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Old Nov 24, 2005, 8:19 PM   #1
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Hi everyone.* I am moving up to a dSLR and am very excited about it.* However, I am overwhelmed with decisions to make -- which body...which lens...* (I am pretty sure that I'm going with the Canon 20D.)* Now I need to learn all I can about choosing lenses -- and who makes them and how to use them. *I don't understand all of the numbers and letters --* or how to tell which lens is a good choice for me to start with.* ALSO, I have read on this site about all of the extra photo manipulation that's involved with getting my pictures to look their best once I've downloaded them onto my computer.* Can you please suggest some books or web sites where I can go read and learn what I need to do to get started with my new camera?* Thanks!
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Old Nov 24, 2005, 10:47 PM   #2
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I'll illistrate my points below with my logic when I purchased my camera & lenses. My logic really only applies to me (and those that shoot like me) but hopefully it will help guide you to thinking about the issues involved is a good way. You mention "moving up" to a DSLR, so I'm going to assume you have some experience with photography.

A camera is a tool. It is an important tool, you need to get the right tool, but it is just a tool. You should not ignore its interface. How well does it fit in your hands? Does the button placement fit well under your fingers? No matter which you pick by looking at the cameras and reading reviews, go to a store and try out the camera. This should not be ignored.

So you need to think about what you will shoot. You've owned a camera before a DSLR, so look at what shot's you've taken. What subject in what conditions? What focal lengths do you more often use?

In my case I shoot wild animals (specifically birds, but not exclusively.) This means I need good auto focus, good frame rate, a lens with good reach (400mm+) and then other little things as well. Good build quality, not too heavy.

At the time I compared the Canon 10D vs. the Nikon D100. To me, they were nearly equivalent. So instead I looked at lenses. Unless one camera is much better for you, you need to look at lenses.

What will you shoot? Portrates? Landscapes? Family shots? Sports? You need to think about what you'll shoot and then what lens would be good for it. Do you need longer reach? Do you need wide angle? Will you shoot in lower light? Look at the quality and price of lenses in the focal lengths you need.

I'm going to assume you understand lens basics (focal length & aperture.) Things like AF-S and USM are faster focusing motors. If you shoot landscapes this doesn't matter (some say it doesn't matter in macro either.) If you shoot your kids or sports then fast focusing lenses matters. IF lenses are internal focusing lenses. They don't get longer when they change focal length. This can also have other effects, but they doesn't mater too much.

When I looked at lenses I looked at 400mm lenses. Canon makes a 100-400mm lens, where as Nikon has a 80-400mm lens. After doing some research I found that they cost similar amounts (the Canon is cheaper) and they have similar opticla qualities and both have image stabilization. But the Nikon is one of the slowest focusing lenses they make, while the Canon is quite fast. This made me think that I should go with Canon. Then I looked at their much longer lenses (500mm & 600mm) and I found they are both great optically and focus fast. But the Canon was over $1,000USD cheaper and had image stabilization (Nikon doesn't.)

So after checking them both out (none seemed better than the other) I got the 10D and the 100-400. That was several years ago and I've since upgraded to the 600mm & the 20D and I'm still happy.

You need to think about what your needs are. What types of things you'll photograph. Tell us what those are, and we can help you pick lenses that will fit your needs.

As to editing.... What software do you use now? I would suggest Photoshop Elements as a good way to start. It will help teach you about photoshop. It is fairly cheap, but powerful.

As to the skills of what to do to an image, I would suggest a book I have:
Photoshop CS for digital photographers.

Note that this isn't an Elements book, its for the full version of photoshop. Look to see if there is one for Elements. Note that it is a "receipe" book. It isn't deep, it shows you the original image, talks about a specific change it wants to make, and then shows you very specifically how to do it. Showing you down to the menus what it does.

I hope that helps.

Eric


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Old Nov 25, 2005, 12:31 AM   #3
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Eric!* Thank you so much for your reply.* You've helped me see a new way to look at my search.* I currently have an Olympus C-7000.* It's actually been a fine little camera, but I have outgrown it.* I've come to love taking pictures, and my skills have improved quite a bit since I started getting into all of this. To answer a few of your questions:* I take kid pictures (almost exclusively).* I take pictures of my own kids and other people's kids.* Natural light, mostly -- although I'd love to learn to use lights.* My pics are both candid and posed.* A majority of my pictures are close up, but I do take the standard kids-running-in-the-yard and school play pictures.* Also, I use Mac.* The only editing software that I have loaded right now is the iPhoto software that came with the computer.* It has pretty lilmited capabilities, but it's been easy to use for organizing my photos.* I'd love to hear any more suggestions.* You've been very helpful.* Thanks.
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Old Nov 25, 2005, 3:34 AM   #4
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baiqi

The next question for you is how good is your light?

In case this sounds odd to some people allow me to explain. I live most of the year in London, UK, but I also spend 3-4 months over the Xmas period in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In SA there is lots of light, in the UK there isn't. Even indoors during the daytime in SA there is so much bright light outside that I feel that on average I have 2-3 stops more light in SA than in London.

What does that mean in practice? Well it means that in SA my 17-85 f4-5.6 IS lens is as fast as I need. In the UK though it's not, expecially indoors I find myself using my f1.8 primes a lot and the slower zooms a lot less.

As a decent starter set I would recommend the 20D + 17-85 lens as a kit. It's a good lens and by buying as a kit you save maybe 25% on the price. It's a very good value combination atm.

Keep in mind that you might well end up with worse shots for a while, as you adapt to your new equipment. Don't fall into the trap of blaming your equipment, your results will improve if you assume that you have to learn how to use a complex new piece of equipment.

Photo quality possible with camera->
* = you

|---------Oly-----------------------------*|
|*----------------------20D------------------------------|



As a very cheap experiment you could get the EF 50mm f1.8, it's of reasonable quality and the combination of fast aperture and Effective Focal Length of 80mm (50*1.6) makes it a nice portrait lens. It's a cheap way to learn what difference a wide aperture can make to your pictures.

The other thing to think about is flash. The pop-up flash is fine, but you really want at least a fairly strong external flash that you can bounce. There are lots of options.

But to start with you could easily just go for the 20D + 17-85. Spend 6 months using it and then you'll have a much better idea of where you need to go after that.

For some samples of what the 20D + 17-85 can do, including quite a few photos of my daughter....

http://vanderwooks.blogspot.com

Oh yes and in case you have not come across it http://www.luminous-landscape.com has a huge number of articles and essays about photography and camera equipment. Not all of it is of uniformly high standard, but I've not found a better single resource on the web.


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Old Nov 25, 2005, 10:22 AM   #5
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Wow.* Thanks. * Peripatetic, your photos are fantastic! *Your kids (are all three yours?) are beautiful.* Very sweet.* Anyway...back to the light.* Luckily, I have very nice light in my house.* Lots of big tall windows that seem to have been built in just the right spots. * *I like your advice about the 20D with the 17-85 lens kit to start.* I was reassured to see so many of your kid shots were taken with that lens.* As I said earlier, I am very excited to get my new camera and start the learning curve (love your little chart, by the way).* I'm going go check out that site you recommended.* Thanks for the help!* -Becky
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Old Nov 26, 2005, 11:17 AM   #6
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Glad to help.

A quick check of that Olympus camera shows that it has a 38mm-190mm lens. If you want exactly the same flexability in shots, you'll want something that covers that range (in one or more lenses.) For portrate shots I agree with Peripatetic, that something that covers the 80mm is desirable. Something like the 28-135mm or 17-85mm would be a good start.

For photographing kids you'll need something that focuses fast. Some say that pre-focusing by hand helps, and it does. But that isn't always possible. You might need a "faster" lens (a lens with a lower f-stop) but those get more expensive. I'd stay away from those for a bit and see how the kit lens does for you. It is much easier to add a lens, than sell one. And you'll find out if you *really* need it or not by going for awhile without it.

Eric
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Old Nov 28, 2005, 4:35 AM   #7
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Becky,

Only Lauren is mine. Kyle is her cousin, and Lucy a friend.

The main reason for having a nice camera is to be able to take better pictures of family and friends. Of course I enjoy taking pictures of just about everything else too, but that's just a bonus really.

Have fun with your new camera. :-)

Craig.
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