Saving Memories

When I was growing up I used to take a lot of photos. Armed with an old Canon 35mm SLR, a few lenses, filters and other stuff, I strongly believe that if my current career hadn't worked out I would have found myself doing something with photography. Like most people however, as I got older (and busier) I got swept away by the digital camera revolution - exchanging my beloved 35mm SLR for a more compact digital camera several years ago.

Looking through our family photos the other day, I started to feel cheated. I realized that I’d traded the quality of photos I used to take for the convenience of something that would fit into my pocket. Of course, the first generation of Digital SLRs definitely had their problems – many functions didn’t come across well from 35mm range, they were slow to start up, and (for me) unbelievably expensive, but after doing some research over the past few weeks, I can definitely say it's now a different story.

Because there are so many choices, I started by making a list of requirements:

· Must support functions of my previous 35mm SLR – good range of manual shutter, aperture and ISO settings – I want to be in control of the pictures I take.

· Must support multiple frames per second (ideally 3fp/s). I have a 22 month old who surprisingly doesn’t feel it necessary to sit still when the perfect photo opportunity arises for Dad.

· Must have instant start up – my current digital pocket camera annoys the heck out of me when I see a shot but then have to wait for 5 seconds while it thinks about booting up.

After a long haul through all of the available dSLRs it came down to the Nikon D70s vs. the Canon Digital Rebel XT (EOS 350D). On paper and in most reviews they are virtually the same camera (with the exception of resolution – which I don’t find an issue unless you are printing larger than 12”x10”). The major difference however is size and weight. If you have larger hands and prefer a sturdier camera, the D70s looks like a good choice. If you can handle the smaller size and prefer something a little lighter (a priority for me as I travel frequently) the Canon EOS 350D could be a better fit.

After I’d succumbed to purchasing the Canon EOS 350D, it came down to the choice of lens (which is actually more important that the camera). The default lenses with most Digital SLR kits tend to be wide angle (for example, 18-55mm – the lower this number, the wider the available angle of the lens). While this is great for typical beach/sunset/view-of-the-mountains shots, it’s not so hot when it comes to portrait/family shots. Of course, many people don’t realize this until they have purchased the lens – after which you end up buying a second lens for those closer shots. I used to have a second lens (Sigma 70-300mm) for exactly this reason.

This works well, except that now you’ve got to carry around two lenses – which added to filters, extra battery, memory, power supply, and some cleaning stuff quickly becomes a travel nightmare. You also have to spend time swapping them when you want to switch between landscape and telephoto – which can be clumsy, especially if you are in the dark or next to water.

A few manufacturers have started creating “all in one lenses” – one of the favorites I looked at was the Tamron 18-200mm XR Di II - it looked really good, but some of the reviews complained that the autofocus for moving objects can be a little slow. Thinking of my son running towards me I decided instead to opt for the Canon Ultrasonic EF 28-200mm. For what I’m after, this offers a great range (28-200mm) for both semi-landscape and telephoto. I was a little worried that 28mm wasn’t wide enough for some shots – it’s of course not as accommodating as the 18mm wide angle with the kit lens, but it’s good enough – and if it saves me carrying two lenses, it’s a hit. In addition, the lens is ultrasonic – which means a) it doesn’t sound like a dentist’s drill when you are using during the toasts at weddings and b) its really fast to focus on objects.

So there you go – if you have requirements similar to mine I can highly recommend the combination of the EOS 350D and the EF 28-200mm.

My only regret? I should have bought this 22 months ago... :-)