MARCH, 2021



In my previous article, I recognized “limitations with my camera” not being able to produce the photographic returns I expected. In this column, we’ll touch on what I consider to be equipment that will produce excellent results without being frivolous thereby placing a strain on your budget.

Realizing my instamatic camera needed to be discarded due to it’s inadequacy, I borrowed and rented several second hand 35mm cameras on the market to find the model that most closely represented my needs. I experimented with Canon, Nikon, Pentax as starting points, and from there, branched out to several generic models (cameras labelled with departmental store names), and less popular 35mm cameras. Afterwards, I decided to return to brand name companies because of my extensive test procedures, (particularly when referring to optical quality) which delivered better results from well recognized companies as opposed to generic lens manufacturers. In 1974 I purchased my first 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) “professional camera” and was sitting on top of the world! The quantity of lenses, motor drives, prism finders and accessories I could select from was remarkable coming from an instamatic product. It was a big step upwards and certainly the most sensible one I made in photography regarding gaining the ability to accurately preview imagery of the scene/person prior to creating the exposure. To digress momentarily, one can easily become obsessed in their buying habits pertaining to general photographic paraphernalia. I decided that the best route to follow was to learn how my camera operated inside/out using only a standard 50mm lens. This lens performed admirably and was used for many photographic applications during my introductory months of image creation and general testing with this new product. After an undisclosed period of time, I realized this lens did not accurately represent my overall particular style of vision, but was certainly a lens noteworthy in itself and one to be frequented often in the future. This led to experimentation with subsequent lenses as a method of obtaining further refinement in seeing. (I will discuss thoroughly in upcoming articles, features of lenses currently available pertaining to portrait lenses and lenses of commercial application).

A good starting point for beginner photographers would be to purchase a camera that includes a short range zoom lens of approximately 28-85mm for general purpose photography, an ultra violet filter to protect the lens from debris and maximize clarity, a camera body that permits interchangeable lenses including complete manual and automatic exposure, and a portable manual/automatic flash system that’s compatible with your camera. (Please refer to my previous article titled “Determining your camera needs” for an expanded list of features pertinent to camera bodies). When determining your initial equipment requirements, the reader would be well advised to consider the ever expanding second hand market place. As mentioned, I chose to revert to original brand name equipment simply out of a matter of personal preference. This should not prevent the reader from researching local and out-of-town stores, newspaper/computer listings, and private sales for used alternate brands of equipment, that you can often locate at a fraction of the cost. Depending upon your requirements, whether it be brand name or generic, you are most definitely going to recognize considerable savings purchasing second hand. To elaborate briefly regarding second hand optics, I would encourage the reader to fully understand the importance of selecting good quality second hand lenses. Always choose lenses, (in comparison to camera bodies), which appear to be in very fine condition. Prioritize your lens requirements making them a high level of importance on your list when making a selection of used gear. Camera bodies are capable of sustaining more physical abuse (to a certain extent) as opposed to lenses. If the lens barrel is chipped, dented, scraped, and includes unusual markings on optical surfaces, you would be wise to disregard lenses with these characteristics and select other’s of more credibility. Lenses which resemble and include poor cosmetic appearance, have most likely been treated inappropriately by the previous owner. Inquire if the used camera/lens comes with a warranty when purchasing from reputable camera stores. A modest 30 day warranty will provide the buyer ample time to conduct testing procedures before making a commitment to ownership. If you are purchasing a used zoom lens, examine the lens carefully to see if the zoom barrel slips downwards when aiming your camera towards the ground, indicating a realignment and tightening repair may be inevitable in the immediate future. I purchased my first camera as a new product because I have a tendency to retain equipment for a considerably long period of time and consequently, will put extensive amounts of film through it over the years. If you’re a hobbyist or making pictures only on specific occasions, purchasing from the second hand market place may be the best route for you. It is economical, practical, and will usually more than satisfy the part time novice at a fraction of the initial expenditure.

In addition, it is likely you will want to acquire a longer focal length zoom lens for distance imagery, a macro/micro lens for close up photography, and perhaps a tripod as time goes by. If you invest in the before mentioned introductory equipment as a package in comparison to making individual purchases, your chances of obtaining a better price should improve. Whether you decide on purchasing a camera that has auto or manual focus, automatic/manual exposure control, multiple metering systems is at your discretion. It is my goal to provide you with experienced advice that I have acquired over years of image creating which will improve your levels of success immeasurably as opposed to constant trial and error methods. I have unquestionably found that extravagant features on a camera are unnecessary if they are not going to benefit you regarding producing better photographs. The old expression “less is more” is a statement of validity to this day. Alternately, if you choose to “not develop” a good understanding of the specific functions of your camera and what they will do for you, you would probably be wiser investing your money in film/memory cards and experimenting with the various automatic exposure modes while employing several compositions with a basic inexpensive model.

I have compiled a detailed list of features below that one should look for prior to making a purchase that I hope will benefit the reader.

Recommended camera body features include:

* manual and automatic exposure control systems
* depth of field preview button
* exposure compensation scale
* self timer
* multiple exposure switch/lever allowing you to place several images on one frame
* tripod socket
* cable release socket/attachment
* lighted control dial/LCD window
* multiple area metering system including spot, centre weighted and matrix
* pc socket for remote flash operation
* batteries that are accessible in any store
* ISO film speed manual adjustment control
* internal viewfinder blind to block extraneous light from entering the viewfinder which can alter your set exposure
* full auto and manual focus control pertaining to all lenses be it brand name or generic
* Other features on most film product models include auto advance/rewind, and power winders that advance by single frame or continuous action.

In my next article I will discuss the characteristics of shutter speeds and their applications under varying photographic conditions.

With Good Wishes…

Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio, Ottawa

Previous post: