Some beginner's questions

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by awe, Feb 23, 2007.

  1. awe

    awe TPF Noob!

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    Hi everybody!
    First of all, I'm new here, so: Hi, I'm Alex :wink:

    I'm quite new to (digital) photography, I must say. But it's something that I've been quite interested in (among other similar things like film) for a long time, and so I started to take my dad's camera and go out and shoot. I can even say that I developed some kind of "sense" for nice motives and themes over the time. However, I must say that I don't know anything AT ALL about cameras, which sort of constrains me. For example, the right blurring of things that are further away, or how to use lighting correctly. Those kinds of things are really difficult right now, if not unachievable, because of my lack of knowledge.
    So I guess my question is: What resources are there to learn more about photography and cameras? Are there any books I should definitely read? I've seen some articles here, those seem interesting, too. How have you learned the art of photography?

    My next question will probably annoy some of you, because it has been asked so many times: What camera should I buy?
    I know that I want a digital camera, because I want to edit my photos on the computer. Other than that, I don't have a clue what to look for. Are there any important features a camera should have? Or shouldn't?
    I guess what I need is an all-round camera. Not much help, eh? :mrgreen: Also, (and yes, you are allowed to sigh) I'm on a budget here, because I'm a student.

    Well, that's it, I'm grateful for all replies. Thanks!
     
  2. Johnboy2978

    Johnboy2978 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a book that is frequently recommended to those new to photography. Also the internet is a rich source for free information. Search for specific things and you will get better information (e.g. aperture, shutter speed, composition, etc).

    As for my learning, it started out with a joy for the hobby and a lot of trial and error. I have no formal education in photography, have taken no classes, but have spent much time on line in these type forums to expand my knowledge. I picked up pieces here and there and added it to my fund of knowledge and feel that I have a pretty good understanding of how things work together.

    You asked about "blurring" which has to do with DoF or Depth of Field. This is one of the 2 functions of the aperture on the camera. Changing the aperture value (e.g. f/1.4 - f/22 numbers on the lens) either increase or decrease the blurred effect that you see between the subject and the background. The smaller the number (f/1.4) lets much more light in b/c the the diaphram is open wider. Larger numbers (f/22+) actually lets in less light. The blurring is the greatest with larger apertures (smaller numbers) and decreases to nil as you get toward f/22. The DoF is also a function of the distance the subject is from the camera as well as the distance the subject is from the background. For instance, if you are 50 meters from a tree and a mountain behind it is 25 meters beyond, you aren't going to get a whole lot of DoF. If however, you are 3 ft away from a flower, the background is several feet beyond, and you shoot with an aperture of, say 2.8 - 1.4 you will notice a big effect.

    Which camera you buy is going to largely be a function of how much money you care to spend. Keep in mind you can also edit film pics on a pc if you order the cd when you send the film in for developing or if you invest in a dedicated film scanner. If your budget is $1000+ you would be in the digital SLR realm. Under that amount, and you are probably looking at point - n -shoot, nice film slr or a used Digital SLR.
     
  3. awe

    awe TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for your reply, Johnboy (awesome Family Guy pic, by the way). I took a look at the book you mentioned and it seems perfect for me. I've already ordered it :wink:
    Also, thanks for the explanation of DoF. I guess those are the type of things I really ought to know.

    Well, my budget is certainly less than 1000$. :wink: I did some research on the types of cameras you mentioned (also, the Camera Buying Guide by duncanp is awesome), and I'm not really sure what you mean by "point 'n' shoot cameras". Could you elaborate a bit on that? Ar those the types of camera that duncanp calls "digital compact"?
    Actually, this leads me to my next question: I always thought that those digital compact cameras are pretty cool and that you can do a lot of things with them. For example, my dad owns a Minolta Dimage G500 (not the newest, I know), and it doesn't seem that bad. So what exactly are those cameras missing?

    I also took a look at the SLR style cameras that duncanp mentions. Right now, I could only afford the FinePix S6500 or the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2 and they both look pretty professional to me. I'm just not sure that I want to spend that much money on a camera since I'm really a newbie.

    Anyway, let me know what you think!
     
  4. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    When thinking of buying a camera, remember that you'll probably want to add some accessories. These may include a memory card, a spare battery, a tripod and a circular polarizing filter. If your budget is really under US$1K, I would suggest that you keep your bare camera price to about $500. That will leave all sorts of room for other stuff.

    As to which camera -- almost any of the major brands will do well as a start. With time, you may reach the point where the camera's limitations will point the way to another, more sophisticated one. And maybe not.

    I work in film, but recently picked up a digital camera. My choice was the Panasonic FZ20. With a good memory card, spare battery and warrantee, the tab came to $500. Please note that my 'budget' could have included one of the better dslrs plus lenses.

    The important thing is to start.

    Wishing you the best!
     
  5. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Your camera, like your underwear, is a very personal choice.
    The only advice I ever give anyone is to go into camera shops and pick up every different camera you can find. Sooner or later you will pick up one that fits in your hand and feels like it belongs there.
    Don't look at the price, just buy it.
    When using a camera you should only be thinking about what is going on in front of the lens. If you have to keep stopping to look at the camera to see what it is doing, or because it feels awkward, then you will not be concentrating on the important things and your pictures will suffer.
    There was a time when some cameras were better than others and, certainly for professionals, the better ones were to be preferred. In this age of CAD/CAM there is generally not much to choose between cameras now so it's all about ease of use.
    And don't worry about attachments or extra lenses. You can go your whole life with one camera and lens and never exhaust it's possibilities or hit it's limits. Having lots of lenses and gizmos may impress the punters but they won't help you improve your photography if you don't know what you are doing in the first place.
    A lot of photography is working within the limitations of your equipment anyway and knowing your limitations is a mark of a good photographer. It's who is using the kit and not the kit itself which makes the difference.
    If you know your stuff you can take a better picture using a $5 disposable than most people could using a Hasselblad with all the trimmings.
    I know. I've seen it done!
     
  6. neea

    neea TPF Noob!

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    The very first book I ever read was 'Alpha Teach Yourself Black and White photography in 24 Hours' by Thomas McGovern.

    I would definatley recommend it. It explains everything from shutter speed, aperature, ISO, IR film, and a short chapter on developing... which if using digital you can skip.
    It has lots of pictures and examples to help you really see the difference between 100ISO and say 800.

    I have lost mine in the last few years (it shows every now and then but I forget to move it where i'll use it) and I really need to brush up and remind myself of some things.

    Fabulous book!!!
    I don't think you'd be disappointed.
     
  7. awe

    awe TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the replies so far.

    After being to a whole lot of shops and reading even more reviews (my head is about to explode), I found some cameras that seem to be suited for both me and my wallet. There's not much I can say about the technical details (although dpreview.com does a good job explaining them to newbies such as myself), which is why I was hoping to get some guidance.
    In general, I found that the overall aperture range is rather low compared to the numbers Johnboy mentioned earlier in this thread. Also, the available ISO ratings differ as well (but I guess that doesn't really matter).

    Again, I'm really a beginner, so if there are any important tech specs I should be aware of, please let me know. All I know is that I want to "learn" the art of photography, so the more I can adjust manually, the better.

    Alright, here they are:
    - Canon PowerShot A640 (and 630)
    My personal favorite; good size, also got a very good review at dpreview.com. Has manual focus, too, which is good for me to learn, I guess. Doesn't have image stabilization, though.

    - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7

    - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
    Doesn't have manual focus, seems to have some noise problems.

    - Sony DSC-W70
    inexpensive! Has manual focus. Isn't as big as the others, which I kinda like (as long as it's not as small as those stylish new cameras)


    So, ladies and gentleman, what do you think? Maybe some suggestions for similar cameras? Which one would you pick and why?


    @Torus: What a pity that I can't find your camera anywhere here! It would be perfect for me!

    @Hertz: There's a lot of truth in what you wrote. It's just that I'm really new to all this, which is probably why I'm being so picky about it. I mean, I don't want to buy a camera just to find out a couple of months later that it's useless for me. And unfortunately, I do have to look at the price ;)
     
  8. Johnboy2978

    Johnboy2978 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For what it's worth, of the ones you posted, I would choose either the canon A640 or the Panasonic FZ7. I disqualified the other panasonic and the sony b/c they didn't have the aperture or shutter speed priority, which is something I use often if I am not shooting fully manual, so those 2 would be out for me. Between the A630, and A640, I disqualified the 630 b/c all of the features between the 2 are identical, thus the only difference is the 630 is 8MP instead of 10. That left the 640 and the panasonic FZ7. I realize the panasonic is only 6MP, yet that can still yield a very good 8x10 maybe 11x14 and while the panasonic is smaller in MP, it's sensor size is quite larger. It also has a much better optical zoom (12x compared to 4x). Side note, completely disregard any mention of "digital zoom" in a point and shoot camera, it's just magnification and distorts the image. The canon appeals to me in that it uses AA batteries instead of a panasonic proprietary battery that probably costs $50 or more. With the panasonic, I'm not fond of the ISO which only goes to 400 unless you decrease the quality of the image. So I think it would be a toss up b/w the two for me.
    Here's a side by side comparison:
    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/com..._dmctz1,panasonic_dmcfz7,sony_dscw70&show=all
     
  9. fightheheathens

    fightheheathens TPF Noob!

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    I would suggest the Canon.
    The most important aspect is for the camera to have manual controls
    IE allow you to adjust shutter speed and aperature.
    I leaned on a point and shoot that allowed me to adjust all of that and
    it served me well until i was able to upgrade to a SLR camera.
    having an understanding of manual control of a camera also made the
    transition to a SLR much easier (though it was still quite a jump)
    I would suggest the canon only because i have some experience with
    Canons and their point and shoot cameras are by far the best (IMO)
     
  10. awe

    awe TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the replies.

    So Canon it is. But I still have some questions (yeah, I'm sorry ;) ):

    - None of those cameras support RAW. Is this something I should have or doesn't it matter?
    - Is there really such a big difference between 8 an 10 MP? Do I need those 2 extra MP?
    - About the batteries (thanks for pointing that out, Johnboy): so, either I have to buy normal AAs all the time or I buy NiMH batteries and a charger (such as this one: http://www.digitec.ch/?param=toppreise&wert=118934 ), right? I didn't know there are still electronic gadgets that use normal AAs ;)
    - The 640 doesn't have image stabilisation. Is that a problem? Because if it is, I just found the Powershot 710IS, which is similar to the 640 but does have image stabilisation.

    Alright, I guess that's it. So it's gonna be either the 640, the 630 or the 710IS.
     
  11. Johnboy2978

    Johnboy2978 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I may be wrong here, but I don't think any P+S cameras are going to have an option for RAW. I think that's something that's more of a DSLR thing. You probably aren't going to notice a difference between 8 and 10 MP unless you are trying to do a lot of large prints. My previous P/S was only a 5mp and I had no problem w/ 8x10 or even 11x14. But, for another $75 I'd probably say go for it. As far as the batteries, I would much prefer a camera that allowed me to buy a bunch of inexpensive rechargeable AA's than proprietary batteries at a hugh mark up. The panasonic one goes for $30. I'd like to upgrade to the Pentax K10D myself, but was really disappointed that they moved to a battery like that too when in the past had been using AAs.

    The IS you mentioned is the same price as the A640, but you are also trading 3 mp resolution as it is only 7mp. All other things being the same, I would probably take the MP over the IS myself. A good tripod can turn any camera into an IS camera.
     
  12. Amy152

    Amy152 TPF Noob!

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    I'm a beginner too, and I just bought the Canon a630, so far I have to say I love it, but I haven't done much shooting with it yet. The reason I went for the a630 vs the a640 is because the 2 extra mp aren't really useful and they just slow the camera down. Check out cnet.com they review the two cameras at the same time and thats where I found that info.
     

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