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 Post subject: SDN Photography Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-05 01:47am
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Title edited. -S

I think there's room on this board for a photo-talk megathread, so here it is. The aim is to give a convenient place to talk about one's projects or gear, to ask for advice or to offer it, and to recommend books, websites, or other resources. This way the Photo-a-Day thread can remain focused on the photos we take and what we want to say about them in particular, while over here we can talk at any length about our cameras, what we are doing/want to do with them, and for anyone who might want to get into photography to ask or talk in a way that might be off-topic for the PAD thread.

Only one rule: If you post a pic in this thread (to show off a camera or to illustrate a query or point), keep it 600 pixels on the long side. No need to go overboard when this is meant to be a text thread above all else.


I'll get this going, because I wanted to say a few things that didn't really belong in PAD.

Gear

I'm working on obtaining another SLR system, this time around the Minolta MC mount. This is a part of my quest to get a 35mm camera that will work in cold weather, since although I love my Pentaxes dearly they suffer from the dread Pentax Mirror Foam curse in the winter. So far I've procured an SRT-201 with a Rokkor 50/1.7 and a Vivitar 135/2.8 for $40, and I've got a line on a -200 body with a 80-200 zoom and a macro converter for $58. I hopew to make some of that cost back by selling some redundant equipment - my Vivitar 450/SLD and perhaps a couple of lenses from my screwmount stash, plus whatever is redundant from the Minoltas (assuming the system works satisfactorily).

Despite my resolve to avoid cheap cameras, I couldn't resist picking up an Argus Seventy-Five as well:

Image

It's handsome, it's got a nice heft for such a small camera, it's got double-exposure prevention, and (like other fake TLRs) it has a really large, bright viewfinder:

Image

Looks like about 2 and a quarter cm square. It's designed for 620 (damn Kodak and their 'proprietary formats'), so I will have to trim down my spool edges in order to use it. Lens (75mm) is about f/11 and shutter ~1/30, format is 6x6.

Projects

The Postal Card Project: I am currently working to improve my postprocessing with the aim of producing images suitable for print. I had the idea of having postcards printed up. Besides being available fro craft fairs and art shows, I figured I could send them out to you - yes, you, dear reader - with the proviso that if you get a postcard, you then have to take and post here a picture which incorporates the post card in some way. Anyone who is interested PM me a postal address; I am an active learner and I presently have time off which means I will try to get cracking on all this.

Recommendations

I spent the last couple of days reading through the archives of The Online Photographer. The writers of this weblog are experienced with photography and with writing about photography, so it reads well. The site reviews cameras, presents books and websites it deems interesting or excellent, and issues essay/editorial posts on a variety of topics. I find myself in concurrence with the general attitude of the site, which deals with photography as a pastime, focusing on craft, expression, and enjoyment. This attitude pervades even the articles on gear, which - including reviews - are sensible and focused on use rather than lab tests. It is a worthwhile to read, and it leads to many other things which are also worthwhile to read.


Edit: fixed URL tags.



"Six rolls? We could have covered World War II in two fucking frames - one for the battle scene, and one for the generals shaking hands!" -'Zeke'[/size]


Last edited by Simplicius on 2009-09-05 10:22am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-05 04:19am
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My favourite photography websites:

Popular Photography's website - there's a bit of a lack of articles, but it's big and frequently updated and has interesting stuff at times. http://www.popphoto.com/
The Online photographer: Excellent photoblog, updated daily. Less "How to" articles, but good commentaries and lots of frequrntly updated stuff, articles and commentary.
http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.co ... index.html
Luminous Landscape: Excellent articles, highly recomended.
http://luminous-landscape.com/whatsnew/

Dpreview: Good for gadget lust, this site has everything you might want to know about the technicalities and reviews of every camera out there.
http://www.dpreview.com/

Ken Rockwell: The guy's odd and tends to rave a lot, but he has some pretty good articles, lots of reviews, and his reviews .htmdiffer from most. (Also, frequently updated).
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/mpmyth.htm

Photoshop Express:
https://www.photoshop.com/express/index.html?wf=signin
It's online, it's photoshop, it's free and it's legal. I don't use it (I'm a Picasa man, and a "minimal-zero editing" person), but it offers a very wide array of tools for free.

Picasa Web Albums:
http://picasaweb.google.com/ddofer
Google's answer to Flickr. It offers a gigabyte of free storage, it's fast well organized and very convenient to upload to via the Picasa program, which I highly reccomend as a free, convenient very easy to use photo organization and editing program.

Flickr:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ddofer/
Another excellent and free website for uploading photos, this one has a stronger emphasis on social sharing and tagging. Also, unlike Picasa which has you uploading into albums, Flickr has you uploading your photos into your own stream, which shows up to 200 photos with a free account. (Old photos aren't deleted, and links to them will still work).
I use Flickr for all my SDN photo uploading work, in conjunction with:
Quickr Pickr - http://quickrpickr.com
A website that automatically gives you the bbs or html (for websites) code for a bunch of your photos on Flickr. A great time saver, just don't forget to remove the apostrophes ;).
(Also Photo.net is a massive website with lots of guides, but I only started browsing that yesterday).

There, that's all of my professional secrets revealed :D.



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-05 05:47am
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Gear
I currently work with my dad's DSLR (A canon 40D), and my own lenses, a 17-55 2.8 (Which I suspect is too soft, but can't get the warranty for here in Israel), a 70-300 IS (Wonderful useful lens if you can stop being annoyed at the minimum focusing distance of 1.5 meters) and a Sigma 30mm 1.4 Prime lens (wonderful, wonderful colours and image quality. It's too wide for taking pictures of people, I regret not just getting a 35mm prime).

What would I recomend for anyone starting out and with a budget?
Get a 18-200 lens, be it the Sigma, canon or Nikon versions (or even the 18-270 Tamron or Sigma versions). The image quality is perfectly usable, and while build quality is subpar, the versatility and convenience of a wideangle through to superzoom lens is outstanding and great for practicing and learning the basics of camerawork.

As for future gear, as i'm starting university soon away from home, I really want a working compact camera for constant phototaking capabilities (2-3 kilos of gear in a bag the size of 3 hardcovers is not something I can carry all the time everywhere). I have my heart set on a micro four thirds camera (the Panasonic GF-1, or a future version of the Olympus EP-1 with decent autofocus), but the price range (800-900$!!) is out of my budget, so I'm thinking of getting the still expensive, but still much, much cheaper Canon S-90 (about 420$). (Main problem is just getting it, Israel is pricey for many types of electronics, premium compacts tend to get gyped on the prices to as much as some digital SLR's here cost)



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Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up.
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-05 10:30am
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The Grim Squeaker wrote:
I have my heart set on a micro four thirds camera (the Panasonic GF-1, or a future version of the Olympus EP-1 with decent autofocus), but the price range (800-900$!!) is out of my budget, so I'm thinking of getting the still expensive, but still much, much cheaper Canon S-90 (about 420$). (Main problem is just getting it, Israel is pricey for many types of electronics, premium compacts tend to get gyped on the prices to as much as some digital SLR's here cost)


I don't find the autofocus on the E-P1 to be a problem, it's not as fast as a full on DSLR but it's still faster than my Canon SD800. If you do the pre-focus routine where you hold the button halfway down before shooting (which you should do anyway) there's no problem with waiting for the autofocus to catch up. If you just slam the button and want a picture NOW then yeah, the autofocus will be slow.

I returned mine because of a couple issues, it's a bit too heavy to stuff into a pants pocket when I'm biking, plus the need for an external viewfinder is a bit of a pain. 99% of the time I don't need the viewfinder, but when I do I'm probably not going to have it with me since installing it makes the camera too big and it'll likely break something when I stuff it in my pockets. If it had a built-in viewfinder it would be just about perfect and I could live with the weight. Great camera though, I just need a built-in viewfinder. The picture quality absolutely killed my Canon SD800.


Currently I'm waiting for fall when we get all the nice colours on the trees, and some nice golden sunshine at a decent hour. That's when I break out a roll from my stash of Kodachrome 64 and put it through my Olympus Pen FT. I've already got the locations scoped out and labeled on my map, now it's just a matter of waiting. Getting it developed and scanned though is going to be interesting, the Pen FT is a half-frame camera and I'm not sure if the remaining Kodachrome developing labs are setup for that.



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-05 10:44am
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aerius wrote:
The Grim Squeaker wrote:
I have my heart set on a micro four thirds camera (the Panasonic GF-1, or a future version of the Olympus EP-1 with decent autofocus), but the price range (800-900$!!) is out of my budget, so I'm thinking of getting the still expensive, but still much, much cheaper Canon S-90 (about 420$). (Main problem is just getting it, Israel is pricey for many types of electronics, premium compacts tend to get gyped on the prices to as much as some digital SLR's here cost)


I don't find the autofocus on the E-P1 to be a problem, it's not as fast as a full on DSLR but it's still faster than my Canon SD800.

Really? The reviews had it as being slower than most compacts.
aerius wrote:
If you do the pre-focus routine where you hold the button halfway down before shooting (which you should do anyway) there's no problem with waiting for the autofocus to catch up.

(I always do the half press AF, even on the Canon, it's as much a compositional element for me).
Quote:
I returned mine because of a couple issues, it's a bit too heavy to stuff into a pants pocket when I'm biking, plus the need for an external viewfinder is a bit of a pain.

Why do you need an external viewfinder? I don't understand that complaint, I prefer an LCD screen even on a cheapo compact to a DSLR.
Quote:
The picture quality absolutely killed my Canon SD800.

Really? In good light as well? (I'm not talking high ISO situations)



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To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-05 11:14am
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The Grim Squeaker wrote:
Why do you need an external viewfinder? I don't understand that complaint, I prefer an LCD screen even on a cheapo compact to a DSLR.


The LCD screens on cameras have a limited dynamic range, my old style CRT computer monitor will show more than what the camera's screen will. For certain lighting conditions where you have deep shadows and bright sunlight at the same time, the LCD on pretty much every camera goes zebra shaped, meaning full dark & full bright with very little detail in between. That's when I use the optical viewfinder to compose the scene. My Canon has a built-in optical viewfinder for these situations, the E-P1 doesn't, it needs an external one which comes with the kit.

Quote:
Quote:
The picture quality absolutely killed my Canon SD800.

Really? In good light as well? (I'm not talking high ISO situations)


Yup. Even in nice sunlight with both cameras set to ISO 100. It's a lot sharper and the colours are nicer. It gets a lot more of the subtle tones & colours in objects, and it looks a lot more like a good slide film. It can distinguish between smaller differences in colour & texture than the Canon, while at the same time having a wider gamut of colours.

For instance check out the colour of the sky in the picture below. This was taken with the Canon by my wife, and we had to use the LAB colour mode in Photoshop to get that nice bright saturated blue & red. It's impossible to get that blue or red straight out of the camera, I've gone through 7000-8000 pictures on my Canon and I've never come close to it. The E-P1 can do that straight out of the camera once the colour settings are dialed in.

Image



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-06 09:31pm
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The Grim Squeaker wrote:
Gear
I currently work with my dad's DSLR (A canon 40D), and my own lenses, a 17-55 2.8 (Which I suspect is too soft, but can't get the warranty for here in Israel), a 70-300 IS (Wonderful useful lens if you can stop being annoyed at the minimum focusing distance of 1.5 meters) and a Sigma 30mm 1.4 Prime lens (wonderful, wonderful colours and image quality. It's too wide for taking pictures of people, I regret not just getting a 35mm prime).

Grab a cheap 50? It's perfect as a portrait lens on an APS-C sensor and nobody screws up the 50mm at normal working aperture.

Said Sigma 30/1.4 is fantastic - though with the caveat that Sigma's quality control can be a bit hit and miss. I had to send my lens in for calibration.



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-07 01:20am
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phongn wrote:
The Grim Squeaker wrote:
Gear
I currently work with my dad's DSLR (A canon 40D), and my own lenses, a 17-55 2.8 (Which I suspect is too soft, but can't get the warranty for here in Israel), a 70-300 IS (Wonderful useful lens if you can stop being annoyed at the minimum focusing distance of 1.5 meters) and a Sigma 30mm 1.4 Prime lens (wonderful, wonderful colours and image quality. It's too wide for taking pictures of people, I regret not just getting a 35mm prime).

Grab a cheap 50? It's perfect as a portrait lens on an APS-C sensor and nobody screws up the 50mm at normal working aperture.

Said Sigma 30/1.4 is fantastic - though with the caveat that Sigma's quality control can be a bit hit and miss. I had to send my lens in for calibration.

I lack the budget, I purchased the 30mm used, and I doubt I could get a sum that's worth it on resale. I wanted something that I could use for general shots (views, buildings, animals), but whenever I use it I realize how damn wide it is for taking pictures of people/animals. It was a mistake not going with a 35mm or 50mm (and i've even used the plastic fantastic [Cheapo 50mm Canon], that was what made me want a prime in the first place!).



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To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-07 06:40am
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I have something of a dilemma. This is what it looks like:

Image

It's a 1960's vintage Pentina FM, based on the standard Pentina M model but with a Fresnel lens viewfinder. It's unique in its shutter design, which allows flash sync at pretty much any speed thanks to a leaf shutter. Its other main feature is a notorious unreliability which apparently makes working examples extremely rare.

It's a decent camera. The controls are in odd places but they're all there; it's got manual aperture and shutter settings and a mechanical semi-automatic aperture priority mode. It even takes fairly good pictures.

But I have no use for it whatsoever. I don't do SLR's, generally. I already have one or two SLR's that are gathering dust and need to sell at some point. The only reasons I'd want to keep it is because of its novelty value and because it'll likely not fetch much anyway. That site I linked to mentions $130 but I don't see it being worth that much unless I coat it in solid gold.

So, ditch or keep?

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-07 12:31pm
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Bounty wrote:
But I have no use for it whatsoever. I don't do SLR's, generally. I already have one or two SLR's that are gathering dust and need to sell at some point. The only reasons I'd want to keep it is because of its novelty value and because it'll likely not fetch much anyway. That site I linked to mentions $130 but I don't see it being worth that much unless I coat it in solid gold.

So, ditch or keep?


If you aren't going to use it, and you obtain cameras with the aim of using them, then sell it.

As for pricing, I don't see a lot of Pentinas on the 'Bay - .com, .be, .de, and .fr. Since they have a reputation as maintenance nightmares, a working Pentina might be worth a fair bit to someone who is seeking a Pentina. Price it somewhere between $130 and whatever you bought it for, higher if you are holding out for a windfall and lower if you just want to be rid of it.



"Six rolls? We could have covered World War II in two fucking frames - one for the battle scene, and one for the generals shaking hands!" -'Zeke'[/size]

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-07 01:10pm
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Quote:
If you aren't going to use it, and you obtain cameras with the aim of using them, then sell it.


That's what I would do, it's just... I almost feel sorry for this camera. Nobody likes it :)

I bought another one, by the way, which I'll be trying out tomorrow: an Agfa Click II which I bought with the change from my sandwich. It's my first 120 camera that's not a box or TLR one, and I've seen some very impressive images from it. The fake-leather needs to be reglued but otherwise it's fine.

Nice feature: there are three auxiliary lenses you rotate in front of the main one: a close-focus for 13 feet or less, a "cloudy" lens, and a yellow-filter "sunny" one. Very clever.

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-08 08:26pm
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aerius wrote:
...my old style CRT computer monitor will show more than what the camera's screen will.


Speaking of monitors, if you're going to be doing a fair bit of photo editing work on your computer, I feel it's a must to get your computer monitor properly calibrated for colour, contrast, brightness, and gamma. It wasn't until the last few years that I got my monitor set properly for gamma, and this is why a lot of my earlier photo scans look funny. Norman Koren has an excellent page that goes over all the calibration stuff and has links to tools & test patterns to make sure your monitor is setup as best as can be. As an added bonus, I've found that a properly setup monitor reduces eye strain.

It makes a big difference, you'll see your pictures as they should be and it makes editing faster & more accurate. It will also let you know if your camera's lying to you or not, whether its LCD screen is accurate, and how you may need to compensate for exposure & colour in the camera itself so you don't have too much work in Photoshop. For instance I've found that a warmish colour cast from using the Shade setting in daylight doesn't show up very well on the LCD of my Canon SD800, the effect is pretty clear on greens, yellows, oranges, and reds, but doesn't show up much on blues. But I've had a fair number of blue skies that looked fine on the LCD but were pretty bad on my monitor. It didn't show up on the non-calibrated monitor on our other computer until I calibrated that monitor as well. And since I can see it, I can now fix it.



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-09 05:06am
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I make no pretense at knowing jack, or shit, about photography's finer points and nuances.
I'm grossly ignorant.

My camera is a Fujifilm-FinePix-S1000fd.
Ironically, according to that review it's apparently telephoto specialised; I got it primarily for photographing my models. :P

It was affordable, it gave the impression of being quality, so I went with it.
It's super-macro setting leaves me stunned with what it picks up; then again, I'm an ignoramus.

If I took the time to get really proficient with it, well, I'd be proficient with it.


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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-09 05:17am
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Does anyone have any special tips for protecting a DSLR from snow, ice and volcanoes? (I'm going to Iceland :D)
I know that low temperatures drain a camera's battery very fast, and that glare is a problem, as well as the need to overexpose for snow...



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-09 05:29am
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The Grim Squeaker wrote:
Does anyone have any special tips for protecting a DSLR from snow, ice and volcanoes? (I'm going to Iceland :D)
I know that low temperatures drain a camera's battery very fast, and that glare is a problem, as well as the need to overexpose for snow...


Buy a padded case. Keep it warm until the exact moment you want to take a picture. Allow it to acclimatise inside its case when you go indoors or outdoors. And don't leave it "somewhere between Everest and Bhutan" like a certain relative of mine managed to do.

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-09 05:43am
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Bounty wrote:
Buy a padded case. Keep it warm until the exact moment you want to take a picture. Allow it to acclimatise inside its case when you go indoors or outdoors. And don't leave it "somewhere between Everest and Bhutan" like a certain relative of mine managed to do.

Lolz.
Would any camera case with rudimentary padding be enough? (I have one of those)



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-09 06:02am
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Depends. If you're going in winter you might want to get a warm one. If you're leaving soon, well, there's not much ice in Iceland right now.

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-09 10:16am
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The Grim Squeaker wrote:
as well as the need to overexpose for snow...


You don't mean overexpose.

You're going to have to compensate for snow when you expose. Snow is between 2 and 4 EV above middle gray depending on the light, so in a worst-case scenario you'll find yourself grappling with an 8-stop dynamic range. You'll also have to be careful how you expose, since digital cameras and highlights don't get along. If you've got time, practice using the Zone System a la here. You'll just want to do it in the reverse fashion of how they say to do it - that is to say, place the highlights on Zone VII and let the shadows fall where they will, instead of placing the shadows and letting the highlights fall.

Also, unless it's dark the whole time, set ISO low - between 50 and 200, say - and keep it there. It will give you more choice of aperture and shutter speed when it's sunny out. Bright snow even at a 'mere' ISO 400 constrains apertures to the low end except at the highest shutter speeds.



"Six rolls? We could have covered World War II in two fucking frames - one for the battle scene, and one for the generals shaking hands!" -'Zeke'[/size]

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-10 08:22pm
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The Leica M9 is damn sexy. Too bad it's €5500



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-10 11:21pm
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Truly a bargain, at least compared to that €30k Hasselblad with the medium format sensor which someone posted a thread on last year.



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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-11 12:46am
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If anything's getting me excited about someday incorporating full digital into my process, it's the wave of small cameras that have come out lately - first the E-P1, then the GF-1, and now the Leica X1. Seems like camera manufacturers are acknowledging a demand for a 'photographer's camera' - a photographic sports car, if you will, that delivers serious quality in a small frame without fuss about being feature-overloaded or having the mostest megapixels. This film user approves.



"Six rolls? We could have covered World War II in two fucking frames - one for the battle scene, and one for the generals shaking hands!" -'Zeke'[/size]

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-12 10:34am
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The Click is turning out to be a bitch and a half. Part of it is my fault - I only had ISO 400 film around and that is... a brave choice with a 1/60 lens and a bright day. Waiting until the light settled down, I forgot about the yellow filter on the "sunny" setting.

End result: two recognisable images on the roll, the rest a mess of dark splotches with what looks like a light leak in one or all of the other flip-down lenses. And the good images are both green thanks to the filter.

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-13 02:49am
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And my new camera is in the mail! Finally coughed up the cash to get myself a DSLR. It will be a great upgrade from what I've got now, since I'm upgrading from one of these.

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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-13 04:14am
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RRoan wrote:
And my new camera is in the mail! Finally coughed up the cash to get myself a DSLR. It will be a great upgrade from what I've got now, since I'm upgrading from one of these.


What'd you get?

Might as well repost this guide to buying DSLR's

This whole guide is shamelessly lifted from the #creatives wiki.

Introduction



Photography is a great hobby. It's fun and has money-making potential, but it is neither cheap nor easy to get into. There's a million review sites offering thousands of conflicting opinions on item in every facet of photography. It's bewildering and, quite frankly, this confusion makes it hard to make an informed choice when investing in your first camera.

This guide will focus mostly on digital SLR cameras and their accessories. First and foremost, before you do anything else, you need to decide on what brand of camera you want to buy. Everything else, from lighting to lenses, stems from this one basic choice.

Choosing a brand is important because you are buying into an entire proprietary system when you purchase a camera. Canon lenses won't mount on Nikon cameras. Nikon speedlights won't mount on a Canon body. Neither accepts Pentax. There are exceptions, mostly involving the use of adaptors, but for the most part, when you buy a certain brand, you are limited to that brand's accessories or those of a third party. You can switch later on but you'll regret it because you'll have to re-buy a bunch of accessories.

The two biggest names in the camera world are Canon and Nikon, with Pentax and Sony coming in a distant third.

Canon vs Nikon vs Pentax



For all intents and purposes, the big two (Canon and Nikon) are roughly equivalent at any given price point. That is, if you have a camera from each, from the same generation, of (nearly) the same price, you will get nearly equivalent performance, with the results skewed slightly towards Canon at the lower price points and slightly towards Nikon at the high end. In particular, the low-end Nikons, such as the D40/D40x/D60, lack certain key features that advanced photographers find necessary.

When you set aside the performance of the camera bodies themselves, there's only two things left with which to make your decision: ergonomics (how it feels) and accessories (lenses/speedlights/etc). The consensus is that Canon has an edge in lens quality and that Nikon has the superior selection of speedlights (external flash units). Of course, the details can change at any given time--both companies release new gear all the time, trying to one-up each other.

Pentax is the distant third in the camera market--the red-headed stepchild of the photography world. They make a great product, with a large (but not as large as the big two) number of accessories, and they sell most of their products for less than their big two counterparts. Pentax does include image stabilization on their camera bodies though, which is a huge plus. Nikon and Canon only put IS on their lenses, and charge a premium for it.

This leaves ergonomics as the deciding factor for many. My number one recommendation for anyone--anyone--purchasing an SLR camera is to go out hold the thing. Go to Best Buy or Ritz Camera or some local mom and pop. Hell, go to all three. Pick up every camera in the price range you can afford. Play with it. Can you easily reach all the dials? Is it too big? Too small? Ask the guy behind the camera to put a large lens on it. How's the balance? Is it too heavy?

Then go on to the accessories. Does the included strap slip off your shoulder? Add the cost of a new, better strap to your purchase. It's better to spend $20 on a strap than drop your $1000 investment. Consider getting a battery grip for the camera. See if you can try it out on the body of your choice--such grips often change the entire feel of the camera. The Canon Digital Rebel series, in particular, benefits heavily from the battery grip.

In the end, you want to buy the best camera that you can afford that fits comfortably in your hands.

Canon recommendations
  • Entry level, from cheap to expensive
    • XTi
    • XSi
    • T1i
  • Semi pro, from cheap to expensive
    • Used 20D
    • Used 40D
  • Pro level, from expensive to really expensive
    • 1DS Mark III
    • 5D Mark II
Nikon recommendations

All of these recommendations feature the autofocus screw that lets you use AF-D lenses.
  • Entry level, from cheap to expensive
    • Used D50
    • Used D70/D70s
    • Used or new D80
    • Used or new D90
  • Semi-pro, from cheap to expensive
    • Used D100
    • Used or new D200 (won't find them new for much longer, if at all)
    • Used or new D300
    • Used or new D700 (full-frame)
  • Pro-level, from expensive to really expensive
    • Used D1x
    • Used D2h, D2x, or D2xs
    • Used or new D3 (full-frame)
    • Used or new D3x (full-frame, and this is in no way entry-level)

Buying



Once you decide on a camera, it's time to move on to the actual purchase. For some people, money really isn't an issue. They'll spend more at a local chain just to help them along--but for many of us, we want the best deal possible, and that usually means buying from the internet. You can save hundreds of dollars through reputable sellers, but don't fall afoul of a scam.

My first warning is so basic that I'm surprised I even have to include it: if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. There's a large number of internet stores that offer amazing deals on camera bodies and accessories. You might find the camera you're want for half the price of anywhere else! You order it, but then you get an email asking you to call to confirm your order, and so you do. The guy on the phone then tries to sell you accessories--incredibly overpriced accessories. When you decline, he'll probably hang up. Then you get an email and your camera is suddenly on backorder and won't be available for two weeks, or three, or even a month. So you call to cancel and you keep getting the sales pitch/hang up routine. Finally, after days or even weeks of hassle, you manage to cancel your order. Or worse, you gave in and helped to keep these assholes in business.

The above scenario is incredibly common. There's a whole string of camera companies, most of which operate out of Brooklyn, New York, that base their entire operating model off of the high-pressure, overpriced accessories sales. So, if the deal is too good to be true, check up on the site first! Reseller Ratings is your best friend.

Fortunately, we photographers have a number of reputable sellers online who offer great prices, fast service, and great customer care in case of defects. Adorama, B&H Photo, and even Amazon.com are great places to shop for camera gear. Buy.com occasionally offers amazingly good deals. The last deal I got was in the too good to be true category, but reseller ratings gave them a thumbs up, so I took a chance and was not burned. In fact, my order with the free shipping offer arrived faster than my 2-day shipping from Amazon ordered at the same time. Look no further if you want brand-new gear.
Buying Used



Face it, photography is expensive. "Sure," you say, as you look at your $500 Rebel XTi. "It's not that bad." A year later, you buy your first L-series lens that cost triple what your camera body did, and you wonder why you didn't listen to me.

You can cut the cost by buying used. Just make sure that you buy from a reputable seller with a good return policy.

Good places to buy used gear from include B&H Photo and Adorama . In fact, B&H and Adorama are good places to buy anything camera-related. There's also a few eBay stores worth looking into, such as Cameta Camera--just do your research.

I would refrain from buying camera bodies and lenses from individual eBay sellers though. You never know what you're getting into with them. Craigslist is a valid, but still risky, option if you can actually meet up and test-drive the gear you're interested in purchasing.

All of these, though, pale in comparison to the granddaddy of used camera gear, KEH. I've bought as much from KEH as I have from anywhere else, and I have never had a problem. Their rating system is brutally honest about the gear they sell. In fact, it's often far more harsh than necessary. I bought a Bargain-rated cheap (manual focus, I was curious) lens that was cosmetically flawless but for one tiny ding on the aperture ring. Adorama or B&H would have rated that near the top of their scale, where it honestly belonged. KEH put it on the bottom of their scale.

Lenses: Zooms and Primes



The camera body is but one small part of your purchase. The body is useless without a lens. Most new camera bodies are available in "kits" that include a mediocre lens (or two), maybe a UV filter, maybe a crappy bag...you get the drift. Most of the items other than the lens included in these kits are garbage. As for the kit lens...

It's a pretty big point of contention around these parts on whether or not you should even bother with the kit lenses, so I'll break down the argument.

My opinion is that every starting photographer should have a zoom lens in the 17mm-50mm range. It's convenient, is wide enough for most indoor work, and works well for outdoor landscape-type photography. Because of this, a lens in that range is a wonderful learning tool, without the frustration a non-zoom (prime) lens can cause.

If that lens happens to be the kit lens, so be it. It will work until you get good enough to realize the lens's limitations and want to buy something else, and if you never progress as a photographer, you're not out hundreds of dollars on something you won't use.

If you want a good lens in that zoom range, check out the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. Tamron is a third party lens manufacturer that makes lenses for most SLR camera manufacturers. Some of their lineup is utter garbage, but this lens is probably the best thing they've ever put out. It's approximately $450. Canon and Nikkor (Nikon lenses are branded Nikkor) have good lenses in that range, too. They're higher quality than the Tamron, but they're also more expensive.

On the other side, you have what we photographers call "Prime" lenses. These are lenses at a fixed focal length (i.e. they don't zoom in or out) and have, in most cases, incredibly high quality optics and huge apertures. Many people recommend prime lenses as learning tools. Because you have to physically move to change the 'zoom' of your photograph, you end up thinking more about the photo's composition before you click the button. Other people find this frustrating.

Whether or not you buy the kit lens, and whether or not you like primes or zooms more, you will probably want to buy the 50mm f/1.8 for whatever camera system you purchase. This lens is probably the best cost-to-value lens on the market. They're incredibly cheap (for photo gear) at about $100. The huge aperture makes them ideal for indoor or low-light work. The 50mm focal length is great for head and 3/4ths portrait work, yet is still useful for landscape photography.
  • Kit Lens Pros
    • Kit lenses cover an incredibly useful focal range (approximately 17mm-50mm).
    • They are good for general walk-around use.
    • Their optical quality is roughly on par with that of a mid-range point-and-shoot
  • Kit Lens Cons
    • Kit lenses are mediocre at best.
    • They have small apertures, rendering them mostly useless in low-light situations.
    • They have low-to-average quality optics and are often made of lightweight, easily-broken plastic.
    • Kit lenses have almost no re-sell value (with the exception of the Nikkor 18-70 f/3.5-4.5, which people oddly love. I don't know why. They resell for like $200.)

Post-Processing



The difference between a good photograph and a truly great photograph is often the work done after the photograph was taken. This post-capture editing is called post processing, and it is pretty much a must in this day and age.

Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and even Picasa and iPhoto are applications that allow you to tweak your photographs and make them something more than they were. You can boost color saturation, clone out blemishes, and more. You can fix exposure and remove noise.

These tools are your modern-day darkroom. The great film photographers of the past would tweak their photographs in the darkroom. Why should we be different? The only difference is that now we don't have to worry about light leaks and scratching our film. Of course, we do have to worry about hard drive failure and memory-card corruption...

The key to post processing is not to over-do it. When in doubt, less is more. Almost everyone makes the same mistake starting out: too much saturation and too much sharpening. Ease back a bit. You can achieve a certain "look" without too much effort. Less is more.



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Last edited by Instant Sunrise on 2009-09-13 03:53pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: SDN Photo Talk Thread PostPosted: 2009-09-13 11:30am
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I've got some old slide projectors that I don't need. Before I junk them or give them to Goodwill, I'd like to examine the lenses and see if I might make some other use of them. Does anyone know of a website that talks about how to evaluate lenses for basic performance parameters (size of image circle and whatnot)?



"Six rolls? We could have covered World War II in two fucking frames - one for the battle scene, and one for the generals shaking hands!" -'Zeke'[/size]

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