a gift, a desire, and a request

With retirement comes the ubiquitous fixed income, leaving little for fancy extras or large luxuries. The dream of 20 acres backing up to a thousand-acre nature preserve has faded into the background. Don’t cry for me — in retrospect, I would have spent many lonely, depressed hours there so far from other people.  I’m fairly certain I live in a place of privilege, with the public library and grocery story just one mile away (great for when I can walk again!) and a 12-acre natural park directly behind my house.

With the passing of my mother and the settling of her estate, I am blessed to have a small sum which I can spend on one of those “fancy extras.” My choice? An upgrade from my Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot camera to a DSLR camera with a regular/zoom lens and a macro lens.

I have no illusions of greatness when it comes to my photography skills. I’ve been to museums and I’ve got cable internet; I’ve seen great photography.
But I enjoy photography and often work hard at getting a good shot. I know a little about composition and lighting. I took 2 semesters of photography in high school where I played with lenses, developed film, printed pictures, and tackled assignments.  I really enjoyed playing with night photography, those streaks of light caused by long exposure to moving cards and capturing colored lights reflected on wet, rainy streets.

A better camera would let me take better pictures of my cat. Of course, that is really a side benefit, as Cleopatra rarely allows photographs.

A better camera would let me take better pictures of my cat. Of course, that is really a side benefit, as Cleopatra rarely allows photographs.

Yep, all done now and hiding from her fans

Yep, all done now and hiding from her fans

So. I’ve got about $400 to spend (okay, with tax and shipping, maybe up to $500). Yes, I know that’s not much money for a DSLR (or a camera that does everything I want), but it’s what I’ve got to spend. There are children to help put through college.

I need your help choosing my next camera! I want to get a camera that will allow me greater freedom and ability to get the shots I want to capture:

  • ability to choose the subject on which I want to focus (point-and-shoot has trouble with this)
  • ability to get good shots in low lighting without flash
  • close-ups! The macro on my p-and-s is a joke. I want to take quality macros.
  • zoom! I want to be able to be far enough from a subject to be unobtrusive and yet still get a good shot.

I do realize that I may or may not be able to get those last 2 bullet points covered in a single package. While I’d rather not have to change lenses, if there isn’t a decently priced camera out there with those capabilities, I’m willing to get over the idea of a single camera and purchase a camera with 2 interchangeable lenses. A couple things to keep in mind:

  • Simple is better than complicated. I want to buy this new camera soon (like, last week) and taking a lot of extra time to learn how to use it really isn’t on my wish list.
  • I shake sometimes. I have what is technically known as a benign familial essential tremor and this can impact my ability to get a decent shot, so whatever camera I end up purchasing should be pretty stable. Too heavy and I will have trouble holding it for very long without shaking… too light and I will have trouble holding it still, too. (Welcome to my life.)

That’s it in a nutshell …er, blog post. 😉

Can you help with specific advice?

8 thoughts on “a gift, a desire, and a request

  1. Have you looked at the Canon G15? I’ve been very happy with my Canon G10, and the G15 is an improvement in almost every way. The Canon G series are not actually DSLRs, but you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference in quality. They offer the ability to shoot in RAW mode and to shoot completely manually. The G series cameras are often used by photo-journalists in situations where changing lenses isn’t practical or safe.

    The zoom is only 5x, so it’s not tremendous, but a good zoom lens is heavy and very expensive so I’m okay with that. I’ve been happy with the macro. The image stabilization is good. Like any smallish camera, the built-in flash can result in a harsh look but the camera has a hot shoe so I use a speedlight with a softbox.

    Amazon has the G15 for $449. If you want to check it out in person, I’ve found the staff in the north side Best Buy camera department to be very helpful. Huppins, not so much.

    Have fun with your new toy!

  2. Sorry, no idea. I have two cheapish point and shoot cameras and they’ll have to do me. Wouldn’t a photographer’s equipment shop have a person who can give you advice?

    It’s been quite a trek to find you here. Keep blogging!

  3. Unfortunately, I don’t know doodly squat about cameras; however, I have a friend who is a professional photographer. If you like, I can introduce you to her via Facebook question and then you can ask her advice about equipment.

  4. Rob bought a DSLR some years ago. One of the nice things about it was some anti-shake thing. I’m not the photographer, so that’s all I know about it.

    I am such a huge fan of macro photos, that I’d choose that over the long lens, but that’s just a personal preference.

    However, he rarely uses the big camera anymore –he’s found a p&s with a great macro lens that he likes more than the big camera.

    None of this will really help you, so good luck with your choice!

  5. A photographer friend of mine recommends the Canon T3i but that looks to be priced a little higher than you are looking for.

    I spent more than I planned on a DSLR camera but I love it. Nikon D7000. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the zoom lens. I still use it more like a point and shoot, though! I am slowly experimenting with it and finding out what it can do.

  6. I have a new fujifilm camera that I LOVE indeed, and the wife uses a Sony—both would be highly recommended by us!

  7. The truth of the matter is, that in that price range I believe you are far better off having a really good digital camera than a low end DSLR.

    It’s not the body that is all that expensive but the lenses themselves. Though a very good body exceeds $500 by quite a bit. Less expensive lenses will offer you a decent zoom range. I have a Canon body. One of my lenses is a Sigma 70-300. It is a decent zoom but I need to use it in pretty good light because it is not a fast lens. It does have an image stabilizer though so that helps. It is not a great lens.. it’s adequate and it is now selling for just under $200 at Amazon. That’s on top of the cost of a body. The macro lens – you want it to be a fast lens because you’re up close to things.. shake becomes obvious. If it’s a fast lens, there won’t be need for image stabilizer. In either case, it will be a costly lens.

    Considering your budget, I would honestly recommend a higher quality non DLSR camera. One that has a great zoom.. and a fine macro or super macro. The camera I had before my DSLR was a Canon PowerShot (exact model forgotten right now – there are many and they vary considerably). It had some heft, but not overly much. It felt very good in the hand and the current improvements would probably give you something like 50X zoom and excellent macro capabilities.

    My advice would be to go visiting around some photography forums. Or Google key words such as “best non dslr cameras” and read, read, read. You’ll find an excellent camera in your price range. But I don’t think you’re budgeted for a good DSLR plus the lenses and qualities you desire.

    Write to me any time, Karen. If you come down to a model or two or three.. of any kind of camera and have questions. I’ll do what I can to answer. And what I don’t know, Frank might well know.

  8. Couple things:
    1) My mom has a Canon EOS Rebel she really likes.
    2) Check out your local camera store. They may have cameras you can play with, they certainly can give you advice (be clear at the beginning that you’re not buying – yet), and they may even have some used cameras for sale.
    3) Look for used cameras. They’re not too hard to find, and the prices drops dramatically as soon as they are used.
    4) Like someone else said, the lenses are where you want to really spend your money.
    5) save some of your money for classes, either in person (local community college or camera store) or online (lynda.com has GREAT tutorials). Just a litthe knowledge goes a LONG way to improving camera skills.

    Here’s a link to a website I trust. Reading through the reviews may help you better understand what you’re looking for. http://reviews.cnet.com/best-entry-level-dslr-cameras

    Also, you might check out this report from Consumer Reports (the library often has back issues so you don’t have to buy a subscription, although online costs about $12/yr) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/digital-cameras.htm
    Good luck!

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