carefully budgeted Digital SLR Camera Outfit
Hardly a day goes
by that someone doesn't phone me (or email me, or commandeer
me at a carshow or a track event), seeking advice about which
digital camera ("digicam") he or she should get. So
belowjust for youis my current roster of recommended
digicam gear for the budget-conscious motorcar enthusiast.
that I'm recommending only DSLR (digital single-lens reflex)
models; with the bargain prices of today's digital SLRs, and
factor in that you no longer need to continually pay for expensive
film and developing, paying a little more and getting yourself
a much-more-capable DSLR digicam is a veritable no-brainer. Comparing
the image-capture capabilities of one of today's (properly outfitted)
DSLRs to a point-and-shoot-class digicam is akin to comparing
an Aston Martin to a Yugo.
are several significant reasons for opting for a good DSLR (digital
single-lens-reflex) camera such as the Nikon D3000:
optical quality and overall lens performance is unmistakably
better than than of most low-priced and medium-priced pocket-sized
(and larger) consumer digicams. The "standard" 1855mm
zoom lens of most of today's DSLR cameras is perfect for all
of your motorcar photography and most of your photography in
general. But for portrait and other people shots, you'd be wise
to spring for a second zoom lens, say a 55150 or 55200.
If you purchase that second zoom, try to get one that uses the
same filter size as your primary (18-55mm) lens. To avoid folks
looking like a chunkier version of Humpty Dumpty, you
must (physically) back up a few feet (to a 1012 ft./34
meter distance) and use approximately a 100120mm zoom setting
for your portrait shots. Trust me on that advice.
Speaking of filters, two are absolutely indispensable, and
you'll read about them below. You'll want to permanently
mount an inexpensive (under $20) UV/ultraviolet filter on each
of your DSLR's lenses, and you'll want a nice Hoya polarizer
filter to use with both lenses. Here's an example of with/without
a polarizer filter in midday bright sun:
NO POLARIZER FILTER, this picture was
captured in harsh, midday sunlight. Note the complete bleachout
of the windshield and the hood (bonnet), as well as the corollary
murky shadows in the front of the car.
A POLARIZER FILTER, the filter rotated
to MAXIMUM polarization.Note that by reducing the glare, the
shadow areas miraculously come out lighter. You see, there's
roughly the same amount of light on each of these two images...
but the light is more evenly distributed with the use of the
The quality and illumination power (IMHO, the factor that should
be perhaps your highest priority in choosing a camera) of the
flip-up built-in flash on all of today's consumer DSLRs is also
significantly better than the little pencil-eraser-sized flash
on the little 'pocket' cameras. And because of its 'flip-up'
mechanism, it rises much higher above the camera, which means
it's that much much lower when turn your camera upside-down
(which you'll also read about below and learn to make your standard
procedure). If you'd like a brief lesson as to why you need to
learn to use your flash outdoors (and why a more powerful 'flip-up'
flash (or better yet, a good add-on flash) is so extraordinarily
useful for your outdoor photography), take a look:
& Tori without flash
& Tori with forced flash
how much richer the color is in the background when your flash 'brightens up' your closeup subject(s).
photography will benefit in precisely the same manner once you
learn to use your flash outdoors. Make sure your next camera
has a good 'flip-up' flash. And then take full advantage of it.
One final note
I hope to never again hear someone say "My camera
has automatic flash; it knows when to engage the flash."
Sigh. No it doesn't. Your camera's factory-default (and thoroughly
useless) 'automatic flash' does not work outdoors... where
you need your flash the most. IMHO, "automatic flash"
is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on camera users. Set your
camera to 'forced flash'the naked-lightning-bolt iconand
leave it there.
find the complete set of my recommended digital-camera settings
on page 4 of "Cobra
Photography Tips for DIPSTICKS."
30 years I've been purchasing my photography gear from B&H
Photo, I've dropped their name to anyone who asked whom I
recommend for a camera equipment outfitter, and I'm giving those
fine folks the 'thumbs up' on this page. Here's a
hotlink to a nice nighttime photo of their storefront, located at
420 9th Avenue in Manhattan). My reason being, 1) B&H
is the largest supplier of photographic equipment on the planet
[if these folks don't carry what you're looking for, you probably
wouldn't want to own it], 2) they always give me sound
advice (and with no sales pressure), and I've never once encountered
a misadventure with them. And they publish a splendid full-color
high praise cannot be said of many of the bargain-basement-special
photo suppliers, especially when they lure you in with one of
their "camera kit packaged specials," which are more-often-than-not
"padded" with lower-quality stuff and off-brand lenses,
filters and other accessories... and they almost never
volunteer to tell you that part. You'll see (below) that I've
provided a hyperlink to B&H, along with some time-saving
search words/search phrases (in red) for you to use on B&H's
on-site search utility, and (as time has permitted) I've added
direct hotlinks. I
set all the remote links to open the B&H page in a
new window, so you can refer back & forth to this article
and refer to the search words I've provided for you in this text.
(B&H search phrase: Nikon D3000). It's a splendidly capable
SLR (single-lens reflex) camera with lots of well-thought-out
features (including a well-designed "flip-up" flash),
and it's user friendly. The D-Series "standard" autofocus/zoom
lens is Nikon's popular 1855mm, which translates (in 35mm
parlance) to the equivalent of 27mm83mm... an excellent
wide-angle-to-short-telephoto zoom range. You can pick
one up (with the 1855mm zoom lens) for less than $500 from
several vendors on the Internet. Many of the Cobras and GT40s
you see for sale on CobraCountry were shot with this (or some
other member of Nikon's D-Series digicams), and the results
speak for themselves. IMHO, the D3000's 10.2 megapixels represents
about 6 megapixels more than you'll ever need. IMHO, 99 people
out of 100 have no sensible reason to spend an extra dime for
more megapixelsadvertising spin and marketing hype notwithstanding.
The ongoing "megapixel-count" war is all about selling
digital cameras, NOT about capturing good photographs. Save your
money on pixel overkill and deploy it instead to equip yourself
with some wisely-selected accessories that'll contribute significantly
more quality to your photographs.
Canon also offers
excellent consumer-priced SLR digicams (its 'EOS Rebel'
Series, B&H search phrase: Canon Rebel XS), as does Olympus
(E-Series, B&H search phrase: Olympus Evolt). But among
them all, I'd lunge for the Nikon D3000.
to the Nikon D3000 page on B&H's site: Nikon D3000
'Essential Six' Must-Have Camera Accessories
my permanent roster of recommended accessoriesno matter
what digital SLR camera you choose:
1. UV/haze filter:
A Hoya UV filter
52mm size) is only $19.35 at B&H; (B&H# HOUVMC52, B&H search phrase:
certified no-brainer investment. On the one hand it's an effective
filter for reducing "haze" (and thereby improving your
color saturation), but moreover it's darned cheap insurance to
protect your front lens surface from scratches. Every time you
clean dust or smudges off the front of your lens, you're risking
scratching a $13 filter, NOT a $200 or $300 lens; Get
it, screw it onto your lens and leave it there permanently. In
fact, I urge you to apply a small drop of Loctite 'Thread
Locker Blue' or similar thread adhesive on your UV filter's
threads, just to ensure that it'll permanently stay in place.
to the Hoya 52mm UV filter on B&H's website:
Hoya 52mm UV filter
The Hoya 52mm circular polarizer filter is $35.85 at
B&H; (B&H# HOCP52, B&H
search phrase: hocp52). When you're out in the bright
sun and need polarization, just screw the filter on temporarily
(in front of your "permanent" UV filter), and rotate
it to "dial-in" the amount of polarization you desire
(typically you'll want ALL of the glare eradicated). It dials-out
glare just like your polarized sunglasses do. Worth forty times
its weight in Krugerrands for shooting shiny and/or colorful
objects in bright sunlight. Almost every single richly-colored
poster or calendar outdoor scene (vintage motorcars, fall colors,
snow-covered mountains, blue sky) you've ever marveled over was
shot using a polarizer filter. Tiffen also offers
a circular polarizer filter; it's $19.95 at BHphoto; B&H# TICP52, B&H search phrase:
ticp52). I've used both
Hoya and Tiffen polarizers; they're both good products,
but you'll get better and more consistent polarization with the
Hoya. IMHO, it's worth the extra $16.
to the Hoya 52mm polarizer filter on B&H's website:
Hoya 52mm PL filter
3. camera strap:
Tamrac N-45 padded/quick-release camera strap [available black
with black foam-padded suede leather shoulder pad, or with brown
padded suede shoulder pad; it's $21.95 at B&H (B&H# TAN45BR, B&H search phrase: tamrac N-45); I've used
essentially this same superb (Tamrac) strap on every one
of my cameras since I purchased my two Nikon FA's in 1984.] The
strap that comes with any camera is always a chintzy excuse
for a camera strap, atho' Nikon straps are among the better
ones that are included with the camera. Get that Tamrac N-45,
and you'll be delighted with it 'til the proverbial cows come
home. Keep your strap around your neck all the time you're taking
pictures, and never (trust me: NEVER) set your camera down with
the strap hanging over the edge of the table; that's a recipe
to the Tamrac N-45 quick-release camera strap on B&H's
website: Tamrac N-45 strap
4. Lens shade/lens
hood: ±$10. B+W
#900 52mm rubber lens shade is probably your best buy, at $9.50. [B&H# BWLHR52,
B&H search phrase for ALL their collapsible rubber
lens hoods: "rubber
(andtrust mebe sure to include those quote
marks)]. It's designed for a "standard" focusing range
(±50mm) lens setting, which will suffice for much of your
shooting. It also serves to protect the delicate front rim of
your lens from collision damage.
to the B&W #900 rubber lens shade on B&H's
website: B&W #900 lens shade
want to be able to "flex" your lens hood for everything
from wide-angle to telephoto (important if you're at an outdoor
event where you're likely to be aiming your camera in all sorts
of random directions), consider the Heliopan 52mm screw-in
rubber lens hood [$19.69; B&H# HELH52, B&H
search phrase: helh52]; it's made of natural rubber
and is soft and pliableyou fold it back on itself to use
with a wide-angle lens.
5. camera card
reader: ±13. My
pick of the litter? The Delkin eFilm Reader-38 Card Reader/Writer [B&H# DEMCRW,
B&H search phrase: demcrw)] is as good a bargain as you're
likely to stumble upon. It provides a universal USB 2.0 fast
interface, and thus works equally well with a Windows
or Macintosh computer, accommodates 18 card types, and
(as of December 2010) it's only $12.95. Get yourself one. Plugs
into any USB port on your computer; you slip your camera's memory
card into the appropriate slot (just like you'd slip a disk into
a disk drive), and voilá, the "disk"
icon shows up on your desktop, whence you can promptly copy the
files onto your hard disk. Almost everybody makes 'em: Delkin,
Hewlett-Packard, iConnection, IOGear, Kingston, Lexar, Lenovo,
Microtech, Sandisk, Sony, Verbatim, et al. B&H
alone offers over 75 camera card readers made by numerous manufacturers.
If, on the B&H site, for some bizarre reason you'd
like to see all the card readers they carry, use this keyword
strategy (don't type in the brackets): <USB card reader>;
then from the drop-down menu that (by default) reads "relevance,"
select "Price: Low To High" and scroll through
the pages until you've viewed all 70 or 80 models. The first
page in your search result will display 20 models of card readers
ranging from $5.50 to $15.95. You probably won't even need to
visit the second page. In the end, I'd still spring for the Delkin.
to the Delkin eFilm card reader on B&H's website:
Delkin eFilm card reader
6. camera bag:
This is where it gets tricky among your "must haves."
You see, B&H Photo alone displays (as of today, 29
November, 2010) 629 camera bags (from over two dozen manufacturers,
ranging from Billingham to Zing Designs) on their
website. There are well over 100 bags made by Tamrac alone!
In B&H's search utility, just select "Cameras/Photo
Gear" category, then type in "camera bags" and
go crazy. Over 600 of them, and they range in price from about
$9.95 to $589.95 (no kidding). But I've done my best to keep
it simple for you. If you want a well-made, intelligently
engineered camera bag that will accommodate and protect 1)
your camera, 2) in most cases an extra lens, 3)
an auxiliary flash, 4) a few extra filters & accessories,
and 5) all your other "stuff" (within reason)extra
memory cards, spare batteries, USB cable, lens-cleaning cloth,
etc. etc., below are a few selections (ranging from $31.95
to $47.95) from among the 629 choices on B&H's website,
and from only two of the manufacturersLowepro and
Each of the camera
bag photos below is linked to a larger,
and sometimes alternate view (or alternate color) of that model.
of the model names is hotlinked to the B&H web page
for that bag.
Tamrac 3340 Aero 40 [B&H search phrase:
SLR camera with lens attached, flash and accessories
in black or red
Tamrac 601 Expo 1 [B&H search phrase:
SLR camera, extra lens, flash and accessories
in navy, gray, black or red
Lowepro Nova 140 AW [B&H search phrase:
SLR camera with lens attached, flash and accessories
nylon and polyester bag
zippered front pocket
memory card pockets
grab handle, removable adjustable shoulder strap, belt loop
in black, blue, red, chesnut
Lowepro Nova 160 AW [B&H search phrase:
similar to the Nova 140, but slightly larger dimensions
SLR camera, one extra lens, flash and accessories
nylon and polyester bag
zippered front pocket
memory card pockets
grab handle, removable adjustable shoulder strap, belt Loop
and solid black)
through all 629 of B&H Photo's dossier of camera bags,
culled the selection down to about 35 'finalists,' then to 14
or 15, then to these final five. I'm certain that any one of
these Lowepro or Tamrac camera bags will serve
you well. My
pick of the five? Probably the Lowepro Nova 160. But even the
lowest-priced Tamrac 3340 is a fine little bag, albeit
perhaps a smidgen less spacious than the Lowepro.
that if you were to invest in all five of my recommended accessories
for your digital SLR camera, you'd spend less than $150. And
you'd be well-outfitted for just about photographic challengeespecially motorcar
photography and any other sort of outdoor shutter punching.
four other items you should eventually consider
for a more advanced basic photographic outfit:
Aerosol "duster/blaster" canan eminently useful item for
you to keep on hand to safely blow any dust particles out of
your digital SLR. You can find 'em for between $4 and $10
just about anyplace... electronics stores (including computer
stores), camera stores, office supply stores. In megastores they're
almost always located in the electronics department.
A flash unit.
The "flip-up" flash on your digital SLR provides far
better illumination than the little cigarette-buttsized
flash on most digicams (trust me on that), but it's still not
nearly as effective or as versatile as an auxiliary flash mounted
on your camera. And remember, outdoors in the bright sun (and
bright daytime shade) is where you need a really good flash mounted
on your camera. The superb Nikon SB-600 AF Speedlight (for Nikon's
D-Series digicams) zooms along with your zoom lens, plus
it rotates and swivelsso you can rotate it or 'bounce it (off
the ceiling or off your concrete driveway). The good news:
it gets very good reviews from users, performs well and is a
no-brainer to use. The bad news: it retails for
a somewhat pricey $220. More good news: Nikon's compact SB-400 AF Speedlight (also for Nikon's
D-Series digicams) is only $120, also rotates for 'bounce
flash,' and is only $120; third-party flash units for the Nikon
D-Series and other popular SLR lines (from such established
makers as Bower, Phoenix, Sigma, SunPak, Vivitar) start
at under $40. On B&H's website, just do a search for
(ignore these brackets) <Nikon flash> or <Olympus flash>
or <Canon flash> (etc. etc.) and start exploring
B&H's resulting selection of flash units. I'd spring
for the Nikon SB-600 Speedlight, but I'd sure appreciate
some feedback from folks using those third-party units.
A tripod or monopod. Or both. Personally I use a monopod about
twenty times as often as a tripod, simply because it's much more
portable and less cumbersome. Canon's Monopod 100 ($29.95; B&H#CAMP100,
B&H search phrase: CAMP100) lightweight, 4-section
monopod with a mini ballhead; it extends with convenient "flip-locks."
With a monopod (or a tripod), having a swiveling ballhead is
a valuable feature. There's also a Davis & Sanford
entry (the Davis & Sanford Monopod Duo 60; B&H#DAMSG,
B&H search phrase: DAMSG) for $29.95; it also provides
a ballhead, flip-locks, and appears to be a nicely-made, lightweight
A digital photo editorsomething along the lines of Adobe Photoshop.
Every single digital photograph ever shot screams out for "corrective
surgery" to one degree or another. Routine items include
cropping, color-cast correction, contrast enhancement, removal
of unsightly distractions, smoothing wrinkles, sharpening et
al. But Photoshop is a megabuck investment and not
for the faint-of-heart. Consider the next-best choice: Adobe's
is a downscaled version of Photoshop, and will set you
back less than $100 (and even less when it's on sale; shop around
aggressively). Adobe provides a good tutorial for Elements,
and there are aftermarket books and CD-ROM tutorials galore (about
Photoshop Elements) to get you up to speed in polishing-up
your digital photographs. For the record, B&H offers
the several "dummies" books for various versions of
"Photoshop Elements... For Dummies," by Barbara
Obermeier (B&H search phrase: photoshop elements
other suggestion, in case you possess or intend to purchase a
D-Series Nikon camera: B&H offers several Wiley Publications
books for those models (D40/D40x, D50, D80 and D200) each by David D. Busch, for
$19.95, (B&H search phrase: Wiley Nikon Busch).
don't forget my own motorcar photography advice and
"good examples" photos, available for you free right
here on CobraCountry:
Curt's Cobra Photography Tips for Dipsticks. A direct link
to the introductory page of Curt Scott's (recently-completed)
Cobra/ Daytona Coupe/GT40 photography how-to manual. It's a generously-illustrated
17-page goldmine for folks who need a really short course in
good motorcar photography. Three-hole punch it for your future
reference. And here's a hint: if you think you don't need
to read Curt's expert tips... you need to read 'em/heed 'em
more'n anyone else.
Specimens of Superb Serpent Shots: broadside shots,
frontal shots, engine shots, cockpit shots. The best of over
12,000 digital camera photos captured by Cobra owners who sold
their serpent on CobraCountry.
Tips for Selling Your Cobra or GT40. Cobra industry
veteran Curt Scott's pearls of wit & wisdom. Well, wit.
recommendations you see on this page are fully up-to-date as
of March 2011. Models and prices will change, and I'll do my
best to keep this page updated for you. Probably won't succeed.
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