A Photographic Journey

My digital SLR choice

As with most people my first foray to become a more serious photographer was with my decision to purchase my first Digital SLR (DSLR), my first DSLR was back in 2002 when I spent a boat load of money on a Nikon D100, it was a pretty expensive 6 Megapixel DSLR back then, it was a camera I loved, but as with most things digital it has been surpassed many fold since.  Surprisingly it was still functioning normally when I sold it a couple of years ago.

Surprisingly it was a good camera and produced wonderful photos for all the time I had it for.  6 Megapixel is more than enough for internet display and if it were not for the need to print large prints, I would have saved a whole load of money and stuck to it.  Of course it was a camera with 9-year-old technology, its ISO performance was very average compare to even the small sensors of the micro 4/3 (m4/3) system and new cameras have better tonal and dynamic range and response times, but it was adequate for my needs for 6 years.

During those 6 years, I wasn’t as intensive with photography and camera life as I am now and my photographic productivity was low.  It did help me learn about the basics of photography and the instant feedback was a boon to my education compared to the film SLR cameras I had before.

An interesting lesson learnt here is, that 6 megapixel is more than enough if you are just showing off stuff online and view your photos on a computer screen mostly.  Surprising 6 Megapixel prints up to A4 can be outstanding and quite adequate enlarged up to A3.

The spirit of this camera still lives on in my Epson R-D1s, the first ever digital rangefinder camera, this camera shares the same sensor as the Nikon D100 and produces similar files but with a different set of lenses.

I will not be reviewing my Nikon D100 since I doubt anyone in their right mind would still buy such a camera.

Three years ago I was  faced with the decision to buy a replacement DSLR and refresh my interest in photography, I first budgeted to spend on a semi-pro or professional camera body around US$2700 excluding lenses, so this rule out the top end professional bodies such as the Canon 1Ds Mark III or the Nikon D3.  I had also ruled out other brands of DSLRs such as Pentax, Olympus or the then fledgling Sony, because of the simple fact that 90% of the market is dominated buy the two Japanese giants and that means accessories and used lenses will be more abundant and to take advantage of their economy of scale as they usually have the best technology at any one time.

Speaking from the perspective of the present, things have changed in the camera world and these second tier DSLR camera companies such as Sony, Pentax and Olympus are more mature now with better products, they are becoming a more viable choice than before.  Although I have made my choice in systems, which I am stuck with now because of a rather sizeable investment.  I am more curious than ever in the lenses offered by these second tier companies and will probably try some of them in the future.

So back to the past, I was face with a tough decision between Nikon and Canon, I knew at the time that the Nikons have better wide angle lens choices (which is still the case today) and Canon had arguably better super-teles which was going to be useful if I develop a liking for bird photography (not much mammalian wildlife photography to be had here in Hong Kong!).  I liked the menu system of the more familiar Nikon cameras which also tend to have more customisable options.  In the end I went with Canon.  The reason being between the two full frame options at the time the Nikon D700 and the Canon 5D Mark II (5D2), the latter offered 22 mega pixels with the same picture quality as the much touted Canon 1Ds Mark III.  I knew I wanted to print large prints and the extra pixels made the difference for me.  I actually think that the Nikon D700 is a better camera overall, with its much better autofocus and its infamous wide-angle zooms.  But the decision was made and I haven’t regretted ever since.  I don’t think either camera I would have regretted buying.

I am writing about this here and so early is because I will be reviewing lots of Canon gear.  But, my camera life isn’t Canon-centric, not at all.  I think those readers that are Nikon-philes will not be lefted out, as I think my decision processes are valid no matter which system I was using and not to mention that most of my gear is not Canon, but other systems.

When I am asked which major Japanese brand is better, I answer that both the major players are perfectly acceptable options.  It just depends on your budget, your needs and the choice of cameras at the time you’re buying.  If my budget was more I probably would have gone with the Professional Nikon D3 body at the time.  Such is camera life.

As long as I am on the topic, I have since acquired a Canon 1D Mark III body for its much improved autofocus for photography of fast-moving objects, still using the many Canon lenses that I own.  I also got a really cheap, next to nothing Canon D350 for pinhole photography & for use with the Lensbaby lenses.

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