Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Photograph and photography

This is my re-produced version of my facebook note posted way back in October 2009. I think this is a very interesting topic to discuss. I received few questions about digital cameras (dSLR) - what camera should I buy? Which one is the most important, the lens or the camera?. These are the most difficult questions to advice on. But there are certain guides out there.

It would be most helpful by referring to the basic questions first:

"What is your budget?" 
I must say that all the advanced features in a dSLR will come at cost. It seems that dSLR technology doesn't ever stop to breathe because every year manufacturers are coming up with another new version of dSLR to attract potential customers.

"What are your needs?
Once you have decided how much you want (or can afford), ask yourself the following questions:

(i) What do I want to photograph? You should also think about what kind of subjects you will be photographing. Are you just taking snapshots, pictures of family, and so on? Do you particularly like to take macro shots? Is your photography interest in the areas of action, sports, wildlife, portraiture or scenery? Do I need the most-expensive-high-end dSLR just to taking pictures of a birthday party? - the answer is simply "NO". This camera you can only (or most of the time) see is during the football matches, MotoGP or F1.

(ii) What will I do with my images that I produce? You will not need a 10 or 20 megapixels dSLR for an A4 print. 5 megapixels camera is more than enough. 20 megapixels will only be useful for an advertising company for its billboard!

Finally,the most important considerations when buying a dSLR is the lens - go for the dSLR that you can easily find many options of lenses based on your photography interests. Believe me, you will appreciate your lens(es) very much. Go for the best you can afford. I personally don't mind buying after-market (used) lens because sometimes you can get a reasonable good lens at a very good price. I got my 50mm f1.8 at CHF50 (approx. RM150) with the quality no less than those brand new. I am very happy with the lens.

50mm, f1.8 is good for portrait
50mm, f1.8 is good for portrait. Copyright: rashidisaid
50mm, f1.8 can also produce a reasonable result of close-up
50mm, f1.8 can also produce a reasonable result of close-up.
Copyright: rashidisaid


If you already own a dSLR, you probably want to invest in lenses. DSLR lenses come in all kind of shapes and sizes and vary in price. Some are built for the needs of professionals and others are just right for the everyday snapshot photographer - like me, just a hobby.You'll always find two main features on a lens:

(1) focal length
(2) aperture

Since, it is important for you to understand the basic terms before you decide to buy your lens(es), let me explain those one-by-one (with no technical jargons). :

1. focal length
Normally you'll see numbers written on the lenses. For examples:
70-200mm, f3.5
18-85mm, f4.5
70-300mm, f2.8
50mm, f1.8

What are those numbers really mean? (dont worry so much about 'mm' and the numbers after ',') - the bigger the number, the closer the object you can zoom. With70-300mm, you can see the object closer in your dSLR that those 70-20018-85mm or 50mm.

Now, few examples of results of those focal lengths:

Zoom at 200mm (maximum) from lens 70-200mm
Zoom at 200mm (maximum) from lens 70-200mm

Zoom at 85mm (maximum) from lens 18-85mm
Zoom at 85mm (maximum) from lens 18-85mm
2. aperture (again, it's only a jargon)
It is like your eyes - is a hole or an opening through which light travels inside your eyes. Like examples above:

- 70-200mm, f3.5
- 18-85mm, f4.5
- 70-300mm, f2.8
- 50mm, f1.8

The f3.5, f4.5, f2.8, f1.8 are the numbers which represent the 'apertures'. The bigger the number, the smaller the opening. The smaller the number, the bigger the opening. No need to understand why because it is science. Just take as it is.

With f4.5, the background is less blurred
With f4.5, the background is less blurred

With f1.8, the background is obviously blurred
With f1.8, the background is obviously blurred

A lens with small number (examples: f1.4, f1.8, f2.8) is normally more expensive. Lens with long focal length plus small number of aperture is much more expensive like 70-200mm, f2.8.

Nikon or Canon?

Commercially, one will only answer if she/he is paid in doing that. If you ask 10 people, I believe 8 will either vote for a Nikon or Canon camera. As a guide (just a guide!), Canon vs. Nikon camera lineup and their equivalents:

Canon <--> Nikon

1000D <--> D5000 --------------> entry-level dSLR
500D <--> D60
50D <--> D90
7D <--> D300s
5D <--> D700
1D <--> D3
1Ds Mark III <--> D3x -----------> professional dSLR

Note: this lenses may not up to date as technology evolves.

Canon lenses
Canon lenses
Nikon (Nikkor) lenses
Nikon (Nikkor) lenses

Which one is the best? You can google because my views may be biased..:-)



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