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what camera to buy

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what camera to buy

Postby racklover » Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:02 pm

I am interested in buying a camera to take wildlife photos and action pics of my sons playin football and baseball. Does anyone have any idea where i should start. This is a subject I know nothing about. Any help would be appreciated..
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby FireCloud » Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:41 am

There are several good photography buffs on this forum and hopefully some others will share some input too. My father was an amature photographer who spent a lifetime enjoying the hobby and I learned much from him, but I also have taken several photography courses. In my profession for the past 32 years, I have taken as many as 400 photos per day. I have taken a lot of nature and wildlife photos in that time too. But I rarely take people photos...it is just NOT my thing to do! So my comments will apply primarily to nature and wildlife photography.

In that sort of photography, for the most part, you will be taking shots of still objects or slower moving objects. That affords you a lot better chance to set up the shot scene, adjust any settings on the camera, and take one or usually several good images. Any motion of the animal, leaves blowing in the wind, waves on a lake, etc. are easily "frozen" by the shutter at just about any of the ordinary settings. Therefore, almost any decent camera will take relatively good shots if you learn the controls, take time to learn a bit about photo composition, light, etc. and study the photos you do take to learn what might be done to improve them. In fact, most of the digital cameras today have very good "auto" settings that will read the conditions and make good pictures by just pressing the shutter release button.

I would suggest a mid price range ($200-$400) digital camera with at least 7-10 megapixels resolution and a zoom lens capability. Typical zoom lenses will do about 10X optical zoom and much more digital zoom, usually up to about 40X total. I have a Canon Power Shot 110 that is an excellent camera which is a 9 megapixel with 10X optical zoom and 40X digital zoom. I have had extremely good results with this digital camera and can highly recommend it as a good, general purpose camera for basic use. You probaby should start with a camera like that and buy a superior camera later once you become more involved and gain some experience. It does have a good range of manual setting controls and a very good lens. The quality of the lens is extremely important in photography. Never skimp on lens quality.

This camera will let you take all the pictures of wildlife you want and get some really decent shots with only a modest investment. The downside of this or any similar low or mid priced camera is that you do not have the flexibility, power, features, optics, and similar superior characteristics that you get if you buy a higher priced digital camera. If you want "one camera that does it all" then I am a huge fan of Nikon equipment. Nikon makes excellent top of the line DSLR cameras. But they are not cheap!

Ok, that is wildlife and nature photography in a nutshell. You are shooting at still or slower moving objects when doing that type photography. But the game changes completely when you venture into sports photography.

Good results in sports photography requires a number of features in a camera that "still" photography does not require. One critical item is very fast shutter speed capability. You will be taking shots that must "freeze" a baseball the instant the batter connects to send it over the outfield fence, for example. The baseball may be moving about 95 mph at that point which is vastly greater than most wildlife can ever approach even for brief instances. Fast shutter speeds are thus essential. So are fast second shots. In sports play, the action is fast and furious so you need a camera that can snap and store photos extremely rapidly. And you will need a high optical zoom lens capability because you may be taking photos of baseball going over the fence more than 120 yards away. In essence, these and other requirements provide a daunting challenge for any but the very best cameras.

Not all sports shots are that demanding, as sometimes in sports all you want is just a shot of your son standing in the outfield waiting on something to happen. For those kinds of shots, any decent camera will do. But when you are trying to get that close up cover shot for Sports Illustrated of your son in mid air robbing the opposing team of a home run by catching the ball right as it goes over the fence, you will want top shelf photography equipment..especially if you have to take that photo from the stands!

Photography is a captivating hobby. Hope this helps and hope you get some additional advice from others.
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby racklover » Fri Aug 20, 2010 7:37 am

will I have to sacrifice speed for quality. or vice versa... I was told to go to Best Buy because of selection and staff.My son plays infield and pitches,so distance is not may not be as big an issue. on the other hand with football it may be...have noticed the lens can cost as much as the cam, or more...
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby FireCloud » Sat Aug 21, 2010 1:06 am

You will not have to sacrifice speed for quality at all. Any camera that can give you good speed will ordinarily be a better quality camera and give you very good quality photos, so you will get both in one camera. Don't worry about that issue.

The ability of a camera to snap a clear, sharply focused picture of a fast moving object is related to a combination of factors. The most important is the shutter speed, often referred to as the "speed" of the camera. A shutter controls how much light is admitted to the camera's sensing mechanism and recorded, either on digital media or on regular film. A shutter speed set to open the shutter for 1/250th of a second will let in considerably more light than one which is set to open only for 1/1000th of a second. To "freeze" a fast moving object, it requires a fast shutter speed, often from 1/500th to 1/1000th of a second, depending on how fast the object is moving which you want to freeze. Many lower priced cameras simply do not offer a shutter speed high enough to accomplish the task. That often relates to the second factor, which is known as the light gathering ability of the lens itself.

A shutter can only admit the amount of light a lens allows to pass through, which is known as "light gathering ability." High quality lenses do a superb job of gathering light. That is why lenses can cost as much or more than a camera. But as I said previously, never skimp on lens quality. So if you have a very good quality lens with excellent light gathering ability, it will bring in FAR more light, allowing a camera to make good, clear photos at very short shutter speeds. Thus, to get good results on fast moving sports photography situations, you need both good quality lenses and a camera capable of very short shutter speeds.

Additionally, with a digital camera, you must also have a high resolution capability to get the best results. Resolution has to do with the number of "pixels" recorded in an image and more is always better. Cheaper cameras may not offer very high resolution. Again, look for one with at least 7 to 10 megapixel capability or more.

There are other factors, such as the "f stop" capabilty that also are important. A lens that offers a wide range of "f stops" gives you more ability to adjust the settings to get the best picture. F stops control the aperture, which is the size of the shutter opening.

By now you are probably getting the point that photography is about light...and how to control it. Light is what make the actual picture occur. Without light, you get a black image. Zoom lenses help magnify the image to get greater details, but when a lens zooms out it also limits the amount of light coming into the camera.

Everything I have mentioned all works hand in hand and no single item can do the job of making a good image alone. Try to get the best camera your budget will buy.

I would HIGHLY recommend you purchase your first camera at a reputable camera shop, rather than a big box store. Deville Camera is a shop I can recommend. They do sell the name brands that the big box store does and at the normal retail price. If you were a seasoned photography buff, and could judge these points I have mentioned well on your own, then you could probably evaluate the many models offered at a big box store. But most of the sales people at those big box stores simply do not know enough about photography to give you truly professional advice. The people at Deville Camera do.

I have bought cameras at Best Buy successfully and yes, they are the exact same cameras that Deville would have sold me. I probably saved a few bucks. But in your situation, it is worth paying $20 more for a camera at Deville as they will take the time to explain the differences to you, steer you in the right direction, and probably even allow you to take some photos with a few of the cameras to see the results for yourself.

My recommendation is to get a camera with a good zoom lens capability, at least to 40X or more. The camera should have 7-10 megapixel or more resolution capability. Most of the cameras in the $200 - $400 category have a single fixed lens and cannot accept additional lenses. Those lenses will be "good" or better in quality and will work for what you want to do, assuming you are not trying for a professional level photograph. Check to see if the camera offers higher shutter speed settings, such as 1/500 or 1/1000. Avoid any camera that does not offer at least one of those settings.

I have used two Cannon cameras and one Kodak camera in that price range and have much preferred the Cannon over the Kodak. The Cannon is just a superior quality camera. Sony and Nikon make good cameras also. I would hesitate on any of the other lesser brands, like Fuji or similar names.

One final word about digital cameras. Cheap plastic parts break VERY easily and camera repair is expensive. The viewing screens are also easily scratched or broken. It is very important to get a good hard leather case or a well padded soft case. A neck strap helps considerably to keep your camera handy for sports shots. Camera shops sell a lot of those kinds of useful accessories and they are worth the money. YOu will also want to buy a larger digital media card than what comes with the camera. A one or two GB media card will hold all the photos you will likely shoot in a single session. In fact, you can probably store a whole weeks worth of vacation photos on a single 2 GB card. But the little 16 or 32 MB cards that come with some cameras will only hold 100 to 200 photos, even at lower settings. Trust me here...taking LOTS of photos is the best way to get a few good ones. I often snap 30 or 40 shots of a single animal within a minute or two so it is easy to eat up card storage space.

Good luck with your purchase. Let us know what you get and how you like it.
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby racklover » Sat Aug 21, 2010 2:45 am

After a fair amount of research I have settled in to 2 that seem to fit what might work for me as a beginner. Just as some take up woodworking, golf, hunting , fishing, or any other hobby by going out and buying the newest and top of the line equipment: only to lose interest and be left with a garage or shed full of things collecting dust.....so do I feel about spending the money to find out if this is something I will enjoy. I have found that nearly everyone that I have talked with has two cameras. So for a starter I am looking at a Cannon powershot SX20 is...as well as a Nikon Coolpix P100. Both are between $350-400..... I have put my hands on a number of cams the last few days.... and yes the salesmen will tell just about anything to sell the ones they have in stock... I have not been able to compare these side by side (hands-on), but i will before I buy.
The Cannon is a 12.1 mp with shutterspeed of 1/3200....the Nikon is a 10.3 mp and shows different settings for shutterspeed, such as; sports 1/8000...the Nikon also offers a burst mode,that would seem to help in sports pics....thanks for your help and if I am misinterpreting any information ,please check it out and let me know.....also most places I looked had an exchange policy that would give me time to try one and trade if I wasn't satisfied, so I'm trying to find a store with both.
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby terry08 » Sat Aug 21, 2010 4:53 am

Racklover, Check out the posts under wildlife photography and talk to Ironwood, I like him have used Olympus Camera's for around 40 years. Although you are just starting out a bad camera will only serve to disappoint you. You can get an Olympus E series starting at around $399.00. And Firecloud is right, you need to deal with Deville Camera on I 55 North. I have purchased every one I have owned from them. Don't know if Randy Noone the original owner is stlll with us but, I do know the same folks who I dealt with 30 years ago are still there.
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby FireCloud » Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:49 pm

Cameras to a photographer are like guns to a hunter....nobody owns just one. While I mentioned a couple of the cameras I like, that does NOT mean there are not other excellent cameras out there. I just happen to be partial to the Nikon cameras myself and always will be. I have not used an Olympus but that is why I wanted Terry, Ironwood, and some of the others who are photo buffs to give you the benefit of their experiences with other cameras. There really are many good ones out there. You are on the right track, however, with the two cameras you mentioned. Either should work just fine for what you have in mind. And I would stay in that price range in case you really don't get interested in the hobby. However, my guess is you will be just as hooked as all the rest of us once you get started!
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby terry08 » Sun Aug 22, 2010 6:31 am

FireCloud is correct, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, you can't go wrong with any of these. I stared out with Olympus, and never had a problem with one of them.
It's all in what you are comfortable with. I have friends who won't use any thing but Nikon. I would go as high as your budget allows, with these brands you can always sell and recoup most of your investment. Deville will sell on consignment for you.
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby racklover » Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:51 am

thanks for all the help...purchased a cannon powershot sx20...have enjoyed it so far....it is making me look good with very little effort. only settled on it after extensively looking at the consumer reprts comparing it to the nikon p100.....i know there are a lot of good cams out there but in this price range the cannon seemed to be the better deal.....now for more practice.

p.s. I purchased it at BestBUY in Tupelo...i usually prefer to use the smaller Mom and Pop type stores; but in this situation this was closer and i was able to check out a wide selection of similar cams....
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Re: what camera to buy

Postby FireCloud » Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:03 pm

Glad you found a camera you like and are enjoying learning how to use it. The Canon will give you good service and is an above average camera for the money. If you progress in the photography hobby, you will eventually demand higher and higher levels of performance from your equipment and likely will buy a couple more cameras. But for now, the thing to do is learn how to make the camera you have do all the tricks it is capable of doing.

In most situations, the Canon will perform satisfactorily using the "auto" setting or one of the other standard settings that are programmed into the camera, such as close up shots, night shots, etc. But try to learn more about how to manually adjust your camera to take even better photos. If you learn how to compose your shots, read the available light, and set your camera to the best settings for each shot, you will take better shots in most cases than the camera will ever do on auto. Typically, most cameras tend to overexpose a bit in auto.

Anyway, be sure to post a few photos and let us see how the camera performs for you
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