Making the Jump to a Digital SLR Camera

For the last year or so I’ve been wanting to get a new digital camera. Up until now our current Canon SD400 has been solely responsible for taking thousands of pictures of the kids, vacations, projects, speakers, computers, R/C cars, planes and everything else over the course of its life. It’s actually been a really great camera, so good that there’s been very little drive to buy a new one – until last week. My daughter turned 4 on Wednesday and my wife was throwing her a birthday party in which she found herself taking care of about ten kids all by herself. As she was juggling playing games, face painting and taking pictures of everybody there came a knock at the door. She was out on the patio in the backyard and she had set the camera in her lap but when she stood up suddenly to get the door, the camera went crashing down to the hard patio ground with a thud. She thought momentarily, crap, I broke the camera, I bet Dan will be thrilled.

Upon powering it up the lens did not want to retract back into the camera body and just beeped and shut off. I spent an hour or so messing with it trying to get it working again, even went so far as to tear the whole thing apart. It’s pretty amazing the complexity of a something like a digital camera, so many tiny pieces and parts that work together in perfect unison to do something as ‘simple’ as take a picture. I got all the way to the lens mechanism when I concluded it was probably was shot. It no longer would freely rotate in and out though I couldn’t tell exactly what had broken. But even if I could fix it at this point, or buy a new lens somehow, I’d probably never get the camera back together. So I figured it was time to say goodbye to the trusty point-and-shoot and pick up something bigger, something better, something like a digital SLR. So I bought a Nikon D40 and after taking only 30 or shots tonight, I couldn’t be happier.

There’s a lot of great DSLRs on the market these days and you can spend anything from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars without looking too far and from what I’ve read, just about any SLR is better than most point-and-shoots. Now I don’t consider myself a photographer by any means, but I really wanted to take a shot at getting a decent camera to see if photography was something I could really get into but I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg for a super-fancy camera either. Ultimately I decided on the D40 because of it’s affordable price, numerous features, and great customer reviews.

The D40 came out in December of 2006, almost 2 years ago, but it continues to compare extremely well with even the newest cameras that are coming out. In spite of its relatively low pixel count by today’s standards, it’s got all the necessary features one would need in an SLR. Features I don’t even understand as of this writing, but hope to soon figure out. I bought a book to go along with the camera, because like they say, a camera is only as good as the photographer. Without learning how to use this camera, it probably won’t do me much good, or at least I won’t be getting all that I can out of it without learning how to set some basic functions and what they all mean. It’s all been very exciting. So far I’ve just taken a few shots of my 2-month old son on Auto, at night, inside the house, with the flash and they have all turned out 10x better than anything that old SD400 was capable of doing. My favorite part is the shallow depth of field that this thing has. Close-up shots show great detail on the face but everything else, like the background, are soft and out of focus. They make the pictures look so much more realistic with much more depth, rather than being just a flat 2-dimensional image, even though that’s still what they are.

I obviously have nowhere near the experience with the camera to give a decent review at this time, but with the many reviews that already exist, there’s nothing more I could say about the camera that hasn’t been said by seasoned professionals. Here’s just a few of the reviews that convinced me that even though this camera is probably the least expensive DSLR available today, it’s definitely worth looking into for anyone delving into the SLR world for the first time.

Ken Rockwell Raves about the D40
Steve’s Digicams D40 Review
Digital Photography Review – The D40
The Nikon D40 from Amazon

I bought the camera from Amazon for $431 and got a free $17 neck strap. I also picked up this book, the Nikon D40/D40x Digital Field Guide by David B. Busch and so far have made it through just the first chapter. It’s the best-reviewed, highest-rated book on Amazon for this camera, so it seemed like a logical choice of books to get. It seems like all my decisions these days are based solely on logic. Not sure what’s wrong with me. But according to Amazon the D40 the ranked #2 only behind the Canon Rebel XSi which costs $215 more than the D40. That’s just enough to pick up a decent 55-200mm VR zoom lens. Additionally the D40 is the least-expensive, highest-reviewed DSLR you can buy and gets a ‘Highly Recommended’ by all the major review sites that I came across. When it came to replacing my old (and now broken) point-and-shoot, the option of buying a new point-and-shoot did cross my mind briefly, but with the cost of the D40 being so reasonable, and the performance being so much better, it just didn’t make much sense to pick up anything else. I’ll be posting some pictures in the next few weeks so stay tuned.

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1 Response to Making the Jump to a Digital SLR Camera

  1. Jamin says:

    I have the digi rebel. It’s great to have a digi SLR, just like you said. However, they are so big! It’s hard to carry it everywhere. And I feel dumb pulling out a huge camera like I know what I’m doing. After only having the SLR for a year or so we also got a point and shoot. Quality definitely not as good, but less conspicuous.

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