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Old Jun 21, 2012, 11:48 AM   #1
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Default Starter DSLR....dead horse.

Hey everyone, this is my first post on the forums! I know that this topic is beaten to death, but it is a very hard decision and I just keep getting swayed one way or the other.

I want a DSLR after using a friend of mines Pentax K-r as well as an older model Pentax that he had. I am on a low budget at this point in my life (just out of college, not a great job), so spending something like 500-700 on a camera isn't really in the cards. However, what I am looking for is a used model that will be competent and something that I can build on.

What I have learned so far is pretty much that the body doesn't matter all that much.... many DSLRS are comparable, and the lenses/ family that you buy into are what is most important.

So, based on that, I have narrowed my choices down to a Nikon D3100, a Canon T1i, and some sort of Pentax (would love the k-r, but a bit expensive)

My problem however is this....I think that I would prefer the Canon if I could find it for relatively cheap used in a camera store, but I am a little concerned about the video quality. I think for me, that might be a feature of the body that I regret later on. Then again, I really like the higher pixel screen, and the autofocus motor built in, and the brand overall.

My other concern is that my friend here has two pentax cameras with about 3 lenses. If I were to invest in a Pentax camera, we would be able to share and trade lenses which would ultimately add to the tools available to me. But I am worried that the Pentax is just inferior to Canon and Nikon, and that I would be sticking myself with something I will want to trade in over the long term.

All that being said, I realize I wil be very satisfied with any DSLR version that I get from virtually any brand. But since this is such a long term choice due to the lenses, I want to make the right one. The video thing for me on the Canon sucks, but the no autofocus motor on the d3100 also bothers me. What to do!? maybe just go for a pentax?

What I will use it for:

-hobby photography
-traveling pictures
-around town landscapes, and portraits
-while i am not focusing on video, I want to have that option for situations that may arise while traveling

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give, I have seen already on this forum that their are many seasoned photographers that are so helpful, and I look forward to your points of view!
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Old Jun 21, 2012, 1:11 PM   #2
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First, you should understand that video on DSLRs is behind video on digicams. You're not going to get autofocus in video at a camera level you're looking at in a DSLR.

Second, realize that DSLRs are cumbersome beasts - especially when it comes to travel. This a a reason why so many become expensive paperweights. I have 3 friends/relatives that own DSLRs and none of them use them anymore for those reasons.

Don't get me wrong - I take my canon 1dIII on vacation with me so I'm not down on DSLRs. It's just that you really have to want the heft. And, for general travel or around-town photos - you'll find results from digicams today to be virtually indistinguishable from DSLR results. Of the things you mentioned, the only one that really benefits from a DSLR is the portrait work - IF by portrait you mean shallow DOF portraiture (subject in focus, background out of focus). To really get benefit for portrait work though you need other lenses and external flash(es) and eventually other lighting/reflectors/backdrops.

So, the point I'm making is - unless you just want to learn/practice the are of photography with full control over settings, for what you want, you may be better off with a digicam.
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Old Jun 21, 2012, 2:28 PM   #3
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Thanks John for your feedback!

As for the heft with traveling, I really don't mind that too much. I virtually always have a backpack of some sort with me, and for the DSLR I would most likely have it in its case and in a drawstring or other form of light backpack. It depends on how I am traveling, but most of the time I will have the car with me, or something at least. And carrying it all day isn't something that particularly bothers me. Also, the Ti1 is quite small by DSLR standards isn't it?

I hear what you are saying with the video... I had read that as well, but I guess I was just hoping for something that would ALSO enable to occasionally capture some moments. For example, on a trip with that friend of mine recently, we went to a location at the north sea of Germany where the tide goes back and you can go walking around on the mud underneath... we took some fantastic shots with his camera, and with his girlfriends k-r we also captured some video of some of our friends prancing through the mud and screaming (ok, maybe friends means me. ) anyway, while I understand the camera isn't truly built for video, I just mean in moments like that where it would be a nice thing to have, but not absolutely unbelievably quality.

As for the rest and possibly preferring a regular camera... well, you certainly aren't off base, and I understand what you mean when you recommend that. However, the reason that I am interested to getting into DSLR is because of the extra meaning it gives behind shooting the pictures. On that trip I referred to, I was constantly searching and looking for good subjects to take pictures of, waiting for the right sunlight, trying to find the best views of towns etc. It was wonderful the way it helped me enjoy and view my travel in such a more in-depth way. Not to mention the fact that the photos that his camera took were absolutely brilliant, and looking back on them is extremely satisfying.

With the portraits, I LOVE the type that you referred to...the sharp image up front with the blurred background. I worked at Apple for 2 years, and a lot of their promo pictures of employees and customers etc were all shot that way. I love it, and when I played with my first DSLR a few years back, I was astonished at how easy it was to get that effect and make a subject look so completely perfect. At the time I was borrowing it to make a portrait of all our friends from college together, and I ended up just shooting TONS of pictures of us all goofing around and action photos etc etc, and those are probably my favorite album in my iPhoto because of the quality and the perfect ability to capture and focus on the people.

Anyways, in my life....I would love to be able to take pictures like that so that when I look back over the landscapes...the pictures of friends and family, the travel pictures etc, I have that extremely high quality perfectly framed shot that I remember how hard I worked, or how much thinking I put behind getting it just right (whether in the moment, or editing afterwards). I also love the way that it provokes you to really SEE where you are, observe the details, and take it all in as you search for the great shots. And naturally, you have the beautiful pictures later to relive it all as you choose. It just resonated with me, and that is why I am thinking of the DSLR. Manipulating all the settings....while that doesn't immediately pop out as something that I am extremely excited to do, I believe that is mainly because I don't know how they affect anything at all. However, once I have the camera to try, play with, learn with...I can get tips online, try different photos, and really start understanding what makes a good picture. From there, I think that I would absolutely prefer the manual control that an SLR gives you.

What do you think? I mean, does that sound like the type of thing I can get from just a really good digicam? I really don't know! I have had a few "good" cameras before, but none inspired me the way holding my friends DSLR in my hands did. I wanted to be creative, I wanted to find the shot that others wouldn't think of, I wanted to try every angle possible just to see what it would come out like. With other cameras...all I've ever thought was "I'm glad I had this with me to take a few shots" I haven't had a really great new digicam though, maybe they are completely comparable!
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Old Jun 21, 2012, 3:43 PM   #4
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The best dSLR that costs under $500 is the Nikon D3100 and Canon 1100D. And there are so many great deals on eBay for second-hand lenses, it's incredible.

The choice isn't always easy between the 2 brands:
- Canon has a very good lens line-up, and its range of primes is more up-to-date, with many more lenses using USM/SW motors than the Nikon equivalents.
- but Nikon has a better range of DX (EF-S) format lenses, no doubt as a result of the amount of time that they took to enter the full frame market.

I still think in reality most photographer’s won’t notice this since both companies address the needs of most photographers, pros or amateurs.

Of course then there's the option of 3rd party lens manufacturers, like Tamron or Sigma, a lot cheaper than either Canon or Nikon lenses.

My 2 cents, go with the Nikon and choose a couple of Tamron lenses...
Sony α
Minolta AF 35-70mm f/4
Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM

Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di-II LD
Tamron SP AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di USD XLD

Last edited by Marawder; Jun 21, 2012 at 3:48 PM.
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Old Jun 21, 2012, 4:08 PM   #5
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Hi Scottyent- I'm intrigued by the fact that having a DSLR in your hands invokes a creative spike- why can you not get creative with a compact camera,or such like..?
Here's an example of creativity without a DSLR...

Whilst I'm not going to deny a DSLR has the potential for supreme IQ and a degree of DOF not achievable with a smaller sensor sibling- ultimately,creativity comes from the mind- and sometimes limitations can actually make you think and work harder to obtain a given shot- actually increasing your skill...!

Perhaps investing in a "bridge" camera- with all the functionality of a DSLR AND decent quality video (such as the Panasonic FZ-150) might be a good learning curve- and will not be too heavy an initial investment- and will certainly be a decent travel companion.

With regards DSLR's- most entry level cameras are pretty much as capable as each other- whether it's a Nikon,Canon,Sony,Pentax or whatever....
I'd personally avoid the entry level Pentax,simply because I hate AA batteries...(You may not...) though the K-r model at least gives you the choice of both types- and is actually a very fine camera- and with 6fps shooting- its quick too..!
With regards buying into a system- I guess you can't really look beyond Canon or Nikon....can you ??
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Old Jun 22, 2012, 2:22 AM   #6
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Thanks guys for the replies!

My question for both of you is actually the same... the Canon 1100D, and the Panasonic Fz-150....aren't they very closely priced to the T1i?! And isn't the T1i a better camera than both? I mean, maybe its a 50 dollar difference on the 'new' scale on Amazon, and maybe thats the wrong place to look...but if I could get a decent used Canon t1i for 400 bucks, that would be cheaper than a New one of the Panasonic and probably around the same as the 1100D right?

And Marawder, I had originally decided the D3100, but have been kind of scared away by the lack of an autofocus motor. So I would have to spend about 220 on the 50mm 1.8G for my everyday shooter. Should I really be concerned about this?

I understand the push towards a bridge model....but I don't understand the point of buying one when it is so close money wise to buying a DSLR. Sure, probably not in the long run at all....but I would like to buy something that I can buy better lenses for, and really learn photography on. It is a hobby that has always interested me, I just haven't ever aken the leap to a DSLR.

With a DSLR, I feel I will have the options to upgrade lenses for years to come, and it will allow me to grow as I understand photography more. Also, I don't know much about that bridge model or other bridge models, but something like using a long exposure i.e.


Is something I would be interested in trying in the long term for sure. I don't know if the FZ 150 is capable of doing that!

Sigh, well, I have a few months before I actually am in America to make the purchase....so we'll see what happens. I understand that you guys wouldn't have recommended a camera that is beneath a DSLR if it wasn't for a good reason. I will think it over, and see where I am at and where the prices are in a month or so. I guess my problem is that I am a techie...I love new technology, and I really appreciate high quality. For the DSLR, I just love the quality that it packs, and the images they create are just so beautiful. I like the feeling of being blown away by how well a camera took the picture. I think in the long run, a DSLR will allow me to grow as I adjust to the settings and the lenses, but maybe all I really need is a great bridge or even digital camera that simply takes wonderful photos! I can be creative with those too, but my reasoning is why drop 300-400 on a great camera like that, when I could get a used DSLR for around the same price. I think I'd rather save for an extra month and go with DSLR! sigh, I don't know...we'll see.

Thanks for all the advice guys, it's greatly appreciated!
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Old Jun 22, 2012, 4:28 AM   #7
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Basically,the reason for suggesting a "bridge" camera is that basically their functionality is the same as a DSLR- with the full complement of Manual,semi-auto program modes and scene modes- and you can certainly learn the photography ropes whilst using one.
Also bear in mind the zoom range you have on offer in one lens- effectively a Macro lens, a wide angle lens for landscapes,a super-telephoto lens for shy wildlife- and not forgetting that all are image stabilised- imagine the cost if you want all of those stabilised lenses on your Canon/Nikon..!
Then there's the issue of video capture- definitely a ticked box for the "bridge" brigade.

Not that I'm putting you off from purchasing a DSLR- their IQ is superior(potentially),as is their versatility(with the resulting cost)- but bear in mind a DSLR won't guarantee you great pictures- that's down to the user and his or her skill/competence....

Yes,there are also area's where many bridge camera's will struggle- such as creating depth of field effects- however- many are now incorporating onboard software to create a similar effect when required. Then there's the issue of long exposures- many bridge camera's offer upwards of a 15 second exposure- my X-S1 for example offers a DSLR type "Bulb" setting,which allows me an exposure as long as I want,with the option of using a remote release.

Of course- you can grow into a DSLR system- adding lenses as you go,from primes to macro lenses,telephoto etc- just be prepared for a long and expensive journey.

If you do decide to go the DSLR route,it might be an idea to go with an image stabilised body- such as Sony or Pentax- thus reducing the need for expensive stabilised lenses- even an old,inexpensive manual prime lens will be stabilised..!
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Old Jun 22, 2012, 5:55 AM   #8
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dear sir, I believe you have sold me!

check out this comparison:

I started looking at bridge cameras for this year, stumbled upon the P150....and saw how impressive it looked specwise. It seems to have all the features I want, capable of great pictures, great video, even GPS tagging. I then thought....well yeah, but how does it compare to a DSLR? So I googled for the nikon p510 vs ...... and let google fill it in, when I saw the D3100 I thought Perfect! A camera I know!.....and when I saw that the P150 blew away the 3100 on that comparison...well that clinched it for me!

Ultimately, I believe I will buy a camera similar to the P150 (if not exactly). It will pack more value for what I can afford right now, and I am not so obsessed at the moment to really commit to a 'long and expensive journey' as you put it. I just can't put that much stress on my financialy at the moment. And having so many ranges and qualities all in the same lense just seems fantastic, incredibly versatile, and all that I will need for quite awhile. Once I develop my skills, and feel that I can step up...maybe I will. Or maybe this will be the type of camera I always wanted, and I won't feel the desire to upgrade!

Thanks so much Simon for pushing me this way, it took me a bit to accept it because naturally i want high quality, but looking at that comparison and the specs of some bridge cameras...well if I can get the same performance, with better video, more versatility, all in one lens, for less money than the body and basic lens of a DSLR.....why not?
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Old Jun 22, 2012, 12:22 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Scottyent View Post
...well if I can get the same performance, with better video, more versatility, all in one lens, for less money than the body and basic lens of a DSLR.....why not?
It sounds like you were impressed with the Depth of Field control you have with a dSLR in your earlier posts.

The FZ150 has a much smaller sensor in it, which is why you can get such a large zoom range in a smaller package.

The larger the sensor or film size, the shallower the depth of field for a given aperture and subject framing. The smaller the sensor or film size, the greater the depth of field for a given aperture and subject framing.

That's because a camera with a smaller sensor or film size can use a much shorter focal length lens to get the same angle of view.

For example, a camera like that FZ150 has a lens with an actual focal range of 4.5 - 108 mm. But, because the sensor is very small, it gives you the same angle of view you'd have using a 25 to 600mm lens on a 35mm camera.

IOW, there are tradeoffs to using a camera with a smaller sensor if you want more control over depth of field to help your subjects stand out from distracting backgrounds. A lens for a camera with a larger sensor with the same angle of view would be much larger and heavier. So, by using a smaller sensor like the popular bridge cameras use, you get more apparent zoom range in a much smaller package. But, the tradeoff is that the depth of field will be greater due to the actual focal length of the lens being much shorter (which can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on what you're trying to shoot).

There are pros and cons to any approach like that, and you'll need to decide if a camera with less size and weight for the same angle of view range is worth the tradeoffs in areas like depth of field control if you want a subject to stand out from distracting backgrounds.

Also, because the photosites are much smaller for each pixel when using a camera with a smaller sensor, you tend to get more noise (or loss of detail from noise reduction) for a given lighting with the same aperture, ISO speed and shutter speed selected. That's because the surface area for each pixel is much smaller and not able to capture as much light.

Now, having said that... cameras with smaller sensors are continuing to improve as time passes, for better control of noise. Also, as already mentioned, you can find software to simulate a shallower depth of field if desired.

If you're doing things like zooming in to grab a head shot, you may find that the depth of field is shallow enough using a bridge camera like that Panasonic. But, for larger subjects (especially if you're too close to zoom in a lot), you may appreciate the ability of a camera with a larger sensor to isolate subjects from distracting backgrounds, which is something you don't get with a bridge camera using a smaller sensor size.

There are pros and cons to any of them. But, given your comments about liking the DOF control you have with a dSLR, I just wanted to make sure you understand that a Bridge Camera like that Panasonic has a *much* smaller sensor than dSLR models, and you'll have more depth of field (more of the image in focus as you get further away from your focus point) with one for a given aperture setting and framing. For example, these comments you made suggested you liked the shallower DOF you could get with a dSLR model:

With the portraits, I LOVE the type that you referred to...the sharp image up front with the blurred background. I worked at Apple for 2 years, and a lot of their promo pictures of employees and customers etc were all shot that way. I love it, and when I played with my first DSLR a few years back, I was astonished at how easy it was to get that effect and make a subject look so completely perfect...
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Old Jun 22, 2012, 4:30 PM   #10
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A bridge camera won't get anywhere near the depth of field of a DSLR as JimC noted. The physical size of a bridge camera is a bit misleading as packed inside that large body is a very small sensor, the same 1/2.3 size used in the smallest point and shoot cameras.

SOmehow this progressed from "finding used at a local camera store" to "new". While camera store may have some used stock and not suggesting ignore, other REPUTABLE sources for used are KEH.com, Adorama and B&H Photo which are far superior,standing behind their produces vs ebay and craigslist. Also look at the maufacturers (Canon and Nikon) web sites as their store has refubished models.
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