Monday, February 28, 2011

Buying Your First dSLR

Some of my friends asked me about what dSLR to start with, and my short answer is:
Canon EOS 550D with the twin lens kit: 18-55 IS and 55-250 IS.

This is of course not for everybody. Also this is written in the first quarter of 2011, and sure it is not right answer for all the time. So here is the long version to help friends make sure they are choosing the right camera and the right lenses.

I am a Canon user, so I will only discuss Canon cameras here, though Nikon has camera systems that is not second to Canon's. I believe that other systems like Sony, etc are seconds.

Later, I will be adding some articles to discuss the differences between 550D and 1000D. May be also some articles to discuss available entry level lenses for Canon EOS cameras.

Table of content: Cameras, Lenses, Where to buy, Where to learn photography.

Let's first check the different Canon dSLR cameras lineups:

1- Entry Level Cameras:
These are cheaper, lighter, and plastic bodies cameras. Their names are three or four digits
a - Basic Cameras: 1000D and the new 1100D
b- More featured Cameras: 400D, 450D, 500D, 550D, and the new 600D

2- Enthusiastic Amateur Cameras:
More advanced cameras for series amateurs, bigger size and environment sealed. Names are of two digits: 30D, 40D, 50D, and 60D

3- Prosumer Cameras:
Used by a lot of professionals, body similar to enthusiastic amateur cameras. Names are of one digit: 5D, 5D Make II, 7D

4- Professional Cameras:
Body is bigger, very pricey, got the latest technology from Canon. Names got the digit "1": 1D Make III, 1D Make IV, and 1Ds Make III.

My Suggestion is: start with 1000D for a very basic camera, or move to 550D if the price gap is not that big, avoid 1100D and 600D because they are so new in market and will be very pricey.

Review for 1000D:
Review for 550D:
Use this site (
dpreview) to see review for all types of cameras and some types of lenses. It is also a good opportunity to know about various features of cameras and how do they compare.

About lenses:

First thing to think about is range, it is designated in millimeters, to shoot group of people you should use 17 or 18 mm lens, to shot one's head, you can use 100mm, to shoot one's head with shoulders, 50mm is great, to shoot a bird on a tree you may need 250 mm or even more.
So the best suggestion for starting is the twin kit lenses, the 18-55mm and the 55-250mm.
For other details about lenses specification, you can learn on going, and if you like to move to more cool lenses, you could do this afterwards, but in terms of range only, those two lenses are more than enough. If you are coming from the point and shoot world, you already know the range property of a lens but in the term of "x". So if your P&S camera is 10x, this may mean you've got a lens that has the range from 28mm to 280mm (notice how 10 is calculated as 280/28). So you can assume that the twin kit lens is about a 14x (that is 250/18) range compared to your P&S. I am using "assume", "about", and "may" because there is far more details about this and it is not time for this now.

Sample photos taken by 18-55:
Sample photos taken by 55-250:
Use this forum (
photography on the net) to learn a lot about photography, some very professional people are there.

Buying and prices:

From stores in Sydney:
- Dirt Cheap
This is the cheapest shop I know. The link below is for 550D with the twin kit lenses

Unfortunately I couldn't find 1000D on their site, you can call and ask. Check their address on their website.

- George
1000D and twin kit: $828

From Stores in Egypt:

El King: 15 borg salma roushdy Street, Abdeen, Cairo, Tel: 23925140 [Recommended]
El 7ofy: 15 borg salma roushdy Street, Abdeen, Cairo, Tel: 23955245
Shams: 5 el batal ahmed abdelaziz from sabry abo alam street- bab el loook Tel: 23929204
Lucky Stores: 11 sherif street ,downtown, Tel: 23929136/ 23923697
El-Khaled: 19 B Adly street, second floor, apartment number 58, Tel: 23927507
El-Akhdar: Tel: 23927852
Nikon Official Dealer( Fuji film) : El Haram Street, Tel: 35842378
Mo2asaset el Basha for lighting equipment: 26 July street, Tel: 25918535
Hensel Egypt lighting equipment (The Agent) New Maddi autstrad street Tel:251609148

Click for an example for buying online from inside AU: not much cheaper
Click for an example for buying online from Asia: That's cheaper

If you are in Egypt the only solution to buy online, is to have some friend coming back from USA. You can buy everything online and send it to his address at USA but you must do this before his flight by two to three weeks.

When buying from USA, notice that the entry level cameras have different names than other places in the world. For example the 550D is called Rebel T2i and the 1000D is called Rebel XS.

Adorama is one of the good stores: This is an example (550D with 18-55 kit lens)
Amazon is a very good source too.
And there is always B&H, a very famous online store for photography equipment.

Learn Photography:

- Since we are here, just try my blog sometimes. It is simple:
- Photography School: Subscripe for their daily email with nice tips and tricks, also browse their articles.
- Try the photography on the net forum, ask questions search for information. It is a great forum.

This is a very great opportunity to meet elders and learn from them. And also to keep practicing and the learning curve up. In Sydney I didn't join a photography group yet, but in Egypt, there is the famous group "InFocus". They are getting bigger and I heard they have their own place now. Start from their group on Facebook and try to get onto their infamous Saturdays photo-walks. Contribute by sharing your photos and listen to the members comments and learn from them.

In Sydney? Just go the TAFE
In Egypt, try the Gawanian School. It has a group on the Facebook with all details, search for it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Starting a simple lighting setup

Umbrellas And Speedlite 430EX
I am relocated now to Australia, and this is a very good opportunity for me as I got access to one of the ebay sites at last,
I've started to build a simple lighting setup using the single Speedlite I already have. These are the items I bought from ebay after a couple of weeks of research:
- RF-602 wireless flash trigger receiver and transmitter
- Two umbrellas through and reflecting with a light stand and a flash bracket.

This is an example for the first results I got. I know I have a long way to go learning lighting techniques. One thing stopping me from doing fast progress is the AA batteries. These wicked little things keep discharging when I am at work and when I get back at the evening, I just find all my batteries not working. So my next purchase will be a slowly discharging batteries and a fast charger, as my current charger is taking 8 hours.
To see photos for the RF-602 and other couple of tests, check my flicker.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

EF 100 f/2.8L Macro

Spring Festival @ Cronulla
It has been a long time since last post. I've learnt a lot about photography but I think I need a lot more yet. This is one of the last shots I took in spring festivals in Sydney.
Lens used is Canon EF 100 f/2.8L IS Macro.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The WOW Look

The WOW Look
Originally uploaded by Bishoy Adel
At last; received my 40D on Sunday.
Here is on of my firsts, with the beloved Nifty Fifty.
I am falling in love with this tiny friend.
The photo is for my daughter Bougi, taken five minutes after waking up from midday nap.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Originally uploaded by Bishoy Adel
I love this photo. What I most love about it is the different colors (as the name suggests :)

I still love the photo although the middle flower is slightly out of focus, thanks to the always appealing LCD of my A570 that makes all photos nice and in focus. I couldn't recognize when to stop manual focus to get sharp image.

Something also I learned while taking this shot, is how much nicer and more colorful a photo like this is when taken in the shadow. I formally loved the effect of the direct sun light on flowers, but the colors appeared to be more natural in the shade.

Sunny f/16 Rule

A more easy to remember way for manual exposures is the sunny 16 rule.

It states that in a sunny day, set aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed should be 1/ISO number (or the nearest value).
For example if your ISO is set 100 then the shutter speed of 1/100 sec will work well with f/16 in sunny days (when shooting in direct sun of course and not in the shade).

Cloudy days or shooting in the shades will get things down between 1 and 3 stops as following:
  • 1 stop down when slightly overcast: Can be recognized by slightly softness around shadows.
  • 2 stops down when overcast: You can hardly recognize shadows.
  • 3 stops down when heavily overcast: No shadows at all.

Of course you are free how to handle the lesser stops. You can go down from f/16 to f/11, f/8, and f/5.6 or to retain deep DOF you can instead move to higher ISO or longer exposure (you may need tripod for exposures longer than 1/30 sec.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Finally got my DSLR.
My gears now is Canon EOS 40D, Canon EF 28-135 IS, Canon EF 50 f/1.8, and Canon Speedlite 430EX.
They are still on there way. Meanwhile I am reading the 40D manual to be prepared for setting the custom settings (specially the AF-ON button and the C1, C2, C3 modes).
I also installed the Adobe Lightroom 2.3 and reading some tutorials as I intend to be shooting RAW all the way :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What TODO when you first start learning photography

These are the steps I gone through so far learning about using my Canon A570 IS. This can act as a TODO list for anybody bought a new P&S and wants to start learning.
  1. In general how the exposure parameters control photo (Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO)
  2. What other parameters (Focus, Macro mode, Flash, auto focus methods, IS, metering methods, white balance, focal length or zoom)
  3. A very important skill to learn is half pressing the shutter release button. The both help you to cut down the time between pressing and taking the photo in some situations and also to fool the focusing and metering system by half press and re-framing mechanism.
  4. PIC modes on the camera: These are already programmed modes like (Portrait, Landscapes, sport, night shots, etc) use the manual to know what these modes do to the parameters you learnt in no.1 and 2 and try the camera a lot to test your knowledge.
  5. Check what manual controls you have in PIC modes (mainly they will be flash, ISO, and focusing mode) and try changing them while photographing.
  6. Start trying controlling the exposure parameters you learnt in no.1 yourself. You can do that in creative zone modes (Tv and Av modes) on the camera dial. You can try out simulating each of the PIC modes using the creative zone.
  7. Start trying some photography situations not handled by PIC modes. For example long exposure like photographing a night scene on tripod, or panning a fast moving car.
  8. Try out other parameters you learnt in step 2 in creative zone. This includes shooting macro, choosing some white balance mode other than auto (AWB) when needed, do manual focusing, changing auto focusing parameters like center point focusing or setting off the assist beam, setting flash compensation.
  9. Try out the M mode some times when full control is needed.
  10. Start learning advanced knowlege like calculating exposure value manually (refer to my post about exposure value), and about flash photography.
  11. I think nothing left here except buying a DSLR :D

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Posts on flickr

Uploaded my first few posts to flickr. All from my P&S Canon A570.

My flickr photostream

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Flash Photography

  • Guide Number:
  • X-Sync. Value:
  • High Speed Sync.:
  • Low Speed Sync.:
  • First and Second Curtain:
  • Bouncing Flash:
  • Zoom Motor and Wide Angle Screen:

Canon Flashes:

580EX-II is the top of the line Canon flash. And 430EX and 430EX-II are the midrange ones. All these flashed can have tilt heads to bounce flash, they rotates 90 degrees up and 270 degree right and left. They have LCD screens and manual controls. Of course they support E-TTL-II technology which is the latest flash metering system by Canon, supported with all currently available dSLRs. All supports high speed sync, and second curtain modes. The only feature difference between the 580EX and the two 430EXs beside the guide number is the capabiliy for the 580EX to be the master unit when multiple flashes are used (i.e. you cannot use multiple flashes with a Canon camera with only 430EXs, you need at least one 580EX mounted on the Camera, or otherwise you will need third party utilities). This is unlike Nikon wich enables you to use even the camera internal flash as the master unit.

Here are the list of flash units specs:

Speedlites Guide Numbers (ISO 100):
  • 580EX-II: 58m
  • 430EX and EX-II: 43m
  • 270EX: 27m for 50mm FOV
  • 220Ex: 22m
Internal Flashes Guide Numbers (ISO 100):
  • 30D, 40D, 50D: 13m - FOV to 17mm (27mm eqv.)
  • 300D, 400D, 450D: 13m
Cameras X-Sync Values:
  • 30D, 40D, 50D: 1/250 sec
  • 300D, 400D, 450D: 1/200 sec