Time to be with your loved ones

Time to be with loved ones

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My younger sister is going to college to study photography, and I want to surprise her with a camera this holidays. I'm no camera expert (but I've been doing my research).

Should I go lower-entry level DSRL (D3100ish) or higher end DSLR (T3i ish)? I think the upper level would be better, but I don't know if it is "too much" for a beginner photographer or is it OK and she'll be able to use it in her later years of college or first few years after she graduates.

I'm also a bit worried about the camera being too big for her to handle with out her giving it a try first (she's about 5'1" and has small hands).

What are your recommendations or suggestions?

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If they are going to college to study photography specifically, they must either have some photo equipment or at least a preference for what they have used before. I think the only answer would be to ask the user what they would prefer. You could also contact the school or check their website to see if they have recommendations for the first few classes. –  dpollitt Nov 21 '11 at 21:24
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I think the question I just linked covers the is-upper-level-too-much issue pretty well. (There are thoughtful answers on both sides of the question.) –  mattdm Nov 21 '11 at 21:32
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2 Answers

Print out a nice gift certificate for her and let her choose the camera. And don't worry about the small hands. I know a small handed photographer that has no problem with big equipment.

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+1 to letting her choose. This really is a personal decision! –  mattdm Nov 21 '11 at 21:30
    
great suggestion –  trican Nov 21 '11 at 21:34
    
thing is she lives in Mexico and I'm now living in the States, and electronics are quite more expensive over there than here. –  Francisco Noriega Nov 21 '11 at 23:11
    
eg Rebel T3i ~= $1,000 USD; D5100 ~= $1,100USD –  Francisco Noriega Nov 21 '11 at 23:32
    
@FranciscoNoriega: Let her research on her own, and try a few cameras at Best Buy... or she can try out my T3i... I'm in Guadalajara, too. :) –  Flimzy Nov 22 '11 at 3:26
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You're going to get loads of great suggestions regarding Nikon 3100/5100/7000 & equivalent Canons, but I'm going to go slightly left of field and suggest a second-hand film camera - the Nikon FE2 with a 50mm 1.8 lens. It's a wonderful old film camera with great craftmanship. A good example on Ebay will cost you about $100-120, and perhaps throw in a few rolls of good black-and-white film or slide film to cross process for a great present in my opinion.

Also the main reason I'm suggesting a film camera, is because if your sister is going to be doing a photography course in college it's more than likely that the first 6-9 months will be using old school film based cameras and darkrooms techniques (though it might be worth checking that out if you can?). Also the Nikon FE is a completely manual camera thus forcing the user to really understand and appreciate being in full control.

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Not a bad suggestion considering most college photography classes. Pretty much any old-school 35mm SLR will do; I have and love a hardy old Pentax K1000. –  mattdm Nov 21 '11 at 21:30
    
The photography minor at the 4 year college I went to is currently requiring a DSLR and not a film camera. –  dpollitt Nov 21 '11 at 22:12
    
Hmm, it looks like her degree does includes over 600 hrs of photography laboratory/darkroom (b&w/color, basic, advance, fine prints etc)... I think my dad used to have an old film camera that had exchangeable lenses (I think canon).. I'll check with him first –  Francisco Noriega Nov 21 '11 at 23:18
    
One option might be a film camera and a mirrorless compact system camera (Micro 4/3rds, Sony NEX, Samsung NX, Nikon V, or even Pentax Q). That way, the old school and the way of the future are covered. –  mattdm Nov 22 '11 at 3:20
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I'd steer towards the FM2 rather than the FE2. It's a little more expensive used, but there's a reason for that -- it has a flash sync speed of 1/250s, which makes it usable for daylight fill-flash work (or eliminating indoor ambient lighting); it's built like a tank; and the battery is only used for metering (everything else is purely mechanical) so if you can't locate a button cell (and there are modern 1:1 substitutes for the old mercury cells) you still have a camera you can use. Add a vintage selenium meter and you're battery-free. –  user2719 Nov 22 '11 at 3:55
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