Direct flash is definitely to be avoided if you want control of the light. You don't need to spend a lot of money, but get a shoe-mount flash with some decent power (a guide number of at least 80, preferably 100; the typical built-in flash on an SLR has a guide number at ISO 100 of about 40). With two or three stops more power than the built-in flash on the T2, you will have enough to compensate for the light loss with the diffuser and/or bounce. You don't have to get a Canon speedlight, look at Sunpak and Metz. I've used both brands of flashes with very good results, and either is available used for low prices. Another point to consider, if you are using fast enough film (400 or 800) to capture some of the ambient light but still shooting flash, is the difference in the color balance between the flash and the fluorescent/incandescent bulbs. This can be compensated for buy using the appropriate gel filter over the flash head.
That body with decent glass on it can take some wonderful photos. I sometimes shoot with a Canon EOS Rebel G which will take photos no better or worse than your T2 given the same glass.
I don't have any color examples that are relevant here (just cross processed slide film) but in B&W it does just fine.
Canon EOS Rebel G, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1:25
Canon EOS Rebel G, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, Ilford HP5+ (EI 320), Xtol
You're getting a lot of great advice here. Do learn how to use your camera. It is not failing you. You just need to learn to use it. It probably wouldn't hurt to get a nice prime lens for it (as you might be able to tell, I'm a fan of the very affordable Canon 50mm f/1.8). Also I tend to get lousy results from lab processing. The negatives come out much better when I develop them myself in the kitchen. You don't need a dark room for this.
My liberation from bad photos came only when I learned how to use a camera. Program mode must be ignored. I also ignore any "priority" modes, and thus shoot only in manual mode.
There are a number of key elements to learn, but perhaps the most important involves the focusing ring and the depth-of-field markings on your lens. Thus, buy a good quality 50mm lens (a 50/1.8 or 50/2). You need not spend big dollars on a "fast" 50--i.e. a 50/1.4. I have been using 50/1.8s and 50/2s for years and cannot ever recall needing a 1.4 f-stop. There is almost no depth-of-field at f/1.4, and most lenses do not perform well at wide-open aperture. Thus, I recommend a not-so-fast 50, and a good deal of practice. Framing and compostion are also extremely important. I still will occasionally take "unnecessary" shots just to improve my basic skills.
I am going to digress from others and recommend getting some good film and have it processed by a good lab.
Go to a local camera store and get a roll of say kodak portra or even better slide film. Spend a day taking a variety of pics in different situations.
Outdoors in daylight, outdoors in subdued light, indoors with flash, indoors without flash.
Then evaluate the prints/slides for color balance, grain, sharpness, quality of light, and composition.
After that, you can make better decisions on equipment or technique changes.
comments on the example photos you posted:
1. There is much grain. This can be caused by a number of things. If the film is no exposed properly, this can cause excessive grain. But other causes of this are damaged film from heat or X-rays, expired film, bad development, or just a grainy film.
2. Quality of light. Shots with on-camera flash have a certain look to them that is generally disappointing. Do you have any examples in daylight?
3. Composition. Its a snapshot, what did you expect?
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You may merely have a poor individual sample of a lens from a long line of dogs (Ritz house brand). Beg or borrow a real lens.
If you wish to prove it for yourself, wait for a decent day outside with some fairly bright light. Put the camera on a tripod and take a picture or two a brick wall on auto; then set the focus manually, if you can do it). Develop and print and call me in the morning. ~(:+>}}
John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
Thanks everyone for their responses. Am I correct to assume that what many are saying is that my Pentax Zoom 90-WR point-and-shoot that I got in 1991 is expected to take better pictures than my Canon EOS Rebel T2 SLR when it's used in "auto" mode? I don't expect to get excellent pictures using auto mode, cheap film, and cheap processing, but I am mostly comparing my indoor photos taken with the same film and using the same photo processor and I guess expected at least the same, if not a little better, results from the SLR compared to the point-and-shoot even in auto mode. For those who state it's "operator error", I'm assuming you're talking about me using auto mode instead of setting the manual mode because I'm not sure what errors one can make when using auto mode (besides using it in the first place...lol).
Film: I usually use Fuji 400, but sometimes 800, and the above sample pictures were 200 (the only film my dad had). I don't expect to enlarge my pictures much, if at all, so that's why I never worried about the possible grain with the higher ISO. What film would most people recommend for doing candid shots where there is usually some movement by the subjects? I read one person recommend Kodak Portra or slide film?
Processing: Okay, so before everyone stones me for this, keep in mind that I've always had a point-and-shoot with which I only shot pictures of my friends/family, so super high quality was never in my mind. That being said, I have always used one-hour photo (sometimes sent out), usually at my local Fred Meyer (a one-stop-shop store). Of course, I probably need to find a better place to get my film developed, but my pictures from my previous camera that was developed in this way still turned out decent. Anyone know of a good film processor in the Portland, Oregon area?
Lens: I've heard a few people recommend a 50mm lens, so no zoom range lens, just a plain 50mm? Are there good-quality (doesn't have to be top of the line) lenses that are not super expensive (brands, models?)? I've read some reviews on the Quantaray af 28-90mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens that I have, and some say they are not good, some say they are okay (it was a gift along with the camera, so I imagine he probably picked a more inexpensive lens since the camera wasn't cheap).
Flash: I highly suspect, just as others here have noted, that a big factor in the indoor pictures is the lighting problem. I'm not 100% certain, but I think that the flash on my Pentax p&s may have a better flash than the built-in flash on my Canon SLR. I'd like to get a better flash to put on the hot shoe but have been a bit confused on which ones I can/should use. The manual says it's a type-A camera (E-TTL II autoflash compatible) which can use features of EX-speedlites. Does this mean that I can purchase any flash that says E-TTL II? Should I also consider a diffuser for indoor pictures?
I'm sure everyone is wondering why I got an SLR if all I'm going to do is candids in auto mode. Well, my p&s suddenly stopped working when I was in Washington DC back in 2005, and the local camera stores said they couldn't fix it there. I have a friend that knew that I wanted to start taking better pictures of the water falls where I hiked to, so that's what I got. Unfortunately due to a long-term illness, I haven't been able to get out to do such photography.
The reason that I use auto mode is that the friends/family pictures that I do take are rarely set up, so I don't have time to adjust any settings, hence auto mode. If the auto mode doesn't work as well as a p&s, I may have to consider sending my p&s camera into Pentax and hope they can fix it and save my SLR for when/if I get better or for portrait type pictures.
First of all eliminate the film as a cause. The easy way to do that is shoot some E-6. Those transparencies will tell you in a hurry how well your camera is metering. 2nd, get some decent glass if you can. You will pay for it if you want a zoom, that's just how it is. Other people have beat around the bush a bit, but I won't. Quantaray sucks. It's a soccer mom brand. Sigma is better, and for a Canon, the good Canon lenses are worth every penny. A good quality 50mm is cheap to pick up, 2-4 times faster than the Qbert superfuzz trombone 9000 light vacuum, which will get you out of the need for the flash in many cases, and to utilize it's zoom function you can walk forwards and backwards , and become a better photographer in a hurry for the effort invested. The thing about investing in a lens is that if you care for it, it will last you through all the camera bodies you care to go through. Cameras don't make photographs, lenses do. A Rebel and an EOS V will make very nearly indistinguishable images through the same glass.
Last edited by JBrunner; 11-05-2009 at 06:35 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Regarding quality film processing in the Portland area, there is one that advertises right here on APUG called Blue Moon camera and machine. One of the only places left in the world that still does optical printing of the color film.
Regarding the quality comparison of a Pentax point and shoot, I have seen some point and shoot stuff that comes out really nice partly due to the balance of the flash to the ambient light. The low power flash allows more ambient light to record. Also the lenses on some point and shoot cameras are surprisingly good. Pentax is a reputable camera company.
Whew! Thought for a second there you were gonna say 'soccer dad' brand. Almost got painted with a broad gender generalization there.
Originally Posted by JBrunner
Agree on using slide film as a better, more specific test, and the advice on primes or higher quality zooms. Also, a good lens shade can make a big difference in color saturation if your lens is at all sensitive to flare.
Costco seems to have a good reputation among the 1 hour labs. They seem to train good people and keep them. They even make the effort to calibrate and post their lab color profiles on the web at intervals. (Not applicable on this forum, but an indicator that they care about the quality of their output.)
I once took a roll to Ritz after my regular lab at the time closed. I went back in and told them to clean their enlarging lenses and reprint. They did, and the results were much cleaner colors, improved contrast, and sharpness. Doesn't matter how good the hardware is unless the operator is good and takes care of the equipment. When you get prints at a lab, you're testing the lab and operator as much or more than testing your camera and lens.