Rule 2: Think beyond the Camera

This blog received its first comment the other day. (Thanks Claforet for the comment, and for inspiring this article.) His comments lead nicely to my second rule – Think beyond the camera.

This can even be an issue when buying a compact camera. My wife bought an Olympus compact camera and was then horrified by the price of XD cards compared to SD cards. Thankfully a microSD to XD adapter solved the problem.

It really is something to consider with an interchangeable lens camera.

When you buy an SLR or mirrorless system camera, the temptation is to think only of the camera, but if Photography has taught me anything, it is that photography is an expensive hobby. Choosing a camera is really only the start of the journey. There are lenses, flash, battery grips, memory cards, card readers, tripods, remotes, and camera bags. (Camera bags are a nightmare in themselves!) Then there’s software, printers, etc, etc, etc.

It doesn’t need to be expensive though (That’s my fourth rule). There are budget options and there are wise decisions that can save the photographer a lot of money in the long-run. For example, I always buy a cheap Chinese knock-off remote release instead of the exorbitant own brand ones. The Chinese copies aren’t that bad, and at that price, they can afford to be replaced when they break. (Having said that, I’ve never had one break on me yet.)

It becomes most important to ‘think beyond the camera’ when it comes to lenses, and this is what Claforet eluded to. It is more important to consider the lenses you put in front of the camera sensor that the sensor itself and there are several reasons why?

Firstly, there is no point splashing out on a pro-spec DSLR if you can only afford to put an old 28-80mm lens on it. You just won’t see the benefit of all those megapixels and all that extra processing power. In fact you’re better off buying an entry level camera and partnering it up with a more expensive lens. You’ll get better results.

Secondly, Camera manufacturers are trying to lock you into their brand, which is why the camera body is just the start. They want you to build up a collection of lenses and other accessories because they know it’s an expensive business changing brands. (I know, I’ve done it a couple of times.)

Thirdly, as Claforet pointed out, your lenses (if looked after) will outlast your camera. The better the lenses, the longer they will last. (Not always, but as a general rule, I’d say that was true.)

Lastly, lenses dictate what you can and cannot capture with your camera. I learned this the hard way at my first airshow. I’d only just started on my photographic journey and decided to take a Zenit 11, which was my favourite camera at the time, and because I had a couple of lenses for it while I only had a 50mm lens for my Ricoh. The trouble was, I didn’t have a telephoto lens long enough to capture the action going on before me and the Red Arrows were rendered as the red dots. I’d been so pre-occupied with collecting different cameras, that I’d neglected my lenses. Soon after I sold the Zenit and the lenses and spent the money building up a collection of lenses for my Ricoh.

Ever since then I’ve maintained a collection of lenses that take me from 24mm to 300mm with at least one prime at 35mm or 50mm. I rarely use the telephoto lens, but I always like to have it handy, just in case.

So think beyond the camera. It will save you a lot of bother in the long run.

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The battleground that is Photography

Photography sometimes seems like a battleground. I first came across this around the time Canon released the 300D. That was probably when digital cameras really started to become a viable format that photographers could afford. That battleground was the infamous digital verses film with the digital camp declaring firmly that film would die out. (Well guess what? It isn’t, so there!)

It wasn’t the first battleground though. There have been many in photography’s past. Colour verses monochrome. 35mm verses medium format. Film verses glass plate, Canon verses Nikon.

I saved that until last as that is the one I find myself in the middle of at the moment. I’ve tried many makes of camera, but I can hand on heart say that the best two are Canon and Nikon. Both offer excellent camera’s and lenses and most especially, both offer the opportunity to upgrade to more serious kit if necessary. In the end, I settled on Nikon, simply because it gave me all the things I loved about Pentax – which was the first lens mount I started with – without any of the things I disliked about Pentax.

The F100 and F80 were my weapons of choice and both were excellent cameras. They were nice to hold, nice to use and the metering and auto-focus was pretty rock solid. Canon though, always lurked in the background. Before settling on the Nikons, I tried out the Eos 50E and 30. Both were very nice, and the 50E will always be one of my favourite cameras. The EOS design is probably the most ergonomic and comfortable of any camera anywhere. But I preferred using the Nikons, so I stuck with them.

Why is this an issue now? Well, there was always a little niggle in the back of my mind – did I really give the Canon bodies a good enough run? So when I moved to Digital this year I decided to go back to Canon and got myself a nice EOS 40D. After three months, I was reminded of all the quirks I disliked about Canon, or maybe it was simply that I was so used to Nikon cameras, that I felt somewhat homesick. I gave it another month before deciding it was time to return home and have now got my hands on a new D90 with 18-105 lens.

It’s not that Nikon is best. It’s not that Canon sucks. It’s simply a fact that Nikon cameras work the way I work. Simples.

WeavingLight’s rules of photography

I’m a big fan of NCIS, and anyone who watches the show will know of Gibbs’ rules, so I got to thinking about my own set of rules when it comes to photography. So here goes…

 Rule 1 always choose a camera that feels right

When shopping for my first SLR camera, I looked and looked and decided I wanted a Zenit 212. Don’t ask me why, but I really liked it and it was within my budget. The only problem was, the only camera shop that stocked it was just over an hour away. I called them up to check, and they said they did have one, so off we went. We parked and even then had a fairly long walk to get to the shop – My wife was pregnant and not happy about the walk and our first-born was nicely asleep in her push-chair, but that wasn’t going to last – and we arrived only to discover that they didn’t actually have the 212, but a 122.

I wasn’t happy about that, but my wife threw me a look that said, we walked here, you’re buying something! The shop was what I would describe as an old style shop, the sort that are almost extinct now, with lots of bits and pieces and a shopkeeper who knew his craft and new his customers. He quickly intervened and offered a couple of suggestions from his used stock that fit within my budget.

So on offer was a Zenit 122, an Olympus OM-10 and a Ricoh KR-10x. I looked at each of them, picked them up, played with them, and still didn’t have a clue. My wife threw me a look of urgency as the push-chair laden child was stirring and all hell was about to break loose, and then I got probably the best piece of advice I’ve ever received – photographically speaking.

‘The most important thing is to choose one that feels right in your hands. If you’re happy holding it, you’ll be happy using it.’

I picked each one up again and the choice was made. I bought the Ricoh. It was a good move, and because it felt right when I picked it up, I picked it up often. After all, what’s the point of a camera if you’re not going to pick it up and take pictures? If you don’t like picking it up, you won’t take pictures, or the camera will just get in the way when you do pick it up. The camera should be something that enables you to capture what you see without too much thought. It shouldn’t be an obstacle.

Make the right camera choice and that’s the first battle won. That doesn’t mean that there is a right choice for everyone – one man’s pie is another man’s pudding. It’s also means you don’t have to opt for the most expensive option.

Admittedly, it’s not always possible to pay a visit to a camera shop, but it’s well worth the effort.