Settle down now, this is likely to be a long story. I’ve had what I’ll now have to call my old camera (an actually quite nice Sony Cybershot DSC-P12 5 megapixel thingy) for a few years now, and until recently, I was quite satisfied with it. But as I started to take more pictures, I began to get a little frustrated with its limitations: the wide angle sometimes wasn’t quite wide enough, and the zoom just wasn’t zoomy enough. And of course, it wasn’t quite clever enough when dealing with objects shot against the light. So, I began to contemplate getting a digital single lens reflex camera (or DSLR from now on). Now there are a number of good brands of these, but the top seller is Canon. And it so happens that I know a few people with Canon DSLRs and they’re all happy with them, so I decided that I would do the same. My plan was to buy the entry-level model, the 350D. This is a popular little beastie, and I was assured by people who know these things that it would indeed be a Good Thing. Provided, that is, that I didn’t buy it with the basic “kit lens”, which is generally regarded as not doing the camera justice. After getting some advice, I planned to get the camera plus one Canon lens which would cover a reasonable range. The only trouble was, that I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy the camera at all until July.
So time passed. I started reading photography magazines, and playing with Photoshop. And I read more reviews. And I learned that there was one thing about the 350D that might make it not altogether ideal for me. It’s quite small as DSLRs go, and the handgrip is particularly small. This is fine for a lot of people, but as I have quite large hands, it might well have proven awkward to use. So I had another think. By this time, I had a better idea of how much I’d have available to spend, and this led to more thoughts.
And what I thought was that if I was going to buy a DSLR, I might as well buy one that I’m going to be really happy with. There are few things worse than spending quite substantial amounts of money, and then regretting what you’ve bought. So, plan B materialised. Instead of the 350D, I began to think I’d get the rather bigger, cleverer and somewhat more expensive 30D. This is a different beast altogether – better build quality, more autofocus sensor points, spot metering, and better suited to large hands. After some more research, I decided that I would accompany the 30D with a well-reviewed Sigma lens that would give me an excellent range from quite wide to quite zoomy.
Then I started shopping around. Checking prices locally and online. And looking. And thinking. And finally, plan C appeared. The main piece of advice I’d picked up was that there is little point in getting a good camera with a substandard lens. So, I decided (finally!) to get the package deal with the not at all bad Canon 17-85mm IS USM lens. IS – image stabilised. This means that the lens compensates for the user’s hands moving in long exposures, the upshot of which is that you can take pictures in poor light that might otherwise not work without a tripod. And the USM bit refers to the ultrasonic motor that Canon use for the autofocus – it’s quicker and quieter than the ones used in cheaper lenses. It’s not as good as Canon’s professional-grade “L” lenses, but it should do nicely for me.
And as I wanted to have the option of a longer telephoto lens, I added a Sigma 70-300mm lens to my shopping list. This is a relatively cheap lens, and I may well upgrade it at some point, but it should do nicely for now.
After much gooooogling and searching, the best deal I found from a company with current official UK stock turned out to be from Cameras2U, who sold me my Sony a few years back. I placed my order yesterday, and the camera was delivered to the office this morning. Free delivery, too.
Canon 30D and bits
I bought the Sigma lens from Warehouse Express, who had a particularly good price on it. As they charge for delivery, to make it worthwhile, I added a Crumpler bag to carry my new toys.
Now I’ve got a week off to play with the 30D and to see what I can do with proper equipment. I’m planning a few trips out here and there, and you can expect to see the results here.
 Known as the Digital Rebel XT in North America. Interesting marketing difference – In Europe, it’s given a name that clearly associates it with the more expensive models, whereas over there, it’s given a more “consumer friendly” name.
 Good for awkward pictures of things shot against the light