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Where do I start?

Discussion in 'Help Team' started by Jedi, Apr 11, 2002.

  1. Jedi

    Jedi Active Member

    Hi All,

    I have recently gotten an urge to try my hand at a bit of photography, only problem is I have absolutley NO IDEA where to start! I'm looking through all these posts and it all goes straight over my head!

    Perhaps one of you guys can give me some advise on which camera/lens/film to try, bearing in mind I am a (very) poor student!!

    and about developing as well (can I get that done in a shop or should I do it at home?).

    I'd appreciate any comments.


    David Trembecki
  2. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Hi David, welcome to the insane asylum! /img/wwwthreads/smile.gif

    It might be helpful to us if we had some idea of your budget (I know, students =0!). If you're looking at SLRs rather than compacts or THE cheapest option - disposables then it might be worthwhile your looking at the Centon range sold by Jessops. Brand new a body with 50mm lens is under £100. There are always plenty of used examples floating about to save you even more. That lot'll please the Happy Hens. /img/wwwthreads/smile.gif

    You could always check out 2nd hand gear. The cheaper stuff is likely to be Pentax, Minolta and Canon manual focus gear. In good nick this will serve you well. Using manual equipment will better enable you to learn the basics than fancy AF gear too.

    As for film it depends what you're after; slide film is well served, goodies include Fuji Velvia (though its a slow film), Provia 100F, and Sensia. Also Kodak Elite Chrome extra colour. What you stick with will depend which colour rendition you like best so try different ones before making your mind up. For colour print there are such as Fuji Reala, Superia etc, and Kodak Gold types. The easiest B&W for a beginner is likely to be on e of the C41 films that any high st. lab can develop for you.

    You work your life away and what do they give?
    You're only killing yourself to live.
  3. Jonny

    Jonny Well-Known Member

    Hi David,

    You're correct - it's all very confusing & there's lots of it. Firstly go & buy a second hand, manual SLR made by Nikon/Canon/Pentax/Minolta. Look for quality not the best features - it could be a 25 year old camera. A decent one will cost anywhere between £100 - £300. Make sure it has a 50mm lens at f1.8 or f2. This is considered the standard lens. If you don't find photography that interesting at least you've got a decent camera. There are lots of online 2nd hand camera stores - Ffordes, Mr.Cad, Ace Cameras etc. There may even be one local to you. To help with your decision surf the net to get reviews, opinions, manuals - you'll find loads. Trust me by 10 o/clock tonight there will be 20 posts here suggesting which model. I use Olympus which is relatively cheap & good quality but has ceased production so I'd hesitate to push you in that direction. If you get into photography you can develop your system of trade in & upgrade. That's why it's good to stick with the big companies.

    Next go & buy some print film (ISO 100 speed). Fuji Superia & Kodak Royal are good ones. You can get them developed at the supermarket as well which is nice and easy. Slide films & B&W are used by more experienced photographers & you can develop into them (not in years, more like weeks). They also have to be sent to a specialist lab to be developed. Every film has it's own characteristics that people argue about endlessly. All personal taste. Even Superia & Royal will look different. You'll need to experiment on the film front.

    Next get a beginners book on photography - there are lots of them & I wouldn't recommend one specifically. Reading it you'll find out the mechanics behind exposure, light measurement, focal lengths, composition, depth of field etc.

    Last step is to go out & burn lots of film. Take a look a your photos & try to assess them critically. Then go shoot more film! Ask questions in forums, read, look at the work of top professionals & ask yourself why the picture is good.

    There are many online photo forums many of which are very supportive of novices - beware though as some will treat your questions with derision - use them. The more you get into photography the more questions you have but the questions are more specific. Just keep shooting & asking questions!!

    Have fun.

  4. Lounge_Lizard

    Lounge_Lizard Well-Known Member


    Some questions for you:

    1) What is the reason behind your 'urge'? Do want to make a career out of it? Do you just want to while away a few lonely evenings doing something creative? Are you planning just to take holiday snaps

    2) What sort of things are you planning to photograph or would like to photograph - people, landscapes, natural history, close-up etc.?

    3) What do you plan to do with your pictures - make enlargements to frame, have prints to show friends, build up a portfolio?

    4) What sort of budget are you working to?

    5) Have you investigated whether your place of study has a photographic society? If so, they might have a darkroom and there might be expertise you can learn from?

    Answering these questions might help to determine exactly what you want to do and help us to focus (excuse the pun!) our responses.

  5. Jedi

    Jedi Active Member

    Tim, Jon, David Thanks for your help it is much appreciated.

    To answer your questions....

    Budget is around £100-150

    I'm not looking to make a career out of it, but want to document what I see around me and I suppose I want to do something creative (I can't draw /img/wwwthreads/smile.gif ) and I'm planning just to use my pictures for personal use.

    2nd hand sounds sensible, I'm allways looking for a bargin , but what about reliability issues/repair costs?

  6. Lounge_Lizard

    Lounge_Lizard Well-Known Member

    Buying second-hand sounds like the best bet. As already recommended here, a good manual SLR with a standard lens i.e. 50mm or thereabouts would be the best bet. Go for a top Japanese make like Pentax, Minolta, Olympus or Canon. Nikon is another possibility but likely to be dearer since they concentrated mostly on the professional market many years ago. An exception would be the Nikon EM but this is/was a cheap plastic camera as Nikon's first attempt into the amateur market at the time. Avoid used Prakticas or Zenits.

    For your budget, look at Pentax K1000, Pentax ME Super, Canon AE-1 Program, Olympus OM1/2, Minota XD7 etc. These cameras won't have autofocus and will have minimal automation but will give results every bit as good as a modern camera and probably better since a prime lens will generally give better results than the zoom lenses that seem to be the 'in' trend these days.

    Take your time, look around, compare prices and buy from a dealer who offers a guarantee (Jessops will give a 12-month warranty on used gear). Avoid cameras that look dirty, have bits of brass showing, dented, no lens caps - it shows that the camera hasn't been cared for. If you buy one of the models mentioned, third-party manuals should be available.

    At the same time, see if you can buy a good s/h thyristor flash with a bounce facility like the Vivitar 283.

    The important thing when starting out in photography is to remember that photography is all about creating good images - it isn't about having the latest whizz-bang do-everything camera. Though I have some high-tech gear, I get the most photographic pleasure from simple no-nonsense equipment where it is me making the camera work for me and not the camera trying to do things without my input.

  7. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Aha! That's better, David. There are as many answers to your original question as there are people here - no, actually probably ten times as many answers. But when you start to narrowe it down, by budget if nothing else, it gets a lot easier.

    I'll start with your most recent question - reliability and repair costs of second hand gear. Almost all my gear (and I've got a huge amount, far too much, in fact!) is second hand, and I can't remember the last time I bought a camera that didn't work properly. No, I tell a lie, I can. It was 20 years ago, from a "Cash Converters" type place (although much less reputable!), and the shutter jammed intermittently. They gave me a full refund. If you buy from a dealer, you'll get typically a six month or even year's guarantee, and the kit should be in a decent condition anyway. Repair costs can be high, but I've only ever had to repair cameras damaged by falling or knocks etc, never due to mechanical failure. Touch wood.

    Now, that's a tough budget, depending on what you want to do. You'll be able to get a manual focus SLR and a 50mm standard lens second hand for that (or even a new one, as long as you don't mind Chinese cameras from Jessops - they have a choice of two Centon models), or a brand new zoom compact that'll give great snaps but no user control, making it hard to do anything creative, or you could get an old autofocus SLR and lens, but they're less useful for learning on. I personally would go for a second-hand Minolta, Pentax or Olympus manual focus cameras - all quality makes often available for a sensibly low second-hand price. But we can give you a lot more detailed advice on actual camera choice later.

    Nick BSRIPN
  8. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    "Avoid used Prakticas" - why? I can't think of a much better learning tool, solidly built, excellent lenses, and you could get a complete outfit - say camera and three lenses - within the budget, or just buy a camera and standard lens and spend the rest on film, developing and beer. OK, so they're not trendy, but I still love using my Prakticas even now.

    Grumpy of Warwickshire

    Nick BSRIPN
  9. dogbyte

    dogbyte In the Stop Bath

    20 posts suggesting which model - phew - well here goes!
    I've bored everyone stupid before by banging on about the CanonEOS600, but just in case anyone's still awake:
    I bought a second one recently as I couldn't see the need for the the more recent bodies like the 1 and 3. I paid £125. It has full manual control as well as autofocus. So you can do just about anything - aperture priority to concentrate on just a part of the scene, shutter priority to capture movement, exposure compensation to correctly expose in difficult light, being the most important probably. In DOESN'T have a built in flash which could be an issue, but small flashes can be quite disappointing anyway.
    A Canon zoom lens of 28 or 35 to 70mm, or a prime of 50mm (mk2) might be about £50 secondhand so it takes you slightly over, but you will have really good and versatile kit. I'd hesitate about the prime lens if you're doing a range of subjects because landscapes tend to look better towards the 28mm end whereas people tend to look better towards 70mm upwards. You'll see plenty of nice images in Amateur Photographer shot on zooms.
    Try www.7dayshop for camera books and in particular Basic Photography by Michael Langford which is a standard textbook.
    Slide film is desirable but then you've got to find the money and inclination for a projector and screen.
    Like the others I wouldn't worry at all about buying 2nd hand from a dealer.
  10. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    If buying a second hand AF camera at this budget, the EOS 600 is the one to buy. Very solid, superb camera.

    Nick BSRIPN
  11. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    The Olmypus's are undoubtedly very fine, but the prices are going up right now. The OM10 is probably the cheapest "good" model. It may be worth looking at lesser OMs like the 30 and 40. These don't seem to be much loved unlike some of the others.
    As for brassing, I don't really agree with you there David. It could show that a camera has been abused, but equally it could simply indidcate that the body has been well loved and used over a long period. Among Leica users black paint bodies with a bit of brass showing are a mark of distinction. /img/wwwthreads/smile.gif

    You work your life away and what do they give?
    You're only killing yourself to live.
  12. Lounge_Lizard

    Lounge_Lizard Well-Known Member

    I've seldom come across a used Praktica that is perfect. I think that people only sell them when they no longer work properly.

  13. Lounge_Lizard

    Lounge_Lizard Well-Known Member

    Brassing to me means well-used, maybe worn out. Given the choice, I'd go for the camera that has had light usage. If a camera has been used enough to show brass then it is also likely that some internal mechanics are equally well worn and little problems like not winding on properly or dodgy metering may surface.

    If you're a collector and know the model well then maybe you'd take the risk but if you are buying your first camera and want to concentrate on photography rather than camera repairs, then I'd recommend finding a camera that has had a light amateur usage.

  14. Lounge_Lizard

    Lounge_Lizard Well-Known Member


    However, a manual focus camera (not EF-M!) might have decent DoF markings on the lens barrel - useful for learning photography.

  15. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Yeah, I have noticed a few nails around recently, but there are still a fair few decent ones sound. I bought my MTL5b about four years ago, and it's actually one of the best condition s/h cameras I've ever bought. There are some pretty ropey Praktica bayonet cameras around in particular, but in the last week I've seen decent ones for about £30 in a variety of places, and a working (but lousy condition, with the plastic bits missing off the wind-on lever etc.) BX20 for £9.99!
    Probably not the easiest area for a newbie to look.
    Nikon FMs and FEs are beginning to hit this price range now, the latter sometimes with a lens!

    Nick BSRIPN
  16. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    No, I'm with Tim on this. Brassing tends to just mean a soft original finish, particularly with black cameras. Dents are far more worrying, as there is often hidden internal damage, as is significant scratching around the tripod bush or motordrive couplings - those are sure-fire signs of heavy use, certainly more of a turn-off than brassing.

    Nick BSRIPN
  17. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Agreed, David, that's why I would go for a Manual Focus SLR. Bui at least the EOS 600 has a depth of field preview, unlike the K1000........nothing like this sort of question to get us going!

    Nick BSRIPN
  18. dogbyte

    dogbyte In the Stop Bath

    Can always use tables - now where have I seen that before!!!
  19. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Not that one again, PLEASE!!!!/img/wwwthreads/wink.gif

    Nick BSRIPN
  20. dogbyte

    dogbyte In the Stop Bath

    What about a bit of brass around the monmatre Nick?

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