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A quick guide to Digital Photography

All recommendations have been removed since they were outdated and incomplete.Thank you GDRRiley!

 

Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself as a good photographer there is always room for improvement (Especially when you look what photos the pro's are able to pull off). This information is what I have gathered over a few years of experience. This post have been written because I know that I would have learned much faster if I had begun reading just a few short articles or posts and I want to help the person who is standing in the same situation as I did a few years ago. There have been written whole books on this topic and there is much more to learn than the technological aspect of photography, but I hope that this has at least helped one person to understand something that he/she didn't before. The examples are as of may 2020 

A guide to Digital Photography and Cameras

I wan't to preface this saying that this is not a video guide, though some of the information might be useful. I have personally owned a few cameras over the years. Canon 1Dx, (5D mark II Very shortly) and now own a Canon 5Ds, M50, gopro and lots of dji film drones (i will make a separate thread with those if people want it), all that with a nice supply of lenses (i can also make separate guide to those). So it's quite obvious that i have very little experience with other camera brands like Nikon or Sony. I base my recommendations in this topic on my own research and experience with cameras. I will from the start recommend one very simple and quick step, and that is to do your own research in advance of buying cameras and a lot of it. This post is for people to make their own informed decisions, i’m not taking any responsibility for any choices made by others. I would also like to come with a classic saying which is “it’s not the camera that’s important, but the person behind it” I think this is very true and gear isn’t everything. This video by Peter Mckinnon an absolutely great youtuber really shows it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8LOoQxSi8M&t=318s. I will state that my experience mainly comes from nature and wildlife photography I have limited experience shooting street photography. I might have a bias especially towards how important good autofocus is since it's the thing that have let me down the most times in wildlife photography and is really important for me.

 

Mirrorless vs DSLR

Pros:

Right now mirror less cameras are very tempting, and for good reason, they are generally speaking lighter. They also have electronic viewfinders which i see as a major plus especially as a beginner, since you can see the exposure. The flange distance (the distance between lens and sensor) is smaller since there is no mirror between lens and sensor, this means you can adapt older lenses to the mirror less camera like the canon ef to rf adapter or ef to Sony-e. So now you have several series of lenses you can use on your cameras. (Nikon is a bit special since autofocus won’t work on all of their old lenses with their Nikon-f to ftz adapter because some of them requires an internal AF motor) you can’t adapt the other way round so you can’t adapt a canon rf lens to a canon ef mounted camera because of the flange distance it was designed to use. This means that you have the best of both worlds, there are also other pros to shorter flange distance that are very technical and that I won't dive into in this post.

 

Cons:

But the downsides are also major, like awful battery performance in some cases 1/5 of a dslr equivalent and slow (but more precise so better for very low aperture lenses) auto focus, that's just how contrast autofocus is right now, this can be a pro or a con, but newers models of mirrorless cameras use both phase detect and contrast so you both hit the focus right on and have the speed of the phase detect. While that is said some older dslr’s also use contrast autofocus so a good amount of research is recommended in advance.

 

Conclusion:

Mirrorless is definitely the future so if you have the opportunity to go mirrorless it's sometimes a better start. With that said there are still fantastic dslr cameras out there and with the different lens adapters you can easily upgrade down the line. With newer mirrorless cameras they also have smart integration some cameras like the sony A7R III have the ability to track the eye of a bird and such. This is very useful especially for a person like me that likes wildlife photography. 

 

ISO:

Very simply explained ISO is essentially a setting that can brighten up your photo. The higher the value the more sensitive your sensor becomes to light. Therefore it gets brighter this comes with a catch: the higher the ISO value the more noise there is in the picture (the less quality there is), so you should always have the lowest ISO possible with reasonable shutter speeds. If you have you'r ISO set at 100 your picture will get double as bright if you set your ISO to 200 and 4 times as bright if you set it to 400 ISO. I would generally try to have my ISO as low as possible while getting the sharpest pictures, it’s hard sometimes getting 1/250s shutter speeds at 100 ISO, and that’s the point where I crank it up. So ISO performance is a crucial part of getting a new camera, generally newer cameras have good ISO performance.

 

Auto focus:

Auto focus is a really important part of a camera and can mean the difference between you getting a photo or not. There are many types of auto focus, but a good rule of thumb is that older mirrorless cameras have very slow auto focus, older DSLRs are a bit more forgiving in this topic, but auto focus in general is essential since it can even mess up photos that are still. Mirror less cameras use contrast autofocus which moves the focus point back and forth until it finds the right focus point with the most contrast, thus it's more accurate but slower, the newer mirrorless cameras combine contrast and the phase detect autofocus we know from dslr's so they have the best of both worlds(Autofocus capability varies from camera to camera so research it thoroughly before getting a new camera). The main advantage to phase detect is that it's generally considered to be faster than contrast autofocus, but less accurate, so that's the trade off between the two. I would say though that modern phase detect autofocus is very accurate and I have no problem relying on it. face detect and eye autofocus has also been increasingly more accurate in recent years especially Sony have been known for their incredible autofocus. 

 

Sensor sizes:

There is a lot of sensor sizes out there and this is an essential part of choosing your camera. Sensor size determines a lot in your camera and the sensor size also effectively determines the crop factor (How much of the image you can see). There is a lot of disadvantages and advantages to different sensor sizes and i will go through some of them now. If we have two cameras with the same amount of megapixels in the let's say 20. The bigger the sensor is the bigger the pixels on the sensor are. This essentially means that the individual pixels on the big sensor can absorb and therefore detect more light improving low light performance. The larger pixels also creates less noise which boils down to less noise at higher ISO's which means that you can turn your ISO higher up and shoot pictures in darker situations (This is extremely dependent on the camera you buy, but this is just in general). The smaller the sensor is, the bigger the crop factor is. You essentially see less of the image, you can compare it to zooming with a lens. so if you have an Canon aps-c sized sensor you can multiply your lens’s focal length by 1.6x (nikon 1.5x) and a micro 4/3 you can multiply it by 2x. Though it's not really the same because you will have the same background blur on a 400mm f/2.8 if it's on fullframe camera or a aps-c camera. On the aps-c camera you just see less of the overall picture, so sometimes background blurring can be a problem.

 

Most common sensor sizes:

2/3" (not to be confused with 1/2.3" or 1/3.2")

The 2/3" form factor is one typically found in gopros and in some mobile phones. This is rarely used in camera bodies and generally not a sensor size I would recommend for still shooting, but for video work I will say it's decent and I like the video quality of my gopro hero 6.

 

Micro 4/3"

Is a very popular sensor size for video work. I have heard many good things about this sensor size and I will recommend it for video capturing. Like the GH5 from panasonic. I will on the other hand not recommend it for still shooting. It is definitely possible to do so, but I would recommend bigger sensor sizes. This sensor type has a 2x crop factor so a 100mm lens will become a 200mm on a 4/3" sensor size camera.

 

APS-C

This sensor size is extremely popular and if you go down to a camera store, chances are that the camera body you are looking at probably has an aps-c sensor in it. This sensor size is very versatile, but generally aimed towards beginners or people who wants a little more range with their cameras for example if you are a wildlife photographer you can get away with using cheaper telescopic lenses because the crop factor here is on a canon sized sensor 1.6x (nikon 1.5x)so a 100mm lens becomes a 160mm (nikon 150mm) lens.

 

Fullframe/35mm film

This sensor type is for the enthusiast and pro. It's been the go to choice for professionals for many years. These sensors are used in high end camera bodies and are not beginner sensors. What I mean by that is how full frame sensors amplify your small mistakes like pictures that are not in focus and sharpness. I will only recommend a somewhat experienced photographer to buy full frame cameras. Lenses for these cameras are also in general more expensive, so it's the more expensive, but better option overall. Full frame sensors have a 1x crop factor so a 100mm lens is a 100mm lens on a full frame camera.

 

 

Medium Format

 While this format differentiates in size a person who would buy a digital camera with a medium format sensor, should know more about photography than me (don’t know if that says much). These are only used in cameras that are made for the professionals, that both need the insane amount of megapixels they are capable of, but also the color depth. These are only for professionals and not anything I would ever recommend for a beginner. It's like an amplified full frame sensor it has all the benefits, but also all the cons, and are specialized equipment. It’s crop factor varies because of the varying sizes of medium format sensors.

 

Lenses:

Lenses are hard to choose and I will also make my recommendations very short on modern lenses, but don’t look at the overall score though that says very little about the lens, look at the individual scores instead. I’m recommending lenses that and to the point. There are many things to look out for in a lens and that’s for good reason. I recommend visiting dxomark.com and look at their benchmarks. The things i usually look for the most is sharpness and vignetting, if you buy older lenses, watch out for distortion and chromatic aberration which are less of a problem would personally have interest in keeping for the future.

 

Lens sharpness and lens quality:

A crucial step in choosing lenses is lens sharpness. I use DXOmark and Thedigitalpicture to determine lens sharpness. Sharpness is how good the lens reproduces the picture on the sensor of your camera. If you have a 42 megapixel camera, but a bad lens you might only have a resolution of 20 megapixels in some cases even worse. This adds a whole new dimension to lens choices and a crucial step that is easily overlooked while being crucial for mage quality. DXOmark tests sharpness on lenses so I recommend to look on their website for comparisons. Another really important aspect though not as important in my opinion since they are often correlated is lens aberrations. Lens aberrations can sometimes ruin a good picture and they occur when light in a lens is reflected wrongly as of my understanding. I use "thedigitalpicture" to determine the amount of aberrations there is under controlled conditions, though I also read reviews since aberrations rarely occur under controlled conditions. Newer lenses often has way less aberrations than older generations with the introduction of aspherical elements and so on. So lenses improve over time though at a lesser pace than camera bodies which is why camera lenses generally are a better investment than camera bodies over time.

 

Focal length:

This can get very technical, but it's not important to dig very deep to understand focal lengths in general. In simple terms focal length is your camera's field of view. A focal length of 135mm has a field of view of 18° degrees while a focal length of 200mm has one of 12° degrees (On fullframe cameras mind you!, look in the sector for for cropfactors). So the bigger the focal length the more "zoomed in'' you are. Now this can be greatly affected by cropfactors and other such things. So focal length determines how much your camera sees and is crucial for your choice in lenses.

 

F/#:

is the amount of light coming into the lens, the lower the aperture is the more light is let in which translates to faster shutter speeds or lower iso. For example a F/2.8 lens has double the amount of light coming into it versus a F/4 so the lower the value the better. One stop more light is two times the light coming into the lens. You can calculate stops of light by dividing or multiplying your aperture or F/# by 1.4x. So a lens that lets double the light of an F/2.8 lens is 2.8/1.4=2 so an aperture of f/2 let's double as much light in as an f/2.8 lens. F-stop and focal length also determines the background blur, the lower the f-stop the more background blur is produced, focal length also greatly affect this topic. So if you want more background blur search for lenses that has a low f-stop that let in more light and a longer focal length. 

 

T/#:

This is mostly relevant for video work. A T-stop is how much light a lens let's through, while an f-stop is a physical size calculated from the physical aperture size and focal length of the lens. If i understood it correctly         t-stops are calculated from how much light a lens transmits. So a perfect f/2 lens would have a t-stop of t/2, this is only a hypothetical scenario though since it's impossible to have perfect light transmission in a lens. 

 

IS/VR/OS:

All these are different terms for optical stabilization. Which is an optical stabilizer within the lens that stabilizes your pictures so you have a higher chance of getting a sharp photo. Sometimes it might pay off to get a lens that let's less light in, but has optical stabilization which allows longer shutter exposures. Remember to turn the stabilizer off if you have your camera on a tripod and need to expose it for more than 1 second. Since the optical stabilization can interfere with a long exposure image.

 

Ultrasonic and Stepper motors

There are mainly two types of lens motors in use. Stepper motors which are generally considered more smooth and silent versus their ultrasonic counterparts which in general are considered quicker at focusing. I've heard and read that stepper motors are generally preferred for video work since they focus more smoothly.

 

 

Now I could go on and recommend a lot of lenses, but then this post would get very long. I recommend Ken Rockwell’s website or "the digital picture". Both write very useful reviews Ken Rockwell does also make recommendations on his website which have helped me in the past. The digital picture also makes great reviews and they have a very usefull feature where you can go on and see the sharpness of lenses by looking at real pictures taken with the same camera using different lenses. DXOmark is also a fantastic website. I mainly use it to see how sharp the different lenses are and how "fast" they are or how much light they let in.

 

If I need to make any additions please write a comment in the thread below. I’m open for critique. This is after all my first major post in this forum. And also please make your own informed decisions and not entirely based on this post. I'm as stated in the top not taking any responsibility for any choices made based on this post. I’ve also only chosen Canon related gear since it’s the brand I'm most familiar with, I know that Nikon and Sony make great cameras too and they might be better for you. My information is also based on a lot of stuff I've read over the years and general experience so i'm not a master at photography, at all!

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On 5/13/2020 at 8:17 AM, Anden said:

Nikon D5600

Heresy.

The interface of the "beginner" Nikons are nothing short of complete and utter shit.

You will spend more time fiddling with the terrible UI than you will taking pics.

I'd rather suggest a properly sorted used prosumer Nikon than their beginner garbage, something like a D7500, it's superior in every way shape and most importantly, form.

(yes, opinion. I am also a professional photographer)

 

 

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for the 600$ price tag I'd put an SL3

I'd drop most of the gear rec as there is a separate thread being made for it.

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14 hours ago, Radium_Angel said:

Heresy.

The interface of the "beginner" Nikons are nothing short of complete and utter shit.

You will spend more time fiddling with the terrible UI than you will taking pics.

I'd rather suggest a properly sorted used prosumer Nikon than their beginner garbage, something like a D7500, it's superior in every way shape and most importantly, form.

(yes, opinion. I am also a professional photographer)

 

 

I just can't justify putting something like A D500 on the list since the z50 is basically a D500 in a mirrorless version. I can however add the d7500 which i shortly thought off, but my list got to big.

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12 hours ago, GDRRiley said:

for the 600$ price tag I'd put an SL3

I'd drop most of the gear rec as there is a separate thread being made for it.

I'll add it to the list amazing camera for the price.

 

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1 hour ago, Anden said:

I just can't justify putting something like A D500 on the list since the z50 is basically a D500 in a mirrorless version.

I wouldn't say that with complete confidence, the D500 has some features that the Z50 doesn't have and some that it simply is better at. For example:

  • 2.4 million dot back screen (Z50 has 1 million)
  • 1/8000s max shutter speed (Z50 only goes to 1/4000)
  • Headphone port (Z50 doesn't have one)
  • Flash sync port (Z50 doesn't have one)
  • NFC (Z50 doesn't have it)
  • Top LCD panel (Z50 doesn't have one)
  • 15 autofocus points at f/8 mean you can use teleconverters and keep AF (Z50 has none IIRC)
  • Two card slots (1 XQD, 1 UHS2) (Z50 only has 1 UHS2) means that you have an essentially endless frame buffer on the D500 even at 10 FPS), and you don't lose all your pictures if one card dies.
  • Illuminated buttons can be a life-saver in the dark, very underrated feature IMO
  • The battery life is much better

Things that are better about the Z50:

The Z50 can obviously use the optically superior Z-mount lenses in addition to adapted F lenses, and it also has more focus points (209 instead of 153). It's also cheaper, so there's that too.

 

The electronic viewfinder gives you WYSIWYG exposure controls which is, IMO, the biggest reason to get a mirrorless camera (no need to do finder-shots while dialling in manual exposure settings, and it also helps you remember you're still in "dark environment exposure" settings after moving outside which has never happened to me 😉).

 

The Z50 also weighs quite a bit less. The D500 weighs nearly twice as much as the Z50 which will be noticeable, in particular on long hikes or longer photography sessions. This does, however, move the centre of gravity towards you which helps position the camera correctly while hand-holding or when you have the camera on a free-moving tripod/monopod head, especially when using a super-telephoto lens like the 200-500 f/5.6 or the upcoming 200-600 (probably also f/5.6) S lens for the Z mount, so I'm not going to give either camera points for that.

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  • 1 month later...

I don't think you should really consider an a7ii unless you absolute need a relatively cheap full-frame.

 

For a similar price, the Sony a6400 or Fuji X-T30 are better all-rounders and have identical-or-better overall image quality plus much better autofocus.

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no mention of sigma 18-35 and 50-100 :(

Good luck, Have fun, Build PC, and have a last gen console for use once a year. I should answer most of the time between 9 to 3 PST

NightHawk 3.0: R7 5700x @, B550A vision D, H105, 2x32gb Oloy 3600, Sapphire RX 6700XT  Nitro+, Corsair RM750X, 500 gb 850 evo, 2tb rocket and 5tb Toshiba x300, 2x 6TB WD Black W10 all in a 750D airflow.
GF PC: (nighthawk 2.0): R7 2700x, B450m vision D, 4x8gb Geli 2933, Strix GTX970, CX650M RGB, Obsidian 350D

Skunkworks: R5 3500U, 16gb, 500gb Adata XPG 6000 lite, Vega 8. HP probook G455R G6 Ubuntu 20. LTS

Condor (MC server): 6600K, z170m plus, 16gb corsair vengeance LPX, samsung 750 evo, EVGA BR 450.

Spirt  (NAS) ASUS Z9PR-D12, 2x E5 2620V2, 8x4gb, 24 3tb HDD. F80 800gb cache, trueNAS, 2x12disk raid Z3 stripped

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"Stupidity is like trying to find a limit of a constant. You are never truly smart in something, just less stupid."

Camera Gear: X-S10, 16-80 F4, 60D, 24-105 F4, 50mm F1.4, Helios44-m, 2 Cos-11D lavs

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 7/2/2020 at 2:24 AM, D13H4RD said:

I don't think you should really consider an a7ii unless you absolute need a relatively cheap full-frame.

 

For a similar price, the Sony a6400 or Fuji X-T30 are better all-rounders and have identical-or-better overall image quality plus much better autofocus.

I can agree on the a6400, but the ibis is really nice to have better iso performance and better color depth, i would go with the a7 II but that's from my point of view. I do not agree on the xt-30 though.

 

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26 minutes ago, Anden said:

I can agree on the a6400, but the ibis is really nice to have better iso performance and better color depth, i would go with the a7 II but that's from my point of view. I do not agree on the xt-30 though.

 

I like Fuji but the downside is lenses. Fujinon are good but they're the only ones you can use without a smart adapter. 

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