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Looking For Camera Advice
Hello, I am new to this forum and found it looking for some information on a camera that was recommended to me. I am hoping the very smart and well informed people on here can help me find a camera to suit my needs..

I am a freelance writer that typically works on pieces having to do with horses and I need to provide my own pictures at times. So, when I am taking pictures most of the time it's action shots or shots with inadvertent action. As many horse shows, clinics and other events are inside, the lighting isn't always the greatest and I have not had the greatest of luck getting good low level lighting action shots. Most of the time it seems like I can get a low level lighting shot or I can get an action shot, but not both..

I've been using a Kodak SLR-type camera that I don't really care for, but it's been getting the job done. However, I recognize that I need something better and less frustrating to use. Its also got a LCD viewfinder that I really dislike and it makes getting a good shot extremely difficult for me. I've ended up with lovely shots only to discover that I've chopped the rider's head off..

I need something that can handle taking high speed pictures, is relatively easy to use (as I have at times been considered a high-tech idiot), works in multiple light settings along with high speed, isn't going to fall apart the first time it goes into a dusty barn, can handle being knocked a bit, is fairly lightweight to be trooping around shows, barns and fields with, and isn't going to bankrupt me. I'd prefer to stay with a digital camera as I need to be able to manipulate the pictures on my computer. I have a PC desktop, laptop and a Mac laptop. I am going to be doing the majority of the photo editing on the Mac. However plunking the photos into my editorials that will be on the PC..

I've had a Canon Rebel XTR recommended to me, as well as a FujiFilm S5000SLR. People have told me that Nikons are the best way to go. Quite frankly, all I do know at this point is that I don't want to continue with the Kodak. I am not sure that I need a camera with changeable lenses if there is a camera that will do what I need with the lens being firmly attached..

Also, book recommendations would be awesome..

Thank you all very much!ErinB..

Comments (10)

Hi Erin,.

We need more information to be able to really help you. You've provided a good start, but it would also be useful to know things like:.

- What's your budget? Less than $1000 isn't going to get you a decent DSLR + decent lens. $2000 will get you a decent DSLR + 1 lens, but you'll really need $2-3K I think to get a decent DSLR (Canon XSi or Nikon D something + kit lens + decent telephoto). $5-10k moves you into pro gear with a body and a couple of seriously good lenses, plus a good strobe and a monopod..

- What level of action are you trying to capture? And what kind of action? Moderate action (both magnitude of movement and speed) can be handled by Canon XSi and 40D, for example. High action benefits from 1D Mark III and Nikon D3. You'll want high frames/second and fast acquisition/tracking to maximize your chances of capturing "the moment". I know that in my case, I'm getting significantly more superb action shots with my 1D III than with my 20D. This is due to both faster and more accurate focus, and more fps..

- What sort of camera-to-subject distances do you tend to use? I've shot horse events using 105, 200 and 400 mm focal lengths on both my 20D and 1D Mark III, and with good results..

- What sort of pictures do you tend to use? Tight portraits? Whole horse doing it's thing? Groups of horses? Other things? Do you care a lot about being able to get fabulously wide images? If so, Canon's lineup would drive you to XSi/40D/5D/1Ds Mark III, as Canon makes ultra-wide lenses for all of them. On the other hand, there's no Canon lens for the 1D Mark III that goes as wide as Canon provides for the other bodies. I don't know about other brands..

- Are you going to use this for other purposes? If so, what? If you're thinking about weddings and serious high-quality portraits, you might want to grab a 5D, for example..

- What size kit do you feel comfortable carrying/using? "Small and light" provides very different options than "heavy and pro", for example. For the former, a Canon XSi or Nikon Dx0 with their general purpose lenses would be in line. For the latter, Canon 1D Mark III, perhaps Canon 5D, Nikon D300 and Nikon D3 with pro lenses would be the kit..

I used to get very good images, of hunter/jumper competitions and rodeos for example, using a 20D and 70-200L lenses. I now get far better images using the 1D Mark III with the same lens and also with the 24-105L. I also have a lot more fun with the 1D. I've seen excellent results from the 30D as well. And the 40D is better than both the 20D and 30D in terms of focusing speed and accuracy..

Since you're talking about going into dusty dirty places frequently, you might want to forget about the plastic-body cams like XSi and go for at least a 40D or D300 sort of body. The 1D Mark III adds weather sealing and I've not had a problem with dust or water with it. 40D and 1D are also pretty tough bodies that can take a reasonable beating. I wouldn't try that with the XSi or Nikon D40/50..

You see where this is going. If you're really going to try and match a camera *system* to a need, it's really helpful to understand the need as fully as possible. I think all current Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, etc. DSLRs are capable of making excellent images. You may find that your skill will be more of a limitation (for a while) than the cameras..

Once you've narrowed your choices to a couple of cameras, I'd suggest that you go to a local store and try them. You're just not going to be happy if the camera's ergonomics and menu/control system don't "feel good" to you. Also, pay close attention to how the subject looks in the viewfinder. The "crop" bodies (XSi, 40D, Nikon D40/50/70/80 and so on) all suffer to some extent from both "tunnel vision" (you feel like you're viewing through a tunnel) and partial frame coverage (~90-92% of the actual image), as well as being relatively dimmer than full-frame and pro level DSLRs. This can effect both your ability to compose images and also your eye comfort if you use the body for prolonged periods or in low light conditions..

Darn; the more I think about it, the more factors I could list to "help" you make a decision. Maybe I'm "too much help"....

Abbott.

ErinB wrote:.

I am a freelance writer that typically works on pieces having to dowith horses and I need to provide my own pictures at times. So, whenI am taking pictures most of the time it's action shots or shots withinadvertent action. As many horse shows, clinics and other events areinside, the lighting isn't always the greatest and I have not had thegreatest of luck getting good low level lighting action shots. Mostof the time it seems like I can get a low level lighting shot or Ican get an action shot, but not both..

I need something that can handle taking high speed pictures, isrelatively easy to use (as I have at times been considered ahigh-tech idiot), works in multiple light settings along with highspeed, isn't going to fall apart the first time it goes into a dustybarn, can handle being knocked a bit, is fairly lightweight to betrooping around shows, barns and fields with, and isn't going tobankrupt me. I'd prefer to stay with a digital camera as I need to beable to manipulate the pictures on my computer. I have a PC desktop,laptop and a Mac laptop. I am going to be doing the majority of thephoto editing on the Mac. However plunking the photos into myeditorials that will be on the PC..

I've had a Canon Rebel XTR recommended to me, as well as a FujiFilmS5000SLR. People have told me that Nikons are the best way to go...

Comment #1

Holy moly! Abbott, thank you for the reply post! You've certainly made me realize that there is a lot more to this than I had previously realized in asking these questions. I am sure you get a lot of that realization with the hammer between the eyes from people. However, that is what learning is all about and the Kodak has been protecting me more than I knew..

One thing that I should clear up is that beyond taking shots for my articles, I am not interested in doing any sort of professional photography. I don't have the "eye" for it or the drive. I've seen the work that pros do and I am not that good. Nor do I think I will ever be. I think that there is an innate talent for being a professional photographer that most people dont have and its not something that you develop over time. Perhaps I am wrong here.

When my hands give out and I can't do manual therapies anymore, writing will become my mainstay, however, I hope that is a really long ways off. I also paint off of my photos, but those are stills of nature scenery..

Now, as I see you are focusing on SLR cameras, I have to ask, because I think I may have a misconception with this, a SLR is a camera body that the lens is removable from, correct? Or does it not have to be?.

I am rather caught here, I want to be able to take really good shots, but due to the fact that this is a hobby for me, I don't know that I really need $2-3K worth of camera, lenses and so on. The money to pay for this is coming out of my manual therapies business to further my article writing sideline (which is a form of advertising for me and just plain fun as well) and I am just getting started. Is it possible to find a good camera base and slowly work up from there? Does such an animal exist? I may be very unrealistic in my thoughts and I am ok with that. That is why I am asking questions..

I want to be able to get tight shots, but also the whole kit'n'caboodle, and they do need to be quality. At the same time, my dinner isn't dependant on them. Sometimes, I am quite a ways across the ring or a field from the horse, say 100-300 and more with a lot of action and speed, sometimes they are up close and personal, within 10 of me and standing as still as you can ask them to stand..

As it's looking like this is going to be a hefty purchase, the body being something to keep out the dust is really important to me. What are you describing with the material for the cases? However, if it is possible considering my main line of work, Id really rather not be toting more than 5#s of camera around my neck to shows and events. I know what sort of havoc that wrecks on the body..

I think I need to start with something basic for reading, books and otherwise. Its a bit overwhelming just reading it for me and an eye-opener to how much more I really need to research and to just know before I start even looking at a camera and lenses beyond what Ive been using..

So, I hope that I have helped a bit more with what you are asking me. You certainly have helped me out!..

Comment #2

ErinB wrote:.

I want to be able to get tight shots, but also the wholekit'n'caboodle, and they do need to be quality. At the same time, mydinner isn't dependant on them. Sometimes, I am quite a ways acrossthe ring or a field from the horse, say 100-300 and more with a lotof action and speed, sometimes they are up close and personal, within10 of me and standing as still as you can ask them to stand..

As it's looking like this is going to be a hefty purchase, the bodybeing something to keep out the dust is really important to me. Whatare you describing with the material for the cases? However, if it ispossible considering my main line of work, Id really rather not betoting more than 5#s of camera around my neck to shows and events. Iknow what sort of havoc that wrecks on the body..

You aren't going to be satisfied under any circumstances. There's no way you can shoot a horse from 100 yards away without the help of an expensive, heavy lens..

Also, you spoke of not wanting to spend $2k-$3k, but dust-resistance is extremely important to you...and that's something you get with a professional camera..

I don't know what to tell you, except that you're going to have to make some serious compromises, be they performance, weight and/or price...

Comment #3

ErinB wrote:.

What current camera do you use now?.

Now, as I see you are focusing on SLR cameras, I have to ask, becauseI think I may have a misconception with this, a SLR is a camera bodythat the lens is removable from, correct? Or does it not have to be?.

SLR - Single Lens Reflex - A camera that has an angled mirror that bends the light from the lens into an OVF - Optical View Finder. And when you press the trigger, the mirror swings away, letting the light hit the sensor or film..

Classically once this complicated mechanism has been designed to allow people to switch lenses easily..

I want to be able to get tight shots, but also the wholekit'n'caboodle, and they do need to be quality. At the same time, mydinner isn't dependant on them. Sometimes, I am quite a ways acrossthe ring or a field from the horse, say 100-300 and more with a lotof action and speed, sometimes they are up close and personal, within10 of me and standing as still as you can ask them to stand..

Exhibit 1: Have a look at the review for the Fuji S-100FS. It is not a DSLR, has a lot of stuff in one package, not too expensive..

As it's looking like this is going to be a hefty purchase, the bodybeing something to keep out the dust is really important to me. Whatare you describing with the material for the cases? However, if it ispossible considering my main line of work, Id really rather not betoting more than 5#s of camera around my neck to shows and events. Iknow what sort of havoc that wrecks on the body..

A good value for money, ready to go, minimal cost package is the.

Olympus E-510 with twin kit lensNikon D60 with twin kit lensSony Alpha A200 with a single wide ranged lens to avoid lens changePentax K200D with a single wide ranged lens to avoid lens change.

In terms of affordability these are good. The Olympus has good dust shaker, the Pentax body is weather sealed..

Since you are not aiming to be "real pro" and you don't want to carry expensive stuff, avoid the classy, high end bodies and lenses..

Anandahttp://anandasim.spaces.live.com/http://olympuse510.wikispaces.com/http://picasaweb.google.com/AnandaSim/http://www.flickr.com/photos/32554587@N00/..

Comment #4

Nikons are the best cameras. Canons are the best cameras. Pentax are the best cameras. Olympus are the best cameras. It depends who you ask as for which brand someone will tell you is the best. Honestly, any SLR from those makers, as well as others, can produce excellent images.



Now I'm just a casual hobbyist, some of the other photographers that I've hooked up with put me to shame so you can take whaqt I write for what it's worth. Any current DSLR will give you great results when paried with a good lens. I use a Sigma DSLR and an Olympus. I used to shoot with a Nikon also. All give me excellent reults when I've used them properly. It's important, IMO, that you handle any camera you intend on buying.

Then there are lenses to consider. Some brands offer more choice in lenses than others (that would be Nikon and Canon) but for the two brands I use, they offer more lenses than I'll ever need.My humble photo gallery: http://ntotrr.smugmug.com.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #5

Erin,.

I hope I didn't discourage you. Here's why I focused on DSLRs:.

- Yes, they have interchangeable lenses. That gives you a lot of flexibility plus letting you grow the system as you need to..

- They have virtually no shutter lag, which greatly increases the probability that you'll be able to capture the action. Some P&S cameras also have little shutter lag, but they tend to not take the quality of picture I think you're after, and they have a pretty limited zoom range..

- DSLR focus systems tend to respond rapidly enough to capture action. I've been too frustrated over the years trying to capture anything that looks like action using anything other than a DSLR. Between the slow zoom, focus delay, and shutter delay, I found myself missing more shots with P&S than I was able to capture..

- DSLRs also accommodate large flash units, should you need one later. I increasingly find flash useful for all sorts of work. You'll likely benefit from it in close-in portraits. Not something you need to buy right away, but you should seriously consider cameras that offer the option..

From a dust perspective, it's less about the body material than about where and how the manufacturer seals doors, cracks, and holes. The Canon 1D and Nikon D3 cameras, for example, have dust-proof seals around all doors and cracks. In addition, some of Canon's L-series lenses have a small gasket that mates with 1D bodies to give a dust-proof and weather-proof fitting. And the 1D Mark III has a flash option that maintains weatherproofness at the flash shoe. Typical consumer bodies lack these sorts of seals...the bodies aren't intended for the same wear as pro bodies are, which is one reason I bought a pro body (I'm a serious amateur, not a pro). One tradeoff is that the bodies that have the best weather sealing are also the heaviest.

Then handle a Canon L-series lens and compare it with the optically good but mechanically "OK" consumer lenses. All of this gear is capable of excellent pictures, but the build and capabilities are vastly different..

There are some cams like the Canon G9 that might serve your need. But those won't zoom out very wide and they certainly don't have telephoto capabilities that will do well in an outdoor horse competition..

For what I'm guessing you're looking for, you could start by thinking about something like a Canon XSi plus 10-22mm lens (for close-in portraits, stall shots, things like that) and a 70-200mm L lens (IS or non-IS, for use in more distant shots). But I suspect that kit will run you close to $2500-3000. You could substitute the Canon 70-300 instead of the 70-200, but it won't focus as quickly, the barrel will extend and rotate during focus and zoom, and it's not built as well as the L. Optically you may not notice much difference in your images, but you will notice a difference in how the lens handles..

Of course, you could look at the Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and Sony equivalents of the above. Cost will probably be about the same among them, but their ergonomics and image quality will vary. So you're still going to be looking at $2500-3000 and a total weight of something like 5-7 pounds (body + 2 lenses)..

I hope this helps.Abbott.

ErinB wrote:.

Holy moly! Abbott, thank you for the reply post! You've certainlymade me realize that there is a lot more to this than I hadpreviously realized in asking these questions. I am sure you get alot of that realization with the hammer between the eyes from people.However, that is what learning is all about and the Kodak has beenprotecting me more than I knew..

Now, as I see you are focusing on SLR cameras, I have to ask, becauseI think I may have a misconception with this, a SLR is a camera bodythat the lens is removable from, correct? Or does it not have to be?.

I am rather caught here, I want to be able to take really good shots,but due to the fact that this is a hobby for me, I don't know that Ireally need $2-3K worth of camera, lenses and so on. The money to payfor this is coming out of my manual therapies business to further myarticle writing sideline (which is a form of advertising for me andjust plain fun as well) and I am just getting started. Is it possibleto find a good camera base and slowly work up from there? Does suchan animal exist? I may be very unrealistic in my thoughts and I am okwith that. That is why I am asking questions..

I want to be able to get tight shots, but also the wholekit'n'caboodle, and they do need to be quality. At the same time, mydinner isn't dependant on them. Sometimes, I am quite a ways acrossthe ring or a field from the horse, say 100-300 and more with a lotof action and speed, sometimes they are up close and personal, within10 of me and standing as still as you can ask them to stand...

Comment #6

Well, I can see I have a lot to learn and look into before I go out and buy a camera. Thank you to everyone that posted, I appreciate the responses! Keep 'em coming..

Ideas on some good books to look into?.

Thank you, Abbott, you post some very informative replies. They can be a bit intimidating, but after I read them a couple of times, they become less so..

I certainly have decided that I have some preconcieved notions that you all are blowing out of the water very handily!..

Comment #7

The cheapest option is something like Canon 400D or Nikon D80 with 70-300mm lens. Get the kit lens with that and you have what most of the equestrian writers use. You can use the 70-300 for everything including presentations, (using wide angles on presentations tends to distort the neck) That will give you enough to get the basics in good light. Get an 85mm or 50mm 1.8 prime for the indoor stuff. Be nice to a good pro and they will show you the basic techniques of photography and with your knowledge of horses you will know what shots to get. I spend a couple of days a year showing people in your position how to do this.

They are not trying to be photographers just trying to add a little extra to the articles..

Tony..

Comment #8

What sort of publications? How big images? Do you know about their print process?.

I would say don't rule out older used equipment. It sounds like you do not need the high resolutions that these new cameras will give you. Looking at last years model with say 5mp rather than the 10mp that this years will give you, will save you lots of money. And to me, it sounds like you are only going to take photo's because you have to if you want your writing published?.

All this top quality lens stuff is great, but if you dont need it you will be carrying a lot of heavy, fragile, expensive kit around..

Check out what you could get say a D40 for. If weight/size are issues then look at maybe an olympus 410..

Comment #9

ErinB wrote:.

Ideas on some good books to look into?.

Books on what topic exactly?.

Anandahttp://anandasim.spaces.live.com/http://olympuse510.wikispaces.com/http://picasaweb.google.com/AnandaSim/http://www.flickr.com/photos/32554587@N00/..

Comment #10

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