Considering a DSLR - Need Advice

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by maestro55, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. maestro55 macrumors 68030

    maestro55

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    #1
    So I have some extra money coming, and I may spend it on a DSLR. I have always wanted one as I would really like to get into photography. I have owned a couple of basic point and shoot cameras but the options were extremely limited and I really haven't been able to do anything. I think with a DSLR I would not only learn a great deal about photography (through the camera and with some books I have on taking pictures with SLR cameras) but would also be able to produce some amazing photos.

    My problem is mostly money, and trying to buy something that fits my budget while not at the same time wasting my money. To be honest if I buy in the next couple of months I will probably only have the money for an XS or XSi if I was to buy new, of course in that case all I would have is the camera with the out of the box 18-55 lens. If I bought used I have seen many 20D and 30D cameras on Ebay in my price range and if I purchased one of those I could fork out the extra cash for a good Sigma Telephoto Lens (70-300mm).

    But now I have some questions. First off should I completely not look at Nikon cameras? I have read about noise in the Nikon cameras causing poor pictures to be produced. Is this true or just the anti-Nikon crowd talking? Also, can someone explain to me more about the F-stop on lenses? is a higher F-Number better or worse? Or does it matter based on the kind of pictures that are being taken?

    Would I be better off buying a new Rebel (say XSi) that has more Megapixels than the older 20D or 30D but of course the 20D and 30D take more shots per second and are more durable. For a not-even-novice photographer like myself what route do you think I am better off going?

    This is just a starting point to get ideas. I don't know when I will be able to spring for a new camera, I am hoping to in the next month or so but we will see what happens.
     
  2. gkarris macrumors 604

    gkarris

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    #2
    Buy a Nikon D40 on sale it you're on a budget...

    I use this site:

    http://www.dpreview.com

    I ended up with an Olympus E500 kit with 2 lenses closeout for $499... I love it.

    Buy what feels comfortable in your hands and what you see as easy to use.

    Good luck!
     
  3. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020

    ChrisBrightwell

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    #3
    Buy a new entry-level SLR body from any of the major companies (Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, etc.) and you'll be fine. For basic photographic needs, any of these bodies will be more than adequate and their kit lenses will get the job done.

    Just remember that you're buying into a lens system, not a camera system. Bodies will come and go, but quality glass will last a lifetime.

    ETA: In general, I'd say that it's usually not a good idea to buy a used body.
     
  4. vga4life macrumors 6502

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    Jun 16, 2004
    #4
    Any camera can make a good picture, given a good photographer.

    Right now I think Canon has a better entry-level DSLR kit (the XS); In 2006 and 2007, I would have said Nikon did.

    As far as F-numbers go, it's complicated - see http://www.uscoles.com/fstop.htm. The gist of it is the lower the number, the more light the lens can pass to the sensor - but the lower the number, the smaller the range of distance from the lens that will be in focus (i.e. shorter depth of field).

    I would recommend learning with a standard prime lens - and also googling to understand what a standard prime lens is. (Hint: on a cropped-sensor body like a low-end Nikon or Canon, it's a focal length of 30 or 35mm.)
     
  5. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    #5
    Any of the entry level cameras from the major manufacturers should serve you well. The Nikon D40 is I believe the cheapest kit you can buy new. The Canon Rebel XS is a very nice camera for a little more $.

    That's a load of crap...they're all pretty similar, but if any body stands out for outstanding sensitivity with low noise it's more often a Nikon than anything else.

    The f/number on a lens is the widest aperture the lens can open up to. I wrote an intro to aperture and what f/numbers mean for beginner photographers on my blog a few months back, since it is commonly a confusing subject: What is aperture?
     
  6. maestro55 thread starter macrumors 68030

    maestro55

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    #6
    Any reason to get the D40 over an XS? There are numerous sites selling the XS for under $300, with a good lens I could probably spend just the same as the D40. Just some things I have read online which make me look at the XS, but again I am just taken information and processing it. My questions in quotations below.

    * The Nikon D40 doesn't come equipped with a self-cleaning sensor (why is this important?)
    * CMOS sensor in the XS vs. the CCD sensor in D40 (what real difference, if any, does this make?)
    * I have read more lenses are compatible with the Canon cameras.
    * Obviously the XS has 10.1MP as opposed to 6.1MP but I am not making posters so in the end should I make this a factor?

    Which brand has a better selection of lenses? I have a friend that swears by Pentax, is there any reason not to get a Pentax camera? Are there any entry-level camera that don't use the cheap plastic body?

    So you are suggesting to go with the standard 18-55mm lens to start with and not to start with a telephoto lens? Assuming you mean Standard Prime as opposed to Telephoto Prime. Why is this the best way to go? And thanks for the link containing information on the F-stop, I reviewed it and it had some good information.

    @mrogers, thanks for the information, and I read your article and I am looking at the following lens (if I get an XS body only)

    http://www.amazon.com/Sigma-18-200m...=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=photo&qid=1231194117&sr=1-4

    I am thinking that if I took photos where there was enough light, this would be a good lens to have. Are there better lenses I am missing?
     
  7. vga4life macrumors 6502

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    Jun 16, 2004
    #7
    Hang on, what? The Canon Digital Rebel XS is not sold without a lens. With the lens, reputable dealers are selling it for around $475.

    Under $300 and you're looking at something used or a scam.

    A prime lens is not a zoom lens. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_lens

    Here is a good standard prime lens for a low-end to midrange Canon body: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0007U0GZM
     
  8. SchneiderMan macrumors G3

    SchneiderMan

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  9. maestro55 thread starter macrumors 68030

    maestro55

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    #9
    http://shopdigitaldirect.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=7873

    http://photodynasty.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=7781

    http://soniccameras.com/catalog/pro...&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq=&products_id=5333

    I am sure not all three of those sites are out to get me. But one never knows. So why do you suggest that I get a Prime lens as opposed to a Zoom lens?
     
  10. THX1139 macrumors 68000

    THX1139

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    Mar 4, 2006
    #10
    The reason he is suggesting you get a prime lens instead of a zoom is because you can usually get faster lenses with better glass for less money. Slow lenses (they have higher f-stop numbers) don't allow enough light into the camera and that forces you to limit your shot selection, go to a tripod or increase your sensitivity, which in turn causes more noise in your photos. If you have a fast lens, you'll have more control over the available light. You CAN buy cheap zooms, but there is always going to be a compromise with aperture size, sharpness and distortion. Also, by having a fixed focal length it makes you concentrate on composition instead of doing camera tricks.

    If you're serious about getting into photography, I suggest you buy a cheap DSLR and one or two fixed focal lenses (a 35 2.0 and maybe an 85 2.8?). Then take the remainder of your money and signup for a photography class. A lot of the questions you are asking is basic technical stuff (what is an aperture?) and that tells me you need to invest time in learning if you're serious about photography. Having a cool zoom with a decent DSLR is NOT going to suddenly make you a good photographer. Actually, it might make you worse than you already are. There is so much else involved that you are overlooking... such as lighting, subject matter and composition. If you aren't into taking the time to learn how to take a good photo, then I suggest you save your money and stick with a decent point and shoot.
     
  11. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    #11
    Oh, you'd be very surprised. There are a staggering number of shady photography gear sites out there. A *staggering* number. Always check the site rating on resellerratings.com; don't trust the Google ratings, they're too easy to game. For example, those three shops:

    http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Shop_Digital_Direct - 0.51/10 (64 reviews)

    http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Photo_Dynasty - 0.52/10 (49 reviews)

    http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Sonic_Cameras - 0.7/10 (265 reviews)

    WOW! That first one set a new record...I've never seen a rating so low!

    All these shops essentially do the same thing -- bait and switch. I guy I know personally got bit by one of these a few months ago. He ordered a Canon Rebel XTi kit with a whole bunch of accessories, thought he was getting a great deal, but when it arrived they had switched out the nice bag for a $5 one, the nicer tripod for one that couldn't even hold the camera straight, the camera itself wasn't a US model, etc, etc, etc.

    STAY AWAY from those shady shops. Adorama, Amazon.com, BHphotovideo.com, CalumetPhoto.com and a handful of others are the legit places to buy -- almost every other "great deal" you'll find will be a scam. Look the store up on resellerratings before you even *think* about giving them your credit card info. They'll change their names every so often too in order to ditch all the negative reviews, and pop up a little while later with a slightly different color scheme on the web site. Google around if you want even more stories of people getting ripped off.
     
  12. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #12
    First of all, older Nikon bodies are worse at noise handling at higher ISOs. This is because they use CCD sensors, as opposed to CMOS like Canon does. The newer ones, I have heard, use CMOS. As far as I know, the D40 is not one of them.

    But then again, will you be shooting in low light? If you'll rarely shoot at ISO1600 or won't notice the detail lost from noise reduction, then there's no reason to rule out Nikon.

    On a side note, I wouldn't buy Olympus unless I merely wanted an incremental upgrade over the better point-and-shoots.
     
  13. bking1000 macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 29, 2007
    #13
    Any idea what you want to take pics of? That would help a lot in making recommendations.

    Good prices (including used and refurbed) can be found on B&H (www.bandhphoto.com) and adorama (i think it's adorama.com) and j and r (jandr.com). If you find something MUCH cheaper than from those sites, it's likely a scam (excluding private transactions, of course).

    If you go Canon, you could also look for a used XT on one of those sites, and then you can get a first lens that makes sense to you. (could I recommend, in Canon, the 35mm/f2 fixed lens? Unless you know you want to go through a long zoom range on one lens, those maga-zooms tend to have mediocre lens performance).
     
  14. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #14
    Um no, CMOS vs CCD isn't the reason. The reason is that Canon figured out how to post-process the signals better first. If you want to see what happens with state-of-the-art CCD, look at what NASA's been using for deep space imaging platforms. Actually, if you want to see what happens for state-of-the-art CMOS, that's the place to look too.

    In fact, early on CMOS was used because it was cheaper, though CCDs had much better signal-to-noise ratios and were always used in high-end applications.

    http://www.dalsa.com/corp/markets/CCD_vs_CMOS.aspx

    I think you'll find that even today most stringent scientific tools specify CCD imagers.
     
  15. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #15
    hm. didn't know that, thanks. would you happen to know the reason for Nikon's previously inferior high-ISO performance, then?
     
  16. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020

    ChrisBrightwell

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    #16
    Inferior engineering.
     
  17. JFreak macrumors 68040

    JFreak

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    #17
    You already seem to be familiar with Canon products so it might be best to forget Nikons altogether. Both are equally good for the money you're going to be able to spend so just take advantage of the knowledge you already have on the Canon lineup.

    I also suggest you take a very close look on the lenses first. Glass is the most important thing in taking a picture (next to the hand operating the device). Once you've decided what lenses to buy now and in the future, you have pretty much decided what body you want to be buying.

    If you're going to need/want a great wide-angle lens coupled with a full frame body in few years, you might just as well buy the cheaper XS now as you will be eventually upgrading anyway. But if you're more into telephoto and don't need/want full frame body, then I'd suggest you fork out the money for 20D/30D/40D body now, it will last you a very long time.

    Now if this helped, great. Perhaps you would also want to take a look at Sigma lenses? They fit Canons nicely and are great value for your money. EX-series lenses are "the bomb", for example the 30mm f/1.4 can be had for very little money and it's great. Just something to think about if the budget gets very tight and you'd want to buy the x0D-line body with a cheaper lens...
     
  18. numbersyx macrumors 65816

    numbersyx

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    #18
    One thing I recommend before buying a particular brand is to go into a store and see how it feels in your hands. I went into my local camera shop a couple of years ago with the intention of buying a Canon rebel xti and left with a Nikon D40x simply because of the way both cameras felt when I took a shot. Now a happy (but less wealthy) D300 and multiple lens owner....
     
  19. nope7308 macrumors 65816

    nope7308

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    Ontario, Canada
    #19
    If you're going to buy a DSLR, I would recommend either:
    www.adorama.com
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/

    Both are located in NYC and both are reputable dealers. They have the lowest *legitimate* pricing and excellent customer service. I bought my DSLR from Adorama and a macro lens from B & H - excellent experience with both. Also, if you live in Canada, there are no duties on photographic gear - you just pay PST/GST.

    Finally, unless you plan to live in NYC, I would avoid any grey market camera because it will be more difficult to have it serviced should something happen. Make sure you know what 'grey market' means (the websites will explain) and avoid ebay at all costs. It really is amazing how many scams exist out there... many simply change the name of their business to avoid legal repercussions. Thank God for BBB and resellerratings.com!!
     
  20. maestro55 thread starter macrumors 68030

    maestro55

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    Goat Farm in Meridian, TX
    #20
    Thank you for the thoughts. I should have made myself more clear in my original post though, I have no intention of making money with photography, so I probably won't invest in a photography class (and not like my schedule would permit it anyhow). But you are right, there are a lot of basic technical aspects of photography that I am still learning. So it looks like the general advice is to get a faster prime lens for learning, and from what I have been reading that seems like the best idea. I will continue looking, I may end up with an XS with the factory lens for a while until I can buy another lens.

    As for the other aspects, lighting, subject matter and composition. You are right I should take those more into consideration. As for taking the time to learn how to take a decent photo, given that I do eventually get a good camera, I would be willing to put time into it (can't afford the time it would take to attend a class) and have several books that my dad gave me which are older books and deal with taking pictures with a single reflex camera.

    Thank you for the information, I had not seriously considered buying from one of the listed shops so I didn't look at any reviews. But that is good to know.

    Well, honestly right now I snap all kind of different photos. Though I would probably focus on Places. I love just driving around the city and taking photos of things in the city.

    @jfreak: Thank you for the advice. I guess from the beginning I had gone into this wrong, worried more about the body than the lens. I appreciate the advice and knowledge from each of you.

    @numbersyx: I have shot photos using a Canon XT (but it was in fully auto mode using the standard lens so not a true test) for a friend of mine. I recently went to Best Buy to look at the Nikon's and I wasn't impressed. So Canon will probably be the way I go.
     
  21. gkarris macrumors 604

    gkarris

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    #21
    I find this to be true. Out of all the different brands of P&S cameras, it seems that Canon has always won out in the noise area, even in their cheapest P&S I just got for documenting field projects at work.

    That's a good sign for a company that maintains their quality from their cheapest product to their most expensive. (can you think of some other company? ;))

    I had a Canon Rebel film system back in the day it it was a great camera, but I traded that in as Nikons felt better for me.

    You can't go wrong with Canon digital, though.

    Please post some pics with your new dSLR!

    I did...

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?p=6557695&postcount=103
     
  22. bking1000 macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 29, 2007
    #22
    If, as you say, you are interested in travel photography, then two points to consider: what focal length you need and weight.

    A 70-300 lens is equivalent on a 1.6 crop body to 112-480mm. Those are more for birders and sports than for travel. You want something wide angle (on a crop body that means typically starting at 15-18mm) to a moderate zoom (up to 105, but more typically like 50, 70 or 80). For example, the Tamron 17-50 2.8 is the equivalent on an XT or XTi of 27-80mm.

    A single, light lens like the Tamron also makes travel more enjoyable, as the camera is smaller and lighter.

    The Tamron, though, doesn't have IS, though it is fast. To have IS AND a fast lens, you'll be spending upwards to $800 on something like the Canon 17-55mm. You only need IS on a DSLR, though, for low-light situations and at longer focal lengths. You can learn, with practice, to hold a non-IS lens pretty well, and because you can go up to ISO1600 with great results (I'd say ISO 1600 is equivalent to about ISO400 on a Canon point and shoot, in terms of noise and image quality), you get at least two stops faster with the DSLR just from the bigger sensor.

    Another option is to go for primes wide. My main lens right now is a 35mm/f2 because it's so light, though I'm looking at the Tamron myself, because I need more wide angle with some frequency, and I don't want to carry 2 lenses.
     
  23. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #23
    Yep, Nikon couldn't figure out how to decrease the noise when exponentially increasing the signal as well as Canon did. Also, Canon's default exposure was more positive than Nikon's, so if you didn't adjust the exposure on the Nikon you'd be underexposing compared to the Canon- bringing more noise. Mostly though it was that Canon's engineers figured out how to process out the noise first and it took Nikon a long, long time to catch up.
     
  24. maestro55 thread starter macrumors 68030

    maestro55

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    #24
    Thanks for the thoughts. It looks like if I do fork over the cash and get a camera it is going to be the Rebel XS with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens that comes with it to begin with. Then probably after that I will be able to get other lenses. I certainly do want a wide angle lens, but a Telephoto lens would be nice too for some stuff eventually. Though I think my next buy after getting the camera would be to get a faster lens, maybe a 50mm f/1.8 lens.

    Several people have said to stay away from certainly online dealers for camera Bodies, and have suggested that it is best to buy a new camera body. How about buying used lenses? Is it true that older Canon lenses meant for Film Rebels will work with the new DSLRs? From my reading they work but the focal length is different and therefore if bought a 50mm f/1.8 lens that was designed for a 35mm Film Rebel it would work but my Digital Rebel would think it was an 80mm lens? Because of the difference in the focal point?
     
  25. Knomad macrumors newbie

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    Dec 24, 2008
    Location:
    North Coast, California
    #25
    A few considerations:

    Canon, Nikon, or any other name brand are capable of taking perfectly good pictures. You'll need to gain some experience before the camera becomes the limiting factor.

    The differences between brands are primarily in design philosophy, the ergonomics and control layouts and menu setups are a little different. Go to the camera store and handle both brands. For some people, one or the other clearly fits their hands and their style of working better, and the choice becomes easy.

    As for model, the base models are less expensive for a reason. So here, you need to think about what you intend to use the camera for. The base models like the Rebel and the D40 are fine for light use and they are compact and light, but they have limited durability, dim viewfinders (on the assumption that most users will rely on autofocus), and there are limitations on which lenses and accessories they are able to use (see lens discussion below).

    More expensive models (Nikon D300/D700, Canon 5D, etc) have metal frames, are better weather sealed, have longer-lasting shutters, mount most lenses including older ones, have brighter viewfinders... and, as you'd expect, are more expensive.

    Lenses: An f/1.4 lens is faster (that is, it can shoot in less light) than an f/2.8 lens which in turn is faster than an f/4 lens. Lens speed costs money, and fast lenses with a few exceptions (for example the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G) will not meter with the entry-level bodies. Most base bodies come with a slow kit zoom, with maximum apertures in the f/4 to f/5.6 range. This is fine in sunlight but will give you trouble in normal room light unless you use a flash. Slow lenses also mean a dimmer viewfinder. All of which is fine for basic photography but not for sophisticated composition or night photography, so again the intent comes into play.

    Noise is not a problem at lower ISOs (200-400). In general, full-frame sensors have less noise at high ISOs (1600). Canon had full frame sensors before Nikon did, which is the source of what you're hearing. But both now have good full frame sensors. This is a moot point unless you're willing to spend over $3,000 for a camera body, because all of the base models of both brands have smaller sensors which are less expensive.
     

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