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Author Topic: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?  (Read 10730 times)

Offline brynn

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #15 on: December 26, 2013, 10:03:52 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.

No worries about making recommendations.  As I said before, I won't take anyone's word about what they think is best for me, then run out and buy it.  I'll learn everything I can about cameras, and make a decision on my own  ;)   I'm sure everyone would have different ideas about what might be best.

1 - More towards art, but it will be used like a family camera as well, sometimes.  The only thing on my "bucket list" (as they say) is to visit Alaska.  The reality is that it probably won't happen.  But there's an outside chance I might travel with it.  (More below.*)
2 - I prefer to learn about all the settings and functions.  I understand it could be a long process.  And maybe I'll learn that I actually do want the camera to handle some of the variables.  But I hope I can learn all the settings.
3 - I'll probably lean more towards getting it right with the original photo.  I have a LOT of experience with vector graphics, which is basically useless for photos.  But I have a little experience with GIMP and not afraid to learn.  I have plenty of time, although I'm at the end or maybe past middle age.  Maybe I'm a senior? -- 57.  So I don't have a lifetime ahead, but still probably plenty of time.
4 - I won't have any problems sharing my work for constructive comments.  By this age, with health issues, there's not much left to be shy about, lol.  Also I've learned through sharing my vector graphics work, that I learn so much more by hearing outside comments.
5 - That's $1000 US.  I apologize for that -- I thought the dollar sign was only for American dollars.
6 - I do have some physical limitations.  I haven't shopped in what they call the "brick and mortar" stores yet.  So far, just browsing online.  So I don't know how heavy a dslr camera is.  I was thinking the digital part would make it lighter.  Anyway, I should be able to handle it.  And I won't be taking any long hikes, in any case.

More questions.  Why does the lens need a UV filter?  Isn't the lens made out of glass?

Hopefully I can sort of defray some of the costs of this expensive hobby, by spreading out the purchases.  For example, I don't see myself needing a tripod right away.  It can wait until I see a need for it.

Regarding kits -- I had the impression that the kit was just a grouping of body and lens, for whatever marketing purpose.  But something someone said (I can't find it now) made me think they're of inferior quality.  So is the kit anything more than a marketing gimic?  Or are the lenses often inferior?

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.

....

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.

I like using open source software.  Is XnView open source?  If not, I'll bet there IS an open source solution though!

That's an interesting idea about shooting raw!  I'll have to try that, once I have some experience.

(*)I thought I already said, but maybe it was in my intro topic.  Mostly nature subjects around my apartment building and neighborhood parks, some indoors in what I could only call "still lifes" (lately I've been fascinated with the simple beauty of fruits and vegetables, for example) and then just general family type stuff.  Oh, also, rarely, I might be able to drive some distance and do some landscapes.  I live in a large city in Colorado, USA so we have some serious landscapes, outside of the cities!  But it's hard for me to drive that far, and certainly not very often.  Ever since I graduated from college (over 30 years ago) with a degree in Forestry, I've wanted to do a study of mature tree barks (with a good camera), and maybe a catalog of leaf, twig and buds photos, for all different kinds of trees.  I won't have much use for a leaf catalog anymore.  But the tree bark study could be fun!

Regarding lenses, do I really need 1 for close and 1 for distance?  Isn't there a lens that will do both, at least while I'm just learning?  I thought there would be something like a basic lens, and then later I could get a zoom or wide angle, or whatever.

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....

Oh, I see.  The catalog software allows for keywords or tags or whatever you want to call it.  I'll look into that, once I have enough photos that I need something like that.

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.

Oh yeah, mega pixels!  I need to do some reading about that, because apparently pixels mean something entirely different regarding mega pixels, than pixels on the computer screen.  Pixels on the computer screen can only be 1 size.  In fact I know some software that uses a pixel as a measurement (although not necessarily a precise measurement).  So the concept that pixels can be different sizes seems odd to me, at the moment.

So however many mega pixels of the camera is how I know what size of photo the camera will take.  Right?

I thought all...or at least most digital cameras had an LCD screen these days.  Do you mean that the hybrid only has the LCD and no viewfinder?  Or maybe a better question -- what is it a hybrid of?  Hybrid implies a blend of 2 or more things.
__________

Ok then, sorry for the long list of questions.  They'll probably be the last for a while.  Although I may still hang around the forum, and learn what I can by reading other topics.  (Not to mention the Arcade, which I have a real weakness for those little Flash games, lol!)

Next I'll have to research some smaller-than-full-frame cameras, online.  And do some more study about all the settings, and play with the Canon online simulator some more.  And then go shopping to some camera stores, to look at all the different brands and models.  Then once I make a decision, I might wait for a good sale.  But I'm sure I'll have another question or 2, sooner or later, lol.

Because of health reasons, I probably won't be able to join a club.  Although I can see how that would be a great way to learn!  And I'm not ruling it out altogether.  If it get really motivated, and there was a club where regular attendance was not mandatory, maybe it would work.

Anyway, thank you all SO much for all your helpful comments and answers!   :)

Offline spikeyjen

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #16 on: December 27, 2013, 09:34:49 PM »
Brynn, the UV filter on a lens protects the lens. Its cheaper to replace a cracked UV filter than a new lens.

Offline brynn

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2013, 11:19:47 PM »
But I don't understand why glass needs protection.  How can uv light damage glass?  Unless the lens isn't made of glass?

Offline Mick

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2013, 11:55:43 PM »
But I don't understand why glass needs protection.  How can uv light damage glass?  Unless the lens isn't made of glass?

Brynn, it's not the light, it's to protect the front element from physical damage, scratches etc.  Some people sometimes use a Skylight filter for the same reason.  ;)
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Offline brynn

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2013, 01:31:12 AM »
If it's just to protect from damage, why does it filter uv light?  Sorry if I'm being dense  :(

Offline SimonW

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2013, 02:43:33 PM »
I don't think you can buy a "filter" which doesn't filter anything at all....

But all an ultraviolet (UV) filter does to your photo is to very slightly improve the clarity. It does so by removing some of the ultraviolet light (which your eyes can't see but the camera (sensor or film) can) which is scattered by the atmosphere. So it's all good - unless you fit a very cheap one which has optical imperfections.

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Offline brynn

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2013, 03:19:01 PM »
Oohhh, ok  :uglystupid2:  So it filters the uv light for the photo, AND it protects the lens from scratches etc.?  That makes sense now.  Thank you so much  :)

I've gotten a fairly wide range of "advice"  here, which I appreciate very much....because even though some of it is conflicting (which I expected), here and there, and even between the lines, I've gotten clues that will help me quite a lot, when I visit camera stores (or wherever I go) in person.  I can't wait to tell you all about my new camera, whenever I finally buy it!

Thanks again  :D
« Last Edit: December 29, 2013, 03:21:05 PM by brynn »

Offline Reinardina

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2013, 11:21:02 PM »
Brynn, I see you are a kitten now.

I've been trying to work out, whether Brynn is a girl's or a boy's name. Can you enlighten me? I think in Wales it's a boy's name, but in the States it may be different. (Being Dutch I'm not au fait with some names used by English speaking people.)

(Sorry, nothing to do with cameras, just curiosity.)
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Offline kerbside

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #23 on: December 29, 2013, 11:37:44 PM »
Reinardina, this is a female name it tells you in the info summery, lady is from USA. :)
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Offline Reinardina

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #24 on: December 30, 2013, 07:55:06 AM »
Thanks Jeff. Haven't had time to read everything, especially as I had nothing to 'offer' in this case.
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Offline brynn

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #25 on: December 31, 2013, 11:18:08 AM »
Yes, I'm female.  But I only just marked it in my profile in the last day or 2.  So even if you had looked, it might not have been there.  I found the kitten in the forum's collection of avatars.  It was a tough decision -- you all have a really nice collection of animals there.  Maybe before too long I can use a photo I've taken for my av.

Up until a few years ago, I knew nothing about my name "brynn".  My mother told me my father had made it up.  But in a forum, a few years ago, someone told me that in Europe, it can be either a male or female name.  I've never met or heard or even read of anyone with that name, except there's a college somewhere with Bryn as part of the name.  Most people try to say it like 'brine', but it's pronounced 'brin'.  (just fyi,  8))

Offline Andrew

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #26 on: January 01, 2014, 11:53:29 AM »
In case you haven't purchased yet - might i throw in a Fuji X series camera as part of your consideration.

These little pocket wonders take some rather wonderful pictures, whilst being much smaller and lighter than a DSLR. I think you can get a new X-E2 with lens for your $1000 budget, and on occasions I see 'over the pond' offers X-Pro 1's with multiple lens deals for about $1000.

My one caveat for the Fuji's though - if sports is your thing, look elsewhere. But then good A/F for sports rarely comes in for $1000  :'(
1 body, 1 lens, 1 flash gun, 1 tripod, 1 cable release & 1 filter. Keeping it simple!
(I lied, just got a second lens!)

Offline StephenBatey

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Offline StephenBatey

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #28 on: January 01, 2014, 07:56:10 PM »
Quite a few points! I'll try and pick up on the ones that I don't think have been covered. Plus my own take on a few that have.

Focal length
This is one of the important properties of a lens, because it controls the image size. Suppose you have a man, six feet tall, in front of your camera. And let's suppose that his distance is such that the in focus image made by the lens is 1" high (just enough to fill the short side of the frame on a 35mm or full frame digital camera).

Now swap to a 100mm lens, and the image will be 2" high - so you'll only get half of him in on a 35mm/FF camera. Swap to a 25mm lens, and the image shrinks to 1/2" high, so he'll fit with space to spare.

But this image size is determined only by the focal length. There are no magical lens properties that means that the size changes when you use a different camera. So if you use a 4/3 format camera (which has a sensor half the size of a full frame camera) you'll get a half man with a 50mm lens, and only get the whole with a 25mm.

Which is why angle of view is more important than focal length for practical photography (I'll admit that most photographers disagree) because that is the only measure of what you'll actually get in. The angle of view of a 25mm lens on a 4/3 camera is the same as that of a 50mm lens on a full frame one.

Pixels
It's short for "picture element" and is the smallest unit possible. A pixel will have three colour variables (red, green and blue). Computer screens have pixels, and they have a physical size; so do most advertising boards where the image is made up of dots; and the same is true of photos in newspapers. A sensor has pixels, as how many will determine how much detail can be captured.

There's a lot of "all other things being equal" when it comes to comparing performance and megapixels. All other things being equal, for a given sensor size, more megapixels mean poorer low light performance. In the real world, all other things aren't equal, because the computer software in the camera, the physical design of the sensor and a few other things enter in. A camera with a higher megapixel count may have a poorer low light performance than one with fewer megapixels; but the reverse can also be true.

Getting it right in camera
Two points. First, it depends what you mean by "right". Second, it's impossible.

Aim for the best starting point for your final image. No camera can reproduce the outside world exactly. It's impossible. It will distort what's there. If you are happy to let the process dictate the result, then you can "get it wrong in the smallest possible way in camera". If you want to control the process, then you need to aim for the best starting point for what you have to do after exposure.

Cameras
Are tools. My favourite illustration is to compare a watchmaker's screwdriver and a sledge hammer. Both are tools, but I'd find it hard work removing a concrete drive with a small screwdriver; and I'd hate to entrust my watch for repair to a man whose only equipment was a sledgehammer.

Are imperfect. Some are better than others for certain jobs. No camera does all jobs perfectly, just as the highest precision screwdriver won't be performing at it's best when breaking up concrete.

Professionals have used - and still use - a variety of different cameras (and I mean types, not makers).

DSLRs are not the only game in town, although some seem to think so. I use mainly 5x4" film cameras, because no DSLR will give me the results I want. They have technical limitations that LF cameras don't have, and image quality limitations likewise. What you need depends on what you want to photograph, how you want to photograph it, and what you want as final output (print - and size matters - or photo on a Facebook page).

Lenses
There are two primary characteristics: focal length and maximum aperture.

Focal length we've already seen determines image size, and hence the angle of view (or how much of a scene you'll "get in". It can be fixed or variable. If variable, it will have certain performance limitations compared to a fixed focal length lens.

There are many different "targets" for a lens designer to hit. One of them is the optimum subject distance. All lenses have an optimum subject distance (although it's rarely mentioned) and it's usually in the 10-15 ft range. Some lenses are designed to work at closer distances, but all lenses can be made to give an in focus image of a subject no matter how close, until you reach the absolute limit of two focal lengths away. (Reasons on request).

A "standard" lens has an angle of view that is said (erroneously) to be that of the human eye. More exactly, the definition runs that it's the same size as the diagonal of the format it's covering, which for 35mm is 43mm (usually rounded up to 50mm). Anything less than the standard is a wide angle (because it gets more in and hence covers a wider angle of view) or is longer than the standard and is called a long focus lens. Most people use the term "telephoto" for a long focus lens, but it's incorrect as "telephoto" refers to a specific optical design, and this does actually affect certain optical properties of a lens.

Pixels and megapixels
You need a certain number of dots to fool the eye that you're seeing a continuous tone. How many depends on the viewing distance. From far enough away, a billboard looks like a continuous tone photo; from nearer up you can see the dots.

The subject is more involved than most people realise, but as a gross simplification, for a print viewed at normal distance you need 300 pixels in camera per inch of print. So an image of 3000x2000 pixels would give a photo 10x7" approx. And like the billboard, you can go larger provided you view from further away.

On clubs
I'm less convinced on the value than most. I've never found a technical problem I couldn't solve myself, and I've seen (and heard) enough to make me think that they (with the best possible intentions) impose an artistic straight jacket on members. And that is a contentious assertion.

Offline WillyP

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Re: shopping for my 1st dslr - any tips?
« Reply #29 on: January 03, 2014, 09:32:16 PM »
I'm not sure if XnView is open source, but it is free to download and use, for personal use.

If you are happy with one lens, then no, you don't need two.

Mega is a quantity of pixels. Pixels on a camera are the same pixels as on your monitor, one megapixel is one million pixels. Having a camera with more megapixels means you can crop a small part of the image and still have it fill your monitor.

For example, let's say I want to use a picture of my cat as a wallpaper. My 60D is 17.90 Megapixels which gives me a photo 5184 x 3456. My monitor is 1600 x 1200, so I set the crop (using XnView) to 1600 x 1200, and position the crop frame over the image. Then I enlarge the crop frame... it stays in in the same ratio automatically... until I get the part of the picture I want on my desktop. Then I crop the image, adjust colors, etc, and reduce the image to 1600 x 1200. I do this in RAW format then save to jpg as the last step.

As you can see, taking a 1600 x 1200 section out of the 5184 x 3456 leaves me a lot of room to cut out the background, or I can even just take, say, one eye and concentrate on that. Always try to avoid enlarging, for instance going from a 720 x 480 crop and enlarging to 1600 x 1200, as the software will have to 'guess' at the values for the added pixels. And this can blur details. Or give that 'pixelated' look. So the bigger the image to begin with, even though you reduce it, will give you more creative options.

 

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