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Old Nov 29, 2006, 4:21 AM   #1
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I'm considering buying a Nilon D50, 70 or 80 but I wonder if I am ready?

I've had my Nikon coolpix 4300 for three years and use it for photos of the wife and kids, mostly outdoors while camping and hiking but also at soccer and inside school activities with some stage recitals. I also like some landscapes and the like.

I am very tired of the coolpix for the shutter lag, poor performance in shadyand indoor lighting, missed picts, blurry picts,poor colorand I would like a higher megapixal for cropping, large printsand posters. I take a great deal of responsibility for the poor turnout because I have had no formal photography education and am just an obsessive Dad with a camera.

I have a calendar or two printed every year with our vacations, hikes and picnics and Itorture my lose family with a lot gifts with pictures of my kids in mugs and posters and I am hopping for better results.

Most of my unposed picts in shady forest settings come out blurry and I'm hopping the manual settings on a DSLR will help me save more of these moments. The picts I take from the audience while my kids are on stage always come out blurry and with bad colors.

I would like to take some photo classes but am quite far from a community collage and have a hungry, messy family to cook, clean and photograph. Although a few hours away from said hungry, messy family would be welcome it's still quite a drive. I do some reading on the net when I get a chance and am always looking for a good instructional book.

Here is a sample of what I torture my relatives with:


Please ignore (#1. Michelle's picts) my wife took those.

So I guess what I'm looking for is approval to spend $1200 on a d80 although a 70 or 50 looks very nice for $600 less. I have read to buy a cheaper camera and better lenses. Or is there another point and shoot I should be looking at.

I find the shutter speed and aperture settings of the 4300 difficult to access so I have never gotten used to using them even though I have read about the correlation of depth of field and the like.

I've been using Paint shop Pro for about 8 years and am wondering if Photoshop would be worth the learning curve.

Also I like to keep my camera strapped to my hip whenever we are out on a romp. Is it cumbersome to have a d50 with a Nikon 18-200 VR strapped on your hip while climbing rocks or busting brush?

Thanks for your help


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Old Nov 29, 2006, 5:18 AM   #2
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Hi walkingdude and welcome to the forums.

Looking at your work I think you are definitely ready for the extra control and features of a dSLR. I really like the one taken on the theme park ride where you have captured the movement really well

As you mention hiking with the camera I the main thing to be aware of is the extra weight, but there are great bags/rucksacks available for such environments which would be worth looking at and I wouldn't want to carry it on my hip (personally).

Lens quality will have an effect on your shots but it will depend on the sort of work you are doing. If you want top notch sports or portraits then good glass is a must, for general walk around shooting then there is a much wider choice...... if you can stay away from the most basic lenses then you will be doing well.

As for PSP and Photoshop, that is a personal choice, however I still use PSP X even though like you I have considered making the switch as there are more filters, plugins available for Photoshop. Also all of the magazine teaching sections are done using Photoshop however about 90% can be transferred to PSP.


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Old Nov 29, 2006, 7:09 AM   #3
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Hello walkingdude and again, welcome to the forums.

You can learn a lot right here and there are also a lot of places online to learn about photography. So just take some time and look around whenever you can.

As for a DSLR compared to a point and shoot, to me there really is no contest anymore. A DSLR is far more responsive and gives you greater control over settings. We've been shooting with a DSLR for a few years now and we still have a Canon Point and Shoot. We still carry the P&S around for everyday snapshots and when I use it, I really miss the quickness of the DSLR.

The cameras you are looking at are very good but is there a reason that you have not mentioned the Canon Digital Rebel line?

Also, one more camera to check out is Nikon's new D40 that should be out now or very soon. It's smaller than the other Nikons but it still seems to be a nice camera.

Good luck and have fun.

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Old Nov 29, 2006, 7:45 AM   #4
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I agree with the others - you're definitely ready for a DSLR. But, you need to go into it with your eyes open. A DSLR will focus faster, have MUCH quicker response time and give you much more flexibility. But, it is only part of the equation. A DSLR alone may not solve your problems without the right lenses and accessories. Let's take the 2 situations you mentioned: shady forest and stage shots.

Non-posed Shady forest (posed shots can be much easier as you already know): well, every situation is different, but in general if you want a shot of a person the best advice IMO is - USE FLASH. That's the simplest and least expensive solution. If you can't or don't want to use flash then you get into option 2 or 3:

Option 2 - long exposures and/or high ISO - only good if your subject remains stationary. You can shorten the shutter time by increasing ISO. You can also help yourself by using VR lenses (anti-shake) and/or a monopod. A monopod is a nice addition for a hiker - it can double as a hiking stick and will help in these situations. But if your subject is moving this doesn't work too well as the subject will be blurred.

Option 3: use bright primes - 'bright' meaning the prime lens has a wide aperture - 1.8 or 1.4. The downside to this is: those lenses are fixed focal length so you can't zoom, generally more expensive than other lenses and you end up with a shallow depth of field - which means your subject is in focus but the background is blurred. Sometimes this is desirable, sometimes it's not.

You can absolutely get much better shots with a DSLR than with your current camera, but you'll likely have to use one of these 3 options.

Stage shots - A DSLR will definitely help. But, you'll probably going to need a good lens. You'll need a lens with at least a 2.8 aperture. The least expensive option there is the Sigma 70-200 2.8 ($800). But, a fast prime works better. The problem with those is - like mentioned above - they're fixed focal length - which means with a specific prime you'll need to be in relatively the same location every time to use the lens effectively. Which prime lens you use will depend on how far away you are. In this instance, the VR isn't that big of a help - you're looking for high shutter speeds to stop action so you need wide apertures (and high ISO from the camera) to achieve your goal.

So, absolutely as a photographer you are ready for a DSLR as long as you're willing to put in some study time via books or on-line. The biggest thing to learn is how the components of ISO, aperture and shutter speed work togther to deliver a correct exposure. And how changing aperture affects depth-of-field (DOF) and how shutter speeds affect motion blur.

And, realize that for your shooting needs you'll need to decide how YOU want to accomplish the hiking shots given the options above and that you'll need to buy a better lens than the 18-200 (a ver nice lens by all accounts but not right for low-light movement shots) to accomplish your stage shots.
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Old Nov 29, 2006, 11:28 AM   #5
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Well, I'll jump into the fray here.

First, you're ready for a dSLR and you've gotten great advice so far. Lens are definitely part of the equation. Here's my suggestion. I'd consider a Pentax K100D since it has built in image stabilization which should allow you to shoot hand held in lower light. Any lens you use will then be stabilized, as opposed to Canon or Nikon, where you have to buy specific stabilized lenses. Stabilization isn't a miracle tool, but it does help in some situations. I do think the in-lens stabilization is probably better, but not enough for me to justify the extra expense (which can be considerable).

Another reason I like Pentax is that it's compatible with any Pentax mount lens ever made, meaning you can get some really nice quality manual lenses for very nice prices. JohnG rightly mentioned that for indoor stage shots, you'll need a minimum of f2.8 aperture. For longer zooms, that gets expensive. However, I've used a Pentax 135mm/f2.8 prime lens (manual focus, but auto aperture) and the lens can be found on eBay for ~$60-$75. I even had a Sears 135/f2.8 that I bought for $5 and it took nice shots. Granted, you don't have the reach of a longer zoom, but for school auditoriums, it should be fine. Here's a shot I took with the Pentax 135 at a Rockets game earlier this year.

I was at the other end of the court about 20 rows up. This is just a small shot. You can see the 3000x2000 original at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rfortson (click on the Houston Rockets album on the right side of the screen). The other shots were taken either with the Pentax 135 or my Tamron 28-300 zoom ($175). These certainly aren't pro quality shots and you'll see much better from others here. However, for family/kids moments in smaller arenas and little league fields (where you can stand next to the field), I think they're fine.

Anyway, just about any dSLR will take great pictures, and you'll have fun learning about photography. I've had more fun in the last 6 months since I got my first dSLR, and that's what it's all about. Buy the camera that feels right to you, take pictures and enjoy it.

Oh, one last thing. Since you know Paint Shop Pro, I'd just upgrade to the latest and use that. No point in learning a new program. PSP is a very capable program. Just make sure it supports the raw files of whatever camera you buy.

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Old Nov 30, 2006, 12:42 AM   #6
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Thanks for the complementary and encouraging words guys. I didn't expect such a positive response. I've been doing a low whine to my wife for a D50 for a year now and I think this just cinched the deal.

Headhunter66, I did look at the Canons a bit and read some comparisons but didn't see a wide gap between it and the Nikons and I kind of bought into the Nikon when I got the 4300 so in a tie I chose to look at the d series. Though I just bought my father in law a Canon SD800 that I liked a lot. I would like one of those too. I gave him two 512 cards, extra battery and a lowepro case. He is 80 years old and is going to someplace in Asia to climb a valcano. I haven't had time to show him how to use the camera so he probably is using the lowest settings still. I wish I new a way to tell him how to email or FTP the picts back so he doesn't loose an SD card or something.

JohnG, lenses are a bit of a problem. If I spend $1200 for a D80 now I most likely wont let myself buy a new lens till next Christmas. So this is my next big problem. I could:

1) Swap out the kit lens to a better lens for a few hundred more and wait a year for a second lens.

2) Buy a D70, D50 or Rebel and beg my wife to let my buy a second lens.

3) Buy the D80 and the kit lens and consider myself lucky.

4) I kind of like Rfortson's idea of a Pentax K100D and lenses off of ebay.


5) Please insert your thoughts here.

Thanks again guys

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Old Nov 30, 2006, 9:01 AM   #7
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Just the opinion of one happyK100D user - I'd get a less expensive dSLR and buy better lenses. I have one top of the line lens and a number of good, but ordinary lenses, and there's just something about pictures taken with that one lens that I prefer.

Remember that when you buy a dSLR you are essentially buying into a lens-mount system. All of the so-called "budget" dSLRs take excellent pictures, and camera bodies don't last as long as good lenses do (I'm using two lenses I bought over 25 years ago!). I just think that for starting out with in the dSLR world, a slightly simpler camera with the best lenses you can afford is a better, more cost-effective answer.
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Old Nov 30, 2006, 10:35 AM   #8
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walkngdude wrote:

4) I kind of like Rfortson's idea of a Pentax K100D and lenses off of ebay.

Here's what I've paid for some of my gear (bought recently, so the prices should still be valid):
  • new K100D w/kit lens - $650 w/shipping and handling (probably even cheaper now) [/*]
  • new Pentax DA50-200mm zoom $175 after rebate [/*]
  • new Pentax FA50/f1.4 $175 after rebate (great lens but hard to find now) [/*]
  • new Tamron 28-300mm zoom $170 w/s&h (convenient, but not the sharpest pictures) [/*]
  • used Pentax SMC-A (auto aperture, manual focus) 70-210mm/f4 constant aperture zoom $60 at a camera show (great lens, but mine has a touch of fungus that hasn't affected the pictures so far - a clean one should be around $100 on ebay) [/*]
  • used Pentax SMC-A (auto aperture, manual focus) 135mm/f2.8 prime lens $75 at a camera shop (cheaper on ebay) - great pictures, fun lens [/*]
  • used Takumar (made by Pentax) 135mm/f2.5 prime $30 at a camera show - also a nice lens, but fully manual so I use the Pentax 135 more often for the auto aperture [/*]
  • used Makinon 400mm cheap-o mirror lens for $80 - pictures aren't the greatest, but lots of reach for not lots of cash - worth the money[/*]
I have a couple others,but you get thepicture.All of them on the K100D are now image stabilized as well. None of theselenses are all time classics, but some of thePentax lenses stack up well with anything else in the price range, and I've had tons of fun with all of them. The pictures I've taken with them have occasionally been very nice. However, any bad pictures are really my fault, not the fault of the gear. (I'm pleased with all of them, but compared to others here, I've got a lot to learn about takinggood photos.)

I've got a lot of overlap in my lenses. If I actually had a plan (imagine that), I could've saved up for one really nice 300mm/f4 prime on ebay and used that. In fact, I may do that at some point. If you really want to spend the cash, you can find longer, faster lenses, though you'll pay for them. Of course, they'll be image-stabilized on the K100D. Canon and Nikon have these lenses in their current catalog, and you may have to search back a bit to find them in Pentax mounts. However, they are available, though we're talking specialty cases here and big $$$.

My point is that I think Pentax in combination with the multitude of used lenses available is the best value out there. Others find that different makers meet their needs better. That's the good thing about getting a dSLR right now. The choices are plentiful, and it's hard to make a wrong decision.

Good luck!


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Old Nov 30, 2006, 10:35 AM   #9
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Since image stabilization and used lenses were already mentioned in reference to the Pentax, you might want to consider the Sony A100. I have a Konica-Minolta 5D (the pre-curser to the A100 before Sony bought KM) and absolutely love it. It does fantastic in low light, has image stabilization and there are tons of used lenses available in Minolta AF mount (any Minolta AF lens will fit the Sony). Also, Sony has increased to a 10 MP sensor and it has dust removal. A lot of camera for the price.

BTW, I think you're shots are great and any DSLR will only make you a better photographer!
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Old Nov 30, 2006, 10:36 AM   #10
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nt (wow, triple post - I thought I knew how to work a computer!)
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