Tuesday, January 02, 2007

[Photography] Where to buy a camera? And how to choose?

I currently use a very limited little HP Photosmart camera that I feel I've outgrown. Specifically, the zoom is pretty poor as is the macro mode. I've been considering making the leap to a Nikon SLR. However, having read the "Which camera" posts on this blog, I've noticed that some people prefer a smaller, simpler camera such as the Nikon Coolpix line. Ideally, I'd like to use my new camera for photographing food as well as going out and photographing landscapes, animals, people, etc. So I'm wondering which style of camera might be best suited for both of my photography needs. Does the Nikon D40, touted as a smaller SLR, fit the bill?

Where might I buy my new camera? I want to be sure I know what I'm getting, as I'm kind of a novice. I've always loved taking photos, but I'm not familiar with much of the terminology. I'm pretty sure I want to start with a camera, a macro lens, and a tripod. It might be nice to go to a brick and mortar store so I can have a look at the thing before I buy it, maybe take it for a small test drive.

Any recommendations for a good (i.e. reasonably priced, honestly run) brick and mortar camera store in the SF bay area? Any recommendations as to whether I should go the SLR or small digital camera route?



This Post was written by shelly from an open cupboard


Alanna said...

As an owner of both a Coolpix and an older analog Nikon SLR, don't put the two in the same universe if for no other reason than the Coolpix is in an entirely separate line which means that Nikon lenses aren't interchangeable. That said, it IS a pocket camera and goes with me everywhere. If I had a "real" digital camera, I think I'd still keep this one.

Matt said...

Hi shelley,

You realise you're opening a can of worms here... The difference between digicams and SLR's is both vast and narrow depending on what you want to do with them.

At their most basic, an SLR can be just a really high end point and shoot camera... but if you are willing to do the research and learning and buy lenses and equipment It can be something else entirely.

I umm'ed and ahhh'ed for about a year before I bought my Canon Digital Rebel, and once I've got into it I already want to upgrade to a 5D... but then I'm the kind of person who tries to absorb themself in a hobby (before getting bored and moving on).

In terms of SLR's a D50 or D70 would be fine for what you want to do, but it's more the lenses that make the difference. Macro / Wide Angle / Telephoto ... When you're in SLR land it's all about aperture and focal length... 85mm f1.8, 10-20mm f4 wide angle... The kit lenses that come with most cameras will do an average job of trying to shoot all types of scenery, but the best shots are taken with lenses more specific to the task.

I would definitely go into a local store where you know/trust people and play around with a lot of cameras... there is nothing like feeling it in your hands for working out if it's going to fit your style.

I would also definitely get and SLR as opposed to a high end digicam... the opportunity to learn and move up are vast, and it will open up a whole world for you if you want.

Best of luck getting through that essay.

Know you're only decision is Canon or Nikon :)


Sheri said...

I've got two Canons, an SD500 (compact point-and-shoot), and a Canon G3, one of their pro-sumer models. I love both.

Great place for reviews is http://www.dpreview.com.

Kalyn said...

I also have the Canon Digital Rebel and absolutely love the camera. My photos have significantly improved since I started using it (although I have a lot to learn). I have a 50mm 1:2.5 macro lens that I use for most of my blog photos, and am ordering the Canon 50mm f/1.8 to use for step-by-step photos.

Elise wrote a very good post about this camera here if you want to read more about it.

paul said...

Both. That's the decision I've come to.

I just bought a Nikon Coolpix P3 to replace my aging Coolpix 885 (after more than 20,000 exposures I had to shake it vigoruosly to make the shutter go off, which makes for less than ideal pictures).

The P3 is not a beginner's point and shoot, and so far it hasn't done well in automatic mode. But it's loaded with features if you're willing to learn to use it manually. Awesome macro, a preset-able white balance, a low key auto-focus helper light for dark restaurants, vibration reduction to give you a few extra stops in those dark places, aperture priority settings etc, even has WiFi so you can use a laptop as an instant proofing in an informal kitchen studio set-up.

It may sound like I'm trying to sell it, but it's just a perfect fit for my type of shooting. It probably isn't for others.

As far as an SLR, I'd love a digital one (I still have 3 Nikon film SLRs). I wouldn't carry it everywhere, and would feel self-conscious pulling it out in some situations. But what I'd give for a hot shoe, a decent wide angle lens and zero shutter lag. The D40 looks pretty good, and about as small as you could make it.

I can't afford both at the moment, so my choice was as controllable a camera as I could find.

Anonymous said...

I bought a new digital camera a few months ago (not a SLR, because I had a non-digital SLR years ago and found that it was so bulky that I rarely took it anywhere with me) and I found the NY Times/CNET digital camera guide helpful - you can search for certain types (and/or editors' picks) on the right-hand side:
Once I had begun to narrow down my choices a bit, I also found it very, very helpful to look at photos on Flickr that were taken with the cameras I was considering. They have since added a "search by camera type" feature:
I opted to not spend a ton of money on a camera, both because (a) I didn't have a ton to spend and (b) I have horrble light in my kitchen and am thus not going to get superb photos even with an expensive camera. I finally settled on a Canon PowerShot A620 and I'm happy with it. Once I settled on that model, I googled and googled (and used some price-comparison sites) to find the best price. I ended up purchasing it from Abe's of Maine; it arrived promptly and I haven't had any problems with it at all.

Anonymous said...

You could consider doing what I did. I wanted to buy a Nikkon D70, but as Matt says it's the lens that makes the difference. I went onto eBay looking for a macro lens and luckily found one for the D70. Having bid successfully for the lens, I then bought the camera body on eBay without a lens and hey presto ended up with a £1000 camera for about £500.

I suggest you draw up a shortlist of cameras you like or friends recommend, then check that they are available body-only at a reasonable price and then look on eBay for a macro lens compatible with one of your choices.

Good luck with your purchase and I hop when you get the new camera you enjoy using it as much as I'm enjoying using mine.

paul said...

I should add that I got my camera at Abe's of Maine too. They had the best price.

Funnily enough, I was in NJ, and when I went to order it, I realized they were nowhere near Maine, but 15 minutes away in Edison, so I ran over and picked it up.

nika said...

I prefer Canon myself. Once you decide on a body then, unless you are pro or wealthy or obssessed, you stick to that brand because of the cost and specificty of the lenses. For that reason you should be convinced that the body you buy is your fav.. I have never had such an expensive hobby! I tend to do DIY hobby stuff (fine arts etc) but there will be money spent with this hobby, and a lot of your time as you climb the learning curve. Its worth it tho. If you do not have the desire/patience with reading FAQs, manuals, books, and viewing others portfolios, then non-SLR point and shoot is for you.

I got my 30D body with kit lens, my 50mm and my 100mm canon lenses off of Amazon at excellent prices. I get my other photo toys from B & H Photo and Video online (its store is in Brooklyn .. that doest help you much tho).

I started with a fujifilm S3100 and it was AMAZING, I can not rec. it enough.

Good luck!!

shelly said...

Thanks to all for your comments!
I think I read somewhere that a wide angle lens is a good one to start with because you can use it to shoot big landscapes as well as closeups. Any thoughts?

Richard said...

Check out Ken Rockwell's site - kenrockwell.com - for a lot of really great camera advice. And I agree with trig, figure out what lenses you're going to want and then buy the camera back accordingly. A D40 with the kit 18-55 lens would actually do pretty well for you - for more money, Canon has cheaper ultra-wide lenses. If you stay with either Nikon or Canon, not only will you have a very stable resalable investment, but you'll also be able to rent any specialized lenses you need from any decent camera shop. Something to consider.

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