GardenGrrl's WunderBlog

What Did You get for Christmas?

By: GardenGrrl, 5:59 PM GMT on December 19, 2012

So right now there is not much to report about Texas weather. Winter in Texas is a land stuck between seasons. Some days it's warm. Some days it's winter. Some days it can be both. Currently we have drought. I'm only going to get excited about rain...okay maybe snow too. Who am kidding, snow is really cool in Texas (if it's not on a work day.)

No weather or gardening, let's talk about Christmas presents! Whadja Get? Feel free to talk about favorite presents from Holidays past as well. Time spent with loved ones, your first favorite toy, the things that made you happy.

This year Christmas came early. Was going to ask Santa for a fancy camera. Have been researching them and became fascinated with micro four thirds cameras. I wanted a small camera with a big zoom that could take even better pics than my trusty point n shoot. For ergonomics and stellar reviews I had been reading a lot about the Panasonic GH2.
It was billed as an amazing camcorder that also took good pictures. Hey, two for one.

So a few weeks ago I woke up thinking about this camera. Decided to find out just how much one would cost. Looked it up on Amazon and to my surprise this camera, the GH2, was the "Amazon Deal of the Day"...while supplies last. Thought about it all day. Getting a fancy camera is like getting married. You are pretty much stuck with only getting accessories designed for that camera. This is especially true with the Micro Four Thirds. From now on, all my lenses will come from Panasonic. When this camera breaks I will have to buy the same brand again.

It was fate though. I woke up dreaming about it. Then found the camera was half price and included a lense. It also came with $100 off each additional lense. One day only. So bought the 100-300mm zoom as well.

My big surprise is that the whole "just like a point n shoot with better features" thing is not true. This cameras automatic settings suck wind. Almost sent it back. Started playing with the manual and program features. Now, this camera has potential. I just need to learn more about shooting manual, aperature and program. Have learned that using manual focus rocks the world. With manual focus I am getting shots I could not get before.
Birds in brush and twigs confuse auto focus but not manual. Booya!
Liking this camera now.

So this is my early Christmas present. Have a feeling after a few more months of classes and learning, the GH2 will be (to me atleast), the best camera ever.

So whats your best present?

Updated: 1:38 PM GMT on January 04, 2013

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Buying Your First DSLR

By: GardenGrrl, 5:48 PM GMT on December 06, 2012

It's Christmas and many people are looking forward to moving from their point n shoot to a more complicated camera; the DSLR.
The first thing to consider is cost. A new DLSR kit may come in a box on sale for $500+, but there will be add on's. Expect to pay closer to $1000 for your new camera.
First there is the extra battery ($50), Class 10 SD card ($30 to $100), a book on how to use your particular camera...you will want this. Google your cameras name plus book to find one. The owners manual are not real helpful to novice camera owners.

Next, you will find out the kit lens does not fit all your needs and you will need to buy another lens to fill in the MM that your kit lens does not have ($300-800). If this is a problem, stop here. There is no such thing as a good DSLR kit under $1000. You will also need a camera bag ($60 to 400)

Another secret about DSLR's; the entry level cameras all boast automatic modes like you find on your point n shoot. For some reason, most of these auto features do not give near the quality picture of your point n shoot. This is very disappointing. You will have to shoot in P mode to get a decent automatic shot. Aperature Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual are the settings you will need to learn how to use.

Now, finding that wonderful camera. You can get advice from the camera guy at work to buy a Nikon 5100. This is a great camera. So is the Canon T3i.
But, is it the right camera for you.

Consider ergonomics. Full size DSLR's weigh about 4 or more pounds. Add another 1/2 to 6 pounds for a lens. Heavy.
You may consider APS-C cameras. They are smaller DSLR's with all the same features just a slightly smaller sensor. The Canon Rebel T3i is an APS-C. Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax all make this type of camera.

A very important thing in picking out a camera is finding one that has all the controls placed where you are comfortable working with them. Each camera puts stuff in slightly different places.

Learn about Focus Modes, ISO, E/V (exposure compensation, a very well used feature), metering, white balance. These are buttons/settings you will use often. Especially the ISO and EV. Another feature that is wonderful is Manual Focus. Does the camera have a way for you to switch quickly to Manual Focus. (Manual Focus is useful if there is a lot of clutter in front of or around your subject like branches, bars, screen. When this confuses the auto focus you can step in with manual to focus on what you want to shoot.)

How do you learn this stuff? First, Google "Best Cameras 2012" or Best Cameras from previous years, these may be on sale to make way for the latest model. Read about their features, their specs etc. Then, go to a bunch of Best Buys and other places that sell cameras and check out all these features. You may find one camera becomes your favorite. Also, many stores do not carry Sony or Pentax. You can look at these on line after you learn a lot about camera features.

The try before you buy contract. Some camera stores and many online camera stores will let you try a camera or lense for thirty days. If you don't like it you can return it. BUT, READ THE CONTRACT CAREFULLY. Some places will specify you can only take 200 shots with the camera. At 201, you have just bought the camera. Playing with burst mode can have you owning that camera in less than five minutes.
Also, some places stipulate it has to be returned with all it's packaging and wrappers in "New Condition". When you open the box, take pictures each step of the way on how it is wrapped so you can re-pack it EXACTLY the way it came out of the box if you want to send it back. Some places will ding you on this and send you back the camera saying you bought it. Do not accept a verbal, "we don't mind how you wrap it".

Hope this advice is helpful. One more thing, if you want a small camera, check out the Micro Four Thirds Cameras. These can fit in a large purse if you don't have a long lense attached. Some of these also have "digital zoom". This can take the place of a long lense. Of course many DSLR people hiss at digital zoom, but it's still a great feature in my humble opinion.

Happy Holidays!

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Gardengrrl likes being outside and watching "Sky-TV"

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