Thursday, July 21, 2005

a first look at the 350D + Canon EF-S kit lens

Got the 350D+ Kit lens from jj mehta (run by a nice chap - kartik mehta) in mumbai.
47k for the body+kit lens+2year Canon India warranty, and 5.9k for a Sandisk Extreme III IGB CF card.

Also am getting a Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens tomorrow. (-the- BEST glass you can get for the price of 5k. period.)

First few observations:
The sensor gives amazingly crisp and silky smooth image texture as compared to anything else I've ever seen yet.
The kit lens is a huge let-down .... since I'm coming from the Schneider Kreuznach Variogon on the Kodak 6490 - believe me ... I just realized that the 6490 cost breakup is like 25k = 20k for the 38-380mm lens and around 5k for the body+sensor+other electronics. (now the 6490 costs around 18k)

The kit lens is a Canon 18-55mm EF-S II f/3.5 - f/5.6. This lens does not allow enough light for good indoor photos in low light as compared to the Schneider Variogon on the kodak. I can open up the Variogon up to f/2.8 even at - say - 200mm - which is really fast i.e. it allows in more light and thus allows me to afford a shorter shutter speed (i.e. crisp - shake free photos) compared to what the Canon kit lens allows me to do. So --- I'm returning the kit lens (which costs 4.5k) and will probably go in for a Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-f/6.3 lens .... I still haven't decided on this yet - but the kit lens sure does disappoint me.

Shooting with a dSLR is -very- different from a compact point-and-shoot-zoom-with-creative-controls camera.
The most prominent issues that a compact point-and-shoot user will face -
a.) no LCD screen based composition
b.) no great kit lens - and this is a -big- drawback if you are used to a compact with a very good lens - say, like the kodak DX6490.
c.) a different weight distribution in a different shape hinders blur and shake free shooting in low light (again, this is probably very lens dependent)
e.) the AF system on the Canon 350D is pretty useless when shooting a subject more than 5 meters away in the dark, outside, with just street lighting to go with.
(the flash fires a series of very fast strobes as an AF assist beam - NO INFRARED BEAM as in the kodak) This is awful, but can be rectified with the Canon Speedlite flash unit that has an IR AF assist beam

I have a very good friend in mumbai who is a pro photographer, -AND- uses a kit lens (!!!) with a 300D .... so, it is probably a bit subjective and it depends on what you are used to ... eventually the creative faculties will adapt to the equipment (happened with the kodak for me - the slow autofocus and lack of aperture settings beyond f/8 ... the really noisy sensor that forced me to never shoot at anything other than ISO 80 for anything I wanted to print).

So ... I've bought the Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime - which should effectively solve the low light shooting issue. And am looking for a cost effective solution to the tele-zoom issue (got spoilt by composition choices that the 38-380mm zoom on the kodak offers :) find it difficult to use my feet as a zoom now. ) The problem is .... glass is -VERY- expensive - if it is any good. And glass prices don't come down :( like the camera body prices do. A good quality lens that I'm looking at buying right now (maybe not so right now ... :) )is a Canon 70-200/f 2.8 IS USM L lens ... and it comes with a price tag of 78k INR!!!!!!!!!! Meanwhile the Tamron 18-200/f3.5-f6.3 will have to do @ 18k ... although it is not as fast - but at least it will give me something closer to the Schneider Kreuznach Variogon 38-380/f2.8-f5.6

My recommendation- if you are planning to buy a dSLR ..... buy the glass first. Buy the best glass you can afford. This could be repeated -n- times - a good digital body with the cheapest available glass ( the kit lens in this case) is like having a Bose home theater attached to a local made 14" monochrome monitor and a really crummy pair of cheaply made car speakers salvaged from the local junk yard.
Well, not that bad, but if you are on a 'Pune, India' kinda salary and are spending a bomb on a dSLR system, first save up for and buy the glass ... and then save up for the body (which will decrease in price then)

What makes moving to a dSLR worth ... is, of course ... the quality of the finished product :)

Once you see what a -good- lens can do, there's no coming back :)) be warned - read this -