About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Carry Around Camera

I have a new "Carry Around" camera and, so far I'm having fun.

Let's face it, we are photographers which means we love gear. I know that there are those out there that preach a minimalist approach to the sport, but given the opportunity and an overpowered four wheel drive vehicle to carry the gear most of us would load up on heavy stuff that we will seldom use. My approach to gear has generally been that the transient annoyance and pain of lugging around a heavy kit is generally over balanced by the years of satisfaction which comes from getting the most out of any photographic opportunity. Just so long as the tonnage doesn't limit my mobility.

While recognizing the value of having my full kit, there are situations where a light and unobtrusive “carry around” camera is nice to have on hand. A small camera is great, for street
Depth of Focus
photography where a massive "professional" device will draw immediate attention. I may be paranoid, but I have also used a small camera in situations where I fear that a big expensive DSLR might be a temptation for pick pockets and muggers. Sorry Equador, but I wasn't going to take my 5D out to capture the street fair at night in Quito. To be fair to South America, I also used my carry around to capture the monuments at night in Washington, DC. Perhaps the most important reason to have a capable small camera is to have it with you wherever you go. The classic rule is, " Your best camera is the one you have with you" and I try not to make that camera my iPhone. My brief case always has a small camera tucked inside for
those unexpected opportunities that seem to pop up on my way to or from work. Whether i'm out to diner with friends or just taking Nellie for a quick "pooper", if I don't expect to capture an 12x18" fine art image, the little camera works just fine.

 For several years my carry around has been a Canon G11. It is a powerful little
Early 1200 mm trial, West River Dragon
camera with full controls and the capability to shoot in RAW, but I never fell in love with the G11. I recently got a Canon SX50 and, although it isn't perfect, photography is always about trade-offs, so far, I think that, if not in love, I am ready at least for a more committed relationship. I have received a lot of questions about how the camera is performing, so I thought I would offer my early impression and show some examples of the images I have been able to capture. I have never done formal product reviews and this is intended as a summary of early and incomplete impressions, with much more exploration ahead.


The Carry-Around Criteria
I should start with a short list of the features I look for in a small carry around. There is no camera out there that meets all these perfectly but it is a good to have some criteria to apply to the search.

Size: The Ideal here is to be able to comfortably slide the camera into your pants pocket. There is some amazingly small camera out there, but invariably the tiny size comes with performance trade-offs including sensor size, zoom range, and controls. I have generally settled for a camera that slips into a brief case or fanny pack, rather than in my pants pocket.

The zoom ranges is especially important with fixed lens
1200 mm, Spofford Lake
cameras. One of the reasons for my lack of strong affection for my G11 is that the zoom is only 5x (24-140mm). The longer the OPTICAL zoom the better, and beware of references to the “Digital” zoom. All this is doing is cropping the image and you can do that better in post. And of course, with longer zooms, image stabilization becomes increasingly important for sharp images.

RAW Capability
After I started shooting RAW, I would never want to go back the baked-in restrictions of 8 bit jpg images.

Range of Controls: 
 I want to have full control of the cameras functions including Shutter and aperture preferred, and manual control. ISO, exposure compensation, white balance and focus control are also desirable.

Ease of Control: The more I can stay away from menus the better. With practice the journey through menus on the LCD can become manageable, but I look for as many adjustments on dials and buttons on the camera as possible.

High definition on many of these little cameras is amazing, but quality sound is generally still a major issue. The old saying is true: “A great movie with crappy sound is still a crappy movie”.

Other Features:
Cable release input, hot shoe to supplement the usually rudimentary built in flash, Tilt/swivel LCD Screen (I don’t get down on the ground as easily as in the past)

Susan has Turned Returning Her Birthday Presents
into an Art Form

A couple of weeks ago I got a new carry-around camera. I started by getting Susan a small camera that would fit easily in her purse, but would have decent focal length range. We are heading to Alaska in August and, if in no other place, I thought Susan might be induced to take a picture of a Grizzly, safely at the end of a very long lens.  I ended up with the Canon SX 500. It was nicely compact and had a 30x zoom. Unfortunately  it couldn't shoot RAW, but I thought it was a nice compromise for her to have easily at hand. Happily, Susan rejected her birthday present insisting that, “You’re the photographer. Why do I need a camera”. It is usually jewelry that she rejects, but this time, a camera. Ok. Great! I went out and got the camera I wanted, but hopefully one that she might still be able to use from time to time and perhaps in Alaska.

Canon SX50 HS
After some further research, I ended up with the Canon 50 HS. The camera is a little bigger, but still quit compact and incredibly light. It is a pleasure to carry it around in a small fanny pack. There are a number of excellent reviews of the camera's strengths and weaknesses and I will only mention a few of the features that I have found interesting.


The obvious, stand-out feature of the SX50 is its 50X zoom. This thing goes from 24mm to 1200mm!, making its lack of
1200mm and Cropped
interchangeable lens' largely mute. I have included a number of my images at the full 1200mm length and in general I have been impressed. At this length a tripod would be recommended to get maximal sharpness, but, so far, the results from my image stabilized, hand held pictures have been surprisingly good. It is helpful to have good light and a high ISO to allow for faster shutter speeds. Of course high ISO's can be an issue for noise. The SX50 has a small sensor, about 30% smaller than the G11, and at ISO's greater that 400-800 , noise can be more of an issue, but I haven't seen much of a difference from the G11. This can't compete with my full frame camera, but so far I have been able to get good results with appropriate levels of noise reduction.
24 mm
1200 mm Uncropped

RAW of Course
The second, must have feature, is that the camera shoots in RAW. Nuf said.

Macro Although the extreme zoom is the stand-out feature of this little camera, I have been espcially impressed with its macro performance. I am experienced with the extremely thin depth of focus from my full size sensor and, although the SX 50 can't match the beautiful bokeh of my 5d Mark II, its tiny sensor can often pull much more of the subject into sharp focus. I can use a single image to capture flowers in sharp focus that would require three or four stacked images from my full frame camera.

The SX 50 has the full range of controls, and those not on the camera body, are accessible though a reasonably simple menu system. I have learned my own lesson and after a short time actually reading the manual, and photographing my feet, I think I have most of the routine controls figured out. It helps that the control scheme is similar to that on my G11.


The camera has the capability to shoot 3 images, applying exposure or focus bracketing. I'm still figuring out how to adjust the range of exposure or focus, but, a few days ago, I did get a reasonable exposure bracket to use in an HDR image of sunset across Huber Farm. The results were not as smooth as my, tripod stabilized, 7 image DSLR version, but still not bad for a hand held three image bracket.

Hubner Sunset, 3 Image Bracket

Of course I have a few gripes about the camera. At f3.5, The lens is
Indian Pond Frog Hunting, Chesterfield, NH
slower than I would like. The manual focus procedure is awkward. A focus ring on the lens would be a great improvement. The electronic viewfinder has poor resolution, but is still helpful when bright light makes the LCD difficult to see. I have noticed that the camera has a tendency to blow out highlights in bright light. There is a dynamic range function that is designed to mute this effect, but I'm still trying to figure out how to make it work. Of course resolution and noise does not compete with the results from my Full frame. The images here look pretty good, but remember these picture are small and can't fairly show the results seen in the full images. I look forward to seeing how far I can go in printing large versions of some of these images.
West River Sunset, Brattleboro, Vermont

There are many more pros and cons I could mention. I haven't even begun to explore the High Definition video capabilities of the camera, but I must remember that the purpose of this article was to respond to requests to see images from my new Carry Around. I can say that the SX50 HS is not a perfect camera. Like all small cameras it encompasses compromises in size, function and image quality, but so far I have been satisfied with the results. I can say I have been having fun shooting with this little camera that has such a big reach and, to me, that is the most important thing. I think I have found a new Carry Around.

Jeffrey Newcomer


  1. Very impressive. But only a talented photographer could squeeze out such quality. I'm impressed!

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