deciding on a camera

Alanaoffmycase

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So its been years since ive used a regular camera, thats not my phone, and im looking to buy one soon. Having a really hard time deciding! Cannon, Nikon or some other treasure? Budget of $400 possibly $500, maybe even a 2nd hand one. I want something fast! And I love love love vivid colors or strong contrast photos so something that works well with that! Suggestions please!!!
 

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Do you want interchangeable lenses or can one with a fixed zoom do?
 

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My recommendation is to shop online at either Adorama, B&H, or KEH for a used DSLR (with lens, ideally) in your price range. If you see a fairly new body with no lens, shop for the lens at the same place. Call them and talk. These places will help steer you toward a good setup.
 

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So its been years since ive used a regular camera, thats not my phone, and im looking to buy one soon. Having a really hard time deciding! Cannon, Nikon or some other treasure? Budget of $400 possibly $500, maybe even a 2nd hand one. I want something fast! And I love love love vivid colors or strong contrast photos so something that works well with that! Suggestions please!!!

Assuming a DSLR camera, you'll have a hard time getting a "bad" camera. They're all good. Canon and Nikon tend to have more 3rd party gear designed to work with them as well as a broader collection of lenses (not that any of us actually plan to buy all those lenses... but having a big selection means that when we want a lens for any specific task... the odds are they have something in their lineup that meets our needs.) And it's not just the Canon & Nikon lens lineup... Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and many other 3rd party lens makers also make lenses compatible with these cameras. A DSLR body is really just the base component in what becomes a "system".

You mentioned something about color and contrast. Color and contrast (although we have to be careful because the term "contrast" is also used as a function of how "sharp" a lens might be) can be adjusted after the image is captured and, in professional photos... it's generally safe to assume the image is ALWAYS adjusted after the image is captured.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to help with contrast (tonal contrast) and as a side-effect, color saturation... is by using the "levels" adjustment that so many photo adjustment programs offer.

Here's a YouTube video (not mine) that might help you. This person is using Photoshop Elements (a sub-$100 version of Photoshop) but you'll get the idea:


You can do this with any camera and you don't need Photoshop Elements... even iPhoto (the free photo-adjustment program that comes with every Mac) has it built-in.

Notice in the video, however, that when he's done adjusting the "levels" tool (which is really just dealing with tonal contrast) that it looks like he also adjusted color saturation (even though he hasn't touched color saturation.)

There's a tool called the "curves" tool which can be used to achieve the same goal and many programs offer a curves tool. I'll skip that one and suggest you start with "levels", but once you've got the hang of things in the levels tool, you may want to learn about the "curves" tool because it allows a little more control over nuances in the adjustment than you can get with the levels tool... but it takes a little more learning to get used to the "curves" tool (the "levels" tool is easier when you're still learning this stuff.)

If you're not happy with colors, I'd suggest that you use a critical eye to look at your scene in the real world. When I was starting out, I used to think my camera was sometimes not as colorful as I had wanted... but when inspecting the "image" of a scene against the real scene (in the real world... not the photo), I found that the camera was accurate. My mental image was pumping up the reality beyond what it really was. Unless you live in an area with a lot of rain (or are taking a photo on a golf course) the grass probably isn't quite as lush green as you might expect -- wild grasses that receive only natural amounts of rainfall tend to have a lot of dead grass blended in... and that's brown-ish grasses... not green.

You can pump up the color using "saturation" or the "vibrance" adjustment. Vibrance and Saturation are almost the same but the difference is the Vibrance tool tries to "protect" the colors that match skin tones. That way if you're taking a portrait, it'll try to pump up the color in everything around your subjects skin... without giving your subject "tangerine" colored skin (not flattering unless your model is an Oompa Loompa.)

But be VERY careful with saturation and vibrance adjustments. Saturation and Vibrance is strong juju. It's very easy to over-do things and end up with a very "fake" look. Resist the urge to move that slider more than a very tiny amount.

The point of all this is that you can improved contrast and saturation with ANY camera... it's not the camera so much as it is understanding how to post-process an image.

If you don't want to fuss with post-processing an image, the Nikon and Canon cameras have in-camera processing to deal with things like saturation and contrast (on Canon they call it "picture style" -- I don't know what they call it on Nikon). That means you can adjust the processing style of the camera to give you a more saturated look (in film cameras we would do this by selecting different film when shooting and different paper when printing.)

For your budget, I'd suggest looking at "Refurbished" cameras. Both the Canon and Nikon online stores have a "refurbished" section and you get a refurb camera and lens that actually comes with a factory warranty (it's much safer than buying "used" because you never know if "used" gear is in perfect working order and or if any important items are missing, etc.)

Here's the link to the Canon store (refurb camera body & kit lens from $359): Canon Refurbished EOS Digital SLR Cameras Canon Online Store

Here's a link to the Nikon store (note that on the Nikon store, you NEED to check the "What's in the box" link to see if the camera includes a lens. Many of the refurb bodies DO NOT include a lens even though the product image shows a lens attached (Canon always depicts the body with no lens attached when it's a "body only" version.)) Refurbished Cameras from Nikon Used DSLR Cameras
 
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Alanaoffmycase

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So its been years since ive used a regular camera, thats not my phone, and im looking to buy one soon. Having a really hard time deciding! Cannon, Nikon or some other treasure? Budget of $400 possibly $500, maybe even a 2nd hand one. I want something fast! And I love love love vivid colors or strong contrast photos so something that works well with that! Suggestions please!!!

Assuming a DSLR camera, you'll have a hard time getting a "bad" camera. They're all good. Canon and Nikon tend to have more 3rd party gear designed to work with them as well as a broader collection of lenses (not that any of us actually plan to buy all those lenses... but having a big selection means that when we want a lens for any specific task... the odds are they have something in their lineup that meets our needs.) And it's not just the Canon & Nikon lens lineup... Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and many other 3rd party lens makers also make lenses compatible with these cameras. A DSLR body is really just the base component in what becomes a "system".

You mentioned something about color and contrast. Color and contrast (although we have to be careful because the term "contrast" is also used as a function of how "sharp" a lens might be) can be adjusted after the image is captured and, in professional photos... it's generally safe to assume the image is ALWAYS adjusted after the image is captured.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to help with contrast (tonal contrast) and as a side-effect, color saturation... is by using the "levels" adjustment that so many photo adjustment programs offer.

Here's a YouTube video (not mine) that might help you. This person is using Photoshop Elements (a sub-$100 version of Photoshop) but you'll get the idea:


You can do this with any camera and you don't need Photoshop Elements... even iPhoto (the free photo-adjustment program that comes with every Mac) has it built-in.

Notice in the video, however, that when he's done adjusting the "levels" tool (which is really just dealing with tonal contrast) that it looks like he also adjusted color saturation (even though he hasn't touched color saturation.)

There's a tool called the "curves" tool which can be used to achieve the same goal and many programs offer a curves tool. I'll skip that one and suggest you start with "levels", but once you've got the hang of things in the levels tool, you may want to learn about the "curves" tool because it allows a little more control over nuances in the adjustment than you can get with the levels tool... but it takes a little more learning to get used to the "curves" tool (the "levels" tool is easier when you're still learning this stuff.)

If you're not happy with colors, I'd suggest that you use a critical eye to look at your scene in the real world. When I was starting out, I used to think my camera was sometimes not as colorful as I had wanted... but when inspecting the "image" of a scene against the real scene (in the real world... not the photo), I found that the camera was accurate. My mental image was pumping up the reality beyond what it really was. Unless you live in an area with a lot of rain (or are taking a photo on a golf course) the grass probably isn't quite as lush green as you might expect -- wild grasses that receive only natural amounts of rainfall tend to have a lot of dead grass blended in... and that's brown-ish grasses... not green.

You can pump up the color using "saturation" or the "vibrance" adjustment. Vibrance and Saturation are almost the same but the difference is the Vibrance tool tries to "protect" the colors that match skin tones. That way if you're taking a portrait, it'll try to pump up the color in everything around your subjects skin... without giving your subject "tangerine" colored skin (not flattering unless your model is an Oompa Loompa.)

But be VERY careful with saturation and vibrance adjustments. Saturation and Vibrance is strong juju. It's very easy to over-do things and end up with a very "fake" look. Resist the urge to move that slider more than a very tiny amount.

The point of all this is that you can improved contrast and saturation with ANY camera... it's not the camera so much as it is understanding how to post-process an image.

If you don't want to fuss with post-processing an image, the Nikon and Canon cameras have in-camera processing to deal with things like saturation and contrast (on Canon they call it "picture style" -- I don't know what they call it on Nikon). That means you can adjust the processing style of the camera to give you a more saturated look (in film cameras we would do this by selecting different film when shooting and different paper when printing.)

For your budget, I'd suggest looking at "Refurbished" cameras. Both the Canon and Nikon online stores have a "refurbished" section and you get a refurb camera and lens that actually comes with a factory warranty (it's much safer than buying "used" because you never know if "used" gear is in perfect working order and or if any important items are missing, etc.)

Here's the link to the Canon store (refurb camera body & kit lens from $359): Canon Refurbished EOS Digital SLR Cameras Canon Online Store

Here's a link to the Nikon store (note that on the Nikon store, you NEED to check the "What's in the box" link to see if the camera includes a lens. Many of the refurb bodies DO NOT include a lens even though the product image shows a lens attached (Canon always depicts the body with no lens attached when it's a "body only" version.)) Refurbished Cameras from Nikon Used DSLR Cameras
Awesome info! Thanks!! And yes I once had a computer and was obsessed with editing photos, I'm starting from scratch now and won't have a computor for a while so I would like a camera that has features for for playing with the colors.
 

chuasam

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Fujifilm XA2
 

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