Need advice for buying DSLR
I have been using digital cameras for about 5 years now and currently have a Sony DSCW100. I mostly use all automatic settings. Although I have read and done research about iso, aperture, focal length, etc. I still only have a vague understanding of how all of these things affect picture and interact with each other. My camera allows for some manual settings and it satisfies my everyday needs, but right now I am looking into a DSLR. I was recently offered a job to take pictures at restaurants during special events (birthdays, weddings, etc).

People will be dancing and moving around as well so I would like to be able to capture their movements without too much distortion. I did some research on this website, reading the forums and checked out reviews for all different cameras on Cnet. From my research the Canon Digital Rebel XTi has some very good reviews and apparently it is great for entry level photography. As far as the lens(es) go, I am a little confused as to which one will fit my needs best. I'm dealing with a pretty flexible budget, but I would not like to go above $1000 (including camera)..

Comments (20) are gonna get a lot of different opinions on this one, but having a great deal of experience in shooting wedding receptions, which fit the description very closely to what you are talking about, I would say that you're in a fair bit of a spot budgetwise. People moving in dimly lit rooms means flash photography. First and foremost to get decent pictures you are going to need a good external flash. This will provide much better quality and quantity of light than the built in flash and keep you from getting eaten up by red eye. The quality of flash and the camera's ability to correctly TTL meter will determine the quality of your photo's above and beyond which camera/lens combo you choose. Additionally you are going to need a flash bracket such as a Stroboframe and an off camera cable for the flash.

The SB800 will run you a little over $300. The nikon off shoe cables are $35-65 depending on whether you get AF assist lamp version or not (I have and like AF version). A decent flip bracket (absolutely necessary or you are going to have terrible shadows on vertical shots) is gonna be $75 -100. That puts you at $450 before you even start on body and lens. I think a D80 kit starts around $1000, so unless you have $1400 to spend, I guess you are looking at D40.

If you can swing it the Nikon 50mm 1.8 would be a nice addition too for $119. I personally think that at $379 from reputable sellers the Pentax K100D probably offers the best bang for the buck of any DSLR out there, I just know nothing about their flash system, but worth looking at...

Comment #1

I think it depends on the quality you're after. Getting paid, your client will likely have higher expectations..

I shoot Canon gear and the lens I would use for this type of shooting would blow your $1,000 budget: 16-35mm L 2.8, or 24-70mm L 2.8. The 16-35mm is around $1,300 and a 24-70mm would set you back around $1,100. You could save a couple of hundred bucks buying used. Then you'll need a decent flash. For parties I also have a 14mm Sigma which is fun and produces some amazing shots..

If the place was well lit, then you can cut the cost down a great deal...

Comment #2

I agree with SMPhoto about the flash bracket. I have also just used the flash extension cable and held the flash up. (my arm serving as the bracket)..

Comment #3

Lol, I've done the arm bracket too....when you drop the flash it goes boioioioing like a yoyo......

Comment #4

Hey, thanks for the great response! WHat I meant to say was was well lit room. (Of course occasional dim light photos will be taken) Also I'm not 100% about the weddings but there will definitely be birthdays but mostly just 'social' alcohol-complemented events! As I said, the budget is pretty flexible as I do not plan to rush into it...

Comment #5

Like I posted earlier the places will be well lit, but obviously the occasional dim light photo opportunity will come up. Are you saying that the sigma lens suffices for indoor parties?..

Comment #6

Unless it is really bright, you will still probably find that a fairly "well lit" room (normal incandescent) will still only yield you around 1/10th to 1/20th of a sec shutter speed at 2.8 unless you are willing to go to 1600 ISO or higher. I wouldn't plan on shooting that kind of ISO without a camera that is way out of your budget, like a 5D or upcoming D3. You could look at a 1.4 fixed lens and probably get by wit slower moving subjects, but I think you will find yourself very restricted. Personally, I would get a third party 2.8 zoom like the Tamron 17-50 and a good flash. Add a 1.8 50mm when you can...

Comment #7

It's really unlikely there will be enough light without flash. If you have a suitable ceiling (not too high, white or off-white) you can bounce flash off of it. You can do this without a bracket...

Comment #8

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I do not need a flash. All I am saying is that I do not necessarily need the top-notch 6-figure flash from space!..

Comment #9

I understand that regardless I will need a flash. My question is which is a good cheap flash, and also what is/are the lenses I will be needing for group shots and portraits (couples, etc)?..

Comment #10

Lol, that's why I didn't recommend a Q-Flash. I'm sure that the Nikon SB600 or Metz 4AF-4N either one would do the job for around $179, the Pentax 360 is $159 or the Canon 430 for $230. Doesn't really matter what you pay, it's still gonna need a bracket and off shoe cable, trust me on this one, the shadows are NO fun to try to remove in Photoshop. I like my Fuji S5/ nikon flash and lens set up, but if I were trying to put something together for under $1000 I would go with Pentax K100D $379, Either Pentax 16-45 f4 (probably superior quality) or Sigma 18-50 2.8 (faster) for $400 (unforunately the Tamron 17-50 2.8 isn't available.) , and the Pentax 360 Flash for $159. That brings it in around $940 with a little room to spare for cable and bracket. I don't think you can get there with Nikon or Canon with decent lens...

Comment #11

See my last one above for some flash to think about...

Comment #12

Thanks for the great response! As I said earlier, very flexible budget. Upon first looking into SLRs I figured $1000 would be sufficient. I would not want to sacrifice quality...

Comment #13

It's Sigma AF 14mm f/2.8 EX Aspherical HSM, non-fish-eye. It's a cool lens for getting a group shot, or taking close-ups of food on the table with people in the background, holding the camera above a table and shooting down looks like you're Spiderman capturing the moment..

You do have to be careful not to catch people on the edge of the frame or they'll look fat and distorted..

This lens isn't for everyone, and maybe not for beginners, but for birthdays and parties some of my best pictures were taken with this lens. Kids with messy faces are great. The only problem is that the best shots are taken in close and that can intimidate some subjects and you might get frosting on your lens if it's a little kid..


Comment #14

A $900 lens is gonna pretty much break his $1000 budget...

Comment #15

Dang, I've had this lens so long I forgot how much it cost. I figured it was $300-$400...

Comment #16

Hm, I'm sure I could find something cheaper used. For example ($600 OR best offer)..

Comment #17

You might find a good deal. You also might consider for a corrected superwide that is a very solid lens. You lose a stop but gain zoom range. CAs are it's only optical weakness at all and shouldn't be a problem for what you are doing. Fairs pretty well when reviewed against identical but 2x the price Nikkor...

Comment #18

There you go. $600 sounds decent. I should send this link to a guy at work. My Sigma 14mm gets loaned out a lot. It has been to China, Germany, all of the USA, and in a few weeks flies to Paris. Pretty soon, I'll need to get the lens it's own passport. This time though I asked for a full lens cleaning in exchange for the loan...

Comment #19

BODKAx3BEPb wrote:.

I have been using digital cameras for about 5 years now and currentlyhave a Sony DSCW100..

Sony DSC W-100: I have one of those...great camera! ..

Comment #20

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