BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Film-Based Camera Equipment : 35mm Cameras : SLR (Single Lens Reflex) Cameras

Photography Question 
Amy B. Sudduth

Lookin for First SLR Camera

Ok, here is the thing... I am looking to buy my first SLR Camera. I will be using it to practice taking portraits and some day I want to have my own studio. To start out.. what cameras would you suggest for this field?

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2/22/2004 11:20:12 AM

doug Nelson   You'll hear from the resident geezer first, I guess. I'd start with a manual focus, maybe even manual exposure SLR. Good ones are very cheap used, and you can buy a few new still. Lenses are far less expensive. Try a 50mm lens first, as they are both cheap and very good at resolving fine detail. For portraits, try an 85 or 100mm. All makers have these. Read more about this approach on my web page. The regulars here have heard it all before.

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2/23/2004 10:19:43 AM

George Gaskell   There are two cameras I would strongly recommend to a beginner -- (1) whatever the current entry-level Canon EOS camera is, and (2) the Pentax K1000.

There is something that every beginner really needs to understand -- the camera body is the LEAST important component in the whole photography process. It is only there to hold the lens and the film in the proper relation to one another, and if it can do that well, then you have a winner. All the features and gadgets on the high-end cameras are only there for the photographer's convenience (which may be important if you take photos for a living, but should mean very little to the rest of us). An expensive body will not give you better photos. There are 4 things that matter a lot more -- light quality, film type, lens quality and composition skill.

The most affordable Canon EOS camera at the moment is the Rebel GII. It is only about $150! It is packed with features, too. Ten years ago, it would have been the most advanced thing on the market. It takes all the EF lenses (start with the 50mm f/1.8 III). You can't go wrong.

Second, think about a Pentax K1000. It is a warhorse. It is all manual, very reliable, perfectly designed. As an alternative, there is the new Pentax ZX-M.

With the money you save by choosing a less expensive body, invest in top of the line lenses, a top quality filter set, lighting equipment (if you shoot indoors), and a library of good photo books. These things will improve your photos far more than a high-end body ever will.

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2/23/2004 8:59:58 PM

David S. Davis   I use the Nikon N65 and love it. But this is not my advice to you. Spend time reading reviews. Popular photography and Photographic magazines for example (I think the web sites have archive reviews). Go to a few stores and see what feels best.

My advice is to check out ebay and sites like that have used equipment. You can save a ton of money. I wish I had gone this route.

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2/24/2004 7:20:04 AM

Jen Hernandez
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/11/2003
  I started with the Canon Rebel Ti, excellent camera. What sets it apart from the lower end Rebels is that the lens mount is metal not plastic! I use the 28-90mm lens and then a 75-300mm. Everyone recommends 50mm for portraits but I also love 150mm. I like options!
From there if you so decide, you can go to the digital rebel. I just purchased it and love it! You can use all the same lenses as the Rebel Ti, very practical. I now use them both in my studio.
It's nice to be able to build on what you have. Pick a brand that you love and stick to it so that you're not carrying 2 separate sets of lenses and filters down the road.

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2/24/2004 10:32:41 AM

David S. Davis   Check this link - it reviews SLR's under $300

copy and paste to your browser.

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2/24/2004 11:42:35 AM

Michael McCullough   Personally,I started with a Nikon F80 28-80 D lens and 70-300 ED lens,then added a 50mm.1.8 a little later,never regretted my choices,I added a Minolta SRT 101 and XE5 with a 28mm and 45mm Minolta lenses,bought a screwmount adapter and added alot of really great Takumar lenses,the 105mm.Super Tak,50mm.f1.4,SMC 55mm.f2.and the older Tele Takumar 200mm.f3.5 a good sharp 200mm.The total cost of the Minolta system 400 Canadian,The Nikon gear about 1200.Shop around and have some fun!!!

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2/24/2004 12:07:31 PM

Michael F. Millay   Amy - I am not Sure who "Michael M." is (above)
But I am Michael F. Millay - or Mylo - or Sharpshooter... ANYWAY -
BEFORE I read ANY "Replies" I Came up with the SAME 2 Cameras in my Brain, as George & DOUG Did! The Old Pentax K-1000 ! (remember NO AutoFocus-U actually have to LOOK at Your Composition, etc.) Or... ANY Canon REBEL (How many Rebels Do they Have Now?) You Might be Glad LATER if you get the SAME NAME Camera AND GLASS - As You Could KEEP Say.. Canon Glass, then SELL a REBEL, & get a BETTER Canon - OR Digital Canon.
ALSO : If your Bank Account is NOT Bulging, You Can cover EVERYTHING from 28 mm to 300 mm - with TWO Hunks of Glass - as I did. i.e. :
CANON 28-105mm ZOOM, AND CANON 100-300 ZOOM. Total Cost - BOTH Lenses : Approx. : $ 450 to $ 500 ?) (Buy thru Mail at B & H-New York ONLY, or be Stupid) I have had about 30 Photos Published that I shot with above Glass.
... Sharpshooter

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2/24/2004 1:25:29 PM

Michael McCullough   I have heard rumers that the Rebel does not handle cold weather well,and the build quality is plastic in feel and heft,these in itself would really question on wether I would buy one ,oh by the way its Michael McCullough,and for 4or 500 dollars you really can pick up a complete manual system that will still have years of life left,Canon made some great manual cameras and lenses at one time!!!!!!

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2/25/2004 8:34:29 AM

Michael McCullough   And just to add a little more for you try picking up a new auto focus camera and I don't mean a pro camera and then a 25 year old manual masterpiece you will see right away the build difference in both quality and feel.If the older camera is maintained it will last a lifetime,Take good care!!!

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2/25/2004 8:41:52 AM

Paula  S. Masterson   This is repetitive, but maybe it'll help you! My first (and only) SLR was the Canon Rebel Ti, and it is everything I could want. It has all the preset modes that you can use when you are getting comfortable with the camera and how to handle it. Then it has all the creative controls you'll want as you understand more about photography. I stuck with the original 28-90mm lens until I got more comfortable with phtography fundamentals, then added a 28-200. I bought it about 18 months ago, on-line, from 17th St. Photo in NYC, for $250. It came with a whole kit of stuff, inc. a tripod. I have used it out in the cold without any problems. I like the lighter weight of the plastic body, as I am a smaller person and it is easy for me to handle. You won't be disappointed!!

Paula Masterson

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2/26/2004 11:47:59 AM

Eric Highfield
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/16/2003
  Hi Amy,

I reading through these entries and I’m thinking that if I was just starting out, I’d be more confused now then when I first asked the question! Everyone has there favourite brands and you will to. All of the mentioned brands and even ones that aren’t mentioned make some excellent cameras, so I’ll do you a favour and not tote any brands in this response (besides these companies take my money, not give it to me, so I will not give them any free advertising, too!). Out of all of the responses, I think I agree most with the first response from Doug Nelson. With his approach, you’ll spend far less money…and gain a lot better understanding of the technical aspects of photography. With today’s AF cameras, the temptation to leave them in Autofocus and Program mode is too tempting. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but you will advance a lot more slowly in your understanding of exposure if you let the camera do all of the calculations for you, and usually the results are more sterile (meaning less creative). The good older manual camera tends to offer more flexibility in many ways too. Multiple exposures, elapsed time exposures, and the ability to still shoot in below freezing, or even without batteries are inherent to many of these cameras, but not usually to the AF cameras. (Unless you are going to buy VERY high end and/or add expensive databacks). A good manual camera with a manual 1.8, 50mm prime lens (great for portraits) will cost much less, teach you a lot, and allow you to get familiar with the SLR world before spending big bucks on your investment into a system for your studio. Best of all, when you’re ready start building a SYSTEM for your studio, you’ll be able to do so based on your OWN criteria of what you need in SLR technology. I emphasize system, because you are aspiring to make photography a business, your investment in lenses and accessories will far outweigh any camera bodies you buy. You’ll want to maximize your system to allow for the needs of your business….ask yourself, does this one brand offer all of lenses and accessories I will need later on?, Do they offer both film and digital cameras? (you’ll likely want both eventually), How compatible are the lenses and accessories across both formats?, etc. Once you figure that out, tryout potential candidates…determine how it does it feels in your hands? You’ll hate even the “best”, most feature laden camera if it is uncomfortable for you to use. You’ve got big plans, but you’re still in the early stages, so you’ve got time. Start out with a manual SLR that feels good to you. Spend the money you’ve saved on some good photography instruction books, or maybe some courses, and learn the basics of SLR photography with it. Even if you buy a completely different brand for your studio equipment, the loss of investment due to incompatibility will be minimal. In the meantime, you’ll have a great time with your new best friend, your first SLR! No matter what fancy & shiny products that come out down the road, you’ll always look back at “old reliable” with fondness.

Best of luck, and happy shopping!

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3/8/2004 11:52:57 PM

S Goswami   I was in the same situation when I was trying to buy my first slr. And that is why I ended up buying quite a few from Ebay. I think any manual focus camera will do, be it Pentax K1000, Minolta SRT101 or the likes. If you want a real workhorse you can pick up a Zenit from ebay which you can buy around $50-$60 from ebay with a very good quality russian lens. They are really good in quality and very very cheap.

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4/30/2005 1:42:24 AM

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