At last, proper winter mornings, with frost, and the camera is happier.
In truth, I was seriously chasing a second hand Canon like I used to have. It seemed to me, looking back, that I could never quite recapture the kind of shallow depth of field, contre jour, shots I got with it, and though the zoom on the Panasonic is great, and the extra megapixels enable plenty of cropping potential, the speed on auto left a lot to be desired, the shots were less sharp and dynamic, the macro never seems to quite cut it... I just felt fings weren't what they used to be.
So I started mooching about on E-bay, and learned a bit about how that works, which might well be useful life skill in parsimonious times to come, if we actually had anything worth selling. One of the things I learned quickly is that what looks like a marvellous bargain is just a hook, and despite their being very old models, Canon Powershots like I had are apparently still quite sought-after, which at least seems to substantiate my view about the camera.
In the end, I can't justify collecting another, older camera that might break down at any time (after all my old one did) just out of nostalgia, when I have a perfectly adequate one, and that I really ought to find out more about the that and what can be done with it.
I've concluded that nothing much can be done about the depth of field. I reluctantly applied my far from mathematically or optically gifted mind to the question of apertures and DoF. It's no wonder I'm confused. Shallower DoF - ie the area, field, of the photo in clear focus is small, hence those nice sharply stand-out objects with the blurry back- and closer foregrounds which just popped out 'naturally' with the old camera on auto when I held it at the right angle to the light - requires a larger aperture. However, a larger aperture is defined by a smaller number, so a 2.4 aperture is larger than a 8.0 one. This has some bearing on the shutter speed which I've not yet quite worked out and everything is further confused by the apparent fact that many of the nerdy photo people on the forums, Flickr groups etc are no clearer than I am and frequently refer to 'more depth of field' when what they really mean is shallower depth of field.
Then I was further exercised by the mechanics of the Panasonic, with continual references to its 'joystick'. I finally grasped that this was the little wiggly menu button I'd never taken much notice of, and eventually sussed how to apply it to changing the aperture size. Only to find that it enabled no greater range in this than the auto managed on its own anyway, which isn't much.
However, I was encouraged to try the outdoor sports setting for birds and other fleeting things, which the Intelligent Auto often isn't very intelligent about, and the couple of whiz-and-click actions this requires are certainly worth making.
The frosty weather brought the birds in close to the house again. We must have saved a fair bit of money on fat balls and sunflower seeds with this mild winter, we seemed to be buying then hand over fist the last couple of years. But we have plenty in stock,
for the small flock of greenfinches,
and the blue tits which appeared and waited expectantly by the empty feeding area.
I almost ditched the above blue tit shot as he (or she) was turning away, until I noticed that he was caught sharply in mid-poo, which I feel confirms the effectiveness of the speed of the setting for wildlife action shots.
So I'm staying with what I've got, self-indulgent and whimsical spending and the collection of more really quite unnecessary stuff isn't on the cards just now, or ever. I need to get on with taking and editing more pictures rather than midering about how they aren't as good as they might be if only... I might see what I can do with Tom's old titchy Nikon compact for macro shots, which compacts are often quite good for, and perhaps get back to Photoshop and the blur tool for faking shallow DoF. And they do say some interesting macro effects can be achieved with a magnifying glass in front of the lens. A new set of rechargeable batteries for the compact and a magnifier will come in a lot cheaper than a secondhand Powershot.
Some further experimental and plenty more frosty shots to come. Hooray for cold and frosty mornings.