundled Nikon software and cost me an additional $100. Even so, I rarely shoot in NEF for even Bibble takes a full minute to minimally process a NEF file. From time to time when I know that every shot will count I use this format and I'm always astounded by its options.

The Nikon D1x has no built-in flash, but is compatible with any flash unit that works with Nikon cameras. There are settings to fully synchronize the flash up to a shutter speed of 500. Once again I will point out that when you purchase this machine you are purchasing the camera body only. You have to go out and purchase your own lenses. Aside from Nikon lenses various companies make Nikon compatible glass - all good lenses cost serious money. Still, the investment raises your picture-taking ability to another level. Whereas before I purchased the Nikon I could only take out-of-focus photographs of the backs of people's heads, now the backs of people's heads are alive with detail. In other words, having a good camera is no guarantee of a good picture. This brings up the topic of the "low-end" camera, the Olympus 520z.

The Olympus 520z
As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, I purchased this machine as an "expendable" camera. It has a two Megapixel sensor which results in images that are 1,600 x 1,200 pixels in size. You can also shoot in 640 x 480 mode, and choose between TIFF and various levels of JPEG quality. This camera has a built-in 3x power zoom which is equivalent to 35 mm to 105 mm. The human eye is the equivalent of a 50 mm lens, so you can go from wide angle to a 2x enlargement. There is also a built-in flash which works fairly well up to 15 feet. Unlike more expensive consumer cameras there is no way to add extensions to the built-in lens. Since I've owned such cameras, you're not missing too much although I must admit that from time to time I miss this feature. While the add-ons are not of a high quality compared to owning a dedicated lens, if this was my only camera it would be a more serious factor.

This is a point-and-shoot camera. All focusing is done automatically from 31 inches to infinity. However, there is a macro mode which allows focusing down to eight inches. Since you are looking at your subject through a parallel viewfinder instead of the lens, in macro mode you will not see what you are actually shooting. Olympus thoughtfully allows focusing using the built-in LCD monitor, which is seeing the world through the lens. The macro mode is excellent and results in superb images. In fact the camera does an excellent job of focusing in any mode. The images are far better than I expected.

The lens on this camera is protected by a hard metal cover. The camera is turned on by sliding the cover to expose the lens, which then pops out. Turning the camera off simply means sliding the cover back. This means I can carry this machine in a relatively casual manner without worrying about damaging the lens.

User-selectable settings include white balance, image resolution, flash settings between red eye reduction, flash only when required, always use flash and flash off. There is a little pop-up flash, and it pops up when you open the camera. I can also set the ISO from 100 to 200, 400. You can choose between normal metering and spot metering. Normal metering works quite well, if not comparable to the Nikon, as does the spot metering option.

White balance
A little digression about white balance is in order. A camera knows what colors are being captured based on what "white" is. In a green forest, white is quite different than in the interior of your apartment. Is your apartment lit by incandescent light or florescent light? In all of these cases and others, white changes. This is also referred to as the "temperature" of light. So professional photographers carry around a card which is white or for that matter neutral gray, to determine and set the white balance. Both the Nikon and the Olympus allow setting the white balance on "auto", letting the software determine what white is, or they have optional settings for bright sunlight, shade, incandescent or florescent light and so on. The Nikon also allows for custom white balance. You focus on your white balance card, the shutter opens, without actually taking a picture, and you've created a custom setting. The Olympus, while it has no custom setting, actually has a better auto white balance option than the Nikons - a real surprise! While with the Nikon I am always careful to use one of the white balance options, never shooting in auto mode, with the Olympus, auto mode works flawlessly! I've never had to take the camera out of auto mode, while with the Nikon, setting the proper white balance is a serious consideration.

Learning to use the Olympus
The manual for this camera leaves much to be desired. While the camera is not particularly complex, it has some idiosyncrasies which the manual does a very poor job of explaining. While $269 is a cheap price for such a camera, we really deserve more than a 32-page manual, and a poorly thought out manual as well! Once the camera is properly set, actually using it is simplicity itself. Some of the settings can be permanently set but unlike the Nikon the built-in battery of the Olympus will only maintain these settings for two minutes once the main batteries run out. So I have two sets of the four AA batteries this camera uses. I might add that you must invest in rechargeable batteries or your battery cost will exceed the cost of film in a conventional camera. The batteries will get you about about 100 high quality JPEG shots before running out, so you can expect to be able to do a full day's worth of shooting without worrying about power consumption.

[Photo: Chato standing in river]

Who says you can't take good pictures with cheap cameras? The Olympus 510 strikes back!

[Photo: Close-up of Chato standing in river]

Shooting a white dog presents its own problems. In this crop of the preceding image we can see that the highlights are being "blown" (lost) as the camera adjusts for the entire display. All things considered, the Olympus does a fine job of retaining detail.

The "film" used by the Olympus is the 3.5 V Smart Media card and can use sizes up to 128 MB. Since a TIFF from the highest resolution creates a 6 MB file, you should carry around extra film. On the other hand the highest mode of JPEG is quite good, creating 1.5 MB files and the quality is excellent. I shoot in high JPEG and this is probably a good choice.

Finally, while the camera itself is laid out in a manner which makes shooting and zooming quite easy, there is one real problem. When the machine is actually turned on you can check what the various settings are by viewing the icons displayed in the monitor. This display is not well thought out, and if I decide to change one setting I'm never sure if I've also changed other settings. So this results in a delay while I run through them again to make sure I've really selected the right setting. This is not a question of Olympus saving money on the machine, it's just poorly thought out.

As I've mentioned before I was not expecting high quality images from this camera. I was definitely wrong. The images are of an extremely high quality and at 1,600 x 1,200 can easily be used to make 8 x 10 prints. Even larger if software interpolation is used. For Atari users you must purchase a SCSI card reader. The camera comes with no serial port (only USB), no way to download the images from the camera to the computer (has anyone tried with one of those Adaptec USB to SCSI convertors? - Ed). Only by attaching a card reader to your SCSI connection can you use the pictures. This is, in fact, the way I download images from either the Nikon or Olympus. SCSI is much faster than either serial or USB. It's even faster than Firewire used by the Nikon.

One other option of this camera deserves mention. It has a video option! You can take 15 or 30 second videos, depending on the selected image size. There is no sound but the videos, while not up to the quality of a dedicated video camera, are quite good. I really paid no attention to this option before acquiring the camera, and the resulting videos are certainly not professional quality. But it's really a lot of fun. Any of the Atari video programs will have no problem viewing these "movies".

[Photo: Olympus wide angle]


[Photo: Nikon wide angle]

The above two images illustrate the quality of the Olympus rather than the Nikon. But look below at the next set of images.

[Photo: Olympus detail]


[Photo: Nikon detail]

The cropped version of the Olympus does not stand up to enlarging, while the Nikon, primarily because of its sensor and not other quality factors, holds up quite well.

What else is out there?
On the consumer level, there are hundreds and hundreds of choices. For less than $300, you can't go wrong with the Olympus discussed above. It rivals or beats most of the competition in that price category. For under $1,000 choices proliferate. There are many excellent cameras made by everyone and their mother-in-law. They have 5+ Megapixel sensors, excellent optics and a slew of options. Their limitation, of course, is the lens that comes with camera and the lack of flexibility that implies. Even the best of these cameras also come with the problems of shutter lag. While some have continuous mode shooting, none allow taking pictures in single mode as fast as you press the shutter release button. This is my preferred mode of shooting. On the high end there are only two choices. The Nikon D1x and the Canon 1D. They are comparable in price and for that matter comparable in quality. The Canon has a 4 Megapixel sensor, but on the other hand allows shooting at the rate of eight images a second. Either one of these cameras would have no doubt pleased me. I choose the Nikon because Canon was suffering from production problems which have, four months later, been ironed out. There are two other professional choices. The Contax N and the Kodak DCS-760. The Kodak, an older machine, simply doesn't have the flexibility of the Nikon or Canon, while the Contax suffers from the same problems of the Kodak and is, at the moment, full of internal software bugs. The Contax has one advantage over its competitors.

[Photo: Olympus macro]

Macro mode with the Olympus 510z.

[Photo: Nikon macro]

Macro mode with the Nikon D1x. The lens for this shot was the Sigma 180 mm, F3.6 macro lens. All other Nikon images were shot with the Tamron 28-105 mm, F2.8 lens.

The focal length multiplier problem

I've described the Olympus as having a 35 mm to 105 mm lens. This is not quite accurate. The actual lens is 5.4mm to 16.2 mm. The larger numbers are equivalents. Since the physical size of the sensor in these cameras is smaller than physical film the angle at which light hits the sensor multiplies the resulting image size. With the Nikon this factor is 1.5, with the Canon 1.3. In practice this means a 50 mm Nikon lens behaves as if it was a 75 mm lens (1.5 x 50 = 75). The sensor on the Canon, even though it has less receptors, is actually larger than the one used by Nikon so the FLM (Focal Length Multiplier) is 1.3 instead of 1.5. The user deals with this problem by selecting lenses, while keeping this factor in mind. So if one wants a 35 mm wide angle lens you must purchase a 24mm lens (24 x 1.5 = 36 mm). On the other hand it also means that my telephoto lens becomes much more powerful. Actual resolution or resolving power is not lost, so it simply becomes something to keep in consideration. The Contax is the first digital camera which uses a sensor whose size matches the size of 35 mm film and therefore has no FLM factor. However, as I've mentioned, the camera has other problems.

The prosumer category
There is also a new category of cameras just released. They form the "prosumer" category. These cameras make use of standard interchangeable lenses and many, if not all, the options of the "pro" cameras. They have the same high Megapixel capability. They lack some of the features of the pro cameras, but not many, and are considerably cheaper, costing around $2,000. They are not built as tough. I've already dropped my Nikon with no ill effects (you should have been there to hear the screams). The body of the D1x is heavily protected from damage and for that matter you can shoot in a rain storm, the camera is proofed against casual water damage. The higher end cameras have a faster response but not by much. They have larger buffer sizes. For example the new Nikon D100 prosumer camera has a buffer of four or six images depending on format, compared to the buffer of the D1x, which is six or nine images. Expect all these machines to come down in price. Such machines are made by Nikon, Canon and Fuji. There is also the scheduled release of a prosumer camera by Sigma and this camera is going to be using a completely new kind of sensor.

The Foveon chip
Conventional CCD sensors make use of layers to capture and interpret light and color information. As light enters the sensors it passes through these layers and the resulting information is interpolated by the built-in camera software to create the correct RGB display. The new Foveon chip does not use this layered approach, rather each built-in receiver on the sensor is capable of determining the color of the entering light. According to the information I've read, and samples I've seen, from pre-production models, a 3 Megapixel Foveon sensor is the equivalent of a 6 Megapixel conventional sensor. In addition, under certain conditions, conventional sensors can create patterns of noise that resemble moiré patterns in conventional
printing. This is a result of the software interpolation. In the two professional cameras I've talked about this problem is minimal but it shows up to a greater extent in the consumer and prosumer cameras. The Foveon sensor eliminates this problem. Still, at the moment there is no camera out there that uses this chip. The Sigma, a 3 Megapixel Foveon camera, is scheduled for release in September, so we shall have to wait and see. I should add that moiré patterns are not a significant problem in any of the digital cameras I've used and I've owned many.

One of the characteristics of just about all digital cameras is the built-in monitor. It's one of the selling points of these cameras. They truly come in handy, but the truth is, they are overrated. That goes for the best and worst. Why am I being so negative, you might ask?

Monitors are billed as having the ability to check your images after they are taken. This is not quite true. Yes the monitor will tell you if the image is properly framed but it won't tell you if the image is in focus. Sure if you focused on a flower two feet away and had the camera set on infinity, you'll see the difference, even in the little LCD screen. But if that same flower is just barely out of focus, you simply will not see the difference, yet the image is unuseable. Both the Nikon and Olympus have the ability to enlarge areas of the image in the monitor. I still can't tell if the focus is perfect!

What are monitors good for? They are great for showing kids and girlfriends how they look in a picture. They are also good for showing my dog what he looks like. There is another aspect where they really come in handy and that is if you are shooting an action sequence and wish to check if the photos are properly framed. Can't beat instant replay for that purpose. In addition, for cameras like the Olympus, which use a viewfinder instead of TTL (Through The Lens) optical display, from time to time, especially for macro shots, the monitor is indispensable. Without the monitor on the Olympus it would be impossible to take these images. On a camera like the D1x I could easily survive without a monitor although I do enjoy impressing the dog.

As I said at the beginning of this article, the reviews are not meant as a head-to-head comparison of the two cameras. That being said, doesn't the Olympus take wonderful pictures? Since my Nikon cost me over $7,000, counting in the costs of four lenses, a carry bag, and a trip to my psychiatrist, is it worth the extra $6,700 over the Olympus? The answer depends on your needs and also how stupid you are. In my case it was sheer stupidity that prevailed. I don't want to delve into this question too deeply. I will merely say that I am happy with both cameras and take advantage of the Nikon's ability to take pictures that would be impossible without it. However a good photographer could probably take better images with the Olympus than I can with the Nikon.

Still, as an extenuating circumstance, I purchased this camera to make art. My art is created in rendering/modelling programs and the textures that I place on these created shapes are made from photographs. The more detailed the photo, the better my work appears.

[Image: Broken Forest]

Broken Forest, 16 x 20, ink, Epson 3000.


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MyAtari magazine - Feature #6, July 2002

Copyright 2002 MyAtari magazine