So I have a confession to make: I’ve never owned a digital SLR. I’ve been teaching Aperture for more than a year and a half now, talking with photographers, answering questions, and troubleshooting software and workflow issues. I’ve fashioned myself to be quite an expert on all things Aperture. And I do know a lot about this great piece of software. But all along I’ve felt like something of an impostor, shooting with an old Canon point-and-shoot.*
Now, truth be told, my background isn’t that far removed from digital photography. I’ve been a graphic designer and user of Adobe Creative Suite for years. My expertise in Photoshop was initially what got me involved in using Aperture when it was first released. I worked for Apple at the time, and this was a rare opportunity to immerse myself in a new piece of software before the general public got their hands on it. So I spent several days learning the software, using it, and beginning to understand the streamlined workflow that it offered photographers.
That was October of 2005. And here we are 18 months later. I have a deep knowledge of Aperture but still consider myself a terribly amateur photographer. So now, just in time for the warm weather in New York City, I’m going to take the plunge: I’m buying a digital SLR.
But what to buy? I always knew the Mac vs. PC debate was fierce and the Aperture vs. Lightroom discussion is heating up. But these pale in comparison to the “Canon vs. Nikon vs. everyone else” debates.
“Don’t buy a Nikon,” a photographer friend of mine warned. “They don’t feel good in your hand. Get a Canon.”
“I’m a life-long Nikon shooter,” another friend suggested. “So I only shoot Nikon.”
Yikes. Confused, I took to the internet and started doing my own research. I found a great article by Philip Greenspun titled Building a Digital SLR System. It’s a fantastic beginners guide to digital SLRs, discussing everything from camera technology to lens options and ideas for beginner projects. His article focuses on two cameras I am considering: the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Nikon D80. Both seem like great options. I also appreciate his advise of purchasing a fixed focal length lens rather than the inexpensive kit lenses that can be bundled with these cameras. I like the idea of being forced to learn to shoot without the luxury of zoom.
So now I’m turning to you, O’Reilly Digital Media readers. I would love to hear your comments and ideas about not only which camera and lens to choose, but even more about how you started out as a photographer. Suggest projects and assignments. What do you do to help yourself improve your photos? Allen Rockwell wrote a nice piece a few months ago called Give Yourself A Photo Assignment that has given me some good ideas.
I look forward to your comments and suggestions. More on Aperture next week.
*Update: After reading some of your initial comments, one thing I should have made clear in my original post is that I’m shooting with a Canon PowerShot S60. It does shoot RAW and its RAW format is supported by Aperture. Here’s the list of Aperture’s supported cameras.