Saturday, December 11

On My List {Part 2}

Sorry it took me so long to post {Part 2}!  I'm hoping when you read on you will see why!  This is an area WAY out of my comfort zone.  I felt the research I did could potentially help others who are as clueless in this area as I am!

So...  The big question...  
"What is the other thing On My List for Christmas this year?"  
Glad you asked!

A brand spankin new DSLR camera!  Why? 
  • I want to take better quality pictures of my family everyday.  
  • I would LOVE to give my site a more professional look.
  • I would love to learn more about photography!  
  • For the amount of pictures I take... it's about time I learned photog technics!
I started by first Facebooking  several friends I have who are photographers or are married to one.  I asked what they were shooting and what I should get!  My lovely friend Mandy gave the BEST advice ever! 

A little about Mandy:  Aside from being a wife and mommy, she is one of the mostest sweetest and honest people I have ever had the pleasure to call friend... she is the photographer for Red Brick Photography!  Seriously, click the name for her site, you will find some of the most fantastic wedding and family photography I have ever seen.  This is one of my favorite e-sessions she shows.  So cute!  She is truly an artist.  I live far away from her right now, but I can only imagine that a photo shoot with her would be SERIOUSLY fun!  lol  (I <3 you Mandy!)  After asking if I could post her letter she said, "No problem... just know that all the tips are my personal suggestions and aren't gospel by any means. There may be other photographers that have other opinions, but if you found it helpful then go for it. :) You are such a doll!"  She called me a doll!  I could care less what other photographers think now!  lol

 Now... what did she say to me to start?  Short story: She told me what to/not look for so the camera would be something I would like and use.  She also made me realize how truly cluess I am in the area and how much I have to learn.  Here is the letter she sent.

Hey Jess! Saw your question about buying a camera and thought I'd throw in my $0.02. :)

Tips for buying point and shoots (I know you want a DSLR, but if you end up changing your mind...):

  • Optical zoom is always a million times better to have than digital zoom. But often, you compromise size… ‘tis a balancing act with the point and shoots.
  • I like point and shoots that make it easy to disable/turn off the pop-up flash. Some even don’t come on unless you turn that feature on, which is great. On most point and shoots (and DSLRs for that matter), the pop up flash RUINS perfectly good photos. A pop up flash on any camera is virtually useless. Some are improving the positioning a bit, but it’s still not great.
  • Some point and shoots are coming out with awesome wide angle capability. Wide angles are awesome for composition and I’ve been switching to a lot of wide angle primes in my own photography.
  • Low aperture capability. A point and shoot that can get down to a low aperture is wonderful. I don’t know what they typically are, but my brother recently got one that goes down to a 2.8, which is good for most settings. The low aperture will usually diminish as you “zoom in” on things, but for “wide open” shots, it’s good to have the capability to get down. I would recommend that if you have the option of zooming in on a subject or walking up to it and shooting it “wide open” – I would advise that he use his “foot zoom” so that he can maximize this ability if your camera has a nice low aperture.
  • Every point and shoot out there is going to claim image stabilization or anti-shake features… some of them are pretty good and some of them are complete crud. Without testing it, you just don’t know. Customer reviews are your friend.
  • Does the point and shoot have manual setting options? If not, it would make me a sad panda (I shoot in all manual these days), but if you just want something that you can pick up and shoot and have the camera make decisions for you, there are plenty of models that do that. The only problem is… sometimes cameras don’t make good decisions so go with one that seems to consistently make the right choices.
  • A large ISO range is nice to have (especially for dim situations).
  • Size is important to look at if you’re hauling a camera around all day. How important is it to you that it fit in a pocket, case, etc.?
  • More megapixels do not mean a better camera. Although camera companies have done a great job of making consumers believe this is so.
  • I recommend playing with several in a an actual camera store before buying and reading reviews online. One helpful tool is the Camera Finder on Flickr… you can see actual photos people took with that model. ( They even have chart showing the most popular point and shoots. Might be a good starting point. Amazon always has pretty thorough reviews from customers and I like to read things there.

Tips for buying DSLRs:

  • I personally have not dealt with the new DSLR models that have recently come out, but I'm sure that most of the consumer level products out on the market are going to be a good option. Even though I'm a complete Nikon girl and love my stuff, I know that Canon has amazing products as well (and many of my good photog buddies are hard core Canon-ites). You'll be good either way with any of the main brands.
  • As with a point and shoot, customer reviews (on Amazon, Flickr, etc.) are going to be your friend. If you get down to considering two similar models, you can even type “Brand Model A versus Brand Model B” in Google and you will likely see several forum threads/reviews pop up. I always recommend going to a camera store for any purchase to handle/play with things before purchasing. I wrestled with the Nikon/Canon DSLR question myself years ago when I got into photography and actually holding the two bodies I was considering made my mind up for me.
  • Even if you end up not buying your camera from there (and go for an internet deal or something), I recommend going to a camera store versus somewhere like Best Buy to pick up/handle/play with/ask about cameras. Seems like when I have gone to general electronic stores, the camera is cabled to the display and there are parts falling off and the battery is dead and the seventeen year old kid working there doesn't even know what an aperture is. Just sayin'. :)
  • There are some “package deals” out there right now where you can get two lenses with a camera body instead of just one. When making decisions, don't use the number lenses as the ultimate deciding factor, especially if you really like another body that only comes with one lens. While they work and are good (and will be far better than a point and shoot), "kit lenses" - or lenses that come with DSLR packages - are usually not very high quality. I haven't touched my kit lenses in years and only keep them as backup in case I drop every other lens in my bag. I always recommend that people get a 50mm prime to strap onto their DSLR and it will make them want to glue their camera into their hand. Personally, I'm moving all of my lenses to primes (primes don't "zoom" in and out but typically are better glass) and the 50mm is a good starter one since they are usually affordable and are useful in just about every setting. Awesome for portraits and several other applications. Having a good camera body rocks, but to be honest, getting good glass will change the quality of your photos more than upgrading a body will (unless it's a huge body jump of course). Not saying you have to buy a prime lens in addition to everything, but it's recommended for some point down the road and don't make a DSLR decision based on "I’m getting two lenses."
  • For the body, I'd look at the number of autofocus points, sensor quality, body feel/quality, etc. If your nearby family/friends own a Nikon/Canon DSLR, take that into consideration since you might be able to swap/buy their gear if you buy the same brand.
  • And... if you weren't planning on getting an external flash anytime soon, please take $30 and buy a pop up flash diffuser like the Light Scoop ( I’m sure there are similar pop up flash diffusers out there as well. As mentioned before, pop up flashes on any camera (DSLR or point and shoot) will ruin absolutely good photos. Once you get into the swing of things, you can look into an external flash to allow for more shooting options (for casual/personal use, I use the SB 400 which is small and can be “bounced/tilted” and for wedding work, I use the SB 900).
  • Learning a DSLR is super fun and I bet I even know someone you could contact if you come upon any questions. :) Understanding the priority modes and how to shoot in manual will change your life. My camera body doesn’t even have an “auto” option, so it was sink or swim (but no worries – many consumer level DSLRs have an “Auto” mode and they usually do a good job of making good decisions versus a point and shoot). A DSLR is definitely going to pick up the color, detail, and overall feel of your scene better.
  • As always, just let me know if you have any other questions. Know what you want the camera for, and keep those purposes in mind when shopping around. You don’t want to pay for features that you’ll never touch but at the same time, you don’t want to cheat yourself out of options if you are going to really dive into photography as well. 

 So, after reading her letter I thought.. Great!  What a help, but... What the crap is Aperture?  What does she mean by Primes?  What is a Light Scoop? And...  What have I gotten myself into?  Just tell me a camera to buy woman!

I did as Mandy advised and googled my little photog learning heart away.  After reading Mandy's letter, perhaps you have some of the same questions I did!  I thought maybe the sites I found could REALLY help someone who has the same questions.  There are a TON of sites out there.  I spent DAYS looking over all of them!  9 days to be exact... So, here is a list of a few links that really helped me learn what I needed to choose the camera I want!

Picking a Lens -  This tutorial on The Digital SLR Guide will help you to pick a lens.  In the process it teaches all about different lenses (Prime vs. Zoom), Aperture.. learned alot just by going through this simple post.
Ken Rockwell - He has some amazing reviews on pretty much all camera's.  Not only that, but he also links to some great deals on most of them!  He does seem to be pretty much a Nikon Lover! So try to keep an open mind!  Perhaps a Canon camera is just what you are lookin for! - Once you have decided upon what type of camera's you think you like I would recommed Googling!  Just type Camera A vs Camera B.  More often than not I was able to find sites that compared the cameras I was looking at and even featured side by side pictures! - Just type the camera you are looking for in the search heading and read reviews!  lol
Flickr - Just another site that Mandy recommended for comparing photos and reviews!  I <3 Flickr Camera Finder!
Light Scoop - A Light Scoop is pretty awesome and something I will ABSOLUTLY purchase to ride along with my new camera!  Click the link to find out what it is. - A Great site for DSLR deals!  I found them through Ken Rockwell's site.  They have a few package deals, some including light scoops or extra batteries!  

I am sure that there are several other great sites for researching and finding good cameras!  If you have other sites you have found useful PLEASE comment.  I am still learning and STILL haven't purchased the camera I want.  Right now THIS is the one I think I will be getting!  Still saving my pennies! 

AGAIN... Here is the site for Red Brick Photography!  Please keep Mandy in mind if you are in the Dallas/Forth Worth area!  And give her a hug for me if you see her!   I'll tell you what... leave a comment on your favorite collection of hers and I will send you a surprise after Christmas!  Either click THIS LINK HERE!  You will see a short blog post with a few pics.   Or... THIS LINK HERE to view slideshows.   Leave the names of the group you love most!

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