Taking Up A New Hobby

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by patrickdunn, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. patrickdunn macrumors 6502a

    patrickdunn

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2009
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #1
    I have never owned an SLR or DSLR camera, and would like to get into it as a hobby. I understand there is a huge learning curve, with lots of terms and techniques to learn.

    Would anyone have any recommendations for an easy camera to start with. I liked the Canon T1i, but I wonder if that is too much camera to start with.

    Would I be wasting my money because I couldn't use all of the features? Is there any recommendations of an older model that I could buy cheaper to see if this is something I want to dive in to?
     
  2. thr33face macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 28, 2006
    #2
    be sure to go into a store and try the cameras you're interested in. this way you will be able to see how the cameras fit into your hands and if you like the button placement.
     
  3. ftaok macrumors 601

    ftaok

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    #3
    The T1i should be a fine model to start with. It fits in Canon's entry-level SLR range ... albeit at the higher end of the entry-level.

    The only risk is on your wallet. The T1i is more expensive than the older XSi and XS models. You do get more features, such as HD video, but then that's your question.

    You can save several hundred dollars with the XS over the T1i. You need to determine whether you'll stay with the hobby or not.

    Another option would be to buy used equipment. Maybe you could buy an older 40D from someone who lost interest in photography. ;)

    If you feel you've outgrown a P&S, but maybe don't want the whole system of a dSLR, you might want to look into a "bridge" camera. Canon's G-series is a nice compromise between a P&S and an SLR.

    Also, there are other brands of SLRs other than Canon. Nikon still makes the D40, which you can get new (with lens) for about $400. In comparision, the new G11 runs $500 retail.

    ft
     
  4. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Utah
    #4
    Welcome to photography!

    While jumping in to this be aware that the camera body is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to equipment and expenses.

    Wish somebody had given me that advice when I started doing this...not that it would have stopped me. :rolleyes:

    Just fewer surprises...
     
  5. powaking macrumors 6502

    powaking

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    Jul 3, 2008
    #5
    I went with a Canon XSi since I felt that Canon lenses were up my ally (and also have friends who use Canon gear). So I would say pick a manufacturer with whom you plan to invest in (the body is just the foundation, lenses and flashes can really increase your $$$ into the hobby). Once you figure that out then just look for the body that suits your needs/wants/$$$.
     
  6. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    #6
    Well here are a few suggestions.
    1. you like the T1i, great! It's an entry level camera which will feed your needs to learn bout photography cause its easier to use.
    2. see what your friend around you uses, if most of them use Canon, then go for it cause it will allow you to lend each other equipments.
    3. have fun :)
     
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #7
    Don't worry bout learning the technical end of photograpy. It's easy. The hard part is knowing where to aim the lens and when to trip the shutter. The hard part is the artistic end of it.

    Every beginner makes the same mistake. They start by selecting an SLR body. The body is the least important part of the system.

    The fist step is to think about the kinds of lenses you might like to own in the future. How does each company's flash system work? Which company do you think will still be building SLRs in 10 years? What brand of equipment has the best and most active used market, both for you to unload stuff you don't want and to buy lenses and what not. Select a camera brand based on these kinds of questions. The conservative choices are Nikon and Canon.

    Camera bodys are like computers, they are something you expect to replace every few years. Lenses you will keep. So don't select a brand based on the features of just one body. Think ahead to the next few upgrades. Switching brands is expensive and something yo don't want to have to do later. Hold and try out four to five bodies from each brand and choose a brand

    Now that you have a brand select an entry level lens and then buy the body that fits the lens and remaining budget. Hold off on buying a second lens until you've shot about 1,000 frames.

    When planning your budget. figure on buying something maybe twice the first year and then about every year after that. Buying an SLR is a process that does not end. An SLR is a system and you buy and sell parts. OK back to budget. You want to balance the price you pay for lenses with the cost of the body. In the first year you should spend about the same on each. If you only have $1000 to spend during the first year then do not spend more than $500 on a body. Eventually you will have more money spent on lenses then on the camera body. But a 50/50 split is a good target for the first year.

    Avoid the temptation to buy a very expensive SLR body because you think you will only buy it once. You won't.

    What lenses to buy? You will have to tell us about your intended subjects

    Notice that when you ask "what should I buy?" the advice is always that people will tell you to buy whatever it is they bought.
     
  8. rbownes macrumors newbie

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    Nov 12, 2008
    Location:
    Canada
    #8
    I was in the same boat as you about 2 months ago. I did alot of research and ended up buying a Nikon D60 with a 18-55 VR kit lens. It was the cheapest DSLR I could find (about $500) and I am lovin' it. I read the book "Understanding Exposure" and I am learning how the aperture, shutter speed and ISO affect my pictures. My camera takes awesome pictures. I joined flickr.com and am looking at maybe getting a new lens or two in a few months. Photography is a fun hobby.........good luck!
     
  9. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Northern/Central VA
    #9
    There's no such thing as "too much camera." A newer model will hold its resale value better, but ultimately getting an entry-level model isn't going to hurt you- and the more you have to push a camera the better photographer you'll ultimately become.

    I'm going to disagree with this- most photographers done technical aspects fo their gear, and frankly it shows in most of their picutres. More importantly, it shows when they're challenged with scenes or situations where the camera isn't doing all the work (but let's face it, many people who call themselves photographers have the camera in an automatic mode and blast away paying maybe a tiny bit of attention to composition if they're just above the fringe of normal.

    This I'll agree wholeheartedly with...

    Starting out, there's almost no way you can know which lenses you'll ultimately want, so just stick with the kit lens, and learn the ins and outs of the basics of photography. Instead of trying to pick a niche that will require specialized lenses to start with, spend a year on the craft and techincal stuff, as well as the artistic and compositional stuff- at the end of that time, you'll have a much better idea of what you need. But more importantly, spend a bunch of that time with the camera in manual mode, learning to focus manually, time shots (no burst mode!) and evaluate exposure. That'll stand you in better stead than putting it on manual, even if it takes longer to get better pictures. Finally, learn to use flash well, so things don't look over-lit- that'll put you so far past most folks that it'll give you great images relatively soon instead of just good ones.

    Again, don't go get the "perfect" lens up front- stick with the kit and learn what you can and cant do with it, and push that envelope- that'll pay dividends years after plopping whatever fast prime of the day you can get will do.
     
  10. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #10
    I agree with this, although I would argue that spending effort on learning and understanding how to utilize the autofocus system properly (i.e. learning how and what to focus on for a given scene) is better than practicing focusing manually. MF lenses are few and far between nowadays and unless you get into macro or technical field camera photography you will likely never be using MF lenses. Also I think trying to MF all the time on a lower end body with a lower end viewfinder would just be an exercise in frustration, and not productive to learning photography.

    The big mistake regarding equipment selection is that often times people starting out do too much of it before they really know what they will be wanting or needing. How are you to know if you should buy a telephoto or wide angle if you don't know what you like to shoot? Just get an entry level body and the kit lens and start shooting with it. In time your shooting style and preference will emerge and once you gain experience and skills you can select better gear later on. Especially if you aren't even sure you will stick with photography as a hobby- you run the risk of having spent upfront a lot of money on gear that you will not fully utilize.

    Ruahrc
     
  11. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Northern/Central VA
    #11
    I find that I still use MF about 85-90% of the time in the studio and fine-tune AF with MF, or use MF about 10-20% of the time in the field depending on the subject. Since even the low-end bodies have focus indicators, I think it actually helps significantly when you do go to AF. The other major advantage it has for beginners is to get them away from simply putting the most accurate center focus point on every subject.

    YMMV.
     
  12. kAoTiX macrumors 6502

    kAoTiX

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    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    #12
    I'm not much of a photographer but I too have recently purchased my first DSLR. I got the Nikon D40, mainly for the price and the good reviews it has. As a first DSLR I think it's perfect.

    I've read many books on various aspects of photography and I've found this is the best way to learn to use different lenses and settings to create some truely fantastic photos. You can take different photographs of the same subject and have very contrasting results.

    I think once you have your first camera you will learn what style you have when it comes to taking photos. Then you will learn how to use different lenses for different subjects and the knowledge will come with experience. Don't expect to pick up a camera and take awesome pictures all the time but stick at it and you'd be suprised.

    Good luck and please post some of your shots once you get settled.
     
  13. patrickdunn thread starter macrumors 6502a

    patrickdunn

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    Apr 16, 2009
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #13
    Thanks for all of the input! Is there any "starter" books. There are 1,000 of beginner books. Are there any that stand out that you guys would recommend?
     
  14. Gatteau macrumors 6502a

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    May 23, 2009
    Location:
    Italy
    #14
    I've been seriously considering trying some photography but I'm really leaning towards the Nikon D90.
     
  15. ftaok macrumors 601

    ftaok

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    Jan 23, 2002
    Location:
    East Coast
    #15
    The D90 is a great SLR as well. My buddy has one with the 18-135 lens. It's really nice, but it is significantly more expensive than the entry-level SLRs.
     
  16. jampat macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 17, 2008
    #16
    Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. It's the bible for beginning photographers.
     
  17. mattyb240 macrumors 6502a

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    May 11, 2008
    #17
    +1 Helped me MASSIVELY when I first started learning. (Although I am still learning)
     
  18. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    Jun 9, 2009
    #18
    Good points, the studio would be another area in which MF would be used more often, but again the studio is a pretty specialist scenario as well.

    Re: the in-focus indicator, I was under the impression that it uses the same focus detection as the AF system, thus if you're relying on the in-focus indicator for focusing and not the viewfinder, it's really no different than using AF, you're just turning the focus knob yourself until the camera says it's in focus as opposed to having the AFS motor do it for you (and it could be argued that your hands are doing it less accurately than the AFS motor). Also keep in mind that the manual focus ring on many entry level lenses is not overly precise and getting exact focus can be difficult in some situations. I was just trying to point out that trying to MF all the time on an entry level body and a kit lens will probably provide a lot of blurry or soft photos which would be frustrating for a beginner, when they could be getting better results by utilizing AF technology instead. Also shooting any kind of moving subject or action is going to be incredibly difficult as well.

    Also is there anything wrong with putting the accurate center focus point on every subject to focus, then recompose? This is how I learned it initially when reading a book on photography (the book was from a while ago when AF systems only really had one point, in the center). Besides if you focus and recompose, wouldn't it be the best strategy to be always using the most accurate AF point on your camera whenever possible? On my D80 I have trouble sometimes focusing on an object using the most extreme AF points (lens hunts back and forth), and often find myself doing the focus-and-recompose thing so I can get the center AF point on my subject for an accurate focus.

    Different strokes for different folks I guess.

    Ruahrc
     
  19. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Northern/Central VA
    #19
    I don't think it's all that specialist- if you're trying to create art, or shoot flowers or any number of things that are relatively static, then it's still a valid technique- but I realize that some have an aversion to stepping through the process from the ground-up- I just happen to think you lose a little in the process by not doing so... Not just the obvious "trying to shoot a subject without serious contrast" either.

    It builds the hand to eye coordination necessary to do manual focus well, while giving enough of a level of success to get in-focus shots and provides good feedback. Also, when you're shooting something that's got a lot of clutter around it, the manual focus with the indicator will generally work better than autofocus- for instance shooting birds in a tree through a patch of bare branches, or subjects behind fences, reeds or similar impediments.

    But perhaps you'll agree that if you can shoot moving subjects by learning about hyperfocal distances, pre-focusing and using manual focus, by the time you start to use AF, you'll have a better appreciation for it, and more importantly it'll be a tool rather than a crutch. Also, you'll find that your timing skills get better, and you won't have to rely as much on machine-gunning through a sequence.

    Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't- the superteles like the 400/2.8 have buttons to cut off the AF on the barrel just for that purpose. But again, the intent is to start building the skills, then augment them with the technology, because you never know when one or the other will be useful. Sometimes you won't get a chance to recompose, sometimes your movement will affect the subject- it's situational, which is why I advocate going the long way around- then you'll be better-able to deal with whatever situations you find yourself in.

    That's totally dependent on your camera body. My D3x has more than one cross-type sensor (15 of 51,) as do many cameras- but what I'm advocating transfers to any body- plus (and most importantly) it changes the way you view the scene before you take the picture. You're not just a button-pusher waiting for the camera to decide how to focus in the focus area- you're consciously choosing where focus goes to a finer level of detail, and more importantly (this is where the technical stuff comes in) you'll immediately know how the camera body you're using at the moment differs from your vision when you want to use AF. When you're paying more attention to focus, you're paying more attention to the subject and believe it or not, it makes a difference in your images because you're dealing a lot more with your vision of the scene rather than simply focus point to subject alignment- that may be a subtle distinction for some, but I happen to think it makes a huge amount of difference.

    There are also subjects where the camera angle, color, contrast or subject size will have the AF system consistently focus just in front or just behind (normally behind) where you'd like it to be- you learn to recognize that when AF doesn't do the right thing after you've spent some serious time using MF- if you just occasionally switch to MF then you won't really know when you point the camera if you need to be able to quickly recompose.

    Indeed, but I'd encourage you to give it a shot- you may be pleasantly surprised at where it takes you. It's nothing to me if you don't, and indeed you can get perfectly acceptable images without doing anything the hard way- but I'm sharing my views because I've gone through most of the same processes- in my case it was switching from an AF 35mm body to some MF MF bodies- the slowing down and the concentration moved my "I already thought it was pretty good" photography up a couple of levels from where it was- even though it meant I burnt a lot of film missing focus- and it took me several weeks to get past the trials and get into where I needed to be- but the journey was well-worth the price of admission.

    As always, YMMV.
     
  20. patrickdunn thread starter macrumors 6502a

    patrickdunn

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    St. Louis, MO
    #20
    Thanks! The local library even has it on shelf!
     
  21. dubels macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2006
    #21
    I found Scott Kelby's Digital Photography Books a great introduction to photography that allowed me to enjoy photography quickly and not give up right away. I also recommend Understanding Exposure too because its goes a little more in-depth with the technical aspects, while Kelby seems just like your buddy giving you advice on the side. I picked up Scott Kebly's Digital Photography Books (Vol. 1 and 2) from Amazon for $10 shipped. While I have Understanding Exposure on ebook, but I will be buying a hard copy of that soon.
     
  22. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #22
    I wouldn't say it's an aversion to stepping through the process from the ground up, rather an acknowledgement that the tools of today are different than they were previously, and that learning MF to start with is not the best learning experiencee. Just because many experienced photographers of today learned on MF cameras doesn't mean it's the only or best way to do it. Had there been AF back in the day, many of them probably would have used it then too. Yes MF is a good skill but the presence of AF is so ubiquitous and well-developed in modern cameras that I am just saying that it might be better to start off learning to properly utilize and understand the modern AF system (this includes knowing how to utilize its behavior for maximum advantage and also recognizing and understanding it's limitations) rather than learning MF first then incorporating AF into the flow. It's kind of like saying that in order to "do it properly" you have to start out by shooting film first, and only switch to digital once you've mastered film.

    I don't really know how you can practically use hyperfocal distance technique on a kit lens with no focus distance indicator. :)

    Don't forget that MF back in the day was aided by split prism and ground glass focusing screens. And even though every camera had a nice bright high quality full-frame viewfinder, they still needed these tools to get the best focus. But now you want someone to learn to MF at the outset by trying it through a smaller, dimmer viewfinder and just rely on the AF focus indicator (which you also mention has its share of problems and inaccuracies, all of which still apply to using it as a focus indicator)? I understand your argument that MF is a very useful and valuable skill but I think making someone MF all the time on a camera system that was not designed for it will lead to many soft pictures. And I think it would be hard to stick to photography as a beginner if you spent your entire first year or even six months getting primarily soft images and missed focus because you're struggling against your gear that is just not well suited to critical MF. Maybe if he buys a D3x and adds an aftermarket split-prism focusing screen and uses MF-only lenses (with nicely damped focus rings, dsitance indicators, depth of field markings, a fine focusing thread, etc) it could work but otherwise it's going to just lead to frustration.

    I'm not a professional photographer nor am I the best or most experienced hobbyist but I have put time into learning and understanding the fundatmentals of (manual or old-school) photoraphy. Some of it was on a MF SLR, some was on an AF film SLR, much of it was on my DSLR which was the first serious camera I owned for myself. And in fact many of the skills and technique I have gained now would apply equally well to MF film back in the day vs. my modern digital and AF capable system. But if I was just starting out now I don't see why I would not start out by learning to properly utilize and understand the modern tools of photography. And there is a big difference between being a mindless "button pusher" and one who understands how the AF system works and behaves and can utilize it properly.

    Ruahrc
     
  23. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #23
    I think "do it properly" is a stretch, because in no way have i indicated a need to do it "because that's the way it's done" but rather articulated why AF doesn't often work and how building into it will help the results of the budding photographer over time. To too many new photographers, AF hit or AF missed, and that's all they know- they might learn when AF is going to have issues, but they don't learn to concentrate on where they want focus and they certainly don't immediately switch to manual when AF won't work because they don't have the skills or confidence that comes with putting it in manual- they probably think you can't possibly AF without a full frame camera, split prism screen and 100% viewfinder.

    Fortunately, Nikon keeps coddling to folks like me and putting that M switch on the body.

    I'd say "proves my point!" here, since you haven't had to work out how to do it, you can't imagine doing it.

    It's just like always using an auto-exposure mode- if you're lucky and persistent, but very atypical you'll learn to dial in some compensation when necessary- but it won't help in challenging lighting conditions like learning to actually judge exposure over the scene would. It's obviously up to each person how much they put into learning the mechanics and technical aspects of photography, but to insinuate that because the camera has automatic mechanisms not taking the time to learn the basics of how those mechanisms are derived is somehow "better" seems off-base to me. Hey, not everyone wants to put real time into the mechanics- but if you're starting out, I can't see how striving for anything other than total mastery ends up in total mastery- and once again- having been down the "drop AF for a while" path, I've seen the benefits in my own images. Again, we're just going to have to disagree.

    I've had no issues manual focusing a friend's D40- so while you may have all sorts of reasons you feel it's not doable, I'm going to disagree- it's possible, even when your eyesight isn't what it was at what's likely to be your age ;).

    More importantly, even a beginning photographer (said friend) had surprisingly few issues doing manual focus when they borrowed my 80-400VR to shoot track and field (no AF-D focus motor in the D40, so it was manual focus or nothing)- and it was their *first* attempt at manual focus, and their first attempt at using a telephoto combined with their first attempt at shooting sports. I wasn't there to help them, and they hit more than they'd likely have hit with a split-prism body in AF mode "back in the day."

    Again, based on my experiences we're going to have to disagree. I don't think I'm overly gifted in hand-eye coordination, and I don't think my rank beginner friend is either. Last year I brought my portable strobes and battery pack to their house to do some Christmas portraits- I took quite a few shots with their D40 and kit lens- the way you portray it, I'm surprised that any of them had good focus! I shot on manual because the focus points on the D40 weren't where I wanted them, and recomposing changed the subject distance enough that it wouldn't have resulted in as accurate focusing. If I'd taken your words with me, I'd have either not gotten the compositions I wanted (again, there's that visualize the shot thing) or I'd have gotten softer focus from recomposing (which I'd have done if I'd had the luxury of a relatively flat space to fit everyone into.)

    The fact is that there's a significant learning curve to get your eye, hand and brain all engaged to make it automatic, and you can't do that in a day, or even a month- that's likely why most of you don't get good results on MF.

    You make it sound like learning to use manual mode isn't a start on the path to "properly utilize and understand the modern tools" and that's simply untrue.

    There's actually not all that much difference between understanding how the AF system works and being a button pusher- because you're either going to get AF on your target or you're not- you can slightly influence that by pushing a few more buttons to change settings- but outside of that, there's not all that much skill involved. I'm not even sure how you'd improperly utilize an AF system.

    I know way more about Nikon's AF systems than I ever wanted to know. Yet even under controlled studio lighting conditions with relatively or completely static subjects, Nikon's best DSLRs, and very good lenses, I shoot manual focus more often than not- do you think that's just for fun? Tracking moving subjects like birds in flight, Nikon beats me almost every time- outside of that, I'll win more often than not, especially in the edge cases that make great dramatic images rather than snapshots.
     
  24. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    #24
    Let me guess, you manual focus because you know what you want in focus. The autofocus system, no matter how advance, can't read your mind and focus on what you want. Am I right?;) That's why I use manual focus.:cool: Nothing like the frustration of having the AF system focus on the wrong object (nose instead of the eyes, or the branch in the foreground framing your subject).
    Most of the time I use AF, for convenience. MF for tricky shots and sliver thin DOF.
     
  25. NeGRit0 macrumors 6502a

    NeGRit0

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    Las Vegas, Nv
    #25
    I love reading the back and forths in this forum. Always something interesting to read here. :)
     

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