Friday, April 03, 2009

Digital SLR buying tips

Editor's note - we are starting a new series where expert guest bloggers post about topics covering topics such as buying guides and product tips. The first is by expert photographer Yathin - check out some of his mind bending photos here.

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ultra wide angle lens photo

If you there's no way compose a photograph the way you want it to be, then why try? Photography, like many modern art forms, is the sum of technology and creativity. Creativity, like we all know, has no bounds. While it is a relatively easy to conjure up that out-of-world composition in our minds, by being a little creative, the ways to achieve it may not always be that easy. And even impossible sometimes. Surely then, learning about technology is the stepping stone for creative success in the photography world? And it's probably fair to say that technology sets limits for creativity in photography?

I've always believed that having the right equipment plays a major role in photography. We first need to define what we want to photograph and how well you want to photograph the chosen subject. It's an easier task than we think it is for someone who's just starting out. All need to do is to pick out a bunch of photographs that impressed us and say "I want to make pictures like that." Now if you have absolutely no knowledge of photography then that will probably get you nowhere. Even the best photographers in the world cannot tell all the equipment used in making a photograph just by looking at a print. However, it should be possible to create a theme from the chosen set of pictures. Themes like people, places, architecture, birds, landscape and such. It could well be that all your favorite photographs fall into a handful of themes. After that, choosing the right camera is like solving an enjoyable alegbraic equation! We just need to get a right balance of variants to meet our requirement (and budget!). Websites like WisdomTap.com help you do just that!

In the D/SLR world, which is pretty much the standard for the serious consumers and several professionals, photography equipment is all about picking the right body and right set of lenses. Unfortunately, lenses from one manufacturer will not work too well or not work at all on another manufacturer's camera bodies. It usually ends up a debate between Nikon and Canon when picking a manufacturer. While the smaller manufacturers make excellent cameras and bodies too, Nikon and Canon are a popular because they seem to have a wider range of equipment and are easier to sell or buy in the used market. The only reason I chose Nikon is because people I knew used Nikon and it was easier to share expensive equipment like lenses.

A serious travel and photography enthusiast like me tries to keep keep a good lens for each of the three main categories: wide-angle, normal and telephoto. The popularity of 35mm film cameras ensures that focal lengths of lenses are almost always specified in what they mean in the 35mm film world. normal lens photoA lens of focal length 50mm is considered normal and is most popular for portraits and photographing things which demand "what the eye sees" - because it corresponds to the focal length of our eyes.


wide angle lens photo28mm is considered wide and anything wider than that is ultra-wide. Wide angles are most popular for architecture and landscape photography. Lenses with focal lengths greater than 50mm are considered telephoto. Telephotos are further classified as medium-telephoto and super-telephoto. super-telephoto lenses are among the largest and most expensive lenses in the SLR world.

telephoto lens photo super-telephoto lens photo

Having lenses covering focal lengths ranging from 28mm to 300mm should cover for most cases in photography. Generally, zoom lenses are popular at the lower end of the range with primes stronger in the telephoto range. Zoom lenses are versatile and very useful when you have no predetermined composition in mind - like when traveling for instance. Medium zooms like the 28-105mm lens are among the most popular lenses, just for their ability to cover a significant chunk of wide, normal and telephoto range.

macro lens photo

super-telephoto lens photo

While having the right equipment is very important, being comfortable using them is next most useful thing you can wish for in the field. While theoretical knowledge is a good start, experimenting and regular usage is the best way to master the equipment. Learning can be further accelerated by going out on photography shoots with more experienced photographers. Knowing your equipment is sometimes the difference between getting that once-in-a-lifetime shot or missing it!