Will my camera work for "Shoot the Dog!"?

Will my camera work for "Shoot the Dog!"?

If you already have a camera and want to know if it will work for my Shoot the Dog class, here is a list of Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras. They will all work for the class, however, some will work better than others depending on their age and level of features.  


If you do not have a Canon or Nikon, ask Google if your camera is a DSLR.  If it is, then you’re fine.  If you still can’t tell based on your searching, email me (
k9phototeacher@gmail.com) and I’ll help you out.  

Canon DSLR cameras




AdequateGoodBetterBest / Professional
1000D / 1100D / 1200D

Rebel XS

Rebel T3

Rebel T5

100D

300D / 350D / 400D / 450D / 500D / 550D / 600D / 650D / 700D / 750D / 760D

Digital Rebel

Digital Rebel XT / XTi

Rebel XSi

Rebel T1i / T2i / T3i / T4i / T5i / T6i

Rebel T6s 
6D

10D
20D / 20Da
30D
40D
50D
60D / 60Da
70D
1DX

7D
7D Mark II

5D
5D Mark II
5D Mark III

1D
1D Mark II
1D Mark II N
1D Mark III
1D Mark IV

1Ds
1Ds Mark II
1Ds Mark II


Nikon DSLR cameras




AdequateGoodBetterBest / Professional
D40 / D40X / D50 / D60

D3000 / D3100 / D3200 / D3300

D5000 / D5100 / D5200 / D5300

D5500


D100 / D200

D300 / D300S

D70 / D70s
D80
D90

D7000 / D7100 / D7200
D600 / D610

D700 / D750

D800 / D800E

D810 / D810A
D1 / D1X

D2X / D2Xs / D3X

D1H / D2H / D2Hs

D3 / D3S / D4 / D4S

What camera should I buy for "Shoot the Dog!"?

What camera should I buy for "Shoot the Dog!"?

The question seems simple, but the answer can be mind-boggling in its complexity.


Since the course is called “Shoot the Dog!”, I feel pretty safe in assuming that the one subject you all would like to photograph is a dog. Let me start by using video game difficulty levels as an analogy for the subject to be photographed.


Easy: Dog sitting still
Normal: Black dog sitting still
Hard: Dog running
Very hard: Black dog running
Intense: Black dog running indoors
Almost Impossible: Small black dog running in a poorly-lit horse arena with a dirt floor and dark walls

The good news is that any camera that can photograph black dogs in motion is a camera that can photograph almost anything else.  The bad news is that it is incredibly difficult to photograph black dogs indoors and end up with an image that is not a blurry black silhouette.  And the worse news is that the cameras that do the best job also cost the most.  


Why DSLR and not “bridge” or “mirrorless” cameras?

When I taught this course the first time, I had a few Gold students that did not have DSLR cameras, but they did have higher-end digital cameras with the manual controls necessary for the techniques we would be learning.  However, it quickly became clear that there were other technical limitations in these cameras that made it difficult for the students to complete the homework assignments.  We found ways to modify the assignments, but it was not ideal.  


As a result, I have changed my recommendation for this course to be only DSLR cameras.  The obvious distinguishing feature of a DSLR camera is the ability to exchange lenses, selecting the lens that is best for the subject you are photographing.  Some mirrorless cameras also use interchangeable lenses, but come up short in other areas, making them a poor choice for our hypothetical black dog in motion.


DSLR cameras advantages
Larger image sensors
     • Higher quality image
     • Lower image noise in low light
     • Fewer megapixels (MP) on a larger image sensor is better than more MP on a
smaller image sensor

Faster and more responsive
     • Less shutter lag (delay between pressing the shutter button and when the image
actually records)

     • Faster autofocus systems
     • Higher frame rate (number of photos per second)

Tips for selecting a DSLR


Lenses are more important than the camera body

Buying an expensive camera body and using it with a cheap lens is a bad idea.  Plan to spend AT LEAST half of your budget on the lens and the remainder on the camera body.  Lenses retain their value and do not to be replaced as often (if ever!) as the camera body.  Invest in “good glass” and you will not be disappointed.  


In addition, consider buying your camera and lens separately.  Most cameras are advertised as a “kit” that includes both the body and lens.  However, the “kit lens” is often not the best choice for a first lens.  If possible, choose your camera body and pick a lens that will actually be useful.


Buy a camera (and lens) that fits what you will photograph most often

If you are primarily interested in taking photos of beautiful sunsets and mountain ranges, your technical needs are very different than someone who is interested in a career in dog sports photography.  Buying a camera and lenses that can shoot it all is very difficult and VERY expensive.  Narrow your interest down to one or two primary subjects and buy your equipment for those.


Don’t be afraid to buy used equipment

I buy all of my cameras brand new, but this is my livelihood and I will put more clicks on a camera in a year than 10 amateurs combined.  However, I do buy the majority of my lenses used.  I personally do not buy them on ebay or craigslist; I only purchase through reputable dealers or from photographer friends.  Here are a few places to get you started:


B&H Photo (
http://www.bhphotovideo.com)
Adorama (http://www.adorama.com)
Roberts (http://robertscamera.com)
Lens Authority (http://www.lensauthority.com)

If you have a local photo store, particularly one that is not part of a nationwide franchise, it is worth a visit.  You will find knowledgeable salespeople who will let you try out various cameras and lenses and help you make the best decision.  Don’t expect this level of expertise at Best Buy or Walmart.  If you go to your local shop, spend a few hours with them, PLEASE DO NOT walk away and buy the same camera online or at Walmart just to save a few bucks.  These people deserve to be compensated for the time and information they have shared with you.


(continued)You can rent gear for special occasions

I am amazed at the number of people (most!) who never consider this option.  Or don’t even know it exists.  For a fraction of the price of purchasing a new or used lens, you can rent one, have it delivered to your home and ship it back when the rental period is over.  I do this when I need extra gear for events where I have additional photographers working for me, or if I want to try out a lens and see if it meets my needs.  “Try before you buy” is my modus operandi when it comes to new gear.  Here are some rental shops to get you started:


LensProToGo (
https://www.lensprotogo.com)
BorrowLenses (https://www.borrowlenses.com)
Lens Rentals (https://www.lensrentals.com)

Camera brand really doesn’t matter

Seriously.


This class is “camera brand agnostic” so the brand and model of your DSLR does not matter.  The two biggest names in cameras are Canon and Nikon.  I am a Canon girl, so it is easier for me to answer more specific questions about Canon camera than Nikon cameras.  However, I never encountered a question I couldn’t answer because of the brand of equipment.  


I like Canon.  I like their camera bodies, I love their lenses.  But I know professionals who are just as die-hard about Nikon as I am about Canon.  Ultimately, you need to pick the brand that works for you and stick with it.  Lenses can be a major investment, so once you start down one path or the other, it’s pretty hard to change.  It happens, but rarely.  


(I would say the same thing about the Mac vs. PC debate — it doesn’t really matter.  Pick the one that works for you and stick with it.)  


The purchases don’t end with the camera and lens

Don’t forget about the accessories.  SO MUCH FUN to buy accessories!  Here are a few mandatory items and a few optional items:


Mandatory
Memory cards — at least two of 4 GB or more (Sandisk or Lexar are the most reliable brands)
Extra battery — made by the camera manufacturer, not an off brand (more reliable)
Lens cleaning kit
Camera bag — preferably on that doesn’t actually look like a camera bag, for security reasons (Google it — “camera bags that don’t look like camera bags”)

Optional
Grey card
Tripod or monopod
Specialty lenses (Macro, fisheye, telephoto)
Circular polarizing filter
Neutral density filters

So are you ever just going to tell me what to buy?

Not yet.  Let’s look at the camera specifications that are most important for photographing our black dog running indoors.  


Shutter lag

The lag in Canon DSLR cameras ranges from 0.12 second to 0.036 seconds.  This is a measurement of the delay between when you press the shutter and when the camera actually records the shot.  This number is also a best-case scenario — there are circumstances where the shutter lag may be longer.  


This seems like a ridiculously small number.  However, when you consider how fast dogs can move, it becomes significant.  Bad Dog Agility (
http://baddogagility.com/the-breed-power-10-for-2015-q2/) ranks agility dogs in every breed by “yards per second” so let’s look at some of that data. 

The fastest Border Collie jumps 20” and runs at 7.12 yards per second.  Let’s say you were photographing this dog.  You press the shutter and 0.12 seconds later, the camera records the image.  


7.12 yards per second = 21.36 feet per second


If it takes 0.12 seconds before the camera records the image, the dog has moved 2.6 FEET in that amount of time.  In other words, the dog is no longer at the place where you focused.  


That same dog taken with a camera with a .036 shutter lag has moved 9.6 INCHES.  The dog is still not where it was when you focused, but there are other things we can do to reduce the impact of that lag.


This doesn’t just apply to moving dogs.  If you are doing portraits, expressions (on dogs or humans!) can change from one second to the next.  Minimizing the delay of the shutter can mean the difference between “keep it” and “trash it."


I used Canon data because that’s what I have, but there are similar ranges in all DSLR cameras.  And of course, the smaller the shutter lag, the higher the price tag.


(For the sake of comparison, the Canon PowerShot G5 is a bridge camera with a shutter lag of a 1-2 full seconds.)


ISO Range

Before digital cameras, this used to be called “film speed.”  It’s a measurement of the image sensor’s sensitivity to light.  The more sensitive the sensor, the easier it is to photograph in low light conditions.  Lower- to mid-level DSLR cameras have a range of 100 to 6400 ISO.  When you get to the higher end camera, you can get a top ISO of 12800, 25600, or even 51200.  The higher the maximum ISO, the more likely it is you’ll be able to photograph our black dog running indoors.


Frame rate

Cameras can capture images in a burst mode.  There is an associated maximum frames per second with these burst modes.  The lower-end cameras can shoot 3-5 frames per second.  Mid-range cameras capture 5-8 frames per second, with professional-level cameras getting up to 12-14 frames per second.  If you consider our uber-fast Border Collie from before, a faster frame rate means we can capture more shots as they run past us.


“Kit lenses"

Most of the entry-level DSLR cameras come in a kit that includes a lens.  Currently Canon kits include either the 18-55mm or 18-135mm lens.  This lens is wide angle on one end of its range, and barely telephoto (55mm) or moderately telephoto (135mm) on the other end.  If you want to take pictures of landscapes, this is a fine lens.  If you want to take pictures of your dog and it is not bothered by the lens practically poking its nose, this is a fine lens.  If you want to take snapshots on vacation, this is a fine lens (but really, you can do that with your cell phone camera these days).  


If you want to take pictures of your dog, IN MY OPINION, the best all-around lens is the 70-200mm.  It should also be a lens with a fixed maximum aperture of f/5.6, f/4.0, or ideally, f/2.8.  


If you can buy the camera body separately, do it.  Buy the camera body you want and then buy a lens that matches what you want to photograph.  

Megapixels (MP)

This is the one spec that is
NOT important.  Any recent DSLR camera has enough MP to allow you to print an image as large as you could want.  This used to be a factor to sway you one way or another when selecting a camera body, but not anymore.  In fact, more MP can be a drawback, rather than a feature.  More MP means larger image files, which means more memory cards and more hard drive space necessary to store those larger image files.  10-15 MP is sufficient for anything you want to do.  Any higher than that is overkill and hype.  (For some historical context, my first DSLR was 3 MP and I could make beautiful 16x20 prints from those files.)

SERIOUSLY — What should I buy??

If you don’t have any budget restrictions, you should buy this:


Canon
Camera body: 7D Mark II
Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8 IS

Nikon
Camera body: D7200 or D750
(remember I’m a Canon person, but these seem to be the closest equivalents to the 7D Mark II)
Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II

There are more expensive cameras from both Nikon and Canon, but those would be truly overkill for anyone starting their photographic journey. If you still have money burning a hole in your pocket, spend it on another lens.  Perhaps something on the wide-angle end of the spectrum of focal lengths like Canon’s 24-70mm f/2.8.

Wikipedia has some helpful charts that give an idea of the relative quality of the camera models produced by Canon and Nikon.

Canon:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Canon_EOS_digital_cameras

Nikon:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Nikon_DSLR_cameras

If my suggestion doesn’t work for you, use the chart to find the camera body I recommended and then go “down” a step.  For example, the next step down from the 7D Mark II is the 70D.  You’ll have to look at the specs of the different camera models and decide what is most important.  Canon and Nikon both post all of these specs on their respective websites, as do the other camera manufacturers.  

If you get your choices narrowed down to two different cameras and/or lenses, you can email me at
k9phototeacher@gmail.com for additional guidance.  Please tell me your budget and what you primarily plan to photograph.  

Shoot the Dog 1: Light and Exposure will be offered in December 2015 and February 2016.  Shoot the Dog 2: Composition and Post-Processing will be coming in February 2016 and STD1 will be a prerequisite.

I hope to see you all in class!