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"The Home Studio: Easier than You Think" - Digital Photography Podcast 571

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One Week with a Decade Old Digital Camera


As photographers continue to pour over spec sheets and feature sets for the latest high tech cameras, it's interesting to note that a fair amount of time has passed in this digital evolution. For most of us, it's been well over a decade since we depended on film as our primary capture medium.

Have we evolved as artists too? Who knows? My pictures aren't necessarily better today than in 2006, although I do think it's easier to capture a technically clean shot. And the envelope can certainly be pushed farther now.

So I began wondering what I could do with 2005 digital camera. To satisfy my curiosity, I purchased a Pentax *ist DL on eBay for $51. It had just been reconditioned, and included the latest firmware that was available (which means that I was no longer limited to 2GB SD cards... whew!).

For a week, the Pentax *ist was my go-to digital camera. I used a variety of lenses with it, including the Pentax-F 35mm f/2.0, Pentax-DL 21mm f/3.4, and Pentax-F 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom.

IMGP8997.jpg Pentax *ist DL with Pentax DA 21mm f/3.2 AL Limited, ISO 200, f/6.7. Photo by Derrick Story

To give myself every editing opportunity, I captured in RAW format, mostly in Program mode with occasional exposure compensation. I uploaded the photos to and processed them in Photos for macOS, that had no problem decoding the files. They also looked quite good in Capture One Pro.

IMGP8965.jpg Pentax *ist DL with smc PENTAX-FA 35mm F2 AL, ISO 400, f/2.0, 1/15th. Photo by Derrick Story

The 6MP sensor produced native file sizes of 3008 × 2008 (11.4 MB for RAWs). There weren't many spare pixels for cropping, but 3008 pixels on the long side wasn't terrible either. The RAW files responded well to editing as long as I didn't push the envelope too far. I could recover shadow and highlight detail, and the noise was well controlled at the lower ISOs (200-800).

IMGP8991.jpg Pentax *ist DL with Pentax DA 21mm f/3.2 AL Limited, ISO 200, f/6.7. Photo by Derrick Story

As far as the shooting experience itself, I was surprised at how much fun I had using the Pentax DL. The ergonomics were terrific, with the camera fitting nicely in my right hand. The function button allowed me to quickly change ISO, WB, drive mode, and flash. I set up the OK button to switch to 1-point AF from 3-point AF, plus I had buttons for exposure compensation and exposure lock.

IMG_2974.jpg Pentax *ist DL with smc PENTAX-F 35-70mm F3.5-4.5, ISO 200, f/5.6. Photo by Derrick Story

The back LCD is 2.5 inches, generous by 2005 standards. The autofocus was pretty good in a variety of lighting conditions... actually better than I had anticipated. And one of my favorite features is that the *ist DL is powered by rechargeable CR-V3 NiMH or standard AA batteries. Battery life has been great with the CR-V3, and my AA rechargeables even gave me a couple days worth of shooting. So no proprietary battery issues with this camera.

After-the-Rain-Web.jpg Pentax *ist DL with Pentax DA 21mm f/3.2 AL Limited, ISO 200, f/6.7. RAW file processing with the Luminar editing extension via Photos for macOS. Photo by Derrick Story

So, am I going to toss aside my micro four thirds kit and return to the days of yesteryear? Certainly not. But I enjoyed the creative experiment. In a lot of ways, as with my experiences with shooting film, it reaffirmed my skill as a photographer, regardless of the camera that I may be using at moment. In other words, I feel like I can make good pictures with any camera, even a 2005, 6MP DSLR that I bought on eBay for $51.

IMGP9010.jpg Pentax *ist DL with Pentax DA 21mm f/3.2 AL Limited, ISO 800, f/3.2, 1/20th. Photo by Derrick Story

PS: I'm keeping the camera. It's a blast!

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

This is The Digital Story Podcast #571, Feb. 14, 2017. Today's theme is "The Home Studio: Easier than You Think." I'm Derrick Story.

Opening Monologue

As much as I love outdoor portraiture, some shoots are just better inside. Wardrobe changes are easier, lighting is controllable, and the temperature is far more comfortable. And if you do product photography too, a home studio becomes a necessity. But how much room and equipment do you need to have a functional workspace? Probably less than you realize. And that's what I'm going to discuss in today's show.

P2106268-Brittney-orginal.jpg "Brittney" by Derrick Story. Unretouched portrait (no image editing other than a crop) captured at Sunleaf Studio with OM-D E-M5 Mark II and Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom lens.

The Home Studio: Easier than You Think

One of the aspects of having a studio workspace is that it's there waiting for you whenever inspiration strikes. And when you're finished shooting, you can just close the door and tidy up later. Half of my photography happens in this environment.

A lot of folks believe that such a space is expensive. And that the room needs a lot of modification. But this just hasn't been the case for me. And to help you with your considerations about such an endeavor, I'm going to take you behind the scenes of my shooting room. Here's a photo of my working space.

  • How Much Space? - The room I use is a standard bedroom that measures 11'x10', with a north facing window. I did swap out the sliding closet doors with mirror door, which photo subjects really like because they can follow how they look during the shoot. The walls are painted flat white, providing me with a bright, airy feeling. If I want to change the mood, I can always close the blinds and work with just supplemental lighting.
  • What About Backdrops? - When I first set up the studio, I constructed my backdrop frame out of PVC pipe. Later, I bought a backdrop stand for less than $75, and it's great. I use muslin and roll paper for my backdrops. And with the stand system, it's easy to change the backdrop during the shoot if I want.
  • Do I Need Expensive Lights? - I started with simple off-camera speedlights. But when the price of LED lighting dropped, I switched completely to those. I love LEDs because I can control both the intensity and color temperature. Plus, the constant light makes exposure and composition very easy. And they are cool too.
  • What Type of Modifiers Work Best? Since I have a north facing window, sometimes I just that light only with a couple reflectors. This is one of my favorite lighting schemes because it's so beautiful and natural. But I also use inexpensive soft boxes and umbrellas.
  • Do I Need a Lot of Hardware? - Light stands are essential to help you position the lights exactly where you want them. And the good news is, they last forever. You'll also need a variety of clamps and light holders. Most of use just start with the basics, then add on over time. I've been adding to my collection for more than 20 years.

If you can't swing a dedicated room for your studio work, a shared space can work quite well. The main thing to consider is, can you keep the clutter in check? I have tables and cabinets around the edges of the room. But the central area remains open, providing enough space for my shoots.

In the News

Nikon reports "extraordinary loss", "fundamental company-wide restructuring" (via NikonRumors):

In addition to canceling the DL line of premium compact cameras, Nikon also issued several statements describing "extraordinary loss", "fundamental company-wide restructuring" and a revision of their last financial forecast.

  • Nikon Corp. reported a net loss to owners of the parent of 831 million yen or 2.10 yen per share for the nine months ended December 31, 2016 compared to profit of 18.71 billion yen or 47.08 yen per share, previous year.
  • In accordance with the restructuring announced on November 8, 2016, the Group recorded extraordinary loss of 29.79 billion yen, mainly incurred from inventory write-downs/write-off in Semiconductor Lithography Business, as restructuring expenses for the nine months ended December 31, 2016.
  • Nine-month operating income increased by 67.1% year on year to 42.18 billion yen, and ordinary income increased by 42.5% year on year to 44.79 billion yen.
  • Nine-month net sales were 565.89 billion yen compared to 616.50 billion yen, a year ago.

Dates Set for the Northern CA Coast Tour Workshop

Good news for those wishing to join us for a tour up the Northern CA Coast. We've set the dates for this event: May 18-20th, 2017. Originally, we were planning this as a summer workshop. But after working with experts who actually live in the areas that we'll be working, we moved the event to late May. This provides us with Spring weather and far cheaper room accommodations.

Those of you on the Reserve List will receive your personal invites later this week. You will have 10 days to secure your spot before we open up the event to the general public. If you're not on the reserve list, and would like to be, please visit the TDS Workshops Page and use the Send Me Info form.

Updates and Such

Big thanks to all of our Patreon members! I was able to pay for the podcast server and the backup system from last month's pledges. Your contributions are making a positive impact. You can learn more here.

B&H and Amazon tiles on www.thedigitalstory. If you click on them first, you're helping to support this podcast. And speaking of supporting this show, and big thanks to our Patreon Inner Circle members.

And finally, be sure to visit our friends at Red River Paper for all of your inkjet supply needs.

See you next week!

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

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