I recently upgraded my camera from a 15 year old DSLR to a new mirror-less, full frame camera. As part of my testing to get used to the various settings, I did some shots at different focal lengths. Yes, there is a difference.
I get a lot of my friends that ask, why not just use your phone? It can shoot 10MB images now. Well that is true, and to be honest for anything close, I actually do use my phone, which gives great quality, even enough for medium size prints if desired.
The real difference comes in being able to of course zoom out to farther distances to get the shot, easily and quickly adjust the framing with the zoom on the lens (yes, I know that many phone cams can now pinch and zoom, but that is a digital zoom and reduces quality, and not as controllable).
The bigger difference is in being able to adjust the shutter speed, aperature, and iso settings. Either to get the "perfect" exposure and lighting, freeze or slow action, or to affect grain size, focus, or produce other "custom" effects.
I don't consider myself an expert, but I have been using camera's since my pre-teen days. Back then, all the settings were manual. There was no "auto-exposure" or "program" buttons. We had to manually set the iso, the shutter speed, and the aperture (and then wait a week to process the film and prints to see how we did!).
For the beginners, here are the basics:
ISO: This is basically setting the sensitivity of the film (or sensor nowadays). Higher ISO will allow shooting in lower light, but also causes larger and more noticeable "graininess".
Aperture and Shutter speed are directly related to one another, changing one affects the other.
Shutter Speed: Faster shutter speed will help freeze fast moving objects, slower shutter speed will allow slower things like water to blur. Most users must stay at 1/125th of a second or faster to handhold without shakiness causing focus issues. Faster shutter speeds require larger aperture settings to allow more light in for proper exposure.
Aperature: The smaller number aperture settings ie: f1/4 allow in more light (and can use faster shutter speeds). The larger aperture numbers ie: f22 allow in less light (and require slower shutter speeds to allow enough exposure time). I know, it seems backwards.
Depth of Field: This is the main reason most photographers care about the Fstops and Shutter speeds. This affects how much of the frame is in focus. Ever seen those nice close bird shots where the bird is in focus and all the background is just blurry? That is a "shallow" depth of field. Ever see the large landscapes where everything from close to distant seems in focus? That is a "deep" depth of field.
This is controlled by adjusting the Aperture and Shutter Speed. The smaller the aperture (high F-number like F22) the deeper the depth of field. The larger the aperture (small F-number like F1.4), the shallower the depth of field. Distance from the lens and focal length of the lens also come into play, but Aperture and Shutter Speed are the main contributors.
Enough tech talk. Here are some comparison shots I took in the back yard. The first is shot from my cellphone, the rest using various zoom rates and settings with the new camera.
First shot above, taken with Pixel 5 Smartphone.
Next shot at the base 100mm lens zoom. This is just a little larger than "normal" human eye view, which is generally considered to be approximate to 50mm lens. Hard to believe it's even shot from the same spot, Yes?
Here we are at 200mm zoom in and getting larger. I think my favorite of the group.
Next is closer at 400mm and getting closer.
This camera also has two other special modes: an APS-C mode (also called "crop mode"), that allows me to use older, non-full-frame lenses. This allows for an extra 1.5x zoom at reduced 26 MB file size.
Then there is also a special "clear zoom" mode, which the camera computer can also add another 1.5x by using computer magic and supposedly not losing quality. So here, the 400mm lens actually becomes a 900mm lens. Holy cow Sonyman! Very hard to hold still at that zoom level without a tripod or rest, probably won't use much, but pretty cool.
Yes, these were all taken from the same spot on our back patio.
I also have a 2x Teleconverter, but haven't started playing with that yet. Yes, it's powerful, but also reduces available light by 2 Fstops, and can affect auto-focus capabilities in low-light. We'll see. how that goes. I did get a few good shots on Prairie Dog, Moon, and Deer with it so far. Check my feed for more!
All photos original work copyright 2021 the author of this post.
Camera Sony A7R4 with Sony 100-400 GM lens.
Enjoy! Stay tuned and follow for the next shots!