Getting Started in Photography

I wanted to write a blog post about a question I am asked fairly often that goes a bit like this:

“I have $600 to spend on a new camera / and lens, what should I get that will enable me to take awesome pictures?”

I would be lying if I told you that there is not a relationship between a camera’s performance and its price tag, but I can also say that there are many many ways to stretch your dollar into deeply artistic and empowering frugal territory.  The story starts long ago…

In 1959, Nikon first introduced the lens mount that it still uses to this day on its wide range of DSLR cameras.  What this means is that any vintage lens, going back to 1959 can be used on your modern Nikon with only a few limitations.  It also means that you can shop for decades of really cool old used lenses and save a ton of money getting unique vintage and artsy looks from your modern Nikon camera body.

In addtion, Nikon uses sony sensors in its camera bodies these days, and sony simply makes the most advanced sensors on the market today.

A $250 used Nikon camera body gets the same sensor performance as a 2,000 – $6,000 Canon body, as the sensors that sony makes, simply kick so much ass.

So, to break it down.

Nikon D5100 Camera Body – Used, mint condition on ebay for $250.00

Nikon 50mm 1.8g Lens – New $200

Nikon NIKKOR 85 mm F2 Ai-S Lens – Used $200

Here you have a $650 setup that you could rock a wedding with. :)

Nikon Nikkor 105mm 1.4E Lens Review & Sample Images

This lens replaces my Samyang 135 f2 and Nikon 85mm 1.8g. Those are two gems of portrait lenses, with the Samyang being my favorite and most used lens to date. The jump to the Nikon 105mm 1.4 E Lens is a significant investment, and had the Samyang had AF, I likely would not be making the jump. But alas, I did.

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50mm 1.4 AIS Lens For a Day ( Review )

I have been longing for a 1.4 lens… to explore the delicious bokeh, to be a master of night, to ramble on like a wanna poet on my blog.

Anyway, I went the cheap route, and ordered a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 AI-S Lens on ebay from Japan.

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Samyang 24mm 1.4 Manual Focus Lens Review

This is my first 1.4 lens – and it feels like the most unique focal length aperture combo I have played with so far.

The lens is sharp, it makes good photos, its MF which is a pain. Rather then review the lens in detail, as its been done so many times already, especially for astro-photography. Ill review the focal length at such a wide aperture.

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Samyang 135mm f2.0 Lens Review

I consider my 85mm 1.8 Nikkor lens to be the sharpest lens I own. This is in part from the performance I see in the shots it takes, and from knowing that it is the 3rd sharpest lens of all lenses tested by DMOMark on the Nikon D800E.  That said, I wonder if the Samyang 135 f2 is sharper.

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Vintage Lenses

An archive of some vintage Nikon glass worth a peak.

New is not always better.  One of my favorite DSLR lenses was an old 105 f2.5 Nikkor lens from the 70’s.  It was built like a tank, and the photos it produced were out of this world. Its the only lens I have regrets about selling.

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50mm Nikon 1.8g Review

There are many articles and videos made that describe the importance of ‘good glass’. Your choice of lens makes a profound impact on image quality. In this video, DigitalRev compares banking on a super high end camera body paired with a cheap lens, and a low end body paired with a high end lens.  The results are very clear. In most shooting conditions, the quality of the lens you are using will make for a better image then the quality of your camera body. Read more

Sigma 70-300mm SLD DG Macro Review

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SLD DG Macro Lens with built in motor for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras Review

I think its fair to say that no one should expect a 70-300mm lens, in a sub $200 price range to match the performance of a prime lens, or $2000 zoom. In this light I have to say that a week into playing with this budget lens, I am starting to warm up to it.

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