Monday, December 29, 2008

The year in review 2008 photos plus

As I stated in my post yesterday, I had the privilege of shooting a 50th anniversary celebration given to the couple by their family this past weekend. The first image today is when the 'bride' [from 50 years ago] saw her granddaughter dressed in the same dress she wore 50 years ago.

[both of the images were shot with the Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 and the scene was lit with the Nikon SB800 and the Gary Fong Lightsphere II as the light modifier.]

I stumbled on this list of images from a different site. Every image depicts emotion in some manner. The main reason I put this information on this blog is to assist you in finding new pictures to look at. What causes you to look at the image? Why is it intriguing? Would you have shot it in a different manner?

Wherever I go, I look at pictures. If you are walking in the mall, take time to look at the pictures in each store. Notice how they photographer lit the scene and why the image is striking. Dick's sporting goods has an image in the middle of their store advertising under armor. The lighting on the athlete is amazing. If you are walking along the news stand at the grocery store, pick up a fashion magazine and notice how the studio photographer lit the model or the wedding magazine and notice how the models [brides] are lit. After you review the following images, go back through your collection of images and make a year in review for yourself. Once you look at your own images, from 08, 07, etc., can you see an improvement in your work? I took time over the past week and looked at images I took over the past seven years. The good part, I notice a big difference in my work and realize the areas that need detailed work.

2008 in Pictures, Part I

2008 in Pictures, Part II

2008 in Pictures, Part III

If you attend year end/year beginning parties this week, there is no doubt you will have your camera [I will :-) ]. Remember to capture fun pictures of the events and many years from now you can look at them and remember the year 2008. Who knows, a picture you take in 2009 might end up as a year in review picture for someone.

As always, get out and capture the beauty of life!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

50th wedding anniversary shoot Cider House

I had the privilege to shoot a 50th wedding anniversary over the weekend. The couple was honored by their family and friends. In between portraits and candid shots, I took a few shots of the facility which was nicely lit.

This image was shot at f/10 and 6 seconds on a tripod. I converted the image in Lightroom to give it a 'different' look. The first image is the 'after' and the second is the before.

This is the same building but from the front.

The final image is an image of a few other buildings in the area. It was a perfect night for capturing fun pictures. The weather was very nice [60+ degrees in Dec wow!]
I tried shooting this type of shot in the past without a tripod and it is very challenging. There are still many homes that are lit up for the holidays. Even if you do not have a tripod you can use a bean bag or other creative surfaces.
The best advice for capturing holiday lights is on strobist.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Photography quote to consider

"The simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression... . In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little human detail can become a leitmotif." — Henri Cartier-Bresson

Video made from 45,000 images

This video is a few minutes long but if you want to see a different twist on making a video [using 45,000 still photos] then check out this slick video.

Fat City Reprise - Long Gone from Cesar Kuriyama on Vimeo.

If the video does not work in your browser, then click on this link.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

The following verses are some of my favorite passages concering the birth of Jesus Christ.

Luke 2:25-30  And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

Luke 2:30  For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

Verse 30 is a very powerful verse.  Please take the time to meditate on this verse.  Simeon knew exactly who the child was and is; salvation.  Salvation to not only the Jew but to the Gentile.  To everyone who will receive Him [Jesus] as their Saviour.

John 1:12  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Jesus Christ knew the reason He came to this earth.

Luke 19:10  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
John 10:10  The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

The greatest gift ever given was given to us two thousand years ago by God the Father in His Son, Jesus Christ. 

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

If you never received Christ as your Saviour, ask Him to save you and receive the greatest gift of all time!

Recently, I finished the book by Glenn Beck.  "The Christmas sweater".  I will do a quick review in the next few days.  The short version; I highly recommend the book!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Funny video momsense

This is one of the funniest videos ever. You will need to click on this link to view 'momsense'.

I know it is not photo related but with all the negativity in the world, a good laugh is always good.

Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Monday, December 22, 2008

All this for a King 08

I had the privilege to shoot a recent event at Victory Family Church in Cranberry Twp. "All this for a King". As always, it was an amazing arrangement of music, light, and sound. One of the most challenging parts about shooting a low light or ever changing light event is capturing the proper exposure. This event was no different. However, creating creative images are an event photographers dream come true.

In the first image I used the 50mm at f/2.2, 1/40 second and ISO 1250. I set my focus point on his face [as close to his eye as possible] knowing that the area that would be in focus would be limited. When shooting in very low light you must keep the camera to your eye and watch the light change and not press the shutter until the light 'looks right'. This was shot in manual and not in aperture priority since the light was changing very fast and I knew only manual exposure was the best choice.

The second image was shot a few seconds prior to the first image. I use this image to illustrate how the light was changing but more important where the light was located. The singer was front lit [in this image] but I was behind him as he walked through the audiance toward the stage. The light position created an interesting image. The stage was to my back and I knew I had little time to capture him with 'perfect' light. The challenging part about the second photo in this blog [it was taken prior to the other image] was not to get in the path of the singer [it wouldn't look good if he tripped over me :-) ]. The second challenge was not to get in the path of the video cameraman. He was off to my left and I had to keep an eye on him to avoid getting in his path since it was a 'live' feed to the large screens at the front of the church. [It wouldn't look good if my shiny head appeared in the video instead of the singer.]

I will post a few more images from the event later in the week.

This is proof of the value of the very affordable 50mm f/1.8 lens. If you do not have one and wonder if it is worth spending $100 on a 50 mm, by the end of this week I hope I am able to prove the value of this lens through the images.

When I shoot this type of event I spend most of my time on the floor or in a very low position. This is needed to keep the attention from me and to stay out of the range of video cameras projecting the event on the big screen. I do not state this to brag on my physical ability but to praise the Lord. As I type this I am thinking back to a few years ago when I seriously hurt my back [due to doing stupid] and I had to crawl on the floor to get around because I could barely walk. The pain was nearly unbearable but through the grace and power of the Lord, I am able to walk and manuever on the floor with no pain today.

If you ever have the opportunity to shoot low light photography, I recommend that you give it a try. It is fun and provides tremendous opportunity for creativity. Before you venture out, I highly recommend you learn the controls of your camera without looking. You will need to be able to change a lens in the dark and adjust your camera settings without thinking or looking.

If you take nothing else from this post, please keep in mind the importance of learning your gear.

As always, get out and capture the beauty of life!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Use vignetting to create focus.

According to; vignetting (vin-ye-ting) is a reduction of an image's brightness or saturation at the periphery compared to the image center. A similar effect occurs when filming projected images or movies off a projection screen, the so-called hotspot, defining a cheap home-movie look where no proper telecine is used.
Although vignetting is normally unintended and undesired, it is sometimes purposely introduced for creative effect, such as to draw attention to the center of the frame. A photographer may deliberately choose a lens which is known to produce vignetting. It can also be produced with the use of special filters or post-processing procedures.

OK, I am not sure about you but that is about as clear as a muddy stream. However, with all that stated we are going to look at vignetting in a creative and positive manner to create focus. In the first example, I used Lightroom to darken the edges which created an interesting effect to the image. This effect causes our eyes to focus on the center of the image. In the second example, I lightened the edges which caused a framing effect. This pushes our eyes to the center of the image and changed the look of the image.
I use Lightroom to create both types of effects. However, this can be done in Photoshop and no doubt Photoshop Elements. Experiment with a copy of one of your images.

In the final image [which is one of my favorites] I lightened the edges to cause the focus to fall on the mom and her baby. Lightening the edges does not match the wikipedia definition but it causes the eyes to focus on the subject. I use both types to create a 'different' look to an image. Experiment and see what effects you can create.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

10 ways to go broke

I saw this article on

How to shrink your bottom line

I know this has nothing to do with photography.  However, I think it is an excellent article that should be shared with others.

10 ways to shrink your bottom line
1. Spend too much
2. Don't save
3. Use credit as an emergency fund
4. Try to get rich quick
5. Buy high, sell low
6. Raid retirement funds early
7. Pay lots of fees
8. Go bare, or ... inappropriately covered
9. Let taxes run rampant
10. Believe everything you hear, read and see

Monday, December 15, 2008

Side light and its value

I used two lights for this portrait. There was a 'hot' box to my left and the on board flash. I used two lights to create some dimension in the image. The hot box caused light to fill the left side of the image and the flash filled in their faces, eliminating dark shadows under the eyes.

Experiment with using two lights to light your subjects. Keep in mind if you use a hot box or any light that is 'on' always, the subjects will get 'hot' and blinded by the lights.

The settings for this image: f/5.6 1/60 second ISO 200 using the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The value of photography

I write this as I think about a dear friend of mine who recently died.  How many photos do we have of him?  How many photos does his family have of him laughing and enjoying life?  Ten, twenty, or thirty years from now when our families and friends look back on our lives, will they have enough pictures to remember what took place through the various seasons of life.

Those around me, know that I bring my camera everywhere I can.  I take pictures of life, as it happens and as we 'pose' it happening.  I want to help folks remember life's little events that make up our wonderful lives.  I do hope this is not depressing or too philosophical.  I get this way during holidays and special moments of life.  Did I get enough pictures? Did I capture the mood and 'tone' of the event?  Will everyone that wants a picture get one?  Does everyone look their best in the picture?  Did I forget anything?  Then later when everything settles down and I put my head on the pillow to go to sleep, I smile and tears of joy flow down my cheek as I think how wonderful it is to capture the beauty of life.  

As we enter into the holiday seasons where folks gather around for Christmas dinners, New Year 'parties', and other celebrations, I hope you are able to use the skills you gained as a photographer to capture the beauty of life as you enjoy it unfolding.  Get out and take pictures of everything and share them with others!  Don't forget to print a few and post on your walls to admire and enjoy.  Yea, I know, we post them on the web, on our facebook wall and other electronic places.  But there is nothing like the appeal of a picture you enjoy when you look up from your desk.

This is an image of the edge of the patio off our porch.  The most important question in life; is Christ in you?
Colossians 1:27  To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Try different papers and on-line professional services when printing.

If you never tried different types of paper then I suggest that you experiment with metallic paper for your prints.  The amazing effect from metallic paper is the almost three dimensional look it creates.   Everyone that I show a metallic print sees that there is a difference but cannot tell what is the difference between a 'regular' print and the print in their hands.  
Too often we only choose glossy or matte.  However, there are many other types of paper and print options to choose from.  Especially, if you use an on-line service.  I use and for most of my prints and every time with great success.  The black and whites produced from a professional lab is far superior to anything you will find at your local print center.  Yes, the local Wal-mart, Costco, Walgreens, etc will print them for cheaper than any professional lab.  Keep in mind, 'you get what you pay for' when it comes to your favorite photos. 

The next time you order prints, experiment with different papers.

As always, get out and capture the beauty of life!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Vanessa & Drew portraits

As always, I had a blast photographing Andrew and Vanessa.  They are a great couple to photograph.  They cannot take a bad image. 
Oh the weather outside was frightful, but the furnace inside so delightful, and since we could not go outside to shoot, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

I think that is how the song goes or something similar.  The temperature was in the teens and we decided to forgo an outdoor photo shoot.  
We played around with a few different looks and these are some of my favorites.
The flash was off camera and to the couple's left to emulate a non-existent light from the sun :-).  
Aperture 5.0, ISO at 640, shutter speed 1/60 second. 40mm
The ring and heart image was taken using a tri-pod and the 50mm f/1.8.  The aperture was set to f/4.0 to obtain a larger depth of field. Vanessa held the flashlight to the left which created the 'heart' shadow.  I added a touch of pink to the heart in photoshop.  

On the last image the settings were:
f/2.8, 1/60 second, ISO 400.  

Friday, December 5, 2008

Buying a dSLR lens choice II 70-300vr

This was taken with the D200 @ ISO 1250 f/5.6, 1/50 second using the 70-300vr @ 270mm.

In the previous post, we discussed the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 or Nikon/Canon's equivalent. Today, we will discuss the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR.
It is not a fixed aperture lens which causes 'problems' when using this in low light and moving subjects. What this means is at 300mm the fastest aperture is f/5.6 and at 70 the aperture is f/4.5. Therefore, fully zoomed the lens maximum aperture is 5.6 which is not very fast and if the light is limited will present problems to creating a sharp image. However, when the light is fast; the vibration reduction [vr] combined with the ED glass makes this lens a tremendous purchase for <$500. The first image was taken using this lens and the only reason there is no motion blur is because the guest minister [Christopher Alam] was praying and not moving around. The vr on this lens is amazing. It eliminates or reduces any movement on my part [it doesn't reduce movement on the subjects part] and enables me to hand hold a long focal length at slower shutter speeds. However, even with the vr I normally brace myself on something. In this case, I braced myself on the balcony ledge.
In the second image, the lighting was excellent and I was able to shoot the portrait at a much faster shutter spped. The camera settings were: ISO 400, shutter speed, 1/500, aperture, f/5.3, 200mm focal length on the D200. The background blurred out very nice due to my distance from the subject and the subjects distance from the background.

Using this lens at an outdoor sporting match [soccer, non pro football, etc] could prove to be a challenge if the light isn't good enough. If the light drops too low then you will not be able to maintain a fast enough shutter speed.

This lens proves to be an excellent choice when lighting is excellent.

In the third image the lighting was great and the lens combined with the D200 produced great images. The third image was taken at the Pittsburgh airshow in the spring of 08. If you are comparing this lens to the much cheaper 70-300 g version and are asking why the difference in cost. This lens is more than the physical differences. I used the 70-300g in the past and although the focal length is the same the similarities end there. The image quality is much better combined with a metal body versus the plastic body. This lens also has the vibration reduction which makes it a valuable asset. If you do not have the 400-500 to pay for this lens then there is a middle alternative by Nikon.

The Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED AF Lens is different but similar and can be bought for $200 used and does not have the vr and has less lens elements. Keep in mind if you need the 300 mm focal length you will need to ensure you have a faster shutter speed to compensate for camera shake. If you cannot obtain the faster shutter speed, then some support is needed.

Nikon and the third party manufacturers make a cheaper alternative in this focal length as well as the 55-200mm [which I owned]. It is a plastic lens and is not a 'fast' lens. The maximum aperture is f/5.6 at 200mm and you will encounter the same problems I described in this post.

The Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR is a tremendous lens when the lighting is great but there is nothing like shooting with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR
However, it is slightly more expensive coming in at $1600 new. :-)

Tamron and Sigma make an alternative; Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras to Nikon's more expensive version. The Tamron is a plastic lens [which makes it lighter] and does not have the vibration reduction which reduces its price to less than $700.

Have fun and get out and capture the beauty of life!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Buying a dSLR Lens choice

ISO: 200 @ f/8, 1/60 second, 32mm [Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8] with off-camera flash using a sync cord. 

In previous posts we discussed the purchase of a camera body.  I quickly learned that camera bodies are like computers [which they are when you think about it] and they go down in value very fast.  Today's latest and greatest camera body which sells for [pick a price range] and in 12-18 months will be selling for a fraction of its original release cost.  Why? Because camera companies continue to 'inovate' the way cameras are built.  What does it mean for the consumer?  As I stated in previous post; my suggestion is to purchase slightly used camera bodies.

This philosophy is based upon the principal that buying good quality lenses is where the consumer should put their money [concerning camera equipment].  If you buy slightly used lenses, you will be able to sell the lens for nearly the same price you bought if for years later.  Why?  Camera/lens manufacturers do not 'update' their lenses each year.  Yes, there are new lenses being released on a regular basis but there are many great lenses on the market which were released many years ago.

In a previous post we briefly discussed the 50mm f/1.8 lens for both the Canon and Nikon. Today we will briefly discuss my workhorse lens.  The Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 is on my camera as my general walk-around lens.  It is wide enough to capture nice group shots without the need to get very far back from the subject and it is long enough to do a nice portrait [although I like the 85mm for great head shot portraits].

I purchased the Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 used in the spring of 07 [after selling some other gear to cover the purchase] for $350 and more than 50% of the images in my Lightroom collection indicates they were taken with the Tamron 17-50mm lens.  My suggestion is to look for this lens slightly used to save money.  A new one will cost appriximately $100 more but you will get a six year warranty for the money.

As of this writing the Canon version of this lens  Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 for Canon Digital SLR Cameras is selling for ~$350.

Both Nikon and Canon makes their own version of this focal range but new or used sells for at least twice the cost of the Tamron. The Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens sells for $1139 [as of this writing] new and the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens sells for $879.

Sigma makes a lens in the same range but I do not have any experience with the lens and cannot comment on its performance.  If you combine this with a used camera body for $500 and your budget is in the $1000 range you will have money left over for a memory card and small camera bag.  This range will not cover the 'long' focal distance [which we will cover in future post] but it will cover most shots needed for day to day photojournalistic style shooting. 

I highly recommend this lens.  Keep in mind a few 'thoughts'.  This lens is plastic compared to the Nikon version of the lens which is more metal. However, the lens mount is metal which reduces wear on the mount when you attach and detach the lens from the camera.  Since the lens is plastic it is much lighter than the Nikon version of the lens and it is not as 'large' which reduces the 'wow' from indiviudals you are taking their picture.  It is not an obtrusive lens and even with the lens hood mounted.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Creative additions for the holidays

It is the time of the year when many folks get out the creative thinking cap.  We take pictures and make cards, mousepads, magnets, etc for our family, friends, co-workers, etc.  Did you ever think of adding a font with decorations in it? 

There are fonts with snow flakes, Mickey Mouse, Santa, and so many more variations to 'spruce' up your cards and images.  I am not one to go crazy adding many different decorative fonts so the card looks like something out of a spy movie ransom note. However, a different font adds a certain flair to the image. 

There are hundreds of sites with holiday fonts.  My only suggestion is to 'google' holiday fonts, Christmas fonts, etc and you might be amazed what you find is available for free.

Below is a small image with a sample of what is available on the net.  Get out the creative cap and try something different.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Inspiration photos

Every so often I stumble upon a site that has amazing photos that I feel I must share. Click here for an amazing gallery of HDR images from Paris [France, not the spoiled trust fund baby].

There is a translator button on the upper right hand side of the page.  {You will see the little flags.}


A battered warrior! 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Buying a dSLR part four Lens selection

This image was taken with the D50 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens.  Settings: ISO 1600, Aperture f/2.5 1/25 second converted to B&W in Lightroom. 

When you purchase a dSLR it is imperative you take into consideration why your are purchasing a dSLR.  Once you understand the reason for the purchase it is easier to determine which lens you can begin to shop for and which lens to avoid.  I find the 50mm lens to be a very valuable lens to keep in my bag at all times.  It is a very 'sharp' lens and is great for not only low light situations but tremendous for portraits too.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

It focuses fast and can be used in low light situations.  If you are purchasing a lens to use to take pictures of your baby then you will want to limit the amount flash needed.  The 50 mm can be used in most situations when shooting at birthday parties and other family events where the need to zoom with the lens isn't critical. If you are taking large family shots then this lens might not fit the 'bill'.  In a future post I will discuss the 17-50mm range zoom options.

This image was taken with the D20 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens.  Settings: ISO 640, Aperture f/2.8 1/45 second.
It is a small lens and will fit in a bag without taking up much room and the cost is approximately $125 new or if you are a Canon shooter less than $100 for new.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens

It is one lens that I recommend for most photographers.  The cost is low, the performance is great and the opportunities for great photos is limited only by the imagination of the photographer.

If you have more to spend and want a 'faster' lens then check out the f/1.4 version.  Those that use it state it is much sharper and faster than its f/1.8 sibling.

The Canon version is over $300 new.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens

The Nikon version is $280 new.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

If you decide to purchase this lens used and do not like it, you should be able to resell it for the same cost you purchased it.  Its value doese not seem to move from the $100 price range.  It is one of those lens that folks call a 'work horse' lens.  If you do own this lens then open it wide open to f/1.8 and experiment with different 'looks'.  Below are two 'close up' shots with the 50mm f/1.8. 

This image was shot with the 50mm on my D50. Settings: Aperture f/1.8, ISO 800, shutter speed: 1/40 second

Friday, November 28, 2008

Buying a dSLR part three

This was taken with the Nikon D200 in a very cold snow storm mounted on a tripod [yes, my first post image on my new tripod]. f/10 @ .7 seconds ISO 200 with the Tamron 17-50 @ 50mm

This will be much shorter than the previous post. "Which camera brand should I buy and which is the best?" I shoot Nikon but that does not indicate I believe Nikon is the only brand to buy. In the past I shot with Sony, Canon, & Minolta.

  1. I would stick with Canon or Nikon but that does not mean Olympus, Pentax, or Sony doesn't make great cameras. Why would I stick with Canon or Nikon? The majority of dSLR's sold are either Nikon or Canon. There is a tremendous amount of resources and information surrounding both manufacturers. Hence, my reason to stick with the major two. But my next point might change your mind.
  2. Buy a brand your friends are using. Why? So you can swap stories, tips, gear, etc. I switched to Nikon two years ago because a buddy had Nikon and it has been very easy to discuss tips and swap lenses when needed.
  3. Keep in mind that when you buy a camera body you are buying into the manufacturer's system. When you purchase a new lens the mount must match the camera manufacturer. If you buy a lens for a Nikon camera, it works on the Nikon and you cannot swap it with a friend that has a Canon. My Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 is a Nikon mount lens. It does not mount on a Sony or Olympus dSLR.
  4. Finally, for today's post. Buy a camera body that suits your shooting need. If you plan on shooting in low light and you have the money then consider the Nikon d300, d700, or d3. However, you are now getting into much more money and in the case of the d700 or d3 you will be spending thousands and not $500 for the body. The Nikon d700 sells for over $2500 for only the body.
Nikon D700 12.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Have fun and enjoy capturing the beauty of life!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Buying a dSLR part two

This image was taken with the Nikon D50 using the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. Settings: f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/40 second

In part one we discussed two important concepts when purchasing your dSLR. 1 How much do you have to spend and 2. What do you intend to do with the camera. If you decided you have $1000 to spend for everything including the lens purchase but do not want to buy a used camera then I suggest a different route.

  • Buy a new camera body but not the 'latest' body. For example the Nikon D200 is a tremendous camera and many online stores still sell it new. However, buying it new plus a lens will take us over the $1000 budget we decided to stick to.
  • Both Canon and Nikon continue to sell new entry level cameras that do not have the 'latest' features but most folks will never 'miss' the features. For example, a Nikon D40 is less than $500 new and will meet the needs of most photographers. [Keep in mind that many of Nikon's entry level cameras do not have a motor drive in them and only the 'newest lens models work on these bodies. (e.g. the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 will not work on many of the entry level bodies.) More on this subject later] If you like Canon over Nikon then look at purchasing a Rebel [earlier version] or a 30D. (If you want an 'older' body that works with the cost effective 50mm f/1.8 then I suggest the Nikon D50.
  • If you decide to purchase a Nikon D40 for less than $500 you will have $500 to spend on lens, bag and storage. (Adorama is selling this camera used for less than $400) If you want a good walk around lens [although it is not fast] you can purchase the Nikkor 18-200 VR used for $500. The problem with this lens is it is not fast to focus and it is not a 'fast' lens. e.g. at 200 mm the aperature wide open is f/5.6 which is not good in low light situations. Both Sigma and Tamron make an affordable 18-200mm lens but they do not have vibration reduction. However, they can be bought for $200 or less and will fit the needs of many photographers. The 18-200vr will make a tremendous travel lens or general all-purpose lens.
  • Another alternative if you want a good wide to medium zoom is the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. [This is my standard walk-around lens.] It is a constant aperture lens and produces tremendous results. It is not a long lens and you will need to add a telephoto if you want to shoot anything from a distance.
  • Back to the camera body. If you have smaller hands then these entry level cameras could be your answer. The bodies are smaller and they are not a beast to carry around all day. My wife uses the D50 for general day to day shooting and does not like the size and weight of my D200. [If you add the 17-50, a SB600 or Sb800 to the D200, you have a large heavy camera.] Select a D50 combined with the lightweight 18-200mm lens and the camera is not much bigger than many higher end point and shoot cameras.
  • Finally for today: You might be thinking; 'don't I need the latest and greatest camera so I have 12, 15, 20+ megapixels? No. Do not get caught up in the megapixel hype. The D50 and D40 have 6 megapixels but produce very nice prints. How large do you plan to print your images? I have very nice 11x14 and 12x18 prints from ny D50. If you only shoot for the web or nothing larger than 11x14, you do not need all those megapixels. Check out this article about the megapixel myth. From my experience, most folks print nothing larger than 8x10 and many only post to the net. A 6 megapixel D50 will produce much better images at 800-1600 ISO than a small point and shoot with more megapixels. My D50 produces tremendous images at 800-1600 ISO.
Nikon D40 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm II AF-S DX Lens + 16GB SD Card + Case + Cameta Bonus Accessory Kit

Have a great Thanksgiving!

This image was also taken with the D50. Settings: ISO 1600, f/2.8, shutter speed f/2.5. Lens: 50mm f/1.8

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Buying a dSLR part one

One question I am asked often is which camera is best to buy. I will do my best to summarize my opinion when buying a dSLR [especially your first purchase].

1. How much money do you have to spend?
2. What do you plan to use the camera to shoot?

These first two questions are the most critical when it comes time to purchase a dSLR. Especially when it is your first purchase. When you obtain some experience using your camera, your second, third, and all subsequent purchases are easier.

Too often, folks look at the purchase of a camera as the most critical part of the purchase. However, [in my opinion] the purchase of the lens is more critical than the camera body purchase. I understand there are many different nuances and options associated to each camera brand and camera body. For this example we will use $1000 as the amount of money available to purchase the first camera [including lenses].

Many folks walk into their favorite big box store or warehouse club store [Costco, Sam's Club, etc.] and see all the boxes of nice new cameras on display. They are greeted with the Nikon D60 or the new D90 which includes two lenses, a case, and a free memory card with a price range between $650 - 1400. Another stack of boxes displays the new Canon Rebel with a price dollars under $1000 and they stand their wondering which camera to purchase.

What most people do not understand is the lenses bought in a kit might not meet their needs. Without fully understanding the purchase, they make a purchase after answering question one only. Most kit lenses will not meet the need of the family purchasing a camera to photograph little Suzie's volleyball game or dance recital. Why? The kit lens is too slow. With an aperture of 3.5-5.6 the lens will not be able to capture the low light events. Can the cameras perform at ISO 1600? Yes, but consider the fact the lens when zoomed to 200mm or in some cases to 250mm will be opened to f/5.6 which will not allow enough light in to 'freeze' the action. Therefore, all of the images will be blurry. After a few events the family will be frustrated and put the camera in the closet thinking they wasted $1000 of their hard earned money.

Knowing the answer to question 1 & 2 brings us to a possible answer. The family wants to spend $1000 total and they want to shoot family events [most are indoors or dimly lit stadium games]. My first suggestion is to visit many of the online stores [and I will list the few I used] and purchase a 'body' only first then one to two lenses depending on the ultimate amount of money they want to spend. I strongly recommend looking at purchasing used online from reputable dealers. B&H photo, Adorama, Cameta Camera, and a few select stores on that sell the body only.

Nikon D90 DX 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Nikon D60 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) [at the time of this post a new d60 body only is less than $500]

Another alternative is to buy used from any of the above listed vendors [there are many others] or if you are interested in a Nikon you can purchase gently used camera gear from Which is my first recommendation when looking to purchase a camera. Over the past few years, I purchased three different camera bodies from members of Nikonians with no problems in the purchase or equipment issues. Typically, the camera body [or other gear] will come with the original box and paperwork. The purchase price is between the seller and buyer with no middle person getting a cut of the price. Therefore, the price is usually lower than from an online store. Keep in mind, there is usually no warranty left on the camera and the deal is an as is deal. If you choose to buy from there is a used buying guide in the want to buy forum.

If you choose to go the route used you will be able to purchase a more 'robust' camera body used than you can buy a newer model new. For example, if you purchase a used D200 [which is an excellent camera] and at the time of this writing is an 'old' camera body you can purchase it from Nikonians for $700 or less. This same camera when first introduced a few years ago was close to $1800 new. Most of the images on this blog are shot with either the D200 or some were shot with my older D50 which can be bought from Cameta used for $200. [It is an excellent camera but it is an older style.]

Nikon D200 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

The image at the top of this post was taken last winter with my Nikon D50 hand held at ISO 800, f/9.0, shutter speed 1/3 second in Chicago. I was leaning against a pole and wanted to capture the motion of the traffic. Keep in mind it is the skill of the photographer and the photographer understanding their equipment that will make a memorable shot. The camera gear is only a tool.

More on this subject in the next post.