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Old Aug 11, 2009, 2:22 PM   #1
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Default Need advice for new DSLR and Lens for Costa Rica

Hello, I'm gonna be studying abroad in Costa Rica this spring.

I've wanted to buy a DSLR for a while now and I've decided I should get one now so I can get practice in before I go to Costa Rica.

I wanted the Canon Rebel T1i because it has video, but the price is pretty constricting. I'm a student, so a T1i with cashback + a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 is probably the best I can afford, which comes out to about $900. I would need to scrounge up some money to buy flash and a backpack and stuff too.

Well I've been doing a lot of research, and from what I've gathered, for a rainforest I need a low f-number around 2.8?

I found a deal on craigslist for a used Canon 20D and a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 for $600. This is a big difference in price and would allow me to buy another lens or a speedlite.

The question is, should I go for the used 20D or for the T1i? People say that it's the lens/photographer that makes the pictures, but is a 20D worth roughly $300?

And I would like some lens suggestions. I'm gonna be at the Monteverde research facility in Costa Rica and I will be in and out of the cloud forest, the rainforest, the beach, and the city. I'm looking to photograph people, food, scenery, and hopefully animals. I've heard that I need a telephoto with a low f-number but I can't afford anything like that. Some people also said I could get a macro lens but I'm not really looking to be switching lens all that often when I'm in a forest with a group of people.

Also, a lot of people say that the 20D weighs significantly more than T1i and it might not be a good walk-around camera? Does the weight really make that big of a difference? I probably won't have a tripod but that could change.
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Old Aug 16, 2009, 12:10 AM   #2
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The $300 for a 20D doesn't seem unreasonable. While the difference in weight between the 20D and the T1i may not be great the 20D is bulkier in my opinion. Most of the "rebel" series are smaller than the Canon 20-30-40-50D series. The perceptible weight difference occurs when you add the lens. That is when I notice the weight differences. I have the Tamron 28-75 and it is nice lens but you may want to consider the Tamron 17-50 2.8. It won't have as much reach but it will allow you a better wide angle shot. I recently purchased a Canon XTi with kit lens for $399 at Wolf's Camera. You can find great deals on the older models that remain on dealer's shelves. You may want to check Canon estore on their website for a factory refurbished camera or kit, lot's of great bargains there too. Just some thoughts.
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Old Aug 17, 2009, 12:15 AM   #3
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my two cents

1) its 99% about lens.... Except for real high end work the rebel 300d with a good lens can take great quality shots, you just don't have the creature feature, things that professional photographers need. if you need low light ISO or if you need high burst frame numbers or if need a very aggressive and productive autofocus, ... then you need a high end camera. if you can pose your shots and take your time the original 300d can be VERY functional.. that said

2) its all about the lens... the kit lens that came with most rebels can be had for $50 to $75 and its hard to pass them up.

If I were you, and what I tell all my friends just starting out is if you can get your hands on good used Rebel 300d with the kit lens you are going to cover a lot of ground. I see the 300d kits going for $300 or less locally in Seattle. The challenge is finding one that isn't toast. you can take a picture with a camera and load the photo from the card to PC and note the folder number and photo number and tell how many shutter actuations the camera has (although this number can be messed up - its not fool proof) If you find a little ol'granny who says she took pictures of her pet gerbal and thats it, and you check the folder/photo count and its 800... you score. If its some dude off craigslist who has to meet you at Starbucks and he says maybe 10,000 clicks and the folder/photo says 60,000...and he mysteriously lost the battery charger... run.

by the time you outgrow the 300d or similar you will be itching for lenses. I have the tamron 28-75 F2.8 and it is awesome, in this focal range and for the price it can't be beat. It isn't fast but it performs very well. I also have the $100 50mm F1.8 which always surprises me when I need low light performance. i also have the 70-200 f2.8 IS USM and the 10-22 efs lens, both of these rock of course for the $$$$. See the problem? before you finish you are going to end up with all sorts lens because there isn't one that works for everything. You might want a 300d kit, and add the 70-300 IS lens and the 28-75 tamron- that will keep you busy for awhile.

about the Rebel 300d, they had a plastic pin actuator piece (that moved the shutter) which can break, some might advise moving up the Canon family tree to avoid this- not a bad idea. I have 3 rebels and only one busted the pin. You can still use the camera in manual focus mode if the pins busts.

enough said... let some others chime in.
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Old Aug 17, 2009, 8:23 AM   #4
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I personally would not buy either a 20d or especially not a 300d from a private party. I would only recommend buying a refurb that came with a warranty. These are old cameras - 5-6 years is a long time for a DSLR. And I wouldn't want to have the camera break down - then you're SOL.

If you could get a refurb 20d that would be a great option - but I'd be very leery buying from a 3rd party especially in your situation where you're going out-of-country.

You're also going to be hard pressed to get many animal shots. You want a 300-400mm lens for that. And, with the dense forest you're going to have issues as you already identified. The easiest solution for that aspect is an external flash in addition to a 300mm lens. But that's more money that you don't have.
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Old Aug 17, 2009, 12:31 PM   #5
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Buying a used old camera is potentially a problem - nothing wrong with this point, must be careful.

The sales pitch to be made for buying a Rebel 300d or 20d or 10d, etc., is that you can find these used and cheap and there were so many of them sold that you can find "like new" cameras with only 5000 clicks, because there are a lot of people that shot the vacation and weekend horse show and now the camera sits in a box 11 months out of the year. Thats what I suggest you look for. If time is a concern you need to just buy a new one or a refurb one from a shop and move on - not a bad way to go.

I mentioned I have 3 rebels (4 actually, took one apart and painted the body pink for my teen daughter) - I hate them personally, I would rather use my 40d, but I shoot time lapse and in bad weather and on boats where I don't want to risk the 40d. I shopped the used Rebels and you can generally tell when one has been abused. The folder/photo count can reveal a lot, if the shutter has a lot of wear on it, if the camera body is scratched and shiny on the black plastic parts that used to have a matte finish etc, the camera has been used. if the seller appears to be a reasonable person with a believable story the camera is probably good. Also if the seller has a bunch of lens this is a give away that they used it probably. If they have the kit lens and original box, they probably didn't use it much.

I only get excited about promoting this strategy because money is an issue for you.... if you could drum up $2000+ we wouldn't be talking, but if you need to cover a lot of ground, you need lenses and a cheap body and if you shop the early canon dslr bodies you can find good deals.

On the other hand... the cost for a refurb 20d isn't too much more than used 300d - go for the refurb.

David A.
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