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Digital SLR Guide News - Avoid Online Retailer Scams
January 24, 2008

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DSLR News - Janurary 2008

Happy New Year and welcome to 2008.

It's already shaping up to be a busy year in the digital SLR camera market, with definitive announcements of new cameras from Pentax, Sony and Canon, and rumors flying all over the place about new offerings from Nikon.

With the start of the PMA trade show, you can bet that even more new digital SLR cameras will be announced soon.

This is both good and bad from the consumer's standpoint - good because there are more digital SLR cameras than ever to choose from and the prices on them continue to drop each and every year. It's bad - of course - because it makes finding the best digital SLR for you that much harder.

But that's what the Digital SLR Guide and this newsletter are all about - helping you sift through the mountains of information about each camera so that you can zero in on what each one does best.

Over the course of 2008, I'll continue to present you with summaries of all the latest cameras released, along with a lot more comparative analysis so that you can objectively decide if one camera is better than the other. And by "better" I simply mean a better match for your photography style.

One quick announcement before we get into this month's newsletter for anyone who has previously signed up for the digital SLR lessons: lessons one through three are now available as PDF downloads. Now you can print the lessons out and take them with you wherever you go, so you don't have to be tethered to your computer in order to learn something.

Lessons four and five will be available in the PDF format next month.

In This Issue
  • New Year
  • Online Scams
  • Common Problems
  • Do You Need Stabilization?
  • Pentax K200D and K20D
  • Sony DSLR-A200
  • Canon Rebel XSi
  • Photo Links

Latest SLR Guides
Canon 40D Olympus E-510 Nikon D80 Canon Rebel xTi Nikon D40

Digital SLR Terms
Megapixels Anti-Shake ISO / Image Noise Sensor Dust Crop Factor RAW vs. JPG Continuous Photos Autofocus Points Aspect Ratio

Lens Terms
Focal Length Prime vs. Zoom Maximum Aperture First vs. Third Party SLR Lens Features Canon Lens Glossary Nikon Lens Glossary

Digital SLR Lessons

  • Learn digital SLR camera jargon
  • Master the controls of your digital SLR
  • Dramatically improve the quality of the photos you take
NEW! Read real-world stories from students of the digital SLR lessons. Register today

Digital SLR Q & A

Question: How can some online retailers offer such low prices for digital SLR cameras?


This question has come up several times in the last month, and it's an important one to answer since I really don't want you to throw your money away.

Simply put, any web site offering a brand-name camera for half the price of any other store is a SCAM.

These sites are bait-and-switch operations: they lure you in with exceptionally low prices and after you've provided them with your credit card information, they admit that they really can't offer the camera at the listed price and try to upsell you to either the same camera - for much more - or for something else entirely.

Trying to get a refund can be a long, painstaking and difficult process.

But how can you tell the difference between a legitimate online business and these "fake" retailers who are trying to swindle everyone out of their hard-earned cash?


  1. Go to Google
  2. Type in "[company name] complaints"

For example, if the company that you are curious about is called then you'd enter " complaints" into the search box.

If you immediately find hundreds of links to different web sites where people have complained of bad business practices and unmet expectations, then avoid buying from that retailer at all costs.

If you can only find a handful of people complaining - there will always be some unhappy customers out there - then chances are that you've found a legitimate deal for your digital SLR camera.

You can also immediately tell which retailers aren't legitimate based on the camera price. While you might be able to find a $100 off coupon or a competitive price at legitimate businesses, the scam sites list cameras for HALF the price of everyone else.

For example, if you see a camera that typically ranges in price (from different retailers) between $600 and $650 but is being offered for a mere $300, then you can rest assured that you're dealing with a scam site.

I purchase all my digital SLR camera equipment from either Amazon or Adorama. Amazon is partnered with several different camera retailers (including Adorama) so you can usually find a very competitive price for cameras there.

Adorama has an enormous selection of lenses and other special accessories (flash, brackets, stands, albums, etc.) and I shop there for obscure items that aren't available at Amazon.

Common Problems

For more digital SLR camera techniques, please browse through the back issues of this newsletter.

Welcome to a new section of the digital SLR newsletter for 2008.

Over the course of 2007, I received a lot of different questions from readers of this newsletter and the Digital SLR Guide.

While there was a lot of variety to the questions people asked, there was also a common thread. When people run into problems when taking photographs they begin to wonder: do I have a faulty camera or is there something that I'm doing wrong?

In the end, the answer is not really helpful: neither.

Your camera probably isn't broken and it's not that you're doing something WRONG, it's just that you haven't quite found the right combination of camera settings to get the shot you were hoping for. Finding the right settings for different subjects requires an investment of time: take hundreds of photos under the same lighting conditions until you find camera settings that make your photos pop.

Then, use those same setting every time you encounter similar light in the future.

That's what this new section of the newsletter is all about - helping you overcome some very common photographic problems by telling you what settings have worked for me in the past. It's not to say that they'll also work for you the first time out, but hopefully the information I provide will help you capture more photos you'd like to keep without the massive investment of time.

So here's this month's common problem: my subject appears too dark when there's a bright source of light nearby.

First, let's talk about the mechanics of why this happens (which should help illustrate that it's not really the camera's fault).

A digital SLR wants every photo you take to turn out perfectly exposed. In order to do this, it evaluates all of the light passing through the lens, and it makes a judgment call about what aperture and shutter speed settings are required for that perfect exposure.

This judgment call has a name, and it's called evaluative metering.

But here's what happens when your primary subject is standing in front of or next to a very bright light source: the evaluative meter senses that there's a huge amount of light passing through the lens, so the camera wants to tone down the exposure. End result: your primary subject winds up massively under exposed.

Evaluative Metering

In order to get around this problem, you just need to change the surface area the camera is evaluating so that it ignores bright light in the peripheral areas of your photo.

To do this, you're going to change the metering mode.

All digital SLRs allow you to adjust the metering mode, some more than others. The three most common metering settings are evaluative (where the camera checks ALL the light hitting the sensor), center-weighted average (the camera only meters a circular area in the center of the viewfinder), and spot (the camera meters a tiny point at the center of the viewfinder).

When you're trying to take photos of a back or side-lit subject, change to center-weighted average or spot metering. In this case, the camera determines the right exposure setting based only on the SUBJECT and not all the surrounding light.

Spot metering is simply a more precise method than center-weighted average, allowing you to get precise exposure settings even if your subject doesn't completely fill the viewfinder.

For review, here are the complete steps that you'd take in order to capture a photo this way:

  1. Set your camera's mode to program, aperture priority or shutter priority
  2. Set your camera's metering to center-weighted or spot
  3. Aim the center of the viewfinder at your subject
  4. Press down halfway on the shutter release to get an exposure reading and HOLD
  5. If you camera has a button to do so, lock in the exposure values (this is called an auto-exposure lock or AE-L)
  6. Make adjustments to your composition
  7. Press down all the way on the shutter release to take the photo

When you use your auto-exposure lock function, you're ensuring that the camera doesn't change its exposure settings from the initial reading you took when you had the camera aimed straight at your subject. You want to make sure that it holds onto the correct exposure settings for the SUBJECT, and that it doesn't get tripped up by that bright light source nearby.

This second photo illustrates this technique in use:

Spot Metering

Digital SLR Tips

Can't figure out how to photograph your favorite subject? Request a tip, and I'll include it in a future issue of the newsletter.

What Do You Need?

Welcome to another new section of the newsletter.

This one is for all you people out there on the verge of buying a new digital SLR camera. With all of the features currently available, it's sometimes hard to determine whether it's functionality that you can really USE or just marketing sparkle designed to sell more cameras.

In most cases, the feature exists for a good reason - but this doesn't mean that everyone out there will be able to leverage its full power.

This month I'll be answering the question: Do You Need Built-in Image Stabilization?

Image Stabilization systems (IS for short) have been around for a long time in Canon and Nikon LENSES. But a recent development in digital SLR technology is the inclusion of IS systems inside the camera BODY, so that it works with any lens that you attach to the camera.

IS systems are a great benefit, but the marketing of them can be somewhat misleading.

If you read the ads for cameras with built-in IS, it sounds like an IS system can reduce image blur in your photos universally. This is not the case.

IS systems only help reduce one type of blur: camera blur. Camera blur appears in your photos when you're taking shots in very dim light, and the shutter speed slows down to capture a good exposure. If you're holding the camera in your hands, the slight motion of the camera results in photos where both subject and background are either slightly or substantially blurred.

Camera Blur

But there's another type of blur you can get in your photos: subject blur. This is also the result of dim light and slow shutter speeds, but has NOTHING to do with the motion of the camera. Instead, it has to do with the motion of your subject. If your subject is speeding all over the place and the shutter speed isn't fast enough to freeze the motion, you're going to wind up with a blurry shot.


The only way to prevent this second type of blur is to leverage the camera's ISO setting to increase your shutter speed: IS isn't going to help in this case.

IS does help when you're trying to capture a photo of a static subject in dim light without using a flash when the camera is in your hands:

  • Since IS doesn't actually increase shutter speed it won't help you take clear photos of moving subjects
  • When you use flash, the additional light lets you use a fast shutter speed so IS is no longer needed
  • If the camera is attached to a stable surface like a tripod, the IS system has nothing to do since it only stabilizes CAMERA motion

Furthermore, you'll get the most benefit out of an IS system if you don't leave your camera in AUTO mode all the time. Here's why: in AUTO mode, the camera will automatically pop up the flash when it senses the light is dim, negating the need for IS to be active.

To sum up, you'll benefit from an IS system if:

  1. You take a lot of photos in dim light
  2. You don't take photos of moving subjects
  3. You don't always keep the camera in AUTO mode
  4. You don't like using flash
  5. You don't want to carry around a tripod all the time

You won't need an IS system as much if:

  1. You never take the camera out of AUTO mode
  2. You don't mind using flash in dim light
  3. You prefer to place your camera on a tripod
  4. You're always taking photos of moving subjects

If you decide that an IS system is something you need, you can find out more about all the image stabilized digital SLR cameras currently available.

Cameras and Accessories

Latest Pentax Digital SLR

There's not one, but two new Pentax digital SLR cameras to announce.

The K200D is an update to the K100D (consumer level) and the K20D is an update to the K10D (semi-professional level).

Last year Pentax announced the new Pentax K100D Super, which offered mild improvements over the original K100D released in 2006. The Pentax K100D Super packs a lot of features into an inexpensive frame, which makes it a great budget digital SLR.

The new K200D and K20D continue trends that Pentax has already included in their cameras: dust control, built-in image stabilization and compatibility with virtually EVERY Pentax lens ever made (digital SLRs from other manufacturers have limited compatibility with very old lenses).

The K20D features a 14.6 megapixel sensor, live view LCD, expanded dynamic range and a weather-resistant dust-proof body, while the K200D includes a 10.2 megapixel sensor, 11-point autofocus and a 2.7 inch LCD screen.

The release date for the K20D is April 2008, with an estimated price of $1,300 and the K200D will be available one month earlier in March 2008 for an estimated $800.

Latest Sony Digital SLR

Sony recently announced the imminent arrival of the ALPHA DSLR-A200.

The A200 is a follow-up to Sony's popular DSLR-A100, a camera that captured a lot of attention when it was released for its impressive combination of features: built-in image stabilization, dust control and eye-start autofocus.

While the A200 is not a radical departure from this formula, it does build on some of the technological advancements Sony has made since the release of the A100. Put another way: if you already own an A100, it's not worth it to upgrade; if you're in the market for a new digital SLR then the A200 might be worth a look.

Latest Canon Digital SLR

Breaking News - Today Canon has announced their new 12 megapixel EOS Rebel XSi (450D).

Here's the quick feature run-down: 12.2 megapixel sensor, dust control, 9 point autofocus system, 3 inch live view LCD. The Rebel XSi makes a shift away from the Compact Flash card to the smaller and lighter SD memory card.

The Rebel XSi is expected to ship in April of 2008 with a body-only price of $800 and a kit price (with the EF-S 18-55mm image stabilized lens) of $900.

Digital SLR Buyer's Guide

Thinking about buying a new digital SLR? Get a complete introduction to all the latest cameras with the Digital SLR Buyer's Guide!


The following collection of links will help to keep you posted about what's new at the Guide and in the world of digital SLR cameras.

Recent Updates to the Digital SLR Guide

New for 2008 - Flash! I'm working on a series of new pages for the Digital SLR Guide that are going to introduce you to the various flavors of digital SLR flash. I'll talk about a variety of flash options you can compare, from simple external flash units to more complex multi-light setups. These pages are under development and will take some time to complete, so expect them to make their debut in February or March.

Other Photography Sites

  • - a wealth of photography learning opportunities
  • Photojojo - a great site with tons of photography do-it-yourself (DIY) projects
  • Flickr - THE social media site for photographers
  • Strobist - everything you ever wanted to know about lighting with external flash
  • - lots of learning resources and plenty of examples of exceptional photography

In Conclusion

I hope that your 2008 is getting off to a great start and you're either taking lots of photos right now, or will be soon with a new digital SLR in your hands.

Happy picture taking!

--Chris Roberts, Your Digital SLR Guide

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