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I'm a complete beginner - the only type of camera I've ever had is a cheap £100 digital camera! But I'm really interested in photography and I am thinking of starting a career in it. I don't want to go all out and completely invest all of my money in it but would like some advice on an ideal camera and lenses that I should buy to start off.

I'd like something that takes photos instantly and with good focusing capabilities, as it will be used mainly for horses in jumping & outdoor competitions etc that will require a photo at the perfect time in mid-air or at specific time when a horse has its knees at the highest etc.

I'd also like it to be able to have a good zoom as at times I'll need to be on the side of the arena (about the same as a rugby field). I realize I'd be looking at a few thousands, but would ideally like to budget as little as possible (£1,000-1,500), but any suggestions/ideas of anything over or under this price would be hugely appreciated.

Also I was wondering if it's possible within the price limit to have a good enough body so that I could keep that and only have to buy better lenses if I decide to go more serious ?

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If you are seriously consider starting a career in sports photography you have to treat it.. seriously. Which will probably mean budgeting not "as little as possible", but "as little as needed to make profits rather than losses" (which may or may not be "possible" given your wise choice of not completely investing all of your money). Best of luck with your new career :-) –  Francesco Nov 3 '12 at 10:56
    
So from a compact you want to jump to a career in photography? Good luck with that... Of course, it can be done, but I think you expect it to be a bit too easy. Professional photography is a lot of work and requires really good results as well. (And just being decent isn't good enough.) I also agree with @Francesco on this. –  DetlevCM Nov 3 '12 at 14:05
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Indeed, sports photography is demanding on equipment. The only thing more demanding I know of is indoor sports photography. –  Itai Nov 3 '12 at 20:48
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@DetlevCM If you're good enough at promoting and marketing yourself photography skills aren't even a requirement. I've seen enough people making a living out of taking very mediocre photographs both with cheap and expensive gear. –  Matt Grum Nov 3 '12 at 20:57
    
@MattGrum you are right that a number of people make a living from selling low quality photos at a high price. BUT that requires a lot of marketing and a lot of work. If you are at least good (not saying very good) and are willing to spend the time on marketing, then you have an easier job. –  DetlevCM Nov 4 '12 at 17:47

2 Answers 2

Taking pictures instantly/quickly pretty much puts in you in the territory of the Macro 4/3s, or DSLRs.

Were it me I'd be recommending a mid-range Canon, because that is what I use, but equally any mid-high end Nikon, Sony, or Pentax would work. The key reason for choosing a DSLR would be for the fast focusing, and the flexibility of changing lenses.

When it comes to zooming across a pitch/field you'll be looking at a long lens, something like the 70-200.

So my "shopping list" would be:

  • Canon EOS 40D =~ £500
  • Canon 70-200 f/2.8 =~ £2,000

You'd get faster focus with a 7D, but the body would be at least twice as expensive.

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For outdoor use, the 70-200/4 will do just as well at half the weight and easily half the price. For indoor use, the additional f-stop may be worth the money, but it comes at a rather high price. –  Michael Kjörling Nov 3 '12 at 13:59
    
@MichaelKjörling If someone is serious about photography, it is ideal to get the best equipment you can afford. The f2.8 lens should also give sharper images as f4 than the f4 lens as well. Plus, the f2.8 lens can be used with say a 1.4x extender to get more reach more easily. –  DetlevCM Nov 3 '12 at 14:08
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@DetlevCM In principle I agree with you, but the additional f-stop does come at quite a high price both financially as well as in terms of weight and size. And as I recall, the f/2.8 version is not significantly better optically than the f/4 even at identical apertures. For outdoor use, it's probably better to spend the extra money on the f/4 IS than the plain f/2.8. Either aperture will be plenty fast enough in an outdoor setting, and neither on its own is likely to be fast enough for a tele zoom in an indoors setting. –  Michael Kjörling Nov 3 '12 at 14:13
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The real advantage to the f/2.8 is that you can throw on a teleconverter to get relatively cheap longer zooms with reasonable apertures and usable focus speeds. TCs may not make pixel peepers happy, but they're more than adequate for web, newspaper and (trade) magazine work. You pay a little extra for the base lens (okay, quite a bit extra), but you save bundles on the longer glass until you're in a position to commit. A new photographer is unlikely to get preferred access at an equestrian event, so length matters. –  user2719 Nov 3 '12 at 17:40
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Thank you - Really helpfull! I realise it's going to be hard work as any profession isn't easy, I'm starting on a 6 week photography course in 3 weeks time to get some basics and will take it from there. My budget is that for now....because I might not be any good haha! but I supose I can strech my budget a bit higher to get better quality seing as I can always sell at a little bit of a loss on ebay. Again, thank you so much! –  bethan Nov 3 '12 at 23:02

A friend once read that the quality of a good picture depends mostly on:

  1. The photographer.
  2. The lens.
  3. The camera body.

(in that order)

And I agree.

That being said, you should invest in that same order.

First invest in your education as a beginner. Enroll into a few courses. Learn the basics of photography and never assume you already know enough. Always keep reading, asking others, and testing yourself on how to get better.

Lenses are no good without a body, but do remember that you can later buy a better body and keep using all your lenses. This usually means that you'll have to pick your brand. I personally use Canon and would recommend you to go for Canon; but a lot of people will tell you to go for Nikon or some others.

IMO, you should stick to those 2 brands unless you have a good reason to do otherwise. And that reason should be yours and yours only. Do listen to advice from others but keep in mind photographers won't ever reach a general consensus on which brand is better.

I'd recommend you to go ahead for a DSLR, and start with just a couple of lenses (the best you can afford with your budget). Like @Steve Kemp suggests, a 70-200 should get you started. If you're in a tight budget, you might go for a T3i body instead of a 40D (Canon). Remember: you can change the body later and keep your lenses. Plus, it shouldn't be hard to find someone interested in buying the T3i later.

Once you're there, just try it out and figure yourself if you're in it for the long run.

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