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DSLR advice? What camera's and lens to consider?


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#1 of 84 Chris PC

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Posted June 18 2007 - 10:01 AM

I'm looking for something $1500 or less. I'm looking for people with personal experience with the:

Nikon D80, D40 and D40x;
Pentax K10D and;
Canon Rebel XT and XTi and the 30D

I am seriously considering the Nikon D80 for the most part and included the others for comparison sake. Not to say I wouldn't seriously consider the Rebel XTi with a good lens for instance, but I am keen on the Nikon D80 thus far.

Have experience? Let's here about it. I have a Nikon FE manual SLR and a Canon S2 IS (which is currently pooched and I've been so lazy and pissed off I haven't sent it in...) so I have experience with SLR's and digital camera's, just not with DSLR's...but obviously, I am thinking of getting into DSLR's. I am looking for camera performance that is a nice jump up from a P & S digital, and I'm willing to spend on a good lens. Otherwise, I may try the Canon S5 IS when it comes out, which I'll probably get anyways... :P

P.S. Is Image Stabilization not as necessary with the DSLR's? Because they seem to do pretty good at higher ISO's and camera's like the Nikon D80 don't seem to have IS. Or is IS in the lens for the DSLR camera's?
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#2 of 84 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 18 2007 - 10:37 AM

Both Nikon and Canon make excellent DSLR cameras. You cannot really make a poor decision going with either one. My advice would be to try both in a camera store, and see which you prefer (comfort in your hand, controls, etc.). Also, look at the lens selections for each system to see which manufacturer has more that may fit with what you are interested in shooting. You are investing in an entire system, not just a camera body. You may upgrade bodies over time, but you'll hang onto your lenses for many years.

Image stabilization is still very much a part of DSLR's. Both Nikon and Canon offer lens-based image stabilization, while Sony puts it in the body of the camera. There are arguments for both approaches. Image stabilization, though, can be a very handy feature, especially on lenses with longer focal lengths.

Canon currently offers more lenses with image stabilization (Canon uses the label "IS") than Nikon (who uses the label "VR").

One thing to keep in mind: the focal lengths of SLR lenses will provide a different field of view on most DSLR's due to the sensor being smaller than a 35mm film frame. For Nikon, the crop factor is 1.5, Canon 1.6 and Sony 2.0. That means a traditional 24-70mm zoom lens for a 35mm SLR now provides a much less attractive focal range equivalent of 38-112mm on a Canon Rebel DSLR. Therefore, you need to think about lenses with a wider focal length to get a similar FoV that you may be used to with your 35mm SLR. For both Canon and Nikon, I personally would want something no longer than 17mm or 18mm on the wide side for a "walk-around zoom".

The one exception to the above is some of the higher-end Canon DSLR's, which offer a full frame sensor. These are quite expensive currently, though (much higher than the budget you mentioned).

Personally, I own the following:

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS
Canon EF-S 10-22mm
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
Canon 430EX Speedlite

So, two of my zoom lenses have image stabilization (17-55mm and 70-300mm). At some point I would like to add a longer telephoto prime lens -- maybe a 400mm f/5.6 if Canon updates it with image stabilization.

I'm just an amateur, and mostly take landscape and wildlife photos when we travel. I do use the camera to take family photos during get-togethers, but that was not the primary reason for me upgrading to a DSLR.

#3 of 84 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 18 2007 - 11:51 AM

One other thing: you mentioned owning a Nikon manual SLR. If you have a few Nikon lenses, it may make more sense to stay with Nikon if the lenses are compatible. If you list your lenses here, I'm sure one of the Nikon DSLR owners can tell you if they'll work.

#4 of 84 Chris PC

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Posted June 18 2007 - 12:26 PM

Thanks for the info. I am wondering how much I need to spend to get better performance than, say, the Canon S2/S3/S5 IS etc etc. Would the Nikon D40 or D40x be adequate? The Canon Rebel XT? The Nikon D80 and Canon XTi look nice but are definitely priced quite a bit higher especially considering the cost of "good" lens'. I wonder if the Canon S5 IS would be adequate for me for now, or should I try a cheap DSLR or go expensive. As for lens compatability, it's not enough of a reason for me to go Nikon, but I may go that way anyways. The compatability of lens is not great due to various reasons. Also, my lens' on my SLR are manual focus.

Anyhow, I'm looking for experience and feedback to help me make my decision.

So here's what I'll ask you. Compared to a compact P & S (you pick the cam) how are the pictures for optical distortion, image sharpness, noise and low light or fast moving shots? Tell me what the benefits of a Canon Rebl XT or XTi or Nikon D40/40x or D80 is vs a Canon S5 IS for instance.

thanks,

Posted Image
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#5 of 84 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 18 2007 - 02:02 PM

I have not kept up with the latest high-end point & shoot models, but the main reasons I upgraded from my old Canon Powershot G3 point & shoot to a DLSR were:

1. No shutter lag. After years of using a film SLR, I was frustrated by the shutter lag on my Powershot. The last straw was a whale-watching excursion in Hawaii, where I couldn't get a decent photo due to the lag and focus issues (see #2).

2. Better auto focus and better manual focus control. The whale watching trip again. I ended up grabbing still images from my MiniDV camcorder because I couldn't get any photos with the camera. Years ago on a whale watching excursion in Alaska, I had no such problems with my old Chinon film SLR.

3. Ability to switch lenses. Between landscapes, wildlife, and other nature photos, I wanted the flexibility of switching to different lenses suited for the task at hand.

4. Better depth of field. The tiny sensors of point & shoot cameras do not offer much ability for narrow DoF compared with a DSLR. Sometimes, I want to isolate my subject from the background. I could do that with my film SLR a lot easier than with a p&s. A cropped sensor DSLR is not quite as good at this as a 35mm SLR or full frame DSLR, but I cannot afford a full frame DSLR, and I do enjoy the other benefits of digital photography.

5. I missed having the "through the lens" view of a SLR. I never liked having to compose a shot on an LCD screen. I'm sure that also contributed to my inability to get a decent photo on our whale excursion.

As for the Nikon D40 vs. their more expensive D80 model, some of the Nikon owners can give you better details. I do know that the D40's auto focus system is much more limited than the D80 (I think it only has three focus points), and that many of Nikon's current lenses will not auto focus on the D40 due to it not having a focus motor in the body. Nikon is finally moving their focus motor to their lenses -- something that Canon did many years ago with their EF lenses. The D40 is the first Nikon DSLR without a motor in the body, and I think they only have a handful of lenses with motors right now. Nikon owners, feel free to correct this if they've introduced more lenses recently. I do not keep close tabs on Nikon.

#6 of 84 DanaA

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Posted June 18 2007 - 05:50 PM

To be honest, it seems that all I've done of late is research entry level SLR's. Today, I finally purchased one, my third digital since April, but my first SLR. The only reason I didn't buy the digital SLR I wanted at this time was that I wanted to hold down the spending given the other two purchases. Just for your information, I am aiming toward something like the Nikon 200 down the line. The reason I wanted the Nikon was speaking with camera buffs, visiting all the camera oriented sites, and on and on. Still, with lenses like the 70-300 AF VR (auto focus, vibration reduction), it would have ended costing well in excess of 2K.

Now, I'm a very impatient, obsessive type, so today I went out and bought another SLR, the Olympus 500. The reason for this is they are being phased out (meaning they're going for cheap right now - I got mine for under $600 with two lenses - and have two years to pay it off with no interest) and the reviews, except for complaints about some noise and a view finder that is too small, were really nice regarding things like functionality and picture quality.

Most owners praised the camera and, of the two lens that came with the kit, favored the 70-150 one as being much better quality than most kit lenses on entry level SLR's.

Like any camera in the entry level range, this one has both good and bad things about it, but the sample pictures I viewed were very good and, again, ease of use is important to me as a total novice.

Maybe down the line, I'll end up thinking this does the trick. If not, my youngest daughter gets to take it with her to college and I buy a new one down the line...but considering the price with the two lenses (Circuit City) and the fact that payments will be under $25 a month for two years, I got a new toy and have a pretty guilt free conscience in doing so.

By the way, regarding the Nikon 40, on the forums I visited, most seemed to feel that it was not too limited compared to the newer 10 MP model, unless you were going to blow up your pictures to huge sizes. Virtually all stated that good lenses would be worth it and specifically the VR models, like the 55-200 ($240 online) and they really praised the 70-300 ($500 or so).

#7 of 84 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted June 18 2007 - 08:08 PM

Chris,

Besides what Scott already said, yes, the IQ of DSLRs is generally much better than compact digicams w/ very few exceptions -- and the Canon S# IS series would not be an exception. However, be prepared to spend $$$ and deal w/ the extra heft that's involved too. Posted Image And some folks prefer to shoot w/ LCD live preview instead of a good optical viewfinder (found in the better DSLRs). Incidentally, if you still want LCD live preview, you may want to consider Olympus -- can't remember which model now -- though most DSLR shooters are not fond of their 4/3 format (w/ smaller sensors) for IQ -- mainly noise/grain level as Dana points out -- among other things. Other DSLR makers might eventually come out w/ optional LCD live preview as well -- there's one other recent entry that I can't remember -- but such designs usually involve some sort of compromise (most likely to the optical viewfinder).

One other thing: Sony also uses ~1.5x crop factor, not 2x.

At this point, the closest you can get to DSLR IQ (mainly in terms of noise/grain level) from a compact digicam is one of the Fuji F series cams, eg. F10, F11, F20, F30, etc. Nothing else comes close w/out lots of heavy NR, except a very few other cases that use larger APS size sensors (and would be closer in size and $$$ to a DSLR).

One thing you should note though when comparing IQ. DSLRs are usually set by default to produce less heavily processed images than typical compacts. And to get the most out of them, you'll probably want to shoot RAW and do some postprocessing though you can certainly get pretty good results from in-camera JPEGs.

Anyway, yes, the D40/D40x will only autofocus w/ lenses that come w/ their own motors, eg. Nikon's AF-S or Sigma's HSM. Most new/recently released Nikon lenses are AF-S, but there are still some good lenses (like many wide-to-short-tele primes) that do not have AF-S motors yet though Nikon should be updating/replacing them at some point. Still, if the smaller size of the D40/D40x is not a draw for you, you're probably better off going w/ the D80 instead as it has a much better viewfinder and AF system (that works w/ all the AF lenses). And while you may not need the higher MP for enlargements, it does offer more room for cropping. And there may be other things the D80 offers over the D40/D40x that you like.

Finally, you said your budget is ~$1500? Is that just for now? OR is that all you plan to spend for the forseeable future?

Some folks just go for a D40/D40x and the 18-200mm DX VR lens, which is nice if you really must have an all-in-one lens. But you're probably better off going for your choice of wide-zoom combined w/ the 70-300mm VR for better IQ as well as a bit more reach at the tele end. The 18-70mm DX is a solid performer for instance, and even the cheap 18-55mm DX kit lens would compare well w/ the 18-200mm DX VR at the same focal lengths. Of course, those 2 wide-zooms do not come w/ IS -- and IS is a bit less useful at wideangle than at telephoto ranges. And yes, you should be able to shoot at 2-3 stops higher ISO (ie. 4-8x) before noise/grain becomes an issue compared to compacts like the Canon S# IS series. Of course, that doesn't mean IS won't still be very helpful, especially at the tele ranges.

Anyway, $1500 is somewhat limiting if that's all you plan to spend on the body and lenses for the forseeable future. You might also want to consider a Nikon D50, if that's the case, though I'm not sure how easy it is to find a new one (or a used one in excellent condition). The D50 has its own AF motor, so you can use all AF lenses w/ it, which can save you some $$$ in the long run. That will allow you to try some AF primes in the wide-to-tele ranges, including the popular, inexpensive 50mm f/1.8 -- though I prefer something either shorter or longer myself, eg. 35mm f/2 or 85mm f/1.8. There are also some nice old lenses available in the used market, if you want to go that route to save $$$. I recently picked up a used 180mm f/2.8 off eBay for ~$350 for instance.

Let us know if you have any other questions...

_Man_
Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

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#8 of 84 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 19 2007 - 12:23 AM

Yes, the better image quality of a DSLR over a point & shoot was a given, so I didn't include it in my list of reasons for going to a DSLR. I guess I shouldn't have just assumed Chris would know that. Posted Image

Thanks for the correction on Sony's crop factor, Man. It's the 4/3 systems like Olympus that have the 2.0 crop factor sensors.

The only thing I miss from my Canon Powershot G3 is the size and weight. Carrying a DSLR kit on vacation is a lot more cumbersome. I carry the camera body, three lenses, a teleconvertor, a couple filters, spare batteries and memory cards in a Lowepro backpack. Add a tripod and that's a lot more weight and bulk than a small camera, batteries and memory cards with a point & shoot.

#9 of 84 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted June 19 2007 - 05:57 AM

Speaking of weight and bulk, this guy on pbase has some impressive lens collection, particularly the teles: Posted Image

http://www.pbase.com/andrease/nikkors

I wonder what the heck is the long(er) one here (above the 3lb+ 70-200mm f/2.8 VR?!?):

http://www.pbase.com.../image/59184738

And it's funny to see that he uses a D40/D40x w/ these lenses too. Posted Image Posted Image

And oh, I hate lugging tripods, so I rarely lug mine. Then again, I'm not a landscape kinda guy nor do I shoot wildlife w/ those mondo tele lenses though I did briefly consider getting the affordable, well reviewed, big-ish Tamron 200-500mm for that to share w/ my sister -- she was planning to go on an African safari at one point...

_Man_
Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#10 of 84 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 19 2007 - 07:59 AM

I'm not a fan of tripods, either, which is why I like the image stabilized lenses, especially when hiking. I will not take a tripod on a hike.

I considered that same Tamron 200-500mm lens for our trip to Yellowstone this year. I finally decided against it for a few reasons: (1) I did not want to lug around a fourth lens on the trip; (2) I'd really need to use my tripod (or buy a monopod) with the lens; (3) I rarely need a lens longer than my 70-300mm; (4) I'm trying to stick with Canon brand lenses.

Instead, I decided to buy a Kenko 1.4x teleconvertor for my 70-300mm IS lens. It's not an ideal solution, since I lose some image quality, quick auto focus, and one stop of light (and this is on a f/5.6 lens!). However, it's very small and light, so it takes up almost no room in the bag, and I can always use it in the future if I add a longer prime telephoto. At least I'll have the option of extra reach if we come across a distant grizzly or wolf in good light. 300mm (480mm 35mm eq) was long enough for the large mammals on our trip to the Canadian Rockies last year, so hopefully I shouldn't need the teleconvertor much, if at all.

#11 of 84 Chris PC

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Posted June 19 2007 - 10:02 AM

Interesting advice. As always, it seems you can't have it all, or, at least, not have an aweful lot without laying out the cash. Pay to play as it were.
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#12 of 84 JohnRice

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Posted June 19 2007 - 10:34 AM

Chris, my basic advice is don't skimp on the lenses. For some reason, people seem to think the body is the only thing that matters and then get crap lenses. Of course, that was also the case with film cameras. I would lean toward the XTi or 40x and pass over the kit lens in favor of a higher quality one. Does any sane person really think you can get a decent zoom for $100?

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#13 of 84 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted June 19 2007 - 10:36 AM

That's correct, Chris. That's why we call it "lens lust". Posted Image You can easily blow more $$$ on glass than on audio gear me thinks. Posted Image

And in case you're wondering, this is what I have right now:

Nikon D200
Nikon D70 (backup/retired)
18-70mm DX (my only DX/APS crop lens so far)
35mm f/2
50mm f/1.8 (which I rarely ever use)
55mm f/2.8 AIS Micro (my only manual focus lens so far for a little macro fun Posted Image)
85mm f/1.8
180mm f/2.8
#6T Close-up lens (for converting a tele lens for a little near-macro fun Posted Image)
Sigma 20mm f/1.8 (as Nikon doesn't currently have an adequate AF offering for this)
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 (no IS, but still good and affordable; might be replacing this w/ combo of primes and maybe 70-300mm VR)
Nikon SB800 speedlight w/ Newton Di100FR2 rotating bracket + TTL sync cord
Pair of Feisol carbon fiber tripod and monopod

NOTE: Of the above, only the 18-70mm DX and Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 (and 70-300mm VR) have their own AF motors. The rest would not do AF w/ the D40/D40x.

I'll probably add the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 and maybe Nikon 70-300mm VR at some point and maybe another used manual focus macro lens if I can get one cheaply off eBay or similar.

_Man_
Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#14 of 84 Chris PC

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Posted June 19 2007 - 01:06 PM

Ok. I guess it's up to me regarding how much money I spend. D80 is probably a good unit. FS and BB don't seem to sell without the lens. I can't sell the kit lens very easily.
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#15 of 84 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 19 2007 - 01:55 PM

You may want to check out a local camera store instead of Best Buy. You may get a better price, and you can usually buy just a camera body. I bought my Canon Rebel XT at Adray Camera here in the Detroit area. Their price was close to the reputable online dealers, they have good service, and I was able to get a better starter lens than the Canon 18-55mm kit lens -- in my case, it was a Sigma 17-70mm semi-macro that served me well until I upgraded to a Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens.

If there are no decent local camera stores, there are some reputable online stores. I highly recommend www.bhphoto.com . All my Canon brand lenses were purchased there, since Adray's prices on Canon lenses is not as competitive as their prices on camera bodies, third party lenses and filters.

#16 of 84 DanaA

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Posted June 20 2007 - 10:59 AM

Ok, I'll readily admit I'm new to this and I've read over and over that kit lenses aren't that good, but, if you have the time and inclination, take a look at these pictures of Cameron Diaz that someone took with his Olympus after sneaking through the lines at the opening of Shrek III.

He took them with one of the two lenses that comes in the kit, and usually I've heard the other, their 40-150 is the better of the two. Now, to my untrained eye, they look wonderful, but I'm here to learn. I've only taken a couple of pictures thus far with my new Olympus E500, but I liked both, well at least one of them.

Anyway, if you could check out this link and let me know what to look for.



http://tinyurl.com/232eba

#17 of 84 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted June 20 2007 - 01:45 PM

Honestly, some kit lenses are not bad at all these days probably due to advances in technology (and perhaps better economy of scale). However, it's hard to tell exactly how good the lens is w/ web sized pics (at 800x600) that probably also went through some postprocessing.

Also, the IQ will depend a good bit on whether the lens was stopped down to its sweet spot -- usually between f/8 and f/11. These days even the cheaper kit lenses can be very good (and very hard to distinguish from primes) when used at their sweet spots.

Anyway, given its specs (eg. number of groups/elements, use of aspherical elements, size/weight for a 4/3 lens) and the ~$200 price tag, it's probably not too different from the Nikon 18-70mm DX in terms of quality. Heck, you can spend more on something like the Canon 17-40mm f/4L (pro zoom) and not get noticeably better IQ than the Nikon 18-70DX, except for the odd looking geometry distortion at the wide end, which is not good for shooting architecture.

_Man_
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"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#18 of 84 DanaA

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Posted June 20 2007 - 04:10 PM

Thanks, Man...

That's the kind of information I need to understand the world of SLR's better. Oh, yes, I'm tempted buy new lenses right now, but know that it's best until I both learn more about both the hardware and software and perhaps move up in a couple of years to owning finer equipment.

Still, have to say I'm pretty enthusiastic about getting beyond point and click.

Kind of like audio equipment. One day, you're happy with your run of the mill stuff, then the bug catches hold and you become obsessed putting together something special. In a way, this move is kind of like when you first decide to buy a separate amp/processor.

And, yep, it's a new costly hobby. I checked out the prices of some lenses the last couple of days and peeked at how much those Hasselblads (spelling could be way off here) and, wow, it can get up there in cost.

I'm going to keep on reading posters like you guys and try to keep on learning. No time like the present.

#19 of 84 Jeffrey Johnson

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Posted June 21 2007 - 02:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Merryfield
Nikon is finally moving their focus motor to their lenses -- something that Canon did many years ago with their EF lenses.

Do you know how long ago Canon started moving the focus motors to the lenses? I have a Canon Rebel 2000 that I was planning on moving the lenses and flash to a Canon DSLR (I'm waiting to see what replaces the XTi; hopefully this fall), and never thought about the lenses not being compatible (at least for AF). Is there an easy way to tell if the AF motor is in the lens or the body?

#20 of 84 Steven Simon

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Posted June 21 2007 - 02:19 AM

Just bought the Nikon 40DX... Love it... You can see some of my salt water pic shots in my sig tag..




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