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Digital SLR cameras - advice and opinions

Discussion in 'The Pub' at netrider.net.au started by Toecutter, Apr 23, 2008.

  1. After being blown away seeing Assassins pics from SBK's, can anyone recommend a camera and lense that would take "nearly" as good a pics for a fraction of the price :oops: Happy to buy used if I know what to look for

    So what do you look for in such a camera? We must be close to the maximum number of megapixels? Shutter speed - anything else?

    So lenses from film cameras can be used, and go to Cash Converters, and they often have them - but told Canon (any others?) have a unique attachement.

    Is there only one type of lense you can get away with, or minimum two, and what do you have?

    And worth considering anything else apart from Canon or Nikon?

    Thanks in advance

    Cheers Alex
  2. Hi Toecutter.

    If I may make a sweeping generalisation, with Digital SLRs most of the image quality comes from the large sensor size (35mm or 22mm across rather than the tiny 4mm sensors used in most compact digital cameras) and the lens used.

    The actual camera body isn't as important - it's just an accessory for the lens.

    To quickly get your "Canon uses a priorietary lens mount" comment out of the way - almost all the brands use a proprietary lens mount. Very few are interchangable from brand to brand.

    I'm a Canon user myself so forgive me if I'm light on Nikon (et al) details. Nikon is just as good and in fact does some things better than Canon (and vice versa).

    Camera bodies like the Canon 300D, 350D, 400D and brand-new 450D are Canon's 'entry level' DSLRs. They are very compact and very lightweight, and reasonably priced...

    Some folks don't like how light and compact they are because they don't have a full-size hand grip like a traditional film SLR. As with a motorcycle, it's best to go to the shop and play around with one, make "vroom" noises, see how it feels to use. :)

    Nikon of course has equivalent models. Be sure to get one with a built-in lens focus motor if you do go Nikon - The D40 (I think it is?) does not have one and therefore can only autofocus with lenses that have a built-in motor.

    These cheap, low-end bodies take exceptional photos despite their cheap low-endness.

    For example:




    were taken with my old Canon 350D. (I've since moved up to a medium-level 40D, which is much nicer to use in terms of user interface and controls, but doesn't offer any great improvement in actual image quality)

    A brand-new Canon 450D is about $1100 give or take. Nikon's equivalents will be priced similarly.
    ( http://www.d-d-photographics.com.au/ is generally fairly cheap )

    2nd-hand older bodies are of course cheaper still!

    Lenses are the important part. And sadly probably the most expensive part.

    Lens-wise, you'd be best to ask Assassin what the focal length of his lens was for the SBK photos to get an idea what is needed for the track. Actually, it'd be great if Assassin joined this thread! I'd be curious about his setup too.

    The smaller (22mm rather than "full frame" 35mm) sensor on the entry-level digital SLRs is a boon for zoo-animal and motorsport/sports photography because it "crops" or "zooms" the image, depending on whether you're a pessimist or an optimist, by a factor of 1.5-1.6x.

    This means that a 200mm lens suddenly becomes 200 * 1.6 = 320mm focal length when attached to a low-end DSLR! Very handy. :)

    The 1.6x crop does become a pain in the butt for indoor or wide-angle photography however.

    For my zoo photography I use a 70-200mm focal length. For motorsport I would guess that a lens closer to 300mm would be better...

    Anyway.. That's probably enough for a first comment. It'll be easier if a discussion is formed. :)
  3. It's the lenses for the most part, not the camera, although it helps a little bit ;)

    There are entry level SLR's from:


    *thinks* I may have missed some, but that doesn't really matter

    Arguably the Nikon and the Canon are the best, but not because those camera's are better then the others. They have better lenses and a better upgrade path.

    Canon are currently selling the 400D and 450D atm, you can pick up the 400D for a good price because it is superseded by the 450D, the normal kit lenses aren't so good, but you can buy them with IS kit lenses now which are apparently overall a better quality and have IS (image stabilisation)

    From Nikon's you'd be looking at a D40x (note the x!), D60 or D80. I have no idea about the quality of these lenses but from what I've heard the Nikkor VR lenses are quite good.

    Canon 400D, 450D side by side with Nikon D40x, D60 and D80

    Always try before you buy, the 400D/450D is quite small for a dSLR. It's like helmets, pick one you're comfortable with.
  4. Had a quick look at Assassin's SBK thread.

    Yeah, a Canon 1D Mk2 is a bit pricy... Likewise the lens.

    Now, there's good and bad news here.

    Bad news: If you want lenses and bodies that can autofocus fast enough to follow a motorcyclist around a corner and keep snapping off in-focus shots as you track the motorcyclist around the corner, you probably really do need a 1D (top-of-the-line Canon) and an expensive prime ('fixed-focal-length') lens like the 400mm one Assassin used. A Canon 40D (midrange Canon) could probably do it too, with a good lens.

    Good news: There are ways around it. The easiest way is to focus manually on a point that you know the car/motorcycle will be at, get your shot all prepared, and wait for the car/bike to turn up - then all you have to do is press the shutter at the right time!

    That makes things a lot cheaper and easier because it's less about the technology - fast glass and fast autofocus - and more about the planning/setup. :) Most motorsport photographers I know use this technique.
  5. Whilst the body is fairly important in what it allows you to do once you are more experienced is important, the quality of the lens is 5 times as important.

    You can have a $12,000 body and put a $300 70-300mm lens on it and it's akin to putting 1098 fairings on a Hyosung.

    Whilst starting out, it's best to invest in a lower end Dslr and a higher end lens.

    I have a 70-200mm 2.8L non IS that I picked up whilst in Bangkok for $1400 Australian, $2500 RRP here.

    I still have the 300D, Canons first cheap Dslr <$2,000

    Here are some examples of what can be achieved using the above combo;


  6. What he said above me.
    Depending on your budget.
    I have a 20D and a 300D both canons and associated decent lenses all bought second hand.
    It's a whole can of worms though because once you start you get more involved.
    There is post processing, RAW format as opposed to jpg.
    What software to use etc.
    Good luck.

    I have shitloads of pics there not organised in any way both from my 20D and 300D and associated lenses.
  7. www.dcresource.com

    reviews of pretty much all the digital SLRs available. unbiased and generally accurate. and free. there's a wealth of further information there regarding their use as well.

    i personally have a konica-minolta 7D, which has now been replaced by the Sonys (Sony bought out KM's camera division). Nice camera, but if I had my time over, i'd probably plump for a canon.

    oh, and +1 to all that spots and ginji have said.

    btw, if you are going for an entry level dslr, if you buy canon, buy body only and get lenses seperately. the kit lenses are notmuchchop. probably the best value entry level lens-kit dslr is the pentax range, with their above average Sigma lenses, but additional lenses, accessories etc can be a little bit harder to comeby (relative to canon or nikon).
  8. *highfives vic*

    I have many big love for the 70-200mm f2.8L (I have the IS model - see the cheetah photographs above).

    Expensive but not a regret in the world. I just try to rationalise the cost as an 'investment' - it should last 10, 20 years...

    Sigma does make an outstanding 70-200mm f2.8 for Canon and Nikon though, for $1000AUS or so. Optically allllllmost just as good, maybe as good. Just have to be sure to get a good copy.

    (Toecutter - 'a good copy' is lens-speak and refers to the quality assurance of the lens. Brands like Canon and Nikon tend not to make as many bad copies, because of their high QA. 3rd-party brands such as Sigma and Tamron can have a higher frequency of bad copies of lenses. If one does get a bad copy of a lens, one would return it to the shop for a replacement, all warranty-like.)
  9. Still kicking myself for not buying a short lens.
    The 17-40 f2.8L was only going to cost me $1000 and I never bought it.

    I bought my lens from fotofile in the Mabhukrong (sp?) centre in BKK.

    I picked up the lens, an automatic manfrotto monopod and a 77mm clear protection filter for teh 70-200 and all up it cost me $1600 AUD on my CC

    I tossed up for ages whether to go IS or not. In the end it would have been nice but hey.....I'll make do with what I have.

    I love the 70-200 lens. Even managed to get a a few pics published in teh local paper. :grin:
  10. Nice photo's guys. How hard would it be for a complete photography newbie like me to take decent photos with say a Canon 400D or 450D and decent lens?
  11. All the discussion about lens is good, and spot on, but I'm afraid I can't agree with the above statement.

    I bought a Nikon Coolpix E5700 when they were still $2,500, and was immediately disappointed compared to my previous film camera. There are several things that my next digital camera must do well, and I will do the research to make sure they do:
    1. Fast start up time. Turn the power on, take the picture. No wait.
    2. Fast autofocus, assuming you want autofocus, and the camera supports it. The manual focus on the 5700 is near useless, and the autofocus is so slow it can mean many missed action shots. Useless for sport and active animals.
    3. Fast picture taking. Press the button and the picture must be instantly taken. What you say, of course it will be! Not so with a digital camera. Some, like the 5700, recheck the exposure and focus before taking the photo even if you have held the button half way down to get those settings before trying to take the photo.
    4. Make sure the camera can take photos, and focus, in low light. If you are exclusively taking outdoor action photos, it shouldn't matter, but you know you will want to take photos of your drunk mates at parties by candle light at some time, don't you. The 5700 takes bad photos in the dark, and if it can't focus, which it often can't in the dark, I have to quickly revert to manual focus, which is useless. Sensors could be built that are more sensitive than the human eye, but lots of cameras don't have them.

    Many of the above attributes are dependent on the camera body, not the lens. Those four items will be paramount in the selection of my next digital camera. I will read far and wide to make sure existing users think that the camera does well in those areas, not just reviewers.
  12. With respect, a Coolpix E5700 is not a digital SLR with a distinct body and lens and Toecutter asked specifically about DSLRs.

    Edit @ 11:12am: Oops, don't I look like an idiot. Toecutter did not specify digital SLRs. Though he did ask what 'camera and lense' he would need, which implies an SLR.

    Even the entry-level Canon and Nikon models are instantaneous in power-on operation. There is no difference between a 3 year old 300D and a brand new 1D Mk3 for power-on time.

    A valid point - Entry level digital SLRs tend not to have superior autofocus capability, but it's still very much lens dependent. My 350D with the 70-200 f2.8L lens focusses a shedload faster than the superior 40D with a sheddy plastic kit-lens on it.

    All digital SLRs use fast phase-detection autofocus while nearly all compact digital cameras use v e r y s l o w image-contrast autofocus.

    Entry-level DSLRs tend to have tiny and relatively dim viewfinders which can make manual focus more difficult compared to mid and high end DSLRs, but they all stand head and shoulders above point-and-shoot cameras when it comes to manual-focus operation because most point-and-shoot cameras do not have a focus ring on their lens.

    P&S-style "Live View", appearing on many new digital SLRs including the entry-level 450D, quite frankly poops all over viewfinder use for manual focus anyway.

    True for point-and-shoot digitals. There is virtually no difference in 'shutter lag' for digital SLRs and it's just as fast as a film SLR. As fast as it gets.

    This is a massive function of the maximum aperture of the lens and has less to do with the autofocus capabilities of the camera. As above, entry-level DSLRs have slightly weaker phase-detection autofocus than mid and high end DSLRs, but the difference is only maybe 1-2 EV of light at best.

    It is true that entry-level digital SLRs tend to have worse low-light performance than high-end digital SLRs, when operating at high ISO sensitivity settings. But even the worst entry-level digital SLR has superior ISO noise to the best point-and-shoot camera.
  13. Pretty easy actually.

    There are plenty of online "How to's" that offer a lot of good info/instructions.
  14. I'm using Canon 350D and Sigma APO 50-500mm F4-6.3 EX DG HSM ( yep the bigma & its a heavy sucker by the end of the day ) when I'm out in the middle at motocross meets.

    Theres a couple of threads in multimedia from the weekend or Snoop over at my site. Linky below in sig.
  15. Yes he did
    It's in the topic.
  16. True. I'm blind today. :)

    Charmed - how do you like the Bigma for motorsport photography?
  17. I have a recently purchased a sigma 100-300 f4 exDG and it is as good as my recently sold 70-200 f4L with the added 100mm at the pointy end.
    It takes a teleconverter well.
    I also have a 300mm f4 L prime and a 400mm f5.6 Tokina prime which believe it or not I used at the motogp with my 300D a few years back.

    Here are some 400mm tokina shots from 2 years back.


    This was taken at f5.6 at the hayshed with the 400mm iso 800 on a 300D
    When printed on A3 it is a very clear shot with little if no grain.
    I wish I had the sigma zoom that day as from the image the nose and tail of the 2 bikes didn't fit the frame.
  18. As I'm assuming you're not only going to want photo's of bikes with a telephoto... ;)

    There are some exceptions to the good lenses cost lots of money ;)

    For example, if you get a Canon, they make an 50mm f/1.8 lens. It's sharp and an excellent portrait lens, but it does have it's cons - it's fairly slow to autofocus, and the mounting is plastic. But it costs RRP $150! and can be had for $130. There are another 2 lenses of the same focal length made by Canon, one an f/1.4 USM, which is about $550, and the other a f/1.2L USM which is about $2,300.

    The f/1.8 lens is good enough for me. The plastic mount doesn't worry me, and when I'm using a 50mm lens, the speed of the autofocus doesn't worry me.

    I took these two photo's with the 50mm f/1.8 at the beginning of the year (plus a hell of a lot more, but it's different to what everyone else has been showing):



    Some definitions though:
    USM - ultra sonic motor (for auto focusing)
    L - Canons postfix for professional quality lenses.

    A fast lens can refer to two things:
    - A lens with a wide aperture (eg f/1.8 is fast for a shorter lens, f/2.8 is damn fast for a telephoto)
    - The auto focusing speed
  19. I'm quite happy with it.
    There are times when I'm cursing Auto Focus, not quick enough. But thats usually when there a couple of guys coming into a corner, fighting it out, and then you get this sudden dust bowl.

    As I have mentioned previous, does get a bit heavy by the end of day, but don't they all @ that size. Do have monopod, but I find only thing its good for out in the middle is using it as a walking stick, climbing up & down the jumps.

    Oh & the riders know your there. Couple of laps in there relaxed & they start posing. :LOL:
  20. I bought a 400D body ages back and use the cheap lenses that i got with my 350n (film) which are a 28-80 and 75-300.

    One of my best investments has been a 480ex speedlight over using the inbuilt flash as i often take indoor pics at special events.

    I have taken hundreds of photos of weddings & parties, indoors and out, and it takes brilliant pics as i have plenty of time to set up photos. Wide shots however are a PITA no matter how much prep time you take.

    I'd really like to invest in a EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM as a reasonable all rounder (equivalent to 27-136mm) as unfortunately I can't afford to get a better body and f2.8 lenses :?