Handheld Cameras, Part 2
The Olympus C8080
The Olympus C8080 was the first camera that I used extensively for hand holding without a tripod
This article continues my thoughts about hand-holding cameras for increased shooting flexibility and creativity that have been the subjects of the three previous posts. Go the the first part of the hand-holding series.
In the summer of 2008 my oldest son Mike and I did a ten day backpack in the Wind River mountains of Wyoming.
I had been in the Winds many times before and taken many pictures using film cameras but I had never been satisfied with the results. This year I wanted to shoot the Winds digitally. I wanted the best quality pictures but my best quality digital camera (a $8000.00 Canon 1Ds MarkII) weighed almost 7 pounds with a single lens and with my lightest tripod and tripod head the whole outfit weighed over fifteen pounds. This was just out of the question for someone who was no longer a young man. The maximum pack I could carry comfortably was no more than 40 pounds max, and I really wanted to go with no more than a 30 or 35 pound pack.
So I decided to take my Olympus C-8080 and no tripod. This whole outfit weighs 2 pounds.
The Olympus C-8080 is basically a point and shoot camera. It has a 8 megapixel sensor, a built in 28-300 lens, and a built in flash. It is capable of shooting RAW images but does so only very slowly, so I decided to shoot jpegs instead. I brought along 3 extra batteries and a 4 gigabit card that held 800 jpg images. I paid $800 for this camera about six years ago. Surprisingly, you can still buy this camera used for about $300.00 these days. Search for it on line and you will probably find a few. The last time I looked, Amazon had several. They definitely won't be on sale forever though.
The question was, could I handhold this camera and get good, professional looking, sharp pictures with lots of depth of field. Surprisingly to me, the answer was yes. Almost all of the pictures were very good. I have enlarged many of them to 24x36 and I think some of them would go to even larger sizes. I have sold several of these pictures to customers who all loved their sharpness, color and depth of field.
So, how was it possible to get such good pictures out of a small, handheld camera?
First of all, this is a really good camera with a great lens. Not all 8 megapixel, point and shoot cameras are anywhere near this good.
The best way to figure out which cameras are the best, is to read the reviews in dpreview.com. Here is their review for the Olympus C-8080 in 2003. Be sure to read the conclusions of the review; this is always the best part. I have also written an article on how to use dpreview to find the best cameras.
The second reason this camera worked so well is that small point and shoot cameras all have very wide angle lenses. These lenses are actually much wider than they appear to be. For instance the Olympus C-8080 has a lens that is rated at 28 mm to 300 mm. In actuality, the widest position of the lens is more like 6 mm than the rated 28 mm. This is all kind of technical and related to the small size of the camera sensors.
The result of using this 6 mm lens is that you can get really good depth of field at fairly large f-stops. If you use the widest angle end of the zoom, set the f-stop at its smallest setting (f-8 on the Olympus), shoot from 2 feet away, and focus on the foreground, then everything from the closest foreground to the farthest background will be in sharp focus.
If all this is kind of confusing, read my article about depth of field.
The bottom line is that it is possible to get great depths of field with this camera at f-8 which means you can shoot a speeds like 1/125 which are easily hand-holdable without a tripod.
The picture at the top of this page is of the outer wall of the Cirque of Towers deep in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. It was taken with the Olympus C-8080 which I was handholding.
The picture at the bottom is of Indian Paintbrush taken at the base of Bonneville Peak, also in the Wind Rivers. This pictue was also hand-held.
If you want to see more pictures of the Wind Rivers, all taken with the Olympus C-8080, all handheld, look at the first two galleries of my Wind River Pictures.
I am quite satisfied with all of these pictures. No they aren't quite as good as those taken with my primary camera, the Canon 1Ds Mark II, especially in very large image sizes, but then again it was impossible to take them with this large, heavy camera.