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Which Digital SLR for long range nature?

Discussion in 'Photography Forums' started by Mark Ward, Dec 14, 2004.

  1. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    I'm thinking of getting a digital SLR and would like some pointers regarding which makes/models to consider for my likely use.

    I enjoy close-up nature (plants & wildlife) as well as architectural and natural panoramic compositions. The key word for me is detail.

    We have many types of owl in our garden that are regularly close enough to be seen, just not close enough to photograph with my current Canon Powershot S40.

    If the same camera was also good for fast moving (birds in flight or Motor Racing) I wouldn't complain but these aren't my priorities.

    My budget is £500 absolutle top to start with, though obviously I can add additional lenses later.

    Anything immediately spring to mind? Should I look new or second hand?

    Cheers,

    Mark.
     
  2. SeaneyC

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    To be honest you're looking at over £500 for a single telephoto lens that will be really detailed, let alone a body to go with it. I use a Sigma 50-500 lens which is pretty much the cheapest long lens available, i think it's about £550 - 600 in a Canon and Nikon mounts, but i was lucky enough to pick up a mint 2nd hand Sigma mount for my SD9 for about £500. It's not THE sharpest glass, but it's good when you're not using it wide open (and it doesn't really go very wide open either, i think it's about F4 at the wide end and 5.6 minimum at the long end) I have some super sharp shots taken at F8 and higher throughout the zoom range.

    EDIT: Actually you could pick up a mirror lens which would be manual focus for a few hundred, but then you're still not going to be able to get a body, batteries, memory etc.. for under your budget. Plus they're quite slow (F8 minimum) which will hurt you if light isn't all that great. They have very weird bokeh, but i quite look the ring look it gives sometime :)

    You can have a look at some of my pictures at www.aqol11.dsl.pipex.com/knockhill they were all taken with my SD9 and 50-500 lens.
     
  3. Crocodile

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    Have a look at the snappily named Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ20 here. It's not an SLR but with an electronic viewvinder, 12x zoom & 5MP it's probably the next best thing. Only drawback I can see for your intended use is shutter lag but then all digicams suffer to some degree.
     
  4. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    Will certainly consider that Panasonic. I really don't know anything about SLR, or at least more powerful digital cameras, though I've a feeling from what SeanyC says that I may have to put this on the back-burner until more funds are available.

    Still, no harm in doing a little research.

    Cheers,

    Mark.
     
  5. Pink Fairy

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    Hi Mark, I'm a bird photographer http://www.digiscoped.com and also admin at www.birdforum.net where there is considerable advise on this specialised and frustrating branch of photography.

    £500 isn't far off what some dslr's are going for at the moment... the Nikon D70 can be purchased new for £599 but you will really be needing a lens in the region of 500mm, and then quite often used with a 1.4x teleconverter... this will cost at least another £400 and that's 2nd hand. As has been mentioned, the Sigma 170-500mm or the Sigma 50-500mm are very good lenses for the money.

    As your budget is so limited, I would suggest a non-dslr camera with a built in zoom lens (often touted as 10x or 12x), some even have built-in image stabilisation... which is a big plus.

    Be aware that you will often need to get very close to your subjects, especially smaller birds..... I use a 500mm f4.5 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter and most sparrow-sized birds need to be well within 30ft for a decent print. Here's an example of a Tawny Owl I took a couple of weeks ago... this is full frame (no cropping) with 500mm lens but no teleconverter, the bird was approx 60ft away. BTW Owls are excellent subjects as they are so motionless, allowing far slower shutter-speeds to be used if the light is bad (or if you have a slow long lens)

    Another method, maybe not suited to yourself, is digiscoping. This involves putting a small digital camera (possibly your Canon) up to the eyepiece of a birdwatcher's spotting scope.... you utilise the magnification provided by the scope eyepiece which is often at least 20x (and that's not including the optical zoom you have on your camera!!) Forget about birds in flight with this set-up but it does offer huge magnification (2,000mm+)

    good luck
    Andy
     
  6. HotblackDesiato

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    The 300D is now around for 500 once you've used Canon's 100 rebate... but then you'd need to set aside a bundle for a lens... especially if you wanted to go over 200mm and stay sharp.
     
  7. HMHB

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    The lens on that Panasonic looks awesome
     
  8. Mark Grant

    Mark Grant
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    Hello Mark,

    As everyone else says, you need to spend a bit more than £500.

    I would suggest a Canon 20D, a bargain for just over £1000 ( body only). Maybe buy it with the cheapest kit lens (for snapshots), as only costs a little bit more.

    Really fast camera, probably just what you need for wildlife.

    Or look for a used 10D or D60 or 300D, would have to be cheap though.

    Some of my bird photos with D60 are here: http://www.pbase.com/markgrant/d60_shots

    and 10D here : http://www.pbase.com/markgrant/10d_birdy_shots

    (Only a few of my photos at pbase, as people steal them for websites)


    Big lenses are not cheap, but the Sigma is great for the price.

    Canon 'L' glass is much better, but is as addictive as high end home cinema :D

    Good luck,

    Mark.
     
  9. HMHB

    HMHB
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    Wow those Puffin shots are so sharp :thumbsup:
     
  10. Crocodile

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    Another way to go would be to start with 35mm. Something like a used Canon EOS300 or 30 should be readily available & relatively cheap as more & more people move to digital. Any lenses or other accessories could then be used with a Canon DSLR in the future if you decide to progress to digital. You might even squeeze in a low-end neg scanner within your budget to give you a sort of half way house.
     
  11. seany

    seany
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    On your budget i'd go for the 300D and save up for a lens. With the 100 rebate it's a great buy.

    My D20 was £1049 with the lens kit (which would be no good for wildlife shots)
     
  12. wilber

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    I'd start with a 300d with the kit lens and save for a long lens. Don't forget that the non pro digital SLRs don't make full use of your lens (sensor can't see the edges of the lens where a lot of the cost of expensive lenses goes) so cheaper lenses can be a good purchase.

    One neat thing to consider is Sigma's policy of upgrading lenses that won't work with DSLRs (assuming they still do it of course). My Sigma Macro wouldn't work with my 300d so they offered me an upgrade at a stupidly cheap price.
     
  13. Johndm

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    Well I say 300D.. :smashin: There are great deals around now, and its basically a stripped down 10D, but not stripped in the quality department where it really matters.

    Good glass is a must, and just like anything else (AV included) a step up from 'prosumer' or chain stuff will cost a bit more.
    Having spent the summer taking hundreds of aircraft pictures with my 300D mated to a cheapo Canon 75-300 USM, I wish I'd saved for a 100-400 L series lens in the first place.
    Needless to say, uprgaditus got me, the L series lens should be here tomorrow, and the 75-300 will go.

    I can NEVER resist a plug...apoligies to everyone who's seen them already. :rolleyes:

    My 300D results here http://www.airliners.net/search/pho...rnet.com&sort_order=views&distinct_entry=true

    :smashin:
     
  14. Mark Ward

    Mark Ward
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    Canon EOS300D looking a very likely candidate. It has occurred to me that perhaps I ought to wait until after Christmas, but with that £100 cashback it's within my budget.

    I do realise that I'd be better off spending more, but I realy can't stretch to anything more right now.

    Thanks everyone,

    Mark.
     
  15. tvr

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    My other half just purchased a 300D from John Lewis. It was £559 inc basic lens.
    Now claim the £100 cash back and 256 memory card from Canon and at £459 - not a bad package!!
     
  16. tvr

    tvr
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    BTW - I should mention the quality is a mighty step up from non-SLR digi cams we have previously owned!
     
  17. Crocodile

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    The current price on JL's web site is £799. Was that on a price match? If so, which store & what was it matched against?
     
  18. tvr

    tvr
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    Yes that web-price is bizarre!

    We initially went to the Watford Harlequin store which it was retailing at £599 I believe. At the time we thought that was a good price, but a week prior to purchase I called the High Wycombe store who were advertising it at £559
    So we snapped it up (pun intended) from High Wycombe Monday evening.
     
  19. HMHB

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    So can the 300D use any of the Canon lenses ? I remember years ago I had an EOS10 with a couple of the USM zooms, they were really nice lenses. I had to sell them (and a T90) when I ran out of money !
     
  20. Johndm

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    Yup.. :smashin: except the very older FD ones
     
  21. Centurion

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    In my opinion there would be no point buying an expensive dslr if your going to use cheap lenses, it defeats the object. Go buy the canon eos300d or nikon d70 then go buy the best lense you can afford. Using better glass will be a better investment as the bodies are usually similar except for advance settings, as they use similar sensors anyway. The Canon 300D uses exaclty the same sensor as on its more expensive counterpart the canon 10D.

    Better glass better photos...
     
  22. Johndm

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    100% with you on that one....................

    After 8 months of shooting 'snaps' with my 300D and 18-55 kit lens and a 75-300 USM, now moving into real 'photography'

    I now have a 50mm f1.8 which is a must for any Canon owner...near L series quality for £80 ish.
    My new 100-400 L IS should be in my hands on Tuesday.
    Already looking to fill the gap....anyone want to sell me a EF 17-40mm F4 L and a 70-200 F4 L USM nice and cheap... :lease:
     
  23. tomson

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    or 55 quid from 7dayshop. Its a great lens - apart from the build quality - really sharp.
     
  24. ancientgeek

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    I say D70, mainly because of the wonderful flash system and higher speed flash sync, which is very useful for those close-ups you mention. Don't even think about one that isn't a proper, interchangeable lens SLR with a wide range of lenses. i.e. get Canon or Nikon.

    If you don't mind a heavyweight, you can pick up a used D1 for well under £500 on ebay, and it's a serious professional machine. You'll be able to transfer your lenses onto a future Nikon if you need to. In fact you can use Nikon F lenses from the 1960's on a new Nikon. But how many incompatible SLR lens mounts has Canon worked through since 1960?
     
  25. ancientgeek

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    Just noticed you said:

    "The key word for me is detail."

    Then stick with film, the larger the better!

    The best 35mm film is equivalent to approx 50Mpixel. It will be a few years before digital matches that. But digital has taken most of the 35mm market, leaving professionals using even larger formats when resolution matters.
     
  26. imichael

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    ancientgreek - at a consumer level detail means sharp images, not the ability to go sharp at A0 and above prints. the D70, 300D, SD9 etc will all produce superb prints at A3 and above with very little tweaking.

    Film is a superb medium if you are an accomplished photographer who is confident in the shots taken and has access to a low cost, high speed developer - that is why digital has taken the market share. Shoot it, see it, print it - all without going to Boots and waiting an hour and spending a few quid along the way.
     
  27. ancientgeek

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    imichael - I didn't mean to say Mark should actually get a film camera, just to point out that for ulitmate detail, film is still the best; any digital choice is some way below that.

    So today's 3-8 Mpixel range is actually a narrow range of resolutions, and position within it shouldn't really be given much weight when making a choice.

    And I absolutely agree that digital's rapid turnaround and unlimited shots is just what you need to learn fast.

    Finally, while I'm here, the larger sensors of proper D SLR's genuinely do produce better image pixels than the tiny ones in the other models. (basically less noise, ie each pixel is more accurately measured).

    PS I was never Greek, just a geek!
     

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