Beginners guide to beginning with HDSLRs

by planetSolomon1 Comment

First and foremost, I think it would only be right that I introduce myself. I am planetSolomon. I am a guest poster on the mother of all planets that is planet5D. What will I be posting about you may ask? Well for one, the Canon Rebel T2i/550D that will be my main camera once I get one; actually, my only camera. And two, my progress as a beginner in the HDSLR realm. When I say beginner I mean no film school, wasn't a photographer who's switching to video, have never recorded/edited/produced anything that could be referred to as professional in any way or form. So, I will be posting about my progress, what I've learned, what I’m continuing to learn, what not to do as a beginner (because there's a list of things you shouldn't do that I did) so no worries, I am here to save you. In addition, I will help you with resources of where to go to accelerate your learning and I will help you to stop obsessing over the mountains of equipment that are out there.

Redrock Micro

1.) You're here, welcome, let’s start.

So you've gone around on a couple of sites and blogs, seen the amazing word of HDSLRs, probably even had the chance of being lucky enough to use one or test it out! It entices you, you want in now! What follows here are some guidelines to follow that may help you to become a better beginner.

2.) You don't need it.

As a beginner, you will be going through a lot of blogs, websites, and reviews with words that sound like mathematical equations. I'll name some that baffled me when I began. “f-stops” and “t-stops” which I soon came to find out have nothing in common and at the same time I might still be very wrong. You will see a lot of flashy equipment, and when I say a lot I mean a whole bunch. It was only until I came into this HDSLR world that I was shocked about how many cables are used e.g. bci's, hdmi's, xlr's, ac & dc, lemo's and many more confusing alphabetic combinations. What I am getting at here is that you will be taking in a lot of info in a very short amount of time. Basically, the rate at which you will be taking in info will not be enough to allow your brain to scramble it together to make sense, so I’ll save you from yourself.The sad reality is that you don't need it; all this equipment isn't what gives you a great picture, movie or feature. That's just one part. It's about what you've learned from the mistakes you've made and successes you've had by going out and shooting!

3.) It's not about the camera.

I am an avid follower of Shane Hurlbut, Philip Bloom, and Vincent Laforet. So what do all these people have in common? They have experience; Shane 24+ years, Philip 21+, and Vincent 36+ (because of starting at the young age of 15). They all have experience because of being out there trying things out while failing and learning from others who they considered to be potentially knowledgeable than them. Nowhere in their experiences or bios does it say they were great because they used such and such camera e.g. 5d, 7d, gh1, red one, Arri Alexa, af100, f3 or whichever new one will pop up, and they seem to be doing so a lot lately. Where am I getting at with this? Well it’s quite simple; the camera isn't what solves all your problems, it’s what you've learned about storytelling, shot arrangement, lighting etc. and also about how to  make mistakes that turn into masterpieces (which isn't always the case though so don't bank on it). Try not to be swallowed by all the gadgets that you see on the aforementioned moviemakers’ blogs and websites. Half the time you might not even need it. They post up what they're using, why they're using it, and how it’s working for them but for me and you, the beginner, we automatically interpret it to “I need to get that!” or “that's going to be the solution to all my problems!” I've done it and you'll probably do it too so learn this one point and you'll save mountains of cash and save lots of wasted time.

4.) The Lamborghini & the Prius.

The Lamborghini is among some of the fastest and most expensive cars in the world. The Prius on the other hand is a fairly less expensive car, slower than the Lamborghini and less appealing in comparison, but while stuck in traffic the Lamborghini is reduced to just another car stuck in traffic. We stop thinking of the aesthetics surrounding the cars and think more about how to get out of traffic, so when that time comes it’s not about the Prius or the Lamborghini its about who got out of the traffic first. As a beginner, you believe that you needed to get a Lamborghini (i.e. any high-end camera) to be able to win the race, but I've slowly come to learn that with the right experience and the right driving skills a Prius will get you there too. It may even surpass the Lamborghini.

5.) Make up your mind.

There are currently 572 music genres in the world so musicians have to pick one or two to specialize in, and in those two genres that they pick, there are specific tools & instruments to help them get the job done. Keep in mind there are also other resources for their specific genres. The same rules apply here. In the hdslr world, there are different genres such as weddings, features, documentaries, music videos, wild life, sports etc. and in these different genres, there are different tools for the job. There are places an Arri won’t go that a 5d will, there are also places that neither the Arri nor the 5d can go that the Go pro hero will. So, before you start making unwarranted purchases, decide what you want to shoot first. It'll save you time, money and accelerate the speed at which you’re learning. In addition, instead of reading about anything and everything that comes your way, you'll only be reading about your specific genre. Once you have one that you feel comfortable diving into, you can now be adventurous and branch out. Dare to pick a second! If things go sour, at least you have your one main genre to fall back on verses nothing. After choosing, you can then learn from those who you feel are successful and specialize in your specific motif. Watch their work and decipher it! You can also visit blogs that deal with that genre or join forums that discuss it.

6.) Start failing.

“The bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching” – Chinua Achebe.

(Great author by the way)The bird must have been shot a couple of times before he came to this reality so it must have failed a couple of times before discovering that if it doesn't land the men can’t shoot.Buy a camera, get something cheap if you don't want to spend too much or if you’re not sure of what you want to do. Get a refurbished camera from Canon or Nikon or any other company of choice and get some cheap lenses. Go out and shoot something! After that, come home and look at how terrible it looks, get on the net, hit the blogs and forums figure out how to un-terrify it, go out the next day shoot some more! Learn something new! I guarantee you, if you shoot consistently like this for a week, month or year and deal with the problems as they come, you'll learn more than you would sitting at the computer reading and researching. Before you know it, you'll be like the bird and never want to land again. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Oh yea, and don’t forget to learn from other's mistakes too.

7.) Resources

What follows are some links to different websites, blogs, and forums that you can visit to help you begin.

1.) For all things Hdslr you can visit the mother Planet that you are currently on that is for basically Everything! The aggregation software on Planet5d gathers news from all over the internet and brings them to one place.

2.) For help choosing a camera, I’ve found Philip Blooms – Which… “Video DSLR” to buy? to be very helpful. It has all the hdslrs worth looking at, plus he has accompanying videos that he’s done using some or most of the cameras in his review (which give you an idea of how things can look).

3.) For help with lenses  – Philip BloomWhich…lenses to buy? & Why I recommend the ZF lenses for Canon DSLRs over the ZE

Shane Hurlbut Still Lenses That Can Grace The Big Screen , Altering Lenses For Peak Performance , Turning Still Cameras Into PL Mount Movie Makers

Leica R Mount Lenses for the Canon HDSLR’s

4.) For help with everything, Vincent Laforet has a page on his blog dedicated to gear and he also explains why he uses each piece of equipment. Visit Vincent's gear page here.

5.) For Refurbished cameras, lenses and accessories you can visit Canon &  Nikon or any other manufacturer of choice.

6.) For Help with Choosing cameras ,accessories and so much more, you can also visit Zacuto. Check out the Emmy award winning “Great Camera Shootout” for help with cameras mainly HDSLRs.

*more links & resources in next post also take time and adventure through our planet here on planet5D. There are a lot of resources right here!.

8.) Summary

Learning never stops and for beginners like you & I, there is no summary and no conclusion. We have to keep on learning every day.

(cover photo credit: snap from this forum (don't know original source))

Zeiss Cinema Lenses


  1. Well done. I have been shooting for a few years and am pretty polished in regards to composition and storytelling etc. but am just starting to get more serious in regard to all the new equipment out there and what it can do for you. I am going to enjoy sharing the journey with you.

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