26 December 2009

A Letter to the Editor...

OK... not really... this is a letter i wrote to a friend to help him understand some basic camera controls... i realize that i have a number of friends getting in to the DSLR world and thought i'd post it here so i can send the info on to other people.

(if i have information not correctly written out.. please let me know! I'm a semi-self taught photography. Semi - meaning i read a lot of books and absorbed about 30% bec. i'm just that ADD... I always love constructive criticism!)
(my friend was contemplating buying a Nikon D40 vs a Nikon D60... that is where the conversation starts...)

OK... so here's another thought on the cameras. Yes... at 3:30 in the AM. had to take my pain meds and you came to mind.. go figure.

Buy the D40, bank the extra cash and get good glass because truthfully at this stage, megapix matters but not a whole lot. Sensor size is what really matters here and both are fairly decent sensors. The issue you will face will be shooting in low light situations which will require you to bump the ISO (your film speed) up to higher levels which will increase noise (pixelation or grain). To help you achieve decent pics in these areas you'll need a low fstop or aperture.

Good glass will be the only way to achieve this... which means dropping some cash on some. Anything with a 2.8fstop or lower is what you want. These lenses are pricey but worth it because all you really need is one good one and it will pay for itself when you try and get that concert shot that always was blurry before. Don't skimp on glass because when you do it will come back to haunt you. I like to stick with Nikon/Nikkor school glass because when you start dabbling in 3rd party stuff you get some iffys and it's not really worth dealing with even though they have some nice stuff out. (iffy's being cloudy glass, noisy motors, off focused elements, poor quality cut glass)

The issue you're going to find also with the D40/60 is that the auto focus is driven in the lens, not the camera which means some older lenses won't work on your body. Make sure that when you are buying glass that it is compatible with the body. If it's not, you'll end up having to hand focus.

Here's a great review on the D40. Ken's site is the place to look for anything Nikon.

Lastly, if you're just wanting a dslr for more of a glorified p&s, check out some advanced p&s because they really do make some great shots. I bought B one that i love to carry with me when i fly because it's compact and can still pull the load when i want to get a good shot. It also does video which is a BIG plus when in those situations where you just want a video camera.
Canon G10 or SX10, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28K, Nikon P6000 or P90. Great p&s.

Hope that helps. Sorry i couldn't get back to you sooner!

Happy shooting!

(he asked whether or not the zoom in a lens affected aperture... and some other questions about lenses and shooting... my next response.)

Increase in range does affect the aperture. The longer the zoom the increase in aperture. So when you are at 55 it'll be like 4.5f but when you get out to 200 you're around 5.6 which is a drastic cut in light intake.

Here's the basic menege a trois when it comes to SLR photography.

[ISO (eye s oh)] - essentially your film.
The lower the number the more light required.
Ex. 200 - outside / 400-600 - Bright Inside(low outside) / Above - Dark environments

[fstop setting or aperture] - The iris/diaphragm of the lens (looks like shutters in a circle that widen or close) allows more light in.

The lower the fstop the more light coming in, the faster your shutter speed can be, creating a shallow depth of field or boke (pronounced like a bouquet of flowers) or that cool blurry texture behind a person.
The higher the fstop the less light coming in, the slower your shutter speed has to be, creating extreme detail for distant objects. Basically any landscape picture (think Ansel Adams).

[Shutter speed] - the speed at which the shutter opens and shuts. When you're reading a shutter speed setting it will range anything from Bulb" which is you push the button and then push it again to close the shutter / double digit seconds (60 30 15 10 sec.) to 1/8000 of a sec. so stupid fast.

All three of these things work together and mostly apply in non-preset options:
M - Manual - you control everything
A - Aperture priority - The camera chooses the shutter speed for you while you set the fstop
S - Shutter Priority - The camera chooses the fstop for you while you set the shutter speed
P - Program - Point and take a picture, the camera chooses the settings for you, meaning fstop and shutter speed - but different than the green box which is automatic, that does EVERYTHING from setting your ISO to firing your flash if needed.

Say you're outside taking a picture of your wifey. The sun's overhead and there's just grass behind her that you want to make all blurry looking so her face just pops. Sun = lots of light = low ISO - 200 I want a shallow depth of field so i choose a 1.8fstop and shutter speed is gonna be high because of the amount of light coming in.

Say i'm in a concert though and i want to get the killer light show. It's dark - so i need a higher ISO 800 but i'm still gonna need that lower fstop so lots of light can come in. say, 2.0 - 2.8fstop but my shutter speed still has to fire pretty slow so that the light can still come in, but fast enough to catch the guy head banging in action... has to be around 1/100 of a sec. or faster.

Say i'm taking a pic of Mt. Rushmore. It's cloudy out so the light's kinda iffy. 500 - i want to get the zit on Washington's face. i set my fstop to 22 and then adjust shutter speed to what's needed...

ISO, fstop and shutter speed play hand in hand.

So... that's your crash course in photography. Have fun shooting! I expect nothing but money shots now =P you have all my secrets!

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