View Full Version : recommend a camera to me
08-09-2002, 02:50 AM
I want to start getting into photography. City scenes, nature scenes, Ansel Adams type stuff. I have zero experience with cameras.
What would be a good camera to get me started?
08-09-2002, 03:07 AM
Well, what do you want from a camera?
If you want your basic, all-manual classic 35mm camera, I'd whole-heartedly recommend the Nikon FM2 (or perhaps the Pentax K1000; it's cheaper.) I'd prefer the Nikon, since if you ever want to upgrade to a more advanced camera, you'll be able to use the same lenses. The most important piece of equipment on your camera is your lens, not the body. You can do fine with a crappy body, but with a crappy lens, forget it.
I'm not terribly familiar with the consumer-grade Nikons, unfortunately. You know, you can pick up a used N90/F90 (used by both avid amateurs and professionals) for well under $500 these days. In fact, there's one on Ebay right now for around $300. I have one of these in my kit, and it's a great, dependable camera. Excellent exposure system, and you can work with it completely manually, completely auto, or somewhere in between. You really won't outgrow it, unless you get into sports photographer where the 3-4/frames per second the N90 gives you is a tad on the slow side.
For Ansel Adams-type stuff, you're going to need something of a larger format than a 35mm camera. Adams used large format cameras, but you might want to find yourself a nice 4x5 camera which uses sheet film. You can occassionally pick one up for a reasonable price ($500), and they produce results superior to 35mm format, especially for large-scale reproductions. That said, I'd recommend you start out on 35mm, and get the basics of photography down. Discover what you like and dislike about the format and whether it's worth switching to a larger format.
08-09-2002, 11:33 AM
Suggestion: Enroll in a photography class at a junior college or elsewhere. They discuss cameras there. Also, I strongly believe it's not the equipment, but the photographer. So you can use any cheap camera and get great shots. I know people with very expensive equipment, and they take awful photos. I've used 35mm slr's with all the lenses, etc. Lots to carry around. Now I carry the tiny Canon Elph 2, smallest Advanced Photo System camera. It takes wonderful photos, including panoramas. Hope you enjoy the new hobby! :cool:
08-09-2002, 12:15 PM
pulykamell - Is right, you can't get a good picture with a poor lens.
I prefer the Nikon F3HP. All steel body. You can even use it if the batteries in it die.
Violet - Makes a good point. Sign up and take several photography classes. They will help shorten the learning curve and teach you some basics on composition, light, contrast, etc..
Also, think about some of the digital cameras out there. They are getting much better and instead of processing the film and creating prints you can dl them into your computer and PS them there. This can never replace the experience and knowledge you get from learning how to do it the "old" way with developer, and fix, etc..
Cameras are changing quickly. Go to stores and check them out. Also sites like www.photocritique.net and www.shuttercity.com can let you share your work and have it critiqued by some very good photographers.
08-09-2002, 12:24 PM
Gee, Violet, stealing from my post a month ago? ;) The posters there didn't want to hear that education was the way to better photography, forewarning.
(No offense, spooje, I'm just anticipating 53 posts following of people who think they've just purchased the greatest camera of all time for 20% off.)
Violet and pulykamell have made a number of the most important points.
The *easiest* thing to do is to buy something rated by Consumer Reports as a Best Buy. Buying a used camera is a *great* idea, as long as: 1) You have a reputable dealer, 2) You know which cameras and lenses are ok. (There are quite a few which are ok!)
After you've been taking photographs for a year or so, if you find that Ansel Adams is still calling your name at night, you'll need to get into much more specialized and and MUCH more expensive equipment.
If you are *just* beginning in photography, and have a fair amount of technical acumen, as I believe you do, getting a modest digital camera will get your process started most quickly. (I own expensive equipment, but the $30 bargain bin digital I got is still a hoot.)
08-09-2002, 04:38 PM
emulsion head here.
most important: interchangable lenses. The std lens for a 35mm is 50mm - if you buy a body+lens "kit", this is what you will get.
for landscapes, you will want a wider (ie shorter) lense - 20-30mm.
ftr: I run minolta maxxum auto-everything, with (easy) manual override).
the trite-but-may-have-had-some-truth sayin:
Nikon makes the best lenses, Minolta makes the best bodies, and Cannon makes the best compromise.
avoid "piont-and-shoot". if you are serious, you will outgrow it within a month or two.
Take classes (some photo stores offer courses) - start chatting.
and, real photogs shoot b/w, seriousphotogs shoot e6 (slide) - get a cheap ligfhtbox and loupe - the developing cost for e6 is less than the develop/print cost for print film, and you will make mistakes.
b/w chemistry is easy to use, so if you want to set up a darkroom, there are lots of books on the subject.
color chemistry requires temp control of +/- .5 degrees C., and is rather expensive.
medium (2 1/4") and large format (2X3, 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14) (ionly 4x5 is readily available) are too expensive to learn with.
08-10-2002, 08:24 AM
The 35mm SLR cameras out there today are fantastic, IMHO. I bought a near bottom of the line Pentax a couple of years ago, and it is great. The SLR (single lens reflex) system will allow you to change to an extremely wide variety of lenses to suit your needs, and they all seem to take great pics. I AM talking from the non professional starting out hobbyist angle here.
All the systems should offer full manual focus, aperture, and shutter settings, to allow you take any sort of fancy picture you want. The automatic cameras will also automate these functions so you can just enjoy taking pictures of the kids or whatever. The nice thing about these cameras is that you can break them out at any time to take very high quality pictures. Much better than your standard point-and-shoot.
Go to your local store and play with a few different models to see which ones feel best in your hand. I don't think you can really go wrong with any of the big names like Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax. Until you REALLY get into it, and decide to spend big bucks on equipment, I doubt you'll notice a difference. Buy the model that fits your hand and has features you like.
When you're starting out, I would avoid a full-manual camera. I had one a long time ago and got frustrated when I would have out of focus or otherwise lousy pictures that a full auto camera would have avoided. I also could not take pictures "on the fly" because I couldn't get the thing set up quickly enough.
B&H Photo (http://www.bhphotovideo.com ) has a wide variety of products on their website so you can see some of the things out there and have an idea of what they cost.
08-10-2002, 04:31 PM
oh, a couple of other things -
interchangable lenses are NOT interchangable between makes (yes, there are 'conversion' mounts', and so-called 'universal' mounts. At the very least, you lose autofocus on these systems, and they are too ugly and bulky to consider).
you will run into Popular Photography magazine
it is very useful, but beware - it is full of ads by people who, for lack of a better word, are theives.
stick with B&H, Adorama, KEH and you'll do fine.
but, starting out, I'd say spend the few extra buck to buy from a good local store - photography is an art, and there is no such thing as too much good will.
and, if you go Maxxum (Dynax in Europe): don't but any model which begins witha '3' or '4' - these are made for the discount stores, and are generally junk.
a 700si will keep you busy for a decade, and, being "yesterday's hero", will be cheap on the used market (I have 2, and love them)
08-11-2002, 06:54 AM
Actually, all the Nikon lenses are interchangeable. At least everything from the F-series (we're talking 50s and 60s) to the latest digital cameras (the D1X, D100, etc.) One of the nice things about Nikon. Canon, I believe has had at least 3 different mounts during the same period. The EOS mounts, the AE mounts, and the FT mounts. I don't know if that's the name for 'em, as I'm a Nikon guy myself. (But Canons are every bit as good as Nikons.)
Once more, obviously the photographer makes the picture, and if you don't know what you're doing, $5000 of camera gear ain't gonna matter jack to you. I would recommend two lenses for you: the 20mm or 24mm, and the 85 mm. Since I do this for a living, I shoot about 80-90% of all my stuff with these two lenses. The 50mm "standard" lens is a great lens, too. However, it is very very difficult to use well, since it does pretty much represent things as it. However, some of the greatest photographers (Bresson, for instance) were masters of the normal lens.
If you're interested in mainly portrait photography, a 50 will do OK, but the 85, 105, or 135 are much better lenses. I swear by the 85mm, myself. If you like photojournalism, documentary photography and the such, your wide-angle lenses are generally the lenses of choice for these sorts of applications.
Enroll in a photo course, or find a mentor. I learned via the latter method. And get yourself that FM2 (it also works without batteries and, well, I just have something against the F3. I don't like it. Makes a good weapon, though.)
08-11-2002, 12:35 PM
Originally posted by partly_warmer
Gee, Violet, stealing from my post a month ago? The posters there didn't want to hear that education was the way to better photography, forewarning.
You're referring to this thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=123821), right? No offense, and I love you like a brother and all that, but you came off as really arrogant in that thread, especially in your second post. It's one thing to say "you should take a photography course to take better pictures", but quite another to steam into a thread and say (as you seemed to) that "camera recommendations are pointless until you're an artiste like myself!"
But hey, what do I know, I've never taken a photography class.
08-11-2002, 03:06 PM
>I have zero experience with cameras.
Then you will find high-end film cameras worthless for your purposes unless you want to devote 10 hours a day and your financial future to photography. A cheap film camera is too much trouble to even bother with. Get a nice digital camera. If you can afford it the Sony DSCF-707 is the pest prosumer camera going in it's price range and there are VERY good 3+megapixel cameras around $500.
Read about them here: http://www.dpreview.com/ but shop for prices before you buy.
08-11-2002, 06:55 PM
Originally posted by pulykamell
Actually, all the Nikon lenses are interchangeable. At least everything from the F-series (we're talking 50s and 60s) to the latest digital cameras (the D1X, D100, etc.)Coming in a close second would be Pentax, which has had the K-mount since 1975 (http://www.bdimitrov.de/kmp/extras/summary/index.html), so the lenses for the K1000 (long regarded as the classic students' camera) will fit their latest models as well.
I will vote against the digicam recommendations. A basic camera (FM2 or K1000), a good lens kit, and slide film will allow you to make lots mistakes, but that's a good thing if you aim to learn from them.
08-13-2002, 05:02 AM
Max Torque, thanks for your comment. I've not been happy with the results from my more expensive camera. There are a half dozen other ways I could have expressed that effectively in the second post, but it seemed harmless when I hit the Enter key. What I was (ineffectually) trying to get to was that I know of people who were disappointed with camera results, and that a photography course would be the easiest, cheapest way to get better photos.
Of course there are many good photographers who just know how to shoot great stuff by instinct, and don't need a class. (I'm not one of them.)
08-13-2002, 05:56 AM
I'd enjoy debating cameras, but I'm wondering whether the OP's central issue isn't decision-making, not cameras, per se. Are there 5 questions to help a camera buyer? 10 questions? Is there some other way to approach the decision-making process?
1) How much money would you be willing to spend over the next year? ($200, $500, $2000)
2) How much time are you planning spend taking pictures? (2 hours, 30 hours, 200 hours)
3) If you have camera experience, what features are you seeking to improve upon?
4) How much technical interest do you have? (Questions along the line of: "Have you ever opened your computer?" "Have you ever changed a car's oil?" "How much do you understand about color theory?")
08-13-2002, 05:48 PM
Now, if all you want to take pictures of are your neighbors, chicks in lingerie, and bathing suits, then according to all the pop-ups, nothing can beat an X-10 camera...
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