Monday, June 2, 2008

Dad tip #44: Babies move faster than crappy cameras

About three years ago, we bought a Nikon Coolpix 7900 point-and-shoot digital camera. It's proven to have been a brilliant purchase (if I do say so myself) and has more than made up its worth in memories captured in all their seven mega-pixel clarity and glory.

I recently praised the Nikon 7900 for its secondary ability to shoot continuous video with whatever space is available on the SD memory card. The camera is light-weight, rugged, and attractive. Generally there's been very little to complain about ...

... Until our son was born and we discovered that babies aren't inclined to hold still for pictures. We made due for about a month, but found ourselves using the flash more than we wanted to with a newborn (particularly in low-light situations) and ended up with somewhat washed-out ans/or blurry photos.

On the recommnedation of a co-worker, I looked into the Nikon D40 digital SLR camera. If you don't know what an SLR is, Google it; but for the sake of this post, think of it as a "traditional" big camera with a separate body and lens. After looking over the research, some sample photos, and the price, we decided to go for it and venture beyond the realm of the point-and-shoot.

We were not disappointed. We saw an immediate improvement to the quality of our photos. Better color, sharper images, -- and heck! -- even superior composition! The Nikon D40 has less delay between the time that you press the button and when the camera actually reacts, so you're more inclined to catch that "perfect shot" as it happens. Additionally, since the lens is bigger, you'll also get more light, making the use of a flash less necessary.

However, within a month, I discovered that the D40 wasn't the perfect solution by itself. There were still situations where we needed more light. So, I added two key items to the arsenal: a Nikon SB-400 AF Speedlight and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Lens. The SB-400 Speedlight is great because you can angle the flash and bounce the light off of the ceiling for more "natural" lighting when you can't do without a flash. The Sigma 30mm lens maybe more muscle than most people want with less flexibility, but the hefty fixed lens really enables you to get some great lower-light shots without a flash and cool depth of field effects. I'd say the speedlight is a must whereas the Sigma lens is a nice-to-have if you're REALLY getting into photography.

Lastly, if you're feeling overly ambitious and spend-thrifty, you could also go for the Nikon D40x which gives you 10.2MP to play with instead of the 6.1MP of the Nikon D40. But keep in mind that you'll never be inclined to lug the SLR around with you all the time, so there's always still a use for a point-and-shoot like a Nikon Coolpix P60 (which appears to be the current equivalent of the Nikon Coolpix 7900 we have).

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Blogger silinx said...

In retrospect, the title of this post should've been "Babies more faster than 'cheaper' cameras" but that's just not as snappy. But, I just wanted to clarify that we actually really like both our Nikons.

June 2, 2008 9:41 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

I must admit, I love Nikon lens but for the point and shoot digitals, I have been pretty happy with Canon. Much like you, I had to invest in an upgrade as my daughter moved 'faster' but found that in addition to a newer camera, the high data transfer SD cards helped with speed as well.

June 3, 2008 12:45 AM  
Blogger Gordon said...

ok, you had to know I was going to comment on this one.... :)

So, believe it or not, your P&S probably pulls in more light, relative to the sensor, than the kit lens that came with your D40. BUT your D40 rocks it by cranking up the ISO. Basically it does more with the light it gets than you P&S can.

Personally, I think you have the perfect combination of gear for parents taking pictures of their kids. Great camera, fast/sharp lens and an inexpensive bounce flash.

Totally with you about not forgetting the P&S. There are some things its just better at than a DSLR. I frequently 'palm' mine and reach around our daughter to get shots from angles that would be impossible with the DSLR. Some times she doesn't even notice I have the camera. The DSLR NEVER goes unnoticed.

June 3, 2008 10:12 AM  
Blogger Missie said...

I am a Canon person myself. I've had the digial EOS SLR for 2 years and love everything about it- including the fct I could use my lenses from my old school SLR on it. I have yet to take any of my kids in for a professional photo session- I love the shots I get with this camera enough. However, I still invested in a p&s Sony because there are some places where I just don't feel like lgging around an SLR.

June 3, 2008 10:39 AM  

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