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New to digital...A few questions.
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
New to digital...A few questions. on 12/24/2010 13:56:58 MST Print View

I used to shoot a good deal of B/W film (small/med/large format) while in art school but have been left behind by the digital world...I'm not very tech savvy. I'm a potter/sculptor: mud and fire here...

That said, I'd like to get a bit more serious about photography on my trips. I've always pretty much taken a very lazy approach, using a point and shoot (Nikon S500), not bothering to hunt much for good shots, lighting, etc, and never using any imaging software. So I want to start changing that.

I'm looking into getting a Panasonic Lumix LX5 (or similar) as an upgrade. I don't think I want to deal with an SLR as I still want to be UL and have a camera small enough to actually take everywhere. From what I read of the LX5 here and elsewhere, it looks like it will suit me well. Yeah? Anything else I should look at in that style/price range? I'd like something with better controls than what I have for shutter speed, sensitivity, aperture, etc., but I don't think I want to enter the realm of lugging photo gear/cases around...

I'm also wondering about what people are using for imaging/editing software.
I have no idea what's out there.
I'm vaguely familiar with Photoshop from my school daze, but have been playing around with Gimp at home as it's free. I've yet to really learn either properly and maximize potential for photography.
Would Gimp do the job? I've yet to explore all the add-ons. It seems close enough to Photoshop, but I really don't know what I'm looking for. Can I avoid having to pay for software? Any tips?


Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: New to digital...A few questions. on 12/24/2010 14:44:53 MST Print View

Hi Craig,

I don't think you can go wrong with the LX5. It gives extensive control over camera parameters and conversely, you can set it on automatic and let it do the thinking, with good results. If you go that route, consider adding the optional EVF at some point--it will be a big help shooting in sunlight.

There are competing Canons (S95, G12), Nikons (P7000) and Ricohs (GX series) in this category, and all have their fans. The G12 and P7000 are relatively large and heavy, though, while the S95 is quite teeny.

The camera will come with editing software--probably Silkypix fir the LX5--which should support basic to intermediate editing as well as handling RAW conversion. If you find yourself wanting more, you can always get a more advanced editing program down the road. Even the free MS and Apple editors aren't bad.

I don't know Gimp so can't comment on it. I started using Lightroom this year because I needed the database capabilities, but now use it for 80% of my image editing (especially with V3). More complex editing still goes to Photoshop, but it is overkill for 90% of photographers' needs. Adobe Elements is worth a look at a much lower price. FWIW you can free-trial Adobe software for 30 days and if you happen to be in school, or a teacher, the student pricing is great.

Good luck,


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: New to digital...A few questions. on 12/24/2010 15:03:01 MST Print View

Thanks Rick.
I'll look into all the cameras you mention.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: New to digital...A few questions. on 12/24/2010 17:33:51 MST Print View

Photoshop Elements is sort of the entry-level photo editing software that most beginners use. The latest version costs about $100, and if that does everything that you need to do, so be it. If you want to get serious, then you can move up to (full) Photoshop at much more cost.

What some beginners do is find an old non-current Photoshop Elements floating around for free or nearly free. I know one came free with the first one or two digital cameras that I purchased. If you find that old version works good enough, then you have saved the $100.

One problem is if you move up to (full) Photoshop. If you really learn it and take advantage of its power, you will be hooked on it.

A couple of years ago I wanted to purchase Photoshop Creative Suite 4, and I made the mistake of selecting the cheapest vendor online. That got terrible results when it was revealed that it was a company in mainland China, and they did not stock software. Instead, they somehow expected to clone somebody's software and then resell it (to me). Fortunately, when all of the smoke cleared, I got my credit card payment back, and then I went to the Adobe store to buy it properly.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: New to digital...A few questions. on 12/24/2010 21:00:43 MST Print View

> Would Gimp do the job?
I think you would be hard-pressed to find something it can't do.
Quirky, yes, but powerful.


Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: New to digital...A few questions. on 01/04/2011 15:13:14 MST Print View

I would say that starting with the lumix for lightweight backpacking is a fine, it's what I have. For postprocessing i've been trying out Lightzone from Lightcrafts. It runs on all major platforms and has a 'zone system' like curves adjustment that I like. You can try it for free...

Edited by erdferkel on 01/04/2011 15:13:46 MST.

Steve Larson

Locale: Wallowa Lake
Skills on 01/14/2011 16:36:54 MST Print View

hi. i am the non expert knowitallaboutdigitalcameras guy. read alot i do; shoot some, too.

First, get rid of the 'digital divide' in you photographic mind. everything is the same as was when you were in the b&w years. understand that every function you used to change your exposure when using film cameras is the same as using a digital camera. go manual. just as in film, faster the shutter, the darker the exposure, etc....
post processing digital is becoming a waste of time for virtually all but the 'real' photographers. sure, one can hammer ones/twos into ones plus a pip/twos via computer processors, but guess what. those little processors are now inside the camera body. learn those things of your camera (contrast, saturation...), hunt light, shoot b&w...color... use your training and i will guarantee you great happiness from your photo. as shot. out of the camera.

Now for the mechanics: the lx5 is a great camera. world authority (my hunch you been there)

Suggest that one NOT overlook that the LX5 camera has a hot shoe. tack on one or two small flashes, cheap triggering...

good luck with you decision, you can't go wrong.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
editing photos on 01/16/2011 21:58:54 MST Print View

Do not underestimate the advantges of editing your photos. I use Elements 9 which I started with a thirty day free trial has helped rescue some of my otherwise poor photos. A course (online or at a community college) or good book on digital photography can be a big help, too.
If you have a Ritz Camera shop near you, they offer two hour Satuurday classes for $15, or private classes for your needs.

For example, I have learned to take much better close-ups by using a larger aperture and corresponding faster shutter speeds to achieve a shallower depth of field that blurs out background.

Editing can correct both annoying under and over exposed pictures as well a leveling horizons that you have tilted.

In short, I have done just as BoB G. describes above:

"Photoshop Elements is sort of the entry-level photo editing software that most beginners use. The latest version costs about $100, and if that does everything that you need to do, so be it. If you want to get serious, then you can move up to (full) Photoshop at much more cost."

Elements has lots of "stuf" Elements for Dummies and other books are 400 pages long!

Edited by rambler on 01/16/2011 22:03:19 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: New to digital...A few questions. on 01/16/2011 23:41:30 MST Print View

The Lumix cameras are highly regarded and the LX5 will produce good images for a point-and-shoot. The Canon S95 is a good package too. The think I like about small digital cameras is to use them as notebooks. I often take a photo when I see a new interesting concept, a product I want to remember, an interesting architectural detail, or make voice notes. Panoramas and digital movies are a wonderful way to record the "sense of place." I do consider them for "shots-of-record" rather than highly detailed images. They can be used for fine art, making montages and deconstructivist images. Finely modulated, high resolution images are better left to big SLR's. You can still use techniques like tripods to improve image quality.

Gimp works just fine. There is a fair amount of on-line information. If you get to a point where you outgrow Gimp, then you can lay out the $$$ for Photoshop or Lightroom. I use Gimp at work and have no complaints.

If you really want use advanced digital techniques, the trick is to learn how to think in layers, use masks, tweak color cast, contrast, and exposure, and do basic retouching--- removing wires or other distractions. Gimp will do all of that and more. Look for Photoshop instruction books at the library: they will teach you the techniques you need. The "sweat equity" is interpreting the Photoshop instructions to use in Gimp. You might have to so as much when using another version of Photoshop itself.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: New to digital...A few questions. on 01/17/2011 02:46:19 MST Print View

When I was a young man I toyed with the idea of becoming a professional photographer. I started with a 4X5 Speed Graflex in high school, then twin-lens reflex, and finally SLR. Did my own film developing and printing. I think I was pretty good, having several pictures published when I was in high school and beyond (e.g. I got paid for them).

To me, composing the picture before shooting is more important than editing.

Today my photo efforts are mostly recording some of my trips to share with my kids. I really prefer to leave the camera at home, the trips are more enjoyable without a camera.

I cannot provide expert advice on the best cameras. But a couple important items to think about: I have two digital cameras. One is a Sony Cybershot and the other is a Canon SD1200 IS.

(1) What I like about the Canon is that it has a through the lens focus in addition to LCD screen. The Sony only has the LCD screen.

(2) What I do NOT like about the Canon is that it cannot be charged via USB, as a matter of fact, if I accidentally leave it connected to my computer overnight the battery will be dead in the morning.

The Canon is lighter than the Sony, so it is the one I take backpacking, if I take a camera.

Learning PhotoShop takes significant time. I am currently using Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2) for desktop publishing activities in my job. It is excellent for a PC (non-Macintosh). However you can buy the tried and true Adobe products on eBay for around $125 each (Illustrator 9, PageMaker 6.5, and PhotoShop 6.0). Just make sure each comes with an Adobe license. I bought all 3 on eBay over 4 years ago for $372 total, and was able to activate all 3 licenses on I also find Adobe Acrobat indispensable.

Learning PhotoShop - you can buy used books on Amazon incredibly cheap.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
New to digital...A few questions on 01/17/2011 12:22:13 MST Print View

I've been using Photoshop 7 for about 7 years. I learned very basic methods in it from Peter Inova's Mastering Nikon Digital Cameras. I took it to China for a year and was shooting maybe 300 shots a week with a Coolpix 880. I post process everything pretty much. I used to use a wide converter on most days, a tele once in a while. After trying the later Coolpix p5000 and 4500 I gave up and jumped ship to a Canon S90. This year I got a Canons95 as my daughter wanted the S90. I still crop most shots, -I underexpose most shots purposely, shoot hand-held or with a tripod in low light. I grew up on Pentax SLR's so I'm used to setting everything manually. The s90-95 control rings are very fast compared to menus. Read the latest evaluations by Thom Hogan of the Panny's vs. the new Coolpix and you'll learn a lot. I look at it this way. Even with a 3 inch screen you won't see everything in the shot. You will lose detail when viewing in sunlight. If you assume you will post process you can shoot more, bracket , try out aperture priority , etc . and end up with something worth keeping. And of course you learn your camera with every shot . The film is now "free" and the feedback time between shot and results is so short you can adjust a blown shot and get better.

Will Webster
Photoshop on 01/17/2011 12:51:29 MST Print View

Here's a little secret Adobe would rather you don't know about: Photoshop Elements has virtually everything a photographer needs from Photoshop, at a fraction of the cost. If you shoot RAW you should seriously consider Lightroom as well (I probably do >95% of my postprocessing in LR) but if you shoot JPEG, PSE is all you need. Elements is about $100; LR is around $300. Both are available as free 30-day downloads. If you buy Elements and decide you need the full version, you can get your purchase price back as an upgrade discount.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Photoshop on 01/17/2011 14:12:11 MST Print View

+1 on Elements.

Augmented with one of any number of "Elements: How To" you will be 95% proficient in about 4 hours.

Photoshop - about 4 years.

Edit: OK... maybe not 4 years, but it isn't quick.

Edited by greg23 on 01/17/2011 15:06:41 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Photoshop on 01/17/2011 15:30:47 MST Print View

>> Edit: OK... maybe not 4 years, but it isn't quick.

Maybe your first statement is more correct? :)

Is there a human being who can competently use EVERY feature of PhotoShop?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Photoshop on 01/17/2011 15:53:34 MST Print View

I spent about 2 months doing Classroom in a Book and then about 6 other Photoshop books. Six months later I was still pretty lame. I nailed Illustrator in a month, no problem. I think some of it is how your brain is wired. Mine is not Photoshop compatible.

There are numerous free plug-ins for Elements that allow you to do almost everything Photoshop offers. And YouTube provides the tutorials. I pick and choose for exactly and only what I need.

So $99 Elements and $0.00 for asprin, and you're to go.

Edited by greg23 on 01/17/2011 16:55:01 MST.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Photo Editing - Picasa on 01/17/2011 16:19:38 MST Print View

I started out with Picasa for simple editing. It has a really easy to use interface and is non-destructive like Lightroom. You can always revert back to the original "unaltered" file should you need to. I believe it has RAW support as well. Best part is that it is free and has an easy way to link with your google account to share the photos with friends and family. It's not as powerful as Lightroom but not as daunting of a learning curve either.

Chris Kannen
(cmkannen) - MLife

Locale: K-T Boundary
Re: Re: New to digital...A few questions. on 01/17/2011 16:36:35 MST Print View

Here is a nice (and lengthy) comparison of the cameras Rick mentioned, in case you haven't already found it:

Edited by cmkannen on 01/17/2011 16:37:07 MST.

Darren Bagnall

Locale: El Portal, CA
+1 on 02/27/2012 11:51:08 MST Print View

+1 for the Lumix LX5. I carried the LX3 on the PCT and had great results. I plan to use the LX5 on the CDT this year.
I choose the Lumix because it has the widest lens (I shoot lots of landscape when hiking) and it shoots RAW. The quality is great.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
digital advantage on 03/01/2012 15:41:15 MST Print View

Another advantage of digital vs. film is that the ISO (ASA) can be changed easily in camera from shot-to-shot. With film if you wanted to use a different ISO, say 400 rather than 125, you would have to use different film. Also different film meant different color, no need to be concerned about that in digital. Google Rob Sheppard. Learn some composition techniques and quickly improve your photos.
Here is a good place to start:

Edited by rambler on 03/01/2012 15:55:51 MST.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Photo Editing - Picasa on 03/01/2012 15:56:40 MST Print View

+1. Lightroom