Thursday, October 26, 2006

Travel and gadgets...

While it isn't etched in stone yet, it looks reasonably certain that we're going to travel to Costa Rica next July. We had concerns about how wet it was going to be at that time of the year. July is the "Green Season" in Costa Rica (which is their tourism board's nice way of phrasing "Rainy Season.") We didn't want to go and spend two weeks in the country and be soaking wet the entire time.

However, we think we've got parts of it sussed out. We'll spend a few days in the rain forest (where, you know, it tends to rain regardless of the time of year) and then head down to the Pacific coast where it's drier. It still rains, but from what we're reading when it does rain, it tends to be in the late afternoon, early evening, and for not that long.

So we're now in the early stages of figuring out what we would like to do, the exact places we're going to go, if we're going to go by ourselves or on a tour. I also need to get my vaccinations sorted as I should get my Twinrex for Hep A and B. So there is all sorts of things to get straightened out.

So what have I been doing the last few days? Checking out new cameras.

The theory being that if we're going to go to Costa Rica for a couple of weeks, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and scenic countries in the world, then I want a really good camera. My current camera, a Sony DSC-F717 is only three years old and it's a perfectly fine camera. And hell, it's the photographer, not the camera. Ian took some great pictures of Auyuittuq National Park with a Sony that is probably not as good as mine.

Hell, look at what Ansel Adams produced using a camera that was little more than a box with some glass and mirror. However, I am not Ansel Adams. Not even remotely close. So I need every bit of help I can get. That means getting a very nice digital camera.

I was reminded of all of this by looking at some of the great pictures Dups has been putting up on his blog recently. Now Dups is quite the good photographer. However, he's also helped by the fact that he's using a Nikon D70. It's a heck of a nice camera. It's also a heck of an expensive camera, further confirming the suspicion that Visa and Mastercard are going to have to start pimping Dups to get their money back from him.

Anyway, I'm in the middle of doing research for a new camera. There are a bunch of good camera review sites - DP Reviews, Steve's Digicam, Image Resource and Digital Camera Resource - that I've been going through. The problem is they're all pretty much saying the same thing - they're all really good cameras I'm looking at with a few faults that might bug you. So it's a matter of sorting through it all.

Of course, I still need to actually hold the cameras in my hands. Reviews are fine and all, but there is nothing like holding the camera in your hands, seeing how it feels and actually playing with it a bit.

What am I looking at? These are the contenders...

Pentax K10 (which is coming out next month)

Canon Digital Rebel XTi

Olympus Evolt 500

Nikon D80

Pentax K100

Sony Alpha

So yeah, a few toys to go through. And not cheap. The base, without any lens, is going to be between $700-$1,000. Plus the costs of at least two lens, memory card, maybe a flash, plus a camera bag. It's going to be expensive, so I want to make sure. Plus, once you commit to a camera name brand, and start to buy their lens, you're kind of stuck with them for life. Well, you can switch, but it is a pain in the ass.

Not sure when I'm getting it. Probably in the new year, unless someone out there loves me enough to buy me one for Christmas or my birthday. You all love me, right? I provide amusement and entertainment. You want to buy me a ridiculously expensive gift, right?


kirsten said...

Woo, awesome. If you go to the Pacific coast we'd highly recommend staying at the Amor de Mar in Montezuma. AWESOME place. Seriously. We miss it. They have this incredible little tide pool that you can swim in and little fish are in there and it's like bathtub temperature... just great.

It was also absolutely unbelievably mindbogglingly hot in Montezuma...... in May. So, um, it will probably not be any cooler in July. Then again, being near the equator and all, it won't be that much hotter...

Dig around on my blog for Costa Rica travel advice if you want.

towniebastard said...

Oh, we have. It's been very useful, especially for places to stay. Montezuma was on the list of places we were thinking about visiting. And yeah, we know it's going to be hot. But at that point, after another Arctic winter, we want some place warm.

I know you've been focusing more on your music than photography lately, but what camera are you using right now?

Clare said...

Mmmm. Digital Cameras. I'm kind of partial to the Canon Rebel myself. My film SLR's were Olympus (I have three bodies and a wack of lenses) and Leah bought me the Film Canon rebel a few years back. I probably would spend the extra money and go for the 20D or heck, I'd really rather have the 5D or 1D but who has that kind of money. Spend some extra money for the battery pack and lots of memory.

And as soon as you start being entertaining and amusing, we'll start thinking about buying toys for you. :-)

dups said...

The one thing I discovered was that you REALLY want to try the cameras out. As you say, all the cameras are great (and yes they really really are) but you want to hold one in your hand. I tried all of the cameras and in the end the one that continued to sit well in my hand is the D70s. Plus you have to understand what you are going to do with it. I think I've only shot a handful of photos using aperture, shutter priority or programmed modes. Heck, I hardly ever use any of the programmed settings. I shoot almost entirely manual.

The cool thing about the D70s for me was the ability with one hand to quickly adjust the manual aperture and shutter without reaching for the back. For me, that was the selling feature.

One thing I like about the D80 and hate about the D70s is that the auto-focus points are just in bizarro places. Seriously the D80 is way better in that respect and I think the Rebel XTi even more so.

Good luck though, it's one purchase I have NOT regretted and I managed to lug the bloody thing up Mt. Elbrus, all across the Siberian plateau and into the worst parts of Beijing. Love Digital SLRs... LOVE THEM!


Kara and Matt said...

I bought myself the Canon Rebel XT and damn it is spiffy! I got a huge package off of Ebay from a place called Sunshine Electronics down in New York. The best part is that it came with a 6G memory card. Well that will hold about a bajillion pics I am sure. It takes great pictures, but I am in desperate need of a camera course. Or if anyone knows of a good book that teaches how to be a pro, let me know :)
Have fun picking your camera!

Anonymous said...

Since a couple of your selections (and several of the comment recommendations) involve Canon, you might find this helpful:

regards, cat`

towniebastard said...

Sadly, while you can find some pretty good books, there really is nothing like beating around with someone who really knows what they're doing. I learned my basic skills by having and editor teach (and, to be honest, threaten) me.

Hell, I even recall a time a couple of years ago when myself and Dups took our cameras out to Cape Spear for a few hours. That was a lot of fun.

Other than that, just keep shooting lots and experiment. The nice thing with digital is that there is no film to waste if you're taking bad pictures. And you can always delete the disasters.

And Dups, the Nikon is pretty, but Henry's lists the base at $1170. Throw in the cost of at least two lens, a flash, memory and a bag and that's easily $2000. It's pretty, but I don't know if I can justify it.