Taking Deep Breaths…

9 Aug

As many of you may know, I am finally ending my scholarly journey (FINALLY) soon. As in… the last day of class was today and I will be officially done with everything next Thursday. I’m taking deep breaths and I won’t induce anxiety (yet again) by going into the details of what’s next… but as a huge, huge, HUGE graduation gift from my amazing, awesome, wonderful, loving, forever-giving parents, they are buying me a camera. Not just your everyday point-and-shoot camera, but a dSLR.  I used to have a Sony a-380, but I sold it a while ago.  I honestly was just not happy with the quality of my photos and, quite frankly, needed the extra cash at the time.

So I am taking deep breaths because of the money that I just used… and I wanted to remember how much time and thought I put into making my decision.  Ever since selling my Sony, I’ve constantly been looking and pining for another dSLR – but this time, I knew I had to go with Nikon or Canon.  Over time, I settled on Canon – the biggest factor was how it felt in my hand.  I would randomly go in and hold different cameras in Costco, Sam’s, Target, Best Buy, etc. Gotta love those open items!

I’ll go into how I made my decision and I also wanted to add some basic information because I never seem to remember it all – and by no means does this make me knowledgeable.  I asked many friends about their opinions and thoughts throughout the process, which, by the way, they all said Nikon or Canon.

Another decision I made early on after selling my Sony was that I would buy pieces separately the next time.  Why?  Many times, the kit lenses are not as reliable and not necessarily the best.  However, they are very versatile!  So, when I get my camera, I will not have a bag that comes along with it – and I am okay with that.  I had my given budget and got to hunting.

Finding the Perfect Camera Body

The biggest ones I looked at were the Canon T4i, Canon T3i, Canon 60D, and Nikon D5100 (for good measure) <— these links take you to reviews from cnet).  There isn’t a whole lot of information – aka reviews – on the T4i because it was just released this past June, but I wasn’t seeing anything super special about it anyhow.  The T3i also seems to be a wonderful step up from the T2i (naturally) but also makes you question the cost of the 60D.  $799.99 vs. $1099.99. Yup, quite a big difference… at the time of the review. 😉  As of late, I was looking at $579 and $859, respectively.  Yup.. that D60 came down 22% and the T3i 28%.

Anyhow… I spent hours upon hours doing my research, reading reviews after reviews and going back and forth between the T3i and 60D and occasionally looking at stuff for the Nikon 5100 too, which also ran at $799.95 originally and came down to $494.99 recently (that’s a whopping 38% difference!).

Finding the Perfect Lens

Here’s where I had to do some major learning.  I can never keep the information straight when it comes to aperture, f-stops, zoom, wide-eye, telephoto, shutter speeds, etc.  There’s a lot to learn and remember! But I came across this great website that breaks it down beautifully.  All the photos and charts come from the website – The Digital SLR Guide. But here’s what I learned and kept note of:

Defining Focal Length 

  • The larger the number, the farther away you can stand to get the same size image
  •  Standard = 35mm to 85 mm (portraits)
    • 50 mm – 100mm is ideal for portraits
  • Wide angle = 28 mm or lower (landscape/interiors)
    • Basically capture everything you would normally see in the same view
    • Not ideal for portraits because they distort facial features
  • Prime = fixed focal length
    • Professionals love this because you get clearer photos because there is less movement
  • Zoom lenses
    • Newer options offer clear photos comparable to prime lenses, but you often have to pay more
    • Zoom power = how much focal range a lens covers


  • Though many lenses offer apertures of f/16, not all offer the opposite
  • Benefits of larger aperture
    • More natural lighting
    • Faster shutter speed
    • Reduced (shallower) depth of field

  • Variable Maximum Aperture (opposite a constant maximum aperture with zoom)
    • 18-55mm/f/3.5-5.6 means that at 18 mm the maximum aperture is f/3.5 and at 55 mm the max aperture is  f/5.6
    • Professional photographers do not like this because the exposure setting constantly change as you zoom in and out
  • Remember! The maximum aperture you need is related to the speed of your subject!!!

First vs. Third Party Lenses

  • Third party options: Sigma, Tamron, Tokina
  • First party pros: quality and compatibility
  • Third party pros: options and cost


  • Silent Autofocus: also labeled USM (ultra-sonic motor), AF-S (auto focus silence) or HSF (hyper-sonic focus)
  • Non-Rotating Front Element: ideal if you were to use a polarizing filter on your lens outside for landscaping shots
  • Crop Reduction
  • Superior Optics: “L” for Canon & “ED” for Nikon
  • Image Stabilization aka Vibration Reduction (for Nikon): helpful for long distances (>100mm) or lots of low-light situations
    • Not necessary if the DSLR camera has a built-in anti-shake body (which Canon does not have)
  • Internal Zoom: length of the lens will stay the same when the zoom change

After doing some reading, I had quite the wish list…

50 mm f/1.4 USM Standard Autofocus Lens – $369

50 mm f/1.8 II Standard Autofocus Lens – $107

35 mm f/2.0 Autofocus Lens – $309

85 mm f/1.8 – $376 (based on this post from Katie Bower – one of my favorite blogs to read!)

And a standard zoom lens, maybe this 24-70 mm? Haha just kidding.  I’ll never be able to afford that, but there are some great lenses to keep in mind that would be more realistic for my budget.

Final Decisions

After much deliberation, deep breaths, and phone calls to my mom asking, “Are you SURE you want to do this?” and lots of reassurance/pushing from Chris… I decided on (photo from here):

and to hold me over while I learn… the nifty fifty:

Though the Nikon 5100 and Canon T3i are great bargain purchases, the reviews really had my heart tugging for the Canon 60D – I feel like it would give me a lot of room to grow and present a great challenge for me. I am so excited to have finished my graduate program and can’t wait to get my life started (my professional life, that is).  I can’t thank my parents enough for thinking of me and providing unlimited support (getting the camera was my mom’s idea with ZERO hints from me) during my time in schools.  Seriously… they supported me throughout all 3 bachelors degrees and 1 masters degree.  Lastly, I absolutely cannot forget to thank Chris for his never-ending patience with me.  I’m not a happy camper when it comes to school work.  Ninaroo got a tiny taste of it when she lived with me a couple years ago, but I don’t like to get out of my studying groove – though it’s rare for me to be in a groove in the first place.

And as I wait for my camera… I will continue to take deep breaths….. 



3 Responses to “Taking Deep Breaths…”

  1. vivilinh August 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    i love this!!! you are going to love the 50mm.

    • NinaE at NinaSquared August 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      Thank you so much! I can’t wait… I’m sure it’ll take some practice and lots of learning to get used to it in general… your photos are beautiful!!!

      • vivilinh August 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

        thank you!! excited to see photos from your new camera!

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