I have a new article on "Creating Photo Vision and Style in the Sinai" at Apogee Photo Magazine.
There is a very nice review of my book, Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt's Wilderness, in Africa Geographic.
I have a guest post, Shooting tips from the Egyptian wilderness with Dr. O!, at Imaging-Resource.com on numerous lessons learned about gear as a result of publishing my book and calendar.
I have always been intrigued by superzoom cameras. The allure is understanding, as many models offer a zoom range from a wide-angle focal length from around 24 mm to a superzoom focal length over 1000 mm in a portable and affordable camera. The allure was often too good be true as image quality was usually poor, the lenses were slow, often with an F-stop of 6.5, and the zooms were often prone to malfunction if sand or dirt found its way into the lens barrel.
I actually have an affinity for high end point and shoots cameras. In fact, just over half of the photographs in my calendar, Sinai, and roughly 20 % of the photographs in my book, Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt's Wilderness, were photographed with a point and shoot camera. The image quality from point and shoot cameras have crossed an image quality threshold in which they are good enough for publication purposes. I am less concerned about noise in desert landscapes because the desert is a naturally grainy environment.
I have always been intrigued by the Fuji FinePix S1 camera because of its extremely useful zoom range between 24 mm – 1200 mm, a reasonable F-stop of 5.6 at 1200 mm, and weather resistant body. I finally had the opportunity to test the Fuji Finepix S1 during a weekend trip to Wadi Rum, Jordan. I will only briefly touch upon a few of the more important aspects of the camera.
The image quality at ISO 100 is reasonably good if you know what to expect out of a 1/2.3-inch sized sensor. The detail and quality of the photographs are not on par with the larger sensor cameras as expected, but the image quality is good enough for publication purposes. In good light, the raw files of the landscape photographs could be processed for a reasonably higher quality output than JPEGs, with nicer colors and sharpness while noise is relatively controlled. Images are still good at ISO 200, but I would not use any ISO over 400 as the image degradation is noticeable from noise and lack of detail.
Taking photographs with a 1200 mm lens has many challenges regardless of the camera. Keeping the lens stable is such a key component of image quality at this focal length. The image stabilization in the camera works remarkably well at 1200 mm as I never used a tripod. The camera is comfortable to handhold with an SLR-like body plan with a nice rubberized grip. At 1200 mm, the raw files of birds and lizards are also pretty good in nice, even light.
The biggest drawback of the Finepix S1, like other superzooms, is the small viewfinder which can be borderline useless at times. I often could not tell if a bird in a shrub was in focus or if the camera focused on a branch instead. Autofocus was more successful in simple backgrounds like a bird against a sky or a lizard on the bare ground as the animal was usually in focus.
Overall, I would not hesitate to use the Finepix S1 as long I worked within its limitations. Improved viewfinders would be a game changer in superzooms and the Finepix S1.
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