Taking the Digital Plunge
Keywords: fundamentals, camera, basics, guides, tips, digital
You’ve finally decided to go digital but what’s the right camera for you?
The answers are in your ultimate needs, your familiarity with photography and computers— and your wallet.
Kodak Picture Kiosk
Let’s start with a disclaimer right from the start. We’re Nikonians — which means we’ll be suggesting Nikon cameras and lenses.
|Nikon has the gear to cover it all, from the beginner level to the ultimate professional kits. We can also recommend one of our resource partners -- appropriately named LetsGoDigital||
Check their links. Based on camera prices and features and you will find a wealth of information.
|Nikon has an interactive site in English that allows you to choose your priorities in a digital camera, step-by-step, with a suggested answer to your needs just a few mouse clicks away. Check it here||
Nikon digital cameras, even at the most affordable level (some call it cheap); all have one thing in common. The current models have more than enough megapixel capacity to get you excellent 4- by 6-inch prints available through your local quick printing shops and major department store photo kiosks. If you’re shopping for used models you’ll see the big “megapixel” hurdle.
|Don’t let the megapixel numbers confuse you. Experienced professionals will tell you anything over 3 megapixels is perfectly fine for good quality prints up to 8x10 inches. Nikon’s least expensive Coolpix, the L2 with 6 megapixels, already has you in the right range at less than $250 USD Look for anything over 3 megapixels and you will do just fine.||
Choosing a camera
Your choice of a camera will depend on what you plan to do with it.
Digital cameras will consistently boil down to two descriptive titles: Point-and-shoots, and single-lens-reflex’s.
If you want to take snapshots, post them on a web site and share them with friends and family with decent 4x6 prints, you’ll probably be happy with the point and shoots like the Coolpix L2. Each camera model “up the line in features” (and price) will add to your shooting abilities.
If you want more control over exposures, focusing, and shooting spontaneity, you’ll probably want to move in the direction of a digital single-lens-reflex (SLR).
The “SLR” terminology is often misunderstood. Many new photographers assume this means a camera with one lens (already attached). It is quite the opposite. It’s a camera body that can accept any number of interchangeable lenses. Nikon and other major camera companies have been offering their mix-and-match assortments of bodies and lenses for decades. The advent of quality zoom lenses makes it possible for beginning photographers to purchase one camera body with a matching lens that covers the range from close up wide angle needs to telephoto work.
These digital single lens reflex cameras (referred to as DSLR’s) can give you professional results at affordable prices.
The SLR’s give you the option of choosing your lenses, with the added benefit of selecting how much manual control you wish to use while taking photos. Many professionals will readily tell you that even with all their experience in controlling shutter speeds and exposure settings, they will often set their cameras in full automatic modes and fire away.
I attended a school prom last week and the professional photographer shooting formal portraits used a Nikon D50, currently available with a versatile 18-55mm Nikkor lens for less than $700.
If a pro can use it as an income-earning tool imagine what you can do with it. Shooting with a single lens reflex Nikon will spoil you forever, but you need a semblance of photography experience to feel comfortable with a camera that can easily switch from point-and-shoot to full manual mode. The D50 can do that, as well as the D200 and (needless to say) the full featured D2x. Your choice will of course rely on your budget.
While you are doing your research on the Internet for that perfect digital camera to get you started, don’t forget that you’re looking at technical specifications, reviews, and product photos. If you can find a local retail supplier that actually has these cameras in stock make sure you take the time to actually hold the camera in your hands. This is the “try before you buy” approach. If you have a friend who is happily shooting away with a digital ask that friend to share their “learning curve” with you.
Most of these stores will also be able to provide a CD-Rom disc along with your prints, which you can take back to your computer for your email Web-sharing.
Sooner or later you will want to take more control over your photos, and download them straight to your computer.
You will then have opened your very own “digital darkroom.”
This means you’ll soon be concentrating on your computer skills, and very quickly realizing you want more hard drive space, faster read and write speeds, and the appropriate ports and plugs to match the camera.
Quick Tip: One of your most important decisions as you go digital will be choosing your “film.” It won’t be film like the old days. It will be in the form of memory cards. Our friends at LetsGoDigital have already prepared a handy Card Reference.
Above all, make sure you have a good understanding of your computer’s capabilities before taking the digital plunge.
And, as a final note, make sure you look through our Nikonians forums dealing with the digital camera models you are interested in. You will quickly find Nikonians sharing questions you forgot to ask, followed with a wealth of answers.
Our digital camera specific forums include:
1. Think first of your photography goals.
2. Factor in your photography experience.
3. Make sure your computer is up to the task.
4. Go to LetsGoDigital.org and read their reviews
5. Go to NikonDigital.com and follow their questions.
6. Check your wallet.
7. Get back to our forums if you still have questions.
Originally written on May 13, 2006
Last updated on October 28, 2016
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