Monday, November 2, 2009

Camera Suggestions?

If you are a photographer....can I pick your brain?

I need help...well... beyond the obvious mental health concerns, I was hoping to get some much needed input for a new camera. 

My current camera is a Canon Powershot A650 IS

This has been a very nice camera to start with.  It shoots nice pictures (when the operator is paying attention to what she is doing) and a good quality video.  But I am looking to upgrade.  I am enrolling in a photography class at our local college next quarter and want a good camera to use for that class and to continue with my new favorite hobby.

It has taken pictures like this...

This one makes me smile

I dont have photo editing software, beyond what came with my camera (Lexmark).  I can crop, adjust the color saturation, contrast, brightness...etc.  Just the basics.

But if you look at my pictures, you will see that only the stills (or semi still) pictures are decent (in focus - sorta).  Because when I am taking pictures I am watching the stupid little red box that tells me what is in focus or not.   

 In this picture the red box was on the log.  When you are trying to snap pictures of dogs, especially border collies that move at a high rate of speed, that stupid red box becomes cumbersome and annoying.  (Ranger is also back lit, which makes this shot difficult for me). 

I am going to try this one again in the afternoon so the sun will be in front of him rather than behind him.

Isn't he just the goofiest dog in the world?   I need a better camera just so I can appropriately document Ranger for all posterity.  Your world would be richer, the world could be at peace. 

 The red box limits the Rangerfication of the world.  In this shot, I got the red box on Ranger, not the river, grass or leaves.  So Ranger is in focus - sorta. 

Bonnie has such nice clean teeth.  Raw meaty bones are awesome.  Got the box in the right spot.  I like it when that happens. 

My action shots suck.  I am sure most of this has to do with the lighting and my preset settings that I use on my camera.  I was stunned I actually got this shot...but it would be cool if Brynn were in focus, instead of Ranger.

In case you are wondering...she caught the Frisbee. 

Typically my action shots are fuzzy and blurry.

 Truthfully I have no idea what I  need in a camera.  I have fiendishly devoured a multitude of websites dedicated to photography basics, i.e. Pioneer Woman Photography.  I have tried to read other websites telling me I need this or that about cameras & varying opinions (e.g. nikon vs canon).  I have talked to people....I am still  dazed, confused...befuddled.  

What I know is this...
  • I want to take action shots and or stills of my dogs in various situations.  Photographing my children  is not a high priority.  They are seared into my memory forever (trauma has a way of doing that).  But the occasional picture of a human would be nice too - I guess. 
  • In taking action shots or stills I want my camera to be able to take pictures quickly.  With my current camera I have to wait 18 - 30 seconds between each shot.  
  • I want to be able to take close up pictures (my current camera sucks at this) I guess this is the lens?
  • I want to have a decent amount of pixels - so I can have some fun with editing and larger pictures - or does this even matter?
  • It would be nice to have video capability (but not necessary - I can use my other camera for that)
  • Lens options (ideally what I need will come in a package).  
  • Relatively idiot proof (cuz I am an idiot) so some good pre-settings.  
  • Manual settings for use in the photography course
  • Desire package (camera and lens) under $1,000.00 in price
The camera I am eyeballing is the Canon EOS Digital Rebel T1i

 Is this a good choice? 

Or do I choose Nikon?  Why Nikon?  Why Canon?   Why do my panties bunch up under my jeans? 

So many questions, so little time.

Thanks for all the advice and/or suggestions you can offer.


MurphyDog said...

Murphy's Mom here.

I had that same problem last year. I ended up going with the Canon Rebel XSI. I don't know anything about the EOS digital, but here's what I discovered in my search for a good camera.

1) Canon & Nikon are very similar when it comes to quality of camera & quality of pictures. Especially in the entry level DSL cameras (which is probably what you are looking for since you are looking for something under $1000)

2) Its really all about what is comfortable in YOUR hand. I preferred the Canon to the Nikon. It just felt better.If you have somewhere you can do both, play with both, and then return the one that doesnt 'feel' right to you. That's what I did at my local costco. They have a 90 day return policy on electronics.

The Canon XSI that I bought came with 2 lenses. 1 was an 18-55, the other was 55-300. I loved both, but the 55-300 wasnt useful for your typical portrait shots so I ended up getting an all purpose lens which is 28 - 250. That allows me to take regular photos & zoom without having to change out the lens. Its the only lens I use now.

The Canon XSI is 12.2 mp so plenty of room to crop and enlarge if I want to.

One thing I would do over again is to maybe just buy the base camera, and then buy the travel lens separate. I dont really use the 2 lenses that came with the camera...and the travel lens was not cheap. I think the initial package I bought (camera + 2 lenses was around $900 from The travel lens alone was $700...but I think it was totally worth it.

I am still learning about the manual settings but have fun playing around with them. Depth of field is something I changes a photo so much.

I've been able to get some really good shots with this camera, but I take a TON of pictures and then delete the bad ones. I am hoping that is a trick most photographers use :)

hope that helps a little!
Murphy's Mom (Debbie)

Diana said...

I have the canon rebel xs. It came with the regular lens 18-25 and the telephoto lens (55-300), it was 600.00 at HH Gregg. The telephoto lens works well for action shots. Im not a great photographer but I still like the camera. Im still learning. It has lots of different setting , automatic or you can program everything. You can also take picture is Jpeg or raw. It will actually take both at the same time. With raw, you have a more ablitliy to change white balance and other things. Also it take pictures so much faster than my casio exslim. No delay in the canon Rebel, which drives me crazy when I use the casio. Dont get me wrong the casio is nice and small, fits in my pocket. great video for what I need. But if Im going out to take specific pictures, I take the Canon. Diana

DeltaBluez Tess said...

Talk to Bonnie Block as she is the Camera Queen

Paws on the Run said...

I think pretty much any digital SLR will do what you want it to do and brand preference grows out of what you started with or what was most intuitive to you. Go to a camera store, talk to a employee and hold a bunch of different ones. The one you want may feel wrong, or be the wrong weight or ...

I love my Canon but I know people who love their Nikon and Panasonics too! I don't think there is a right or wrong choice.

Kimberly-MyPets said...

I would suggest a digital SLR - I use a Sony Alpha and I love it.

My pet photography is candid and mostly action shots. Since dogs move around so quickly (easily distracted) I needed a camera that would allow me to capture a sharp picture (freezing their motion) regardless of what they were doing and digital SLRs do that very well.

Here is my most recent post:

I purchased my camera on Ebay, it was an open box at the store, so I saved almost $300. I purchased my lenses on Amazon and I got my flash when a local camera store went out of business.

Good luck with your choice!

Tristan - I'm a Heavenly King said...

Hey your photos are awesome! Def much better than mine! ;)
We've got a Canon EOS 50D. It's pretty awesome for action shots.. but I think I'm not as amazing a "handler" ;)
Best of luck to finding the facebox of your dreams.

P/s: Glad you left the evil clutches of FarmTown ;P

Lean said...

Good luck i am also looking for the right camera pffffff.
bye bye,Lean.[sorry cant help].

Tammy Moody said...

Honestly I have seen brilliant photos taken with both the Nikon D40s and canon rebels. The deal breaker is the lens. It truly all comes down to the lenses you you use. A good lens in the NW will have a low f-stop. The lower the better, It will help give great depth of field and allow you to take good photos on cloudy days and in the rain forests. Indoor shots are a bonus with a low f-stop. (I am hoping to get a new lens with a f/1.4 if that tells you anything). The lens I use now only goes to 3.5 and I have a hard time getting enough light sometimes.

If getting a Nikon either get the D40 or step up to the D90 anything in between is only pixel difference, doesn't mean much except to your pocket book.

I use a D40 and the biggest problem is getting lenses with auto focus to work with it. I have to make sure to purchase the Nikon AF series, it does limit my lens choices. If I were to do it all over again I would get the D90 or go all out and get the D300;) I just may go out and purchase a new body a some point anyways;)

Tammy Moody

Emma Rose said...

I use a Nikon D60. I picked Nikon because my employer loaned me his D40 to try and I was hooked. I had never seen such wonderful pictures. I ordered it online from Costco. It came with 2 lenses. My girlfriend bought the D5000 because she wanted video. Now I wish I had that capability, because of the puppy :) I have heard that some camera stores will loan or rent a camera so you can try it out. I don't think you can go wrong with Canon or Nikon. I agree that it will come down to "feel". So get out there and handle all of them :)

The Duchess

PS You can get either of the Nikons I mentioned from for less than $1,000. Each will come with lenses and a memory card at the very least.

Lacey said...

I have a Nikon and a Kodak with the 10x zoom. I think your pics are wonderful but I guess you're prolly wanting a SLR. Personally, I wouldn't spend the money cause whatever you buy will be obsolete in two-three years.

Your panties bunch up cause they are too loose and your jeans are too tight. Try going commando and you won't have that problem....just sayin'....

Tink said...

Sony Alpha DSLR 350 Best camera EVER;-) Love the live view. Being disabled I can't lie on the ground to take a good shot, live view is my life savor!

Emma Rose said...

I just saw the December issue of Consumer Reports magazine. There is an entire section on DSLR's and they are rated for all kinds of different things. Try to get your hands on a copy. There is a lot of information in there. If you can't find one let me know and I'll ask the boss if I can mail you the one in our office. (He's cool, he'll say yes!)

The Border Collies said...

You need a DSLR. And whatever brand you get, LIKE IT because your lenses will make or break you. They are expensive and make all the difference in the world. I am a Canon gal, but I like Nikon too - but I can't afford both, so I went with Canon.

Christopher said...

I have the Canon EOS D60 (First pro/consumer DSLR, 8yrs old, 6MP) and the Canon Powershot A630. So I know exactly where you're coming from.

(1) You (eventually) need to move to a DSLR, as you already know, to take your photography to the next level. The class to go along with it is a MUST.

(2) You CAN extract more use out of your Powershot though.

For instance, if you want to take more rapid shots (nothing like you'll get with a DSLR, but much better than you are currently shooting):

- Put the camera in any mode other than AUTO. For fast shots, you might think that you want Tv mode, which is the ShutterSpeed Priority mode. In this mode, you tell the camera exactly how fast to take the picture and it tries to let in just enough light to make the shot expose.

With this mode, you can take a shot in 1/2000th of a second, and when I tested my camera in this setting, it would take many shots in a row, less than a second a piece.

Problem with that speed is, the camera takes the photo so fast you're going to get BLACK unless it's VERY bright, and you have a high ISO set.

I would suggest that you pick Av, for Aperture Priority. In this mode, you can tell the camera how much light to let in and it will try its hardest to take the picture fast enough to expose correctly.

To take the fastest picture (freeze action) you will want to set the Aperture on F2.8 (Once you twist the top dial to Av, use the O button that has the flash and MF logos on it and push the left side of it. You will see the F stops at the bottom of the screen change. To the far left is 2.8, which is the most light that the camera can take in. To the far right is 8.0 which is the least amount of light.

- After setting 2.8, click the lightning bolt on the same ring. Turn the flash OFF. If the flash is ON or AUTO, you need to wait for the capacitor to recharge before it will take another photo. Thus delay.

- Next, click the FUNC SET button in the middle of the O. Tap the bottom of the O once to bring up the DRIVE MODE menu at the bottom. Tap the right side of the O once to select the STACK OF FRAMES icon.

The first icon is a single frame. This means take one shot. This next one is multi-shot and it tells the camera to take photos as long as the shutter is depressed.

The other modes are for timed shots.
After selecting the multi-frame, hit the FUNC SET button again to exit the menu.

- Hit the ISO button on the back of the camera. The higher the ISO, the faster it will expose the photo. Lower ISOs have less grain, but higher ISOs work great in low light. AUTO might be fine, but if your photos are coming out blurry in Av mode, bump up the ISO.

Now, you should be able to frame a shot and hold down the shutter button and listen to your camera click click click click click.

Auto-focus and IS slow this down somewhat, but you have a lot to experiment with already with just these instructions.

Christopher said...


In Av mode, the more light you have the faster the camera can take the shot. If you're in Av mode with the F-stop set at 2.8 and when you frame the shot and half-depress the shutter, you'll see that the camera will tell you how fast it's going to take the shot (the shutter speed). If this number is ever in red, it's telling you that the image is just way too bright or way too dark to use the current Aperture. The shot will not be a balanced exposure.

In the P/Tv/Av/etc. modes, this red text indicates that the shot will not be well exposed. If, for instance, you are inside now and playing with this feature, you can put the camera in Tv mode. Use the O ring to change the shutter speed just like you changed the Aperture in Av mode.

If you put the shutter speed all the way to the right, 1/2000 on my camera, and you depress the shutter button, you'll see that the camera puts up the F-stop in RED. This is because it's simply not bright enough inside to take a picture that fast.

That's why I suggest you use Av over Tv, since the limitation is not going to be how fast your camera can shoot a shot, it's going to be how much light there is. And putting the camera on F2.0 is going to let in maximum light which means faster shots.

Christopher said...

I think your first issue is knowledge, not equipment, though. So don't spend any money yet. AND DON’T BUY A KIT.
If you are looking for online outlets, I only buy at Adorama and B&H Photo. Anyone else is probably a scammer.
You will spend more money on lenses than you will on the body. Bodies become obsolete (not as fast as others here suggest, my Canon D60 is ~8 years old and takes photos that are professionally publishable (check out DogJoy!)).
I suspect that with current digital technology giving professional resolutions to the pro-sumer, your body might not be obsolete in a few years. I mean really, is your current issue a lack of megapixels? I think that digital has replaced film, and that the current level of technology is sufficient for the application. I.e. I don’t think we’re going to get higher HD TV, it looks fantastic now. I don’t think we’re going to get vastly higher megapixel DSLRs… do you really need to a print that will fill a billboard?
Despite that, Lenses are never obsolete. And many of the interesting pictures you want to take depend on the lens.
The reason you should not buy a kit is that you should really hand pick your lenses. Kits are like the per-person “specials” at Chinese restaurants… NEVER a good deal.

Christopher said...

I recommend Canon. Their bodies are better, more features, better design for the pro-sumer. Nikon got into the DSLR later than Canon and I think they have catered too much to the professional, so their interface is a little austere.
Nikon gets credit for having better quality lenses historically. The deal is, you will likely never own any of these lenses. It’s like buying a consumer car based on Formula 1 performance.
The first lens you need to buy is the Canon 50mm f/1.8 (mark II). You can find these for well under $100. This is probably the cheapest build quality you’ll find from Canon (all plastic), but you will NOT be in any way upset with the beautiful, and fast, images this little lens takes. It’s called the “nifty fifty” for a good reason.
This is the standard portrait lens and it takes beautiful shots. Razor sharp. There is no zoom, but what you trade in zoom, it more than makes up for in aperture. This little puppy can let in a lot of light.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend your entire photo class using just this lens. Really, get this lens and spend the rest of the $1,000 on getting a good body. You can even try used (there are many rich photogs out there that must have the newest and best and dump their bodies that are perfectly good and only a year or two old).
Once you learn the ropes, you can decide where next to spend your camera budget. Perhaps on a standard zoom, then a telephoto zoom. From there, you can try wide angle.
I find that the 50mm, a 28-135, and a 75-300 meet almost all of my needs. If I want a special shot, I can borrow or rent a lens from a camera store.