Interview With a New Nikon D5000 Owner

Erika, what kind of point-and-shoot digital camera did you own before you purchased a DSLR?

The Canon PowerShot something-or-another. It’s the same one Maria Sharapova used in the Canon commericials. She was taking pictures of her dog.

What’s one of the reasons you wanted to upgrade to a DSLR?

To take better pictures. I wanted to get better depth of field. I wanted to have fun with making more “artsy” stuff. After a trip to Yosemite, seeing the fun things my brother and mother were doing with their DSLRs, I really wanted to get one.

How long did you research DSLRs before you purchased one?

Maybe a month.

What were some of the most influential factors affecting your decision about which camera to buy?

I liked the feel of the Nikon D5000. Other people I knew had Nikons and were happy with them. From the research I did, I knew I didn’t really like the way you had to use one of the dials on the Canon. So it was mainly about feel.

Which new camera did you decide on getting after all of your research?

I bought the Nikon D5000.

What do you like most about your new Nikon D5000?

I really like the way I can flip the live view display to get different angles. I also like how I can flip it back down so it doesn’t get scratched.

What kind of kit lenses came with the new Nikon D5000?

The 18-55. And the 55-200.

Have you rented any other lenses yet?

Not yet but I want to. I want to rent a super telephoto lens so I can get super close up shots of nature.

What do you photograph most often?

Flowers and other nature.

What’s your favorite type of photography: portrait, landscape, nature, etc.?


What’s something (a photo tip) that you’ve recently learned that’s made a difference in your photography?

I learned how to make a star burst by using a high F-stop, like f/22. And I learned how to make creamy-looking waterfalls by slowing my shutter speed down and using a tripod.

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Rent A Lens For A Sporting Event

The reality is that a high quality lens, combined with a fast camera body, make an extraordinary difference when you’re shooting a sporting event. That’s why you see the pro sports photographers lugging around lenses the size of a fullback’s thigh. Those lenses (and the cameras attached to them) ain’t cheap.

But what do you do if you want to photograph a special sports event? What if you’ve got an opportunity to get down on the field for a pro ball game? Or, you want to get some high quality images from your son or daughter’s big game?

The answer is to rent a lens!

Renting a pro lens, camera body, and other expensive camera equipment suddenly levels the playing field for “weekend warrior” photographers.

Here’s my recommendation: rent one of the following lenses for a weekend and you won’t be dissapointed. You’ll come away with some shots that will make your mouth water. Friends and family will want prints. You’ll have a blast renting a big, fat, pro lens. You’ll be addicted. I guarantee it!

Nikon 300mm f/2.8 or Canon 300mm f/2.8

This lens is fixed at 300mm f/2.8. That’s nice and tight and you’ll be right up where the action is. The shallow depth of field coupled with 300mm means that you’re going to get the subject super sharp and the background nice and blurry – the way you want it. Also, don’t forget, if you don’t have one you’ll also need a monopod, or tripod to hold this monster. The massive lens mounts onto the monopod or tripod, not your camera body!

RENT NOW — Nikon 300mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses (buy the insurance!)

RENT NOW — Canon 300mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses (buy the insurance!)

Nikon 400mm f/2.8 or Canon 400mm f/2.8

This 400mm lens is also fixed at f/2.8. Get ready to submit some shots to Sports Illustrated. The shallow depth of field you’ll be able to achieve is crazy. And talk about being up tight and close. Your friends and neighbors will see the shots you produce and be throwing money at you to buy an image of their kid catching a fly ball in the outfield. You may even recoup your lens rental fee!

RENT NOW — Nikon 400mm f/2.8 from Borrow Lenses (buy the insurance!)

RENT NOW — Canon 400mm f/2.8 from Borrow Lenses (buy the insurance!)

Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 or Canon 70-200 f/2.8

Consider the 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lens if you’ll be closer to the action and need to zoom in and out. You’re still able to achieve f/2.8 all the way from 70 to 200mm so you’re all set with shooting in low light and that sweet shallow depth of field. The 70-200 is a professional photographer’s workhorse and would make an ideal second lens to carry on your backup camera (ha ha).

RENT NOW — Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses

RENT NOW — Canon 70-200 f/2.8 from BorrowLenses

The very nature of most sporting events means fast-moving action. And the excitement of the moment is often times focused on one or two players in close proximity. For you, as a photographer, this translates to the following:

Frames Per Second - You need to crank out as many frames per second (FPS) as possible. Make sure you’ve got your camera set to burst mode. If you’re going to be serious about this you’ll need a camera body that lets you pull off 8 FPS. You don’t want to miss that critical moment! Here, rent one of these pro bodies and you’ll be firing off more than 8 FPS. And you’ll get “the look” from people. They’ll be thinking, is s/he a pro??

RENT NOW — Nikon D3S from BorrowLenses

RENT NOW — Canon 1D Mark IV from BorrowLenses

Depth of Field - A shallow depth of field will make your subject pop. Shooting a telephoto lens at a wide aperture (low F-stop) will allow you to keep the subject in tack sharp focus while blurring the background. A long telephoto lens, like a Nikon 400mm f/2.8 will do nicely.

Shutter Speed - While you’re bursting away at 8 FPS you’ll also want to be down to at least 1/1000 of  second to freeze the action. Anything less than 1/1000 of a second and there may be some motion blur.

ISO - The limited light of a gymnasium means you’ll have to turn up the ISO so that you can achieve that 1/1000 of a second shutter speed. The higher the ISO, the faster the shutter speed you can select. Remember, you want to achieve at least 1/1000 of a second. If you’re inside a gym you’ll need to turn up that ISO.

The Sports Camera Settings

If you’re outside on a relatively sunny day set your ISO to 200. Get your big lens mounted on a monopod or tripod. Make sure you’re in Continuous Shooting (burst) mode. Shutter speed shouldn’t be a factor. Use Aperture Priority mode, select f/2.8, and go crazy.

If you’re inside, or dealing with limited light, set your ISO as necessary, up to 1600. Put the lens on the monopod or tripod. Make sure you’re on burst mode. Still set your aperture to f/2.8. Periodically check to make sure you’re achieving at least 1/1000 of a second.


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The New Nikon 18-200mm Lens

The Nikon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6G ED VRII zoom lens is the new-and-improved version of my most frequently used lens.

Nikon NIKKOR 18-200 f/3.5-5.6

I kind of wish I could say that it wasn’t my favorite lens, only because I wish I had a bunch of other lenses to choose from. Honestly, however, it is my favorite lens that I own. But I currently only have 3 lenses:

Great “Walk-Around” Lens

The 18-200 is an ideal walk-around lens. It’s light enough so that you won’t cramp your shoulder carrying it around all day. And it’s versatile enough so that you don’t have to constantly be changing lenses for different focal lengths.

I originally bought the lens in 2008 for a trip I took to China. It stayed on my camera 90+% of the trip.

If you’re planning on doing any street photography, it’s good for that, too. Because you can zoom to 200mm you don’t have to get as close to the subject. This can be handy when you’re trying to capture more candid shots.

The new 18-200 is an improvement over the older one

I have the first version of the 18-200. Nikon has since engineered this new one. It’s a nice improvement.

The old 18-200 zoom lens (the one I have) will slowly creep out when you have it hanging down. Likewise, it will creep back in if you’re holding it up. For example, if you’re holding your camera, pointed up at something, and not holding the lens in place, it will telescope back in. Kind of annoying. The new version doesn’t do this.

A few nifty things you can do with this lens

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DSLR Buyer’s Guide

This article is for the person who want to upgrade to a digital SLR (single lens reflex, commonly known by it’s acronym, DSLR). I assume you’re the one who’s purchasing the DSLR, and the one who’ll use it. This article may also represent a decent gift giving guide.


The type of DSLR you select will hinge on a few key factors. Your decision should be based on the type of photography your most apt to be regularly doing. You should consider the type of photographer you are right now, and what type of photographer you aspire to be. And, of course, you need to consider your budget. Like most consumer goods, budget weighs heavily in the decision making process.

What kind of photographer do you aspire to be?

Casual? Carry it with you all of the time? May like to go pro at some point? This will factor into the buyer’s equation and affect the choice you should be making.

If you think you’ll pretty much stick with the type of photography you’re doing right now, remember that when you’re making your camera choice. There’s probably no real need to stretch and get more camera than you need.

On the other hand, if you’ve got bigger photography aspirations take that into account. You can get a lot more camera for a moderate jump in investment.

What kind of photographer are you right now?

If you’re like most people considering the purchase of a DSLR, you’re a casual shutterbug, a hobbyist. But you’ve decided to kick it up a few notches and crave the added quality you know you’ll get from a DSLR camera. But there are different levels of casual photographers.

Consider what kind of photographer you are most of the time and let that carry the most weight in your DSLR camera decision-making process.

Ready to drop some serious coin on a new camera?

Because you’ll need to be if you’re going to get outfitted with the gear a pro totes around. You know that. That’s no surprise to you, right? I hope not! But much like the seriousness factor, described below, there are varying degrees of how much one can invest in camera equipment. Whatever the story, there’s also a budget factor. And it’s not necessarily a coefficient of wealth.

Factor One: Camera Budget

Whatever your story… rate your frugality on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 = minimal budget (frugal, frugal, frugal) and 5 = large budget (buy once, cry once mind set).

Factor Two: Seriousness

On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being most serious (aspirations of going pro) and 1 being least serious (keeping it all casual), rate your seriousness factor. Are you a 1, 2, 3, 4, or a 5?

Now find yourself on this DSLR buyer’s graph


Circle A is the person who scored 4 (high) on the seriousness scale and 5 (high) on the budget scale. This person would probably be best suited to purchase new photo gear and is definitely a “prosumer,” and maybe even a pro, or at least has aspirations of making professional-quality images.


Circle B is the person who scored 3 (moderate) on the seriousness factor and 4 (high) on the budget scale. This person should get a mid-level body and couple of good lenses.


Circle C is the person who scored 3 (moderate) on budget and 1 (low) on the seriousness scale. This person should buy a normal DSLR camera body and upgrade their kit lens.

How bad do you want a nice [camera] body?

Are you in Circle A, in the upper right quadrant? Then you probably value a high-end camera body that will keep pace with your vigorous photography demands. You may already realize that you’re going to take your camera everywhere, and that means out into the elements. You therefore value higher quality weather seals on your camera. You may also want a nice camera body if you find yourself in the lower right or upper left quadrants.

But the camera body is only part of the picture. A pro camera body doesn’t guarantee “better” pictures. For example, an entry-level camera body equipped with a professional-level lens is capable of producing very high quality images. Honestly, the entry-level DSLRs have exceptional processors and sensors and are more-than-capable of producing exquisite digital photographic images.

It’s said that the photographer—the artist behind the lens—is the one who creates the jaw-dropping photo, not the camera, or the lens.

So if you’re on the fence, go for the nicer lens and hold back on the body. If you already have a camera and a kit lens (the lens that came bundled with the camera), read my blog post: Ready to upgrade from your kits lens?

Do you want your [camera] body to be full-figured?

The higher-end DSLRs are equipped with full-frame sensors. Check my blog post about the difference between a full frame (FX) sensor and a cropped frame (DX) sensor. If you’re in left-hand quadrants it’s not that big of a deal.

How sensitive do you need [your camera] to be?

Here’s the short answer about DSLR sensors

Full frame sensors are relatively new to the DSLR world. Most pros are going with full frame sensors because they a.) come on the highest quality cameras, and b.) pros benefit from the extra edge they get by capturing the maximum amount of frame, without a crop factor. Also, higher end DSLRs tend to have the ability to shoot in lower light (higher ISO) without compromising too much on quality.

Cropped frame (DX) sensors don’t mean you’re forced into a significant compromise in quality. In fact, they’re excellent and have some benefits over full frame (FX) sensor bodies.

If you’re in the left side of the quadrant, consider a modest to moderate investment in the camera body.

Shell out for the best lens you can afford

Regardless of whether you’re going to go pro, invest in the best quality glass you can. If you’re in the left-hand side of the quadrant I recommend buying one high quality versatile lens (in addition to, or besides your kit lens). Then rent additional lenses when you need them.

I’m an advocate of renting high quality “glass” (glass is photographers’ slang for high quality lenses) on the occasions when you know you’ll be out there doing serious, no kidding around photography. The rest of the time you’re probably safe using the kit lens that comes with the camera. Renting lenses will save a bundle of money in the short and long run. You can rent a nice lens 20 times before you’ve come close to breaking even on how much you’d have to spend to purchase that same lens outright.

You’re ready to buy your DSLR!

I hope this article has helped with your decision-making process. Read lots more, and check out D-Town TV for some inspiring videos on equipment.

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Ready to upgrade from your kit lens?

Most new DSLRs are sold in a bundle that includes a kit lens. Many times this kit lens is an 18-55mm zoom. The kit lens is sufficient, but it was engineered to be the best for the most. It was designed for a wide variety of uses at an affordable price. But if you really want quality glass you have to step up to a better quality lens.

While the kit lens is versatile, the avid photographer will eventually become curious and want to try a variety of lenses for different reasons. And that’s what I advocate – try (rent) before you buy. The kit lens is decent, but if you’re looking to more easily shoot in less light, effortlessly achieve that blurry background, and produce crisp, pro-quality images, you’ll need to upgrade your lens. Also, pro lenses are constructed with more durable materials and can stand up to more than a kit lens.

It’s no secret. The single most important component of your photography system (besides what rests between your ears) is the lens you’re using. Using a high quality lens can make a noticeable difference in your photography. If it wasn’t the case, pros wouldn’t bother using anything other than a kit lens, right?

Chase Jarvis
Chase Jarvis

You’ll hear advanced photographers preach that it doesn’t matter what kind of lens or camera you’re using. That may be true as it’s related to composition and subject matter, but if you want pro quality images you need pro quality (or “prosumer” quality) gear. That said, I have seen pro photographers practicing what they preach. I once had the opportunity to go on a photo walk with Chase Jarvis while he was promoting his book, The Best Camera is the One You Have With You. Chase advocates the use of your mobile phone camera since it’s the one you have with you most of the time. Formidable mobile phone photography is exploding, partly due to the cool iPhone apps that are out there, like Chase’s iPhone app. But I digress.

How to tell if you’re ready to upgrade lenses

While investing in high quality glass won’t help your composition or guarantee a better picture, it certainly won’t hurt. And chances are good that if you’re at the point where you’re curious about taking the plunge for a better lens you’re also at the point where your photography is markedly improving. You’re at the point where your friends and family are noticing your nice shots and giving you encouragement. You’re ready to upgrade to a better quality lens. And I’m not going to kid you. Getting a nice lens can make a big difference. If you’re in a financial position to invest additional money in your camera gear, read on. If not, you can still fulfill your urge to splurge by renting on special occasions.

Not so fast!

If you’re normal then you’re anxious to bolt away from your pedestrian kit lens and snuggle up with a pro quality lens. Slow down and be methodical! Use the power of the Internet to surf many reviews. Ask other photographers what they think of the lenses you’re interested in. Consider whether you’ll be changing your camera body and how that may affect your lens upgrade choice. Weigh the pluses and minuses of investing in a more expensive lens. And above all, first rent the lens you’re interested in. That’s the acid test.

Consider your evolutionary path

If you are likely to change your camera body (say from Canon to Nikon) at some point then decide on whether you can afford to buy an expensive lens that only mounts on one brand of camera. If you’re likely to stray from your camera body brand any time soon it may be better to hold off on that new lens. Also, if you imagine that you’ll soon upgrade from a cropped frame to a full frame sensor camera take that into consideration as well by ensuring you buy a lens that will work on both kinds of cameras.

Step 1 – Rent

Regardless of what lens you’re considering you should rent it first. It’s a prudent way to ensure you really like the product. And there’s no better way to get that warm feeling that you’re making the right decision than by taking it for a real test drive. Tip: always buy the rental insurance.

New vs Used

Buying a used lens can obviously be a way to save a lot of money. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of inherent risk. The warranty may not apply, among other things. But if you’re going to purchase a used lens I would recommend buying it from a reputable camera store, like B&H. Also, rental companies like Borrow Lenses put their lenses up for sale from time to time. I would not recommend buying a used lens off eBay or Craig’s List unless you have some special knowledge of the seller. Also, avoid buying a used lens from  friend or family member. You’d both feel uncomfortable if there ended up being a problem with the lens.

If you buy a new lens you’re going to have a full warranty and be assured that if there are any defects in the quality of the product that you can return the lens for replacement or repair. Buy once, cry once.

Which Lens to Get?

Now that’s the $2,000 question! There are so many lens reviews out there. But a natural place to start is on your camera manufacturer’s website. A few questions you can start wrestling with:

  • What kind of photography do you do most of the time? Portrait, landscape, general walk-around, sports, macro? That’s the lens to get first, obviously.
  • What can you afford? The best lenses (especially Nikon and Canon) can get really pricey. If you’re going to go into debt buying this new lens, don’t do it. Rent instead.
  • Generally speaking, a lens with a constant low f-stop is going to be a higher quality lens. Get that one!
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Crop Frame (DX) Versus Full Frame (FX) Sensor

Crop vs Full Frame Sensor

Back in the olden days of 35mm film cameras images were all captured on a rectangular-shaped element (“sensor”) that was the same size: 24mm x 36mm. But when digital cameras were invented, engineers initially had to hold back on the size of the sensor (the element on the inside of the camera that “absorbs” the light and “senses” the image projected from the lens) because a larger full frame sensor wasn’t yet possible – technical limitations. And different camera manufacturers engineered different sized sensors.

The result of a smaller, crop sensor (APS-C) means the full potential of a lens isn’t achieved. The lens is trying to project a full image onto the sensor, but the sensor can only capture part of it.

DSLRs come in several formats based on the size of their image sensors. Four Thirds System DSLRs (from Olympus) have sensors measuring 17.3×13.0mm, APS-C DSLRs (Nikon calls this format “DX”) have sensors around 23.6×15.8mm, and “full-frame” DSLRs have sensors measuring 36x24mm, the same as a full 35mm film-image frame.

Nikon: full frame sensors (FX) and crop frame sensors (DX) with a 1.5x magnification effect

Canon: full frame, 1.3x, 1.6x (EF)

Olympus: full frame, 2x

The result of of crop frame sensor, as the name implies, is a cropped image. No big deal. What you see through your camera’s viewfinder is still what you get. The only difference comes in what the lens is capable of producing based on the type of camera you’re using. For example, if you use a 50mm lens on a crop frame Nikon (DX) body you’re going to get an image that is equivalent to 50mm x 1.5 = 75mm. Or, if you use a 200mm lens on a Nikon DX body you’re going to get an image that is 200mm x 1.5 = 300mm. On the other hand, if you use a 50mm on a full frame Nikon (FX) body you’re going to get a true 50mm photo – no zoom effect: 50mm=50mm. The biggest differences are realized when using wide angle lenses. It’s kind of nice to get the maximum width. For example, if you’re using a 14mm wide angle lens you want 14mm, not 14mm x 1.5=21mm.

Within the past few years engineers have made advances. Now we can buy DSLRs with a full frame sensor. But these full frame sensors are still only available on the high-end DSLRs, which are still quite expensive for the normal consumer, or even “prosumer.”

Also, specialized lenses have been made especially for crop frame cameras. For example, Nikon calls these DX lenses.

The Main Differences Between Full Frame & Cropped

  1. Full frame sensors are built into the higher end DSLRs. These superb pro-level cameras simply produce slightly better quality images (greater detail, richer color), especially in low light.
  2. Cropped frame sensors are what you’ll get with entry level and most enthusiast level (prosumer) DSLRs. Don’t worry, they’re still terrific.
  3. Cropped frame cameras give you a “zoom” effect for free! Remember, a 50mm lens on cropped frame D-SLR is really like using greater than a 50mm lens. Again, no big deal because you won’t notice. You’re still going to have to back up, zoom out, move in, zoom in, regardless of what lens you’re using on what camera.
  4. If you’re using a full frame sensor DSLR you can’t really use the crop frame lenses (Nikon DX lenses) that have been engineered for crop frame sensors. Well, you can technically use them, but you’re going to get a cropped area around your image. That means if you upgrade to a full frame sensor DSLR body you’re also going to have to upgrade your lenses… which can cost a pretty penny. The reverse, however, isn’t an issue. If you use a full frame lens on a cropped frame sensor body it’s not a problem. You’ll just get that zoom effect and not really get the true size of what that lens produces on a full frame sensor body. See the illustrative graphic I embedded in this post.

NIKKOR Lenses Simulator – FX vs. DX

Nikon has an excellent lenses simulator that allows you to choose a lens and view a simulation of different focal lengths with different bodies (FX vs. DX).

You can pretend like you’re putting a FX format lens on a DX format body, or whatever combination you want to try.

It’s a perfect illustration of the different results you can expect with different lenses on the two types of Nikon sensors (cropped versus full frame): DX versus FX.

Give it a try!

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Interview With a New DSLR Owner!

Alisa is a good friend of mine, and the proud new owner of a new DSLR. I was thrilled when she agreed to share her purchase experience so I could post it here on Wide Open.

Alisa’s experience is probably typical in many ways. She spent a good amount of time researching the type of DSLR that made the most sense for her and her lifestyle. She’s always been interested in and good at photography, but came to a point where her old point-and-shoot was no longer keeping up with her new photography aspirations.

Here’s my interview with Alisa…


Alisa, what kind of point-and-shoot digital camera did you own before you purchased a digital SLR?

The Canon PowerShot A630.

What’s one of the reasons you wanted to upgrade to a digital SLR?

I could never take a proper close-up of flowers, and I knew my photos would generally be improved with a digital SLR.

How long did you research DSLRs before you purchased one?

Way, way too long! Probably 3 years. This was a pain. There is no such thing as a perfect camera. The further and further I got into the research the more confused and complicated my search became. I eventually gave up. Then, after becoming sick of blurry photos and having difficulty taking perfect shots with my Powershot I decided to get a DSLR.

What were some of the most influential factors affecting your decision about which camera to buy?

I was really excited when Nikon came out with the flip screen – the Nikon D5000. I loved that feature with my PowerShot and used it to no end. Getting down low, holding my camera up over my head, watching my kids laugh at themselves. It was priceless.

Which new camera did you decide on getting after all of your research?

I bought the Nikon D5000.

You ended up returning that Nikon. Why?

The flip screen portion did not work. When I put the camera in live view it delayed the shutter release. When I called Nikon about the problem they actually went and pulled the camera off the shelf and the support guy tried it for himself. And sure enough, he said, “Yeah it is a little slow.” A little slow is an understatement. What a huge disappointment. I was not happy at all. I ended up taking it back to Best  Buy. They were great with the exchange. I had purchased the extended warranty so I think that helped with the exchange process.

What did you buy as a replacement for the Nikon D5000?

I got the Canon EOS Rebel T1i. I love it. From the moment I first used it I fell in love. It feels great in my hands, is not too big, and takes super sharp pictures. I have nothing bad to say about it. I do wish it had the flip screen, but I am living without it for now.

Kids in motion
Kids in motion

What do you like most about your new Canon EOS Rebel T1i?

I love the easy focus and the feel of the Canon EOS Rebel T1i.

What kind of kit lens came with the new Canon EOS Rebel T1i?

The EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Have you experimented with any other lenses yet?

Not yet but I am thinking about it.

What do you photograph most often?

My kids, the sky, flowers.

What’s your favorite type of photography: portrait, landscape, nature, etc.?

Portrait and landscape.

What’s something (a photo tip) that you’ve recently learned that’s made a difference in your photography?

I am practicing with the depth of field, but I still have a lot to learn!

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The 70-200mm Lens – A Workhorse

Any professional photographer will have a few lenses that are his/her “money makers” – lenses that are used frequently, for a variety of different shooting situations. The 70-200mm lens is one of them – one of the most popular professional lenses in the world. And if the pros rely on it, it may be worth checking out!

The 70-200mm is a great choice for:

Low light sporting events (perhaps an indoor volleyball game); indoor event.

Events (a concert at the park, a wedding, a parade); indoor events; challenging lighting; without flash.

Portraits – Because of the f/2.8 you can get a continuous shallow depth of field at any focal length, which softens the background and makes for a nice portrait. Read my blog post on depth of field if you want to know what that means.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Canon 70-200 f/2.8
Canon 70-200 f/2.8

How to get your hands on one

Rent one – This is by far and away the easiest, lowest-cost-of-entry method of playing around with this beautiful lens. You can rent one for the better part of the week for less than you would spend on a good dinner for 2 at your favorite local restaurant. So what are you waiting for? Get one for the weekend. You’ll end up with some photos that your friends and family will love.

If you’ve got a Canon DSLR, click here to check rental pricing

If you’ve got a Nikon DSLR, click here to check rental pricing

Sample taken with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Sample taken with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

Buy one – This is a natural, albeit dangerous next step, to renting one. After renting it, you’ll surely fall in love with this lens and beg, borrow, or steal to get one in your camera bag. But you’re going to faint when you see how much these buggers cost. Sigma and Tamron make a comparable 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, so they’re also a good choice, especially if you want to save more than 50%.

Click here to price one. And remember, these are relatively low prices from B&H.

Talk to your local photo store salesperson – Many professional photography stores that sell nice D-SLR cameras and lenses will also have a rental department. And many times they will discount the sale price of your lens by the amount you spent on the rental of the same type of lens. Ask nicely if they’re willing to do that. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s a win/win arrangement and makes you feel more comfy about the purchase. Also, you’ll be more likely to return to that same store and buy lots more stuff. But beware of the hidden costs of owning a D-SLR.


There’s no arguing that both the Nikon NIKKOR 70-200mm and the Canon “L” series 70-200mm lenses are superb and perhaps unrivaled, except by maybe Tamron and Sigma. If you’ve got either a Canon or Nikon D-SLR do yourself a favor and at least rent the 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Switch your camera tot aperture priority mode (A) and ensure you’ve got that aperature at f/2.8 most of the time, unless you need more depth of field for something.

Take it to sporting event where you can relatively close – like a volleyball or soccer game; take it to a family gathering where you know you’re going to be taking lots of pictures in challenging lighting situations. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll enjoy the results of what a high quality piece of glass can do for your images.

Nikon NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VR IF-ED

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

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The Hidden Costs of Buying a DSLR

So you’ve got a new DSLR. You did your research, read the reviews, asked your friends’ and family’s opinions. It’s likely that your decision was focused on the features and functionality of the camera body, which is normal and stands to reason. But it’s all the rest of the stuff that goes along with the camera that can sneak up on you!

That’s what this article is about: the “hidden costs” of buying a digital SLR (DSLR). And while they’re hidden costs, they’re also the hidden joys because there’s a lot of fun to be had with this hobby.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, because the number of photography-related products you can purchase is virtually unlimited. But the following represents a few of the costs that accompany a new DSLR camera:


It’s likely your new DSLR came with a kit lens. An 18-55mm is a typical kit lens. What’s a kit lens? It’s the lens that came along as a package deal with your camera. It’s normally a decent lens and will suffice for many of the photos you want to take, especially at first. Eventually, however, you’ll develop an interest in experimenting with different lenses. High quality lenses (“glass”) can be expensive. Fortunately, however, you can rent lenses at a reasonable rate.

Once you’re ready, you can begin investing in additional lenses. A relatively inexpensive lens I recommend purchasing is the 50mm. I wrote a blog article about The Thrifty Fifty. You can pick up a Nikon Normal AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D autofocus lens for about $150 at B&H. The 50mm has a number of attributes that make it a good choice as one of the additional lenses you may consider.


This is beginning to read like the children’s book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin.

After you start taking great photos with your new DSLR, you’ll naturally want to make prints. Producing high quality prints isn’t as challenging or expensive as it used to be. You can purchase a high quality photo printer at a relatively low price. What’s the gotcha? The gotcha is how much ink these suckers use. And ink cartridges aren’t cheap. It’s the old Gillette razor / razor blade marketing model.

Instead, consider using your local drug store, or Costco for making prints. Costco’s photo paper and processing machines are known to be some of the best. Also, Walmart will let you upload photos online, choose the store where you’ll pick up the prints, or simply have them delivered by old-fashioned “snail” mail (USPS). That’s also handy for your sister who lives 2,000 miles away and needs prints of the baby shower. You can upload and pay for the prints, then send her to pick them up at the local Walmart!

  • Also try AdoramaPix for high quality prints. These guys are “all things photography” and take care in producing quality prints.

Memory Cards

sandiskCardYou have to buy a memory card. There’s no way around it. It’s where the digital photos are stored. There are essentially 2 variables: storage size and speed. I recommend getting one that’s fairly large. That way, you can take a lot of photos and not have to worry that you’re running out of room. It can be depressing to run out of memory in the middle of a photo walk! Unless you have your computer close by and can download, you’re out of luck. Bottom line: Expect to spend an additional $75-85 for a good/fast 16 gig memory card.

Memory cards are like any of the other accessories you’ll come across in photography. You can virtually spend as much as you want. The SanDisk Extreme Pro cards are pricey, but they’re engineered for pros who need lots of storage, and blazing fast speeds. If you’re on a tight budget, get 2 smaller cards. It may be less expensive that way.

Tripod & Tripod Head

manfrotto_logoYou may have read my blog entry, Hints for Taking a Sharp Photo, and already know about how tripods help you take sharper photos. Do yourself a big favor and purchase a quality tripod. As they say, “Buy once. Cry Once.” This adage is applicable here. Tripods come in a wide variety of choices. The two top brands of tripods are Manfrotto (fairly expensive) and Gitzo (even more expensive). I have a Manfrotto and like it a lot.

The required companion to a tripod is its head. That’s the part that attaches to the top of the tripod and holds your camera.

header_gitzo_logoThere are basically 3 types of tripods/heads:

  1. Nice (hundreds of dollars)
  2. Nice and light (many hundreds of dollars – carbon fiber, etc.) If you’re a hiker, or expect to carry your tripod around on a long trip, spring for the lighter, more expensive tripod. Save money on less Advil.
  3. Nice price, but lack in quality (will wiggle around, break and you’ll have to get another one). Please don’t be tempted to overly cheap out on one of these. You’ll only return to the store next year once it busts.

Camera Flash

Your digital SLR will likely include a built in “fill flash” — a small pop-up flash that pops up and fires when you’re shooting in automatic mode, or when you force it to fire. It works for light-duty flash situations and taking the shadow off of a face in a portrait. But if you want to get high quality flash results you’ll need to invest in a quality flash unit. It will probably come as no surprise that, again, you’re looking at hundreds of dollars.

Photo Editing Software

You can use the photo editing software that came with your camera. It may include a trial version of Photoshop, or other photo editing software. Photo editing software is something you’ll need to process, or alter the digital photos once they’re downloaded. You’ll use it to adjust white balance, color saturations, exposure control, and lots of other things. It costs about $75-100 to buy Photoshop Elements (the “light” version of Photoshop). Full, unabridged versions of photo editing software cost many, many hundreds of dollars. I think Adobe CS4 runs about $600. Nikon’s Capture NX 2 runs about $130. Aperture 2 (for the Mac) is about $200. Pixelmator is about $60.

Camera Bags

What kind of photographer are you? Do you go on hikes? Do you carry your camera everywhere? Do you expect to carry your camera on trips that require air travel? Consider your most common scenario and get that bag first. If I’m good at predictions, I predict that you will eventually purchase multiple camera bags (if you have children, you can think of camera bags like diaper bags and strollers – you end up buying multiple ones for different reasons). A nifty little backpack-style bag will run you about $100. But the prices go up from there. Expect to shell out between $150 and $350 for a nice backpack-style camera bag. And, of course, there are cool little pouches and bags for everything else you carry: lenses, etc. Check out B&H’s selection of camera bags and cases.

Lens Filters

There are bunch of lens filters. Two filters you ought to consider investing in are a circular polarizer and an neutral density gradient (ND) grad filter. Read more on circular polarizers in my blog entry about circular polarizers. The ND grad filter is a piece of smoked glass you hold in front of your camera to reduce the glare of the sun. It’s great for landscape photos where the sun may be bright in the sky, but you’re taking a picture of a mountain range with trees coming down the side. So you can hold the ND grad filter in front of your lens so the bright upper portion of the sky isn’t too bright, and overexposed compared to the darker, lower portion of the photo. Lens filters are generally less than $100 each.

More Accessories

Yes, there’s more and more. By now you realize that you’ve just dipped your toe in the water. Once you really dive in you’ll discover a variety of photography-related items you’ll “need.” Just remember, you can rent the expensive lenses. And you can purchase most DSLR gear online at reasonable prices.

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Circular Polarizers

There’s only one portion of the light spectrum that we can see. But it comes in so many variations and reflects off of so many interesting surfaces. It never gets boring. Kind of like watching waves roll onto the shoreline.

I woke up early the other morning on my friend’s boat. I’ve included a photo I snapped while standing on the back of his boat in Marina del Rey:

In the above photo I used a circular polarizer filter to cut reflection and get the blue of the sky to “pop.” Here’s a shot that illustrates how using the circular polarizer allowed me to also get the blue sky to pop and accentuate the contrast of the white clouds and palm trees. If you’re going to be shooting with clouds in the frame, consider the polarizer. It improves the cloud definition.

A lot like polarized sunglasses, a polarizer “magically” cuts down on the glare. It’s great to use while up in the mountains, because glare is a major factor at higher altitudes. Use it when the sky’s blue, but not on an overcast day.

A circular polarizer screws onto the front of your lens, just like a normal filter. You’d use it in place of your normal filter. Once it’s screwed on, you look through your camera viewfinder, then turn the circular polarizer until it’s creating the effect you want – like making the sky more blue, or the clouds more defined. Although the circular polarizer stays screwed onto your lens, it still rotates, allowing for you to adjust the amount of polarization.

The circular polarizer is also effective when shooting through glass. It helps to reduce the glare, just like polarized sunglasses.

A circular polarizer is also effective to use if you’ll be processing your photo as a black and white. By using the circular polarizer you will get more contrast between the sky, clouds, and greens. You can try for some Ansel Adams-like effects!

Also check out:

Using the Nikon Slim Polarizer” on Moose Peterson’s blog. He has a detailed explanation of how to use the polarizing filter.

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