Recently I had a conversation with a good friend who is thinking about buying a DSLR camera. Since that seems to be the popular thing to do lately (I jumped on board two years ago myself), I thought I’d share a few things I wish I had known then that may have affected my decision to take the plunge.
I’ve always enjoyed photography but honestly knew nothing about the mechanics of it (and still know very little). I decided to buy my first DSLR because I wanted to “take better pictures” and “take my photography to the next level”. I looked at sites like this and this and wanted to learn to take pictures like that.
The first thing I learned was that those pictures do not just fall out of the camera, no matter how good the camera is! There’s a difference between good equipment and real talent. I am learning to take better pictures, and have come a long way in two years, but I do not expect to ever be at the level of these two amazingly talented women. That said, it doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying! 😛
Next, I found out that there is a huge – and I mean HUGE – learning curve when switching from a point-and-shoot camera to a DSLR. I’m not as techno-savvy as I once was, but I’m not completely clueless either, and I have really struggled to figure my camera out. I did NOT sit down and read the manual cover to cover as was recommended to me. My reading time is too limited to spend it on that; I have figured it out as I go along. There are still countless features and functions I don’t know how to use, simply because I have not had time to sit down and figure them all out. You can, of course, use the camera forever in auto mode, but that just makes for a very clunky, very expensive, point-and-shoot camera, in my opinion.
Also, it is possible to spend as much or more than the camera on additional lenses (and that’s just on one lens!). The kit lens is adequate and will do a good job in most settings. But I’ve learned that if you really want your pictures to have some pop or extra appeal, it takes different, better quality lenses. Not all of the lenses are expensive. My favorite lens was only about $100. But the lens I’m looking at now (and trying to figure out if I can justify) will honestly cost more than my camera did.
That’s another thing, learning about the lens mounts. If I had known then what I know now, I would have shelled out a few hundred more for the camera with a different lens mount, but of course I was CLUELESS to the fact that Nikon had different types of lens mountings. Anyway, unless I want to upgrade my camera body now, I end up actually having to buy a more expensive lens for my less expensive camera body than I would if I had bought the more expensive camera body.
Lastly, once you have your camera and your good lens, you may still find that your pictures aren’t quite what you had, well, pictured. That’s because the last step is post-production – adding textures, actions, and other forms of editing that I am only just beginning to understand.
I really like my Nikon and am proud of the progress I’ve made in my photographic abilities over the past couple of years, but there are some moments I have missed because my light setting wasn’t right or my focus was off. Moments that I would have caught with my trusty little Kodak.
So, what’s the final analysis? If you want to plunge in and get a DSLR, go in with your eyes open and be ready to work for it (unless, of course, you have raw talent – something I feel like I lack 😉 ). If you don’t have the time, energy, or desire there are some great point-and-shoot cameras with amazing optical zoom available for about half the cost that would have certainly been an option if I had considered them.