Searching For that First DSLR 

Film then Digital

Digital technology has been around long enough that I occasionally overlook that there still are people who have never used anything but film cameras. I recently talked to a photographer who is finally ready to discard his old film camera and wondered which DSLR he should select.

He even sent me an email saying that regarding a camera; he would “need the whole meal deal.” I admit that I am not sure what he actually meant by that. I said to him that today’s modern technology cameras offer choices that are very different from his old film camera. As readers know, he is about to take a huge, creative step as he moves to digital.

He told me he has enjoyed photographing local rodeos. So what should be my advice to an aspiring rodeo photographer? Manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony, Fuji, and many more, all make cameras that will probably work fine for sports like rodeos.

I could start by suggesting he to go online and search out sport photographer sites for recommendations. Photographing sports is very technology driven and manufacturers are aggressively marketing to those photographers. He should begin by choosing a camera that is durable, and capable of taking some abuse, sturdy enough to be bumped around, because I think that’s a pretty rough and tumble (and dusty) world he’s participating in.

Both Canon and Nikon make professional cameras specifically designed for sports and the accompanying high ISO needed for low light, interior locations, that will focus almost any lens extremely fast, and are easily capable of high quality, excellent enlargements.

For fun I read up on professional rodeo photographer, Rick Madsen, who wrote, “Remember the camera is just a tool. When a hammer is used, it is the operator who makes it strike the nail. The same concept applies to a camera. It is just a tool and it’s what the photographer does with that tool that makes the difference between a good and a mediocre image. You must take the time to learn the camera’s operation and then utilize that acquired knowledge through practice to become proficient. You have to pay your dues.”

I personally would save my money on the camera and spend it on the lens, as my real concern would be to get a quality lens. A saying I have heard over and over in the many years I have been in this medium is that, “it’s all about the glass,” referring to the lens. And from my readings, most rodeo photographers recommend 70-200mm lenses, and I also think a 70-300mmm would fit the job also.

I hope he can find a good, well priced, used camera and a couple of quality lenses for it. He will be faced with so many choices and will receive many, many well meaning recommendations from other photographers that he’ll stay awake nights wondering what he’s got himself into. Nevertheless, I know he will be excited when he finally gets that first DSLR and embarks on the exciting journey as he learns how to use it.


10 responses to “Searching For that First DSLR 

  1. When I got my first DSLR I went from 5×4 and 6×17 to a Nikon D3 which was quite a leap and required a bit of reading up. If he is affluent I would think the best bodies at the moment are the Nikon D5 and D500, especially for autofocus, though that’s not reason by itself for going Nikon over Canon. If he’s still using manual lenses with his film cameras, he’ll be amazed what modern autofocus lenses can do on the right body. And if he picks up something like a D3s second hand he certainly won’t feel as though he’s missing out.


    • Photographers with lots of cash in their pocket aren’ the usual in my shop. I agree with you Murray, that the D5 & D500 are great. As are the latest Canon 5d and 6d offerings.
      As I mentioned, I suggest used. actually, I always suggest used with what new cameras cost here in Canada. For Nikon, the best deals are either the D300, D300s or any of the D7000 series. Right now I also really like the Canon 7D. However, there are also some great offerings by Pentax.
      As yes, as you wrote, “he’ll be amazed what modern autofocus lenses can do on the right body” Yes..absolutely!


      • I tend to forget about Pentax and hopefully they will stay around as they are one of the most vulnerable. I recently saw a review of their 100-400 lens (too long for rodeo) which showed it to be a better lens than those from Canon, Nikon or Fuji and for a reasonable price.


      • I also hope Pentax will stay around Murray.
        The company name has stayed the same in spite of the ownership changing a couple times.
        Ya know, the reviews on the newest DSL offering that I think has the same sensor as the D800, are grand. However, my favs are still Nikon and Fuji (and Canon in a pinch)


      • Ahh…that is so nice.
        I will look forward to yer thoughts on that X-Pro2. I really like the reviews.
        I have been trying to talk my wife into selling her D800 and move over to the Fuji. but alas, she ain’t biting.


      • I’m still exploring it. I haven’t had as much time as I might like to go out and take photographs but I have been using it for wildlife and live music.

        Its low light capability has impressed me. Have a look at this full-sized jpeg taken at 12,800 ISO.

        Another thing that surprised me is the Acros b&w film simulations. Have a look at these live music images. I took half of them seeing b&w through the viewfinder with the camera set to Acros + Yellow. They come into Lightroom as RAWs in colour of course. I optimised them in colour (mainly simple adjustments) and then applies the Acros+Ye filter in Lightroom. Nothing else for the b&w conversion.

        I’m heading for Guatemala, Cuba and the Caribbean in a few months and I’m expecting to find the optical finder very useful for street photography, especially in Cuba, with frame lines so you can see people walking in and out of the photo and an electronic blowup of the cursor point in the bottom left corner.

        The camera’s quite fast, perhaps more so when my UHS-II card arrives but the autofocus, though usable, is nowhere near as fast as my Nikons. It’s usually pretty accurate though when it latches on and the eye and face recognition seems useful. I haven’t tested the continuous autofocus modes out yet though.


      • Sorry Murray, I read this and wanted to think about my reply…..Then forgot..My apologies.

        I think using that camera for the quickly changing conditions one encounters with Wildlife photography, and especially the odd live music lighting you shoot under will give anyone a good understanding of what that camera will do.
        I am excited about the clarity you are getting at high ISO. Hmm…actually the “clarity” in general. That Kangaroo shot (I really enlarged it) is spectacular!
        Your B&W live music image conversions are great.
        I can’t be more pleased with what you are getting from your camera.
        I am glad you mentioned the focusing. I knew DSLR was faster. However, locking to a moving subject quickly could with practice, make up for that.
        I’ll be looking forward to your Cuba/Caribbean trip pictures.


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