Cameras

This list shows a small summary of most of the equipment I have used for my photos.

Nikon 1 J1



This camera was a disappointment. A very expensive disappointment. Very solid body and controls, fantastic auto focus, really shitty video, no lens variety whatsoever, and a microscopic sensor. And very expensive.

I sold it at a loss in early 2012 and moved on with my life. 

Sony DSC-HX9V



Purchased in mid-2011.

This is probably one of the greatest cameras I have ever owned. It is sturdy, very compact and it packs an incredible amount of features. This is the kind of camera that I like to refer to as both an "alien space technology" camera (because of the unbelievable things you can do with it even if you don't have a clue) and a "hero camera" because it'll have people praising you for awesome shots that were simply a point and shoot accident. I had a really hard time moving on from this particular camera because, well, I outgrew it, but I was not ready to either sell it or let it sit around until PJ destroyed it.

I am happy to report that this camera found a new home in Q3 2012 and it is still running strong.

For most people that like to take cool photos and are not interested in manual control, the Sony DSC-HX series is an excellent choice. 

Sony DSC-HX100V



Another member of the "alien space technology" and "hero camera" groups. This is basically a small DSLR with a fixed monster Carl Zeiss zoom. If you don't care about switching lenses, this camera and the DSC-HX200V that replaced it are outstanding choices. Just keep in mind the sensor size is still small, and the lens doesn't have a filter thread, which is a pain in the ass. 

I sold it on eBay around May 2012 and broke even if taking into account depreciation. 

Nikon D5100



I picked up this camera in May 2012, refurbished by Nikon USA and with a one-year warranty, for about $200 under MSRP. This camera shares its sensor with the Nikon D7000 and a bunch of Sony bodies, it is still months later the best bang for the buck that you can get with a DSLR body in APS-C. 

This camera is about a 99 out of a 100 in terms of things that an ambitious amateur can use. It is easier to tell you about the things that aren't right, because they are so very few:
  • It can't meter on non-CPU lenses. This means that if you pick up a Russian manual focus on eBay for $20 and you get an adapter for $10 or so, you'll have to figure out the right combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. 
  • It doesn't have an internal autofocus motor, which means that you can't take full advantage of older lenses for the Nikon F-mount. 
  • The rangefinder doesn't work in Live View. This is just stupid. 
  • The swivel LCD doesn't tilt along the axis of the lens, which makes it awkward if you are trying to aim  while looking down. 
  • No stereo microphone, which is complete and absolute bullshit since every HD video capable Sony I have had included stereo microphones in the body. 
And that's about it. I can't complain about the size because it is very small for APS-C. Everything I outlined above is minor, they are simple little things that nag me, this is a fantastic camera and even if it is not my main body anymore, I refuse to sell it. Also, if you are considering this camera, don't listen to people claiming that the kit lens is a piece of crap. It may not be as good as the most expensive Nikkors, but that doesn't immediately mean that the lens is a piece of crap. I have taken really good photos with the kit lens without even trying, it is a great lens.

This camera is now even more affordable with the introduction of the D3200. I refuse to sell it because it is too handy to have around, even if it is no longer my primary camera.

Update: 11/20/2012 - So long D5100, don't let the doorknob hit your ass on your way out! The D5100 is on its way to a very good friend of mine in exchange for a bunch of lenses. I refused to sell it once it became surplus (I now have two NEX bodies, there's really no need to keep the Nikon around) but it makes me happy that I got an even trade from somebody that I know is going to be using it a lot. 

Sony NEX-C3



My friends refer to this camera as the "robbery" because I found it on eBay at fire sale prices (August 2012 or whereabouts). It came with a very nice 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-A and the camera was in pristine condition. It didn't have the kit lens, but the price was so low that even if I were to pick up a kit lens on the side I would still end up spending less than if I were to pick up a brand new kit. 

This camera is frickin awesome. I see it as a tiny Nikon DSLR that can meter on non-CPU lenses. This is awesome because it means I can plug any lens that I can use with adapters and the camera will be able to work in both Aperture Priority and Manual modes. It will even let me use creative modes and matrix metering, something I couldn't do with the D5100.

And yes, the sensor is the same sensor as the D5100, which is really nice. I love this camera because it is tiny, and even with an adapter and lens attached, it fits very nicely in my hand. The pictures are simply awesome, and the focus peaking is just amazing. If you aren't taking photos of action scenes, you rarely miss auto focus. 

Complaints:
  • The shutter is loud as hell. 
  • The sensor filter is VERY hard to clean, and yes, I know it has a built-in cleaner, but it doesn't work perfectly. 
  • The wake up function takes too long.
  • The LCD doesn't swing all the way up, this was corrected on the NEX-F3. This means not as easy to take self-portraits. 
That's about it, except for those very minor nags it is an incredible camera. I still want to move up to one of the NEX models with EVF, but I am perfectly happy with how little I paid for the C3.

Two friends have bought NEX-5N bodies since I got the C3, both of them pretty happy so far. One of them shoots manual too, I sent him one of my Minolta Rokkor manual lenses as a camera warming gift and he's taken great shots without even trying hard. 


Sony NEX-7

Sony NEX-7, Yashica ML 2/50 C/Y

This is my second NEX body. I had set my mind on this one for many months but I refused to pay MSRP for it. Instead I patiently trolled eBay until I found the "right" motivated seller that allowed me to score this $1,350 body and lens kit for $789. And it looked as it had never been used.

Oh yes.

The camera is everything I expected and more. The EVF is as fantastic as everyone says. I still like to compose with the LCD, but it is REALLY damn nice to have the EVF when the LCD is hard to read.

And I love the built-in electronic level, very nice. And having the tri-navs is awesome, all cameras should have these! And +/- 5 EVs to adjust!

Of course, the camera isn't perfect, but my complaints are so trivial that I almost considered not mentioning them. For example, the positioning of the SD slot and its cover make no sense, it is kind of awkward. I can't even complain about the movie button since the firmware to allow you to turn it off was released before I got the camera.

I really like this camera. Hell, I wish I had two or three so I could have one with the kit lens, one with the 16 mm and one with a manual focus lens on me at all times. And I really like the price.

I still don't see the need to ditch the NEX-C3, which is an incredible camera. Even if I had a second NEX-7 it would break my heart to see the NEX-C3 go unless I sold it to somebody that I would know would really appreciate it. I sold my much loved Nikon D-5100 to a very good friend of mine that is having a lot of fun with it, which makes me feel great about selling it. 

Celestron USB Microscope



This is a very inexpensive tool that while not perfect, it is well worth the cost. The resolution is simply too low for what I do, but it is usable. The stand is useless if you are trying to focus, and the focusing wheel is extremely stiff even after hundreds of uses. 

That said, I love my microscope to death. Once you figure out its quirks it is one hell of a tool to have around.

Miscellaneous stuff

I got a little tent kit. It is basically a set of panels that unfold and velcro into a cube with translucent sides. If you aim lights at the sides and top, you get a nice soft and even glow on your subject. It is really good for taking macros or for taking product photos. I picked it up at Amazon for less than $40, and it came with a nylon carry case, two small halogen lights on tripods, a macro stand and a few color backdrops. The whole thing together folds into an 18 x 18 square with pockets on the side for the lights and the macro stand. 

I also got things like macro filters, those are sold in sets of four with +1, +2, +4 and +10 diopters, mine are for 52mm filter thread. You stack those and basically create astigmatism on your lens, which lets you focus closer. You aren't zooming on the subject, all you are doing is being able to shoot closer to it. A kit like mine can be found anywhere for $15 or so, and it comes with a folding nylon case. 

Another handy tool is the helping hand stand. This is used a lot for soldering, manual crafts and other things. It is just a weighted metal base with an adjustable rod, a couple small adjustable metal arms with alligator clips, and a looking glass. You can clip objects to one or both of the clips, move the looking glass over the item and be able to work on it without having to use your hands to hold the specimen. I use it a lot for macros. Mine was about $8 at Amazon. 

I also use macro extension tubes, which do the same work as the macro filters but without adding distortion since the tube doesn't have lenses within. You should be able to pick up one for most mount systems for under $15, and these should let you mix and match lengths to replicate the effect of stacking the filters.