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Pauline Lerner

My new camera

December 31, 2005 at 6:18 AM

In a previous life, I spent a lot of time outdoors in the countryside. I would walk for hours, up and down hills and through the woods, with my camera around my neck. People used to tease me and say that the camera was attached to me. They were almost right. I love doing nature photography.

In recent years, I’ve used a digital camera. Digital cameras have some advantages. They’re lightweight, small, and easy to carry around. You don’t have to pay for film and developing. You can post your photos on the Internet and invite people to see them. You can touch up your photos on your computer, so you don’t need a photographic darkroom. There are disadvantages, too. With the digital camera, my close-ups had the fish-eye look, and the flash made all the colors look flat. The zoom was only 4x, and I couldn’t get close enough to my subjects. I’ve missed my “real camera.” I could take better pictures with it. I could adjust the camera settings for best results. Most important, I could use my lenses. Even something as simple as a polarizing lens makes a very big difference in outdoor photography, and a macro lens gives far better close-ups than I could get with my digital camera. I especially missed using my macro lens. For a long time, I’ve wanted a digital SLR camera, mainly so I could use my lenses. However, with a cost of several thousand dollars, I simply couldn’t afford to buy one.

About a month ago, I decided to buy a digital camera with more zoom (10x). Fortunately for me, Cameta, the camera store with good prices, had sold out of them. I got brave enough to check the prices of the digital SLRs, and I found that Nikon’s entry level digital SLR, the D50, costs about as much as the digital camera with the 10x zoom. I bought the Nikon D50, and I’m very happy with it.

When I received the camera, I was so excited that I stayed up half the night photographing things in my home. I knew that I would be able to use my old lenses but I would have to focus manually. I used to do this with my film camera, and I don’t mind doing it again. At first, the new camera felt big and bulky in my hands, but I got used to that quickly, too. Since I enjoy taking close-ups so much, I photographed my violin and my poinsettia plant, and I noticed something important. If I used the camera’s auto-everything setting, the close-ups were often slightly out of focus because the camera was taking readings in several parts of the visual field. When I set the camera to its close-up setting, shown by the icon of a flower, I could do spot focusing, and the results were much better. Of course, when you take close-ups with the lens wide open, you lose a lot of depth of field. When I used spot focusing, I focused on the foreground and let the background go soft. Foreground and background in this situation would be one leaf on my poinsettia and one leaf just behind it or the bridge of my violin and the body of my violin. I don’t know how close I got to my subject, but I know that the lens was almost touching the poinsettia, and the photos looked good. Actually, “good” is a matter of interpretation. My photos showed some of the small flaws on the poinsettia leaves, but I like it this way.

The next day, after getting some sleep, I went outside with my new camera. At first, I doubted that I would find anything worth photographing near the sidewalk or the parking lot near my home. I was wrong. One of the reasons I love photographing things is that it makes me see things better. I took some photos of the dreary winter day with mist in the air and snow almost completely melted, thinking, “This isn’t a good white Xmas.” Then I remembered how much I used to enjoy photographing things on the forest floor, so I looked down at the ground, and I saw some things to go with my photos of the drab and foggy Xmas: some pine needles which had fallen on top of the ice water slush. I also took a close-up of a fallen pine cone nearby.

Nikon is justifiably well known for their cameras and lenses. They are not well known for their software. The software I got with the D50 is pretty crummy, much less user friendly than their older software, which I had to uninstall before installing the newer software. I just use other software packages for viewing, rotating, cropping, resizing, and compressing my images.

Now I’m looking forward to taking more photos with my new camera.



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