DSLR for School

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by SurfinSHELL23, Oct 22, 2006.

  1. SurfinSHELL23 macrumors regular

    Oct 18, 2004
    Aberdeen, NJ
    Hi - I'm looking to call upon the great knowledge of this MR forum to give us some advice in purchasing a DSLR for yearbook.

    First some background info - our high school has a total enrollment of less than 300 students. We are a pre-engineering school focused on math and science that draws from throughout the county. We have no sports.

    I'm the chief editor responsible for the business aspects of our yearbook. Our yearbook is relatively small (88 pages) and is just switching to full color. Currently we have two pretty nice Kodak P850s (5.1 MP, 12x, EVF) that were purchased last year. What we are finding is that for events students aren't really wanting to borrow our point and shoots to take photos for us because they are comfortable using their own. Our advisor had suggested buying two more of these Kodaks, but we resisted because we didn't see the demand. The research program at our school just recently purchased a Canon 20D which they are very happy with. We've decided to purchase a DSLR as well. We feel that it will diversify our camera options so that we can accomodate both novice and more serious photographers. Several students have Rebel XTs themselves, so I am certain that we would have a lot more involvement if we used the new camera as a sort of "bait". :p

    I know the most important question is budget. Right now I don't want to spend more than $1200. We carried over some money from last year and anticipate having more reserves created this year. Because of the nature of yearbook, I have to make sure that we can pay the publisher first. $1200 is a comfortable amount that allows us to still do that. I am certain that there will be more money left in June that we can use to buy more "stuff" to add onto our DSLR equipment. What we want to do is get things going now so that we can get the benefit of the camera in this year's yearbook.

    Another issue is that we really are trying to order only from Dell or Apple. If we order from other suppliers we have to enter into a competitive bid process that would really slow things down.

    So what we are thinking about thus far is the Rebel 400D/XTi with a case, 2GB CF card, spare battery, and a tripod. We will also be purchasing Aperture, but that will not have to come out of the dSLR budget.

    So my main quetions are (1) what do you think of the Rebel XTi for yearbook purposes (sans sports)? (2) Should we go with the kit lens, or something else, or both? (3) Should we buy an external flash? (4) Which of the CF cards (below) would be best? Please also advise of items that you think would be crucial to get now instead of later.

    Here's some of the pricing for specific items:
    XT Black body only $657.34
    XTi Black body only $721.50
    XT Black 18-55 mm $722.35
    XTi Black 18-55 mm II $811.80

    Canon EF 28-90mm F/4-5.6 $129.99
    Canon USM Std Zoom EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 $155.27
    Canon USM Std Zoom EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II $270.85
    Canon USM Std Zoom EF 24-85mm f/3.4-4.5 $381.02
    Canon USM Std Zoom EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 $469.00
    Canon USM Std Zoom EF 28-135mm IS f/3.5-5.6 $528.21
    Canon USM Std Zoom EF-S 17-85mm IS F/4-5.6 $541.75

    NB-2LH Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery Pack $54.13

    2 GB CompactFlash® Elite Pro™ Card from Kingston® 50x $51.43
    2 GB CompactFlash™ Card from PNY Technologies® $51.43
    2 GB Optima™ CompactFlash™ Card from PNY Technologies® 60x $55.04

    Electronic Flash EF 500 DG from Sigma $216.67
    Canon Speedlite 430EX Flash $261.82

    Deluxe Tripod 200 from Canon $32.91

    Rezo TLZ 20 Camera bag from Lowepro® $27.08
    REZO 110 AW from Lowepro $28.89

    Thanks for all of your help - and sorry for the long post!
  2. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Deluxe Tripod 200 from Canon $32.91


    How did you deside on Canon V. Nikon? Seems od to be asking abut all the little details but o not the big picture of which brand.

    If the only use of the camera is for a yearbook you do not need a lot of "mega pixels" Those books are printed with at best 150 lines per inch process and pictures are rarely printed even 10 inches wide. so you will need imeges no more then 1,500 pixels across. so a 4MP camera will be more then enough for yearbook use even if allowance is made for crops.
    Even with a fast computer big images are slow to work with. a 6MP DSLR will more than meet your needs and be fastr to work with

    With a limited budget I would allocate more money to the lens(es) and go for a lower priced body. Bodies tend to last only 3 or 4 years then get replaced. Lenes last forever. (Lens technology is mature but DSLR technology is new and changing fast)

    Tripods are nice but I can't image anything selling for $40 being very sturdy. In terms of "bang per buck" you should be looking at Bogen tripods. If yu want best quality look at Gitzo. But with a budget Bogen will give you more for the money. One of these truely is a lifetime investment and will outlive a number of camera systems

    One thing you REALLY want is the external strobe and a good "bounce card" or defuser. Yearbooks are "people books" and direct flash look horrible and amateurish. You need a strobe that can bounce light off the ceiling or back wall and a card (white cardboard and a good rubber band is what many pro use) to throw some of the light directly at the subject while most oes to the ceiling.

    Because you all have the math background I'll get slightly technical.... The "softness" of the shadows depends an the angular size of the light source as seen from the subject's location. The one-camera flash is tiny but the wall behind you is huge. Aim the light at the wall and the wall becomes the light source

    I would recommend a short sync cord and a flash bracket. That way you have the option to turn the camera sideways for vertical shots and still be able to keep the strobe above the camera. Shots wit the strobe onthe side look unnatural

    For your work almost any lens will do. On the Nikon side the 18-70 would be good. You will not need a longer telephoto but _wide_ is good. Maybe it's a fad right now but close up shots with very wide angle lenses are what is "in". Look at any advertising and commerce work. That "in your face" kind of shots are what draws in the viewer. Faster lenses (f/1.4 to f//2.8) are good because you can blur out a background to isolate a subject or shoot in low light without a strobe. So as a second lens, if budget allows look for a 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4

    The new DSLRs are so good you will not really need a spare battery. People are getting over 1,000 exposures per charge. You will need a pocket full (8 or 12) of rechargeable AA cells for the strobe and a couple chargers. Bounce lighting really eats batteries.

    I think yu'd do fine with a Nikon D50 and the 18-70 lens. The SB800 strobe is expensive but it has some nice features like the ability to use a 5th AA cell to really bost re-cycle time. The Nikon flash expures system is I think better then Canon's but Canon has some nicer lenses are the "big end" that the sports photographers like. Thats why you see all those Canons at football games. The SB600 is ok too if you don't have the budget

    In my opinion the photo starts wit the "right" light. If that's wrong no camera can get a good shot. Next the image is made by the lens. All the camera body can do is record that image. In terms of importance the order is Light, Lens, Body. But you know what. Beginners always shop in the exact opposite order. But look at a pro studio some day. They spend their money on lights

    Pick out a strobe, flash bracket, sync crd and some "light modifiers". then choose a lens and spend the left over money on a camera body knowing that even a 6MP body records more pixels than you can use.

    Use the tripod for any subject that does not move fast Not only will you get sharper images but the tripod makes you think. You will look and then move the tripod and reframe and then look at repeat the process. Better to have 4 good shots then 100 poor ones to have to sort through and try to "fix" in Photoshop.

    The Nikon D50 with it's lower price will allow you more moeny to buy what really matters -- lenses strobes and so on.
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    All of the lenses that start at 28mm or 24mm are not nearly wide enough. Don't even consider them. The small size of the sensor has what they call a 1.6x "crop factor". So with the smaller size sensor you want about 18mm on the low end and don't need more than about 70 on the long and for people shots.

    If you are comparing Nikon v. Canon the low end Canon lens are not great. Nikon's entry level glass is better. (The Nikon 18-55 is actually a VERY good lens while Canon's 18-55 is cheap, look here www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/1855.htm ) Canon has the edge if you are buying $1500+ lenses. On the Canon side you DO really want the USM leneses.
  4. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    So "yearbook" photos include all photos at all school events?

    I can't recommend a lens for you since I don't really shoot Canon, but I guess something that's 24 mm wide is good enough, while 18 mm would be better. But again, 24 mm is probably good enough for what you want to do.

    If I were you, I'd get one of those Canon 28-105 mm f/3.5-4.5 lenses for the $270 you gave us, along with the Canon XTi body for $720. I'd also add a 50 mm f/1.8 for around $100. That brings you to around $1090.

    If you're shooting JPEGs, then even a 1 GB memory card is fine for what you're doing, I think. ChrisA was right when he said that Yearbook photos don't need to be shot at the highest quality since you won't print at the highest quality anyway, so shooting at Medium Size and Medium quality is likely OK. Shoot at Large size, medium quality if you want to crop photos and get in closer. That'll still mean that you can shoot like 250 photos or something on a 1 GB card.

    Add the spare battery for $50, and a cheap tripod. All you need are 3 legs that'll keep the camera steady, right? Even a table could do that, and I'm sure even a cheap tripod can if you're on a budget. But yes, go with a Manfrotto if you can later on.

    Bang!!.....you're at $1200.

    And you said you'd have some money later on. That should be used for lighting/strobe. :)
  5. SurfinSHELL23 thread starter macrumors regular

    Oct 18, 2004
    Aberdeen, NJ

    Thanks ChrisA and Abstract for your very helpful replies. We take photos at all school events and "landscapes" to use as page backgrounds. We kind of settled on Canon because several of our students have Rebels, and we already have a 20D in the building. There's opportunities for us to get people involved that are already familiar with the Rebel, and also for lens/accessory sharing.

    I met with my advisor today and it turns out that we have several thousand dollars in surplus instead of the $600 I thought we had. So we're looking to get most of the gear now.

    We still want to go with the XTi because the extra $542 for the 30D is a tough pill to swallow. My advisor definitely wants to get the kit lens as well.

    We've selected a somewhat more expensive Davis & Sanford tripod, the Speedlite 430 EX flash, 2x 2GB Kingston CF cards (advisor felt having two would be beneficial), extended service plan, the spare battery (one of our other digital cameras uses the same one), and a couple of the Zing Small Neoprene Drawstring Pouches. We've also decided that we want to buy a lens - a good one. We're thinking we want image stabilization. I'm pretty certain we're going to get the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II ($89.35) - the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM ($344.00) is quite a bit more.

    So to pick your brains once again...
    1. Is the price diffference between the 430 EX ($261.82) and the 580 EX ($405.45) justified for us?
    2. Should we get a lens with image stabilization? My advisor is pretty convinced that people won't use the tripod as much as they should.
    3. Would it make more sense to get the $90.30 credit for getting the body only and purchase something else, like the USM version of the 18-55 ($155.27)?
    4. Would a wide angle lens be of benefit to us?
    So essentially I want to know if the previous lens suggestions still stand give our much larger budget or if we should buy something better. Any other suggestions/comments/advice would also be welcome. ;)
    5. Anything else we should buy?

    Once again, I really appreciate all of your opinions and advice!

  6. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Are you going to be sharing lenses with that other department in your school with the 20D? If they already have certain lenses, there's no point buying them again.

    Secondly, I don't think you'll need IS for what you'll be mostly doing. Get the kit lens just so that you can shoot at 18 mm if you need to. The photos will still be good. Get one of those 24-85 or 28-105 mm lenses you mentioned before because these focal lengths and the f/3.5-4.5 range of apertures are good enough for a yearbook, I think. Get the cheaper flash, and get the tripod.

    I wouldn't bother with the IS lens, because I can't see the huge need for this sort of lens if you're shooting yearbook photos, although I guess it couldn't hurt. But if you're going to get an IS lens that covers the mid-range, I would just get the 50 f/1.8 and a midrange lens with IS. That's it for lenses, really. The only other type of lens I'd consider getting is a telephoto lens with f/2.8, but you don't shoot sports at your school, so it doesn't matter.
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    1) Get cheaper flash and use savings to buy bracket and cord. You need a way to use that flash when the camera is turned sideways to get a vertical shoot. When shooting people you WILL do many verticals. You need to solve the flash on sideways camera problem

    2) IS is usfull when exposure is longer then 1/(lens focal lenght) With a medium tele this is not needed that much.

    3) USM lenses are good. Silent and fast focusing

    4) I would think that most of your work will be with a wide angle lens. 18mm is wide enough for most uses. That's way you want a good 18-55 as this will be the most used lens

    5) Flash and lighting accesories. Nothing will improve people shots more then good light. A case to put everything in. I like "Pelican" they are very sturdy and completely water proof. also a small bag to cary the equipment.
  8. SurfinSHELL23 thread starter macrumors regular

    Oct 18, 2004
    Aberdeen, NJ
    Thank you all for your help. I wrote up the final list on Friday and we should be placing the order very soon.

    We went with the Black XTi body only, EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens, EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 USM, EF 28-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, Speedlite 430 EX Flash, and some other goodies.

    I found the Canon rebate and we can get $60 back which is nice. I also found that if we had bought the 30D we could get another $200 back. This would narrow the difference between the two to "just" $341.80.

    Given what you all know about our needs would this be worth it or not? I'm going to head to a camera shop today and see if I can hold both cameras to get an idea of the differences.

    This is all assuming that Dell is an authorized reseller - anyone know if it is?

    Once again, thank you.

  9. greenmac macrumors regular

    Aug 11, 2006
    I think it's a wise choice going USM, I haven't used them, but from what I understand its equivelent to Nikon's SWM, which is great. I have a lens which doesn't have it, I regret buying it. Does depend on what you are shooting though.

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