Monday, February 14, 2005

Equipment Recommendations

I've had a few people contact me looking for information about the type of hardware I use and what I would recommend. I'm certainly not an expert on the subject and there's no easy answer to that question aside from recommending the Apple Macintosh, Adobe PhotoShop, and a digital SLR (of which the only manufacturer I can recommend is Nikon). Based on that I've put together a basic kit through B&H Photo & Video who is my online retailer of choice (excellent service, fair pricing, and good selection and stocking).

Item and B&H Photo LinkB&H Price
Apple 17" iMac 1.6GHz w/ 512MB RAM, 250GB HD, Combo Drive$1,574.00
Epson Stylus R800$369.95
USB "A" to "B" 6 Foot Cable$12.95
Adobe PhotoShop CS$589.95
Lexar CompactFlash Type I & II USB Card Reader$19.95
Nikon D70, 6.1 Megapixel, SLR, Digital Camera with Nikon 18-70mm DX Zoom Nikkor Lens and Sandisk 1GB Extreme III CompactFlash Card$1,299.95

There are certainly other options to lower the cost slightly or improve the quality. This system though is a simpler version of the system I which will produce 8.5 inch wide prints from a desktop computer.

I prefer to work from a laptop though and have a 13 inch wide printer (I like 11x14 and 13x19/13x20 prints, but 16-24" wide would be even better if I could afford the printer). The flexibility of the laptop has seduced my photographers lately with its ability to pass files from the camera to the laptop for preview in the field along with editing and prep work almost anywhere you choose. I also prefer to use a selection of higher quality lenses than a single versatile zoom lens. So to to answer the question of what I would buy if I were to start from scratch today I've assembled this system.

Item and B&H Photo LinkB&H Price
Apple 15" PowerBook G4 1.67GHz w/ 512MB RAM, 80GB HD, SuperDrive$2,289.95
Epson Stylus Photo 2200$609.95
FireWire 6 Foot Cable$19.95
Adobe Creative Suite Standard (include PhotoShop, Illustrator, & InDesign)$949.95
Lexar CompactFlash Type I & II USB Card Reader$19.95
Nikon D70, 6.1 Megapixel, SLR, Digital Camera$999.95
Lexar 2GB WA CompactFlash Card$194.95
Nikon Zoom 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Lens$1,349.95
Nikon Zoom VR 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF Lens$509.95
Nikon Zoom VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED AF Lens$1,429.95
Nikon Micro Nikkor 60mm AF$379.95
Nikon Micro Nikkor 105mm AF$649.95

This is not my unlimited funds dream system (which would include the new Nikon D2x), but this is the list of all the parts I'd purchase to get the full range and quality I'd like without going overboard. I currently use only the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 and Nikon 80-400mm lens from this list. Everything else noted are newer offerings released after I made my purchase decisions (my primary lens is the Nikon 18-35mm ED Zoom -- an excellent wide-angle choice for the price). The wonderful thing with interchangeable lenses is that you don't need to buy all the parts at once but can pick-up a lens as you need or want it. I would probably start myself off with just the 24-120mm zoom lens as a good general lens and add on from there (i.e. the 60mm Micro in the spring to shoot flowers or the 80-400mm zoom in summer for wildlife).

Now after all that I'd like to note that the equipment does not make the photographer. I've seen people shooting excellent equipment who get photos that I'd be ashamed to show friends let alone display. I've also taken excellent photos from a point-and-shoot camera that rival some of the photos I've take with much better hardware. While the better equipment allows a photographer to better explore their potential, don't expect a better camera to make you an instant expert. Good photos are largely due to experience. The only way to get that experience is to shoot photos. Get out there and shoot! Don't be afraid of taking a bad photo -- humans learn from both mistakes and successes.

So that's my 2¢ for those who were interested.

Darryl Wattenberg has no affiliation with any company listed above. All pricing as of February 14, 2005.


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