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21 July 2012

Photo Friday: My Two Important Tools

Before I launch into a discussion of the photos I've taken, I thought it would be of value to share the two most important tools for photography that I use. These items are my digital camera and my tripod. Since I'm not sure how much you've gleaned about me, I'll share it briefly so that you can understand why I've chosen what I've chosen.

I am the home educator for my five children aged elementary school and younger. My husband has a wonderful job as an engineer and we believe strongly in being self-reliant, living within our means, and preparing for our own future. Those things added together dictate our budget being relatively small for luxury items of any kind. A professional grade digital camera and a high quality tripod are not items of necessity and therefore not in the budget. However, a good quality mid-size digital camera has been a wonderful addition to our family's love of taking pictures. A decent tripod obtained at Wal-Mart has served our purposes without a huge expense.

There are three 'types' of digital cameras available. These three categories are point-and-shoot, compact systems, and DSLR. DSLR what I consider professional quality as they are sold to accommodate different camera lens upon the body of the camera. On the cheapest DSLR with body and lens was $469. It has more than enough megapixels to produce top notch photographs, especially since most of us are not going to print anything larger than an 8x10 (actually, I doubt we'll print anything larger than a 4x6). The camera has HD video recording, if you want to use it. It has a wide angle lens. It has a built in flash, but most photographers purchase an adjustable flash and mount it onto the camera for better light control (another $50 minimum). You'll definitely want a special carrying case for this kind of camera, so that's an added expense. You can set these cameras to automatic shooting, however, the whole point of a DSLR is to adjust the camera manually to capture quality pictures. If you have the technical know how and the budget (or lavish gift givers), then you can look into these cameras. I think around the holidays you can pick up some good deals, but the cameras and all the accessories is way out of my skill set and budget at present time.

Another type of digital camera is the point-and-shoot. The key point about these features is you generally can not adjust the camera's settings to manually improve the quality of your pictures. The camera picks the settings and you get what you get. Some people can get nice pictures with these cameras. I find them frustrating. We purchased one for about $30 for our kids as they want to begin taking pictures. I don't want to let them use my $200 camera because they are young and prone to dropping it. It's great for their needs but the pictures just aren't always that great. Perhaps I spent too little, but again it's a camera for my kids to play with photography. If they break it, I'm not out a lot of money.
I use the Canon PowerShot SX110

The category of camera's I prefer are the compact systems. Apparently since I was in the market, they have made some that have interchangeable lens, but the prices are in line with the DSLR, so why not shell out the big bucks for a high quality camera? In any case, I use a Canon PowerShot SX110 camera. It's a few years old, but I found a Canon PowerShot SX130IS on Amazon for a list price of $299 and a sale price of $140 plus free shipping. Now that's a steal to me. I can't spend more than $150 every 5+ years on a camera (that's $30/per year for the engineering types).

I like this camera because it has a variety of automatic settings from portrait, landscape, and pets/children. But, I also have the option to set the camera in partial and fully manual modes. This way, whenever I don't have time or knowledge to know what settings to use, I can simply let the camera choose the settings and take decent photographs. On the other hand, when I have the time and I care about the quality of the photographs, I can use the different manual modes to improve the quality of my pictures. The only draw back is that I can't adjust the angle of my flash. Perhaps newer models of my camera might have the ability to adjust the flash angle, but I'm not in the market for a new camera so I don't really know.

As for my tripod, I picked up and Inland Pro Floor Standing Tripod for about $20. Although professional photographers would be squeamish using such a cheap tripod, I've had no problems with it for my camera needs.

So there you have it. Those are my two tools.

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