Landscape Photography on a Budget??

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BSquared
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Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by BSquared » Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:08 am

Mav recently posted a link to a website I'd not seen before called "cameradecision.com", and it rates cameras for a number of specific uses, such as portrait, sports, and so on. One of the categories is "landscape," and as far as I could tell, virtually no inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras scored above "bad" on landscape, despite scoring quite acceptably in several other areas (the specific areas depending on which particular point-and-shoot I looked at). Their top compact cameras for landscape photography were all in the $1000-and-up range. (To be absolutely fair, there were two in the $900 range.)

So my fundamental question is, are those of us who carry these small, inexpensive cameras (most of us, I'm guessing) simply doomed to produce nothing but mediocre landscape photographs, or are there *any* cameras in the few-hundred-dollar range that can do pretty well? And more generally, what should one look for that would make any given camera good for landscape photography? Reading between the lines at cameradecision.com suggests that manual exposure and focus, good wide-angle capability, RAW capability, and a large sensor are all important factors, and it looks like with a little searching, one can find all but the large sensor without breaking the bank. What do you think?
Last edited by BSquared on Tue May 08, 2018 1:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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wildhiker
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by wildhiker » Thu Apr 26, 2018 12:12 am

It depends. It really does. "Good for landscape photography" depends on what you plan to do with the photos. If you just plan to look at them on the screen and post them on websites, then any basic decent camera (say around $200) can be good enough. If you want to make poster-size prints, you will need a higher end camera with better optics and a larger sensor.

As a lifelong amateur photographer (but never a pro like many on this forum), I've always wanted some manual control for exposure and exposure compensation. A wide angle lens capability is really important for canyons and other tight spots, but some zoom capability is also needed. I've been taking my iPhone on day hikes for occasional photos, and my biggest gripe is that it is very wide-angle only. Ever since going digital in 2003, I've always looked for something in the "prosumer" point-and-shoot category ($300 to $500) because I'm just not going to carry the weight and bulk of an SLR anymore (did that with my film Pentax cameras in my younger days). One feature that I have found essential is an exposure histogram. This tells me right away if I've got significant over or under exposed areas, and I can then dial in some exposure compensation and retake it. I especially try to avoid blown-out highlights. My other big gripe with the point-and-shoots is the lack of a real viewfinder. It can be really hard to compose your photo on the screen in bright sunlight. And if you are older like me, you can't fix that by bringing the screen closer to your eye because you can't focus on anything closer than a foot away! One solution I have found is an aftermarket magnifier attached to a fold-away bracket that screws into the tripod screw hole. This allows me to get close to the screen so I can see it and my head blocks a lot of the ambient light and glare. But my next camera is definitely going to have an electronic viewfinder!

Another consideration is quality. You don't want your camera to fail in the middle of your big backpack trip. I started digital with Canon point and shoots. The first lasted 2 years, and the second 4 years. Then I switched to a Panasonic Lumix LX3 in 2009 and it is still going great. Of course, a lot of durability is just luck. Anyway, as a data point, I've really loved the LX3 and made many good poster size prints (with some editing and sharpening in Photoshop).

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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Apr 26, 2018 12:40 pm

So do you think a small tripod is worth the weight, when using a moderatly good compact camera? My camera has the screw on hole in the bottom to mount on a tripod. I too would love to have a view finder- it also is a great thrid point of contact for holding a camera steady. I really have trouble holding it steady with only two hands out in front of me. I never quite know what I am shooting since it is so hard to see the screen anyway. I just compensate by taking lots of pictures. Someone needs to make a camera designed specifically for aging baby boomers!

I am waiting for the day when I can use Google Glasses, wink, and a head mounted camera takes the photo. :D

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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by BSquared » Thu Apr 26, 2018 2:27 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:So do you think a small tripod is worth the weight
Excellent question! I've been wondering about that, too. I just pointed my Lumix DMC-TS10 out the window at a nice glistening pile of rocks (it's mud season here in VT), and it said it wanted to shoot at 1/80 sec, not *nearly* fast enough for a shot at maximum telephoto IMHO.
I am waiting for the day when I can use Google Glasses, wink, and a head mounted camera takes the photo. :D
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by maverick » Thu Apr 26, 2018 2:34 pm

I really have trouble holding it steady with only two hands out in front of me. I never quite know what I am shooting since it is so hard to see the screen anyway.
Someone needs to make a camera designed specifically for aging baby boomers!

Try shooting with a higher speed combined with a higher ISO, and wider aperture first. If that doesn't work, then a camera with in-camera or lens, image stabilization can help out in most cases. Some manufacturers have screen shades and magnifiers that can help somewhat for the other mentioned issues.

For serious landscape photography a tripod is mandatory, getting a tack sharp file, even in low light is imperative when you sell very large prints, just recently sold a piece 4' x 6', the slightest movement at these sizes will be magnified, making a file unusable.

With that said, a vast majority don't need that level of perfection from their prints, if you only place your photo's on the Web or occasionally produce photo's 16" x 20" (sometimes larger), a smaller camera will do the job just fine, but still pricey. As mentioned here on HST before, you have to seriously consider what the end results of your photo's will be used for, most folks purchase way more features then they will ever use or need, which is a big waste of money.

Manufacturer's put way to many features into camera's today, which takes away the photographers ability to control their artistic input, I don't want a camera's processor making artistic decisions for me! Which is why I set everything on my camera manually, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and lens focus, my vision needs to expressed in the art piece, not the camera's.
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by BSquared » Thu Apr 26, 2018 4:31 pm

Thanks for chiming in, Mav, and what you say makes a lot of sense (as usual). From what I've gathered from the net recently, however, control over white balance and focus, in particular, are pretty hard to find in a camera under $500, yes?

I do like to make prints, and 16 x 20 is my preferred format, largely because it seems like it's impossible to get the kind of detail I really want in an 8 x 10 print, although maybe I'm just not using the right printing service. A guy in a local camera shop that does custom printing suggested that the resolution of even the best photo printers wasn't going to give me the kind of crispness I fancy I remember from the old black-and-white 120-film days, but I'm certainly open to suggestions. Anyway, I find that my little DMC-TS10 just won't cut it with a print as large as 16 x 20, particularly if I need to do any cropping whatsoever.

*Sigh* I may just have to decide that I'm either a dedicated enough photographer to spring for a more serious camera or just settle for those mediocre landscape shots...
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by maverick » Thu Apr 26, 2018 4:54 pm

Take your photo's in raw, make sure you use a tripod, the file needs to be tack sharp, no sharpening, and send some of the ones you would like to enlarge to me, and I can prep them for you to print if you would like. Again, send only the raw file, not the converted to tiff or jpg file. :) pagoston@prioryca.org
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by BSquared » Thu Apr 26, 2018 5:26 pm

That's a generous offer, Mav, and I thank you very much. Alas, however, the Lumix DMC-TS10 doesn't do raw. I think I probably really do need to begin looking for another camera :derp:

So: where should I start? What do you think of the criteria that I put in my first post:
  • manual exposure and focus,
    good wide-angle capability,
    RAW capability, and
    large sensor
Anything I should add? Maybe a large sensor isn't really necessary? (That would sure cut the cost!)
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by maverick » Thu Apr 26, 2018 5:30 pm

Let me do some digging B2, have a another art show this weekend, but will have an answer for you next week. :)
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Post by SSSdave » Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:50 pm

Serious landscape photography without using a good tripod/head with professional adjustment features is hopelessly limited. A good tripod/head is key to improving landscape compositions because it forces one to slow down, be patient, and look at stable subject frames one can carefully adjust camera positions. Doing so over years one will learn much about subtle image aesthetics, especially the geometry of elements.

With digital cameras EVF's are far superior to LCD displays. And that is important because photography is about visuals so obviously being able to see subject well is going to help.

Post processing tools and skills are very important beyond an amateur level. What someone like this person can do to unprocessed images would make unfamiliar person's jaws drop.


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