I’ve been using SLRs since I was in high school.  Below is a list the cameras that I’ve used, past and present.

Nikon D500 (May 2021 – Present)



  • Released: January 2016
  • Sensor: 20.7 Megapixel CMOS
  • Camera Type: APS-C (1.5x Crop)
  • Image Processor: Expeed 5
  • Dust Reduction: Yes
  • Autofocus: 153 Point User Selectable with 3D subject tracking
  • Metering:  180K pixel RGB
  • Viewfinder: 100% View Pentaprism
  • Display: 3.2″ 2.4M Pixel
  • Drive: 10 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 4K (30fps), 1080P (60 fps), 720P (30 fps)
  • WIFI: Yes
  • Tilting LCD: Yes
My D3200 proved that a crop sensor camera could be a valuable tool for animal and macro shots, but its consumer body, terrible autofocus, and very low continuous frame rate limited its use. I started thinking about whether I wanted to augment my collection with something that was tuned more for animals – something with fast, accurate autofocus and a high continuous frame rate. I looked into the D850 and the mirrorless Z7, but both were too expensive, and in the Z7’s case, too immature. At the end of my search I stumbled upon the D500 – a crop sensor camera designed exactly for my use case – combining a very high frame rate with great autofocus and a crop sensor

I found one used, and after a couple of trys, ended up with a model that I liked. So far it has worked out extremely well and I’ve taken a host of great images with it. It’s the antithesis to the D3200 – it’s bulky and built like a tank; it’s larger and heavier than my full-frame D750.


Nikon offers a full line of lenses specifically designed for crop-sensor cameras (DX lenses). They are smaller, lighter, and cheaper than full-frame lenses because they project a smaller image to fit the smaller sensor. I don’t own any DX lenses since I already have a large library of high-quality full frame lenses and the intent of this camera is to magnify the image. The only reason I’d need DX lenses is for extremely wide angle shots, which I’d use my D750 for anyway.

Nikon D3200 (June 2020 – Present)



  • Released: April 2012
  • Sensor: 24.2 Megapixel CMOS
  • Camera Type: APS-C (1.5x Crop)
  • Image Processor: Expeed 3
  • Dust Reduction: Yes
  • Autofocus: 11 Point User Selectable with 3D subject tracking
  • Metering:  420 pixel RGB
  • Viewfinder: 95% View Pentamirror
  • Display: 3″ 921K Pixel
  • Drive: 4 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 1080P (30 fps), 720P (30 fps)
  • WIFI: No
  • Tilting LCD: No
I bought my D3200 during the pandemic with a dual purpose – as part of the “vintage” DSLR museum I was building (everyone needed a hobby back then) and as an actual camera to use daily. Being a consumer-focused model, it was cheap enough to count as a museum purchase but also recent and high-resolution enough to be used for active photography. It’s crop sensor provided similar resolution to my D750 but magnified the image, allowing me to get closer to birds and insects to improve my technique.

As a camera it is quite a bit less than my D750 – it’s body is too small to balance many of my lenses, it’s missing many buttons I depend on for common settings, and its autofocus is limited and pretty terrible. BUT I was able to take usable shots of birds and insects. The image quality was pretty good as well. While it was still mainly a museum piece, it allowed me to get comfortable with crop shooting and set me up to add my D500 to my collection.


Nikon offers a full line of lenses specifically designed for crop-sensor cameras (DX lenses). They are smaller, lighter, and cheaper than full-frame lenses because they project a smaller image to fit the smaller sensor. I don’t own any DX lenses since I already have a large library of high-quality full frame lenses and the intent of this camera is to magnify the image. The only reason I’d need DX lenses is for extremely wide angle shots, which I’d use my D750 for anyway.

Nikon D750 (March 2016 – Present)



  • Released: September 2014
  • Sensor: 24.3 Megapixel CMOS
  • Camera Type: Full Frame (no crop)
  • Image Processor: Expeed 4
  • Dust Reduction: Yes
  • Autofocus: 51 Point User Selectable with 3D subject tracking
  • Metering: 91K pixel RGB
  • Viewfinder: 100% View Pentaprism
  • Display: 3.2″ 1229K Pixel
  • Drive: 6.5 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 1080P (60 fps), 720P (60 fps)
  • WIFI: Yes
  • Tilting LCD: Yes
The D750 is my first full frame camera. I considered upgrading to another Canon, but there wasn’t a model on the market at the time that could match what Nikon offered. I decided to buy into the new system and I’m really pleased with it. Nikons have more buttons but they allow me to change more settings without taking my eye away from the camera. The menus are more complicated and the ergonomics are not quite as smooth as Canon, but overall I love my Nikon. It has incredible dynamic range, extremely accurate autofocus, amazing 3D subject tracking, a reasonable burst rate, and great low light performance. And its packed into a body that weighs less than my 7D.


  • AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR – great range, very sharp, vibration reduction. Far sharper than my Canon 24-105 ever was. It is truly an amazing lens. It has a great range and can be used for portraits, landscapes, and everyday photos.
  • AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR – amazingly sharp, vibration reduction. It doesn’t quite have the same contrast and color characteristics as my Canon L did, but it is super sharp and has nice bokeh. I love it and should use it more often.
  • AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G – fast, beautiful bokeh, slowish focus, tricky aperture if you don’t pay attention. Makes great portraits when used correctly.
  • AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G – fast, nice bokeh
  • AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 D – This is one of Nikon’s screw-drive AF-D lenses from the nineties. It doesn’t have an internal focus motor and requires a body with a screw drive motor in order to autofocus (D7000+, D700+, D1+, no D5000 or D3000 series). It also includes an aperture ring that must be locked at f/16 for automatic exposure. This is by far my favorite lens. It cost me about $200 and it makes beautiful images. I never thought I’d love an “old” lens so much. While it is a stop faster than my 50mm G lens, I prefer the quality of the contrast even at the cost of sharpness over the G.
  • AF NIKKOR 35mm f/2 D – The 35mm variant of the 50mm / 35mm / 20mm AF-D prime series. I don’t love it as much as my 50mm but I also haven’t used it as much. I also paid around $200 for it.
  • AF NIKKOR 20mm f/2.8 D – The 20mm version of the AF-D prime series. It isn’t very sharp at f/2.8 and it seems to have a lot of fringe artifacts. It is definitely wider than my 24-140mm but not by much. If I want something ultrawide, I usually use my Tamron 15-30mm.
  • Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD – I spent a lot of money on this lens ($800) and it is well worth it. It’s an amazing wide-angle lens that I used on my trip to Amsterdam in 2017. It has a fast ultrasonic motor and vibration compensation which is not super necessary at this focal length but helps due to the weight of the lens. It’s heavy because it’s good! It makes beautiful images! There is an updated G2 version that is even better.
  • Sigma 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary – Talk about a mega lens! This lens is absolutely huge and elicits comments wherever I bring it. I got it refurbished for $700 in 2017, which was nearly 25% off of the regular price. It has been an absolutely phenomenal lens for photos of birds, deer in my yard, and even Zach’s soccer games! It is a unique lens because it zooms not only by turning the zoom ring but also by pushing and pulling it. It includes a tripod mount and can be connected to the Sigma USB dock to upgrade its firmware and customize functions. It focuses fast for such a large lens and I really enjoy it. The slow f/6.3 aperture requires higher ISOs and it doesn’t have the best contrast but I can recover much of it through Lightroom.
  • Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD – I contemplated between this and Nikon’s own 105mm VR Micro lens but it’s $800. The Tamron is $150 – $200 less and is as well reviewed. It’s a little less wide but not by much, and has vibration reduction and an ultrasonic motor. It’s really super sharp now that I know how to use it.
  • Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5 – 5.6G ED VR – I bought this as a walkabout lens for trips when I only wanted one lens to drag around. While it has a variable aperture it is still pretty sharp and the large range makes it very versatile. On a crop-sensor camera it has almost as much reach as my Sigma 150-600mm on full-frame, but with much less heft. I bought this one used on eBay for $450.
  • Nikon 16mm f/2.8 AF-D Fisheye – While this lens is an older design released in 1993, it still sells brand new today for $1000. I got mine used for $300 and it was a worthy investment. This all-metal autofocus lens provides a warped 180 degree angle of view. Since it doesn’t correct distortion it provides a wider field of view than my 15-30mm ultrawide. It’s super small and super light too, making it easy to tote around. I can even use it as a ~20mm lens in a pinch if I correct the distortion in Lightroom after. It’s definitely a special-purpose lens, but it’s so tiny that I can’t help taking it along with me all the time.
  • Lensbaby Spark, Composer, and 3G – Lensbaby is known for its unique and inexpensive manual focus lenses. My first Lensbaby was a Spark with a few optical inserts. The Spark is a cheaper version of Lensbaby’s flagship selective focus lens where the center of the lens is sharp while the rest falls off into blur. The Spark is basically an accordion where focus is achieved by squeezing the front towards the camera and the focus spot is moved by tilting. It renders interesting results, but the Spark is a pain to use due to the need for constant pressure to keep it in focus. It doesn’t include an aperture ring, instead requiring magnetic aperture discs to be affixed inside the lens using a special too. The whole thing cost under $100 and I snagged it on sale to boot. The Spark was frustrating but the system was interesting so I later picked up the 3G used. The 3G has pins that screw in and out to set the focused area and a ring to set general focus. It still takes aperture discs, but it’s far easier to use. I purchased a used Composer a while later which replaces the pins with a ball-bearing design and another ring. Along with it I purchased a few more optical inserts, including a 12 mm Fisheye that delivers a completely circular image.
  • Lensbaby Twist 60 f/2.5 – The only standalone Lensbaby I own is the 60mm Twist. The Twist creates swirly bokeh due to its Petzval design, which is one of the first portrait lens designs in the history of photography. The lens is reasonably sharp and does provide cool swirly bokey and an antique feel. As it is a standalone lens, it is much easier to focus and use than a traditional Lensbaby lens.

Canon EOS 7D (May 2010 – 2017)


  • Released: September 2009
  • Sensor: 18 Megapixel CMOS
  • Camera Type: APS-C (1.6x crop)
  • Image Processor: Dual DIGIC IV
  • Dust Reduction: 3 Way
  • Autofocus: 19 Point User Selectable
  • Metering: 63 Zone TTL
  • Viewfinder: 100% View Pentaprism
  • Display: 3.0″ 920K Pixel
  • Drive: 8 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Video: 1080P (30 fps), 720P (60 fps), 640 x 480 (60 fps)
I kept my 7D after buying into the Nikon system but sold it about a year later and used the money to by a super wide-angle lens. It is the successor to the EOS 50D and was my second Canon camera. It looks very similar to the 50D, but includes advanced features that were taken from the top of the line models at the time. The biggest advantage over the 50D is video. This was my first SLR with video. It can shoot full HD (1080 and 720P) as well as VGA.

In addition to video, the 7D has a more advanced autofocus system with 19 focus points (versus 9), a brand new metering system, a 100% view in the viewfinder (which is very rare in SLRs), dual image processors, and very fast continuous shooting.


  • EF 70-200mm f/4L – This  is an amazing beautiful lens. It was the first professional fixed aperture zoom I purchased and it set the standard in sharpness and contrast for all of my future lenses. It isn’t stabilized, but it focuses quickly, and has great contrast and color. Many of my best photos were taken with this lens.
  • EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 – This is not one of Canon’s L lenses in name but acts like it in quality. This lens is sharp and provides a 27-88mm equivalent focal length on my crop camera. Since it is a crop-only lens, its lighter than most of my other lenses. It’s a great lens.
  • EF-S 60mm Macro f/2.8 – My first macro and all I can say is “wow”! This is a crop-only lens and provides a 96mm equivalent focal length. It’s great for macro but also portraits as well. Like many macros it is extremely sharp even wide open. Another great, light lens.
  • EF 24-105mm f/4L – The 24-105mm is Canon’s standard issue kit lens for its full frame cameras. I purchased this one refurbished expecting it to provide the same quality as my 70-200mm zoom. Based on its reviews it should have, but mine has a major focusing issue that prevents it from being as sharp as it should be. After my 90 day warranty expired I noticed that it wasn’t giving me the quality I expected. I did some research and found out that this lens is notorious for manufacturing variations and it is very common to get one that isn’t sharp. The only way to fix it is to send it in and pay for an adjustment.
  • EF 50mm f/1.8 II – I owned Canon’s “nifty fifty” a few years ago but eventually sold it because I wasn’t using it. I used it to take many great photos of the boys during their first couple of years but eventually stopped using it after purchasing my 17-55mm and 60mm macro. It’s also the cheapest lens I had for my Canon, both in price and materials – it had a plastic lens mount, a virtually non-existent focus ring, and a loud AF motor.The glass was good but the rest of the materials were cheap. It has since been replaced with a more substantial model with a metal lens mount, sturdier construction, and faster and quieter motor.

Canon EOS 50D (June 2009 – May 2010)


  • Released: August 2008
  • Sensor: 15.1 Megapixel CMOS
  • Camera Type: APS-C (1.6x crop)
  • Image Processor: Single DIGIC IV
  • Dust Reduction: Yes
  • Autofocus: 9 Point User Selectable
  • Metering: 35 Zone TTL
  • Viewfinder: 95% View Pentaprism
  • Display: 3.0″ 920K Pixel
  • Drive: 6.3 fps Continuous Shooting (unlimited frames)
  • Video: No 😦
I bought my EOS 50D in late 2009. It was a big step for me. I had been using a Pentax for four years. I was fed up with the slow focusing, the poor low light performance, and the terrible continuous shooting speed (useless for any type of fast motion). The Pentax was my first digital camera. I had already made an investment in lenses and a flash and was considering upgrading to the current model in the prosumer slot.

After reading reviews, I realized that the current Pentax wasn’t going to do it for me. Nikon had just released the D90, which was one of the first digital SLRs with video. It came with a great kit lens. I tried it out at Best Buy and was saving up the money to buy it. I had my mind made up but decided to play with the EOS 50D just to make sure… and I fell in love. The 50D didn’t have video, but it had so much more.

It was sturdy, felt great in my hand, and had an awesome continuous burst rate, which were more important to me than video. I didn’t have any lenses for it, of course, so I had to make a big investment in equipment. I also bought something that I’d always wanted: a battery grip. What a great buy! The 50D would have given me several years of great service, but I sold it to my friend, which enabled me to upgrade to its bigger brother, the 7D.

I started out shooting JPEG with this camera and eventually discovered the huge advantages of RAW. The files were bigger but they were far more malleable out of the camera.


  • Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM – I bought this to replace my 18-55mm and 55-250mm Canon lenses in hopes that a single lens with a wide zoom range would allow me to capture better photos. I bought it right before a trip to Texas in 2010 and used it for a couple of years. I took many, many photos with this lens due to its versatility. Many of the photos from the boys’ first year were taken with this lens. Unfortunately it suffered from severe softness around 200mm, mediocre contrast, and significant chromatic aberration. I sold it after I bought my 70-200mm.
  • EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS – This was the short end of your typical two-part kit lens. Inexpensive with a variable aperture and micro-motor autofocus. Image stabilization was a bonus. Overall the lens was fine but not great.
  • EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS –  This was the long end of your typical two-part kit lens. Inexpensive with a variable aperture and micro-motor autofocus. Image stabilization was a bonus. Overall the lens was fine but not great.

Pentax *ist DL (May 2005 – June 2009)


    • Released: June 2005
    • Sensor: 6.1 Megapixel CCD Sensor
    • Camera Type: APS-C (1.5x crop)</li
    • Image Processor: Pentax
    • Dust Reduction: Mmmmmm… no
    • Autofocus: 3 Point
    • Metering: 16 Zone TTL
    • Viewfinder: 96% View Pentamirror
    • Display: 2.5″ 210K Pixel
    • Drive: 2.8 fps Continuous Shooting (5 frames)
    • Video: Not so much…
The *ist DL was my first DSLR.  I didn’t have any interest in DSLRs for a long time.  They were expensive and the image quality just didn’t seem to match that of film.  The *istDL was one of the first digital SLRs to drop into my price range.  I had been thinking about getting into the digital world for a while and the *ist DL allowed me to do that.  I only had to purchase the body; I could use the lenses from my film camera (with a bit of a zoom, but it wasn’t too bad).  As much as I told myself that I would still shoot film, I rarely touched my film camera after I got the *ist DL.  It was just so much easier to take pictures, see what they were going to look like, and then dump them onto my computer.  They were easy to edit and easier to print than film.

The camera itself was very light weight and fit well in my hand.  It had the same basic layout as my film camera (it came from the same series), so it was very easy to get used to. It was considered a consumer SLR and was less advanced in some areasthan than the film-based *ist that I was upgrading from.  The autofocus system only had 3 points versus 11 on the *ist and they weren’t selectable which added a bit more work to focusing. There was also no illumination for the LCD screen on top of the camera.  It did have a bigger viewfinder and faster continuous shooting, so that made up for it a bit.

I never used it to shoot RAW, which is a bummer. I have some good photos from it but they are all JPEGs and were sharpened to death by the camera. They looked good at the time 🙂

It served me well for the four years that I used it.  I even bought digital-specific lenses for it about six months before I upgraded to my 50D.  I keep it as a history piece. The quality of its images are laughable compared to what is available today.


  • SMC Pentax DA 1:3.5-5.6 18-55mm AL II – This is optimized for the 1.5x crop factor and provides the same view as a 27-82.5mm lens on full frame. It isn’t macro (.34x magnification) but it still allows close focus at under 12″.
  • SMC Pentax DA 1:4.5-5.6 50-200mm ED – This is optimized for the 1.5x crop factor and provides the same view as a 75-300mm lens on full frame.

Pentax *ist (July 2003 – May 2005)


  • Released: February 2003
  • Sensor: A Piece of Film
  • Camera Type: Film (No Crop)
  • Image Processor: Nah
  • Dust Reduction: No, no
  • Autofocus: 11 Point User Selectable
  • Metering: 16 Zone TTL
  • Viewfinder: 90% View Pentamirror
  • Display: Analog LCD
  • Drive: 2.5 fps Continuous Shooting (until roll is empty)
  • Video: Not so much…
  • Other: Auto film advance, auto rewind, auto load
When I graduated high school I had to give up the venerable K1000 that I’d been using for so many years.  It belonged to the school and I couldn’t keep it.  This gave me the opportunity to save up my money and purchase a more advanced camera – one with things like autofocus, auto metering, semi-automatic modes, continuous shooting, and LCD display, auto film advance, and of course, auto film rewind.

I bought a Pentax because it was the only camera that I had ever used.  The *ist was released as a high end consumer model alongside their first digital SLR, the *ist D.  It not only had autofocus, but it had 11 points of autofocus.  I could even select which focus point I wanted it to use!  I liked the silver color of the body and lenses as well as the large informational LCD on the back.  This is one of the few cameras to have two LCDs and the only film camera I know of that had a large LCD on the back.  People often thought it was digital due to the screen.

As is the case with all of my photography, I never took enough photos with it, but it worked well when I did.  I took some of my best film photos with this camera including the lily at UNH and my friend Matt’s senior pictures. I still have it and I tell myself that I’m going to load it with black and white film and take some photos so I have something to develop in my darkroom.  That’s what I tell myself.

Pentax K1000 (January 2001 – July 2003)


  • Released: 1976
  • Sensor: A Piece of Film
  • Camera Type: Film (No Crop)
  • Image Processor: Nah
  • Dust Reduction: No, no
  • Autofocus: Not Invented Yet
  • Metering: Center Weighted TTL
  • Viewfinder: 91% View Pentaprism
  • Display: No
  • Drive: As fast as you can click the shutter and advance the film
  • Video: I don’t even think camcorders were invented yet
The Pentax K-1000 was my first SLR camera.  It wasn’t even mine, actually.  It was the camera that I used in the High School News and Photo class that introduced me to photography.  The K-1000 is all manual – focus, exposure, film advance, rewind, film load, and shutter. The only thing that was battery operated was the exposure meter (you still had to dial in the settings though).  It was a heavy son of a beast, made mostly out of metal.  I have fond memories of my K-1000 and the various lenses that I used with it before I knew the true meaning of aperture, shutter speed, and focal length.  Oh those innocent times!

As I said, the K-1000 that I used in High School belonged to the school, but I also acquired one of my own, which is currently sitting in my basement. They certainly don’t make cameras like they used to!

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