Old 11-19-2008, 12:18 AM   #1
SCFrankie
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Default New Camera Suggestions?

Hello folks,

I come by once again to bug you guys, this time about a new camera

So far I have watched four shortlines slip into bankruptcy or abandonment and I only have cruddy point and shoot photos (and crappy film prints!) to remember them by..

I would like to buy a new camera and get started in "serious" railroad photography. I tried asking on another forum, but what I got instead was a lengthy (6 page) Canon vs. Nikon debate. A friend of mine (who can photograph anything and have it come out as a masterpiece) recommended a "novice" like me get a Nikon D40. The cheapest place I could find it was here:

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produ...e203910-rLink2

Is this a good camera for beginners? At $498.84 it will certainly bust my budget for the month (college student here!)... Is it worth it? Would someone like me with no photography experience be able to use it?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 11-19-2008, 12:22 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCFrankie
Would someone like me with no photography experience be able to use it?
There is only one way to get experience.
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Old 11-19-2008, 12:35 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCFrankie
Hello folks,


I would like to buy a new camera and get started in "serious" railroad photography. I tried asking on another forum, but what I got instead was a lengthy (6 page) Canon vs. Nikon debate. A friend of mine (who can photograph anything and have it come out as a masterpiece) recommended a "novice" like me get a Nikon D40. The cheapest place I could find it was here:

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produ...e203910-rLink2

Is this a good camera for beginners? At $498.84 it will certainly bust my budget for the month (college student here!)... Is it worth it? Would someone like me with no photography experience be able to use it?

Thanks in advance.
Most entry level SLRs are fairly easy to use, and allow you to get more involved as you go. You can start using the basic auto functions, and the camera acts like a point-and-shoot except for: faster focus, faster shutter speed, greater aperture range, etc.

As far as what kind to get, Canon vs. Nikon is really a matter of personal preference. Both make very good equipment. At the entry level end, I find that Canon generally offers more features for a given price than Nikon - but as you move up towards higher end equipment (especially high end lenses), they even out some. Having said that, if you're worried about your budget, I did a quick Froogle search and you can get a Canon Digital Rebel XT with the kit 18-55 zoom for under $390 from Circuit City. It's 8.0 megapixels against the D40's 6.1. I've been using the Rebel XT for several years and have been very happy with it . . . Use the extra money for a tripod or something else useful (or better lenses, though you won't find much for $110.00). Or, look on KEH.com for a good deal on a used camera and lens.

Jon
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Old 11-19-2008, 01:55 AM   #4
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The Nikon D40 is an excellent first DSLR camera. I bought mine last May and have been using it ever since. It is very light and easy to carry around. I knew nothing about photography at the time (and I really still don't) when I got the camera, but when the words "F8 1/400" were uttered to me, I was able to adjust to the world of DSLR. It was probably one of the best purchases I've ever made.

Here are some examples of what this low end, good beginners camera can do in all sorts of conditions:
Snow:
Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 245088
Photograph © Paul Duda


Pre-Dawn:
Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 242992
Photograph © Paul Duda


Glint:
Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 242592
Photograph © Paul Duda

Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 260488
Photograph © Paul Duda


Late evening:
Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 240747
Photograph © Paul Duda


Early morning:
Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 259588
Photograph © Paul Duda


Less than desirable:
Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 241503
Photograph © Paul Duda

Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 259927
Photograph © Paul Duda


So, overall, I'd say this camera has done me well. Though I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't looking to upgrade (maybe to the D90). About the only downside to the D40 is it is only 6.1 megapixels. That has only hurt me about once or twice though.

Good luck with your decision.
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Old 11-19-2008, 02:13 AM   #5
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I agree with everything Paul says. I also use a D40 and have been very pleased with it. You will definitely get the most out of the camera if you shoot in manual mode... if you use the program mode, the camera tends to want to overexpose images. And with the 18-55 kit lens, f/8 seems to be the 'sweet spot.' I keep mine set at f/8 and vary the shutter speed and ISO as conditions warrant. Might go up or down one f/stop if I absolutely need to.

Whatever camera you pick, my recommendations are read the manual and just start shooting photos and you'll get the hang of it pretty quick.
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Old 11-19-2008, 02:40 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F40PH271
So, overall, I'd say this camera has done me well. Though I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't looking to upgrade (maybe to the D90). About the only downside to the D40 is it is only 6.1 megapixels. That has only hurt me about once or twice though.
Paul, if you hadn't told us that you were shooting with a D40 and that you'd only had it for a short time, I would never have guessed that. Based on the quality of your stuff, I'd swear you were shooting a D300 and had been at it for years.

SC, I shoot with a D40x...same as the D40, but with a 10 MP sensor...essentially what the D60 is now. The D40 is a fine piece for a newbie for all of the reasons the guys have stated. The light weight is a real selling point and the kit lens is a decent piece of glass. I can't complain about the results I've gotten. My only beefs relate to the focusing array (only three spots in the viewfinder) and the lack of a separate thumbwheel for aperture control. Like Paul D., I am looking at upgrading to a D90 and using my D40x as a back-up.
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Old 11-19-2008, 03:09 AM   #7
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For the price of that D40, I can easily say that I would forget it and leap without hesitation for this deal instead:

http://www.amazon.com/Canon-Digital-...7063789&sr=8-2

You get the 10 MP Rebel XS, the kit lens, an extra battery, a bag, and a 4 GB card. That would be a perfectly suitable starter kit, IMO. You could then save up for future telephoto lens investments, such as the Canon 55-250:

http://www.amazon.com/Canon-55-250mm...7063958&sr=8-1

Good luck on your search for the DSLR that will work for you.

~Carl Becker

Edit: FWIW, here's DP's review of the XS:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos1000d/

Last edited by Carl Becker; 11-19-2008 at 03:13 AM.
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Old 11-19-2008, 03:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F40PH271
Image © Paul Duda
PhotoID: 259927
Photograph © Paul Duda
You have some very nice photos and you seem to be progressing very nicely, but what is the deal with the trees on the top of the hill on the left side? A sloppy layer job I assume?
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Old 11-19-2008, 03:48 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike B.
You have some very nice photos and you seem to be progressing very nicely, but what is the deal with the trees on the top of the hill on the left side? A sloppy layer job I assume?
Yeah, pretty much. It was one of the first times I tried using the "Magnetic lasso" tool in photoshop and it seemed to work. I don't recall it appearing that way when I was done editing the photo, and I didn't really look that closely at it before I uploaded it. I believe I was exposing for the train. As I said, I'm still learning. Any clues as to how to make sure this doesn't happen in the future?
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Old 11-19-2008, 03:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F40PH271
Yeah, pretty much. It was one of the first times I tried using the "Magnetic lasso" tool in photoshop and it seemed to work. I don't recall it appearing that way when I was done editing the photo, and I didn't really look that closely at it before I uploaded it. I believe I was exposing for the train. As I said, I'm still learning. Any clues as to how to make sure this doesn't happen in the future?
Well, I can give you the obvious clue which is to look closely at your photo. Beyond that I don't think I can be of much help. I do use layers, but rarely so I don't have much experience with it. However, I do not use the magnetic lasso for layers so maybe try avoiding that.
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Old 11-19-2008, 04:28 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F40PH271
Any clues as to how to make sure this doesn't happen in the future?
To select an area with this fine level of detail, first of all, enlarge your image on the screen, and then be very careful. And be ready to do it over and over because it is easy to slip up. (BTDT with recent bouts of selective sharpening and catenary.) Notice that at the end of the valley your magnetic lasso demagnetized and went straight across the sky, leaving a bright triangular area underneath.

Also, there are limits as to what one can do, or limits to one's patience. Notice the trees on the right, how bright the light is that filters through them. The only way to take care of those is to separately lasso each opening. Tedious!

If it is a clean blue sky, one can select areas by color instead of with a lasso, but here there is no hope for that technique.
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Old 11-19-2008, 04:44 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by JRMDC
To select an area with this fine level of detail, first of all, enlarge your image on the screen, and then be very careful. And be ready to do it over and over because it is easy to slip up. (BTDT with recent bouts of selective sharpening and catenary.) Notice that at the end of the valley your magnetic lasso demagnetized and went straight across the sky, leaving a bright triangular area underneath.

Also, there are limits as to what one can do, or limits to one's patience. Notice the trees on the right, how bright the light is that filters through them. The only way to take care of those is to separately lasso each opening. Tedious!

If it is a clean blue sky, one can select areas by color instead of with a lasso, but here there is no hope for that technique.
Quick Mask Mode works by far the best of any method I've tried. The lasso and various selection tools always looked like junk to me, while with Quick Mask Mode, you can use any brush (preferably one that fades). Exit Quick Mask Mode and it'll turn to a selection (while still keeping the fading on the edges). Create a new layer from it, do the work you need to, and merge the layers - the transitions will be nice and smooth.

As for cameras, I'd also go for that Canon deal, being a Canon guy myself (plus you just get more for your money).
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Old 11-19-2008, 05:05 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by TAMR159
Quick Mask Mode works by far the best of any method I've tried.
Maybe that is another reason to go to PS from PS Elements. But more camera gear is a better use of that money.
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Old 11-19-2008, 05:29 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F40PH271
Yeah, pretty much. It was one of the first times I tried using the "Magnetic lasso" tool in photoshop and it seemed to work. I don't recall it appearing that way when I was done editing the photo, and I didn't really look that closely at it before I uploaded it. I believe I was exposing for the train. As I said, I'm still learning. Any clues as to how to make sure this doesn't happen in the future?
Use the Magnetic Wand tool in concert with the Magnetic Lasso (in PSE 6 that is). Set the color range with the wand to what you want, uncheck the contiguous box, then click part of the sky that is very close in color to the areas of sky surrounded by leaves. If the color range selected covers those bits of sky, they'll get selected too. Practice makes perfect with this, and I've got it easy since tree-covered hills are not an issue where I shoot....it's land, than sky.
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Old 11-19-2008, 06:04 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F40PH271
Any clues as to how to make sure this doesn't happen in the future?

Quick Mask Mode. Use it to 'paint' the area you want selected. It's fairly easy to use and will get the job done if you use different size brushes to get into all the small areas.
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Old 11-19-2008, 12:21 PM   #16
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This is developing into a very intesting discussion about postprocessing techniques and rather than take the New Camera thread too far off course, would some of you like to join me in the "Digital Postprocessing Forum" down the hall? I have some questions myself about "selective editing". See my new thread "How much is too much?"
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Old 11-19-2008, 06:32 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnohallman
Most entry level SLRs are fairly easy to use, and allow you to get more involved as you go. You can start using the basic auto functions, and the camera acts like a point-and-shoot except for: faster focus, faster shutter speed, greater aperture range, etc.

As far as what kind to get, Canon vs. Nikon is really a matter of personal preference. Both make very good equipment. At the entry level end, I find that Canon generally offers more features for a given price than Nikon - but as you move up towards higher end equipment (especially high end lenses), they even out some. Having said that, if you're worried about your budget, I did a quick Froogle search and you can get a Canon Digital Rebel XT with the kit 18-55 zoom for under $390 from Circuit City. It's 8.0 megapixels against the D40's 6.1. I've been using the Rebel XT for several years and have been very happy with it . . . Use the extra money for a tripod or something else useful (or better lenses, though you won't find much for $110.00). Or, look on KEH.com for a good deal on a used camera and lens.

Jon
A friend of mine has the Nikon D40 and he loves it. He's had it for just over a year now, and he uses it for strictly railfanning only. It's a pretty simple camera to use, as most DSLR's are, once you tool around with them for a bit. I'd definately suggest it as a starter. Something to keep into consideration once you have some additional money, is a new lens. Nikon has some impressive lens.

Or, you could always go with the Canon. I lean towards them myself. I'm hoping to get the Canon XSi Rebel this Christmas, which is around $700 right now. You could find a used Canon XT and perhaps some nice glass for it, as others on here have suggested for myself. The Canon XTi isn't too bad right now, I believe it's somewhere around $570, last time I checked.

Hope this helps.
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Old 11-19-2008, 11:24 PM   #18
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I like the looks of that Canon setup.. same price but more for it. The best part is I have a way of getting free shipping and 15%, which helps quite a bit.

I thank everyone for their suggestions, I will go for the Canon package and see how it turns out.
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Old 11-20-2008, 10:08 PM   #19
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PLEASE TRY BOTH AT A LOCAL STORE BEFORE YOU COMMIT TO ANYTHING!! Both brands are good, however, see which one fits your hand better. Trust me!

-- Kevin
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Old 11-20-2008, 10:30 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by TheRoadForeman
PLEASE TRY BOTH AT A LOCAL STORE BEFORE YOU COMMIT TO ANYTHING!! Both brands are good, however, see which one fits your hand better. Trust me!

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I'll echo that recommendation. You should pick up and handle the cameras that you are considering. Try all of the controls and see if any feel less than robust or awkward to handle. Look through the lens at vertical structures at both wide angle and telephoto....see how much distortion you can see at the edges. Feature-rich doesn't always mean it's the best for YOU. You may find lots of things you don't like in the camera that represents the lowest price. For most people, a DSLR represents a significant investment. Test 'em out and make sure you're spending those bucks on something you'll really like.
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Old 11-22-2008, 01:02 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCFrankie

I would like to buy a new camera and get started in "serious" railroad photography.
Serious camera and sure to bust your budget: 1Ds Mark III

I have a Canon 40D and love it. I upgraded from the Digital Rebel and it is a world of a difference. I agree with the last to gentlemen and go to a local store and try out a few that fit your budget to see what tickles your fancy. Both are good brands but with anything they have there shortfalls also. It really depends if you want to make a short term investment and upgrade to a better body in a year or two, or spend a few extra bucks and get a better body that will last you a few years.

When I bought the 40D I had a few extra bucks that I could manage to spend to do the 2nd option. My next upgrade will be a 24-70mm "L" lens.
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Old 11-22-2008, 03:14 AM   #22
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Thank you two for the backing-up! I am a Nikon shooter, however, I have used Canon's also. Try a number of brands before you buy and maybe even a Sony, Pentax or heaven forbid..... an Olympus may work best for YOU and YOUR budget. Please account for this tho, mobility, options and upgrade. I recommend upgrading your glass before you buy the "latest and greatest". Just a few more words of wisdom!

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