1 Cell Phone Camera Kit Lens Wide Angle/Macro Lens Camera Getting Started in Digital Photography

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Getting Started in Digital Photography

Starting Out in Digital Photography: What equipment?

The questions you need to ask when purchasing your first camera.

Probably one of the most important decisions you will make in your quest as a digital photographer, is the purchase of a camera. This can turn into somewhat of a nightmare, what with the vast range of product that is available on the market. I am assuming that you are aiming to graduate beyond the proverbial “point and shoot” brigade, and join the ranks of the advanced amateur or professional photographer. At this point, delving into the finer comparison details of the different cameras makes on the market would be premature. I suggest you ask the following questions in order to help you make the right decision.

Question 1.What type of photography are you interested in?

In general, the following genres can be considered.

  • Landscape
  • Portraiture
  • Macro
  • Wedding
  • Sport
  • Wildlife
  • Travel and Leisure
  • Fashion

Off course, these genre can overlap, but the path you follow can affect your pocket. As I said, this can be a daunting task, but you need to start somewhere. Each genre will have its own set of equipment demands, mainly in the lens division.

Bundles

Entry level cameras are often bundled with kit lenses that will allow you to shoot most of the genres mentioned above. The lenses normally supplied are a 18-55mm lens, which is a short lens offering wide angle views, and a telephoto lens with focal lengths in the region of 70mm-300mm (great for portrait photography), depending on the make and model. These are great when starting out, but can become restrictive when specialising in one or other genre.

A lens for every occasion

There is virtually a lens for every “occasion”. Lenses are also rated according to their speed, and the faster the lens, the more you are liable to pay. Of course, the camera is important, and it is wise to consider a Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR). Cameras can be categorised as compact (point and shoot), Hybrid, which comes with a fixed lens system. Some of these cameras are very powerful and may be all that is needed for the type and level of photography you pursue. However, the DSLR allows the flexibility of changing lenses. This in turn allows for more creativity. If for example you want to document bird life, then you would need an extremely long lens (up to 1000mm), and needs careful cost considerations. On the other hand, your work may require an extremely wide angle lens. Once again, you are in for cost. The kit lenses (that is, the lens supplied with an entry level DSLR) may spec at 18mm, but because the camera has a crop factor (more later), the the true focal length will be approximately 28.8mm (crop factor 1.6). So you are forced to purchase a lens that fits your wide angle requirements.

A must have

The tripod is probably the most overlooked piece of equipment. One outlays all that money on a camera, and then pays nothing for a shaky tripod. Taking sharp photographs in certain conditions, can only be achieved by mounting the camera on a sturdy tripod. This is especially true when using long lenses and slow shutter speeds, a common pair in photography. True that the anti-shake lenses are getting better and better, which allows you to hand hold the camera in situations that were not possible before.

Research

So, I believe more research on the type of photography you are interested in, will help toward you making the right purchasing decisions, and save you unnecessary expense by ensuring you do not purchase accessories that often become ornaments in your bag. So, in summary, when starting out, your lens range should cover 18mm-300mm. This will get you through most projects until you gain more knowledge and experience. By that time, you will have outgrown your entry level camera and will be capable of making more informed decisions when acquiring your new camera gear. Look out for hint number 2 next week.

Question 2.Does the camera have the following features?

Interchangeable lenses.

This is a prerequisite for any serious photographer. All the genres mentioned in question 1 have specific lens demands for the best technical and creative results. Camera kit bundles are common offerings by the different suppliers and usually include a 18-55mm lens and a longer lens in the region of a 70-300mm lens. Depending on the make and model, these specs will be different. For instance, the Nikon D90 comes standard with a useful 18-105mm lens, at a higher price. In this case, a longer lens, or any other lens that satisfies the genre will have to be purchased separately, which can dramatically increase your budget requirements.

The versatile option

My suggestion is that you get a lens that can range from 18mm to 300mm allowing one to successfully take great photos across the board. The longer the lens (one of the factors influencing depth of field), the easier it is to control depth of field for creative photography and is a must for the capture of wildlife.

How serious are you?

The choice of lens, and the cost involved usually decides your seriousness about photography. The day will come when you are able to be critical of your work and suddenly, the cheapo lens no longer does the job. The speed of the lens is gauged by how wide the aperture can be opened at the extreme ranges of the lens. In other words….the lower the f-number the better. These specs can be read off the lens (f1.4-3.5 for example). As you will see in later tips, the wider the aperture, when using aperture priority, the faster the shutter speed and the narrower the depth of field. This is to add creativity to your pictures (Discussed later). Lenses are mounted on the camera body by using different fittings for different makes. So you cannot use a Canon lens on a Nikon camera. When ready to purchase a lens, take your camera with to your dealer.

Question 3.Does the camera feature Auto Bracketing?

This feature is needed to explore and obtain the optimum exposure required for great photographs, enabling you to automatically vary the brightness levels of your pictures. There are some entry level DSLR cameras that do not have this exposure capability.

When shooting photographs, it is sometimes difficult to set the exact exposure. So we use a method called bracketing. By varying exposure value around a set exposure. So if you shoot the same shot three times one will be overexposed and one will be underexposed relative to the middle shot. You now have the choice of three exposures, one of which should be good. This technique is also used when combining three or more exposures to make one composite photo. In Photoshop you can create a picture with all the highlight, low-light and mid-tone details. This is referred to as HDR (High Dynamic Range)

Question 4.What resolution?

What resolution should the camera work at? With the new DSLR cameras on the market, resolution is very high at plus minus 12 mega pixels. The pixels quoted are a representation of the maximum picture size (quality) available to you on that specific camera.

Does it matter?

For the new photographer who is budget conscious, quality is not that much of an issue. Pictures from a 6 mega pixel camera can be enlarged to A3 size with good quality, assuming exposures and any “Photoshop manipulations” have been carried out properly. The one thing you will learn quickly is that quality comes can come at a price. Just like investing in a good sound system, you get what you pay for (with some exceptions, as in most things in this life).

Each camera offers a range of quality settings from low up to the maximum for that camera. So once again, you need to decide what type of photography you are going to tackle and whether or not you need a really high quality camera.

RAW is a must

For the enthusiast and aspiring professional, the camera should produce RAW files, which is the digital negative. Here you are able to change settings without the cameras own setting being impinged on you. All pros and many more amateurs are now only using RAW files. This does take up more storage space, but the benefits of using RAW far outweigh the need for memory. For more on this hint click on Quality

Question 5.Which accessories will I need when purchasing my first camera, and what should I keep in mind for the future?

a) Tripod-Buy the most sturdy tripod you can afford. Later on you will learn how shutter speed and the tripod can influence the quality of your pictures.

b) UV Filter- The UV filter is clear and has a use when taking pictures. However, before you use your camera, place the UV filter on for the protection against damage to the lens. Replacing the lens is far more expensive that replacing a UV filter, which costs in the region of 15 dollars. Because it is a clear filter, you can leave it on the lens. You will need different size UV filters for different size lenses. Check the diameter of the lens and make sure it matches the diameter of the UV filter. If you are not sure, take your camera into your local camera shop for advice. Having said all that, a UV filter can cause auto focus problems depending on the lens you are using. Some say that the UV filter on a DSLR makes no difference, so why put a cheap piece of glass in front of a complicated and expensive set of optics. When you are ater crisp clean shots, remove the UV.

c) Polarising Filter-A better investment is a polarising filter. More later

d) Remote- There will be times when the ability to remotely release the shutter will increase the range of pictures in your repertoire.

e) Other filters- There are many types of filters that help towards more creative photography.

Question 6.Do I need an external flash?

The answer is YES. More advanced exposure and lighting techniques will need at least an external flash (or two, or more). If your passion is portrait photography, different lighting systems come into play. In the first stages of learning about exposure, you will be surprised to see that a flash is important for many outside shots.

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