November 26, 2005

Curious, George: First digital SLR I'm jumping into the world of SLR photography, but I need some advice

I'm about to buy my first digital SLR, and I think I have narrowed it down to either the Nikon D50 or Canon EOS 350D. The thing is that I don't know much about photography at this point. I do know that (1) I'm really tired of my current camera, and (2) I want something that will be able to handle a growing interest in photography as a hobby - I'll be starting a photography course shortly. Any PhotoMonkeys have some advice they would like to share? The thing is that your advice has to be pretty simple - while I am teaching myself as much as I can, I have only the vaguest conception of what makes one lens better than another, what to look for in an image processor, what EV means, why some cameras cost $10,000, and so on. My budget is sub-USD$1,000. If you have any recommendations for additional lenses I could consider in the future or just random tips, that would also be great. Thanks Monkeys!

  • Really curious to see what kind of answers you get, Dawson, as I'm in the market for a DSLR meself. Canons are the priciest but seem to win out in most reviews/comparisons in terms of image quality. I find the Nikon D70 more comfortable to use than the D50 (but that moves out of the price range, doesn't it?) Haven't had the chance yet to see one of the new Olympus models, but I have high hopes. Then there's also a Konica Minolta and a Pentax in this price range. As far as something to learn on, though, are you sure you want to go digital right away? My first photo experience was a darkroom class with a cheap Holga and some B&W film. That got me interested in shooting with a film SLR, and now I have quite a bit of fun whenever I can borrow a nice digital camera. Up to you, of course, if you want to make that kind of investment out of the gate. I've kinda eased into it.
  • Hey, I'm buying one too. maybe we could get a group discount
  • Hello Dawson, before you think about what type of Camera you wan think about what purpose you need the camera for. Do you need it for everyday shooting, for family events, for landscaping and travell etcetera? between the Canon rebel and the Nikon the choice is clear, it's is Canon. you'll save about 35% on equipment, and the quality is comparable.
  • I myself bought a Nikon 8700, which is Point and shoot, but it has manual functions. I can shoot available light (without a flash indoors), I can also use the 8700 cool pix as a fax machine, by "copying" a page or photo, and emialing it via a computer or faxing it by computer. for the money it is most probable the best choice. the price is 999$CND If you set on an SLR, Get the Canon it has aditional grips, and cheaper lenses that put the D50 to shame, and this is from a friend that has probably over $6000 invested in Nikon equipment. Get yourself a D-Rebel body, 28mm wideangle lense, 50mm 1.4, moderate zoom 80mm-128mm. A tripod (ball head) and bounce flash. You'll need a small travell case. Make sure you buy filters for all your lenses, leave the filters on the lenses(polarizing filter is best). Buy everything used if possible. All the trainging you need can be found in the manual for the camera. read it twice, it is your bible. Familiarize yourself with manual shooting it is best. For other resources check traveller magazine. Check Henry's Cameras, by far the best store in Canada for Cameras, there is no competition for them. Also Canon has a model that is comprble to the cool pix but can take up to 1 hour of video. cheers.
  • I know little to nothing about the subject (sorry, but I have this need to comment anyway) but I've always heard good things from amateur photographers about the Nikon D70. How comparable is the D50?
  • If you are going to take a class, find out who is teaching it and ask them what they suggest.
  • I have a Canon EOS 300D, and it's awesome. I haven't used the Nikon D50 (or, to be honest, any other SLR), but I highly recommend the Canon ones. The clarity is amazing [bigass JPEG].
  • I have a D70, which is essentially the same as the D50, except for the lens. The D70 is a great camera. It's my first dSLR, and I have am still learning things about it more than six months after purchasing it. It takes great pictures in auto mode (which can be made even better by manipulating the white balance and exposure of the shot later during "developing"). I suspect the Canon at this point is slightly more advanced technically than the D50 (in terms of ISO range and number of auto focus points). Both the Canon and the Nikon will allow you to take great pictures.
  • I have used both canon and nikon dSLRs from several points in the range from consumer to pro. I have a preference for nikon bodies and canon lens. I like the features of the Nikon bodies, and the price/performance ratio of canon lens. I just bought a canon 20D, so for me it came down to lenses, and it having a 8MP resolution in my price range. I will claim that this is close to equivalent to most films (better than some, not as good as others). I would recommend you go to a camera shop and hold them in your hands, try them with a couple lens. How it fits in your hand is important. I found the Rebel XT (EOS 350D) a bit to small for my hands and cramped with a larger lens, the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) is larger. The 20D works for me, and 5 FPS is sweet when shooting animals in motion. The D70 and the new D200 are pretty nice, too. When it comes to lenses, remember all but a few of the dSLRs have a multiplier compared to 35mm cameras. With Nikon, it is 1.5X and 1.6 for for the digital rebels, for some it is as high as 2X. That means a 28mm lens is equivalent to a 42-45mm lens, so to get a real wide angle look in the 10-18 mm range. It also means that my 70-300 lens is about 110 to 420 mm which works for me since most of pictures are of wild animals. When choosing lenses think about the pictures you want to take. Everyone will tell you you need a wide angle lens, I rarely use mine, I like to be up close, but that is me. If any one tries to sell you lens without asking you what kinds of pictures you wish to take, walk away. I use my above mentioned telephoto zoom almost all the time. My next most used lens is my macro lens. If you go nikon the kit lens is pretty good, I would avoid the canon kit lens, there are better lens to be had. Also, look at sigma and tamron lens, they offer lenses that compare well to nikon and canon consumer grade lens, and some of their best compete with the pro glass from canon and nikon. As to your technical questions. Most dSLRs have decent image processors, the advantage of dSLRs is their ability to shoot raw, which are preprocessed data from the sensor, so you can make some adjustments to images after they are taken. I think canon and nikon have decent image processors. EV is a unit of light as controlled by the aperture, the shutter speed, and the sensitivity of the sensor/film. An EV of 0 is the amount of light that gives the correct exposure at the combination of a 1 second exposure with a f/1 aperture (good luck finding one of those) at ISO 100. A $10,000 camera is generally better. It should be more robust, dependable, the shutter/mirror can handle more exposures, it is more accurate at timing and at measuring light, it likely has a better and larger sensor, and many other things. Like many things it is not a linear scale, a $10,000 camera is not necessarily 10 times better than $1000 camera. Give a pro a digital rebel and they will get great shots. Give my grandmother a 1Ds mark II and they will look like pictures from her point-and-shoot camera. Try lurking in dpreview. There are great reviews of cameras and forums that have some very knowledgeable people. Just avoid the religious wars: canon vs. nikon, vs. everything else. Taking a good course is also a great suggestion. We have good courses at our local community college. Our local pro-photography shop also offers some shorter workshops.
  • Digitals have come a long way from thier roots. 13 years ago they were still trying to figure out how to get true colour witha digital. The best camera on the market cost around $15,000CND and took 3 to 5 minutes to take a picture. It was the Rollie scan I believe. It was only good for product shots or something of the like.
  • I recently got into the game myself. I have a Nikon D1x and a Fuji S2 Pro. The Nikon Shoots 300Dpi and the Fuji shoots 72Ddpi... but the Fuji uses standard batteries which is a MAJOR plus. The D50 has been having some battery issues lately so... be warned. To me it's more about the flash and the lens. Spend your money on those and get a used body, IMHO.
  • Very generally speaking, Canon work out cheaper in terms of price and Nikon has better optics. For most beginning photograpphers, there is no significant difference between the two. It is better to invest more on good lenses and lesser on the bodies. This is because if you get into photography, you will outgrow you camera body and want a new, higher-end one. At that time, if you had oriignally invested in decent lenses, they will grow with you to the new body. That said, my personal preference is a Nikon D70 or D200.
  • Previous-generation DSLR bodies (like the Canon D30 and D60) are selling for $400-$600 on Ebay, sometimes with a lens or two included. That option could get you a DSLR with cash for accessories (tripods, carry cases, etc) left over. Of course, the last generation cameras aren't as nice as the newest ones, either.
  • This AskMe has good advice after it veers away from the original topic a bit.
  • Here's another website or two, and on the Canon/Nikon thing, they really are too close to call for the price point, as far as differences between the Nikon D70 and D50, check out the websites above and the one's I've included and take it from there. The really important thing is practice, practice, practice. On the imaging sensors for the cameras, the DSLR's have a larger, higher quality image sensor so when you see, as an example 6MP on the Nikon it's not an indication of the overall quality of the image. It's been said that in order to take advantage of incremantal increases in megapixel you would have to jump from, say 10 to 20 mp instead of 6 to 8 mp. Word of advice: Get all your info from websites and forums, for the most part camera salespeople just want to sell you the camera and get you out the door again. Read, research and after a couple of months, then buy. You'll be glad you took the time.
  • The long and the short of it is, they don't make cameras like they used to. You can't take a Digital SLR bury it the desert, come back the next day, and still have it function. The old Nikons had titanium shutter parts, and superior optics. Nowadays everythings crap. But, convienent crap. No exspense for devolping, shoot a 100 pictures with ease. If you can buy a used D60 for 4-600$ buy it.If you gotta buy new though go with Cannon, supperior ergonomics. Nikons just over priced, Cannon sill makes the best telephotos. people just by Nikon out of misplaced loyalty. If you want a Cadilac, check out hassabld, they make digital backs nowadays. You gotta take out a mortgage though.
  • here is the penaltimate of cameras, . Yeah is good Hanz, yeah is good!