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Sunday, February 2, 2014

New to DSLR Photography? (Part 1 of 2)

My sister was kind enough to let me continue posting on her blog. You may remember my first blog post, which was a review of the services provided by Posterjack.

While I am still an amateur in the realm of photography, many of my friends (and even my sister) ask me questions related to the operation of their camera and related gear. I still struggle with the artistic side of photography, however I feel very comfortable discussing some of its more technical aspects. What I hope to accomplish with this post is to provide you a top ten list of items you may wish to consider when beginning with DSLR (digital single lens reflex) photography.

Note that while many of these concepts apply to all DSLR cameras, my experience is primarily with Canon products. (Psst! If you're on Twitter, join in the #Aflkids Twitter chat on Monday, February 3 for a chance to win a Canon EOS Rebel SL1!)

Part 1 of this two-part series will cover the first five tips. 

10. Pay attention to kit lenses.


One of the main advantages of DSLR cameras is that you can change out the lens. Many entry level DSLR cameras come in a bundle that includes one or more lenses. Quite often (but not all of the time) these "kit lenses" aren't the best when it comes to optical and build quality. Many of these lenses have smaller apertures (more on this later) which can make taking pictures in low light situations more difficult. Also, these lenses may not be the focal length you need for the type of photography you want to do.

I'm not saying that kit lenses are bad. However, it is important that you consider what type of lens(es) are included in your bundle before making the purchase. You may be better off buying the camera body on its own and using the left over funds towards a more appropriate lens.

9. Don't get caught up in megapixels.


The race towards having the greatest number of megapixels (MP) has pretty much moved beyond what a regular consumer needs to print photos for their personal use. As such, the number of megapixels a camera can capture is no longer a significant consideration. Canon's entry level DSLR bodies already offer 18 MP sensors. This is more than enough for your use. 

My first digital camera, from many, many moons ago, was less than 2 megapixels. I recently blew up one of its photos to a 4x6 print without any issues. I feel confident that I could get an 8x10 out of the file as well. 

8. Watch your wallet. (a.k.a. Apologies to my spouse.)


Don't expect to hold on to these for long...

Getting involved is DSLR photography can be an expensive choice. Entry level camera bodies can run in the $500 range and go up from there. Lenses can also cost a fair bit of coin. Some of the entry level lenses are around the $300 range (kit lenses) but more decent glass will start around $700. While there are exceptions out there, a good collection of camera equipment will easily push you past the $1,000 mark. 

This isn't to say that to start out in DSLR photography requires you to spend thousands of dollars right from the start, it's simply a warning that the "habit" can get quite expensive. I speak from extensive experience in this respect.  

Some ways to save money include:

  • Making friends that use the same system (Canon, Nikon, Sony). This will allow you to try some gear before you buy it. 
  • Buying used lenses can also save you a bit of money, however, be careful with this approach. It is best that you develop some experience first so that you can ensure you are getting a lens that is in good condition. 
  • Renting equipment before buying. You can easily spend $1,500 or $10,000 on a lens. If you want to make sure the equipment is right for you, you can rent it for much less before taking the plunge. 


7. Consider memory storage.


Most DSLR cameras use some sort of solid state memory to record the photos. The two most common types are SD (secure digital) and CF (compact flash). The speed and size of memory (usually in gigabytes) of these cards are generally the biggest influence on price. Many people purchase the biggest card they can find. In my opinion, this isn't the best approach. 

The speed of the card will play a significant role on how well the camera can take advantage of its "continuous" or burst shooting mode as well as its video recording capability. With SD cards, many people look at the Class of the card (i.e. Class 2, Class 10, etc.). Not all Class 'X' cards work at the same speed. Instead, look for data about the card's read and write speeds. 

I also advise that you don't keep all your photos on the card. The images on the card should be regularly downloaded to your computer (and even another storage device such as a portable hard drive). This will prevent you from losing your precious memories. While solid state memory is quite robust, they still do fail. By regularly emptying your memory cards, you don't need a card with a huge capacity. I recommend that you have at least two cards dedicated to your camera.

I personally use 3 SD cards. Two of which are 8 GB and the other is 16 GB. 

6. Consider your case or bag.



LowePro SlingShot 202 AW

A DSLR system will eventually leave you with a bit of gear to haul around and store. As such, you'll need something to carry and or store all your gear. There are many options available specifically for photography. These solutions usually have some extra padding and compartments which can be customized to suit various sizes. You'll need to consider how you will carry your gear. Some people prefer a classic messenger bag while others prefer a back-pack style. It really depends on how you intend to use your camera. If you intend to hike around, a back-pack style is likely a better option. 

LowePro offers many (read: zillions) of options. More serious collectors, I mean photographers, can also look at offerings from Gura Gear and Pelican. One of my favourite bags is the SlingShot AW series from LowePro. It's a back-pack that allows you to quickly swing the pack in front of you so that you can easily access the camera (and all the other compartments). It also comes with a all-weather cover which can help save your gear if the weather goes sideways on you. 

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of this Top Ten List!

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for all this great information! I'm going to forward this on to one of my daughter's who loves taking photos!

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    1. RAFFLECOPTER NAME is Anne Taylor

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    2. Thanks, Annie! I'm lucky he's my brother. I can bug him any time I want for pointers and suggestions. :)

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  2. Wonderful information! The world of DSLR cameras is certainly a confusing one.. Very much one you need to do research on :) Thank you for sharing

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    1. The great thing about the internet is that there are plenty of review sites out there. There is no need to rush a purchase!

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  3. I would love a DSLR! Thanks so much for all the great information. I just love taking photos.

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  4. I love and can appreciate photography but I am TERRIFIED of cameras! They look so alien to me and I couldn't use one if my life depended on it. Wish I had someone to teach me.

    texan_michael AT yahoo DOT com

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    1. You could always try an advanced point & shoot camera first. They share many similar features with DSLRs.

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  5. Hi Diana! Great post. These cameras are super difficult. I just got a Nikon D3 something?! And I still have LOTS to learn!

    I recently started following your blog and I love your posts!

    I nominated you for the Liebster Award! http://www.thepinksoul.com/2014/02/woot-liebster-award.html

    (And I'm about an hour from you!) :)

    Natalie
    thepinksoul.com

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  6. Very interesting post! I appreciated the way you broke down this info and made even technologically-challenged me understand. I look forward to Part 2!

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  7. I have always wondered about DSLR cameras - thanks for taking the time to break down what to look for when comparing the cameras.

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  8. It's such a mine field trying to decide where to start with DSLR so thanks for the fantastic info :-D

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  9. Thanks for posting and sharing your expertise, Dennis! I really want to make the switch to DSLRs but haven't had the nerve to take the plunge. I never knew that you could rent equipment!

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  10. this is SO helpful, i am going to take time to go through it carefully this weekend

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  11. I'm still an amateur too. I'm a Nikon chick :)

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  12. Excellent tips! I have been eying the DSLR cameras but wasn't sure if it was something I really wanted

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