Through a Different Lens

This post was originally written in June 2021 for Hemispheric News; subscribe at the Patreon site One Prime Plus to receive this monthly newsletter and other benefits that are linked to the Hemispheric Views podcast.

After I finished high school in 2009, I was fortunate to receive a very generous gift from my parents: a Canon 500D. I didn’t have any experience with DSLRs at the time, but I was grateful to have received it and relished the chance to experiment with taking different shots. My mum and dad knew that I liked taking photos and maintaining my iPhoto library, so this seemed like a worthwhile upgrade to my earlier digital camera. The 500D came with an 18-200mm lens, which my parents chose because of its versatility for general use and decent zooming. It was the right decision.

Over the years, I’ve taken this camera everywhere, including on holiday to Japan, travelling throughout Europe and on our honeymoon to Tasmania. It isn’t the most expensive or capable DSLR, but I’ve always been impressed at the photos that it takes and have been thrilled to have something so decent to take on trips.

Still, that time was an interesting one to receive a DSLR as a gift, as it was the dawn of the smartphone era that we now take for granted. iPhones, certainly the 3G that I had back then, had nowhere near the capability of iPhones today when it comes to photography, let alone a DSLR.

As they say, though, the best camera is the one that you have with you. Like many others, while I had a much better camera, I’ve relied on the iPhone and successive models to build my photo library. The Canon has never been my main day-to-day camera; it’s the one for special occasions. It has been too heavy and certainly when I was younger and a student, I never had the money or inclination to build a collection of lenses.

Each iPhone model has included a more impressive camera (or *cameras*, nowadays), with amazing inclusions like image stabilisation and 4K HDR video. Using my DSLR became even less attractive.

Then something happened: my wife Natasha and I had our son, Mac, in April of this year.

I’m currently using an iPhone 12 mini and LOVE the cameras on it. You can bet that I’ve taken many photos and videos of Mac already. Something lingered in the back of my mind though, as I had heard other tech podcasters lament the quality of some of the photos of their kids from years ago. I looked at my iPhone and thought, Even though this device takes excellent photos, should I be using another device like a larger, dedicated camera even more, just to be safe?

I considered using my Canon more again, but it still felt too heavy—not at all convenient for whipping out to capture spontaneous family moments. I started to investigate other cameras online from different brands and of various sizes, whether compact, mirrorless or otherwise, but they all were too expensive to justify the purchase. Why pay stacks of money for a dedicated camera that doesn’t even include 4K video, like my iPhone has?

Then I asked myself, Why don’t I just look for a new lens? I began the search.

As I had expected, other than macros, many of the lenses seemed equally bulky and just too pricy, until I stumbled upon an absolute bargain: this 50mm Canon portrait lens, reduced from AU$199 to AU$144. I snapped it up and am now astounded at how it has transformed my camera.

My 500D, which was once a heavy inconvenience, has transformed into a convenient device that I can keep nearby in a drawer for those spontaneous family moments.

As obvious as it may sound to buy a new lens (to any photography enthusiasts reading this), I just didn’t have the inclination before. Again, I was a young person without much money or experience in photography, who built a personal library in the time of iPhone. It’s amazing how you start to view things differently when a constantly peeing, crapping and vomiting newborn enters your life.

Much like my repurposing of the iPod Hi-Fi in volume one of Hemispheric News, this rebirth of a now 11-year-old product feels great. I avoided wasting time, money and resources in buying a new device, and get to tell my parents about how the gift they got me over a decade ago is being used to record the life of their grandson.

Anyway, I’m thrilled the results and now have something even more versatile to obsessively capture our little Mac.

Is there any kind of first-world problem in your life that has such an obvious solution? Let us know at Hemispheric Views by email or on Discord, Twitter or Micro.blog.