Monday, March 13, 2017


It's been a long time since I've had a decent camera, either still or video. But a new part-time job to supplement my writing and voice work has given me the budget to at least enter the world of the digital SLR. Not at the top of the line, but a something I can get some good control over.

The camera is a Nikon D3300, which I bought with two lenses. I haven't had much chance to play around with it, as it's been too cold outside and my schedule has been a little crazy. But I am learning how to use the features and take control of the camera. I've shot a few dozen pictures, most of them garbage, not because the camera isn't good, but because I'm working on doing as much as possible with manual controls.

The camera has a lot of features I'll probably never use, effects modes that I'd just as soon do using GIMP, if at all, and a guided feature that will take more time for picture taking than I plan to spend. The camera will spend most of its time in auto-exposure mode with the autofocus turned off, and maybe a fair bit of time in aperture- or shutter-preferred mode.

Manual mode is something I plan to avail myself of quite a bit, but I won't be using it much for day-to-day shooting, mostly because making the adjustments is a pain in the butt, especially compared to the way I used to do it with my 35mm SLR way back when.

Exposure, after all, is based on three components: sensitivity, shutter speed, and aperture. In days gone by, aperture was a ring on the lens, sensitivity was one dial on the camera (if it had a meter—some of mine didn't and so I used a separate incident meter, which I still have), and shutter speed was another dial.

Focus was a nice big ring on the front of the lens, with some solid mechanical feedback. The focus rings on these two lenses are un-marked, and they turn too easily. It's hard to get used to, but I'm getting better.

However, when I start using the camera for more serious video work, I may invest in a good used lens from an older film camera (many of them are compatible) to make follow-focus and aperture control easier, wresting them from the menus on the screen on the back of the camera.

Call me old fashioned if you must, but it was a lot faster to adjust those things without the menus.

I'm not complaining, though. It's nice to be able to tell the camera what aperture I want, and what shutter speed, even when it tells me the shot is too dark, because, in contrast to the point-and-shoot cameras I've been shooting with for far too many years now, I can tell it to go jump.

Sometimes, no doubt, I will discover that the camera probably was right. But I don't care; eventually I will know how the camera performs in different situations, and I will seize total control, and be able to create imagery on my own terms once again.

I can hardly wait.

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