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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D-Town TV: Tips for both Nikon & Canon

Link to D-Town TVI think I have watched every online episode of Kelby Training’s D-Town TV. Each free episode features useful tips and tutorials about digital photography. The first season is focused solely on Nikon gear and tips, but all recent episodes contain a less prejudice mixture of both Nikon and Canon information.

The show is hosted by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski. Scott is behind a media group that includes Kelby Training, D-Town TV, and more. Matt is a Photoshop whiz and is probably on track to creating his own fiefdom. The show is typically 15 minutes long, with just a dash of advertising. It’s easy to watch and professionally done. I learn something every time.

If you haven’t yet checked it out, it’s worth a visit!

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HDDSLRs Work Better With a Fast Memory Card

A growing variety of new “prosumer” DSLRs have the ability to capture HD video and are referred to as VDSLRs (yes, the ‘V’ in VDSLR stands for video) or HDDSLRs. If you’re considering the Nikon D5000 or the Canon EOS Rebel T1i, for instance, you’ll be equipped with the ability to make true high definition (HD) video using your new HDDSLR.

So what’s the big deal? Why is it better, or different, shooting video with a VDSLR instead of your trusty video camera? The biggest difference is the ability to use different lenses. That’s what the pro film makers do – they use different lenses for different filming techniques. Now you, as a prosumer, can do that too! Screw on your thrifty 50 and enjoy filming with dramatic depth of field. Do some editing, set your video to music, and you’ll have friends and family cooing over your latest art project.

As a superb example of what’s possible, the video below was shot with a VDSLR. It was featured on Nikon’s recently-announced contest for creating a 140-second video. There are some real gems featured in this contest, but this video was one of the outstanding ones. They used interesting angles, did it in black and white, paired it with dramatic music, and much more. Check it out…

Finding Forgiveness is a true story about a day in my life as a Figure Skater when I was going through difficult times and relied heavily on my art form to help find composure. Being a starving artist brought tremendous pressures on even the littlest things in my life. A fight in my relationship left me without release. The one thing I was truly good at brought us together, yet inevitably tore us apart. From time to time, there was only one place I could turn to… A place where one day I found forgiveness.

Finding Forgiveness Credits:

Music: Shine by Ulrich Schnauss (Domino / Universal Music) /

Filmed by Bryan Spinelli / Spin Media Productions LLC /

Produced & Edited by Joseph Gazzola /

Actress: Courtney Perrone /

Shot entirely on DLSRs.

The HD version can be found on

About the camera gear they used to create Finding Forgiveness:


Nikon NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5

Canon 24mm f/1.4 L Series

Canon Telephoto 70-200mm – f/2.8 L Series

Camera & Accessories:

Nikon D300S

Canon EOS 7D

Edited on Edius

Glide Cam

Jib, Dolly, Tripod with Par 64

One of the hidden costs of buying a DSLR is the memory card. And if you’re going to take advantage of making some creative videos on your HDDSLR you’re going to be happier if you get a larger, faster memory card. Why? Because shooting video eats up a lot of space on your card, and it requires that the card is fast (allows data to be written to the card quickly). An excellent choice for a video card is SanDisk. Check out SanDisk’s new Extreme Cards.

If you’d like to see more examples of video shot with VDSLRs, investigate Vimeo’s HDDSLR group, DSLR Cinema on Vimeo.

Related Links

Photofocus, published by Scott Bourne, is a good resource for updates on what’s happening with VDSLR Just search “video” on his blog. Scott is a Canon shooter and appears to be doing a lot of video on DSLR. He’s well known and a thought leader in the digital photography revolution.

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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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What is Aperture?

Using Aperture Priority on a DSLR

WIDE OPEN means small f-stop
WIDE OPEN means small f-stop

Aperture is the term used to describe the size of the adjustable opening is that lets light through your lens. Aperture is measured using the term f-stop. There’s a unintuitive inverse relationship between the f-stop value and the degree to which your aperture is open. So if you’ve got your lens aperture set to f/2.8, which is a low f-stop number, that means the aperture can open “wide,” letting lots of light in. Silly, eh? While an f-stop value of f/16 means the aperture is really tiny, just letting a little light through.

Using Aperture Priority Mode to Control Depth of Field

Turn your DSLR to Aperture Priority Mode (“A” on Nikon, or “Av” on Canon) and try taking two close-up shots of the same flower. First try it with a relatively high f-stop number, like f/11. Now, try turning it down as low as it will go, like f/2.8 if you’re using the “Thrifty 50″ Nikon 50mm f/2.8. You’ll see a shallow depth of field (the background is blurry) when you’ve got the aperature down at f/2.8. At f/11 you’ll have both the foreground and background in focus.

Back in the day, newspaper photographers were encouraged to, “Set the camera to f/11 and be there,” which meant you’d be relatively certain to capture the whole scene of what was going on – that the depth of field wouldn’t be too shallow with a blurry background.

When Should I Use Aperture Priority Mode?

  • Use Aperture Priority Mode whenever you want to control depth of field.
  • Use the lowest f-stop number to achieve shallow depth of field, like if you want to bur the background and keep the subject in focus.
  • Use a low f-stop number if you’ve got limited light.
  • Use a high f-stop number, like f/16, if you’ve got plenty of light and want to keep both the foreground and background in focus.
  • Use Aperture Priority Mode all of the time, if you like. It’s the “default” mode that I walk around with.
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How to Take a Better Portrait

One of the most common things we take pictures of is other people.  But all too often we’re less than satisfied with the outcome of our portraits. Following are 11 quick tips that will help your next portrait opportunity. Give them a try, and let me know if they helped!

Move in closer on portraits
Move in closer on portraits
  1. Get closer - It’s tempting to back up and get the whole head to toe, but zoom in, and get closer. Try shooting part, not all of the face.
  2. Use a tripod – If you can. Why? Because you’ll get a sharper photo.
  3. Reduce the clutter - Remember, if it’s not adding to the photo it’s taking away from it.
  4. Remove the trees and poles from your subject’s head – As always, beware of your background and avoid positions that cause distractions in the photo. See tip number 3.
  5. Use shallow depth of field – It draws the eye to the subject. Read my post on how to make the background blurry.
  6. Focus on the eyes – Make sure the subject’s eyes are tack sharp in focus. They say the eyes are the window to the soul.
  7. Try different angles – Don’t be bashful about tilting the camera in a few different directions. Be creative.
  8. Take lots of photos – The more you take, the more of a chance that you capture just the right one.
  9. Use a flash, even outdoors – If you’re outside, try using a flash. Sometimes this can help. If you’re inside, aim the flash at the ceiling, or wall. Or, use a diffuser to soften the flash. Once you feel comfortable advancing beyond on-camera lighting, start to learn about off-camera lighting. Watch this tutorial on off camera lighting and you’ll be inspired to experiment!
  10. Only show off your best shot – Once you’re ready to share the photo, try to narrow it down to one shot. Resist the urge to show a bunch of the same type of shot. This can be tempting when you’re uploading photos, but only reveal your best work!
  11. Use a nice lens – But try before you buy. If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll notice I’m a big advocate of renting lenses.

Following are a few sweet (portrait) Nikon lenses to test drive, or buy:

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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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Read Your Manual – Really!

Nikon Learn & Explore posted an article about how to read your Nikon manual. Regardless of whether you own a Nikon D-SLR it’s a good article because it talks about the importance of reading your camera manual. I know, I know, how boring to read a manual when you can just pick up the camera a start monkeying around with it. Do that, too. But eventually read the manual, okay?

  • You’ll learn about the menu system and what all the little buttons mean on the outside of your camera body
  • There’s normally a basic guide on how to take certain types of photos: portrait, landscape, night shots
  • Discover how to take trick shots, like multiple exposures
  • Learn about nifty things you had no idea your camera could do, like trigger remote flash units

The following is a quote form Ansel Adams, courtesy of Marc Silber

The next time you pick up a camera think of it not as an inflexible and automatic robot, but as a flexible instrument whic hyou must understand to properly use.

Digest it slowly. Read the quick start guide first. Then read the sections that interest you. I hope this quick post has inspired you to at least think about picking up your manual!

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