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I need help picking a camera

by JenniferPreis / January 7, 2010 5:51 AM PST

I have been looking for over a year. I am not a professional but hope to be some day. I have a budget of about $3,000 for my first camera/system. I have looked at the Nikon 300, EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera (although the reviews say that the autofocus is a huge problem). I want nice clean crip pictures, the abilaity to shoot inside and out, perhaps some sporting events, video is not that important to me. Also looking for a really sharp lens to go with this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!

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If you want to be a pro
by kalel33-20416052469708587370302374692233 / January 7, 2010 6:55 AM PST

Build up your lens collection first. Buy the cheapest DSLR you can work with, buy the right lens, and then, when you have built up your talent and portfolio, you can buy the body that you want and relegate the first DSLR to a back-up. You're going to need a backup anyways. I could easily blow your $3000 on lens, flashes, nice tripod, maybe a couple of softboxes, etc and still not have the equipment I'd want.

Think of it this way, if you wanted to shoot sports or wedding then you'd want to get the Nikon or Canon 70-200 F2.8. Canon just came out with one and Nikon has a new one on the market. This one lens is $2400 and is the workhorse for many pros, whether it be sports, senior photos, or weddings.

You'll want to get some flashes, the SB900 for Nikon and the Canon 530EX II costs $400 or more. A couple of those plus a lower one for highlights could take 1/3rd of your budget.

OK, so we look at the items that will last and which ones will need to be updated. The only thing that will be replaced on a regular basis is the camera itself, so save your money at the beginning and buy the other products that will last until you are ready to make the jump, and like I said, you'll have a competent backup for later.

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OK I should suggest something
by kalel33-20416052469708587370302374692233 / January 7, 2010 7:00 AM PST

Since sports are in the mix then look at the Canon 40D,50D, 7D, and Nikon D300 or D300s. These will make very competent backups and are good for sports, until you hit the D700, D3s, and 1D series cameras which are very very expensive. You could go with a 7D or D300s and that'll be your sports cameras, which will be much better than the options you offered. You could then use the full frame for weddings and portraits.

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writing too much but
by kalel33-20416052469708587370302374692233 / January 7, 2010 7:02 AM PST

I have 3 friends that are wedding/senior picture photographers and two of them shoot with 30D and one with a 40D. All three do well for themselves and show that you don't "need" to get the high end bodies, necessarily. The one thing they all have in common is high end glass, with their 70-200 F2.8 IS being their most used lens.

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D-SLR and lens
by hjfok / January 7, 2010 10:22 AM PST

I have both the Canon 30D and 5D MarkII, and both are very good. There is no autofocus problem. For tracking action, I always use the center focus point and AI servo, works very well. The 5D MarkII is an excellent camera but it is not a fast action camera (only 3.9 fps). It is okay for my kid's soccer, baseball and casual sports photos. The Canon 7D or 1D Mark IV are better for pro sports (or Nikon D3/D700 if you are a Nikon user).
The high resolution of 5D MarkII is great for landscape, portraits and studio photos that has a lot of details, so that you can see these fine details at large enlargements for wall mounting display.

I agree with the above that building a good lens collection is important if you are getting more serious about photography, more important than getting a better camera body. The full frame cameras will do better with the higher quality lenses (that will double or triple the cost of the camera body). I have the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS for the 30D, which is a very sharp and high quality zoom lens (but this lens is only for APS-C size cameras, so not a good choice if you plan to upgrade to full frame). I also have the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS which is a great mid range tele, very sharp, very versatile (sports, portraits, wedding, events, etc) and I highly recommend the IS version (you will need it for handheld shots). I bought the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS as a kit lens with the 5D Mark II, turns out to be a very good lens at a good price, reasonably sharp, very versatile and a good bargain when bought with the 5D MkII. The 50mm f/1.4 is a cheap and sharp lens when stopped down to 2.0 or narrower.

Here are a list of other popular high quality Canon zoom/prime lenses:
EF 16-35mm f/2.8L (landscape)
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L (events, wedding)
EF 100-400mm f 4.5-5.6 L IS (sports, safari/wildlife)
EF 14mm f/2.8L (landscape ultrawide angle)
EF 24mm f/1.4 L II (landscape)
EF 85mm f/1.2 L II (portrait)
EF 135mm f/2.0 L (a very very sharp macro lens)
TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens (architecture, landscape)

But your $3000 budget is not quite enough for the Nikon D300 or 5D Mark II systems. This is because you did not budget for the lenses and accessories.

Here are a list of useful accessories:
A polarizer filter
A neutral density filter
A tripod
At least one or more external bounce flash that can tilt and swivel
one or more flash diffusers
Memory cards
Photo editing software (eg. Photoshop)
A camera bag with adequate padding to protect your gears
A remote release cable or remote control to trigger the shutter
A lens cleaning kit
If you print your own photos, then consider a Monitor Calibrator (eg. Spyder 3 or Huey)
Extra batteries
A grey card or Expodisc (or just shoot RAW and process it yourself)
2 Umbrellas, and softboxes
Studio strobes (I like the Alien Bees, they are high quality and inexpensive), also consider their Cyber Commander which is a great remote control with built-in flash meter
Other useful accessories include gels and reflectors, beauty dish and grids for the studio strobes, color filters
It is also fun to do chromakey shots with digital backdrops (but you will need some chromakey softwares and studio lights)

These accessories are fun and add creativity, expanding the range of photography that you do. They also help you to learn different aspects of photography, to sharpen and polish your skills. They are also adequate for a small home studio setup. My 30D/5D MarkII setup costs more than $10,000. So if your budget is $3000, then consider an entry level D-SLR, some better lens and accessories.

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Canan or Nikon
by JenniferPreis / January 7, 2010 10:47 PM PST
In reply to: D-SLR and lens

WOW alot of accessories that I did not think of. To tell you the truth, I am really looking at just the camera for now. I know that I need some of those accessories right now (camera bag, batteries, flash, SD cards, etc...) but I am not planning on opening a studio in the near future. The $3000 is for the camera/lens only. Do you think I should go for either one of these cameras you mentioned with a good lense and build upon that?

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Camera and lens
by hjfok / January 8, 2010 1:51 AM PST
In reply to: Canan or Nikon

The Nikon D300 and Canon 5D MarkII do not provide pre-programmed scene modes (portraits, landscapes, sports, etc). So you have to do manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, etc. There is an Full Auto and Program mode, but that means you need to tweak the controls yourself rather than relying on the preprogrammed settings. In other words, these 2 cameras are not meant for novice who moves up from PS cameras.

If you are comfortable with manual or semiauto modes, then these 2 cameras are great to have and a joy to shoot. The Canon kit lens EF 24-105mm f/4L IS is a great bargain when bought with the 5D MarkII, about $3500 (a $200 discount). This is a very good lens. The other alternative is 24-70mm f/2.8L which runs about $1500, will be $1000 over your budget but this is a very popular pro lens, used a lot in weddings and events, has a shallower depth of field and one stop brighter than 24-105 f/4L. Fortunately the Canon 5D MkII have very low noise and good high ISO performance, so you can still do okay with f/4 in lower lights.

If you are deciding between Nikon D300 and Canon 5D MkII, I will personally go for the full frame body, hence the 5D MkII, especially if you may go pro and may need large prints. Bear in mind that the 5D MkII is not a pro sports camera, but it is great for landscape, portraits, studio work, macros, weddings/events, architecture, etc. It is okay for sports. In general there are 2 categories of high end cameras, one is geared towards studio high resolution work and the other is geared towards pro sports. The Nikon D3x is more suited for works similar to the Canon 5D MkII and 1Ds MkIII, whereas the Nikon D3 or Canon 1D Mk IV is great for sports. That doesn't mean that the camera abilities are limited, these cameras are great no matter what you shoot.
You can also look at Nikon D700 instead of D300. A good matching general purpose zoom lens will be the 24-700mm f/2.8.

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by hjfok / January 8, 2010 2:22 AM PST
In reply to: Canan or Nikon

I'm not sure whether your budget for $3000 is only for your camera and lens, and you have a separate budget for accessories; or your $3000 budget is for everything right now.

One thing you should know about Canon 5D MarkII and some high end cameras is that there is no built-in flash. So you have to spend another $300-$500 for an external bounce flash. Built-in flash is considered an amateur feature, though I do like to have one in case I forgot the external flash at home.

Here are the bare bone accessories (something you should consider getting now):
A polarizer filter (and a neutral density filter if possible)
A tripod
At least one bounce flash that can tilt and swivel
one flash diffusers
Memory cards
Photo editing software (eg. Photoshop CS4)
A camera bag with adequate padding to protect your gears
A remote release cable or remote control to trigger the shutter
A lens cleaning kit
Extra batteries
A grey card
If you print your own photos, then consider a Monitor Calibrator (eg. Spyder 3 or Huey)

If these run over the budget, then I will suggest getting a less expensive camera body, since a better lens and having essential accessories improve your photography more than a more expensive camera body.

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