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?