New Camera

by Jin, 09-24-08 // 6 comments
Nikon D90

My quest for a DSLR camera started about three months ago, after my wife and I decided to go to Niagara Falls for our anniversary trip in September. There are a few reasons why I wanted to upgrade my camera. For one, the kids are growing up so fast, I need a better camera to capture their years of thinking their dad is still cool. Secondly, as you might have noticed, I use photos as the background for some of my blog articles. This also requires a better camera, as the old faithful Pinky is showing her limit. Who is Pinky? Well, Pinky is my wife’s Sony Cybershot-W55. She’s a cute little thing, but when it comes to taking the type of photos I want, a point ‘n shoot just doesn’t cut it anymore. (Also, despite how secure I think I am, the sight of me carrying a little pink camera around, especially when I mount her on a heavy duty tripod makes me very self conscious).

So for the past few months, I’ve been studiously researching DSLR cameras online through forums and web sites. I have to say the experience has been rather overwhelming. I’ve had couple great digital cameras in the past, but they weren’t DSLR, and my experience with SLR is rather limited to what I learned in photography class way back in high school.

The more I read up on different brands and models, the more indecisive I got. Simply put, I felt like a socially challenged nerd being pushed into a speed dating meeting. My potential mates are these incredible bombshells each with slightly different characteristics. To make things worse, there are these guys whispering different advice in my ears, telling me which girls they had hands on experience with, or which ones would be the best bang for the buck (bad puns intended).

Whenever I research a subject, I often find the subculture associated with the subject is more interesting than the subject itself. The world of digital photography is vast. Much of its fan base are stemmed from the film days. Thus the age long debate of Canon vs Nikon still continues, thanks to fanboys from each side. I typically steer clear of such debates, since it’s just about fruitless as Coke vs Pepsi. Because clearly, Dr. Pepper is the best.

After all the readings I could handle, I decided to get a Nikon D80. Why a Nikon over Canon? They both have been making great cameras for a long time, and it’s hard to choose over specs. I went with Nikon simply because many of my childhood photos were taken by my mother’s Nikon SLR camera. To me, it’s personal. D80 is a great model for the mid-range DSLRs.

Just as I was about to make the order, I read a rumor that Nikon D90 is coming out. One feature that really caught my attention was the HD Video mode. This makes D90 the first HD Video capable DSLR camera ever produced. I’ve been wanting to get a HD camcorder too, so this feature simply combines the best of both worlds. Shooting movies through an SLR lens.

Long story short, I bought the Nikon D90 kit from a local Ritz Camera a couple of weekends ago. It comes with the 18-105mm VR lens. I’m not qualified to give a full technical review, for that please read here or here.

A picture is worth a thousand words. I’m not sure how many words mine are worth, since I’m just learning DSLR photography. Here are a few from my Flickr set:

National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Metro Station
Smithsonian Metro Station
Washington DC
Washington DC

These photos are not post processed. I uploaded the originals, at 4288×2848, 300dpi. I’m very impressed with the noise level, especially with long exposure shots. Almost 13 days and 2000 shots later, I have to say I’m very pleased with my decision.

I haven’t had a chance to record any worthwhile HD videos yet. Honestly, I almost forgot it had that feature. One thing about video: auto-focus does not work in video recording mode, nor does aperture or exposure compensation. I find this very annoying. The 3.0″ LCD screen is not big enough to see if something’s focused. Manual focus is a pain when shooting moving objects. This makes shooting everyday home videos unpractical IMHO. Then again, I haven’t spent enough time to give the final verdict. I have seen quality videos others have taken. Here’s an example from the Vimeo D90 pool

Needless to say, I’m very excited. To me, it’s not about getting a new toy. I’ve been a big fan of photography for a long time. I did what I could with my PnP cameras, often involving a lot of crazy tone mapping afterwards. I confess during my search for this camera, I had what they call “gear lust.” It’s a habit that’s hard for me to shake off. Ken Rockwell reminded me it’s the person taking the photo, not the camera:

You need to learn to see and compose. The more time you waste worrying about your equipment the less time you’ll have to put into creating great images. Worry about your images, not your equipment.

Ultimately, no matter how good the camera is, I need to tell myself it’s merely a tool. It will take me a long time to be a better photographer. It’s a journey I’m excited to embark on. Expect to see some photo updates on this blog from time to time. I’m hoping to be an amateur one day.

6 comments

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Ananya 09-24-08

Smithsonian never looked this futuristic :)) Nice shots…

theresa 09-24-08

do you have any advice for a good hd video recorder?

Jin 09-24-08

Theresa, I’m no expert on HD camcorders. A coworker of mine recently bought a Sony D-SR11. He speaks very highly of it.

You can read a review here: http://tinyurl.com/5jdvp7

Or movie samples here:

http://www.vimeo.com/sr11

From what I’ve read up on it, it’s a great camcorder. The price has dropped quite a bit since SR12 model came out(the only difference is the hard drive capacity).

Dmitry 09-30-08

Lovely shots. The lighting in the first one is fantastic — did it really look like that in reality? :)

Jin 09-30-08

@Dmitty, no :) It was a long exposure shot, therefore the lights look more ambient, and the waterfall looks silky.

Valeria 10-05-12

I own a SLR, and i love it! Yeah, it was expensive, but it’s dnieeftily worth it. A digital camera has normal quality, pretty crappy zoom, worse quality, less focus, and less ways to take pictures.Meanwhile, an SLR focuses either automatically or manually. It has OUTSTANDING quality and great ways to take pictures. It has plenty of settings so you could take pictures at your convenience. It’s really amazing and waaaay better than a normal digital camera. Try it out.Before coming up with a conclusion, let me as you some questions;-What will you use this camera for?-Will you like to be able to carry it around in your hand or a big bag for it?-Does quality really matter to you?-Do you need it for photography?-Are you going to use it for going out to take pictures with friends?-Are you going to be capable of managing it? if you answered; -For going out. -No. -Kinda -No. -Yes -Maybe. ; then honestly, you shouldn’t get it. If you’re just going to use it for needs other than photography and landscapes, you’re just wasting you’re money. The reason i got an SLR is because i wanted it for photography; i love photography. Of course i use it for going out and taking pictures with friends, but mostly to take pictures of landscapes and such. If the quality really matters to you, try to get those small camera that look like dslr’s, but aren’t. They’re pretty expensive as well, but i mean, it’s up to you. By seeing you’re a newbie, i’d recommend you get a normal digital camera, and later on if you get into taking pictures and such, buy a more professional camera. I got the SLR because i was already use to the other camera and had a digital one for four years. It’s up to you though, i doubt you’d be able to manage an SLR since you’re a newbie. Hopefully this helped you out a bit (: