so i thought long and hard and i figured that my chances of making it as a photographer were marginally less infinitessimal than my chances of making it as a musician. so i'm selling my guitar to pay for a new camera. i'm rather ahead of myself as the picture was taken with the new camera, but there's the joy of interest free credit. perhaps for symmetry's sake i should compose a song about the camera?

to be fair it was a pretty easy decision to make. i'm an averagely talented/interested amateur photographer when i put my mind to it. i am oh so very much a total guitar noob, even after a concerted stint of practicing for hours every night, doing the theory and everything. i was utterly obsessive about it when i got it, but i haven't actually touched it now for over a year. i always thought i would pick it up again eventually and had no immediate need to liquidate the funds it represents.

but i use my camera most days, and once i'd got it into my head that a digital slr wasn't totally out of reach financially any more i just couldn't shake it. when i went to our local camera shop to have a play with the various options i'd researched they made me an offer i couldn't refuse and i came home with my new toy.

i got the new nikon d40, here's a few reasons why:

thom hogan review
ken rockwell review
imaging resource review

it was the lens that really decided it for me though. the one thing i wanted to ensure was that any new camera i bought at least matched, and preferably exceeded, the performance of my pentax k1000 manual film camera. that camera has always reliably turned out the most beautiful atmospheric shots for me, that i've never matched with anything else. the secret is the relatively fast prime (i.e.non-zoom) lens, that provided a natural angle of view (50mm), pretty good low light performance (cos you already know how much i don't dig flash) and a beautifully shallow depth of field, which pretty much always makes a photo look better to my eyes.

here's a nice article on 50mm lenses: the forgotten lens. of course it all gets more complicated when you move to digital, as most cameras (unless you get one the really expensive ones) have a sensor that is smaller than 35mm film and this affects the angle of view you get for a given focal length. essentially to get the equivalent angle of view to a 50mm for digital to actually need a lens around 30-35mm.

i really wanted something faster than my pentax at f/2 (these wide apertures simply aren't available in zoom in my price range) but that makes everything bigger, heavier, and oh so much more expensive. i ruled out the competition for various reasons and ended up with a head to head on the canon 400d (or outgoing 350d) + the canon 35mm f/2 lens versus the d40 with the sigma 30mm f/1.4 (expensive body + cheaper lens vs cheaper body + more expensive lens, both combos absolutely maxing the budget). and my heart ruled my head. the canon set was smaller, lighter, higher spec, but with the lens wide open the shallow depth of field made every pic on the nikon/sigma speak to me (and this was pics of the inside of a camera shop :D).

so far it's working great. i really wanted to get available light shots in subdued indoor lighting at night, and it's doing that for me. it's wonderful having the (fast, quiet) autofocus attached to a decent lens - i'm getting candid shots of M that just weren't possible before - if i wanted a quality pic i had to manually focus it (fully manual camera) and with shallow depths of field there's not an awful lot of focussing leeway.

here's a few links for later reference for me:
sigma quality control (i need to do a few tests to check my lens is okay focussing/ca-wise)
sensor cleaning
raw files

and as a final accessory (for the moment at least) i got myself a subscription to jpg magazine. i've had a great time browsing through the submitted photos and voting, it's much more concentrated than flickr, people only seem to post their absolute best shots, and smaller so a bit more manageable. the current issue is available as a pdf download, and there's a $10 coupon code off a subscription in the back.