03-18-2014 09:17 AM
I'm searching for a good P&S camera. I'm currently using a Sony Cybershot and Nokia 808.
I'm quite satisfied with my Nokia 808 result as it can take good pictures and make 1080p videos.
The main reason to invest in a new equipment is that I want to purchase DSLR sometime in future. I want the following features in the camera and I've been googling for a while but can't find something which fulfills my list.
-Fast Auto-focus (required for shooting children?)
-Manual Control - like controlling the Aperture setting
-Can take Bokeh pics
-Has articulated screen for taking selfie shots
If a P&S can do the above, please suggest me a model otherwise a DSLR which is good for beginners and shooting children.
03-18-2014 12:40 PM
While advanced point & shoot cameras (like the Canon Powershot G series) do offer full manual control and have articulated screens, they lack the ability to compete in the auto-focus and narrow depth of field categories.
"Bokeh" is a bit of an abused term... I'll try to describe. When a camera focuses on a subject which we'll suppose is 10' away from the camera, it turns out that subjects a little closer or a little farther may also be acceptably focused -- not just the subject at 10' away. HOW much more depends on the size of the aperture opening in the lens. The larger the opening in the lens (which we refer to as the "aperture") the narrower the zone in which subjects will appear to be more or less acceptably focused. The tinier the opening, the greater the area of acceptable focus. And this makes sense if you consider that a "pinhole" camera (technically it has no lens... just use a pin and punch a hole into a shoebox) can render somewhat focused images with absolutely no lens at all... because the opening is the size of a pin.
Incidentally, the size of this range in which subjects appear to be acceptably focused is referred to as the "depth of field". You'll sometimes see photographers just refer to this as "DoF" - an abbreviation for Depth of Field.
There are a few attributes, however, which come into play. It turns out the tinier the sensor, the more difficult it is to achieve this limited / narrow focus (narrow DoF). Also, it's more difficult to do with a wide angle lens, but relatively easy to do with a long focal length lens. Finally... the DoF is naturally narrower when focused distances are very close. The DoF naturally becomes more broad when the subject distance is very far away.
While a DSLR immedaitely offers you a substantially larger sensor size (which is a major factor in being able to create this shallow depth of field), it does not necessarily include a lens that creates a strongly blurred out of focus area. But the next advantage that a DSLR has going for it is that it offers removeable and interchangeable lenses.
If you were to use, say, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, it would be able to produce a very narrow depth of field with a very strong out of focus effect.
One more thing on this topic... when a single point of light is blurred, that light blurs in the shape of the aperture opening. Lens makers typically attempt to achieve fairly round-ish aperture openings. But to create a very round aperture opening requires more aperture blades.
Canon makes a very low cost 50mm lens which many refer to as the "nifty fifty". It is so named because the lens is extremely affordable (it's about $125 for this lens.) The emphasis on this lens is all about the affordability factor. This means Canon does not use their fastest focusing motors... it's focus is noticeably slower and noiser than the other lenses in the line. It also feels significantly more "plastic" whereas the other lenses feel much more solid. It feels cheap because, in fact, it IS cheap. But there's no shame in this... the optical quality of the lens is actually extremely good. But there is one other aspect which is important when someone says they want to be able to create "bokeh" and that is the shape of the lens aperture. The nifty fifty lens (specifically this is the EF 50mm f/1.8) only has 5 aperture blades. As the aperture opens and closes on this lens, it creates a pentagon shaped opening.
Consequently, when this lens creates out of focus blur, that blur takes on a pentagon shape and as blur overlaps blur, you get some directionality to the blur rather than a smooth creamy blur.
Photographers sometimes refer to this as having a "nervous" or "jittery" quality to the blur.
When photographers talk about "bokeh" they are not referring to the strength of the blur per se... but rather to the overall quality of that blur.
The EF 50mm f/1.4 USM (not the f/1.8) is a slightly more expensive 50mm lens with a better build quality, faster focus motors, but it has an 8 bladed aperture. This lens produces out of focus blur that is a bit more rounded and as such, it creates a creamier and smoother quality which is more desirable.
While we're on the topic of "bokeh" and how aperture shape is extremely important to the quality of the blur, we can go a step further and talk about "designer bokeh" (yes... there really is such a thing.) It turns out that once you know the blur occurs based on the shape of the aperture opening, you can use this to an extreme. Search the web for terms such as "DIY designer bokeh" and you'll find LOADS of examples (and tutorials.)
If you were to buy any of the Canon Rebel camera bodies (the Rebel bodies are all in the entry-level category... but some have more features than others) that include a "kit" lens, that kit lens will be an Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS (and some may also include "STM" which is a faster and quieter focus motor design -- depending on which Rebel camera you buy). These lenses will only produce a mild out of focus blur quality -- probably no the extreme that you are interested in. At, say 50mm, these lenses offer an f/5.6 focal ratio as their lowest possible focal ratio -- whereas the 50mm non-zoom lenses can offer as low as f/1.8 or even f/1.4 (lower is better). I have a Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM ... that lenses relatively long-ish focal length combined with it's extremely low focal ratio generates so much "cream" in the shot that a person could get diabetes just looking at the images. ;-)
You also asked about focus speed. Really it's the whole delay from the time you press the shutter button until the time the camera actually takes the photo. More light really helps the camera in these situations (cameras are always slower to focus in the dark -- and sometimes fail to focus if it's too dark). Currently, DSLR cameras tend to be extremely fast in this category because of the unique way in which the focus system works on these cameras.
DSLRs use a system called "phase detect" auto-focus -- which is extremely fast because when it samples focus, the computer can instantly determine exactly how far out of focus the lens is and if it's out of focus because it is focused too close vs too far. These special focus sensors are not part of the camera's imaging sensor. They are actually located on the floor of the camera and the reflex mirror inside a DSLR bounces some light into those sensors to allow for this focus.
A point & shoot does not have a mirror so it can't bounce light onto these special sensors. Point & shoot cameras uses a system called "contrast detect" auto-focus which tries to make the maximum contrast difference between adjacent pixels to determine when an image is focused. If you imagine a bar-code pattern which is in sharp focus, you might have one pixel which is compeltely black next to another pixel which is completely white (very strong contrast difference between adjacent pixels.) But if that same barcode is not focused, you get a gradual transmition from black to white (with many grays). In other words... the more rapid the contrast change, the more likely that the image is correctly focused.
The downside of this system is that unlike the phase-detect system, when an image is not in focus, the camera does not actually know which way to adjust focus to improve it. It has to guess. It also does not know precisely how far it has to adjust focus. Again... it has to guess. This results in a slower focus system with some "focus hunt".
Recently, however, Canon has developed a way to make this "phase detect" focus system work directly on the imaging sensor itself. A few Canon point & shoot models have early versions of this system with improved focus speeds... but nowhere near what a DSLR can do. The new Canon 70D DSLR camera has the best example of this new system with it's new dual-pixel AF system directly on the sensor. That camera (and really only that camera) is able to provide impressivly responsive focusing directly on the sensor when shooting in "live view" mode.
You can probably expect that future generations of Canon cameras will start to get this new technology -- but today the 70D is pretty much the best example of it. But the 70D is a DSLR and not a point & shoot.
If you wanted something today and wanted to keep things as affordable as possible, then the Canon SL1 with a kit lens but also add to that the EF 50mm f/1.8 "nifty fifty" lens would be a good way to start.
The T3 and T5 are less expensive, but do not include the articulated LCD screen. The T3i and T5i do include an articulated screen, but so does the SL1. The SL1 is an EOS Rebel DSLR just like the others, but with some emphasis on making the body as small and as light as possible. Depending on the size of your hands and comfort you may want a larger camera body, in which case look at the T3i or T5i.
If you can afford the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, then choose this over the 50mm f/1.8 lens. The USM lenses use Canon's ultra-sonic motors and they are much snappier at focus (not to mention quieter.) The build quality is better. But the big feature for your needs is that the apeture shape and overall "bokeh" quality is noticeably better.
03-18-2014 01:25 PM
Thanks a LOT really! that's too much detail to digest in one go... :-)
70D is quite expensive so I won't be talking about it... Rebel SL1 seems like an affordable option (780 usd with 18-55mm lens).
As for the additional lens, I think I'll go with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II which is around 120 usd as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is around 425 usd here.
You haven't mentioned 600D or 60D, are they no good?
03-18-2014 01:32 PM
If you check the review on this site, they compare the out-of-focus blur on the 50mm f/1.8 vs the f/1.4 vs. the f/1.2L.
You'll notice that the blur in the background (which I think may be tall grasses) look a bit "segmented" in the 50mm f/1.8. They look a little less segmented in the 50mm f/1.4. And of course they look best in the 50mm f/1.2L (but then that is a $1500-1600 lens and I suppose for that much money, it SHOULD look better!) :-)