To dSLR… or not to dSLR…

Posted on: May 25, 2009

I’ll be honest… working with a point & shoot camera is really limiting in a lot of ways… my most recent example being my trouble shooting the wedding on Saturday. I mean, it gets the job done, the size makes it convenient to throw in my purse and take everywhere… but there’s so much I think I could do, if I had a better camera.

Anyway, at said wedding, my mother said she wanted to get me a piece of jewelry for me to treasure forever and I told her that I really just wanted a new camera, a dSLR.. I told her that I had been saving up all year and was really hoping to be able to afford it by the end of the summer. She was hesitant at first, saying that “I’d just throw it away” (thinking it was any old camera)… and then she said she’d try to help me out financially with it, when she could.

As soon as she said that, I got nervous. I mean, looking at my pictures lately (or rather, overall) they’re not anything to write home about. My mom acts impressed… but that’s my mom, lol… she’s always going to be supportive. Maybe it’s not worth spending all that money on a camera when I can’t even do that great with the camera I have now… Plus I tend to get bored with hobbies, what if my mom is right and eventually I just get tired of taking pictures and my camera ends up at the back of my closet, along with my ice skates, collecting dust?

I don’t know what I’m going on about. I really think that taking pictures has become a fun hobby for me and I’m really enjoying it, and I don’t foresee myself losing interest… but you never know, ya know?

I’m rambling, aren’t I?


24 Responses to "To dSLR… or not to dSLR…"

You are taking great shots, don’t you worry about that. However, take your time. Save up until the end of the summer and, if you still want one, get one. If you decide not to, than you’ll have money for something else. If my mom offered me jewelry or a camera, I’d take the camera hands down, but very few piece of jewelry mean anything to me. Take some time and decide what you want for you. If you don’t get a camera right now, then you’ll be able to get one another time.

Good point, that if I decide I don’t want one by the end of the summer, I’ll already have saved up for something else.

Well, I can totally relate to this. I had enough Christmas money to pay for half the camera and talked myself out of it (though I’d decided to get one about two months prior). The reasons were very similar to what you mentioned. I decided instead to get my point & shoot so that I’d have a decent camera and decide if this was really something I wanted to pursue. Oddly enough, I’m glad I waited now though I kicked myself for chickening out at the time. There’s no real downside to waiting and now I have two nice cameras. Oh, and I don’t want to try and convince you to get one, but I can tell you…after only using mine for one day…I love it…it covers up so much inability on my part, it’s astounding.

Oh, and don’t knock your pics…there have been some real stunners lately…the water droplet pics come to mind off hand.

Oooh, I’m so intrigued now that you say that you love your new camera after one day! Siiiiigh and droooool!

I just got a new D90 to replace my old D70. It’s a great camera and I absolutely love DSLR’s over P&S cameras. I found your post on Twitter by searching for D90 which lead me to your blog > Flickr. I think you have some really nice photos on your Flickr page especially since you’re using a P&S. I think if you enjoy photography then you’d really have a lot of fun with a DSLR. You have a good eye for composure, especially with your self portraits.

On another note… the D90 seems to have gone up in price over the last month or so. I still bought one but if you can wait, it should go back down. As you can tell I like Nikon.

Keep up the nice work. It’s always fun finding someone who enjoys photography and likes to post their work.


Oooh I’m jealous that you got a D90, yes I’d heard such good things about it lately and when I saw the commercial I started really wanting it! And thank you, I appreciate the encouraging words.

Well it looks like I’ll be waiting until at least August so hopefully the price will go down by then. If I get it. I am leaning towards a Nikon, though for no particular reason!

How much do you love photography? If $1500 dropped into your lap tomorrow, would you run out and buy gear? Are you enjoying your 365, or has it become a major PITA?

Would you rather upgrade to a better P&S – perhaps one that offers some manual control? A new camera won’t change your compositional skills – that is your “eye” and you have a fine one. A better camera will allow you more control over your exposures and there are some nice pocket P&S camera that give you some manual options. My Fuji has some manual controls and so do several of the Canons.

If you decide on a dSLR, do your homework. Many folks buy the body and kit lens, but I’d recommend that you buy the body only and a little higher quality lens, like the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8. Good walk-around lens, some decent reach and with f2.8 you’ll get yummy bokeh and halfway decent low light performance. I use it a LOT! I firmly believe that one should invest in a good lens – camera bodies come and go, but glass can be forever!

Yes, if $1500 dropped into my lap I think the first thing I would do is get the camera. There’s nothing else I would stop to get on my way to the store! And so far I’m enjoying 365 but lately I’m feeling discourage and uncreative and therefore it’s turning a bit into a PITA. But only a bit.

And nah, I think I wouldn’t want to upgrade to another p&s… if I’m upgrading, I’m going UP!

Oooh yummy bokeh? You’ve sold me already!

That Tamron suggestion is a good one. All you need for “yummy bokeh” is a good fast lens, and f2.8 is pretty damn fast. My main lens has the same specs (24-70mm f2.8) and I love it. As Carol said, it’s a great “walking around” lens.

Get the damn camera ASAP 🙂 I don’t think its a hobby of yours… I think its a passion. “But you never know you know” is a lame excuse 🙂 I’m still waiting for my update… 🙂 cya.

Ha ha, I like how you tell me to get it already. As if I can just go to the store and spend the money… that I don’t have!!!

What update? Nothing’s going on!

friend of mine had a post on his blog, or tumblr, or something or other — said something that i think makes a lot of sense and is also appropriate to your situation.

he had a point-and-shoot camera he was using for his photos and he took some nice ones. then he said, “i wanted to be more professional” and went with the good stuff. then he started complaining to himself that he didn’t have all the cool high-performance lenses and such. he’s used his (at the time he got it) awesome camera like once since he got it like a year and a half ago.

great photos are more about getting out there and taking them than it is about what you use to capture the moment. i’ve taken some nice photos with my iphone camera (AND IT SUCKS!) and just look at @katlilytwit and her 365 album — it was pretty much entirely with her macbook’s built-in isight camera.

you just need to take nice photos. that’s the awesome thing about photography! life is AWESOME! you just have to capture it; and from what i’ve seen, you’re pretty damn good at capturing life.

Yeah see that’s half my issue. That I know the camera doesn’t make the pictures turn out great, that it’s mainly about having the eye and capturing the moment and all that…

That being said, I’d like to think I’d use my camera abit more than your friend!

All the advice that your commenters have offered is spot-on – a great camera isn’t going to make you a great photographer…it’s just going to give you better tools. I have a friend who is a phenomenal visual artist, and he does great work with his crappy cameraphone, since he has such a great eye, and knows how to work with what he has.

The advice to avoid the kit lens and get better glass is *generally* accurate – but I wouldn’t follow it blindly. It’s going to depend a lot on what the kit lens actually IS. Granted, to get a good lens as part of the kit you have to usually go with the mid-level prosumer (Dx0 series, in Canon parlance), so if you’re going entry-level dSLR than the Tamron advice is probably spot-on.

A dSLR *will* change your photography. The question is, will it change it enough to justify the cost for you? I think that the best advice is what you already know – keep saving. Do research. Figure out exactly what you want.

And ignore anyone who tells you “Nikon is better” Or “You have to get Canon”. Both are fine and super high quality bodies and glass. Anyone who tells you one is better than another other than personal preference is full of crap. Along those lines, before dropping the kind of coin that a dSLR reflects, make sure you try out all of your options. At the very least, go to a camera shop and snap a few sample exposures with each. See how they feel in your hand (ultimately, the biggest difference between Canon and Nikon is going to come down to how the body feels in your hand, although aficionados of each brand will have all sorts of other reasons, this is really what it boils down to, especially at the prosumer level).

Best is to find someone who has the bodies you are looking at, and get a chance to really put them through their paces.

Yeah you’re right… I’m going to keep saving and figuring out what I want and then figure it out from there.

Do you recommend going to a Best Buy type place to see how the cameras feel or to like speciality camera shops?

Best Buy will probably have most of the bodies you’re looking at, but you’ll have less “freedom” to play with them than if you go to a place like Calumet or another camera shop. Don’t BUY it from the camera shop (at least not without price shopping; I actually got the same price from Calumet for my 40D and new lens as I was able to find online), but at a shop like that you’ll probably be able to talk them into letting you put the lens on that you’re interested in, and seeing how it “handles”.

I started my 365 with a P&S and quickly moved onto a DSLR. Couple of things to keep in mind. It’s not the camera that starts to cost money — it’s the lenses. The kit lenses that they sell with DSLR are hardly better than what you get with a P&S. And, you’ll start to wonder why you aren’t taking better pics. And, good lenses cost more than good cameras. I have spent over $2000 in getting the three lenses that I use.

I highly encourage you to get the DSLR and to start working on lenses. Your eye is great, and I think you can do wonderful things with the right equipment. Just know that you are making an investment that leads to wanting more and more.

Dang $2000? In just lenses. Geez, at this rate of savings, maybe I’ll be afford to the camera and a lens by… 2010? Late 2010?

Thanks Jordy, at least it’s an investment…

I don’t even want to think about how much I’ve dropped on glass…but to make myself upset, I’m going to itemize it:

Canon 50mm 1.8 (“nifty fifty”) – $75 (great lens if you’ve got a Canon body, and anyone who doesn’t shoot Canon that doesn’t own this lens is a sucker)

Canon 75-300mm f/4-5.6 – $100 (I think that is what I paid; I bought it used, and it was about that.)

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 – $375 (also bought “barely” used…love this lens though, for the wide-angle opportunities. Hate that the aperture is variable)

Canon 24-700mm 2.8L – $1,100 (my first “L” series lens, which in Canon parlance, is the “creme de le creme”. L glass is…amazing. It makes me want to have sex with it)

So I’m only up to about $1,650 in glass…not as high of a number as Jordy, so I feel a little better. Although it scares me when I’m walking around with my fully loaded gear bag realizing that I have almost $3,000 worth of stuff in it, all told. I try to not let that show on my face when I walk past people 🙂

Why’s it called “nifty fifty”? And I have yet to decipher what all the codes for the lenses mean.. I have so much to learn!

It refers to the 50mm focal length…and it’s “nifty” because it’s cheap as hell 🙂

Oh, I should clarify. I did not spend the $2000 all at the same time. I started by selling my kit lens on ebay and using the money to get a 50mm f/1.4. If I were you, I would skip buying the kit lens and then just get the fiddy. I used the fiddy for almost my entire 365. Then about 8 months later I bought a 70-200 L. Then about 8 months after that, I bought a Tamron 17-55mm.

My point is that with a DSLR you can continue to use new lenses, and you do not need them all at the same time. Again, I used my 50mm for almost my entire 365.

Ha ha, that’d be nice if you were able to shell it all out at one time tho, no?

I actually ended up with three different kinds of cameras in my life. I’ve got the little P&S (Sony W50) which I take just for walks, etc. I’ve got an old Canon S2IS larger P&S that goes in my backpack that I take to work (love that 12X zoom and image stabilizer).

And then I’ve got a Canon 30D and 40D that I use for heavier work and wedding photography. And about $2300 in lenses, $950 in flash units.

And I used to sell cameras for a living. So here’s my two cents:

1. Yes, you need to hold the camera before you buy it. I almost bought a Digital Rebel instead of my first 20D based on price, but when I picked one up, I realized the grip on the Rebel series simply didn’t fit my hand.

A camera that doesn’t feel good to you won’t get used.

2. Some will disagree with this, but I’ll say it anyway: Don’t be automatically afraid of used or refurbished equipment. I’ve only purchased two lenses and one camera new in the last five years–out of four cameras and seven lenses bought. Every other purchase has been from eBay. I also deliberately purchased older cameras, (i.e. I got the 40D after the 50D came out) to further decrease costs.

3. As Jordyr said, don’t feel you have to get everything at once. It’s a growing process. I’ve bought and sold a dozen lenses to get to the ones I have now and I’m just now finding that I have the ones I really want. See what kind of photos you like to take, and then get lenses to match.

4. I’ll echo other comments here: It’s the lens, not the camera that matters. If you can get a good used D70s or D80 instead of a D90, or a Rebel XT instead of an XSI, and use the saved money to get a better lens to start, I recommend it.

5. While everyone (including me) will mention Nikon and Canon most often, I’d highly recommend at least putting your hands on an Olympus E-series (E420/520 line). I found it to be the most comfortable-to-hold camera I’ve ever picked up, and you can often find two-lens-and-camera kits for under $500. Olympus and Pentax are less popular than the Big Two, but they’ve got a history and reputation just as long and impressive. Sony’s not bad either, and are based on the old Minolta line, but I’ve found them to be a bit pricey for what you get.

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