PDA

View Full Version : Right DSLR for beginner?



artemis
06-27-2007, 11:23 AM
Last fall I picked up a Canon A630 (based largely on the reviews from this site). It's been a great point-and-shoot camera, and I took some wonderful photos with it on my last vacation. I'd originally planned on using the camera as a low-cost learning tool (since it has manual controls), but am finding it more problematic than helpful in that regard. Specifically, I have a heck of a time seeing the LCD display when working outdoors in bright light, no matter how I swivel the display, and I really, really don't like having to alter all the camera settings by clicking through on-screen menus. (Not to mention trying to manually focus by toggling a 4-way controller!) I'm beginning to think I might want to pick up a DSLR so I can concentrate more on what I'm shooting rather than on fiddling with the mechanics of the camera. (I'd keep the A630 as a nice backup camera for quick snapshots of for when I want to travel light). Since I'm new to photography and have never owned a DSLR before, I though I'd ask for some suggestions from more experienced photographers before making such a costly investment. So, can you wiser heads out there help me pick out the right camera?

Budget: I'd like to keep the cost of the camera body plus one good general purpose zoom lens under $2000. Additional lenses I'll pick up later, as I get a better idea of what I really like to shoot. (Lens suggestions would be appreciated!)

Size: I'd prefer a DSLR that's on the lighter side (to spare my neck).

How many megapixels will suffice for you?: 6+

How important is “image quality” to you? : 9

Do you care for manual controls?: Yes! And I really want a camera that allows control of features such as aperature and shutter speed, autofocus versus manual focus, flash on/off, type of metering, etc., by buttons, levers, or dials rather than by toggling through an onscreen menu.

What will you generally use the camera for?: Mostly outdoor nature photos (flowers, birds, sunsets/clouds, occasional landscape and cityscape shots). Occasional candid shots of people, but no formal portraits.

Will you be making big prints of your photos or not?: Yes, occasionally.

Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos or low light photos?: Occasional low-light outdoor photos. Very little indoor shooting.

Will you be shooting sports and/or action photos?: Occasional action shots (flying birds, moving animals), but mostly I'll be photographing stationary objects.

Are there particular brands you like or hate?: No.

Are there particular models you already have in mind?: From reading reviews, I think the Nikon D80 may be a good choice, as it seems to use buttons to control a lot of the more commonly-altered camera settings. Some of the Pentax models also sound interesting (I like the idea of an in-body image stabilization system). But I'm open to suggestions! I have a good local camera store which stocks most major brands, so I'll have a chance to hold and try out different models before making a final decision.

DonSchap
06-27-2007, 12:02 PM
The SONY A100 has been turning heads since its release. This combination, compared to many others offers size, range and anti-shake with a weight less that almost any of the others. I know, I own one:



25901
SONY A100 body w/ TAMRON AF18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) lens
& Dicain VG1 vertical grip

Zadillo
06-27-2007, 05:25 PM
I hope you don't mind my piggybacking on your thread, but I'm in almost in the exact same boat as you (except my particular current camera is a PowerShot A610 instead of A630).

I'd love to hear what people say about this as well.

I've personally been looking at many of the recommended beginner D-SLR cameras (or at least the most affordable D-SLRs).

I had originally almost been set on the Nikon D40, but some people have been telling me maybe to look at other things, especially because of the lack of image stablization and dust reduction, and the expense/limitation of lenses (it sounded like finding cheaper third party lenses to use might be difficult).

I've particularly seen people recommending the Olympis EVOLT cameras, and the Sony Alpha, which does actually sound pretty nice (from reading the dcresource review).

XaiLo
06-27-2007, 08:07 PM
D80 $889.95

24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S Zoom. $299

55-200mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR DX $249

or

70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom $469

Wireless Remote Control ML-L3 $16

Nikon MB-D80 Multi-Power Battery Pack for Nikon D80 $134

Nikon SB-600 Speedlight i-TTL Shoe Mount Flash $184

$1991 w/70-300mm

$1771 w/55-200mm

XaiLo
06-27-2007, 08:18 PM
I hope you don't mind my piggybacking on your thread, but I'm in almost in the exact same boat as you (except my particular current camera is a PowerShot A610 instead of A630).

I'd love to hear what people say about this as well.

I've personally been looking at many of the recommended beginner D-SLR cameras (or at least the most affordable D-SLRs).

I had originally almost been set on the Nikon D40, but some people have been telling me maybe to look at other things, especially because of the lack of image stablization and dust reduction, and the expense/limitation of lenses (it sounded like finding cheaper third party lenses to use might be difficult).

I've particularly seen people recommending the Olympis EVOLT cameras, and the Sony Alpha, which does actually sound pretty nice (from reading the dcresource review).

Take another look at the D40 then ask yourself how many of those third party lenses are you planning to buy? for $775 dollars you can have a D40 with a really good, emphasis on good this is not a throw away lens (18-55mm kit lens and a 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR DX so you'e got 18-200mm) covered with no over lap and a camera that can take very good pictures at ISO 1600. add an inexpensive close-up lens to the 18-55mm to get macro type shots and for around $850 you have a lean mean photo taken machine. :)

Alex D80
06-27-2007, 10:15 PM
D80 $889.95
24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S Zoom. $299
55-200mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR DX $249
or
70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom $469
Wireless Remote Control ML-L3 $16
Nikon MB-D80 Multi-Power Battery Pack for Nikon D80 $134
Nikon SB-600 Speedlight i-TTL Shoe Mount Flash $184
$1991 w/70-300mm
$1771 w/55-200mm


Great choices. Don't forget the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 for indoor/portrait shoots ~$100.



Take another look at the D40 then ask yourself how many of those third party lenses are you planning to buy? for $775 dollars you can have a D40 with a really good, emphasis on good this is not a throw away lens (18-55mm kit lens and a 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR DX so you'e got 18-200mm) covered with no over lap and a camera that can take very good pictures at ISO 1600. add an inexpensive close-up lens to the 18-55mm to get macro type shots and for around $850 you have a lean mean photo taken machine. :)

I would still choose the D80 over the D40.

coldrain
06-28-2007, 08:25 AM
I'd skip the D40 for sure. What plus points does it have over other DSLRs? Hmm.. none (except silly things of little importance).
But it does have its fair share of downsides.

The missing internal AF motor, till now standard on any Nikon DSLR, which gets used by most 3rd party lenses, and most nikon prime lenses, will make certain lens choices VERY expensive.
Then there is the 3 AF point auto focus system... the lack of exposure bracketing, no mirror lock up, no depth of field button, no RAW convertor standard, and other things Nikon "saved" on. And the puzzling missing ISO and WhiteBalance button, you have to go into the menu for that...

I'd skip the Sony A100 too, because of its noisy sensor and the not all that impressive lens line up. But, if you do not see yourself using higher ISO settings, and can actually find the lenses you want for it, it is a very complete option.

The Pentax K100D is also feature complete, and is even lower in price than the D40.
The Pentax K10D is bigger and heavier.

Then there are the Canon EOS 400D/XTi, 30D and Nikon D80 to consider.

Hmm... you say you prefer a lighter camera. The K10D is not light.
The 30D, A100 and D80 are not heavy, not light.

In the light corner are the D40(X), Canon XT/XTi, Olympus E-510 and Pentax K100D.

You want levers and switches for everything... the only DSLR that did most things via switches was the Konica Minolta 7D. And maybe the Panasonic L1, I am not going to look that camera up right now.
With the other cameras, most have buttons that will get you to the settings directly, on the screen (but aperture, shutter speed, focus, zoom and such of course are via dials and such... things like WB, ISO, AF mode and metering mode go via buttons to the settings in screen). I guess that is as good as it gets, for you.

For an XTi, the best standard zoom lens is the Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM. It is very sharp, has nice colours, and offers image stabilization.
It costs around ~$1000. That would make it fit your budget, still.
A less costly option is the Sigma 18-50 f2.8 EX DC Macro. It costs ~$430.
This Sigma is also available for the Nikon D80, Pentax K100D and Sony A100. Do make sure you can actually find it with the correct mount before you make a camera decision though.

Either of these two lenses will allow you to shoot land- and citycapes, sunsets, clouds and candid people shots. The Sigma will allow you to get closer to flowers.
If you want to get really close, look into getting a dedicated macro lens.
Like a 50mm f2.8 from Sigma (~$250), 60mm f2.8 from Canon or Nikon (~$400), or 100mm f2.8 from Canon, 100mm f2.8 from Pentax, 90mm f2.8 from Tamron.

For birds you usually need to have some tele power... at least 300mm.
For Pentax, Sony, Canon and Nikon D80, cheapest option to consider is the Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 APO DG Macro. It is the only budget 70-300 class lens that gives acceptable results at 300mm, and gives you a 1:2 macro mode for free too. ~$220.
The best 70-300 lens is the Canon EF 70-300 f4-5.6 IS USM, but it is more costly: ~$530.
For a Nikon D80, the Nikon 70-300 f4.5-5.6 VR would be an option, ~$470.

You do not seem to be someone who should put an external flash high on the list of things to get, so I am skipping that for now.

My personal preference for a system for you, taking weight, features, IQ and price into consideration, would be:
Canon XTi
Sigma 18-50 f2.8 EX DC Macro
Canon EF 70-300 f4-5.6 IS USM
Canon EF-S 60mm f2.8 macro

You can leave the specialized macro of course, if you do not yet need more macro than what the Sigma already offers.

This set will offer you a light weight, a big zoom range, suitable for landscape up to bird shots, and the lenses offer very high IQ for the money.
A feature complete camera body, with great 9 point AF system, very good IQ, and a tele range with image stabilization. And a high quality RAW convertor standard.

cgl88
06-28-2007, 08:54 AM
With a $2000 budget I'd get a Nikon D80 and 1 or 2 good lenses. You can get all VR lenses which is supposed to work better than Sony A100. Then again, with $2000 you could get a Sony A100 and a CZ 16-80 lens and still have money left over for an 18-250 tamron lens, 75-300 sony zoom, and a couple of portrait lenses.

You should look for a camera that feels good to you, but then do internet research on lens quality as image quality comes from the lens, not the camera. It's knowing how to use the camera that will matter, though!

artemis
06-28-2007, 02:46 PM
Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! Lots of food for thought here. I suspect the deciding factor is going to come down to ergonomics, which means I need to take some time to visit my local store and play with the various models, and see which ones feels best in my hands and which models have a combination of controls I like. Then I can let lens selection be the tiebreaker, if necessary.

DonSchap
06-28-2007, 08:01 PM
'Coldrain' may actiually have a point ... wait ... Nah!

SONY A100 ... the wave of the future.

The XTi is still embroiled in Canon's expensive lensing to acheive image stabilization. It seems almost regressive to continue to support such foolishness. Anti-shake in the body ... w/o it, you are simply wasting big bucks for ... nothing more than you'd already have for EVERY LENS in the SONY for no extra cost!

Now, if they put anti-shake in the XTi ... the issue would be moot. But it is not there ... and it's not coming. Big extra point goes to SONY.

LR Max
06-28-2007, 09:04 PM
On the flipside, against Sony, image degration as low as ISO 400. A lot of situations call for higher ISO and when I purchased my camera, ISO performance was one of the important things. I constantly find myself in situations where I need higher ISO. I usually run between 640 to 1000 in my photoshoots (in lower light and I need fast shutter speed) and what I saw from the Sony seemed a bit substandard compared to Canon and Nikon.

Except for work, I will say, Image stabilization and external flashes are AWESOME. While the sony has this IS (VR for me and my nikon peeps), it runs propriety hotshoe flashes. Seems kinda rough, and the world of off camera strobes is shut off from you. I use off camera strobe all the time and the Nikon CLS system works wonderfully.

Its best to go play with all the cameras. I've handled the Sony, and personally I didn't like it (can you tell :rolleyes:). It just didn't feel right. But definately check out the Pentax K100. Good piece of equipment. Felt good. The Canon XTi feels fairly good too, but the 30D blows the XTi out of the water. Canon lenses have a bad rep for being crappy (except for the expensive L glass) so watch out here.

Skip the Nikon D40. The D80 is pretty awesome. My friend just got one and its a blast. I think I want one now.

coldrain
06-29-2007, 01:51 AM
Canon lenses have a bad rep for being crappy (except for the expensive L glass) so watch out here.

They only have a bad rep. with ill informed Nikon users I guess.
Canon of course has a few less than impressive lenses too, in its line-up... the same as Nikon, yet in many areas the Canon lenses are better than the Nikon lenses.

DonSchap
06-29-2007, 07:01 AM
It's best to go play with all the cameras. I've handled the Sony, and personally I didn't like it (can you tell :rolleyes:). It just didn't feel right.


The fact is, it takes time to get used to any body you use. I know when I first grabbed the Canon EOS 20D ... I had to get used to the location of all the controls ... and that took time. I also had to peek over the top to get the settings read when I was shooting on a tripod, in a darken studio ... and that can be very irritating, depending on the height of the camera. Don't get me wrong, the camera takes great images ... and delivers on the promise, except for anti-shake ... then we are talking lenses and their costs.

With the SONY, all the settings are immediately read on the back of the camera, on the LCD. It's really hard to louse that up, unless you just are not looking. Mode; Shutter-Speed; Aperture; ISO; resolution; shot count; focus mode; white balance settings ... and power levels ... all there, at the same time.


25973


With the Canon ... you need to peek. Hit a button to discover ISO setting. It's just a pain, after a while. In the dark, it is impossible to see, until you press the illuminator button. You have to half-press the shutter to get it to autofocus.

With a SONY in your hand, you get the whole story ... right there, right now. It is lit 24/7 to your liking, as you sweep up and it begins to autofocus for you as your eye closes in on the viewfinder. There was a lot of thought built into this camera and the way you hold it. I suggest you get a grip and just have fun with it. :D Hey, no peeking ... either. ;)

swgod98
06-29-2007, 08:26 AM
it begins to autofocus for you as your eye closes in on the viewfinder.

Obviously, there aren't many complaints (as far as I've seen) about this, but what happens when you put the camera up to your eye and you haven't yet framed your shot? With lower Aperture values, it seems way too easy to miss focus on the object you intend to shoot.

Half pressing the shutter is something everyone has done since day one. It's second nature (so to speak)...at least to me. Maybe one day in the future all camera's will be like the A100, though...? Er... :eek:

LR Max
06-29-2007, 08:46 AM
They only have a bad rep. with ill informed Nikon users I guess.
Canon of course has a few less than impressive lenses too, in its line-up... the same as Nikon, yet in many areas the Canon lenses are better than the Nikon lenses.

All of my canon friends bitch about the non-L lenses being crap. So, they said it, not me. A few have L lenses and they say they can tell a difference, which is what matters.

I think canons are kinda cool.

coldrain
06-29-2007, 11:26 AM
Even the Canon 18-55 kit lens is not very crap, actually... it is a good lens for a kitlens.
Which lenses are crap? Some old cheap lenses from entry level film SLR times, like the "wonderful" 28-80 USM II I have, and the 75-300mm lenses.
But that is the same with Nikon... the 28-80 kit lenses now are very long in the tooth, and the 70-300 lenses (G and ED) both are/were not any better.

Lenses like the Canon 28-105mm f3.5-4.5 USM, Canon 50mm f1.8, 85mm f1.8, 35mm f2, 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM, 70-300 f4-5.6 IS USM, 100mm f2.8 macro to name just a few affordable non-L lenses are all good to very good.

Yes, of course a 35mm f1.4 L USM (~$1200) is rated higher than a 35mm f2 lens ($230). But does that mean the Canon 35mm f2 is less than the Nikon 35mm f2 (~$320)? No... to the contrary.

Saying that L-lenses most of the time are better, of course they are. But this says little about the quality of the non-L lenses.

It is the same as to say the Nikon 18-70 f3.5-5.6 DX (~$350) is utter total rubbish, because the Nikon 28-70 f2.8 (~$1500) is a better lens...

DonSchap
06-29-2007, 11:50 AM
Obviously, there aren't many complaints (as far as I've seen) about this, but what happens when you put the camera up to your eye and you haven't yet framed your shot? With lower Aperture values, it seems way too easy to miss focus on the object you intend to shoot.

Half pressing the shutter is something everyone has done since day one. It's second nature (so to speak)...at least to me. Maybe one day in the future all camera's will be like the A100, though...? Er... :eek:

When you half-press the shutter release, the A100 tracks focus on your focal subject, fires up the Super SteadyShot stabilzation motors in the camera-body, and waits for the final pressure. The true beauty of this feature is quickly realized when you are using the lower speed lensing (non-HSM and such). It allows the lens' autofocusing motor to spin close to the final focus and allows you to rapidly finish the shot without missing the action.

It simply makes the most out of low-end lensing.

A lot of non-SONY (non-Konica-Minolta) will not appreciate this exciting aspect of advanced mechanics, their cameras have nothing like it ... they have to rely on expensive rocket-focus lens motors.

XaiLo
06-29-2007, 05:56 PM
'Coldrain' may actiually have a point ... wait ... Nah!



Hmmmmm..... it would seem singular in nature. If 'Coldrain' does not think it has any worth, then it doesn't. :rolleyes: Hmmmmm.....Sad sad song.

But you know what they say about opinions...

dxrocnxj
06-30-2007, 11:09 PM
well as for third party lenses for the d40
it seems as if companies like sigma are releasing new lenses
just so they are compatible with the d40
although right out of the release they are i think 500 or 600 at least.

Rooz
06-30-2007, 11:23 PM
But you know what they say about opinions...

yeah, they're just like assholes. :)