I’ve never really been a photographer. I’m still not actually but I’m working on getting there.
Before digital cameras I had one film camera that was a gift to me. I think I used up a couple rolls of film with it while it was still a novelty and then I decided I couldn’t be bothered. Then came the digital camera. The first one my family had was a tiny Sony that took a couple megapixel photos. My phone is better than that now. It was nothing great but it was much smaller than anything we had ever used or even seen. I took it to Australia the first time I went. The only reason I used it so much was that it was so small.
Since then I’ve had a couple of small Canon point and shoots that have been used extensively. The one I still use, the SD1100 has been a great little camera and goes nearly everywhere with me. I spent some time after my last big trip to Australia and New Zealand looking through photos of New Zealand. What I remember was absolutely incredible. Soaring mountains, crystal water. These prehistoric-looking places with very interesting history and culture. What I brought back as photos didn’t exactly fit what I remembered. I didn’t want to go on another trip without being able to capture it with more skill and a better camera. It was time to upgrade.
I have always liked the Canon’s so I took a look at their lineup. With a combination of features and price that suited my needs, I brought home a Canon T1i digital SLR. For those that don’t know what the SLR stands for, it means single lens reflex and refers to how the camera takes a picture. Sometimes there’s a “D” on the front like DSLR that stands for Digital. When you look through the viewfinder, you’re looking through the lens using a mirror. When you take the photo, the mirror moves and it captures the picture on the “film” or sensor. Looking through the lens instead of on top of the lens like the small point and shoot viewfinders do, captures a more accurate photograph of what you’re seeing in the viewfinder.
It’s interesting to get a full SLR camera after you’re used to a small point and shoot that you hold far away from your face. The DSLRs go back to the traditional style of using a viewfinder to frame your photo. The T1i does have a live view mode that you can see what’s on the LCD but it’s a bit clunky to use and I prefer just to use the viewfinder when I can. There are some situations like awkward positions or low to the ground where it’s nice to just look at the screen instead of the viewfinder.
It comes with an 18-55mm lens on it that is an ok lens but that’s about all I can say. The 18-55mm means it can zoom from 18mm to 55mm. 18mm is close to real life size on the T1i. You can then zoom in slightly if you want. The pictures from the lens were slightly better than my point and shoot. It was ok to start with but I upgraded to something larger right away. I’ve got the 18-200mm for most of my shooting now. I’ve also got the small 50mm because it was so cheap. I picked up it up for $129 just before I went to France. The 18-200 is still not the expensive L series that all Canon photographers lust for but it’s getting closer. The large range it has extending from 18mm to 200mm makes it a good choice for when you only want to carry one lens.
Travelling with the T1i
Earlier in 2011, I took the T1i to France with the 18-200mm and 50mm lenses. The 18-200mm was on the camera most of the time. I didn’t have a small bag for the 50mm lens so I just stored it in 2 socks while I wasn’t using it. They were clean socks.I wasn’t sure how much of an issue having the bigger camera was going to be. The last big trip I did in 2009 was to Australia and New Zealand and I only had the small SD1100 with me. The small camera worked very well in Australia when I as moving around a lot. I wasn’t moving nearly as much in France so it a good intro to carrying a bigger camera around. I used a shoulder strap to carry around the camera most of the time. This kept it close at hand and easy to use but not strapped too close that it was annoying. There were times when I would’ve rather not have had the camera with me so I could just experience where I was it was hard to do that. I put it in a shoulder bag when I didn’t want to have it out on my side and look like a tourist.
When I was out doing touristy stuff and shooting photos to show what we had done, I had the 18-200mm on. When I had a bit of time and already had taken regular photos of somewhere we’d already been, I’d head out with the 50mm and see what else I could find. I ended up with more narrow depth of field, close up shots and some of them turned out really good. It was hard to use as a multi-purpose lens because it didn’t zoom. It’s a great portrait lens but it’s hard to use it as a general purpose travel lens. I’m not yet to the point where I’d rather travel with a set of primes rather than a zoom (primes are just one focal length like 24mm or 50mm, they don’t zoom at all), so the large zoom is still my preference when on the road.
Video with the T1i
The T1i was the second Canon camera to get a video mode. It’s not much to shake a stick at but video was on of my requirements when I got the camera so it suited me just fine. For my next camera, the video will be an even bigger deal but for now it’s just a nice little bonus. The T1i does 1080p at 20fps and 720p at 30fps. For the small number of short videos I’ve shot already, it’s a little clunky to use but not bad. I wouldn’t go with a T1i if video was my main reason for using it but, again, it’s a nice feature to have on the side.
Adventuring with the T1i
Since buying the T1i, I’ve been taking it with me for everything I’ve been doing. I probably don’t need to for every single trip. In fact it’s just been extra weight for some but if I got it and didn’t start using it right away on my trips then I would never take it.
On the first few hikes I went on I didn’t use it that much. I had it tucked away in my Talon 33 backpack and it was more work to get it out. If I was using hiking poles at the time then I couldn’t carry it in my hands and I’d have to keep it in my bag. Getting a bag that strapped to my chest partially solved this problem.
The bag is basically just a camera pouch that fits the camera with a good size lens on it. The 18-200mm that I usually have on the camera is about 4 inches long. That will the camera body fills up the small pouch I’ve got. There’s a small compartment on the front for a rain cover and a couple extra SD cards but that’s all it fits. The key part to the whole set up is the straps that go around my shoulders, under my arms and connect back to the pouch.
Having the pouch there make it easier to access for taking photos. You don’t have to stop, take your backpack off, pull the pouch out, open the pouch, pull the camera out and take a photo. It’s already on your chest so you simply open the top and pull the camera out. It’s similar to having a point and shoot camera in your front pocket compared to buried in your bag. It’s not going to get used when it’s deep in your bag.
The chest-pouch setup has worked well on a bunch of hikes, ski tours and snowshoe trips. If I’m working really hard with it on it does get quite warm under the pouch so that could be an issue that’s addressed in a future model. Something with some venting or mesh would be much more comfortable to wear.The next step in the evolution of the perfect camera carrier is the Cotton Carrier I got for Christmas. The straps are similar to the pouch I’ve been using but instead of a pouch with a lid to store the camera it’s got a clip that attaches to the bottom of the camera. Clip it on and your camera hangs tightly against your chest. Unclip it and it’s ready to use and there isn’t a big pouch still hanging off your chest. Less pouch means less weight to carry and less fabric covering your chest when it’s warm. I’m anxious to try it out on a good day hike. The only downside to it is that if you get muddy or weight, there’s nothing covering your camera. I think it might be a fair weather piece of gear only. There are two covers that come with it for the camera body and lens so we’ll see how those work. If it’s a hassle to get the cover on the camera and lens every time you clip it back on I don’t think I’ll be using them. We’ve written more about carrying your camera on adventures if you want to know more.
The lesson is that the easier your camera is to access the more you will use it. Have it out and ready and you’ll take many more photos than if it takes 20 minutes to get your camera out and a photo taken. And what’s the point of having your camera with you on a trip and not using it!
Unfortunately, I don’t have experience with any other DSLR camera right now to compare it to. When I start to look for a camera upgrade to the T1i, I’ll post some comparisons to this one to see how they stack up.For anyone looking for a basic DSLR to get into photography and see what it’s all about, I highly recommend something like the T1i. It’s smaller, lighter, and less expensive that most of the other DSLR’s but still gives you most of the options. The lenses are compatible with more expensive cameras as well so the option is there to upgrade the body later on and keep all the lenses you’ve bought. One of the most important things I’ve learned getting into photography is that a lot of the money is in the lenses. It’s also a very large part of a good, clear photo. A really nice lens on a low-end camera will get you a better photo than a terrible lens on an amazing camera. That said, cameras are just tools. How you, the photographer, use them is the most important part!
What cameras do you use? Does it suit your purpose or are you thinking of upgrading to something different?
Next week we’re going to get into the details of a very lightweight adventure mobile.
Other reviews of the Canon T1i
As always DP Reviews has a great in depth review of the T1i
Review on Digital Camera Review
Buy a Canon T1i
Buy at Amazon