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Old Oct 30, 2006, 9:26 PM   #1
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Over the past year or so, I've been playing around with an old 3MP point-and-shoot digital camera, as well as taking a class in conventional B&W film photography. As I'm taking a trip to Italy in about five months and have been doing photography for my school's newspaper, I'd like to make the leap to a digital SLR. Sadly, my finances are quite constrained (flying to Italy isn't cheap!), so I'm trying to find a way to make an investment in a camera body that will last me for four or five years at least, as well as a good startup lens.

Some thoughts on what I know and what I'm looking for:

-I'd rather buy a Canon. In my research and experience with both Nikon and Canon, I've found that the latter seems preferable.

-I've tried the Digital Rebel, Digital Rebel XT, and 20D, as well as Nikon's D50. Unsurprisingly, I prefer the 20D, especially with a battery grip. However, finding a way to afford at 20D seems unlikely at the moment. Regarding the issue of the Rebel's small size, I do find it a little too light and compact, but I don't plan on using real chunky lenses too soon. Using a battery pack helps this, too.

-The majority of what I shoot is landscape, nature, and urban photography. I find myself wanting more wide-angle coverage quite a bit more often than I wish for a little more tele. However, I don't want to buy a lens that's soley wide-angle, since I plan on using this for other stuff as well, including some sports photography.

I've looked into three of cameras lately: the 20D, Digital Rebel XT, and Digital Rebel XTi. If I had the money, I'd love to get a 20 (or 30)D, but putting together $900 for this package is difficult enough, and the cheapest I've seen the 20D is a little over $800, refurbished, body only. Buying a lens, CF card, and anything else I might need isn't feasable unless I can snag a body or kit for less.

The older Rebel XT was what I assumed I'd buy until I heard about the XTi. In its favor, they're quite cheap (less than $600 with kit lens at bwayphoto.com) and, from what I've heard, a fairly solid low-end DSLR. This is an attractive option for me simply because it's affordable, and would let me save a little cash to put towards a wide-angle lens or battery grip or something in the somewhat-distant future.

The last option, the XTi, is attractive simply because of the extra megapixels and extra features it brings. However, I've seen comparisons between 8 and 10MP, and the difference is negligible enough that it's not a big deciding factor. What I do like a lot about the XTi is the built-in anti-dust system, which seems like it could be a big factor in making a camera body last longer. The faster bursts and whatnot are nice, too.

As for lenses, with so little money I've mostly resigned myself to using the 18-55mm kit lens until I can get my hands on enough money to buy some better glass. One option I have considered, however, is the Sigma 18-125mm f/3.5-5.6. I've heard mixed reports on the build quality of the lens, but getting substantial telephoto range for only $200 is an attractive option, especially if I picked up a cheaper Rebel XT.

So: what camera setup (of these or otherwise) would you recommend I get to work with in the short term and likely expand off of in the long run?

(Edit: one note is that the site I've found with the cheapest prices on these cameras, bwayphoto.com, includes a package with a tripod, cleaning kit, and LCD cover with each body. Assuming I buy from them, all I'll need besides the SLR and lens is a CF card.)
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Old Oct 30, 2006, 10:50 PM   #2
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I just happened across your posting and I see that your interests coincides with mine, especially in that I just recently went through the same decision. With your budget, I might suggest that you may wish to consider Pentax also. The Pentax K100d is 6mp, and has built in image stabilization in the body, thus every lens mounted is stabilized. You can easily obtain the K100D with the kit 18-55 and 50-200 lenses for under $800. Don't forget, your going to have to have several SD memory cards in Italy unless you take a laptop to store your images on. The unit also runs off of 4 AA batteries or 2 CRV3.

Pentax has some of the best lenses around, and over the last 30 years they have produced over 20 million lenses that can be picked up used very reasonably. For instance a 28mm wide angle (manual) can be found for about $50 on ebay. I will say that the 18-55 zoom kit lens is not the best lens they ever make, but it is decent. Pentax has a lens rebate on through January. They have a excellent (highly regarded) 16 to 45mm zoom that can be had for $200 after the rebate (usually its about $500) if you look on the web. Also the 50-200 has a $50 rebate.

I think that you will find that the features of the K100D compares very favorably with both the Canon and Nikon models that you are considering. If your willing to give up the image stabilization (Pentax calls it shake reduction) you can obtain the *ist DL or DS for even less and have additional dollars for lenses. Check the Pentax lenses on ebay and also keh.com.

Right now for the functionality in a fully dSLR the best bang for the dollar is Pentax, and with such a large inventory of lenses, you should be able to build the system that you want within you budget while making fewer compromises.

The one possible drawback for sports/action is the burst mode, as the Pentax only has a 3 frame buffer.

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