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Photo Book Tools: My Digital Camera Gear and Computer Lineup

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My photo book cameras

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Summary

Once upon a time there was something called film.  Before we could take photos, we had to buy it in rolls of typically 24 or 36 exposures.  We had to load it into the back of the camera making sure to properly thread the perforations so they lined up properly, and pull enough of the film so the take up spool could take hold and advance the film.  Sometimes there was no way to know until you spent money to develop your film that you messed up.  Ah, the dark ages…

MY BACKGROUND IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND MY “GEAR” PAST AND PRESENT
The first photography class I took was in high school.  I used my Mom’s old Pentax SLR.  I’m pretty sure it was this one – the K1000.

SLR Camera

I recall she had it back in the late 70s.  Pretty retro huh?  I think my brother has kept it presumably to one day display it museum style along with mom’s circa 1980′s cell phone.  I can’t imagine a call so important as to justify lugging around a two-pound monstrosity.  But I digress…

(UPDATE: 1/08/2011 – I recently found the original box and manuals to the camera and I realize now that it was a Pentax ME Super.)

P1090699psretro P1090702retro

Photo class was one of the few reasons I dragged myself to school in the morning.  We shot in black & white and learned to roll and process our own film and develop our own prints.  I was such a geek I would stay late after school to use the darkroom.  Lots of smelly chemicals (and some ruined clothes as a result), but I loved it.  I even endured having my hair pulled by little babies while working part-time at the local mall’s portrait studio.  Pay was three measly bucks per hour, but the point was to get the practice.

Here’s another one of my early cameras the Olympus Stylus:

point and shoot 1

The Olympus Stylus was one of the best 35mm film point and shoots – it had a great lens and while most autofocus cameras required a minimum of 3 or 4 feet to take a shot, the Stylus could focus as close up as 14 inches and it was very compact.  I liked the camera so much, I bought a Stylus Epic after the first one croaked!

point and shoot 2

Now after looking around online, I see there’s a market for these old cameras and there are people who still shoot with it.  I better hold onto mine!

In college I took one photography class, but it wasn’t the best experience.  I always dreaded the critiques cause I really didn’t feel my classmates found my photos or presentation that interesting.  I think most of them were art majors while I was only taking a course out of personal interest.  I wasn’t “artsy” enough and perhaps my photos were more photojournalistic in style.  Finally on one of the critique days, I decided I didn’t care what they thought and made up some total B.S. about the symbolism behind a photo I’d taken of a flower – which to me was just a photo of a flower.

“Oh, this flower represents the mother figure and the beauty of rebirth while this other photo represents my father as you can see here…”

Of course they ate it up and I earned my first “A”!  I never took another photography class in college after that but instead decided on pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism where I got my hands on a different type of camera – the video camera.  I found myself enjoying the production end of the news (versus being on camera) as naturally, I enjoyed playing with all the expensive professional level video cameras and editing equipment!

After college, the first SLR I purchased was the Canon EOS Elan II with a Sigma 28-80mm 1:3.5-5.6 Macro lens.  I think it was a kit lens.  I honestly can’t remember too much about what I shot with this camera…but I hope it was something good.

My SLR


Fast forward to the digital age.  I was a very late adopter of digital cameras – my lovely friend Ann took pity on me and gave me one of her old ones but I never got around to using it.  I don’t know why I was so resistant, but finally my family got tired of me not having a digital camera and bought one for me as a gift for Christmas 2005 – the Sony Cyber-Shot T7.  From 2005 until just last year I was shooting with this sleek 5 megapixel number.  It’s an extremely compact camera, one of the thinnest at the time, and it still takes very good photos…

My First Digital Camera

The photos I used to make the DIY table numbers at my wedding last year were all taken with this camera.

Saguaro National Park - Table Number 1

Joshua Tree - Table Number 2

Bowman's Beach - Table Number 10

And my early MyPublisher photo books feature photos taken with that camera.

P1050537

Yummy Dessert

P1050538

Last year, I figured it was time to upgrade and the hubs and I registered for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 on our wedding registry.  It features 9.1 megapixels, a 28mm wide Leica lens and a 10x optical zoom plus HD video recording capability.

Lumix DMC-TZ5

Lumix DMC-TZ5

We used this camera for all our honeymoon photos and trips to date.  Most if not all of the photos I’ve taken of my photo books for the reviews have been with this camera.

P1050806

My AdoramaPix lay flat photo book

AdoramaPix DIY Wedding Photo Book

Adorama Pix lay flat two-page spread

 

Apple Aperture 3 Photo Book & Software Review - Cover

My underwater photo book with Apple Aperture 3

 

On our honeymoon, we had the amazing opportunity to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  On a whim we decided to rent an underwater camera encased with an additional underwater housing from the dive boat company – we were given the Olympus u 1030SW:

That experience got me hooked me on underwater photography, so we did some research and decided to buy the Canon PowerShot D10, a 12.1 megapixel 3x zoom compact camera.

Canon PowerShot D10

It’s become one of my favorite cameras to play with.  Because the lens is fully encased it’s the perfect camera to bring to the beach or anywhere you’d be concerned about sand, dirt or snow getting into the camera.  It’s marketed for the rugged outdoors and it works very well both above and below water.  The encased lens and sealed compartments allow you to shoot underwater as far down as 30 feet.

Canon PowerShot D10

Sea Urchin in Malibu taken with Canon PowerShot D10

Canon PowerShot D10

Succulent flowers, Malibu taken with Canon PowerShot D10

The following photos were all taken with the Canon PowerShot D10 in the Cayman Islands and was the first time I tested its underwater capabilities.  I did do some post-processing in Photoshop, but I think the camera did a very good job producing clear images right out of the camera.  Since I’m a snorkeler I made extensive use of the 3x optical zoom as you can tell here.  It also helped that the Caymans have beautiful crystal clear waters.

4 Fish Friends at Rum Point Cayman Islands

Cowfish Cemetery Beach Grand Cayman

Fish Cemetery Beach Grand Cayman

Although it’s a bit grainy, I love the shot of the two Southern stingrays.  They look like they’re having a conversation don’t they?

Southern Stingrays Stingray Sandbar

Last but not least is my newest acquisition, my first digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera, the Nikon D90 with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens.  My husband bought it for me for my birthday.  (Thanks hubby!)  We ordered the body and lens separately after getting helpful advice from this site’s Facebook fans and some avid photographer friends.  Interestingly, I bought a Groupon for a beginner DSLR photography class before I even bought the DSLR! (Groupons are normally one-day deals that can only be purchased within that day, so I had to jump on it.)

Nikon D90 DSLR

Nikon D90 DSLR

The class was just last week and at the start of class the instructor went around the room to survey all the cameras, as the point of the class was to teach us the basics and how to use our cameras.  When he came up to me and said, “Did you ever take a photo class before?”  I thought I was in trouble or something, but I muttered that I had taken a class or two in high school.  He then oddly declared to the class that I was “the winner”.  He explained that the 50mm prime lens was the best lens in comparison to other lenses in the class and the best in his opinion overall.  We learned that the lenses frequently packaged with the camera in a kit are frequently lower quality lenses.

Nikon Prime Lens

At only about $100.00, the f/1.8 lens is a high quality lens for a low price and is great for shooting in low light conditions while maintaining sharpness.  It’s also a lens that is good for portrait photography.  In contrast Nikon’s f/1.4 lens costs more than 4 times as much, for only one additional f-stop.  So, I have the Facebook fans to thank for all their good advice!  I’m not a camera expert, so I listen to the advice of those more experienced than me!


MY COMPUTER

I made my first few photo books on an old Dell PC, but the majority of them I’ve made on my 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop (OS X 10.5.8 with a 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor).

my computer

I think at some point though if I continue with my book making mania, I should think about getting a desktop with a larger screen as it will be easier on the eyes.  For now however, we went smaller – my husband recently picked up the 32 GB Apple iPad in lieu of getting the iPhone 4.

Unfortunately, I can’t make photo books on the iPad, though who knows – maybe someone will come up with a photo book app?  I use it primarily to update my site, to keep up with all the deals and post updates to my Facebook page.

There are some photo book companies that don’t work with Macs so that limits me some and some companies lag behind in updating the Mac versions of their software, however I’m a loyal Mac owner and I still find plenty of companies that are Mac compatible.


SUMMARY

I hope you enjoyed a trip down camera memory lane with me.  The point of showing you the cameras I have used is partly to give more detail on my background in photography and share with you what I use as the tools in photo book making, but another reason is to illustrate that you can make high quality photo books using photos taken from a standard 5-megapixel point and shoot cameraNewbies to photo books should not be intimidated in making their first book. You don’t need a fancy DSLR to take good photos and you don’t need expensive software to create a beautiful photo book.  So, try out one of the free offers such as the Picaboo Classic photo book offer which runs for about a week more until 8/31 or the free Pixable photo book, both offered to new users.

The second post in the series will be more substantive and will focus on organizing and preparing your photos for your photo book.  Check out the overview of this series on how to make your own photo book and stay tuned for more photo book tips!

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13 Comments

  1. Chantelle
    Posted November 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm | #

    So glad I read this post. I am starting to look for my first nikon dslr camera, but the stores I went to just wanted to sell me a package. Before I read your post, I didn’t even know you can buy the body without the lens. How are you liking your camera? Any additional info you can provide or websites that helped you with your purchase decision would be great. I may be looking for something a little less expensive. Thanks!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 6, 2010 at 8:53 pm | #

      Hi Chantelle,

      I’m glad you found my post helpful. I’m loving my Nikon D90 – I just wish I had more time to get out there and use it. The lens is awesome. It does take some getting used to, b/c of it’s size. I can’t throw it in my purse like I could the Lumix, but the photos are so crisp and there’s things that you just can’t do with a point and shoot. If you look my November 3rd post for instance you’ll see a photo I took with it. The shallow depth of field (where the foreground is in focus but the background isn’t) is an effect you can’t get with most point and shoots even in the macro setting. I bought both my lens and camera from Amazon (the affiliate links are provided in the post). If you go to that site, you can also punch in Nikon D3100 and find the entry level Nikon which is supposed to be a really good camera with advanced features. It’s about $300 less than the body I bought. I went to my local well known pro camera store – a local institution in the city where I live, and it was pretty intimidating. So I ended up asking others opinions friends as well as my site’s Facebook fans as you read in the post and then bought online – I saved on tax :)

      If you’re interested in photography, I would recommend this site. They have a lot of great tips! Thanks for all your posts b/t/w and good luck to you in the giveaway!
      http://www.digital-photography-school.com/

  2. Ann Pham
    Posted November 9, 2010 at 1:01 pm | #

    I saw the reviews in the paper on the Canon Powershot D10, I haven’t seen it for myself but it looks a bit bulky and was described as such from reviews. I’m sure it’s still smaller than the Nikon SLR that I lug around everywhere but it’s time to invest in a smaller camera for convenience. That will be one of my options as I start looking into underwater cameras.

    Thanks for the post!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 9, 2010 at 10:08 pm | #

      It is a little more thick width wise, but that keeps the zoom lens fully contained in the casing for underwater purposes. I think I heard Sony came out with a new underwater camera recently. I know someone else who has the Canon D10 and they really like the camera too. I’d say the picture quality on my Lumix is better than the Canon, but I still like the camera – it’s affordable and does the job. :) Let me know what you end up buying :)

  3. sharon
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm | #

    Glad to find this, I’ve been wondering about what kind of camera you use. How did you choose the Panasonic? Is it really compact?

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 13, 2010 at 6:29 pm | #

      Hi Sharon,

      My brother had an older model Lumix and I liked the image quality of his photos so I started looking at the Lumix. For the Panasonic DMC-TZ5, I liked the 28mm wide angle Leica lens (a very high quality lens) and the optical zoom. HD video recording at 720p was the big bonus that put this camera over the top for me. It is definitely not the most portable camera, but I sacrificed size for quality. The Sony camera I had before was really slick and compact, but it was only 5MP and it was ancient by technology standards. Even if you end up buying online, I recommend going to the store to check them out in person so you can see how the camera feels in your hand. :)

  4. Mandy H.
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:34 pm | #

    I started out with an Olympus Stylus, too!! Loved sliding that front cover back and forth, back and forth. Over time and several cameras … I am not at the Nikon D60. Our roads are pretty similar. Gotta love the DLSRs! Hard to go back to point and shoot, eh?? :)

  5. Mandy H.
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm | #

    oops … meant to say, “I am NOW at the Nikon D60.” ;)

  6. Olivia Lissauer
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm | #

    I am new to photography and I am looking forward to creating beautiful photos like the ones on this issue.

  7. Allison
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm | #

    Have you heard anything about the Sony Alpha A200 dSLR camera. I have read raving reviews that compare it closely and overrate it to the D40.I am looking to slowly get involved in the photography world. It has always been an underlying passion of mine. Let me know if you have any helpful advice on how to get started. Thanks

    • photobookgirl
      Posted April 2, 2011 at 11:32 am | #

      Allison, I have heard some buzz on it, but not enough to be able to say anything knowledgeable about it. Have you looked at Digital Photography School? I don’t know if they’ve reviewed it yet, but the community over there knows their stuff!

  8. jin
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:55 am | #

    Thanks photobookgirl for the bevy of info… :) I will use it to choose my camera!

  9. Posted July 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm | #

    i discovered your site today. what is your favorite photo book company? i have only used apple and picaboo so far. your website site has lots of useful information.

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