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Thread: My take on DSLR minefield

  1. #1
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    My take on DSLR minefield

    Hello Ubunters,

    Across the wonderful interweb there is alot of discussion about what laptop is best, what mp3 player is best and what DSLR is best. There is no best of course, but alot of people seem to insist that there is.

    I wrote a quick guide for a friend that teaches photography for the first year students and newbies to photography. It might be useful for some people on these forums if they are considering a DSLR.

    Its my opinion, based on 25 years experience of photography. Feel free to discuss and argue. In fact, a discussion would be fun.

    Hope its of use.

    Canon v Nikon

    Only idiots argue about this. Both companies make great cameras, its down to personal preference. In Japan and the USA, Nikon is the camera of choice for many pro's, Europe and rest of the world seem to prefer Canon. Canon are better at marketing their cameras than Nikon are, and are more aggressive about it. Nikon don't seem to care about marketing. The choice is yours about which you buy. Try both out see what you like. Both will take great pictures. If you ever read someone advocate one camera over another (Rebel XTi pwns D80 etc) they are talking crap. Nikons camera business is heavily tilted at professionals whilst Canon are more firmly focused on the serious enthusiast. Take your pick, but dont let anyone else decide for you. Your wants and needs are what matters.

    Pentax, Olympus and the rest

    Sony, Olympus and Pentax DSLRs are all excellent. Samsung DSLRs are rebadged Pentax's and Sony DSLRs are all Minolta rebadges. Minolta has moved out of the consumer and pro camera market now, and Sony bought their business assets out. Olympus lenses are superb. Any DSLR made by Pentax or Olympus will generally be a quality product. Olympus film compacts are stunning.

    Having a great camera will enable me to take great shots

    No. They make taking great shots easier. That's all. If you have no idea about light, composition and framing, you will still take crap shots however expensive and great your DSLR is. I know, I've met enough camera chumps to see this first hand.
    I can take a great shot on any camera, because I've spent 25 years taking pictures. Its just harder on a mobile phone camera to get a great shot than it is on a Nikon D80. All cameras are capable of great shots if the person holding it is as well. Another way of putting it is this: could you play like Jimi Hendrix if you were given Jimi's guitar? Answer no. Could Jimi play beautifully on a thrift store plank of wood electric guitar. Yes.

    Talent/ability/practice always wins over equipment.

    Ingredients for a great shot:
    Your eyes
    Your brain
    Your imagination

    Thats it. The camera is just the tool to make that happen. Camera's dont take great shots, people do. Want proof of this? Take your camera, switch it on and leave it on a table. Go out for the day and when you come back, check out how many great shots your camera took while you were out. My guess is none.

    More megapixels means better quality images

    The two are not even remotely related yet everyone is obssessed with megapixels. The Nikon D40 is 6 megapixels. It takes better quality shots than the 10 megapixel Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400 in Europe). I know it does because I have both and have compared like to like, shot for shot. The difference? Two main things:

    1) The lens - The nikon had a better lens on it- its 18-55mm Nikkor is a superior lens to the Canons 18-55mm.
    2) Nikon's light metering is superior to Canons. Even Canon have admitted this.

    The lens is 90% of a camera. Put a crap lens on an SLR you'll have a crap image, regardless of megapixels. The Canon had a crap lens, so the shots weren't as good. It has nothing really to do with the relative merits of each camera body. It was purely a matter of glass.

    Another important part of a great image, apart from metering, is the algorithm used to calcuate the RAW/Jpeg. This has far more influence on image quality than the amount of megapixels a CCD/CMOS has.

    Megapixels come into play only when you aggressively crop or blow up a print. Otherwise, they are meaningless. I have printed to A4 size, images taken at 4, 6, 10 and 12 megapixels and have not been able to distinguish any difference between them. How many people print to sizes larger than A4? Not many. I'm a serious photogragher and A4 is just about my limit print size wise. Therefore you only need 4 megapixels. That's right - 4.
    Megapixels are meaningless as a measurement of a camera's image quality, period.

    Cheap DSLR v Expensive DSLR

    I'll use Nikon for this example, as I shoot Nikon and know their range well.

    A Nikon D40 can be picked up for about £200. A Nikon D3 can be picked up for about £3,000. Whats the difference in terms of image quality? The answer in real terms is... not as much as you think.
    At ISO 100-800 there is no real difference in image quality between the two camera's - at higher ISO settings things change dramatically. Shooting at 6400 ISO, the D3 doesnt look any different than if it were at 400 ISO.
    The D40 shoots at 3 frames a second. The D3 shoots at 9 frames a second, and can be pushed to 10.
    The D3 will meter every F-Mount lens Nikon have ever made, and autofocus all that can be autofocused.
    The D40 can mount every F-Mount lens nikon have ever made, but will only autofucus AF-S lenses and will meter very few older lenses, if any.
    And thats what you pay the extra money for - better performance at high ISO settings, better lens compatibility and more FPS. These cost alot to implement. Professionals need these features, hobbyists dont. Buy a cheaper camera.
    Consumer, Pro-sumer, Professional DSLR
    No such thing. An SLR/DSLR is pro kit whatever market it is aimed at. A "consumer" SLR already has more technical gubbins and settings and choices than 90% of hobbyists would ordinarily need. The question you should really be asking yourself is, Do I Actually Need an SLR? The answer for most people will be no.

    I can recover a bad shot in Photoshop/LightRoom

    No you can't.

    Ever seen those blogs on the internet that say things like "the top 100 best photoshop techniques for getting amazing results with your pictures..."? There are thousands and most are very very useful. But not one shot they show to demonstrate the effect under discussion, is a crap one. They are all well composed, well lit, well framed shots. As the old saying goes, you cant make a silk purse from a pig's ear.
    I was asked to take a class on a friends photography course last year, so I took two shots of the same person - one badly composed, framed and shot, one done really well. I asked the students to go into photoshop and make them both look great. All twenty students struggled to get a decent result with the bad shot. Photoshop skills cannot make up for poor photography skills. Get it right in the camera viewfinder, not on photoshop afterwards. Photoshop should be nip/tuck for a shot, not massive reconstructive surgery.

    My compact camera is 8.1 megapixels and (insertname) DSLR is only 6. My compact is better!


    No, see megapixels above.

    No compact camera can compete with an SLR in terms of lens quality. As lenses are 90% of a camera we've reached the end of that argument.

    Bodies matter, lenses dont

    No.

    I still have lenses I bought back in the mid 80's. The body I used with that lens originally is long gone. Photographers take lens with them from body to body. Lens stay around.
    When budgetting for a DSLR and lens, spend the most money on the lens. Get the best quality lens you can afford. A cheap body with a good quality lens will take better shots than an expensive body with a low quality lens. This is an indisputable fact. Do not listen to salesmen.

    Lenses matter. Bodies don't.

    Film is dead

    Is vinyl now that we have mp3? No. Why? becuase it works and gives great results. Same with film.
    You can buy a 1952 Rolleiflex medium format camera for £40 on Ebay. It takes great shots.
    HDR is not the be all and end all. Digital is easier, not better than film. Spend an afternoon with a roll of film and an enlarger and you'll experience image creation on a level you simply couldnt acheive by downloading the contents of your SD card into lightroom. And you'll more about photography by doing that than you would in a lifetime of Photoshop seminars.
    Easier isnt always better.

    Finally:

    Don't pay too much attention to reviews. They distort rather than inform. Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Pentax have collectively far too much experience and expertise ever to make consistently crap cameras. They all produce quality. Choices between then come down to how much the person buying them likes them, not on their technical abilities. All four companies make cameras that, if used by someone who knows how to use them, will take great shots. Reviewers need to fill column space with bumph to justify their salaries. Take what they say with a large pinch of salt.

    Happy SLR hunting.

  2. #2
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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

    Nice reading there.
    One point you forgot to mention in relation to Compacts & D-SLR's, is the sensor size. Its much larger in D-SLR's.
    derby7
    ? who is Tom Bombadil ?

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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

    Quote Originally Posted by derby007 View Post
    Nice reading there.
    One point you forgot to mention in relation to Compacts & D-SLR's, is the sensor size. Its much larger in D-SLR's.
    Absolutely right, and I did consider mentioning this, but at the end of the day, the lens has more effect on image quality than the sensor, although the size of the sensor is a factor.

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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

    good info. except that i have to disagree and say that vinyl and film are both dead, at least for the masses. i don't know of a single person that would buy either an lp or a film camera.

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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

    Quote Originally Posted by timcredible View Post
    good info. except that i have to disagree and say that vinyl and film are both dead, at least for the masses. i don't know of a single person that would buy either an lp or a film camera.
    I would say that film/vinyl have found their specialist areas now. For the masses, convenience will always win. But top DJ's still spin vinyl, and top photographers still shoot film. There is a myth that as soon as something "better" comes out, it makes the previous obsolete. I don't think that is true.

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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

    Quote Originally Posted by timcredible View Post
    i don't know of a single person that would buy either an lp or a film camera.
    I'm continaully on the lookout for an old Leica or maybe even a Oly M4 or something like that. So now you know of at least one person and there are may more out ther.

    As for the article by the OP I think it is excellent, things are nicely summed up into a nutshell. I would like to reiterate how important your lenses are and this is something most people skimp on out of ignorance.

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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

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    Last edited by regomodo; January 23rd, 2010 at 09:22 PM.
    Is this for enhancing your E-peen?

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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

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    Last edited by regomodo; January 23rd, 2010 at 09:22 PM.
    Is this for enhancing your E-peen?

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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

    I just bought my Sony DSLR-A350X and I just wanted to say that I love SONY. It's awesome
    Don't curse the dark, light up a candle!

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    Re: My take on DSLR minefield

    Quote Originally Posted by timcredible View Post
    good info. except that i have to disagree and say that vinyl and film are both dead, at least for the masses. i don't know of a single person that would buy either an lp or a film camera.
    Then you should get out more! I use a digital camera for most of my photography, but I also own a Pentax SF7, a film-using SLR, which I bought about 2 years ago. I don't use it much, but I use it occasionally. I bought it because I own several Pentax lenses. (My digital camera is a Fujifilm "bridge" camera, though I do intend to buy a DSLR at some point - probably a Pentax or Samsung so I can continue using my lovely lenses.)

    I also buy LPs from time to time. I own a collection of vinyl records from way back before CDs became common, and I like to add to this collection from time to time. I don't own a turn-table at the moment (my last one died) but I intend to get another soon so I can listen to all this music. Plus, I'm going to transfer the tracks to mp3.

    As for which DSLR is "best": I'd vote for Nikon or Canon, I guess. But that's based on reputation, and I have always been pleased with the Pentax cameras I've bought over the years.
    "All people are scum. No matter what they look like." ~ Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan #4
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