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
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
- Semi pro, from cheap to expensive
- Pro level, from expensive to really expensive
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)
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.)
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.