The Other New Acquisition

I figured, as long as I was spending a diaphragm-seizing amount of money on a new car, I might as well slip in another acquisition as well, because then it wouldn’t seem as large, relatively speaking. Also, my birthday is coming up and I recently finished a novel, so those were additional excuses to buy something for myself. So I got a new camera: A Nikon D5100, photographed here, in the grand tradition of the outgoing camera filming its replacement, by the Nikon D70s, which interestingly enough, I bought for myself in 2005 as a reward for finishing The Ghost Brigades.

The D5100 is Nikon’s “mid-range” consumer dSLR, as was the D70s when I got that one, and for me what that means is that it has all the functions I need to take pictures and rather more besides. It has gotten pretty good reviews for being a nice balance between power and simplicity, and I’m comfortable with Nikon products, so in all it seemed like it would be a good camera for me. It arrived just as I was going out the door to get the new car, so I haven’t had too much time to play with it yet, so I suppose I know what I’ll be doing with my weekend.

But what of the D70s, you ask? Well, as it happens, the daughter has recently developed an interest in photography and has become a little frustrated with the limitations of point and shoot cameras, so that camera now becomes hers to learn on and play with. She’s already been clicking away at the cats; she’s toying with the idea of becoming a wild life photographer, so stalking the domestic life is a good practice run.

Speaking of which, behold! The first picture out of the D5100! Because I know my audience, man:

You’re welcome.

45 Comments on “The Other New Acquisition”

  1. John, isn’t it wonderful how a good camera can take the guesswork out of catching a good shot? Congratulations on both your new purchases, I loved my mini with a passion and I’m sure you will too.

  2. She’s still upset with the misspelling of her name on her birth certificate. It’s Fluffy, idiot!

  3. O Great Scalzi, what a superb picture of Her Most Glorious Shimmering Radiant Perfection.

    We have no expectations that your new camera will improve your pictures of Her substantially. Let’s face it – despite Her Infinite Grace and Influence, despite our constructive criticisms – you simply suck.

    So it is exciting news that Athena is now actively involved. Her prior pictures have been superb, clearly an example of the Power of Magnificent She, particularly during the early formative years.

    Your new job is simply to get images from Athena and post them unmodified. Think you can handle it? (We have our doubts.)

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  4. Any other lenses? And are they interchangeable between models (old and new)?

    Enjoy and congrats to your daughter. My father did the same thing with me only with a heavy Mamaya-Sekor circa 1960s and real film. I’ve moved on to a Canon and trying my hand (poorly) at digital astrophotography.

    Ciao, Jon

  5. Man, that hollywood option deal must have been preeetty sweet. I’m going to start calling you John “MC Hammer” Scalzi

  6. Kitteh!

    Your daughter possibly wanting to do wildlife photography reminds me of my favorite Bollywood movie of the last few years. If you’re into that, here is a link to the Wikipedia article about it: 3 Idiots. It really is a good movie, and though I’m Indian I don’t watch or recommend too many Bollywood films. It even showed in AMC Theatres around DC when it was released, if that’s any indication.

    Anyways, nice car, nice camera.

  7. Mossjon:

    I have other lenses I bought when I got the D70s, and they work with the D5100. I got the basic kit for the D5100, however, which is the 18-55mm vibration dampening lens.


    Trust me, I’m done with major acquisitions for the year. Spending as much money as we have in a short period kinda freaks me out.

  8. Silly kitty! Great picture. :) And congrats on the car! I’ve never owned a car in this century up until recently. Welcome to the world of tomorrow!!

  9. Best wishes for Athena’s ventures into wildlife photography.

    I understand that the most important requirement for good wildlife photographs is a *huge* amount of patience. (Which I lack.).

  10. Well done, both the picture and the new camera! I also love my Nikon, although I only own a D3000. It is substantially smaller and offers much lesser possibilities, but as a novice when it comes to taking photos with a dSLR I figured it would do for now.
    Just out of interest, what lenses are you most comfortable with? I toy with the idea of buying a new lens, as I own the standard 18-55mm and also a 55-200mm one, but rather want one along the lines of 18-105mm or even 18-200mm. Do you use original lenses or would you also recommend other manufacturers?

  11. I’ve always been a Canon fan, myself. If I had the cash, I’d spring for a new digital SLR, but my Canon EOS 20D is still doing pretty well. Considering I still use my Canon AE-1 for astrophotography, you could say I tend to keep things a long time, too.

  12. After a drawn-out, agonizing research and discussion process, covering several weeks, in which I was nearly driven to murder and had to say “No camera talk! I can’t take it anymore,” on several occasions, my husband bought the Nikon 5100. He also likes to stalk domestic wildlife–mostly me, with food in my mouth or on my way to my mouth.

  13. If you’ve got one, make sure Athena gets to use a good long telephoto lens or zoom lens (one that zooms out to at least 200mm focal length, preferably 300mm). Very helpful to not have to get too close to your subject, possibly scaring them off.

  14. Congratulations to the entire family! I wonder if Athena realizes how lucky she is to get such a nice camera to experiment with. I know I didn’t realize it when I got to experiment with my father’s programmable TI-55 series engineering calculators that he handed down to us as he upgraded. This may be, in part, why I got an Information Science degree with a math minor.

  15. Congrats on the new shiny camera. As a fellow Nikon-ite (D90) I’m sure you will be quite pleased with your new acquisition. And yay for Athena! I remember, back in the day, when my father gave me his old Nikon SLR (yes, film). It expanded my creative world. I hope she has a blast with her new camera as well. :)

  16. You’ve got a Niiiii-kon camera, you love to take a phoooo-tograph . . .

    Sadly, Momma done took his Kodachrome away some months back.

  17. “…diaphragm-seizing ….”

    I simply must learn to refrain from panicking after just skimming an article or post. For a brief instant I was all “What fresh hell is this? No abortions? No ‘abortifacient’ birth control pills? And now they’re gonna seize our diaphragms?”

    How wonderful to find out that it’s about Nikons and Athena and cats, and who knows what comes next? Something wonderful, for sure.

  18. adelheid_p @19: I still have the TI-55ii I bought for high school back in 1985, and I’ve only had to replace the battery once in that time.

  19. I resisted the siren call of the Nikon DSLRs for a long time. I really wanted a full-frame FX 24x36mm sensor. But… when they came out they were a bit pricey. Then in October it occurred to me that Kodak had done some Nikon-based full-frame DSLRs, which were quite good, and I bought a Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n — FX sensor, 13.87MP, built on a Nikon F80 chassis — used on eBay for about $800. Now I have a bunch of AF Nikkors plus my old Nikkor glass from my F/F2SB/F3 days and I don’t have to convert focal lengths in my head. (grin)

    Funny how with lithium batteries and no film drive, that the unit is lighter than my old Nikons, even with a 35-135mm zoom.

    Dr. Phil

  20. I’d keep the 18-70 lens if you can get it back from your daughter- its better made and better optically than the kit lenses. (The slightly wider aperture and longer range is a definite plus too). It doesn’t have image stabilisation, but that might be more use to your daughter than you..

  21. I have wondered if you have the Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club in mind when posting cat pictures. I guess that answers that question. It is a fine picture of a gorgeous kitty.

  22. I still love my Nikon D60. My husband bought one of those Lumix cameras. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to take great pics with it. With the Nikon, I can. I would love to upgrade to the 5100. I just love the feel of the Nikons. If you want to play around with the settings, it’s easy to figure out. If you just want to use automatic, that works great also. The Lumix is just difficult for me to use.

    Cat does not look amused at the photo-taking. Still a great photo though.

  23. I would just like to say that 30 lbs of fine cat has found my lap and pinned me in place upon hearing about this thread. I think he wants a portrait taken.

    But he left me too far from the camera…

  24. I have a Canon SLR and love it, and have taken many, many pictures of the Triple Felinoid with it. None are quite so lovely as the glorious Bacon Cat, however.

  25. I have been interested in learning how all the knobs and buttons on a manual camera work, but haven’t had the time, and the times I have put my digital camera in manual mode has always resulted in hair pulling frustration.

    I keep thinking it would be something like “turn this knob until that happens. Then dial this knob until something else occurs. Then push this button to take the picture”. But its always presented as solving a multi-variable equation and I never cared for algebra.

  26. Do you have a 4-H club in your neck of the woods? I learned a lot about photography at about Athena’s age through 4-H projects, which walked me nicely through the various aperature/shutter speed/ISO info with fun experiments. Plus at the end someone looked at all my pictures and gave me advice!

  27. Thanks for the gorgeous picture. That alone may turn me into a member of your audience, since I’m just discovering you now. What a glorious cat, and a great shot. Really makes me miss my own beloved (but sadly long since departed) cat companion.

  28. ahhh, a cat picture AND a Chang who is not Chang comment. My day is complete, thank you to John, Chang (not Chang) and Glaghghee. Nice camera.

  29. Congratulations.

    Most Nikon lenses will fit, but some lenses needs a motor in the camera for the autofocus to work. Not that it’s a problem with most new lenses but if you get your hands on an old lens for a film based camera it may be a problem.

    But there are a lot of interesting lenses to put your hands on if you really want to play and make more of the camera than the standard lens provides. Fisheye lenses can give you a completely different perspective on reality.

  30. If Athena has any liking for bugs and other small crawly things at all, I’d like to suggest that she give a shot at photographing them. And even if she doesn’t, flowers are a good choice. Insect and wildflower photography is still a rather underpopulated part of nature photography, and she would never lack for subjects – the yard becomes a jungle full of monsters and exotic blooms when photographed close-up. It does take somewhat different ways of using the equipment, but now that she has a good camera it is fairly easy to improvise a useful macrophotography setup.

  31. Hey John, just checked out the Nikon link you posted, YOU could be the very first to review the D5100. Not quite a Nebula, but hey…

    Seriously, been looking at getting back into SLR, p&s cameras are too limited. Thanks for the info.

  32. A good telephoto lens is a must for wildlife photography. That and a lot of patience.
    Two years ago we went to Yellowstone and were fortunate enough to see nesting bald eagles, nesting osprey, one black bear and 2, count ’em, 2 grizzlies.
    My son-in-law got great shots of the nesting birds and their young, and pretty good pictures of the bears. Naturally, we were much farther away from the grizzlies and really wished we had had a good telephoto lens. My hubbie has Cannon, but I can’t tell you what model. We got a great telephoto lens. We live in Colorado, so hubbie got some great shots of birds and chipmunks.
    We’re going back to Yellowstone this summer, and we hope the grizzlies are still there. Oh, we got great shots of birds, bison, and elk, but you just don’t want to get very close to a bear. The distance of a football field is just about close enough. You can get within 50 feet of a bison, but don’t push it with a bear (or a buffalo).
    I got a some sweet pictures with my little Cannon Elf of a mama buffalo nursing her calf, but there was a motor-home between me and her. You would not believe the people who were within 20 feet of mama and baby. Stupid.
    Tell Athena we wish her well. Patience, luck, and a good telephoto lens will get her some awesome shots. and be sure to post some of her pictures here . . . with her permission of course.

  33. Enjoy the D5100! Definitely makes sense to stick with Nikon when you already have some useful lenses; especially if your daughter is continuing to use the old camera. I’m using a D700 now because I liked the Nikon FM in 1980, when I replaced stolen equipment. Still have three lenses from the 80s that I use on my current camera.

    Kind of jealous of kids who get a hand-me-down SLR, and can sometimes borrow lenses. I got a hand-me down Bolsey 35, and brought the first SLR into the family myself, when I finally got a job and had some money (1969). B&W film was nearly free (about a penny a frame, bulk loading and doing my own darkroom work), so I’m not so jealous about kids who get to start in digital.

    Was good to meet you in person at Minicon!

  34. In my daughter’s school, the students learn the basic relationship of f-stop and shutter speed on a dirt-simple film SLR camera. Once they understand that relationship, along with composition and lighting, they can apply it to the most advanced DSLR on the market. They also can take digital photo-editing classes as electives.

    I’m no Luddite, but I’ve found that I still take my most artistic photgraphs on my film-based, no-frills Pentax K-1000, which I’ve had for over 25 years. It has no automatic setting, so I have to do all the work to get a good picture, whereas I find using any cameras “program” mode as a convenient yet expensive snapshot camera.

    Nikon and Canon are the big dogs in the DSLR world, anyone use any other types?

  35. I forgot to mention that an understanding of the “Macro” setting and use for anyone into insects, flowers, or other fine details.

  36. Sabrina and I were impressed by the quality of that picture, and Sabrina thought that we might benefit from having a similar camera. Which thought lasted about as long as it took me to click through to the linked page, get a glimpse at the price in the upper right, and say, “HOLY [word not suitable for a family blog]!”

    Let’s just say, not until I get that winning Powerball ticket. Still, good for you that you could get it.

  37. I have a Canon PowerShot SX110 IS. Its a 10 megapixel with 10x optical zoom. I was just at a wedding where I really, really, really wanted to get some good photos for the happy couple and discovered that my camera actually sucks dingo kidneys. Pretty much the entire wedding ceremony and the the reception afterwards took place at candlelight levels of lighting. My camera, dingo kidney sucking thing that it is, was unable to deal with the lighting. At all.

    Without a flash, pictures were pretty much useless blurry images.

    With the flash up (which I was trying to avoid so as to not break the mood of the marital moment), the camera would take three seconds or so from button push to picture snap. Which, when you’re trying to catures fleeting, non-posing moments, is FRICKEN USELESS. BLARGL GLARBLE BARBLE GARGLE!!!!!!

    I’ve been goign through the images today, and I have about a hundred shots of junk (backs of heads as people turned away and similar) and maybe half a dozen that are passable.

    So, with that, I was thinking that maybe I need to learn more about the workings of cameras, understand the technical issues (F stops? ), and from that, purchase a better camera, and put it in manual mode to deal with extreme lighting conditions as this. (or put the current camera in manual mode and deal with the lighting issues)

    I assume they don’t make a camera yet that can take really clear, sharp, high contrast, full color range pictures in candlelight situations of fleeting moments. If they do, just point me to where I can buy it.

    Barring that:

    (1) Anyone got a good “Cameras explained in as few pages as possible” URL? F stops. Why are all the lenses listed in millimeters like 50-110mm? Why can’t I just get a 6 inch diameter lense for low light pictures? Why not have a huge diameter lense to suck up all those rare, juicy photons?

    (2) Anyone have a “Explaining the things that really matter when buying a new really good camera in as few pages as possible” URL? I stopped by an electronics store to pick up a harddrive and decided to windowshop at the camera counter and was totally confused why two cameras would list nearly identical statistics but one was $600 and one was $1600. Not that I would even spend that kind of money, but I don’t get how they can list the same specs and have such different prices. I assume there are things under the hood that are more important that I don’t know about.

    At the very least, if I could get a point and shoot that can take a fricken picture in a third of a second or less (in the above described conditions) that would be some improvement.

    I’m ready to take a hammer to my camera right now….

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