I am in the market for a camera for general photography of buildings, and also food photography. I am looking for something that is a solid, mid-range camera. I do not want the bottom of the barrel, but I also do not need a completely professional camera. I have heard that Canon EOS are a very good line. Can anyone recommend a good, solid, DSLR brand and model of camera for someone like me who is not a photography pro, but wants some room to grow? Thanks!
You can't go wrong with a Canon. Canon and Nikon are the best bets if you want a good quality camera, IMO. It really depends on your budget though, at least if you want a DSLR. My GF is a photographer and uses a Canon 7D (~$1500 USD), but just one of her lenses costs well over that alone. If you want to do food photography, I know that a lens with a low aperture is good (you can get a 50mm f/1.4). A fixed focal length probably isn't bad for shooting buildings either though. I think a wide angle lens is also key, but I'm not sure how they run.
Again, it all depends on budget, but I think you can get a decent SLR and functional lenses for not too much money. Basically, I would set a spend limit, and then look at whatever Canon/Nikon gear falls into that.
Oh, another tip: Buy in Hong Kong if you can to avoid taxes. When my GF spent something ridiculous like $2000 on a lens, she saved a ton by buying it there.
jpasny, thank you. That is very helpful. I have heard that food photography needs a macro lens. Do you know if that is true?
I think it depends a lot on how close you want to go, but for really, really closeup work a macro lens would be the thing. If you Google the subjects you'll find a lot of comments on the same.
Jopasny makes a good point about price. These lenses can be expensive. I'm using a Sigma combination that has 70-300 mm zoom plus macro and it's matched to my Canon DSLR. It's a heavy lens!
The other thing that would be important is lighting. I have the Canon Speedflash which is really amazing and is such a quick burst of light that it will stop action. Food is not known to be moving around much though.
Ah yes, then there's lighting... yeah, photography can be an expensive hobby, or profession for that matter. There's also the option of continuous lighting with LED lamps, but again, you're talking about potentially more than one, and quite a variance in price. I imagine a speedflash would do the trick.
A macro lens would definitely be good for food photography though, if you want a close up perspective.
Out of curiosity, are you planning on working jobs as a photographer, or is it just kind of for fun?
Well, there is not one right answer. As you're based in Kunming, I'd go with a Canon or Nikon. There are other good cameras which pack a ton of features for a good price (Pentax!!!) but it's hard to get good glass (lenses) for those down here.
Good, now that we have established which brand you should use (you said DSLR, so I'm leaving out all the good micro 4/3rds) there is the question of which body to buy. My tip: go cheaper on the body, but a good prime lens (fixed focal length) from Canon or Nikon. If you don't know the market (aaaand people will hate me for what I'm about to say next) steer clear of Tamrons and Sigmas, especially for food photography, there is too much "crap" floating around. That said, Canon and Nikon produce below average glass as well.
Which brings us to the next point: Kit-Lenses. You shouldn't get one, but you definitely should get one. Kit lenses do not offer the same image quality as "good", prime lenses do. However, they usually are zoom lenses which gives you the opportunity to test out your favorite focal length.
Ah, focal length... if you get a cheaper DSLR, you're in for what's called a crop-sensor. Don't worry it's not gonna hurt and yes, it is cropping your images, but not resizing them. For a crop-sensored DSLR the first prime lens (see how I keep pushing that nice prime on to you?) you would get a 28mm - 35mm, which achieves the image appearance of about 50mm standard lens (50mm covers about the radius of human sight and is visually most pleasing... not my words and only true in certain situations). The problem is that those 28mm lenses are more expensive than a good nifty-fifty (jopasny correctly pointed out the Canon 50mm f1.4 USM).
For food photography a macro is not necessary (that actually could look gross as you might be getting too close for comfort with your food). I think a good, fast wide-angle lens should serve you well (fast refers to the amount of light which is able to pass through your lens on the largest aperture). However, as those fairly expensive you're in the market for an external flash - or/and - a good (none of that cheap Hong Kong crap they sell to tourists) tripod.
The internal camera flashes are not really usefull. Sure, they'll allow you to "get the shot", but too often, you'll have a blown highlight or washed out colors or an uneven exposure. I guess they're ok for parties and stuff, but "real" photos? ehhh....
Then, if you want to get a flash, make sure that your body allows syncing to that flash, so you don't have to have it on the hotshoe (above the camera) all the time, but can position it at an angle to your subject for a more even exposure and nicer shadows.
OK, nor for the important part, which brand... Nikon or Canon? If you're new to the game, check which brand suits you best. Go to a store and do some window shopping.
Then, to the even more important part that not a lot of "outside" people know about. Canon has not changed it's image sensor in consumer cameras for the last three years... the only upgraded the image processing chip. That means one thing: Cheaper Secondhand Bodies.
If I were in the same position, I'd try and get a used EOS 600d (or anything above a 550d if it's dirt cheap, especially as you are interested in photography and not videography) for "small" bucks and then slap an expensive, fast piece of glass in front of that sensor (that famed 50mm should be too long for for food photography, maybe even architecture as well, so I'd get something wider - remember, that you're getting a crop-sensor camera).
Getting all that stuff in Kong Kong is a vital tip as well, not only because it's cheaper, but because you can get more stuff there, as well as an interested, helpful and understanding shop assistant who will not think less of you for buying a 2 year old, second-hand camera.
Then, after some time has passed (two years or three) and you haven't had your camera in "Auto" mode for at least a year, because, you know, that damn things always screws up my exposure by 0.2 and I know that I can still hold that cam stable at 1/32 - so don't always push my aperture... ..., you might start to feel limited. That's the point where you can get a new body, but still use that one, amazing good lens you got when you bought your camera (by that time, Canon might or might not have come up with a newer sensor?).
There's only one more thing to say: Go find a Nikon fanboy who says, that what I told you, is just utter bull%&!# and Nikon is THE brand to get.
After that, there's only one more thing to say: Go find a Sony fanboy who says, that what I told you, is just utter bull%&!# and Sony is THE brand to get.
And for now, I shall not continue this exercise, as there is not one correct answer, just pointers
I've been in the market for a camera myself. lots of folks with DSLRs complain that they're big and bulky and the new trend seems to be toward micro 4/3rds cameras as they're much more compact and have almost as much capability as DSLRs. And they're cheaper too.
If budget is a consideration, you could consider a bridge camera. Bigger than a compact, but smaller than a DSLR and much cheaper than the latter.
I have done food photography with a basic bridge camera. Most now can take picture up to 14mp, some 20mp. This is more than enough pixels for most uses, except perhaps billboards.
Most also have a macro facility. I would suggest you will want a macro lens, unless you want to spend time cropping larger images taken from further away, with the subsequent drop in quality.
I also takes shots of ship modelling, under construction. Even though the models are large (about 1m) I often use the macro lens if I am less than 30cm from the subject. My camera also has supermacro (less than 1cm) that is useful photographing flower heads and insects.
Unless you are photographing at night, or in a dark space, natural lighting is usually enough for non professional use. You can also but the cheap light reflectors to bounce/reflect light in, to highlight areas that are in shade.
The only limitation I have found, as an amateur photographer, is the speed at which the camera 'wakes up'. Mine is an old one and takes up to 2 seconds, frustrating if you want to take snapshots when out an about, and the camera is not on, or has gone into 'sleep mode' to save battery. Modern bridge cameras can be much faster, and DSLRs faster still.
It is easy to get seduced by a DSLr, but having carried around an SLR and 3 lenses, and flash gun, for many years, the ease of carrying and using a bridge camera (some now have 30x optical zoom) is a winner for me.
I got a Sony NEX-7 earlier this year and I love it. There is a good range of lenses available at this point, pretty much anything an enthusiast could possibly need. It's also super small and light for such a high quality camera. Great for travel.
I don't consider myself a skilled photographer, but can still capture good shots. Here's some examples in a variety of lighting conditions: dalibars.com/photos-the-lijiang-tianyu-music-festival/
Another similar camera that people rave about is the FujiFilm X-Pro1
Dan. Nice pics.
Bloody nice camera, although not cheap.
Does the camera have a macro facility?