It’s been way too quiet here on the Bui Photography blog and that’s my fault. Things just get super busy during these holiday seasons and some things fall to the backburner for a bit. As I get through the backlog, I’ll be doing some updates which will include more blog posts for all our friends out there!
So with the holiday season just right around the corner, I wanted to throw together a simple buying guide to help those out who are looking for something to get their photographer significant other, photographer friend, or just something for themselves.
You see new cameras coming out practically daily and many of them have very similar specs, so what do you chose or buy? For the most part, you can’t really go wrong with many of the selections of Nikon or Canon (I’m only listing those two manufactures as I have the most knowledge on those two systems).
Canon EOS Rebel T2i ($699, body only) – Canon’s Rebel series is considered to be the consumer entry-level dSLRs and they offer many great features at a great price point. If you’re looking for a camera that can do 1080p HD video with lots of great useful features, then the Canon EOS Rebel T2i is your best pic. With 18 MP, 3.0-inch high-resolution LCD, LiveView, the new fast and speedy Digic IV processor seen in the professional level cameras all at $699, this camera is a no-brainer. The only drawback to the T2i is that if you have large hands, this camera might feel just a bit cramped and in which case, you might want to consider the Canon EOS 7D.
Canon EOS 7D ($1,699 with $100 INSTANT REBATE, body only) – So you’re probably wondering why should I spend $900 more on a camera with practically all the same features as the T2i? That’s a perfectly valid question and for most of you, there’s no reason to. The T2i will do plenty for what you need. What the 7D offers for $900 more is a bigger more comfortable body with a solid, but light magnesium alloy frame. Whereas the T2i is a great casual use dSLR, the 7D is a camera made to be used. With a self-cleaning sensor (it works!) to help prevent dust spots on your images, dust & weather sealed, incredibly fast 8 frames-per-second, larger buffer meaning you can take more photos before the camera starts slowing down, fast and sport 19-point autofocus system, and much more, you’re really get a great camera here. I’ve used the 7D extensively and the quality of the 1080p HD video is nothing less than fantastic! This the camera that you need if you have children and children in sports. With the quicker autofocus and high frame-rate, you can capture all the crucial sport moments without missing a beat!
Nikon D7000 ($1,195, body only) – This camera is a beast! Sure, it’s almost $500 more than the Canon EOS Rebel T2i, but when you see what the D7000 is packing, that extra $500 is a bargain! With 16.2 MP, Expeed 2 processor (Nikon’s equivalent to Canon’s Digic IV processor), 3.0-inch high resolution LCD, 1080p HD video, TWIN SD/SDHC/SDXC memory slots (a feature only seen on the top professional level dSLRs!), 39-point AF system, the ability to remotely trigger other Nikon Speedlights, and more! Nikon’s D7000 more aptly competes with Canon’s 7D meaning you can save $500 getting the same or better features by selecting the D7000! This camera is ideal for sport type situations or just chasing your 2-year old around the house. Also a great choice to take with you on trips.
Nikon D300s ($1,449, body only) – While the D7000 is a great camera, if you need that little extra “oomph”, the Nikon D300s is the right tool for the job. Certainly not as expensive as it’s more pro brothers, the D700 or the D3s, it holds its own quite well. With 12.3 MP, pro-level 51-point autofocus, CompactFlash & SD/SDHC slots, 720p HD video, ISO up to 6400, 3-inch high resolution LCD, and blazing fast 7 frames-per-second, this camera is smoking hot! Don’t fret that the D300s has almost 4 MP less than the cheaper D7000, the D300s will produce much cleaner images in lower light and the extra MP don’t make unless you’re printing 24″ x 36″ prints. Also another cool feature for the budding Strobists, the D300s built-in flash can trigger other Nikon Speedlights, an incredibly useful feature.
Now after buying that fancy camera, it’s time to get a lens to go with it. Most of the time the cameras can be purchased as a package that comes with a “kit lens” that generally is decent in build quality, performance, and image quality. I would recommend skipping the kit lens and instead purchase one the listed lenses below. While the price is certainly noticeable more expensive, the lenses are an investment which can always be used on another camera.
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM ($595.00) or Nikon AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II ($759.95) – These two lenses represent an excellent choice in terms of focal length as well as price. With 11x zoom, this is the ideal lens for carry around, general photography, travel photography, and more. The image stabilization on the Canon and the vibration reduction on the Nikon both do identical things, allow you to get less blurry shots in low light situations because of shaking hands and slow shutter speeds. If there ever was a general “do-everything” lens, this would be it.
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM ($1059) – This is part of Canon’s professional quality line of lenses known as a “L” lens. The build quality of this lens compared to the Canon EF-S 18-200mm is like night and day. The image quality, sharpness, and colors will simply blow you away. If you can afford this lens, I would highly recommend it as you won’t be sorry. Unfortunately since this lens was designed for full-frame sensors, on a crop-sensor camera like the T2i or 7D, you lose quite a bit of wide-angle. And to maintain the highest level of image quality, you also sacrifice some telephoto reach as well but what you get in image quality is well worth it. With a constant aperture of f/4, this lens will work great even in low light situations with the added advantage of image stabilization.
Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR ($1177.95) – This lens is the equivalent to Canon’s 24-105mm and similar features such as the same constant f/4 aperture and vibration reduction. Much of what was said about the Canon 24-105mm applies to the Nikon 24-120mm as well. Definitely a worthwhile investment if you use Nikon.
One of the most important things in photography is light. And while there are many people who are adamant “I don’t use flash” photographers for various reasons, one of the mains being that it doesn’t look natural and looks obviously flashed. But in my experience, it’s not the flash that makes the photos look unnatural, but rather how the flash is being used. But whatever the argument, it’s important to own at least one off-camera flash even if your camera has a built-on flash.
Canon 430EX II ($265, $15 INSTANT REBATE) – This is a great little flash that is perfect for most users in everyday situations. Works great in dimly lit locations or even for a nice sunny day as flash fill to avoid those ugly harsh sun shadows. The head can swivel in multi-directions to give you flexibility when doing flash bounce off a wall or ceiling. You can also use the 430EX II in what Canon calls “Slave mode” in which as Master unit can trigger it remotely. With some of the newer Canon cameras such as the 7D or 60D, you can use the camera’s on-board flash to remotely trigger the 430EX II. The only thing this Speedlite can’t do is work as Master unit allow you to trigger other Canon flashes with this flash.
Canon 580EX II ($414, $25 INSTANT REBATE) – This is the cream of the crop in Canon’s Speedlite flash line-up. This guy packs a wallop of light! With fast recycling, more power, support for Canon’s professional dSLR with 45-point auto focus, and ability to run as Master unit and trigger other Canon Speedlites wirelessly, you certainly want to save and get this one over the 430EX II above. Very versatile and the head, not only tilts, but rotates 180-degrees both ways.
Nikon SB-700 ($329) – This is Nikon’s replacement Speedlight to their popular SB-600. Portable, yet powerful, the SB-700 are a great affordable choice. Pick up a few of these and a SU-800 or SB-900 to trigger the SB-700′s and you have a formidable and portable studio lighting set. And if you use any number of prosumer/professional Nikon dSLR (like the D90 or D700), you can use the built-in flash to trigger these babies remotely.
Nikon SB-900 ($459) – This is Nikon’s powerhouse and professional grade flash that replaces the previous generation SB-800. Currently it is the strongest flash available for Nikon with the ability to cover 200mm focal length lenses! Very fast recycle times and can also be used as the Master unit when using Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS) of off-camera wireless flash. For most people, this flash is a bit much, but for those who need the power, there is no other flash.