You are here

Fun and Games, a noob with a DSLR

Posted at 22:17 on Wed, 6th April 2011 in gadgets, photography.

Some notes on the subject of photography, and some tips, links and comments for one looking to purchase a Digital SLR camera.

Photography is a fairly lame hobby - you give up a bunch of hard earned cash, point and shoot something, and then claim to have artistic talents.

Those were my basic thoughts up until couple of months ago.

Why did I give it another chance? Well one awful day (awful, as in I had a hangover) I was thinking about travelling again (what most adults do to cure their unhappiness), and what do you do when you travel? take photo's of course. So I started researching the best means of taking photo's: Digital Single Lens Reflex camera's (DSLR).

I already had a holiday booked in advance, which was just over a month away, so I didn't waste any time. After a few days of reading as many sites and forums as I could and talking to a few work colleagues, I decided on what I wanted and put in an order at the cheapest (but reputable) online store I could find. Two days later, the camera arrived, and I was on my way.

I'd like to think I did quite a bit of research on the topic before deciding, so to try help others also thinking about picking up the hobby (acknowleging, it's not rocket science), below are some of my notes, links and tips on how I went about doing this. It might also make for a bit of a laugh in a years time when I look back at this post, to see how naive I was and hopefully how much more I've learnt.

Anyway, here goes:

  • First, start off getting your head around the fundamentals of photography: Aperture, ISO sensitivity, and Shutter Speed. See this very quick video that explains these on youtube. You may already know about them in some shape or form, but to be sure - grab your old 'point and shoot' digital camera, and work out its limitations in these areas.
  • Next, you'll want to read up on DSLR's. The best page for me, was simply the wikipedia article on DSLR's. Compare the benefits of a DSLR's over an average point and shoot digital camera:
    • what you see in the viewfinder/live view, is exactly what's taken during exposure due to the way the lens mirror to viewfinder/sensor work.
    • the photo is taken at the same time as when you press the shutter button. This is critical to shooting sports or fast moving objects.
    • the camera lens's can be changed to suit different subjects and scenes.
      (For a full list of the pro's and con's (there's not many) check out this article - also see that page on why camera Megapixels aren't everything!)
  • Work out what features are important to you in a DSLR camera. i.e. does it need to have Live View, Full HD video recording, 5 or more frames a second in continuous/burst mode, bracketing support for doing HDR's, HDMI connector to view the images on your TV. Most of these features are standard on DSLR's released in the past 12-14 months. But if they aren't important, go for an older second hand DSLR, and save yourself a heap of cash - you'll still get good photo's!
  • Don't worry too much about brand, as long as its Canon or Nikon - these guys evenly share 80% of the market, so its best to go with either one. Don't worry about which one, but focus on the camera that has the features you want and which is within your budget.
  • If buying the camera new, shop around and don't rush! If you are ok with purchasing something online, you can sometimes save between 30-50%, but be aware of the downsides: these cheaper online retailers import the Camera's from distributors in Hong Kong/China, so for warranty purposes, if something goes wrong, you have to send the camera back to them and wait for them to sort it out, which can be up to a few weeks sometimes.
  • Don't buy any accessories or additional Lens's to start off with, get use to the camera and work out what else might actually help you after you've had a chance to use it. Shop around for your accessories, as some people who sell the camera bodies for cheap, sell accessories for a lot more to make their money back.
  • Read up on trusted local forums, and see what other people in your region are doing to get camera's. Here in Australia we have Whirlpool and Overclockers Australia - these sources were invaluable for me.

In the end, I decided on a Canon Kiss X4 (aka EOS 550D) Twin lens kit (18-55mm and 55-250mm lens's). This was because I wanted video recording with all the standard DSLR features, but also couldn't afford the newer 600D or the 50D. The twin Lens kit, was specifically for my trip, as I knew I'd be taking photo's of objects, quite far away. If you are interested in Canon DSLR's, wikipedia is invaluable (use the category timeline table in the footer of the page to see all the other camera's).

I ordered my camera from DWI who do ship from Hong Kong, but still have call centre's in Australia for checking stock availability, and other enquiries. If they have stock, and they process your order the day you submit it, it literally takes 24-72 hours to arrive at your door step (was about 36 hours for me!). Additionally, after a few weeks, i then picked up some accessories from Australian retailers: DCW and Good Guys.

Since I got my camera early last month, I've taken photo's of cat's, the Melbourne Gran Prix, Bee's, the SuperMoon and more! Check out my flickr photo stream and add me as a friend!