Looking through my recent web statistics and hits I saw an interesting search topic linked into me from Google.
A google user somewhere in the universe typed in “Total HDR Camera Setup Cost,” into a search and eventually made their way to my blog. How interesting!
Now, I’ve blogged about my personal HDR setup, but I’ve never blogged about the cost. Guess Google made the best educated guess it could. But that guess led me to this post. It’s a pretty good topic. What does it take to do HDRs? Is this a psychotically expensive proposition? Do I have to get an SLR? What’s this whole thing going to run me?
If you’re me, you’ll spend too much. Like getting a 5D Mark II for instance and shipping it off to Canon after two weeks of ownership to let it sit in the in box for a few more weeks……just the zany kind of guy I am! Sorry, I digress and I’m still more than a little hot under the collar with Canon and how they’d ignored…I mean handled….my repair issue.
So, what does it take to set yourself up for HDR? Not as much as you’d think. Especially considering all the extras you could do if you wanted to. Let’s make a quick run down of the necessary equipment:
- Tripod: This is a must. It’s the first purchase. If you’re going to do multiple exposures they’d better be well aligned, each as sharp as possible, etc. Bet you thought I’d put a camera here first. Nope, tripod is necessary in most situations. How much? Well, get a decent one, not a cheap one from a Best Buy or something. I’ve got a Manfroto tripod and ball head. B&H has some good kits put together already, and I’ve linked to one. $210
- Digital Camera: Well, you can go all out here, but you don’t have to. For ease of use, I recomend finding a digital camera that allows you to do Bracketing (setting up for multiple exposures before hand). In the case of my Canons I can setup for a series of 3 different exposures with AEB. You don’t need a DSLR, there are some smaller cameras that allow for bracketed shots. Take the G10 for instance. Not an SLR, but you can bracket with it, and that’s really helpful as you don’t have to reset for each exposure. Keep in mind, the camera should be able to shoot in RAW, like the G10, so that’s a shopping tip right there! The G10 can be found for around $449.95
- Software: We’re done with the hardware. Well, we don’t have to be, just getting the basics. The next part is the software. For me Photomatix does just fine! I also run Photoshop, Lightroom2, and a few other programs. But if you’re strictly figuring out what you need to do HDR and nothing more, Photomatix will do the job well. There are others on the market and I’ve tried a few, but I’m extremely satisfied with the results I get. Photomatix lists for $99 for the stand alone application.
That’s it. We’re all done. Good tripod, a camera that can shoot RAW and bracket, and the software. We’ve spent $759. Oh, you need a computer too (just saying).
Could we spend more? Sure. What’s my setup looking like? You already know I’ve got the tripod and the software. Here’s the rest:
- Manfrotto Monopod: For higher light situations where I’m confident the tripod isn’t necessary.
- Canon 40D: My only camera at the moment.
- Canon 5D: Once I get this one back we’ll see how it does for the applications I use my 40D for.
- Canon EF-s 10-22mm lens: A favorite for my 40D
- Canon EF L 17-40mm lens: New for my new 5D
- Canon EF L 70-200mm lens: Occasionally used for HDR, but not often
- Canon EF L 24-105mm lens: Another good one for landscapes and some mid-range stuff.
- Countless other goodies in my carrying cases.
- Photoshop CS4 Extended: When additional post production work is required I turn to my Photoshop!
- Photoshop Lightroom2: Just the best darned photo management system this side of the moon.
Yes, there’s other stuff too, but that gives you an idea.
In the end you can get yourself setup for HDR work for under $1000 easy. If you’re a fan of EBay or Craigslist you might do it even cheaper. Then again, you could go all out and break the bank if you’d like to. The choice is yours. Frankly, my 40D and 30D (sold when I bought my 5D) have done excellent for HDR work, and I think either would be a great choice. Can’t comment on the 5D Mark II right now as Canon has had it longer than I have. I’ll know more in a few months and share it here when I get some more shutter time with it.