Photography by Jim Doty

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A Digital Advantage Part 2:
A Day in Church

In Part 1 of this article, I lamented about some of the problems related to doing photography in church with film. Today I used a digital Canon 10D in church for the first time.

(A larger version of this photo)

Most of my photographs for the day were taken inside with low light levels. At a digital "film speed" of ISO 100 the shutter speeds were way too slow so I changed the ISO to 1600. This is a big digital advantage. With film cameras, to change film speed you have to change film, or carry a second camera body. With a digital camera you change film speeds (the digital chip's sensitivity to light) just by turning a dial.

With my 28-135 mm zoom lens, wide open, my shutter speeds were now around 1/30 of a second.

One comment about hand holding a zoom lens at 1/30 of a second. Before image stabilized lenses, I could not consistently get sharp photos at 135 mm at 1/30 second. With image stabilized lenses I can do it regularly (provided the subject doesn't move too much).

I I took a number of photos, knowing it is hard to predict how a person will look when they are talking. With film, you take a bunch of photos and wait until later to see if you got a good photo without an odd positioning of the lips or closed eyes. With digital, you look at the preview and know immediately. The Canon 10D also allows you to magnify the image 10 times on the viewing screen to check for sharpness. You can also turn on the histogram to check for accurate exposure.

With a digital camera, I can also set the WHITE BALANCE to match the color of the lighting. With film cameras I liked to used an 80A filter to compensate for the excessive warm tone of the tungsten light bulbs, but the two stop light loss usually made that impractical. Digital white balance solves that problem.

I was a little concerned about using a digital ISO of 1600. Slide film that fast is very grainy. Print film at 1600 is less grainy than slide film, but still grainy. My digital ISO 1600 images are "noisy" (the digital equivalent of grain) but no worse than negative film grain and much better than 1600 slide film grain.

When the service was over folks went to the fellowship hall to visit. There is more light so I was able to drop the ISO to 800. Just as with film, a slower ISO has less digital noise. Once again, instead of having to change film, I just turned a dial.

The instant reinforcement on the LCD screen was very handy to confirm the expressions I was getting. Just like with film, expressions are a hit or miss proposition. But unlike with film, I did not need to wait for the film to be processed to see if I got an expression that I liked.

When I went outside, I changed the ISO to 100 to give me maximum quality and minimal noise. With film, I often carry two bodies with two different film speeds. With digital I just turned the dial. The photo at the top of the page is one that I took outside. I made an 8x10 inch print from the digital file and it is as sharp and flawless as any print I could get with 35 mm film.

So have I given up on film?  Not at all. I love film! But for low light church services with no flash, for me, digital is a better way to go.

Do you need to go out and buy a Canon 10D or similar type camera to go digital at church? Not at all. I also shot some photos with a digital Canon G3 point and shoot camera with the flash turned off. It did just fine.

April 13, 2003

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