By Tim Jarvis
You don’t need to hire Annie Leibovitz (or Anthony Weiner) to capture your special summer vacation moments in vivid color. These days, high-quality, point-and-shoot cameras are relatively inexpensive and come packed with features. But if you want to kick it up a notch and upgrade to something more professional, these are your best options:
Digital Single-lens Reflex (DSLR)
In recent years, DSLR cameras have exploded in popularity with the help of high-profile marketing and slick TV commercials, such as Nikon’s spot for its D5000 model featuring Ashton Kutcher.
The problem is, trading up for one of these beauties isn’t as easy as slapping down your credit card and reciting lines from Dude, Where’s My Car? Navigating the confusing maze of equipment and accessories can be difficult, and buying the wrong model for your needs can be a costly error.
“Upgrading to a DSLR opens up a whole new world of possibilities,” says Diego Matrajt, a veteran professional photographer and owner of PhotographyByDiego.com. “But you’ll need to do some research on the various cameras available, and think about the kind of pictures you’re going to be taking, before buying anything.”
Advantages of DSLRs
According to Matrajt, some of the top benefits of DSLRs include being able to see almost exactly what the lens sees through the optical viewfinder screen, allowing you to frame your subjects with the most accuracy. Thanks to larger, better-quality sensors (which fill the special void left by negative film in digital cameras) DSLRs also produce a superior, more accurate image than their point-and-shoot counterparts.
And because DSLRs have a mechanical shutter, there is no frustrating shutter lag (a vital benefit when trying to capture fast-action shots). More importantly, you can switch out lenses. “Point-and-shoot cameras generally utilize a generic lens that will allow you to take decent photographs in a broad spectrum of situations,” explains Matrajt. “But if you want to take exceptional photographs, the quality of the pictures is largely going to depend on the type of lens you’re using.”
Picking Entry-level DSLR Cameras and Lenses
DSLR cameras, especially at the entry level, are often sold in kits that include an all-purpose lens. These deals can seem pretty tempting, but Matrajt strongly advises against buying them. “If you’re going to buy a DSLR, you should take advantage of the fact that you can choose specific lenses. Spend a little more money to get the lenses that you want or need for the type of photography you’re interested in,” he explains. “In the end, you’ll be far happier buying a good-quality entry-level camera together with one or two lenses that will cover the type of photography you’re passionate about.”
|If you want to shoot landscapes, for example, Matrajt recommends a good wide-angle lens, like the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L $839.|
|If you’re into portraits and want a lens that will allow you to work at a bit of a distance and still capture the details of facial features, he suggests considering the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8, $419.|
|If you’re not sure, Matrajt suggests starting out with a 28-105mm zoom lens (focal-length ranges vary by brand) such as the Canon EF 28-105mm f/4-5.6, $240
together with a 70-200mm zoom lens like the Canon EF 70-200m f/4L, $679. He adds: “These are two very good lenses that will allow you to shoot great pictures in most situations.”
|Be brand-conscious. Matrajt also notes that because of compatibility issues, it’s generally advisable to stick with the proprietary lenses made for the camera brand you choose. “If you have a Canon camera, buy a Canon lens and you won’t run into any problems,” he suggests.|
|Matrajt’s Camera Picks|
|Nikon D5100 І $800|
|Matrajt’s first choice is surprising, since he uses Canon cameras for all of his professional work. “If I were to pick one, the D5100 would be my first choice,” Matrajt admits. “Although I’m a Canon shooter, I have to say this camera slightly edges out the Canon Rebel T3i on both image quality and color depth.”|
|Canon Rebel T3i І $798|
|The Canon may trail in second place, but it still comes highly recommended. “The Rebel T3i is a great camera,” says Matrajt. “It has excellent features and the image quality is outstanding.”|
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 І $800|
|Although Sony is not a particularly well-known brand in the DSLR field, Matrajt feels they put out a high-quality product. “Sony offers similar features to the Nikon and Canon cameras, such as the ability to shoot video in full HD,” he says “But they still have a way to go to before they really establish themselves in this arena.”|
|Pentax K-r І $590|
|Pentax has been around for a long time, and Matrajt thinks this camera is a great choice for the novice photographer. “It will produce good-quality images and has some cool features, like a continuous mode shooting speed of 6fps, a 3-inch LCD screen and in-camera high-dynamic range (HDR) capability, which combines several photographs of a subject into one HDR image for greater detail and higher tonal range.”|
Unfortunately, if you’re going to make a real attempt at snatching Leibovitz’s crown, you’ll need to add a few extras to your inventory.
Aside from a rugged camera bag (check out the Lowepro brand for ideas) and a spare battery, among Matrajt’s list of other essential accessories are UV filters. Lenses are expensive; these filters not only reduce ultra violet light, they also put a physical barrier between the world and your valuable investment.
|Matrajt uses Hoya brand filters that range from about $10 to $60 each.|
|You’ll also need to buy some flash memory cards. Matrajt suggests getting several smaller Lexar brand 4 to 8 GB capacity cards (which range in price from $2.40 for a 4 GB multiuse card to $25 for 8 GB professional series card) instead of one large one, in case it becomes corrupted.|
QUIET KEYBOARD This wireless rechargeable keyboard won’t make a sound no matter how hard you whack at the keys. Although the diNovo Edge might frustrate your attempts to show off your tireless work ethic to the boss, you can surf Internet dating sites all night without tipping off your girlfriend.
MULTILINGUAL MARVEL Expensive enough to require valet parking, the Optimus Maximus keyboard displays letters and control icons with a light-emitting OLED. It’s customizable for multitasking in multiple codes and languages -- including Cyrillic, ancient Greek, Arabic and HTML -- or for more ambitious activities like video gaming.
LASER SHOW No bigger than a cigarette lighter, the Celluon Virtual Keyboard connects to your computer using a USB dongle and emits an awesome laser-generated keyboard and mouse that allows you to work virtually -- and connect with your inner Obi Wan Kenobi.
BACK TO THE FUTURE Drawing from last century’s gilded sensibilities, this custom, retro-futuristic keyboard will make your desktop worthy of H.G. Wells’ office space. “The Marquis” keyboard has acanthus-leaf engraving on polished brass and key lettering engraved on a mirrored gold acrylic. It’ll make you the envy of any century.
LIGHT FINGER FOLLIES Every time you touch its keys, the Luxeed U7 lights up like the Las Vegas strip -- bringing a little bit of Studio 54 to your dancing fingers. Make sure they dress sharply and get their names on the list -- this is one exclusive keyboard!
PURE LUXURY: BENTLEY MULSANNE The new Bentley Mulsanne's unrivaled pedigree stands out from the pack with an ultra-smooth and more-than-capable 505 hp, 6.8-liter V8 engine that glides from 0 to 62 mph in 5.3 whisper-quiet seconds. As befits its luxury status, the car can be completely customized to taste with over 1 billion possible variations, according Bentley Motors.
STANDOUT CONVERTIBLE: MORGAN AERO 8 Although its production recently ceased, this classically styled roadster is still one of the most fun, head-turning vehicles to roam the highways. While completely hand-built with more than 100 years of heritage packed into the coachwork, its BMW 4.4-liter V8 pumps out 312 hp -- moving this homage to yesteryear from 0 to 62 mph in just 4.2 seconds.
Tiny Tower seems like a simple, if not silly, game. But that's how it gets you addicted. The premise, like SimCity, is to build your own world -- in this case a tower. The more floors you build, the more money you can make to spend on building more floors ... and the hook is set.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
How many passwords do you have to remember? Thanks to 1Password, you can keep all of your security codes safe and secure on your smartphone. All you have to do is remember one four-digit code and a master passcode, and the info is encrypted and backed up on your computer.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
Yes, the camera on the iPhone 4S is better than previous incarnations. But besides flash and zoom, it leaves us a little cold. Turn your 4S into a virtual DSLR with all the bells and whistles you get with said device, plus all the features you’d expect from a smartphone, such as visual filters.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Even if you were born in the CD era, chances are you remember mixed tapes. Bring them into the digital age with the app that turns your digital music player into a virtual portable cassette deck that blasts loaded playlists and helps you create the perfect mix to play and then share on Facebook.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Didn't you hear? The end of the world is happening on Dec. 21, 2012. Skeptical? Then check out this app, which explores all the coincidences between the Mayan prediction and what science says. At the very least you'll be prepared to handle the impending end of time.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
The premise of KaleidaCam is simple: Turn your iPhone's camera into a kaleidoscope. You can adjust the trippy-ness of the created image by choosing one of four to 10 slides. It leads to hours of mindless fun for the whole family. You can even take pictures of your creations and send them to Facebook and Twitter.Platforms: iPhone
This mobile app puts Thrillist reviews in the palm of your hand so you can be the guy who knows the coolest places to eat, drink and shop. Using your device's GPS function, it'll tell you the top places to spend your time and money in more than 19 cities. You'll never have a boring night again.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android
'Tis the season for holiday parties, full of finger foods, drinks and treats. This app will track your weight well into the new year so you can stop the festivities from settling around your waist. Just log your bites, licks and tastes, and the food database will calculate the calories you've consumed. Then log your workouts to determine how many calories you burned.Platforms: iPhone, iPad
If you thrive on new music, this is a must-have app. Band of the Day introduces you to an artist that you need to know about every day. You get a bio, a song to listen to, a stream of Facebook/Twitter comments about the artist, videos to view and a list of albums that you can buy, right from the app.Platforms: iPhone
Think of this app as your secret weapon to achieving culinary nirvana. It puts all of the advice from the well-respected epicurean website of the same name in the palm of your hand. We love the seasonal options on the home screen that help make sure your feasts are weather-appropriate.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Nook, Windows Phone
Finding a new place to hang your hat just got a whole lot easier, thanks to the new Trulia mobile app. The clean design of the interface makes it a snap to search homes to rent or to buy Features include sort by price, search by location, and email real estate agents directly.Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
The latest incarnation of the Bloons game franchise gets the smart-phone makeover, and it is still as addictive as ever. The objective remains the same: prevent balloons from getting from one part of the maze to the other using your arsenal of dart monkeys, rockets, battleships and other WMDs.Platforms: iPhone, iPad
The latest army of food carts has turned most city streets into a mobile gourmet road show. But how do you know when your favorite Korean BBQ truck will be by your office? Using Google maps and your iPhone's GPS, StreetEats lets you track your favorite carts and see which ones are in your immediate area and how long they'll be there.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
With all of the news available to us, it's hard to cut through the noise and get what you're looking for. Editions by AOL is an app that curates a custom, easy-to-navigate daily newsmagazine based on your interests, location, Facebook friends and Twitter followers. The more you use the app, the more highly customized it becomes.Platforms: iPad
Sick of the same old vodka martinis? Not sure what to do with that bottle of amaretto? InMyBar's simple interface lets you plug in all the booze you have in your liquor cabinet. Then, the app creates a list of all the cocktails you can make, or it lets you know what remaining ingredients you need in order to make a specific drink.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Music nerds, welcome to heaven. This app tracks music blogs and culls their favorite tunes from the Web, then lets you create your dream radio station. The genre section alone offers more than 100 options -- perfect for deep dives into your particular mood. You can even track what your friends are listening to.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Watch your favorite music videos in HD with VEVO HD, which features 45,000 videos, including intimate performances by your favorite artists; a music map showing which videos people are listening to in your area; artist tour information; and ticket-buying capabilities.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Meeting a lovely lady is now as easy as whipping out your ... cell phone. Blendr collects your favorite interests and then helps match you up with female companions who live in your area and have similar interests. Browse photos, check in to venues and even chat with folks from your own neighborhood.Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
How often do you upgrade your cell phone?
|Gear + Gadgets||Entertainment + Leisure||Style||Looking Sharp Blog||The Top 11||Instant Answers|