Tips for Buying a Used DSLR

Digital Single Lens Reflex or DSLR cameras are best-suited for aspiring photographers and photography enthusiasts who want to progress to the next level and do more than just point and shoot. These cameras come with a variety of lenses with different focal lengths, that provide superior quality images. All those upgrading from their P&S (point-and-shoot) cameras will be amazed with the quality of images taken from a DSLR, in low-light and fast-action conditions. As these devices cost more than point and shoot digital cameras, opting for a used DSLR is the right choice for someone who isn’t willing to spend that much. But, it then becomes necessary to inspect and select the right DSLR, free of any defects. We, at Buzzle, have listed down a few points that you need to check that will ensure you get a good deal.

Shutter Count (Actuations)

There are a finite number of shutter cycles for a DSLR camera, which means its life is fixed. Once this limit is crossed, you need to replace the entire shutter mechanism. The shutter count will give you a clear idea about the number of clicks done by the camera. It is also known as actuations. The seller can tell you the exact count, if he/she have kept a track of the same. If he has no idea about the same, then carry out the following steps to determine the exact actuations.

  • If both photos look anything like either of the two images (see figure), your camera is working fine.
  • If both the photos look the same, there is no problem with the camera.
  • Lens mounts and contact pins should also be checked for dents, scratches, or bends. If there are visible markings on the mount, it is clear that the seller must have used a heavy lens or dropped the camera. You can negotiate the price on this point.

Auto focus Accuracy

The camera’s auto focus can be checked by focusing on a particular object with and without the AF feature. Start by focusing on the main object in the manual focus mode. Now, do the same in the AF mode. Transfer both the images on your computer and view them in 100% zoom.

  • In case the seller hasn’t used the camera for a long time, chances are high that it was packed in a bag. There can be fungus deposits on the lens surface that could damage the glass beyond repair.
  • If there is an aperture ring, check its motion and folding of blades. Check for dents or scratches on the lens barrel.
  • Take into account the regular print size (that you might print your images in), at the regular 300ppi resolution. This should give you a clear idea about the camera pixels. So, if you plan to print your shots in 6×4″ size, a 2.1 million pixel resolution is enough. However, to print in A4 or A3 sizes, you will need a 14.2 million pixel sensor resolution.

Lens

Depending on the DSLR that you intend to buy, you may or may not get the lens kit included in the camera price. Mostly, sellers give away their entry-level DSLRs along with their lenses. If you are among the lucky few, it is necessary to carefully check the front and rear elements of the lens for scratches.

  • I may sound a bit blunt, here, but if you are rarely going to print your shots, I would suggest not buying a high sensor resolution camera, as you will never use it to its full potential.
  • In case of dust issues, get it cleaned by using a lens cleaning kit, but if there are scratches on the sensor, reconsider before buying the product.
    Back to Top

    Sensor Resolution

    Even though you have zeroed in on the camera model, it is good to consider the sensor resolution of the camera. It is always better to have a higher resolution sensor.

  • You can click a picture of any bright object with the lens aperture reduced to the minimum. Maintain adequate light conditions while doing so. Transfer the photo on your computer, and then magnify the image to see any visible dust spots.
  • You can check the manufacturer’s website for the shutter count limit, and if the said device has crossed the limit, it is better to leave the camera then and there, as there is a need to replace the unit.

Sensor

The next entry in your checklist should be looking for dust on the sensor unit. You can check for physical damages to the sensor by lifting the mirror release. But if you simply take off the lens, you cannot see the sensor. Use the camera’s menu to lock the mirror, and then lift it to view the sensor.

  • For Nikon camera’s, find out the shutter count here. As far as Canon cameras are concerned, you can download EOSInfo utility on your system, so as to get the exact number.
  • There are third party programs available on the Internet where you simply have to upload a picture taken from that camera, and the software will calculate the shutter count for you.
  • You can look at the file numbering on the device, which tells you the exact picture count. However, you cannot rely completely on this method, because the file numbering can be reset.
  • But when one photo looks like one image (from the figure) and the other photo like the other image, we have problem.
  • To check if you have a problem with the lens or camera body, try this solution.

    Mount a different lens, click a photo of the same object, and transfer the photo to your computer. If you have a repeat of scenario 1 or 2, your lens has a problem. You can safely buy the camera, but without the lens. But, if you have a repeat of scenario 3, the camera body has a problem. You would be well advised to look elsewhere for your camera.

Screen

The LCD screen of your camera needs a careful examination too. Look closely at the screen for dead and stuck pixels.

  • To check for dead pixels, point the camera at the sky with Live View on. The dead pixels will show up on the same place every time you move the camera. Apart from this, you can click several photos with different colors. Examine the images closely at 100% zoom and if you spot a pixel appearing in the same place, you have a dead pixel problem.
  • To check for stuck pixels, you can set your camera to Auto or Aperture Mode, then turn on Live View. Now, if you point your camera and look through the viewfinder, and observe a pixel that never moves and retains its color, no matter where you point the camera, you have a stuck pixel problem.
  • In case the device that you are interested in has two or three dead or stuck pixels, you can still buy the camera, but at a reduced rate. But if there are a lot of these pixels, it is better you don’t buy the camera.

Wear and Tear

The camera body condition says a lot about the handling and usage of the camera. While looking for a used DSLR, you are bound to come across cameras with scratches and dents. Minor blemishes are acceptable, but if there is significant damage on the exterior, it is clear that the camera would have been dropped.

  • The working of the shutter buttons and dials should also be checked for any defects. Press each of those buttons and check if any of them are getting stuck, or you are finding it hard to press. If this is the case, you can ask the seller to replace the button or reduce the price of the camera.
  • The neck strap shouldn’t have any material peel off and the lens cap shouldn’t have any clearance while fitting on the lens. If this isn’t the situation, you can always ask the seller to replace them.
  • Next, click pictures by changing the camera modes, especially the program mode or auto focus mode. Check their clarity on the LCD screen. Also, record a video to check its operation.
    Back to Top

    Hot Shoe

    The adapter where the flash is mounted is the hot shoe. Many a time, we fail to check this part of the camera for its fit.

  • Mount the flash on the camera, and give the camera a gentle shake. If the flash rocks, ask the seller to fix it before you buy it.
  • If there is no rocking of the flash but your flash doesn’t work, the camera might have a faulty flash switch. If you see an Error 05 popping up on the LCD screen, the flash switch is damaged and needs to be replaced.

Add-ons

Add-ons like battery charger, interface cables, body caps, etc., should be checked for defects and malfunction.

  • Plug the battery into the charger unit and check whether it is getting charged. If not, you have a faulty charger or battery. Though these are easily replaceable, you need to shell out money for buying them, and its replacement cost can be deducted from the overall cost of the DSLR.
  • If you are lucky enough, you might get lens filters, tripod, card readers, and extra batteries along with your purchase. You can click a few pictures with the lens filters on, and by transferring them on your computer, you can judge the image quality.
  • Check the tripod screws. Place the camera on the tripod to check if it can withstand the camera’s weight. If there are any loose screws, you will immediately be able to spot them. Adjust the height of the tripod at various positions. If this operation is smooth, you have a great deal on your hand.

Warranty

In case you are purchasing the used gear from a store, you might get warranty on its parts. However, if you are buying one online, do not expect to receive any such offer.

  • If the seller is selling off his new camera, you can always transfer the current warranty on your name. For doing so, you will need the original purchase receipt.

Landscape Photography Tips

A landscape photograph is a photograph in which the main subject is nature. The purpose of a landscape photograph is to capture the beauty of a natural landscape, and this is the reason landscape photographers do not include people as their subjects. Landscape photography, just like wildlife photography, is not easy as it requires a lot of time and effort. There are three styles of landscape photography: representational, impressionistic and abstract. No matter what your style is, the following tips on landscape photography are sure to help you.

Useful Tips for Landscape Photography

Just like any other art, there are certain landscape photography techniques that you should follow if you wish to click some awesome shots. If you have tried your hands at portrait photography before, you’ll find that these tips are different from tips for portrait photography for the fact that these are two very different styles of photography.

Use a Wide Angle Lens
The ideal lens for landscape photography is a wide-angle lens. Using a wide-angle lens allows you to capture more of the breathtaking view in your shot. Also, using a wide-angle lens for your shot gives you the option of converting it into a panorama, with the help of editing software. You can experiment with different angles for the shots and also with lenses of different focal lengths.

Maximize the Depth of Field
Increasing the depth of field of the photograph means a greater part of the photograph is in focus. To do this you need to decrease the aperture of the camera. However, decreasing the aperture size means less light reaching the image sensor, which needs to be neutralized by increasing the shutter speed.

Use a Tripod Camera Stand and Remote
For the simple reason that you need to set the shutter speed as high, to compensate for a smaller aperture, it is extremely important that your camera is completely still while the shot is taken. If you hold the camera in your hand during the shot, chances are that it may get shaken, resulting in a blurred image. It is even better if you use a wireless remote instead of manually clicking the shutter with your hands as this way you’ll get really sharp images.

Use Filters and Polarizers
If you are taking the shot during the day, it is advisable to use graduated filters. This way, there will be a balanced exposure in the photograph right from the beginning without you having to spend hours on Photoshop editing it. There are an array of different filters that serve to enhance your shot in different ways. While density filters control the amount of light reaching the lens, color filters come in different colors, and add a touch of a particular shade to the photograph. Polarizing filters add saturation to your shots.

Choose the Perfect Timing
The quality of landscape photography depends a lot on what time of the day you take your shots. Experts believe that the best time to take your shots is either early in the morning or late in the evening. Sunrise and sunset add a special touch to your photographs and are termed as the ‘golden hours’. This is because the angle as well as the color of the light during these hours have been widely accepted as the best for landscape shots.

Follow the Rule of Thirds
The ‘Rule of Thirds’ is helpful in creating a balanced composition, which is essential for landscape photography. According to this rule, you are supposed to divide any composition into three parts by imagining lines passing across it. Now, you have to set the frame such that the areas or objects you wish to focus on, lie on the intersection of these lines. This can be a useful tip for beginners in the field of landscape photography.

Capture Movement
The term ‘landscape’ generally brings serene images to our mind. However, objects in motion do form a part of many landscapes. Consider this. You climb a hill to capture the breathtaking view of the valley below. On your way back after having clicked some splendid shots, you suddenly come across a majestic waterfall. Being the nature lover that you are, would you not want to capture the beauty of its cascading waters? ‘But how?’, you may ask. Well, to capture moving elements in a landscape, you need to set a slow shutter speed. However, you must keep in mind that a slow shutter speed means more light reaching the lens. To counter this, you need to have a smaller aperture and use the right filters.

Be Patient
Patience is one of the key ingredients to stunning landscape photography. Rushing through the entire process would land you with images that might be good enough but never extraordinary. If shooting a masterpiece is what you are after, then you need to put in that extra effort. On reaching the location, just spend time in scouting for the perfect angle and wait for that time of the day when the lighting is just perfect.

Shoot in RAW Format
Whenever you shoot landscape, do so in RAW format. This is because images captured in RAW format not only portray the minutest details of the landscape but also give you a wider scope for manipulating and enhancing the image with the help of image editing software such as Photoshop.

Learn to Use Lines and Points of Interest
To make a composition truly interesting and visually appealing, you need to add something that holds the viewer’s interest and kind of leads him into the picture. To bring out this effect in your composition, all you need to do is add an object of interest which can be anything as varied as a strange-looking tree to a weird-shaped sand dune, or even a cottage in the distance. Another way to lead the viewer into the photograph is the use of ‘leading lines’ that end up at the point of interest or the focal point. You can use winding lanes, streams, railway lines, etc to direct the viewer’s attention towards the focal point of the composition.

Quick Tips for Landscape Photography

In addition to the most important tips given above, there are a few more quick tips and tricks that might prove useful.

Use the histogram feature on your camera to determine the perfect exposure required for the shot.
Experiment with different locations and do not hesitate to explore unknown or uncharted territory.
Try experimenting with the different features on your camera.
Try shooting in black and white.
Pay attention to the position of the sky and the horizon in your composition.
Learn from the works of master photographers like Ansel Adams.

This was all about some effective landscape photography tips that will help you click that perfect shot you have always dreamed of. However, it’s not necessary that you go by the rules every time. Put your own ideas to use and who knows, you might just end up with something truly appreciable and indeed unique. After all, as the most famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams said, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

Tips to Buy Cheap Camera

Some of the best companies which offer effective and budget cameras are Sony, Nikon, Canon, Casio, and Panasonic. Point and shoot models are going from cheap to cheaper, whereas entry-level DSLRs with lens are available at an affordable price.

Best DSLR Models

Nikon D3000
Nikon claims this model to be its ‘friendliest DSLR ever’. It has a sturdy body with a 10.2-megapixel sensor and a 3-inch LCD screen. The product package includes the body and an AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens. You may have to pay around USD 550 for the D3000, which is a good price for beginners.

Canon EOS Rebel T3
This is a newly launched DSLR camera from Canon. It has a 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and a 2.7-inch screen. It also has the feature to record HD videos, and edit them with the inbuilt movie editing function. The product pack comes with the device and EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Type II lens. The estimated retail price is suggested to be USD 600.

Sony DSLR-A290 (α290)
When it is a matter of the best digital SLR cameras, Sony is not opted for that much as compared to its primary rivals, Nikon and Canon. However, it is known to come up with an impressive range of DSLRs. The Sony α290 is the most inexpensive one from the brand, which carries a 14.2-megapixel sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD screen, and a long-lasting battery for a total of 500 shots in the optical viewfinder mode. At just about USD 420, you also get a 18-55 mm zoom lens with the package.

Best Point and Shoot Models

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W310
Two of the major positive things about this model from Sony are that it produces high-quality pictures and also comes pretty cheap. In just about USD 100, you get a 12-megapixel picture resolution with 4x optical zoom, a 2.7-inch LCD, the Smile Shutter, and Face Detection functions. It is believed that when it comes to the best point and shoot cameras, Sony models top the list.

Nikon COOLPIX L24
Nikon is another reputed brand to produce affordable point and shoots. A good example is its new COOLPIX L24, which boasts of a 14-megapixel CCD with 3.6x optical zoom. It has got a 3-inch TFT-LCD for image viewing. Other good features include the Vibration Reduction (VR) Image Stabilization system and red-eye reduction. Nikon is offering this digital camera for around USD 120.

Canon PowerShot A800
The A800 is a new launch from Canon, which has a very affordable price tag of just about USD 90. Even at such an inexpensive price, it produces crystal clear images using its 10-megapixel sensor. It has got all that is required out of a point and shoot pocket camera. The 3.3x optical zoom contributes to clear snaps, whereas the 2.5-inch TFT screen makes viewing pleasurable.

Waterproof Camera Reviews

Clicking pictures near or underwater is certainly not possible with the standard camcorder or camera. For clear pictures, near or underwater you need to have a durable waterproof camera. The good news is, reputed brands like Canon, Olympus, Fujifilm, Nikon and Sony have brought out some amazing waterproof cameras in the market. Buying these products and their accessories might be a little expensive for some but one cannot deny the importance of these cameras when you want to click pictures near or underwater.

Waterproof cameras have been in the market since 2002 and their demand has only increased. They share the same features like any other digital camera with high-resolution LCD screens, faster processors, wider angle lenses, built-in image stabilization and high-resolution sensors. The only difference is, waterproof cameras have non extending lenses and internal zooms which ensure no water gets inside the camera and some models are even shock resistant and dust proof.

Reviews on Waterproof Camera

It doesn’t matter if you are in diving in deep waters or skiing on snow, the following cameras work just fine under both scenarios as they are water and freeze proof. However, it is recommended that you test them before making a purchase and remember to clarify the maximum depth that the camera would work underwater if you go for scuba diving or snorkeling.

Canon D10
Specifications

  • Resolution: 12.1 megapixels
  • Digital Zoom: 4x
  • Total Pixels: 12,400,000 pixels
  • Effective Sensor Resolution: 12,100,000 pixels
  • Shooting Modes: Frame movie mode
  • Shooting Programs: Night Snapshot, Beach, Sunset, Stitch Assist, High Sensitivity, Underwater, snow, Fireworks, Foliage, Portrait mode, Self-portrait, Sports mode, Night scene, slow shutter, Landscape and Text
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/1500 sec
  • Min Shutter Speed: 15 sec
  • Digital Video Format: H.264
  • Still Image Format: JPEG
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: Every second 30 frames
  • Memory Card: Yes
  • Camera Flash: Built In
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Underwater Depth: Up to 30 ft
  • Minimum Operating Temperature: 14°F
  • Maximum Operating Temperature: 104.0°F

Nikon COOLPIX AW100
Specifications

  • Resolution: 16.0 megapixels
  • Digital Zoom: 4.0x
  • Total Pixels: 16,790,000 pixels
  • Effective Sensor Resolution: 16,000,000 pixels
  • Shooting Modes: Frame movie mode
  • Shooting Programs: Underwater, Portrait mode, Self-portrait, Museum, Report, Surf and snow, Landscape, Text, Flower, Pet, Natural skin tone, Fireworks, Frame composition, Sports mode, Night scene, Soft and Kids
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/1500 sec
  • Min Shutter Speed: 4.0 sec
  • Digital Video Format: H.264, MOV
  • Still Image Format: JPEG
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: 7.1 frames per second
  • Memory Card: Yes
  • Camera Flash: Built In
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Underwater Depth: Up to 30 ft
  • Minimum Operating Temperature: 14.0°F
  • Maximum Operating Temperature: 104.0°F

Pentax Optio
Specifications

  • Resolution: 7.0 megapixels
  • Digital Zoom: 4.0x
  • Total Pixels: 7410000.0 pixels
  • Effective Sensor Resolution: 7000000.0 pixels
  • Shooting Modes: Frame movie mode
  • Shooting Programs: Underwater, Museum, Report, Surf and snow, Natural skin tone, Fireworks, Frame composition, Portrait mode, Self-portrait, Sports mode, Night scene, Landscape, Text, Flower, Food, Pet, Soft and Kids
  • Max Shutter Speed: 0.00050 sec
  • Min Shutter Speed: 4.0 sec
  • Digital Video Format: QuickTime
  • Still Image Format: JPEG
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: Every second 30 frames
  • Memory Card: Yes
  • Camera Flash: Built In
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Underwater Depth: 5 ft
  • Minimum Operating Temperature: 32.0°F
  • Maximum Operating Temperature: 104.0°F

Panasonic TS1
Specifications

  • Resolution: 12.1 megapixels
  • Digital Zoom: 4x
  • Total Pixels: 12,700,000 pixels
  • Effective Sensor Resolution: 12,100,000 pixels
  • Shooting Modes: Frame movie mode
    Shooting Programs: Candle, Party/indoor Night Portrait, Beach, Sunset, Stitch Assist, High Sensitivity, baby2, baby1, Underwater, snow, Fireworks, Foliage, Portrait mode, Clipboard, Aerial Photo, Starry Sky, Scenery, Self-portrait, Sports mode, Night scene, slow shutter, Landscape and Text
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/1300 sec
  • Min Shutter Speed: 60 sec
  • Digital Video Format: QuickTime and AVCHD Lite
  • Still Image Format: JPEG
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: 10 frames per second (3MPix),
  • 6 frames per second, 2.3 frames per second and 1.8 frames per second
  • Memory Card: Yes
  • Camera Flash: Built In
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Underwater Depth: Up to 9.8ft
  • Minimum Operating Temperature: 32°F
  • Maximum Operating Temperature: 104°F

Fujifilm FinePix XP30
Specifications

  • Resolution: 14.2 megapixels
  • Digital Zoom: 6.8x
  • Total Pixels: 14,700,000 pixels
  • Effective Sensor Resolution: 14,200,000 pixels
  • Shooting Modes: Frame movie mode
  • Shooting Programs: Natural light, Snow, Beach, Underwater macro, Underwater wide,
    Natural light with flash, Underwater, Sports mode, Night mode, Flower, Sunset, Portrait enhancer, Motion panorama, Text, Party/indoor, Night (tripod), Portrait mode and Landscape
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec
  • Min Shutter Speed: 1/4 sec
  • Digital Video Format: MJPEG and AVI
  • Still Image Format: JPEG
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: Every second 0.8 frames
  • Memory Card: Yes
  • Camera Flash: Built In
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Underwater Depth: Up to 15 ft
  • Minimum Operating Temperature: 14°F
  • Maximum Operating Temperature: 104°F

Sony CyberShot DSC-TX10
Specifications

  • Resolution: 16.1 megapixels
  • Digital Zoom: 5.1x
  • Total Pixels: 16,400,000 pixels
  • Effective Sensor Resolution: 16,100,000 pixels
  • Shooting Modes: Frame movie mode
  • Shooting Programs: Underwater, Museum, Report, Surf and snow, Natural skin tone, Fireworks, Frame composition, Portrait mode, Self-portrait, Sports mode, Night scene, Landscape, Text, Flower, Food, Pet, Soft and Kids
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/1600 sec
  • Min Shutter Speed: 2 sec
  • Digital Video Format: H.264
  • Still Image Format: JPEG
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: 1 frame per second
  • Memory Card: Yes
  • Camera Flash: Built In
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Underwater Depth: Up to 16.5 ft
  • Minimum Operating Temperature: 32.0°F
  • Maximum Operating Temperature: 104.0°F

Camera Buying Tips

Now that some specifications are clear, readers might at least have a rough idea about their desired product.

  • The most important thing while buying a waterproof camera is to check its sealing. If you see any broken seals never buy such pieces.
  • Having a decent resolution is a must for waterproof cameras. Buy a camera with minimum 5 megapixels for better image quality.
  • Check the style and shape of the camera and buy the one which actually suits your requirements. For most people a compact camera is enough, also inquire about all the accessories that you get with the camera.
  • These cameras have a depth rating related to water pressure and it’s necessary that you stick to it. Don’t pressurize the camera gaskets by taking it deep into the water. Last but not the least, check the warranty terms and services.

Don’t expect SLR like speed in these cameras. Even with the quick succession mode, clicking multiple pictures at a time is something which should not be practiced. Also it is a good idea to have a nesting for your camera, manufacturers make some good bags or plastic holders which they sell with the camera or as a separate accessory.