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Author Topic: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?  (Read 9763 times)

Offline brynn

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shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« on: December 22, 2013, 08:52:34 PM »
Hi Friends,
Almost all my life I've wanted a camera that I could actually control.  The childhood birthday and Santa list always resulted in point and shoot cameras.  And I always managed to wear them out fairly quickly.  Anyway, I'm finally making my dream come true, before it's too late.

Really the dream has always been for what I've recently learned is now called full frame (the old 35mm).  I know it will be a huge learning curve, so I don't think I'm kidding myself about that part.  But so far, I haven't found an entry level full frame type of dslr.  So I'm hoping some of you might be able to give me some tips and guidance about how to jump in, as far as the basic equipment.  I expect I'll be using the new camera both indoors and outdoors.

I'm really not a "craig's list" type of shopper.  If it was a friend, who had a used camera for sale, I might go for that, if it was the right camera for me.  So I think I'm basically looking at brand new, unless you all might know of some other reliable resource for a used full frame dslr.  The problem with going new, is the price tag -- omg, right?!

So anyway, if anyone has any tips for a nice, very basic dslr for a beginner, which unless I just get crazy into photography, will probably also be the last camera I buy, I would certainly appreciate hearing any comments.  I actually don't quite understand how a still camera can also be a video or movie camera, but it looks like it might actually be hard to find a dslr that's just for stills.  Anyway, I have no need for video, if that would affect the price of the camera not to have video.

And still under the topic of equipment, it looks like you can buy just the camera, and then get a lens separately, or I see a lot of "kits" which look like camera plus lens.  Is buying them separately any cheaper than buying a kit?  Is there any advantage of buying them separately, other than price?

One spec that I haven't found explained yet, is the mm description of the lens.  It might be 18 - 140 mm or 50 - 300, or something like that.  What is that a measure of?  I guess the wider the range of mm, the better, or more versatile the lens.  But I'm not sure how important that is.  I've been reading a lot in Wikipedia, and this and several other websites, to learn the basics.  But just haven't come across that info yet.  Could someone point me in the right direction for that info?  Or maybe it's not really important?  I realize how marketing and advertising often provide useless info about products, especially electronics, to try and sell the product.

And I probably have some more questions which are not about equipment.  I guess I'll ask them somewhere else....maybe I'll post an introduction (since I'm not sure how strict this forum is about on/off topic).

Anyway, thanks for any comments or suggestions for dslr equipment for a beginner.

All best   :)



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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2013, 09:15:23 PM »
Hi Brynn, and welcome to CC.  You finally managed to get over here then. :tup: 

Do you have a budget in mind for your camera, and lens?  Bare in mind that entering into the world of DSLR doesn't normally stop at buying a Body and lens, you'll probably want more than one lens, and a pile of accessories to go with it.

 

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Offline brynn

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2013, 09:56:54 PM »
At first I was thinking an upper limit of $1000.  But so far, I haven't found a full frame for anything close to that.  So the budget is the cheapest one I can find, that has all the basic controls.  Then watch the internet and local store ads for a good sale

I know I'll have to get a...I forget, some kind of little thing....maybe called a card reader?  Or whatever I need to get the photos onto my computer.  Maybe a simple cleaning kit and/or case/cover.

I'm still not clear about lenses.  I understand wide angle or zoom, but not so sure about others.  Just to start, I think I'll be fine with just 1 lens.

Of course, I don't want to walk into the electronics store without having done a good deal of research!

Offline Oldboy

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2013, 10:08:56 PM »
Welcome to CameraCraniums. We are very easy here and will answer any questions we are asked, even if other sites consider them off topic. I'm a Nikon man myself whilst others are in the Canon camp. Why are you looking at full frame? The crop cameras produce just as good images as full frame and the lenses for them are cheaper. If you want full frame then look at secondhand. A Nikon D3 will cost around £1,800 whilst D600 or D700 will cost around £1,300 or less. A mm is the focal length of the lens, so for example a 600mm lens will produce a image twice as big as a 300mm from the same distance. See this: http://johnlind.tripod.com/science/scienceframe.html for more information.  :tup:

Offline brynn

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2013, 10:17:27 PM »
Thanks Oldboy  :)
Yes, that looks like a very informative site.  Thanks for sharing!

Offline Hinfrance

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2013, 11:21:03 AM »
Hi Brynn, and welcome.

I think that most of us would like to have a full frame DSLR, but as you are discovering they are very expensive, even used. Fortunately for those of us who are more financially constrained the modern slightly smaller APS sensor cameras are very good now. Myself and Simon are two manufacturer outliers here - we have Pentax cameras, in my case because of weatherproofing, ruggedness, and 'bangs for your buck'. Abers, who is one of our most experienced and not to put to fine a point on it excellent members, hardly uses a DSLR at all - he prefers his Sony hybrid camera.

So while you are looking around for an interchangeable lens camera, don forget to check out the hybrids from especially Sony and Panasonic. They key things to take away from this are that the camera is just a tool for collecting light, and that nowadays there aren't really any bad choices.

As Jinky said on the other thread the limiting item in a setup is usually the lenses. But good quality prime lenses do not have to be that expensive. The various sizes of sensors need different focal lengths - for example a 50mm full frame lens has the same field of view as a 35mm lens on an APC camera. One of my neighbours is a frequently published (here in France at least) wildlife photographer. He eschews full frame for Canon APS because of the multiplier effect of the smaller sensor on his long lenses (now those ARE expensive!)

The other thing, as mentioned by others, is that you will need your digital 'darkroom', or library and editing software. The clear market leader is Adobe with their Photoshop products. Elements is an excellent first choice as it includes library functions and guided editing while you learn. The industry standard library management software is another Adobe product, Lightroom. Most of use here use that.

Going up a notch in editing sophistication from Elements, although not ease of use, is Serif's Photoplus which is brilliant for monochrome work especially, and the big daddy is Photoshop CC which only available on monthly subscription. My advice would be to start with Elements. You may very well find it is the only digital darkroom and library manager you'll ever need.

I'm sure that whatever you decide upon you are going to have a wonderful time learning and creating images.  :tup:
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Offline SimonW

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2013, 12:56:34 PM »
Hi Brynn,

It seems H and I are in very close agreement. I got a new PC a couple of years back which came with Elements 9, and I find it very good indeed for cataloguing photos so I can find them again, and for doing all the editing I'll ever want. I expect the latest version will be even better. (But I have to say Adobe have a special offer 30% off on Lightroom, only till 9th January - and I am tempted to try it.)

And I bought my Pentax K10D about seven years back and am still very pleased with it (though now enviously eyeing up their new K3). Its kit lens was really very good for the price but I've since added a decent telephoto lens (50mm to 300mm zoom) and polariser and ND filters. I like the ruggedness and weatherproofing, and the way all the controls are laid out. It is APS-C sized and so quite a bit lighter and less bulky than full frame, but still too much to carry all the time so I also have a decent compact camera which I'm never without.

You might look at the current Pentax K50, but you MUST "play" with one in a shop, and compare it with APS-C DSLRS from the likes of Sony, Nikon and Canon. You might find them slightly less weight - they might fit your fingers better and so on. And then re-try the Pentax. Do not buy without trying!

I'm told it is so cheap to add video capability to current camera designs that it really costs nothing. So the manufacturers do so even though they know only a few people will use it.

Good Luck.

Simon
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 01:26:19 PM by SimonW »
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Offline ABERS

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2013, 01:26:00 PM »
I'm always a little loathe to give equipment advice since if it is taken there's always the chance it could come back and bite you. No matter how many gizmos and assorted bells and whistles any camera has unless you can first take a well composed, well exposed sharpish imagee you could be wasting large amounts of cash and end up with a bit of a white elephant.

If it's possible join a club, learn the basics, get some second hand equipment, practise and learn, just like taking up golf you won't become a scratch player overnight.

I've been down the road of bulky DSLR' s,lugging all the equipment around becomes a bit of a chore , have a look at the smaller cameras that have have an  interchangeable lens
facility before you make any decisions.

The Sony NEX range is well worth a look.

Good luck with your endeavours  :tup:
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 01:28:04 PM by ABERS »

Offline Oldboy

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Offline brynn

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2013, 11:34:16 PM »
Oh wow, thanks for all that info!  A few questions:

Hi Brynn, and welcome.

I think that most of us would like to have a full frame DSLR, but as you are discovering they are very expensive, even used. Fortunately for those of us who are more financially constrained the modern slightly smaller APS sensor cameras are very good now. Myself and Simon are two manufacturer outliers here - we have Pentax cameras, in my case because of weatherproofing, ruggedness, and 'bangs for your buck'. Abers, who is one of our most experienced and not to put to fine a point on it excellent members, hardly uses a DSLR at all - he prefers his Sony hybrid camera.

So while you are looking around for an interchangeable lens camera, don forget to check out the hybrids from especially Sony and Panasonic. They key things to take away from this are that the camera is just a tool for collecting light, and that nowadays there aren't really any bad choices.

As Jinky said on the other thread the limiting item in a setup is usually the lenses. But good quality prime lenses do not have to be that expensive. The various sizes of sensors need different focal lengths - for example a 50mm full frame lens has the same field of view as a 35mm lens on an APC camera. One of my neighbours is a frequently published (here in France at least) wildlife photographer. He eschews full frame for Canon APS because of the multiplier effect of the smaller sensor on his long lenses (now those ARE expensive!)

What's a hybrid camera?

I'm still a little confused with all the terminology.  APS and APC are the same thing?  I've seen it written APS-C, I think?  "Field of view" means what?  The size of the original photo?  Or what you see through viewfinder?  Do you mean to say that even professional photographers don't necessarily use full frame cameras?

When you said your neighbor uses "...full frame for Canon APS..." do you mean he has a certain kind of lens on an APS camera, which gives the same size of photo as a full frame camera?

And some of you have mentioned various kinds of software.  Do photographers on the slr level often take photos that they know they will need to edit?  I've had the impression, all this time I've been wanting a slr camera, that the real challenge is to take an original photo that doesn't need editing.  And since, with a digital camera, you can see the photo before you decide to keep it, can't you just keep trying until you get all the settings correct?  Of course I realize in some cases the subject is fleeting, but I wouldn't be trying that until I have more experience.

I'm somewhat familiar with computer graphics.  I use the vector editor Inkscape on a regular basis (just opened a new forum actually).  And I'm a little familiar with The GIMP, and a few other raster editors.  But I've never used them to actually edit a photo.  I'm more familiar with their features for artistic purposes.....I guess I mean for drawing graphics, since photography is an art as well.  So it will be a new experience to use GIMP to actually edit a photo that I take!

I'm not clear why you would need software for cataloging photos.  Can't a regular file manager handle that?  I don't expect I'll ever be a professional photographer, so there won't be thousands of files.

Quote
I'm always a little loathe to give equipment advice since if it is taken there's always the chance it could come back and bite you.

Don't worry.  I never take advice, unless I'm prepared for the consequences.  I will study all the info I'm given, and all that I can find, and make my own decision   ;)

Thanks again for all your comments.   They have been very helpful!

Offline SimonW

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2013, 08:57:05 AM »
Re catalogues: I worked for years by using quite descriptive file names, but a catalogue is so much easier. You can add any keywords (one or several) you like to your photo files then easily find them later.
for example if you have a People keyword and a sub-key John, and another keyword Trees, you can later find all the photos which ahve John in, or just those with John and a tree. and so on....
Simon Warren
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Offline ABERS

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2013, 09:06:12 AM »
Oh wow, thanks for all that info!  A few questions:

And some of you have mentioned various kinds of software.  Do photographers on the slr level often take photos that they know they will need to edit?  I've had the impression, all this time I've been wanting a slr camera, that the real challenge is to take an original photo that doesn't need editing.  And since, with a digital camera, you can see the photo before you decide to keep it, can't you just keep trying until you get all the settings correct?  Of course I realize in some cases the subject is fleeting, but I wouldn't be trying that until I have more experience.



It all depends what sort of photography you want to get into. There are those that are content with 'getting it right in the camera' and in fact set themselves the task of doing so, that's their take on photography. However, you will find that most, if not nearly all, serious photographers tweak their images to put right those things that are nigh on impossible to achieve in camera. Details in the shadows and highlights in a particularly contrasty scene, the ability to remove objects or tone down unnecessarily intrusive backgrounds and most of all give the image you've taken a bit of Oomph or conversely an air of peaceful quiet and tranquility are just some of the many and varied opportunities that post production gives you.

For me that's the most exciting and satisfying part of producing an image that I and hopefully others will think is worth looking at.

Your computer graphic experience will stand you in good stead in this area.

So just buying a DSLR doesn't mean you will be able to just run around taking wonderful pictures ad infinitum, that's not unless you want just to be a snapper! ;)

Offline Hinfrance

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2013, 01:15:39 PM »
Hi again.

Sorry, I didn't mean to confuse. My neighbour uses a Canon APS-C camera body. Being smaller they have a 'magnifying' effect. Canon APS sensors are slightly smaller than most other manufacturer's versions, giving a multiplier effect of 1.6x. This means that the 500mm lens he uses is the equivalent of an 800mm lens on a full frame camera.

The image size actually has nothing to do with the size of the sensor. In digital photography the image size is measured in mega pixels. The more mega pixels the larger the image. Some APS cameras therefore produce larger images than some full frame cameras do. What the larger sensor area in a full frame camera offer is a lower pixel density; this in turn means the individual pixels can be bigger, gathering more light. So what you get is superior low light performance. However, all modern DSLRs and Hybrid cameras have much better low light performance than film cameras did (without very expensive specialist film stock).

Field of view describes how many degrees of a view can be captured by a lens. The lower the focal length the wider the field of view. On a 35mm camera a 50mm lens gives approximately the same field of view as the human eye. On an APS camera this is achieved with a 35mm lens, on a full format (larger than full frame) camera that would be an 85mm lens.

A hybrid camera is one which has interchangeable lenses like a DSLR, but is smaller as it does not have an optical viewfinder and therefore all the gubbins that goes with it; they have electronic viewfinders and large LCD screens for seeing what the lens is seeing instead.

Right I'm off grid for a while now. Our Christmas guests are now halfway down France on their way from the UK, travelling through what they have described as biblical weather. Have a very Merry Christmas everyone, catch you on the other side. :)
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Offline spikeyjen

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2013, 10:47:41 PM »
Hi Brynn, and welcome aboard.
I've been a little reluctant to respond here as it's such a tough question, but we get these questions at our camera club regularly and we usually answer the questions with a list of questions you need to answer first...

1. What do you want to do with your photography - just take better pictures of your family and travels, or learn to move towards photographs as art?
2. Do you have the time and interest to learn about your camera, and all the amazing functions it has, or would you prefer the camera to be able to do these things for you?
3. Are you prepared to spend the time to learn a program that will enable you to enhance your photos (ie Elements, PS)?
4. Are you brave enough to put your work up for comments so that others may support you and provide you with some education or direction?
5. How much do you have to spend (you talked bout $1000, is that US$) as this can be an expensive hobby?
6. Do you have the manual dexterity to hold or carry a heavy camera/ lens?

The technology today is amazing, and the entry level DSLR's  take amazing pictures, but once you move to a full frame you are looking at big $$$ and heavy equipment. We (our club) always advise that you have a good lens (kit lenses are also good, but they have limitations) and that you negotiate with the store for a package with the camera body and lens you want, rather than be tempted with some kit lenses that you will have to change all the time.

As a Canon user I can't suggest any other brands, (and I'm not sure I am allowed to suggest any particular model)  but as a start you might want to look at a 650D with a zoom (such as a Sigma 18-250 or Tamron 18-270) which you can get for under $1000 Aust. I don't know what the Nikon equivalent is but a camera kit like this will meet all your needs as a new, emerging and amazing photographer. Check out what cameras and lenses are used by photographers in magazines and you will find that many use cameras like this. And don't forget you will also need to buy a UV filter to protect your lens  (and then the door opens and you will want a camera bag, tripod, other filters, a cable release......)

And as for becoming a crazy and obsessed photographer... welcome aboard.
 

Offline WillyP

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #14 on: December 25, 2013, 03:00:29 AM »
You can get all the software you need for free. I use XnView. I shoot in raw (a picture format that is basically all the information from the sensor untouched) and use XnView to make adjustments, crop, resize, rotate, etc. and final save to a format (jpg) I can upload to my gallery. If I want to 'shop and image, I use the Gimp.

You camera will come with a usb cord to connect to the computer. I don't have any of the software that came with the camera installed. Windows knows what to do as soon as I connect my camera and turn it on.

My first DSLR was a Cannon 400D, with the kit lens, that I bought for $180 off E-Bay. It came with everything a new camera would, plus some memory cards and an extra battery. It was like new when I got it, now the paint is all worn off from use, but it still works great. I'm now using a 60D that I picked up as a body only (no lens) for $400. It came with a memory card, cord, and a battery handle, and not much else. It looks like a brand new camera though, I think I got a really great deal. Anyway, my point is, if you are on a tight budget, I would recommend you seriously think about buying used gear off e-bay. Take your time and only bid on gear that is well described, well photographed, and from sellers who have a good rating. Nearly all my gear is used from e-bay. Things that have a limited lifespan like rechargeable batteries, I buy new. Though I usually buy those on e-bay too. Never had a problem buying anything from e-bay.


There's no simple explanation of the numbers used to describe lenses. To get started, though you might want to look at kits that come with two lenses. This isn't the 'best' choice, but it will get you further along with the budget you have. To put it simply, one lens for close subjects and one for distant. It is more expensive to buy the camera and the lens separately, but you get more, and better, choices that way.

As someone else said, tell us what you want to do, what you want to take pictures of, and you'll get more specific recommendations.

 

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