A First-Time Nikonista

I’ve been snapping pictures with my compact camera seriously for about a year now. As long as the words “serious” and “compact camera” can be used in the same sentence. Presumably to annoy me, my husband brought home a borrowed DSLR so I could try it out. I see as little point in trying out a camera I can’t afford as trying out a dress I don’t intend to buy.

But bravely, I downloaded the instructions manual for Nikon D800. I read it and concluded that I wasn’t really looking to build a nuclear bomb (which is what the manual seemed to be for). So I referred to the manual only to set up auto mode for all the buttons and switches I could locate. The next day we set off for a family trip to Prague (because that’s apparently what families do).

I was acting like a natural Nikonista — I mastered the introductory sections of the manual “How to Hold Your DSLR” and “How to Point and Shoot”. My DSLR even received some wolf whistles on the go. (Unless the whistles were for my short shorts, which I was wearing to prove to my husband I wasn’t prudish — except I am.) The shooting was a breeze. The results not so much.

Either a DSLR wasn’t meant to be used on the auto mode really or it requires practice to shoot even on the auto mode. Or both. The camera was borrowed from a friend, professional photographer, who can go without this old piece for a while. So I’ll try the instructions again and experiment with manual settings. Maybe I’ll report in the next Random Moment of Delight! Meanwhile, check out my Flickr for more Prague photos!

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Mara Eastern

I'm a sardonic blogger, snapper, scribbler and rhymer; a virtual space invader who indulges in cheerful negativism, morbid self-deprecation and bleak humour.

29 thoughts on “A First-Time Nikonista”

  1. Your photos are great so I think you must have got to grips with the DSLR and are exaggerating your challenges. I am a big Nikon fan. My DSLR is a Nikon D40. That’s pretty old and outmoded now but it does everything I need it to so I have neither the desire to relearn a new camera or spend money on an upgrade just for the merry heck of it. I would love to add another lens or two or three but funds don’t allow so I am still using the kit lens. I mostly use my DSLR on the presets for “snapshot” type photos or when the kids are being really active and I don’t want to be fiddling and missing out on the moment by being too photographery but I use manual whenever the circumstances allow. I am still a complete amateur with much to learn but, unlike when I had a manual SLR with expensive film and processing to factor in, you can shoot a whole “roll” of mistakes on digital and the only thing you have wasted is time. So have a ton of fun experimenting and keep sharing the results.

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    1. Oh, a fellow Nikonista! Thank you for liking the photos, I’m surprised that you do — they seem rather ordinary to me! I did some post-editing on them though: I have a reasonably good application (Corel Paint Shop) and it can do a lot with a mediocre photo, which most of my attempts from Prague were.

      I can’t wait to try the manual settings on the camera and see if it’s better! (It should be better, I hope.) I understand that what matters most is the lens; so when your funds allow, you may consider getting a lens instead of a whole new camera. But meanwhile, let’s have fun shooting with what we have 😉

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      1. I’m more of a portrait and macro person when it comes to my “skills” with a camera so I’m always impressed when people shoot landscapes and places because I find that challenging. I’ve been saving up for more lenses for six years now but there is always something else that needs the funds. I would like a proper macro lens as at present I just use magnifying filters.

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        1. Landscapes are not my thing either. But come on, you can’t really shoot macro in a historical city. You’d get trodden on by tourists! You’ve probably noticed on my blog that I’m a huge macro fan too. I also started to like street photography, but it’s hard and often awkward to shoot people in the streets… Hopefully one day we’ll save up enough for a macro lens! (And me for a camera body to go with it too…)

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          1. I would like to try street photography but I’m too wary about photographing strangers. I just torture my kids instead.

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          2. Yes, I know! I photograph people only from distance and only so that they’re not recognisable in the picture. And I feel like I’m doing something wrong… Better to take pictures of your kids!

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  2. I love my DSLR, but I started loving it more once I mastered manual settings. I only ever shoot on manual now, the only time it’s on auto is when I hand it to someone else to take a photo.

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    1. I’m pretty sure that you’re right and that the DSLR is about the manual settings. Your photos are very good too, I was wondering what you use to shoot them 😉

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        1. Oh?! It’s true though that iPhone makes excellent photos, I’ve already come across this fact before. I have just a Samsung smartphone and the photos are poor quality. Well, then I’m looking forward to seeing some of your DSLR photos in future! 😉

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  3. The D800! The body only roughly costs Rs92,000!
    But be assured that your typical amateurish DSLR doesn’t normally cost more than Rs 30,000! (a little more than Rs 18,000 or something). I hope the price won’t discourage from entering the DSLR world.
    You can take incredible with the ‘amateurish’ ones too; many will tell you that somehow it basically boils down to the lens you’re using. By the way,if one day,you do buy the DSLR, don’t go for the kit lens. (Buy the body only from Nikon and then,select the lens of your choice; it is cheaper and more practical this way.) 🙂

    Your pics are noticeably different – not that the previous ones were bad- and it is a real shame that you had it only for one day!
    As always,Prague is beautiful.The Castle and its baroque statues are unique.It is great to see a place that has such a strong identity! And what is there in that castle which causes officers to guard it,a little like the Queen’s guards do in the UK?

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    1. Oh my dear, D800 costs so much?! How come? I mean, the friend-photographer is actually selling the camera and he said he’d sell this one for about Rs 18.000. Now I’m almost tempted to buy it from him for the price. But it’s too much for me to give out at the moment anyway. Well, I can keep the camera for another week or so, so at least this is good news for me.

      Are these pictures different from my usual ones? Hm, I was thinking it’s not so different after all and I blamed my lack of skill with the DSLR. Glad you like Prague though. I admit I hope we won’t go there for a long time now because the sheer picturesqueness of the city is hurting my eyes. It’s too colourful to my taste. As to the guards, I believe their function is purely decorative, as there seems to be nothing to guard. Besides the President, I mean 😉

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      1. I checked it this time on Amazon.And it is Rs 94,000 which is approximately equal to 62,000 Czech Korunas!
        So I think it’ll be a bargain,even if I don’t know in what condition the camera is.However I won’t keep pushing you on it,as I don’t wish to make you feel bad,as I can totally relate to you; sometimes we just don’t have the sufficient funds to have the thing of our desire,no matter how bad we want it.

        And yep.They are slightly different even if they were shot on Auto.They have that postal card feeling which is typical of pics taken with a DSLR!

        And nice one,that bit about the President! 😀

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        1. Mystery solved: I apologise for my mistake, it looks like I mistyped the camera type, and it’s a D80 rather than D800, which is of course a huge difference. Now it’s clear why the friend is selling it for the price… Sorry for the confusion… Still, I checked the prices on Amazon for D80 and it looks like the friend is offering a very good price. I’m no expert, but the camera looks as new, no scratches or chippings, no parts missing. Maybe I’ll talk to my husband to see if I could perhaps get the camera for my birthday, which is in July. So that I’d pay part of the price and my family would contribute towards the rest as a gift… I know, I’m really daring… 😮

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          1. Oh ok! 🙂

            Hmm,the Nikon D80.I have heard a bit of it.When I checked it over the net,it turns out that Nikon has stopped manufacturing it.It has 10 MP and was released in 2006.It’s not that its pics are bad,but for the price you’re paying,you can get a:

            Nikon D3200 (my camera),released in 2012.Hugely popular because of its user-friendly interface.I second that.

            Or a Nikon 3300,the successor,released in 2014.

            I checked the latter on Amazon.According to some reviews,it is lighter and very user-friend (like D3200) for the beginner.If I were you, I would go for this model.Anyway,you can check the reviews for yourself!

            Again,I don’t wish to force you on anything.I just thought you need to know a minimum of things before splashing the cash. 🙂

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          2. Absolutely! Thank you for the info! I would check out the reviews later, but right now I’m undecided yet, so I only checked the price. I will bookmark your comment and have a look, so thanks a lot for sharing this!

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  4. I have a DSLR (not Nikon though), and I have done the same as you, mostly kept everything on automatic- I love the way you described it… 😀 I bought it for the zoom. I find my shots are much clearer and crisper than my old Canon or my iPhone and of course I can get great shots from afar. I actually bought it to be a point and shoot with bigger capabilities. I knew I wouldn’t be doing more lenses or anything. I wanted to have a point and shoot that had a viewfinder so I could take photos in the bright light and see what I was shooting. I ended up with a Lumix FZ35 and I love it. I can carry it in a ‘biggish’ purse and I did for a whole year. The next thing to do is try it out on the motorcycle. No reason I can’t wear it around my neck. I’ll see how the automatic works with blur.
    I love the way you write and think this post is so humorous.

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    1. Yes, exactly, the zoom! My compact camera has a zoom but it works poorly; so I was excited about being able to use the zoom on the DSLR too 😉 It’s a good tactics too, to use the DSLR for better-quality pictures without exploiting much of the extra settings. Whatever works for you! You should try action photos from the back of the motorcycle, go for it! I actually got a very nice blurred motion photo of an underground train leaving the station — the photo is on my Flickr — and it was captured just on auto mode, no skill on my part required 😉

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  5. I can very much relate to that. I’ve read the instructions of my compact camera (!) several times, just to squeeze every little possibility of improvement out of it. I’m not sure if I buyed a DSLR. The camera and the equipment are really very expensive, it’s heavy to schlepp around and I would be afraid all the time that someone would rob it on my travels. I’m thinking of upgrading to something in between.

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    1. Oh, thanks for supporting me in my suffering! 😉 And yes, I admit to reading the instructions for my compact camera several times too and probably never quite getting that. I learned by using the camera at the end.

      You’re right about the disadvantages of a DSLR: it’s very heavy and impractical, and you won’t just put it in your purse or even backpack. There are reasonable in-between cameras though, I’ve checked already.

      Or, you can even contrive to upgrade your compact camera with a better lens — I’ve seen it too. It looks ridiculous, a small camera with a huge lens mounted on it, but it apparently works.

      In any case, happy shooting!

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    1. Awe, thanks 😀 You made my day. Well, after half a year or so, I finally made it to the hairdresser and had my hair shortened (what a relief!) and dyed dark brown with light highlights. This photo doesn’t really show the hairstyle, but whatever, it’s cute that you noticed ❤

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