Hi everyone !

So it's time for me to invest properly in a DSLR and some lenses.

I'm being called to do some small work in stop motion, so I need quite good material.

So from what I managed to understand from this website and from what I've seen so far on various projects I worked on, the best way to go would be a Canon with Nikon lenses.

I don't think I need to go for the Canon 5D, but then, what would be your choice ?  I'm a bit lost in the middle of all the specifications. Would the 60D be a good choice ? A second hand 40D ? or a 600D ?

Is it better to buy something new, especially when I'm not good enough to know if something is a good deal ?

And then, about lenses, Nikon is really the best way to go ? Does it have to be manual ? because choosing old manual lenses is even harder. Is a zoom a good idea at first, or perhaps just 2 lenses, a 50mm and a 28 mm can do?

And in the end, how do you choose a lens for stop motion ?

I know that's a lot of questions, but if anybody feel like answering even to one, that would be a great help.

Thanks a lot

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I still use my Canon 40d and it is excellent for stop motion. ( I don't like Canons much for regular stills photography, their controls annoy the hell out of me, but attached to the computer and operated via SMP or Dragon they are great.)
The only limitation is that many models now include HD video, and it doesn't do video. But it's a good, solid mid-range camera. If that lack of video means it can be bought for less, provided you don't mind about video, it could be a bargain.

Since I'm still using it, I don't know much about the current models.
Video can be useful for shooting live elements to composite into a scene, or for completely non animated projects. I bought an HD video camera for that, plus some "making of" footage and tutorials, but if I could have one camera to do both it would make more sense, and cost much less in total. So I would think about that first.

The lenses don't need to be fully manual, but they do need to be capable of manual operation - meaning they need to have actual physical rings on the lens barrel to adjust focus and exposure. A lot of newer fully automatic lenses don't.

You want to get AI or AIS Nikon lenses (or Nikkor, which are basically Nikon lenses - not sure what the difference is). That way you'll be sure you're getting lenses that are suitable for stopmo.

You'll also need a lens adapter for each lens - look for AI/AIS to Canon lens adapter on Amazon - make sure what you're looking at is actually to attach an AI or AIS Nikon lens to a Canon body. I only add that last part because in the Amazon search the first few entries will be exactly what you typed in the search window, and then they start listing what they think are similar items, often competely different lens adapters, like to adapt an Olympus OM lens to a Canon body or some such. So be sure to pay attention to that.

Now, all that said, some people just use a regular kit lens (the lens that comes with the camera, usually a cheapie zoom lens that's fully automatic). Apparently Dragonframe and StopMotionPro can control the exposure well enough that you don't get flicker. Not sure how much I'd trust that though, but Don Carlson has been having good luck working that way. So maybe just get a Canon with the kit lens and try that out at first - as long as it doesn't flicker then there's no need to get the Nikon lenses.

You also need to get an AC power supply (can't animate on a battery, you'll run out of juice halfway through a shot).

You can also use Olympus OM mount lenses, with an adapter, on a Canon EOS body. I started shooting digital with a Nikon, so I already had the Nikkor lenses. I found out later there was an OM adapter as well, so I also use one of my old Olympus Zuiko lenses now. They might be cheaper to buy, since Olympus went with a different lens mount for their digital cameras, whereas Nikon stayed with the same one as they had used for film - so there might be more demand for Nikkors.
And there must be a Pentax adapter too, since a film I worked on used Pentax lenses on their Canon 7d.
Adapters don't cost much, under $20 usually, you want a simple one that does not transfer the electronic signals from the camera to the lens. The lens works best for animation when you set it, and it stays where you put it, without the camea trying to make changes.
The AC power adapters vary in price according to,which model,camera they are for - not all the Canon DSLRs use the same one. I think the one for my 40 d might have been the same as the high end models, but there was one for the entry level Rebel models (3 digit model numbers ) that was cheaper. So I would check to see if ther is an AC adapter for a particular model, and how much it costs, and search out some prices. Mine was more than $100.


It's true that the HD video is something that can be usefull, I didn't think about it.

That I guess it would be a Canon 60D or a 600D, depending on how much money I will spend on lenses.

One last question about lenses, is it better to have a zoom, or to have 2 or 3 ones ?

Does it have to do with how close you can focus ?

No, it's not about how close you can focus, it's really more about image quality. A zoom lens, even the really good (expensive) ones, has a lot of glass parts inside and that adds up, causing slight distortion and scattering of light all of which degrades the image (only slightly though - most people would never notice). Priime lenses have fewer glass elements inside, so there's less degradation. 

How close you can focus depends on the minimum focal length of the lens, which will be printed on the side and is part of the lens's name - for example a 15mm -45mm zoom lens has a minimum focal length of 15mm. (That doesn't mean you can focus on something 15 millimeters away from the end of the lens - it's more complicated than that, but it does mean it can focus on things closer than for instance a 25-80mm lens). Prime lenses only have one focal length because they can't be zoomed - if you want to focus on something closer or farther then you need to switch to a different lens.

The kit lenses included when you buy a camera are usually very cheap zoom lenses that don't have great visual qualities (and are often made of plastic - I mean the lens barrel, not the lenses themselves). The really serious photographers won't use them, and usually only use prime lenses unless they work in the field and don't want to have to lug around a dozen or so prime lenses and have to swap out between them for different shots, which might take too long and they might lose the shot. So that's why manufacturers make really good high-quality zoom lenses, but those are very expensive, huge and heavy. I'd say you're better off getting a few good prime lenses for studio work where you don't have to worry about the subject moving while you're switching lenses.

And yes, there are adapters to put Pentax lenses on Canon bodies. 

Also, before buying a particular kind of lens, you should do a little research on it. Example Nikon makes several different 55mm lenses, some of which are excellent quality and some of which are cheap plastic ones that were used as kit lenses many years ago. The 'name' of a lens is it's focal length followed by its minimum f-stop number and the lens mount type - for instance Nikkor 55mm f1.8 AIS. Often people won't include the F though, so it will just say Nikkor 55mm 1.8 AIS (for example). 

We recently had a discussion about f stops and how important they are. Here's the pertinent info - the lower f stop numbers make lenses more expensive but really are only necessary when working in the field without a tripod. In other words, since you'll have your camera on a tripod in a studio situation where you are in total control of the light, you have the advantage of being able to use a longer shutter speed to get more light in, so no need for a really wide aperture (low f stop number, which means the iris can open really wide to let in a lot of light very fast). What this boils down to for us is this - you can save a lot of money by getting lenses with minimum f stops of 4 or 5, rather than shelling out the big bucks for lenses with 1.8 or 1.4 minimum apertures (f stops), which are massively expensive. 

The way to go about choosing lenses:

Start with what focal length you want. For example, you want either a 50 or 55mm for sure. You'll also want either a 25 or 28mm. Start by going on eBay and search for 55mm Nikkor lens (or 55mm Nikon lens). You'll find a lot to choose from. Eliminate anything wiht a minimum f stop of lower than 4 or 5. This will take out the most expensive of the choices. Look at the descriptions of the ones that are left, and then do a google search with the full 'name' of one of them. Example Nikon 55mm 5.0 AI. You'll be able to find articles about each lens explaining how good the build is (whether it's a plastic of metal lens) and how good the optical quality is. Some were poorly ground and didn't have good optical coatings, some just the opposite. You want the well-ground lenses with good optical coatings. 

And finally, before you embark on this journey, read through this eBay guide to choosing used lenses: http://reviews.ebay.com/How-To-Detect-Flaws-in-Used-Camera-Lenses-o...

Ok, guess that about covers it. 

Strider says 25mm lens - I used to have a 25mm Switar lens for my Bolex 16mm movie camera, but not many 35mm film, slr still camera lenses come in 25mm.  The common sizes are 24mm and 28mm.  Here in Australia the 24mm cost 2 or 3 times as much as used 28mm lenses, so I went with 28.  But I found that there wasn't such a big price difference in the US, and eBay USA prices were far lower anyway, so I added a 24mm to my kit.  I didn't really need both for most filming.

Often the 24mm is too wide, so my background isn't big enough (the view gets dramatically wider the further away the subject is), and I prefer the 28mm.   But sometimes I want even greater depth of field and exagggerated perspective to put something close to camera and make it seem much bigger than the stuff a bit further back, and still keep it in focus, and for that the 24mm is better. 

My 55mm Nikkor does benefit from being "micro" - what Nikon call a macro lens, one that can be set to focus really close to the lens.   That makes it great for big close-up shots where the puppet face fills the screen, as well as normal close-up to medium shots.

StopmoNick said:

not many 35mm film, slr still camera lenses come in 25mm.  The common sizes are 24mm and 28mm.

Huh! I did NOT know that! I have a 25mm, but it's a CCTV lens, which were used for security cams and closed circuit systems - a C-mount lens (can't use them on a DSLR). 

That's really great guys, thank you so much for all this advice .

I feel ready to make a wise choice !

I might come back to tell you what I bought ...

I just recently bought a Canon refurbished Rebel T3i (600D) and it's ALL YOU NEED.  I've used most of the Canon line for one thing or another and there's no need to up-buy on this.  My T3i purchase was $335 US for the body (Canon Black Friday sale), and I can beat the shutter to death without a bit of concern that I'm trashing an expensive camera. It's perfect, perfect, perfect for this line of work.

A 60D will give you a deeper buffer for quicker and more frequent snapping of stills (don't really need that for stop-mo), has a heaver body (don't need that) more bracketing and auto exposure control (don't need that) and if you're interested in the video side of things they are exactly the same.

The full frame cameras (5D Mark2, 3) are much more difficult when it comes to controlling depth of field.  The D600 closely mimics the depth of field that traditional filmmakers shooting 35mm motion picture film have worked with for a century.

Lenses... just e-bay and buy "Nikon AIS" lenses in the 24mm, 28mm, 35mm range folks have suggested.  Buy a $15 ebay Nikon to Canon adapter ring and you're done!  Total manual control and no concern for camera caused flicker... ever.

Save money!!!  Unless you goal with the DSLR is advanced still photography over fast moving subjects with pin-point control of focus on multiple quick succession shots, or you're shooting in the dust and wind and need extra environmental protection, go for the cheapest of the Canon DSLR's. I'm constantly amazed watching my friends and associates over-buy their talent, need, or expectations with still cameras.


Jim Arthurs

Good advice Jim!

I am glad I never bought the high-end Canon 1d Mark 2 or 3 models for $3500 or so (body only) - within months, they had become obsolete with more features turning up on the cheaper models.  Not much point getting something built to last with the field still developing so much. 

great, that is really good advice, as I was going to get the 60D !

that's true that we always tend to over buy, especially when we don't have a good knowledge of things.

So thank you very much, you guys rock on this forum !

Nick: You're very right... and the sad truth is that if you pay $330 or $3300 (or $33,000 for the Canon C500) it will be obsolete in the same short period of time.

I own a vintage B&H 2709 serial #54, made in 1914, almost a century ago, and it still works perfectly and I could be shooting film with it tomorrow if there was a need.  None of these digital cameras at any price will be viable in 10 years, let alone 10 x 10.

Patricia: The 60D is a terrific camera with faster response and higher build quality... which you would appreciate more for having owned and tortured a 600D first!  Save the money difference between them by choosing the 600D and put that difference into another lens or two. 


Jim Arthurs

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