Some questions from a new DSLR owner

So, I finally went out and spent beyond my means and got a Canon Digital Rebel XT. I’ve always loved photography, and it’s time to dump the point and shoot for something more customizable. I figured digital was the way to go over learning on a 35mm, since I wouldn’t have to pay to process all my “learning” pics.

So, here’s a few questions I have:

  1. Is there a standard (or just plain good) book I can buy or get from the library that will explain when to use the more detailed settings? I know how to change the film speed, apeture and shutter speed, but I’m not too clear on WHEN I should do so.

  2. Accessories: I’m thinking I’ll eventually need a wide-angle lens, telephoto lens and external flash.

    a) Can I do without the external flash, or do I want it so I can get some reflected light instead of direct light?

    b) Keeping in mind price is a serious factor, I was looking at this wide angle lense and this telephoto zoom lens. However, while that 200mm zoom lens says it’s equivilent to 320mm on a digital camera, I could get this 300mm zoom lens cheaper from B&H. Wouldn’t that be equivilent to around 480mm on a digital? Is this not a case of higher is better?

  3. After only a weekend of use, I have a line of lint in the viewfinder. Now, this is not affecting the pictures, so I assume it’s on the mirror or prism (it’s not on the viewfinder, I cleaned that). A few sites suggested just living with the annoyance, since it doesn’t affect the pics, and dealing with it later during a professional cleaning. Should I get a bulb and try to blow it off the mirror?

Thanks much and happy shooting!

There’s the Magic Lantern series that covers different camers in more depth than the manuals,; not sure if there is one for the XT (I know there is one for the 300D).

Excellent, thanks TellMeI’mNotCrazy. (You’re not crazy.)

As a followup/add’l question, should I go with Canon accessories, or can I get Sigma or Opteka lenses? If so, which brand would you recommend?

I have a Vivitar 70-300mm tele that I just adore, so I’m not a purist by any means. I tested out a Sigma macro the other day that I’m just drooling over, but can’t justify the $400 price tag. My best advice is to make sure you take your camera with you when go shopping so you can see how it fits/feels/looks. And beware of buying lenses as some of the discount electronics/camera places that the city is so famous for (you know, the ones that double as gift shops) because I’ve found that the lenses they sell there - even if brand names - tend to be pretty crappy.

I’m definitely not a pro, so feel free to disregard what I say. I started with the 18-55 kit lens, and added the tele lens. I figured that would cover most of my needs. As I shoot, I try to pay attention to what I think would make a shot better. Would a macro lens have suited this picture better? Would a fish eye give this shot the look I would have liked? Etc. I figure I’ll wait 3 more months, and then based on what I’ve figured out about my own personal shooting style, I’ll start adding on more lenses (although I do already know that a macro is my next choice.) I am holding off on buying a flash for the same reason. I’ve discovered that I really love nature/landscape photography so I probably don’t need to add an external flash (aside from the ring flash that I’ll probably buy with my macro).

It is so easy to drop a ton of money on the camera; my opinion is that I’d rather hold off (as hard as that is for me) and $500 on the perfect lens for what I need, than buy 3 or 4 $100 lenses that I really don’t need anyway.

You appear to be shopping at B&H - you’re already in good hands there.

As for Canon vs non-Canon lenses, my somewhat limited experience has been that the genuine item will fit better, feel better and work better - especially in focusing. Other-brand lenses may take longer to focus and may not be silent as the Canons.

As has been mentioned, the Magic Lantern series is good.

For a telephoto, the best buy is the Canon 70-200 f4 L. You can get it for under $500 on ebay or other places and it’s an excellent lens. For wide angle, you might check out the Sigma 12-24.

If you plan to do ANY shooting at night or indoors, get at least the 480EX flash.

It’s on the prism and won’t affect the picture. If you want, try to blow it off, but be careful—you’re likely to get more dust on it than you blow off.

Well, I’m trained in film, so I don’t know about changing your film speed, other that a higher ISO (ASA or whatever they call it now) is ‘faster’ in that it will take pictures in less light. So, an 800 speed film will capture more light than a 100 speed, but will be grainier. This is super general, btw.

I would go to your local camera shop and ask them for a good book for beginners. They should be able to point you in the right direction. Also, your local library should have a selection, browse and pick the one that is the clearest to you.