In response to a couple of my mates writing to me in the past day or so (Brett and Dave) requesting information about digital SLR cameras and photography, if I may I’d like to cover a few points that will hopefully help ANYONE make the right decision when it comes to upgrading to the wonderful world of SLR photography.
Some of you are already scratching your heads saying, “what the hell does SLR stand for…?” It stands for “Single Lens Reflex” or in other words cameras that have detachable lenses. To assist in the rest of this dialogue, I will be frequently drawing information from, and linking to the wonderful site that is “Digital Photography Review” or more commonly referred to as “dpreview.com”.
At the time of writing this, there are three main players in the “pro-sumer” range of SLR cameras – Canon, Nikon and Pentax. All three have entry level models at the moment:
- Canon EOS 350D (known in the US and Canada as the Digital Rebel XT) – retails for USD $650 – $700
- Nikon D70s – retails for USD $950 – $1,000
- Pentax *ist DL2 – retails for USD $400 – $500
Click here for a side-by-side review of these models.
The question has been asked of me, “why should I not look beyond the entry level models towards a more professional outfit…?”
The answer to that one is simple and probably covers the most important point I want to make in this post today. If you aren’t already right into your photography and already have your head around the concepts of shutter speeds, apertures, bracketing, ISO speeds etc, then firstly you need to read this post of mine from a few months ago, and secondly you are best advised to save your money on the camera body this time around and instead invest the money you will save in lenses.
While awesome photos have a lot to do with the person taking them, the understanding of good composition and light and the capabilities of the camera body itself, the thing that really makes the magic happen is the lens. It is rare that you will ever have ONE lens that will “do it all” for you in terms of capturing your shots in any one situation, so expect to be shopping around for 4-5 lenses by the time you will have enough to satisfy your needs. My four currently consists of:
- Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM (all-purpose)
- Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III (telephoto)
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II (portraits)
- Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM (wide angle)
There’s no two ways about it these are expensive little buggers, but they will hopefully outlive your camera body due to either wear and tear or upgrading so it makes sense to initially invest in your lenses as opposed to a whiz-bang pro body.
For example (I will use Canon as an example here as they are the cameras that I use and believe in) you could be tossing up between a Canon Rebel XT Digital (350D) and the flashier Canon 30D. First of all, a comparison between the two models shows that besides the obvious price tag difference (the 30D is almost twice the price of the 350D) the 30D has the following feature benefits:
- slightly greater maximum resolution
- greater sensor size
- 9 focal points as opposed to 7 on the Rebel
- greater metering choices
- can shoot many more frames-per-second
- larger LCD screen
These may appear to be minor differences for a doubled price-tag, but the focal point, metering and frames-per-second improvements are major and are primarily responsible for the added bucks.
The point I am trying to make here is that with the $600 or so dollars you would save by going with the Rebel XT (350D), you could get yourself an additional telephoto lens AND a portrait lens. Then in a few years time when you have a bit of a feel for the more technical aspects of the craft, you can splurge all you want on the higher end models.
The only thing to be mindful of, and this is very important, is that once you have started investing in Canon or Nikon lenses (which are not interchangable across the brands), you are more or less stuck with that brand for good unless you have the urge to sell EVERYTHING you have and start from scratch again. So do your homework, check out “dpreview.com” for all the camera technical features, reviews and comparisons with other models, and make a decision that you think will be right for you in the long term. Personally I don’t think you can go wrong with Canon, but there are plenty of Nikon punters out there who will offer their two bucks worth on the matter too I am sure!
Either way, if you have any further questions, leave a comment below and I’ll take care of them for you…