Brendan's Reviews > Digital SLR Handbook

Digital SLR Handbook by John Freeman
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Nov 29, 2010

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bookshelves: 2010, new-media, non-fiction
Read on November 29, 2010

The DSLR Handbook is a pretty good starter book for people who know nothing about photography (like myself). It's written in an accessible, friendly style that assumes you don't know a lot but also doesn't condescend. A few thoughts:

* The early chapters are the best. After you get past the chapter about how to put the battery into your camera (seriously), there are a couple "theory" chapters that explain how DSLRs work and why they're better than point-and-shoot cameras. There's also a helpful chapter or two about the different settings and what they mean. I also like the fairly long discussion of the difference between wide-angle and telephoto lenses, and why you might want to think about them.
* As the book goes on, though, it becomes less of a book to read and more of a book to refer to (hence the "handbook" moniker, I guess). While this is useful (planning to shoot outside landscapes? refer to this chapter), it ruins the book as something you'd read to get an overall survey, mostly because he repeats himself over and over. I think the book would be twenty percent shorter if you cut out all the times he says "be sure to bring along a tripod, and use a cable shutter trigger." It's good advice, but goes a bit long in the tooth. This book also fails, as a handbook, because it's too big and pretty to carry in your pocket or your photo bag. The O'Reilly programming Pocket size books would be a good example for Freeman to consider. Perhaps this book could come in its present form, with a thirty page condensed version that could fit in a cam bag.
* Freeman also assumes a level of interest and commitment to DSLR photography that probably exceeds the level of anyone using this book. In other words, if you have studio lighting and a dozen lenses to choose from, you probably don't need this book. But then again, I wouldn't have any idea why I might want studio lighting until I read this book, so it's a chicken-and-book thing, I guess.
* My favorite bit is fairly early in the text, where Freeman talks about the questions you need to ask yourself when you're taking photos. There are about a dozen to think of, including lighting and Fstop and ISO and on and on. Then he says something to the effect of "Some people might find all these questions intimidating or annoying to ask. But as someone who has invested in an amazing piece of photographic equipment like a DSLR camera, you are clearly committed to a different level of photography." I was reminded of a late-night episode of a sports-memorabilia show in which they were selling Michael Jordan jerseys along with bits of the floor he played his last game on for $5000. One of the salesman's gambits was, "When people walk into your house and see this piece, they will know you're serious. They will know you are somebody."
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