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DSLR Lens advice for a beginner

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
So, I've spent the last couple of days reading about the vast knowledge that Head-Fier's have about photography and tried to come up with some answers, but I'm at a bit of a loss concerning exactly what to purchase.
Here is my situation...
I've owned and loved my Sony F717 since I purchased it shortly after its release. Recently it developed a CCD problem, so it's in route to Sony to be repaied. While I was waiting I decided to try out the whole DSLR bit and bought a Sony Alpha (the 100K package with the kit lens). I'm not a professional photographer by any means nor do I want to become one, I just want to be able to take some decent pictures here and there. My question concerns lenses as they seem to be extremely important when dealing with SLR's. I understood their importance before purchasing the camera, but I may have misunderestimated it a bit after reading through a few threads here.
Anyway, what are a few decent "starter" lenses that can allow me to get the most out of my camera?
Again, I'm not looking for the best, most expensive, cutting edge technology here, just enough that will allow me to enjoy the Alpha. At the moment Im most concerned with good 'macro,' close-up, detail pictures.
Also, any suggestions on CFII cards? Does speed make a huge difference? Ill probably be investing in an 8gb card shortly and your inputs on that would also be appreciated.
Thanks for all your help and suggestions in advance!
Jussei
post #2 of 27
Thread Starter 
Oh, and by the way, budget, is an issue. My audio habit destroys my wallet and takes precidence. Photography is a subsidiary 'habit' and one that, at the moment, I'm not planning on allocating huge sums of money toward.
That said, Im probably looking to spend <$500 for any lenses at the moment.
post #3 of 27
Good starter lenses would be those that cover a long range of focal lengths, 28-200mm, 70-300mm, etc. They allow you to take a variety of subjects, landscapes and objects without having to switch lenses. For macro photography you should, of course, look at macro lenses, as those allow you to get much closer to the subject due to shorter focal lengths. Bigger apertures also make them better than standard kit or zoom lenses as lighting can get very tricky when you get close. Investing in a ring flash is a good idea too.

An alternative to buying a macro lens is to flip standard 'kit' lenses around, attaching the section meant to accept filters and hoods to the camera body. This can be done using adapters for many cameras, and in some cases you can even find tutorials on how to DIY your own reverse adapter

EDIT: I'm actually considering selling all my audio equipment right now to really get into photography
post #4 of 27
I imagine the kit lens is a decent starter lens.

Just as a point of your reference - your old Sony had a 35mm film focal length equivalence of 38 - 190mm. The kit lens on an Alpha has a 35mm film focal length equivalence of 28 - 100mm. In other words, at no zoom it will be wider than your old 717, but it won't zoom in as far.

I'd just stick to your kit lens for a while. You mention liking macro photography. Well, there are different levels of macros. Are we talking like product shots (i.e., cool shots of headphones or nice little flower shots), or are we talking real up close and personal (i.e., close-ups of bugs?)

Best,

-Jason
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmmtn4aj View Post
Good starter lenses would be those that cover a long range of focal lengths, 28-200mm, 70-300mm, etc. They allow you to take a variety of subjects, landscapes and objects without having to switch lenses. For macro photography you should, of course, look at macro lenses, as those allow you to get much closer to the subject due to shorter focal lengths. Bigger apertures also make them better than standard kit or zoom lenses as lighting can get very tricky when you get close. Investing in a ring flash is a good idea too.

An alternative to buying a macro lens is to flip standard 'kit' lenses around, attaching the section meant to accept filters and hoods to the camera body. This can be done using adapters for many cameras, and in some cases you can even find tutorials on how to DIY your own reverse adapter

EDIT: I'm actually considering selling all my audio equipment right now to really get into photography
See, this is why I like Head-Fi. I ask a question completely unrelated to audio and have a great answer 5 minutes later. Thanks, jmmtn4aj, you've enlightened me on a few concerns already.
post #6 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmmtn4aj View Post
Good starter lenses would be those that cover a long range of focal lengths, 28-200mm, 70-300mm, etc. They allow you to take a variety of subjects, landscapes and objects without having to switch lenses.
I personally like 28mm as a starting point on 1.5x or 1.6x crop cameras. That gives you a 35mm film equivalent of 44mm, which is a perfect "normal" lens.

But I imagine for general usage, for most it's not wide enough on a general lens. I don't like shooting wide, as I'm not very good at it, and it's not what I like shooting. But in general though, I have difficulty recommending a zoom lens starting at 28mm to someone, unless they already had a wider lens, such as the kit lens, which starts at 18mm (or is 27mm equivalent). For landscapes, I'd start at 18mm (a film equivalent of 28mm) or wider.

Best,

-Jason
post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jjcha View Post
I imagine the kit lens is a decent starter lens.

Just as a point of your reference - your old Sony had a 35mm film focal length equivalence of 38 - 190mm. The kit lens on an Alpha has a 35mm film focal length equivalence of 28 - 100mm. In other words, at no zoom it will be wider than your old 717, but it won't zoom in as far.

I'd just stick to your kit lens for a while. You mention liking macro photography. Well, there are different levels of macros. Are we talking like product shots (i.e., cool shots of headphones or nice little flower shots), or are we talking real up close and personal (i.e., close-ups of bugs?)

Best,

-Jason
Thanks for the info. We are talking real close up and personal and you hit the nail on the head with the bug thing. I'm a biologist, working toward a masters (slowly) and would ultimately like to study entomology. I'd probably never want to pursue it as a career because I think the allure would then be ruined for me. At any rate, I'd really like to get some great shots of insects. I remember with my old F717, I photographed a wolf spider hunting, killing, and eating a beetle on the windshield of my car. These pictures have been my favorites of the thousands or so that I've taken.
post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jussei View Post
Thanks for the info. We are talking real close up and personal and you hit the nail on the head with the bug thing.
Hmm. I'm not a bug photographer, but I imagine for this kind of photography you would want a lens with a film equivalence of 135mm or greater. I'm not that familiar with Sony Alpha lenses, but the SAL 100mm F2.8 Macro (1hich is 150mm equivalent) seems designed for this kind of thing. Something less than 100mm seems too short for close macros. Key is also making sure you have a very close minimum focusing distance, which this lens seems to have (again this isn't really my area of expertise.)

www.dpreview.com is your friend. I'm sure the folk in the Sony SLR forum there would be glad to help.

Best,

-Jason
post #9 of 27
Jason's totally right -- dpreview is a fantastic source of information for photographers of all skill levels, and quite a friendly place too (but of course it's no head-fi!). I'm a former biologist and I use a Nikkor macro of 105mm (so about 150mm equivalent for a film SLR) for insects and lizards. You may want to eventually invest in a decent tripod and a macro flash system. So many ways to spend money!
post #10 of 27
I vote for fixed lenses. Cheap, high quality, compact, and they help me get into a photography mindset rather than a snapshot mindset. Then again, I'm biased against zooms because I don't like flash photography; I'd happily trade away the framing flexibility of a 18-70mm f/3.5-6.3 for the lighting flexibility of a 50mm f/1.4, even if that were the only benefit of the 50mm lens.
post #11 of 27
You ask about compact flash cards as well. I've just bought a DSLR myself (they body still hasn't come, but I've got most its accessories.....even an expensive 135mm lens that I ordered ). But I found that Amazon had the best price for this 8GB Sandisk. It seemed like it had some fast write speeds. Since solid state is as much as the microdrive versions, I'd recommend just going SS: they're more durable and are a bit faster.

http://www.amazon.com/Sandisk-Perfor...5349160&sr=8-1

And since you're on a budget, and are just wondering about macro photography, I'd also second everyone who's saying just get used to your kit lens first. One easy and cheap way to get into macro photography is to use tube extensions. They are not as sharp as a lens, but they're pretty versatile and cost effective.:

http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Optic-Auto...5349514&sr=1-1
http://www.geocities.com/mikkonis/extens.html

Eventually, you may want to get into fixed lenses for sharper photos (zooms tend to give a softer image). 50mm used to be the standard for 35mm film. On a non-full sensor DSLR, it gets to be more like a 80mm telephoto lens. So getting that and a 28 or 35mm lens could be your standard fixed lenses. And the Head-fi phrase is still applicable (in fact, I'm finding the curse is even worst)....SORRY ABOUT YOUR WALLET
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Davesrose View Post
And since you're on a budget, and are just wondering about macro photography, I'd also second everyone who's saying just get used to your kit lens first. One easy and cheap way to get into macro photography is to use tube extensions. They are not as sharp as a lens, but they're pretty versatile and cost effective.:

http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Optic-Auto...5349514&sr=1-1
http://www.geocities.com/mikkonis/extens.html
I'll second this. It's a very good way to get into macro. Extension tubes have no optics and won't degrade an image, though there is some light loss.

If you end up liking macro get the Sigma 105mm Macro. Your tubes will not be a waste; they will work with the Sigma. The Sigma is also a nice portrait lens.

http://www.sigma4less.com/sess/utn;j...G105F28MI%3D29
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samgotit View Post
I'll second this. It's a very good way to get into macro. Extension tubes have no optics and won't degrade an image, though there is some light loss.
We should probably bring up lighting then. If your subjects are going to be dead bugs, then you don't have to worry about lighting as much. A tripod is a must if you're going to be taking photos in a science lab. The light loss with an extension tube is dependant on the focal length of the lens it's being used on. With a zoom lens, you'll have less light if it's set at a longer length. Eventually, you'll probably also want to look into flash photography (flash doesn't have to be bad if you use diffusing techniques).
post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the help and suggestions everyone. I've definately learn a lot in a very short time.
It sounds like my kit lens will do for a while, which is good to hear. I'll definately check into the lenses mentioned.
I didnt know anything about tube extensions, so Ill have to look into those as well.
Davesrose, there is a difference between standard CF's and the microdrives? I hadn't read anything about them since I've never used anything that needed CF. So are the microdrives actually like baby harddrives? Interesting, because I thought that both were the same and it was just terminology used by different companies.
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Davesrose View Post
We should probably bring up lighting then. If your subjects are going to be dead bugs, then you don't have to worry about lighting as much. A tripod is a must if you're going to be taking photos in a science lab. The light loss with an extension tube is dependant on the focal length of the lens it's being used on. With a zoom lens, you'll have less light if it's set at a longer length. Eventually, you'll probably also want to look into flash photography (flash doesn't have to be bad if you use diffusing techniques).
Ill be using the camera to photograph insects/animals in the field that are living, moving, and probably not willing to pose for the most part. Ill probably have good natural light in most cases. After reading a few threads here on Head-Fi yesterday, I saw a ring flash that really intrigued me as it was supposed to light up close subjects evenly.
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