Digital or Film SLR?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by LDfan, Sep 12, 2005.

  1. LDfan

    LDfan Supporting Actor

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    I am just now getting into the whole photography thing for fun and want to get serious about taking pictures. Is it even worth buying a film SLR now or just say heck with it and buy a digital model?

    Thanks,
    Jeff
     
  2. Paul McElligott

    Paul McElligott Cinematographer

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    It's really a matter of spending the money now or later. The digital SLR requires at least twice to three times the initial expenditure. (~$300 for a film body to $800 and up for digital). On the other hand, you do away with film and processing costs, which can be about $15-20 per 36 exposures (last I checked). If you shot a lot, the digital camera could probably pay for itself inside of a year. And with digital, you have the option of knowing if you actually got the shot right then, whether than waiting until you get the pictures back from the lab.

    Shooting digital also saves you the hassle of scanning if you want to manipulate in Photoshop or Paintshop Pro.

    On the other hand, digital still can't quite duplicate the intangible qualities of film, but other than that, most of the advantages are with digital, as long as you can handle the higher upfront cost of the camera.
     
  3. Jay Taylor

    Jay Taylor Supporting Actor

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    Go digital Jeff. You'll love it!

    Photography is heading in the direction of more digital and less film.

    Many people like myself used to be into film SLRs and the difficulties associated with a darkroom such as chemical fumes, working in a hot small room with limited ventilation & virtually no light. I eventually gave it up for easy to carry point & shoot film cameras.

    When digital SLRs became available the interest I had in photography returned with a passion. You get instant feedback on your photos. You can process the pictures on your own computer & print them out on your own printer or at just about any photo processing facility. The quality is fantastic. It’s a dream come true!
     
  4. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Going digital is a tremendous learning tool. The instant feedback coupled with the ability to click away without fear of cost are great advantages.

    You've got a few options... you can acquire a used film body and a couple of lenses for $150 or so - very cheap. But you lose all the advantage of film.

    I recommend digital.

    You could go with a capable digicam - something like the Canon S2. It's not an SLR but it is a very nice little camera - light weight, good optics, and full manual control is an option. I've been very impressed with the output of this camera. The S2 and a SD card will set you back about $500. This is an affordable way to get a decent camera and see if it really holds your interest. If so, you could move on to the DSLRs later, and either sell the digicam or hold onto it as a spare.

    Next step up is the entry level DSLRs - the Canon Rebel, Nikon D70, or Minolta 5D/7D. These will set you back near $1000 with a kit lens and CF card. To get equivalent coverage in focal length to the S2, you'll be dropping some coin on a couple of zoom lenses.

    Then, there's the Canon 20D or Nikon D100. They will set you back close to $1400 when all is said and done.

    There are threads here that give pros and cons on most of the camera models I've mentioned.

    A trip to http://www.dpreview.com may also be in order. They have reviews and comparison guides for almost every camera out there.

    -Scott
     
  5. LDfan

    LDfan Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for all the info guys. Are there any definitive books out there to teach the basics of how to learn and use a SLR camera? I really want to learn how to long exposure night shots (where lights look like streaks).

    Sounds like digital is the way to go.


    Jeff
     
  6. Jay Taylor

    Jay Taylor Supporting Actor

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  7. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Jeff,

    For learning, Jay provided some good links -- I started out by going through an old hard copy version of Short Courses a couple years back. Here's another good link:

    http://www.photo.net/learn/

    As for camera choice, yes, I'd recommend digital also. However, the choices keep growing all the time. Nowadays, you can get an entry level DSLR like the relatively compact Nikon D50 + kit lens for ~$700 -- or you can just get the body for ~$600 and some other lens of your choice. So I wouldn't let the price issue be a significant holdup from jumping straight into a DSLR, if you intend to be serious about it. That's not to say you shouldn't still consider a good non-SLR compact digicam as your first step to learning photography, but just that it's really not necessary anymore -- when I began just over 2 years ago w/ my ~$500 Canon G3, the Canon 10D and Nikon D100 were the entry level at ~$1500 w/out any lenses.

    You should also note that many people who get into DSLRs end up wanting a tiny, pocketable P&S for their everywhere, casual needs -- yes, even the pros do that -- while some others also either keep or add a mid-size, full-featured non-SLR compact like a Canon G series or Nikon CP5xxx or the like (as suggested by Scott). Given that it's very likely you'll want something smaller for when you can't or don't want to lug a DSLR rig around (like going to Disneyworld perhaps [​IMG]), it can make good sense to factor that into your decision on what to get now (as Scott hints). It may mean just going straight to DSLR w/ expectation to add either a tiny pocketable P&S or mid-size cam w/out committing to either yet, or committing to that mid-size cam first, or whatever. I would add though that you probably shouldn't expect to get much return value if you sell any of your digital cameras due to how this tech market works -- film cameras probably used to hold much better value before the digital age. However, SLR lenses, flashes (unless prematurely obsoleted) and such do still tend to hold value pretty well.

    FWIW, I recently sold my 2-year-old Canon G3 to a co-worker/friend for ~$250 (or ~1/2 what I paid), which seems to be the going rate on eBay although . And I plan to sell my ~1.5-year-old Nikon D70 to my sister also for ~1/2 what I paid as soon as the rumored, upcoming Nikon D200 becomes available.

    One more thing about diving into DSLR world though. The big $$$ gets spent on lenses, if you want high quality and/or have demanding shooting requirements, eg. shooting in low/indoor lighting w/out flash. Of course, w/ non-SLR compacts, you don't really have that option at all. But be forewarned about what people call "lens lust". [​IMG]

    _Man_
     
  8. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    You got that right... [​IMG]
    I spent almost $3000 on Canon L Series glass in the first year after I bought my 10D. The nice thing there is, high quality glass holds value more than anything else in the photo world.

    -Scott
     
  9. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Yeah, I've tried hard to avoid spending that much on lenses, but I suspect I'll be right there also by year's end or early next spring when I'll likely upgrade from my Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 to Nikon's 70-200 f/2.8 VR (to go w/ that D200 upgrade) -- apparently, it's all gonna be a 10-year anniversary present from the wife (after I mentioned how someone on DPR got a $2K D2H from his adoring girlfriend). [​IMG] Of course, there's also the $300+ flash, the computer upgrades, software purchases, portable storage purchase, maybe potential purchase of studio strobes and such, etc. that technically don't fall under the same umbrella of "lens lust". :b

    Anyway, it all adds up, so maybe Jeff actually needs to look beyond that initial ~$700 price tag for something like the D50 + kit lens. [​IMG] Once you start getting serious about photography, that initial investment just becomes a drop in the bucket. [​IMG] That's not to say you can't get great images w/ something more affordable and modest, if you limit the kinds of photos you make and/or dispense w/ any convenience/efficiency features (like image stabilization or fast, silent wave focusing), but then again, they don't call it "lens lust" for nothing. [​IMG]
     
  10. Ryan Tsang

    Ryan Tsang Second Unit

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    Jeff

    The only thing I want to add is if you are serious about night photography, stick with film. (Someone please correct me if i'm wrong)

    My d70 has a longest shutter speed of 30sec. Otherwise there is a bulb setting so it stays open for as long as I like but I gotta hold the shutter down, which won't work if you want sharp pics even on a tripod. Maybe you can get a remote and hold the shutter down from that. It also drains battery. You need shutter times of minutes to hours for star trails.

    Otherwise I love my D70 and haven't shot film since jun04. For critical work, I would still choose 35mm (Nikon's DX is not good enough yet). Used 35mmm bodies are cheap. Buy digital first. Learn to use it. Buy some lenses. Then go to 35mm and reach for the stars.


    As for learning SLRs/photography:

    Learning the basics is not hard. Aperture, shutter, focal length are relatively easy. Learning exposure is the harder part. Don't use 35mm negative to learn exposure cuz the labs correct them. Use slides for that. But it costs too much and too time consuming to learn exposure. Digital gives you the instant feedback and it is super accurate. It gives you the power to be as lazy or as disciplined as you want to be. Also, exposure with flash takes time to learn (for me anyway) so digital is such an awesome learning tool.
     
  11. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Good results have been gotten with digital night photography and astrophotography. The newer sensors (especially in the last year) deliver much lower noise levels at high ISOs. I have a particular interest in astrophotography. Check this out (I have no affiliation with these photos):

    http://www.spacehutobservatory.ca/canon10D.htm

    While I'm not familiar with Nikon's DSLRs, I'm sure you can get a locking remote. I use a electronic timer remote on my Canon 10D. It lets me automate long exposures, intervalometer settings, etc. Also, some DSLRs are available in a modified format that is IR sensitive, which I guess can be useful for astrophotography. Unfortunately, that's an either/or. A modified body can't be used for normal photography.

    I've played around with non-telescopic astrophotography, using a 300MM lens and a 1.4x teleconverter, and also wider lenses for starscapes. I'm thinking of building a "Barn Door Tracker" to allow longer than 30 second exposures without trails at 50mm. Such a tracker can go well over 30 minutes without error. These can be built for well under $100, much less than a decent equatorial mount.

    http://hometown.aol.com/davetrott/page17.htm

    As far as critical work, 6MP is more than sufficient for 13x19 printing. I've made acceptable 16x24 prints from 6.3MP. Now, of course, there are 8MP DSLRs available, too... then there's the new Canon 5D 12MP full-frame. It is certainly capable of doing critical work - of course that body is over $3000.

    -Scott
     
  12. Ryan Tsang

    Ryan Tsang Second Unit

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    Scott:

    You're right about the night/astro photography. Those are nice results. I guess DSLRs deserve more credit than I give'em!

    Critical work:
    I'm no PS pro, this could be why..... I worked with NEF file before (Nikon's RAW format) and saved them as TIFF files about 34MB per photo. I did some (minor) cropping and contrast/color temp adjustments on these portraits. I then had them printed at a local lab that was well known for highend graphic arts work and the results were OK. The same lab has also printed slides for me up to 8x12 via an internegative and the results were excellent. Cost me $40cdn per print though.

    "Acceptable" for you and I, I'm sure is different. Maybe you can email me about how you got good 16x24 prints so as to not threadjack. I could learn a few things. [email protected]
    I don't check my pm's.
     
  13. LDfan

    LDfan Supporting Actor

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    Can all models of SLR/Digital SLR cameras use remotes for controlling the shutter?

    Thanks again for all the information. Fascinating stuff!

    Jeff
     
  14. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Ryan: Perhaps I should qualify my comment on critical work. In comparison to your average 35mm print film, 6 - 8 MP will give you a quality which is better in some ways to film, but worse in others. The pure resolving power of a 6MP camera will be bested by a quality film. But the digital image will be free of grain structure - and, if shot under good light at low ISO, virtually noise free. Depending on subject matter, a grainless image may be preferable even if there is slightly less detail. A 16x24 print can look good for a scaled up 6.3MP image - if the subject matter isn't highly demanding of razor-sharpness. Hang it on a wall behind glass, and step back to a normal viewing distance, and the results are impressive.

    For real critical work, I would shoot medium format. Since I can't afford medium format digital, I'd have to go with film. Still the new 20+ MP medium format sensors are truly amazing.

    -Scott
     
  15. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    You'd want to read the specs. I have no experience with Nikon DSLRs, but the Canons (at least the 10D on up...) can take a couple of different remote shutter releases. They tend to be electronic and proprietary... I'd be surprised if there were a DSLR that didn't have a remote socket.

    Vital stats for any camera can be found at www.dpreview.com.

    -Scott
     
  16. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    The original D70 only has wireless remote option, which is not as good as cable release in many instances. And people have found that some universal remotes will work w/ the D70, including a little personal remote (w/ key ring) made by Pogo. AFAIK, the new D70s adds cable release option also -- seems Nikon listened to their customers regarding this.

    The D50 only offers wireless remote option via the same optional remote unit.

    Not sure if wireless remote works well for the kind of night/astro photography mentioned.

    Actually, I should probably also point out that there is no mirror lockup feature on these entry level Nikon's, which may or may not matter to you depending on exactly what you're shooting. Most likely, you can work around the problem using the "hat trick" if you're using long exposures -- ie. use a hat to effectively act as mirror pre-release mechanism.
     
  17. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    >> "use a hat to effectively act as mirror pre-release mechanism"

    Never heard of that Man, can you expand?
     
  18. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    I don't believe the Canon Rebel has a mirror lockup, either... or a DoF preview. You have to move up tp a 10D or better for those features.
     
  19. Peter Winton

    Peter Winton Auditioning

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    No hesitation - go digital.

    Sooner, rather than later, chemical film is going to go. Ok, not tomorrow, but in a few years time for sure.

    By the sounds of things, I'd recommend you go for a digital SLR. I have two Nikon digi cameras - a Coolpix 8700 and a D70.

    Ever since I've had the D70, it's been my camera of choice, despite the fact that it's more lumpy to carry around! It's a great camera, and it's fast coming down in price. The D70's can be firmware upgraded so that they have attributes of the D70S, (improved menus and better focussing performance).

    The 8700 has a higher pixel rating, but the sensor on the D70 is superior. Having a DSLR in your hands is great again - I'm sure you will enjoy it.

    If you go for the Nikon DSLR, the 18-70mm lens kit is worth having if you have no leses to put on the Nikon body.

    Canon do a great range of DSLR's as well - a mate of mine has just bought a Canon (EDOS 300???) and is pleased with it.

    Good luck with your choice - let us know what you go for!
     
  20. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Scott,

    The new D-Rebel XT (aka EOS350D) has mirror lockup -- and the old D-Rebel (aka EOS300D) could be firmware hacked for that capability, IIRC. Also, both new and old D-Rebel's have DOF Preview (and also optional battery grip, if you care for such things, which Nikon does not offer for D50/D70/D70s, AFAIK). If one is to consider a D-Rebel, then definitely go w/ the XT, not the old one -- the old one forces way too many auto handicaps on you although some of those things can be undone via firmware hacks.

    Rob,

    The "hat trick" is simply using a hat to cover the lens (w/out touching it of course) to effectively replace the shutter open moment during a long exposure. For the long exposure (in a dark/night situation), what you do is release the actual shutter first w/ hat (or whatever similarly effective object) in front of lens to hide/block off whatever light sources and then give yourself ~2 secs or so before removing the hat to begin the actual exposure. If the 2 secs make up a significant percentage of your exposure time, then make sure to account for that and be a bit more exact about it. But if you're doing a bulb exposure, it probably won't be of significance.

    This trick should be a good workaround for long exposures w/ SLR cameras that lack mirror lockup to avoid the camera shake/vibration caused by mirror slap -- in-camera mirror lockup/pre-fire does a similar thing, except the actual shutter open is delayed by a couple secs after the mirror is lifted. However, it doesn't replace mirror lockup for cases where your exposure times are short or relatively normal (but not nearly short/fast enough to avoid the impact of mirror slap), especially when using a big, long lens.

    _Man_
     

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