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Getting into Photography Need Not Be Expensive

On the face of it digital photography is an expensive hobby or interest, however this need not be the case, there are ways that you can get started, expand your skills and take photographs that can be done on a far smaller budget.

Getting your first DSLR

Digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras are a little like cars, they are expensive and depreciate very quickly. They have other similarities, for example a second hand model may not look as flash or have all the latest gimmicks but will still serve the same purpose.

Every year sees new cameras, new headline features and improvements, and while we may like these additions, in most cases they don't actually change very greatly the photographs we can take. Perhaps they make it easier, perhaps they offer new areas or techniques, but in many cases the extra facilities are not those that the new entrant to digital photography is going to use right away.

For those entering digital photography on a budget the choice is often between the latest budget level entry model and a second hand up market model. Budget entry models may have less options, far less buttons and controls and more limited menu options. In some cases they will have lower megapixels, but megapixels are greatly over rated, and its not going to make any great difference if you have a 6MP or 10MP camera and even less difference once you are at 10mp or above.

As at today, July 2008 looking at the Nikon range, you could get the ideal entry camera, the top end D300, a superb camera, the best currently available today across all makes. Alternatively you could at a far lower cost start with a D40 or D60, these are smaller have less buttons and controls on the camera, but will still allow the photographer to get excellent photographs. We could also look at a second-hand camera, a D80 also currently available new, a D70, or D70s, or a D200.

Looking on ebay, at completed sales over the last few days (advanced search) I see that a second-hand  D70 body was sold for 133, and a D70 with a 18-70 lens for 161, although some were also going for far more. A D200 camera body also went for 250. There have been a very large number of camera bodies at really good prices, not that many with lenses.

Providing its been looked after, a camera that's a few years old will do now what it did when it was new, and the above second-hand examples would take excellent photographs.

Often people are upgrading to a later model, so tend to keep their lenses, so you will see a lot of camera bodies going cheaply, often because those looking at an entry camera are looking for a complete kit with a lens. Other people however are upgrading their lenses, perhaps getting a VR (vibration reduction) lens, or getting one with a larger zoom range, and this means that there are a vast number of lenses available as well.  Looking at eBay there have been quite a lot of lens sold for under 20, but perhaps the lowest price starter lens for a D70 or D200 would have been the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX which sold for 22.52. This was a lens that has been in many camera kits, and so there are vast numbers of these lenses available cheaply.

You can see from this that a second-hand D200 at 250 and lens at 22.52, meant that it was possible within the last week to build a semi pro DSLR kit for under 300. For very near the same price you could buy a new D40 entry level camera with an 18-55 lens.

If you want to get the best deals on eBay its best to use a Snipe program, these allow you to identify a number of items and put them in a group, with a minimum price on each, and the program bids just before the auction closes and keeps going until you get one at the ideal price. Take a look at FREE trial of Auction Sniper - 3 wins free, no cost for trying.

You can see New recent prices found for Nikon camera across suppliers in our reference section, and also recent Nikon lens prices. We update these listings every few months. In the same section you can also find a breakdown of the codes used to identify lenses and prices across a number of makes. Select the reference button on the left and then photography to see the options.

Expanding our equipment on a budget

The most likely expenditure is going to be extra lenses. But you don't need a lot of these and you can get these second-hand or from discount suppliers. Also consider using a teleconverter to extend your photo length, we have an article on this, and an example of its application.

When it comes to flash, most models have a lower power flash built in, and a mid range flash is not that expensive, you can use reflectors initially instead of having multiple flash units.

Memory cards have dropped greatly in price to a small fraction of what they were a few years back, and if you look at the latest deals online and in the photography press you will find some really good prices.

If you are on a budget then its all about prioritizing what you do, and making the most progress within the minimal cost. You don't have to spend a lot, and spending money alone has few advantages, you just end up with more to carry. Take a look at the article on prioritizing your photography expenditure.

Getting out to take photographs

Of course you could charge off on a safari or a world cruise, but you could also start far closer to home. Perhaps at home, in the garden or the local park. We all have this habit of going a long way to get our photographs, we visit another part of this country or look at going abroad, and others look at visiting our area with similar interest. While later, expanding the area that you use may be beneficial, to start with there is little advantage, in that there is going to be a great deal to photograph that is very close to you.  Read the article we have on local photography.

We have a large number of articles covering moving around the UK, without spending a lot, and also ways to get lower cost entry. Here on Photographers Resource we give you details on entry fees and flag up, were we can, those places with free entry. A large number of the featured items have little or no cost involved, take stone circles, windmills and railway photography, all can be done with no entry fees. Even some of the spectacular living history museums have no entry fees, take for example St Fagan's, and all the other National Museum of Wales sites.

If you shop at Tesco then perhaps you have enough Tesco vouchers to get into a large number of places, or could use them to pay for an English Heritage membership or similar and get into a large number that way.

Take a look at the large number of articles within the Controlling Costs sub-section, this covers everything from reducing the cost of training, to free entry to many places and obtaining cheaper trips and entry costs.


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