Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lesson #1 ~ Know Your Camera

The Basic Lesson
When I decided to buy a new camera, I did my research. I first determined three things:

1. What my expectations were for future photography interest
2. What types of pictures I would like to take
3. What my spending limit would be

Naturally, all of them are interrelated and can have an effect on each other: My previous experience with photography classes and a year-and-a-half of playing around with a point and shoot means I expect I will remain interested in cameras well into the future. I determined I wanted to be able to do all the snazzy digital effects and presets, but I also wanted to be able to take manual shots. And since both of those add up to me needing a semi-professional camera, I knew I would be spending between $500 and $1000, depending on the brand, model, and features.

After that, I did a lot of research, mostly at Flickr and talking to other people I know who are interested in photography. I determined that the Canon Rebel XSi was a good fit for me because it had the options I wanted and just enough bells and whistles to keep me learning for a long-time to come, but that didn't have a lot of features I'm not going to use (like HD video for example). And because its not the most recent Canon like this released to the public, it was ripe for sales.

The day I went to go buy the camera, it was on-sale everywhere at a low price the clerks hadn't seen before (and was well in-line with prices I'd seen online). At the three places I went, it was listed at the same price of $700. But the National Camera Exchange was offering $160 in free photography classes on top of the sale price, so they won my business.

Here is where the lesson I wasn't expecting comes in:

After unpacking what had looked like an unopened box and the battery was charged, I finally had time to play with the new camera, so I started taking some practice shots. About 10 shots in, I noticed the numbers of the photos were 0470, 0471, 0472, etc. I looked in the manual, and it said that the very first picture I took should have been 0001. Then I thought about how the battery only took an hour to charge when the clerk said it should take 4 hours. I called the store and suggested to them that I had been sold a used camera and described what I'd found. They apologized for the error and said I could bring it in and get a new one and I could be the first person to turn it on when I got to the store.

Sure enough, the clinching clue came at the store when I turned on the new camera: It asked me to set the date and time. The first camera I'd bought already had the date and time set. What's the moral of this story?

Know Your Camera. Research it, read about it, get to know it before you get it, then read more after your purchase. If you're getting an SLR camera, you're spending a pretty penny for a high-quality piece of equipment. If you want to buy a used or refurbished piece, that's one thing (and you should ask the clerk about any information they can give you about its previous use). If you want it to be new, insist on it. In this case, there was no way of knowing what the previous "owner" had done with it because it had been passed off as new and unused (I suspect it was brought on a vacation and then returned to the store). I wasn't willing to make such a monetary investment in something of which I was unsure.

In the meantime...
The first picture I took with the new camera was on accident, but this second one was very cute and intentional. My dog Spirit looks on at a friend's rottweiler puppy, Brutus.

The third picture I took tickles me because it demonstrates what I couldn't do with the point and shoot: Determine what I wanted in-focus or out of focus.
See the rest of the first new camera photoset at Flickr.


  1. Sam - nice blog. Great lesson. Most stores would have argued with you about your return. NCE just got some nice press for cheerfully doing the right thing. Good for them. It's one of the places I miss not living in Minnesnowtah.

    Good luck with your blog.

  2. Thanks! Yes, I agree that this would likely not have been so easy a transaction at a different place. I had never stepped foot into an NCE until I bought the camera. They've impressed me with their customer service so I'm glad to give them some good press.

    Come back to Minnesota! And if you can't, at least please come back and visit the blog often :)