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Photos - Misc
First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By DancinDiva2005member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 4665, member since Wed Dec 19, 2001
On Tue Nov 03, 2009 04:49 PM

Basically says it in the title--but I've been considering getting a nicer camera for awhile now because I'm getting more into photography and want to be able to do more than what I can do with my digital camera.

The thing is..I have no idea where to begin.
I want to make sure I'm making an informed decision obviously before purchasing one especially because of the price.

So, a few questions to start off:
*Are there any main differences between brands? (Nikon vs Canon etc)
*What are the important features I should be looking into when comparing cameras?
*Are there cameras that are better suited for the beginner/more casual photographer?

And feel free to toss out any other info/advice that you have that I didn't think to ask in my questions.

Thanks!!!

(And the flower isn't my photo..I just picked one so I could post..)

9 Replies to First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?

re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin? (karma: 1)
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 6359, member since Thu Jul 12, 2007
On Wed Nov 04, 2009 06:45 AM
Edited by Chaconne (182529) on 2009-11-04 07:18:21
DancinDiva2005 wrote:

Basically says it in the title--but I've been considering getting a nicer camera for awhile now because I'm getting more into photography and want to be able to do more than what I can do with my digital camera.

The thing is..I have no idea where to begin.
I want to make sure I'm making an informed decision obviously before purchasing one especially because of the price.

So, a few questions to start off:
*Are there any main differences between brands? (Nikon vs Canon etc)
*What are the important features I should be looking into when comparing cameras?
*Are there cameras that are better suited for the beginner/more casual photographer?

And feel free to toss out any other info/advice that you have that I didn't think to ask in my questions.

Thanks!!!

(And the flower isn't my photo..I just picked one so I could post..)


These are questions I used to get all the time when I taught adult ed. photography.

Among the leading brands of adjustable Single Lens Reflex cameras, there is really little qualitative difference among them. Canon and Nikon are the two leading brands. I happen to have Nikons. My Nikon digital (D-80) was selected because it happened to be on sale at Costco the weekend before I took a major trip. Had Canon been on sale, I probably would have chosen that brand. In the film era, I had both...first Canon, all of which were stolen and when I got my insurance settlement, I had a chance to buy some very recent (at the time) Nikons from the estate of one of my students who had died shortly before my theft...two of those cameras had not even been removed from their wrappings in the box.

Important features... Frankly I could use a simple point and shoot camera for most of the photos I take IF there wasn't so much of a delay between pushing the button and the actual photo being taken. Some of these cameras have a half-second or more delay and that is an eternity in the type of photos I take.

My ideal digital would have the same features my film cameras have, no more, no less, but in fact every one now has several modes for shooting. I would want a camera that has total manual control as an option. Virtually every SLR digital has this. It would have to have interchangeable lenses (there are a few which do not have this). The max pixel count which you see advertised so much is among the less significant things to me. I've seldom used the 10 Meg setting on my camera. I wish digitals were less menu driven, but it is a fact of life that they all are now so I just have to accept that.

Most new cameras come with a Zoom lens, and that is useful for a beginner as long as you know their limitations, the chief limitation being the ability to capture low light. I do want to be able to control every setting....f stop, shutter speed, ISO setting, etc. even though most of the time I do use the automatic or programmed settings. Every digital SLR I've ever tried does have a sufficiently short button push-to-photo delay, which should be measured in milli-seconds, so you will be OK there.

From what I have experienced, the entry level digital SLR's...the lowest price Canons or Nikon SLRs are quite adequate. When I taught photography, I told my students that if they did not already have an SLR camera, they should go out and buy the Pentax K1000 for under $150 (in the 1970s/80's) which was then the cheapest one available because it would do everything that my top of the line Nikon would do at four times the price. What my top of the line Nikon would do that the Pentax could not was have specialized accessories available such as backs for 250 frames (irrelevant now with digitals), motor drives for pro sports, attachments for medical or microscope photography in short, the things that most of us (including me) would never use.

I would stick to the top two brands (Canon/Nikon) only for the reason that you can easily buy accessories anywhere for them, batteries are easily obtainable and you can buy other lenses over the counter from most well-equipped photo stores. If you get a package outfit (I'm a big fan of the packages sold at Costco) you will usually get two zoom lenses which cover 18-200 mm. Unless you get into highly specialized photography, this will cover most situations.

The lower line Nikon Canons are perfectly suitable for the beginner. One thing I would advise though...go to a bookstore, or go on-line for a 3rd party manual for the camera. The manuals which come with these cameras I have found to be VERY confusing and poorly written. While they do cover absolutely EVERY feature the camera has, in practice you only tend to use a few of these features. For example, a fellow named Ken Rockwell has on-line manuals for just about all of the Nikon SLRs and these are quite excellent. I have seen on-line and in bookstores a book on "Digital photography for teens" and while not too technical, it has excellent suggestions on how to improve the photos most teens will take in casual settings.

As I have said, I have a Nikon D-80, had the D-40 or the D-60 been available when I bought my camera (2006), they would have met my requirements very well at about half the cost of what I paid for my outfit.
They will do just about everything the highest end cameras will do. The most expensive ones in each line are more for people who need ruggedness such as professional photojournalists, pro sports photographers (who might have to survive a direct hit by a hockey puck) or the ability to shoot 10 frames per seconds. Most of us don't need that.

Jon (former pro photographer and photo teacher)
re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By DancinDiva2005member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 4665, member since Wed Dec 19, 2001
On Wed Nov 04, 2009 09:33 AM
Wow, awesome! Thanks.
A friend of mine has one of the nicer cameras and she said she'll let me test out hers to see what I like..but your post is great. I also really want to check into those books by Ken Rockwell. They sound great even for just a standard camera as well. Or I could read up so I could try stuff out on my friend's camera.

Anyway, thanks again for the great post. :) Typical Jon..haha
re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 6359, member since Thu Jul 12, 2007
On Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:09 AM
Ken Rockwell's writing are all on-line and free. While he has some detractors, I find most of what he has to say to be solid.

Here is his website.

www.kenrockwell.com . . .

He has reviews/ instructions for just about all the Nikon digitals that I've looked so far.

He will say stuff like this camera will do this/that/or the other thing, but here is how I use it. And I agree with most of what he says along that vein.

Here, for example, is one of the third party guides I mentioned. Border and Barnes and Noble have them, and so does Amazon.

astore.amazon.com . . .

There is one in this series for just about any current digital SLR by Canon and Nikon.

Here is the one I mentioned specifically for teens:

www.amazon.com . . .

I don't know if you are a teen, its sort of irrelevant, but it is a pretty solid intro to both the technical (which may be as technical as "Put the Camera on Automatic and Shoot") and the artistic side of things...which also may come under the category of "how to not make your boyfriend look like a dork" LOL.

There are a zillion how-to book for photography and many on-line courses.

Jon
re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By DancinDiva2005member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 4665, member since Wed Dec 19, 2001
On Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:14 AM
Well, I'm 23 but I'm sure the how-to books will still be really helpful and informative..and for some reason I completely didn't even think about looking at photography how-to books. I guess I more assumed that photography books were just filled with pictures..heh.
Anyhoo, thanks again for the help :)
re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By CaffeinePremium member Comments: 3194, member since Wed Aug 08, 2007
On Wed Nov 04, 2009 05:09 PM
I've recently moved from a point-and-click to "pro-sumer" level camera because the I was getting frustrated with the lack of control I had over my photos.

Like Jon, I use Nikons; mine is a D70, my partner's is a D90. They were chosen over others in the store because they had a "kit" sale, with the body, a standard 18-70mm lens and a zoom lens. If he hadn't upgraded to the D90, I would have bought the D40x, because that's a really nice camera for the price.

Your best bet would be to go into the camera store and see what feels right to hold - is it too heavy/awkward? Can you reach all the necessary knobs and buttons with one hand? etc etc. See what deals they have on offer which might sway you one way or the other. And see if the one you like is compatible with the memory cards in your current camera. (one of my biggest issues - argh!). Read reviews of the one(s) you like, to see if there is any common fault or downside to them.

My biggest learning curve was with f-stops and ISO. Theory, books, and internet only helped so much, so once you have the camera, just play. If your friend has a DSLR camera, get her to show you the ropes of hers. And definitely check out the ken Rockwell guides.

Another good website I found which might help is: digital-photography-school.com
re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 6359, member since Thu Jul 12, 2007
On Wed Nov 04, 2009 09:33 PM
Haematite brings up a very good point about experimentation. Until you actually experience what a change in an f-stop or shutter speed actually does for you, it is a bit hard to comprehend. In theory, as Haematite undoubted knows by now, opening an f-stop one stop doubles the amount of light striking the film or digital sensor, but the real question is "what does that really mean" to my photos. I haven't done the experiments with my digital camera since I had done them long ago in the film era but actually taking a scene, such as a still life, and using a manual setting, try every shutter speed/f stop combinations is very useful to gain and understanding of these sometimes mysterious numbers. I now know the math behind these numbers and how they are derived, but what really is significant is what practical effect will this have on MY photos. Fortunately with digital camera, unlike film, you can shoot away to your hearts desire and look at the results on a computer. The shots I have taken for say every shutter speed against a moving target; or, the effect of an f-stop on depth of field are not the most interest photos to print out, but with a memory chip, you can just do the experiment and then either save it or discard it as you wish. In the film era, people would say "Film is Cheap" but when you added the cost of development and printing it can be rather expensive. Even if you do your own darkroom work, the equipment can be expensive. With digital all you need is the chip reader (quite cheap) and the computer you likely already have. I likened these drills to "five finger exercises" for piano, it is a competance you must learn, but when you learn it well, it will come easy to you. This is just as valid in photography as in music (And I speak as someone rather expert in both fields.)

One minor point I might disagree with Haematite is the need to maintain the same sorts of memory chips. I currently have some point and shoot cameras with CF cards and my Nikon and several others use SD cards and my daughter brings over her chip for me to load on my computer (I remove the red eye for her and fine tume and make a CD rom for her) has yet another type. Memory is now so cheap that this should not really be all that much of a factor. A memory card of 2 GB is now so cheap that it is less than the cost of a roll of film, development, and printing even at a bargain place. It can take 25 to 50 times the number of photographs and once you've archived your desired photos to a CD-rom or actual prints, the chip can be used over and over. When I shot as a pro, I sometimes had monthly film and development/printing bills of over $5000 (fortunately I had the sales to pay for this and of course my profit was far more.) Had I had digital available I would have only had to pay for the actual wedding or other social event photos I put into the albums or frames. My proofs would not have to be paper, my clients could see their "proofs" on a computer screen.

Jon

Jon
re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By CaffeinePremium member Comments: 3194, member since Wed Aug 08, 2007
On Thu Nov 05, 2009 05:59 PM
^ Here is my rationale for suggesting types of memory cards may be a factor in choosing a camera:

My point-and-click camera (Nikon 4800) uses SD cards. Because I used that camera so much, I have a number of SD cards, including at least one 4Gb card. The D70 uses CF. While memory cards are cheap and the SD cards have had a good life, it bugs me that these perfectly good cards are sitting there "wasted" because the 4800 is barely used anymore except for macro shooting.

In the big scheme of things, it's minor, but it was one of the major selling points the D40x had: I could swap cards between cameras. (It was also why I steered clear of Olympus and Fuji cameras when I was looking around - their cards are not as common)
re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 6359, member since Thu Jul 12, 2007
On Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:07 PM
I agree that this can be a minor annoyance. I have a Nikon Coolpix 5000 and a Canon G2...my first digitals and I have a half-dozen CF cards for them. They are roughly the same generation as your D-70 (My son has one of those).

It seems that the physically smaller SD card is the way the world is going at the moment, and while I don't understand the rationale behind changing, it is clear that the SD card is the current wave for many brands. I have a little pocket Coolpix L-something or another that my wife uses and keeps in her purse for the "grandson" photos beloved of grandmothers. I was actually surprised in 2006 when I bought my Nikon D-80 that it used different cards from the CF cards I had and I was very glad that I checked before we left on our first European trip so that I bought some extra cards beside the SD card that came with the camera. Fortunately for me, when a new Micro-center computer store opened up near me in a place formerly a CompUSA store, they were giving out house branded SD cards as a come-on to get people into their store and I picked about a half dozen 2GB cards. One can shoot for a long time with that amount of memory.

I am currently in the process of renovating my basement, a very time-consuming task. We are getting rid of all the 1970's decor I put in 35 years ago. Among the things I will have when finished is my chemical darkroom as I still have a lot of film cameras from my pro days including things like a complete Hasselblad outfit (I wish I could afford a digital back for that camera) a Rollei twin lens reflex, and at least 7 Nikon 35mm film cameras. I will also have a dedicated computer station for processing/printing all sorts of stuff and equipment to scan 1000's of slides and negatives taken over the past 50 years. At that time, I'd also like to "wring" out my D-80 and get seriously into the "artistic" photos I used to do before I turned pro in the 1970's. Once I started doing it for money, my photography became far more of a commercial rather than an artistic enterprise, but after first permitting me to buy good equipment, it later got so lucrative that it supported my kids in an out-of-state university. I had two kids at once paying out-of-state fees at the U of Wisconsin-Madison (also my school and my wife's school) and it also permitted me to buy for their use and very nice condo next to the campus. A far better set-up than my rather spartan dorm room. As my kids were out-of-state they could not get university housing which went mostly to residents of that state. When my two kids (who are less than a year apart in age) graduated, I had no more need to do photography for money. Also my real-life US Government job was demanding more of my time. So I've tried to make photography a hobby again, along with numerous other hobbies I have. It's a good thing I am retired now with a decent pension so that I have the time and (some of ) the money to indulge in these hobbies.

Even though the D-70 is no longer made, it is a fine camera and should serve you well for years to come. I believe it was the immediate predecessor to my D-80 and when I compare my camera with my son's, the only practical difference I really see is the change in memory card formats and a slightly larger screen. I enjoyed using my son's, the first digital SLR I really had a chance to use.

Jon
re: First Professional-Style Camera--Where to Begin?
By uketalimember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1037, member since Fri Jun 03, 2005
On Tue Nov 10, 2009 01:38 PM
After you read up a bit on the basics of photography check out the website dpreview.com. They have excellent, comprehensive reviews of many cameras as well as a very active forum. I recently purchased a DSLR- a Nikon D90 and I really like it. However, I've taken a couple of photography classes and have experience with film SLRs and P&S digi cams.

Couple of things to look for when deciding on a camera. Make sure it has a fully manual mode. Go to a store and actually handle a few cameras that interest you. I very quickly ruled out a few Canon DSLRs because they felt uncomfortable to hold. Another concern may be budget. DSLRs are great but once you purchase a body and a couple of lenses you could be looking at a $1000 at least. Instead you may want to get something more versatile and portable like a Canon PowerShot SX20IS which is sort of a mix between a DSLR and P&S.

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