Buying a better camera does not mean you will get better pictures.

PhotophunPhotophun Posts: 43Member
edited March 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
8 months ago I picked up a D3200 and have fallen in love with photography. Like most people who reach for the stars I would love to turn this into a full time living but...

Every time I go out I learn some thing new and as an example, today I had a rare chance to hang out in a pen with several 2 month old sheep and a 3 month old cow. Shooting away thinking how amazing this is and how good the shots were going to turn out while paying attention to my camera settings is how the shooting went. But when I got home all was not so great. I forgot to change the metering mode from Matrix to Spot, my shutter speed was to slow at 50. Most of my shots didn't turn out due to blur or there were hotspots due to the overcast diffused light under the trees. LOL My thinking would be that if I had it on spot metering my shutter speed would be faster and more shots would have less blur. Also knowing that those darn little animals with course hair need to be extra sharp would have helped. Next time I will find a way to shoot at 200 or even higher if possible.

I would love to pick up a D600/D7100 but am in no rush due to one major point. I am still learning and would use the better gear as a crutch to hide my mistakes. So I use my entry level body and learn its limitations that I find more often than not are just techniques I have yet to discover. Once I understand the limitations of my D3200 in action and can compensate with technique I will upgrade to a newer camera. The only way to get better is to get out there, make mistakes and to do so on your own time/dime. Oh and dont let baby cows get behind you.

So I ask the question: If one of the best ways to learn photography is to learn the limitations of your camera how long did you wait before your next upgrade and why?
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Comments

  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    My first 'real' camera was a Leica M2 in 1965, My next was a Nikon 'F', and I don't consider anything since to be an upgrade, only different.

    ... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    Seriously, I believe automation is best used to enable those who don't need it, to be faster.

    If you are learning, slow down and shoot manual. You will then know why what works did, what doesn't work did not.

    Unfortunately, at least in the Nikon line, what differentiates the 'pro' bodies is the ease of shooting manual.

    I use a D3x, D800e, and D700 (and Leica's), and was totally stumped trying to manually control my wife's D5100 and gave up. Reading the manual would be way too humiliating.

    Most colleges in the first semester of photography require the students to shoot film and manual controls for exactly the above reasons. If it costs half a buck every time you squeeze the shutter, you will think about it.

    .... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • PhotophunPhotophun Posts: 43Member
    I was in A mode and lately have been strictly M mode and watching my exposure meter in the camera. I think I would have had a similar problem due to my metering mode being set wrong but then I may be wrong as well. LOL Knowing what shutter speeds you can get away with what speed of action or what effect they will produce is gold. For me I just got one step closer to that dream today. Whoot whoot.
  • starralaznstarralazn Posts: 201Member
    you'll know when you need to upgrade - when you need more control over the final outcome, then you'll know you need to upgrade.
    keeping a strict eye on the exposure meter is a good rule in general, but it is much like relying on the cameras P mode with you simply adjusting a aperture or shutter speed to affect the image. learn more by shooting in situations where there is more dynamic range, learn that the meter is just a guideline telling you what is in the image.

    it took me about a year to learn how to properly expose with my d5000, waited about a year after that to get the d800
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,965Member
    I was in A mode and lately have been strictly M mode and watching my exposure meter in the camera. I think I would have had a similar problem due to my metering mode being set wrong but then I may be wrong as well.
    Shooting in manual and then just lining up the meter kind of defeats the purpose anyway. ;)

    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited March 2013

    So I ask the question: If one of the best ways to learn photography is to learn the limitations of your camera ?
    Do exactly what you are doing

    takes lots and lots of photographs
    analyze what went wrong and try again, and again

    More shots are lost by camera shake and subject movement than anything else, so don't be afraid to increase the ISO to get a higher shutter speed

    You no longer have to worry about the cost of film
    so try shooting the same subject at different settings and see which one you like

    how long did you wait before your next upgrade

    I tend to "upgrade" every 2/3 years



    and why

    usually because the new model has a feature, my old one lacks
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,172Member
    Generally if a new photographer is upgrading from a introductory consumer dslrcamera to a pro dslr I would expect photos to get worse at first. And depending on the individual it may never get better =)
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • TriShooterTriShooter Posts: 219Member
    I agree with hroldp, and others. Some cameras are better technically than others but in the last 50 years there have been a lot of excellent pictures taken with all kinds of different cameras. I used rangefinder cameras long before buying a Mamiya Sekor 1000DTL dSLR which took some of the finest I've taken during the last 40/50 years. I was using a Nikkor 500mm F5 manual focus mirror lens that cannot use auto-metering today on my Nikon V1 that was made in 1965.

    People buy new cameras for many reasons; faster frames per second, ability to shoot at a higher fps, more resolution, less or more depth of field, higher or lower resolution, higher ISO with less noise capability to allow faster shutter speeds, the ability to control the camera better,or how it handles, it weight heavier or lighter depending on the situation and the lenses, faster flash sync speed, auto-focus tracking, number of focus points and how they fit across the frame, facial recognition tracking, in camera vs. in lens VR / OS etc.

    You will know when you need, or equally important, just want a feature on a new camera when you have a good fix on at least all of things mentioned in the previous paragraph.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,027Moderator
    No offense meant, but reading your first post, you could be quite a way off understanding that camera or perhaps even basic photography so don't even think about getting distracted by the latest body as it will not help you at all. Your D3200 is a thousand times better than my first DSLR so just enjoy it. Your matrix/spot decision would depend on lighting and tones of the animals - a black and white Friesian cow needs a different technique to a Jersey for instance but if I was you I would use a grey card. Old body/new body kit lens/pro lens - equipment doesn't matter - use manual mode and a grey card.

    Think about upgrading in two years (perhaps).
    Always learning.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    @ haroldp

    Canon 7, Nikon f...1960's. They worked just like the D4...

    @ Photophun

    Put the camera on Manual, focus on Manual, ISO on Manual. Prime lens such as a 35mm is best.

    Use a separate light meter.

    After you can shoot consistent images, finish them in your computer, understand the various controls on your D3200 (about 5-10,000 images) then use some of the other control features and investigate the advantages. Expand your lenses, and in a year or so, decided what you want.

    At present, the idea of an "upgrade" could mean you will get a body which does not suit your needs. Nikon has a D800 and a D4. They do different things. Cost a lot.

    Good luck...

    Msmoto, mod
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member

    Msmoto has possibly the best suggestion of all with the separate light meter (IMHO). I would go further and suggest an analogue one like a Weston that has a needle and you can actually see contextual information, ie. what alternative f nos. and shutter speeds are available for the same light levels displayed for you. You can pick these up very cheaply I think. This will allow you to learn by experimenting with the choices available to you in the same circumstance, absorb the relationship between light level, shutter speed, f no. and ISO setting. It will also get you started in thinking in 'stops'. In addition, you will have a way of taking incident readings (measuring the light falling on the subject) easily as well as reflected light readings. All this information can then just be transferred to the camera using its manual setting. You can also of course play with the various meter modes on the camera's metering system, comparing them with the independent meter information. You will learn loads this way I think, even if you finally end up depending solely on the camera's meter as most people do these days!

    I am out of date on books but I am sure there are loads that would run you through all the basics (assuming this would be of benefit to you). That might be worth doing as well.

    Have fun!
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    Photophun: read a lot about photography, especially learning the basics about exposure. Much of what you wrote in your first post demonstrated a lack of basic knowledge. That's ok. We all started with the same lack of basic knowledge whenever we started shooting. I suggest considering this order.

    1. Learn what to do to get the exposure right. The camera's automatic metering expects and sets for an 18% gray and will be wrong when your subject is black or white. Learn how to recognize when your subject is not 18% grey and how to adjust the camera's exposure appropriately. You can do this with manual settings and a grey card or you can leave it in matrix metering and learn how to used the + and - exposure compensation settings. Modern cameras, such as the D3200 have many different modes and different ways to accomplish the same task. Learn what M, A, S and P modes do and how to use them. Learn how to check your exposure in the field after a shot by looking at the histogram on your back LCD and interpreting it correctly.

    2. Learn how to get the shutter speed right for the subject and for your own hand shake. The old rule of thumb had been about 1/125th of a second with an 18-55mm kit lens was fast enough to give you a sharp image as long as the subject was not moving. If the subject is moving you likely have to go up to 1/250th of a second or 1/500th of a second or higher depending upon how fast the subject is moving. In addition to shutter speed the way you press the shutter button makes a difference: gently squeeze it, don't jab it.

    3. Learn how to select the aperture (f-stop) for the effect you want. Generally, the larger the aperture hole (which equates to the smaller the f-stop number) the shallower the depth of field (DOF) which means the narrower the zone of focus in front of and behind the point you are focusing on. When you see portraits with creamy out of focus backgrounds you are seeing the effect of a large aperture (small f-stop number). Learn how to adjust your aperture to achieve the effect you desire.

    4. Learn how to select your point of focus and how to get the camera to focus on that spot. For example, the proper point of focus for a portrait is the subject's eyes. The proper point of focus for a landscape is not always infinity: it is the point in the scene that allows both the nearest object and the farthermost object to fall within the DOF of your aperture.

    5. Learn how to use your viewfinder to create a pleasing composition before you press the shutter button. This involves concepts such as "the rule of thirds" or in landscape photography "front element, intermediate element and rear element" or including a familiar object to show scale. You look through the viewfinder at what you want to photograph and then move yourself and the camera around to create the best composition of that subject.

    6. Learn how to use Nikon's Picture Controls to produce the look you like right out of the camera. There is a big difference between the image produced by Portrait and the image produce by Vivid. Different people have different tastes in color intensity, color warmth, sharpness, contrast, etc. Learn what you like best and how to set the camera to produce it. For example, I happen to like Vivid best because it reminds me of Kodachrome. Even then I customize the Vivid settings to produce more sharpness and more contrast and a bit more saturation. However, my wife objects to the sharpness when I shoot a portrait of her because she wants smooth skin and Vivid also produces too much redness in most people's skin. So I use the Portrait setting for shooting people. I sometimes use Landscape for shooting sports because it produces stronger colors but not the strong red in Vivid. The point is not my preferences; but your own preferences. What "look" do you like and how can you produce it right out of the camera without a lot of post processing.

    Your D3200 is fully capable of doing all the things I mentioned above. Until you are fluent in items 1 through 6 above you don't need to "upgrade" your camera. The most important "upgrade" you need now it to "upgrade" your knowledge and skill. I hope this helps.

    I started with a Nikkormat FTN which was 100% manual and shot slides with it so I could see exactly the result of my settings (with the negative/print processing the lab will correct your exposure errors so you never learn what they are). I shot that FTN for about 5 years before I added an FE body because it allowed me to shoot in A with a stepless shutter. It was just faster in getting the shot. Then I added an EN simply because it was much lighter and gave me the option of carrying a light plastic camera instead of my heavy metal ones. I used those three cameras for about 20 years.
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    Any of you tried manual focusing with a D3200 lately? Neither the D3200 nor the kit lens I presume is attached to it are designed for manual focusing. I'd leave it on auto-focus. It will be a frustrating experience using the camera on manual focus for an extended period.

    Also buying extra gear like an external light meter seems counter-productive. I'm a total gear-head, yet the only time I use my light meter is to measure flash in studio, and even then it's not really necessary to use a meter (we have histograms these days).

    Learn with what you have. Have someone show you the basics.

    For a book, one I always recommend to a beginner would be "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson. It gets one quickly beyond the mechanics and into making intentional creative decisions.

    On upgrading, in the digital era I've been upgrading my main camera roughly every 3 years. That's been enough time for me to grow as a photographer and to pick up new technology improvements over time. I did start a long time ago with film cameras (the F3HP being my first Nikon, I shot Minolta before that.)
  • tc88tc88 Posts: 309Member
    edited March 2013
    Photophun, auto exposure, auto focus, and digital format are the most significant advances in the camera equipment over the last few decades. In my opinion, forget about manual everything, and take advantage of those provided features. The best thing you can do is to check your pictures on the spot. If the pictures are blurry, either it's the speed or your technique. If over/under exposed, either the metering or adjust the exposure compensation. Seems to me that you have already realized those, except you only found those out at home. Had you checked when taking the pictures, you would have adjusted there. Pretty much every issue you can figure out and find a solution if you checked the results. Digital cameras offer fast improvement over the film days, and I have seen people becoming very good photographers in a year. If you are a nature, I'm pretty sure you will soon crave when better camera/lens come out. :) Good luck.
    Post edited by tc88 on
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    .... auto exposure, auto focus, and digital format are the most significant advances in the camera equipment over the last few decades. In my opinion, forget about manual everything, and take advantage of those provided features. .
    +1

    Completely forget using a Weston meter, they belong in a museum. While you are fiddling about with a separate exposure meter, the light will have changed and you will have missed the decisive moment


  • PhotophunPhotophun Posts: 43Member
    Thanks every one for your advice and input. I have put my money in glass and use a 24-70 f2.8, 50f1.4, or a 10-24 DX lens. I guess my main problem is remembering every thing I have learnt while being caught up in the action of the moment.

    Iso is a big problem for the D3200 and I do what ever I ca to stay at 100. I can bump it up to 200 but after that its a dogs breakfast.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited March 2013
    Iso is a big problem for the D3200 and I do what ever I ca to stay at 100. I can bump it up to 200 but after that its a dogs breakfast.
    something seems wrong here, unless you are makeing very big prints, it should go up 1600 with out too much problem

    suggest you zero out ( two button reset ) and try again

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member
    sevencrossing.
    I think you may have slightly missed my point about the meter- or perhaps I made it badly. It was less to do with using it to take photographs, more to do with learning about light and the fundamentals of the relationship between all the different parameters we juggle with. I sort of agree that Westons belong in a museum (although I still use mine on occasion and have an affection for it) as there are much better meters around but they are very cheap to buy, don't need batteries and would help a relative novice to learn some basics pretty well in my opinion. However Photophun does it, I would still strongly suggest that getting comfortable with the technical basics is a good idea before embarking upon buying a new camera body as the decision making will obviously be better informed.

    As ever though, there are many different routes to the same place and different opinions as to the best ones to take!
  • GitzoGitzo Posts: 174Member
    Wow! Anyone giving a beginner any advice after all of that is going to be disagreeing with someone!
    Some very good advice, BTW.....

    @ Photophun........You want to know where to start? May I suggest, at the very beginning; the problem now-a-days is, because all of these slick new cameras out there, a lot of beginners seem to want to start "in the middle"; remember the old Chinese proverb....."every journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step"
    These days, it seems like no one wants to walk; like everyone wants to make that "journey" in a Ferrari going 150 mph; yeah, you'll definitely get there quicker, but what will you know when you "get there" that you didn't
    know before you started ? (not much)

    Photography is a great hobby/ past time/ career, or what ever you want to make of it, but only after you learn the basics. I think the biggest problem a beginner has any more, is where to start, what to take pictures of, what equipment to buy, etc. This forum is a great place because of all the experience represented by all of the members, but having said that, just remember one thing; photography starts with knowledge; the only thing worse than "lack of knowledge", (when you're first starting out), is TOO MUCH knowledge; I tend to think of it as "information overload"; after reading all of the above, I agree with 98% of what people have suggested so far; but as long as you have 10 or 11 people giving you directions about "how to do something", I'm afraid you're likely going to get mixed up. My advice......it's like reading a book. start with chapter one, (and forget the rest of them until read (and understand) chapter one. then do the same thing with chapter two......and so on.

    BTW.....your D 3200 is fine; forget new cameras for the next year or two; (depending on how quickly you learn)
    if you want to buy something, get on any website that sells "pre-owned" books and pick up a couple of basic "how to" photography books and study them; you can get lots of good recommendations about "whose book" to buy right here; my best advice about books is, don't struggle trying to learn ANY Nikon camera, using only the Nikon guide book that came with the camera; ( Nikon makes great cameras, but they include "not so great" guide books with them.) (IMHO)


  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    this isnt my picture, i just stumbled upon it, but it seemed relevant to this thread

    its taken with a a canon rebel, and is a nice reminder that the camera isnt really that relevant to the quality of the picture.

    Larys f

    i think a bit of noise, blur, lens flares, and other so-called imperfections can actually add something to a photo, or even make a photo. in fact, i was going to start a thread about this ...... i might go do that now
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    edited March 2013
    An analogue light meter and using the camera on manual for a while does have one great benefit: it will teach a person how the exposure triangle (shutter speed, f-stop and aperture) works to produce the same exposure using different combinations. New photographers who set the camera on P, A or S mode can miss seeing the interrelation of these settings. But once you understand that concept it is faster to work in another mode.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • DJBee49DJBee49 Posts: 133Member
    edited March 2013
    donaldehose. and Gitzo

    Good summaries from both I think!
    Post edited by DJBee49 on
  • aquarian_lightaquarian_light Posts: 135Member
    ......unless you're like me who upgraded from a $500 Olympus E-420 from 2007 with a maximum ~usable~ ISO of 400, one focus point in the center and glass that was "focus by wire" so I couldn't fine tune anything without over or under doing any adjustment because the "focus stops" were too far apart in manual mode; then from that to a D800E. Took me about a thousand frames to get the thing figured out and set up to my liking. But I can very easily say that my images have improved 10 fold since buying the camera simply because of the severe limitations of my previous system that wouldn't allow my creativity to come through in the final production.

    Now I had that camera for near 6 years before I jumped on a new one. It was a 6 thousand dollar jump too... Just anything less wouldn't really have been worth it. It just might be me, but I think if you're going to upgrade, upgrade to the best you can afford. Don't move up in baby steps. Say, don't upgrade from a 3200 to a 7100, up grade from a 3200 to a 600 or 800, and that upgrade will last you MUCH longer than a small upgrade, and you will end up spending less too than if you make lots of small upgrades. So if I had any suggestion to make, start saving now and in 3 or 4 years when the 810, or 900 or what ever is out then you'll have saved enough to make the jump. like I did. I've never been happier with the images I can produce now than I never could before.
    D800E, 24-120 F4 VR, 50mm 1.8G, 85 1.8G, 28mm 3.5, 135mm 3.5
  • PhotophunPhotophun Posts: 43Member
    .
    Iso is a big problem for the D3200 and I do what ever I ca to stay at 100. I can bump it up to 200 but after that its a dogs breakfast.
    something seems wrong here, unless you are makeing very big prints, it should go up 1600 with out too much problem

    suggest you zero out ( two button reset ) and try again

    I try to avoid noise from high ISO's and when doing video work and comparing noise from a D7000 to the D3200 its night and day. Keep in mind, this is in a night club or venue with red lights and or low light conditions. I have also had 2 working industry professionals look at the camera and its the cameras limitations not the settings. They were also quite surprised at the amount of noise at ISO 400 upwards.

    My point that I was trying to make was that if I had checked the camera settings a bit closer I could have increased my shutter speed in A mode and had crisper photos. My guess is that Matrix metering with a thinly overcast sky and a subject under the shade of a tree was to much of a dynamic range. But with Spot metering I could have had a higher shutter speed and less blur. I was shooting close to the ground and the background has portions of the cloudy sky in it. So many settings that make a big difference it just takes time to learn, use in the field, make the beginners mistakes, and try again.

    For the most part I am trying to keep my photos as sharp as possible with low or no noise. So knowing/remembering how to tweak my camera settings to get the best out of the situation is my current problem.
  • obajobaobajoba Posts: 206Member
    Don't worry @Photophun - I will openly admit that I make rookie mistakes on occasion, especially while I am trying to get used to my D4. I think I have taken about 800 shots with it and I am just getting past the reversal of some of the buttons in comparison to the D7000. Yesterday, I noticed the AF wasn't cooperating and I was able to quickly check the AF setup I had dialed in, realized it was set to AF-C with `Lock On' set to '1'. I *never* use this, I always keep it off; I had been going through menus a few days ago "playing around" and must have inadvertently turned it on. So, learning to check your sharpness and histogram, then knowing how to quickly resolve any issues, will come with time and practice.

    There is no replacement for practice and as someone else mentioned, IQ probably drops quite a bit until you learn your new camera - I know mine has, but mine isn't as much image quality as it is missed shots from fumbling through menus that are too similar yet vastly different at the same time.

    Personally, I agree with @aquarian_light regarding purchasing the most camera you can afford when you finally upgrade. I knew that I would continue to shoot and I was able to afford a great setup (though buying all of the "other" stuff is way more $$ than I expected) and I don't regret it one bit. Any issue I have now is likely to be *my* fault and not a limitation of my gear. That is how I prefer it to be. I now have zero excuses.
    D4 | 70-200 2.8 VR | 24-70 2.8 | TC-17e II
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