Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp

Something new -- Interchangeable cameras
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Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, my Panasonic DMC-FZ28 and DMC-FZ18 - Mister Inside and Mister Outside - My DMC-FZ28 and DMC-FZ18 - Picture taken with my DMC-FZ5 - Tony Karp, design, art, photography, techno-impressionist, techno-impressionism, aerial photography , drone , drones , dji , mavic pro , video , 3D printing - Books -
Mister Inside and Mister Outside - My DMC-FZ28 and DMC-FZ18 - Picture taken with my DMC-FZ5
Both are wearing their collars that protect the lens. Details are here.
Fifty years ago, I went to California to photograph TV shows for NBC. In 1959, I shot most of the newspaper ads for the fall TV season. What got me this freelance assignment was my use of 35mm cameras and available light shooting. While Life and other magazines were already into this, it was new for NBC, where most of the shots were being done with Rolleiflexes and Speed Graphics, with all the pictures carefully posed and lit. Using 35mm cameras, with their interchangeable lenses, along with high-speed film, I was able to shoot during rehearsals, which gave the pictures a more realistic look.

I usually had at least three cameras hanging from me, each with a different focal length lens -- there was no time to switch lenses once the action started. I used both rangefinder and single lens reflex cameras, with lenses ranging from 28mm to 200mm. The multiple cameras, along with their lenses, all made of brass, gave me a gadget bag weighing between fifteen and twenty pounds. This was long before the days of lightweight cameras with plastic bodies and zoom lenses with an 18X range.

For some reason, I hung on to those cameras and still have them today, along with other cameras I picked up along the way. Selling them would be like selling an old friend.

When I got into digital photography, my first camera was a "superzoom" with a 10X zoom lens. What a revelation. Instead of fumbling with lenses, trying to attach the best one for each situation, I could simply aim the camera and adjust the focal length to suit the scene. Sure, the fancy and expensive DSLRs held out the promise of better image quality, but I had spent enough time fumbling for the right lens and perhaps missing the shot. Now it was possible to carry just one camera and be ready for anything. My collection now includes eight digital cameras, all with fixed zoom lenses.

My first Panasonic camera was a DMC-FZ5. Lightweight and sporting a 12X zoom lens, it took incredibly sharp pictures. I carried it everywhere for two years and shot over 14,000 pictures with it. During that time, I was always on the alert for the next "magic" camera. I tried a few, but always ended up going back to my trusty FZ5.

In 2007, I bought a Panasonic DMC-FZ18. It was a little bigger and heavier than my FZ5, but it sported an 18X zoom lens, going all the way to 28mm at the widest, and it had a larger sensor with 8 megapixels, compared to the 5 on the FZ5. The pictures were razor-sharp, and the longer zoom range gave me added capabilities.

This was one terrific camera. Except for one small problem. The FZ18 is lousy indoors. The image quality is great outdoors, but indoors, as you start to push the ISO higher, the image quality goes straight downhill. The pictures are not only noisy, but it's a really ugly, streaky noise. Plus, it has that annoying yellow blotch thing that sometimes shows up in the shadows and in white areas.

Cut to 2008 and there's a new game in town -- the Panasonic DMC-FZ28. I order one as soon as it's available. Although I'm originally put off by its smaller viewfinder, not as good as the FZ18's, I decide to keep it anyway. The big surprise is that the FZ28 is terrific indoors. Shots at 800 ISO are quite useable, and I even try a few at 1600 ISO. Also not too bad. (Read about it here.) And, like the FZ18, it automatically corrects for lens faults like color fringing, and barrel distortion at the wide angle settings. It had the makings of a perfect go-anywhere-shoot-anything camera.

But over the next few months, a cruel reality began to set in. As terrific as the FZ28 is, it lacks the critical sharpness of the FZ18. Perhaps it was the new Venus IV processing engine, or it might be the marketing department demanding that the engineers squeeze yet more megapixels into the tiny sensor. But it was still the camera I needed for working indoors.

What to do?

Being a photographic pack rat, I still had my FZ18. Since I had upgraded to the FZ28, the artist's muse was now using the FZ18. So it was a simple matter to switch back to my old camera and confirm, once and for all what I had suspected -- that the FZ18, under sufficient light, can produce sharper, more detailed images than the FZ28.

So the answer was obvious. Just as the DSLR users carry interchangeable lenses so that they will always have one that's the right focal length, I would carry interchangeable cameras, so that I would always have one that's right for the existing light conditions.

Think of them as Mr. Indoors (FZ28) and Mr. Outdoors (FZ18). Certainly, they weigh less than a DSLR with multiple lenses. The added benefit is that I always have a spare camera if one should expire. In addition, the two cameras are nearly identical, with similar controls and control layout, identical batteries and memory cards.

So when I go out now, I carry one of the cameras and the artist's muse carries the other. That way, we both have a camera to shoot with. And you didn't really think that I was going to schlep the weight of two cameras, did you?

I know what you're going to ask. Which camera would I carry if I was going to carry just one? The answer is simple. I'd carry the FZ28. Of the two, it's the better all-around camera. In photography, as in life, there are always compromises.

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