Digital Photography Pros and Con

In April of 2002 I bought a Canon D60 six megapixel digital camera, which is before this camera was widely available - most stores had to put it on backorder at this time.   Up to this time I had been using Pentax equipment, mostly a MZ-5 body and a newly acquired Z-1 body, together with Tokina ATX 150-500mm manual focus lens, Pentax 100mm macro lens, Sigma 15-30mm lens, and a host of others.   Since I do a lot of long lens photography of birds and airshows, I usually used ISO 400 film.

The main motivations for me to change from analog to digital came from a trip to Costa Rica which I made in January of 2002.   The hassles involved in getting 80 rolls of film through arrogant American airport security, and the time-consuming tedium of cataloguing the negatives, then scanning and removing the dust marks from the photos convinced me that it was time to make the leap.   The appearance of the D60 at a ground-breaking price helped to seal a decision which I thought was still 2 years away.   Since Pentax still didn't have a digital SLR, it was inevitable that I would be changing manufacturers, and Canon had impressed me with their technological advances, like eye-controlled focus and image stabilization.   The image stabilization feature was a significant deciding factor for me, and my disappointing results photographing flying birds at Isla Pajaros also made auto-focus a major additional benefit.  However, since these two things have nothing to do with the camera body being digital or analog, I won't discuss them further here.

One of the greatest advantages of digital is the ability to instantly know whether your exposure is any good.   The D60 can be configured to display an image immediately after capture, together with a histogram showing how much of the photograph is at the 18% "correct" exposure, as well as how much is below 18%, and how much above.   This feature is so useful that when I'm using a regular film camera, I find myself looking at the back of the camera after taking a shot, even though there's no LCD there!   Although it's less accurate than the histogram, you can also zoom into the image to a limited amount, and gauge whether the main subject of the photo is properly exposed.

Another advantage is the ability to change the effective ISO rating of the camera at any time.   When there's enough light then you can set the ISO low for maximum quality, and if you lose light then you can set it higher.   This is a very useful ability at an airshow, when clouds move in and out of the area.   Unfortunately, the photo quality degrades fairly quickly as you make the ISO number higher.   I'd have to be fairly desperate to use ISO 800, or the camera's top rating of ISO 1000.   Nevertheless, in some circumstances it does make sense, such as for a photo I took of the inside of St Paul's Cathedral, in London.

One thing you can't do, at least on the D60, is judge whether the photo is really sharply focussed.   The number of pixels on the LCD is far less than the number of pixels on the sensor, and the D60 doesn't let you zoom in far enough to check the focus.   The Canon 1Ds is better, but by default the zoom feature is disabled and you have to use a firewire connection to enable it, which I didn't have for about 6 months after buying the camera.   The prosumer 10D is much better than either the D60 or the 1Ds, both in allowing you to zoom and with the ease of navigating around the zoomed photo.