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Friday, March 26, 2010

Comments on Buying a Digital Camera - A Primer Lenses

From My friend

Hey Lee! Thanks ever so much for the info. I am still processing through it all. I am working on visiting the sites.
Here is what I know...
1. I have a little point and shoot. It's good for inside, close up, medium light shots. I think what I am looking for is a DSLR. And digital. 2. I do not want video on the camera. I just want pictures. 3. I have heard good things about Nikon. Now I think it's up to finding something that is quality but inexpensive. I'm thinking in the $300 range. That probably is a little low. I will keep researching and looking. If you come up with any wisdom, etc. let me know. Oh what fun. Do you have a webpage that would be a walk through on good pictures. I can at least start up on my point and shoot... I want something that would make sharp pictures of people outside mostly. We have such a wide variety of people but either the sun is too bright, or it just isn't clear with my point and shoot. Thanks!

From Lee:
1. Yeah, digital is the way to go. BTW Prepare for your hard drive to fill up quickly unless you shoot JPEG. Shooting Raw takes up more space but is more adjustable once the photo is taken. I started shooting JPEG but went to Raw.
2. I'm not a big fan of video and SLR combined, at least at the moment. It is still in its infancy and a lot of changes will come. For now I will keep two separate cameras.
3. Like I said, Nikon and Canon are both excellent. One thing that influenced me to go Nikon was the private forum at www.Nikonians.org . It is the Smithsonian of Nikon knowledge and only costs about $30 a year (first 30 days free). I tell people at work that if there is a question you can’t get answered at Nikonians, I want to see it. Unfortunately, I know of no such site for Canon people.
$300 is a little low for a DSLR. The Nikon D3000 here http://www.adorama.com/INKD3000K.html is $496. A good deal is here http://www.adorama.com/INKD3000K.html#kits for the $539 kit which is now at $513. It includes a spare camera battery (you will want one) and a 4GB memory cards) and a camera case.
I did not mention the refurbished kits offered. They are out there but for a beginner, a new kit is what I would recommend.

The 18-55 lens with the Nikon D3000 is a good overall lens. It will zoom out for scenic or group shots and zoom in a little for tighter shots (See below about what 50mm produces on a camera. Basically on a DLSR 35 is normal view.)

“Do you have a webpage that would be a walk through on good pictures. “ Unfortunately no but this conversation (edited would be a great thing for my website / blog) What you are getting is basically the benefit of all my research at tons of places. The links I mentioned previously are the best to start at.

A primer discussion of lenses:

The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR Lens means it goes from 18mm (WIDE angle, lots of picture) to 55mm, closer up image. A quick lesson in digital cameras. Most DSLRs, Nikon and Canon included, both have what is called a crop factor of 1.5. What that means is that when a regular film camera is at 50mm (considered normal size, what you see with the eye image), the DSLR photo will appear to be at 75mm or 50% closer. This is great for getting zoomed in on those far away images. My D300 with a 200mm records an image as if it were 300mm with a film camera. BUT downside is that when you try to get a wide-angle photo the 18mm setting on the lens produces an image that will be as if it was 27mm on a film camera.

Solution? Buy one of the new “full frame” sensor cameras (all of this is due to the size of the sensor in the camera. A full frame sensor camera will give an 18mm image when the lens is at 18mm BUT it will only give a 200mm image when the lens is set to 200mm. ALSO Full frame sensor cameras are VERY expensive. A lot of pros have not gone to them. Some like the smaller, lighter cameras. I plan to stick with my D300 for quite a while.

The G means you don’t set the aperture on the lens, but with the camera.) AF-S is autofocus. DX means is it a lens not designed for a full frame sensor DSLR but one of the cameras with a crop factor. (See below for explanation). FX means the lens is designed for a Full frame sensor. A DX lens will work on a FX camera but the camera will automatically change to DX mode. At the moment, most DSLRs are DX. VR means it has vibration reduction. The bad news – Every manufacturer has their own set of acronyms for DX vs FX and all the other things. It isn’t just Nikon and Canon but other lens companies like Sigma and Tamron.

What does the f/3.5-5.6 mean? The aperture is how big the lens is open. More open = more light coming in. Now for the challenging part. F-stops (aperture settings) work like fractions. 1/2 is twice as big as 1/4. 1/32 is tiny. The f-stop or aperture is the focal length (f) divided by (the /) the aperture opening. The f/3.5 –5.6 means when you are at 18mm (zoomed back for a lot of image) you can get more light in. The most light you will be able to let in will be at f/3.5 with the lens discussed.

When you zoom in to the 55mm (for the lens we were discussing) you can only get f/5.6 at best, which means less light. You can always set the aperture to a smaller opening (bigger number) like 8 or 11 to adjust for the light. The best thing to do is play with it and you will see. Most standard zoom lenses are 3.5 – 5.6.

If you see a lens like 17-55mm f/2.8; that means you can open it up a lot (the 2.8 part). The lack of a second number means it can stay at f/2.8 no matter where the lens is set, zoomed in or zoomed out. These lenses cost more (lots). You don’t need them.

As long as I am at it, you will hear people talk about “prime lenses”. A prime lens is a lens that doesn’t zoom in and out. It is “fixed” at a certain focal length like 50mm. They don’t zoom. Common primes are 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. (There are others but these are common ones). A 35mm f/1.4 lens (shoots like a normal 50mm lens on a film or full frame DSLR – remember the multiplication factor 35 x 1.5 ~ 50) lets tons of light in. Great for low lighting. Very expensive.

One last point and I will close for today. When you adjust a lens to 3.5 instead of 8 or 11 lets say, the depth of field get shallow. What that means is that the person you are photographing will be in focus and the background will be out of focus. Some people love that. The closer you get to the person, the more behind them will be out of focus or soft and blurry. If you photograph a person 25 ft in front of you, not much will be out of focus behind them. Photographing at f/11 generally puts the background in focus.

A great book to read is Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography. There are three volumes. The first volume is a great reference for starting equipment. He gives three ranges of equipment – low price, medium price, and what budget price!

Oh, one last thing wikipedia defines NAS as Nikon Acquistion Syndrome. I am sure there is a Canon equivalent. How many lenses do you need? Just one more!

Comments on Buying a Digital Camera

A friend emailed me about getting a new camera and during the discussion he asked if I had this stuff on a website. I didn’t but realized it wouldn’t be bad to use our conversations as a basis for others looking to get a digital camera. I have edited the emails to make them applicable to all and to not reveal unnecessary personal information.


Hey Lee, I wanted to connect with you about a good camera. I am using an old one and to be honest with you, I have lost some great pictures because of it. I am working in islands (and some other travels) this summer and would like to get some good photos. What is out there that is good but not too expensive. Also, do you have anything that you have upgraded from that would be a good general camera? I know that is general, but I'm not sure what to ask.... Also, does anybody rent out cameras? just wondering...


From Me:
1) Let me ask, do you want film or digital? I will assume digital as film is all but dead to consumers. (I met a PhD microbiologist who shoots the bellows type black and white film. WOW! Great photographer.)
2) Why did you lose those good photos? Did the situation out do the limits of the camera? (I tried to take low light photos of my daughter’s graduation with a digital point and shoot and it didn’t come out very well.) If that is the case, what situations are you needing a change for? (Low light? Fast moving? Etc.)
3) The next basic decision in getting a digital camera is do you want a Point and Shoot (P&S) or a DSLR (detachable lenses is the main distinguishing feature). The Pros of a P&S, esy to carry. Convenient. In an informal survey of camera people on the Nikonians.org forum (great place) somebody asked who carries their DSLR with them all the time in the car, etc. Few do. The equipment is expensive and it isn’t practical to carry all your lenses etc. Many carry a Point & Shoot (I did until it died) in the car. Cons: With a P&S, once you buy it, you have what it is. You can’t change lenses etc.

With a DSLR, you can change lenses to meet needs. BUT there is one a problem to deal with – dust. Film didn’t have this problem as if dust got one the film (unlikely) you advanced to the next frame and voila, the dust was gone. With a P&S, the camera sensor is not exposed to dust (99% of the time) and dust isn’t a problem. With a DSLR, every time you change lenses, there is the risk of dust getting inside on the sensor. The environment is a factor here. Pointing the camera down when changing is the primary thing you can do to help prevent this. You spot dust in the pictures as little blobs or circles usually. Some cameras have a self-cleaning feature that vibrates the dust off onto a sticky pad to catch it. This doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to let a pro do it. (I wouldn’t try it myself).
Also, some DSLR come with body only and you have to buy the lenses. Others come as a “kit” with some good starter lenses. (How many lenses do you need? Just one more!! LOL )
That said, a DSLR offers the greatest flexibility for meeting needs in the future.
4) If a DSLR, do you want video also? I would rather have two separate cameras, still and video, but it is handy to have it in one camera BUT the video will fill the memory card quick and most camera only allow a few minutes of filming, sort of like the old 3 minute Super 8 cameras.
5) Brands – Nikon (yea, the force is with us) and Canon (the Dark side) have about 85% of the market. Both are excellent. When I got my DSLR, I evaluated everything and Nikon was better in some ways and Canon in others. I eventually went with Nikon, as I have always wanted a Nikon.
One important thing is ergonomics or the fit of it in your hands and the control layout. You probably won’t appreciate the layout until you have used it a while but the fit is important. The Canon Rebel series initially drew a lot of comments of how tight it was around the left hand grip for men with bigger hands.
One feature on both Nikon and Canon is that they build the Vibration Reduction /Image Stabilization (called IS for Canon, VR for Nikon) into the lens. VR adjusts for slight hand movement/shake allowing the image to be in focus and sharp instead of blurry. This makes each lens with this feature (You can get lenses without it). Other companies incorporate the VR/IS into the camera body making lenses cheaper and the VR/IS works with any lens. BUT you can’t see the effect in the viewfinder, you have to trust is working.
P&S cameras have VR/IS but not all do it by eliminating shake. Some simply increase the shutter speed, which works but as the light gets low, a quick shutter speed can make the picture too dark. And sometimes you want a slow shutter speed (all those foamy rivers and waterfall shots are taken with slow shutter speed.)

6) Where to buy. Simplest part
www.Adorama.com or www.bhphotovideo.com. That’s it. These two are the most trusted and best prices. Are there cheaper? Yes but these two have earned their reputation. Famed photographer Scott Kelby among others recommends them. <Hours of operation corrected.> Adorama is open for Phone Orders Mon - Thurs 9AM to 7:30PM EST; Friday 9AM to 1:30PM EST; and Sunday 9:30AM - 5PM EST. In person orders are the same. EST as you are in New York. The website never actually closes because they don't make a charge until an order actually ships, they can keep the site open throughout the Jewish Sabbath and Festival days. (A tip of the camera cap to Helen for letting me know the correct hours). I have used them and they are great. There are others that are also excellent. But is price is too good to be true, run away.

** A note: If you walk into your local camera store and demo the products and chew up their time, don’t turn and buy everything from an on-line store. At least make part of your purchases at the brick and mortar store. Also it always helps to have a friendly liver person to chat with. They will learn who comes in, takes up their time and advice and never buys. 

7) Now, what would I recommend (not having heard what your needs and situations are). First I would guess a good point and shoot since you mention traveling a lot. They are smaller, less conspicuous, and today are very good. My daughter was talking about wanting a DSLR for Christmas but when I found out all she wanted was close up work for posting online, I bought her a Canon (somebody please forgive me) Powershot SX10 IS camera. (Note the IS there) IT can focus to within 2 mm of the target!! That is better than I can do unless I spend a lot on some expensive lenses. Cost was about $335. That is probably NOT what you need.

Check out this site for some good recommendations

For a P&S camera (as of March 26, 2010)

Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Canon // PowerShot SX200 IS Digital Camera Kit, Blue with 8GB SD Memory Card Adoarama kit includes memory card. (BTW, the kit comes in other colors but I picked blue, also comes in red or black.)

http://www.adorama.com/ICASX200BLH.html $50 rebate puts at $279

Review here http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX20IS/SX20ISA.HTM 

Or a

Canon PowerShot SX120 IS // Canon Powershot SX120 IS Digital Camera Kit, with 4GB SD Memory Card
http://www.adorama.com/ICASX120KH.html $229 with $30 rebate = $199
Review here
Or a
Canon PowerShot SX210IS // Canon PowerShot SX210 IS Digital Camera with 14.1 Megapixel, HD720p, Dynamic IS, Miniture Effect, Smart Suffle - Black - U.S.A. Warranty $349

Review here

Nikon Coolpix cameras are good also but Canon seems to be the preferred choice in P&Ss.

For a DSLR I would look at:

Nikon D3000 10.2 MP DSLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR Lens - USA Warranty (That USA part is important. Grey market or out or country cameras are not covered in the states. Don’t know about where you are.) $496.95 (includes a lens with VR!)

or a

Nikon D5000 DX-Format 12.3 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera Body with 720p HD Movie Mode and 2.7" Vari-angle LCD $524.95

or a Canon EOS Rebel XS Digital SLR Camera, 10.1 Megapixel, 2.5-inch LCD Monitor, with 18-55mm Lens – Black (I prefer the black body as the silver attracts attention, and I think it looks better). $499
IMPORTANT. You will also need: At least one memory card. 4 – 8 GB ought to be good. SanDisk is a good brand name. Watch for rebates. I picked up 3 16 GB cards for $15 each after rebate (they cost $115 list !!!)

You will also need batteries. DSLRs are use proprietary batteries. (Don’t get off brand here, I tried something other than a Nikon battery and had problems) Most P&S use AAA. I recommend Sanyo Long Life Eneloop batteries. You can charge them and sit them on the shelf and they will have 80% charge a year later (or something like that).

And a camera bag.

Well, I guess I have overwhelmed you with info and choices. Don’t blame me for setting you one the never ending road of getting “that one perfect shot”. Seriously, remember, the photographer is far more important then the equipment for getting that shot.

Oh, you asked if there was anything I have upgraded from. My Digital P&S died last November (hints at Christmas didn’t help, still need to replace.) and my previous camera was a Minolta 35mm film.

Hope some of this helps


leedawson@Gmail.com www.HLDPhotos.com  

Some sites you may want to look at.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Big Brother Big Sister Fund Raiser Photo Shoot

I received a request for photographers to shoot the Big Brother Big Sister fund raiser at the bowling alley across the street from North Carolina State University.

Another photographer, Sterling E Stevens (www.sestevens.com)   and I were selected to do the shoot. Sterling is an architectural photographer (not many in that field) and a great person. He does great photography. You can see his work at http://www.sestevens.com/ and his Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sterling-E-Stevens-Photographer/74698440746

The bowlers were both adults and kids. It was a fantastic experience, I loved photographing the kids and then showing them their picture on the back of the camera. Photography wise, it was a challenge as the bowlers were moving from dark lighting to incandescent lighting to fluorescent lighting with the corresponding change in color balance as they moved.

The kids were the stars of the show. Here are a few of the shots. Go to  www.hldphotos.com/Galleries/Projects  for more of the photos. (You can click on a photo here and it will take you back to the photo on the website.)


 STRIKE !!!!

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