I am in the fortunate position, for someone who likes nature photography, of having a husband who loves researching new camera gear on the internet. So he is prone to come up with spontaneous comments such as, "I think we should buy you the Nikon D810".
Which is precisely what he did, a month or so ago.
Then one day when we were in town, he worked on this suggestion by inviting me to come with him to the camera store to see if I like the feel of the D810 - which I did, of course! It didn't seem much different from the Nikon D7000 that I have had for the last three and a half years.
What can you tell about a camera from trying it out in the store? It was a bit heavier than the D7000, but the controls seemed fairly similar, which is of vital importance to someone like me who is no gifted at learning new things, particularly when they are related to new technology.
But advanced Nikon technology does not come cheaply, so we gave the camera back to the shop assistant who very gingerly placed it back on the shelf inside the locked cabinet. And that was that!
Or so I thought.
But last Saturday, with a camping trip looming at the end of the week he said, "I think we should go in to town this morning and buy you the D810".
Now I was quite happy with the camera that I had, and being one of those people who doesn't believe in replacing equipment until the old one wears out I was not seriously considering a new purchase until, maybe, sometime in the future.
Joe was ready for that, and said, "If we buy you the D810, then I could use the D7000 on our next camping trip".
This was an appeal for which I had no resistance.
Nature photography has always been my hobby.
I was given my first camera when I was eleven. It was a Brownie Box camera, a metal box with a glass-covered hole in the front, another in the top that acted as an eyepiece, and a similar one in the side, in case you wanted to take horizontal shots. A couple of stationary mirrors diverted light coming through the "lens" to the eyeholes, and the film was hidden in the back. It only took black and white photos and had no capacity for focussing. The technology was so old that my mother still had her almost identical box camera from when she had been a child!
I was thrilled with it, of course, for a time, but realized its limitations when I tried to take photos of a caterpillar. So a year or two later I asked my mother for a camera that could take close-up shots of insects, for Christmas.
My mother mentioned it to my Grandmother, which was good because she was the photography expert in our family. She had a precious Leica camera and did her own developing.
My Grandmother delegated the job of choosing the camera to my Grandfather, which was bad, because the camera that he chose was one of those snazzy new Instamatics that had a film cartridge that could just be snapped in to the back, but still had no capacity for focussing on anything closer than a few metres away, and had a propensity for cutting people's legs off (photographically speaking). In those days the shutter speed was so slow that the subject always had to keep still while the photo was being taken, which is why they always look posed.
Looking back from an adult perspective, I guess that the sort of camera that I wanted would have been beyond the capacity of my family to afford in those days. But my cousin, whose father was an executive at Kodak, was given an SLR one Christmas, with a telephoto lens. There are some things in life that are just not fair. Eventually my Grandmother gave her treasured Leica to that same cousin, and he promtly sold it to buy himself a new SLR. Gran was devastated.
Meanwhile I still wanted to take photos of wildlife and in the early years of our marriage, when our children were very small, we bought a Nikon F2. We did the research and it was clearly the best portable camera around. I was going to catalogue the plants and wildlife in National Parks around Sydney, and do my own developing and printing, which gave us a grand excuse to escape the city congestion, and visit National Parks at the weekend. How I loved that camera!
But I barely got started before Joe was offered a teaching position on the Far North Coast. How much better it was to be able to live in the bush, and not just visit it occasionally! We bought our three acres and moved out into the country.
There was so much work to do here that photography went on to the back-burner, and the camera was stowed away in a cupboard, where its electronic bits slowly corroded away in our new-found humidity.
When our older daughter grew up, she spent a year or two in Cairns, and of course, we went to visit. What better excuse could we have for buying a camera, than the impending visit? We bought a Nikon D70S, and launched my nature photography career (er, hobby)! There was an enormous learning curve in trying to come to grips with a digital camera, and none of my photos from that first trip were very successful, but I went back to Cairns a couple more times while Judy was there, and slowly my photography improved.
Unfortunately the camera did not. We still had an enormous problem with humidity and in time, both the Nikkor wide-angle lens, and the Tamron telephoto lens began to go mouldy. The best suggestion that the man in the camera store could come up with was to use the lenses often to kill the fungus with light. Well that didn't work and the mould continued to spread.
Meanwhile our younger daughter, Laura, discovered that nature photography was very much to her taste. For her 21st birthday present she requested a camera, and we bought her a Fujifilm. We became photography buddies. But her camera had limitations, and she didn't like trying to take photos in low light, which cut out quite a few ideas for possible expeditions.
Eventually the disparity in our cameras led me to suggest that I should give her my camera with its two lenses, and we would buy the Nikon D7000, which we did. However, the first time she used the D70S it was inadvertently set on manual mode rather than automatic, and all of her supposedly beautiful photos of black swans turned out grossly overexposed. So she took a dislike to it, and refused to try it again. Instead she bought herself an updated super-zoom Fuji model, and continued with many of the same problems as before, but with a slightly longer telephoto reach.
And I had a wonderful new camera, with Nikon wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses. (My old camera and its lenses went to my son-in-law, but it suffered a cataclysmic breakdown a few months later, and could not be repaired.) We bought a drying cabinet intended for cameras which solved our humidity problems.
The disparity in the functionality between Laura's camera and mine persisted. She was still a student and too poor to buy herself an SLR, and I had been scarred by her rejection of my Nikon, and was very reluctant to think of giving her another camera. But it all became too much when we purchased the Nikon AF 80-400mm zoom lens for my camera, and for her birthday two years ago we bought her a Canon with a 100-400mm zoom. She was thrilled with it, and still is.
Then Laura met her partner, Pete. Pete had a great interest in bushwalking, but had nothing to do while Laura and I took photos. He was not entirely satisfied with performing Joe's erstwhile job of holding an umbrella above our cameras when we were taking photos in the rain, or being chief bird-spotter.
So Pete bought himself a Canon 70D and a Tamron 150-600mm zoom, and took up bird photography too. This left Joe as the odd-man-out on our trips - the only one who didn't have digital SLR with a telephoto lens. How could I resist an appeal to buy a camera that would put him on a more equal footing?
We bought the Nikon D810, and attached my big zoom lens.
What can I say? The camera is fantastic! It really performs much better than the D7000, even for distance shots. Check out the photos below for a comparison between the two. Both were taken using the 80-400mm zoom lens, from our verandah, of a grebe on the dam a hundred metres away and both photos have been cropped to the same number of pixels:
So now I have a new camera, and we have a camping trip coming up, at the weekend. What could be more exciting than that?
And Joe has the set-up that I started with when we bought the D7000. Everyone is happy!