Photog Chris's Blog

got a camera and photoshop, fun times

My first dSLR

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A flickr friend recently asked me for some advice on buying a new camera, a dSLR. I think I would like to revisit that and maybe expand on it a bit. If you are wondering about my experience I can tell you that I have been using a dSLR for just about one year. I am not a pro, don’t know if I will every be one, but I am pretty good at using it. So I am still new at this but here is my perspective.

Brand Loyalty

I use a Canon camera. When I bough my XSi I looked closely at Nikon and Sony too. At the time Canon seem to edge out the others in the price vs performance, but just barely. In fact, if the Nikon had offered “Live view” I might have been a Nikon user today. It does not really matter, all three will give you good quality pictures.

I know I am leaving out other brands, but Canon and Nikon are the BIG two right now, Sony is in the wings but ahead of the rest. (Sony also makes the sensors for Nikon). Sony does offer one thing that Canon and Nikon does not, in body Image Stabilization.  But it does lack the quality that can be found in the stabilization from some Canon and Nikon lenses. Trade offs.

I personally like the feel of the Canon. It helps that I used Canon Power Shots for a few years before stepping up to a dSLR. If you have used mostly Nikon Coolpixs then staying within the brand might be more comfortable. Oh yeah, for anyone with an old Minolta Film SLR your lens work on Sony, seeing that Olympus is now Sony.

That brings me to the thing about dSLR’s, the lenses. As you progress with your dSLR you will buy more lenses, it is inevitable. You can upgrade you camera and keep your lenses, as long as you stay with the brand. My Canon EF and EFs lenses will not fit on that Sony or visa-versa.  As a casual photographer that is not a real big deal, you will most likely stick with one brand for the REST OF YOUR LIFE…..

Wow, this is Expensive

Oh yeah, it is. You buy a P&S, batteries, charger, memory card, a little bag. you are done. You dSLR will come with a battery and charger and most of the time a lens, look to spend $550 to $800. You will still need a memory card and a bag, both bigger. Sooner or later you’ll want a better lens, no that should be better lenses. Brand new they start at about $125 and work up to $1000. Unless you look at Pro quality, they start at $700 and work up to over $10,000. You may notice your built in flash is weak, an okay one is about $100 and a good one is $300, excellent ones over $500. Tripod? $100 to $700. Wow.

You don’t need all of this, at least not right away. You should get six months to a year out of your kit lens ( nine months for me). Okay, I did buy a nifty fifty (50mm 1.8, cheap $60 used) early on. I also bought a cheap 75-300mm zoom ($200 new). The 50 I like, the zoom, not so much. I loaned my kit lens to a friend who was lacking in that range, he loaned me a mid level flash. My tripod, $10 garage sale, worth about $75 new, would like a better one, too flexible, legs bend.

So, counting the camera, in the last year I have spent nearly $2000. Memory cards, Lenses, Bags, Filters, Monopod, Tripod. Really, the camera and lenses make up the vast majority of that. If I had the money up front and knew what I wanted, not wasting it on junk I could have saved $500 to $600. If you are satisfied with the kit-lens then after bag and memory card it would be camera plus $100.

My Point and Shoot Took Better Photos !

Guess what? The dSLR will be harder to use! Oh, there are a few P&S’s that try and give you the options of a dSLR but really there is a lot to learn. The biggest reason is the main reason the dSLR is more expensive the P&S, the sensor is bigger, much bigger. That means you get more detail and less noise. It also means you have a tighter DOF (Depth Of Field).

Without getting too technical, a P&S has a huge DOF, meaning that most everything in the picture is in focus. Lets say your subject is 10 feet away and you are shooting your P&S at f2.8. Everything from 7′ to17′ 6″ (total of 10’6″)will be in focus (if you focused correctly). Because of the larger sensor your dSLR will have a DOF from 9’6″ to 10’6″ (total of 1′).

You have to pay attention to things like you Aperture, ISO and Speed. It is more work. Yes there is a automatic setting but why did you buy a dSLR in the first place? To take better pictures! You have to take control!

This is Hard

But there is more, there is RAW. All digital cameras can give you a jpeg. You should think of a jpeg as a print, like an old Polaroid, an instant picture. You have little control of the printing, the camera does most of the work. Think of RAW as a digital negative. It has more data in it then a jpeg but it has yet to be worked. In some respects RAW is a PIA. It is much larger (12.2 megapixel jpeg = 4MB, RAW = 15MB), it can not be viewed or edited in many programs, it will need noise reduction and sharpening!

With RAW you have 1.5 stops of exposure to play with (see that, new words to learn) so if your lighting is off, that can be fixed. The White Balance (another new one) can be easily adjusted if say you have the camera set to florescent and shooting outside, overcast. Yes, all these setting to set! So much to learn.

But, in the long run, your pictures will be better. I know I have grown and become a better photographer in the last year. You see, as you learn what you can do with your camera you start thinking of lighting, composition, DOF, Bokeh. Yes it is harder, yes it is worth it.


Written by photogchris

December 4, 2009 at 10:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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