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Bought myself a new toy

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  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Bought myself a new toy
Posted by jtilley on Thursday, July 3, 2014 11:39 PM

I've been an SLR man (generally Pentax) for more than thirty years.  My current one is a Pentax K-10, a fine camera (though it lacks some of the gimmicks that have entered the SLR world in the past few years, such as movie making and live view on the monitor).  Several years ago I bought my wife a little Canon compact "super zoom" camera with a 20x lens.  She consistently gets better pictures with it than I do with my SLR.

The other day I was in our local camera store on some other mission, and out of curiosity I asked my friend the clerk what it would cost me to get a camera roughly comparable to my wife's.  He immediately pointed me to the Nikon Coolpix P520, which was marked down from $400 to $300.  Then he tempted me with 12-months-same-as-cash financing.  That did it. Chomp.

What a mind-blowing piece of equipment.  It's last year's model, but my friend assures me that this year's is, if anything, not quite as well made. It has an 18 megapixel sensor and a 42x lens (4.3-180 mm).  It weighs about a quarter as much as my DSLR.

I've been playing around with it today, and so far I'm extremely impressed.  At first I was a bit irritated at the "manual," "quick start guide" of about 8 pages accompanied by a CD.  When I loaded the CD into my computer, though, I could see the logic.  The CD contains a genuine, honest-to-goodness manual of well over a hundred pages - all in English.  (You can choose from English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.) The potential for this little contraption is seemingly endless.  It has all sorts of "scene modes."  (I'm anxious to try out the "museum" mode, in which it takes 9 images and chooses the sharpest of them.) The monitor screen can be swung out from the back of the camera and rotated 180 degrees.  (Great for shooting above a crowd at airshows.) It has two tiny stereo microphones, and one tiny speaker, built in.  Etc., etc., etc.

As a test, I took a shot of my little model of the frigate Hancock from across the room.  When I put the shot on my 21" Mac and zoomed in on the figurehead, I could see the buttons and piping on John Hancock's coat. (That figurehead is less than an inch high - and I'd shot from across the room.)

It shoots movies. It shoots panoramas. You can set it up to recognize smiles in portraits. (Aim the camera at the person, push the shutter button, and the camera takes the picture as soon as the person smiles.) It's just unbelievable.  And it cost about a quarter of what my SLR (body only) did.

Initially I was a little bothered by the fact that, out of the box, the only way to charge the battery is by tethering the camera to the charger.  But the manual on the CD revealed that I can buy a separate charger for about $25.00. 

So far I love this little thing.  It'll never replace Olde Faithful the SLR, but for traveling and fun photography I think it's going to be great.  And shortly I'll try it out on model photography. The smallest aperture is only f8, but given the way such optics work I suspect it will be pretty easy to keep the whole model in focus.  (The thing does have a manual focus switch, and settings to blur the background, etc., automatically, for those into the "bokeh" effect.)

I don't know how widespread that $300 price tag is, but this camera is certainly worth checking out.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    December 2006
  • From: Phoenix, AZ
Posted by Fly-n-hi on Thursday, July 3, 2014 11:45 PM

Cool.  I've been toying with the idea of getting into photography myself.  My wife is a professional and it just looks like it could be alot of fun.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Friday, July 4, 2014 2:35 PM

A little super-zoom like mine would be a good way to break in.  (Some will disagree; they'll tell you that the way to really learn photography is to start with a film SLR, with few automatic features.  They may be right - if your goal is to be a pro.  But for people like me, who have no such aspirations, I think a compact digital camera is the way to go.)

There are lots of good ones on the market - and they vary quite a bit in price.  But the truth is that these days the cameras made by all the major manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Panasonic, Fujifilm) are so good that there's really not a lot to choose between them.  I've seen nice Fuji super-zooms for $200 - and other super-zooms as high as $600.  Pick your price point and start having fun.

I would add a couple of suggestions.  One - be sure to read the manual.  All of it.  Lots of folks are so enthusiastic that they just turn on the camera and start shooting, thereby missing a great deal of the fun.

Two - invest in a digital editing program for your computer.  Your camera may come with an OK software program in the box, and that's good enough for starters.  But pretty soon you'll want to do more. Adobe Photoshop Elements is my choice; it costs between $80 and $100, and believe me, it's worth it.  Taking the picture is only the start of the fun.

Three - buy two paperback books. First, a general guide to digital photography. I recommend The National Geographic Ultimate Field Guide to Photography ( ), or, if your budget's tight, The National Geographic Photography Field Guide ( ).  That one's less thorough and not as up-to-date, but you can pick up a used copy for $2.00. 

The other book to get is a guide to Photoshop Elements.  The manual that comes with the program is notoriously weak.  If you go to a decent bookstore you'll find three or four that address your particular edition of the software, and explain it quite clearly.

Photography nowadays is a completely different experience than it used to be.  There's an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction to be gained from it. I say - take the plunge.  You won't regret it.  Guaranteed.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    August 2014
Posted by BlackRook on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 9:14 AM

GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) is free.  It was developed for/by the Linux community.  You can get it here:  Lots of documentation, magazines and books if you want to get into it.

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 9:40 AM

The only thing I have used in the past for model photography other than an SLR is a rangefinder.  The reason is focusing. I have yet to find an autofocus system that can focus on the part of a model by itself and find the area I want to select as the plane of best focus.  However, I have seen the resolution of EVFs going up significantly, so it looks like EFVs may be approaching the res needed for manual focus.  Haven't tried one of the new cameras with high-res viewfinders, but am curious to see how they work.  Post a pic of a model when you get one.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 11:50 AM

I don't like EVFs much either They are indeed getting better. But nothing beats a good old optical viewfinder.

My little Nikon has manual overrides for virtually all of its auto functions - including focus. In any case, slight focusing trouble is compensated for to some extent by another feature of that whopping big super-zoom lens: huge depth of field. My guess is that if I take a detail deck shot of a model with a four-inch beam, everything will be in focus.

I'm embarrassed to say how little I've been able to use the camera so far. My impulse to buy it (other than the bargain price) was a husband-wife vacation trip, which got cancelled at the last minute when my wife's brother had a heart attack. (He's recovered nicely.)

I'm using Mr. Nikon to take in-progress shots of the model I'm working on, but I'm even more embarrassed to admit how little progress I've made on it. So far I haven't taken any real closeup shots. (There really aren't any details to shoot yet.) And I don't want to start posting the shots I have taken till the model is farther along.

My current target is to make good progress on the model during Christmas vacation. My last final exam is December 15; between then and January 12 I should have lots of modeling time (said he with foolish optimism).

I may well decide eventually that my good old DSLR is better for model photography. What I'm sure of is that the little Nikon will be great for travel photography. And we've made a pact that NEXT summer we're going to New England.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    October 2013
Posted by infofrog on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 6:46 PM

I have d3200 Nikon . My wife has that camera . It takes just as good photos than my 3200..

I like this photo editor . The free program .

Enjoy take a lot photos


  • Member since
    June 2007
  • From: here, not over there
Posted by Dre on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 9:31 AM

I bought a Nikon D750 about two weeks back and it is a mid-life upgrade to the existing D700 body with a few changes.   There's now 24.3MP over the original 12MP, you lose a little on high-speed shooting- 6.5 vs. the 700's 7fps and the top shutter speed is now 1/4000 instead of 1/8000.   The back view screen pops out of its mount so one can use it for extreme low/high angle shot framing without stretching your neck to odd positions.

But...   the improved resolution and ISO management more than make up for any slight drawbacks of the redesign.  Most importantly for me, the D750 has the D4's group AF function, which uses 5 AF sensors arranged in a cross pattern for more accurate AF on erratically moving subjects.   This is a godsend for sports photography.  

I have shot just under 5,000 frames with this new body and love it even more than the D800 I also use and have retired the old D700 body.   I had to send the D800 body to Nikon for them to replace the lens mount lock, as that had failed.   Beware, Nikon is having some issues with this part failing on many higher-end bodies and they will not admit any fault on their end and will claim that it is "impact damage" and not repair it for free under warranty claims.   This is a seriously bad move by Nikon.

This is a near-full frame pic I made this past weekend with the new D750 body...   400mm prime lens @ f/5.6, 1/1000, 2200 ISO.

  • Member since
    April 2004
Posted by Jon_a_its on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 10:21 AM

CameraIt's NOT a T O Y.... it is a vital research tool! Wink

East Mids Model Club 29th Annual Show 19th MAY 2019

Don't feed the CM!


  • Member since
    June 2007
  • From: here, not over there
Posted by Dre on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 10:38 AM

In my world, it's a paycheck....


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