starting from scratch – part 1: equipment


Crabby Bills, St. Pete Beach

Crabby Bills, St. Pete Beach – 1/250, f/11, ISO 100

This post is a response to some recent inquiries by family and friends about beginning photography.  As you read this, keep in mind that I have been taking serious photographs for only about 18 months.  In other words, take what I say with a grain of salt.  Imagine a seasoned professional who is essentially his art and no longer has the perspective of a novice.  Now imagine me, someone who has learned much but is no expert.  I may not be able to produce stunning museum quality artwork, but I have gone through enough trial and error to have some advice about where to start and what to avoid along the way.  That said, here it is.

First, I would say that purchasing a digital SLR camera is not what it seems.  As a veteran technologist (read junkie), I lust after gadgets and gizmos.  Typically, a certain type of product will catch my eye and I will engross myself in review after review, article after article, trying to find the best brand and model.  Only when I have convinced myself that the model I have drilled down to is the very best on the planet (in my price range of course) will I allow myself to even consider purchasing it.  Digital SLR cameras, on the other hand, are a completely different beast.  Never before had the perfect model so eluded me.  Never before had I strained myself to such a degree to find the “right” one.  Why was this so?  It comes down to the nature of photographic equipment.  Here is the single best piece of advice I can give you in terms of buying your first digital SLR:  You are not simply “buying a camera,” you are investing in a photographic system.  You better be sure that the brand of camera you buy is a serious player in the world of photography.  If not you will be sorely disappointed the first time you are trying to find a dome diffuser for that off-brand flash you found on Ebay (that doesn’t quite fit the hot-shoe by the way).  I didn’t choose the word “investing” for fun.  After you shell out a thousand smackers for your first camera and starter lens, moving your money back into your 401k is going to be tough.  Choose wisely.  And if you are having trouble understanding my meaning I’ll say it more clearly.  Buy Nikon or Canon.

There is one more thing I’ll say about equipment.  You will hear over and over that its not the camera that makes the image, its the glass (lens).  That is just plain bullshit.  There is no doubt that quality glass can go a long way, but saying that the camera doesn’t matter is like saying all you need is a great graphics adapter and your frame rate will be like warm butter.  CPU be damned!  Ok, that analogy really sucks if you don’t know computers.  I think you catch my meaning.

So this is already getting lengthy and I’ve only hit on equipment.  Guess this will be a multi-part series.  Ciao.  ; )


4 Responses to “starting from scratch – part 1: equipment”

  1. 1 rb
    August 4, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    mucho gracias : ) Pump this out fast cause I’m going to Colorado in late September!! jk.

    So I hear you on the Canon/Nikon however my dad is currently using the Olympus e-500 and we would be able to share lenses. Plus I’ve seen him produce some awesome photos using it without any editing (he is not yet savvy). I’m still debating what to do.

    I’m sure this will be filled in but I would like your recommendations on a tripod, camera bag, wireless remote for shutter vs cable for shutter release. I’m sure more will come to me.


  2. August 5, 2008 at 12:51 am

    support: I’ve only used a Manfrotto (Bogen) tripod and head so my experience is limited. I love the size and weight of the one I own (the model number is in a previous post). Definitely enjoying the ball head over the pan/tilt head, although it doesn’t support my 70-300 very well without some serious tightening. Whatever you do, don’t buy that cheap sunpak crap they sell at Best Buy. Fork over the extra dough, it is worth it. And be sure to get something light and compact. There are plenty of sites out there with tripod recommendations. Also, there are many places that do not allow tripods in which case a sturdy monopod will come in handy.

    bag: I’ve used two different Lowe Pro bags so far and love them. It is the brand of professionals. When I was in NYC I stopped at B&H Photo. The security guard almost made me check my bag until he saw that it was a Lowe Pro. He waved me in like a VIP at some trendy night club. Anyway, many of them also have weatherproofing.

    shutter release: Imagine relying on your TV remote or wifi-router to control shutter release. The cable release is much more reliable and gives you a more tactile feel for the shutter. It is also necessary for the BULB setting on most cameras. If you need to take a photo of yourself just use the timer. No real reason to have a wireless shutter release. Plus, a cabled release makes you look so retro!

  3. 3 rb
    August 7, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    What are the two models of Lowe Pro bags do you use?

  4. 4 paigekepple
    June 1, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    There are dozens of digital SLR cameras on the market today; however, there are few clear or consistent guides to which ones are the best quality and most reliable. Well, Which Digital SLR Camera? has personally tested and evaluated these digital SLR cameras so to give you an easy and simple recommendation of which ones you should choose and which ones you should avoid.

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