Friday, March 22, 2013


"What kind of camera do you have?"  I've received this question a few times over as many weeks, so I thought I'd talk about my camera and equipment.  I'm just going to start up front by saying, I'm really really new at a lot of photography and camera related stuff, so I could be wrong on a lot of this and way more other people know a lot more.

Before Jason and I got married, we talked about getting a nice camera as an investment for our upcoming honeymoon, travel, and way to document our family.  I really didn't do too much in-depth research, besides a few articles saying Nikons and Canons were kind of the same if you don't have a preference, so one night at 11pm, I pulled the trigger when Best Buy was running sale and bough a camera that seemed in my price range.  (Confession: I am the worst.  I'm the biggest sucker for buying stuff just because it's on sale.)  I bought the Nikon D5000.  Reviews said it was a little higher end on the beginner camera scale, which I figured would be good for me.  I'd heard the lens that comes with cameras really wasn't worth it, but I couldn't find an option to buy without, so I got it anyways.  I can't remember what I paid for Best Buy's sale price, but I think it was around the current amazon price is about $600 (with the kit lens).  It is a good camera for basics if that's all you want.  The included lens still took great pictures like the one below.  For me though, the more I started to take pictures, the more I realized why people said the kit lens was too basic for what I wanted.

still a good picture of the train tracks outside our first apartment

Once I started looking into lenses a few months later I started experiencing buyer's remorse and wishing I'd done a little more research.  If I could do it again, I would have bought a Nikon D90.  It's a step up from the D5000, classified in the "enthusiast level" but without the kit lens, it's the same price.  My problem was, I'd done a little digging into cameras, but not really the lenses.  I wanted to take be able to take those artsy pictures of people or flowers with the blurred background.  I learned for that you needed to have a lens with a lower aperture (f-stop) than what I had.  After taking the camera on a few trips, I realized I also wanted to be able to zoom in further than what I could.  What I didn't know when buying my camera, which DR Preview points out, is that my camera does not have an in-body focus motor.  That means the motor has to be in the lenses.  That means the lenses are more expensive, way way negating any cost savings in buying a less expensive camera.  For example, if I'd got a camera with the motor in it, a popular 50mm lens would have been about a hundred dollars less.  Start looking into zoom lenses or anything else, prices get pretty high pretty fast.

Since buying a new camera to save money on lenses at this point doesn't make sense, I count it as a lesson learned: don't buy big stuff really late at night.  I don't really know anything about Canons and didn't look into them much, but I've heard good things about the Rebel series and may have heard their lenses are a bit cheaper even though you may pay more up front.  Over the past few years, I did get the following lenses/equipment:

50 mm 1.8
One of my favorite photographers, Peter Bang, includes this on his list of cheap (under $500) lens recommendations.  This lens allows you to get pretty close without being too up in someone's face, and gives the background a nice blurred effect like with this picture:

close ups of a display at the Botanical Gardens
18-200mm 3.5-5.6
Often when traveling, it helps to have a wide angle lens to get really big buildings or landscapes.  It also helps to have enough of a zoom that you can get good shots of far away things.  Instead of buying two lenses and switching on the go, I got one that does both extremes and everything in between.  While this lens was pretty pricey and is really heavy for my weak arms, it's really nice to have one lens for most of what I want.  I didn't link to the lenses since you have to be sure to get the one for your camera, but especially with the zoom lens, I'd say get one that is at least 200mm (the 300mm didn't seem like I'd need it enough to justify the extra cost of weight) with the lowest f-stop you can afford (3.5 in my case).  This lens allowed me to zoom in and out with results like this:

wide angle

same lens: zoomed in

I found that a lot of my evening pictures or pictures that I zoomed in on a lot were often blurry.  My wonderful hubby got me this tripod for Christmas this past year to help with that.  Granted, it's too cumbersome to always have with us, but we've gotten some great low light pictures with it:
the tripod helped light and shadow to be more crisp
I think the next on my wish list might be a 35mm 1.8, just cause sometimes the 50mm one is hard to get people or objects if you don't have a few yards to back up.

As far as other camera resources go, I'm still learning.  I read and as funny as it sounds, the Pioneer woman's portion of her blog devoted to photography. (I know.. she's a chef, but that woman has some good pictures and some killer food!)  I also like the daily inspiration ProjectLife365 provides.

I hope that helps if you're in the market for a camera, or maybe if you are stuck with one you don't love at least you know you're not alone! Nothing wrong with the basic point and shoot either... most of my everyday photos end up being on the iphone, and then I don't have to worry about it being too dark, too blurry, etc.  What works for you? Anyone have comprable Canon recommendations or maybe other lens suggestions? Plus, really, we all know this was just a fun way to share some more pictures.

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