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“The best way out is always through.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Test Drive Your New Cameras

While I was finishing the new book, I knew I would have no time to play with a new camera (plus, it was freezing out and I hate cold weather), but I wanted a Nikon D90 and so I got impatient and ordered it anyway. Other than taking out the manual and reading it (always read your manual!), it mostly sat in the corner of my office taunting me. Or maybe it was just reminding me that there was a reward at the end of a hellish winter of writing.

Last weekend I got my reward. I took the D90 out into the field for the first time to get to know it better. In the coming weeks and months I'll probably talk a lot about the camera because it takes time to get to know a new body and this one seems to have a ton of really fun features. So far my favorite feature is the three-inch LCD. It's huge and the most fun LCD I've ever looked at. For the first day though I was dismayed that it seemed way too bright--I could hardly see detail in the highlights. So I went back to the manual and, duh, I found the menu item that lets you adjust the brightness of the LCD (up to three steps darker or three steps lighter) and dimmed it down by two settings. Now it looks pretty normal, but it's still tough getting used to seeing such a huge image looking back at you.

The first shots I took with the camera were of some kite sailors on Long Island Sound (a few miles from where I live) at sunset. It was a tough subject to throw at a camera the first time out--bright sunset, dark clouds, an action subject, contrasty water, etc. And I think the camera did pretty well. I only made some minor adjustments to this image and those were for color, not exposure. I am seeing more noise than I'd like to see (at ISO 200 where it should be noise free) but it might just be that I was shooting in a very dim setting. We'll see. All the reviews I've read say that noise is just not an issue with this camera. So hopefully this week as it warms up, I'll go shooting in "normal" daylight and see how the camera handles.

I'm pretty psyched to have a new toy to play with and hope this camera lives up to its expectations and to the great reviews I've read. I will say that using the camera is a dream--the menus are totally simple to follow and they are beautifully designed. Also, the camera has "Live View" a feature that lets you compose on the LCD--something a lot of DSLR cameras can't do. I'll write more about that feature soon.

So, my advice to you if you're getting a new camera this summer is don't wait until you're going to shoot something important like a graduation or a vacation: get the camera out of the box, read the manual and do some heavy-duty test shooting. Hey, it's all free. I shot 100 photos in the first two days.


Victoria said...

I absolutely LOVE my D90... I am using the 18-55mm VR kit lens and an AF 70-300mm lens (from my old Nikon film camera) almost equally and getting some amazing shots (even some hand held on the big lens are great with it fully out to 300mm).

I read the manual a bit but have really been just shooting a LOT and loving it. (BTW, another reason to test drive... the first D90 I purchased was defective and died on me after 2 weeks... Nikon told me to return it... so I did and have been happy ever since with the replacement)

Jeff Wignall said...

Hi Victoria,

I'm so glad to hear you like it! I've only used my D90 about three times and so I'm still getting used to it. I have a 70-300 too and use it more than any other lens. I love to compress space (especially in landscapes) and so using a really long lens is fun.

Also, you're right--good point! A camera can arrive DOA or close to it and the only way to know is to shoot a lot for the first couple of weeks.


Victoria said...

Hi again Jeff... STILL catching up (only six weeks of catch-up left)... the second D90 of mine has been used EVERY day... am posting a shot/day at a relatively newly discovered photoblog site but haven't allowed myself to get the paid subscription... free allows a post/day and that forces me to be fairly selective... almost all photos posted so far via http://victoriaporter.shutterchance.com/ are with the Nikkor micro 105mm f/2.8 VR lens... LOVE macro photography... will enjoy following your blog to see what new and wonderful things you discover about this camera... (breakfast now... HUNGRY!)