Getting started with a DSLR

Photography knowledge exchange.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
Paul White
Posts: 2288
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:52 pm
Location: Amarillo, Texas

Getting started with a DSLR

Post by Paul White » July 28th, 2010, 7:37 am

I'm running into technical limitations with my camera at this point; it can't seem to focus on very small things very close to the lens (macro shots of spiders for instance), and I'm running into issues trying to take long range shots of small to mid sized animals (think birds, cnemmies and the like). It's led me to looking at DSLR's with interchangable lenses. But I've never used anything remotely like them.
There's no longer a good camera store in Amarillo so I don't have a place to go fiddle with different cameras (beyond point and shoots) so I'm looking for advice online for decent lenses and body.
I'm pretty much interested in macros (for inverts and small herps) and being able to get long distance shots of wary hard to approach animals. I'd still have my point and shoot for general stuff.
How hard is it to change lenses in the field? Would I pretty much have to decide which type of shooting I was going for when I set out, or can I swap lenses fairly easily?
I've usually been pretty happy with Canon and Nikon point and shoots but I don't know if that translates into the DSLR market. but I've liked their ergonomics and controls fairly well (slightly more fond of cannon's than nikons).

User avatar
justinm
Posts: 3430
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:26 am
Location: Illinois
Contact:

Re: Getting started with a DSLR

Post by justinm » July 28th, 2010, 6:34 pm

I would honestly suggest you look into what are called prosumer cameras. The kind that have the full range of focal lengths built into them. They're much easier to use and produce high quality images. Having said that I love my DSLR.

User avatar
Mike Waters
Posts: 835
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:37 am
Location: Bakersfield CA

Re: Getting started with a DSLR

Post by Mike Waters » July 28th, 2010, 6:42 pm

whatever brand you decide is fine. Try and find a used body online to get you started. You can find a canon 30D for around 500 dollars. The real money is in the lenses. Check out fredmiranda.com they have a buy and sell forum as well as equipment reviews. Changing lenses in the field is no problem

User avatar
chrish
Posts: 3298
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Location: San Antonio, TX
Contact:

Re: Getting started with a DSLR

Post by chrish » July 29th, 2010, 3:30 pm

I would go into a store like Best Buy. They usually stock a variety of DSLRs and you can handle them there. There is one in Amarillo IIFRC, although it has been years since I've been up there.

The thing you want to do is figure out what settings you might want to change on your camera. For me, for example, I need to access -
- shooting mode (although I shoot 99% of the time in aperture priority)
- exposure compensation
- flash mode (wireless, TTL, etc)
- flash exposure compensation
- Autofocus/manual focus
- ISO

So when looking at a camera, I look to see how easy it is to access the things I want (I hate things that require me to hold down one button while turning a dial or things that are buried deep in a system of menus). Pick up the different cameras and get sense for the feel.

Read some unbiased (as much as possible) reviews looking for these issues and looking issues like how noisy the output is at higher ISOs. Having a camera where you can comfortably shoot at ISO 800 is a nice feature. Some DSLRs can, some can't. Generally CMOS DSLRs have better performance in this regard, but not always. DPReview usually has good tests of image quality and shows you comparisons between different camera models/brands.

As for buying, I would buy online. You can save serious money buying from a REPUTABLE online retailer. I only buy from bhphotovideo.com anymore, but Adorama photo is pretty reliable. There are a bunch of online sellers that are nothing short of crooks. (Look on resellerratings.com for reviews of online merchants).

As for lenses, I think you might want to look at a good short macro zoom like the Sigma 17-70 DC. This lens is a much better lens than the lenses that come on most camera bodies and has pretty good macro performance. Frankly its 1:2 total magnification is plenty for almost any herp photography (even insect photography).

For a longer lens.....now you are getting into some money. A cheap long lens is never worth the money spent. If I was restricted to one long lens, it would be a 300 f/4 pro lens. Almost every manufacturer makes one of these, but they usually run around a little over $1K. They are worth it, but expensive.
If you don't want to shell out the $1K for a fixed 300 f/4, there are some respectable 100-300 zooms and some 70-300 lenses are ok. You have do some research and look at some tests online. Don't just rely on one online report. I have bought some very good 100-300 zoom lenses on ebay for around $200, but you have to know what you are buying.
A 100-400 lens as long as it isn't too cheap is a good alternative as well. There are some good ones, and some junk. You get what you pay for, particulary in long lenses.

Chris

Paul White
Posts: 2288
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:52 pm
Location: Amarillo, Texas

Re: Getting started with a DSLR

Post by Paul White » July 30th, 2010, 2:53 pm

I went there a few days ago; they had a canon dslr and that was it. I'd just like to handle multiple types before I buy too see how they feel.
and i'd love to spend 1k plus for the lens but I just flat don't have it right now. and won't for a while. Oh well.

Post Reply