Recommendations for second hand DSLR studio still life camera?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by jomeer, Mar 21, 2019.

  1. I am looking to do some still life studio work.

    My budget is tight so second hand and older equipment readily available on Ebay etc is probably what is within range. (circa £100 per each for body and lens).

    Firstly, I know 35mm SLR was at the lower end of quality anyway.This may have changed somewhat with the advent of digital SLRs.
    Also I am aware the lens is also a major factor - so please assume regular lenses within the above low end budget.

    Also some may say small format is not the ideal for studio and high quality imaging but I am not sure of what this 'small format' is capable of nowadays. I do like the idea of digital convenience and cost.

    So which older model will give the best quality availability considering M Pixels etc I am unsure what models give the best quality image. At the moment under consideration are Canon EOS 40 D and 100D mainly due to lower cost. But there may be better models.

    What model DSLR would people recommend considering the above difficult constraints?
  2. AJG


    What are you planning to do with the resulting pictures? If you want to make enormous prints you may find an older DSLR body a bit of a disappointment with an inexpensive lens. That said, I have made 20 x 24" prints from a 16 meg APS-C Pentax K5 with a Sigma 70 mm macro lens that hold up very well. Unless you get a great deal your price range for a lens is probably on the low side, and I think the lens is probably the most important component here. Also, a good quality lens can usually be mounted on a newer and better camera body if and when you decide to go that route. It is hard to pick out a specific camera/lens within your budget and I suspect many replies will come from people recommending the brand that they use because they are happy with it. My take on this that there aren't any really awful new DSLRs on the market, but there are certainly cameras and lenses that are better suited for some kinds of photography than others. You haven't mentioned a tripod, but a good one is essential for still life studio work. This is something you should be able to find used for a decent price if you don't already have one.
  3. I'd like to second AJG's comment about tripods. Granted, some people don't need one, but in your case, I'd say that you should probably get a good one. Some have the ability to mount the shaft horizontally as well as vertically.

    As for cameras, I won't say too much about that, but I'd recommend a mirrorless system instead of a DSLR system. One advantage is the ability to magnify the display for critical focusing.
  4. I too would like to know what the ultimate results you want are.

    I will say, though, that you are at somewhat of an advantage in the studio in that-presumably-you're going to be using strobes or other bright lighting and can shoot at base ISO. In the last ~10 years, some of the biggest strides have been in low ISO performance, and in fact with the subjects I'm often photographing under strobes I find a base ISO of 200 a hindrance.

    Paired with a good lens, a 12mp camera can make a beautiful 16x20, and can go larger if you're not TOO picky with it.

    One of my favorite studio cameras remains the Fuji Finepix S5 Pro, although I seldom even print the photos that I take with it so my comments may not be overly relevant. I love its color rendition, though, and overall "look." The resolution on this one gets a bit complicated, though-it has 12 million pixels, but only 6 million photosites. Fuji claimed it as 12mp, a lot of reviews at the time called it 6mp, and those of us who have actually used it(over the years since it came out) tend to agree that it resolves about like a ~10mp camera. This is a bit of a tricky one, though-it works great with most Nikon lenses(not recent AF-P and E aperture lenses, or very old non-AI lenses, but great with AI, AI-converted, AI-s, AI-P, AF, AF-D, AF-I, AF-S, G, and VR lenses). The batteries are physically the same as the Nikon EN-EL3e and charge in the same charger-they will even work in Nikons that need an EN-EL3e, but Nikon branded batteries don't work(the camera will turn on and give you an error that the battery is invalid). I fortunately found some aftermarket batteries that work great.

    That's just one possibility, though. I'll also add, too, that the Finepix S3 Pro has virtually the same sensor and has the advantage of running on AA-sized rechargeable NiMHs(so you can get replacements anywhere) but is a lot slower and clunkier to use and also won't meter with manual focus lenses.

    In Nikon land, I'd give the D300(s), D2X(s), and possibly the D7000 some strong consideration but they all will push your price point not factoring in the cost of a lens.
  5. SCL


    I've been using a Nikon D300 since they were introduced and find that it fully meets most of any studio needs I have. I do think the more critical issue for you is the choice of lenses and your own skill level and knowledge of lighting to produce the type of results you are seeking.
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Assuming 'typical' still life: consider an EOS 5D and EF 50 F/1.8 MkII.


    Are these 'still life' requirements in addition too, or instead of, the other requirements as outlined in this conversation? [LINK]

  7. Tripod is already to hand and will be used to ensure low ISO speed (to hopefully keep image quality up) and use potentially large apertures to create interesting depth of field shots. I could be doing anything from near macro to 2 metres distance. I will have suitable spots, and some daylight (in studio). The lens will be within the price range a second hand body and suitable lens allows at the modest end of the market. (circa £100 + each). I notice the D300 has a flash sync port whereas the canon 40d and 100d only have a shoe. Is the sync port more useful for studio work with strobes and flash? I may need that.
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Then add a set of three Kenko EF Extension tubes to my previous.

    alberthurwood and DavidTriplett like this.

  9. Thanks for the suggestion on camera. The answer is - 'in addition to'. But I may use the lightness of a 100 D body for outside work and have the more bulky 40D/5D? for studio if there is a difference in quality that requires it and i have the resources. This assumes all Canon items - but if I went Nikon then of course body and lens would have to match also. Really in addition to general use, I am just trying to find out if there is a major difference in items for still life work using small format DSLR. I assumed there was a large difference in quality re: MPixels etc but some reviews suggest outcomes are similar between 10 and 12 MP or even higher. It seems a very technical area.
  10. Thanks, that's a good idea. Can you expand on why the Eos 5D?
  11. Edit: I can see the imaging quality is much better with the EOS 5D.
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The main points of the EOS 5D suggestions were:

    1. > really inexpensive for a "FF" Camera (by today's standards) with reasonable Image Quality
    2. > arguably easier/better for a range of shots across a range of genres with the (very inexpensive and value for money) good quality 50mm lens that I suggested
    3. > assuming that you might want close ups / or macro - the EF 50/1.8MkII + 5D + set of 3 Kenko Tubes is very versatile value for money kit
    4. > assuming that you want to suit criteria stated in the other conversation (i.e. that of dials, screens and that you the want to use the camera 'manually'), then note that the EOS 5D Series of Cameras has a different set of dials; layout and functionalities than do the xxD; xxxD and xxxxD Series of cameras.

    If I correctly understand the emphasis you have placed on various of your criteria, then Point 4 above might be of significance to you.

    The main downside of a 5D Series Camera (contrasted to an APS-C Format Camera like a 40D) would be that you will not get the narrower FoV when using telephoto lenses for your 'wildlife' shots. Additionally, it seems to me that there are quite a few value for money APS-C specific telephoto zoom lenses from which you could choose.


    I'm still interested in your responses to the three points I raised in the other thread.

    In synopsis these points are:

    > addressing the compass of the Focal Lengths that you want to use and noting gaps in that FL compass
    > addressing Lens Speed and low light photography - what type of low light - how will you accommodate the low light - eg Flash, Long Exposure, Fast Lenses?
    > addressing the requirements for Post Production, especially considering (my interpretation of your requirements and my paraphrasing now) 'you want to work screen-less and be non electronic and have no computer based commands in the workflow'
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  13. You won't even get a mk1 5D for £100, nor a decent lens either, and a set of extension tubes will set you back 50 quid. You might just get a used Tamron 90mm macro lens for around £100, which would obviate the need for tubes.

    But you're going to have to increase your camera budget to get any DSLR worth having.

    Then you'll have to budget for a memory card or cards too, although an old used camera may include one.

    What you describe in your other thread just doesn't exist. Some older bridge style cameras took standard AA cells, which lasted about 5 minutes. There's a good reason why all modern DSLRs use custom Li-ion or Li-polymer batteries - nothing else gives sufficient power.

    The nearest to an all-manual film SLR is Nikon's Df model. They're not cheap used, and IMO don't offer good VFM, or even handle like an old SLR. A basic current APS-C DSLR will likely outperform it on many levels - likewise a basic modern DX body will deliver better IQ than an old 5D.

    It's easier and cheaper to change your mindset than to try and find a camera that meets your (frankly, very outmoded) expectations. We're well into the 21st Century now, and the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
  14. To answer your 3 points first: (These answers depend upon camera body - lens - work mix), until I decide which combination they are merely ideas.
    Having said that:

    FL - My personal lens choice would be a wide angle and a reasonably long focal length lens. I tend to leave standard 50mm lenses alone due to my own taste. Of course actual lens choice will also be influenced by quantity or work (whether outdoors or studio). I do not at this stage intend to have a full range of lenses - and make do with two. Also I can see that many more zoom lenses are available which allows some flexibility here.

    Lens speed - I envisage most outdoor work t be in poor light (without flash) so would mainly use a mix of long exposure, ISO and any available aperture flexibility. Again I would be working with the idea of 'make-do' rather than perfection.

    Post Production - The only interest I have in digital is its relative inexpense and speed of seeing a result. My view is that older medium and larger format produced very good quality. If digital can match that (using small format) that's great - if it can't, I will again make-do. I have no objection to a limited amount of digital/electronics/screens - but only in order to obtain quick imaging and a decent camera. In any case - It seems this now is all that is available at my budget. Post production - I will use a free digital editing suite on a PC (reluctantly).

    With reference to what you say about the EOS 5D having a different set of dials to the 40D. Can you say how the aperture and shutter speed are set manually with the 5D and how that differs to the 40D?
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
  15. Small format and nowadays are a bit confusing. - Lets say we are 10 years before now, due to budged constraints?
    When I look at DxOmark, I'd say: you 'll get a 4K screen filled or an A4 picture printed and if you are lucky and not too picky "away" with something bigger.
    Used EOS stuff seems like a very reasonable and quite safe choice for budget DSLR shooting, to me. Since we are talking about the long time market leader, there should be plenty of supply.
    I confess: That stuff is boldly textmarkered on my "Plan B" shopping list, in case I'll get back into product shooting studio work. <- Clarifying: When I started scooping up my "current" kit, ages ago, the 5D was not inside my reach. Having been shooting (& of course shopping & stocking) Pentax since 1985 (I'm "the kid" in this gang) I wanted to stick with that system. It worked for me until recently. The issues I have (with k-mount):
    • EOS stuff (including even Yongnuo) is(!) cheaper to replenish.
    • I see a logistics benefit in getting "the studio workhorse" compatible with my"state of the art events etc. camera".
    The benefits I see in going full frame for slightly higher resolution studio work:
    • Dust on sensor will have less impact since it covers fewer pixels at once.
    • Mediocre lens and big sensor tend to be cheaper than excellent lens on smaller sensor, providing the same resolution in a final image, if the latter is possible at all. (I am somewhat confident about 5D matching smaller sensor cameras to exist but when we up the game things should change.
    The big caveat: You have to decide how financially serious you want to take the digital stuff; i.e. if a few extra pixels are worth more money at all.

    If a lens renders well enough on a 6MP body and doesn't provide much resolution gain on a 24MP one, the tests, stating that, were taken at base ISO setting. If we crank up our ISOs high enough we 'll reach a point where we generate a lot(!) of noise. To get rid of it we'll have to basically bin pixels by using software averaging them out. In other words: We end with a 1.5MP image and a 6MP one looking "bearable". I guess (<-pessimistically!) a 24MP body might still deliver 6MP in 1.5 f-stops less light than where an older 6MP one was totally maxed out, delivering 1.5MP.
    Lots of modern megapixels are absolutely nice to have in really low light; even if glass catering them at base ISO in a studio isn't affordable.

    Primary trait of sync ports: "Being unreliable." Trust me, I lost some hair over the grief they caused.
    If you want one badly, you can buy an adapter. If you want your camera electrically connected to your flash, go through the hot shoe. Warning! #sync Voltage - Read up on it on your own. - It shouldn't be impossible to search for each & every digital camera's sync voltage rating and in doubt it is worth emailing customer support of it's (hopefully still alive) manufacturer.
    A few professionals targeting brands claim their cameras can stand 100-something V, others way less. Some older flashes & strobes have high sync Voltages that would fry my Pentax bodies.

    I don't recommend using a wire between flashes and camera, for safety and convenience reasons.
    My personal preference for a budget(!) studio is triggering via a safe (Voltage!) tiny & dialed down hot shoe flash (swiveled or reflected away from my subject) and optical slave sensors. Strobes tend to have those built in. There are dull Chinese ones available for dirt cheap and if your studio is really bright etc adding a single more sensitive one by a reputable brand doesn't break the bank either.

    Simple radio triggers can work too. I am not overly happy with the Wallimex they had at my previous job. It was occasionally unreliable and took an exotic & expensive tiny 12V battery that wasn't convenient to replace either (crappy tiny screws).

    For more luxury you can even put a remote in your hot shoe and dial the flash outputs up and down via it. - These can be convenient depending on your arrangements.
    No clue, I am new to EOS. - On 5D IV the aperture gets usually (i.e. in manual mode) set via the huge dial on the back (thumb) and shutter speed by the tiny one near shutter release (index finger) when I hit AV mode index finger sets aperture, thumb exposure compensation. - These cameras have only 2 of 4 desirable wheels but aren't that hard to get used to.
  16. My personal impression is that digital can work well at least one format smaller than film. I used to shoot MF 6x6 cameras and believe to get better or comparable results from my old Monochrom. To compete with LF digital most likely needs to stand on it's rear legs, let's say Canon's or Sony insanely high resolution 35mm bodies combined with really good lenses might have a chance. But sorry, I don't own that digital stuff and haven't yet challenged the film gear either.
  17. Please pardon my curiosity, Karim, who made which (by now) GBP 100 MILC with what GBP 100 lens, that you'd consider recommendable? - I am honestly(!) clueless. - I did look up prices for X-E1 but they seem still too high (and I am very reluctant to either recommend that camera or bring it into a studio at all).
    If there is a handheld (with flash) enjoyable MILC that cheap, you could re-ignite my GAS and get me shopping. - Thanks in advance.
  18. That budget is too low, clearly. Having said that, you can get an E-PL1 and kit lens for about £100. You can then use very simple techniques and tools to boost image quality. Given that we're talking still life, it's not that hard. :)
  19. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I did check Jessop's Second Hand before suggesting the 5D. They had two, for 285 quid each and an EF 50/1.8 for 50 quid. Agreed, that's a bit more than 100 over budget.

    I think it is more important to note that suggestion was before the OP confirmed that this conversation is an extension of the first thread to which I linked.


    Considering that BOTH threads are to be addressed as one – i.e. you want one camera body and two lenses for about 300 Pounds total. My ammended suggestion is you should consider something like a 40D and an all-in-one zoom lens, for example a Sigma 18-200mm DC MkII which has a ‘macro’ feature and also stabilization (OS). Checking Jessop’s Second Hand that combination comes in on about your budget of 300.

    This updated suggestion takes into account your budget and also the most recent criteria which you’ve added – viz:

    > My personal lens choice would be a wide angle and a reasonably long focal length lens.

    > I can see that many more zoom lenses are available which allows some flexibility here.

    > Lens speed - I envisage most outdoor work t be in poor light (without flash) so would mainly use a mix of long exposure, ISO and any available aperture flexibility. Again I would be working with the idea of 'make-do' rather than perfection.

    > The only interest I have in digital is its relative inexpense (sic) and speed of seeing a result. My view is that older medium and larger format produced very good quality. If digital can match that (using small format) that's great - if it can't, I will again make-do. I have no objection to a limited amount of digital/electronics/screens - but only in order to obtain quick imaging and a decent camera.

  20. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I think that you should take under serious consideration the advice to increase your budget because convenience and also image quality will be improved greatly if you do.

    Additionally, I think that it would be a waste of money and effort increasing your budget unless you do radically change your thinking as to how you will utilize the digital media that you seek to acquire.


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