Pop’s Gear for Capturing Memories
For most parents, it’s simply not enough to enjoy a moment with your family anymore – they want to capture it. And with prices for pro-level gear getting lower and lower, I see parents toting around DSLRs in just about any place imaginable, even the most mundane. After all, you don’t want to miss such momentous occasions as baby’s first trip to the mall or when he/she looks at a ceiling fan.
I say that w/ some sarcasm but mostly truth, as I was that parent who captured even the most pitiful of milestones, and now, I’m sitting on external hard drives full of pictures and video that are, well, boring. Such is life in the digital age – when you no longer are limited to 24 exposures for a $4 roll of film and have to drop it off at Costco and wait eagerly to see how your pictures turned out or store stacks of VHS or mini-DV tapes. And when hard drives are as cheap as they are, discernment goes out the window. So if you’re going to sit on mounds of 1’s and 0’s, you may as well make sure the stuff you capture looks halfway decent.
With that, I give you the list of the gear I use to capture the memories with my family.
I bought my wife a Canon Rebel XT w/ kit lens in our first year of marriage since she wanted to get back into photography. 5 years and many new model introductions later, it’s still our only DSLR. I’ve often considered upgrading to say a 40D, but I’ve decided it’s best to save up for a full-frame.
Our workhorse is our SD1100is. It takes pretty good stills and the digital macro isn’t bad, plus it takes decent quality video. If you’re only going to buy one camera, I’d go with a point-and-shoot b/c of the value. Yes, higher-end DSLRs can now do video as well, but I’ve found carrying around a DSLR to be a pain; the P&S I can simply put in my pocket or ask my wife to carry in her purse.
I’m a novice at best when it comes to photography. I kind of understand focal length, aperture, shutter speed, the effects of a flash, etc…but not well enough to practically know how to use these things, nor the wherewithal to remember to check my settings before taking a picture – you would not believe how many times I’ve snapped a series of photos of my daughter in quick succession, only to found I shot in Tv (shutter priority) mode and my pictures were basically black blobs. Despite my lack of skill, the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L helps me take pretty good photos.
It’s not cheap by any means and is worth nearly double the body it rests on. It’s pretty heavy and huge. Here’s a more thorough review.
For Pop, this was probably the best investment I made in capturing photos of our daughter. In fact, I regret not buying it before my daughter was born as the kit lens would sit there for quite a while *whirrrrr* *whiiiiiiiir* trying to focus and I hated how many of the pictures turned out. Additionally, the 2.8 helps a ton for taking indoor pictures w/out flash.
And the good thing about camera lenses is that they hold their value, especially Canon L lenses: 24-70s are going on eBay for about $1000 used. There are some alternatives, like Sigma, but after playing w/ some other lenses, I’m absolutely satisfied w/ our purchase.
Eventually, I want to add the 70-200 for plays and incriminating evidence of future suitors other activities where I’ll have to capture images from afar.
iPhoto was ok for a while but like most Apple software, I love it when it works, I abhor it when it doesn’t since fixes in the Apple word seem to take MUCH longer in my experience. So I looked at Aperture and Lightroom and ultimately decided on Lightroom, mostly because I was able to find a great discount on it.
Lightroom is kind of like iPhoto but you can do much more precise edits. I’m not very good with photoshop, but the Auto function in Lightroom makes my pictures that much better. The interface is not nearly as awesome as iPhoto, however, nor does it have it. What is it? Have you ever noticed that when people visit a home w/ a Mac, the owners usually show them the events on iPhoto and people are usually in awe? There’s something about iPhoto and Macs in general that makes people want to drop tons of money for basic software. iPhoto has it; Lightroom does not. Lightroom is much more utilitarian and values function over form – but the interface is no slouch either.
I used to own an HV20, which I LOVED, but it died on me after our trip to Thailand and Korea. 😦 Thankfully, I bought the Best Buy warranty and they gave me credit to upgrade to a new model. I considered the HV30, which is basically an HV20 w/ black paint, but I eventually chose the HFS10, since flash memory is cheap and reusable. Definitely make sure to get a high capacity battery though, as the one it comes with can only capture an hour or so in my experience.
A good tripod is critical for me as I don’t have very steady hands. After returning several cheaper models I got from Best Buy, I decided to get the Manfrotto 701HDV and 547B. I like to do quite a bit of panning, and the rubber band helped, but not enough with the cheaper tripods. It’s pretty massive, solidly built, and the fluid head yields excellent results.
I love Final Cut Pro. If you have a Mac, iMovie and iDVD can do pretty much everything you probably need to, especially if you’re on a budget. But if you can spring for FCP, I highly recommend it.