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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buying your first camera and lens- Compromise, compromise, compromise

Buying a camera and a lens can be challenging for all of us. Cameras and lenses come in all shapes, sizes and price. So which one should you buy???? Well, as I often say in the class, the answer is “It depends.” Ask yourself some questions: What do I plan to use the camera/lens for? Do you want full frame or APS-C lens? Zoom or prime lens? Because if you mount an APS-C lens on a full frame camera body, you will loose information around the edge of the picture. It all boils down to one major question: How much money do you want to spend on your first DSLR and lens? If you can answer this question, get ready to compromise (kit lens vs specialty lens vs third party lens, full frame sensor vs cropped frame sensor, camera features, including live view, bracketing, etc.).

If you want to do sports photography or you plan to take pictures of birds (and you can’t get closer to your subjects), you may need a telephoto lens or supertele (400 mm and up on a full frame camera, 300 mm on a cropped frame camera but these lenses tend to be HEAVY and expensive) and you can also buy a matching teleconverter (you loose image quality). You can also look into third party lenses like Tamron or Sigma. Often times, third party lenses are cheaper. Or you can try a kit tele-zoom lens. I have used a kit tele-zoom lens when I shot night time football pics and I was okay with the results (I used monopod/tripod) because I knew I could not afford a faster telephoto lens.

If you want to do sports photography in low light, you may need a fast (f 1.4, f. 2, f. 2.8) telephoto lens (with a focal length of 135-300 mm and up).

The size of the image sensor determines the cost of the camera (full frame vs. cropped frame). In addition, if you plan to do sports photography in low light conditions/nighttime photography (when you use available light), you may need a camera with high ISO capabilities. When you shop for a camera you might want to consider the digital sensor. For instance, the Canon 7D or the Nikon D300 have a cropped sensor APS-C which is not bad at all. I think you need to be a Pro to justify spending a big hunk of money for a full frame camera like the Nikon D700. As a photojournalist, I am happy with my cropped sensor camera and when I decided to go with the cropped sensor camera PRICE was a major issue (the lenses for APS-C cameras are cheaper too). To read the debate on the digital sensor size, go to Cambridgeincolor.

A couple of things I want to point out about full size sensors. These cameras perform very well under low light conditions (high ISO capabilities with less digital noise), have better image quality BUT they are expensive.

If you plan to shoot close-ups of bugs and flowers, you should look into a macro lens (about 50-200 mm in a full camera, 35-200 mm on APS-C). These lenses tend to be expensive and they are used for macro photography only.

Ultra-wide zoom and prime lenses (14-24 mm on a full frame, 10-20 mm on a cropped frame) are used in environmental portrait, landscape, and architecture photography. The main problem with any wide angle lens is the distortion you will get (Barrel distortion bends lines outward, pincushion bends the lines inward- but lens distortion can be corrected in PS or Lightroom).

Wide angle lenses (21-35 mm) are mainly used in landscape photography.

I hope this helps you a bit. You may want to check out the Digital Picture link.

and DP Review for the specs on cameras and lenses.

Another great source is CNET. -- it's like the Consumer Reports for electronics ... they also rate online sellers AND rank selling prices from low to high (if you click on the header of the price column to sort the listing in this manner) so you can shop with confidence ...

B&H Photo out of NYC put together a guide for "prosumer" DSLRs and it's worth a read. The video is also nice.

Though they go through some technical stuff, most of the concepts are covered during the course so it shouldn't be totally foreign to you. Take notes. If you have questions, ask me.

So far, here are my three cents:
• stick with either Canon or Nikon and you can't go wrong regarding your investment. If you plan to stay with the same brand camera, I would encourage you to buy better lenses that would fit the camera brand of your choice.
• my most recent camera body purchase is the Nikon D300, and -- I did NOT purchase a kit lens with this camera; rather, I went with a third-party zoom lens that also has macro capability (no Nikon zoom lens offered macro -- close-up -- shooting at the time I made my purchase 2 years ago); macro allows me to focus very closely on small objects which are great for photojournalism detail shots OR things you may be selling on eBay; my third party lens is made by Tamron (other third partly lenses are Sigma, Cosina, etc.). Note that all third party lenses are made to specifically fit a manufacturer's camera body, like Canon or Nikon, so if you order one ... do make sure you are buying the one that fits the brand of camera you own or are buying ... a Canon mount lens will not work on a Nikon, etc.
• used gear- Another option is to buy a used camera from an authorized dealer like Cameta Camera or B&H. Both companies have competitive pricing, you won't be paying sales tax, shipping is often free AND they have a wonderful return team so if you don't like what you purchased, it's easy to send it back (not all online retailers are this nice about return authorizations).
Bottom line, buy a camera you can afford and you can use.

1 comment:

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