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Old Jul 16, 2009, 9:10 PM   #1
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Default DSLR for Night/HDR shots.

Budget $700 Max

I have been a P&S user for a while and currently have a Sony DSC-W1. I am looking to get a better camera, one that is able to take much clearer, cleaner, detailed and better shots at night or in dark areas.

I am interested in HDR, mostly for night(cityscape)/underground shots. I generally like the look of these photos and would like to try and create some of my own. Even though the majority of my shots will be in darker areas, I would still like the camera to be a viable option for day shots, even if I need another lense as a future upgrade.

I enjoy currently taking shots in places or from a view that people may not normally see. To do this, the camera usually needs to be able to handle dark areas well.

I would like to if possible keep it to either Canon or Nikon, as to be they seem the most reputabe. I have had tourble in the past with sony's customer service and would like to stay away from them.

So to sum it up the majority of my shots will be night cityscape shots and underground areas with limited light. As an example of what type of shots I would be taking, this is from my sony. As you may notice, it lacks clarity as well as general distrinction between bright and dark areas. Sorry if it is large.


Thank you all.
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 9:42 PM   #2
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If you use a tripod, just about any dSLR will work. If you are hand-holding, especially if you want to use a wide angle lens, you'd probably be better off with Oly, Sony or Pentax, which have in-camera vibration control. Nikon and Canon put their anti-shake in their lenses and neither have a really wide angle that has vibration control. Using a tripod also helps with HDR - while Photomatix has some ability to align pictures, it can only do so much. You'll get better results if you use a tripod.

Lenses also become an issue. The kit lenses would handle the above picture fairly well, especially if you use a tripod. This type of shot doesn't particularly benefit from a "fast" lens as you'd want a deep depth of field. Lenses that are f2.8 or faster (1.8, 1.4 etc.) would have the advantage of being able to use faster shutter speeds, but have a much smaller depth of field. So whatever camera you end up buying, get the kit lens and a tripod. Then you can decide later if you need either a wider or a longer lens.

I shoot with a Pentax dSLR and have done a limited amount of low-light and HDR photography. I've been really happy with the results. Did I mention that a tripod really helps?
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 10:03 PM   #3
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I was reading that I should be looking for a camera with a High ISO and low noise when in low light at that higher ISO. So is there any camera that does this better than another?
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 10:56 PM   #4
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You are assuming that night (or low light) photography needs to be done at high ISO speeds. High ISO speeds tend to produce lower quality grainer images. HDR photography involves taking several images of exactly the same view and combining them together. The images taken and combined consist of a standard image, one over exposed and one under exposed (for a 3 image set, you can also do 5 or 7 etc.). These tend to also be done with tripods especially in low light - so that all the images align together.

High ISO speeds (1600, 3200 and higher) help when you are using higher shutter speeds (which are shorter exposure times) to take images in dark or dimly lit situations - however they tend to produce noisey (grainy) images. This comes into play when you are handholding the camera. With the example that you provided, handholding the camera I do not believe would be an option, especially when you want a high level of image quality.

In order to get the highest image quality, you reduce your ISO speed to 100 or 200, maybe even 400 (100 would yield the highest quality). To use these ISO speeds in very dark environments, the exposure times get to be extended into seconds (2 to say 15 seconds or more). In order to hold the camera steady during such a long exposure, you need to use a tripod. With the camera on a tripod, you set it up to lift up the mirror, then wait 2 seconds or so, to dampen out the vibrations of the mirror moving, and then take the image. So literally all the dSLRs have a 2 second mirror lockup mode that your enable. Additionally, so that you do not have to touch the camera (inducing more vibration) - i.e. pushing the shutter button, you also use a wired or wireless shutter release.

As mtngal indicated, with the type of pictures you are showing, you want some depth of field - items in the image that are in focus the greater the distance into the background of the picture. In order to do that you need a large f stop (f8, f11, etc.). The larger the f stop, the less light is passed through the lens, which forces you to take a longer exposure.

So what you are looking for is a body, lens and tripod (and a external release - around $20). This is a 3 part system. Inexpensive tripods then to not hold the camera that steady, so you tend to migrate to higher priced tripods that do a better job. They cost more and eat into your budget. Now for the camera and lens. At your budget level, the best combination are the kits that are offered - which are combinations of a camera body and a lens (usually 18-55mm).

It sounds like you may have read this thread ...

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/wh...otography.html

... if not it has a lot of information in it. It also has some camera suggestions. With a tripod, a good selection would be something along the lines of the Pentax K2000 - which comes in a kit for around $500.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...al_Camera.html

There are other makes and models, but with the need for a tripod, you are streaching your $700 budget. I would say that you are going to have to spend at least $100 on the tripod - most folks say more.

In terms of the various makes of cameras - they are all quallity products. Also dSLR service is somewhat different from P&S service. Any of the major makes will do well - Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, Olympus, etc.

hope that helps....
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 11:00 PM   #5
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High ISO with low noise is nice, but add a tripod and it won't matter as you'll be able to use slower shutter speeds with lower ISO and have a cleaner picture all the way around. I personally like the 6 mp sensor that's in the Nikon d40 - it's been around for a while (it's in my Pentax K100 also). I'm not as crazy with the 10 mp sensor that's in the Pentax K10, and Nikon d60 - it has more noise. Nikon's algorithms for noise reduction are pretty good, though you do lose some detail where Pentax keeps the detail but adds more noise (letting you decide how much detail you want to keep vs. noise through post processing). Canon's sensors have always been very good about noise, too.

High ISO/low noise is important for those shooting indoor sports, since they can't afford to use a slow shutter speed. Vibration control is great for camera shake, but does nothing for motion blur. Having a faster shutter speed can also help when you are hand-holding and don't have vibration control of some sort. But add a tripod and take pictures of interesting tunnels, night city scapes or lit buildings, shutter speed isn't important. Add vibration control and you can hand-hold at slower shutter speeds, so could possibly use ISO 1600 instead of needing ISO 3200.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 8:07 AM   #6
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I agree. Though Canon and Nikon can perform well at higher ISO settings, that's not what you want. You should use a tripod so the different shots are easier to align during post processing, and with a tripod, you can use any shutter speed you want unless some objects in the frame are moving.

Also, you should use a very sharp lens to make it easier to piece the resulting images together. But newer dSLRs come with kit lenses that are much improved over their recent predecessors.

Given that, the most important characteristic of a dSLR would be this: Do you like it?
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 12:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCav View Post
I agree. Though Canon and Nikon can perform well at higher ISO settings, that's not what you want.
if not them then what? While to many it may seem fine to spend $700 on a company you have never heard of before, but to me its a bit questionable.

I also already have a tripod, but its a cheap one I got at BestBuy under the Dynex Brand. This one here http://www.dynexproducts.com/pc-556-...-pan-head.aspx

It was $10 bucks at Best Buy, and hasn't failed me yet. Ive bumped into it, through my bag into it and it has never tipped over.


Is something like this really that bad?
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 1:14 PM   #8
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Well, just because you haven't heard of a company doesn't mean that it doesn't make good, reliable cameras. And it could have been in business for a very long time. Both Olympus and Pentax have made cameras for years - my first Pentax camera was bought in 1980, and it was an older camera company even then. I'm still using a couple of lenses that came with that camera - they work great on the Pentax digital cameras even though they are almost 30 years old. Granted, Hoya recently bought Pentax, but they aren't exactly a new company either - I've been using Hoya filters since I got my first camera.

Tripods that work for point and shoot cameras may or may not work well for a dSLR. DSLR cameras are significantly heavier and the longer the lens, the more prone it is to show movement. It isn't so much that you are likely to tip over your tripod, its more that the lighter weight tripods transmit more motion than a heavier weight one. This becomes more critical the longer your lenses are, too. And I've had generic type quick release plates that can't be tightened enough to stop the camera from drooping with a heavy lens, or heads that droop with the weight of the camera and lens. I almost had a sturdy but lightweight tripod get blown over in high wind once - I've learned to be very careful about not getting far away from my tripod in thos conditions (or put my camera bag on the hook below, to add extra weight) for stability).

Is yours really that bad? I haven't tried it but know that you might find it limited to certain conditions. Try it - if nothing else, it'll allow you to buy a replacement a little later.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 1:28 PM   #9
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Your right, I should be more open. I do like the idea of having the IS on the body rather than on the lense. I see that Pentax is a company based in Japan, so if it were to occur that I needed service on my camera, would I need to ship it to japan? Also does Pentax have extended warranties?

What model do you suggest to me, for my needs? You mentioned a few models that you had experience with, but I don't know if they are right for me.

Thanks again for all the responses.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 1:49 PM   #10
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heavybird-

I don't believe that your current tripod will be completely satisfactory for doing HDR multiple shots, as you cannot have any movement or vibration at all during your exposures.

As to a choice of DSLR cameras, that is entirely up to you. As has already been noted in this thread, a high ISO capability is not really a requirement, if you are using low ISO settings, the camera's kit lens (usually a 18-55 mm lens) and shooting from a tripod.

The Pentax K-2000 DSLR was mentioned previously and that camera stays within your budget and it is an excellent performer as well. It can be used up to ISO 1600 if noise reduction software is employed. I have the Pentax K-2000 and like it a lot. However, any of the consumer level DSLR cameras could work for you.

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