... 'cloudy - sunny - sun on beach' - the endearing exposure controls of plastic 'point and shoots' in my youth. Those days are long gone. Now you scroll through icons to choose from numerous pre-set exposures. I learned the principles of photography in my early teens; the relationship between shutter speed and aperture, and how in combination with focal length and film speed, their effects on exposure could be both subtle and striking. We are now in an age where electronics can manage all or as much of our photos as we like but the latest generation of cameras still allow the freedom and control familiar to traditionalists.
Recently I took apart my six year old Panasonic, confident that I could solve a problem with dust on the sensor. However things were so delicate in there that it all went pear-shaped. No one said the infra-red filter was as fragile as fine porcelain. Damn. I can't be without the versatility of a long-zoom compact. I have a Canon digital SLR but it's too big for convenience. After research and due diligence I settled on the Sony HX50V as a replacement.
Well, have things changed much in just a few years? Hell, yes! Weight and size-wise the Sony is on the outer edges of 'compact', but there is an incredible amount to pack in. This is nothing short of a mini computer which can take photos. Aside from the usual array of shooting modes, full auto, aperture priority, shutter priority etc there are some seriously smart innovations, notably the zoom.
This is billed as 30x optical and 60x digital but even that is understating things. Depending on your shooting resolution the zoom can extend to a barely credible 240x - sitting on my couch I could get one word on the spine of a CD fifteen feet away to fill the LCD screen. Not much is beyond range now. Naturally all images are geo-tagged with GPS data retrieved from crazy satellites orbiting my apartment.
Mounting the Sony on my tripod I will be able to focus on a single petal of the hummingbird feeder - and what's more I can control exposure remotely using a smart phone. In my case I downloaded the App to my iPod Touch. If desired, I can keep an eye on my subject, control zoom, then release the shutter (shake-free on potentially long zoom and slow shutter) from any point within Wi-Fi range.
When it's time to upload an SD card full of imagery there is no need to fish out that microscopic card only to have it snatched away in the wind; no need to select and untangle the correct cord. Now a quick skim through the camera's menu, a push of a button and images transfer wirelessly to my laptop using my familiar Photoshop importer.
But the 'selfie' wink or smile -activated feature? The thought makes me wince like I'm sucking a lemon!