Monday, December 28, 2009

DSLR beginner recommendations

During the holidays, my sister-in-law asked for advice on what camera gear was required to get the nice photos that I took with my camera. What she was talking about is portraits with bounced flash and nicely blurred background, like this:

This was taken with Canon XTi, Canon 420EX flash, and Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 (at f/2.2). In my opinion what you need is a prime lens with fast aperture (F/2 or faster), a DSLR, and a flash that can be bounced. Today, the cheapest you can get away with I think is the following.

Canon Price Nikon Price
Canon Rebel XS 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (Black) About $450 Nikon D3000 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens About $500
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens About $100 Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras About $200
Canon Speedlite 270EX Flash for Canon Digital SLR Cameras About $130 Nikon SB-400 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras About $120
About $680 About $820

Now, some might complain about this Nikon/Canon comparison. The Nikon has a nicer prime lens, as it is 35mm instead of Canons 50mm. The 50mm will be a little long to use indoors, but on the other hand, 50mm is going to create a nicer blur on the background when used at f/1.8-2.8 or so. Nikon has a cheaper 50mm lens, but it does not auto focus with the D3000 and D5000. Then the other comment would be that the AF chip on the Canon XS is maybe not handling f/1.8 lenses as good as the Nikon will. And if the XS is swapped for XSi or T1i, then the price for the Nikon will probably be less than Canon. Also, Canon does have a 35mm lens, but it is almost $300 and quite old design. If you really want 35mm on the Canon, I would probably go with a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Lens, but it is around $400. As you see, this can become expensive very quickly. You could try buying just the body and kit lens (18-55mm) and the external flash. That will be a nice start and will give you really nice indoor shots. And if you think that the background is not blurred enough, or the ISO is creating noise that bothers you, you can add the prime lens later to take care of that.

One note about the flashes for both cameras that I suggest here is that they are only able to bounce in the "landscape" orientation. If you use your camera in the "portrait" orientation, and still want to bounce the flash, you will need the Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash or Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash. Both are around $230 or so. These can both tilt and swivel.

Anyway, you can also keep an eye on sites like Craigslist for used equipment. You can save quite a lot, but be aware, there are also many that sells at almost new prices, and might say "blank warranty card". But warranty cards are useless unless you also get a copy of the sales receipt stating where and when the camera was purchased. If you buy new at sites like Amazon, you get 30day or longer hassle free return right, and will not have a problem with the manufacturers warranty. I would recommend to buy from Amazon, with Amazon as the seller.

Another example of bounced flash with prime lens.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

XSi Lizard

When I took a hike in the woods to a waterfall with my kids, we stumbled upon this beautiful (water?) lizard. The Canon XSi and Sigma 105mm did a good job. Check out the sharpness in the 100% crop... The XSi is on sale at Amazon and if you add the Canon EF-S 55-250mm (please note that you need to select Amazon as the seller) $200 will be deducted in the cart giving you a two lens combo for just ~$55 more than a single lens. Not bad.



Sunday, December 13, 2009

After the rain

So we had the cold weather, and then now we have a weekend of rain. Overcast, almost no wind, and a drizzle. Makes for good weather for photos, even if my Canon XSi does not qualify as weather proofed. Oh well.

Enjoy these photos...


100% crop - quite sharp and low noise (ISO200)




Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Frost/Nixon or Frost/XSi

Your pick, take Frost/Nixon or why not Frost/XSi :). I recommend both :) My new camera came today and has already been out for a spin. We have had exceptional cold nights here in Northern California with about 24F when I woke up. Made up for some nice photos with the new camera and the old Sigma 105mm macro lens. Kind of like an alien landscape, I think.





Saturday, December 05, 2009

Canon XSi on the way...

So, I finally got around to upgrading my Canon 10D. I have now a Canon XSi on the way. I hope that for my macro shots, the live-view will come in handy, and in general, the speedier operation will be appreciated.

However, I really doubt that it will do much for the images that will be captured in the end. Here are two recent 10D shots.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Canon G11 - Ghost from the past :)

From Canon G11

Well, I guess I will not be writing more about the Canon G11 here. I managed to sell mine on Craigslist, just before the price dropped. So, I only spent $25 to try that camera (bought at $500 and sold for $475). That's not too bad. I did enjoy it more than those $25 so I guess I come out ahead.

Why? Well, I had a few serious problems with this camera (also keep in mind that I do have an old G2 and a 10D...)
  • The size and placement of the control wheel and the 4-way controller made my (large?) fingers hit the wrong thing way too many times
  • To be the latest camera, I really found the auto focus to be both slow and often (especially in Macro) not focus properly
  • This camera, as well as some of the previous G models, only support manual flash control of E-TTL flash (like 420EX, 430EX) in manual mode. My old G2 works just like the DSLRs and I like that much more.

All in all, I just did not feel that the new camera was worth the $500. I mean, many of the photos would be ok with the compact Canon SD1200 that I still have and love. It is not a G11 replacement, but it will hold me over until I find what's next. My short list for potential candidates are:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lego - Power functions on sale

I think I have never seen much Lego on real sale, and especially the power functions, like battery box, motor, and so. On Amazon right now (as of 11/28 pm) the power functions set (#8293) is $24 shipped... That is a really good price. Do I hear Christmas gift?

Thursday, November 12, 2009