great review of DSLRs, F1!
a few random points ...
Replace this with a wider diameter (usually between 52-58mm) lens with specially-coated glass and you get a much finer image. Things like glare can still occur, but causes far less image distortion.
another form of distortion to look out for is barrel and pincushion effects, which are much less pronounced in the higher-quality lenses. Some compacts - at widest zoom out, you may as well have a fisheye.
Did I also mention motor drive...3-5 shots per second on even the cheapest DSLRs, which is nice from a moving vehicle (although it eats your battery life).
that is my modus operandi - take 5 photos, figuring one will be at the right distance and in focus.
for me, battery life has never been an issue - I've noticed that even in my worst modes (a combination of rapid-fire repeated daytime shots, and long exposures at night), I get a good two days shooting (600-1500 photos) out of a single battery charge on the SLR.
5) Lenses are interchangeable; typically, a 20-year-old EOS lens works with any Canon DSLR, for example. Not sure about Nikon, but I imagine it's the same as they're in constant competition with each other.
I'm a Nikon guy so hopefully I can answer a few questions accurately here.
Canon's EOS system was invented in 1985. everything after then is - as far as I know! - compatible with everything else after then. Everything before then, incompatible, but I believe a few hackers have built a few adapter rings that will get you bare minimal functionality (manual focus, manual exposure). Good if you want to get a really esoteric 1970s Canon lens for a shot that you absolutely need to make, but for all practical purposes, if you are looking to get into Canon, it is the post-1985 (and, really, post-2003-or-so given the leaps and bounds of technical advances in lens design) world which you will be concerned with.
Nikon's F mount came about in 1959. Everything is physically
compatible with everything else from that point on, but some of the electronics are not compatible. I to this day cannot keep track of non-AI, AI, AI-s, AF, AF-S, AF-G, and the various other permutations of lens electronics, but I do know these several basic facts:
AI is an old standard, and no lenses of this style have been made since the early 90s or so. It refers to an automatic metering system, in which the lens can electronically communicate with the camera the amount of light it is receiving, so that the camera tells you the appropriate exposure settings.
(so, by default, a non-AI lens has, I believe, absolutely no electronics. Completely manual focus, exposure, etc.)
AF is Autofocus, but it only means that the lens is compatible electronically
with an autofocus camera. It may or may not actually autofocus on your camera body.
several of the lower-end Nikon cameras, like the D40 and D5000 (which is my current camera body) do not have an autofocus motor as part of the camera body. In order for autofocus to work, you need a motor in either the body or the lens. So, for these lower-end Nikon SLRs, you will need a motor in the lens.
that the AF-S lenses will offer this option, but the terms are so confusing and bloviated by the marketroids that it is very helpful to do a google search on a lens you are thinking of buying, especially in the realm of D40 compatibility. (D40 is Nikon's flagship consumer DSLR, so people that review lenses will tend to note whether or not it has various features when mounted to the D40.)here is an overview
of Nikon lens standards since the introduction of the F mount in 1959. You read it and remember it, as I am too lazy!
I just know that:
* my Nikon 18-200 is autofocus
* my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is not auto focus (hah, manual focus at f/1.8 depth, yeah that's fun)
* my Nikon 10.5mm fisheye is, if I recall correctly, not
autofocus, but since it is a fisheye, you can rotate the focus to "looks about right" and you will be okay, especially if you reduce your aperture from f/2.8. Seriously, at f/8, your photos will be identical
on a fisheye whether set to distance infinity or distance 5 meters. Within 5 meters, I trust you can gauge the distance just fine.
* my Tokina 12-24mm is autofocus, if I recall correctly - but, again, at that wide angles, and such apertures (widest is f/4, I usually shoot f/8), you can manually focus and get great shots.
those are the four lenses I use. Other lenses, you can ask me and I may or may not know. Google is your friend
one note regarding lenses... image stabilization (Canon is IS; Nikon calls it vibration reduction or VR - it is the exact same idea) is a miracle
. I have taken a 1-second exposure, at full zoom (200mm) using my 18-200 VR of a lunar eclipse, and had it come out completely sharp
to better than the constraints of the CCD and the lens itself.
the rule of thumb is - for N millimeters (based on the old film 35mm standard, also applicable to digital cameras), expose no slower than 1/N seconds. VR adds at least four stops
to that standard, and, with judicious use (read: take 100 photos and pray that one comes out), nine stops
. That is a fantastic achievement by our species.
so, especially for road warriors, I must note that a VR lens is the greatest item in your arsenal - especially if you are intending to be shooting at high zoom factors, while driving at freeway speeds, under suboptimal light conditions. I can even get green guide signs at night with the VR lens. Not retroreflective ones, mind you - non-reflective porcelain ones, illuminated by shitty 60W bulbs.
1) You're buying into a lens system, essentially. If you want more lenses, like telephotos, fisheyes, tilt-and-shifts and other gadgets like polarizers (essential for shooting pictures through a windshield on a sunny day, also good at reducing glare in many other cases like bulb exposures, glass reflections, adding contrast),
indeed, contrast improvement is a noted feature of a polarizer lens - especially for skies! It is one of the few filter tricks that cannot be duplicated in Photoshop after the fact; at least not without exquisite manual labor.
and yes, it makes sense to buy an SLR of a given brand based not on the camera itself, but on the lenses
which that manufacturer provides. I went with Nikon simply because of their 18-200 lens, which has been my workhorse since the day I bought it. I have shot 97% of my photos with it.
(that other 3% has been well worth the investment in 3 other lenses!)
Unlike guns, you can practice shooting with them before you pay.
off topic, but any firearms dealer looking to keep you as a customer will let you put six shots into a paper target before you commit to buying.
3) Buy a spare battery! You can't just get replacements at a gas station, so you have to keep it charged and ready. Not cheap, but you'll be glad you had it at 10am in a new place when the other one gave out. Usually, you can get 500-700 shots on a single battery charge.
I second this wholeheartedly. When I got my D5000, my first purchase was a second battery that is the correct form factor. (My old camera, a D50, was different.) I love the ability to hot-swap when I am out a half-mile hike from my car and my battery has decided to expire.
on that note, invest in a car DC-AC inverter by which you can keep your batteries perpetually charged!
You'll also want photo-editing software and a good image browser that doesn't suck.
oh yes. pick up Photoshop Elements - or, if you are hardcore, pick up CS5 if you can think of a concrete reason why Elements does not have a feature that is essential to you.
Photoshop gives you two advantages.
first - it lets you take away much of the processing concerns at the time that you are taking your photos. Instead of worrying about having to get it exactly
right, as it comes off the camera, you just know that you need to get close enough and small details can be hammered out in the post-production. Fix it later - keep shooting now
There is a learning curve towards understanding what can, and what cannot, be fixed in photoshop - for example, if you're out of focus, you (unless you have a PhD in signal processing and spent your postdoc years at JPL) will not
be able to restore focus. But, off by a stop of exposure? Totally wrong white balance? Rotated 3 degrees from the optimal? Totally can be corrected, days later, out of the field, when that perfect sunset is just a memory. It really helps to note that you don't have to fumble away the perfect ten seconds of light because you're attempting to zero in to within one-third of a stop of the correct exposure interval.
second - it gives you a complete extra dimension to your creative skills. For example, I use the Panotools fisheye-to-rectilinear plugin and get myself extra-extra-wide rectilinear shots from my fisheye lens.
for those "purists" that think of Photoshop as something for the weak to rely on because they do not take photos right the first time ... let me note Ansel Adams's "The Tetons and the Snake River"
(the greatest photo I've ever seen). That photo was taken in 1942. The print that you see there, the staple of dorm room interior decoration? 1969. Ansel was constantly re-working his printmaking techniques as technology improved. He died in 1984. If he had Photoshop, he would've used the everloving shit out of it.
It is beyond the scope of this post to note how digital cameras are different from how the human eye perceives light, color, setting, perspective, and space (and well the fuck beyond the post to attempt to describe how the human mind
understands all of those things) - just note that digital cameras, by an artifact of CCD designs, tend to slant green in low-light conditions, so those dramatic purples and oranges of the sunset must be coaxed back into the actual JPEG in front of you by, at the very least, going into "Levels" in Photoshop and setting the green channel's middle slider to 0.90.
Remember what you saw, what you experienced - bend the digital capture towards that recollection as is necessary.