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Help a novice choose a specialized camera? (Night)

by VKhaun / March 12, 2008 12:06 PM PDT

Alright, I very little knowledge of cameras.
I'm aware that megapixels aren't everything, that's about it.

Here's where I stand.

I deliver newspapers to businesses from around 1am to 6am in Maryland, and during the night I keep seeing things I wish I could photograph. Headed back through some woods and a bunch of deer are crossing the road slowly, someone being a nutt, all the way to closed off stores swarming with police cars. Obviously my cellphone camera isn't cutting it. Since I'm working, and the camera would be stowed in the front of the vehicle somewhere easy to get to, I would almost always be taking pictures from the passenger side of a parked van with the engine running. Image Stabilization is a plus. Average distance, I need to take pictures from say, the shoulder of a three lane road, to a storefront off the road. Lighting will vary greatly, but sources will usually be strong or absent like past street lights and police lights in the dead of night with clarity to recognize a face, or into the dark woods with almost no light, or perhaps flooded with light from my headlights with clarity to easily view an animal.

I'd wanted a digital camera anyway, but instead of getting a cheap one, I figured I may as well save and wait a bit longer to get something I could keep handy in the van and use at night as well. My 'ideal' budget would be under a grand. I could save this up in time, but I want to do this well and would rather save up what it takes and wait longer, then get poor results now. I was however, recommended this camera:
http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/ [...] elid=16336.

If that'll do what I'm asking, I'd love to spend 200 instead of 1,000!
Though I'm skeptical.

Failing that, I was looking at:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6830120070
For daytime/regular, then getting a special lens to swap for longer distance night work?
Was thinking that would at least break up the price tag into two parts, too.
Is this what it would take to do what I want to?
If so, what lens would be recommended for it?

Any input would be helpful.
I will troll the thread until time for work, feel free to ask questions and I'll respond.

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Ack, messed up the links.
by VKhaun / March 12, 2008 12:09 PM PDT
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Specialized Camera
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / March 13, 2008 7:03 AM PDT

Whoever recommended the Canon A590 was on the right track.
It will do a lot of the things you want.
Shooting low light shots come with a penalty.
The lens is not bright enough, which means that most of your low light shots would have to be at slow shutter speeds, and require a tripod to support the camera.
(Resting the camera on a car door would work as a tripod sometimes).

The Canon XTI is a better solution.
The kit from Newegg is a good start and will handle your daytime shots.

For night, you do need a brighter lens.
A bright lens is one that is rated from f/1.2 to f/2.8, with f/1.2 being the brightest (and very expensive).
The brightest zoom lens is rated f/2.8 throughout the zoom range and will cost over $1,000.

To stay within your budget, I would pick a "native" lens (meaning - no zoom).
For the distance you described, I would look for an 85mm to 100mm lens.
(EF 85mm f/1.8 USM - $340) or (EF 100mm f/2 USM - $390)

With one of those lenses and setting the ISO to 800 or 1600, you should be able to keep your shutter speed high enough to be able to hand-hold the camera.

Image Stabilization would be nice but does not fit within your budget.
But, you will find that this size camera is easier to hold steady due to its weight.

The ability to capture some police or fire activity could lead to selling some shots to the newspaper.
We got a similar request from a volunteer fireman.
Can you imagine some of the shots he could get?

...
..
.

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Thanks!
by VKhaun / March 13, 2008 7:58 AM PDT
In reply to: Specialized Camera

Awesome, everything I needed to know.
I really appreciate the time you took to respond, and will follow your advice.

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