Heard on the radio:
Want a camera that is easy to use and takes good photos?
My first thought: No. Because it’s not the camera that makes the photo good, you do.
Good photos record a worthwhile experience; and those experiences are earned, not taken.
Look this way.
Morgan’s Apartment, South of Market, San Francisco, California
Leica M8, Zeiss Biogon 2.8/25ZM
1/16sec, ISO320, 25mm (33mm)
There are few small cameras harder to use (and slower) than a Leica.
“i like to poke things with my finger. tummies, ears and noses mostly. oh, and jello. jello is fun to poke. red jello. no, green.”
—Cyan. Always causing trouble.
Recently, some friends asked me what dSLR to purchase if they want to make movies with it. They .
Currently, if you are a beginner photographer and want a dSLR with video capability, the one I suggest is the Nikon D3100, ($700, Amazon, DPReview) which I have already written about earlier.
Nikon calls movie taking “D-movie.” It is currently the cheapest dSLR that can do video mode. It’s only one of three dSLRs that can do autofocus while taking video mode. This strikes me as the best balance between learning and using an entry level dSLR and being to take film-like movies. I’ll recommend some others below, but first I’d like to talk about the why and what of SLR movie-making (with the caveat that I’m a photographer, not a filmographer).Continue reading about dSLR movie-making after the jump
(Article continued from part 6)
Recall the story of the enthusiast and the entry-level dSLR photographers trading cameras. While I admonished against the danger of buying too much of a dSLR, I glossed the obvious problem: the entry-level photographers had a problem shooting the professional dSLR. How do you get there from here?
The answer is simple: learning.
Inside every dSLR is a complex computer and that computer makes decisions for you. This is true in both the entry and pro dSLRs: the difference is the entry-level cameras are configured to make more decisions for you. The trick is to realize that the entry-level cameras give you access to the pro-level settings, but you have to be willing to leave the safety of automation in guides, scenes, and McDonald’s-style graphical menus.
I’m not a snob. and the computer makes some pretty smart decisions. It’s just unless you are bumping your head against the decisions it makes, you’re limiting yourself in the sort of photography you can do.
Marie at The Corner
The Corner, Mission, San Francisco, California
Nikon D3, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, SB-800
1/20sec @ f/3.5 iso3200, 50mm
This series had an inside joke. While it is a discussion of dSLR cameras, every photo was supposed to be taken with a non dSLR camera. Unfortunately, .
In this case, you can’t take this photo with the scene modes in your dSLR. Yes, the “night portrait” mode might get you close, but you’d need to pump the ISO even further, even more, , and
If you mouseover the image, you’ll see the original. My camera broke and decided to only record in TIFF that day, so I couldn’t have even depended on the RAW mode safety net for dynamic range and white balance recovery.
Even if we restrict ourselves to discussion of , we are still left with setting shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These three have a complementary relationship and are associated with different tradeoffs. Scene modes in your camera make the decision for you, but unless you know what that decision is and when it is wrong, you can’t really grow as a photographer.
A plethora of learning materials exist out there. Here are a few of the ones I’ll be mentioning in this article.
Continue reading about books, videos, and classes after the jump
(Article continued from part 4)
The big C and the Big N
The Nikon D3000 ($450 from Adorama, B&H, Amazon)
The Canon EOS Rebel XS (1000D) ($500 from Adorama, B&H, Amazon)
The Nikon D5000 ($690 from Adorama, B&H Amazon)
The Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D) ($770 from Adorama, B&H, Amazon)
The Canon EOS Rebel T2i (550D) ($900 from Adorama, Amazon)
The Canon 1000D and Canon 500D
The Nikon D5000 and Nikon D3000
Even though I’ve tried to encourage you to buy a Pentax, Sony, or Olympus, I know most of you are going to be going to buy a CaNikon anyway. *sigh*
First off, debating between Canon and Nikon is like getting into a Mac vs. PC flame war. And like modern day Macs and Windows PCs they share more in common with each other than differences. Let’s disclose our biases up front: I’m a Nikon guy. If you’re going to buy Canon the only redeeming thing about me is that I’ve probably sold as many Canon cameras to friends as Nikons.
Continue reading about About entry level Canons and Nikons and what camera I purchased after the jump
(Article continued from part 3)
Unlike in the article four years ago, I’ll be covering specific models. I’ll cover them in the reverse order to my original article, because I felt I gave the less popular brands a short shrift last time.
The Pentax K-x ($550 from Adorama, B&H, Amazon)
The Pentax K-x is available .
Four years ago, I stated that Pentax makes shooter-centric cameras at a great value. In fact, I mentioned that Pentax was the first entry in this dSLR price category, and this was in line with Pentax’s history: to bring those people on a budget a quality camera.
Continue reading about Pentax, Sony and Olympus entry dSLRs after the jump
(Article continued from part 2)
I wrote an article about purchasing an entry dSLR four years ago. is how much of it has stood the test of time—only small details and features have changed: Nikon autofocus now has more points than Canon (as well as better coverage and ); Olympus no longer is the only company with Live View (even does it), nor the only company with dust shake (all the others, starting with Canon, now offer it); Sony is not the only company with sensor-shift image stabilization.
Still, the essence is still true: Canon and Nikon remain among the last three holdouts adamantly against sensor-based image stabilization. Canon settings are still bulletproof; Nikon still is light focused: with the best autoexposure system and the best high ISO performance. Olympus and Panasonic are still , Sony is , and Pentax is still putting photographic value first.
Nikon D5000 w/AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G
South of Market
, San Francisco, California
Olympus E-P2, M.ZUIKO Digital ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6
1/6sec @ ƒ5.2, iso 800, 36mm (72mm)
It’s still best to forego the kit and stick a fast-wide-cheap prime on your camera. This Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens is not cheap, but Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens is the 50mm equivalent for Nikon APS-C and costs about the same as a kit lens. I’ll talk about lenses in a later section.
The rounded right side of the camera is actually an extremely well thought out way for resting smaller these smaller cameras in your palm. It’s a tiny detail, I’ve not seen in the other Nikon models, but it’s just one of the reasons why people rave about Nikon small body dSLR ergonomics.
The advice hasn’t changed: When you buy a first dSLR, it is still the best to forgo the kit lens and plaster on a cheap, fast prime. Lenses still get more expensive, and bodies still get cheaper. Every manufacturer makes a camera for your budget with a negligible price difference…
And the problem is all the cameras are still too good.
In fact, the most significant difference from four years ago is only that the “entry level dSLR” has dropped below $700 for an entire kit, (in addition to) the $1000 “body-only” category—redefining the latter as an “enthusiast” category. Not only that, in many cases, manufacturers have issued multiple models in this sub $700 category, all offering at least one full kit below $550. Three of these sell kits for less than a Canon G11 pocket camera!
Continue reading about The mistake not mentioned after the jump
(Article continued from part 1)
Bigger in photography means, faster, better, stronger (and more expensive).
Many people will say the only advantage of a digital SLR is that it gives you the flexibility of interchangeable lenses.
I think that’s bullshit.
If it was true, then the days of the dSLR are surely numbered—EVIL has arrived. EVIL, for those of you who don’t know, is an acronym so new, . EVIL stands for “electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens” and they are a new class of camera I’ll talk about another time. Suffice it to say, EVIL will not replace SLR photography—in the same manner that APS-C has not yet dethroned 35mm (much to my surprise). Besides, a lesser-performing EVIL camera costs nearly twice as much as the kits in this article.
I believe the biggest advantage can be found in its name: Single-Lens Reflex.
In order to have a single-lens design, in order to house a reflex mirror, the dSLR has to be big—and bigger, in this case, means faster, better, stronger (and more expensive).
Marie the shooter
, Pacific Heights
, San Francisco, California
Leica M8, Carl-Zeiss Biogon 2,8/25 ZM T*
1/45sec @ ƒ2.8, ISO160, 25mm (34mm)
This portrait of Marie and her new Nikon D5000 entry dSLR kit was taken by an APS-H camera, which sits between APS-C and “full frame” in size. Even though this is taken with , you can easily see she really pops from the background.
From your art classes, you may have learned that perspective helps a 2D image show the 3D dimensionality. In photography, another tool, in addition to perspective, is focus via depth-of-field. Focus helps draw the eye, through the visual clutter, to the subject. This tool is nearly non-existent in a pocket digital.
By the way, the lens used in this photo —the parts that are in focus are really quite sharp. Computed depth-of-field is about half a foot (20cm).
Continue reading about Sometimes bigger is better after the jump
Yesterday, a friend was interested in purchasing a dSLR at Costco and asked me which he should buy: a Nikon or a Canon. I get asked that a lot.
Costco, South of Market
, San Francisco, California
Olympus E-P2, Lumix G Vario HD 1:4.0-5.8/14-140 ASPH. Mega O.I.S.
1/60sec @ ƒ4, ISO250, 14mm (28mm)
From left to right: The Nikon D3000, the Nikon D5000, and the Canon 500D (called the Rebel T1i in the U.S.).
The higher pricing is because Costco usually sells supersets in order to be above the manufacturer minimum advertised price but still . For instance, the Nikon D5000 kit contains not only the 18-55mm VR lens, but also the 55-200mm VR lens, a camera bag, two Nikon school DVDs, a book, and an SD card.
The Canon 500D is the most expensive of the trio because Canon and Nikon avoid competing head-to-head by interleaving price and features in models. The 500D sits between the Nikon D5000 and the enthusiast Nikon D90. The 1000D (a.k.a. Rebel XS) was introduced to compete between the Nikon D3000 and Nikon D5000 price points and wasn’t for sale the day I took this photo. (Update: Last time I was at Costco, the Canon 1000D, Nikon D5000, and Canon 500D were for sale. During the writing of this series, Canon introduced the 550D)
“Uhh, the Nikon D3000.”
“Well that’s because they .”
“Yeah, I noticed that. Why was that?”
“Partly because the Canon 1000D is old. Everyone expects it to be updated.”
“It’ll be updated?”
“Most likely if Canon wants to sell any cameras. It’s been a year and a half, which is a long time to have a camera in that category. The D3000 just came out.”
“You know what camera I really like? The Nikon D5000. In fact, I ordered one the other day. It’s arriving this evening.”
Nikon D5000 kit
South of Market, San Francisco, California
Olympus E-P2, M.ZUIKO Digital ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6
1/60sec @ ƒ3.5, iso 12500, 14mm (28mm)
Actually, this was purchased for Marie, not myself.
It sounds strange that someone who owns a Nikon D70IR, Nikon D200, and a Nikon D3 would purchase an entry level Nikon dSLR. Over the next week, I’ll explain why by going over the Why, What, How, Where and When of a good first dSLR purchase.
And don’t worry. While my experience is with Nikon, I won’t give the short shrift to the other brands.
Table of contents
- Why dSLR?: Why a dSLR produces better images than a pocket digital
- What dSLR?: Don’t buy a dSLR that is too much dSLR for you
- What dSLR? (2): The Pentax, Sony, and Olympus dSLRs and about entry dSLRs compact size
- How DSLR?: The Canon and Nikon dSLRs, a big spreadsheet, return policies, and what I bought
- Where dSLR?: About first lenses and things to buy with your first dSLR purchase
- When dSLR?: About books, videos, and classes
(Article continued in part 2)
So often people ask what digital camera they should buy. That’s a tough question since invariably people suggest the camera they own. I tell people:
The best camera to have is the one you have on you.
By this, I mean, the best camera to purchase is the one that you’ll carry with you. If that means, you bought it because it “looks cute,” then go with it! If cute means you’ll carry the camera around and use it, then you’ll take far better photographs then most people.
I was thinking last night of my friend, Bill Tani’s, first ever blog post. In it, he mentions that real designers do not use the word “Photoshop” as a verb.
Since I’m not a real designer, that’s okay. But what he says makes sense. It is natural but naïve to think that talent can be found in tools. A real artist knows that in the end, Photoshop is just a tool, and a tool is just a conduit of the creative expression you find inside yourself.
After all, does a photographer say, I “Nikoned” that photograph?
” by linoleum jet
Someone might say that “It’s easy for you to say, you shoot a legendarily (expensive) camera. But did Julie “Canon” this portrait of me? Am I “Leica”ing a photo of her?
Parting shot, xkcd-style.