Model Railroad Photography IIIb - The Camera

Well, that didn’t take long. After my post a couple of weeks ago about the advantages of cameras with smaller sensors, I continued looking at what was available, and quickly discovered that RAW-capable point-and-shoot cameras were much more common now than they had been even two years ago. At the same time, cameras with tilt-and-swivel rear LCDs were rather rare. And then I stumbled across the Samsung EX2F. And what I found was compelling enough to get me to buy one (it helped that they’re on sale at present, significantly marked down perhaps in advance of a new model).

Now Samsung isn’t a name that comes to mind when you think about cameras, or at least not when I do. They’re a big company with a lot of different lines of business, but I think of them (outside of major appliances) as a smartphone company. And many of their point-and-shoot cameras are smartphones-without-the-phone with better lenses.

But the EX2F is something different, although it clearly shares that genealogy. It has a number of features aimed at “enthusiast” photographers, and its performance (in RAW anyway) has been rated very highly by professional photographer reviewers (like this one). Nothing is perfect, particularly in a device that’s as much of a compromise as any small-sensor enthusiast-oriented camera has to be. The camera has both good and bad. I think the good parts outweigh the problems or I wouldn’t have put down close to US$350 for the camera, memory card and accessories.

Model Railroad Photography III - Cameras

Once upon a time, I thought I understood layout photography. Throw a bunch of light, point the camera, and take a picture. I seem to know less now than I did then. And while that’s probably a good sign that I’m learning, I do feel like I’m going backwards.

My current concern is depth of field. Without getting into the technical definition, that’s the extent of the region in a photograph that appears to be acceptably in focus. While it would be nice to have the entire image in focus, typically either the nearest or furthest-away portions will be somewhat out of focus. In the photo above, the wooden ruler close to the camera is out of focus, as is the far end of the red ruler, so my depth of field here is somewhat less than 12” (30 cm). And that’s viewed from a distance as a ~660 pixel-wide image. Seen in larger form (e.g., the 800 pixel versions I post in my photo album), the depth of field should appear even more shallow.

Camera Car

I’ve long wanted to take some “engineer’s eye” video of the layout, both because I think it’s more immersive, and because close-up views help to reveal weak areas in the visual design of the layout. At first I considered buying a train with a pre-installed camera (Kato has made one in the past) or buying the wireless camera and installing it myself. I actually ended up buying a camera, but never doing the work to install it, because it was clear that there were a lot of compromises in the system.

Model Railroad Photography II - Basic Postprocessing

In the previous installment I wrote about actually taking the photograph. Today’s post is about what to do next. You can, of course, use the JPEG just as it comes from the camera. But in most instances, that won’t give you the best photograph. What I do varies from image to image, and most require very little work, but “very little” isn’t none. Read More...

Model Railroad Photography I

Most people build layouts to see or run trains, but increasingly we want to share that with people who can’t see the layout in person (or we want to hide the messy bits and show off the good stuff). But taking a photograph of a model railroad layout isn’t as easy as pointing a camera and clicking away. It is, of course, easier with a good camera. But mostly it depends on you understanding what the camera needs to take a good picture, what you can do the take the best picture, and what you can do after the fact to clean it up. Today I’m going to write about the first two parts: preparation and taking the photo. I’ll have a subsequent posting about image processing.