After years of point-and-shoot, I saved up to buy a "grown-up" camera -- a Nikon D40x. That was 6 years ago. My Nikon has been a blessing and a curse ever since. A blessing by taking decent photos but a curse because I don't always understand how to use it! I'm still trying to grasp how to operate an DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. My main gripe every year is that my Christmas photos never turn out very good. All of the places we visit on Christmas day, including our very own house, have poor lighting which leads to poor photos. I want crisp, clear Christmas photos!
Most reviews of DSLR cameras say that the kit lens (the lens that comes with the camera) is decent but not great. I researched better lenses and came to the conclusion that I'd like a prime lens. A prime lens is the opposite of a zoom lens - the focal length is fixed. So instead of zooming the lens out or in to take a photo, I have to physically move forward/backwards to take a picture. Prime lenses have superior optical quality and have a high maximum aperture (smaller depth of field). Translation: clear pictures!
A 35mm prime lens isn't cheap so I opted to search on eBay for one. I managed to get one for about $30 less -- not a huge savings but it's still something. I was a happy girl the day my prime lens arrived in the mail last month, just in time for Christmas. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out how to use it properly but my Christmas photos were noticeably better than prior years.
Here's a collection of photos I've taken with my prime lens to show you how it differs from other lenses:
Prime lenses are great for portraits. See how the background is blurry? I can increase my aperture (small f-stop) and get a shallow depth of field. Chelsea was actually walking toward me as I took this picture. That's a Ritz cracker crumb on her face :)
Another shallow depth-of-field picture. I love how the fence and flags are blurry in the background.
A portrait of Nate, pre-haircut....hair is a little shaggy in this one.
I didn't do anything special to this photo -- no editing. This is exactly how it turned out. Plus, it was taken with natural light from my kitchen window. Pretty amazing detail.
Nate's Lego helicopter.
And the helicopter pilot who Nate has named "Helicopter" (makes for confusing conversations.) He's standing on the bricks that edge our backyard grass....looks a lot more interesting in the picture than what's really there!
Every year I take a picture of this house in our neighborhood and it's always under or over-exposed. I've always struggled with outdoor, night-time photos. This year's picture of the Christmas lights -- perfect!
Not a great picture but an example of how I can have both kids in a photo and still focus on Chelsea shoving Cheerios in her mouth on Christmas morning.
So that's it. I think most photography novices such as myself think that a zoom lens should be at the top of your wish list. I'm here to say that a prime lens is the way to go.