For almost a decade I’ve been shooting Nikon. Today, however, I’ve made a “radical” move to slowly start switching systems. Before I tell you, which route I took, I want to tell you a bit of a story of my photo gear and the journey I’ve had with it.
A while ago, I think it was in 2006 or 07′, a few friends and I went to the States. The missionary, Joel Woodard and his family was in charge. In less than a month we saw a huge chunk of west coast. The cost of the trip, around a Grand, I paid from most of my savings up until then. I still had a tiny bit on my account saved up for a device or two to buy there. As it’s still the case, even though today the difference is smaller, technology was over 35% cheaper there as it was here in Slovenia, moreover Oregon had no Sales Tax (VAT) at all. My parents gave me a cheap digital camera they owned for on the go, but I wanted something that would be my own so that I wouldn’t need permission to use or be nuisance when I would need it or want it.
So, I bought what my budget allowed for (I also wanted an iPod Classic which effectively split my budget on half): a Kodak Z712 IS, which was around 250$ if I remember correctly. Today this would be thought of as some kind of a bridge camera. it was a small and fancy looking camera, that by the looks of it seemed DSLR-ish to me. And it was my own.
Unfortunately the camera broke only a spring after the trip. It fell from my desk and the shutter button broke from it. I tried to repair it, but the damage was worse than I had predicted. the half-press for autofocus didn’t work anymore. Worse still, the shutter button was now too sensitive: you would merely touch it and not even press it, when it would already erratically cause camera to focus and take photo. You would never know where it would focus, and when it would fire. Since I couldn’t just sell a non-working camera, it’s still sitting on my “camera” shelf.
Having a plastic pretty much inoperable camera, I had to buy something new, something that would be built better, that would last longer and that would make me some money in the process. Back then it was as easy to look at least semi-pro if you only had a DSLR camera (even old film SLR cameras did the trick here in Slovenia). Since I had some friends in photography courses (department really – unfortunately I couldn’t simply go and study photography since I was in Gymnasium which is general high school and the “paper” or diploma that you get when graduating, gets you more places than photo diploma) and were (still am) friends with some photography professors from SŠOF (High school for visual arts and photography in Ljubljana) I decided to buy a Nikon camera. You see, a lot of them have Nikon gear and I figured, if I needed to borrow some gear, some would probably be kind enough to loan me some gear for a favor in return (which is what eventually happened).
So after some research and advice a new summer came and with it more Americans. The currency difference and regulation still being large enough between the States and Slovenia I asked one of them to bring me a Nikon D60. I think it cost me, converted back to Euros, around 460€, whereas here it sold for more than 700€ if I remember correctly.
I loved that camera. I used it for couple of years, bought some additional lenses for it and even made enough money to not just cover for the camera, but for the rest of the gear as well. That was sometime around the first year of college – The Faculty of Architecture… don’t ask me why I went there and why I had never finished it; it’s a long story for some other time. Anyhow, the college took most of my waking hours away and the camera had started being slow. It’s not that there was something wrong with it, it was working great, it’s just that I tried a friend’s Nikon D90 and loved the fact that I could shoot faster, had more buttons at my disposal (I dislike diving in menus), I could use older and cheaper but better Nikkor 50mm f1,8 with auto-focus (entry level DSLRs don’t have a built in motor to focus older AFS lenses) and moreover it could do video. I even shot our graduation video with his camera.
I went online again trying to see what’s the next thing to buy (Nikon D300s) and how much money I would need to earn for it. O dear. It was over 2000$, but it looked amazing and I knew I was going to use it for a long time. But there was a problem. I couldn’t finance the camera without making some sacrifices. So the decision was made: Nikon D60 had to be sold. Luckily for me the currency difference, prices of used gear here and so on and so forth, allowed me to sell the camera for more than I initially paid for it.
I loved and still love using my Nikon D300s. I’ve shot so many things with it that I don’t even know the count anymore. I have to say that 300s not only improved my workflow because of more buttons, it made me even more interested in photography not only on an amateur level but pro as well. I wanted to learn how to do whatever I could with it. I wanted to know it by heart. Constantly using it I did learn it. I can pick it up whenever and know where something is. I could finally film video with it as well and that was the next thing for me. But here I had a problem: I was dirt broke and wanted to have a rig. So built one. It wasn’t great, nor good looking, but it worked. Mind you, it was heavy. One day, however, when I was trying to build a quick release plate from scratch, the rig with the camera on top and a Tamron 70-300 attached fell on the ground from the worktop. My heart sank. I hope that the camera and the lens are okay. The camera just had a scratch on the plastic part where the flash is and a tiny bit that had to be glued back (you would only notice where if I told you about it). Other than that it was fine. But the lens wasn’t. How in the world am I going to continue shooting musicals, concerts, events and such without a telefoto and without the cash to buy me a new one. You see, my plan was to use it so much that I would earn enough to buy a Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 and then sell it or use it on maybe another body or something. I guess that plan won’t work out. I think I had something around 40€ in my pocket. Still, I went online to bolha (a Slovene ebay) but couldn’t find anything in my budget. I didn’t want to ask my parents for the money because they were probably somewhat broke as well (just because I sometimes buy something better and expensive, it doesn’t mean that I’m rich or had lots of money, or my parents for that matter). After a miserable day of searching I called my dear friend Sebastjan from Radovljica. Luckily for me he had an old SLR lying around with three lenses. He said, that he wouldn’t like to sell it but since it was me and since he wasn’t using it anyways, that we could make a deal. I think a week passed. I called again and he said “sure, you can have it for 55€.” That was great, but I didn’t have all the money there. God, I love friends who are patient and can work with you. Because he let me have it and use it for a small down-payment and the rest I could give him when I had it. Thank you Seba, to this day I am grateful.
So what did I get? I got a Minolta XD 5 with couple rolls of film, some accessories and three lenses (one of which was telefoto): MD Rokkor 50mm f1.7, MD 28mm f2.8 and an awesome push-pull telephoto lens MD 75-200 f4.5. For 55 bucks I got all of that. And the best thing about it is that I could now not only adapt those lenses (by buying an adapter), all three of them, to my Nikon system, but I could also finally try film as well. And you know what, in about a month of trying to learn how to handle much heavier telephoto lens, I looked on the numbers and saw what I didn’t care about in the rush and excitement of getting all of that: the aperture number was constant 4,5 throughout the range. That meant that I didn’t have to maniacally change settings, primarily shutter speed when shooting in dark environments such as Opera or so. Moreover I started liking the push-pull zoom, since it was faster and it retained focus throughout the range. Stranegly, though I love autofocus, I’ve gotten fond of manual focusing and manual (on-the-lens) aperture control. True, that I don’t have EXIF data about some of the settings, but I don’t care. These lenses are, when used for the right stuff and in the right setting, a joy to use.
You might wonder “why, if his camera still works, does he need a new camera?” And you would be right. Especially since most of my hard-earned cash wen to education in the last three+ years. That’s well over 8000€. While I am well aware that I could have done many other things in the mean time, even taking more photos and photo projects, I think it was the right thing to do. Finally my college times are slowly coming to an end and I will finally be able to devote more time, energy and soul into creating beautiful images. That’s also why I bought the new camera. Yep, it’s Sony A6000. You see, for more fine-art and similar projects I need a higher than 12MP sensor and image processing has improved so much in the mean time, that a small A6000 is just enough for what I need. Sure, I’d like more buttons, but then again I’ve since been working with different pace anyways. Regardless of complexity of my Nikon D300s, right now I need something smaller and lighter yet still powerful and customizable enough for having it with me more than just for big projects. Often the best camera is the one you have with you. Since I don’t have a smartphone and I don’t want to use my mom’s smaller camera all the time, I thought it was time to use my salary from the work at the Bible Society to give me a speed-boost that I need for my photo endeavors and buy a camera. I will still use my Nikon D300s, and all the lenses (with focus peeking all of them, but especially the manual focus Minolta MD’s work even better on A6000 than on my Nikon).
Of course I can’t say too much about it now. You have to realize, that it got delivered (this time from Germany) just today at noon and I’ve only had an afternoon worth of playing with it, but still: it’s light and extremely fun to use. This one’s a keeper.
Bellow you’ll notice some photos from today. If you’re wondering, what’s up with the noisy one: I’ve been playin even on the highest setting. I don’ think I’ll need it often, but even though some would say it’s terrible, its hell-of-a lot better than D300s at ISO6400 (or perhaps even at ISO3200). Also, I find the included kit-lenses quite nice (all photos bellow are taken with the kit lenses).