Walking around with a little camera

Frozen Meadow Dancers

Panoramic detail from Frozen Meadow Dancers   © Marty Knapp 2015

After many years of making photographs from from a tripod-mounted camera, I’m surprised to find myself walking around with such a little camera and making hand-held images. My newest camera is a Sony RX100M3, one generation back from their most current model, the M4. I’m surprised by the fine quality images I’ve been getting out of this pocketable 20-megapixel camera. I purchased it as a travel camera, but I’ve been carrying it with me everywhere since I got it!

While making hand-held images, (oh heresy!), I’m rediscovering the joy of moving more fluidly through the landscape. I’m finding more possibilities and making images that I would’ve never made, let alone discover, if I had been working from a tripod. The feeling harkens back to the joy of discovering a 35mm film camera as a boy. My creative spirit has been invigorated. I’ve gotten up early for the last several mornings and bundled up for an invigorating and walk in the frost-covered meadow next door to our home. The Tomales Bay Wetlands has recently been transformed into a winter wonderland…. frost everywhere! I’ve been photographing the sparkling plants and grasses. One morning, on the way out the door, I discovered an incredible “fern-frost” display on the trunk of Jean’s Miata. Miata Fern Frost

I’ve been thinking about the plusses and minuses, and how this little camera is changing my experience of creating photographs. The plus side seems obvious: Since I can easily carry this camera with me without being burdened, it is way more likely to be there when opportunity beckons. Many times in the past I had regretted not having a camera with me when gorgeous light arrived. Now, in rapidly changing light, I can more quickly check out multiple angles and compositions to record. I’m no longer hesitant to try for an image due to the laboriousness of setting up my tripod.

But, the down-sides are critical: This ease of motion is seductive and exciting, but it can lead to poor attention to the all-important matters of careful focus and exposure. I have already missed some important settings, resulting in failed captures, during during my recent frosty morning walks.  Also, there is the issue of downside on quality by not using the larger-sensored camera, usually mounted on a tripod. I’m exploring this also and will know more when I begin printing some of these new photographs. The sticking point for me is how things look in the print. Getting good screen images are relatively easy.
Wetlands Barn & CloudsBittersweet, but less important, is the fact that I will no longer be able to boast that “every photo in this gallery was made from my tripod-mounted camera.” Perhaps it’s time to rethink my processes. Whatever way I finally decide to use this camera, I know one thing for certain… making photographs continues to delight me and elevate my spirit in a most profound way. this little camera has reminded me how much fun it is to take a new piece of equipment on a test drive to see what it will do. Now, I’m looking forward to finding just the “right pocket” to put my new camera in.

To see some photographs I made recently with the RX100M3, go here: New Additions Gallery.

17 comments on “Walking around with a little camera

  1. Having a camera for quick shots is always a good idea. Love your work. Will take my SLR and pocket camera to Antarctica next month.

    • Great to hear from you Vince. Anatartca? Wow! But it will be kinda summer-y there so your camera won’t freeze. Good luck!

  2. I see that you’ve already received some good comments. But I will add a thought or two …

    First off, I sense a “freshness” to these images. Obviously you shot a lot of new work in a matter of a few days. I can tell you were having f-u-n. There is no greater joy than seeing new images come together like this!

    For many of us the ultimate product is the print. We all strive to produce a print that meets whatever standards we set for ourselves. We know know the limitations of our gear … what size print is achievable from a certain camera. With that said, maybe this camera will become a device for producing small intimate prints.

    Personally I love small prints that I can hold in my hand. Their small size makes them easy to hang in a home. Unfortunately it seems that we live in a time when people want to “decorate” with LARGE prints. I should add I too like to see some images printed large — some require a large size to see all the detail.

    Best of luck to you Marty. And continue having fun with your new Sony!

    • Yes, this camera can be purposed for the spontaneity not usually achievable by the bigger camera. Obviously you give up the very large print, but quite fine small to medium-large prints I suspect can be made from the files generated. I like the idea of both – the careful, tripod mounted large camera prints that I spend time thinking about, and the fleeting moments only available if you have a small camera with you when you find them. All are good. Thanks for weighing in, Jan. I’ll look forward to seeing you next time you make it to California.

  3. You are an incredibly talented photographer, Marty. I have been following your work for 25 years. These new photos with the small camera are some of my favorites! Mazel tov!!

    • YRP,
      I’m blushing! Thanks for your very kind words about my work. I’m pleased that you are still enjoying my work.

  4. I just recently purchased an Olympus MFT camera and lens, and have been enjoying the advantages of a smaller, lighter camera too. But I find I put more thought into the composition when I have to manually focus the lens. It’s a conundrum.

    • David,
      I think you made the right decision with the Olympus. I think it’s one of the finest and most versatile mirrorless M43 cameras out there. By the way, you should be able to set it up for manual focus, manual exposure and have the advantages of using it much like your favorite film and other manual focus cameras.

  5. Marty — Good post. I think we are all looking to carry less stuff when we go out to shoot. It has something to do with keep the focus on the image and something also to do with the continual turn-over of the calendar! In my own case, I have found that I get better images when I don’t take too much “stuff” with me into the field. My solution thus far for “walk around” has been to drop the heavy f/2.8 mid-range zoom and mount a 50 mm lens on a full frame body (or a 35 mm lens on a crop frame body). Drops a lot of the weight yet allows me to use a camera that I have come to know inside and out. Too, with today’s sensors, we have the option of upping the ISO to keep shutter speeds fast enough. Will be watching to hear about your experience with prints from the RX100. Here’s to a healthy and productive 2016. Frank

    • Frank, I couldn’t agree more. And there’s something to be said of walking around with just one fixed lens. Beside the obvious benefits of lightness and optical sharpness, there is the creative advantage of training your eyes to see the perspective your camera is seeing. That way, you only pick up the camera when likely compositions become available to your eye and the camera’s! (Hope I made some sense here.)
      Cheers, Marty

  6. Marty, I’m looking forward to more of your photos taken with your new camera. Have fun.

    • Hadley,
      That’s a sure thing…. having fun! Been enjoying your new calendar and I’m looking forward to seeing you and your new work.
      Cheers & Happy New Year, my friend.

  7. Hi Marty,
    I use a Sony RX100M3. Very happy with the quality of images. Makes good 18×24 prints. Just wish it had a longer lens. I take it with me whenever I go out the door. Having it in the carry case on my hip reminds me to look!

    • Warren,
      We’ll have to compare notes! I’ve been fussing with the various menu options and learning what works for the way I photograph. Your results may differ. It’s good to hear that you are making fine prints up to 24″ wide. Do you use any of the re-sizing software. I print out of Lightroom and I’m looking forward to seeing what these new files will look like coming out of my Epson.

    • Bill,
      Good to hear from you and glad that you checked out my post. Hopefully my photos of Point Reyes can keep you connected with this place you love so much.
      Happy New Year to you and yours!

  8. ps. I have no plans to give up shooting with my two larger Sonys: The full-spectrum Nex-7 and the legendary AR7.

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