Friday, July 29, 2016

Picture Perfect, Part 2

And the winner is...
Not so fast. First you need to read about how I came to that decision.

So, armed with a list of needs and wants, I managed to come up with a list of 12 camera models. I returned to Jax Outdoors (in Fort Collins this time) and spoke with the tech at length. I handled the cameras they had on hand from my list - about half and ended up ruling out all but three.

Here were the finalists:
  • Nikon D5500
  • Fujifilm X-T1*
  • Canon Rebel T6i
* They didn't have the X-T1 but they did have the X-T10. This camera was really nice and had the best images of the three, however the grip wasn't very comfortable for me and the camera was a little on the small side. The tech suggested we look into the X-T1 as it was a little bigger with the same perks as the X-T10.

Back home, I returned to the internet and searched for specific articles on the three finalists. I also read CNET reviews and did some price checking. All three had the features and specs I wanted. In reviews, each of these cameras did well; specifically the Fujifilm rated top and the Canon rated bottom (of the three). Price-wise, they rated in the same order with Fujifilm being the most expensive and Canon the least.

In the end, I chose the Nikon D5500 over the others. The kit lens I purchased was a Nikkor AF XS 18-55mmVR II.
Described as a top-line enthusiast camera, it was affordable and allowed me to keep within budget (which was set for $1500). Purchasing the Nikon allowed me to get some extras (via a package kit) and enabled me to spend some money on a nice macro lens for our food photography. I'm currently vacillating between a Tamron 90mm f2.8 and a Tokina 100mm f2.8 for a compatible macro lens. More on that once I've made up my mind.

See the other posts in this series:
Part 1 – Camera Research
Part 3 – Zoom Lens
Part 4 – Fast Prime Lens
Part 5 – Macro Lens

Friday, July 22, 2016

Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect, or Looking for the Right Camera

Let me begin with a confession. I know NOTHING about cameras. The last camera I owned used actual film. It was a point-n-shoot with minimal zoom and a bulky body. It worked just fine while I was studying abroad in Spain back in college but I remember admiring my friend Lauren's new fancy digital camera at the time. I mean, she could take a zillion pictures and then weed out the ones that didn't work. Imagine that!

(Caption: This picture was taken on Lauren's camera. From left: Jimmy, Lauren, Me, and Patrick).

Now, of course, we all have cameras on our phones. I am no exception. Both Mark and I have fancy phones that can do practically everything but brew an espresso. No doubt those will soon be on the market.

However, our camera phones are not ideal for what we are about to undertake. And so, I find myself on the edge of another research project. What type of camera to get and what do all those blasted acronyms and numbers mean? It really is like learning a new language.

What camera will fulfill our needs? Here's our initial checklist of wants:

  • Will NOT cost an arm and a leg
  • Will be able to take both photos and videos of good quality
  • Will be relatively compact and light-weight
  • Will NOT have a ton of paraphernalia to carry along everywhere we go
  • Will be easy for a beginner to master (that would be me)
  • Will be enjoyable for a professional to use (that would be Mark)
I hope this isn't a tall order. But we shall see...


I begin my research at Best Buy which turns out to be a bad idea. Their camera department has considerably shrunken since the last time I was there and they only have two brands and two styles.

I begin my research again at JAX, a local outdoors and sports shop in Loveland, CO. After some hefting and viewfinding, the camera department points me in the direction of the Canon Rebel SL1. I'm ready to give them my credit card when Mark urges me to take the time to do research online. So, grudgingly, I oblige.

At home, I pull up CNET but their review of the SL1 isn't very positive. I then become embroiled in an hour of online research and comparison before I realize that I'm completely lost. Ugh.

Time to go back to the basics. To understand what an ISO is or why megapixels matter, I turn to this comprehensive camera buying guide: 

I also found this neat (but dated) article on Bon Appetit: . While the cameras tested in this travel piece are at least 4 years old at this point, the article does a great job describing the purpose and result of several important camera features.

And I begin to add to my checklist:

(Caption: I'm working on a card table from the 50's that's always been in my parents' basement. That brown smudge above my mouse could be chocolate, coffee, or even blood...although it's probably a rust stain from its use in numerous yard sales back in the 80s when I was a kid. Oh those summer rain storms!)


After a break, I continue to read and research and my list grows. It is becoming apparent why Mark wanted me to do my research. There is so much to know about cameras! And the more you know, the better decisions you can make.

Really, it all comes down to use and purpose. Here is what we want to use our camera for:
  • food photography
  • travel photography
  • family photos
  • food preparation videos
  • travel videos
How others will view our photography also matters. Here are the mediums in which our photography will be seen:
  • blog 
  • social media
  • print book
The bottom line after all my research? I have a list of qualities I'm looking for based on how I intend to use the camera as well as how I intend to display the photos. My next step is to go find a decent camera shop and try them out.

See the other posts in this series:
Part 2 – Camera Purchase
Part 3 – Zoom Lens
Part 4 – Fast Prime Lens
Part 5 – Macro Lens