SLR for a Beginner

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by ejjay, Sep 24, 2003.

  1. I am a beginner but want to take my photos up a level. To make the
    move from a Compact Camera to SLR I was considering EOS300V. However
    I would like to know what other cameras would be recommended for a
    first SLR? I am looking for something with automatic features as well
    as manual override.
    As for digital vis film, although I like the idea of digital I think
    film holds better quality with a good zoom. I was hoping to get up to
    300mm zoom.
    Please advise
  2. This topic has generated some heated debate recently, so I should tread carefully. But I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest an old manual focus SLR such as one of the Pentaxes or a Minolta X-series, or the Canon AE-1, and a couple of prime lenses. These cameras have an auto-exposure feature but you have to focus manually. Using these will give you a lot of insight into the process of picture taking and because the investment is not too large you can move on later to new gear without too much loss (and the old Pentax K lenses can go on today's autofocus cameras too). Regarding zoom lenses, good zooms don't come cheap, but there are some bargains in manual focus prime lenses. A 300mm f5.6 shouldn't cost very much. 300mm is not an everyday focal length though and I was wondering what you plan to do with it.
  3. n m

    n m

    Modern "auto" SLRs in line with their features are a strange mix of "point and shoot" modes and complex dial and button use. They encourage unconsidered shots whilst their complexity can be an impediment. Lack of motor wind and so on will force you to consider what you are doing. If that is what you want to do.

    Of course, they are generally more expensive than used semi-automatic cameras and lenses of twenty years ago or modern copies.

    I would recommend used or new relatively manual cameras that sell cheaply nowadays such as the Pentax compatibles. They will not have motor wind or autofocus, but you will have control of the basics, the equipment feels that much more rugged and positive in feel, and you will have a huge well of used equipment at a cheap price to choose from.

    Or more expensively you could go the route of a Nikon FE2 and AI/AIS lenses which you could still use manually on an autofocus camera later.
  4. Brian, I'm going to stick my neck out and disagree ;-) I guess my main problem with what you suggest is that today you have to buy old, discontinued model cameras used. That means you can either shop at your local camera shop or an online retailer (such as, paying top dollar, and get some recourse in case there turns out to be a problem; or from ebay or other private seller, where you are essentially relying on the honesty and integrity of a stranger. Your investment is barely protected in the first instance, and completely unprotected in the second. Older cameras may be serviceable, but unfortunately the cost of servicing/repairs will often exceed their replacement value, except in the case of the most expensive models.

    Emma, in terms of value for money, you are right to consider a new camera that has manual as well as auto features. Some photonetters who have grown accustomed to high end 'classic' manual gear complain that the handling and controls of the new cameras in manual mode are inferior to the older models. I haven't found this to be the case. But as someone coming directly from a 'compact' (point and shoot?) camera, you are unburdened by this silly prejudice, and needn't give it a second thought.

    The fact is, new cameras are equally capable of taking great pictures in whatever mode you choose to operate them in (incidentally I use both kinds of cameras). And with a new camera, you at least have the choice. Does this prevent you from learning photography? No. The great thing about photography is that it is a vast field covering an array of aesthetic as well as technical considerations, and we all have a lot to learn about it. There is no one way of learning that works for everyone, or we would all wind up knowing and doing the same things. How boring. The main thing is that if you keep your eyes and mind open, you can hardly fail to learn. What you learn, and how you learn are choices you have to make for yourself -- the cameras and associated gear are just tools that you will likely change over time as you experiment and grow.

    As for lenses, I personally think it can be very valuable to experience a good variety of focal lengths, particularly in the wide angle -- short tele range. A 'kit' zoom lens (typically bundled with new camera offerings) in the 28 -- 80mm range is ideal. Don't worry too much about dire pronouncements about optical quality about such lenses. For someone new to photography, the quality such lenses are capable of will be more than adequate. Perhaps you'll have to work a little harder to pull out good photos, by observing which lighting conditions are most favorable. That is a good thing. In any case, the price is so low, you will have no qualms about supplanting them later on with better quality glass when, and if, you need it.

    Good luck with your endeavor.
  5. You'll need specify what kind of pictures you wan't to take... Camera design is a compromise of many factors such as price/image quality/ versality/weight/construction/good looks/etc... So in order to choose the right camera you'll need to find out what your needs are ( is it for the family album? for studio? for travelling? wildlife? underwater? etc... or is it a mix of the aforementioned?) and how much you are willing to pay for it.

    Writing that you *need* 300mm zoom without stating what its use is going to be seems a bit exagerated. The 300mm is a rather specialized focal length (although some major marketing effort is being done to convince us otherwise).

  6. You want to find out why your pictures turn out the way they do? DONT go electronic, get an entry-level light meter, any old trustworthy mechanical slr with 50mm or 35mmm and, for instance, the books of Ansel Adams ('the camera', 'the negative' and 'the print'). Somebody told me these are outdated, maybe so, i dont know. If there's anything better, do the Any brand SLR is okay i think. The good thing about Nikon is you can always upgrade the body (e.g. if you want to venture into the realm of flash; to something with faster flash synch or ttl) while keeping the lens. Spend the 300 $ you just saved yourself on film and developer, shoot 1 roll a week. <br>Or just come back to this site as often as you can, the amount of knowledge gathered here is truly amazing!
  7. Emma an EOS300V or a Nikon F65 or one of the latest Pentax SLRs will all serve you well. I would go for the EOS because I am bias I've owned them for years. I do miss my old manual bodies Nikon FA and my first SLR Praktika BC1 but not that often. The modern AF SLRs are a real joy to use the AF is faster than I can focus manualy only struggling sometimes in low light. Many people go on about learning on an all manual camera this is good advise to some extent if you ever move to 120 roll cameras or large format you will need the knowledge gained. Almost all of the modern AF SLRs offer manual mode and manual focus so you can learn with these too. Some of the older manual cameras are over 30 years old nothing lasts forever. I would recomend a Nikon FM2 these are great cameras built to last. I spent 3 years working on cruiseships as a photog when I got there I put away my EOS and used the supplied FM2 why not use company cameras I thought. These FM2s shot thousands of rolls each year I even dropped one down the metal stairs maybe I was luckly but it still worked fine. An FM2 would be one camera I would consider to use along side my EOS system (if only Canon made something similar) but it does nothing automaticaly you only need a battery for the built in lightmeter and that is basic I don't think it would suit your needs very well at the moment. The EOS300V would be a good choice.<br> My wife actualy uses a Nikon F50 with a Tamrom 28-200 zoom. She does not care to learn about photography but wants good pictures so she uses it like a giant point and shoot the results are very good.
  8. Nick Name, if your main problem with my suggestion is that such cameras are only available used, then I've got some good news for you. The Minolta X-370 is still available, as is the Nikon FM3, plus a number of Chinese clones of old Pentax K and Minolta MD mount bodies. Higher up the price ladder there are Contax and Leica manual SLRs but I would not recommend these to a beginner. I would buy used rather than buy any of these, but if it's an obstacle, you see there is a way round.
  9. Brian, in your own words: "I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest an old manual focus SLR"...
  10. Nick Name said: "The fact is, new cameras are equally capable of taking great pictures in whatever mode you choose to operate them in"
    True. And if If you're after action shots in difficult light, well a modern P&S SLR might be the only option. And I had unlimited $$$ I'd run out and buy a new camera and lenses, regardless If E. Johnstone doesn't care about $$$, then that's fine. It certainly works for Phil If $$$ are limited, getting an old camera often lands good, cheap glass. Frankly, that's why I'm still sticking to '70s tech. Cheap glass and a $100 CLA every ten years.
    But back to fundementals: why move to an SLR? I presume that it is to
    • a) get into "ground glass" focussing and
    • b) have a choice of focal lengths.
      An SLR is only one way to achieve this - St. Phil has a lot to say about different camera types. Read it. Perhaps, for you, a view camera is a better "next step"
      While I'm an avid gear head, if you are into making pictures getting hung up on camera bodies is a step in the wrong direction. At the end of the day, the body is just a light tight box to hold your film and mount your lense. Keep the wunderschnapper for af/ae snapping, find a small CHEAP digital to practice composition. Then think about what lense/camera system will suit what you are trying to capture or express.
      If you decide on 35mm SLR, do read the guide .
  11. In my maybe-not-so-humble opinion, buying new is a waste of money, for a load unnecessary features and, in consumer grade products, poor build quality.<br><br> If a camera has performed well for 30 years, it will most likely go on working well as long as it gets a good cla (cleaning, lubrication and adjustment) in time. Of course it depends on de build quality: I would *always* trust my nikkormat or photomic (completely steel, mechanic), and less so the FE2 as it has electronics and more plastic parts. <br><br>I wouldnt trust these ultra-light weight all-plastic nikon f65s or Canon EOS's (or these digital gadgets, for that matter) for a dime. Drop them once and it's game over.<br><br>With a little bit of luck, you'll still be using your metal early 1970s slr 30 years from now. Just my 2 eurocents...
  12. Do yourself a favour and don't take any advice too seriously, including mine. You have to decide what's best for you, but personally, I see no reason whatsoever not to buy a current autofocus SLR like a Canon Elan 7 or a Nikon F80. Even in completely manual mode, these cameras have electronically-controlled shutters that are far more accurate and reliable than the old mechanical cameras, plus they have extremely useful features that we could only dream about in the old days with those old mechanical cameras. I know, because I started with those in the 1970's. I wouldn't trade my Nikon F80 for any of those. The important thing with focussing is not turning the focus ring with your fingers, but knowing what to focus on and where exactly. Just set your camera to focus only when you press whatever button it is on yours, rather than always when you press the shutter, and you've got basically the same thought process as if you were using a manual camera. As for exposure, put one of these babies in manual exposure mode, and you've got everything as manual as it would be on an old, beaten up manual camera, except with better viewfinder information and finer control. Multiple exposures used to be trial and error because there was no guarantee the film would stay exactly where it was from the first exposure to the next. Now, all you have to do is set the camera in multiple exposure mode and the film won't budge. People with manual cameras used to wish to could afford the expensive add-on motor drive, plus a fully automatic flash. Now you get everything at once for a reasonable price. Get one as a kit with the little zoom lens. You may as well have the extra range of focal lengths to play with that a zoom offers, but also don't leave the store without a 50mm 1.8 lens (these are called prime lenses). The zoom will be your fun, snapshot lens, and the 50mm will be the one you use more seriously, and to learn more about existing light photography. If you can afford more than just the 50mm, even better to have three prime lenses: a wide angle (like 24 or 28mm), the 50mm, and short telephoto like 85 or 105mm). But if you can't, then the cheap zoom will allow you to get into the ballgame with other focal lengths anyway. I like Nikon because a camera like the F75 or F80 includes a true spotmeter, rather than just a partial one. Plus, if you buy some autofocus prime lenses, and you later decide to pick up a used manual Nikon, the lenses will work on it fine. If you go the modern Canon route, that possibility does not exist in any form. Despite what anyone says, photography is about lenses, not the actual body. I do agree it's best to learn to do things manually, and current cameras let you do that (some entry-level models don't, though), plus they have the automation available when you need it. It's just as important to learn to use the automation properly as it is to learn to use the camera manually, in my opinion. As a last point, used cameras are, well, used. Have you any idea how expensive it is to get cameras fixed these days? Forget used. Get a new one, and consider a few more bucks for the extended warranty. By the time the warranty is past, you will probably want another camera anyway.
  13. The problem with used cameras is, that they ARE much cheaper than new ones but they WILL need some repairing/cleaning that will bring their price up. They might last forever, but not without those so-much-mentioned CLA's. With used lenses,it's a different story. They are much more straightforward when you look at them. They either are clean and working, or they are not, there are not too many things that can go wrong with them.
    <br>I bought my lenses all second-hand, checking them out before paying, except one zoom that was new. All the second-hand ones are working perfectly; however, the one I bought new and without checking (and was the most expensive), already starts to behave strange, mechanically.
    <br>With a camera body i would be much more careful if second-hand without guarantee.
    <br>Good luck.
    If you decide for a new body,by the way, check the minolta's (dynax 5, 7, 700si, 800si, depending on your budget)- they are nice and the lenses (even the autofocus ones)are much cheaper second-hand than canon, nikon. The smaller variety only makes decisions easier :eek:)
  14. Definitely read the info on buying a new camera because it has a lot of considerations that maybe important to you, but you may not have thought of. As noted above, you will got alot of different opinions because everyone has different preferences. One thing I would recommend is going to a few camera stores and play with a few different models. You may like the feel of some cameras more than others and some may have interfaces that are more intuitive for you. You may like the feel of the older manual focus models which tend to have metal bodies, better built quality and typically smoother manual focusing. This is why I prefer the older models, but they are also more than adequate for my shooting style. Alternately, you may like the convenience of the newer autofocus models - autofocus can be useful for fast action shots, program can be useful when you don't have time to bother, pop up flashes can be useful for daytime fill flash. As indicated you can alway use all of these new cameras in manual mode if you choose. Remember that you are buying into a system. Look to see what lenses and accessories are available that you may find useful in case you want to expand. Although at the beginning it is difficult to tell, but most of the major system (canon, nikon, pentax, minolta) have everything you could possibly need.
  15. I would just like to thank all the people who have written replies to my question. All have raised very valid points to think about.

    Just to clarify it I use my camera mainly for Travel photography, and I'm planning on going to some national parks soon....hence the large lens.

    Maybe before making the decision I will see if I can borrow an old olympus slr one of my relatives has.

    I will definately look at the SLR section on this website.

  16. I'm not sure a long telephoto is what you need most for travelling to a national park, unless you specifically want to photograph animals (even then, 300mm may not be long enough in the wild). Keep in mind that a 300mm almost mandates using a tripod, since a 300mm zoom is a pretty slow lens, too slow for handholding in many situations. If it's the scenery you want to photography, a zoom in the 24 or 28 to 105 range is probably a better bet. A modern autofocus camera with full manual overrides and a good automatic flash system will be much more pleasant in daily use.
  17. Pierre, a slowish 300mm can be hand held in broad daylight. I can hold my 70-300 4-5.6 zoomed out, f8 or 11, at shutter speeds as slow as 1/250 with minimal blur/shake evident in the results. Here are my first tests of the lens, all handheld (it doesn't actually work on my tripod, I have to get a lens mount for it):
  18. I don't disagree that it's possible to get good shots handheld with a slow 70-300 zoom. I've done it myself. But most people, especially newcomers don't realise how easy it is the get blurry shots with those.
  19. There's only one way to find out...

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