My digital camera as a "Polaroid"

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by Mahler_one, May 18, 2007.

  1. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Recently it occurred to me ( as I am certain such thoughts have to others here ) that a really interesting use of one of my point and shoot digital cameras ( or even one of the SLRs except for the added weight ) would be to use such a camera as a "polaroid back "to be used as an aid to framing and composing photgraphs taken with my 4x5. We might all agree that digital cameras lend themselves to taking pictures from various angles and seeing the results instantly as one places various subjects to the left or right of the frame. Since film is usually " at a premium" with LF photographers, and each exposure is usually very carefully considered, why not take advantage of the availability of easy to use and light digital "credit card cameras" to walk about a scene of interest while one takes "instant" photos of the scene in question? Such digital pictures need not be technically perfect, and one realizes the inherent differences with angle of view, etc. However, many digital cameras have lenses with impressive zooming capabilities, and it is quite possible to approximate the viewing angle contemplated with ones LF lenses. It might even be possible to view the scene in black and white on the LCD. Throw that 4 oz digital right next to your meter...right?

    Edwin
     
  2. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I thought of that as well, but never got around to working out the optics. Of course, you can probably take a monocular viewer back and mount the digital on there, for a ground glass preview. It would be nice to tether that to a PC and see focusing realtime, I guess the fuji S3 might be able to do that. And of course there are all manner of cheap video cameras.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    This sort of thing can help in limited ways, say for scouting a location, but, if you use a different camera for the test shot, then you lose the advantages of being able to test your shutter, making sure you've remembered to include bellows factor and determined exposure accurately, and seeing the effects of camera movements and the DOF of the actual lens and aperture on the Polaroid. In other words, you can catch more potential problems with a Polaroid.

    There's also the issue that these P&S cameras don't offer much manual control, and ones that do often don't stop down past around f:8, so you need to think in terms of ND filters if you want the exposure time to be in the ballpark of the real exposure.

    If you just want to consider framing possibilities, you can make a simple composition tool out of two L-shaped pieces of cardboard, or learn to use your hands for this purpose, or if you want to get fancy use a Linhof zoom finder.
     
  4. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I kept thinking of doing this for previewing strobes. Then Nikon stopped making the model I thought made the most sense.

    I do like the idea of using one for scouting but I don't see myself carrying both.

    Plus those really small cameras tend to have really small screens. Even a 4x5 view glass isn't huge but next to a little P&S it's almost ocean sized. I can't imagine trying to figure much out in the field from those little screens. Unless you bring a laptop to plug into-) But then I never really understood chimping either.
     
  5. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I do use my dslr for proofing lighting setups. I've done very little lighting for analog photography since my return to it but I plan to start doing studio portraits with the Holga. My Ultras have tracking modeling lights and in theory, I can see how the lights are working together without doing this but the eye/brain interface corrects and compensates for things a light sensitive surface will be honest about.
     
  6. Frank R

    Frank R Subscriber

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    I do this all the time. Looking at a compostion on a screen, even a small one, is very valuable in judging whether to set up a tripod.

    Yep.
     
  7. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    You certainly make very valid points David. I was thinking of using the digital for less sophisticated purposes such as angle of view, placement of subjects, etc. However, I agree that using ones hands-or some cardboard-is equally as effective, and certainly is more cost effective!

    Edwin
     
  8. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I use mine for scouting more than testing exposure or anything like that which Polaroid would be used for. I have a Canon A series P&S which does have fully manual modes, even including focus. So it theoretically could approximate the large camera's exposure, but I've never tried out doing that. I certainly wouldn't buy a digi just for this use, but if you happen to have one already, it can be a useful tool.

    I've used it AS a meter for my retina from time to time... (in program mode it shows f-stop and shutterspeed).
     
  9. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    I acquired some studio flash gear recently. This is an entirely new game to me, so I've been using a low-end DSLR to experiment with the effects of moving the lights around, changing the reflectors, etc. - a bit of learning-by-doing. When I have something that looks interesting, I record it on film with a view camera.

    The inexpensive kit zoom that came with the camera is ideal for this, because it enables me to match the horizontal or vertical field with whatever view camera lens I want to use. (Obviously, for most formats I'd shoot in a view camera, the aspect ratio doesn't match, though I can easily fix that in a photo editor.)
     
  10. light leak

    light leak Member

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    I think I read somewhere that Stieglitz used a Coolpix for just this purpose.:wink:
     
  11. big_ben_blue

    big_ben_blue Member

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    One of the studios I work for uses a DSLR for previewing the lighting during commercial shoots. The photographer actually shoots through the 4x5 (back and lens removed) to get a fairly accurate idea of the lighting. Helps immensly to correct hot spots, unwanted shadows, points of tension, etc. Especially during the more intense product shoots, it saves a LOT of polaroids. Nevertheless, for checking the DoF, camera and lens settings, he still does a final Polaroid; but for everything else, viewing a digital preview on the laptop beats the polaroid hands down.
     
  12. Antje

    Antje Member

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    I even use mine as a light meter. :smile:

    Antje
     
  13. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    I really enjoy using my digicam to preview composition. However it is not a flawless system. The screens tend to be high-contrast and the chips are not very sensitive in low light. Size does make a difference. One of my shots with 35mm went unnoticed for a year because I was only loooking at the negative and contact proof. Turned out to be one I received an award of merrit for in the state fair.
    One time I brought a little 3mp digicam with a small screen with me.. I was in the mopnterey area and took some photos of the 'lone pine'. The digicam pic turned out better than the LF ones.
    So... my advice is if you use any type of small format for research, make sure you have the options to see it full size and reshoot before you leave the area.
     
  14. freespirit67

    freespirit67 Member

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    what factors are involved in using a DSLR to proof nighttime shots

    I've used a DLSR to check exposure and lighting on Medium format shoots, but I was wondering about using them for LF nighttime shooting, for example if i set the DSLR to f2.8 at 20 sec, what would I set the LF too, is there a scale factor invloved, also on long exposures the DLSR doesn't suffer Reciprocity failure, whereas the film will, again is there a factor to figured i to account for this?

    Throwing it out there, as I'm sure someone here will have the answers, before I go off shooting loads of black film!

    Cheers
     
  15. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    The exposure would be exactly the same regardless of format, though the DOF and FOV obviously would differ. The reciprocity issue would have to be tackled separately. I simply download the reciprocity charts for my favourite films to my cell phone.

    I sometimes spot meter with my DSLR. A DSLR makes a very nice exposure proofing system, because the exposure latitude is crap... (compared to b&w film, at least!)
     
  16. roteague

    roteague Member

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    One of the problems with using a DSLR as a light meter is the difference in sensitivity of the highlights. Film can resolve much more in the hightlights than a digital camera can, and can have a much more limited range as well (for B&W). This could lead one to misjudge the exposure; the digital might show blown highlights, where film could resolve something in it. Additionally, some digital cameras - especially Nikon's - lean towards underexposure. Not a real problem with B&W but a potential big problem with color transparencies.