First DSLR - Minefield.

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by crm297, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. crm297 macrumors newbie

    Nov 1, 2013
    London, UK.
    Hi, I'm a new member of this forum though I have been following it for some time.

    I love taking photos and due to personal circumstances have been doing so for years using cheap digital compacts and iPhones. I've long harboured ambition to take photography more seriously as a hobby.

    Now is the right time for me. My latest point and shoot was recently dropped and broken so my iPhone is working hard. I make a living as a pilot so I often find myself in position to see things that few others do, I'm also fortunate enough to get to spend time down route in some incredibly interesting places. All too often I find myself saying " I wish I had a camera capable of capturing this".

    What Sort of photography - very varied. Ariel land/skyscapes, street and architectural photography down route. Family photos at home. Occasional wildlife and airshow photography.

    As far as camera body is concerned, I want something that will grow with me as I learn. I don't want to be constrained by things like complicated menu systems, I want easy access to common functions. I've considered canon vs Nikon(I know there are very good others but as the big two, considering only these reduced the headache slightly) and my heart tells me Canon but my head says Nikon. Not sure why but I started off thinking Canon but my research has pulled me towards nikon. My leaning at the moment is towards picking up a second hand D7000 rather than going for one of the more traditional beginner bodies. Available for less than £400 in the UK.

    Lenses - I guess this is the crux of my question and where I am a bit lost. I want to start of with one or two lenses that will do as much as possible for me. It would be nice to not have to change lenses between every shot. Every one seems to suggest a 35mm F1.8. Where would this fit in with what I want to photograph? Should I then go for a medium range zoom such as that which may come with a kit? Are there any advantages of having say an 18-55 over something with a larger focal range? (Apart from price obviously). I know that to realy get into wildlife and airshow photography I will need to spend big bucks on a big lens, that is something that will have to wait, but would I get decent results with say a 70-200 or 300?

    I'm planning a five day walk in the Scottish highlands next year. I'm sure I will get some stunning opportunities. Is there a lenses that I could use for landscapes that I could also use to capture an elusive grouse or ptarmigan in the distance without taking time to change the lense?

    My budget is limited so an recommendation of good value lenses (cheapish but not rubbish) would be much appreciated.

    I have considered good point and shoot cameras but I don't think they fit with my long term goals.

    Sorry for the long post. The huge array of kit out there is such a minefield for a beginner. Any advice will be very much appreciated. Am I going down completely the wrong route?
  2. EmaDaCuz macrumors regular

    Apr 30, 2012
    Welcome to the world of DSLR!
    My suggestion is to find a cheap second hand camera and play with that. I started with an old Sony a100 bundled with some old Minolta and Sigma lenses. I spent 250 pounds at that time,you don't need to spend a fortune for your first camera, especially if you don't know whether you will love photography as a hobby.
    Forget about automatic settings, go full manual. Spend hours and hours around to learn how to compose a scene, how to choose the proper shutter speed or aperture.

    As for the lenses, your budget is a bit limited to get a "good" lens. Also, you have to understand what kind if lens you will need. Going to Scotland with a 35mm may be a bit limiting, as you may want to capture both landscapes (and usually you do that with a 16-24 mm) and details in the horizon (and for that you may need a tele). I have not been following the latest development, both there are some cheap -yet decent- 18-105 mm lenses that are all-arounders.

    Final line, the lens itself does not give you the perfect shot. It can certainly help, but the photographer does 95% of the job.
  3. Alexander.Of.Oz macrumors 68030


    Oct 29, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    I will suggest you look at a secondhand mirrorless that shoots RAW and has the sort of reach you need. I got one recently for one of our 14 year old sons and am astonished at its quality and how quickly he is learning how to operate on full manual too! :cool:

    No need to lug around multiple lenses and it's plenty good enough for pixel peeping on his 24" iMac monitor!

    You can pick something up for well under your budget, so have ample money left over for a tripod, memory cards, etc...

    It will have the same controls and abilities as a DSLR, but be a nice handy size to take in the cockpit with you.
  4. Ish macrumors 68020


    Nov 30, 2004
    I'm sorry I'm going to respond somewhat obliquely as you didn't ask about mirrorless but I'm going to second Alexander's suggestion above. I added a Fuji X-E1 as a back up camera at the beginning of the year and now this is the one that goes out with me and the DSLR stays at home. It's light and easy to carry about, with a sensor the same size as in the DSLR's you're looking at. Picture quality is excellent and speed, aperture and exposure compensation are set by dials on the outside of the camera. The Fuji lenses are excellent quality and if you started with something like the 18-55mm that would give you a range and you could add others later when you know what you like.

    Just thought you might not have noticed these or realised how high quality the pictures are. There is an X-E2 out very soon so there should be a reasonable number of offers/second hand X-E1's around.

    Good luck with your search, whatever you decide on in the end!
  5. Oracle1729 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 4, 2009
    You say you want something that will grow with you as you learn, and want high quality images. You should avoid the mirrorless cameras others have suggested. They're a format of compromises, smaller size but you don't have a proper viewfinder (which makes a huge difference setting up a shot), you don't have proper controls to adjust settings easily while you're shooting, etc.

    The D7000 is an excellent choice to get started if your goal is to grow and learn. It's got a lot of nice features the "entry" bodies don't. The top LCD and 2 control dials on the right make the camera a lot easier to use.
    Basically more features or on buttons instead of in menus. It has a viewfinder prism (unlike the cheaper bodies), which gives you a larger, sharper viewfinder, it has an AF motor which opens a whole world of older lenses.
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    You will fin fhb long lens like the 200 is not useful at all. The common beginner mistake is to buy a way-cheap f/5.6 200mm zoom lens. About the only use is getting close shots of zoo animals. You are better off looking into wider lens and faster lenses.

    The most us full lens is the Nikon 18-55. The VR version is by far the one to get. This has the most used focal lenses. T Nikon 10-55 is very good. I think Canon's version is not. (Canon makes good stuff, just saying about this case.)

    The next lens after this depends on if you like to shoot indoors or out. A good indoors lens is the 35mm f/1.8. The 50 mm lens is best for head and shoulders of people.

    But FIRST get the 18-55 and see what focal lengths you use. It is easy to check in your image library after you have 1,000 images there you will have decent statistics. Not not buy a second lens until after you shoot at least 1,000 images with the 18-55. Then look, are all your shots made with the lens at 55mm? If so shoots right at the limit says you might have gone longer if you could have. But stooging at 50mm says you did not even need to go to 55mm.

    What out for another bigger mistake, using the soon in place of your feet. Mot of the time it is bestir to get closer and shot with a wider lens. But remember (1) subject to camera distance controls perspective and (2) focal length controls angle of view. The two are not the same thing.

    Landscape photographer tend to cary tripods. You get better images even and peole photographers tend to cary lightning equipment. Take the first 1,000 frames with jet the basic 18-55 then think bat the shots you missed and wat would have helped.

    One more thing. I some time go out with just one lens. Maybe it's a macro lens or a 85mm f/1.8 lens. In a given time I get just as many good images no matter what lens I use. I just get different images. You don't want to drag around a large bag of gear and you don't have to because you can shoot what ever is suitable for what you have.
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Yes the Fuji is nice but it costs $800.

    I just bought a used Canon SLR body for my teen age daughter. I paid $160. It's a Rebel about two generations back but is capable if professional quality work.

    I'm still shooting with my Nikon D200 and don't see much reason to change, Except that eventually I want to do more serious video work
  8. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    May 5, 2007
    The variety of responses given here really highlights the interesting and changing camera market that exists today. Image quality wise almost anything ever made with a large(ish) sensor will be fine. The D7000 is a great camera, and certainly one that has the potential to grow with you without being too complex to start out with.

    As for lenses if you don't want to change too often a zoom or two probably fits the bill. I know you've been advised against cheap, slow consumer telephoto zooms but actually Nikon's 55-200 VR and 55-300 VR can produce pretty good photographs, particularly with practice and especially on a sunny day (limited chances here at the moment!). If you stick with on-brand (nikon, canon, etc) lenses you shouldn't lose too much if you want to upgrade later.

    For a wide-normal zoom the most favoured of the consumer nikkors seems to be the 16-85. I've heard only good things about it, though I've not used it myself. If that is unaffordable a well-priced used 18-70 DX might do the job also but I sold mine some years ago after picking up the Sigma 17-70mm which I found oddly preferable.

    The 35 DX will give great quality, and it is light, but at the expense of flexibility. In some senses it would be ideal as an only lens - it would make you think and reward good judgement, but of course you would miss a lot of shots! Ultimately everyone wants a good prime or two in the bag, but you needn't buy everything at once.

    Why not find a decent camera shop and have a play? You might find a bargain on the used shelf too!
  9. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    While there is no perfect camera out there for beginners, some things you can consider to help you -

    Look at various photography sites such as DPReview that will help you learn about cameras and as such, how they are rated in terms of build, sensor, and lenses normally associated.

    This is the key for most that don't realize that a neat way to get around fast lenses is to find cameras that are good performers at high ISO numbers. This allows for better optics that are slower yet are not top costing. Usually a lens stopped down 1-3 stops is at its best.

    The catch with DSLR cameras is that they are systems meaning that once in a maker's camp, you'll tend to buy all accessories for that particular maker (whether it is their lenses or a 3rd party lens with the maker's mount for the camera). This is often where people get in trouble. They buy say a Nikon and then jump into a major expense of lenses only to find later they really prefer Canon or Pentax or another maker. This gets expensive rather quickly if one decides to sell all and go to another maker.

    Another issue is becoming "loyal" to a maker rather than clinical and realizing that they should opt for the best they can afford. I say "best" as in hardware that meets their needs. If you find yourself in praise of certain lenses from a given maker, then the decision is whether you can feel comfortable with their cameras, prices and variances between the models.

    The reference to the Fuji X-E1 is a good one. Buying this camera used (if you can get it at a decent price) is not a bad deal with a used "kit lens" that was offered with this camera. Its advantages outweigh its negatives and in the process will give you an opportunity to learn how to 'see' in a digital world and use some manual options to get a feel for what you are doing.

    There are literally a dozen inexpensive starter cameras out there from top makers and again, DPReview and a few other sites are good sources for learning about the cameras and what to look for.

    As for me, my days of SLR, medium format etc. are over. I went the route of the mirrorless camera because it suits my style of photography. - I hope you find yours and you have many years of enjoyment.
  10. MiniD3, Nov 3, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013

    MiniD3 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 9, 2013
    Hi There,

    The choice of camera will be OK,
    Cameras come and go but good glass last almost forever
    One lens does not fit all shooting
    Most cheap zooms have a variable aperture and struggle with light, if the budget can stretch, get one that is not
    I would suggest Nikon's 24-120 f4, (not the earlier model), would be a good start,
    Because the D7000 is a crop sensor, you will be effectively shooting a 36-180mm
    This combo will get you well and truly started
  11. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Comments on above:

    1) What subjects would you ever use a 300mm f/5.6 lens for? There are so few subjects that you cary it around and never use it. It might be a really nice lens but if you don't need it...

    2) I have the 18-700. It's OK but the 18-105 is much nicer. For one thing it was VR and it's not much more money. I can't recommend the 18-70 any longer, not after the 18-105 became available. VR works well enough that if the 18-105 is still so expensive get the 18-55 VR.

    3) The f/1.8 speed opens up another whole realm of photography. Nikon makes a 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lens all in this speed range. All are good.

    One more point no one has yet added: If you are buying used Nikon. Look for a body with an internal focus motor. You need it for the older lenses that lack motors. Not a big deal but something to be aware of if buying used gear.
  12. leighonigar, Nov 4, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013

    leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    May 5, 2007
    I regularly use my 80-200mm f/4 ais at 200mm on my V1. With its 2.7x crop that's 540mm. I use it for anything requiring reach, whether it's a landscape detail, butterfly nectaring, or an egret fishing. I have seen excellent photographs from the 55-300 at 300mm so it is certainly a valid choice for someone exploring photography if a 70-200mm f/2.8 and 1.4x tc are out of the question, and they are.

    You are likely quite correct, I have not used the 18-105. I find the 18-55 quite irritating to use, it is very plastic and manual focus override is not full-time but it does give acceptable quality in a lightweight bargain package (similar to the telephotos I mention above).


    Even better, get one that can meter with old ai or ais lenses too and there's another source of fun.

    Edit: I thought I might add a suggestion, which is to get the D7000 and a nice inexpensive prime like the 35mm f/1.8 DX. Shoot with it, learn the camera, then see what you're missing most. A lot of people shot with a 50mm (equivalent) their whole lives in the days of film and the prime is a lens you will want to keep. You've got a bit of time to decide what you need for your Scotland trip.
  13. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2010
    FWIW I'd suggest a Cannon Rebel XXXD or whatever the Nikon equivalent is.

    There really isn't a great deal between them, so either would be a good choice.

    I dont shoot Nikon so can't speak for them, but Canon do some great value lenses, the 50mm 1.8 and 55-250 to name a couple.

    If this is a hobby rather than a business, I'd let the heart rule the head on this one. ;) :)
  14. themumu macrumors 6502a


    Feb 13, 2011
    Many people can talk up their favourite camera until they are blue. Don't worry too much about which camera you get, anything from the last couple of generations from either Nikon or Canon will be more than plenty for you. Get it used, don't spend too much money, that way if you decide it lacks something specific that you want, you can sell it and buy another one with no regret.

    One thing I would say is somewhat of a concern is that with a full sized DSLR (compared to a compact or mirrorless) it's more of a commitment every time you take it out. That can be a good thing, as it can set you into a more thoughtful state of mind. But it can be a drawback as well, as you may be tempted to leave it at home on casual outings or at the end of the day when you're tired. Just something to consider.
  15. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    That depends heavily on your vision and natural shooting tendencies. I find that my 80-200mm f/2.8 is one of my best "compromise" lenses for when I don't carry a dedicated prime. For me, 200mm is often a great focal length when I want to isolate a subject at a reasonable distance. For the zoo, I'd much rather have a 300/4.

  16. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The current model 70-200 f/2.8 is hardly a beginner lens. It costs $2,400 at B&H.

    I've seen older generation used version as low as $700. But all of them are very large and heavy. Not a "walking around" lens at all. More like a "lugging around lens"

    Yes that f/2.8 aperture does allow some subject isolation. It is a great lens but WAY above the OP's budget. It is a great lens, one of the very best Nikon ever made. But I think he should get the 18-55 VR first.

    And those long lenses are only good in the case where you are prevented from moving closer. Perhaps a wedding where you can't walk up front. Always better to move up.
  17. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    May 5, 2007
    A telephoto is fantastic for landscape use, I use mine all the time in this way. I know others who do too. It's not possible to 'walk up' because the perspective changes wildly and if you walked the mile or two the light would be gone anyway. I'd say a moderate tele is great in the town too. I was shooting (casually admittedly) urban landscapes today and I often found myself wishing I had a longer lens with me - the zoom I was using topped out at 80mm.

    ... if the consumer zooms are too slow and the professional ones too heavy it's a surprise anyone manages to take telephoto shots! Clearly nonsense.
  18. avro707 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2010
    I say a D7000 Nikon. It gives you enough scope to grow with the camera and access to a very wide range of lenses.

    For air-shows, you'd almost certainly need the AF-S 80-400mm VR Zoom-Nikkor, and it isn't cheap. The other alternatives are also expensive, AF-S 300mm F/4.0 and a 1.7x or 2.0x TC.

    You otherwise might just go with something such as 18-55mm.

    I don't know about commitment every time you take the camera out. I just pick up the cameras and the bag and off I go with very little thought about it other than making sure I have charged batteries and empty memory cards.

    I have pro-level Nikon cameras, but I also have a D80 which I will use for some situations too, and it works a treat (still).
  19. nitromac macrumors 6502

    Jul 29, 2012
    If a massive collection of modern lenses or accessories is not important to you, you might want to take a look at Pentax. They have a decent collection of zoom lenses (not as good as canon/nikon) but their main feat is their prime lenses (single focal length -- no zoom). Especially the Limited lens lineup, a series of very high quality, all-metal, compact primes. They're fairly expensive (starting at $400 I believe) but with Pentax you also have the ability to use old, manual lenses. These can be EXCELLENT starter lenses for beginners since most legacy primes are pretty sharp and come by MUCH cheaper than their modern counterparts. Usually around $30-50 you can get a very nice 50mm f/1.4 or the like.
    All their bodies are weather sealed, as well as the kit lenses (and higher end lenses), so you can shoot in rain, sandstorms, you name it. Not to mention their kit lenses are quite a bit better than their competitors' kits.

    However if at any moment you might want to do sports photography or get a full frame camera, I'd stick with Canon/Nikon. I shoot Pentax myself because it fits my needs. For reference, I do the same kind of shooting you said you'd like to. Landscape, wildlife, around the house, etc.

    Sorry if I'm adding to the headache. ;)
  20. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    A used 80-200 runs around $500-$600 and will produce excellent images. Despite the age of mine, and the fact that I'm primarily shooting on a high-resolution D3x, I get saleable images from mine. "Lugging" is of course in the eye of the beholder. I was shooting a 400/2.8 handheld last week- not fun at all ;) However, for detailed landscapes, shooting across a runway, or isolating in-town architecture and backyard bird feeder shots, I find the 80-200 to be an awesome lens- but my vision doesn't really do well with 18-34mm or so- I'd much, much rather shoot and stitch where possible and the lack of detail at anything below 35mm as well as the huge wasted expanses of sky tend to steer me away from ultra-wides unless I'm shooting close in of a building and just can't get the shot another way.

    No, they're also good for telephoto perspective for portraits where the angle of view and perspective are significantly more flattering to your subject, and for distant subjects where moving closer doesn't really give you any advantage, like landscapes. I've seen some astounding landscapes taken at 105mm for example. If you're limiting your telephoto use to only when you can't get close, you're missing out on some really excellent images IMO, and you should seriously revisit that assumption.

  21. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    I've got an 80-400VR, I wouldn't recommend it as the alternatives like the Sigma 50-500 are better values and produce better images at the long end and are longer, however, you can get a used 300/4 EDIF way, way cheaper than the AF-S version (around $600 these days, though I think I paid about $350-$400 for mine because the AF was noisier than usual.) For airshows in particular, the slower focusing isn't all that bad, as you're generally shooting a lot of the action at a fixed distance (I grew up on Air Force bases, I've shot *lots* of airshows, many of them before autofocus existed.) Like everything else, if you're willing to put in the effort, fast autofocus isn't really an issue even with jet fighters. I tend to use manual focus override on my 400/2.8 as often as not for everything except a high-speed pass low to the deck, though those are usually center line and pre-focus works just fine. Of course, all the AF lenses with manual override are at the very high end of the price scale, but any day where flight shots are going to look good is a day you can shoot at f/6.3-f/8 anyway.

  22. avro707 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2010
    Which 80-400 do you have? The new AF-S model is quite a lot better than the old one.

    I've had bad experiences with Sigma 50-500mm lenses (the old bigma) being very soft at the long end of range and sub-standard finish leading to the pealing of the crackle-black finish on the lens barrel. This no longer applies to the newer ones as they have a different finish now, but it applies to any older ones.

    Anyone can shoot airshows, and most people do come away with a load of decent shots with average cameras and a reasonable super-zoom lens. I don't do those anymore due to sheer boredom. Next time I might use a helicopter instead just for giggles and to annoy the usual suspects. Apart from that, I just have other interests away from photography.
  23. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    I have the original 80-400, which has been lent out for probably 10 years or more now. I had a same-era Bigma, and at 500mm, the Bigma was sharper than the 80-400 at 400mm. In fact, the only thing the Nikkor had going for it was contrast, and that was close and processable. My experience jived perfectly with the factory MTFs for each lens. I haven't shot the AF-S model at all, I tend to either shoot a 400/2.8 if I'm serious, or a 300/4 EDIF or 80-200/2.8 if I want to take small, light lenses.

  24. remmy macrumors 6502a

    Jul 1, 2007
    I know you mentioned that you were looking at only Nikon or Canon but the Pentax range is waterproof which may be useful for outdoor photography in Scotland.

    A friend uses it and takes good photos, but is worth trying as I find the cameras uncomfortable to handle.
  25. needfx, Nov 14, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013

    needfx macrumors 68040


    Aug 10, 2010
    macrumors apparently

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