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Choosing and using a DSLR camera...

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by Chillinator, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. Chillinator

    Chillinator Guest


    DSLR photography has seen a huge surge in popularity, however many people are still put off as they think it is too complex, but it needn't be so. Therefore I have put together a basic guide to help newcomers.

    The information in this text has not just been copied and pasted from the internet, but has been learnt off the advice of others and through personal experiences. Every camera is different, so if you are in doubt of anything then the best thing to do is consult the camera's instruction manual. Due to the differences of each camera, I will not go into detail where using the camera is concerned.

    Choosing a camera...

    The first thing to do when choosing a camera is to set out a budget and stick to it. DSLR photography can be very expensive, however there are ways to do it on the cheap. There are plenty of entry-level DSLR cameras on the photography market starting from around £250. You can also buy cameras second-hand but in mint condition from reputable sources.

    You need to ask yourself what you intend to use the camera for, there are several factors that will influence your choice. Do you want to take photos of flowers (you might find in-built camera editing useful)? Are you fond of sports (in which case a high frame rate would be beneficial)?

    When you finally go out to buy the camera, choose a reputable camera store. The dealer should be able to give you some practical advice, if the dealer tries to shove you off with extra gadgets then walk out. I've always believed that the best camera is the one that fits most comfortably in your hand.

    In my own opinion it is far better to buy a cheap camera body and use the surplus cash to buy one or two good quality lenses. Some of the kit-lenses provided with these cameras, especially the entry-level models, are often of rather poor quality.

    The basic camera and lens equation ----> cheap body + good lenses = a happy photographer. :thumbup:

    The ability to mix and match your equipment will widely open up your opportunities and increase your scope of choosing a subject.

    Examples of DSLR cameras, including the entry-level Nikon D40 and the very expensive Nikon D3X (Image credit: Nikon)



    Some sample images taken with a Canon EOS 50D...



    Image credit: Pleccy

    A note on pixels...

    Over the years manufacturers have been locked in a bit of a megapixel battle, and in the process leading consumers to believe that the higher the number of megapixels, the better the camera. This is not necessarily the case...

    Think of pixels as millions of small, coloured dots forming an image, unless you intend to make extremely large prints then you can easily get away with a small number of megapixels yet hold onto other virtues such as image sharpness and quality.

    There are several cameras in the shops for under £100 which boast 10 or sometimes 12mp sensors, however their image quality is remarkably worse than a 5mp camera for a similar price.

    Lenses - choosing your weapon...

    Standard lenses- These are the typical kit lenses supplied with the majority of DSLR's. Usually possessing focal lengths of between 18 and 70mm, they are the perfect choice for everyday photography.

    Telephoto lenses- For shooting long-range targets, such as wildlife or even sports, a telephoto lens is the right tool for the job. These typically have focal lengths of around 70 to 300mm, with some lenses going upto 800mm (and at a considerable price!). Due to the sheer bulk and weight of these lenses, I would recommend investing in a suitable photographic tripod.

    Macro lenses- Designed for close-up photography, macro lenses are the ideal choice for detailed images of items such as flowers. These lenses usually have shorter focal lengths to focus the light from the subject at a shorter range.

    Wide-angle lenses- Compared to other lens types, there aren't exactly many of these available, mainly due to a lack of demand. Wide-angle lenses are more or less very short to increase the overall field of view, with focal lengths of between 10 and 22mm. These lenses are perfect for landscape photography.

    Telephoto converters- These are used to increase the overall focal length of telephoto lenses, whilst neutralizing the need to carry additional, bulky lenses. Tele-converters are simply slotted onto the camera mount behind the actual lens.

    Focal length and aperture- The focal length of a lens is a measure of how strongly it converges (focuses) or diverges (defocuses) light, it is also a measure of the field of view of the lens. The focal length is often expressed as an f-number, in ratio to the size of the lens aperture (the opening in the lens).

    AF/S and AF lenses- The autofocus of a camera is simply how the camera or lens focuses on the subject, this is usually controlled by a small sensor and motor in the camera or lens. Some cameras have this motor built-in, however some don't.

    In basic photographic terminology, AF lenses do not have a built-in motor, instead they rely on the camera's autofocus motor to focus the image. On the other hand, AF/S lenses have a built-in motor.

    I would like to point out that some cameras are not compatible with standard AF lenses if autofocus is required, due to a lack of a built-in motor. They are instead compatible with the AF/S lenses, the only drawback is that AF/S lenses are quite expensive. The Canon equivalents of the AF and AF/S lenses are marketed as EF and EF/S.

    Basic functions...

    Shooting mode- Most DSLR cameras have a range of available shooting modes, for everyday photography, the auto-mode should suffice. Usually there are other shooting modes available which can be used to create the desired effect, some of these modes include macro, portrait, landscape and night-scenes.

    ISO- The camera's ISO setting dictates its sensitivity to light. Most cameras have an automatic setting, however it can be adjusted manually. The higher the ISO setting, the greater the camera's sensitivity to light. DSLR cameras usually have ISO settings in the range of 100-3200, with a few going higher.

    The flash- All cameras have a built-in flash, it can be turned on and off and most cameras have a sensor to turn it on and off automatically, depending on the light conditions. For close-up macro shots or dark conditions indoors, I would recommend turning the flash off or using an external flash. Otherwise images can develop a 'washed-out effect'.

    In-camera editing- Even the budget, entry-level DSLRs have a few basic editing functions, such as white balance.

    Spot metering and the autofocus area- When you look into the camera's viewfinder, you will see a box-shaped reticule, this is known as the autofocus area. In laymans terms this is simply the area of the viewfinder that the camera uses to focus on the image. Spot metering is a very accurate form of focusing on a target, as it only focuses on a small area of the target. Spot metering is very useful for situations where you would like to focus on a particular part of the object, or for high contrast images such as the moon.

    Resolution- The number of pixels used by the camera can be adjusted manually in many cases, such as if you want to maximize space on the memory card or simply because you only intend to produce smaller prints.

    Live view- A lot of cameras these days have a function known as live-view, which enables you to take a photograph using the LCD screen, rather than the viewfinder. However this function is somewhat mediocre on a few models and to be honest I wouldn't use this feature to influence my choice of camera.

    File type- There are two main file types employed be cameras, JPEG and RAW. JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group and is a compressed file type, or in other words the photo is compressed in a smaller file to maximize the capacity on the memory card, the only disadvantage is that you do lose some picture quality, which is irreversible. RAW files are just how they sound, nothing is added and nothing is taken away, they are more or less comparable to an undeveloped photo on a film. Other features such as white balance are not set, the beauty of RAW images is that you can edit the images yourself on a computer using photo editing software such as Gimp or Adobe photoshop.

    How to keep the camera still and basic camera usage...

    DSLRs are naturally very bulky and quite heavy with the battery, this makes holding the camera still a bit more difficult for long exposures. While many cameras have built-in anti-shake, this will be useless if the target is shooting in and out of the autofocus area.

    If you find the grip on your camera to be on the small side, you could use a battery grip. To keep the camera still for as long as possible, anchor your elbows against your stomach and support the lens with the first three fingers on your left hand, meanwhile using your thumb to support the main camera body.

    When choosing a subject, it's all about using your imagination. For starters I would suggest picking some easy subjects indoors, such as bowls of fruit, houseplants and pets. Providing that you have adequate natural daylight, you can turn the flash off. Once you have set the shooting mode, ISO and exposure time all you have to do is point and shoot.

    Remember, skills in photography are gained over a long period time. Don't be put off by a few bad photos at the start, even the professionals make mistakes. Eventually you might want to create an online gallery, this is the perfect way to receive comments, constructive criticism and advice from other photographers.

    Finally, don't forget that a camera is only as good as the person holding it.

    Happy shooting! :D

    Copyright © 2009, Pleccy. This article may not be reproduced without the prior consent of the owner.
    #1 Chillinator, Aug 18, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2009
  2. Chillinator

    Chillinator Guest

    I've just corrected a few spelling mistakes, that's what you get from typing out an article on the notepad at 11pm. :D
  3. bexy1989

    bexy1989 PetForums VIP

    May 10, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Pleccy i think i love you!

    this has helped me soooo much :D

    i've been looking round at getting a DLSR but wasn't quite sure what to get, I've been using a realllly old Panasonic, and when i say old i mean still uses film, but i don't like it and i can't tell how anything has turned out when the photo is taken so i'm looking at upgrading :D


  4. Chillinator

    Chillinator Guest

    Sacre bleu... :eek:
  5. bird

    bird PetForums VIP

    Apr 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Cheers for the tips hon, am looking for a new camera and tend to get a bit put off by all the jargon and pityful looks off some salesman. :(
  6. Chillinator

    Chillinator Guest

    Don't worry about the jargon, there's always a simple explanation to the most difficult and complex of things. As for salesmen, just look them in the eye, tell them to keep their traps shut and buy the camera. ;)
  7. Chillinator

    Chillinator Guest

    Would anybody like this to become a sticky? If you agree then please say 'aye'. :D
  8. bexy1989

    bexy1989 PetForums VIP

    May 10, 2009
    Likes Received:
    AYE :D

    it really has helped...i shall be headed for the shops when im next paid :D
  9. PoisonGirl

    PoisonGirl Banned

    Oct 24, 2008
    Likes Received:
    thanks for all the tips! My OH dad is getting a camera for work, as the digital they have is cr@p and does not show colours very well, which they need to start up their website.. who wants to buy a shirt you cant see what colour it is?! Lol!

  10. Jazzy

    Jazzy PetForums VIP

    Apr 15, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Yes that's very good info - I would like it as a sticky.:D
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