Archive for January, 2009

Getting started with dSLR photography

Disclaimer. I’m not a photographer. If you want real advice, drop a note to Dominic Sansoni or Sebastian Posingis. I did, and both of them replied with a list of useful suggestions. So thanks guys!

Anyway, this article should summarize most of what I’ve gathered over the past year. Prices are approximate.


Some time last year, I decided to take up a hobby. I wrote a list and narrowed it down to photography or smoking. Detailed analysis led to the following conclusions.

For: Fun, and you have a visual archive of some things you saw.
Against: very expensive and likely to kill you.

For: makes you look cool.
Against: expensive, kills you slowly. This too leaves a visual archive but it will consist of photos of your blacked lungs taken by med students.

Since I have allergies, I decided to go with photography

What Camera?

If you just need something small and pocketable, get a simple point and shoot digital camera. A basic P&S camera from Canon or Panasonic can be got for about $150. I recommend the Canon A series.


In my case, I switched to dSLR’s from point and shoot because of the following:

  1. Flexibility to use different lenses, swap lenses between cameras. Why is this important? Because the photo mostly depends on the lens (and technique/skill obviously!) - the camera sensor only has to function OK. And so far nobody has managed to make a lens that covers normal, wide angle and telephoto without compromises - so being able to use different lenses makes better quality photos possible, than could be got with a single all-purpose lens.
  2. Good glass retains value: an L series lens purchased for $800 in 1999 probably costs the same today. A dSLR purchased for $5000 in 1999 is probably worth $170 today.
  3. Bigger sensor - a P&S sensor is much smaller than an APS-C or full frame. See those tiny cubes at the bottom of this image? now compare with the APS-C or full frame. And unlike megapixels, sensor size DOES make a huge difference in image quality, low light performance, etc.

Step 1: choosing the brand of dSLR.

You have a choice of Nikon or Canon. (Yes, there’s Olympus, Sony, etc.. but lenses are rare so I’d stick with Nikon/Canon).

Which to choose? I can’t say either is better but I personally chose Canon due to lens availability where I live. Also Canon tends to have on-lens autofocus so most canon lenses autofocus regardless of the body, whereas many Nikon lenses wont autofocus on low end Nikon dSLR’s.

Once you have decided the brand, it’s time to pick the body and lenses:

Step 2: Choose body

Where body refers to the camera body without lens. Get the cheapest body for that sensor size - dSLR’s are generally available as 1.6 crop, 1.3crop (rare) or full size.

Why do I say this? because, ultimately, what matters most is the sensor size. Forget about megapixels for now, just get the biggest sensor size for the lowest cost. At the moment, for 1.6 size, that would be the 1000d, and for full frame, that would be the 5d (for Canon). You can upgrade from the 1000d to the 50 D for $500 - $1000 more approx, but is it worth it for a few minor features like faster burst modes? Personally I’d spend more only to upgrade to the 5d with 2x the sensor area.

Note - if you buy a 1.6x sensor, you can use EF-S lenses - these are budget lenses designed to fit that smaller sensor size. These lenses won’t work properly on full frame cameras

Recommended cameras:
EOS1000d or d40/40x/60 for Nikon
If you can afford it, go for the 5D :). If you extremely rich and slightly crazy, the 5D mkII


Once you pick a body it’s time to choose lenses. This is where the fun begins. Which lenses are right for you? it depends on your requirements.

Lenses are usually categorized according to the focal length:

10mm, 12mm, 17mm, 22mm etc.. these lenses give you nice wide photos. For example, here is a wideangle photo taken at 18mm (35mm equivalent 27mm perhaps?) What do I mean by 27mm equiv? well if I has a full frame sensor I could have taken that photo with a 27mm lens

You can get a variable wide angle lens (something like the 18mm - 55mm kit lens that’s included with most cameras for $150 or so), or you can purchase individual lenses


Normal lenses are 50mm, 85mm etc. A 50mm 1.8 prime costs as little as $100, which is incredible value for money.

Telephoto / super telephoto:
85mm upwards.. these include prime (fixed) lenses such as the 100mm f2, and variable lenses (e.g. 70-300mm)

Recommended Lenses:


Wideangle - 18-55IS($160), usually included as kit with your camera
Normal - you can get a 50mm 1.8 ($100)
Telephoto 55-250IS ($220)

the IS lenses are image stabilized so they try to stabilize the image despite wobbles caused by your hands

Not so budget:

Wideangle - 17-40L this is a professional wide/zoom lens. (Costs around $600-$800)
Normal - 50mm 1.8, 50mm 1.4
Telephoto - 70-200 f4 l ($800) or upgrade to the IS version ($1200), als consider primes like the 85mm 1.8 ($450) etc.

Aside from this, you may need:

Filters (to filter UV, protect your lenses, and hoods, to prevent lens flare and make you look cool. Also a sealed case with silica gel for storage (Humidity creates fungus in cameras and lenses). Lastly, an insurance policy could be useful.

In retrospect, you may want to consider taking up smoking instead. After all, it is cheaper.

PS: please note any errors in this post, as comments, and I will update it. Thanks!

Add comment January 10th, 2009

Autolanka G2G

Dropped by the autolanka G2G at marine drive, so I had a chance to test the 18-55IS lens. It’s actually quite decent. Here are some photos. (Sorry about the extreme saturation!)

If the slideshow does not work, you can see the photos here

Continue Reading Add comment January 10th, 2009

The horrors of Cambodian child prostitution, short squeezes, and the recently deflowered girl

3 interesting links you may have missed:

The evil behind the smiles: An insightful and disturbing article by NYT Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof - read complete article here. Also see: girls for sale. More excellent content from Kristof here

How Porsche hacked the financial system and made a killing

On a lighter note, entirely unrelated to the topics above: The Recently Deflowered Girl

Add comment January 9th, 2009

Sharpness (90-300mm)

I took some photos with my Canon 90-300 zoom lens today. This photo is a good example of what this lens can do. Sharpness is set at zero, aperture f9, ISO unknown probably 200. Click to view original size. As you can see, at 100% it’s pretty decent!

Continue Reading Add comment January 1st, 2009

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