Let me show you what an old man can do. I’m not talking about myself, of course; rather that’s what my 8-year-old DSLR said to me before I went walking in Epping Forest yesterday. Given the rate of change of digital technology, 8 years may as well be 28 years. And most consumers are conditioned into thinking that only the newest and latest gear can deliver the best shots, and anything old is obsolete. But just because something is old doesn’t meant it’s not useful.
There will be plenty out there who find this kind of article to be ‘fluff.’ I don’t really care about that. While Photography Life is probably the best resource on the net for all the latest news, reviews and information about camera technology, from time to time we all need a little reminder about actually taking pictures, and perhaps a little inspiration to go out and do so. And since many photographers may feel inadequate about not having the latest or most sophisticated technology in their hands, perhaps this can reassure them that they probably don’t need it.
So, my little Nikon D40 goaded me to leave the mirrorless gear behind and challenge myself somewhat by using just the 50mm F/1.8G lens attached to it. A challenge, not just because I was using a fixed focal length (with a 75mm equivalent field of view), but also because I forfeited all the things I take for granted with my EM-5.
No aperture wheel or touchscreen on the D40, so I had to go into the menus to change settings such as ISO and aperture; no live view, or in-body image stabilisation, and ‘only’ three focusing points and 3 fps burst. Now, many of you will laugh and scoff at such a painful ‘sacrifice’, and you’d be right to do so. With modern cameras, as wonderful and useful as they are, we’ve become spoiled with and used to having everything at our fingertips. Certainly, I love all the useful features and ergonomics of my mirrorless gear, especially the superb image stabilisation.
But at some point, you have to just forget the limitations of the machine and concentrate on making an image. And that’s what I set out to do. Nothing groundbreaking in my images here, and to be honest I was more interested in the long walk, but I managed to eke out something from the forest’s flora and fauna.
For what it’s worth, the D40’s 6MP CCD delivers excellent RAW files, which (coupled to a sharp prime lens) had plenty of detail, even at higher ISOs. It’s a very light little camera so I barely noticed it hanging around my shoulder.
With ‘only’ 6MP, those pixels are obviously going to be larger and physically take in more light, so the camera performs pretty well at higher ISOs, even for a sensor senior citizen. The grain pattern in the RAW files is fine enough that noise reduction cleans it up quite well. Image processing algorithms play a part too, of course, especially with today’s higher megapixel sensors (and thus smaller pixels).
And, as I have stated before, 6MP is not a limitation for me; I have made A1 size prints from this camera. Some may argue it limits your ability to crop, and while the necessity of cropping may sometimes be unavoidable, most times you should simply get closer to your subject.
So, while some were undoubtedly worrying about pixel sharpness and resolution while drooling over the latest gadget, I was out taking photos with my obsolete, old, low-spec camera. And believe me, that was a lot more fun. Try it sometime.