• 02-23-2008, 02:03 PM
    What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    Hello everyone. I am new to this site and photography in any real detail. I enjoy taking a good picture and take care on composition but have only ever used point and shoot camera - apart from one terrible day at a rather bohemian wedding where I was asked to use an SLR and got everything slightly out of focus:blush2:

    I have now taken the plunge to get married myself and have booked my girlfriends dream holiday to safari in Africa. This is a once in a lifetime event and I want to take the best pictures I can.

    I have been advised the rather expensive new Sony DLSR-A700 (which the techy in me loves already). However I am aware of my history on SLR's is not great.

    Can anyone advise a standard SLR that is cheap and good to learn on, that possibly has lenses good for wildlife shoots that I could use on the Sony DSLR-A7000 if I ever choose to upgrade in that direction. I specifically want to photograph wildlife and scenery on the honeymoon in Africa. It is probably the last holiday I will ever afford and have 6 months to practice to take great pictures to remind what a holiday id like.
  • 02-23-2008, 09:02 PM
    Shooter Tiff
    Re: What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    The sony seems like a nice camera. Try checking out the canon 40d and the nikon d300. they seem be be about on the same level. those are higher end cameras so if you want you can get some really good quality pics from a slightly less expensive camera.Check out the reviews that this sight has to offer. As far a lenses, cruse some manufacturer web sights, pick a focal length, and go from there. There are all sorts of levels and brands. Do some research see what other people say about the lenses you are interested in.
    The more you read and try the more you learn so just go out and give it a try. good luck
  • 02-23-2008, 09:26 PM
    Re: What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    If you like what you see from Sony and want to stay in that family you could look at the Sony A100. It's a full featured entry level DSLR. You can build your lens collection using this body and then upgrade to your dream body in a few years(by then the A700 will probably be replaced by something new).

    You trouble with the SLR was probably due to lack of experience. An SLR is a little bit of a different animal than a point and shoot. Your focus troubles could have been due to a reduced depth of field, or just plain user error. Time using an SLR and asking a lot of questions here, and reading a good book such as Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure will go a long way toward having you ready for Africa.

    As for lenses for a trip like that I would have a range from wide angle to pretty long telephoto. I am not familiar with Sony lenses but if I were going on a Safari I would bring from around 17mm to at least 300mm with me. I would also probably bring at least a 1.4x tele-converter.
  • 02-24-2008, 02:38 AM
    Re: What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    Rob, a couple of other books that will give some useful insight into DSLRs are Digital Photography for Dummies by Julie Adair King (really!!) and Hands-on digital photography by Georg Schaub. As well, EOSThree's mention of Bryan Peterson's book is an excellent suggestion. Also, Scott Kelby's books The Digital Photography Book, Volumes 1 and 2 might be worth a look. The Dummies one also has a chapter or two on the choice of a camera and accessories.

    Don't forget to spend time searching the web. There is a fantastic amount of material on the subject of DSLRs, particularly at the various manufatirer's sites (gives you the specs for any comparison you want to make) - and of course please feel free to come back to this forum and ask all the questions you want. I find there is always someone, or more, who are prepared to answer questions, give ideas, etc. :thumbsup:

    The key to digital photography and learning the basics (IMHO) is practice-practice-practice and then practice some more. Remember, the nice thing about digital is that if you don't like the image, or didn't get what you were looking for or expecting...you can always delete it and try something else :D . Also, since you have 6 months, you might see if you can get an introductory course at a local college - some, in my area, give the occassional, weekend course - 8 hours each day - always helpful IMHO) :cool:

    One suggestion...find a few scenes that you like and try taking them at different apertures, ISOs and shutter speeds, and different lenses if you have them, so you will know what to expect from your camera and equipment/accessories when you are on safari and know how to adjust things to get the effect you are looking for. :thumbsup:

    I agree with Shooter, take a look at some models from other manufacturers. Canon, Nikon, Minolta, etc. Visit a local camera store (or two or three) if you have them in your area and talk to a knowledgeable sales person. Get the feel of the various models in your hands (weight, ease of focusing, etc.) so you can make an informed choice - but remember, when you do make a choice, you are probably making a lifelong committment to that manufacturer. I first started with a Canon film SLR about 20 years ago and when I made the switch to digital a couple of years ago, it was with Canon because most of the accessories worked with the DSLR. There were a few that had improved and the older ones I had didn't quite work as well as I had hoped, but they weren't really important or serious - required the upgrade of a few peripheral accessories. Some Nikon owners probably have had similar experiences. :wink:

    A couple of other things to consider - what about a tripod? Are you planning on taking one, I know I would if it were me going on safari. As well, how many memory cards are you going to take with you (how long is the safari and where is it??)?? I would estimate how many I am going to take and the add 25 to 30% to that total because you will always take more pictures than you think you will and you will always have backup if one of the cards is bad or goes bad on you. How do you plan to store your images on a daily basis - download to a laptop or to some other mass storage unit or keep them on the memory cards - not sure what facilities you will have on safari, but I would want to back up everything everyday if I could.

    Best wishes for a long and happy marriage and an exciting and image-packed safari (Be sure to share some of your images with us when you return!!)


  • 02-24-2008, 08:26 AM
    Re: What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    Thank ypu all very much for your advice and words of wisdom. It seems an entry level DSLR will bay the way forward as learning by mistakes will certainly be cheaper on digital platforms.And I will look into the books and visit my local camera shop - we do have a very good one.

    The lense advice has also been very helpful. I am worried I will not have the right gear to make the most of my Safari.

    I am not set on Sony in any way but had read reviews and been advised that Sony's DLSR's were very good. I also read that Minolta are now owned by Sony so thought an original SLR in by Minolta would have lenses that fitted Sony's newer models.

    I work in IT so I am happy with the digital issues and already am keen on backing up and would take a laptop with me to go through the pictures on a nightly basis to make the most of my memory cards.

    I am looking forward to the challenge.

    Thank you all again
  • 02-24-2008, 12:25 PM
    Re: What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    You have to ask yourself how much gear do you want to carry on your honeymoon? A DSLR with two zoom lenses, a flash, and a tripod will be a bit of a load to carry. You'll probably want to carry a laptop to review the day's pictures and to offload them from the memory card in preparation for the next day as well. That's a lot of gear to be lugging around and a lot of gear to worry about someone stealing from you.

    Despite having a nice, compact Nikon D70, we left it at home and took my wife's Sony DSC-W5 P&S camera with us on our last vacation. The thing with going with this route is that I missed a few shots that my DSLR could have made the difference with, both in terms of being able to manipulate the shot better with the greater zoom range and with the ability to adjust to the available lighting or just plain getting the camera out and taking the picture in an expedient way. Still, I was quite happy with the results.

    Regardless of what you decide to carry on your trip of a lifetime, do carry at least a lightweight monopod. It will be supportive enough to get the job done, be faster to deploy and be a lot less bulky/heavy to carry than a tripod. Keep in mind that if you carry a long lens that a tripod/monopod is almost essential to ensure that the pictures are not blurry from your inability to hold the camera steady. Also, make sure that you are comfortable with using the camera and know the controls and how they are used before trying to use it in a strange land as I've lost shots fidgeting with my gear trying to get the shot right.

    Using a DSLR, especially an up-to-date one with its multi point autofocus systems, is a lot easier today than it was just a few short years ago when DSLRs had less AF sensors. On these older systems you have to learn to point the camera directly at the subject that you want in focus, press the shutter release half way (or hold down an AF-Lock button) then reframe the shot before releasing the shutter. If you don't do this then the subject, which is usually much closer to the camera, is out of focus and everything else is. Up-to-date cameras have multiple point AF so that it can be set so that the closest object that a sensor senses should be the one to focus on. Some systems, like Nikon's DSLRs, allow you to change which sensors to focus on. It's just a matter of seeing which autofocus frame is highlighted and hit the directional button until the one you want to use is hightlighted.

    Congratulations, by the way, and tell your Best Man that he isn't doing his job if you end up getting married afterall ;) (that's what my best friend's brother told me when I was the best man at his brother's wedding)
  • 02-24-2008, 02:22 PM
    Re: What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    Thanks for advice SquidWard - if my best man does his job as you described I will be Lion bait on Safari and it will be the girlfriend taking all quality the pictures.

    I am keen on the AF focus facilities on the DSLR's. I hadn't realised the Nikon range allowed the AF to be configured in that way - intresting. I am currently reading all I can on-line and looking at the books advised by Western Guy. But reading is not doing and the sooner I get started practising the better.

    The weight and genreal bulk of an SLR, lenses, tri / monopod, laptop, battery chargers is a real consideration. I do believe it is a bad idea to leave the jeep on safari so was hoping the vehicle frame would be sturdy enough but I will lookinto a support and had not yet thought that through. Hopefully the heat will mean my clothes will all be light.

    You are certainly spot on with the getting to knowing your way round the settigns and menu's. Working in IT I know well the vast difference in time taken to achieve a goal for those that know their stuff.
  • 02-24-2008, 03:55 PM
    Re: What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    Where are you in the UK ?
    We have meets of the people from this forum to shoot, and chat, it would be good to meet up.

    Both Canon and Nikon have the feature to configure a button for AF. So that the focus is under your thumb on the back of the camera. Having it separate from the shutter means you can set the focus and then take photos without changing it - giving you AF quickly when you want it and leaving focus alone if you don't.

    A beanbag is a useful thing to have. You can then rest the lens on the bag on the frame of the jeep, on a window, and it steadies the lens without having to clamp and fiddle with stuff. You can carry an empty beanbag and fill it when you get there, no need to have it in your weight allowance :)

    Also if you want practice, look at experience seminars.
    They are Canon based, but have two possibly useful hands-on sessions: Big Cat experience, and Better Wildlife Photography.
  • 02-27-2008, 05:32 AM
    Re: What to buy & how to shoot and hello.
    Thanks for your post especially the bean bag. Ingenious. I live in North Yorkshire