Newbie Looking For Camera Advice


TPF Noob!
Apr 24, 2006
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Hello, all. I'm new here, and I've really enjoyed poking around a bit.

I'm hoping to start photography as a hobby and I'd like some advice on what to purchase to get started.

I want to take mostly black and white pictures, mostly of outside stuff, but of my family, too.

I've studied art, so I have a general idea of the concepts of good photography (the talent to go with it is definately dubious).

I don't have, and won't have, a darkroom.

I look foward to learning about how pictures change as you change f-stop and exposure and blah blah blah, so I'll need a camera that lets me do that.

So, can someone point me in the direction of a good choice of equipment that will grow with me and I can learn on, that won't break my budget? I'm thinking maybe even going second-hand, but I don't know where to start.

Thanks in advance.
Are you thinking of shooting film? Traditional B&W film? or C-41?

Or are you considering shooting digital and using a 'digital darkroom'?
I want to spend as little as possible. Yeah, vague I know. What is the bare bottom I could get away with?

As for digital vs film, what do you guys think? I'd like to be able to manipulate images on the computer, but with scanning and everyone offering digital files when you get film processed, is it better and more affordable for a newbie like me to go with film at first?
it would be cheaper to start with a 35mm film camera. there are dozens to choose from but the downside when learning is that you'll need to record every setting for your shots as you take pictures - a digital camera embeds all that info in the image as you shoot it focal length, fstop, aperture, flash on or off etc.
Film may be cheaper to start but there are developing costs after wards that digital doesn't have.
Digital also gives instant results after changing a setting so you'll learn faster. I found out more in a few weeks of digital slr shooting than i did in years of film shooting.
Digital is way cheaper, assuming you already have a pc. If you can get your hands on a copy of photoshop or other editing package you're sorted for post processing.

I'd think you'll pick up a used camera at your local photography shop (or on ebay if you're comfortable with it!) fairly cheaply.
A camera along the lines of a Canon Digital Rebel (6.3mp) with a kit lens would be good for starting. That model is a around 3-4 years old so you'd probably get one quite cheap. I'm not sure what the Nikon equivalent is but if you stick to one or the other you'll not go far wrong.
Some comapcts have full manual as an option but it's still quite limited compared to DSLR eg aperture control will be one end or the other with no choice in between.

If you're happy with paying for developing and printing then go film. If you want to shoot all day and not worry about cost then go digital.
"I want to take mostly black and white pictures, mostly of outside stuff, but of my family, too."

Sounds like your interest is in B&W landscape and portraiture. I'll cover film only. There are scads of folks who can advise you on digital.

Now, to be honest, you can truly get the best out of B&W film only if you have darkroom capabilities or are willing to pay large amounts of money to professional labs for processing and custom printing.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that almost any bathroom can be made into a temporary darkroom with little more than a sheet of plywood over the tub and taped-together black plastic garbage bags over the window. There's nothing that says you have to have a permanent dedicated darkroom.

Next, a good starting camera is the Yashicamat. They are available used at acceptable prices that will leave room for an enlarger [also used] in the budget. The Yashicamat [or Minolta Autocord, etc.] allows you to compose on a ground glass screen. The negative size is large so you can crop as needed and still have loads of detail in the final print. I would advise against 35mm at first for a whole series of reasons which I won't get into now. After your skills develop, you will probably want to add 35mm for the ease of lens interchangeability.

All-up cost should be well under $US1K.
I checked out the Canon Digital Rebel on ebay. A thousand bucks.

Am I out of line in saying this is too much to pay for me at this stage of my hobby?
Are you sure you checked a digital rebel and not a digital rebel XT? The XT is a recent release and is 8.2mp. The digital Rebel (aka 300D in the UK) is about 3-4 years old and wasn't much more than a thousand dollars when it was first released.

Digital Rebel

Digital Rebel

Digital Rebel

That's just 3 i found in 30secs. I'm not recommending any one of them but you can see from the prices they're significantly under $1K. You might even find one close to where you live and can go pick it up and eliminate any chance of being ripped off.

As for too much.....only you know your circumstances and how much you want to spend.
Ah, those prices are better. Thanks.

That's why I'm asking you experts: I don't know (yet) what's what with all these different cameras.

I'm still hoping to get more feedback, if I could. So far, the consesus seems digital, though the price tag may scare me away.
I think that long term digital is cheaper - you don't pay to get all your shots printed - only the select few that you like.

Digital may be more expsensive to start but the more you shoot the more you save.
Here's an alternative opinion. I'd buy a Pentax K1000 for $150 to $180 including lens, like these:




I'd shoot Ilford XP2+, which is a black and white film that you can have developed at any mini-lab or supermarket, and see how I did for 3 months or 6 months. If I decided that I wanted to switch to digital I'd know I could sell the Pentax again for the same amount I bought it for, and I'd hopefully have some nice pictures to show for my trouble.

The K1000 is almost the default answer you get on this forum when you ask what beginner's film SLR to buy, but there are very good reasons for that, mainly because it is simple, built like a tank and produces excellent images with the standard 50mm lens. Ilford XP2+ is a great film, and because you can get it developed anywhere you won't have to mess around sending it away to expensive black & white specialist labs.
If I may....

As someone who got into photography at age 6, and got into digital a year ago let me give you some advice from a 'budget" business guy...

First: if this was 1990, I would say find a bargain Nikon or Canon, and go from there.
There are however some items you need to keep in mind.

Second: given that digital is overtaking film by leaps and bounds, you really need to focus in on digital. If you want to go strictly 35mm, then digital is your best option. If you go Med. or Large format, then film will the way to go. But the cost factor is the real issue. In addition, darich has it right. The initial cost on digital is a little steep, but like buying a bargain SUV, the amount you spend in gas will far exceed the amount saved in buying the thing in the first place. Figure $300 for a good start up camera with lenses, $11 per roll (This includes buying and processing 35mm film) and don't forget that if you are still learning that is $11 per roll with about 4 keeper pics, caring bag for the camera, tripod, and whatever else you may get. If you can afford that fine.

Digital: $600 for an initial camera w 1-2 lenses, unlimited picture taking, deletability, and batteries $ 12 for a set of AA, or AAAs, or $50 for a proprietary battery. Print whatever you want, and most importantly, control over the actual final image...

Keep in mind that I own 6 35mm cameras, 4 Med. formats, and one 4x5. All film. i love film, and especially slow speed 35 mm.

Read as much as humanly possible, particularly on light behavior. if you have studied art, and are headed into B&W, think about the classes on charcoal drawing. If you remember the ways the instructors talked about contrast, and how light changes as it hits various objects. If you remember any of that, then you know what I speak of.

As for camera recommendations, I would stick with Nikon for two primary reasons.... (This coming from a hard core Minolta nut.)

1: High quality with plenty of options available.
2: The lenses are compatible with all of the slrs, including film AND digital.

One more point.... Don't forget to work with Infrared. It is a bit more advanced, but it gives a solid understanding of film, light behavior, and especially tonalities.

READ,READ, READ!!!! Get ahold of as many books as possible. Don't stop reading, and experiment.. Wide angle, over exposure, under exposure, just have fun with it.......
You guys have certainly given me plenty to think about.

The way I'm thinking now, maybe it's best to go inexpensive film at first. That way, if my interest turns out to be fleeting, I'm not out all that much.

I'll let you know what I get, and I'll be sure to share my work!

Super thank you. And please, if you have more advice, I'd love to hear it.
There may be a lot of 'bridge' cameras going on Ebay at the moment. Bridge cameras are digital cameras that are halfway between an SLR and a digital, so they usually have adjustable setting llike aperture, shutter speed etc, but don't have the changeable lenses. I'm thinking of the Fuji s5600 or 7000 but also Canon s2IS etc. If you can find one cheap these are a good way into digital as you can play with settings but wthout the cost.

If you are going with film, I would really reccomend buying an old camera (like a Zenit) for not much money on Ebay as this is 1. completely manual and will make you think a lot about your shots and 2. dirt cheap. This way you can see whether you want to stick with it or not. You'll soon want to upgrade but that's OK, because you didn't spend much in the first place.

Also remember that more money usually buys you more convenience, rather than better pictures.

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