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Sunday, April 3, 2011


By JC Leahy


Nikon N6006 - Great camera! Less than $100 !!
Nowadays, some digital cameras are about as good as film in terms of picture quality. The trouble is, to really equal film you have to buy a high-end full-frame digital SLR like the Canon 5D Mark II, and that costs several thousand dollars. The high price is a tough nut to crack for the startup professional photographer. Meanwhile, recreational and advanced amateur photographers, together with most established pros, have abandoned film and jumped to the convenience of digital. However, there are still more film cameras in the world than digital -- they just aren't much used or wanted. This creats a glut of supply and low demand so that high-quality film SLR's that can be bought for a song. Post-1980 film SLR's developed into AWESOME instruments -- more than you might be aware! The most awesome sold the best and now have the biggest supply glut. This is the key to starting a photography business on a shoestring, especially if you can find a way to minimize the cost and inconvenience of film developing.

Here's a way to minimize the cost and inconvenience of developing film. Shoot print film, then take it to Costco and leave it for developing while you shop. Tell the photo desk that you want NO prints -- just the negatives and a photo CD. By the time you finish shopping, you have negatives with digital picture files too. The cost is $1.59 for developing a roll of 36 photos and $2.99 to place the pictures on CD. Not bad. Think of the digital picture files as digital proofs. For the frames you want, you have the option of re-scanning the negative, yourself, and working the image up with Photoshop. That's the best of both film and digital worlds!!

You can get a stunning film SLR for less than $100. It will be capable of matching or exceeding the picture quality of a $3,000 full-frame digital SLR. It will be capable of using a vast range of high quality lenses of Nikon or Canon, whichever manufacturer you choose. The features of these sub-$100 film SLR's may shock you. The Nikon N6006 and Canon Elan IIe are two film SLR cameras to consider for starting a photography business on a tight budget. If you go up in price another $150, you can get a Nikon F4, which was the top-dog pro camera for a long time and will still attract admiring attention. If you want to go to the $600 range, grab yourself a still-in-production Canon 1vHS used. (The HS version is just a 1v plus a high-speed battery pack, which bring you to 10 frames per second. This makes it the fastest, moving-mirror film camera ever put into production anywhere, any time, and leaves Nikon products in the dust! Sports photographers, take note!! )

Canon Elan IIE
"You can definitely use the Canon Elan IIe as a pro camera."

The Elan IIe is compatible with any EOS lens. This gives you a whole range of image stabilized, ultrasonic focusing, ultra-high-quality lenses to choose and use. The camera's focusing system can track a moving subject, continuously refocusing on it and simultaneously taking 2.5 pictures per second. Or you can choose to focus manually, or pick a focusing mode in between these two extremes. The camera can even switch focusing modes if it detects movement of your subject! The camera's light metering system features a six-zone intelligent evaluative metering program that yields dead-on results in an amazing variety of lighting situations. Or you can choose to control lighting manually. Or you can choose "partial metering," which is like spot metering but the spot is larger and movable. Movable? Yes, you can move the spot by moving your eye looking through the viewfinder!!! (Try THAT with your digital SLR!!) You can also choose the auto focus point and stop down the lens for depth of field preview just by moving your eye!! For basic shooting modes, you can choose full-manual or choose from several preprogrammed intelligent modes: general full-auto, sports, portrait, landscape, or portrait. Or you can choose what Canon calls "Creative Zone" shooting modes: Program AE, shutter priority, aperture priority, traditional bulb mode, or a special depth-of-field control mode. You can also customize the way the camera operates with 11 custom functions. And, by the way, auto focusing is instantaneous! Plus, the pop-up flash is surprisingly good and very-handy as a fill-flash. The flash hot shoe is compatible with current-production Canon flashes, which are amazing instruments in their own right. (By the way, you might also find this camera labeled as a EOS 50E -- it's exactly the same camera.) Canon sold many, many of these cameras because they were (and still are) amazing. Now that film is "out," there's a glut of very nice Elan IIe's that you can pick up on Ebay for a song! Whether you're doing wedding photography or can definitely use a Canon Elan IIe as a pro camera.

Nikon N6006
A Worthy Camera to Consider

Like the Canon EOS Elan IIe, the N6006 sold well because it was an amazing, quality device sold at a price that made it attractive. Nikon buffs stress the quality of Nikon lenses and the build of the cameras. For them, any amazing camera feature that Canon has and Nikon doesn't is sneeringly dismissed as "fluff" or "bells and whistles. You can use the N6006 with just about any Nikon lens manufactured since 1977.  This gives you a big selection of the best lenses that money can buy. The N6006 looks good and feels good in your hands.  The N6006 can be a full manual camera or you can employ different modes of automation.  The camera can track a moving subject, continuously refocusing on it and taking pictures at a rate of up to 2 per second.  Light metering can be set for traditional spot metering, center weighted, or an intelligent evaluative matrix metering. For exposure control, you can choose from shutter priority, aperture priority, programmable automatic, or full manual. Automatic exposure bracketing can be set to take either the usual series of 3 different exposures, or a series of 5 different exposures. There is a surprisingly good integrated pop-up flash that is very useful for fill flash duty.  There is also a shoe mount for attaching a more powerful flash. One advantage that the N6006 has over the Elan IIe is that the front of the camera says "N-I-K-O-N." I think some clients may be more impressed to see you carrying a Nikon camera than a Canon even if the Canon might be a better camera. Don't worry though, Nikons are good too, and their lenses might just be better than Canon's -- if you believe what the Nikon buffs say. In any event, Nikon sold a boatload of N6006's and there is a glut of them in the used camera market now. You can definitely get one for less than $100 on Ebay

For startup professional photography, consider using a film camera and spending the $3,000 savings on flash and lighting equipment, tripods, etc. You can go full-frame digital later using the same lenses and peripherals you accumulated for your film cameras.

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