SLR's Digital or Film - advice wanted !

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Gavin Gration
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Joined: Jul 29 1999

During the next few months I am looking into buying an SLR camera for commercial use - specifically for Wedding photography.

Initially I thought a Digital Camera would be OK - but I don't have a 5K budget. The more I read and ask people about it the more I think a good 35mm SLR will do the job a whole lot better - but I know nothing about traditional photography, lenses, backs, film etc to make a informed decision on kit.

A friend has a complete EOS1 kit with an array of lenses that I can use for a few months to see if I like it - plus a photographer friend (also with an EOS 1) has offered to let me double up on some of his Wedding jobs to build up my knowledge.

I bought loads of photography mags (pro & amateur) plus a couple of books but most of the info is bland & doesn't provide me with anything I can make sense of.

Do I really need a film camera ?

Can I get away with a Digital unit like the upcoming Fuji S2 ?

Will a used EOS1 kit for about a grand be any better than say a new Minolta Dynax for less than £500.00 ?

I am aware that many wedding photographers use large format film cameras - but more and more seem to be using 35mm cameras & still charge top prices - I haven't found any yet that are using fully digital kit.

I've met loads of photographers over the years - surprisingly a few claim to know nothing about the technical aspects of their "craft" - One told me "I am an artist if it looks right in the viewfinder I just push the button" - others go mad with light meters, reflectors & annoying assistants that are programmed to run around and wreck the video (ooops !! - forgive my rant).

The post production side of film frightens me - like Forrest Gump said, "You never know what you're gonna get". I am so used to seeing what I'm gonna get that I would prefer to use a digital camera & view/treat my shots prior to having them printed. Do professional photo labs now deal with CF/Microdrives like they do film ?

Can you get proper insurance for using a DSC instead of film ?

Any links & info would be appreciated - especially for WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY.

Gavin

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DV Ed
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Joined: Jun 10 2002

I seem to remember that a ASA 200 film is equilivent to a 19 Mpix image. So Even the best digital cameras are some way off. Not only that I expect its far cheaper to create and publish real prints thant it would be to print from digital methods. You could also get some very impressive gear for the price of that you would pay for a digital setup. Unless you plan to end up with a digital format of some kind, its probably best to stay with film. Just take rolls of film at each event, you are guaranteed to get some good ones

Ed

petermillard
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Joined: May 11 1999

Hi.

Lots of questions here, so bear with me - it'll be a lengthy reply...

I am looking into buying an SLR camera for commercial use - specifically for Wedding photography.

Initially I thought a Digital Camera would be OK - but I don't have a 5K budget. The more I read and ask people about it the more I think a good 35mm SLR will do the job a whole lot better - but I know nothing about traditional photography, lenses, backs, film etc to make a informed decision on kit.

Well, skirting around the vexed question of whether someone who "...knows nothing about traditional photography ..." (point of fact; aside from the 'medium of capture' digital photography is just like 'traditional' photography!) should be trying to take on one of the most challenging jobs a photographer can attempt (part circus ringmaster, part diplomat, part court jester, part equerry - oh, and you have to take the pictures as well...) then the basic question comes down to which you're most comfortable with and how much money you want to invest.

I'm not going to try and give you any final advise, because there's lots to consider and that decision has to be yours, but, particularly for wedding and social photography the trend is very much heading towards digital capture, for all the usual reasons; speed, ease of use, general sense of well-being that comes from knowing you've got the shot, and so on. Add to this the fact that you can quickly and easily take out the hicky on the groom's chin, soften the wrinkles around the bride's mother's eyes, and clean up the Groom's father's teeth and it becomes a no-brainer.

The post production side of film frightens me - like Forrest Gump said, "You never know what you're gonna get". I am so used to seeing what I'm gonna get that I would prefer to use a digital camera & view/treat my shots prior to having them printed. Do professional photo labs now deal with CF/Microdrives like they do film ?

Ironically, the post-production side of film is probably easier than digital, simply because there is a huge installed base of labs and other support companies that already exists for photographers shooting film - far larger than is currently available with digital. Yes, there are professional labs that will take your CF cards, microdrives and CDs and return them to you with your pictures printed on 'real' photographic paper, but there are far more labs that will do the same thing from film. So, if convenience of a local lab is important, then check out what your local labs are offering as it may sway your decision...

OTOH, digital brings other opportunities - companies like everybodysmile will post your (digital) wedding pictures to a website where the bride and groom, their family, aunty Joan in New Zealand etc.. can view them and order prints, dispensing with the whole 'wedding proofs' scenario.

Don't underestimate the amount of post-production work you'll have to do when shooting digitally, though; pictures do not (or rarely, anyway) come out of the camera with perfect levels, a well-sorted curve and correctly sharpened for the output device of your choice!

Do I really need a film camera? Can I get away with a Digital unit like the upcoming Fuji S2 ?

No, and, yes, easily - based on the preview images available so far from the second generation pro-sumer cameras (D60, D100 and S2), then really, 'get away with' is not the term I would use.... I know of a wedding and portrait photographer who uses an Olympus E10 with great success; she holds it in particularly high regard because of its quietness, lightness and overall discretion - something to think about when you're trying to grab candid shots during the service...

I don't want to get into a big debate (again!) about 'film vs digital' quality; I've said before on this board that for me (and lots of other working photographers) the quality of digital images matched or surpassed film long ago - if others feel diferently, then fine, we'll agree to disagree. Do your own research, and run some tests, see what works for you. (BTW, I recently saw a 20x30 print from a Canon D30 of a very tricky subject (square-rigged sailing ship, lots of diagonal lines in the rigging) which was simply stunning. Certainly, I would never entrust a shot of that size to a 35mm SLR were I shooting film...)

Will a used EOS1 kit for about a grand be any better than say a new Minolta Dynax for less than £500.00 ?

As a working tool, generally yes. The Minolta simply lacks the level of professional support that Canon and Nikon have - albeit not necessarily from the manufacturer. Need a supewide or ultra-long lens for a job? You can hire a Nikon or Canon almost anywhere, but you're on your own with the Minolta. Same goes for repairs and service.

I am aware that many wedding photographers use large format film cameras - but more and more seem to be using 35mm cameras & still charge top prices - I haven't found any yet that are using fully digital kit.

You're not looking in the right places. Try these as a starting point...
www.everybodysmile.co.uk
the forums at www.robgalbraith.com
and the D1scussion forum here http://nooper.com/lists/lyris.pl?sub=232060&id=180714118
and also the professional forums at www.dpreview.com

There are some others, but I'll have to dig out the details and post later...

Can you get proper insurance for using a DSC instead of film ?

Not sure what you mean by 'Proper' insurance? As a photographer I'm covered by the usual Public Liability insurance, and the equipment covered under an all risks policy. Or did you mean cover for the lab accidentally screwing up your film, the microdrive losing all your images etc..?

The last thing to think about is price; Digital SLRs are still expensive compared to film bodies - and you really do need two, just in case one dies. OTOH, they are coming down in price, especially the 1st generation DSLRs. I've just seen a Canon D30 for £800 + VAT (ex-demo from a dealer, full warranty) which has to be a bit of a bargain if you're a Canon user...

Sorry for the long post - hope it helped.

Best,

Peter.

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Peter Millard
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peter@petermillard.com

Peter Millard
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peter@petermillard.com

Gavin Gration
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Joined: Jul 29 1999

Thanks for your detailed & knowledgable response Peter - that's exactly the kind of info I was looking for.

Gavin

BTW - Great piccy's on your website

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Keitht
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Joined: Jan 8 2001

Another question to consider rather than an answer I'm afraid. It seems to be fairly common these days to have requests for 16" x 10" or larger on canvas. Will a digital image scale up to those sort of sizes? and are there many places about to produce them?

Regards Keith

petermillard
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Joined: May 11 1999

Gavin.

No problem for the info - and thanks for the comments...

Keitht

Yep, getting large prints from any of the cameras mentioned above is simply not an issue. Check out some of the online processing companies and see what resolution images they ask for; most of the time it works out to around 150ppi - and sometimes less...

HTH

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Peter Millard
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peter@petermillard.com

Peter Millard
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peter@petermillard.com

Gavin Gration
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Joined: Jul 29 1999

quote:Originally posted by Keitht:
Another question to consider rather than an answer I'm afraid. It seems to be fairly common these days to have requests for 16" x 10" or larger on canvas. Will a digital image scale up to those sort of sizes? and are there many places about to produce them?

That's assuming the bride is a suitable candidate for a large canvas image

And before anyone asks - Yes I am fully aware (and often reminded) that I myself am no oil painting

Gavin

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Keitht
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Joined: Jan 8 2001

quote:Originally posted by Gavin Gration:
That's assuming the bride is a suitable candidate for a large canvas image

Some weddings I've seen the bride needs a large (wide) image for a variety of reasons.

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Regards

Keith

Regards Keith

Anonymous

Hi Gavin

I didn't bother reading all of these replys, just your post.

My advice is this, if you have that sort of budget, don't bother with 35mm (digital or film) for weddings as you will get laughed at and the couple hiring you will be disapointed when you turn up holding what looks just like there camera.

Yes they do give good results up to 10x8 (which is all most wedding pics end up as in an album), but we are talking professionalism here, and I'm affraid 35mm just dosn't look professional at a wedding, at the touchline of a football pitch for the news, yes by all means.

As you know the Hasselblad has been the industry standard wedding camera for, well since forever and still is for the simple reason that is takes pin sharp pictures because of the best lenses in the world that it takes and secondly (unlike RZ's and silly Bronica etrs's etc) it is fully macanical, so you don't have battery's dying on you.

As for the digital bit, buy a second hand Hasselblad 500cm with standard lens and WLF and 120 film back, should get this mint condition for around £695. Then buy a second hand digital Phase back, should pick one up for around £4000 if you look hard.

This equipment will kill everything else dead in every single way.

As for Minolta Dynax or Fuji, don't make me (or others at the weddings) laugh, the Minolta is a toy, a joke, not a camera at all, this is for retired camera-club gents that read AP.

If anyone dosn't believe me (I know I'm right on this one as it's my ex profession), just phone Leeds cameras or Calumet in London, they will tell you the same thing.

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Just a quickie to say it matters not a hoot what camera you use if you're inexperienced. Choose a camera and get years of experience, that's what the father of the bride will be expecting, paying for and buying.

Hassleblads, 35mm, megapixel chipped digital - they are all so much mantlepiece junk unless YOU hold them, point them and fire them with the experience of years to back you up. There is no quick fix for this I'm afraid, and all of us must go through it.

Even so, there are those blessed with "the gift", and Ansel Adams could make startling landscapes with a disposable. So as long as the kit you use is up to the task, don't be intimidated by the likes of Beethoven who imply that 2 1/4 square is the bare minimum.

I produced a photo album containing 70 pictures for my last bride, and she was absolutely delighted that I'd caught the precise moment in every single shot. How come? Well I used a motor-drive camera, and shot 25 frames per second all day long. That's right - she insisted on having frames from the TRV900's DV footage printed.

The success of your wedding shoot is not related to the kit you use. Remember the word: content.

tom.

Keitht
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Joined: Jan 8 2001

Miracles do happen! For once, if you dig through the surrounding drivel, Beethoven has said something sensible. He does however undermine everything he says in his first couple of sentences. Typical arrogance in stating that he hasn't read any of the replies then going on to refer to "that sort of budget" when no budget had been mentioned in the initial question.

His comments about larger formats are valid but it would be a very large investment if you are only considering moving seriously into wedding photography at a later stage.

Take up your friend's offer to shadow him at weddings using his 35mm kit. As you state that you know nothing about traditional cameras you will have a huge amount to learn before you can safely be let loose on the unsuspecting punter.

I would suggest using the camera with all the knobs and whistles turned off, except auto-focus if the EOS1 has it. Auto exposure etc is too easily fooled in the sort of lighting conditions you are likely to experience. If you are used to using video kit 'manually' you will have a head start on understanding the problems.

I say leave autofocus on as in most cases it can focus a lot faster than you can and you tend not to have the hunting problems that can sometimes be experienced with video. Wedding photos are generally fairly pretty static unless it's the one of the bride or groom fainting!!

Personally I wouldn't touch wedding work with a barge pole. It might be lucrative but I don't need the hassle in my life.

Good luck.

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Regards

Keith

Regards Keith

pegasusvideo
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Joined: Aug 29 1999

My journey into digital cameras started via a second-hand Fuji 2400. It gave some nice images - especially for web based pictures. But the "big" problem for a 35mm user was the small direct vision viewfinder, and no way of adjusting shutter speeds. That got sold on, although you can still see my review / sample shots at
http://www.zodiac-explode.com/auctions/fuji

So then I did a bit of research on sites such as http://www.stevesdigicams.com which reviews a lot of cameras, and decided on the Olympus C-700. The lowest price I found in UK was £399. But I imported mine as a recon. for $338 from RAINTRADE - an Amazon auction seller. (Mind you, I wasn't prepared for the £70 import duty imposed by C&E!!)
This features a 10X zoom AND shutter speed / apertures in viewfinder. It may not be a "pro" model, but it's ideal for those wishing to be able to adjust speeds etc.

Just my two pennies worth!