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Old Jan 31, 2007, 6:21 AM   #1
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I am completely new to DSLRs (I have some knowledge in compacts) and the good users here have convinced me to go after my first one. I have a few quick questions-

One thing I noticed while searching for some reasonably priced entry level models is that the Nikon D40 does not have an autofocus motor and therefore all lenses without one built in must be focused manually. Should I be put off by this, or do most new lenses have autofocus built in?

If I plan on using a 300mm or 400mm telephoto for action shots, would it be impossible to produce steady images under normal circumstances (without a mono or tripod)? Is it really worth spending an extra $300 on a body just for image stabilisation?

And my final question; is the difference in normal snapshots between DSLRs and compacts substantial? For example, is a Fuji S1 Pro still going to produce better images with its 3mp sensor than the current point and shoot models?

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Old Jan 31, 2007, 8:42 AM   #2
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tennisforums wrote:
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One thing I noticed while searching for some reasonably priced entry level models is that the Nikon D40 does not have an autofocus motor and therefore all lenses without one built in must be focused manually. Should I be put off by this, or do most new lenses have autofocus built in?
This just limits your choice of auto-focus lenses. If you can live within the limitations of the D40, then go with it and save your money.

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If I plan on using a 300mm or 400mm telephoto for action shots, would it be impossible to produce steady images under normal circumstances (without a mono or tripod)? Is it really worth spending an extra $300 on a body just for image stabilisation?
You are going to read a lot about the pluses and minuses of image stabilization. I think it comes down to what you'll be shooting. For 300mm or 400mm lenses and action shots, I'd say you should get it. I use a Konica Minolta 5D with image stabilization in the body, but Nikon and Canon have image stabilization in some of their lenses. I went with the KM because I needed image stabilization and I only wanted to pay for it once.Nikon and Canon have a much greater selection of lenses, however, but I can live with the lenses available for the KM/Sony mount.

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And my final question; is the difference in normal snapshots between DSLRs and compacts substantial? For example, is a Fuji S1 Pro still going to produce better images with its 3mp sensor than the current point and shoot models?
The great advantage of a dSLR won't appear in normal snapshots. The great advantage of a dSLR is in the flexibility that comes with brighter lenses, longer lenses, wider lenses, greater control, greater choice of accessories, and post-processing RAW image files. Since you're talking about action shots using a 300-400mm lens, I think it's safe to say you'll need a dSLR to do that. You can use a dSLR to take normal snapshots too, but that would be like using a tractor-trailer to go to the corner convenience store to buy a gallon of milk; it will work, but you'll have capability and capacity that you won't be needing.
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Old Jan 31, 2007, 9:19 AM   #3
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Snapshots with dSLR: you won't notice much/any difference in the situations where your digicam was able to get a good snapshot. Where you will notice the difference is in low light because of the higher ISO available. And with a reasonable choice of lenses, you will have more focal length range than any digicam. In particular, at the wide end.
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Old Jan 31, 2007, 9:29 AM   #4
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I think TCav gave some great advice. I'd like to add a few things:

As I understand you want to shoot pro tennis. Are you shooting from the stands or from the court? If the stands, then you MAY have issues with being allowed to use a 300mm or 400mm lens - the decent ones tend to be rather large. And I don't know about tennis tournaments but some baseball, basketball and football venues frown upon large lenses. So, that's something important to consider - will you be allowed to bring your expensive new toys into the building.

As for bodies, KM gives you in-body stabalization but not that many auto-focus lenses. Canon probably has the largest selection of lenses followed closely by Nikon.

As to whether you can hand-hold a lens without IS it depends on your technique and steadiness and how heavy the lens is. A 400mm 5.6 lens is a lot easier to hand hold than a 400mm 2.8 lens.

And I definitely agree with TCav - the benefit of the DSLR is going to show up in it's versatility - the conditions under which it can take photos. Also, maybe I've gotten too used to DSLR photos but to my eyes many digicams overprocess the photos in-camera which I don't like. I like having the processing toned down or turned off and allowing me to do it myself in post processing. I fully understand many people prefer the reverse. To each his own.

I would also suggest when pricing out your camera, you also price out these telephoto lenses as well. If you want that 'blurred background' that your other post stated, you're going to pay through the nose to get the ability (generally 4.0 lens or really 2.8)
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Old Jan 31, 2007, 9:45 AM   #5
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JohnG wrote:
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Canon probably has the largest selection of lenses followed closely by Nikon.
I agree. Just look at the list of forums here. Under Digital SLR Cameras, only Canon, Nikon and Pentax have forums just for lenses. And third party lenses for Canon and Nikon are easier to find that for other mounts.
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Old Jan 31, 2007, 2:12 PM   #6
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And before you buy any camera, make sure you go and try it at a store.
See how the size of the camera fits your hands. Is the button layout comfortable to you? Are the buttons well suited for you? Does their placement make sense, are the buttons a reasonable size?

These are things you don't find out reading a review.

To expand on the issue of long lenses at tournaments. This is a real issue. If you look like a professional they will likely stop you and make you show a press pass. If you don't have one, they won't let you in with the camera. I know this sounds silly, but most professional venues are very serious about what pictures get out. I don't even try to take a 100-400 to a baseball stadium 'cause I know I could get into trouble.

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Old Jan 31, 2007, 9:33 PM   #7
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eric s wrote:
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And before you buy any camera, make sure you go and try it at a store.
And DON'T ASK A SALESPERSON A TECHNICAL QUESTION!!! EVER!!!

If you do, you're telling the salesperson how much you don't know. NEVER DO THAT!!! Go into the store with your choices narrowed, and with the deciding factors being what you can learn from actually handling the products you're considering.

That is, unless you're in a store that caters to professionals. Their salespeople have a reputation to uphold.Salespeople at places like Circuit City and Best Buy already have a bad reputation, so they don't have anything to uphold.

This goes for anything, not just cameras.
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Old Feb 1, 2007, 3:28 AM   #8
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If image stabilization is a big concern, you may want to consider a Pentax K100D as an entry-level dSLR. At $492.99, you would have an shake-reducing body with a kit lens included. The good thing about the shake reduction built into the K100D is that you can use it with any lens, including cheap supertelephoto lens. The downside is that while you'd have shake-reduction, these cheap lenses usually are fully manual (as most are old lenses); however, you could still get the more expensive lenses and use SR with that too. Also, the K100D has an autofocus motor.

While the K100D isn't considered by many to be in the same league as Nikon and Canon, it'd be a great camera to start learning dSLR technique with before moving to a pro-level camera.

The real separation between dSLRs and compacts comes from the glass and processing. You get a vast array of lenses to create the composition you desire with dSLRs. Want a fisheye effect? Pop on a fisheye lens. Need a very far focal length? Pop on a supertelephoto lens. You can't do that with compacts (and get the same clarity and sharpness that comes with dSLR lenses). dSLRs also have the advantage of post-production flexibility if you shoot in RAW. This requires more work than simply shooting JPEGs with a compact, but you will almost always get a sharper, more vibrant image with a dSLR.
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