Tag Archives: digital SLR

Retro Photography

A not-so-fluffy fluffy

A couple weeks ago I got the urge to return to my digital SLR roots. So I picked up my old Nikon D70, my first dSLR, slapped on my old Nikon 28-200mm lens (slow but versatile), and went on a nature walk in my community.

The Nikon D70’s LCD is tiny!

Of course, first I had to get reacquainted with the D70, which I hadn’t used for three or four years. Man, its LCD (one and one-half inches wide) is minuscule in comparison to the D700’s (almost three inches wide)! Plus I’m able to set the D700’s LCD so that I can zoom in close to make sure eyes are open and what needs to be in focus actually is. No such luck on the D70. With my aging eyes, I can barely see what I’ve taken a photo of on its LCD. Almost like being back in the film days!

An upright row of fluffies

Still, the D70 was a wonderful workhorse back in the day and a faithful photographic friend. I took thousands of photos with it, and it rarely let me down.

A barkless tree

My walk down memory (card) lane proved that an old dSLR still has the right stuff to take great photos.

A squirrel isn’t eager to pose.

And it was nice to carry a camera that doesn’t feel like it weighs a ton after a half-hour or so of shooting.

A red dragonfly taunts me.

Still, when I saw a beautiful red dragonfly stop and pose for me on the sidewalk, oh how I wished I was carrying that heavy D700 and my wonderful Nikon 105mm macro lens! It’s nice to visit the past every now and then, but give me today’s technology any day.

Especially when it comes to capturing crisp pix of my favorite flying insect.

Photo Friday: The “Perfect” Camera for Gift-Giving

 

Nikon D40

Nikon D40

My friend Kim asked me for advice: What kind of camera should she buy for her teenager’s birthday present? With Mother’s Day Sunday and graduation and Father’s Day around the corner, let’s ponder a key question: Is there a “perfect” camera for moms, dads, grads, and anyone having a birthday?

Of course, the answer is no. There’s no perfect camera for everyone, but there are excellent solutions. First, let’s talk category: Point and shoot, fixed zoom, and digital SLR (interchangeable lenses).

Nikon Coolpix S230 point and shoot

Nikon Coolpix S230 point and shoot

Point and shoots: There are lots of good ones, and they’re very-capable cameras if you’re not shooting action. Definitely the handiest of all the camera categories due to their size but also limited in their capabilities for the same reason. You can’t go wrong with just about any manufacturer’s P&S.

Canon Powershot G10

Canon Powershot G10

Nikon Coolpix P90

Nikon Coolpix P90

 

Fixed zoom: These compact digicams, which Digital Photography Review likes to call “enthusiast cameras,” are a big step up from the lower-end point and shoots. This category includes the Canon Powershot G10 and the Nikon Coolpix P90. They’re more expensive than a conventional P&S ($400-$500), and they can do almost as much as a dSLR. Almost. With their multiple settings (auto, manual, etc.), plenty of megapixels (at least 10), and a good zoom, they’re a great choice for an amateur photographer who wants to do more than just point and shoot. Plus they’re a natural progression for anyone who wants to eventually move up to a dSLR and lessen that more-complicated camera’s learning curve.

Canon Rebel XS

Canon Rebel XS

Digital SLR: Finally, there are the big kahunas, the top of the digital camera food chain: the digital SLRs. Every dSLR, from the least-expensive consumer model to the too-expensive-for-the-likes-of-us pro version, gives photographers great versality and potentially great results. The ability to change lenses from, say, a 50mm prime to a 70-200mm zoom enables you to get the most out of your photography and capture that terrific photo. And the consumer dSLRs, like the Nikon D40 and the Canon Rebel XS, cost just a little more than the fixed zoom digicams at $500-$600, which includes the low-end 18-55mm lens. They can be used on automatic or program while the confidence is building to get more hands-on.

You’ll notice that I’ve only mentioned Canon and Nikon for two of the three categories. That’s because I think they make the best fixed zoom cameras and dSLRs. Which one is better? That’s like the ubiquitous Mac vs. PC debate! The one that’s better is the one that you’ll use a lot! I started with a Nikon D70, because my buddy Deanna had bought one and let me use it. I fell in love with its ease of use (it helps that I have a film SLR background), bought one immediately, and have followed a Nikon upgrade path ever since (moving on to the Nikon D200 and then to my current D300). I have plenty of friends who have been happy with their Canon dSLRs, too. The best advice is to go to a store where you can hold both cameras; one may feel better in your hands than the other.

I’m told all the time that I’m a good photographer because my camera equipment is so good. Nice of people to discount almost 40 years of SLR experience! It’s almost a conundrum: Yes, the photographer needs to have good skills, but it’s almost impossible to take great photos with substandard or the wrong equipment. Tonight I’m going to be shooting an indoor dance show at the #1 son’s high school; I’d hate to try to tell its story with a point and shoot instead of my D300 and my Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens. Good photography truly takes good skills and the right equipment.

What’s most important in buying a camera is getting one that you’ll use. The more you use it, the more proficient you’ll become. Experience is so important in getting top-notch photos. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you pick up your camera.

My answer to Kim is to have her daughter kick in some birthday money and buy a digital SLR. It will give her maximum flexibility and growth, putting her on the road to a rewarding, lifetime photography experience. As for which dSLR, Canon or Nikon, beginner or mid-range? Go to the store and check ’em out—one might just feel perfect!

Speaking of Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms; hope you have a wonderful Sunday that includes either taking pictures or having your picture taken, no matter what camera is used!

Flag Football Action Photography

 

 

Caleb snags a pass.

Caleb snags a pass.

You say you don’t have enough money to buy a digital SLR (interchangeable-lens) camera? Or maybe it’s the time investment in learning how to take great photos that’s making you shy away from pulling the trigger on that big dSLR purchase. But your kid plays sports, and you want to document his or her season as best you can. What’s a point-and-shoot parent to do?

There are a couple solutions. First, you can hire someone like me to take action shots of your child. You get to sit back and enjoy the game, while someone else snaps away. Or  you can use your P&S camera to get the best-possible game photos that you can. No, you probably won’t come away with too many “real” action pix due to the shutter lag and lack of a long zoom. But there are some basic P&S photos that are better than those of your kid just standing there smiling holding a football, soccer ball, or baseball.

Coach Mike and his mighty mite players

Coach Mike and his mighty mite players

Take the above photo, for example. Yes, it helps to have a zoom lens like my Nikon 70-200mm, which is what I use on my Nikon D300 for my outdoor action shots. But it’s fairly easy to take an interesting coach and the players huddle shot with a point and shoot. Just be sure to zoom with your feet and move to where you can get as many faces in the photo as possible without going on the field or court.

Jamison waits his turn.

Jamison waits his turn.

You also can use that P&S camera for good sideline shots of players waiting to get back into the game. Or a coach talking to a player. Just hold the camera steady and try to keep the sun at your back.

Ben wants answers!

Ben wants answers!

That being said, there ain’t nothing like a good dSLR and a fabulous lens for getting the best action photos! These shots all were taken during last Sunday’s flag football games in our community. There usually are five contests going on at once, which makes for lots of messy backgrounds. The best antidote for all that clutter? Bokeh, my friends! That beautiful blurred effect that only fast lenses (usually f/2.8 and faster [smaller number]—think wide-open apertures) can yield. When I’m using my f/2.8 70-200mm lens, as I did for all these photos, I know I’m going to stop the action and blur the background, which makes for the most-appealing photos.

Sidebar: That’s my buddy Ben who looks like he’s asking the question in the above photo. His older twin brothers are the same age as my #2 son. When all three of them played Little League baseball, the Mister and I would see Ben at the games. As regular reader(s) of this blog know from seeing his photo, the Mister is fairly bald, and his remaining hairs are white. This was a conversation I had with Ben several years ago:

Ben: “Where’s your grandpa?”

Me wondering where he’s going with this: “They’re both in heaven, Ben.”

Ben: “No, I’m talking about your grandpa! Where is he today?”

It finally dawned on me that Ben was talking about the Mister! I about busted a gut laughing. It’s true that the Mister is old enough to be #2’s grandfather and certainly looks like it, but it tickled me that Ben thought he was so much older than me. Ben is such a hoot!

The #2 son has the football in his sights.

The #2 son has the football in his sights.

Speaking of the #2 son, he’s a pretty talented flag football player. He’s a decent receiver and is very fast. I really enjoy taking photos of him, especially when I hit the peak of the action, as I did above.

#2 makes the catch and is ready to run up the field.

#2 makes the catch and is ready to run up the field.

I wish my reflexes had been faster on the shutter button to have gotten the next photo where the pass was just going into #2’s hands (as I did with the first photo of Caleb, who plays on the younger-division team that #2 coaches). Can’t win them all, I guess.

I also like when the photos tell a story. In the next set of three pix, the #2 son took the handoff on the first play of the game and ran for a touchdown. 

#2 is on his way.

#2 is on his way.

A little close for comfort for the sideline photographer!

A little close for comfort for the sideline photographer!

On his way to six points!

On his way to six points!

Capture all that action with a point and shoot camera? Hardly possible!