Choosing my very first camera

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by jens_rasmussen, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. I don't know If this is the right forum for this, but here goes.

    Not too long ago I started taking interest in photography, not with any intention of going professional, just as a hobby. I am almost
    completely green on this subject and haven't been using anything else than standard digital cameras before, but now I am convinced I
    want to take it a step further: buying a good camera.

    Things that I am sure will be a great part of my pictures:

    - Nature
    - Wildlife
    - Generally playing with light and contrast

    Who knows, I might find it interesting taking photos of other things after some time, but right now I know that these things will catch my
    attention most of the time.

    As I have said, my knowledge of photography is not that great, so any advice is welcome, but I have still been talking to some people and
    around the shops. I really want to keep to picking a DSLR camera, since if it turns out to be a greater passion than I thought myself, it
    would be nice for me get myself additional equipment, like other lenses. But in the end, I have kind of set my eyes on 3 different cameras:

    1: Nikon D3100 (572 US $) -
    Of what I understand, this is supposedly a good camera for the starting amateur (which I obviously am) because of the easy handling
    and generally being a decent camera to a fair price.

    2: Pentax K-X. (520 US $) -
    I think this is more of a gamble - I tried it out for a minute or so and it seems easy enough to handle and I like the zoom on the lense that
    comes with it - and it is a bit cheaper than the Nikon :) the only thing I fear is that it is perhaps too difficult for me as an amateur
    photographer starting from scratch? I'm hoping you guys can tell me :)

    3: Canon EOS 1100D. (459 US $) -
    From what I can gather this is pretty much the same as the Nikon - good camera for beginners, although the Nikon still sounds better
    from what I have heard - the reason I am not ruling the Canon out is because of the difference in price.

    Might be that I have completely overlooked the best choice for a beginner - but then again, that's part of the reason why I'm writing this,
    so please inform me of some other (or better) cameras for someone like me if you know of any :)

    I'd really like to hear what you guys have to say. Remember that I am completely new to this, and that my knowledge of this subject is
    nothing to be proud, but please bear with me :)

    Please comment and advice me on anything - price, choice of cameras, anything - I am very open to ideas and advice :)

    Thank you very much.
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “I am very open to ideas and advice”​
    I suggest you go into a camera shop and use those three cameras, in which you are interested.
    Use each of them for MUCH more than just a minute or two.
    Generally understanding of the controls and the functionality; feel how the camera sits in your hands; feel all the knobs and buttons and interrogate the functionality and the menu systems of each; evaluate which is the most intuitive for you to understand and the easiest to use.
    Then come back to this thread next week, or next fortnight and list all your discoveries about the three cameras you have used and then we can have a more in-depth chat about each them.
  3. grh


    Also suggest you consider the Nikon D5100 instead of the D3100. Both have been replaced with newer models, but you should be able to pick up a D5100 for that same price. --ish.
    You need to go to a camera shop and hold them in your hand, manipulate the menus, feel the controls, see which of them is comfortable. Chances are that one of them is going to feel "right".
    I don't know about the Pentax, but the Nikon and Canon have auto modes that will help you capture properly exposed images. By learning from the camera's choices, and studying (take a local class?) also, you can gain an understanding of the technical aspects of photography. As you grow you can move out of auto mode and learn to control the parameters to produce the results you desire.
    The artistic part takes an entirely different approach. That's a lifelong quest, IMO.
  4. I agree, go to a store and check them out. Bring an SD card and take some pics. Look at the features, ergonomics, etc.
    But instead of the Canon 1100D look at the newer XX or XXXD models such as the 60D (less than $600) or the 650D, around $500
  5. Lets start with the fact that the camera hardly matters. Your knowledge of photography is going to be the most important element in a photograph. You could list all the cameras in the world and it won't matter nearly as much as you knowing how to use them. Imagine I have a red rose in a blue vase near a large window. If I put a light meter up to the rose and point the dome of the light meter towards the camera lens, I will get a reading that tells me what the settings on the camera need to be. It won't matter what camera. Any camera will need those settings to record the light and create an exposure. That's all the camera does: record the light. Now there are some tricky parts in the above scenario. For starters, from what position do I want to take the picture? This effects my composition and direction of light. Imagine I am parallel to the window: the rose will be "spilt" lit. One half the rose receiving light from the window and the other half not receiving light. Now the trick is, which light do I meter for? Do I want the "face" of the rose, that is the rose facing the camera to be more or less properly recorded, or do I want to record the side of the rose towards the window and let the shadow side fall more to black or do I want to properly record the shadow side and let the highlight side fall to white? The camera isn't going to matter because there isn't a camera in the world that can control the quality or direction of your light. There isn't a camera in the world that can control the contrast within a scene. The onlything the camera does is record the light. The next trick from the scenario above is what if the light meter tells me I need f/2? Do I have a lens that allows f/2? If not, I will need to adjust the f/stop (which means a slower shutter) until I get to the aperture I can use. The lens is where the aperture is. Some lenses allow more light in than others. Some lenses have better color, contrast, sharpness, build quality, faster focusing, and the list goes on, than others. Or put another way, even the lens has more impact on the image than the camera. So now we have: knowledge, light, lens, and the final piece of the equation, the piece that matters the least: the camera.

    What you are really deciding right now is which camera system to buy into. The more lenses or flashes, or whatever you accumulate for one brand, makes it harder to change brands down the road. For this reason, I tend to suggest Canon or Nikon as they have a bit more of a proven track record. Right now, I would say that Nikon holds a slight edge over Canon. That hasn't always been the case and Canon will undoubtedly "leap-frog" Nikon at some point and the game will continue. Right now, I believe Nikon also has the edge in decent "consumer" primes. Nikon has the 35mm f/1.8. Both Nikon and Canon have a 50mm f/1.8, but Canon's version doesn't hold a candle to Nikon's (but the Nikon version does cost more). You could almost say the same thing about the Nikon and Canon 50mm f/1.4 lenses. On the other hand, Canon does have the f/1.2 lenses.
  6. Run while you can.
    Once you get the first camera, you'll be ruined for about ten years. You may experience occasional bouts of a photography-related ailment: Acute Pomposity Syndrome. So many of us suffer from this. The only cure is more photographs, more research and thinking; then, add on some more photographs.
    Within the first few weeks of buying a camera, you may be in the grips of gear-head, equipment-hog conditions like LBA. New equipment will not save you. But, maybe a photography class at a community college will.
    Meanwhile, some kid with a smartphone will take the next picture of a decade. When he does, he will forever unseat you as a potential King of Photography for these next few years. In response, take the time to learn about focus, optics and exposure.
    When you screw up, forget to take the lens cap off, left the batteries at home, had the wife scream at you for stopping to make photos or watched yourself drop equipment into a mountain stream, remember: it happens to everybody. The only cure is to make another picture.
  7. Hey again guys.

    Let me just say thank you for your advice - it has been really helpful and got me looking at completely different things, and
    I feel like I'm closer to a decision now.

    Okay, so I went looking at the cameras again and I noticed some new things. I'll just name them in order like I did in this

    1: Nikon D3100 - This was the first camera I tried out, but I really started to love it after playing with it for some minutes. It
    fits perfectly in my hands and it feels very comfortable to hold, pushing the buttons, adjusting the lens and all that kind of
    thing; I really liked it. The menu was okay, it was difficult for me to figure out everything in the menu, but then again, I
    wouldn't expect me to be able to since I hardly know any of the words and names of the features. Other than that, it was a
    decent menu which I am sure I will get used to after some practicing and playing around - maybe I just didn't give myself
    enough time to get used to it.

    2: Pentax K-X - I was really in doubt when I tried this one out. The menu was kind of complex, but that's not what worries
    me the most since I guess you can get used to the menu (?). But nonetheless, the menu seemed confusing for a
    beginner like me. At the same time, the camera didn't seem to fit in my hands the same way the Nikon did - it seemed to
    bit too small for me actually. I was really impressed by the lens, it had great zoom and just seemed generally nice, but I
    don't know too much of lenses so I wouldn't let that decide for me what camera to buy.

    3: Canon EOS 1100D - I'm very certain that I won't pick this camera - the handling was awful for me. The buttons didn't
    suit me and my left hand was kind of awkward when I had to hold it with both hands, so I didn't like it that much. The only
    thing about it being really nice was the menu though - it was really easy to figure out and go through, but I still won't pick
    this camera.

    All in all I am really considering buying the Nikon. It just seems like a good camera and then again, it fits perfectly in my
    hands, buttons and all.

    I know some of you guys mentioned looking for other cameras, but I have chosen to stick with these 3 because they are
    within my budget and just seems decent enough for someone like me.

    Let me hear if you have some other suggestions or something. Once again, thank you for your help!
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Very good.
  9. In your visit to the camera store do not be pre-occupied with the DSLRs becuase there are other cameras which ecconomically can give you the reach for those nature shots. It gets very expensive when you move away from the standard kit lenses of the DSLR as you suggest might happen.
    There are pros and cons as you will learn with time, with a lot of different opinions, but the most reach I have is with my Super-zoom and telephoto adaptor while I find my current MFT cameras more than adequate for what I do, with a slight advantage that with a crop factor of x2 there is more reach with any lens you use compared to the x1.5 of the APS-C DSLRs and x1 reach of a 'full frame' camera.
    A good MFT such as the Panasonic GH models or the Latest Olympus will be more expensive than the entry level DSLR but could be less so overall when you add extra lens to your stable. Be also aware that it is probably essential if using longer lenses that you have a viewfinder in whatever camera you choose, not just the LCD on the back as most cameras have today.
  10. First, it's very good that you went and tried them out. Ergonomics and "feel" matters a lot with what is going to be your primary (actually "only") camera body.
    Now, part of the reason the D3100 probably feels so good to you is it's very light for a DSLR. And that's b/c it doesn't have an internal autofocus motor. Which means you either need to shoot manual or buy lens that have an internal focus motor.
    Here's the next point for you: you said you want to shoot nature and landscapes. Start looking at glass. For nature (wildlife in particular), ideally you'd get a good zoom (out to 200mm) that is fast (so you can get exposure speeds fast enough to capture movement). Plus, it will need to be a zoom b/c the wildlife won't stand still while you get closer or move back--you'll need to do that with the lens.

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