(Last updated January 14, 2014)
Although I did photography as a kid using mostly point-and-shoot film cameras, it's only been since 2004 that I've really gotten into it, with digital SLRs.
As a sufficiently gadget-geek sort of pursuit, it deserves a page on my sitewith lists of things. I started with digital SLRs in late 2004 with a D70 kit that was a bit of a holiday present for myself, and it has
turned out to be quite the expensive hobby ever since. My usual subjects include landscapes, bugs, flowers, wildlife, and almost anything else that catches my eye.
I appreciate photography as a pursuit because of its smooth union of technology and art; I got into photography basically so I could capture Zen-like moments and landscapes.
Behold, the Nikon D800E... creme de la creme of today's landscape SLRs. I waited a long time to make the jump from crop sensor DX to full 35mm FX,
and I knew it was time when I saw this 36 megapixel, no-anti-alias-filter beauty announced in February 2012. It took me until July that year to actually find one,
no thanks to the long line at B&H, but my local Nikon supplier Cardinal Camera
came through in a pinch, right before my trip to Maine. The D800E is a great camera and just feels right and works well,
a nice return to the smaller pro level cameras like the D200 and D300 after a brief interlude with the ergonomically inferior but optically superior D7000.
The D800E isn't perfect -- mine may have the infamous focus issues on the left side, although they aren't major, and mine also does the locking-up-on-playback every now and then that can be annoying when it happens.
I don't rely on either feature enough to worry about these issues too much. The D800E is also a big and somewhat heavy camera when it is combined with lenses that are good enough to get a lot out of its sensor.
I always use a Really Right Stuff or Kirk Photo L-bracket with my main DSLR (RRS for the D200, D300, and D7000, and Kirk for the D800E - because RRS didn't have any in stock at the time).
Of course I've gone through a pile of lenses since I innocently got into this digital photography thing with the D70 kit, almost all Nikkors.
I realize I have too many lenses, but what can I say -- I like the gear! Most of my DX lenses are gone, now, at least.
I've also sold off a number of lenses and other stuff in the continuing evolution of my personal kit (see below). What I've found is that I really don't want to do ordinary photography, so my ordinary lenses tend towards the eBay scrapheap,
other than one or two lighter-weight convenience lenses.
I have a love/hate relationship with the gear - I love the results of the big pro lenses, but hate the weight, cost, and being conspicuous as a photographer. For a while I was considering switching to a combination of really lightweight gear
(like maybe micro 4/3 mirrorless), while I waited for Nikon's flagship massive resolution camera. Then it came, and I realized that I preferred using it as much as possible. So much for going light and being inconspicuous!
Of course everybody needs more than just a camera and a lens...
I would be remiss if I didn't mention another critical part of my gear: an Optech Utility Strap Sling, the best shoulder camera strap I've ever seen. It's quite awesome.
My "small kit" is a Nikon 1 V1, which gets a pretty bad rap because of the puny little 1" sensor, but is actually a pretty cool little camera capable of decent output. In a lot of situations where the goal is just documentation
or snapshots, the D800E is overkill -- no question about it. It can produce spectacular results, but it's big and conspicuous, especially with the lenses that produce the aforesaid spectacular results. Sometimes I want to
go light and not worry about the big expensive gear; enter the V1. I got it with the kit 10-30 VR lens at the beginning of 2013 when Nikon was clearing out inventory and the kits were being cleared out at dramatically reduced prices.
It's surprisingly capable as a do-it-all camera, with image quality about equivalent to what I got years ago out of the D200, enables extreme telephoto shots with longer SLR lenses (the equivalent of cropping the middle 10 megapixels
out of a 72 megapixel FX camera), and is just kind of fun to use because the camera and the gear that goes with it are so small. I can put the camera, flash, extra battery, and 3 lenses (10, 18.5, 30-110) in a tiny Lowepro Rezo 110 AW bag. Here's my full V1 kit:
My compact camera of choice these days is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. Compact cameras with large sensors are proliferating,
but none has the fast, high-quality Leica f/2 zoom lens of the LX5, and plus it's little bigger than my 50/1.8 lens! Of course, for a truly compact and convenient camera, it's hard to beat an iPhone 4S.
My wife has had a couple different compact cameras, first a Canon SD400 Digital Elph which died a watery death in the Baths in Virgin Gorda, and then a Canon SD-880 IS. They're small, and they shoot JPEGs, and she likes them a lot!
I have a Sony Mavica, one of the old sub-megapixel digital cameras with a built-in floppy disk drive. It was my Dad's first digital camera and has
since been passed down to me (this was before the D70, of course).
My Dad's last film camera was a Nikon FM2, before he made the jump to digital with the Mavica and then (for good) with a Canon PowerShot G3. He recently replaced the G3 with a Panasonic LX7, after expressing a desire for something better and more compatible (and being impressed by the quality and convenience of my LX5).
I still marvel at how well the FM2 is built and how precise the mechanisms are, although the mirror slap kicks like a mule. It's got a few lenses and accessories as well:
I even have an "ancient" (mid 80's) Polaroid Sun 600 instant camera, the kind that takes
10-shot cartridges and spits out a developed print immediately. Fixed focal
length and fixed focus, with a pop-up flash.
The Nikon D7000 was a very decent camera in its own right, and when introduced combined the better build and features of the Dxxx series cameras with the smaller size and consumer features of the Dxx series.
In early 2011 I replaced my D300 with it mainly because of 1) improved resolution, although going from 12 to 16 megapixels wasn't that big a deal, 2) improved dynamic range, which really helped in post-processing shadow areas, and 3) a substantially improved live view mode for critical landscape and macro focusing.
Although smaller and lighter than the D300, the D7000 had some features that had formerly been absent from models like the D70, D80 and D90: mirror lock-up and a decently weather-proof build. It was a nice compromise of the latest developments in sensor technology with some of the more important pro-level features.
Unfortunately I was never happy with the autofocus on my D7000, and I went nuts trying to get it adjusted properly, even sending it back to Nikon (as far as I can tell, it came back the same as before). While the D7000's live view worked well, using it all the time to get critical focus right wasn't what I had in mind.
My Nikon D300 served me well for a few years, but was outpaced by advances in technology. When it came out, alongside Nikon's first FX camera, the D3, it impressed with its professional-level features and autofocus system. It replaced my D200 in early 2008, which D200 I wound up never using after the first night I had my D300!
I did bring both the D7000 and D300 to Alaska in July 2011, which was handy a few times when I kept the 300 f/4 on the D300 and switched shorter focal length lenses on the D7000, but sold the D300 in early 2012.
The Nikon D200 when it came out was a very welcome upgrade from the old D100, and was a dramatic upgrade from my then-current camera. I got the D200 in spring of 2006, replacing my first ever DSLR, a D70. I used the D70 exactly once after I got my D200, on a trip to Chicago. Looking back at some of my D200 pictures, it did have superb image quality at its optimal ISO setting, a creaminess that the D300 never quite matched.
My first DSLR was a Nikon D70, and I can blame it for getting me into this whole mess in the first place. For about six years after college I really didn't take any big trips, and then finally got back into travelling. I quickly realized that cheapo disposable cameras were not going to produce the types of images that I wanted to capture. I didn't agonize over the Canon/Nikon question -- Nikon's 18-70 kit lens felt a lot better, and that was that.
Going back even further, when I was a kid I had one of those sub-35mm film cameras, and I think for a little while even used an old Nikon SLR.
I've gotten rid of a fair amount of equipment as I've understood my needs better or upgraded various items, mostly via eBay:
That's me many years ago taking a picture of who-knows-what in Sage Mountain National Park, Tortola, BVI, with a D70, 18-200, and SB-800. Why the diffusor? Beats me.
Yeah, that's more like it. Multi-tasking.
Which is the mug, and which is the lens?