Zoom baby zoom

I’m trying to love my digital SLR camera.

After years of travelling with nothing more than a cameraphone to record visual memories, I thought a decent SLR camera would be a worthwhile purchase. The Canon 400D’s a terrific machine, solid and dependable with lots of exciting manual controls and superb image quality. But I just don’t ‘love’ it somehow.

The reason for this: I’m possibly the worst photographer in the world. The exemplar situation was at Burning Man a few years ago. In my viewfinder there was a vast fire with a collapsing 40m statue, two hundred mostly naked people waving tiki torches, a Saturn V rocket launching off to one side, a caterpillar the size of a double decker bus weaving through the crowd, a three-storey wooden temple rising out of the desert floor… and somehow I managed to take a REALLY BORING PHOTO of it.

The Canon 400D is a great machine; the lack of love is down to the photographer, not the camera. I just resent carrying such a bulky item around somehow. So in an attempt to love it, I’ve bought a really ridiculous zoom lens – 11x optical zoom.

Wow. I’m ready to love this thing now.

Now professionals HATE lenses like this. Ultimately good photography depends on getting a solid image through a tunnel of curvy glass bits, and that is HARD, which is why professional lenses cost so much. This isn’t a pro lens, and it zooms big, which means the image quality would be laughed at by any serious amateur. But I just like the idea of a nice big zoom, and with this lens – a cheapo 28-300 OEM telescope that folds up no bigger than the 18-35mm afterthought supplied with the camera – I’ve found one.

These two photos of St Paul’s Cathedral were taken from the same spot, unzoomed and max zoomed, no tripod, full auto. (In other words, the worst possible way to take a zoomed pic.) And the images are both perfectly good enough for my album. (My lack of photographic skills is of course obvious here: why didn’t I turn the camera around to make this a vertical shot, to get St Paul’s spire in?)

But I like it. And with it, perhaps I can start loving this amazing little SLR, and snap plenty of ten-megapixel memories in the Peloponnese next month. As I always say, you haven’t taken a picture of the Parthenon until you can see the whites of the sculpture’s eyes.

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