These days, it’s expected that we journalists not only write about an event, but also photograph it—and photograph it well. The advent of digital cameras has made everyone a photographer, to some extent.
Well, I’ll tell ya … I make no claims to be a great photographer. I wasn’t trained for it, and certainly the digital camera I’ve been using for years hasn’t been much help. Given the camera’s limitations and my modest photography skills, I’d typically deliver photos that were OK to run with a story, but never award-winning.
Still, I go to a lot of events in this job, and I’m expected to take lots of shots.
That’s why I was thrilled to get to use a new digital camera from GE, the 16.0 Megapixel Power PRO X2600. I was hoping the camera would:
- be easy to use, because I’m no rocket scientist when it comes to digital photography
- be flexible in different lighting and situations, because I cover a lot of things
and, most importantly
- provide great images!
What better test of new tech than a trial by fire? For my first use of the X2600, I chose CE Week, a series of technology events for which my company is a sponsor. It was important that I get good, magazine-quality pix from the sessions I was attending for our magazines. My old digital camera probably wasn’t up to the task—would the X2600 be?
Talk about learning on the fly! I’d popped open the package at home, loaded in the batteries, and did a quick tryout of the camera, but this was a true trial by fire.
My first assignment of the day was an intimate session on great financial ideas for retailers. It took place in a small classroom. So it was go-time for me with the X2600.
It turns on easily, with one pull of a small lever by the mode dial (which enables you to choose different photo-taking modes, more on that later).
It was at this point that I learned of the camera’s dummy-proof feature—an error message that pops up on the back screen when you power up with the cover still on the lens, which I did (and have done often since).
It was easy to fix on a setting on the fly. As the speakers started their presentation, I would take a shot, change the ISO up and down (from 100 to 200 to 800 and so on) and take another to find the best one for the room’s light. The generously sized screen on the back of the camera could show me if I had a dud or a good shot. Duds were easily trashed using the button on the back appropriately labeled with a trash can icon.
The shots were great. I was able to capture the speakers with great detail and clarity. The lighting looked natural. Hey, I was a photographer!
Later that day, I photographed panel sessions featuring multiple speakers in a bigger, more darkly lit room. No worries—by adjusting the ISO, the camera nicely adjusted for the light and, once again, I got some great shots.
This camera turned out to be a great ally for my CE Week assignments, and even more so for my “concert weekend”—a back-to-back round of rock concerts I reviewed for entertainmenttell.com—Yestival (a day-long festival of progressive rock) on Saturday 8/3/13, and The Winery Dogs (a new power trio supergroup featuring legendary drummer Mike Portnoy) on the following day.
For Yestival I had access to the pit area directly in front of the stage to take photos of all of the bands (and you can read up on my adventures in the “photo pit”—and see my pictures taken with the X2600 here), but there was a strict rule: no flash.
The flash was easily done, and again, once the first band kicked in, I was able to adjust on the fly to get the best light. The first band I photographed was during the daytime, and as the event was held in an outdoor arena (with a roof), I quickly found an ISO setting that worked best in the available light but wouldn’t cause blurring due to the lack of flash.
The Winery Dogs show the following night was held in a nightclub, so we’re talking indoors now with a minimal lighting rig. I was able to position myself front and center right by the stage, but again I could not use flash. No worries. I selected different capture mode settings on the mode dial—from night landscape to night portrait to portrait (bingo). Again, I got some good shots of the band in action (check out the results here) and didn’t set off any annoying flashes in the band’s eyes.
Although it’s frequently a no-no at the events I’ve covered, the X2600 does have a flash—an excellent one. Positioned at the top-right of the camera just above the lens, it’s unobtrusive and doesn’t get in the way of other functions, such as zooming in or popping a shot.
I greatly appreciated how easy it is to change settings on the fly using the X2600’s easily accessed menus. I had to learn how to use these while in “combat”—on the job. It’s easy, for example, to change the image size—we need some pretty high-res stuff for print magazines, but can use lower-resolution images for Web posting.
One of the most appealing features of the X2600 is its substantial 26x zoom lens, a rarity for cameras in this price range. I was able to get really close in on, say, a band member at the rear of the stage, although admittedly there was some graininess and loss of clarity, particularly at higher ISO settings.
Beyond that, the X2600 also takes great video! I’ll admit that I did shoot some video at one of the concerts I reviewed—a small sin considering the numerous cell phones in the air doing exactly the same thing at every show I attend these days. The video was stable, the picture quality excellent, and the audio very impressive as well.
I really like the display feature that tells me how many photos I have taken, as well as how many I can take (at the current resolution), based on the size of the data card currently inserted—very helpful, especially since I tend to pop a lot of shots, especially when covering a live concert. You never know when you’ll capture a great moment or pose just by pointing the camera and firing away. The camera’s quick recovery time enabled this kind of rapid-fire kamikaze photography; occasionally, there would be a momentary pause as the screen showed my shots were “processing”, but that only seemed to take a few seconds. I didn’t miss much.
Transferring my images was a snap—a quick USB hookup, and the camera speaks easily to the computers in my life. This enabled fast posting and archiving of my images, so I could clear the memory and be ready to photograph more.
The camera does take four AA batteries, and tends to use them up rather quickly, but no faster than my previous digital camera did. Still, I’d recommend always have four fresh batteries along—at one point in my adventures, I did get the low battery light. Since I was in the photo pit and my backup batteries were back at my seat, I had to make due, taking what photos I could before the camera shut down due to low power, and then restarting it and doing the same. It was kind of like running your car with a gas tank on “E” just to make it to the next station. I got what I needed.
In summation, I’m very, very impressed with GE’s X2600 digital camera. Its combination of expansive features, ease of use, and quality results is downright amazing, especially at this price point (it sells for around $160). Will it compete with more sophisticated and expensive SLRs? Perhaps not, but it’s not intended to. Still, I heartily recommend the X2600 as a substantive, quality digital camera that represents an excellent value in the low-end price range of digital photography.
For further information on the X2600, go to www.ge.com/digitalcameras
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