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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    95

    Low-end dSLRs vs High-end P&Ss

    Right, let's get the questionairre filled out:

    Budget

    Tricky question. Initial budget will be 700 tops (initial being, if I opt for dSLR I can always buy lenses later), but if there's something that introduces a significant benefit and bumps it up slightly, I'm open to adjustments.

    Size

    Not an issue. I'd much prefer something a bit bigger than those teeny little compacts - especially with my huge hands.

    Features

    6 Megapixels should be fine. More than 8 is almost certainly unnecessary.

    Zoom: At least 7x, I would say. Might be willing to dip if there's something special.

    Image Quality: Difficult to judge on a scale! Put it this way: I'm no pro, but I would like the opportunity to take artistic shots, not just "snaps."

    Manual Controls: The more the merrier! As long as there remains a lazy option, and as long as it doesn't make the thing silly to navigate.

    General Usage

    Subject: Likely diverse: Landscapes, Closeup, Buildings if they turn up. People will, I expect, take a backseat, but I'll need to be able to fit 'em in, if necessary.

    Print size: I'll print them as large as the camera will allow, but A4 or thereabouts would certainly be nice.

    Lighting: Difficult to say. Mostly outdoors, probably, but being as impulsive as I am, reasonable darkness capability would be quite handy.

    Action: Unlikely. If it were possible to shoot flying birds or insects, I'd do so, but I accept this as something that is pushing any camera setup, so I'll not miss it.

    Miscellaneous

    Brands: I know Canon and Konica, and my grandfather likes Pentax, but to be honest, I don't care.

    Models: D50, 350D for SLRs (the latter pushes the budget a bit) S3 IS, R1, and similar things - basically, I've looked at all the superzoom point-and-shoots, and they seem fairly close.

    To expand a bit more on all of this information: I've not actually had a great deal of experience with photography. However, my Dad's style has inspired me slightly, and I'd like to get a camera that allows me to do artistic photographs, rather than me and a bunch of friends in front of various buildings. (Although inevitably, the latter will probably crop up.) The biggest issue when looking at reviews of the superzooms is the noise, especially at high ISOs. Looking at the D50 review, it's not actually unusable at 1600, whereas the point-and-shoot styles are all awful at 800, and pretty disgusting at 400 too. 2 or 3 stops difference - and increased picture quality in good light.

    On the other hand, I'm simply not a professional, or even an amateur (yet) so I do have this niggling reservation that shelling out for an SLR might be foolish. Convenient things like a live histogram, and also financial things, like not having to buy, carry and change lenses.

    At the moment, my natural gadet instincts tell me to automatically go for the bigger, shinier, more expensive one, with more buttons to press and which makes satisfying whirry, clunky noises... But I'm not sure whether I should listen to it.

    Thanks for reading, hope you can help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Posts
    2,175
    While the DSLR route is more costly and requires a higher startup cost, it's the one that will probably give you the most satisfaction, and the collection of lenses and accessories that you build up can last you a lifetime, as opposed to the high end point and shoot which, if you are lucky, will last you 6 years tops under normal usage.

    Another point is that if you go the DSLR route, you won't be able to replicate even a "7x zoom range" with the budget given. The budget provided will barely get you an entry level DSLR and a good third party lens, but you will need to wait for that second lens to replicate the zoom range (but it will likely be a lot higher quality glass!).

    With that bit in mind, I would recommend a Nikon D50 + Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 lens. The D50 goes for about $550 USD (though I've seen it as low as $500), and the lens goes for about $450 USD. Together, that's $1000 USD, which is a fair bit less than 700 pounds, right?

    You could also look into the Canon Rebel XT as a subtitute for the D50, and that will cost you about $100 more.

    Either way, you will only get covered at the wide end at the outset (in "zoom" terms, you will get about 3x zoom if you like putting it that way), but you will have a great camera and a great starting lens. If you are willing to sacrifice the speed of the lens, you could look at the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 to get a bit more reach (4x) at the expense of that constant aperture (and save $100!).

    Once you do plan to get your second lens, you would probably want to look into a 70-200 or 70-300 lens. On the Canon side, the 70-200 f/4 L lens is the way to go there, and that will run you about $600. There's also a decent 70-300 IS lens that costs about the same on the Canon side (Nikon will come out with this one next month I reckon).

    Now, about the whole issue of whether a DSLR is right for you, that's up to you to decide. DSLR's are a lot more common nowadays than they were just a few days ago, so while they represent a big step up from point and shoots, I wouldn't regard someone with a DSLR as "professional" but rather people who really care about their photos and wish to control their shots more at the expense of having to fiddle a bit more, but that's all part of the whole hobby.
    Last edited by Rex914; 07-22-2006 at 04:49 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Des Plaines, IL
    Posts
    9,560

    Talking A second lens...

    Echoing the above ideas...

    The best "second lens" (the first lens being the 17-50 f/2.8, of course), IMHO, would be the Canon EF 70~300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (22.2 oz).

    For the money, this lens not incorporates some nifty optics for better imaging (akin to the "L" series of Canon lenses), but provides decent telephoto with image stabilization and the USM focusing motors. For $559 (@ B&H), this is perhaps the best bargain of the lot.

    Unfortunately, as nice as the Canon EF 70~200 f/4 USM (25 oz.) is, it lacks the 'IS' capability... and at telephoto... that can be the back-breaker for many photographs. It is priced slightly higher than the 70~300... so it does make you wonder... why? Just to have f/4 throughout the range, the loss of 'IS' or just that white paint job?

    If you get a chance, at the store, do a side-by-side of these two lenses... and you be the judge.

    On the subject of P&S style cameras... one of the beauties of these cameras is the fact that you can get away with 'small' because you are not fighting with large lensing. You usually have to deal with what is built into the camera and that's about 3 inches of retractable lens. Big hands are rather a moot point when wrestling with these beasties, as they have no real weight... usually, you just have to make sure your hands don't drift in front of the lensing.
    Last edited by DonSchap; 07-22-2006 at 05:12 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    95
    On the lenses side of things, I've also been thinking very carefully about that. Please save up all your lensy goodness for the topic I'll open about that very subject - I've been looking at more general lenses than you specify but we should probably save that discussion for later. Suffice to say, as long as I can find a suitable interim lens which will serve me at least until I restockpile some money to build up a more appropriate suite - whether to then chuck on ebay or keep - I should tiddle along nicely. (Again, experts' opinions extremely welcome here, I try to find as much information as I can, but actual photographers have to count pretty strongly in the equation.)

    With that said, thanks very much for the replies. Actually rather helpful even at this stage, with regard to the first and last paragraphs, Rex.
    Apart from the fact that, unfortunately, I will proobably be getting a D50 if I go SLR, and so the Canon lenses (which appear to be the ones most often listed) just wunt work, the price difference between those lenses in the US and the UK is startling! $550 is about £290, but the best prices I can find in the UK are more than £100 ($185) more expensive... I'll have to look into import duties - I could afford better pieces of kit if this is commonplace. OK, a quick check implies that this might be the case... Unless there's VAT or something like that? Confusing.

    To expand: do you think I'd miss a live histogram? Being as inexperienced as I am, I don't know how well I'll be able to judge exposure instinctively - there's always auto/priority, but I guess sometimes you need to DIY, at which point such point & shoot features come in handy.
    With regard to experience, the plan is to steal my Dad's Konica Minolta A2 on holiday, and do as much with it as possible.

    One thing I missed: I'm also going to try and get down to Jessops or somewhere and try out the D50/350D, because I don't know whether the OVF will suit me. Reviews say that of the D50 is a little small, and just how difficult is it to take pictures at the long end when the lens has a small maximum aperture? (Although they're supposed to be brighter and clearer in general.) Any other nuggets I should take into account?
    Last edited by FishFace; 07-22-2006 at 05:36 PM.

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