Bluffing your way in Photography – Part 1 – The DSLR

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Here is the first of a small series of articles I am going to write which will make people think you’re an expert photographer when you’re not. I will teach you what you need to really know – and how to bluff the rest.

What is a DSLR and why do I need one?

DSLR Stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. You don’t really need to understand what it means because the people you’re trying to impress don’t know either. But, in a nutshell:

Digital – from the latin ‘digitus’ for fingers or toes because it has buttons you need to press. I would not advise using your toes, in general.

Single Lens – because it comes with a single kit lens, something like an 18-55mm, and most people never bother to get any others.

Reflex – from the 1983 hit by Duran Duran. They also recorded ‘Girls on Film’ which probably has something to do with cameras.

A DSLR is a big camera. It’s big for two reasons.

a) because it contains a mirror assembly to show you a live view through the lens in the viewfinder as you’re composing your shot. The mirror swings out of the way when the shot is being taken, giving the characteristic noise of the camera.

b) because big is obviously more serious and a serious camera means you’re a better photographer.

Choosing an EOS DSLR

Firstly, you need a camera. And as this is an article about DSLRs on a Canon EOS blog forgive me if I only discuss Canon EOS DSLRs.

There are two types. Cheap and not so cheap. The more digits in the number for the camera, the less expensive they are. So, for example an EOS 1200D is cheaper than an EOS 600D which is cheaper than an EOS 80D which is cheaper than an EOS 7D (at least for current models.)

The EOS 1300D is better than the EOS 1200D which is better than the EOS 1100D.

The EOS 750D is better than the EOS 600D which is better than the EOS 500D etc.

The EOS 7D is worse than the EOS 6D which is worse than the EOS 5D which is worse than the EOS 1D.  Wait. What? Yes, it all stops making sense when you reach single-digit EOS camera numbers.

Also… If you’re from the US you may be thinking “What the hell is an EOS 1300D or a 750D?”. That’s because, in a genius move to both control grey importing and to confuse everyone, they have completely different names in the US (and different names again in Japan.)

So, an EOS 1300D is a Rebel T6 in the US, and a Kiss X80 in Japan.  And the EOS 750D is a Rebel T6i in the US and a Kiss X8i in Japan.

Now, with that preamble you probably expect me to give you some advice about which camera to get. Get the most expensive one you can afford.  There you go. That was easy.

What is FAR more important for you bluffers out there however is to be able to explain the reasons for your camera choice when other photographers ask you. “Because the guy in PC World said it was good” or “It was on special offer in Argos because the box was flood damaged” are not appropriate responses if you want to be a true bluffer.

Here’s a list of currently available Canon DSLRs, the real reasons for buying them, and things you can bluff about.

EOS 1300D (Rebel T6/Kiss X80)

This should be the cheapest current Canon available right now, but deals on the 100D mean that might now be a cheaper option. It’s very plasticky, it has a low (9) number of autofocus points compared to more expensive cameras and it is slow (3 frames per second.) Don’t discount it though. For most general photography it can be a really good camera.

Bluff lines you could use:

  • “Yes, this is the 1300D, it has a tried and trusted 18 megapixel sensor – more megapixels is just marketing.”
  • “The money I saved getting this camera over the 7D Mark II means I can put a deposit down on an EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II lens to go with it.”
  • “The more expensive Canons are all geared towards video. I’m a REAL photographer.” 

EOS 100D (Rebel SL1, Kiss X7)

Same 18 megapixel sensor as the EOS 1300D but faster at 4 frames a second. Most importantly, it’s tiny – has claimed to be the world’s smallest DSLR at 116.8 mm × 90.7 mm × 69.4 mm.  It’s probably due for replacement any time soon as it’s been available since 2013, which means right now it’s cheaper than the 1300D making it quite a bargain.

Bluff lines you could use:

  • “Size isn’t everything.”
  • “I like to be inconspicuous when I’m doing street photography.”

EOS 750D/760D (Rebel T6i/T6s, Kiss X8i/8000D)

These are more or less the same camera, the 760D has an extra top display which makes it easier to keep track of what’s going on in the camera. The price difference is small enough that it’s probably not worth getting the 750D – but fortunately most people don’t know about the difference between the two, so if you’ve bought the 750D don’t panic, you won’t have to explain why you didn’t get the better model. 5 frames per second.

Bluff lines you could use:

  • “The sensor on this camera has a narrower dot pitch than the 5DSR! It’s unbeatable for telephoto photography.”
  • “Canon went crazy, putting 19 autofocus points in a low-end camera, they’re going to kill off their pro range!”

EOS 80D

Now we’re talking. The latest in the ‘prosumer’ range of EOS cameras, this is also the most modern camera in the list. It has a new 24 megapixel sensor with greatly improved sensitivity to reduce noise . There’s very little need to bluff here, it’s a great camera with few drawbacks, you’ll get nods of recognition but you still don’t want to be asked any complicated questions. 7 frames per second.

Bluff lines you could use:

  • “The new sensor performance swung it for me over the 7D Mark II.”

EOS 7D Mark II

A much loved upgrade to the earlier much loved EOS 7D camera, Canon’s top-of-the-line APS-C camera. APS-C probably means something, but you don’t need to know what except the C stands for crop. Just like cropped jeans, organic crops and crop circles, crop sensors are an ‘in thing’. They’re smaller than the full frame ones, which just like full fat and Full English Breakfast are probably not as good for you.   The 7D Mark II, with 10 frame per second continuous shooting, is the number 2 camera for sports and wildlife photographers, only beaten by the 1DX Mark II, which is the number 1 camera for ludicrously rich photographers (see below).   Cons: It has an older 20 megapixel sensor that doesn’t stand up against the modern offerings in cameras such as the 80D

Bluff lines you could use:

  • “I don’t need full frame for bird photography. This makes my 400mm f/5.6 into an effective 640mm lens.”
    this one works particularly well if you’re actually photographing birds at the time.
  • “The ten frames per second swung it for me over the 80D.”

 

EOS 5D Mark III

This is a very nice camera. I have one. So, you could use the perfectly acceptable bluff line that “I bought this camera because it’s the one Jolyon Ralph uses.” and that would be a perfectly good justification. However, let’s learn a little more. The 5D range, which started with the original 12 Megapixel Canon 5D ten years ago, is Canon’s flagship semi-professional camera range. It uses a full-frame sensor, which as I’ve mentioned before is clearly better than a cropped sensor in that the sensor is much bigger – 36x24mm on the 5D Mark III compared to 22.4x15mm on the 7D Mark II. And, as we all know, bigger is better. But beware – the Mark III will be replaced by the Mark IV this year, probably August or September time.

Bluff lines you could use:

  • “It still has an unparalleled combination of sensor, focusing and functionality. It’s the best tool for the job.”
  • “My last 5D mark III got up to 800,000 shutter activations before it was trampled by a herd of water buffalo during a wildlife shoot. I got this replacement with the insurance money.”

 

EOS 6D

Soon after the 5D Mark III was released Canon realised there were some unfortunate people who couldn’t justify paying £3,000 for a new camera. So they got to work and sent their designers off to see how they could best do a “Tesco Value” model full-frame camera. The 6D lacks a few features from the 5D Mark III, and has a lower megapixel (20 megapixel vs 22.3 on the 5D Mark III) sensor. Unfortunately (for those who have bought the 5D Mark III) the sensor quality in the 6D is actually slightly better than the 5D Mark III, in part because the bigger pixels can be slightly more sensitive.

Bluff lines you could use:

  • “I got this to get the best affordable high quality full-frame sensor for astrophotography.”
  • “I prefer to spend my money on quality glass rather than pay for camera features I’m unlikely to use.”

 

EOS 5DS/5DSR

These monsters share the same body (almost exactly) as the 5D Mark III but carry an enormous 50 megapixel sensor, giving you the biggest image size out of any mainstream production DSLR. Because of this they generate large files which fill up your camera cards in no time at all, and take forever to work on. In reality, you only want one of these cameras if you really know what you’re doing with it.

The 5DS has a special filter in to gently defocus the light hitting the sensor to remove Moiré patterns on the filter (as do all of the other cameras listed above). You don’t know what these patterns are, although you suspect it might be the name of a village in Ireland. Let me try and explain it.

You know when you’re watching TV on some digital channel and they show a scene of a bonfire burning, or someone’s car on fire, etc. and you look at the screen and you see the image starts to break up, and there are weird blocks all over it?  Well, that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Moiré patterns.

Now, however, remember in the past when sometimes the TV news people were interviewing someone with a patterned shirt and there were weird noisy patterns… that hit your eye like a big pizza pie? That’s a Moiré.

Anyway… the 5DS carries the filter that gets rid of these. And the 5DSR, it has that too. But then it has an extra special filter added in which cancels out the filter, so the patterns come back! This is great if you want to spend forever with Photoshop editing your photos. It also gives a slightly higher resolution. So if insane pixel sharpness is your thing, 5DSR is your camera.

I have a 5DSR too, because reasons.

Bluff lines you could use:

  • “The resolution is essential for my macro photography.”
  • “With this I can simply use my 70-200 f/2.8L IS II and crop down when I need to.”
  • “It’s 50 megapixels, mate!”

 

EOS 1DX Mark II

The latest and most expensive (£5,199 UK price) of the professional range of Canon EOS cameras, this bad boy is therefore only for those with more money than sense than me. It only has 20 megapixels, but it has the best and fastest autofocus of any EOS camera and shoots shots so fast it can take photos of events several seconds before they happen. It looks bigger and bulkier than every other camera because bigger is, obviously, better. You get a complimentary 1 year gym membership with each 1DX Mark II sold to help you get used to carrying it.

Bluff lines you could use:

  • Yes, I’m press, and yes I am meant to be here. Give me a moment to find my press pass. Can you come back later?
  • I’m a Canon Ambassador. I’m still bound by the NDA so I can’t talk about anything, sorry!

Megapixels

As we all know, the most important thing about a camera is how many megapixels it has. If your camera nowadays has less than 18 megapixels then whatever you do, do not let anyone see what camera you have. Some of the cheap cameras even proudly say on the front that they have ’12 megapixels’ or similar. Using one of those is like going into a MENSA meeting wearing a t-shirt saying “IQ: 85”. If you have no choice and you’re desperate then use some tippex to change the 12 into 42. But that’s a risky gambit.

Because megapixels are so important, I thought it was worth giving you an alternative buyers guide to Canon cameras to work out the price per megapixel of each camera.

So, in reverse order:

Canon EOS 100D (£249) – £13.83/megapixel

Canon EOS 1300D (£289) – £16.06/megapixel

Canon EOS 750D (£409) – £17.04/megapixel

Canon EOS 80D (£999) – £41.63/megapixel

Canon EOS 5DS (£2,699) – £53.98/megapixel

Canon EOS 6D (£1,119) – £55.95/megapixel

Canon EOS 7D Mark II (£1,179) – £58.95/megapixel

Canon EOS 5D Mark III (£,2178) – £99.00/megapixel

Canon EOS 1DX Mark II (£5,199) – £259.95/megapixel

This just goes to show that the 1DX Mark II has the most expensive megapixels in any EOS camera. The current bargain is the 100D with the cheapest megapixels around.  You can also see that the 5DS has slightly cheaper megapixels than the 6D, and although the 6D and 7D Mark II both have quite similarly priced megapixels, the 7D Mark II has a cropped sensor so the 6D‘s megapixels are fatter.

Also, just to compare:

12.9-inch iPad Pro 32GB (£679) – £84.88/megapixel

Hubble Space Telescope (£1,750,000,000) – £109,375,000/megapixel

Lenses

You have one lens. The kit lens. Usually an 18-55mm but it could be an 18-135mm or even something far more exotic if you have a full frame camera.

Remember this. The whole point of a DSLR is that you can change lenses. If you only have a single lens then why bother? Why not just use your damn iPhone?

So, unless you want to look like a complete fool you need at least one other lens.

Fortunately, the choice for most people is pretty simple. Get the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Not only is this the cheapest lens that Canon do for the EF range, it’s actually a superb little performer and a really good introduction to actually trying to make some decent photos.

People might ask you why you have the cheap 50mm f/1.8 instead of the more expensive f/1.4 or the much more expensive f/1.2.  For this you might want to reply something like:

  • “I ordered 8 copies on Amazon Prime and this was the best performer by far and returned the rest. Once you get a good copy the performance is almost indistinguishable from the f/1.4 at a quarter of the price.”
  • “I won’t get the f/1.4 because it’s a 1990s lens with dated optics, and the f/1.2 is far too heavy. So I’ve bought this one while I wait for Canon to finally get around to launching the f/1.4 replacement with IS.”

Just for your information in the last statement IS refers to image stabilization, not Islamic State.

However, if you have a 5D Mark III or higher then you really can’t be seen using ORDINARY lenses, that’s just wrong. You need L series lenses, the L stands for expensive (in Japanese, I think.) They are bigger, heavier, costlier and have a nice red ring around the front to show other people that you have bought a serious lens. If you have a 5D mark III or a 6D then the 24-104 f/4L IS is a good choice (but again, new one coming out very soon), but you’ll really want to save your pennies for a 24-70 f/2.8L II if you are using a 5DS or higher.

If you don’t have much money and want a really good L series lens, the excellent 70-200 f/4L is an absolute bargain for a great lens.

How to stop people asking awkward questions about your camera gear.

So, you’re taking photos and some random person asks you what model camera you have, is it a good camera, is it better than the Nikon? You start to sweat and you know you need to reply. Here’s a couple of suggestions:

  • “Oh, this is a loan camera that I’m using while my Leica is at the dealer having its annual sensor clean and body wax. I haven’t had this Canon long enough to make a firm judgement yet.”
  • “No hablo Inglés.”

Another trick you may want to do is to use some black electrical tape to cover over the name ‘Canon’ and the camera model number to prevent people from asking you about it.  This will stop most people from asking, however, there is always the tiny risk that someone will ask you WHY you taped them over, so here are the prepared responses you need to memorise just in case. Choose either:

  • “I want my subjects to focus on me, not look at the camera.”
  • “It helps protect the resale value of the camera if I keep the name labels pristine.”

Problem solved!

 

How not to look like a complete dick when using your DSLR.

All modern DSLRs have a great feature called Live View. It allows you to take photos viewing the live image on the screen on the back without having to hold it up to your eye to take a photo. Some even have swivelling screens to let you use the camera at strange angles!

However, this is not how real men (or women) use a DSLR and, quite frankly, it’s embarrassing.  If you’re doing macro photography on a fixed setup, then fine. If you’re using a tripod and want to zoom in to ensure your telephoto focus is accurate then yes, live view is acceptable then too.  For every other time avoid it – it’s the DSLR equivalent of those people who walk around holding their iPads up to take photos.    Do you want to be the DSLR-owning equivalent of the selfie-stick user? No. you don’t.

Awkward Phone Guy

This is Colin. Don’t be Colin.

So remember your posture. Stand with feet apart, one slightly ahead of the other to maintain good posture and balance, hold camera with both hands (if you’re going for the ‘real pro’ look then don’t use the camera strap).

If you want to be super impressive then try adjusting your position for taking photos by kneeling on one leg, or even both. You can tell people it gives a more flattering angle for portraits, even though in reality it does tend to mean you’re looking right up their nostrils.

Adjust the focus ring on your lens EVEN THOUGH YOU DON’T NEED TO.  It makes you look like you think you’re better at finding focus on the lens than the camera is. Everyone will be impressed. However don’t play with the zoom more than you have to, that makes you look like you can’t decide how to frame the shot. If you’re photographing a woman she’ll think you’re just trying to zoom in on her tits. This is probably because you are trying to do just that, so be careful. They know.

Can I see the photos please?

Back in the old days photographers were safe. You took photos, went home and then the people who you had taken photos of usually forgot all about it, except if they were getting married in which case they tended to be a little more persistent.

Today however every bastard you photograph asks “can I see?”. Even three year old kids know that their grinning snot-covered face is going to be on the back of the camera if they force you to turn it round.

Now, let’s assume you don’t want your victims to see the blurry mess of photography that you attempted with them, and you certainly don’t want them to scroll through the other photos to see that one where you zoomed in on to that nice lady. What can you say?

“I only shoot in raw, and the display doesn’t do justice to the photos – I’ll process them in Lightroom sometime in the next few weeks and email you a copy.”

That should work for most, but failing that if you subtly unclip the battery compartment door covering it with your right hand as you show the camera you can exclaim, with despair, that the battery has just run out.

Next week:

Bluffing your way in Photography – Part 2 – Commenting on your (and other peoples) photos without sounding like an idiot

 

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