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Emilie Sommer, Portland, Maine Vendor: Photographer Website: Emilie Inc. About Me: Emilie earned a degree in photojournalism from Syracuse University and worked at USA Today and The Washington Post in Washington, DC, before opening her wedding photography studio, emilie inc, in Portland, Maine. She loves all the intricate details involved in planning, the warm fuzzy feeling about two people in love and freezing those moments in time in a photograph. It’s a contagious dancing-through-daisies kind of good feeling. She also started the Roots Workshop, the directory News Wedding Photographers and the non-profit Pink Initiative
About Emilie @ Emilie Inc. Photography

Q: Now that we’re having a baby, I need to get a decent camera! I have a little point and shoot now, but I think it’s time to invest in a decent SLR. I’m not a professional, of course, so it doesn’t have to be fancy –it just needs to take good pictures. Any suggestions? - Michelle

A: I get this question all.the.time. And to be perfectly honest, unless I’m lugging around bulky professional gear, I typically rely on my iPhone for quick images to upload to Twitter or Facebook. But if you have a little peanut in your family’s future or perhaps just want to make some nice images from your honeymoon, purchasing a digital SLR is the way to go. You won’t regret it.

SLR, by the way, stands for single-lens reflex. The biggest difference between a digital SLR and a point & shoot (hereafter referred to as p&s) is you can change the lens. And unlike a p&s camera that uses an LCD display, SLR cameras use a mirror to show the image that will be captured in a viewfinder (more thorough geek tech explanation found here). By manipulating the digital SLR’s camera settings, you’ll be able to capture action, photograph in low light, zoom in tight on those precious baby toes, and print frame-worthy quality enlargements as you see them in your camera’s viewfinder.

In my humble opinion, there are only two brands of cameras worth looking into: Canon and Nikon. I learned how to shoot on a manual SLR Nikon in high school and switched to Canon in 2005 when they seemed to be leapfrogging Nikon on offering the best professional cameras and lenses. At this point, they’re still neck & neck, both producing a consistently reliable quality product. You can’t go wrong with either.

You can get a decent p&s camera for under $400. You’ll need to invest a bit more to upgrade to a digital SLR, however, so don’t let the prices shock you. According to Consumer Reports, these are the top rated consumer models for according to image quality, useful features, battery life and weight (listed in order of price):

Canon EOS Rebel XSi: $585 with 18-55mm lens ($520 body only)
Nikon D5000: $668 with 18-55mm lens ($599 body only)
Canon EOS Rebel T1i: $729 with 18-55mm lens ($634 body only)
Nikon D90: $979 with 18-105mm lens ($689 body only)
Canon EOS 40D: $1799 with 28-135mm lens ($1197 body only)
Nikon D300s: $2430 with 18-200mm lens ($1574 body only)

consume01

All of the above are quite comparable, so not sure what model to choose? My advice? Head to a local camera shop near you (Ritz, Hunts, etc) and ask to hold them. Play with the dials and buttons. Note how it feels in your hands- too bulky? Too small? Too heavy? Too light? We test drive cars before purchasing one, so why not do the same with your camera body? And if you want to go so far as to rent the body before deciding which to invest in, check out the rental company LensProToGo. I have two Canon EOS 1Ds MkII.

If you choose to purchase a camera body with a basic lens, remember that’s exactly what it is- basic. Keep in mind the smaller the number of the aperture (f/1.2, 1.4, 2.0, 2.8) the more light the camera can read in darker situations (indoors, dusk). The basic lenses are cheaper, but typically have an aperture of f/3.5- 5.6 which can mean blurry photos and frustration. These are the Canon lenses I have, those with an * are my current favorites (before purchasing find out if your DSLR can accept these professional L series lenses):

*16-35mm f/2.8
24-70mm f/2.8
70-200mm f/2.8
14mm fisheye f/2.8
24mm f/1.4
*35mm f/1.4
50mm f/1.2
*85mm f/1.2
*100mm macro f/2.8

I polled a few friends and new moms I know who recently purchased a digital SLR to see what their experience has been. Below are some of their replies:

What’s the biggest difference you notice between your digital SLR and a point & shoot?

“Well, better image quality, obviously, but the shutter lag in most point-and-shoots made me crazy, and I think I appreciate the lack of that in the SLR even more since the kids got mobile!” -RS
“The clarity of the pictures and the ability to take photos in less light without using the flash. Also, the ability to alter the focus to better emphasize your subject.” -SG
“Much quicker. I missed a lot of good pictures with my point & shoot due to the delay. No/very little red eye with the SLR.” - DC

How often do you use it?

“I use it every day. I’m worried we’re wearing it out.” -RS
“Everyday - we have a newborn. :)” -SG
“5-6 times per month” -DC

What lenses do you have?

“We have the kit lens (which we don’t use anymore, but served us well for a long time), a Canon 50mm fixed lens (LOVE it, and it’s cheap — I recommend it to amateur enthusiast who wants to get good portraits), and a Tamron 17-50 (an upgrade to our kit lens — faster).” -RS
“So far just the 18-55 mm lens that came with it. Plan to get a 55mm-200mm soon.” -DC

What is your biggest complaint about your camera?

“We’ve had a couple of little issues with it, one of which required a $150 repair, but not too much to complain about, given that we’ve taken tens of thousands of pictures with it” -RS
“I have the Nikon D5000, the D90 was too big for me. Still it’s bulkier than a point & shoot, so I don’t end up having it with me all the time.” -DC
“Picture quality is too high for easy e-mailing.” -BC

So once you have your camera and a lens or two, there are a few other things you’ll need:

Filter: Be sure to buy a basic UV filter to protect your glass. It’s a lot less expensive to replace a filter rather than an entire lens should it be dropped or scratched (images below from Amazon).

filter

Memory cards, card reader: CompactFlash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) cards are what replaced film in the digital world of photography. When you press the shutter button, the image is recorded onto these small reusable cards in your camera. The cards come in a range of capacities, allowing you to choose a card that best suits what you are capturing (big or small image sizes = high or low quality). I would recommend 2-4GB. I use Lexar brand cards and card readers for downloading the images to my computer. Be sure to check what type of card your camera uses before purchasing (images below from Amazon).

lexar_c

Software: Once you have downloaded your images from your card onto your computer, you’ll want to sort through them, noting favorites, tweaking color and correcting red eye, for instance. I recommend Apple’s iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop Elements for editing. I use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CS4 (image below from Apple).

iphoto

Sharing: These days it seems everyone uploads their photos to a Flickr account or Facebook photo album to share with family and friends. If you want to make prints, visit your local camera shop or upload to Shutterfly.com. I use professional labs at WHCC and Pictage (image below from Flickr and Facebook).

flickr_02

Backup: Now that you have a nice camera that outputs amazing imagery, you’ll notice those files are eating up a lot of space on your computer’s hard drive. Be sure to get an external hard drive and copy all of your files there in the event something happens to your computer. After I photograph a wedding, I copy every image onto DVDs and two matching Lacie harddrives (and use the portable orange ones, right, when I’m on the road) (images below from Amazon).

lacie_001

I purchase all of my photo equipment from B&H in New York or Amazon.com. I never buy photography equipment from eBay or CraigsList. Once purchased, be sure to add your new items to a rider on your homeowners insurance.

Take a peek at my recommended gear list by clicking here.

amazon01

Happy shooting!).

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28 Responses to “Ask Emilie: What Camera Should I Buy?”

1.
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Ask Emilie: What Camera Should I Buy? | Weddingbee PRO | Write What

[...] the original: Ask Emilie: What Camera Should I Buy? | Weddingbee PRO Tagged as: apple, business, camera, facebook, Photography, roots-workshop, washington, wedding [...]

 
2.
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amariem25

I just bought a canon T1i after my wedding. My new husband and I are having a fun time learning how to use it. It takes amazing photos - I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to a P&S camera.

We also bought a tripod, the canon starter bag that comes with a filter and extra battery charger and extra battery. We bought the Magic Lantern guide for our particular camera too so we can learn how to use it. The manual is just so dry, but we find the book is better!

 
3.
Mrs. Gloss
Bee
Mrs. Gloss (message)  1,249 posts, Bumble bee

This is great info! Thanks!!

 
4.
bunny
Bee
bunny (message)  2,206 posts, Buzzing bee

Seriously great advice. Thank you!

 
5.
Miss Sapphire
Member
Miss Sapphire (message)  1,398 posts, Bumble bee

Thanks! I really want a better camera now that we’re getting married. The P&S is great…but…

 
6.
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diorable (message)  4 posts, Wannabee

When I graduated from college I asked for a DSLR. But after researching and realizing the reality of carrying around a big camera, I started to look into high end P&S. I ended up with a Leica D-lux (I think there’s a Panasonic that’s basically exactly the same but much cheaper).

You can do manual settings still. You can certainly turn off the flash (I have no idea how to turn it back on at this point!) The big limitation is the lens, but as an amateur I don’t notice.

Of course the biggest bonus of P&S is the mobility. There are times you just want to throw a camera in your purse.

Some day I’ll probably buckle down and get the DSLR. But for now, my little Leica is really fabulous and I recommend it to anyone thinking about a DSLR.

 
7.
Miss Sapphire
Member
Miss Sapphire (message)  1,398 posts, Bumble bee

Is there a certain lens that is great for if you only want to travel with one?

 
8.
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diorable (message)  4 posts, Wannabee

I forgot to add this is a really great guide for when the DSLR times comes! :)

 
10.
Mrs. Bee
Bee
Mrs. Bee (message)  3,235 posts, Sugar bee

I’d add a flash and diffuser to the list once you’re comfortable with your camera.. The flash took my pics up another level!

 
11.
shelliduke
Member
shelliduke (message)  412 posts, Helper bee

I strongly encourage everyone putting the $$ into purchasing an SLR to learn how to use the settings (it doesn’t take that long) and take it out of automatic! I work in OB and I see this ALL the time - new parents buy a fancy new camera but don’t know what all the buttons do, so they leave it on automatic. To be honest I don’t think that photos taken with an SLR camera using the in-camera flash, on automatic setting, are that much better than a decent point and shoot.

 
12.
Miss Poodle
Bee
Miss Poodle (message)  3,386 posts, Sugar bee

thats so awesome! thank you

 
13.
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Lillindy (message)  10,356 posts, Sugar Beekeeper

Thanks so much, I’m showing this to my husband because we’ve been trying to decide what to get!

 
14.
Jess1054
Member
Jess1054 (message)  99 posts, Worker bee

FANTASTIC advice, thank you so much! I’ve been waffling around about getting a new camera but had no idea where to start. You’ve given me exactly what I was looking for! :-D

 
15.
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RhodeyGirl

EXCELLENT POST. Thank you so much for this! I do have a question though…

I use iPhoto but my photos are very large and I would like to resize them once I am in iPhoto so that I can save a couple in the larger size (for printing enlarged prints) but use less file space for all the other photos. How do I do that in iPhoto without exporting all the photos?? Please help!

 
16.
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emilie inc

@Miss Sapphire: @Miss Sapphire: You are using my wedding photo for your avatar? Did you know that?

 
17.
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emilie inc

@RhodeyGirl: I don’t know a shortcut for what you are asking, unfortunately, without exporting at different sizes. Sorry!

 
18.
Miss Sapphire
Member
Miss Sapphire (message)  1,398 posts, Bumble bee

@emilie inc:

OMG, I’m so sorry. I found it on Google images. I’ve changed it.

 
19.
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emilie inc

@Miss Sapphire: No worries. What a strange coincidence!! Glad you liked my wedding, too. :)

 
20.
Miss Sapphire
Member
Miss Sapphire (message)  1,398 posts, Bumble bee

@emilie inc:

I actually just went and hunted some of your other wedding pictures! They beautiful!

 
21.
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destination

Some tips are appropriate but I would NOT recommend Canon EOS Rebel XSi. Not worth the $.

 
22.
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RhodeyGirl

@destination: I actually LOVE my Canon EOS Rebel XSi!!! I’ve only had it for two weeks and my photos are already pretty good without even taking a class yet! (Check out my site for photos).

 
23.
Miss Sapphire
Member
Miss Sapphire (message)  1,398 posts, Bumble bee

@RhodeyGirl:

Are all your food pictures taken with your Rebel? What lens?

 
24.
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RhodeyGirl

@Miss Sapphire: Yep! I use the 18-55 mm lens that is the classic starter lens (Sorry if that terminology in describing the lens was wrong I am new!).. And I don’t even do any real manual settings yet since I am still so new (and have a LOT to learn). It is amazing how much better my photos are already without any skills you know?

 
25.
Miss Sapphire
Member
Miss Sapphire (message)  1,398 posts, Bumble bee

@RhodeyGirl:

They look really great!

 
26.
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27.
Mrs. Bee
Bee
Mrs. Bee (message)  3,235 posts, Sugar bee

This post was so helpful! If you get a chance, I’d love to hear your thoughts on shooting in RAW vs. jpg mode. I’m a total novice, but want to get s much better! :)

 
28.
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Robert Webster

I suggest that you use a Canon 30D. It is a great camera that I use very often.

I have been a professional photographer for several years and love CANON. I have been to B+H photo in NY. It is an expeience that every photographer should take. Amazing. Check out some of the work that the 30 has done on either of my two photographer websites:

http://www.TampaPetPhotography.com
http://www.TampaActionPhotography.com

 

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Emilie @ Emilie Inc. Photography Emilie Sommer, Portland, Maine Vendor: Photographer Website: Emilie Inc. About Me: Emilie earned a degree in photojournalism from Syracuse University and worked at USA Today and The Washington Post in Washington, DC, before opening her wedding photography studio, emilie inc, in Portland, Maine. She loves all the intricate details involved in planning, the warm fuzzy feeling about two people in love and freezing those moments in time in a photograph. It’s a contagious dancing-through-daisies kind of good feeling. She also started the Roots Workshop, the directory News Wedding Photographers and the non-profit Pink Initiative
 
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