Sunday, November 03, 2013


The bad news is - my camera is dead. I got caught in a mini hurricane on the way to work Friday morning and it got soaked along with me. I tried several drying-out methods, but it's a deadster. And I can't afford a new camera at the moment; I make enough money to pay the bills and eat fairly healthily, and occasionally afford a Kindle book or an iTunes album, but that's it. When tax return time comes I'll be able to get something like what just died, but that looks to be sometime in February. 

So that leaves me with the built-in camera in my smart phone. Now, don't mistake me; it's a good camera for what it is. It's a Samsung Galaxy S4, 5" screen, 12 megapixels, a 4x zoom, and some at least rudimentary controls. But it has some serious limitations: the f-stop setting seems to be limited to ƒ/2.2 (at least, I haven't yet found something that lets me change the f-stop), which is awful shallow and created problems with faraway objects. Related to that, the focal length seems to be limited to 4.2 mm; again, very, very shallow. Both of these mean the panoramic mountain, meadow, and farmland shots I like to take will be problematic at best because of a lack of focal depth; I've tried and had limited success, but it's sporadic and iffy. And I won't be able to use anything I take with the phone camera in any of my calendars or photo books on; print standard resolution is at minimum 150 pixels per inch (ppi), and this camera is stuck at the web standard of 72 ppi, which makes awful prints. And there's no way to control ISO ratings, which are automatic but all seem to be below 100 ISO, which means I can't adjust "film" speed to the lighting conditions; no low light shots without flash, which I do really well and like working with.

There are other limitations with have more to do with my own working style. I can't use it for low light, no flash shots for another reason - there's no way to use a tripod with this thing. I do note that there's a night setting in the Modes menu, and I'll have to play with that and see how it works. But I also use the tripod for other things, like slow shots using neutral density filters to turn waterfalls and fountains into flowing silk. Which brings up the next limitation: no way to attach filters. It was a really bright day today and I would have loved to have been able to use my circular polarizing filter to tone things down a little and get rid of glare. No way to attach filters means I also have no way to use my teleconverter or wide angle lenses. And worst of all, at least for me, is no macro setting or way to attach a macro lens; which means for the time being my ultra close-ups of bugs and tiny flowers are out. That hurts!

So for the time being I'm going to have to learn how to use the limitations of the Samsung's camera for my online stuff to keep from going crazy until February. Especially this week, since I'm on vacation through next Sunday and plan to hike around a bit. I did some playing today to see what I could do or get away with. Some of the shots I got give me hope that there are ways to work with the limitations and get some decent shots. Here are the results.

Fall color in the swamp in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. This sort of middle-distance focus seems to work well.
The path around the swamp in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. Middle and close focus works well.
The upland meadow with Blue Mountain in the background. This worked surprisingly well, and I was surprised at how well the mountain turned out. But those trees in the middle go in and out of focus, and that bothers me.
Organic objects on my Earth Altar. This camera excels in this kind of indoor photography.
A terracotta dragon candlestick in my workroom.

© 2013 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. Sorry to hear about your camera, but you're certainly making the best out of what you have. No surprise there...