Gary's Parries 08/10/06

October 8, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Gary's Parries | Comment |

Gary's ParriesThis week’s Gary’s Parries topics are:

1. In Search Of A ‘Versatile’ Non-SLR
2. Image 9877 And Counting
3. My First Ever Mistake

Introducing this week’s Gary’s Parries column. Everything you always wanted to know about digital cameras, but were afraid to ask. No question too difficult, or too easy. As a Senior Principal Software Engineer, and a former Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, as well as a recording studio owner/operator, inventor, and now, a digital camera enthusiast, GARY has more digital camera knowledge in his entire brain than most people have in their little finger. In the unlikely event that GARY would not know the answer to your question, he will answer it anyway, true to the spirit of the word “Parries”, a fencing term which, in this context, implies “cleverly evasive answers”. So let your imagination run wild. Email all your nagging digital camera questions to: , and then, En Garde!

You may also attach to your email an ORIGINAL PHOTO of your choosing. A preview of the photo will be displayed with your question, and a full-sized version will be just a click away. No personal information will be published with your question unless you specifically include it in the text or attached photo of your email, which may be further edited for grammar, content, or other reasons.


garys_parries_081006_q1.jpgHi Gary:

I do a lot of media consulting and have a small weekly newspaper client that wants to replace its film cameras with digital cameras. What would you recommend as a versatile, capable, and cost-effective solution in a non-SLR format?


*** ANSWER 1

Rob, to answer this question with any authority, I would need to know a bit more about your client’s intended use of the camera(s).

For example, with regard to the newspaper, do they shoot mostly close-ups, or do they also shoot long-range? Are they shooting action shots, portraits, landscapes, or all of the above? Do they want a camera more for indoor use or for outdoor use? Will the camera be exposed to inclement weather? Do they use an external flash? Do they use a tripod? What size prints do they use? Do they intend to routinely post-process their images, maybe even use RAW, or do they expect acceptable images directly from the camera? Do they want an attention grabbing, SLR-like camera, or a smaller, less conspicuous camera?

Your question specifically mentions ‘cameras’ plural. Does your client want multiple cameras, all of which must be versatile, or will a range of specialized cameras that are collectively versatile do? These are the types of issues that need to be addressed in order to recommend an optimal solution for your client.

If the newspaper is shooting an abundance of close-ups, they will want a lens with a 28mm wide end, maybe even wider. But this narrows down the field quite a bit, so if not needed, so much the better. If they are shooting mostly long-range, they will want a lens with at least 5x zoom, more likely 10 or 12x zoom, and image-stabilization. But unless they also want an SLR-like camera, this too narrows the field considerably.

If the newspaper shoots mostly action shots, they will want a particularly fast camera. This feature usually comes at a high price, so again, if not needed, so much the better. If they shoot landscapes, a 16:9 aspect ratio would be nice. If they shoot portraits, then a good quality ‘prime’ lens might be in order.

If your client needs a weatherproof camera, that feature should be placed at the top of the list. If your client needs to shoot indoors without a flash, then low image noise at high ISOs should be placed at the top of the list. If your client uses an external flash, a hot-shoe should be placed at the top of the list. If your client prints large images, then a high-resolution CCD and a quality lens should be placed at the top of the list. If your client intends to shoot RAW, that feature should be placed at the top of the list.

As you can see, since there are only so many features that can be placed at the top of a list, it would be very useful to know your client’s specific needs. Therefore, if you could resubmit this question with some answers to the questions I raised as to the type of shooting your client will be doing, that would be great.

If your answer is “ALL OF THE ABOVE,” then at least clarify whether your client needs multiple cameras that are ‘individually’ versatile, or multiple cameras that are ‘collectively’ versatile. It might also be helpful to know which film cameras are being replaced.

Rob, looking forward to your next Gary’s Parries email.



Busy week. Purchased 3 used cameras, and it occurred to me that, with the Canon EOS 20D I got yesterday, I really don’t know what kind of image count I can expect from it. This camera was just cleaned and checked by Canon, and while it already has a 9877 image count, it appears to have been well cared for, and from my test pictures this morning, seems to be working well.

I do know that professional cameras used to advertise about 150,000 pictures from their shutters before replacement/calibration was needed. I do not expect that Canon considers the 20D a “Pro” camera, but is there any way to anticipate its life expectancy?

Thank you for your help!

*** ANSWER 2

This may come as a shock, but the Canon EOS 20D’s file numbering system is NOT an indication of how many times the shutter has been actuated. A 20D with a file number of IMG_9877 could just as easily be the camera’s first image as it could its 9877th image. Allow me to explain.

If you take a BRAND NEW 20D right out of the box, put in a previously used Compact Flash card whose last image is labeled IMG_9876, perform the required start-up procedures (with the camera’s file numbering set to Continuous and its color space set to sRGB), and then snap the camera’s FIRST IMAGE, its file number will be IMG_9877.

Similarly, if you take a BRAND NEW 20D right out of the box, put in a BRAND NEW Compact Flash card, perform the required start-up procedures, shoot 10 images so that the file number of the tenth image is IMG_0010, take the new CF card out, insert a previously used CF card whose last image is labeled IMG_9876, and then snap the camera’s ELEVENTH IMAGE, its file number will still be IMG_9877. If you then reinsert the CF card containing your first 10 images, and snap another image, its file number will be IMG_9878. There is actually no way to return to the camera’s original file numbering sequence unless you first reset the camera back to IMG_0001.

Without having your 20D’s complete history, the only way to know for sure how many times its shutter has been actuated is to check the actual number of shutter actuations, as stored in the camera’s internal memory and which, to the best of my knowledge, only Canon itself can access.

Now for something really strange. If you start out using BOTH a brand new 20D camera AND a brand new Compact Flash memory card, and then snap your FIRST IMAGE, the file number could still be IMG_9877. No lie. :)


garys_parries_081006_q3.jpgIn your Gary’s Parries column intro, you say that you have more digital camera knowledge in your entire brain than other people have in their little finger. I guess you meant to say in your little finger vs. other people’s entire brain. You have it backwards - I hope.

Dr J

*** ANSWER 3

Dr J, being a doctor, I am sure you can understand that, as an obsessive-compulsive, I do not like to make mistakes; however, I am also sure you can understand that, as a dyslexic, I am highly prone to switch things around. So, in my own defense I would have to say, it was not so much an ‘error’ as it was my dyslexia talking (although that does not explain why our editors did not catch it :)).

But, yes, instead of saying that I have more digital camera knowledge in my entire brain than most people have in their little finger (and really, who that reads this column would ever believe that), I should have reversed it and said that most people have more digital camera knowledge in their little finger than I have in my entire brain (which is much more believable).

I’ll speak to our editors, and hopefully we can get this resolved by next week’s column. Thanks, Dr J, for your input.

[Column photo “The Photographer” by Brenda LaFleur of Brenda LaFleur Photography.]