kman, I really want to help you resolve this issue.
"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?"
First of all, you have not provided the examples from the Pentax P+S.
Second, you have not specified what you dont like about the Canon's images you posted. There are so many variables that can make a bad image. Think of a test where if you get one wrong you get ZERO for the whole test. Thats photography!
We cannot help you much without that information.
That said, I am positive that either the film was bad or the film processing was bad.
Below is an example of some film I had developed recently. It looks like mush, and thats only after a bunch of post processing to bring it up from crap. Look familiar? I have 5 rolls that look exactly the same, different film and different cameras. Same cheap lab. (Target)
This image was taken with a Canon A1, no flash, and 50mm f1.4 FD lens. All previously gave good results.
Last edited by darinwc; 11-05-2009 at 08:06 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens - $93.53 + shipping. I have this lens, I adore this lens, you will be hard pressed to find better bang for your buck in the glass department on a Canon EF lens.
You mentioned using an ISO 200 film indoors. The film you used wasn't matched to the shooting conditions. It's too slow for the poor lighting in that space.
I use a Canon 430EX flash on my Rebel G. It's the most expensive part of my Canon EF system. But it works great. If you want to save a bundle you can get a Vivitar 285HV for a fraction of the price, but you're going to have to learn a lot more about manual exposures before you can expect to get good results out of that flash. I use the Vivitar 285HV on a fully manual Mamiya C330 as well as all of my other film cameras besides the Canon and it does pretty well for me.
Mamiya C330, Mamiya-Sekor 80mm f/2.8 "blue dot", Vivitar 285HV, Sekonic L-358, Kodak Tri-X 400, Rodinal 1:50
The first thing I would do if I were you is take some photographs outside on a reasonably bright day. Shoot some in sun (if available), under cloud cover, and in shade. Take a variety of photographs, in as wide a variety of conditions as you are able (a 24 exposure roll of colour print film should be fine).
You should do your best to guard against camera movement. If possible, it would be great to put the camera on a tripod when you shoot, but you could probably make due with just bracing the camera against something stationary. You do this because it helps eliminate any question about whether any lack of clarity is due to camera movement arising from your unfamiliarity with the camera and lens.
Get the film developed, and examine the prints.
My guess is that you will have pleasing results. If not (too dark, too light, unsharp or colour casts) ask the lab if they can look at the negatives to tell if it is a printing problem. If there are problems not due to poor printing, there may be a basic problem with the camera.
If the camera and lens work well outside, with good light, then the next step is to check how the camera works with flash. Your example photos make me think that the built in flash may be underpowered, but there are a few factors that make those photos tough for a small flash.
I'd try a few flash pictures in a room with lighter walls and normal height ceilings.
I too would recommend a better lens, but even with this lens you should be able to get reasonably pleasing results.
Reading through this after observing the sample prints, I second JBrunner's comments that you ought to move on to transparency film (either Fujichrome or Kodachrome, I don't bloody care which, for those who are parochial), just to see how well the camera nails the exposure. Next, dump that obscure el-cheapo lens and fit either a 28, 35 or 50mm (EF 1.8II is a cracker) prime Canon lens. Take the camera through its paces with ambient as well as flash exposures (though the built-in flash is more of a hindrance than a help: invest in a pre-loved shoe-mounted Canon flash) and then work towards some definitive assessment. Just a final point: Wherever you go and whatever you do in photography, skip fancy, feature-laden camera bodies and plough your money into high quality lenses. It is the lens that sees the scene and focuses it; the camera is merely a light-tight box to hold the film and make a recommendation for exposure.
Before you do anything, check the "exposure compensation" settings on the camera (sorry, you may have to find a manual or ask someone here who knows the camera, I'm not familiar with Canons) and make sure it's set at zero - if it is non-zero, then that is likely the source of your pain. For colour negative film, it's pretty safe to set it to +0.5 or so and just leave it there. +2 or +3 can cause saturation and contrast loss, anything negative can cause loss of shadow details.
Further to what others have said, chromes (slides) will tell you if your camera is metering accurately or not, but if you're only using negative film then it shouldn't really matter that much, as long as you're not getting under-exposure. The slides are a good judge of exposure because you observe them directly and can tell if they're too bright/dark (look for completely-black or clear areas), whereas negatives go through a scanning and/or printing stage before you see the final image. Most exposure errors on negatives are hidden by the printing process, resulting only in some quality being lost, like what you're seeing here. Do your testing with chromes on low-contrast scenes, e.g. at dusk. Avoid bright sunlight and deep shadows while doing your test roll as it can confuse things, especially in Auto/P mode. You want a scene with as uniform a brightness as possible.
If the chromes tell you that the camera is dramatically over- or under-exposing, then there's your answer. Test a few frames both with the lens wide open (using A mode on the camera, the smallest f-number that can be selected) and with the camera at f/16. If the wide-open ones are exposed OK (ignore any softness) but the f/16 ones are overexposed, then that tells you that the aperture in the lens is sticky, which is a pretty common problem and for that lens basically means you bin it. Severe over-exposure of negative film can cause the sort of saturation and contrast problems you're seeing in your final images. If the effect is consistent with varying apertures, it means either your camera body is defective or you have accidentally adjusted it in error - see the exposure-compensation thing above.
If your problem is just sharpness and not exposure, then getting a Canon 50/1.8 is an excellent solution. It's a good thing to do anyway because it will teach you a lot about perspective (composition, etc) without you needing to know how to use the non-auto modes on the camera and it gives you a good lens to learn A mode on and try some shallow depth of field. Your Quantaray will be OK for 6x4" or so but will likely be soft for 8x10 and doesn't give you a lot of light.
There might be processing problems at your lab - with all the P&S users largely going digital (blasphemy here, but an option worth evaluating), the quantity of C41 (colour neg) film processed has declined dramatically so there are some poor places out there. Like others have said, if you want good skin colours and low-light ability, Portra 400NC is a good option. 400VC if you want brighter colours. Fuji Superia is very good value for money.
Getting a bounceable off-board flash is highly recommended if you're doing people shots. Avoiding the front-lit morgue-photo look is a huge improvement and generally more important than any choice of camera, lens or film you might make. You won't get that option with a P&S - good flashes are a very good reason to use a proper SLR.
On the matter of your P&S being better, that is entirely possible. For one, an SLR assumes you know a bit more about photography and leaves more up to you. Running it on Auto mode can definitely produce worse pictures, so it's worth investing a little time to learn about depth of field, apertures and shutter speed. The other thing is that the physical structure of a P&S (no big mirror box in the middle) means they can have simpler, sharper lenses cheaply. It is quite possible, even highly likely, that the lens on your P&S was a lot sharper than the cheap Quantaray lens you're using now. Of course, you can get much better lenses (and a variety of lenses for different purposes) for your SLR than you can for the P&S, but they cost.
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