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Advice wanted: First DSLR + lens combo

I'm planning to step up from a canon point & shoot to my first dslr and I'm leaning towards the Nikon D90, but also looked at the Canon Ti1 and 50D. Most of my photos will probably be family related as I have a 6-month old son, but I'm also interested in some outdoor/landscape photography.

Looking for thoughts on that and also if I go with the D90 I've read mixed reactions to the kit lens. What do you think of this set up: get a D90 body, and the nikon 35mm f/1.8G prime lens which seems to be rated well.

How much, if at all, will I be limited with this combo? I'd rather not be changing lenses all the time, but if that set up doesn't work so well, what would you suggest?

My budget at this point is up to about $1,500 for a body + lens(s).

All thoughts are appreciated, thanks!


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First DSLR and lenses for family

In reply to: Advice wanted: First DSLR + lens combo

Getting only a 35mm f/1.8 prime lens will limit your photography to normal perspective. This focal length is good enough for baby whole body shots, but will not be good for closeup portrait. You will also need a wide angle for landscape, travel, and family group photos. A mid range tele will be good for portrait and sports action as your child grows older. Having HD video capability available is handy for family use. I often use the HD video on my Canon 5D Mark II which has excellent quality, and the T1i is probably quite similar. Your budget will not be enough for a fast zoom lens.

Things you will want to have for a nice basic setup and great family photos:
D-SLR with a general purpose kit zoom lens (usually 18-55mm)
A mid range tele lens preferrably with IS (usually falls within the range of 55-300mm)
A fast prime lens like 35mm f/1.8, or 50mm f/1.4, or 50mm f/1.8 for night photos or low light shots where you cannot use flash
An external bouncer flash with diffuser (make sure it can tilt and swivel)
A polarizer filter
A tripod
A remote trigger
A lens cleaning kit
A bag that is big enough to hold all these gears
An editing software like Photoshop.
An external hard drive to back up all your photos and videos

Your budget should include the above essential accessories and peripherals because these things can improve your shots more than a more expensive camera body.

The HD video capability in the newer D-SLRs is a very handy function, with great quality, but it is not a camcorder. You need to either autofocus before switching to video mode, or do manual focus (it has autofocus but it is very slow in the video mode). This video capability is good enough for family clips and baby clips. Audio is decent as long as you don't use any autofocus function or snap a shot during video clipping. For a lot of family clips, I have used the D-SLR video and left my camcorder at home. But for sports action or birthday party video where kids are running around, you will definitely need the camcorder. I found the Litepanel micro to be a very good external LED light for video use.

If you don't need video, the Canon 50D has faster fps and is better for sports action. But your baby will not have any fast action until a few years from now, so not something that important for you at this time.

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Changing lenses

In reply to: Advice wanted: First DSLR + lens combo

If you are serious about transitioning to D-SLR, then you should get used to changing lens. Changing lenses is not as bad as you think. Most of the time you know ahead when you need a different lens. If you don't have enough time to switch lens, then use the general purpose lens and crop in to get a tighter shot later in post-processing.

If you really don't want to change lenses or often shoot in dusty or gusty environment, then the 18-200mm lens usually can cover most of your shots. There is compromise, it has more distortions and is a slow zoom lens that costs more than the combined general purpose and tele lenses.

I will suggest you get the separate general purpose and tele lens, and use the left over money to buy a cheap fast prime lens and an external flash. You will get much better photos than using a superzoom lens.

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18 - 200 mm Nikon VR lens

In reply to: Changing lenses

I have this lens an love it. Yes it is not perfect at 18mm nor a 200mm but the abilty to just tote just one lens makes up for it. I'm not a professional and so the less than perfect image a pro would complain about at the far end of the focal length is something I personally don't see. It is a bit heavier than a standard lens so an upgraded shoulder strap would be nice. ALSO, because the barrel is longer than a standard lens, you get a shadow when using the built-in flash at wide angle. If you have room, you can zoom out of the shadow, otherwise buy an speed light that sits on top of the camera. (Note: I have a D80 not a D90).

Regarding Nikon vs Canon - they are both very good. I think Nikon's menuing system is bit more difficult to follow - you will get used to it. Generally, Canon standard lens are not a good as Nikon standard lens so if you buy the Canon then I sugggest upgrading to an better lens. That is, don't just buy a kit - buy a body and a better lens.

These are my opinions I'm sure others will disagree.

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Thank you

In reply to: Advice wanted: First DSLR + lens combo

Thanks for the great suggestions!

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