I thought that it might be a good idea to describe the equipment I use. For some reason many photographers get very attached to their equipment (maybe it's the time spent together) and I'm beginning to feel a bit of the same thing.
I spent a lot of time researching the best way to get a flexible system that would let me explore various types of photography while spending $700 or less (which happens to be the exact amount given to us to purchase the camera, thanks Mom and Dad!).
I settled on the Canon series because they seemed to be the most popular and we liked the Rebel XT vs the Nikon models. So, I purchased the following (all prices include taxes and shipping):
- Refurbished Silver Rebel XT w/o Kit Lens (350D) from B&H Photo, $410
- For some reason, the XT just appealed to me and I haven't been disappointed. At first it seemed small for my hands but I got used to it (although it does bite into me a bit when I have a large lens on it). The performance is way beyond our old Canon Powershot S110 and it has plenty of options to control exposure. I recommend getting a used version from B&H because it is well under Ebay and Craigslist prices.
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II new from Amazon.com, $75
- Everyone says this is a necessary lens for the small-frame sensor in the XT and I can't disagree. The lens is startlingly sharp, takes pictures inside without flash, and is great for portraits. Portraits, in particular, is one of the reasons we got the new camera -- we should save a lot of money by not going to Sears anymore. The lens is also very light and small (but cheaply made). See January 3rd for a sample image.
- Tamron 19-35mm f/3.5-4.5 used from eBay, $105
- I wouldn't say I regret buying this lens, but if I got the chance to do it again, I might have bought the Canon 18-55mm kit lens instead. I bought this lens because of it's glowing reviews but I have yet to really see what sets this lens apart. Maybe it is just an unfair comparison with the 50mm prime. It has pretty good color and contrast (see this and this for examples) but is a touch soft and can be quirky. For slightly less the kit lens gives you a wider zoom range (even if it isn't quite as sharp). But, this is a full-frame lens (not EF-S) so at least I can use it if I upgrade or buy a film camera. It also feels quite solid and relatively well-made.
- Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 LD Macro used from eBay, $90
- This lens is my new baby. There are a lot of competing lenses out there, but the Tamron LD is super versatile yet half the price of the newer models. It has a long zoom range, fills in the focal lengths above the 50mm prime well, and even has a 1:2 macro mode. It is a soft lens, especially at 300mm, but with the equivalent focal range on the XT is 480mm which is a lot of fun to play with. It is also a very slow lens and it is useless to take photos inside or at dawn or dusk. Still though, the price is great for a solid lens that really opens up your options for experimenting with telephoto. The picture of the geranium at the top of this post was taken in macro mode.