Amateur new to digital SLRs

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by Davey, May 3, 2012.

  1. Davey

    Davey Guest

    I'm looking for some helpful suggestions.
    I used to enjoy amateur photography, and used an Olympus OM-2
    (It's still with me, but rarely used now). Then I got busy with other
    stuff, like work, and the digital photography age came along, and passed
    me by. I got a free Canon A-300, which ate AA batteries as though they
    were bread crumbs, and that was replaced with a Canon SD1000, which is
    amazing in its technical abilities compared with the Olympus, but it is
    of course still not an SLR.
    I don't have a big budget, and I do not expect to do any professional
    work, so I am looking around (e-bay and local auction house) for a
    second-hand DSLR. What I worry about most is the battery, having had
    the bad experience of the first Canon. I am looking for suggestions as
    to what brands or models to avoid, and which ones to seriously look at.
    If there is any possibility of using my old OM lenses, that would be
    a bonus. I am not worried about huge Megapixel sensors, as I say, I am
    just an amateur who enjoys photography.
    Helpful advice welcomed.
    Davey, May 3, 2012
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  2. Davey

    Woody Guest

    dSLRs are very much a personal thing, so go to a good camera shop
    and fondle a few, then buy the one that feels 'right' - you've
    got to live with it after all.

    Not being an Olympus user I don't know if your OM2 lenses will
    work with a digital version. However two things; (1) you will
    have to go away from the usual suppliers of today - Comet, Currys
    World, Jacobs and Jessops - as not many stock Olympus, and (2)
    Olympus have serious financial and business problems and could
    face collapse.

    After that you have the usual choices - Nikon, Canon, Sony (which
    was Minolta) and Pentax. The first two are battling it out for
    top spot; Pentax have the great advantage of having the image
    stabilisation in the body rather than in the lens so almost any
    K-mount lens will work; Sony are generally about the cheapest
    (new) and have a lot to offer.

    But as I said it is a matter of comfort and how it fits your
    hands. For instance I could never get on with an Olympus OM as I
    have quite large hands and the body was too small; on the other
    hand the Minolta XG2 and XD9 were about the same size as the OM
    but just that couple of mills thicker that made all the

    ........which is why I ended up with Nikon!

    Consider a secondhand body - if you look around you should find
    something like a Nikon D40/D60/D70/D80 or a Canon EOS300/350/400
    for a reasonable price, then get a decent long zoom lens. I have
    a D70s and my wife has a D50 and we both have Tamron 18-200's
    which hardly ever come of the body - they fit most purposes and
    are reasonable glass. London Camera Exchange and Wilkinsons are
    good places to start looking on line.

    One thing to look out for - some cameras have automatic systems
    for cleaning dust off the sensor. If you can afford it buy one of
    these as otherwise you will have to spend about a half hour 2-3
    times a year (or about £50 instead) to have the sensor cleaned.

    As for batteries - don't worry. Almost anything you buy will have
    lithium-ion units that last for ages - my D70s is rated 4000
    shots on one charge and it runs pretty close at that. Li-ion
    doesn't self-discharge anything like as quickly as NiCad or NiMH
    so a second battery charged up should still be useable 2-3 months
    or more down the road. If you buy an original battery (Nikon say)
    they cost around £40-£50, but if you get them of unknown make
    (and they are usually the same units) from such as
    you can pay as little as a tenner.

    Believe me, if you liked using a film SLR you will never regret
    getting a digital version. On film I never used continuous
    shooting because of the cost of film and processing, with a dSLR
    I use it often especially when shooting people as it often gets
    rid of blinks and it costs nothing. My D70s uses Compact Flash
    cards; a 2Gb card at best resolution (the camera is only 6Mp) I
    get over 550 shots in jpg or 350 if I take simultaneous jpg and

    Don't forget you will also need to get some software to edit your
    pics. Adobe Elements is good once you have mastered it, but if
    you only want simple editing like cropping, sharpening, and
    red-eye removal the free Picasa from is as good
    as anything and its a doddle to use.

    Good luck.
    Woody, May 3, 2012
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  3. Davey

    Huge Guest

    They won't. Olympus shafted their OM users. That's why I went
    Huge, May 3, 2012
  4. Davey

    Davey Guest

    Thank you, both. Very useful advice, especially from Woody's detailed
    missive. I will use it to good effect.
    I already do a fair amount of amateur digital manipulation, using GIMP
    mostly (I am an Ubuntu user). I have recently digitised all the slides
    (>500) for a club, using the Canon SD1000. A DSLR would have made the
    task easier, but much of the effort was in the cropping, which would
    have been the case whatever the camera used.
    It sounds as though Olympus is not worth bothering with now.

    Cheers, and thanks.
    Davey, May 3, 2012
  5. Davey

    Fleetie Guest


    I also have an Olympus film camera (OM2-SP, in mint and working condition) and some
    nice Olympus Zuiko glass (50mm f/1.2, 55mm f/1.2, 135mm f/2.8), and YES, you most definitely
    can use Olympus OM lenses with Canon DSLRs with adaptors available on eBay. I have such an
    adaptor, it works, and you get infinity focus too.

    I'd recommend a cheap Canon DSLR; maybe the EOS 1100D or EOS 600D.

    Then you get access to Canon's fantastic range of lenses, and you can use even
    the most expensive L-series lenses on even those cameras, so you can buy nice
    lenses and upgrade your bodies as you see fit.

    I use a Canon 5D Mark 3 and a Canon 7D.

    Enjoy your shooting. The OM prime lenses will not disappoint on the Canon bodies,
    if you pick up an OM to EOS adaptor.

    Fleetie, May 4, 2012
  6. Davey

    Fleetie Guest

    Totally false. You can use OM lenses on the EOS DSLR system.
    Fleetie, May 4, 2012
  7. Davey

    Fleetie Guest

    Oops, I meant in the context of using OM lenses on EOS systems.

    I *think* you can get adaptors to use OM lenses on modern Olympus
    cameras, but I admit I am not sure. I think I have read of people
    doing it, though. All to do with FLANGE DISTANCE! :)

    I *AM* sure you can use OM lenses on Canon EOS camera bodies via
    cheap adaptors.

    Because I do.

    Fleetie, May 4, 2012
  8. Davey

    Davey Guest

    Thanks, that is good news. It sounds as though Canon has this business
    sewn up.

    Much appreciated.
    Davey, May 4, 2012
  9. Davey

    Huge Guest

    Amusing contradiction there. First you state that it's totally false, then
    you demonstrate that you're wrong.
    Huge, May 4, 2012
  10. Davey

    Stephen Guest


    I'm glad I found this post because I wanted to ask about getting my
    first dSLR too. Sorry if these sound dumb, newbie questions; I have
    read a few sites via google, but if you can point me to a good
    beginner's web site, I would be grateful.

    I did have a SLR film camera many years ago but that was in the days
    when everything was manual and you had to turn the lens yourself to
    focus and zoom, so I am very out-of-touch with the technology out
    there today.

    I have been using compact point-and-shoot digital cameras until now
    but I would like to upgrade to a dSLR for the bigger lens, so that I
    can take better pictures in low light, without needing the flash.

    I understand how film SLR cameras worked: the light coming through the
    lens was reflected by the mirror to the view finder, allowing the view
    finder to see exactly what the lens was seeing. The mirror flipped up
    to allow the light to hit the film and take the photograph.

    So far, so good. But then I get confused why a dSLR needs a mirror. If
    the light passes through the lens and onto the sensor and the image is
    displayed on a screen, you can see what the lens is seeing without a
    mirror; this is how digital compact cameras work.

    Not having seen a dSLR in real life, I am unsure about their
    viewfinders. Is the view finder an LCD screen or is it completely
    optical? If it the former, why do you need a mirror? Surely this would
    mean the camera would have two sensors; the light hitting one or the
    other depending whether the mirror is up or down. I can't see why a
    company would fit two sensors to a camera when it could save money by
    fitting only one.

    This suggests that the viewfinder is completely optical, and in this
    case I can see the need for a mirror. But why would you want a purely
    optical view finder? Isn't that a bit low tech!

    I was reading about Canon's EOS 550d and 600d but got a bit confused
    when they started talking about live view. From what I read, it cannot
    focus in live view. Why do you need the mirror down to focus? I guess
    I am so used to the digital compact camera method, that this all
    sounds a bit alien to me.

    The Canon 600d comes with two lens options: 18-55mm or 18-135mm. I
    have read reviews where people say they are not the best lenses but I
    hope they would be good enough for a beginner, until I could afford to
    upgrade. Most of what I have read has been about the 18-55mm one; does
    anyone know anything about the longer one? It sounds like it might be
    more useful for someone with no other lenses.

    I'm wondering how often I will change lenses. I know I did change
    lenses with my film SLR but I don't have the money to buy a collection
    of lenses from day one, so I think I would use the stock lens all the
    time to begin with. If that's the case, and with my confusion about
    the mirror, I wonder whether a bridge camera would be better for me? I
    hear the Canon power shot SX40 HS has good reviews.

    I intend to go to a camera shop and have a look at the real things but
    any advice you can give me, would be appreciated.

    Stephen, May 4, 2012
  11. The latter.
    has some detail about the Canon AF mechanism, which does involve the
    mirror. I don't know why they couldn't fall back to compact-style
    hunting AF in 'live view' though; it does seem like a strange omission.

    Personally I prefer the optical viewfinder to the digital viewfinders
    I've seen, and actually sometimes find composition harder when using the
    display on the back of a camera[1]. But that may be a matter of
    personal taste and ergonomics, and also perhaps subject to improvements
    in display technology.

    [1] although oddly I've not yet had this trouble with a smartphone.
    I have the 18-135mm (among others); I'm happy with it. Having a single
    flexible lens when travelling was more important to me than squeezing
    out a little extra sharpness at the cost of carrying several lenses
    around. You might have different priorities.
    Richard Kettlewell, May 4, 2012
  12. Davey

    Woody Guest

    One advantage of any camera with a viewfinder is that you are
    holding the camera against your face when you take the picture so
    it is both more stable in itself and you are unlikely to move it
    until it has finished taking the picture - not something that
    happens with a compact being held out in front of you!

    Only some dSLRs have live view - that is the ability to view the
    scene on the LCD rather than in the viewfinder. This function is
    more common on the 'crossover' cameras that also have electronic
    viewfinders (EVF.) The problem with the EVF of most crossover
    cameras is that its resolution is not nearly good enough which
    makes viewing the prospective picture very difficult. Add to that
    the icons on the screen and you start to loose the picture as
    well! Remember that the thing that eats the battery is the LCD so
    one without or only optional live view is the better proposition.

    A dSLR with live view doesn't usually show you what the picture
    taking sensor will see - it uses a cell that is in the prism
    housing, except that some cameras use pentamirrors rather than
    pentaprisms. Consequently it is necessary to have a mirror that
    moves with a shutter behind it covering the main cell just like
    in a film SLR.

    In simple terms just think of a dSLR as being functionally the
    same as a film SLR then you won't go far wrong. Most amateur
    rated dSLRs use a APC sized sensor which means that you must
    mutliply the focal length of the lens fitted by a factor of 1.5
    or 1.6 depending on make. Thus a 18-55 digital lens is about the
    same as a 28-80 on film, similarly 18-135 is 28-200. I have a
    Tamron 18-200 (28-300 film) which I rarely take off the camera.

    As for the Canon lenses, the 18-55 is by general agreement a
    fairly poor lens - I cannot comment on the 18-135. However do
    consider that if you buy a long lens unless you mean to use a
    tripod a lot, some sort of optical stabilisation system in the
    lens is almost a must - it can gain you 2 stops in poor light.

    Ultimately, as I said in my original epistle, you have got to
    live with the camera so don't just buy on the basis of name or
    reviews. Go into a good camera shop and fondle those that you
    consider a possibility. If you are lucky one will feel right in
    terms of size, balance, optics, buttons, etc etc and that is the
    one you should buy.

    If you are unlucky more than one will feel right - then you must
    consider bells and whistles against price. Remember top
    secretaries and PAs use only about 10% of the capability of
    Microsoft Word and its the same with cameras. Do you need scene
    modes, automatic red-eye removal, HD video, etc etc? If all you
    want to do is take pictures - and if you are an experienced
    photographer you will know that the best pictures are those that
    are 'built' in the camera by the photographer, not by a
    computer - then that should steer you to what you need. Don't
    spend over a grand when a basic £400 body and some well selected
    lenses will meet the needs of every picture you are likely to
    want to take. A long lens such as 18-200 and a wide angle like
    12-24 or 10-24 and you will have all you need.

    Finally, dSLR sensors get dusty. Some bodies have auto cleaning
    systems - if you cane afford this variety you will save yourself
    much time or money cleaning the sensor of having it
    professionally cleaned.
    Woody, May 4, 2012
  13. Davey

    Davey Guest

    Thank you for that information, it all adds to the 'picture'.
    Davey, May 4, 2012
  14. Davey

    Alex Monro Guest

    Very true.
    Almost all DSLRs today have live view. Most DSLRs give you a choice
    of using contrast detect, using the main sensor, or phase detect, using
    a special AF sensor, for auto focus in live view. Contrast detect is
    generally more accurate, but can be slower. Phase detect is faster for
    actual focussing, but may require the mirror to be flipped down and up,
    which can slow things down.
    This only applies to a few older Sony models no longer in production.
    All current DSLRs use the main image sensor to generate the live view.

    Sony now use what they call Single Lens Translucent technology, where
    a semi-transparent mirror reflects about a third of the light from the
    lens to a contrast detect auto focus sensor, and the viewfinder is a
    tiny LCD getting it's image from the main sensor. The drawback is that
    less light reaches the sensor, so it's slightly noisier in low light at
    high ISO. There's also a slight delay in the image in the viewfinder,
    which can make following action trickier, however, not having to move
    the mirror makes faster frame rates possible for burst shooting.
    The original unstabilised Canon 18-55 was pretty mediocre, but hasn't
    been made for several years. The current 18-55 IS (stabilised) lens
    is fairly OK.

    Sony, Pentax and Olympus have stabilisation built into the camera body,
    which works by moving the sensor, and can sometimes correct shake that
    twists the camera about the lens axis, which isn't possible with in
    lens systems. However, in lens stabilisation, as used by Canon, Nikon,
    and Panasonic is generally regarded as being more effective with long
    telephoto lenses.
    Very true. The "look" through the viewfinder, and the clarity of the
    menu layout are also considerations.
    Lenses with a very extended zoom range, e.g. 18-200 are something of an
    optical design compromise. You're likely to get better image quality by
    splitting the range into an 18-55 and an 50-200. However, the
    convenience of an all in one lens may outweigh the quality issues for
    general "walk around" shots.
    I think most current DSLRs have some form of anti dust system, though
    some are more effective than others. I've never had any dust problems
    with my Pentax K20D, and I do sometimes change lenses outdoors.

    Finally, if you want to get the most from your pictures in post production
    editing, you might want to set the camera to save raw image files, and
    convert them on your computer. A raw file is, as the name implies, the
    raw data from the camera sensor, and nothing is lost to compression as
    with JPEGs. However, you will need to make sure that you have raw
    conversion software compatible with your camera. A good converter
    program for GIMP on Linux is UFRaw (,
    but there are several other open source programs available. It does,
    however, take a little time for new cameras to be supported.
    Alex Monro, May 5, 2012
  15. Davey

    Davey Guest

    Thanks. This is getting complicated!
    What I might do, as well as visiting a camera shop sometime (our local
    one just closed), is to bid on a 2nd-hand Canon body-only on e-bay, and
    dip my toes in the water that way. It should be able to use my Olympus
    lenses with an adapter. Once I have a baseline, then I can see what I
    do and don't like. If I then get a more suitable one, then I can
    hopefully sell the first one.

    Thanks for all the help, which hopefully will be if use to others as
    Davey, May 5, 2012
  16. Davey

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    It is. You can't rely on the things that you used to look for in a
    film SLR.

    Firstly autofocus is pretty much standard. I yearn for the old
    fashioned focusing aids sometimes but they are gone. You have to find
    an autofocus system you can get on with.

    Instead of changing film to one with a higher ISO the ISO is changed
    in the camera. There is usually some tradeoff in grainyness (like
    with film) with higher speeds. I'm very pleased with my Nikon D90 in
    this respect.

    You can now review your shots on the LCD screen, if it's big enough.
    My D70 was a fine camera but the postage stamp sized LCD was pretty

    The flash socket has gone. I had to buy a bloody hot shoe adaptor to
    use my Metz. The cable release socket has gone. So a two quid cable
    release has been replaced by an expensive remote. Annoying.

    On the plus side, you can go out and take 500 shots and throw 490 away
    at no cost. Whether this produces better photography is open for
    Geoff Berrow, May 6, 2012
  17. Davey

    Davey Guest

    Thanks. Some of those are already there in the pocket Canon I use now.
    Most annoying that there is no equivalent of the 'B' setting for
    exposure, and I am surprised that you say that the cable release point
    is gone too. I used to use a 10" cable quite a lot with my Olympus.
    The Canon has autofocus ans ISO modifications. In fact, it seems to
    pack quite a lot of digital photography technology into a small
    package, but it's still small, and has only limited mechanical zoom
    As for the multiple photos and better photography, that is always a
    good point for debate. When each photograph needed to be composed
    carefully before capture, it had better be right, but my little Canon
    let me take pictures on-the-fly while driving through Mexican mountains
    (I was careful!), which I could not do with any SLR, due to the size
    and weight.
    Davey, May 6, 2012
  18. Davey

    Alex Monro Guest

    Very true.
    AF is pretty much universal on DSLRs, but you can sometimes get 3rd
    party focussing screens with microprism and split wedge manual focus
    A very few DSLRs have a PC flash socket, my Pentax K20D and Fuji S3 do,
    but I think only Fuji ever had cable release screw threads on DSLRs
    (apart from perhaps the very early ones).
    I would suggest if you're looking for a Canon on ebay, you go for one
    with at least the 18-55 kit lens, preferably the IS (stabilised)
    version. It shouldn't cost a lot more, and at least you'll have one AF
    lens, and because most DSLRs have sensors smaller than a 35mm film
    frame, you'll find your OM lenses aren't as wide as you're used to.
    Alex Monro, May 6, 2012
  19. Davey

    Ian Guest

    Hello Davey.
    I'm not sure if your comments were about your pocket Canon or DSLRs.

    I've a Canon 50D. It has a standard PC flash contact.
    It will not take a mechanical cable release but does have a socket for an
    electronic one.
    These releases will cost more than a mechanical release but I can use a very
    long cable or a wireless link.
    The 50D also has a 'B' setting. The electronic release does have a latch to
    hold the shutter open on 'B' or I could buy a wireless release with a timer
    built into it.

    There is a choice of focusing screens for the 50D but none of them are, from
    what I've read, really helpful for manual focusing.

    Regards, Ian.
    Ian, May 6, 2012
  20. Davey

    Davey Guest

    Thanks for the suggestion. I have in fact started looking for just that
    Davey, May 6, 2012
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