You will have no doubt seen the videos doing the rounds in news stories and online, of cameras that can zoom right in on the moon, airplanes flying in the sky and other seemingly massively zoomed in on items. These new Super Zoom cameras could almost replace a telescope! But what are they? And are they up to task when it comes to day to day general photo taking? We’ve got the details for you.
What Are Super Zoom Cameras?
The 2 best known Super Zoom cameras currently available are the Nikon Coolpix P900 and the Canon Powershot SX60HS. Both are Bridge cameras and feature massive optical zoom capabilities. This, coupled with digital zoom, enables users to zoom in many times over what traditional cameras are capable of. Take for example, Canon’s offering. It features a 65X zoom, which can be extended to 260X digitally.
How Much Are These Cameras to Purchase?
One would imagine, given the extreme focal lengths on offer here that these cameras would be very expensive to buy. Especially given that, if you were to purchase an equivalent focal length lense for a DSLR camera, you would be parting with a serious chunk of change. However, you may be surprised to learn that these types of cameras (taking the 2 examples above for instance), can be purchased pretty inexpensively. Amazon currently lists them at $449, cheaper than a full blown DSLR, and in ball park range for a pretty good Bridge camera.
But Are They Any Good For General Photography Tasks?
The truth is, very few Bridge cameras are as good or as capable as DSLR cameras, and this rings true for the Super Zooms also. But for those who aren’t too worried about apertures or exposure times, then these cameras are perfectly capable. The Powershot is capable of outputting in RAW format for example, enabling you to improve on the photos taken,
A La a DSLR. And they handle more like a DSLR than a straight up digital camera too, with similar styles of control wheels and options. When they are at full zoom digitally however, this is when things begin to break down a little. Photos become extremely grainy, as does the videos captured (with these cameras, it’s often at 720p, at 30 FPS).
Who Are These Cameras Best For?
If you are pretty new to photography, or are looking for a slightly smaller camera to tote with you, these are perfectly capable for your needs. Indeed, if you are someone who adores watching the night sky, the telescope like zoom on these cameras will be a delight to you. I myself have observed the moons of Jupiter through the lens of the Canon Powershot SX60, something I never thought would be possible through a “lowly” bridge camera – any camera for that matter. For the price tag, you are getting a very capable device, with massive zoom capabilities, so these are well worth considering.
Programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom are fantastic, feature packed and user friendly. But for many, the price of these programs can be a little out of budget, price wise. Luckily, there are a number of free alternatives available to download, that are just as capable, although some settings may be called something else. We here at Grandview have broken down some of the better alternatives for you, to make life that little bit easier, enabling you to get on with creating your photographic masterpieces.
Gimp (Photoshop Alternative)
One of the best known Photoshop alternatives is Gimp. Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and has always been free and open source. The amount of features and options available in Gimp for photo manipulation is just as extensive as can be found in Photoshop, enabling you to edit your RAW file (or whatever file type your photographs are taken in). Also, Gimp users and their community are very helpful, and provide endless tutorials online in forums and on YouTube. This is one program that is definitely worth checking out.
Lightzone (Lightroom Alternative)
Lightroom from Adobe is known the world over as the program for photo editing. However, it is not exactly cheap to obtain. Thankfully, Lightzone can do the same jobs for you, at a much more agreeable price – free! So whether you want to batch edit a pile of photos, or slightly adjust RAW files individually, all this can be achieved in Lightzone. And the process is non destructive as well, meaning you can easily revert back to the original image, if needs be. Despite how powerful this program is, it is very user friendly and easy to learn how to use.
Photoscape (Photoshop Alternative)
If you are after something that allows the manipulation of your images, but is a little more basic than the mind boggling amount of sliders and options available in Photoshop, then Photoscape may be what you seek. You can also use this program to create slideshows, split images or combine images. The toolbar is also highly customisable, allowing you to put the features you use most to the forefront, rather than being hidden behind rafts of menus. A word of warning however, this program features ads for other recommended software (not to worry however, these ads are restricted to within the program itself, and will not feature anywhere else on your PC).
Google Photos (Web Based & Mobile)
If you love to share your photos with friends and family, Google Photos is a wonderful program. There are some very basic editing functions included, but that’s really not what this program is for. Google Photos can be downloaded for your mobile device that will sync with your web based version and storage is unlimited for restricted sized images (you can also store up to 15 GB of higher detailed images). The program also auto creates GIFs, slideshows and mini movies based on your photos. If you haven’t already, check this out!
I believe it was Apple coined the phrase “There’s an App for that”. And this is very true; there is an app for almost anything you can think of these days. And if you are a photographer, then there are a massive range of apps available to assist you, in many different ways. Here, we at Grandview detail some of the apps you should consider downloading to your smart device.
More of a storage and sharing app than for image manipulation, Google Photos is free, and storage is unlimited (subject to restricted image sizes). Where this app excels is in the sorting capabilities. Google will auto sort images for you based on date or location, create mini movies and gifs based on similar images in your uploads, and much more. Integration with the desktop (web based) version is seamless, and overall, this is very easy to use. This comes very highly recommended.
Adobe Photoshop Express:
A major hitter in photo editing software, Adobe Photoshop can never be overlooked. And with their mobile version, Photoshop Express, you can now take photo editing software on the move with you. Although stripped back, this app will allow you to edit photos as they are taken on your smart device, as well as editing existing photos, apply automatic fixes and much more. There is even RAW photo support included in the app.
If you are planning on heading out to a location, you are as well have an idea as to the possible weather conditions you may encounter when you get there. Although most phones have a basic weather function in built, nothing compares to Accuweather for accuracy and detail.
Depth of Field Calculator:
Any good photographer knows that calculating depth of field correctly is an essential skill. Photobuddy for iOS and Photo Tools Pro for Android can assist you with this task, very easily. No longer will the relationship between aperture, ISO and shutter speed be a headache!
Light Metre Apps:
If you were to go out and purchase a light metre, you may have to part with several hundred of your hard earned dollars. While the end result may be perfectly exposed photos, your wallet won’t thank you for the privilege. The truth is, your smart phone is capable of measuring light, through its camera. beeCam Light Metre is an example of a very good app that will allow you to calculate the correct exposure you should use.
Planning your shot can be quite time consuming, and perhaps you would prefer to visit a location under a range of different weather conditions to best plot your photo. This app will allow you to look at a location, before you get there, to better plot out that crucial shot. You can explore the location and check out different angles also, allowing you to get a better idea of the equipment you may need to bring along for the shoot.
Have you ever seen those images of real life objects or places that have been manipulated in such a way, that they look like toy models or miniatures of scenes? Instagram and other photography based sites are filled with these amazing pictures, and you too can create this effect very easily with your current equipment, and a little know how. So, how are these pictures made? We here at Grand View have the low down for you!
There Are Two Ways To Achieve The Effect:
Tilt Shift (or miniature faking, as it is sometimes called) can be achieved in two separate ways. Either with an expensive specialist lense for your camera, or artificially through programs such as Photoshop. This guide is based in Photoshop, for already taken images. But first, some tips for taking the perfect photo to apply the Tilt Shift effect to.
- The photo must be from above (not directly overhead however). To get the correct depth of field for your photo, make sure it is taken from above, at an angle. Real miniature scenes are shot in this manner, and are rarely level with the subject.
- Choose a simple scene. Complicated scenes are too busy, and the effect is lessened in these kinds of images.
- Make sure that your image is sharp, with good lighting. When you apply the tilt shifting effect, blur will be added later.
- Choose interesting scenes. Things like Cathedrals, with their spires etc are interesting to look at. The top of a shopping mall is not. Also, if there are people in the image, try and capture the image where they appear obscure. People rarely feature in real life miniature photos.
Once you have your photo taken and imported into Photoshop, there are a few things you must do. The first is to create a mask. Once this is done, select the gradient tool, which will allow you to choose what will be in focus for your picture, and how to place the blur gradient. You then apply a lens blur filter (things will begin to fall into place at this stage). You will need to experiment a little with the gradient placement and how much lens blur to apply, but a little tinkering will reveal the best results to you in time.
You really want the colours to pop in your image, so adjust your master saturation levels, ranging about 25% to 30%. As a final step, select the Curves tool and adjust the contrast to enhance the highlights of your image. You will find that the colours of your image then look more model like.
These are the basic steps to achieve the Tilt Shift look. Of course, you can go as in depth with this style of photography as you would like. It is worth having a search in YouTube, as there are a great number of instructional videos that are of assistance there also.