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Thread: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

  1. #1
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    Pekka Ikonen

    Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    Hello world! I am presently shopping for my first DSLR camera. I always enjoy photography, but recently I tried my best friend's SLR camera - WOW! What a difference from all those silly point-and-shoot cameras I had been using for years. I am now ready to take the plunge and become more serious about my photography.

    I will primarily be using the camera at the theater where I work, while I am traveling, and when I am walking about the city. I did find this guide to the best camera for photography, but I question whether those are out of my depth.

    I've heard lots of good things about the Canon Rebel. Is that a good entry-level DSLR?

    Any help is appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    Yes, the Canon Rebel lines are good entry-level models. The current models are the T3/1100D and the T4i/650D. The Nikon nearest equivalents would be the D3200 and the D5200. And, of course, there are older models in all the lines. If you need to look up how high up the tiers or how old a model is, these Wikipedia tables can come in handy.

    The first thing you probably want to work out for yourself is how much do you have to spend, and what do you want to shoot? These can help guide you to what the best fit is for you.

    I would also urge you to do a bit more research on a number of camera types. A lot of folks assume that there's only point-and-shoot compact digital cameras and dSLRs with nothing in between. But in the last two or three years, there's been a huge shift in digital cameras, and we now have compact fixed-lens digitals with very large sensors--including the APS-C and full-frame sensors that are in dSLR cameras (see: Fuji X100s, Sony RX-1), as well as mid-range sensors that at larger than the old P&S 1/2.3" format sensors, but smaller than APS-C sensors (see: Canon GX1, Fuji X20, Sony RX-100).

    And there's a new class of camera that's arrived that's known as the mirrorless compact class. These are smaller/lighter than dSLRs, but use larger sensors and have interchangeable lens mounts, like SLRs: Sony NEX, Olympus & Panasonic micro four-thirds, Fuji X, and Samsung NX cameras are in this class. If you're not shooting sports or wildlife, then these cameras could also work for you. And there are obvious advantages for travel/street shooting in having a smaller/lighter/less conspicuous camera. Some folks are actually moving to mirrorless from dSLRs.

    That's not to say a dSLR might not be the right choice for you either. The dSLR systems are still the largest, most responsive, most supported systems out there. But it's worth at least considering what it is you want/need out of a camera and seeing if you can be served by a smaller system or a fixed-lens camera, first. Because interchangeable lens camera systems are vastly more expensive and much less convenient. Nearly everyone who shoots with a dSLR also has a smaller compact camera for go-light days as well.

    And if you do go for a system camera, the camera is actually the most disposable and possibly the least important decision you make. The lenses/flash/tripod gear you buy is liable to be the "permanent" purchase. Digital camera bodies are digital electronics. Like computers or cellphones, they break or you upgrade them every three to five years. The lenses are what are going to stay with you and probably what you'll eventually end up spending the most money on. So, learn at least some basics of lenses like focal length and max. aperture, and look over a system's lens selection before choosing a brand.

  3. #3

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    Re: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    Pekka: First of all go out and rent before you buy. Get the different cameras in your hands see how they feel. Of the top brands neither one is the best, it is what feels best to use and easy of use. Remember it is not the camera but the person pushing that little button that makes the image, the camera is only one very small part of it.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  4. #4
    Scott Stephen's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    Canon Rebels are a good entry level camera. Remember that when you get into good camera gear, the lenses are more important than the camera bodies. The kit lenses that come with entry level cameras from Canon, Nikon, etc., etc., are decent in bright light outdoors, but will struggle in dim light, as you might find in a theater.

    The problem is that the cheaper lenses do not open wide to let light in. The lower the f/number, the wider the lens opens. You will benefit from a nice low f/number like f/2.8 or f/1.8 or lower. If your lens does not open wide enough to let in enough light, you will not be able to shoot well in dim light without a flash. I assume a flash is frowned on in the theater, plus it looks harsh if the flash is right on top of the camera.

    You might consider forgoing the "kit lenses" altogether and ordering a T4i (body only) plus a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens ($105.00 US). With that combo, you could shoot in dim light. If you need a bit more telephoto to capture things on stage, you could get a Canon 85mm f/1.8 for about $350 US.

    Good luck!

  5. #5
    PhotoRob's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    I'll probably get crucified for this, but if I could start over, money was not a concern and I had your requirements I'd strongly consider a Sony Rx1:

    http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/1...review-part-1/

    Plenty of reviews but this has a good concentration of samples.

    Last edited by PhotoRob; 14th February 2013 at 01:51 AM.

  6. #6

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    Re: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    OP wants/needs to use the camera 'at the theater where [(s)he] works', as well as other uses.
    If that means shooting the performances, that'll mean that a 35mm isn't enough.

    It also means large aperture lenses, of longer focal lengths (I'm thinking of at least
    ~75 to 150 mm @ F2.8 or better, preferably zooms), and a very good high ISO performance.
    Both things that tend to make the kit more expensive.

    Personally, I'd try and get a camera with a eye-level view-finder, but that's because I
    never could get used to holding my camera at arms length to compose the image.

  7. #7
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    What is "best" really depends on what you plan to shoot, and different shooting requirements are going to give you different direction. Shooting at the theatre is going to be a different requirement than travel photography (and that will depend on the type of travel you do) versus a walk-about camera for shooting in and around town. Entry level and mid-range DSLR cameras have smaller sensors (crop frame); the mirrorless ones that Kathy mentions have even smaller sensors (micro four thirds). Pro and high end amateur cameras use full-frame sensors (i.e. ones that have sensors that are about the same size as a 35mm film negative) and the fastest lenses (the ones that let the most light in) have been designed for the pro format and are large, heavy and very expensive. That would be my first choice for shooting in a theatre. There are a host of other advantages and disadvantages as well; this class if lenses can also be used on crop frame sensor cameras, but I find their focal length range can be a bit awkward for crop frame sensors.

    When it comes to travel photography you might like something a bit lighter. If you are shooting wildlife a crop-frame with a pro lens might be a better choice. If you are primarily running around cities, a mFT is going to be a bit less obtrusive, but you might be a bit limited in doing interior shots.

    I have over-simplified my analysis rather drastically, but I am trying to suggest that there is no single "perfect" camera that does everything. I have a full-frame DSLR, a crop-frame DSLR, a mFT video camera (and am looking at a mFT still camera right now). I have a number of different lenses and my camera / lens choice for what I am going to do will vary on where I am going and what I will be shooting. I love my full-frame camera, but I am not going to haul it along if I am packing lightly for a quick trip.

    As a beginner, I would probably stick to a crop-frame DSLR and buy the best lenses I can afford. They will certainly outlast your camera body and will be with you for a long time. Rather than recommending a particular brand of camera, try different ones, as I ended up buying one that felt best in my hands and most intuitive to use. I don't pay a lot of attention to review sites, because their results are not necessarily applicable to you. I find the site that you posted links to as a bit amusing, as their results are heavily balanced towards cameras that came out in late 2012 and 2013 and skip over some fantastic gear that was introduced in 2011 and earlier in 2012 (cameras often run on a 3 year product cycle).

    I'm not sure if this helps or confuses things even more...

  8. #8

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    Re: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    It does seem that the requirement of shooting in the theater may well be the hard one on your list. For that, you'll need good low-light performance. With Canon, the Rebel series seems to be the right choice, and for Nikon the D5200 would be the right choice for you ISTM. Canon has been seriously lagging in sensor development for the last few years. One thing that means is that there is no low-light advantage to getting the latest Rebel -- the T3i is every bit as good in this regard as the T4i, and it costs less. You could save money on the body and use the money for better lenses, which is where the real expense will be to get the kind of shot that you want. If you can use flash in your theater work (if you're taking photos during dress rehearsals, for example), the problems in this regard are much less -- and the entry-level Canons have better support for flash than the comparable Nikons. But, assuming you need to shoot during a live performance in a rather dark theater, you'll need good glass.

    Personally, I would opt for f/2.8 zoom lenses. But which ones are anybody's guess. There are very nice zooms in the 17 or 18 to 50 or 55 mm range from Tamron, Sigma, and the camera manufacturers. I would not be concerned about having stabilization (IS to Canon, VR to Nikon, VC to Tamron, and OS to Sigma) on these lenses. It is very useful on longer focal lengths, but not really important on the shorter focal lengths. These wide angle zooms are mostly useful for vacation or if you are actually photographing up on stage during a rehearsal.

    The next step up in focal length is the 24-28 to 70-75 mm f/2.8 range. Again, I don't care about stabilization in these lenses. I use the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 as my main standard zoom. It actually is quite decent photographing plays and the like if you are shooting from the front row or similar distance.

    One intriguing lens is the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 This now comes with OS, and I always want stabilization on a lens above about 100mm. This range is ideal for portraits, but would also be quite attractive for photographing in the theater, I suspect.

    Finally, there are 70-200 f/2.8 lenses. If you opt for this lens, get it with stabilization. The stabilized versions of this lens are excellent from all the usual lens manufacturers.

    If it were me and I had money to burn, I'd get the Nikon D5200 (I'm a Nikon shooter) with the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 (just because I can spend more is no reason to waste money) and the wildly-expensive Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VRII, which is an absolutely lovely lens that I just can't afford. I also have an ultrawide lens (the wonderful Tokina 12-24 f/4) which I like a lot but don't usually use because it is such a specialized beast. Nonetheless, the Tokina has taken some of my absolutely favorite photos -- when it is the right lens, it is wonderful. It just isn't usually the right lens for me. FWIW.
    Last edited by tclune; 14th February 2013 at 01:23 PM.

  9. #9
    New Member Laidbackcyclist's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner seeks to delve into the DSLR world

    I have moved form a dSLR kit to a compact system camera (Fuji X-E1). It has an APS-C size sensor and allows you to shoot in RAW if you want to. I'm told it is not ideal for sport/wildlife so this might affect your decision. The lens range is a bit limited but there are more due out in the next few months. I just know that it is a lot lighter to carry round than my Nikon D700 was.

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