I actually wrote this a couple of weeks ago but it ended up being literally the longest post I've ever made, so I am starting again and will keep this short and sweet. I thought I'd add in a bit about my camera history too, to tell you about what I learned on and what I look for in a camera. So:
I bought my first ever SLR – yes, no D in there, it took film! – back in 2003, when I was living in London. I got it off ebay, from a lovely man who was so incredibly thoughtful and met me at whatever the last tube station on the pink line is in East London with his wife and kids, to make me feel more comfortable. I learned about this camera, darkroom techniques and the pain – oh, the expensive misery – of film on this clunky and battered but much loved camera. Sometimes the film wouldn't load properly and I'd have paid for a roll of unexposed film to be developed... yep. There are a LOT of reasons I love digital! I still have this camera now.
When I started this blog, I used a little digital point and shoot that I propped up on walls or whatever was nearby and set its timer. I then dropped it at Hanging Rock (yes, the one from the famous 1970s film Picnic at Hanging Rock, as it's close to Melbourne) with its lens out and broke it. Damn. I replaced it with a little digital Canon point and shoot, and thankfully these kinds of cameras were a lot cheaper at by then. John also found a second hand tripod for me on a trip to the markets that he did not want to come on and pouted about and wandered off on – what a good wanderer he was!
Then my boss at the time, who used to be a keen photographer, let me use the work camera and tripod on my lunch breaks. It was some kind of Nikon DSLR, and having that depth of field and control was amaaaaazing. It also weighed a tonne, and I needed both hands to wield it. Still, absolutely loved it. John then borrowed his boss's Nikon (different model, I think, but same tonnage) for a weekend and we had a play with that, and loved it. I was hooked, and new I was ready for my first DSLR.
The first DSLR I bought was an entry level Canon one: from memory, the EOS 450D, with two kit lenses. It was around half the price of the Nikon I was looking at, and half the weight, and I wanted to make sure it was something I'd really need, and so this was the one I went with. I eventually got the cheapest f1.8 fixed lens for it, and that changed everything. It was good for a start, but about 20 months later I was ready for an upgrade...
And so I got my current camera, the Nikon D7000, and the Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8G (ie. a fixed f1.8) lens. (Not being a full frame camera, the 35mm bit is affected, so keep that in mind.) I knew when I went to the shops that I wanted something very crisp, clear, sharp and vibrant, and none of the dreamy, smokey qualities (erm, such technical terms there!) that I thought I'd like – I wanted to capture things in a really immediate, vivid way. I think it helped that the sales girl used the Nikon D7000 when she wasn't doing professional shoots, and loved it.
But it was also light enough for me to use with one hand, clear and punchy and clean and it does something magical with light that I love. It's great in low light settings (especially with that f1.8 lens, of course) and the ISO goes really high and doesn't get too noisey too quickly, which is excellent for taking shots at night in restaurants without blinding your fellow diners with a flash, which I think can be a bit rude to do. It's also pretty tough and I can carry it about everyday in my handbag, tucked into a chopped up padded camera bag for some protection. I also have an 18-55 lens but I hardly ever use it.
Like everything, it does have its cons. The focus can be a bit, um, moody, and I find I have to adjust the AF fine tuning fairly often. (There are some great youtube videos on that if you need it.) When it works, it's crystal. I find that the Auto White Balance setting is amazing in most lighting scenarios. I used to always set it manually, but a professional photographer who also uses this model told me that the Auto setting would be fine, and she was right. However, I find that oranges and greens are a bit tricky in my pictures. Oranges get quite washed out, and greens, such as, say, grass, can go very bright – like, fluro bright! – and a little bit yellow. I go in and adjust them in Photoshop, and it's easy enough to fix. But these are my only gripes with this camera. I also love that it has a lot of focus dots – very freeing! I've been wanting to get an f1.4 lens for over a year, and maybe even a new camera – something dreamier and more ethereal, perhaps, but still good with low light, and I'd like to try out full frame ones... it'll be fun to try new things, and to learn new things too!