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Old Apr 22, 2008, 2:14 AM   #1
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Hi, I'm new to this site and its forums. (first post) Have browsed and find all the info most helpful and inspiring. I am from NZ. I have already asked this Q of mtclimber (Sarah) who I've since seen is away for 3 mnths so decided to place my query here which is the appropriate place anyway. Just that she had raised the Q of 'do you actually need a dslr?' I'd appreciateanybody's advice then.

I completed a basic photo Polytech (tertiary level) course 8 yrs ago and we used a film slr (Phenix DC 303K). We did a variety of photography and experimented in the dark room. I made grainy posters with people, street life and so on and experimented with nature (flowers etc) and sunsets. With a lapse of 5 years (health probs) I went (with the advent of digis since my course) and bought a basic 6mp point and shoot camera for family shots etc. It's gotten me enthusiastic again and I've begun looking at dslrs - (had always wanted to know what was the equivalent in digi to my old camera) particularly Canon 400D and Nikon D60 as recommended by some as good entry points for amateurs. Basically I want to continue where I left off in my course - similar subjects. I also want to sell stock photos online (never done it before). Being a bit rusty now, I presume, given the screeds I've read that I probablyDO need to begin with an entry level dslr? What do you think? And of course if 'yes' - mmm. which camera ? (THink i'm almost convinced on the Canon 400D however is it suitable for sunsets and sunrises - my specialty!) Also how many - what type of lenses etc.? there is sooo much info out there. Do I just need to expensively experiment as I see it is not cheap.

My other query is (and I'm new to the software thing) - all the experimentation we did in the dark room produced nice grainy effects and so on - is this achieved (witha dslr) with the likes of Photoshop and if so, given what I intend doing, do I also need software as costly as PS, or will a cheaper variety do? I already have some really nice pics taken with my 6mp camera but see that they're not really saleable as they are-too small. Can they be changed or do Ihave tostart from scratch with the better camera?

I would greatly appreciateany comments and look forward to hearing - cheers.

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Old Apr 22, 2008, 7:25 AM   #2
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Any dSLR will do what you want, and do it well. You've mentioned what you want to shoot, but you haven't mentioned a budget, so the advice you get will probably be fairly general, until you can narrow down your selection. Also, an important factor in the selection of a camera that costs several hundred (thousand?) dollars is how the camera feels to you. If you are uncomfortable with it, you'll leave it home, andif you can't quicklylocate the controls and menu commands, you'll miss shots.

There are reasons to go with one brand over another, and I will try to summarize them.

There are four companies that make the best lenses in the world: Canon, Nikon, Leica (available for Panasonic and Olympus cameras)and Zeiss (mostly available for Sony cameras). But keep in mind that very good lenses mean high prices, and a lesser lens might suit you just fine.

Canon and Nikon (Fuji)dLSRs (with the exception of the D40, D40X and D60) have the broadest selection of lenses and accessories, by far, not only from the OEMs but also from third parties (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc.) Pentax (Samsung)and Sony are a distant third and fourth, followed by the Nikon D40, D40X and the D60, followed by Olympus. Trailing the field are Sigma and Panasonic.

Canon and Nikon rely on optical image stabilization, while Pentax, Sony and most Olympus dSLRs use sensor shift image stabilization. Image stabilization reduces motion blur due to camera shake, and allows you to use longer shutter speeds in low light (like, maybe, sunrises and sunsets.) Sensor shift image stabilization shifts the sensor in the camera body so the image is projected onto a consistent location on the image sensor. This method is simplest and provides a stabilized image for any lens. Optical image stabilizationuses an optical element within the lens to project a stabilized image out the rear of the lens. This method is only available in certain lenses, and those lenses are bigger, heavier, and more expensive than non-stabilized counterparts, but it also works better with extension tubes (for close-ups of flowers, etc.)andsome teleconverters (for longer focal lengths), and it provides a stabilized image in the viewfinder.

'Live View' is a popular feature in some dSLRs, which allows you to compose your shot from the LCD display instead of the optical viewfinder. But there are differences in the way differentbrands haveimplemented it. Most dSLRs with 'Live View' use the main image sensor for the 'Live View', but since they often have the autofocus system in the optical viewfinder, they can't autofocus in 'Live View'. Also, if 'Live View' is in use for a long time, the sensor can heat up, and the photos can be marred with thermal noise. Sony has incorporated a second image sensor within the optical viewfinder that provides a 'Live View' image to the LCD display, which avoids both problems other 'Live View'systems have.

Another big difference among different dSLRs is the speed and accuracy of the Autofocus systems, but this is generally only a factor in action shots (sports, wildlife, etc.)

And, of course, another factor in choosing a camera for sunrises and sunsets is the quality of the images at higher ISO settings. For this, even the lowliest dSLR will outperform even the best P&S digicam.

I agree that the Canon 400D and the Nikon D60 would be good choices, but so might many others. You need to narrow down your choices somewhat, and hopefully some of what I've said here will help with that.
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Old Apr 22, 2008, 8:14 AM   #3
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I like the entry level dSLR category very much and think there are lots of options there that will do exactly what you want, so I would start my search there, rather than assume you need to jump into a higher priced camera right away. On the other hand, the differences between the entry and mid-level dSLR cameras are often features, if you really want something that's more expensive, there would be no reason NOT to get it if it fits into your budget, along with some good lenses.

I do think that since the entry dSLR cameras are so capable, unless there's a specific feature you want on a more expensive camera, you'd be better offspending the extra money to buybetter lenses. A mediocre lens on an expensive camera will produce a mediocre picture guaranteed. And lenses will last you through any number of cameras - I'm still using lenses I bought in 1980 (I shoot Pentax).

The second thing to check out (after you've checked out the obvious ergonomics as TCAv mentioned) is the viewfinder. Not all viewfinders are alike, and some of the Sony cameras have compromised on their viewfinders to provide for the better Live View on their LCDs. As far as Live View, I have one dSLR that has it, and actually used it recently. I was using it outside, resting the camera on the rear view mirror of my Jeep while trying to shoot a wildflower field found next to a 4x4 trail I was driving. While I could make out enough of the image on the LCD to frame it, I couldn't see it enough to judge much more than that, certainly not enough to check focus - I had to shoot and trust the camera to focus correctly. While it was nice to have it in that situation,I thought it was limited in its usefulness. I'll spend far more time looking into the viewfinder so that's where I'd put my emphasis.

I'm not the best person to recommend software - I tried Photoshop a number of years ago and love it (I'm using CS2). I also use Lightroom as I like some of its tools better than what CS2 has, and it's convenient to use as a photo viewer and organizer.
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Old Apr 22, 2008, 9:09 AM   #4
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Oops! Forgot about the software question.

Photoshop is the premier photo editing application, but can take years to master. There are lesser applications, like Adobe Lightroom that mtngal mentiond, as well as Adobe Photoshop Elements, Corel Paint Shop Pro, and others, all of which are available as trial downloads. There are also some very good Freeware photo editing applications, likeIrfanView, that may suit you.
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Old Apr 22, 2008, 12:20 PM   #5
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As TCav says, you can get trial versions of most software to evaluate before you buy.

Lightroom is IMO the program that every photographer should start with. If you need Photoshop because you find Lightroom too limiting in its editing capabilities then it integrates very well.

But IMO most photographers (as opposed to graphic artists) don't need anything more than Lightroom does, and the few things it doesn't do are mostly being addressed in v2 which is now available in Beta.

If you fancy the 400D then get it with the kit lens to start with and add a decent tripod for sunsets and you're all set.

But for stock work you need to be careful - depending on the agency they may have minimum Mp requirements. Could be 10, 12, or 16. So it might mean you have to get a MUCH more expensive camera to submit to some of them. Also I woudn't hold your breath about making money from stock photography - the payment structure has pretty much collapsed and it's very hard to make anything other than pocket change anymore.
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Old Apr 22, 2008, 4:41 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone. You raised good points for me to think about. (In the meantime mtclimber has also responded to my original query elsewhere-all helps). Yes tCav, price I should've mentioned...and nearly did. Starting price here seems to be (similar everywhere I guess?) around $1400 NZ for basic dslr. The Canon eos 400D (is that the same as D40? or different altogether?) seems very popular here bearing in mind I've only just started researching. I just see many online who really like Canon. Back to price - I COULD spend a lot more than 1400 but praps i suspect would be better to do that when I'm more familiar with a basic one - to explore the extra features etc. and then know what i'm looking for. It's just a shame everything switched to digital so it's now a whole new field again it seems. (I'll correct that - it's not a SHAME as such - it's great - just takes a bit more getting MY head around!!) Being able to spend more is only a very recent possibility for me and I'm tending to lean to cheaper cos that's what I'm used to!! Not used to spending megabucks on a camera! As Mtngal points out it may be better to spend extra on lenses? I don't know...

The point about stabilization is certainly a good thing to know - a common 'problem' for me as I never did use a tripod except for our portrait section of the course. I like th idea of not having to use one for sunsets etc. Is that how others think or are tripods really necessary/important?

Taking into account all your helpful points I'll try to re summarize my queries;

1) If I invest in lenses particularly, what would be the best lenses for sunsets; flower/nature close ups; portraits/people etc; street scenes? On my old folm slr I had only a 28-70mm lens.

2) Since my course I now have glasses - do others find that a prob when using the viewfinder? Contact lenses solved that. Whchi is why I like the idea of the LCD screen.

3) Back to software - I think you've probably answered this but please confirm - the grainy effects etc are now produced by the software not the camera and the darkroom? Is that correct? I am also an artist - paint, collage etc. and would like to be able to manipulate and work with my own art work so I think I read that that would be PS I need? You see with my thrifty thinking i'm not keen to spend megabucks if a cheaper version will do. however i'm also aware that often quality is more expensive and worht the outlay. There is just so much out there and even perusing the PS website and all it offers gets confusing. I do take your point tho TCav and Peripatetic - trial software is where I need to go and try for myself. Very simple I guess : ) Thank you.

4) finally, if I did go beyond basic dslr - what would be the most useful features you'd highly recommend or wouldn't ever omit?

I take your point too peripatetic about the stock photos. Someone's pointed out that definitely volume is necessary to make anything which lines up with what you say. Will certainly keep this in mind. Was a sideline really as I explore other options of income.

So thanks so much everyone for your input and time. It is MOST appreciated. Wonderful thing the internet - drawing on expertise from literally around the globe. Cheers. :-)
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Old Apr 22, 2008, 6:00 PM   #7
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georgus-

You are off to an excellent beginning of your search. My personal recommendation is to take a look at the Sony A-200. It has in-body IS, some excellent features, and here in the USA it is very attractively priced. That is just a personal favorite of mine.

As has already been mentioned in this thread, you can hardly go wrong with any consumer level DSLR camera. The issue to really pay attention to is simply that once you have made a decision on the basic brand name, and you purchase the lenses that you will need, you have essentially adopted a system. Therefore, to maximize your camera investment, you will want to, or should give attention to staying with that "system."

In as much as you are considering one DSLR camera to begin your trek, you may indeed want a more advanced or capable model in the future. By staying with the same system you can move all of your lenses forward without investing in a new system.

I sincerely believe that the search for the right system and camera, should both be thorough and enjoyable. So please take care to not let yourself be overwhelmed by the search process, nor to become frustrated as you try to be thorough in your search.

Have a great day!

Sarah Joyce
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Old Apr 22, 2008, 11:27 PM   #8
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This is just my opinion when it comes to your later questions -

1) Particular lenses will partly depend on which camera you buy. In general, I'm not a fan of the "do-it-all" lens. Photography is always about compromise and you have to decide which compromises you want to make to get what works best for you, personally (there's no one-size-fits-all here). For instance, I do a lot of landscape but I'm a person who looks at details rather than sweeping vistas. I'm much more likely to be happy with a long telephoto lens than I would be with a wide angle (though I have both and use them both all the time). If macro is your primary interest, you might find the best solution (though certainly not the cheapest!) is to get a dedicated macro lens. On the other hand, if low light is more important, a better solution would be to buy a fast, sharpprime lens (like a 50mm 1.4 or 1.8, depending on which camera you get) and extension tubes for macro. If you are doing mostly landscape/outdoor pictures you might be happier with a slower zoom that's lighter weight and smaller, easier to carry around while hiking, rather than a faster lens that would be bigger and heavier.

DSLR cameras have a smaller sensor than 35mm, so to get the same field of view that you got with your 28-70, you'd need something like 18-50 or 55, pretty much what all of the so-called kit lenses are. I personally decided a dedicated macro lens was a necessity and have a 105mm lens that I really like.

2) All I can tell you is that I wear glasses, too. I either wear contacts for distance and use bifocal glasses for mid-distance and closeup, or else bifocals for distance and closeup, skipping the mid-distance if I'm not wearing contacts. I don't have any trouble with using a viewfinder with either glasses or contacts, and two of my favorite lenses are manual focus (my macro and my long tele). So I know it can be done, but do make sure that it will work for you. After my experience Friday, I wouldn't want to have to depend on the LCD to see the focus if I'm in bright sunlight (it's fine for indoors).

3) If you want to combine artwork with photography, Photoshop would be a very good way to go. There are a number of good guidebooks out there. I know I have just barely scratched the surface of what the program can do, but I find it really fun to use, which means that I don't mind spending the moneyon buying it (I find it much more fun than putting money into a slot machine or wageringthose dollarson a poker hand - but that's just me).

4) This is where you'll get so many different opinions, since what's vital to one area of photography won't be very important to another. For instance, I usually shoot raw, single shot and most of the time my subjects don't move much so I don't care about frames per second. Someone who's shooting soccer or American rules football would put high frames per second really high on their list. I'm not the steadiest person in the world, prefer natural light,andget frustrated trying to carry a tripod while hiking, so shake reduction is very high on my list of priorities. A sports shooter is going to be using such fast shutter speeds, camera shake is the last thing he worries about.

Since I take lots of close-up/macro flower photos, I find spot metering important (others sometimes find it a liability). I'll often use it for sunsets, too, as I find that cameras will try to find an average exposure, which usually washes out the bright colors. I haven't tried to do sunset reflections on water or try to capture detail in the shadows during a sunset - both of these would probably require a graduated neutral density filter.

I also like having the top screen - it's easy to just glance at the top of the camera to see what it's set for, how many pictures are left, what's the battery status, etc. I like a big viewfinder because I oftenuse manual focus lenses. My budget is limited but I still have a fondness for good glass - my best lens is an older manual focus one I bought used for half the cost of its modern replacement.I use the "P" setting on my camera mostly, and really like the fact that Ihave the option of over-riding the camera'sdecisionjust by using one of the two control wheels, rather than having to change the mode setting to Sv or Av if I want to change one of the settings. I also have been making use ofthe TAv mode recently on my Pentax K10 - I can set the shutter speed and aperture I want, and the camera will automaticallyset the appropriate ISO to match it. Amazing how useful such a minor thing can be.

The feature I've found the least useful is the "scene" modes on the entry cameras.
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Old Apr 23, 2008, 2:13 AM   #9
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Image Stabilization is of course a substitute for a tripod, but for landscape work, particularly in low light it is not a comprehensive one.

For landscape work a tripod plus cheap lens stopped down will almost certainly outperform a more expensive higher resolution system without IS, unless you can get very high shutter speeds.

http://www.imx.nl/photo/technique/vi...n_compare.html

Am I being hypocritical then because I hardly ever use a tripod? Well not really because I don't do the kind of photography you've described. And this, as mtngal points out, is the crucial thing.

If you're looking for stopped-down performance but you still want to be mobile then the best you can do is a good IS system. Both Canon and Nikon do very nice 18-55 image stabized lenses at good prices. Sony, Olympus and Pentax also have their offerings at different price points.

A comprehensive comparison of the different lens and camera combinations is beyond the scope of what any of us can offer and would mostly be anecdotal. There are some good lens-comparison sites, my two favourites being:

http://www.slrgear.com

http://www.photozone.de/reviews

Grainy effects can be produced a number of ways, by pushing the ISO up in the camera or by adding grain artificially in an editing program.

http://www.dxo.com/intl/photo/filmpack/overview

For general editing you can try out Photoshop Elements - which offers most of the features that the full version of Photoshop had just a few years ago. For 99% of my (keeper) images I don't need anything more than Lightroom, for that remaining 1% Elements is sufficient. There are also free image editing programs, but if you are really into digital art then getting a full copy of Photoshop is very sensible.




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Old Apr 23, 2008, 4:22 AM   #10
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Hey thanks for all that. I've printed all your info to absorb and take shopping with me, clearlyplenty to go on. I'm pleased to have had this talk before venturing out - it's certainly narrowed my focus. The info on theISandlenses is particularly helpful and will check out the websites tomorrow.Some of your terminology (spot metering?) I'm not familiar with but a bit more readingrequired I guess- definitely a challenge! Keep you posted as i'll no doubt have more queries. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge. :-)

PS may I ask - have you all been photographers a long time? for a living? enthusiasts? Learn what you know through others; clubs; education/study; employment? I imagine it will be all of the above.
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