How to Choose a DSLR Camera

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” 
― Dorothea Lange

Cameras are a complete minefield once you want to do more than take family holiday snaps.  I was really squinchy about spending money on an expensive DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, and when mine arrived I was really excited to try it out, but I hated using it at first (I was terrified of breaking something) and it took me about 1,000 photos before I actually knew how to adjust the settings without having to take loads of sample pictures.  After a weeklong trip to Aberdeen, however, I was completely in love with the superior picture quality of the DSLR compared to my old Fuji Finepix-S Bridge Camera, and after a few months it became second nature to get the settings adjusted perfectly.

1. Identify your budget.

What can you reasonably afford to buy?  Are you looking for the cheapest thing that takes pictures (in which case you might like a bridge camera)?  Or are you making an investment in a potential future career?  Do you want something with all the features or do you just want the pictures to look like they weren’t taken on a cameraphone?

DSLR cameras start at around $399 for the Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D which is an entry level DSLR and is missing a few features you might require (such as a lens), and prices go up to $3249 for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III which comes with one lens and is generally agreed by photographers to be the very best camera that Canon make.  On top of these costs you will need lenses which I will write a separate post on.

2. Identify what you’re going to use it for: video or stills?

Some cameras don’t do video or don’t do it well – some don’t have microphones, or don’t have a jack for your microphone to be attached.  The Canon EOS 600D, 650D and 700D are all good for Youtubing but some of the older DSLR cameras don’t record video at all, so would be a complete waste of money for a Youtuber, however, they still take great (not outstanding) photos so a secondhand older model could be excellent for a budding photographer who was strapped-for-cash.

3. Take a look online to see what you can afford.

Amazon.com is a good place to see how much the different cameras cost.  Canon and Nikon tend to be the most expensive but they have the best features and are compatible with a wider range of add-on equipment.  I haven’t seen anything done by a professional photographer who didn’t use a Canon or a Nikon camera.

4. Read reviews.

I was on the verge of buying the Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D before I read a review saying that the viewfinder was fixed, not movable.  As someone who does self portrait, timed shots and presents Youtube videos, this was unacceptable to me, and I’m glad I found this out before I bought the wrong camera for my needs.  I finally settled on a Canon EOS Rebel T5i which is everything I want it to be.  Your mileage may vary, and that’s what’s so wonderful about the sheer amount of choice on the market.

5. Buy camera.

Buy it from a reputable store which you’ve heard of or which has a physical location.  There is a LOT of fake crap on the market and some of it is VERY convincing.  I’ve not seen any fake camera bodies or lenses, but when you’re spending that amount of money you need to keep your wits about you.  I love ebay bargains, but I’d never buy a DSLR camera from ebay, or any website where the description is written in broken English, because you need to buy it from somewhere which will take action to sort out a bad transaction.  A second hand camera can be a great bargain, but it’s very easy for someone to sell something because (for example) they dropped it, and you won’t know it doesn’t work until you’ve handed your money over, at which point they can claim you dropped it.  For this reason, if you are buying a secondhand camera, get it from a physical shop and test out the camera before you buy it.  If they’re giving you excuses such as “the battery isn’t charged” then walk away from that purchase.

6. Write a review so other people know how good (or bad) it was.

If the site doesn’t accept reviews, unless it’s the official manufacturer’s site, I wouldn’t buy from there.  A good review lists two or three good points and two or three bad points.  Why waste time even writing a review that looks like any of these:
“Great thanks”

“Arrived ok.”

“Havn’t tried it yet but I’ve still givn it 5 stars.”

Have you got any other tips for buying a camera?  I’d love to read them in the comments!

In Pictures: Urban Industrial Decay by the Sea in Aberdeen

How long has it been since I last did a travel/pure delight article??  It feels like forever!

While I was in Aberdeen I saw some awesome decaying industrial objects which reminded me of Natalia Goncharova and Futurism here’s some inspiration pictures:

Giacomo Balla's Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913.
Giacomo Balla’s Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913.
Natalia Goncharova: A Factory (1912).
Natalia Goncharova: A Factory (1912).

I’m sure people much more accomplished at Art have commented on these pictures to death.  To me, they remind me of the opening minute of the song “Breathe” by Pink Floyd on The Dark Side of The Moon album.  It all links together.  In that vein, of industrialization and movement and life borne of machines and future provided for by machines, there’s little room for the question of the inevitable death of those machines.

When I came across this bounty of stimuli just abandoned on various plots of land in Aberdeen, I was reminded of the inevitable omega – the end of all things.  So I took lots of pictures of these industrial objects because their death masks were so beautiful, and I included the surroundings in some of them because their burial sites were often in direct contrast with their tortured metallic endings.  Such an unnatural and contrived resting place for what was once some chemical elements separated from base rock by a blast furnace.  Abandoned because their ferrous surfaces have combined with too much oxygen.  One question which I cannot answer is: “How sustainable are these burial sites where we lay out our expired machinery?”  There was a LOT of stuff like this in Aberdeen.

I felt sad that such amazing and titanic objects had been abandoned.  There were far more pics than this but I decided to just share this set of 11 in this article, paying particular attention to texture (especially rust) and unusual focus length.  I’ve written my own criticism by them in places so you can see what I thought of how my pictures came out.  I’m a crap photographer but I’m trying to learn, so any feedback would be appreciated, positive or negative.  This was before I bought my amazing new lenses for my DSLR, and I’d had the camera maybe 4 days by this point, so all pics here taken with my 18-55 kit lens on 100% manual camera settings with no autofocus (c’mon, autofocus is for wimps).  Click any image to enlarge.

A laburnum growing up a fence on a backdrop of rust.  The astigmatism and slight vignetting bugs me.
A laburnum growing up a fence on a backdrop of rust. The astigmatism and slight vignetting bugs me.
I really liked the texture.
I really liked the texture.
Some containers looking very tall and thin.
Some containers looking very tall and thin.
A metal thingy.  The sea is behind this wall.
A metal thingy. The sea is behind this wall.  I like the contrasting texture of the lichen, the wall and the metal thingy.
Is this a bunch of Johnny 5 lookalikes at an audition???
Is this a bunch of Johnny 5 lookalikes at an audition???  Apparently they’re lifeboat launches?  ISO too high.
More delightful texture.
More delightful texture.  Not level (argh).
Rusty giant chain.  Each individual link of this chain was bigger than my torso!  I wonder what it was used for...
Rusty giant chain. Each individual link of this chain was bigger than my torso! I wonder what it was used for…
The rusty textured giant 30 foot maw of an enormous digger, with laburnum growing near it.
The rusty textured giant 30 foot maw of an enormous digger, with laburnum growing near it.
barbed wire
Barbed wire and concrete textures contrasting with roof tiles.  Horizontals not straight.
Crane and sky.  I know my angles are awful I was playing around with my settings to try and get the clouds visible and the crane non-silhouetted.
Crane and sky. I know my angles are awful I was playing around with my settings to try and get the texture of the clouds visible and the crane non-silhouetted both at the same time and forgot to level it out.
Texture tyres.  I know the commonly accepted way of doing this image would have been to blur the tyres and focus on the background, but I wanted to show the texture of the tyres as I thought it was a really nice texture (I love the kitemark, bottom right).  I did one the other way around but thought this was the more interesting shot as it forces the viewer to notice the gargantuan tyres (tractor tyres??  What has tyres this big??)
Texture tyres. I know the commonly accepted way of doing this image would have been to blur the tyres and focus on the background, but I wanted to show the delicious texture of the tyres as I thought it was a really beautiful surface (I love the kitemark, near bottom right). I did one the other way around but thought this was the more interesting shot as it forces the viewer to notice the gargantuan tyres (tractor tyres?? What has tyres this big??)

I don’t know what to say to sum this post up, so I’m going to let you do it instead.  Feedback please!

I’m back, I’m back, SHAM-OWN! You know I’m back, I’m back, you know it (woo)…

First, the Seroquel saga continues as I await a pharmacy that actually stocks the dosage.  Apparently they should have specified time release on the Rx then I could have got it fulfilled at 5 different pharmacies.  That was my day wasted.  All else I did today was the school run (I would have sent him in with an apple for the teacher, but he IS the teacher and he detests apples.  I did consider putting ribbons in his little ringlets but he went with the Health and Safety ponytail which is fair when you’re in a room where you get to burn things).  And I had two different hours of therapy.  There’s the psychotherapy in the morning and the EMDR for PTSD in the afternoon.  Tuesday was a busy day.  And an expensive one.  But both approaches have their advantages and I’ll discuss them once I’ve spent more time doing them both.

Then, there’s the trip to London which I got back from yesterday evening.

Friday I bought myself two new camera lenses, an 18-250mm one for close and far stuff (the zoom is IMMENSE and the wide angle is BEAUT), and a 40mm lens for lightweight snaps, and for times I need a sharper image.  Such as when I’m making youtube vids.  The best things about the 40mm are a) it sounds like a James Bond gun. b) it doesn’t have an official Ultra Silent Motor, but it’s motor is the QUIETEST EVER and c) It’s the smallest lens that canon make.  oh and d) its aperture is the best I could afford and better than the other two lenses.

I’m so glad I tried the lenses out as I would have bought the 50mm on Amazon and it was WAY less good than the 40mm (and 50mm doesn’t sound like a James Bond gun, it sounds like a Duke Nukem gun: Hail to the KING baby).  I bought them from Park Cameras off Oxford Street in London (Tottenham Ct Rd end of Ox St), and they had a selection of new and quality second hands, and if you take your camera they let you try out lenses on your camera so you can see what you like.  I saved a LOT of money compared to buying these lenses online (like, I saved £300-ish).  The staff are all knowledgable about cameras too – so I also found out why my original lens was so crap – it wasn’t original to the camera, it was older, so whenever the previous owner sold my camera to Cash Converters, they kept the original lens to my camera and bunged their older, more crap one on it instead.  Bastard.  I wouldn’t have minded but it arrived WITHOUT A GODDAMN LENS CAP.  Who treats an expensive DSLR like that????  I’ll put sample pics up when my computer isn’t infested with some weird spyware or AIDS or something.
I also bought myself a camera microphone.  I treated myself to a RODE branded one from an audio shop off Tottenham Court Road and early indications are that it is going to be perfect.

My workshop was great on Saturday and I was really psyched to find out that the originator for this whole theory/technique came up with it as a way for traumatized musicians to re-find their voices after surviving WWI as conscripted soldiers in Germany (he moved immediately to France and later turned his efforts to helping traumatised Jews escaping the Nazi regime).

However, something must have hit a nerve or something because on Sunday I really didn’t feel well at all and I couldn’t go to the second day which was a shame because I was looking forward to taking it all further.  It took 4 hours, but I felt a bit better by the afternoon and went into the City and took some pics (which are travelly so I’ll devote a whole article to them.  I might do a whole nother article on the shops you can find in Mayfair because it’s an impressive collection.  There were TWO Maseratis illegally parked).

I then went to have an unplanned and therefore VERY detailed consultation at Victoria’s Secret in Mayfair, which is on New Bond Street, at the other end to Tiffany’s (which is where New BS becomes Old BS; and which I did NOT let myself near until I was certain it had closed for the day, and even then I only took photos from the other side of the road just in case I got tempted to go online on my phone and make a purchase.  Hells to the NO I didn’t set foot in there, because I has ALL OF THE WILLPOWER).

I did however go to Vic’s S. as mentioned above, and I did get a thorough and informative and friendly consultation whilst dressed top to toe in mens clothing (excepting underwear) and wearing men’s shoes (not intentional, just happened to throw it all on that a.m.).  So full points for professionalism.

ALL.  OF.  THE.  WILL.  POWAH.  Tiffany and Co Old Bond Street London.
ALL. OF. THE. WILL. POWAH. Tiffany and Co Old Bond Street London.

At Vic’s S. they don’t just wrap a tape measure round your squishies then truss you up in elastic, they start by taking your name, and introducing themselves (I know it’s like they buy you dinner first), then they ask what type of bras you like, then they measure you, give you some samples to try (that are kept for the express purpose of ascertaining which type of bra you like) then they tick on your personalized consult card to tell you what bras you liked, they write your size on the card, and tell you where (in the 4 floor store) to find the bras you’ve been matched with, where you find them in a range of colors, accents and lace options.  I chose to ignore all the advice from my consult and bought myself a nice front zipping underwired sports bra in black.  Because I almost exclusively wear sports bras (TMI, I know).  I also bought the AMAZINGLY SCENTED body lotions I’d been craving ever since someone brought me back a sample set from Florida about 5 years ago, and I’m so glad I did because now I can smell like that again EVERY DAY.  I haven’t used any of them yet, but occasionally I’ve popped the lids of one or other and just inhaled the delightful scent.

BRB.

Ohhh…..

Love Spell and Pure Seduction you both smell sooooo good!

*does that Homer Simpson drooling thing*

Must not eat them.

Ahem…

Anyway, my laptop was doing a strange thing when I got back so I’m not sure what’s wrong with it but both Hijack This and Malwarebytes are embroiled in fisticuffs trying to detangle why my security log and internet history have been edited while I was away.  HMMMM…

Also Banacek was apparently too lazy to get up to eat today, so he did it lying down:

That's right... he is the laziest rabbit.  If Winnie the Pooh came to visit, he'd have no trouble getting back out of THIS rabbit's house.  Banacek has actually chewed the entrances to his play boxes so he can fit better.
That’s right… he is the laziest rabbit. If Winnie the Pooh came to visit, that bear would have no trouble getting back out of THIS rabbit’s house (although I think they may fight each other to the death over who got to eat the Hunny). Banacek has actually chewed the entrances to his play boxes so he can fit better.

And speaking of Honey, as y’all probably know, it’s my middle name.  Jasmine Honeysuckle is actually the name my mother gave me when I was born, she was told by the Catholic priest at my Christening that this name was no good and that there had never been any Saint Jasmine or Saint Honeysuckle (he cancelled my Christening over this) so she changed it to something more traditional.  I am NOT having the word “suckle” anywhere in my name, so when I recently experienced name dysphoria (before I knew it was gender-related), I changed it (unofficially) to Jasmine Honey about a month before my mum died, then she died and I never got a chance to finish connecting with my new name and make it legal etc.  Honey Jasmine had been my preferred configuration but I wanted to eliminate Jasmine first since that was the way I was originally named.  And it’s all gone down the krapper and stuck.  My acquaintances (all except my ex-best-friend/unrequieted-whatnot) have all been very good with this, although when I started pinpointing major genderqueer-ies (gender queries?) I felt Jasmine wasn’t my best fit first name.  So for the past few months I’ve not really thought of myself in terms of actually HAVING a name.  Which I’ve been happy with, I don’t need a label, I know who I am.  But society insists on calling me words and medical types insists on repeating my full legal ‘name’ several times per sentence to show they know who I am (when they do this it really alienates me from them further).  So I’m thinking of swapping it around to Honey Jasmine (etc).  The only issues are, a) I’d have the same initial and part-last-name as my mum (and that’s a bit weird given all the medically-diagnosed-PTSD she caused me) and b) I feel a bit bad because my dad chose my legal, re-registered names but they’re terrible I hate them and don’t recognize them to respond to because all my life nobody ever called me my registered names.  Apparently it’s been so long since anyone last called me Jasmine, and I see people so infrequently that no-one uses my name to my face, that I don’t seem to be able to associate with it any more either.  That’s very sad.

People call me Honey a lot.  And it’s simultaneously stupidly gendered and still non-gendered.  Which kinda makes it more androgynous.  Like me.  And while it sounds like a porn name, go and google Jasmine Honey and see what comes up.  Or search it on Twitter.  There is a real porn star with my actual name.  Just saying.  It’s hard to rise to prominence on the internet when you keep wondering whether your followers are waiting for you to get your double G’s out, then they see your itty bitty C’s half hidden by a fake moustache and they send you hate mail (which, having received both, is very slightly better than wank-mail but still).

I know there are a few better names out there than Honey, but I’m saving them for when I have kids.  Plus Honey is familiar and comfortable.  Icons with the name being Honey Rider and Miss Honey from Matilda.  Or maybe I should keep Jasmine and stop over thinking this.  I’m considering something else as well, but I just don’t know right now.  Imma think about this s’more before I do anything irreversible like change my Twitter name m’kay…

And I got my manuscript completely edited (and somehow added about 5000 words to it in the process) and sent back to the editors to double check.  Now I’m waiting to find out if it’s getting the go ahead or needs editing further.  I canNOT edit without a list written by a responsible person.

And here’s the video that the title is a reference to:

So let me tell you once again – Who’s Back!

So that’s been my whirlwind of a past few days, how’ve you been?  Let me know in the comments!