Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nikon D3100 The first step on a new adventure

A little background about me: I have owned this camera for 2 months. I have owned a Samsung point-and-shoot for three years and have taken thousands of photos with it, and for the past few months I had been using only the limited manual mode on my camera, and wishing for a camera whose settings I could tweak more. That's when I started drooling over DSLRs.

After months of reading about photography, I finally bought myself Nikon D3100. It was the best option for the price and for my experience level. It was easily one of the best purchases I have ever made. I bought Nikon D3100 that also came with a 55-200mm 4-5.6 lens, a case, a tripod, an SD card, and some extra goodies.

First, it takes amazing pictures.
- Nikon D3100 performs far better in low light than any point-and-shoot. With the right tools, it's usable right up to ISO 1600. Compared to my old point-and-shoot, this is a huge bonus.
- It's an SLR, so you can take those pictures with shallow depth of field (blurry background).
- Its pictures are sharp, clear, and beautiful. The high MP count makes details pop and cropping easy.
- It's incredibly easy to use - Nikon has an amazingly well thought out body design, and within weeks I felt more at home with this camera than my old one. Order Nikon D5100
Second, I have to agree with the reviews that say the following.
- The Live View mode is a gimmick. Don't use it if you can help it. It's clunky and slow and drains your battery. Only use it if you absolutely cannot hold the viewfinder up to your eye.
- Video is high quality, but requires a lot of skilled technique to use properly - continuous autofocus does not work that well.

Finally, some advice that relates to the purchase of the camera.
- The lenses that associate with this camera are the kit zooms - the 18-55mm and the 55-200mm. These are good lenses, but the maximum apertures (3.5 and 4) do leave a lot to be desired in many situations. Within a few days of using the camera, I knew that a better lens would have made all the difference. SO - if you have the money, don't use the kit zooms. Sell them and buy lenses with larger maximum apertures. I don't personally own one of these, but I know from experience that taking pictures would be a lot easier with them.

That's all I have to say about the camera. If you are a first time DSLR user, you can't go wrong with this camera. It fulfills all your expectations, and more. If you care at all for your photography and are considering buying an SLR, do it. You will not regret it.

Some notes about techniques.
- The GUIDE mode is supposed to ease transition, but I spent a long time reading about the technical aspects of photography - I rarely use anything but full Manual (M) Mode. On occasion, I'll use Program (P) if I don't have time to quickly change the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed - and of course I'll set it to Auto when placing my camera in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to change the settings - but otherwise, any of the multiple settings on the dial go quite unused. The reason being is that the light meter often over or underexposes depending on your metering mode, and unless you set an exposure bias, you sometimes won't get the picture you want.
- That means, if you know how the technical aspect of photography works, use Manual Mode. Jump right in and allow yourself to match the full flexibility of the camera. If you are still learning, by all means use the many modes Nikon offers to facilitate learning - but don't forget, Manual offers the ultimate in control. You get exactly what you want.
- USE RAW. I used JPEG for all the first few hundred pictures I took, and they're great. But when I switched to RAW, my jaw LITERALLY (yes, I really DO mean literally) DROPPED when I saw what I could do with RAW files. You have just as much control with your pictures as you do in Manual mode. You can make your pictures look EXACTLY how you want them to look, and more. Caveats: This requires some familiarity with image editing terms, and a program like Photoshop or Lightroom or Aperture (Mac), and there's a bit of a learning curve, and the files are really big (buy an external hard drive just for photos), but the payoffs are FAR greater. With RAW, photography just opens up from pictures to art.

- Amazing pictures - beautiful in all ways
- Low light performance is excellent
- Easy to use, but also very flexible
- Video and Live View are gimmicks or specialty tools
- Included lens(es) is(are) fantastic, but better lenses will blow you away
- Learn technical aspects, then use MANUAL mode
- Use RAW once you feel comfortable

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