New to Digital SLR photography, help!

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by TrackingSound, Mar 28, 2009.

  1. Hey Everyone,

    I am just getting into photography and have been using a hand me down Canon Rebel GII from my father. So far I have taken some promising photos that people have surprisingly really liked, thus fueling my passion for my new hobby.

    So only after a short while buying film and getting it developed is getting really old (and expensive). I love working with my images in Photoshop to polish them up and transferring them is getting annoying so I'm thinking of jumping straight into the SLR realm.

    I don't know much about this stuff yet so I figured I'd turn to you guys for some advice on a good starter camera that will take professional quality photos w/out breaking the bank i.e. the HD Classic of the SLR world... :)

    Hell, maybe somebody is looking to part with one?!

    I got such great advice when I started DE shaving on here so I thought I'd come back to you guys for another hobby. Any advice is welcome and appreciated.

    Best Regards,

  2. Here's the good news -- this is an excellent time to buy a DSLR. For the most part, the resolution wars have died down and manufacturers have been adding features like better ISO sensitivity, image stabilization, etc. over the past couple of years.

    Understand that when you buy a camera, you're really buying into a system i.e. buying lenses, flashes, etc. that will only work with that manufacturer. You don't want to find out you really don't like your camera after you've bought lenses and flashes for it. Sure, you can sell it all and start over, but you lose money and it's a pain.

    I'd recommend you start looking at the Nikon D40 or the current Canon Rebel DSLR. You should handle both of these and see what you like. Do they feel right in your hand? How the viewfinder? Remember, you'll be looking though that thing a lot. If it looks like a tunnel now, it'll look like a pinhole after you've used it for an event like a party, wedding, etc.

    Whatever you decide, I'd probably buy the camera in a kit with a lens. It's a good deal and the kit lenses are good enough to get you going.

    You'll probably want a flash. The pop-up flash on these cameras isn't good. Once you've seen the pictures you get with a hot shoe flash, you'll never go back. Buy the manufacturer brand flash. Nikon does better here, so if you're planning on doing a lot of flash photography, that may play a factor in your decision. I shoot Canon and I get good results, so don't think you can't get it done with Canon.

    If you see yourself getting serious about photography quickly, you may want to skip the Rebel/D40 series stuff and go up to the higher end stuff like the D700 and Canon 50D. My wife and I got into this with a Rebel XT and upgraded two years later. We upgraded to get a bigger viewfinder, larger body, and better ISO sensitivity. The Rebel took great pictures though and I certainly got my money's worth.

    Take your time and have fun.
  3. Isaac

    Isaac Moderator Emeritus

    I gotta say that i LOVE my Nikon D90. Its not full frame...but then again its not 2k+
  4. I've used Pentax gear for 25+ years, and made the switch from film SLR to digital SLR last year. Can't pass judgement on Canon products........but, i can say this:
    Do some homework before the purchase. You have some experience with Canon, in this game its Nikon or Canon, with Pentax bringing up the rear. (Pentax has fewer, but very loyal followers!)
    Try to consider what you may be doing with the camera in a year or 3. A fully featured SLR that also also allows the user to go all automatic or full manual which allows for full creativity. Full manual means that you select all the settings: f-stop, aperature, and ISO.
    Any local pro shop should be able to answer any and all your questions.
  5. Very well thought out response. This about sums it up. I have a Canon Rebel XTi DSLR and love it! I"d concur with the D40 or Rebel recommendation.
  6. You will hear alot about Nikon and Canon, many people think that they are the only choices (not saying that this is the view of any of the other posters here). I would keep in mind the other brands as well. Someone has suggested Pentax, and I would put in a word for Olympus. I have the e520 and love it; the quality of the consumer level lenses is superior (imho of course) to the main two and at a better price. The new e620 is supposed to be a fantastic camera, I would suggest looking into it to see if it would work for what you are interested in. That said, many others would complain about noise at high ISO due to the 4/3 sensor. You can read about that in plenty of places (check out for a decent forum for more info on cameras).

    I am not saying you must get an Olympus, there are other great cameras out there. I just am suggesting keeping open to choices beyond Canon and Nikon before making your final purchase. If you poke around user galleries and look at everyones photos, it will quickly become apparant that it isn't the camera that makes the photos. It is of course the user... Good luck!
  7. dpm802

    dpm802 Contributor

    If you're just starting out, I would recommend a point-n-shoot camera ... these have come a long way in the last few years, and you can find some excellent stuff out there for very little money. This will let you try out any given brand before you take the plunge and spend thousands of dollars on a complete DSLR camera.

    No matter which camera you buy, even a point-n-shoot model, take the time to read the instruction manual. Although they are simple to operate in basic mode, there are many advanced features hidden in the internal software that can take your photos to new heights.

    Also, many manufacturers have mini-tutorials available for free on their web-sites that will enhance your photography skills. You can take a photo-class at a local community college for little or no cost.

    I'm using a Nikon Coolpix L-18. It was only $85 on sale, easily fits in my pocket, and out-performs other camera systems I've had including Canon, Pentax, and Leica. The internal software is amazing, but I'm still reading the instruction book to find everything that this camera can do. I love the fact that its so small and lightweight, I can keep it with me practically all the time. You never know when a photo-op will present itself.

    Finally, no matter which camera you buy, get the extended warranty. Cameras take a lot of abuse in their lifetime, and having the service plan on this type of item makes a lot of sense. I don't buy service contracts for most items I own, but in this one case, I spent the extra money and got the manufacturer's warranty extended by a year.
  8. I agree with the comment that when you buy a camera, you're buying into a system (most notably the lenses). The longtime champion (and most expensive) is Nikon, which is the camera of choice among professionals--they've long had the reputation of having the best lenses. The other top name is Canon, which I've found tend to have an edge in the camera body electronics. You can't go wrong with either. (I'm long-time Canon, but if I had it to do all over again I would probably go Nikon.)

    You do pay a premium for both of these names. It's perfectly possible to get good performance (and at a lower price) from Pentax, Olympus, Konica/Minolta, and others (I cut my teeth on a Pentax, in fact). If you can find a camera store that will let you handle several different bodies and get a feel for the different features, you should take the opportunity.

    Keep in mind that lenses tend to last longer (often much longer) than camera bodies, so more of your money should go there.

    Right now I'm shooting a Canon xti (I think the new version is the xsi) and the Canon 40D. Love the 40D, not so much the xti. The 40D is better built, larger and more ergonomic, and has more features. The new version is the 50D, which is even better. Of course, the 40D and 50D are more expensive than the xti. It's possible that the debut of the 50D has knocked the 40D's price down some, so take a look.

  9. Look at the lens lineups, comparing the mainstays prices, before deciding.

    Any of the 5 SLR companies offerings offer full manual control, the best way for you to learn.

    My advice to you is to decide whether or not you want to shoot sports and action; if you don't, I honestly think the Pentaxes which use AA batteries are by far the best deal.

    Whatever $ you have to begin, please consider getting the cheapest prime lens in the company stable (or an old one if Nikon/Pentax) and using it at large apertures in full manual mode as a learning exercise.
  10. I have the Canon XTi and love it. The only reason I want to get rid of it is that I want to go full frame. The XTi takes good enough shots to make a photo much bigger than you are likely to ever want. As mentioned, Canon is the only one out there, but that is what I have experience with. I don't remember what was upgraded, but the XSi is supposed to be great.
  11. I own a Nikon D-100 and it was at the time a top notch DSLR and now of course the amount of pixels are much greater than they were then but I put it up against most film cameras today anytime...You can find these used for a good price! I am tempted to upgrade but cant bear to spend the $$'s
  12. I have a Nikon D40 (trying my way up to the D200)
    And I have to say it's a great entry level d-SLR, it has great resolution, is cheap and it comes with a good lens (you might want to buy a zoom at some point)

    So far I'm pretty happy with it, and the main reason I would like to change is because it doesn't have auto bracketing (when you can set the camera to take a series of pictures with different, like for doing HDR) which is still doable on the D40, but it takes longer

    For me was like choosing between a Mercedes and a BMW (don't take me wrong, other brands are very good, but that was the way I saw it)

    After doing research, I found canon lenses were a bit more expensive, so it was like I could have a Mercedes(canon) but the BMW is still a pretty decent a reliable one.
    One advantage you'll have with canon, is the ability to use older lenses (nikkor ones) and this are great!!, even some canon users adapt their cameras in order to use those.

    One disadvantage the D40 has, is it's lack of an internal motor to auto focus, so it will only auto focus on AF/AF-S lenses.

    I only have 4 lenses: the one it came with (18-55mm) then I bought a 55-200mm VR (this stands for vibration reduction) and to of the old ones; a Nikkor 28mm f.28 AIS and a Nikkor 50mm f2 AI (both excelent, and I paid around US$200 for both) you can get them cheap on Ebay.

    This is what I can suggest, but once again, you need to do your own research according your needs and budget.
  13. GMZ


    If if were me I would get the cheapeast Canon DSLR eith kit lens and get a 50mm f1.8 "nifty fifty" and go from there. I like using fast primes because it forces me to make the shot rather than using zoom. Its cheap, less than $100 and good learning tool.
  14. I would recommend doing like me: Buy a used Canon EOS 20D, they can be had for around $ 150-175. The 20D is "only" an 8 MP camera, not very impressive maybe, but with a d-SLR the MP's matter less. The thing that makes the 20D special is the fact that it is made with a magnesium body, not plastic like latter models - than makes the camera extremely heavy duty. The 20D is still used as "small" or backup camera by many professionals, even though it is a couple of years old.

    Then get a good alround lens like the Canon EF 28-135 mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM, they can be found on Amazon new for a very nice price; - and even cheaper used. The lens is a good allrounder with a very effective (and fast!) auto-focus (can be swtiched off) and one of the best image stabilizers out there.

    The build in flash on the 20D is ok - but you may want to buy a better flash. I personally use Sigma.

    A battery grip and a extra batteries are also worthy investments. The battery grip adds longer battery life to the camera and makes it easier to handle.

    For macro pictures and portraits a stand is a must, buy a heavy sturdy one with a fully adjustable attatchment for the camera.

    When it comes to bags I personally prefer Lowepro's toploaders.


    Last edited: Apr 16, 2009
  15. Unless you are a 'pro', I would suggest starting with one of the compact digital cameras. I have been using Canon since 1969, from FT to T70 to EOS Elan. My wife bought me a S5 compact a year ago for Xmas. I was disappointed as I had wanted to get a DSLR but have found the one I have to be supurb for my needs. It is small and light enough to be handy, has a rotating LCD screen, which I now think is a Must, and has a zoom which goes out to 600mm equivalent. Has full manual control, ISO adjust and a bright screen. Not sure I would really want a DSLR nowadays.

    Plus it is a LOT cheaper than a DSLR when bought new. Used on Ebay, you takes your chances.
  16. Just to add on another point. The Nikon d40 is not able to use the older manual Nikon lens (there are lots out there). just something to think about as well. The other bodies e.g. D200 does not have an issue with the older lenses.

    Please correct me if I am wrong. :)
  17. Sorry mate, I have a Nikon D40 and I use AI and AIS lenses (a nikkor 50mm f2 AI and a Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AIS) the only drawback, is that the D40's body won't allow metering, so you have to "guess" your exposure.

    But that's not too complicated once you've got a bit of practice, also the D40 will tell you when you're on focus, with a dot in the viewfinder.

    The D200 and other will meter on older lenses... however, the D40 is one of the few that CAN use non AI (automatic indexing ) lenses, however is not very recommended, since the best lenses are in the AI and AIS field.

    matter of fact, here's one of my pics, taken with the Nikkor 50mm AI

    and here's the info given by the camera.

    Artist's Comments
    One of the bridges that crosses the serpentine on Hyde Park.

    Taken with a Nikon D40 and a Nikkor 50mm f2.0 AI

    Model: NIKON D40
    Shutter Speed: 10/2000 second
    F Number: F/1.0
    Focal Length: 0 mm
    ISO Speed: 200
    Date Picture Taken: Mar 18, 2009, 5:32:31 PM

    If you notice, it says "focal length: 0mm" that's because the camera doesn't know which aperture the lens is on (because you set it on the lens)

    Hope this helps, and clear some doubts.

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