First Impressions – Nikon D40 Digital SLR Camera

I’ve been wanting to take the plunge in the world of digital SLR photography for a while. It’s an expensive realm, for sure, but I’ve learned that I really love photography – it makes me happy. And I’ve been consciously running into the barriers around point-and-shoot. Realizing “wow, if only I had a DSLR, I could have made this shot a whole lot better”. I’ve been using my Canon SD700 IS camera as my main/only camera for a couple of years, and it’s a terrific little camera. I’m still amazed by it’s low light performance, afforded by the Image Stabilization feature on the lens (that’s what the IS stands for – don’t buy a pocket camera without it!). But it was time for me to graduate, so naturally I started shopping around.

The whole Canon vs Nikon thing is interesting. Those are the two “main” players in the DSLR space (Fuji, Kodak, Olympus, Pentax, and Sony all have their hat in the ring, but face it – when you think of the big, bad black DSLR, you think of a Canon or a Nikon). When you buy an SLR camera, you’re really buying into a family of lenses, accessories, etc., of which the camera body is only a small part. So its kind of a momentous choice.

I’m a big Canon fan. Like I said, I LOVE my SD 700 IS, and I’ve had other Canon point and shoot cameras before, and loved them. And for work, I absolutely adore my Canon XH A1 HDV high def video camera. So I was leaning toward the Canon camp. My boss, Bill, is a Canon fan, too (and a big SLR nut with lots of lenses and experience), and made sure I at least gave them fair consideration. He recommended the Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D). I also looked at the Canon Rebel XTi 400D, and the Nikon D40x.

In the end, though, it was the amazing little Nikon D40 that helped me make the decision. Nikon made a bold move with the D40 – they offered a DLSR that wasn’t really crippled in any way for a LOT less than their other cameras, and less than the competition. How much less? Remember that we’re talking in the realm of cameras that can cost thousands of dollars, WITHOUT a lens (body only). My “dream” camera, if cost weren’t an option, would be the new Nikon D300, which is $1800 without a lens. And nice lenses start at a few hundred dollars, and go up from there.

Anyway, back to the Nikon D40. It comes with a decent 18-55mm lens, and can do most of what it’s bigger, more expensive brothers can do. It uses cheap (and abundant, in my house) SD memory cards instead of Compact Flash. It’s the smallest and lightest DLSR out there (I think), and gets rave reviews from everyone from Guy Kawasaki to my friends on Twitter to Ken Rockwell (an internet camera nut). And all of that for an MSRP of $599. I got mine from Amazon for $492. That’s actually LESS than what I paid for my Canon SD 700 IS when it came out! (Yes, I was a sucker and paid full MSRP to get it right away).

I ordered the D40 kit on Monday, with a few accessories (a Nikon SB-400 Speedlight (flash), 4GB Kingston SD card, extra battery, bag, etc.). There were some great bundle deals on accessories from Amazon – stuff like “$20 off an SD card”, “free Lowepro Transporter strap“, and “$10 off a Lowepro Topload Zoom bag“. So I pretty much stocked up. 😉

The camera and extra stuff arrived today, and I’ve only had a little while to play with it, but already, I’m in love. I love how solid it feels in my hand. I love the sounds it makes – intoxicating! I’ve done a TON of reading and studying to get ready for this camera, everything from every word about it on Ken Rockwell’s site to every review I can get my hands on to buying and reading “The Digital Photography Book” by Scott Kelby (highly recommended – funny, concise, and useful). I feel prepared. Now, I just need to get out and shoot shoot shoot! 🙂

I’ll be taking the camera to Ignite Portland tomorrow night, and we’re leaving on a trip to Utah to see family next week, so I’m sure I’ll be doing lots of shots there, too. Keep an eye on my Flickr stream to see the best of them. Here are a couple that I shot tonight:

Nikon D40 Test - Leaves

Leaves on the tree in my front yard. That “bokeh” effect – blurred background, sharp foregound – is something I LOVE, and one of the main reasons I wanted an SLR.

Nikon D40 Test - Gabe

Here’s a shot of Gabe in our (messy) living room, using the SB400 flash aimed upwards, so the flash is bouncing off of the ceiling. I LOVE how good it looks compared to the same photos I used to get with a point and shoot.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve found a whole new world of stuff to learn about, play with, and be a geek about. I love it! 🙂

All product links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, so if you click on them and end up buying something, I get a percentage cut from Amazon. Which is good, because I made a promise to myself and to Rachel that this camera would be the last big gadget purchase I make until we’re completely out of consumer debt, something we’ve been working on. More on that later, but suffice it to say that affiliate credits from Amazon may be the only way I have of acquiring new gear for a little while. 😉


Transformers Special Edition DVD – the case transforms!

Transformers Special Edition DVD - the case transforms!

Picked this up last night at Target. Apparently, different store chains have different special editions. For example, Best Buy has one sans the transforming case, but with a little Optimus Prime that looks like it came from a Happy Meal.

Oh, and I also drooled over this, but it’s a little too much ($80) for an impulse toy purchase:

Ultimate Bumblebee. Want.

One Year Ago Today: How Rachel Spent Her Birthday in the Hospital

Today is my wife Rachel’s birthday. We’re going out to breakfast at Biscuits Cafe, then tonight, we’re getting together with some friends. I got a couple dozen from Saint Cupcake to celebrate. 🙂

One year ago today, we were sitting in the emergency room at St. Vincent hospital. Rachel arrived there via an ambulance ride at 2 AM, and I followed shortly thereafter in the car with a 5 week old Gabriel.

Everything turned out fine, but it was one of the scariest experiences of my life. You can read all about it in this post.

I told Rachel that if she wants some excitement on her birthday this year, she should just ask. No need to do something so dramatic. 🙂


I’m on Sabbatical from Intel for two months

Well, the time is upon me. My cube is packed, and the clock is ticking towards 5:00 PM. After that, I’m officially on sabbatical, and won’t be back at Intel until December.

What is sabbatical you ask? Well, at Intel, every seven years you’re employed there, you get 8 weeks paid time off in the form of a sabbatical, to do with as you please. You can’t break it up, but you can combine it with vacation time to extend it (I’m not). It’s a great benefit – one of the perks that Intel offers that not many other companies do. They do it to let you recharge and refocus and reinvigorate yourself, which is exactly what I’m going to do.

What are my plans?

First, I’m organizing an event – Ignite Portland. It’s a fun cool kind of techie event where people get 20 slides for 15 seconds each to present a really cool idea, on any topic. Free to attend, free to present. It’s on Oct. 25 downtown at Wieden+Kennedy. Details are on the site, and if you’re in Portland, I’d love to see you there. There will be free (sponsored) food and drinks, and maybe even schwag! Check it out and RSVP if you can come. We’re already over 150 people attending, so this party is much larger than I imagined when I conceived of the idea. Let’s blow it all the way out.

After that, we’re taking a road trip to Idaho and Utah to see family. We’ll be gone about two weeks, and I’m making plans to stay as connected as possible the whole way (3G modem card + portable wifi router + battery pack. Seriously.)

When we get home, I have a bunch of web/hacking projects I want to work on. Haven’t decided which ones, yet. And I plan to play lots of videogames, and hang around the house, driving Rachel crazy.

People have been asking me if I’m going to take a break from blogging/twitter/etc. I dont’ know why, but I find it amusing. 🙂 Since I’m a blogger, all the way down to the core, I’ll be posting constant updates on what I’m doing here at and in my lifestream, Follow me on Twitter, subscribe to those sites, and it will be just like you’re there on sabbatical with me! 😉

I’m officially back at work on December 10. I have some vacation left to use before the end of the year, so I’ll be in and out until January, when I plan to jump back in with both feet, and start rocking some cool ideas at Intel! 🙂


Apple’s iPhone/iPod touch Web Application listing has launched

Looks like the rumored Apple site that lists webapps you can use on your iPhone or iPod Touch has launched:


I find it amusing that the site itself, when viewed on my iPhone, is not “optimized” for iPhone viewing. That is, you have to scroll around and navigate the page just like a “full size” web page. Which works really, really well on the iPhone, so it’s not a big deal, but still, I chuckled.

As far as what apps are listed, of course the “big” ones like Facebook and Digg are included. I also discovered the iPhone versions of Fandango (for movie listings and tickets – we needed this one!) and WeatherBug.

These two are quite useful, and nicely done, and I hadn’t heard of them before. Besides that, I found the rest of the apps to be, well, boring and derivative. I guess I’m jaded. But I’m honestly disappointed that this is the best that Apple could do to harness the creativity and genius of people out there who WANT to write great apps for a great device.

You’ll also find links to Apple’s documentation on iPhone web app development linked from the page, and you can submit your own web app for consideration/inclusion in the directory. And there’s an RSS feed to subscribe and receive updates when new apps are added, though I’m getting a “page not found” error for the feed right now. Guess no web site launch is perfect.

I guess this is as close to a software development kit as we’re going to get. *sigh* Anyway, go check it out if you have an iPhone or an iPod touch, and bookmark any that you find useful! 🙂


Google Maps Street View Now Covers Portland, 5 other new cities

Saw word this morning on Lifehacker that Google Maps’ “Street View”, where they drive around with a panoramic camera, is now available in 6 new cities, including Portland! Yay! :-)The image above is a screenshot – I tried to “embed” the map, but it wouldn’t let me. You can click here to go to that spot on the map and browse around (that’s SW Oak and 1st in Portland, where Rachel used to work, and near eSan Thai, which is where we’ve been having all the Ignite Portland planning meetings).

Fun stuff! 🙂