Need Opinions on used dSLR

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Tony Whalen, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Greetings all.

    I've been a point-and-shoot user for many many moons. However, in another life I used to be a professional videographer, so I have a bit of knowledge about composition, aperture and so forth. (Still need to refresh, but that's another story.)

    Anyway... long story short... my brother has offered to sell me his older dSLR, knowing that I've been wanting one for some time now. (Plus my current 7.1MP point-and-shoot is dying.)

    He's offered me a Nikon D70s, with an 18-70mm lens (I believe the lens that came with it), carrying case, extra battery pack and original packaging and documentation.

    The drawback... the built-in flash isn't working.

    He's offered the whole kit to me for $350.00 (Canadian). I'd love to get it, but I'm concerned as to what it may cost to get the flash fixed. (I've spoken to the local camera shops, and they tell me that Nikon charges 90/hr for service fees.)

    So... thoughts? I'd jump on this deal in a sec if the flash was working, but I'm uncertain if I should do it with that problem.

    Should I buy it, or would it be better for me to look at a new entry-level dSLR package?
     
  2. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    That's a decent price for the camera and lens. Instead of spending money on getting the built-in flash fixed, though, I would buy an external flash. You'll get much better flash photos -- I never use the pop-up flash on my Canon 40D dSLR.

    I'm sure one of the Nikon users here can recommend an external flash for you.
     
  3. Dennis*G

    Dennis*G Supporting Actor

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    Second what Scott said. Pop up flash is crap anyway, so again, just wait for a Nikon user to pop on for flash information.
     
  4. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Hi, Tony.

    I use Nikon gear, and own both the original D70 and the D200 (and also still use the 18-70DX lens you mentioned). And I agree w/ the others. Don't worry about the built-in flash too much -- though it can be useful in a pinch (and does have limited wireless capability on the D70s). If you think you'll need flash, you're far better off getting an external unit like the SB600 or SB800, which will allow you to bounce the light (among other things) for much better results. If $ is a big issue, you might even try going full manual (for flash) w/ a cheap external unit instead.

    As for the rest, the D70s + 18-70DX should still make a very nice starter kit, especially for the asking price.

    _Man_
     
  5. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Thanks guys. The input is much appreciated!

    Turns out my bro is also offering an additional zoom lens if I want it. (For extra) An AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor 55-200. So I'd have a heck of a good starter set. [​IMG]

    Man, thanks for the Nikon info. I'm starting to look in to getting an SB600, budget permitting. Might have to wait a couple of months, but I can still use the old point-and-shoot for flash situations while I'm relearning how to use a REAL camera. [​IMG]

    I don't know a great deal about using external flashes...and the advantages therein. Can someone direct me to some info on the basics?
     
  6. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    Tony,

    Here is an in-depth article on flash photography using the Canon system. While some of it is Canon specific, many of the principles will apply to any camera system, though.

    Some of the basic advantages of an external flash are (1) better coverage due to more lighting power, (2) the ability to "bounce" flash for a more indirect, less harsh light, and (3) ability to move the flash off the camera for more precise lighting.

    With an external flash, you can also pretty much say goodbye to the red-eye effect, too.
     
  7. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Thanks Scott! Very informative... lots to soak up. [​IMG]
     
  8. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    BTW, RE: moving the flash off the camera, when you get that SB600, you may also want to consider getting a flash sync cord (probably ~$30) specifically for that purpose -- you may or may not also eventually want to get some sort of flash bracket for this.

    Also, consider getting some sort of diffuser for the flash. I usually leave the diffuser "dome" that came w/ my SB800 on the flash, which is very similar to the popular Sto-fen Omni-Bounce.

    Most/all of this stuff will probably be covered by that site that Scott mentioned.

    _Man_
     
  9. ErichH

    ErichH Screenwriter

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    I use a little SB400 on a D40. It was 100 bucks and a huge step above the internal. Good Luck
     
  10. CB750

    CB750 Screenwriter

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    Tony,

    Here is a good source of no nonense information.

    KenRockwell.com

    Ken is partial to Nikon but since that is what you are thinking of getting that can be useful. I guess my concern and I think if you read what Rockwell writes is although that D-70 will take great pictures it is I think two generations of Nikon old and may be considered by some to be obsolute. It sounds like the drill that may serious amatures follow is to invest in some good high quality lenses and then up grade the body as improvements are made.

    Don't worry about the flash Ken recomends the SB400 flash that ErichH mentoned aboue.
     
  11. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Ha ha.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah
    Ha!
     
  12. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Oh man, that's a GOOD ONE! Ok yes, KR DOES have some good information on his site but you have to wade through a metric buttload of nonsense to get to a lot of it. His technical information is pretty solid but his philosophical musings are often SPECIFICALLY to get a rise out of people. Take his advice with LARGE grains of salt.

    If you want good Nikon flash advice the place to start is with Joe McNally. Good info on his blog and especially in his book. Terry White and Scott Kelby also have good blog posts on nikon speedlights.

    I agreed with the SB 600. I got to borrow an SB400 for an evening in Hollywood on the HTF trip and it filled in in a pinch, but I would rather spring for the flexibility of the 600.

    I'd be happy to answer any tech specific questions you have about Nikons CLS, or Creative Lighting System, I just love using it and am adding to my kit by the week. You can see my 'strobist' sty;e portable studio light kit in use in this Flickr set:
    08-Kardel-Chiefs Election - a set on Flickr

    08-ChiefKardel-6301 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    Not sure how capable the D70s is with CLS tho! I only have a D300
     
  13. ErichH

    ErichH Screenwriter

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    Agree with CB and of course, Sam. The 600 is the flash to go for. I only mentioned the 400 as a budget choice to get you past the internal problem with the least expense.

    Happy Xmas eve to everyone!
     
  14. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Hi again guys!

    Once again, thanks for all the input... lots to learn and it's much appreciated.

    I'd already read some of KR's stuff, and learned from other sources to take his musings with a grain of salt. [​IMG]

    I picked up the camera two days ago, and I'm having a great time fiddling with it. Only thing I need is a UV filter for the lens(es). My bro kept his for his swanky new D90. (I got the additional lens from him as well.)

    While it may be a couple of generations old... I already see the advantages (and picture quality) beyond the typical P-and-S cams. Wow!

    I'm still going to get the SB600 when the budget permits, but the good news is that I was able to fix the onboard flash. So I can use it until I can afford a new SB600. [​IMG] (Found the instructions online... apparently a common issue with this model, due to the hinge design of the pop-up. Zapped myself a couple of times, but was able to repair it in about an hour.)

    Now I just gotta decide whether to shoot in RAW or JPG. (I know... another can of worms...) [​IMG]
     
  15. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    Tony,

    Congrats on the new camera. Instead of a UV filter, consider just using the lens hood for protection. Personally, I rarely use a UV filter -- only if I'm in a harsh environment. Otherwise, I'd rather not put additional, unnecessary glass in front of the lens.

    Also, I highly recommend shooting RAW as soon as possible. I wish I had started immediately when I bought my first DSLR. It does take a little learning on how to best do the post processing workflow, but once you have it down it does not add as much time to the process as you may think.
     
  16. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Tony,

    Good to hear you managed to fix the built-in flash yourself.

    Yeah, shoot RAW. If you're not sure, try both -- the D70s can shoot RAW+JPEG though the JPEGs are "Basic" quality only. Also, if you want to save on card space, you might consider shooting RAW only and then use some free(?) utility program to quickly batch extract the basic quality JPEGs hidden inside the NEF files after you transfer them to your computer -- apparently, Nikon (and probably most other camera makers) uses this trick for fast playback/review performance on the camera's built-in display.

    And for actual RAW conversion, you might want to try Nikon's own free Nikon View first unless you also happened to have Nikon Capture (from your brother) or some other better software for that. Nikon View is pretty limited in terms of adjustments/flexibility and such (and doesn't offer batch processing), but it works fine for basic conversion (and is, again, free). You can also use its Adobe plug-in w/ Photoshop though that plug-in is even more limiting than NV itself (but should probably let you benefit from other aspects of Photoshop, eg. batch processing). Don't know if Adobe has made any real improvements recently on its RAW conversion for Nikon files (w/ default settings that is), but it used to produce absolutely horrendous results unless you know exactly what you're doing (and basically ignore all the in-camera settings). [​IMG] [​IMG]

    RE: using filters for protection, I've come to roughly the same conclusion/decision as Scott and mainly just rely on my lens hoods (and lens caps or my hand or similar) for most of the protection unless in certain particularly adverse conditions. I do currently make an exception though for my 35mm f/2 (and use a filter on it) just because the lens front element is not recessed *and* a useable hood is a bit too shallow to offer much protection -- well, the 18-70DX-plus-hood combo (you have) also leaves the lens front element more exposed than I like, and I regularly find myself keeping either my hand or lens cap on it for protection. Most tele lenses have deep enough hoods (or might also have well recessed front elements) to not worry much about that while most wide lenses have shallow hoods and forward/exposed front elements. Of course, if you just spent well over $1K on a great new lens (like the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR), it'd also be hard not to 2nd guess yourself about not using a protective filter. [​IMG] [​IMG]

    _Man_
     
  17. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Again, thanks much guys. [​IMG] I have a hood for the 55-200, and I'll likely stick with that. The 18-70DX though... I'll have to get a hood and/or filter. As the front element is rather exposed, I might still stick with a UV filter for that one. However, you've now made me think twice about adding extra glass. [​IMG]

    As for shooting RAW, it's primarily the post-processing time that scares me. Now, I'm not uncomfortable with computers (I used to be a network admin)... but I'm not super-skilled with photo editing. That said, I'm Mac based. iPhoto had no problem importing the test NEF shots I've done... and I also have Photoshop CS3, and have very briefly played with it's RAW import abilities. (Again, no problems with NEF files.)

    I'm not sure how iPhoto processes the NEF files. I can view them and seemingly do everything to them that I can do to their JPG counter-parts. However, the NEF files remain intact on the system. Needs a little more investigation!

    How do you guys process your RAW images? What is your workflow, and do you have standard things you do?

    Thanks!
     
  18. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    Tony,

    I usually use Canon's RAW conversion program, and will make slight adjustments to exposure as needed (although I try to get this right in camera). I then batch convert to jpeg for slideshows, storing online, etc. -- Canon's software makes batch processing very easy. RAW files needing more work than just a slight exposure adjustment I will instyead process using Adobe Camera RAW within Photoshop Elements.

    Unfortunately, Canon's software is for Canon RAW files only. One of the Nikon shooters here will have to give you feedback on the ease of use of Nikon's corresponding tool.
     
  19. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Seriously, if you are going to go through the pain of shooting raw, don't mess with other editing programs just spend the $100 (find a student to buy it for you) and go get Lightroom.
     
  20. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    I usually just use the old Nikon Capture v4.4(?). I don't have any "real" workflow for RAW itself -- this stuff really isn't a whole lot different even if I only shoot JPEG -- although I do tend to shoot w/ RAW processing in mind, which means my in-camera settings generally produce results that aid my shooting technique for RAW processing rather than yield final results straight from camera. Some expert Nikon users even load the camera w/ something like gamma neutral tone curve to help maximize this aspect of the RAW workflow (and even use color bias filters to maximize the sensor's dynamic range for each color channel) -- such tricks help make functions like the histogram that much more useful. [​IMG]

    When I process, I do try to organize images into batches w/ similar adjustments so I can automate things as much as possible. Not sure what Lightroom offers, but most decent RAW conversion software will have a decent batch processing mode to help out. Also, I do not like the idea of modifying my original files, so I do not use that capability of the Nikon NEF (RAW) format -- Nikon's NEF format is basically an enhanced variation on TIFF much like Adobe's DNG format, except NEF is proprietary to Nikon.

    If I'm doing batches of pics to be put on CD to give out, I also set things up for one final batch pass in Photoshop CS that does whatever final tweaks for the desired output (eg. small-to-medium-size prints) plus any copyright info embedding, etc. Generally, you do not want your processed master files to already have those final tweaks added since they should vary according to desired output type. Likewise, I also use a batch script for churning out web-sized images for uploading to my pbase account or similar.

    _Man_
     

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