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purpleehobbit Aug 26, 2010 3:35 PM

Kx vs epl-1 vs FZ35, How do you know when it's time to move up to a DSLR?
So a couple of months ago I posted in this forum and got some wonderful advice from mtclimber to get a Panasonic FZ35. My purchase got put on hold because of a back injury and I was bedridden for awhile. I had put the idea on hold till recently when my wonderful husband was probing me about cameras and we ended up in Frye's comparing different models, including the FZ35.

He seemed to be leaning towards DSLRs and the Olympus EPL-1, which by the way is very odd for him since he is quite happy with his Nikon Coolpix.

So since then I've been reading up on different models, particularly the ones we were comparing at the store, and I came back here to search the forums. I feel a little silly now since I stumbled on a thread and to my surprise saw pictures of my kids!

He did put a lot of effort in to his surprise, for which I am exceedingly grateful and happy about. He was home when I discovered it and I didn't have the foresight to pretend I didn't see it to protect his secret. I think he was relieved I found it though, it took the pressure off of him he said.

So now to my question. I have been under the impression that DSLRs and m4/3 like the epl-1 were reserved for much more advanced photographers. My husband said that in his research her found out that the newer entry level models are rather user friendly, even for novice users.

With that in mind I thought I'd throw out a few questions and see what anyone had to say about it, that is if you aren't sick of us yet (his thread was rather long).

I guess I should start with what I don't like about our current camera. Not that the Sony H5 is a bad camera, it has been the best camera we've owned thus far (and way better than his Nikon which he just bought last year).

Shutter lag is my biggest issue. It just seems so very slow. But maybe since it's been a few years, newer bridge camera's are faster? My daughter is 3 (tomorrow) and she is a camera ham, but she refuses to look at a camera for more than a second. Instead she likes to pose and look away in an odd sort of way. I've gotten better at timing it just so to get a few shots with her actually facing the camera, but even with the burst mode I'd prefer something that was faster shot-to-shot.

Indoor shooting is also an issue. I try to avoid it as much as possible, but that isn't always possible. The flash helps but it also greatly increases the shot-to-shot time, not to mention battery drain. And this may seem quite silly, but we go to Disneyland almost every year around Christmas and I've tried almost every year to get a picture in front of the castle at dusk or at night with the lights on and have never been able to get a very good picture. The castle is almost always far too blurry. The same can be said of our Las Vegas trips. I came very, very close the last time to a night shot of the strip that was not overly blurry. This may just be one of those things that can't be done within my budget, or perhaps it's user error (which is quite possible).

Now, what I typically shoot are pictures of the kids. I would love to be able to take great portraits. I love the blurred background effect and on a few occasions have managed to achieve it with the H5.

Besides getting them to hold still, I also try for those candid action shots of them playing. My son also plays sports. He's only 10 so we're talking little league. My daughter will be starting indoor gymnastics in a couple of months, and possibly dance next year. These situations typically do not allow flash and are indoor. Dance recitals are typically worse conditions with stage lighting, being at a distance, and no flash (this is a more extreme situation, so understandable I'm not expecting to be able to meet this need realistically).

Besides the kids, I also take pictures at the zoo or seaworld, landscape scenes, buildings, trees, gardens, and the occasional close-up of a flower. Sometimes I take video, but not very often. From my reading, it seems that DSLRs aren't the easiest to take video with. In that case, I'd be more likely to either purchase an inexpensive pocket camcorder, or my husband can use his p&s. I'm much more interested in high quality still images.

Features that I tend to like:

I liked the grip and feel of the slightly larger models we looked at, such as the T1i or the Sony A-550. I particularly liked the tiltable screen on the Sony. Reading comments and reviews, the Kx seems to be a great low-light camera and a good value for an entry-level model. Side-by-side with the T1i, I think I liked the grip on the T1i a little better, I think it had to do with the rubber, it just felt more stable if that makes sense. I did like the compactness of the epl-1. With the kit lens it looks as if it would be very portable, though I did like the feel of the larger models in my hands (I do not have dainty hands/fingers)

EVF/LCD: I admit to being a heavy LCD user. It wasn't always so, but I wear glasses and as I've gotten older my astigmatism in my right eye has gotten worse compared to my left and I find it rather awkward to use an EVF with my left eye. I suppose it shouldn't matter which eye you use but with my H5 at least I find myself hitting my glasses with my hands while using the EVF. So unless I really have to use the EVF, I tend to use the LCD. I suppose that since I am an LCD user, a good AF system will be at the top of the list as I've read that MF doesn't not translate well to LCD (not that I know how to MF anyway).

JPEG vs RAW: It's not that I don't know how to PP. I'm not the best PP, but I think I get by well on the basics. I use a couple of different programs, but usually stick with Paint Shop Pro. My preference though would be a camera that processes JPEG files rather well to limit my PP as my time is usually restrictive. If I'm going to print (never larger than an 8x10, usually closer to 4x6), I always PP first. If I'm just uploading a large number of images to share with friends and family on something like facebook, I typically don't worry about it.

Going off of my husband's extensive research and the models that members here have suggested, we have been considering the Olympus epl-1 (because of it's JPEG engine), Pentax Kx , Canon T1i (I like the IS on the Kx, but I also like the price of the prime lens on the T1i, not to mention the grip), and the Sony A-550 (or even possibly waiting a bit for the A-560, I really, really like the idea of HDR, especially auto HDR, and I'd like to see how users find the Twilight/Night handheld scene modes). The Panasonic FZ35 was on the list from the previous reccommendation from mtclimber and my concerns on whether it was time to move up to a more advanced camera. The FZ100 was also on the list as it has a little more zoom and the tiltable screen. However at this point it's price is looking at about 499 retail, for that amount of money the epl-1 was 470 at Frye's with a kit lens.

My concerns with the epl-1 vs say the Kx or the T1i is the price difference. There isn't that much more of a jump from the epl-1 to the Kx or T1i. I know that my husband had come to the conclusion, with help of course, that the epl-1 would be the best match because of the JPEG quality and PP. I'm just wondering though, if I'm going to PP for prints anyway, would the image quality, say in low-light situations and for my son's sports, be better if I went with the Kx or T1i?

When it comes to lens, I know I definitely want something for portraits. Landscapes and general shooting would be next on my list, followed by zoom. Zoom lens are the only concern I really have as they add the most to the size of the camera. When I go out on a dedicated shooting outing (sometimes I go to the zoo or beach alone) then the added size of the zoom wouldn't be an issue. But when I've got my daughter, her snack back, her stroller, water bottles, sunscreen, etc for a trip to disneyland or all day at seaworld, I'm not sure that I could also handle a big camera. These are instances when we've used my husband's Nikon (but I really dislike this camera. So for this reason only I have thought of two possibilities. Maybe I need to just compromise and get another bridge camera, like the FZ35. Or get something that will take better portraits and handle low-light situations and for those outings where I don't want to mess with larger equipment get a Kodak z950 that has some zoom and some pretty good reviews and a really good price tag.

I am probably being way too fussy about this whole thing, and maybe my expectations are too high.

Okay, I'll shut up now. If you've taken the time to read through this extremely long rambling of mine, then I am most appreciative.

Oh, budget, very important detail. I do want the best quality within reason. I would really like to keep it under 1,000. Under 800 would be even better.

shoturtle Aug 26, 2010 4:37 PM

sorry that your surprise got spoil. But this is actually a good thing to answer your question as you will be the user.

First off the A560 will be out of your budget right off the bat. And a good range lens will put is at almost 1500 dollars. As the cheap 75-300mm is really a bad lens.

With action, that dslr is the better option. The t1i, then the k-x follow by the epl-1. But as you plan to use the live view feature most. The epl-1 has the much better liveview system over both of these dslr. So there is a give and take between the 2 system.

For low light the k-x, then the t1i, follow by the epl-1. As the epl-1 shoots well upto 2000, while the canon and k-x shoots well to 3200iso.

With low light prime lenses, the canon ef 50 1.8 is a decent low price prime for 90 dollars. But if you move up to the mid grade, the canon ef 50 1.4, pentax FA 50 1.4, and the panasonic 20 1.7 are all around the same price, and give excellent results. Around 350 dollar.

With the jpeg, hands down the olympus is the class leader. And you really do not need to spend to much time editing any of them. But if you shot RAW and edit, you will get excellent results with either. But it is more work.

There was something that was not mention in the other thread. Since the olympus m4/3 corrects for lens distortion. You actually have do not have any PF when shooting at the higher iso settings like dslr's. Canon you get a purple helo, pentax you get a green helo around light.

Size wise. The epl-1 with it's kit lens is great to travel with, especially if you have kids to pack for. Also, if you get a second lens with more zoom reach like the panny 45-200mm it give you very good reach, and both the camera and lens packs nicely into my wife's purse. So it is really easy to carry.

But as I mention, the low light was a big concern with your current camera. With that in mind, non of the other megazoom camera like the hs10, fz35, fz100 or Fz40 will really perform any better. 800 iso is about their max. And 800iso good for a point and shoot is a whole different standard then 800iso for m4/3 or a dslr.

So if you want to keep cost down to about 800 dollars. The best 2 options are the k-x with the 2 lens kit, or the epl1 with the panny 45-200mm. You can always add to the system later. And this set up will pretty much get you going right away.

I shoot all these camera regularly. So if you have any more question about them, I am more then happy to help out.

mtclimber Aug 26, 2010 4:59 PM


Well it is very good indeed to be able to converse with you in person. The conclusions we reached in our initial contact with your husband, were unfortunately, based on some guesses and assumptions based on what your husband reported to us. We arrived at the Olympus EPL-1 decision only because: (1) he stressed that you felt the jump to a DSRL would not be realistic, and (2) he stressed that you absolutely wanted to minimize any post processing. So your post today (08/26) demonstrates quite forthrightly that BOTH assumptions might have been incorrect.

I own a Pentax Kx and a Canon T-1i. I was the last one left standing, still advocating for the Kx, because at that time I had no idea of your interest in the T-1i. Today, I would still recommend the Pentax Kx over the Canon T-1i.

So let's begin all over again. My suggestion would be that you get the Pentax Kx two lens kit that includes the Pentax 55-300mm lens. Once you are used to using an optical viewfinder, the use of the LCD will decrease as you will see that the optical viewfinder is a much better option.

Your next logical question would probably be something along the lines of why are you suggesting this particular camera?? I am doing this based on 15 years of experience as a professional Digital Camera Instructor where I have helped many, many people with camera decisions.

Why the Pentax Kx? Because it is a top rated DSLR and because is stays within your budget while giving you the two lenses that you will need to begin. Comparing the Kit lens tp the 55-300mm lens, which in 35mm terms equals a maximum zoom of 450mm, you will have a total of 16X optical zoom.

I shoot with P+S cameras as well as DSLR cameras. You are very correct that there are times when some social situations just do not lend themselves to taking the DSLR camera. In that case I take along a "secret camera," the Kodak Z-915 10X optical zoom camera that sell for around $100 and is a camera that is always underestimated. It is actually a great snap shot camera.

As I told your husband, once you really learn how to use your external flash, your attitude about indoor photos and flash will be completely changed. The potential of what you can do with your camera will be expanded about 5X to 10X over what you are doing right now.

Please keep in mind that I am only making suggestions, the final decision always lies with you. The main thing I want to do today, is to get the interchange of information begun and to get the conversation opened.

Sarah Joyce

shoturtle Aug 26, 2010 5:09 PM

Just to put one more thing out there. If eyesight problems is a concern. Note that if you do want to add the optional EVF for the olympus epl-1. It will give you much better view then either the k-x or the t1i an much brighter so it is better for low light shooting. And you can zoom into onto the evf to get a better look. If you are shooting the lcd with the dslr. It is just not as easy. As the phase detect system is not uses and the contrast base system is use for AF instead.

mtclimber Aug 26, 2010 5:41 PM


It is just my own opinion, and I also wear glasses, that the optical viewfinder that you find on the Pentax Kx will clearly beat the VF-2 accessory viewfinder for the EPL-1 hands down.

You see, I own and use all of these cameras that we are discussing. So I have lots of "hands on" experience with these cameras.

And if you are wondering about the image quality you can expect with using the Kx and the Pentax 55-300mm lens, please just click on the link below to see a high resolution image:

Sarah Joyce

shoturtle Aug 26, 2010 10:40 PM

I wear glass, and no the evf of the epl-1 is actually better the the pentax k-x. And in low light it really takes the lead by allot over the vf of the pentax and the t1i.

mtclimber Aug 26, 2010 11:05 PM

I own the VF-2 and I do not see it as a replacement for the optical viewfinder at all.

Sarah Joyce

shoturtle Aug 26, 2010 11:16 PM

You can increase brightness at night if vision problems are an issue. Also like I said earlier you can zoom in with the evf, to get a better look at certain points in the frame. These are really useful things for someone with a vision problem.

It will not replace the VF for action shooting. But in every other aspect, it is a major help. And what you see is what you get, not slightly crop with most dslr's.

mtclimber Aug 26, 2010 11:36 PM

I stand by my position on the VF-2.

Sarah Joyce

shoturtle Aug 26, 2010 11:49 PM

After seeing some action shots with the epl-1. It actually did not do that bad. It did better then I had expected.

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