Is a dSLR too much camera for a beginner?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Holadem, Sep 16, 2004.

  1. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Just curious. I plan on getting a digital camera during the holidays (where I am hoping to find it for ~ $500).

    I was set on the Canon S1, but am now thinking about the Rebel. It looks sexy as hell. Wrong reasons I know [​IMG].

    Is a dSLR too much camera for a beginner?

    Thanks.

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  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    The big question is how you plan to use or think you will use the camera. If it's vacation and family stuff, I'd go with a higher end point and shoot that has all the benefits of a P&S but will come with some amount of control of shutter speed and aperture. If you find you are developing a greater interest in those elements and want greater control and flexibility then you can start looking at a DSLR. Even people who own an SLR sometimes like to use a P&S for its greater portability and convenience.
     
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    A DSLR is definitely too much if you're only looking to spend $500! Remember, by the time you get a lens and accessories, you'll be upwards of $1000 at a minimum.

    On the other hand, if you're really interested in getting into photography, and the price isn't an issue, then it might not be a bad idea.

    Like Cameron said, though, the higher end point-and-shoots have a lot of features. For $500, you can get a pretty fancy piece of equipment!
     
  4. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Yeah, if you're not that serious about photography or do not know what the key differences are between the DSLRs and the compact/prosumer digicams, then it's probably best to start w/ a good compact/prosumer cam. For that, I'd suggest sticking w/ something in the $500-600 range that allows all the standard manual controls and might also allow some add-on accessories like external flash. Many of them can use the same external flash that the same brand DSLRs use, which could be nice.

    I started out last year w/ a Canon G3 (plus various add-ons) although I ended up switching to Nikon D70 for my next camera because I didn't like the D-Rebel.

    And as Aaron points out, keep in mind that SLR lenses can be very expensive unless you stick w/ the low quality ones. And when you pay so much for a DSLR body, it doesn't make much sense to stick w/ very cheap lenses that actually perform no better than the lenses on your average compact digicam -- and worse in some cases. Most people who get into DSLRs end up spending more on lenses than the DSLR body regardless of which body it is -- whether it's a $800-900 D-Rebel or a $4500 1D Mk2.

    _Man_
     
  5. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Kewl, will be sticking to the S1 then [​IMG]

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  6. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Now it's decided anyway, here's my reply to your original question:
    No.
    If you're a beginner but plan to become a real enthusiast, an SLR is splendid to learn the job properly from the very beginning. It's the best start into a great hobby and/or profession.


    Cees
     
  7. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    That was my thought as well, and I would still go that route if I could afford it. But apparently I would have to shell out at least $1000, which I simply don't have. Big dreams [​IMG].

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  8. Dan D.

    Dan D. Stunt Coordinator

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    Holadem, sounds like you've already gotten some very good advice and have made a sound decision. As a digital SLR user, I would make a few points in favor of P&S cameras.

    1) As Man-Fai pointed out, the strength of an SLR system is in the lenses. With film SLRs, you could theoretically get the same picture from a $200 SLR as a $2,000 SLR by using the same lens, same film and same settings. Certainly things are a little different in the digital world where the quality of the sensor is an important component of the system. However, since nobody is really going to build a digital SLR with anything but a very good- to excellent-quality sensor (yet), lens quality is still going to be the primary variable in picture quality (aside from the photographer, of course). That said, to really take advantage of a DSLR, you need to invest in lenses. The kit lenses that come with things like the D-Rebel are OK, but really no better than the quality of lenses on decent P&S cameras. Good quality SLR lenses can be had in the $200-500 range, though keep in mind that these are going to be limitied range zoom or prime focus (i.e. non-zooming) lenses, so you will need a few to cover same range of a decent P&S. You will probably get better quality at this point, but now your investment is much greater.

    2) A P&S camera actually has one teaching advantage over DSLRs - the ability to see real-time changes to your photo before taking it. With a DSLR, you see your photo immedately after it is taken, which is a huge advatage over film, but you can't see the image before pushing the shutter button. With the P&S camera, you can alter aperture shutter speed and film speed, and watch what is happening real-time, sometimes with a live histogram. Understanding the interplay of these variables is critical to learning photography, so this is really a cool benefit to P&S cameras. In the film days, you pretty much had to start with an SLR if you were serious about learning photographic technique. With high-quality digital P&S cameras, that has all changed. My friend's Olympus C-8080 has a real-time digital viewfinder (technically making it an SLR) in addition to it's pivoting screen, live histogram and on-screen selectable composition grid.

    3) Do not underestimate the benefits of a P&S camera's compact nature and simplicity, especially if you are not already a photgraphic hobbyist. An SLR and a quiver of lenses is big, heavy, inconvenient and a pain to haul everywhere. Travel with it and it requires its own luggage. It's a bit of a commitment, and unless you are 100% sure you want to make that commitment, don't throw a ton of money into it. Better to get something easier to use (but still very good quality), see if you take to it, then sell it on Ebay in a year and upgrade.

    I was a long-time film SLR photographer, but when I got my first digital, a Canon G1 P&S, I nearly abandoned my other camera. Now I have a Canon 10D to use with all of my existing lenses. I use the system heavily during outdoor activity such as hiking and skiing, and while I love the picture quality, I look back at the G1 which gave me great quality shots from a highly-portable package. I'm eyeing the current crop of high-end P&S cameras with envy right now. You are making a very good choice for your entry into the hobby. Good luck and have fun!
     
  9. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    LOTS of people are selling Rebels and D10s cheap as they move up to 20Ds.

    See here:
    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/10
    and
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...f08315a3d29b1f

    When I first started thinking about moving to digital I considered the G5, but I desided it was SLR or not at all (I cheated and got a CHEAP Digicam for web snapshots!), and I'm really happy I did. We are about to enter a real exciting time in DSLR history as Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Olympus, Fuji and others start warring on features and price. At 6+ megapixels that battle is dead, now comes the real value to consumers.

    Sam
     
  10. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    You know. This is not unlike spending $$$ on hometheater/audio equipment. [​IMG] It doesn't make much sense to buy a $2K receiver to use w/ a bunch of tiny Bose speakers. Likewise, you don't want to drive a pair of $10K speakers w/ a run-of-the-mill Technics receiver either. [​IMG]

    _Man_
     
  11. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Thanks Dan (and others) for the great insight.

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  12. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    But you CAN see real time changes with the viewfinder, can you not?

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  13. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    No. Any SLR will allow you to compose your shot, and some (like the DR) will let you check depth of field, but not what changes to the aperature, ISO or exposure time will do. I don't find this that big a deal though (I own a DRebel). You click, look, and if it isn't right, shoot again.

    I don't know how much better it is now, but I wasn't that impressed by the P&S models I had tried, especially whe it came to representing my final image properly on the LCD screen. Also, since P&S don't monitor through the lens, composition can be off. I had to do a lot f compensating on the older units I was using.

    An argument in favor of the SLR over a P&S is that the investment you make in lenses can be transferred to a new camera body (assuming you stay in the same make, ie. Canon). That nice L glass you bought for your Rebel can be used down the line on a newer model, so upgrading the body doesn't mean ditching any additional lenses or accessories you may have (for the most part).

    So far all I have is the kit lens, which has been giving me pretty good results, although I am in dire need of a longer focal distance.
     
  14. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Jeff,

    If you use the LCD for composing shots (and probably EVF also, if it has EVF), most of the better cams are fairly accurate for composition there, but yes, definitely far off w/ the optical viewfinder. That's why I almost never used the optical viewfinder on my G3.

    As for lens investments, you do need to be aware that some lenses are designed for use only on the APS size formats of many DSLRs, not for 35mm full frame size, ie. 35mm film SLRs and a very few highend DSLRs.

    Also, because of the format diff, such DSLRs end up rendering the images as though your lens is 1.5 - 1.6x longer than the 35mm spec. Well, there is also the highend Canon 1D/1D Mk2 that are actually 1.3x. This "crop factor" can be both good and bad depending on how you look at it. For example, it makes it harder to find a good lens for wideangle applications. Meanwhile, it does effectively gives your telephoto lenses more reach essentially for free.

    BTW, if you use the DoF preview, you will see aperture changes although it may not be easy to distinquish between different apertures. [​IMG]

    _Man_
     
  15. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    You know that last question of mine was quite stupid now that I think about it. Given the way these things work, OF COURSE you can't see the effect of exposure and ISO adjustements in real time...

    Another question: Not being yet familiar with the nomenclature of lenses, could someone tell me what the equivalent zoom factor of the Rebel kit lens is? 2X? 3X?

    Having just bougth a Canon SD110 for my girlfriend, I do have access to a P&S that I can use pretty much whenever I want, so a P&S for me may be a little redundant. So I am leaning back towards the SLR for hobby-only applications. I just want a new complicated toy that I could really learn to use, dammit! [​IMG]

    I know I keep going back and forth on this but what they, at least I am posting in this desert forum [​IMG]

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  16. ScottHH

    ScottHH Stunt Coordinator

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    Holadem,

    I don't think a dSLR is too much for a beginner. Shelling out close to $1,000 might be too much for someone who is not comitted to digital photography, however.

    The SD110 looks like great little camera. Don't under-estimate the value of low weight and small size--it means you'll have the camera with you when a great photo opportunity arises! On the other hand, the SD110 is not manually adjustable, and will not allow you to explore many of the more creative aspects of photography.

    I would be inclined to borrow your girlfriend's camera for a while, and if you were still interested to "do more" photographically, then get the dSLR.

    When I first got into photography, I bought an inexpensive point & shoot before spending money on an SLR. I would do a lot of research before buying the Digital Rebel or the Nikon D70, because once you buy the body, you’re locking into that company’s system. Already having a Nikon film SLR, MY choice was easy.

    The SD110 has a 5.4mm - 10.8mm (35mm - 70mm equivalent) lens 10.8 / 5.4 =2, so it is a 2x zoom

    The Digital Rebel kit comes with a 18mm-55mm lens, which is a 3x zoom.

    Don't get too hung-up on maximum zoom. Prime lenses (non-zoom) are usually better than zooms, and always better for the money than zooms. Besides, you can use the "foot zoom" and walk closer to, or father away from your subject before taking your picture.


    I think you should do more research before plunking down that kind of cash. I would recommend photo.net, as it is a dedicated photography site.

    It has reviews of the Digital Rebel and the Nikon D70

    The site has a very useful learning section, which should answer many of your basic questions. There is also a section on buying a digital camera

    -Scott
     
  17. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    If you will have another camera you can use for take-everywhere p&s purposes anyway, then there are alternatives as Scott suggested. For example, you might even consider buying a cheap film SLR (maybe a used, fully manual one) w/ a basic kit lens and take a photography course at your local college. Some might also allow you to use a digicam that offers full manual controls -- ones like Canon A80 might be good enough for this although there are certain basic things that are hard to learn w/ all the small digicams. Sooo, it's better if you just get a cheap, manual film SLR + basic lens so you won't waste much if you give up on photography. If you go that route, don't expect to reuse that lens on a DSLR though, except as a novelty thing. [​IMG] Well, actually, I guess if you get good manual primes, they might still be very useful on a DSLR.

    Somethings to note though:

    First, you should stop thinking of "zoom factor" for lenses because it's actually not a good way to think about photography that way. You should think actual focal lengths or their 35mm equivalents. If your 3x zoom lens starts at 35mm, it will be vastly different from another 3x zoom lens that starts at 28mm or 18mm. Since 35mm equivalency seems popular and common enough (due to 35mm film format), that's probably a good way to go. There are intrinsic characteristics to lenses (and how they are used) that vary based on their focal lengths (and crop factors), so you don't want to mix it all up w/ the overly simplistic "zoom factor".

    Soooo... your SD110 is actually 35-70mm (35mm equiv), and the D-Rebel kit lens is effectively 29-88mm in practice (even though the lens is actually 18-55mm) due to the 1.6x crop factor. This means the D-Rebel kit lens is wider at the wide end and a tad longer on the long end. And for the Nikon D70 kit lens, the effective range is 27-105mm in practice (w/ actual range being 18-70mm) due to the 1.5x crop factor.

    As you learn about these things, you will see what I mean by "intrinsic characteristics". If you don't want to bother w/ these things, then forget about getting a DSLR as you will forever be stuck in the p&s syndrome. [​IMG]

    As we've all agreed, you should learn more about photography *before* taking the dive since it is such a big investment for you -- if you had $$$ to burn, then that would be different. [​IMG] AND you canNOT really learn this stuff just by asking a few questions here. You need to do some real homework on your own *and* practice what you learn to some extent before you can make a good, informed decision about the investment. That's why I suggested getting a $500-600 prosumer cam first.

    While it's not feasible to make this forum your sole source of learning, there are some excellent tutorials and resources that you can learn from on the net:

    * Photo.net (as Scott suggested above):
    http://www.photo.net/learn/

    * Short Courses -- best if you buy their handbook so you can learn on the field, which is not quite the same as reading stuff on the net:
    www.shortcourses.com

    * Toomas Tamm's basic photog pages (w/ some Canon info): http://www.chem.helsinki.fi/~toomas/photo/

    * DoFMaster calculator for when you start learning about depth of field:
    http://dfleming.ameranet.com/dofjs.html

    * Moose Peterson on White Balance, especially if you get a Nikon digicam (either prosumer compact or DSLR):
    http://www.nikondigital.org/articles/white_balance.htm

    * Luminous Landscape for various good tutorials, etc. that expand on various things learned in the basic stuff, especially for landscape photography:
    www.luminous-landscape.com

    * EPP's Photoshop for Photogs: http://epaperpress.com/psphoto/

    * Russel Brown's Photoshop Tips & Techniques:
    http://www.russellbrown.com/tips/photoshop.html

    * Petteri's Pontifications on photography (w/ lots of Canon-specific info):
    http://194.100.88.243/petteri/pont/W...t_changes.html

    Hope that helps...

    _Man_
     
  18. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Thank you so much for the excellent posts guys, this is all extremely informative.

    Now another question [​IMG]:

    With the P&S (be it the SD110, or the S1 that I am still eyeing), would taking pictures with the LCD as viewfinder become a habit that I might have a hard time unlearning later on with an SLR?

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  19. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Maybe. I'm sure some people will find it hard, but if you're serious, you will probably adjust quickly enough. Obviously, there may be exceptions of course.

    FWIW, technically, I never even owned my own camera before getting a digicam ~5 years ago. [​IMG] And then, I spent ~4.5 years shooting w/ LCD preview, instead of viewfinder. But I got used to the D70 quickly enough. I think the speed and handling of a good SLR camera certainly helps the switch back to using viewfinder. Also, you still do get instant feedback w/ a DSLR. And anyway, unless you get used to a digicam that has live histogram preview -- which I never had -- you wouldn't have had particularly accurate indication of exposure w/ the LCD preview anyway. Maybe someday in the not-too-distant future, DSLR's will come w/ live histogram preview too, instead of just the usual basic exposure info. [​IMG]

    Yeah, I do occasionally miss the flip out LCD of my G3, but that has never pushed me to pull it out of the bag even when I did carry it around *along* w/ my D70 for the first month I had the D70. I may start carrying the G3 around again if I ever develop a real desire to macro photography. You definitely could use the flip out LCD for that a whole lot.

    One thing. I can see if you love shooting B&W and do so in B&W mode w/ LCD preview, then that might be harder to change.

    BTW, I checked out the S1 recently at a Best Buy, and I don't know about other people, but I found it to be a terrible camera for candids and the like. It's possible that I'm just too spoiled now by the D70, but the AF seems very slow and the AF/"spot" meter area is way too big. Maybe the manual focus function is barely useable like on my G3 and can compensate, but if it's not, then forget it. I would go check out the Panny alternative instead.

    _Man_
     
  20. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    This is a common complaint with this camera, from "official" to user reviews.

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