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Confused!! Which digital camera for a beginner?!?

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Initial post: 2 Aug 2009 22:40:33 BDT
M. Bielawska says:

I would like to get a bit more professional, digital camera but I have no clue which one I should buy as I am a beginner.

My budget is 300-350£

I will appreciate an advice.
Many thanks

Posted on 2 Aug 2009 23:58:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Aug 2009 00:01:32 BDT
X says:
I'm supposing you are an absolute beginner.

An absolute beginner should always start with a simple camera, so they get the chance to learn to be a photographer before they get into the bad habit of leaving all the settings on automatic, only ever using the auto-focus, and just banging away without thinking. A simple camera will allow you and oblige you to think more about the photograph, less about the camera.

But there's a limit to the amount of money most people can afford to lose each time they sell one camera to buy the next one up, so-o-o-o: buy an entry level DSLR, (for Olympus that would be an e-420, e-510 or e-520; for the lesser brands I don't know, but someone will oblige), and only buy one lens, a 50mm fixed, or prime, lens. You will be able to keep that basic camera for a long time while you work your way through the lenses it will take, and even when you are an expert, keeping your first, simple, body as a stand-by will be useful. The lenses you add will be good for a top camera body from the same maker as the basic model you will have started with. That means no money lost on the basic camera and none wasted on the lenses.

When you are equipped moderately and economically, go out with your 50mm lens and make the most you can of everything that you see as a possible subject. You'll have some real challenges to overcome by yourself, and you'll soon realise that you have to do better than the Auto settings your camera proposes. You will learn what type of photography interests you, you'll have some idea of what extra kit would help you get there, and you'll always find a wealth of propositions as to what your next step should be on this and other similar forums.

Using a basic body with just a 50mm prime lens will not just teach you, it'll encourage you to teach yourself more about photography than any subsequent kit that may come your way as your level improves. My first, extremely basic camera, a Kodak Box, sure made me think... Shame about my porous memory.

Your budget will almost certainly oblige you to buy second-hand. I can make you a safe suggestion for that, and I'm sure other people can also help.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2009 18:57:13 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
Cheers!This is really helpfull!
So you are suggesting me to get a simplier model then? Yes I am an absolute beginner.
What do you think about Sony DSLR-A200K 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera + Zoom Lens Kit (18-70 mm F3.5-5.6).
I have had a look on the Olympus ones but they are a bit pricey for me...I would be able to spend 300-350£.
Would you recommend any other brands?

Many thanks!

Posted on 3 Aug 2009 21:23:38 BDT
X says:
And voila the limit of my competence. With that budget you'll have a better choice on the "dependable second hand market", and I guess you'll be better served if you hunt for something like a Canon EOS 350D, but really my knowledge of Canon is far too sketchy for me to give any responsible advice. I'm an Olympus nut, but recent entry-level Olympus bodies on the serious second-hand market are as rare as hen's teeth, with appropriate lenses slightly rarer than that.

It's only that I have been linked to Olympus since 1977 that gives me that Canon blind-spot. They make very good kit indeed, and I know of very few Canon fans who have the slightest doubt about their choice.

I can suggest that you contact ffordes, at, tell them what you have told me and ask them to put together the kit you need for your budget. You might have to wait a while, but ffordes are that reliable they were advised to me by one of their competitors... I've had all sorts of dealings with them and there has not been the slightest whiff of misbehaviour on their part. There's no money for me in this, have no fear, but they are the only outfit like that I would suggest to anyone.

It would be helpful if a Canon fan took up the relay on this one. I am sure the basic advice "Canon" is correct, but after that I am immediately right out of my depth.

Posted on 3 Aug 2009 22:40:31 BDT
Stephen says:
I can understand the point E.Sandalls is making,but I disagree.Buying a basic camera and then upgrading later is more expensive in the long run.Buy the best camera your finances will allow,it will have full auto mode if needed and aperture priority/shutter priority,and fully manual.You can 'dive in' straight away with full auto. and when your ready try the other modes.You will find a favourite and use this mode 99% of the time.
As for buying a 50mm prime lens,here are the advantage,Its probably slightly cheaper than the zoom-Its got a larger maximum aperture-Image quality will be hard to beat.But if you're a complete beginner you will get more use out of the zoom.Nikon and Canon have the largest lens and accessories selection if you're think of expanding your system later.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2009 11:01:13 BDT
X says:
How many serious photography fans do NOT have two cameras? When we photographers really get the bug, it would take a change in the Earth's orbit round the sun to make us risk being camera-less during a service of our number one. Also, (I've observed this on Olympus, so it's just a supposition as far as Canon would be concerned), someone who buys wisely on the second-hand market will lose very little indeed if they kept and coddled a camera for a year or two before selling it on. In my personal experience, with film Olympus bodies, it's possible to sell on with a wee profit. Obviously an absolute beginner will need some seriously safe advice and/or a cast-iron recommendation to a tried and trusted supplier. That's why I'm relieved to have another "adviser" joining in.

I have a belief that has been justified by people who have followed my advice on this particular point over the years: you may have more fun with a zoom, but you will have more challenges, more drive to be a good photographer and will learn more if you work with a prime lens for the first few months of a budding photographic life. You will also learn more about where you want to go and therefore buy more wisely when taking the first step up.

It's not advice based on price. Some prime lenses hold on so hard to their value that zooms can work out cheaper. That's where my thoughts unravelled as far as Canon are concerned! There are lots of second hand Canon zooms available, (particularly "around 35"-"around 70mm" if I remember correctly, which is a relief because that will teach less bad habits than a really powerful model would), but very few decent prime lenses. One has to accept a little pragmatism! And maybe I over-emphasised the simplicity angle of the first body. Finding a recent dslr body without the choices Stephen has listed would be very difficult. My objection would be to a camera that would not be simple enough for those basic functions to be easy to find and implement. Start on Auto until you feel like moving up, try manual aperture, then try manual speed, then try both. And so on. I know that is easy to work out on my camera, and I feel that Canon would match that and still be an easier choice to work with than Olympus on the sole grounds of availability.

I looked at Nikon, but affordability looks like a rare condition for Nikon!

Just to be safe, I asked ffordes if they would be able to put together a good starter bundle for Monika, (no name given to ffordes, I only referred to "a friend"), and, as I thought, they would be happy to listen to Monika's needs and find her a good package, even if that meant being a little patient.

That would be my final advice: put together your thoughts from Stephen's advice and mine, call or e-mail ffordes, and/or any other similar and reliable operation, tell them what type of photography you want to do now and how you see yourself as a photographer in the future, state your budget, and give them time to come up with a proposition.

I repeat, just to be very clear, I have done a lot of business with ffordes, buying, selling to them and selling through them, and they have never given me the slightest cause for concern. BUT I have no financial interest in what they have done, do or will do, not even any attempt at getting a discount "for services rendered".

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 12:06:23 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
You guys are talking technical language that is hard for me to understand..probabely because I am just a beginner:o)
I think I will call or email ffordes maybe I could get a quote but eventually I would buy it in a shop or over the internet, knowing me, as I would not be bother to wait for so long:o)
I looked on quite a few dslr cameras now and the ones in my price range have an optical zoom only 3x...I have just a basic digital camera now with 3 x optical zoom and it's not very handy, I have to say...
What I need this camera for is to be able to take shoots of nice landscapes ( I like travel around), some nice nature, maybe portraits, basically everything what catches my eye and is interesting...
I think I am a bit wiser with all your advices, guys!

If you have any more recommendations, go ahead and let me know, cause I am doing a research on cameras quite intensively!


Posted on 4 Aug 2009 13:06:51 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
Guys, could you give me a few entry level examples of cameras, so that I could just google them and read about them somewhat, please.

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 14:30:14 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Aug 2009 14:31:00 BDT
ambermarie says:
If you look on ebay you can get entry-level DSLRs for around your price range. I was looking yesterday and quite a few of them are sold with lots of accessories like tripods, bags, and extra lenses (although not the same make as the camera). I'm sure that these aren't particularly high-quality extras but for the price I'm considering it because of course you'll also be getting the camera and standard lens, which you'd get anyway if you went to a shop but without all these other bits ... this is on the Buy It Now section by the way, not an auction. I'm quite tempted although I am not 100% sure how safe ebay is ... but if it's legitimate then it looks quite good value!

oh and the cameras I looked at were Nikon D40 and D60, but there are loads of others available too.

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 15:52:06 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
Yeah, I have been looking on Ebay and I noticed that I can get even brand new Olympus E420 or E520 with an additional lenses kit about £100 cheaper than in the shop!!

I would not say that Ebay is not safe as I have bought a car on Ebay and is in perfect order!:o)

What do you think Sandalls?!? Can I buy Olympus from Ebay?

I think Ebay this is it!

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 16:25:38 BDT
X says:

Whatever you buy, speed of decision will be of no use whatsoever. If you see something that looks valid, drop a line here for some comments. I repeat, I can only give responsible detailed advice on Olympus, and I reckon your final choice will not be there. It's a relief that you now have 2 other people communicating with you. Hopefully more will come along. You need to explore every valid possibility, within reason.

If I can just imagine myself in your position now, I would drop a mail to ffordes, have a look on the net at Olympus, Canon and Nikon, now you have a couple of Nikon references to guide you. Nikon have an extraordinary range, and seem to bring out a new upper-range model every month. In 32 years I have heard very little negative comment, i.e not a petulant whinge or an avoidable incident, on Nikon or Canon, and I have put Olympus kit through considerable hardship and not ruined anything yet. The problem with Olympus is that they stick to a reduced range, and don't do anything the same way as the Big Two, and thereby puzzle people raised on Canon/Nikon, etc.

When you are looking at lenses, don't be put off by the zoom ratios that will always appear modest compared with simpler cameras. With a Digital Single Lens Reflex, DSLR, you make up your own range of zoom by choosing a set of lenses that represent what you want to do. Like that, each lens will be, if you like, specialised in the "powers" that it offers. I'll not confuse you with the proof, but a lens that goes from a very low "power" to an exceedingly high one is going to be very difficult to design and manufacture, holding the same Image Quality, IQ, across the range. There are many photographers who would not dream of using a zoom lens, and only have a set of those non-zoom, "prime" lenses they like. There are times I will take some of my zoom lenses, times I will take some of my prime lenses, and times I may only take one lens. It makes every photographic day-out different, with different challenges. And different failures to learn from. Digital is great for that: try what you want, and if it doesn't work out, it will not have cost you a penny!

You can only do all that with a DSLR, if you keep to modern techniques. There's a lot of fun to be had with film cameras, fixed lens cameras, and more, but it's really for committed enthusiasts. We'll stick with DSLR for the start!

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 16:52:54 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
I would like to get the best camera possible for this price range though, obviously.
I looked on Ebay and found Olympus E520 with 14-42mm + 40-150mm DOUBLE LENS KIT for about £330, brand new...I thought what a bargain!!


In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2009 17:36:34 BDT
X says:
Well, now I've been honest and warned you I'm an Olympus nut, you'll not be surprised if I tell you to go for it. Just a little pause for prudence's sake:

How does the seller stack up against the normal checks on seller-credibility? Is it a sale by a pro? Is the kit of UK origin or is it still in a warehouse in some exotic land? Do you get the manufacturer's warranty or do you have to hope the seller's warranty will be worth as much as the paper it's written on? Is it new or refurb, or ex-demo, or whatever? It would help if I could find the one you are looking at! I've not found anything that cheap in the eBay auctions? Is it a merchant in those little "parasite" ads below the list of auctions? There is one name in there that I would steer clear of: Bite Size Deals. They are not in fact in the UK, despite their .uk web address. Not clear = no good!

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 18:23:00 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
What about OLYMPUS E-450 SLR DIGITAL CAMERA+ 4 LENS KIT, 40-150MM+14-42MM, item number on Ebay 180391573932?

Is there anyone who has ever bought a camera on Ebay?

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2009 18:43:21 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Aug 2009 19:24:03 BDT
X says:
OK Monika.

The seller is a trader, the kit is already in the UK, the offer is ludicrously good, but I would never forgive myself if I let you walk straight into who-knows-what. Call me old-fashioned, but this is advice with a packet of money on the line. Give me time to check something out. There are 10 units to go, so we should have a little while to get a good view.

Indeed, I have bought cameras on eBay and on the web in general around the world and in every possible fashion, but that was me taking my risks with my money...

Put it like this, to sum up: My money would have already been PayPaled if it was my purchase. Maybe you would be happy to act on that, but I can't help being a boring old fart.

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 19:04:35 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
:o))See what you mean...
I kind of like this Olympus E420 or other E.. but this camera has only 1 x optical zoom, am I right? So how can I take pics from far away then? Does it mean that I would only be able to take just close ups?
Ideally I would like it to have at least 3x opt zoom..or maybe an optical zoom is not so important?
It seems like a decent camera so why the zoom is just 1 x?

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 20:01:11 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Aug 2009 21:35:49 BDT
X says:
The 40-150mm lens will bring things plenty close enough to you for everyday photography. Also, the way Olympus have designed all their e-series cameras, (e-510, e-450, etc), the final result you will get when you print the photo will make it look as if the zoom was twice more powerful than it really is. (That is without all the technical details, but it's a fair description.)

Say you are doing some "family and friends" photography at a wedding: the 14-42 lens will do 99% of what you will need, and you'll just have to be creative for the remainder. Now let's say you are visiting Athens, "doing" the Acropolis: you'll have plenty of photographic fun using the 40-150mm even if you do have to move well back for some shots. That is the essence of good photography: you doing your thing, finding your solutions, making your work look like your work and not just anybody's. If you fall back on a plethora of equipment at every problem to solve, you will be an equipment manipulator, not a photographer. The photographs you like the most should always be the ones where you had to find your way of doing something. I don't have a lot in my kit cupboard compared to other people I know, but even so it's rare that I will take all of it out at the same time, very rare indeed.

That Olympus e-450 is a darn good little camera, and, as usual, Olympus made a right mess of taking it to the market-place. Their loss if they are already letting some sellers get hold of it at ludicrously low rates; your gain. You will be able to use it on Auto or P to start with, those are two automatic settings, but you'll quickly have fun using the camera on semi-automatic settings, even on fully manual if it looks like a good idea.

I know it's not my money, and that the e-450 busts your budget, but I will definitely encourage you to buy Understanding Exposure, a book by Bryan Peterson, available here on Amazon. If you only ever trust one piece of advice I give you, trust that one. It's the best book, the most accessible book of its kind I have ever seen. Peterson will help you move your photography up in natural, intuitive steps, with clear explanations of all the basic terms he uses. It's quite brilliant.

Even after my 53 years up close and personal with photography, Peterson has refreshed my thinking. And so simply.

(And yes, I will explain anything you don't fully understand...)

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2009 22:09:01 BDT
Graham Mead says:
I must agree with Stephen from a previous reply. I think that Olympus is a bit restrictive if you wish to continue and expand. I would personally go for a Nikon or a Cannon, firstly it's easy to expand, second you are not restricted to their own brand of lens there are plenty of other makes which you can use, thirdly, the quality of photo's are superb even from a kit lens.
Just a little point is that Olympus uses an xd card most others use a sd card which makes the sd card widely available and the cost is competative (ie cheap and plentiful).
As previously has been said when you get your camera wack it on auto and photograph everything, try to concentrate on composition rather than on anything else, the rest will follow.
Just enjoy your photography.

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 22:50:51 BDT
X says:
It's not a UK-supplied camera. The seller is only talking about 1 year, but Europe-sourced Olympus cameras come with a two year warranty. Those are facts. Then I think that the deal origintes somewhere like Hong Kong, where all the non-Olympus products can be found very, very cheaply indeed.

Again, if I was still in the market for a camera, I would take the risk, keep the camera, the two Olympus lenses, then play with the toys until they bored me... But that is not a solution I would advise to anyone. That can only be your call, maybe you are saner than me.

Posted on 4 Aug 2009 23:00:09 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
I think it does ring a bell...
Graham, are you saying that if I buy Nikon or Cannon I have a bigger choice in buying any kind of lenses?
I have just seen friends of my friends and they told me that cameras from this range (NIkon, Canon)may be easier to upgrade...
I do appreciate Olympus but if in the future I won't find the lenses.. that will be a bummer...:o))
I feel like I know much more about digital cameras than few day ago...that is odd..I did not think that I could learn so quickly...

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2009 23:57:36 BDT
Fishman says:
Monika, you are being tied up in techno-babble and branding. Just go to a new/used camera shop and handle some dSLRs.

Let's keep it simple:

ALL of the budget dSLRs from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony and Olympus will be more than enough for your needs.

ALL of them have extensive ranges of lenses, more than you will ever need or afford. You may not know that third-party manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina also make lenses for the different brands. There are HUNDREDS available, do not be concerned about lens availability.

ALL of these brands take excellent pictures, you would not be able to tell the difference between the cameras.

See, simple!

There is very little between budget dSLRs, so do not be concerned about the brand. The single most important thing to consider is how the camera feels in your hands. Do you like the menu system, do you like the position of the buttons, do you like the size and weight....

Please do not concern yourself over the badge on the camera, go and buy the one that feels right, whether it's a Nikon D40/D60, Canon 350D/400D, Sony A200/A350 or Olympus E-420/E510 etc., it will be an excellent camera.

Posted on 5 Aug 2009 02:10:18 BDT
Evelyn says:
I have a Nikon D60; which is just a little, only a little, over your range (on amazon uk, GBP379 with lens). A year ago a Nikon D40 was about GBP230ish on amazon uk but amazon's pricing is now seems very odd offering a Nikon D60 cheaper than a Nikon D40. eh? On amazon's us site a D40 with lens is US$449.99, which seems ok, whereas on this site its GBP499. All very strange. If you go for a Nikon I'd either go for a D60, and amazon uk's price for that seems reasonableish, or look elsewhere for a D40; a D40 should, in a sensible world, be priced at well under your budget.

Posted on 5 Aug 2009 08:45:59 BDT
M. Bielawska says:
So even if I won't but Nikon or Canon, for a different brand I could get a lens from Sigma, Tamron and Tokina?
That is good, cause than I can stick to my budget:o)
What do you think about buying a camera from 2nd hand? Maybe I would be able to get a better one, that I can't buy new...

Posted on 5 Aug 2009 08:51:59 BDT
I can highly recommend the Canon EOS 450D. You can start in a fully automatic mode where you just point and press. Then as you learn more you can become a little more creative until you have the confidence to do everything manually. The results you get are far superior to a compact camera but it is just as easy to use.
You can then teach yourself how to use the full functions by simply buying and reading "Canon EOS Rebel XSi/450D Digital Field Guide" by Charlotte K Lowrie. This book takes you through the whole camera step by step and has you shooting amazing pictures in no time.
I hope you find one you like. Don't forget to put up some pictures when you do.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2009 08:56:49 BDT
Only buy a second hand camera from someone you trust. There are some bargains in the second hand market but some lemons too. An alternative to second hand is to find an older model. You can often find good deals on a camera such as the Canon EOS 400D. The dealers reduce the prices a lot to clear them as people want the later models such as 450D and 500D and you end up finding them with £200 discounts or more.
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Initial post:  2 Aug 2009
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