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Old Dec 20, 2008, 5:44 PM   #1
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With more and more posters here on the forum beginning to think about possibly purchasing a DSLR camera and this being Christmas time, Let's begin a thread that will provide some general information that all potential DSLR buyers might want to know.

(1) What camera manufacturers produce the most popular DSLR cameras?
You should be sure to take a look at all of the consumer level DSLR cameras available. Those major manufacturers would be: Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Sony.

What are the more popular current consumer level DSLR camera models produced by these major camera manufacturers?

Canon - The XS (also called the EOS-1000) and the XSi

Nikon - The D-40, the D-60, the D-80, and the D-90, the new replacement for the D-80 model.

Olympus - The E-420 and the E-520.

Panasonic - The L-1 and L-10

Pentax - The K-2000, the K-200

Sony - The A-200

Do you purchase just the DSLR camera body and then add the lenses that you desire?

Actually a DSLR camera, generally speaking, can be purchased in three ways. (1) Just the DSLR camera body alone. (2) The DSLR camera body and what is called the "kit lens." Kit Lenses are a money saving value, as they are usually substantially reduced in cost by the camera manufacturer to sell that DSLR camera body. (3) The DSLR camera body and usually two lenses. This is usually called "a two lens kit." Once again, this can be a money saving situation if the lenses offered are lenses that you will make a lot of use of when taking photos with your new consumer level DSLR camera.

A lot of potential DSLR camera buyers are not used to speaking about their lenses by referring to their focal length (always expressed in 35mm term). So let's learn more about lenses and how to interpet their uses.

The expression 6X or 10X, or 15X terminology is not widely used in the DSLR world. Instead, lenses are described by their focal length, in 35mm terms. Another important factor to consider when discussing interchangeable DSLR lenses is what is called the MULTIPLIER FACTOR.

When only a single focal length is used as a focal length description rather than a set of two numbers representing a focal length range, the single number is a fixed focal length lens, as it does not zoom. This category of lenses are also called generically, "Prime Lenses." An example would be a lens described as "a 50mm lens." The single number tells you it is a fixed focal length lens or another describtion is "a prime lens." In contrast, if a lens is described as "a 18-55mm lens" Firstly, you know it is a zoom lens because of the two numbered focal lengths that are used in the lens description.

OK, now why is this MULTIPLIER FACTOR thing important when considering lenses?

Because the actual physical sizes of a consumer level DSLR camera's imager vary in size from manufacturer to manufacturer, consumer level DSLR cameras can have a MULTIPLIER FACTOR of 1.5, 1.6. or 2.0.

Let's take a look at those numbers and delve into that a bit more deeply. The commonly untilized Canon Brand kit lens for a consumer level DSLR camera using its APS-C type imager is the Canon EF 18-55mm lens. Canon has a 1.5X MULTIPLIER FACTOR, so that kit lens, if we were to multiply the focal length by the crop factor of our prosed DSLR camera (1.5X in the case of Canon) will effectively give you an effective focal length on your proposed DSLR camera of 27mm to 83mm of focal length in 35mm terms. Nikon and Pentax use also use 1.5X MULTIPLIER Factor, and Olympus, because they use an even physically smaller imager, use a 2.0X MULTIPLIER FACTOR.

We call any lens with an effective focal length of around 28mm and less, in 35mm terms, a "wide angle lens." A lens with an effective focal length, in 35mm terms, of say 55-200mm (a rather common focal length) is called a "mid range zoom telephoto lens." And finally a lens with an effective focal length of say 200-500mm, in 35mm terms, is called "a long zoom telephoto lens."

All lens are described by their singular focal length, or their zoom focal length range, expressed in 35mm terms. So you must apply the MULTIPLIER FACTOR of your proposed consumer level DSLR camera to see what range that lens will cover in your camera.

Why are some lenses called "fast" lenses? Are there also "slow" lenses?

"Fast lenses" are lenses that have as their largest aperture, an aperture greater than or larger than F 3.5. Lenses whose widest or largest aperture is less than or samller than F 3.5 are therfore called "slower" or "dimmer" lenses. If you want to shoot photos with your consumer level DSLR camera in a low light photo environment or without flash when there is much less light, so you will, in most cases, need a "fast" lens and to use numerically high ISO settings to capture a well exposed photo. Naturally as you might expect, "fast" lenses will cost more, and "slow" lenses will cost less.

What about IS or image stabilization?

The following camera manufacturers have consumer level DSLR cameras that employ "in body" IS or image stabilization: Pentax, Olympus, and Sony. The IS or image stabilization mechanism surrounds the actual imager, and by using a gyro warning scheme it physically adjusts the positioning of the imager to compensate for inadvertent DSLR camera movement. Therefore, on consumer level DSLR cameras using "in body" image stabilization, all lens installed on those DSLR camera bodies will gain the benefit of image stabilization.

On the other hand, Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic sell individual lenses with IS (or that particular manufacturer's name for IS) incorporated into each individual lens. Naturally, as you might expect lenses with an IS (or that particular manufacturer's name for IS) feature built into the lens, will cost more than lenses that do not have the IS feature built into the lens.

What does "camera handling mean when we speak about consumer level DSLR cameras?

"Camera handling" simply refers to how the DSLR camera feels in your hands as you are taking photo, be it for a short time or a long time. Because physical hand sizes do vary from DSLR camera to DSLR camer user, how the DSLR camera feels in hand and how easy it is to reach and operate the DSLR's camera controls is VERY IMPORTANT. We urge any prospective DSLR buyer to go to either a "big box" or a camera store and to physically handle each and every consumer level DSLR camera that you are considering.

What about flash on a DSLR camera?

Just like point and shoot cameras, consumer level DSLR cameras currently all have a built-in flash units. However, keep in mind that these small built-in flash units, even on a DSLR camera, don't have much power (a measureably long Flash Range). However, every consumer level DSLR camera also has a hot shoe on which an external flash can be mounted. The three advantages of an external flash are: greater flash range (more power), a flash head that tilts, and a flash head that also swivels so that bounce flash lighting can be used by either tilting or swiveling the flash head.

Should I be concerned about weather sealing on my DSLR camera?

Your DSLR camera represents a substantial investment in camera equipment that you have made. With the exception of DSLR cameras that are used/sealed into custom manufactured external waterproof enclosures, so that those DSLR cameras can be used for underwater photography, there are no consumer level DSLR waterproof cameras that I can think of quickly. Water can damage your DSLR camera. If you must shoot in rain or snow, cover your DSLR with a plastic shrouding, so that the DSLR camer does not, ideally, get any direct water on it that may seep into your DSLR's internal parts. Yes, there are a few weather sealed consumer level DSLR camera bodies such as the Pentax K-200 and the upper level K-10 and K-20 Pentax DSLR cameras. Lenses too can be built with weather sealing, although that feature is not very common in lenses generally speaking. One weather sealed lens that comes quickly to mind is the Olympus Zuiko 14-54mm lens that was initially the kit lens for the now no longer produce model E-1, which was also a weather sealed camera.

Why do I keep hearing this rule: If the price of your proposed consumer level DSLR camera is the Lowest Price you have ever seen, that you should be worried or concerned?

Folks there are a lot of "scam artists out there that want to unfairly string you along or to take advantage of you financially. Before you place an order for your "dream" DSLR camera be sure that you are dealing with a reputable retailer. How do you find out if somebody is a reputable retailer. Simply go to http://www.resellerratings.com. There you can find information about just about every retailer out there. The ratings run from 1 to 10 with 10 being the best rating. Please be very wary of any retailer with a low score. Its your money. Be sure to get your money's worth.

This is getting rather long, but it is probably only the beginning. If I missed something, or got something wrong, please chime in, it was tough getting all this rather complex stuff into a single post. Together, perhaps we can make this much more workable for the prospective DSLR buyers So, for today, let's finish here. We will add more data based on your questions and the posts that you make to this thread, so it might expand a lot. I hope this information is helpful to all of you who areconsidering a DSLR camera.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 21, 2008, 9:31 AM   #2
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Do you have statistics on the number of units that each of these cameras have sold?

I'd be curious to see how many cameras were sold of each (including pro cameras) if you have them.

Some "pros" might offer a different formula for buying a camera:

1) decide what type of photography you'll primarily be doing

2) select the best lens(es) to meet that need

3) buy the appropriate camera body that fits the lens and has the appropriate features

Of course, the above choices are often limited by budget.

Most newbie DSLR buyers pretty much have similar needs : family indoor photos, family or sports outdoor, scenery, travel , etc. Due to budgetary restraints, they usually buy either a fixed lens "DSLR-like" camera, or a budget DSLR with a kit lens. Over time they might add a second or third lens, either a telephoto and/or an extreme wide angle.

Serious amateurs buy a camera for one or more primary uses, but then gravitate to other uses over time (thus the need for interchangeable lenses). For that reason, serious amateurs and pro's often decide on which "system" they would like to buy into. Some photogs swear by Nikon, others swear by Canon while another may like Pentax or Olympus for instance.

One thing is for sure, once you've bought into a "system", it's expensive to switch to another. This is largely because of investment in lenses. Nobody wants to spend a $1,000 or more on lenses, then switch from one brand to another and have to sell off those lenses usually at 50 cents or less on the dollar in the used gear market. It's not unusual for a serious amateur to build up a $1,500 - $3,000 investment in lenses over time, yet the original camera body cost $1,000 or less initially.

So, it's difficult to give a standard set of advice for all photographers. A newbie photographer has more undefined and general requirements. A serious amateur has more of a sense of what types of photography they want to do - however that can change. A professional photographer knows what they want and usually has the knowledge to research his/her own buying decisions.

More food for thought.

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Old Dec 21, 2008, 10:12 AM   #3
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Terry, that's a valid point about the changing systems. I used to use Konica Minolta gear (who were purchased by Sony) and all was fine until I wanted to shoot sports at a reasonable level. There were no good lens options for me and the bodies were not able to offer the auto focus speed or high frames per second so I had to sell up and switch to Canon. I was actually very fortunate as I had bought some lenses quite cheap while Konica Minolta were not overly popular in the digital world but when I sold Sony were starting to gain interest so one lens I paid £280 for 2nd hand, I sold for over £400..... nice LOL. If this hadn't been the case and I had purchased new I would have been really stuck.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Buying a dSLR is something that most people will want to grow with so when making the decision look at the accessory and lens options. When it comes to flash systems, Nikon is currently heading the game in this area. If you want to get a lot of manual focus lenses then Pentax is a good way to go as there are lots of older ones on the market.
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Old Dec 21, 2008, 11:59 AM   #4
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This is all good advice.

However it's worth noting that not everyone needs lots of lenses. I have had a few in my time, but am now reducing and could quite happily get by with just 1 or 2 primes, or possibly a single standard fast zoom.

If you are that kind of photographer then switching systems is not such a big deal.

Over 90% of my photography is now with just a standard 50mm (equivalent) prime lens, and perhaps 9% with a standard wide-angle. All the manufacturers have good and reasonably priced 50mm and 28mm lenses, and there are some good third party lenses too.

So for me Sony, Nikon and Canon are all fine at the top end, and even Pentax, Olympus and Panasonic have some great offerings.

So for me personally switching systems is not very expensive, you might be like that too.
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Old Dec 21, 2008, 12:12 PM   #5
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Many thanks to Terry, Mark, and Peripathetic-

Each of you have offered excellent points to be considered when a person is deciding if they will make the change to a DSLR camera. That is exactly what I had hoped would come of this thread. Hopefully,this threadwillprovide some of the needed backgroundinformation in a convenient and organized way for prospective DSLR buyers.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 26, 2008, 7:49 AM   #6
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This is a great idea for a thread, and some gems have already been posted here. As one who jumped into the DSLR pool not really knowing what I was getting into, there definitely are things I wish I understood better before I selected the Pentax K10, my first DSLR. (I've since bought a K100 for my son and a K20 for myself.)

Sarah has mentioned the weatherproof body question. This is one of the reasons I selected the Pentax, and it you do a lot of outdoor shooting, I think it's a valuable feature. However, it comes with a caveat. There are very few weatherproof lenses out there, and they tend to be very expensive. I own one....a DA*50-135, a lens that typically sells in the $ 750 range. Unless I'm using that lens, I still have to use precautions (ie...covering the lens with plastic) to continue shooting outdoors if a rainstorm begins. Still, because I do a lot of outdoor shooting, this feature has more than paid for itself in peace of mind when unexpected conditions have arisen. Note though, that the term is weatherproof, not waterproof. This does not mean that a weatherproof DSLR can be dropped in water, much less used as an underwater camera. It simply means that the camera has some protection against the elements.

The importance of burst rate and auto-focus speed is something I did not truly appreciate till I had used a DSLR for a while. By the time I realized it, I had a substantial investment in the Pentax system and couldn't easily make the jump to a camera that was better in these areas. This is an area in which Pentax lags behind the best of the Canon/Nikon line, and is especially critical if one of the intended uses of the camera is shooting night-time sports.

Availability of state-of-the-art lenses, particularly long, fast zooms, was once more of a problem with the Pentax system than it is now. Much has been said about the vast number of older Pentax manual focus lenses, but I have found that I far prefer auto focus in just about every situation. If that's the case with someone considering a DSLR system, they should make sure that the camera their looking for has an adequate line of lenses avaiable to which they can grow. (an example of this problem....the 70-200 f2.8 lens that is the most common for night time stadium shooting was simply not being manufactured for the Pentax system for nearly three years...thus, other lesser desirable choices had to be used) Some of the other camera systems have similar holes in their lens lines, or the lenses that plug those holes are prohibitively expensive for the amateur photographer.

Thanks for the thread, Sarah. Had I known some of the info contained in it when I made a system choice, I might have done differently, although I am, overall, very pleased with my committment to Pentax. It does so many things very well that its limitations are outweighed by the advantages.


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Old Dec 27, 2008, 9:22 PM   #7
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Thank you for your post, Paul. We have had a lot of interest in DSLR cameras, so I thought it was time to write down some of the basic knowledge that goes along with the DSLR purchase process.

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Old Dec 30, 2008, 12:25 PM   #8
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Purchasing a consumer level DSLR camera is a big decision. It a big decision financially and because you are essentially buying into more than just one DSLR camera, you are buying into an entire system as lenses, external flashes,and accessories also become involved.

I began this thread hoping to provide some background knowledge for folks who were about to purchase a consumer level DSLR camera. When you upgrade to a DSLR camera, you quickly find yourself in a somewhat different world, where there are many considerations to be made that just do not pertain to the world of fixed lens cameras and digicams.

With the amount of continuing interest in purchasing a DSLR camera that we now see on this forum, it is my hope, of course subject to the agreement of either JimC or Mark that consideration be given toputing a sticker on this thread. It might save a lot of repeating of the very same issueswithin the Forum.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Jan 4, 2009, 10:32 PM   #9
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Beginning today (01/04/09) we will begin to add photo samples from the consumer level DSLR cameras.

Today we have the Olympus E-420 camera which is available with "better bang for the buck" two lens kit which is a real bargain.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Jan 5, 2009, 11:58 AM   #10
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With all due respect - I'm not sure how posted head shots like the one included will help anyone make a decision on a DSLR. They're virtually all going to be the same quality - especially at low res. I only bring this up as something to consider before you spend your time adding images from your various DSLRs. In fact I would stipulate for a shot like the one posted and at that size most people wouldn't notice a difference between any entry level DSLR and a pro level dslr.

Again, I'm not knocking your effort to educate. But once you're in the DSLR world any DSLR on the market with it's kit lens is going to produce that shot equally well. And if you were going to switch to higher level portrait shooting, results would be more dependent upon lighting and composition and even lens use before camera body. Just something to think about before you invest your time in creating and posting photos from all your DSLRs. So please don't take this as a negative.
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