This is the newest post in my Colour Quest series, about trying to find a way of making colour photographs I love, with the minimum of fuss.
It’s often said that you find love when you least expect it, and conversely, when you’re desperately looking, it seems more elusive than ever.
Well, this seems to be what’s happened with my quest for colour photography.
Because after all but abandoning colour for the last six weeks or more, and focusing on black and white photography almost exclusively (and entirely throughout July with my new Pentax K30 DSLR), I seem to have stumbled upon a set up that gives me colour photographs I love, straight out of camera, with no need for post processing in Snapseed, or anything else.
After enjoying the K30 greatly, but finding it still too fiddly using vintage manual M42 lenses, I decided to use it with the only lens I have that was made specifically for Pentax APS-C DSLRs, the Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4.
Still though, the final images lacked something. Or perhaps had too much of something, that sharp, almost clinical, look that many CMOS sensors capture.
A good way of describing how I find the images is to imagine the scene of a family portrait of seven people, but where grandma on the end couldn’t make it, so instead there’s a life size cardboard cutout in her place.
Despite the family’s attempts to hoodwink those receiving the photos, it’s quite obvious that grandma’s smile (and indeed everything else about here) is not so much wooden, but cardboard. The picture doesn’t look right, it doesn’t look natural.
This is how the CMOS images often seem to look to me, a bit fake and scientific, not imperfect or organic enough.
Which is why I’ve had very few CMOS sensor digital cameras, and most have featured the older CCD type sensor that once upon a time all digital cameras used.
And after deciding not to use those old M42 lenses for now, the need for as good as possible a viewfinder (which was a major motivation for buying the K30) has decreased.
With an AF lens, you just need the VF for general composition, not fine detail focusing by eye.
So I got thinking about an older CCD DSLR again.
A few weeks and a dozen watched eBay auctions later, I managed to secure an original Pentax K100D with 6MP CCD sensor for the grand sum of £26.
Now, I thought my K30 was decent value at £150 (they were £600ish new), but this seemed an absolute steal.
What I discovered when it arrived, after a decent clean up, was that it doesn’t have a b/w mode when shooting, just two colour settings – Bright (the default) or Natural. Both of these of course are colour modes.
You can edit images in camera after capture, including converting to b/w, but this is not something I’m interested in.
I’d rather do it with my simple Snapseed set up afterwards. Which is exactly what I planned to do with the K100D.
But because I had to shoot in colour anyway, and my initial test shots (especially of our baby son) so impressed me, I wondered what the a few more images might look like if they stayed colour.
So I set out to experiment in shooting some of the kinds of compositions and colours I usually like to shoot.
What I was delighted to continue to discover, is that the cheap and humble K100D (with my DA 35/2.4 lens) delivers colour images straight out of camera as pleasing as any digital camera I’ve used!
A further play with the Pentax-A series 50/1.7 – which allows open aperture metering and aperture control in camera, but is manual focus – revealed colours that were arguably even better. And with very little tweaking and testing.
So where does this leave me? Am I about to renounce b/w and declare a new joyous commitment to K100D colour photography alone?
Whilst it’s lovely to see what the K100D can do in colour with so little fuss, I still prefer shooting b/w for many reasons.
And with the K100D, for b/w all I need to is use the same Snapseed preset (or a very similar one) I use for most of my digital cameras.
Despite this extra step – whereas the K30 can pretty much deliver b/w I like straight out of camera – I would still rather go this route, as I prefer the look of the K100D’s images (colour or b/w) and just enjoy using it quite a bit more than the K30.
More on this in an upcoming post, but suffice to say, despite my simple set up with the latter, it still feels like I’m using a 27 speed power screwdriver when a good old quality manual screwdriver and 30 seconds of elbow grease would do the job just as well.
And be simpler, cheaper and more direct and engaging to use in the process.
How about you? What’s your balance between colour and b/w photos? Does it change depending on the camera you use, the place or subject you’re photographing, the time of year?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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