SLR Beginner Kit

What you see is what you get, including photography, displays, and video equipment.

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SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:50 am

Hi guys

I know this is probably a question that has been asked before but I though it was best to start a new thread as I imagine answers change over time!

Here's the deal:

I like taking photos and I want to get better at it. I only have a point-and-shoot at the moment (PowerShot A570IS). I'm finding that it lacks two things that I want to add to my pictures - depth of field (eg background out of focus in portrait shots) and has poor low-light performance.

I mostly want to take photographs of theatre shows and sets and also portrait shots. Obviously it's often a little dim in this situation.

Now I really have very little in the way of budget - maybe 200 GBP or similar. This isn't even close to enough to get something new.

What I was thinking was maybe starting with a decent fast prime lens (say a 50mm f/1.8) which is about £70 or so new but what back to get? I could get a good prosumer second hand 35mm film back (eg Nikon F80) with which to start learning how to produce the results I want... or if i went digital it would have to be a low end model (EOS 300D maybe?) Then I could upgrade bit by bit... but what's the deal with the digital sensor size versus 35mm film size? Avoid film altogether maybe?

Any thoughts on how to get started? Also interested in the Canon/Nikon debate, I like the fact that old Nikon lenses work on new cameras and vice versa...

Hope you guys have lots of opinions

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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:06 am

Film is fun, but it requires a much bigger investment of time and physical space to get a development lab setup. You can sometimes rent time at a local lab, but it still takes up more time than going digital. Of course, digital requires more money to start off, so each has advantages. Most people will find digital easier. If you don't hunger to develop 35mm film, I'd say go digital.

Digital SLRs can be had for decently cheap. Canon's Rebel XS goes for $500US new, and the Canon T2i -- the camera I'd get if I didn't just buy a 7D -- is about $800. Both of those come with lenses, and you can probably find bodies without lenses for a bit cheaper. The T2i is the high end of the low end, and the Rebel XS is as low as you can go, but it's still a very good camera. I've seen great pictures from a friend's Rebel XS, and it'll be oodles better than the P&S you have now.

The sensor size in lower end SLRs are cropped sensors, meaning they're a bit smaller than 35mm film. Picture quality is pretty good from them. Cameras with cropped sensors are called 'crop bodies', or some variation thereof. Higher-end SLRs with sensors that are the same size as 35mm film produce better pictures, but cost some thousands of dollars more -- basically, people who buy 'full frame bodies' are people who are either professionals, or people who have tons of money floating around.

When you see a lens rating, such as 50mm, that is the 35mm focal length. This means that on a standard 35mm body, or a DSLR with a full-frame sensor, the focal length of the lens is 50mm. If you put that same 50mm lens on a cropped body (like a Rebel), the focal length is multiplied by a factor of 1.6, meaning that the 50mm lens operates like a 70mm lens, i.e. it gives you greater zoom.

Lens-wise, you're right on track with the 50mm/1.8. Canon's 50mm/1.8 is about $100US and is a remarkably good lens. A 50mm/1.8 will give you nice depth of field wide open, and since you'll probably get a cropped body, the lens will act like a 70mm, making is great for portraits.

Feel free to ask more stuff here, but you might want to read some of the intro articles on dpreview.com. the articles there are great, but beware the forums. Although you can get lots of good info there, most if not all discussions on DPReview as well as other photo-centric sites devolve into holy wars, even on topics about which batteries to use, let alone what's a good lens or body. Go and learn, but put your filtered glasses on first.

Also heed this warning -- if you start shooting with a 50mm/1.8 or any other fast prime lens, you'll be hooked for life.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:42 am

excession wrote:Interested in the Canon/Nikon debate, I like the fact that old Nikon lenses work on new cameras and vice versa...
There's not as much there as you might think. Old Nikon manual F-mount lenses built from 1959 to the late 70s can usually be modified to work (in fully manual mode) with modern Nikon DSLRs. You can also use those old Nikon manual F-mount lenses (in fully manual mode) with a Canon DSLR with a cheap adapter.

Nikon AI manual-focus auto-aperture lenses from the late 1970s to the late 1980s can be used in aperture-priority auto-exposure mode with the Nikon D300 or more expensive Nikon DSLRs. Mid-range and low-end Nikon DSLRs have to use them in fully-manual shooting mode.

Nikon AF -D auto-focus lenses from the late 1980s to modern day can be used fully with the Nikon D90 or more expensive Nikon DSLRs. Low-end Nikon DSLRs have to use them in manual-focus mode.

Nikon AF-S auto-focus lenses produced in the past couple of decades can be used fully with any Nikon DSLR.


On the Canon side, things are simpler. Any Canon manual-focus FD-mount lens from before 1986 is incompatible with any Canon EOS DSLR or film SLR (unless you use an expensive adapter). Any Canon auto-focus EF-mount lens from 1987 onwards is fully compatible with any Canon EOS or film SLR. EF-S lenses are made for cameras with the smaller APS-C sensor size, and can only be mounted on 1.6x crop factor EOS DSLRs (EOS Digital Rebel, XT, XTi, XS, XSi, T1i, T2i, EOS 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 60D, 7D).


If you're looking for an inexpensive used DSLR, you could do a lot worse than a Rebel XSi (aka EOS 450D in Europe). If you're shopping for a new camera, the Rebel T2i (aka EOS 550D) crams a lot of functionality into an inexpensive package. On the Nikon side, the D90 is a good camera.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:25 am

Another opinion that film doesn't save you money in the long run.

A good friend got a Holga for his birthday from his GF. Two rolls of 120 film came to AUD$75 to develop. I've taken 7,000 pictures in the 6 months I've owned my GF1 - I shudder to think what that would have cost in film, slides and print.

I do think you need more than £200 to get into a system camera, though. At the least, something like the Rebel XSi for around $500 (expect something around £440 before VAT, not up to date with UK prices, I'm afraid).

If you're shooting theatre, you'll want something with good low light/high ISO capabilities, and you might want video down the road. That rules out the lower-end Sony Alphas (A3xx and below, good value, but CCD sensors give poor low light performance). I'm very intrigued by Sony's new A55 and A33 SLTs (Single Lens Transmissive) cameras that have a fixed transmissive mirror, enabling PDAF in video, but they start at $650, so may be out of your budget. The beauty of Alphas is the wide availability of good used (and AF-capable) Minolta lenses so you could end up saving money there, but the same is true of Canons and Nikons. You could also try hunting for a used Nikon D90 around that price.

Of course, any discussion of low light performance is remiss without mentioning the Pentax K-x, which is the king of high ISO APS-C cameras at the moment and only $450. This is probably your best bet. Very small (barely bigger than a Micro Four Thirds camera), great performance, great lens lineup, very good IQ, and the kit lens is pretty good. Downsides are lack of illuminated AF points in viewfinder (this is a deal-killer for some) and the HD video is only 720p. But if you can stretch your budget by £100, you can get one used for around £300. My pick.

Lastly, there are the 4/3 cameras. The Olympus E-620 is only $480, but I can't recommend buying into this system when their low light performance is abysmal (very important for theatre) and the continued existence of the format is in doubt. Also, the Olympus 50/2 lens focuses about as fast as glaciers moving (although it is one of the sharpest lenses ever made), so it's not a good lens for candids.
Last edited by Voldenuit on Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:49 am

PS, If you want to shoot lots of portraits, the classic 35mm focal lengths used by many pros/enthusiasts were the 90mm, 100mm and 135mm. Some liked using 70mm lenses (rare) and there were some that liked shooting portraits with normal lenses (35mm, 40mm , 50mm) or even wides, although the latter two are in the minority.

If you're shopping for a portrait lens for APs-C, divide the above FLs by the crop factor (1.5 for Nikon, Pentax, Sony, 1.6 for Canon) to see what absolute focal length you need to achieve the same effective focal length. Most lenses for system cameras are quoted at their absolute focal length, not their effective focal length (unlike point and shoot cameras, which usually quote their EFL).

So that 50/1.8 EF Canon lens would give you the same field of view and depth of field on an APS-C body as a hypothetical 80/2.5 would on a full frame body (135 film or pro DSLR).

Note also that if you want to take pics of the stage and set, you may want to get a wider lens depending on your vantage point and desired effect.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 1:09 pm

Don't forget the Sony Alpha cameras. The best thing about them is that you can use all the old Minolta AF lenses on them. That gives you a huge variety of lenses available to you at a generally lesser cost than most Nikon/Canon lenses. You can pick up a used Alpha 300 or 350 pretty cheap on eBay.

I'm not looking to start a Sony/Canon/Nikon battle, but if you're just starting out, don't throw Sony out of the mix. I'm quite happy with my Alpha 300.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 1:45 pm

Thanks for all the above :)

What are your wise views on older digital models such as the Nikon D100 or the Canon EOS 20D?

I will have a look into the Sony range.

[edit] I see the Sony cameras have in-body image stabilisation. Is this comparable to the Canon IS and Nikon VR lenses in effectiveness? [/edit]
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 5:49 pm

The Canon x0D series models are targeted at a semi-professional photographer and contain a lot of features that are useful to a dedicated shooter, but might confuse a starter dSLR photographer. The 20D has an 8MP sensor, which will probably limit your ideal print size to whatever the metric equivalent is of an 8x10 inch print or possibly an 11x14 inch if the light was good. Definitely good cameras, but don't fall for the trap of buying a lot of camera body and very little lens. I shot with a Rebel XS (your 450D) up until last week and got a number of spectacular shots simply by focusing (hah!) on the glass and doing a lot of shooting in a wide range of settings.

For your budget a used 350D or 400D (Rebel XT and XTi in the US market) are probably the most attainable. The 400D is about 90% of a 500d but with only a 10MP sensor and it uses CF cards, whereas the 450D and 500D moved over to SD/SDHC. A 50mm f/1.8 is a good prime lens to practice with, but make sure your total purchase includes an 18-55mm or similar wide-angle lens for general photography, as the 50mm's field of view will tend to be too narrow for landscapes and cityscapes when used on a crop-factor body.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:09 pm

excession wrote:Thanks for all the above :)

What are your wise views on older digital models such as the Nikon D100 or the Canon EOS 20D?
You give up a little in sensor performance, but still fine. D70 on the Nikon side would probably be a bit cheaper and uses a newer version of the same sensor with almost the same feature set. D50 is similar with a few fewer controls. I wouldn't look any further back in time on the Nikon side.
excession wrote:I will have a look into the Sony range.

[edit] I see the Sony cameras have in-body image stabilisation. Is this comparable to the Canon IS and Nikon VR lenses in effectiveness? [/edit]
When you need stabilization the most (long focal lengths), in-body doesn't do as well. However, it's better than nothing and you get it with all of your lenses.

The usefulness of stabilization in general varies a lot. It won't stop a moving subject. If you're taking handheld shots in iffy light of stationary objects it can be a boon, although not as effective as a tripod.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:04 pm

Hoser wrote:Don't forget the Sony Alpha cameras. The best thing about them is that you can use all the old Minolta AF lenses on them. That gives you a huge variety of lenses available to you at a generally lesser cost than most Nikon/Canon lenses. You can pick up a used Alpha 300 or 350 pretty cheap on eBay.

I'm not looking to start a Sony/Canon/Nikon battle, but if you're just starting out, don't throw Sony out of the mix. I'm quite happy with my Alpha 300.


I would not recommend a Sony Camera under the A450 for indoor shooting, as their lower range cameras (A3xx and below) use CCD sensors, which are about 2 stops worse than their CMOS counterparts at high ISO. However, the A450 and A500 would be very viable contenders, as they use the same EXMOR CMOS sensor as the Pentax K-x (which also has in-body stabilisation).

I wouldn't get anything as old as a 20D myself - technology has come a long way since then, and even entry level models (barring the A3xx) are better than the ancient 20D at comparable prices.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:53 pm

I think ISO1600 on any DSLR these days is pretty decent. With your budget, spend as little as you can on a 2nd hand 2008-09 camera. Shoot in RAW and coupled with Lightroom 3.0, you reduce luminance noise without destroying too much detail. The 50mm 1.8 is probably the ideal lens for your situation.

You mention theatre shows, sets and portraits. Do you mean during the show itself? If so, low light really isn't as big an issue as you might think, as the sets are pretty well lit during the performance. The theatre might be dark, but what you point your camera at will have spotlights over it.

As for Canon vs Nikon, it's really personal preference for the shape of the body, features and price at the low end for what you want. Both camps offer pretty much the same lenses at the low end. It doesn't really get differenciated until you go towards the high end gear. Nikon D3s super high ISO or a 21mp FF camera in the Canon 5d MkII etc etc available at different price segments.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:08 pm

I believe that there's more difference between Canon and Nikon at the low end than in the middle. The low-end Nikon cameras cannot auto-focus with the older and less expensive AF -D lens designs. The lowest-end D3000 uses a CCD sensor.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:45 pm

etilena wrote:As for Canon vs Nikon, it's really personal preference for the shape of the body, features and price at the low end for what you want. Both camps offer pretty much the same lenses at the low end. It doesn't really get differenciated until you go towards the high end gear. Nikon D3s super high ISO or a 21mp FF camera in the Canon 5d MkII etc etc available at different price segments.


Agreed. In fact, I'd go so far as to say all the major players (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax) have equivalent (or at least comparable) entry-level products at similar price points. All also have their own strengths when considering their higher end gear - Canon has the best USM AF and IS, Nikon has very good primes, Sony has high quality Zeiss lenses and interesting options like AF catadiotropic lenses and defocus control lenses, Pentax of course is famous for its bokeh and has great compact primes at key focal lengths. The one downside of Nikon and Pentax are that because they have the largest flangeback distances, their bodies are the least compatible with legacy and cross-format lenses. Canon's EF mount meanwhile is very compatible with legacy lenses from Canon FD, Nikon F, Olympus OM and Pentax M42 and K. So if you like bargain hunting in flea shops and finding old lenses, the Canon is the safest bet (especially with the huge number of adapters available for EF mount). My beef is that I think Canon has gone overboard with the pixel density of their recent cameras - 18 MP in APS-C is more than I need, or indeed, want. The Sony mount is somewhere in between these extremes, but don't have as many thrid party adapters for the system.

The only major* manufacturer that is significantly worse than everyone else is Olympus and its Four Thirds line, mainly because of its decision to go to a smaller sensor format back in 2001, and on top of that, using sensor technology that is a couple generations behind everyone else. They also suffer from a smaller lens lineup (although with some beauties) and a lack of fast lenses. Unless one has a strong preference for 4/3, it's the one format I recommend all newbies to avoid, as it is the one entry level system with the worst growth potential. Still, used in the right circumstances with the right gear (like the $1500 7-14/4), it can produce some stunning results. Shame that they are stuck with making the wrong gamble back 10 years ago (2x crop sensor vs APS-C). They are very much a niche product, kept alive mostly by brand loyalists.

* I'm discounting Sigma, because although they are the world's largest independent lens manufacturer, they haven't been nearly as successful with their digital bodies.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:01 am

The lens is more important than the camera. Save up for a 50mm 1.4 (fantastic bokeh and great low light performance). Look at used Canon XTi/XSi or Nikon D40/D60/D80.

Test out the camera at a camera store before you buy (The Canon vs. Nikon debate is irrelevant - find what best works for you). (Edit: well, look beyond Canon/Nikon but I would say those are the best options)

Read up on ISO, depth of field, bokeh, etc. on wikipedia (to start).
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:07 am

Voldenuit wrote:18 MP in APS-C is more than I need, or indeed, want. The Sony mount is somewhere in between these extremes, but don't have as many thrid party adapters for the system.


Low light performance is substantially better in the current crop of APS-C cameras. If manufacturers can deliver that and give us 18 MP at the same time then I say that is a win for us. More MP equals more detail - that's OK with me.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:31 am

End User wrote:
Voldenuit wrote:18 MP in APS-C is more than I need, or indeed, want. The Sony mount is somewhere in between these extremes, but don't have as many thrid party adapters for the system.


Low light performance is substantially better in the current crop of APS-C cameras. If manufacturers can deliver that and give us 18 MP at the same time then I say that is a win for us. More MP equals more detail - that's OK with me.


True. They got more light out of the new gapless microlens designs (though not all their 18 MP cameras have the new microlenses AFAIK). I just wonder that if they'd kept the sensor 15 MP + the new microlenses, the combination would have been even more awesome than the current setup.

Right now, the big limiting factor on sharpness (assuming you have a good lens) is actually the anti-aliasing filter over the sensor. Cameras with no AA filter (Leica M9, Sigma Foveons) are sharper than cameras with higher MP count but stronger AA filters. Course, there are tradeoffs involved in weakening the AA filter, but I'm just pointing out that more MP doesn't always mean a sharper or more detailed image.

I'm glad the point and shoot world finally realised that the MP race was just creating cameras with worse IQ. I do think Canon needs to rein it in a little (although their pixel density is very close to m4/3 right now).
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:36 am

Voldenuit wrote:* I'm discounting Sigma, because although they are the world's largest independent lens manufacturer, they haven't been nearly as successful with their digital bodies.

The other reason to discount Sigma is their atrocious format emulation on older lenses, for sure on older EF-mount lenses anyway. Many Sigma EF-mount lenses manufactured for EOS film camera bodies will generate error messages and lock up the camera when used on some EOS digital bodies due to problems in controlling the aperture iris. All Canon EF mount lenses will work on all EOS bodies, film or digital. Since the EF mount dates back to 1987, unconditional backwards compatibility is hugely helpful when trying to assemble a starter lens kit from second-hand photography dealers and pawnbrokers.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:17 am

End User wrote:
Voldenuit wrote:18 MP in APS-C is more than I need, or indeed, want. The Sony mount is somewhere in between these extremes, but don't have as many thrid party adapters for the system.


Low light performance is substantially better in the current crop of APS-C cameras. If manufacturers can deliver that and give us 18 MP at the same time then I say that is a win for us. More MP equals more detail - that's OK with me.

More MP is more detail captured, if your glass (including all optics like the aforementioned AA filter I guess) and technique are up to delivering it. HigherMP cameras put the onus on you if you want to deliver pixel-perfect results. If you don't care about pixel-perfection, then other aspects of sensor performance are more important. In any case, we're only talking about a 20% bump in pixel count.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:54 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:I believe that there's more difference between Canon and Nikon at the low end than in the middle. The low-end Nikon cameras cannot auto-focus with the older and less expensive AF -D lens designs. The lowest-end D3000 uses a CCD sensor.


True. But are these the differences that sway you from one camp to the other?

The D3000 will be superceded by the D3100, which uses a CMOS sensor. The benefits I think are improved battery life and better high ISO capability. However, the D3000 CCD has been used over several generations from the D40x -> D60 -> D3000. If the sensor were crummy against the competition, Nikon would have changed it to something else much sooner. Also looking at images between the Canon 1000D (I'm not sure if it's still the latest entry level Canon), you need to be pixel peeping to see much of any difference.

As for AF-D lenses, the only less expensive one would be the 50mm f/1.8, and due to DX, you'd be better of getting a 35mm f/1.8 DX lens for the same angle of view. There aren't very many other AF-D lenses that are cheap and of good quality. The new lenses are more plasticky, but the optics have been much improved over the years.

I guess my point is, the target market for the low end cameras are those who want to be introduced to the whole DSLR ecosystem. Sony/Olympus/Panasonic have in built image stabilisation for their bodies, but all have the standard kit lenses. 18-55 or 14-45 for micro 4/3. Canon and Nikon's 18-55 have built in IS/VR. If you have legacy lenses, or if there's something in one camp's lineup that entices you (I'd love to see Nikon have more f/4 lenses like Canon, which they seem to be picking up on with their 16-35mm f/4 and 24-120mm f/4) that the other doesn't (100-400mm variable aperture Canon or 200-400mm f/4 for Nikon), there isn't much to stand out at the low end for any camp.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:54 am

mattsteg wrote:
End User wrote:
Voldenuit wrote:18 MP in APS-C is more than I need, or indeed, want. The Sony mount is somewhere in between these extremes, but don't have as many thrid party adapters for the system.


Low light performance is substantially better in the current crop of APS-C cameras. If manufacturers can deliver that and give us 18 MP at the same time then I say that is a win for us. More MP equals more detail - that's OK with me.

More MP is more detail captured, if your glass (including all optics like the aforementioned AA filter I guess) and technique are up to delivering it. HigherMP cameras put the onus on you if you want to deliver pixel-perfect results. If you don't care about pixel-perfection, then other aspects of sensor performance are more important. In any case, we're only talking about a 20% bump in pixel count.


Only up to a point. Smaller photosites mean less SNR and less dynamic range. So more MP can actually lead to less detail being captured - more noise, less color and less luma information. We've seen this all very clearly in the P&S space, where the Fuji F30 was the king of indoor photography for years because it stuck to 6 MP on a (then) largish sensor, and everyone else raced the MP road down to oblivion because of clueless consumer buying habits.

We're nowhere near that saturation limit on most DSLRs yet, but I for one would prefer Canon work on their other IQ aspects than just resolution. One clear drawback from their high MP obsession is that their DSLRs line-bin when recording video, because their CPU/bus/buffer is not fast enough to read out every line at video recording speeds. This means that they sacrifice half the usable sensor area (and hence light and information gathering ability) when shooting video. Even the mighty 5DMkII does this, which is a shame because it would otherwise be the hands down best video DSLR on account of its other strengths (sensor, lens lineup, usability, firmware and industry support).

A good (albeit extreme) example would be when Nikon released the D3X. It had twice the resolution of the D3, and was much sharper, but high ISO performance also noticeably suffered. For a pro camera, the tradeoffs were probably carefully considered (and the D3X is a great camera), but for consumer cameras, I'd say that the average photographer takes photos indoors and in low light more often than they make 11x17 (or larger) prints, and even these sizes are well served by 12-15 MP cameras. So given a choice, I always go for a better high ISO performer than a higher resolution. If I really want sharp, I can always start saving for that Leica M9 + Summicron 50...
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 4:07 am

etilena wrote:
JustAnEngineer wrote:I believe that there's more difference between Canon and Nikon at the low end than in the middle. The low-end Nikon cameras cannot auto-focus with the older and less expensive AF -D lens designs. The lowest-end D3000 uses a CCD sensor.


True. But are these the differences that sway you from one camp to the other?


It does mean that for the OP, who wants to shoot indoors (yes, stages are lit, but the lighting is quite spot-centric, so high ISO and high DR are still important. Also, it's still not very bright by sensor standards), something like the D3000 would probably not be a good solution.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 6:50 am

etilena wrote:As for AF-D lenses, the only less expensive one would be the 50mm f/1.8, and due to DX, you'd be better of getting a 35mm f/1.8 DX lens for the same angle of view. There aren't very many other AF-D lenses that are cheap and of good quality. The new lenses are more plasticky, but the optics have been much improved over the years.
How about the AF 80-200mm f/2.8D, for example?


Back to the OP's choice of brand: If your friends and family all have Nikon gear, you should choose Nikon so that you can borrow lenses and accessories. If they have Canon, choose Canon. If they have Minolta Maxxum or Sony α, choose Sony.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 8:54 am

I agree with JAE on that - pick a system first based on what your friends and family shoot.

Then, figure out what glass you want. Get that.

Then, look at what you've got left over, and get the most body you can with what's left. You can always swap out the body later on.

Film... it does teach you to make each shot count, because of the per-shot cost. However, you don't get instant feedback of what you've done, and the per-shot cost may make you reluctant to shoot at all. If you do go film, pick your system carefully, to make sure that you get a camera that's compatible with any lenses you get for a future digital SLR.

(If you go Canon, make sure it's EF mount (IIRC, all EF mount cameras say EOS on them,) if you go Nikon, you want at least AI lenses (1977 and later) or lenses that have been converted to AI - and then if you get any autofocus lenses, AF-I and AF-S if you plan on going to a low-end Nikon DSLR. If you go Minolta, stick with AF stuff. If you go Pentax, make sure the lenses supports auto-aperture, unless you want to manually set it all the time, and are K mount. This way, when you decide you're sick of film, your lenses will all work perfectly on a digital.)

All of that said, I've started out with film, and wish I hadn't. (There is a time and a place for a film SLR, and I own two, but if you're used to digital, film will be frustrating.) AND I'm running a 35-80 f/4-5.6 II kit lens on my Canon EOS Rebel G. (But, the whole thing was $50. And, even though it's a mediocre lens, I can always get a used Digital Rebel (300D) for $150 or so, mount that 35-80 f/4-5.6 II on it, and have a decent camera that'll blow away any point-and-shoot. And, almost all of my friends shoot Canon, so I can upgrade to their old equipment.)

Another thing with starting out... if you never plan to progress to anything larger than a 1.6x sensor, you might want to start on digital for another reason. EF-S (on Canon) and DT (on Minolta/Sony) lenses aren't compatible with full-frame cameras, and DX (on Nikon) lenses will suffer from vignetting on full-frame cameras. Those lenses will be smaller, lighter, and cheaper for a given focal length than full-frame lenses (I don't believe Sony does full-frame, but the Canon 5D and 1Ds lines are full-frame, and the 1D is 1.3x. Also, if you're looking at older models, the 10D and all older models will not accept an EF-S lens, despite the 1.6x sensor (identical to the one in the 300D, which was where EF-S debuted.) For Nikon, the D3 and D700 lines are full-frame, everything else is DX. Also, on Minolta/Sony, not sure if "incompatible" means it won't mount, or it'll suffer from vignetting.)

AUD$75 to develop two rolls of 120 film, though? That sounds like your friend got ripped off.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:45 pm

bhtooefr wrote:I don't believe Sony does full-frame.


The Alpha 850 and 900 are full frame, as are the Zeiss-branded lenses.

Interestingly, Pentax doesn't make any FF cameras, but they do make FF lenses (FA).
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Tue Sep 07, 2010 5:01 am

Well, they did make full-frame cameras (and so did Minolta - I don't pay much attention to Sony's lineup due to my boycotting of them (I still haven't gotten over the rootkit,) so I didn't know about those.) It's just that they weren't digital. ;)
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Wed Sep 08, 2010 1:36 am

excession wrote:Hi guys
What I was thinking was maybe starting with a decent fast prime lens (say a 50mm f/1.8) which is about £70 or so new but what back to get? I could get a good prosumer second hand 35mm film back (eg Nikon F80) with which to start learning how to produce the results I want... or if i went digital it would have to be a low end model (EOS 300D maybe?) Then I could upgrade bit by bit... but what's the deal with the digital sensor size versus 35mm film size? Avoid film altogether maybe?

Any thoughts on how to get started? Also interested in the Canon/Nikon debate, I like the fact that old Nikon lenses work on new cameras and vice versa...

Hope you guys have lots of opinions

J


You can get a Pentax K1000 (film camera) with a 50mm f2 for half that cost, £35. The Pentax K-x, as mentioned earlier, with its great high ISO performance, sounds right up your alley, but the price of it will be around 400 GBP. However, this model is being replaced by the Pentax K-r (it adds, among other things, the AF points in the viewfinder) in October, so prices may be dropping and you may also see an increase of used K-x's on the market.

Personally I'm not really wild about 50mm on my DSLR. On my film camera I love it, but on DSLR I just don't care for the field of view. You may want to just get a DSLR with the kit lens (18-55mm) and figure out your needs from there.

Digital sensor size vs 35mm film size...

The size of the sensor on a digital camera is often compared to the size of 35mm film. You've probably seen a 35mm negative. Full frame DSLRs have sensors that are equal in size to a 35mm negative (36mm x 24mm). Cropped sensors have sensors that are smaller than 36mm x 24mm.

This link has more info and an image that shows the field of view of cropped sensors compared to full frame.

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/crop-factor.htm

One thing I'd like to clarify that was touched upon earlier:

The focal length of any given lens at any focal length is a constant. It never changes. In other words, my 50mm on my old Pentax 35mm is still a 50mm on my cropped sensor Pentax DSLR. However, the field of view on the DSLR is narrower. This isn't because the focal length changed, but that the area of the sensor is smaller than the 35mm.

Voldenuit wrote:The one downside of Nikon and Pentax are that because they have the largest flangeback distances, their bodies are the least compatible with legacy and cross-format lenses. Canon's EF mount meanwhile is very compatible with legacy lenses from Canon FD, Nikon F, Olympus OM and Pentax M42 and K. So if you like bargain hunting in flea shops and finding old lenses, the Canon is the safest bet (especially with the huge number of adapters available for EF mount). My beef is that I think Canon has gone overboard with the pixel density of their recent cameras - 18 MP in APS-C is more than I need, or indeed, want. The Sony mount is somewhere in between these extremes, but don't have as many thrid party adapters for the system.


I've no idea about cross-format lenses, but Pentax certainly doesn't lack for compatibility with legacy lenses. Pentax DSLRs are compatible with every Pentax K mount lens straight out of the box. This means, straight out of the box Pentax is compatible with every lens they produced since 1975. With a simple M42 adapter you can extend this compatibility to all their M42 lenses with no issues. I use my 40 year old M42 Pentax lenses on both my equally old Pentax SLR and my modern Pentax DSLR.
Last edited by wasser on Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Wed Sep 08, 2010 1:50 am

bhtooefr wrote:I still haven't gotten over the rootkit,) so I didn't know about those.


Yeah, but from a pure product point of view, if I were going to start building an SLR system from scratch, the Alpha line would probably be the most attractive to me right now.

Their 70-200/2.8 is very good, the 135/2.8 (T4.5) with defocus control is awesome for portraits (albeit Nikon has one too in 85mm FL), and if you're going on safari, their 500/8 mirror lens with AF is the size and weight of a 200mm prime (as long as you can live with funky catadiotropic highlights) - and only $700! They're also not neglected at the wide angle end with a very good 24mm prime (sadly, you're gonna need a FF body to take advantage of that FL).

Don't get me wrong, they're not in any meaningful way significantly ahead of Canikon, but if there's anyone that's willing and able to do something bold and daring, it's Sony, and I have to respect that. The A55 is just the latest evidence of their commitment to innovation, even if it's not perfect (and no camera is).

Have Sony-BMG learned their lesson from the rootkit fiasco? I'm willing to bet 'NO', but their other divisions do good work (and some of the best kit to get around DRM - burners, etc - have been Sonys).
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:31 am

wasser wrote:I've no idea about cross-format lenses, but Pentax certainly doesn't lack for compatibility with legacy lenses. Pentax DSLRs are compatible with every Pentax K mount lens straight out of the box. This means, straight out of the box Pentax is compatible with every lens they produced since 1975. With a simple M42 adapter you can extend this compatibility to all their M42 lenses with no issues. I use my 40 year old M42 Pentax lenses on both my equally old Pentax SLR and my modern Pentax DSLR.
I can back that up. I have been passed down a set of film lenses from the late 70's (50mm f/1.8, 18mm f/1.7, 80-200 f/4.5) that were originally used on a Pentax MX, then on an ME-Super, that still work on my K100D and K-7. Downside is mostly some difficulty quickly focusing without split focus, but for controlled shots (i.e. tripod, non-moving subject), it's doable.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:37 am

mortifiedPenguin wrote:
wasser wrote:I've no idea about cross-format lenses, but Pentax certainly doesn't lack for compatibility with legacy lenses. Pentax DSLRs are compatible with every Pentax K mount lens straight out of the box. This means, straight out of the box Pentax is compatible with every lens they produced since 1975. With a simple M42 adapter you can extend this compatibility to all their M42 lenses with no issues. I use my 40 year old M42 Pentax lenses on both my equally old Pentax SLR and my modern Pentax DSLR.
I can back that up. I have been passed down a set of film lenses from the late 70's (50mm f/1.8, 18mm f/1.7, 80-200 f/4.5) that were originally used on a Pentax MX, then on an ME-Super, that still work on my K100D and K-7. Downside is mostly some difficulty quickly focusing without split focus, but for controlled shots (i.e. tripod, non-moving subject), it's doable.


I also use a M42 lens on my GF1, in this case, an Asahi Optical Co. Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50/1.4. Great lens, and definitely able to keep up with my Leica G macro lens. Although I sometimes have to stop down to keep the highlights and ghosting under control.
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Re: SLR Beginner Kit

Postposted on Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:54 am

Oh, forgot to mention. All of mine are K-mount, so no screw adapters.
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