DSLR – Getting Confused

Having worked out (last week) pretty much what I wanted from a DSLR I thought that the next stage would be pretty easy.

Like Matt I wanted a camera that had a quick start up time, as a lot of the pictures I take are of the RockDoves and Moreno, so it isn’t always practical to ask them to pose and wait around whilst I work out shutter speed, aperture etc.

I was pretty sure that whilst the idea of swapping lenses all the time appealed from one perspective (the poser), in reality I concluded it would be a real pain. I doubt I would carry them around that much, and indeed I could actually see them becoming a reason as to why I didn’t use the camera that much. Maybe one day, especially a HUGE telephoto, but for now I wanted just one good “all round lens”.

I was actually feeling pretty pleased with myself at this stage. Little did I know what was just around the corner.

First, I made the ‘mistake’ or reading Digital Photography Expert Techniques again! Mistake? Well if I thought it was good the first time around I am now addicted, BUT have come out with more questions that I went in with:

– What Workflow will I realistically adhere to, and indeed what will be best for me?
– What software should I aim for? Realistically how long will I be happy to use GIMP?
– Should I calibrate my screen?
– Flash or not? If so, which one?
– Grey card?

Second, I hit eBay with a vengeance and quickly got extremely confused:

– What is more crucial, the lens or the camera body?
– Should I buy one of the ‘bundled’ deals that look very attractive?

I did manage to work out with the help of Matt and Mike that I should stay away from the bundled offerings, as although the camera bodies were generally what I was looking for, the lenses were older and inferior. I had already worked out that whilst 2 extra tripods would be useful they weren’t essential. I had also dismissed the idea of buying a body only and using the old SLR lenses that I had. Not just because their effectiveness would be reduced by 1/3rd i.e. a 300 mm would effectively be a 200 mm, but because auto focus wouldn’t work, along with a number of other features.

Mike reinforced that you should get a camera and a lens of the same brand, and Matt reinforced this adding that in his view (supported by some great articles on Ken Rockwell’s site you should stick with the recognised brands.

So I was looking for a camera body and lens from the same, quality branded, company. I had to be able to shoot in RAW (whatever that is) so that I could make the most of the software that I was going to have to buy at some stage, but that I had absolutely no idea which it would be. Clearer? Marginally I guess!

If I am honest I was down to a Canon or a Nikon. Mike and Matt couldn’t really help here though in that Mike is a Canon man and Matt a Nikon man! I was probably veering more towards a Nikon at this stage, but wasn’t sure if I would look at the D70 and a top of the range lens, or a D80 and a slightly inferior lens. Mike had some good advice – pay top dollar for you main lens and drop down a notch for your secondary lenses, but then again he has spent an insane amount on his equipment.

One thing I was absolutely sure about though was that I really wanted a DSLR more than ever. Yes, I wanted one ‘because’ it was a DSLR, but mainly I wanted one because I really want to embrace the whole art of photography in a big way. Whilst this removed the pressure in one respect – I knew I was doing the right thing in buying one, it increased the pressure in a major way – do I buy something that I can (just about) use now, or I do go up a level (or two) and buy something for the future?

So where am I?

– Body v Lens; which has the priority,
– Body; which one,
– Lens; which one(s),
– Software; not cheap, another nightmare decision looming ahead, and
– Workflow; really not my forte so a huge change required.

I will explore these areas over the coming weeks, in the meantime. MATT ARE YOU THERE??????

12 thoughts on “DSLR – Getting Confused

  1. Gary

    This isn’t intended to be a detailed structured response, sorry. I do want to hit a few points though – and raise a few more questions. I’m not a pro, but I have been interested in photography off and on for about 25 years. I’ve been shooting digital, one way or another, since the end of 2001 and finally bought my first DSLR – a Canon EOS 350d – last summer.

    First up – shooting in RAW is “A Good Thing”.

    > What Workflow will I realistically adhere to, and indeed what will be best for me?

    This will vary as your experience develops. Don’t expect to start out as you will continue.

    > What software should I aim for? Realistically how long will I be happy to use GIMP?

    If you can’t stretch to the full Photoshop, get Photoshop Elements. Wait until the new version – 5? – comes out. I expect that it will be announced around the same time that PS CS3 comes out.

    > Should I calibrate my screen?

    Without a doubt.

    But you don’t have to get a hardware device. For a long time I used “SuperCal” from http://www.bergdesign.com/supercal/ – it’s very good. In fact, only very recently did I finally buy a Pantone “Eye-One Display 2” – and I’m not all that happy with it /so far/. Perhaps as I get to know it better I’ll become happier with it.

    – Flash or not? If so, which one?

    When you need it. Whatever DSLR you end up buying will accommodate external flash units and shouldn’t significantly affect your primary purchase decisions. Strobist is a very good flash site I’ve started following recently. If you anticipate doing much flash work, invest some time here – the guy knows his stuff.

    – Grey card?

    Nah. Not unless you’re going to do a bit of studio work. I bought one and barely used it. I discovered recently that you’re supposed to replace them every two years or so, since they fade.

    I recently bought an ExpoDisc and so far am pretty impressed with it for my sort of shooting. But I wouldn’t worry too much about that in your early DSLR days.

    > Body v Lens; which has the priority,

    I think that for you, as an amateur, the fancier bodies would be of less benefit than better glass. Perhaps if you were a pro then some of the more sophisticated body features on the more expensive bodies might be appropriate.

    – Body; which one,

    If I were buying again right now, the recently new Canon EOS 400. But then, I’ve been a Canon guy most of my days. The alternative is the equivalent Nikon. If I won the lottery, then something further up the range.

    – Lens; which one(s),

    Frankly, I was not unhappy with the standard kit lens (18-55) which I got bundled with my 350d. Some people loathe them, some people don’t. Since then, I have added two additional lenses. The Sigma 70-300 and (very recently) the Sigma 10-20. I’m not so sure about the long lens, but I have fairly quickly taken to the short lens.

    – Software; not cheap, another nightmare decision looming ahead, and

    Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, to get you started. Then, later on if you want, you can look at other more esoteric applications. I invested in “DxO Optics Pro 4” from DxO Labs at the end of last year and am reasonably happy with it. I’m still getting to know the recent upgrade to v4 I got from them.

    Alternatives to this are available. LightZone for example.

    – Workflow; really not my forte so a huge change required.

    Suck it and see. Don’t try to plan too much ahead. And remember, this is unlikely to affect your choice of camera equipment.

    Good grief – I only meant to write a few lines!

  2. MyAppleStuff Post author

    Thanks – that is REALLY useful. Appreciate the time!! Is there anywhere that I can see some of your pictures? Am always interested in what other people shoot 🙂

    Again, thanks

  3. Paul


    I think I’ve got an article submitted by one of our readers which might be able to help you a bit..

    good luck 😉

  4. Pingback: PrestonLee.com

  5. MyAppleStuff Post author

    That makes sense 🙂 But begs the question, which lens? As I see it I will buy one body, but (over time) many lenses, so what do I get first – one high quality, if so what ‘spec’ or several ‘lower’ quality to povide more coverage.

  6. cptpoland

    From personal experience I would invest in one good all rounder. The smaller the F stop the better. Been an total noob at this I chose a Sigma 18-125 F3.5 as my main lens. I would love to go F2.8 or so, but the prices were a little bit out of my range. The lens gives me good wide angle for panorama shots and fairly good zoom for close ups. As an addition I have a Canon 70-300 zoom. So I’m mostly covered. Maybe others, more professional photographers will have a different opinion, but this setup works for me as of now.


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