Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In Love with my Nikon D40

About 6 weeks before Eli was born, I stopped by a Ritz Camera on a Saturday afternoon to check out the different digital SLR camera options. I had wanted a DSLR for a long time, and in my pregnant, impulsive state I was even more tempted - after all, we were having our long-awaited baby and would need a good camera to capture his every move! I didn't go in to the store thinking I would buy one - I had done a lot of research online and just wanted to try out a few different brands/kinds to see what I liked the best.

Well... two hours later (and armed with tons of great info from this college-aged girl/salesperson who knew everything about photography), I had fallen in love with the camera I now have today. :) Ben was busy at school finishing up his dissertation, but I called him to ask his opinion about whether this was a good idea to buy now. He was too stressed to sit on the phone and go over pros/cons with me so he just said, "Do what you think is best," and went back to writing. Of course I thought it was a good time to get it so we would have time to learn how to use it before the baby arrived...

After 6 months+ of heavy use, I am SO happy with the purchase! I love the Nikon D40. It is the entry-level Nikon DSLR, and is the smallest and lightest of the brand's DSLR cameras. It's comfortable to hold (others are really bulky/heavy), pretty simple to use, and takes great pictures. It has 6.1 megapixels, which is a good size but small enough to not use up so much of your computer memory (versus the ones that have 10-12 megapixels - those will eat up your hard drive space twice as fast).

There is no shutter lag (a huge plus when photographing kids) and indoor pictures don't have the shadows/weird lighting that a smaller point and shoot camera often produces. The manual settings aren't too hard to use either. I called the Nikon customer support line this week and the person was very knowledgeable and taught me some valuable things about the camera in just a few minutes! Anyway, if you get a DSLR, these are what I consider the essentials:

  • The camera body and lens kit - I have the Nikon D40 with the 18-55 mm lens (there are more specifics but this is a basic description). (I am getting the 50 mm 1.8f lens for Christmas, which I am very excited about, but I don't think it's necessary when you first buy the camera)

  • External flash - I have the Nikon Speedlight SB-400, which is an affordable, compact flash that attaches to the top of the camera unit. It can be tilted in 4 different ways (to "bounce" the flash from something like the ceiling, providing more natural light in the pictures) and makes your camera battery last longer on one charge (the speedlight uses 2 AA batteries, totally separate from the camera).

  • High-speed memory card - I would get at least a 2GB memory card because you tend to take a lot of pictures (since the camera is capable of taking many pictures really fast).

  • Camera bag - I like using an over-the-shoulder camera bag. I wouldn't recommend a backpack if you plan on taking the camera in and out of the bag a lot, because it's a pain if it's on your back. However, a backpack would be great if you're a big hiker or plan on having the camera out for long periods of time and don't need to keep putting it back.

  • Extra battery - the Nikon D40's rechargeable lithium battery lasts a long time (especially when using the speedlight), but I like having two batteries so one is always charged and ready to go.

  • Warranty - we didn't get a warranty on our very first digital camera (this is our third) and it came back to bite us. Cameras are fragile (especially DSLRs) and endless things can happen to them...

Some other things to note - it's taken me a few months to become really proficient with the camera, so if you do get one, don't expect it to be something you can use without reading the manual. I finally bought the Nikon D40 Digital Field Guide by David Busch and it has been VERY helpful in learning the more advanced features.

Also - DSLRs don't come with video functions, so it's still nice to have a compact camera with video or a camcorder. I still use my compact camera (we have a Sony P200 that is a few years old) - I keep it in my diaper bag since it's so small - because the Nikon is bulky and not easy to bring along when we go somewhere. Also - DSLRs still have you look through the viewfinder, not on the LCD screen like we've become accustomed to with compact digital cameras. Not a big deal, but it takes some getting used to if you've used dig. cameras for a while.

And lastly... I was really pleased with Ritz. You can buy things cheaper online and sometimes without tax, but I was glad to do this big purchase at a reputable camera store. My purchase came with free prints, photography classes, and if I ever have a question, I can stop in at a Ritz or Wolf Camera store and they are happy to help you. If nothing else, I would buy the camera and lens from a store like Ritz and then order the accessories/extra parts online for a better price.

P.S. - If you're already into photography, you probably know about Photoshop actions - but if you don't... check out this blog to learn about them! I haven't ventured into using them yet, but will start looking for free ones online...


Wendy King said...

very helpful! we're looking to make the same big purchase soon and this is great info. may be getting in touch w/ you soon for pricing.... :)

Ben, Sarah & Eli said...

yes, i know i didn't mention how much i spent on all of this... it definitely isn't the smallest purchase (my employer was really nice and gave me a bonus at the end of my pregnancy/working for them so that helped with this!).

Amber Robbins said...

you kill me! What a great sales person you would make. Did Nikon pay you to write this Ad for them?

Ben, Sarah & Eli said...

no :) and I will make nothing on my Ritz endorsement either!

Sarah Beck said...

wow I'm having serious camera envy! and by the way, you never can have too many pictures of your baby. Especially if he's as cute as Eli!

RACHIE said...

I love all the detail you put into this. I am purchasing a camera in the next 6 months. My 35MM will no longer do the trick!

p.s. Eli is cute!