Recently I’ve noticed a few people are doing posts themed on the day of the week. Work In Progress Wednesdays, Fridays Find, that sort of thing. This seems like a great idea and as I was pondering the possibilities it occurred to me that it might work well with another idea I’ve had floating about. I little while ago Nikki of Sew Quine asked if I could recommend a good book on DSLR’s. This is turning out to be quite hard. You see I don’t actually own any books which fit the bill. All of the books I have that describe the mechanics of cameras and photography were written for film cameras, (yup I really am that old) and so I’m not really comfortable recommending them for DSLR users.
Don’t get me wrong the ‘basics’ are the same, but there will be bits that are different. So maybe I could combine the ideas and write a series of posts on photography! Once you’ve got the basics the best thing to do is play about. Experience will always be the best teacher.
So what to start with…… Well how about with the camera. DSLR stands for ‘Digital Single Lens Reflex’. The digital bit is obvious but the other bit might need a little bit of explaining. Basically you don’t really need to know how this works when you start out except that unlike little compact cameras, what you see through the view finder is what is coming in through the lens. If you can see a viewfinder on the front of the camera then it’s not an SLR. The benefit of an SLR is that it’s much easier to work out your composition before you press the shutter button. Another feature of SLR’s is that you can change the lens allowing flexibility in expanding the capabilities of your camera. (This is also true of some ‘bridge cameras’ which are kind of half way between the compacts and the true SLR’s.)
If you already have a DSLR (or an SLR) then what are you waiting for…. Get stuck in and have fun…
However, if you’re thinking of buying a camera what would I recommend… Well if you buy a photography magazine you’ll find loads of articles reviewing the latest cameras with lots of impressive stats. They’ll talk about megapixels, metering systems and lots of things that will make your head spin. Read them, and if you’ve got loads of money trot off to your local photographic shop where a nicely dressed salesman (the vast majority are men) will smile and patiently sell you a camera with a lens probably for about £1200. If you want to do this that’s fine, but my advice would be to look in the second hand section. Since new digital cameras are brought out fairly frequently the older models often end up being traded in or sold second hand. At this stage you don’t need those extra few pixels or the fancy metering system. A basic DSLR from a good manufacturer such as Canon or Nikon with about 5 Megapixels or so is likely to be more than good enough to get you started. As you start advancing you’ll be able to work out which features are most useful to you and upgrade your camera appropriately.
Lens wise I’d suggest you start with something in the range of a 28-70mm zoom. The higher the number the more the lens will zoom in for you. Humans see at about 50mm so a lens with that in its range is a good starting point. Again second hand lenses, if they’ve been cared for, can be a great buy and well worth a look. In fact I’d recommend you view your lens purchase as an investment more than your camera body. If your glassware isn’t up to scratch it won’t matter how good you camera body is. If you don’t want to go for a zoom then I’d recommend a 50mm lens (known as a 50mm prime lens).
So what kit do I use? Well I started out with a Yashika film camera which was my 13th birthday present from my father (it’s still a treasured possession). With this camera I learnt some of the basics before moving onto a Nikon F55. My first published images were taken with the Nikon and I loved it a lot. Soon, however, I moved onto a Nikon F90x which shared lenses with the F55. Eventually I reached the point where I was looking at investing into some new lenses and decided to make the move to Canon. I bought an EOS 3 which is a wonderful film camera and even now I get a tingle when I use it (which unfortunately isn’t often). Then came my first digital, a Canon EOS 10D. I’m still using that old 10D which is about 8 years old or so now. I’m often asked by people why I don’t buy a newer one. The simple answer is I don’t feel I need to. I’m happy with the images I get from old faithful and haven’t really felt limited. Some of these images have been printed out A3 size and hang on my walls. I currently have 3 lenses which go on it (all also fit onto the EOS 3 film camera). In addition over the years I’ve acquired a few other bits of kit such as a Tripod, Cable Release, data cards, bags etc. If you’re interest in this wonderful art form you’ll acquire extra bits and bobs as well. Some you won’t use much and others will become so familiar in your hands that they start to feel like an extension of you.
Next week on Foto Friday I’ll take a look at getting the right amount of light onto you sensor to form your image.
The photos in this post were taken of my faithful old camera with my mobile. If you would like to see some of my photography then check out www.fantasiaphoto.co.uk