There are several techniques that aging photographers can adopt so that they can keep on photographing after they no longer wish to carry or hold their heavy DSLR camera. They can switch to lighter, smaller prime lenses and change what they photograph; i.e. stop photographing wildlife with big heavy long zoom lenses. Or, they can switch to smaller lighter cameras with smaller sensors. Even Saul Leiter moved “down” to micro 4/3 cameras and he hadn’t been shooting with a heavy DSLR camera or long heavy zoom lenses. I have mentioned these techniques before as I adopted them. This article is about a third scheme … using a lighter, smaller entry-level DSLR with a prime lens in order to cut weight.
One characteristic that I have noticed with my arthritic hands is that a lighter camera-lens combination is a big help but having a lighter camera-lens combination with a good hand-grip and buttons that aren’t too small or too close together is even better. In addition, I thought that an appropriate hand grip would compensate for a little more camera weight. For that reason I ordered a Nikon D3300 camera with a 35 mm prime lens to try. My hope was that the hand grip would compensate for the heavier camera with an APS size sensor and lenses and mirror. My motive for trying this approach was that I wanted to get a little better image quality in low light than I can get with my micro 4/3 sensor camera. I also hoped that the 24 MP sensor would enable me to do more crop-zooming with the 35 mm f/1.8 DX lens.
Well, I tried this third approach and rejected it. I didn’t find that the larger sensor was much better and I didn’t like the focus capability of the D3300. It focused fast enough in good light but it needed to use the focus assist light in low light and I didn’t like shining a small spot light on my subjects. The real killer was that the 35 mm lens back-focused about an inch. Having this problem along with the camera-lens combination being larger with few external controls was too much to warrant me keeping it. I returned it.
Another more subtle problem was that I didn’t find the cheap quality of the camera to be pleasing. I need to like my cameras. They have to feel and look like they have been well-engineered and constructed. I think I have learned a few lessons. One, I am done with the DSLR cameras and their large lenses. I have sold mine with a few attempts to try others one more time, but this was the last time. Two, going cheaper is not the solution.