DSLR Camera recommendations?- Grad student in need of help!

So I go to a school where theres not much guidance or help... anything would be muccch appreciated!!

I am looking to buy a new camera, and was thinking about getting a dslr like Nikon D3000 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens/// to do it...I have an old nikon but the auto setting kick in and the battery dies right away and I don't know too much about all of the technical terms, I haven't had a photography class since my undergrad. I have a camcorder as well but I like to be able to change the lighting and I don't know how to upload the photos or videos onto my computer. I have a mac and a pc. I bought the mac so I can basically do stop motion.

BASICALLY....

I am trying to make stop motion films of sculpture, and i want to be able to change the settings of the camera (zoom, light, etc) and keep them that way for as long as I need be. I am in graduate school right now. Any suggestions on a good camera for this? I have been looking on Amazon and craigslist for something under $400

THANKS SO MUCH!!!! XO

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A DSLR is probably the best way to go if you want professional results.  Canon and Nikon are the usual choices, and good framegrabbing software like StopMotionPro (PC only) and Dragonframe (Mac or PC)  are set up to work with them.  

I have used older Nikons, but when the Live View models came out, it looked like Canons were better at staying on for long periods, the Nikons would heat up and shut themselves off.  So I got a Canon 40d.  I don't know if this is still a factor, Nikon may have fixed it by now.  Nikons are better to use in most ways and I still prefer my D70 for still photos, but the Canon doesn't get a chance to be annoying when it's hooked up to the computer and operated by the framegrabber so I'm ok with it.   

I still use my manual Nikon lenses, with a Nikon-to-Canon lens adapter (about $20 on eBay).  On the Nikon body, I partly unscrew the lens to isolate it from automatic controls, and so it stays stopped down all the time.  On the Canon body, the adaptor takes care of that.

With still cameras, you set the aperture - say it's f-11 - but the iris stays open so you get a nice bright image in the viewfinder.  Then you press the shutter, and the iris quickly closes down to  f-11, it takes the shot, then the lens opens up again.  That doesn't work for movies, it may not always stop down all the way in time, so you get slight variations.  It's called FLICKER.   By partly unscrewing the lens until the little lever on the camera can't reach the tab on the back of the lens, the iris blades close to your setting and stay there all the time, like a movie camera lens does, so the exposure stays even.

Do NOT use the kit lens, like the 18-55mm AF-S lens.  Kit lenses don't have a manual iris ring on the lens barrel to stop them down, it has to be controlled by the camera body.  That means it has to be fully connected, so it will keep opening and closing all the time, and causing FLICKER.  Get older manual lenses - a wide angle, like  a 24mm or 28mm, and a 55mm macro for close-ups, make a good pair.  A manual zoom lens is usable, but not auto exposure or auto focus, they will keep changing every time you go to animate the puppet, then changing back but not quite the same.  So any Autofocus lens MUST be able to have the AF shut off and work on manual focus.  (I avoid AF altogether, even for stills or live video - I've found I know what I want to focus on, but the camera usually gets it wrong.)

You will need -

DSLR camera with Live View, so you can see the image on your computer, and compare it with the last few frames taken.  Check out models on www.dpreview.com .  (They don't know about requirements for stopmotion, but are good for most things about the camera.)  Here's the D3000:

http://www.dpreview.com/news/2009/12/11/nikond3000review

Oops - it says it does not have Live View.      That's bad - it means you can't see what is in front of the camera on your screen, before you take the shot.  We used to rig a spy camera to look through the viewfinder to get around this, but it's clumsy and a poor quality image, and costs as much more as just getting a better camera.  You want Live View.

Manual lenses.  (A couple of prime lenses or a zoom.)  There should be a ring for the focus, and another one for the aperture.

An AC power adaptor so you don't have the battery running flat half way through the shoot.  There are different ones for different camera models.

Tripod.  A Manfrotto 410 Jr geared head on it is good if you want to do controlled camera moves, but for static shots any head that locks in place is ok.

A framegrabber - for a Mac I recommend Dragonframe.

A USB cable (comes with camera) connected to the computer.

There are alternatives if you can't find what you need on your budget - some of the 4/3rds cameras seem to be good for stop motion too.  

^ That about says everything very well!

I used a Canon 40D too and found it gives very nice results. If you are looking to buy dragonframe stopmotion, on their website you can find a list of accepted cameras: http://www.dragonframe.com/camera.php

Nikon's are better quality, but also double the price of Canons. Instead of buying the 4/5/6/7D series, the 40/50/60 and sometimes even the 400/500/etc series are good for stopmo too and saves a lot of money.

I have been looking for a cam for a similar price, and I have to say it's near impossible, unless you get an olympic camera. Tbh, the camera itself won't be very expensive, but the lenses will be. If you got another stopmo or cinematographer friend you could perhaps exchange lenses during your projects.

x

One more thing to add to the list: a remote shutter cable so you don't have to touch the camera to take a picture. 

thanks so much! really~!~ I am going to look into this!!!

If you use a DSLR with Dragonframe or Stopmotion Pro, you don't have to touch the camera, you take the photo with your mouse or keyboard.  But users of some non-DSLR cameras usually have to use the video feed with the framegrabber, but also click the camera shutter to save the final images on the camera's own memory card (and then transfer all the images to the computer after the animation is done).   For that, a remote shutter is essential. 

Strider knows about using an older Panasonic Lumix (forget the particular model, but it's a "DSLR-LIKE" camera, not a compact point 'n shoot... FZ 50 maybe?) or one of the later 4/3rds format cameras for animation, since he has used both.   I went from film to a Nikon DSLR and haven't tried these other options so I can only give second-hand information.

Apart from my Canon 40d with Nikon or Olympus OM mount lenses, I've worked in a studio that uses a Canon 7d with Pentax lenses, ( a mid-range model like mine)  and another animator I know has a Canon 600d (Digital Rebel T3i in the US) which is from the budget range but still has Live View and HD video.

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos600d/2

List price in the US for the 600d is $799 body only.  I think that is probably close to the bottom for a new DSLR with live view.   You would have to add a second hand non-Canon lens or two,  a lens mount adaptor, and an AC power adaptor, to use it for animation.

The Panasonic G2 4/3rds camera - I think this may be what Strider has -  costs around $899 new, but can be found for $414 used at Amazon.  The model before it, the G1, is probably available for less.  

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicdmcg2

But models change rapidly and new features are added, so it may be that 3 or 4 year old DSLR models like mine with live view but no video are coming onto the second hand market at greatly reduced prices.

Yes, Nick, some of us poor sods use a "DSLR-like" camera. Mike got me hooked on the Lumix FZ50. For my needs it's a great camera, and I picked it up almost new on eBay for about $300 bucks. I like to think I got pretty good results with it. Certainly it's good enough for a non-professional.

Altho' I haven't used it for animation at this point, I just bought a Canon T2i. It has live view.

I was originally going to buy a Nikon, but after doing some research and confirming with some other photographers, I found the image stabilization is not as good on the Nikon. SO if you plan to use your camera for more than stop-mo, it's something to consider.

Nick already responded. . .

Hi Rick

I borrowed a Canon eos 500d / T1i which is the predecesser of the T2i and made a very quick test with stopmotion pro 7.5 also using nikon lens with a cheap adapter, I was very pleased with the results.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVsQWfU2OZU&feature=plcp

I'm not sure if my future budget can run to the 500d / T1i or 550d / T2i but might look at the Canon 1100d / T3i which is also supposed to be compatible with Stopmotion pro using live view.

PS also nice not having to half unscrew my nikon lens like on my nikon d50

Rick Catizone said:

Altho' I haven't used it for animation at this point, I just bought a Canon T2i. It has live view.

I was originally going to buy a Nikon, but after doing some research and confirming with some other photographers, I found the image stabilization is not as good on the Nikon. SO if you plan to use your camera for more than stop-mo, it's something to consider.

I have been using a Canon Powershot S5iS for some early test shots as it's been a considerable while since I did anything with stop motion at all, so I have been testing whichever software will drive the camera until I know which one to use. This camera (not DSLR) obviously has the potential to deliver some very pleasing results if I can get the right combination of software to capture and animate but getting the balance right is no easy thing, especially working on a budget of... well, £0. But, as has already been said by grecodan a few comments up, its good enough for a non-professional.

Although my test video is not very good quality here, I know why that is and should have no problem fixing it if I use software designed for stop motion (the test was more an experiment into how natural movement should look) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nGNflm8vvk

I wouldn't recommend this camera outright, but something in its 'ball-park' has got to be enough for an enthusiast animator in as much as the camera is good enough for an enthusiast photographer. Hope something there helps!

Regarding the T3i vs T2i, it's a bit pricier, and the only thing that was "new" that I saw was the variable viewer. I went for saving the cash for other things.

Best,

Rick

I'm upgrading my camera setup as well as my computer set this year but I have untill about september to factor all the cost in for my next project.

Rick Catizone said:

Regarding the T3i vs T2i, it's a bit pricier, and the only thing that was "new" that I saw was the variable viewer. I went for saving the cash for other things.

Best,

Rick

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