Sunday, March 13, 2011

The First In A Series Of Photography Lessons: Equipment

Well, it looks like The number one request from the many comments on my SITS post was for information and tips on photography. I am honored, and always a bit surprised, that you like my photographs as much as you seem to. I thought I would pay you all back for all your wonderful comments by writing a series of posts about my photography knowledge and style. I will try my best. Photography is such a difficult thing to teach, so bear with me. Those not at all interested in photography may not want to read this lengthy post, though I do include info on point and shoot cameras. I am also including the prices of equipment I mention because another common question was something along the lines of "what is the best camera for X price range?". All prices are approximate because different sites may charge $50 more or less, plus there is tax which can add up. Prices are for equipment only, from Nikon's site.

I guess the place to start is with the basics - your camera equipment. I use several cameras and lenses which produce very different results. My main camera is my Nikon D5000 Digital SLR camera, aka "My Firstborn" ($650). I have four lenses for it as well. Two are standard lenses (one with slightly more zoom than the other), one is a macro lens for extreme close-ups, and one is great in low light settings. Now, don't let all the specifics intimidate you, it is easier to understand than it sounds. The exact lens info is located on my sidebar in case you want to know a few more specifics. I will come back to this camera and its lenses in a minute.

In the past I have used a Nikon Coolpix digital point and shoot camera ($250) for times when it wasn't feasable to lug my D5000 and all its various accessories around with me. The Cookpix has pretty good color and resolution, but I could definitely see a quality difference between it and the D5000. For some reason, the pictures from the Coolpix didn't have as much soul. I recently got an iPhone 4 ($250-$350) which has a great built in camera and now I don't use the Coolpix. Obviously the iPhone 4's photos are not as good as those from the D5000, but they are comparable to the Coolpix (if not better). I especially love all the camera and photo editing apps that are available for the iPhone 4. You can really explore your creativity with them (and many are FREE!).

So, now you have a little info about the equipment I use and recommend. You can see that I prefer Nikon products. There seems to be two categories of professional photographers - those who like Canon products and those loyal to Nikon. Honestly, I have never owned a Canon camera, though I have played around with a few. I find the Nikons very user friendly while also allowing professionals to make lots of manual adjustments. I think it is a personal preference, similar to my unwavering love for Apple/Mac products.

Some of you may have noticed that I don't use an external flash. Each of the cameras has a built in flash, but I don't use those either. When I was in High School and learning photography with a 35mm SLR, I had several external flashes. For some reason, it seems like digital photos taken with a flash look flat and unremarkable, while this isn't necessarily the case with film. Now here is the bomb I'm dropping today - I can't think of a single photo on this site that I took using a flash. Two years of photos, many types of situations, no flash. It can be done.

I'm going to go back to the lenses for the D5000 now. When I first got the camera I bought two standard lenses, one with a bit more zoom than the other. I was very happy with these lenses immediately. They both take great photos and are easy to use. All lenses are autofocus unless otherwise specified. Here is a bit of info on the two standard lenses:

Nikon Nikkor dx 18-55mm lens ($200)

Great for everyday shots. Can get relatively close and also not a bad zoom. Great starter lens.

Nikon Nikkor 55-200mm lens ($250)

Great zoom lens. Good for nature shots or when you want to get a group (or wide) shot and close ups without changing lenses.

When I felt like I wanted to get more out of my camera, I bought a macro lens. I do a lot of nature photography and this lens takes nature shots from zero to sixty in a millisecond. Here's a bit more about it:

Nikon Nikkor 60mm lens ($600)

Absolutely amazing lens. Can clearly capture a dew drop so that it fills up the frame, and can even see reflections in it. Also zooms out to take regular shots from up to ten feet away or so. This makes it better because it means it gets more use. Dreamy lens.

One thing I was missing with these lenses was a good low-light lens. I wanted some good indoor shots or shots at evening events. I was give the next lens as a gift:

Nikon Nikkor 50mm 1.8g ed lens ($200)

Takes amazing low-light pictures. This lens does not autofocus with my camera, which I rather like. I have gotten some amazing results with it. All the photos of the three little girls were taken with this lens. Not having autofocus didn't get in the way, even though I was wrangling 7, 4, and 1 year olds while taking their pictures.

Well, that is the low down on my camera equipment. Next time I will talk about what all of this means for actually taking photos. Now excuse me while I faint while thinking about the over $2500 of equipment in my bag.

2 comments to blog for:

April said...

Thank you so much for all of this wonderful information! As I get a little more time (my daughter's home from college), I plan to come back and read it, again. :)

katie said...

Thanks for the photography info! (I'm looking to get into photography more, and I'll be on the lookout for these cameras.)