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-   -   Can't decide on which DSLR (

macct Nov 15, 2005 10:29 AM

I have read countless reviews and scoured the message boards, but I still can't decide which direction to go in. I think the problem is I just don't really know what my needs will be (i.e. lense selection) and how serious a hobby this will become. I want to make a good decision, choosing not only a camera that will grow with me, but also lenses that are good & economical. I do know I want more than my P&S. My current P&S is very fast & work well (Panasonic FX9), but it's not ideal for action shots, low-light family shots and up-close portrait type of shots (with blurred background). I would also like to take better macro shots. I want to be able to have the flexibility to take shots when I wantto versus having the limitation of the camera.

Nikon D50 has been my favorite. Great deals are available, but the price rises pretty substantially with non-kit lenses. I really like the ergonomics & upgrade path. The 18-55-kit lense does not provide enough range, though. The 18-70m range is better, but then the 70s becomes an option (which I like very much, but more dollars). I like the fact the D70 menu is back-lit as well as the other control wheel. I am not sure about the depth of field & how important it is? Out of the camera shots, it seems the D50 requires less work, though.

Would the new VR lense 18-200mm be a good option? Will it be fast enough to take portrait shots with blurring the background? I love the look, but don't have the knowledge. I know I would need a lense that is relatively fast. Is there another VR lense that would fit the bill & still be reasonably price (24-120?)

I have also considered:

Minolta 5d – second contender. I like the idea of IS. The negatives are all of the comments that KM may pull out of the camera market & customer service is already considered weak. It also seems lense selection would be more limited. It costs more than the Nikon D50 & I still may need to upgrade the lense.

Olympus e500 – great value. I like the ergonomics & the kit lenses seem well received. I don't think the noise would be an issue, but I am not sure the 4by3 format makes sense for me. 80% of my shots are likely to be 4x6, which is not an ideal ratio for the 4:3 format. Should that be a consideration?

I have ruled out the Canon Rebel XT – Its just not comfortable in my hand.

Panasonic Fz30 – I love the idea of a single camera that does everything. Its also a low price point which may make sense since I don't know if this hobby will take off. Low light shooting is important to me, though, & I don't think that is strength of the Ultra Zooms.

Can anyone provide some insight to my confusion? Can someone recommend a camera & lense combination with a maximum price of $1,200-1,300, clarifying the lense selection & how this selection will grow with me? What type of upgrades would you envision? Assistance would be very much appreciated.

bobbyz Nov 15, 2005 1:09 PM

I am a canon user but any of these dSLRs would give you nice blurred back ground. For low light shots (without using flash), you would need fast lens (bigger aperture) like f1.8 or at least f2.8. In canon world, cheapeast oneis 50mm f1.8 which goes for $80. Another option for low light& potraits is 85mm f1.8 which is around $350. For action shots,it depends outside or insideandhow far. For inside you need atleast f2.8 which can get pricey & heavy for longer focal length. Sigma makes 70-200 f2.8 which is nice and will fitc anon or nikon, goes for $750 or so. Canon's equivalent are more expensive with 70-200 f2.8 IS going to $1600 or more.

Noise wise, I like canon the best.

What I am trying to say is that camera is one thing but you need to look at lens lineup. If you just going to stay with kit len then it is different.

macct Nov 16, 2005 9:29 AM

thank you for the comments

mtclimber Nov 16, 2005 8:14 PM


In all honesty, you should terminate your search and focus in much more closely on the KM-5d/7d.


klfatcj Nov 17, 2005 7:25 AM

If you plan to spend$1200-1300, I would sayplan for the hobby to grow. Saving $100-200now and not leaving room for growth will be very frustrating down the line when you have to spend even more to go off in a different direction. Buying something that doesn't quite cut it may also turn you off from expanding. One or two great pictures will really fuel the desire to do more. 1000 okay pictures won't.

When you say 80% of your pics are 4x6, I presume some of the other 20% are for larger or much larger formats. I think these are the ones I would focus on in determining you needs. If most of the enlargments are portrait type shots, go with the system that does this the best (85mm, f1.8 lens). If you plan to enlarge action shots, plan on the longer 70-200 lenses, (f stops depending on indoor vs outdoor). 4x6's end up in albums on shelves and are rarely viewed. To me,it's getting a few shots a year that are worth 16x20 or larger and getting them on the wall.

Trying to get one lens that will do it all may mean a compromise that will leave you feeling you spent too much on the whole outfit. Without trying to sound manipulative, I think "specializing" a bit for now and buying something that will help you take the pictures you really want in one of those categories will help you decide if you want to take the hobby further and will make it easier to convince your significant other that money is well spent expanding your lens line.

This was my philosophy when I went to DSLR last month (Rebel XT). I've taken some travel/family pics I really liked with my Canon G3 and G1 which looked great at 16x20. What I really wanted was a few large shots on my kids in sports and I needed the 70-200 f2.8 lens for that. A bit more than I wanted to spend, but I felt that not quite getting what I wanted would mean no sports pictures that I would be happy enlarging to 20x24. The compromise at this point is, no wide angle, no macro, but I know I can expand to this down the line.

I think I would take the same philosophy in considering how much post processing the different cameras leave you to do. It's the few you will enlarge that really matter. No matter what the picture, when you are enlarging it, you will spend time processing it. If it's just going into a photo album as a 4x6, the auto correction and cropping the photo lab does will be adequate for the majority of your pictures (although I still spend too much time straightening and cropping mine).

I'm not sure if I really answered your question or am just pontificating, but have fun researching. I found looking at the other photos on the forums really helped in making my decision and has also given me many more ideas (on how I will spend my next few thousand $).


macct Nov 17, 2005 8:06 AM

thank you for the comments.

When you mention the 85mm lense, do you mean that length or its focal equivalent on a DSLR. The pictures I like best are close-ups & are the one likely to be enlarged. I was actually thinking of a prime like 50mm (75mm) or 35 (50mm) that would be good in low light. Would the 85mm length provide more flexibility?

I am likely to forgo a longer zoom at the time, focusing on a small zoom and one prime. thank again

klfatcj Nov 17, 2005 11:38 AM

A true 85 mm lens will give you a bit more of the background blur you are looking for in the portrait shots than a 50mm lens. Whereas youneed toshoot with the lower aperature numbers for either to get the background blur, the longer the focal length, the shorter the depth of field.

The focal lengths are the same whether on a digital SLR or film SLR.The crop factor doesn't increase the "zoom" of the lens. Rather, it has the same effect as taking a picture with your regular SLR, enlarging it 1.6x , then trimming the edges off the paper. The output size seems the same, but you are missing the edges. It won't bring you closer to the action. It means that the field of view will be narrower.

Where this really matters is in your indoor shots. Where a 50 mm lens on the regular SLR may take in most of a wall in a room, the same 50 mm lens on a DSLR will only see about 2/3 of the same wall. It is "cropped" because the digital sensor isn't as big as 35mm film.

Put another way, the 50mm lens on the DSLR will have the same field of view as an 80 mm lens on a film SLR (using the 1.6x crop factor on my canon). The depth of field/background blur with a 50mm lens on the DSLR will be the same as the 50 mm lens on the FSLR.

What this also means, is that the 85mm will not be very flexible indoors. It will give you the field of view of a 138 mm zoom on a film camera, ie all your shots will be head shots, not larger groups. A 35 mm will let you get the group shots, but won't give you the DOF.

For what you are doing, I think your choice would be as you suggested, such as a 17-85mm zoom for flexibility and the 85 mm for portraits. (The lower priced zooms will have an f4.5 or so at 85 mm so won't give you as much of the background blur - and will probably require a flash unless image stabilized)


peripatetic Nov 17, 2005 11:54 AM

klfatcj wrote:

The depth of field/background blur with a 50mm lens on the DSLR will be the same as the 50 mm lens on the FSLR.

Most of what you say is correct, but not the bit quoted.

The DOF on the 50mm on the DSLR is a little less (due to the crop) than the DOF of the same lens on the FF. (And actually it's a bit more complicated even that that because pixel pitch plays a role too, and of course a lot depends on the hyperfocal distance as to how noticable these things are.)

The changing DOF is much more heavily influenced by focal length though, and you are quite correct to say that in general you should not expect to get the DOF of an 80mm lens when using a 50mm lens on a crop body.

An 85mm prime would certainly be a good portrait lens.

But the 17-85mm works just fine for portraits. So of course can the 50mm primes, and even my 28mm f1.8 and 70-300 zooms. It is possible to get good background blur with all of these lenses as long as you know what you are doing and learn to use your equipment properly.

Norm in Fujino Nov 17, 2005 11:55 AM


Olympus e500 – great value. I like the ergonomics & the kit lenses seem well received. I don't think the noise would be an issue, but I am not sure the 4by3 format makes sense for me. 80% of my shots are likely to be 4x6, which is not an ideal ratio for the 4:3 format. Should that be a consideration?
You've done a good deal of homework, and let me just say as an Olympus user I think your rationale is sound. Oly has the best kit lenses of the bunch, and given your needs may be the ticket. The E-500 has great ergonomics (far better than the xt, IMO, expecially if you shoot with a left master eye).
Yes, you're right about 4x6 not being optimum for 4/3 format, but I'll bet you'll go past 4x6 pretty fast. I hardly print anything smaller than 5x7 anymore, and for just about any format other than 4x6 you'll waste fewer pixels with the 4/3 format. The only significant criticism of the Olympus e-series cameras is noise at high ISOs, but even that is insignificant when printing at small sizes, and when you print larger, a bit of noise-reduction software cleans things up nicely. I use Neatimage, but Noiseware, Noise Ninja, and others are also available.

klfatcj Nov 17, 2005 1:36 PM

Peripatetic, I think you are right about the 17-85 being okay for portraits and on re-reading the thread, realize that suggesting this and an 85mm prime adds alot more to the cost for relatively minor gains.

At the risk of derailing the thread, a quick question as I want to learn as much as possible and I don't want to misinform. When you say the DOF on a DSLR is a little less due to the crop - would I notice it on the same part of the image, ie identical crop once printed, or is it just the effect of seeing more background and having a bit more blur at the periphery? (Does the question make sense?)


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