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Argelius Nov 29, 2008 7:02 PM

I consider myself a relatively advanced amateur photographer who has never strayed from advaned "point and shoot" cameras. I've become a big fan of super-zoom cameras, largely because of the composition flexibility having the zoom lens provides. (I am currently using an Olympus SP-570 UZ). I have a really good "eye" and take excellent photos. My primary subjects are nature/landscape, architecture, macro subjects, and my dogs.

I am considering getting a DSLR. I've done a good bit of reading about the advantages of SLR cameras and think I have a good sense of the objective differences/benefits between SLR and Point-N-Shoot cameras.

The primary reasons I am considering getting a DSLR:
[1] Would like to be able to do more with low-light conditions (less noise at higher ISOs).
[2] General higher image quality (less barrel/pincushion distortion, which I know is lens dependent).
[3] Just generally want to move the the next level of photography.
[4] I'm a gadget freak and want to get a new one.

My hesitations to making the switch are primarily:
[1] The realization that with a DSLR, one lens might not "fit all" (from macro to telephoto) so the hassle of the bulk and buying and lugging around different lenses is an issue I have to come to terms with).
[2] I have much to learn about apertures and shutter speeds and lenses (although this is a challenge I sort of welcome).
[3] Might miss "movie mode" (although I don't use it that much and I know some DSLRs are coming out with it).

For the purposes of this post, I am not concerned about the cost.

I've done a bit of research and I've preliminary decided the Canon Rebel XSI/EOS 450D seems to appeal to me (largely because of it's slightly smaller size and good low-light performance). I'm wondering if there is a good all-around lens that would, at least in the short term), provide a macro-telephoto "bridge" as I make the transition from my fixed-lens point-and-shoot.

I would welcome people's thoughts about this - not so much about my specific camera selection but about the transition from what I have to a DSLR. I guess I don't necessarily have a specific question but an interested what sorts of comments this gets.


TCav Nov 29, 2008 8:15 PM

Lenses for dSLRs are much more complicated than lenses for P&S digicams. The lens has to be (relatively) far away from the image sensor in order to make room for the mirror swinging out of the way. Also, because the sensor is physically larger, so must the optical elements. So lenses that cover the same (relative) range of focal lengths as the lenses on the super zoom cameras you are accustomed to, are quite large, quite expensive, and (unfortunately) quite flawed. The Tamron AF18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro, arguably the best lens of its kind, is soft throughout its zoom range, and suffers from optical distortion at its wide end and chromatic aberration at its long end. Add to that it is almost a full f-stop dimmer that what you're accustomed to with your SP-570.

But remember that one of the benefits of dSLRs is that they can be customized to be the best possible photographic instrument for a particular purpose. So an "all-around lens" would, to a significant extent, obviate many of the the advantages dSLRs have over P&S digicams. Two or more lenses with less ambitious zoom ranges, would provide better image quality and be less expensive.

Canon makes many fine dSLRs, and enjoys a wealth of OEM and third party lenses and accessories. But remember that, with a dSLR, you don't just buy a camera, you buy into a system, and you need to pick the system that will serve you best. One component of this is how you want your image stabilized. Super Zoom P&S digicams are either stabilized or they're not. When selecting a dLSR, you must pick the flavor of stabilization you want. Canon and Nikon use optical image stabilization in some of their lenses, which makes them bigger, heavier, and more expensive. Pentax, Sony and most Olympus dSLRs use sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, so any lens attached to the camera will be stabilized. That includes used lenses manufactured over 20 years ago. The market for stabilized Canon or Nikon lenses is new, so there aren't very many on the used market so far.

With P&S digicams, you can buy a camera from one manufacturer, and when you want to upgrade a few years later, you can buy one from another manufacturer. That won't happen with a dSLR. When you buy a dSLR, the camera body might actually end up the smallest part of your investment. When you want to upgrade your camera, it must be from the same manufacturer or your collection of accessories and especially lenses won't work on your new camera. You need to pick your system carefully, not just your camera.

Argelius Dec 2, 2008 6:52 AM

Thanks for your thoughts.

I've continued my research (which with all the web sites out there that have detailed reviews out there) is a never-ending process. And it feeds into my OCD.

Although I originally said cost wasn't an issue, realistically I don't want to spend more than $1000 for camera + lens (and, ideally, a second lens).

My "concern" about movie mode is probably not justified since I rarely use it now.

I'm currently down (based purely on reviews) between the Canon 450D/XSi and the Olympus E-510. Like the fact that they are on the small end size-wise. Everyone has an opinion, but I sort of like the idea of a camera-based image stabilization (on the E-520). The equivalent Sony seems to consistently get poorer image quality reviews. Need to schlep to a store now and check 'em out.

TCav Dec 2, 2008 8:01 AM

The E510 can't autofocus when using 'Live View', while the E-520 can.

The Sony A100 got a bad rap for noise at high ISO, but the problem is not as pronounced with the A200 & A300. I agree that sensor shift image stabilization is a good idea, especially because it means that all the 20+ year old Minolta lenses will work on Sony dSLRs and be stabilized. Canon and Olympus don't have anything like that advantage.

Argelius Dec 4, 2008 4:39 PM

Thanks again for everyone's thoughts. I went ahead and got the Canon XSi the the kit and a Canon 250 telephoto lens. Cant wait 'til the arrive tomorrow (hopefully!).

One "final" question: while I consider myself a capable photographer, I've never really played around with much other than the automatic settings on my many cameras. Obviously, there's no point in getting a DSLR if I'm going to continue to do that.

Thought I'd just ask if anyone has a favorite "introduction to DSLRs" tutorial/resource (be it online, a book or a DVD/Video). Obviously, these forums are of great help, but think I want to start off with something more didactic.


TCav Dec 4, 2008 7:43 PM

Good luck with it!

For a tutorial, you could start with Canon's own Resources & Learning: Learning Station.

JohnG Dec 5, 2008 10:16 AM

I agree with TCAV - that's a nice tutorial. But I think a book is also useful - it's easier to carry around as a reference.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Here's the real trick - what is useful is learning PHOTOGRAPHY. So, get some books or look online for things that discuss photography. The camera you use is irrelevant. So, to me, the books or tutorials that tell you to "do this with the xsi" aren't as good. It's the ones that deal in setting aperture, setting exposure, exposure compensation, etc, etc that talk in principles. Your brain then having to understand THAT principle and look in the manual for how to make the adjustment on your camera is what drives it home. Otherwise you tend to just memorize steps rather than the principles.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Understanding Exposure by Bryan Petersonis a good book. Your local library will have some books. For some reason people are under the misconception that books based in film photography can't possibly be relevant. Actually they still are so don't discount them.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"After you get the basics of exposure and composition down, look at the luminous landscape web site and their "Understanding" series. Good stuff!


Argelius Dec 5, 2008 10:20 AM

Thanks, again.
According the the UPS tracking information, my camera is "out for delivery".

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