Photography Comments

Loads of photography resources on the net, the best of course being Greenspuns Singaporean enthusiasts are also quite active on the net too.

One day, after I get a slide scanner, I shall start a photo webpage :) But maybe I'll just post a few opinions on camera buying.

What brand camera to buy?

My short answer: Canon or Nikon. ('C/N')

Critics reply: I bet you can't tell the difference between a photo shot with a Nikon and a photo shot with a Pentax. I can concede that, and still stick to my recommendation. The truth is, I started off as a poor struggling student with a Pentax. Later, I realised that you're not just buying a particular camera, you're buying a System. When you buy a Pentax, you're buying into the Pentax system, when you buy a Nikon, you're buying into the Nikon system. So a critical criteria I left out in evaluating my purchase was the system as a whole. Because equipment is not swappable across manufacturers, buying a camera is a potentially lifelong relationship.

Within Nikon & Canon, you have a full range of lenses, flashes and accessories to choose from. Further, you have 3rd party manufacturers who also produce products for C/N. Theoretically, they produce products for Pentax/Minolta/Olympus too but these products are hard to find in Singapore (especially in the shops that sell equipment cheaply - they have low margins, so they can't afford to have inventory sitting on the shelf).

I am discounting build quality because plastic lenses etc are perfectly acceptable for hobbyists (sure, I like the feel of solid Nikon lenses). My Pentax 28-80 is plastic and uh, non-essential parts are dropping off though the lens still works. Kind of unsettling though. Performance quality can also be discounted (I think), metering systems are all generally competent, and C/N autofocus systems may be a tiny bit faster/smoother but you get what you pay for. Also, dust and dirt seems to get into my Pentax more easily than it does into my Nikon...

Its really not that non-C/N manufacturers are 'bad', far from it. (I can admit that the Nikon F50 is a rather crappy camera). Its just that the upgrade path is far easier when you have a C/N.

OK, so Canon or Nikon?
I can't answer this one for you. I'm pretty sure you won't be unhappy with whatever choice you have, and either company will be looking at what the other is doing and will certainly copy the other's features if it seems to be popular. Canon has things like multiple eye point focusing, Nikon has its D-lens and SB-26 (SB-28 identical) flash system. I bought the Nikon in part because of their flash system (and the wonderful reviews of the original SB-24 by working pros), and also because I feel reassured by the 'built like a tank' feel. (its probably just a feel, I'm not saying that the Canon is less rugged).

Currently, if you can only afford a budget camera, Canon appears to be the only game around with a few nice budget models. Hopefully, there will be an upgrade path up to the high-end Canons (provided they don't go and change the lens mounts). Nikon's entry model is the F50 but sigh, for the price it really doesn't have many features. Nikons start getting good with the F70 (but then since I own 1, I might be biased) and then the F90x. Nikon lenses are generally backward and forward compatible.

For lenses, I would stick to original manufacturer lenses unless they have incredible price tags (yes, a lot of them do). But lenses like the standard 28-70mm f3.5-4.5, it would do well to stick with the original manufacturer. Also, most if not all complainants about 3rd party lenses appear to be directed towards their budget zooms. You'll be pretty safe with their fixed focal length lenses (its pretty hard to make a bad one nowadays).
Oh yeah, I now realise how essential it is to have a 28mm lens. If you have a choice between 28-70 or 35-135 as your standard, I can tell you that the 28-70 is a better choice than the 35-135. Also, looking at the lens test archive, the 35-100+ lenses aren't that hot on optical quality.