Thursday, December 31, 2009

What's The Crop Factor on a Digital SLR?

When choosing a lens for a Digital SLR you may come across a term called the crop factor. The crop factor is a value that compares the size of a sensor on a Digital SLR to a sensor on a traditional 35mm film camera. The crop factor is important because it has an impact on the focal length of a lens attached to your Digital SLR.

Some DSLRs have a sensor that is the same size as those you find on a 35mm film camera - these tend to be among the high end and more expensive Digital SLRs. Such cameras are known as "full frame" cameras and do not have a crop factor.

The crop factor can differ between camera bodies to complicate the issue. Cheaper and entry level Digital SLRs tend to have the smallest sensors and therefore the largest crop factors. If you are buying a starter Digital SLR the crop factor is likely to be in either 1.5x or 1.6x. Always check the specification of the camera body you are considering buying to confirm the crop factor the camera has.

The focal length of any lens is described using numbers. For example, a lens may have a focal length of 28 - 70mm. The focal length described is when the lens is used with either a full frame Digital SLR or with a 35mm camera and should you use the same lens with a Digital SLR with a crop factor then the field of view of the lens changes. To illustrate, a lens with a focal length of 28 - 70mm and a camera with a crop factor of 1.5x would mean the focal length of the lens becomes 42 - 105mm. You must understand the impact this will have when choosing your digital SLR and lenses for it.

For camera users who own a number of lenses you previously used with a 35mm camera the crop factor is likely to have a significant impact if you switch to a Digital SLR that is not full frame. My advise of course is to choose a digital SLR with a low or no crop factor. The likelihood is that you will need to consider adding new wide angle lenses to your collection with the focal length starting around the 18mm mark.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How to Get the Best Deal on your Digital SLR Camera

In addition to asking how to choose the best digital SLR for their needs people often ask how can I get the best deal on my digital camera. Of course we all want the latest and best (!) but there are ways to get a better deal.

Firstly, be prepared to wait a little while when a new model comes out. Within a couple of months you'll find you can buy even the very latest digital SLR at a bargain price. It's usually the online stores which will discount new model digital SLRs first so keep an eye on these.

The release of a new model can of course mean other older models may be discounted heavily so stores can move their stock. Any modern digital SLR from a manufacturer like Nikon or Canon will be high spec so don't be put off thinking you're getting an out dated model!

To get the best deal on your digital SLR my next tip is to use prices comparison sites. These are a one stop shop to ensure you're getting real value for money with your camera. It's always worth the effort to compare digital camera prices online as you can find other package deals too... Which brings me on to...

Look for bundles! You can find package deals for digital SLRs with one lens or two and this is usually cheaper than buying them separately. Look out for offers with memory cards and cases etc as these can save you money too. Of course don't buy a bundle if it has things you don't want or need as this is a false economy.

Consider buying a reconditioned digital SLR for further savings. You can pick these up for far less than new models at RRP. Make sure they come with a guarantee and check the body for damage - this really is a great way of picking up a bargain camera.

Finally, take a look on Ebay. Camera enthusiasts update and upgrade their cameras regularly and Ebay is often where they sell the digital SLRs they no longer need. Study the listing carefully and ensure the person has good Ebay feedback. I know some people are wary of using Ebay for higher value purchases but there are protections in place and it's Ebay is a great place to buy used digital cameras.

Friday, November 27, 2009

How to Choose a Digital SLR for Wedding Photography

Before you consider how to choose a digital SLR for wedding photography consider carefully whether the job is right for you! If some friends or relatives know you are a keen photogapher you may get asked to photograph their wedding but this is an art in itself and comes with great pressures.

You may well be a fantastic portrait photographer but wedding photography is all about preparation, knowing the order of the day and crucially organising people and taking responsibility. I know many people want to avoid the high cost of hiring a full time professional and if you are the (cheap!) alternative and everyone is clear on what to expect that's fine.

So what camera do you choose for wedding photography? If it's an informal small wedding and your couple want a simple record of the day and photographs up to say 10x8 size a good qality digital SLR will do the job fine. For a bigger wedding or where the couple want enlargements to display you are in the realms of high end professional DSLRs.

THe key elements of this type of photography which will drive the best camera to choose for wedding photography are quality and reliability. Although I normally favour Pentax DSLR's for a professional wedding camera I sway to Nikon and Canon.

Nikon's D700 is a superb camera for wedding photography. With 12 megapixels, 51 auto focus points and high ISO options it will really deliver. Of course the range and quality of Nikon lenses is superb and they will deliver razor sharp images to wow your bride and groom. Nikon's D300 and D90 are other very strong contendors here.

The high end Canon EOS cameras are another favourite for wedding photographers. The EOS 7D certainly matches up to the Nikon D700 and again the range and quality of Canon lenses is superb. The EF-S 18-135 IS USM delivers superb contrast, crisp images and is incredibly flexible for framing shots

Friday, November 13, 2009

Can't Choose Between Digital SLR and Compact? Answer = Lumix G1

Looks just like a digital SLR doesn't it? And it has all the features you'd expect in one too! But for anyone struggling to choose between a digital SLR and a compact point and shoot camera the Lumix G1 could be just what you're looking for.

Panasonic have created a brand new type of camera and it's hard to place it in a particular category. The G1 has the interchangeable lens of a DSLR but the electronic viewfinder and lack of mirror box found on a more entry level camera. With 12 megapixels and a host of high spec features this is a really interesting camera and certainly worthy of consideration when choosing your next.

Some would argue that a camera has to have an interchangeable lens to be a DSLR and others that it needs a mirror box, prism and optical viewfinder. The DMC-G1 only ticks one of these boxes and I think if Panasonic had said that the DMC-G1 was either a bridge or a DSLR, some would protest. Panasonic have opted to leave the classification out and let you make your own minds up about it.

Panasonic really design their cameras well and the Lumix G1 is a prime example. The articulated screen which offers flexibility for shooting from unusal angles is a great example. The camera has a great look and feel and really would sit well with a beginner looking for their first DSLR.

Smaller and lighter than many of its digital SLR rivals this is a great little camera. Would I choose one over a Pentax, Nikon or Olympus? Possibly not and for me the range of lenses would be an issue but it's certainly worth a look.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to Choose a Cheap Underwater Digital Camera

Underwater cameras are fantastic fun and they are now very affordable for even the casual user. Even if you don't intend doing a bit of scuba a cheap underwater digital camera is perfect for holidays. Not only can you take it in the sea for snaps, underwater digital cameras are very durable and hard wearing and of course can be rinsed off if dirty!

My choices would include the Vivitar V8400 and the Pentax Optio W80. The Vivitar is the cheapest underwater digital camera at the moment and although not professional quality with 8 megapixels it's a great little camera. The Pentax Optio W80 has an impressive 12 megapixels and its higher price tag brings other features. Movie recording and safe to use at a depth of 5 metres, the Pentax really is a great camera to use underwater. It's really stylish and avaiable in a range of colours including azure blue and cardinal red. A highly fashionable accessory to carry at the beach!

Other options for taking digital photographs underwater include custom made waterproof cases. Canon make one for their Ixus 860 IS and Olympus offer a waterproof case for the C-5060WZ. The advantage of using a waterproof case for a digital camera is of course that you can remove it and its back to being an everyday camera.

When considering how to choose a cheap underwater camera don't overlook the idea of disposable underwater film cameras. Some would argue these produce better results than cheap underwater digital cameras. The low price tag makes them ideal for a holiday or just to experiment with underwater photography.

A friend of mine went on a diving holiday in The Red Sea this year and the pictures she produced with her underwater camera are stunning. It's not as always as easy getting great pictures underwater and you may be disappointed with the first results. This again is the beauty of shooting digital of course - we can view the pictures straight away!

Kighting is very important in underwater photography. The deeper you go the less light there is. You want crystal clear water to get good shots as shand and silt will make for murky pictures. Even dense salt can make for poor shots so again don't have too high expectations in your first attempts. As with any photography the results impriove with practise and you will soon be producing those stunning underwater shots with ease.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to Choose a Sony Digital SLR

Sony may not be the obvious choice for many people when deciding which digital SLR to choose but they have developed some fantastic models in 2009. Sony of course have many fans for their televisions and other electrical equipment and for many beginners they will look to Sony digital SLRs as they love the brand and quality.

Some would argue the range and quality of Sony lenses may not put them up as an obvious choice for a DSLR against the likes of Nikon and Olympus. The features of the Sony Alpha cameras and the leading edge technology can make up for this.

The Sony Alpha DSLR A380 boasts a very impressive 14.2 megapixels. It's imilar to Sony's A330 with its features including for example an ISO range of 100 to 3200 with low noise. Other features fo the Sony DSLR-A380 iclude Quick AF Live View and the camera is very light, stylish and easy to carry.

For the more serious photographer the Sony Alpha A850 has to be worth serious consideration. The beauty of this camera is all about the sensor. It's full frame meaning no crop factor and offers an incredible 24.6 megapixels! Of course these features come at a price and it's by no means a budget DSLR option. But imagine the quality of poster sized blow ups this can produce! A high-resolution CMOS sensor gives detail packed pictures with excellent contrast and gorgeous colours. The Sony A850 has Exmor technology which cuts noise while signals are converted to digital form. The results are simply beautiful images.

When choosing a Sony DSLR the A850 has to be top of your list if your budget allows. The incredible quality means the images would be perfect to submit to micro stock libraries for anyone wiching to make money with their camera. In fact the A850 could very easily pay for itself with a little effort!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How To Learn Digital Photography

I often get asked what's the best way to learn or improve digital photography. My answer is to develop your photography skills the best way is to get out there and do it! I see there are two parts to learning digital photography. The first is learn how to use your camera - you need it to be second nature so you're not having to think about what mode to shoot in or how to access menus. The second part is the photography itself. This is all about composition, exposure, how to capture mood and 'the moment.'

There are many great online digital photography courses and of course books available on Amazon and other sites. Amazon has some fantastic books to teach you photography as well as being a great place to buy cameras online. An online photography course will usually come in modules to teach you specific skills. I like this way of learning photography since it encourages you to get out there and experiment. The theory is of course essential but too many people get hung up in it! Just get out there with your camera and take some shots and you will learn along the way.

When I started out I didn't have a fantastic digital SLR and had a manual camera with 35mm film. That meant costs were high and I couldn't just snap away as we can with a digital camera and delete shots we don't like. For me it was a great way to learn since the camera needed manual setting and as each photgraph was expensive I had to really think about composition etc.

An online digital photography course is a great way to learn but only if you are prepared to get out there and apply your knowledge and skills. Take every opportunity to develop your photography skills by using your camera! If you go out for a walk with the family, if it's someone's birthday or even if you just have an hour to go to a local beauty spot or event.

Even experts need to refer to their camera manuals every so often so don't worry if you need to. All of this will build your experience and familiarity. Some cameras like the Nikon D3000 will actually guide you to which mode and settings to use. Who ever would have dreamed that your camera can actually teach you photography!

Don't just stick to obvious routes like online photograpny courses when learning the art. Look at pictures as often as you can - paintings, drawings, artwork in adverts - all will help you develop an eye for a great image.

Joining a camera or photography club is another great way to learn. Here you can meet like minded enthusiasts and share ideas etc. A good club will organise trips and days out and may organise competitions and exhibitions, all of which will encourage you to learn and develop.

So my advice is to combine learning resources for photography like online courses and books with actually getting out there and using your camera! This will develop your photography skills at a fantastic rate and you will soon be producing images you and others will admire.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Best Digital SLR for Beginners

How to choose a digital SLR camera for beginners can be a seemingly very difficult question due to the vast choice available. There are some fantastic cameras in this range and you will be able to get a high quality digital SLR for under £500. Although I typically favour Pentax cameras it's hard to ignore the Nikon D3000 when choosing a DSLR for a beginner.

The Nikon D3000 replaces the earlier entry level Nikon D60. The design is similar and it's based around the same 10.2MP DX format CCD sensor but Nikon have raised the spec of the D3000 to equal that of many higher end digital SLRs. An example is Nikon's market leading EXPEED image processing technology which opens up new creative channels and options. There is also a very innovative onboard auto sensor cleaning system to ensure no issues with dust.

What really makes the Nikon D3000 ideal as a digital SLR for a beginer is the intelligent Guide Mode. When using Guide Mode you are prompted by a menu driven system which helps you make decisions about composition etc and then adjusts settings to capture the picture you require. This really can help you make the leap from producing simple amateur like shots to those a pro would capture. I feel Guide Mode will not only ensure even the novice produces great pictures but it will help you to learn about photography along the way.

Other features of the D3000 include Scene Recognition which optimises settings according to composition and Picture Control which customises images before shooting. These all make the camera a fantastic creative tool for beginner or more advanced user alike. A 3 inch display screen and improved focussing system with 11 AF points are further features to make the Nikon D3000 my recommended DSLR for under £500.

So what are the alternatives? The Olympus E520 - aruably better in low light - has to be a contender and does the Canon EOS 450D and the Sony A3330. As always, when choosing a DSLR always go to a store and handle one first but the design and handling of the D3000 is without fault.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to Choose The Best Digital SLR Camera for Portrait Photography

Portrait photography is of course photography of people. Which digital camera you choose for portraits depends very much on the type of people and situation.

If you are photographing children you will need a digital SLR with certain features to ensure the best results. Kids can move quickly so your camera will need to cope! Multi point auto focus, face recognition and anti-shake will all help to ensure sharp pictures. The ability to take multiple shots in succession will also be a very useful features when considering the best digital camera for photographing children.

A digital SLR camera may be your first choice. Many of the features I’ve described like multi point focus are now standard in most DSLRs. Don’t forget digital point and shoot cameras as the quality of lenses and overall images is excellent and they may be the ideal tool for the job.

For more formal portraits I would certainly choose a digital SLR camera. Ideally mount the camera on a tripod and pay close attention to framing and composition. Using a tripod enables you to almost forget the camera and engage with your subject. For me, capturing people is all about the subject’s expression.

The ability to make creative decisions by using manual settings on a DL|R is key. For example, you may want to open the aperture and use very selective focussing to highlight features of the person’s face. Lighting is another key consideration and if you are using a digital SLR camera for portraits you can over-ride meter readings and deliberately over or under expose the image. For example, you may want to create a mean and moody look with dark tones and shadows. For a portrait of a child a ‘high key’ effect will normally be appropriate.

To truly capture a person in a photograph may be as simple as photographing as a single expression you recognise uniquely to them. This is another reason why digital cameras are ideal for portrait photography – we can take hundreds of shots and delete any we don’t want later. If the subject has blinked, looked away or simply doesn’t have the expression you want you can just delete the shots

As always my advice is don’t get too hung about your equipment. Choose the right camera for the job and one you are familiar with. This way you can focus on capturing the subject and producing a portrait to be proud of.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Choose a Memory Card for your Digital SLR Camera

For me one of the best advantages of a digital SLR camera over a traditonal film type is the number of shots we can capture. In the old days (!) we would get at best 36 shots on a 35mm or incredibly only 10-12 shots on a medium format camera. Digital SLR cameras and memory cards have revolutionised photography!

I can remember photographing weddings and of course having to stop and re-load film - often at dififcult moments! If we choose the right memory card for our digital SLR camera we can take literally hundreds of shots.

Personally I never use anything smaller than a 1GB memory card. Of course formats of cards vary between cameras and you need to ensure you buy the right memory card for your particular digital SLR. Formats can be confusing to newcomers - SD, micro SD, SSD, compact flash and SDHC! Not only does using a large capacity memory card mean we can shoot hundreds of shots, we can shoot in the highest resolution our camera offers to ensure the best quality. If you want to blow up your best shots this is essential.

You can buy memory cards for your digital SLR so cheaply there's no need to scrimp on quality in your pictures. Compare prices of memory cards online to get the best deal. It's a mortal sin to me to go out on a photographic session wihtout packing enough high capacity memory cards in your bag!

In addition to brand names like Kodak and Fuji you will find cheaper memory cards from the likes of Sandisk and Lexar. It's worth checking any reviews but don't be put off by these cheaper alternatives for your digital SLR camera.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Landscape Photography with a Digital SLR Camera

Landscape photography has to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding forms of the art. It can also be incredibly relaxing as it usually involves patience, long walks and time in the fresh air. Digital SLR cameras bring a whole new dimension to the art.

Whether it's autumn time and the landscape is influenced by the fading heat of summer or winter with it's bleaker colder tones a digital SLR camera is the ideal tool for landscape photography. I always recommend use of a tripod as it adds a further dimension to this form of photography. Before the advent of digital a tripod was often needed to ensure sharp images in low light. Digital cameras with their flexible ISO speeds overcome this but I feel using a tripod makes the photographer more considered in composition and this is one of the keys of landscape photography.

Iconic images like landscapes shrouded in mist or rays of sunlight breaking through trees are all more accessible with digital SLR cameras. The flexibility of film speed, the ISO ratings, range of shutter speeds and ability to adjust images all help. Ideally you should shoot landscapes in the RAW format format when using your digital SLR for landscape photography. This captures a huge amount of data and gives you vastly more creative control. Even if you have under or over-exposed an image you can produce a perfect picture from it in RAW format.

Autumn is my favourite time of year for landscape photography and the colours and textures can be amazing. Images of leaves backlit by sunlight, close ups of beautiful autumnal leaves and a vast range of other images lend themselves perfectly to landscape photography with a digital SLR. If you haven't used yours for this yet plan a trip and get out into the countryside.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Choose a Lens for your Digital SLR Camera

Once you've tackled the question of how to choose the right digital SLR camera one of your next considerations will be about the lens or lenses you will need. Most digital SLRs will come complete with a 18-55mm zoom and personally I feel this covers the vast majority of your digital photography needs. In old 35mm camera terms this lens is equivalent to a 35mm to 70mm.

The standard digital SLR zoom is perfect for general photography and I would also say for portraits and landscapes. At the 18mm focal length this is ideal for capturing sweeping landscapes and scenery. Zooming to the other end the lens is ideal for flattering portraits and also allows us to 'blur' the background for more professional portraits. Use the wide angle carefully for portraits! If you are too close to your subject their nose will be exagerated and prominent and they will look like a digital caricature!

The next standard digital SLR lens is the 55mm-300mm. This is an excellent long range zoom and perfect for action and nature photography. A lens with a wide aperature is important to ensure it can cope in low light situations.

My advice when you consider how to choose a lens for for your digital SLR camera is quality not quantity. Don't be fooled by the guys you see walking around with gadget bags stuffed with lenses and a huge zoom swinging from their neck. It's the size that matters it's what you do with it! I would rather have a crytsal sharp single lens like my beloved Pentax 18-55mm then a bag full of telephoto lenses.

Should you need a lens for something more specific, say you are attending a sporting event, you should consider rent or hire of a lens. Don't buy lenses you will rare use and have them gathering dust! If you rent or hire a digital SLR lens you can get the feel of it and decide how often you will actually use it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How To Choose a Digital SLR Camera

The vast array and choice available can make how to choose a digital SLR camera a daunting decision. Don’t be overwhelmed as by following some logical steps it’s actually quite easy to find your ideal digital SLR camera.

The key step is to think about the use of your camera and the type of photography you want it for. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about megapixels, shooting modes and the merits of Nikon versus Canon before you consider this!

Many of us may simply want a general use digital SLR and this is fine, but the decision needs to be made from the start. If you do want the camera for something more specialised like nature or action photography the next step is to think about features. For the latter you will need fast shutter speeds and the ability to take multiple shots in repetition. If you simply want to capture shots of your family on days out your requirements will be different.

Price is inevitably a decision when choosing your camera. Prices have come down at an incredibly fast rate since the first digital SLR cameras came out and a you can buy a very decent one fairly cheap. Again by being clear on the type of photography you will use the camera for you can avoid unnecessary expense. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a package or bundle with additional lenses or accessories you won’t use. And do you really need 7 action modes or will one suffice!?

Many of the features we would look for in a digital camera have actually become fairly standard in recent years. For example, image stabilisation which ensures pictures are ‘camera shake’ free is now standard on most digital SLRs. Similarly multi point auto-focus which helps to avoid the camera being fooled into focussing off the main subject is to be found on most. When digital SLRs first came out I worked for a wedding photographer and half of his pictures were of a crystal sharp background with a fuzzy bride and groom in the foreground!

A decent camera shop should of course be able to help when I comes to how to choose a digital SLR camera. If you do go this route don’t be oversold and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Of course many of us now want to buy a camera online and if you follow my advice here you will be in a good position to do this. You may want to go to a store and touch and feel the camera before ordering online and I would recommend this. If you are armed with information about the price of your chosen camera online you may find you can negotiate the price and walk away with it from the store.

Only you will know what’s the best digital camera for you at the end of the day. Think about what you will use it for, have a budget in mind and if there are specific features you must have you can narrow down your choices. Compare prices online and when you think you’ve found your ideal camera visit a local store and ask to hold one and see a demonstration.

I’ve been an enthusiastic photographer for 25 years but the advent of digital SLR cameras has given me a completely new lease of life. Choose the right camera and you will share my passion and sense of satisfaction for many years to come.