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-   -   What budget digital SLR - newbie with a headache! (

nickytgraham Apr 16, 2006 9:41 AM


I'm in the market for a budget digital SLR but I've done so much research now that I'm all confused! :?

My circumstances are thus:

o I know nothing about the technicalities of producing a good photograph but I'm interested in learning.

o I'm coming from a simple point & shoot background

o I have small and, from the evidence of previous shots, somewhat shaky hands

o I know I'm interested in an SLR but I would like it to be light enough to carry around all day and compact enought to fit in a standard rucksack with all my other supplies for a day's sightseeing.

o I'm buying the camera for a trip to New York for hopefully some great cityscape shots. Thereafter I think I'll mostly be using it for portraits, group shots, landscapes and distant objects.

o I have no prior experience of SLR usage so I think I could get used to anything, handling-wise. It's the picture quality that's most important to me, and the ability to get a photo about A3 size if the shot's good enough.

o Cost/availability of lenses is a factor.

This is my shortlist, in no particular order:

Olympus E500 cost body + 14-45mm lens = £470
- anti-shake seems appealing *REVISION - it doesn't!
- dust cleaner-off'er thingy sounds good
- 8mp
- 2.5 lcd

Nikon D50 cost body + 18-55mm lens = £417
- good reviews
- only 6mp - issue?

Canon 350D cost body + 18-55mm lens = £489
- good reviews
- 8mp
- small lcd - issue?

KM 5D cost body + 18-70mm lens = £450
- 6mp - issue
- anti-shake

Your views are most welcome on what seems most appropriate for my circumstances. Many thanks!

JimC Apr 16, 2006 10:05 AM


Olympus E500 cost body + 14-45mm lens = £470
- anti-shake seems appealing
The Olympus does not have anti-shake.

My favorite entry level model is the Maxxum 5D. But, I'm biased since I have this camera. ;-)

It's the only camera on your list that goes to ISO 3200, and the only one that gives you anti-shake with every lens. I'll take a sharp 6 Megapixel image over a blurry 8 Megapixel image any day of the week. It's got a better viewfinder compared to any of the other models you're looking at, with better external controls and ergonomics (IMO anyway).

As for A3 size prints, after cropping for the correct ratio of width to height, you'd have approximately 171 pixels per inch of detail with a 6MP model. That's enough for a good quality print at typical viewing distances (and somtimes you see users printing larger images, depending on the subject type).

You only get 197 pixels per inch of detail at A3 size from the Canon Rebel XT (E0S-350D). Because resolution is computed by multiplying width x height (like area), there's not as much difference as most people thing between 6 and 8 Megapixels.

nickytgraham Apr 16, 2006 10:27 AM

Thanks Jim.

In your opinion, do you gain much by moving to the 7D model?

JimC Apr 16, 2006 10:45 AM

It depends on how you're going to use a camera.

The 7D is larger and heavier. But, it's got a bit better ergonomics. The viewfinder is also better. If you wear eyeglasses, I'd make sure to try out any model you consider in a store. Most of the entry level models have relatively tiny viewfinders (the Olympus models have the smallest viewfinders as far as surface area, followed by the Nikon D50, then the Canon Rebel XT). The KM 5D has the largest one out of entry level models you're looking at, but the 7D viewfinder is much better than any of them.

The 7D also has a higher resolution display. But, that's not a big deal to me. You don't use the display for framing anyway. It's for menus and viewing photos.

The 7D also has a PC Sync Port for triggering strobes (missing on the 5D but you can add one via a hotshoe adapter), as well as manual power settings with flash.

The 7D has a higher quality body (but, that also makes it heavier), with some extra controls (like a 2nd control wheel). Personally, I don't care about the extra controls. The 5D has plenty enough for how I'd use a camera. The 7D also has a larger buffer (more photos in a row before the camera slows down). Not a big deal to me.

The 7D also has 3 custom settings positions on it's mode dial. The 5D doesn't have them (it's got some scene modes instead). Personally, I'd rather have the custom settings. But, a beginner may prefer the scene modes.

The 5D probably has the advantage at higher ISO speeds (shooting in jpeg anyway). But, that's to be expected since the 5D is a newer model. The 5D also allows you to magnify raw images during playback. You can't do that on a 7D (although you can shoot raw + jpeg and magnify the jpeg with the 7D).

I decided on a 5D, since size was important to me, especially when eating out, going to clubs with live music, etc. The 5D is more compact package, especially with a short and bright prime on it like my 28mm f/2. I tend to shoot at higher ISO speeds (1600, 3200) frequently. So, the small advantage the 5D appears to have was also a consideration with me.

Most users would probably appreciate the 7D more. It's a very nice body, and it was selling for *more* than the Canon EOS-20D when it was introduced. It's a steal at current prices, with class leading ergonomics, control layout and viewfinder. A model like the Rebel XT feels like a toy in comparison (but, it is lighter).

My advise: Go to a store and try them out in person. Each user is going to have different preferences in a camera (size, weight, ergonomics, control layout, menus, etc.). It's tough to judge that kind of thing by reading reviews. In most conditions, the differences in a photographer's skill would be more important than the differences in image quality between these cameras.

mtclimber Apr 16, 2006 11:55 AM


I am rather surprised that you did not include the Pentax DS or DL. They are the smallest of the DSLR cameras. Well, I can offer you a rather unique viewpoit. Being an Instructor in Digital Photography for our state university, and because we feature a class devoted to strictly to DSLR cameras, I happen to own and use each of the cameras you have mentioned + the Pentax DS + the Olympus E-300.

In this calibre of camera the relative importance of whether the camera has 6 or 8mp is miniscule. You can easily get A-3 prints out of either format that are excellent. There are several unique features, that are available on only one of theses cameras. For example, the super sonic waveguide clearer on the Olympus E-500: this will help reduce,but not eliminate imager shield cleaning by about 20 to 30%. The other unique feature is the AntiShake feature found on the KM 5D and 7D. That feature is quite real, and it could save you some big money down stream, as you would not have to purchase Canon IS, Nikon VR, or Sigma OS lenses. That covers the unique features.

Size: You will find your choices rather close in size. The only exception, as I mentioned previously, is the Pentax DS and DL.

Handling: With the exception of the Canon 350/XT, whose grip I find rather pinched, all have excellent ergonomics, and handle rather well indeed, as they should considering that they are near or at the top of their brand names.

High ISO Settings: The Pentax DS and DL as well as the KM 5D and 7D have ISO 3200 settings. The balance stop at ISO 1600.

My Personal Choices: Mind you this is just my own choice and it might or might not have any bearing on your preferences. I would choice the Nikon D-50 as my #1, the KM 5D as my #2 and the E-300 as my real money saver. The E-300 can be had quite inexpensively now, and it it a real quality camera, that does come as a two lens kit, with the Zukio 14-45mm and Zukio 40-150mm telephoto lenses. Both lenses beat the other so called "kit" lenses in fit, finish, and quality by a large degree, except perhaps,the Nikkor 18-70mm lens, which used to be the kit lens for the Nikon D-70. However, youmust keep in mind that both the Olympus E-300 and the E-500 both have slighly smaller image sensors, that are more prone to more noise at high ISO settings if your are doing a good deal of low light level shooting. The Nikon D-50 and the KM-5D have very low noise signatures.

Any of these cameras will perform very well indeed for you, and give you very good service over the years. You should consider lens families as well. Canon and Nikonhave the widest offerings, but the tend to be a bitexpensive Pentax and KMhave an advantage, because they can use the older brand name lenses (the Minolta line in the case of K-M) which can be purchased used, thus holding down the cost of lenses. If you are prone to shakiness, then give the KM 5D a good look.

I apologize for being long winded, but teachers, instructors, and professors, I am sorry to say, do that. Drop another post if you need more information.


nickytgraham Apr 16, 2006 1:51 PM

Thank you both for such detailed advice!

You have helped me finally make a decision - the KM 5D is the one for me, with the anti-shake feature clinching the deal.

I do have a couple more questions though...

o There doesn't seem to be many of these available in the UK although I have found one retailer that will sell the camera + 18-55 lens for £450 (~$789). Does that seem like a good price?

o What else do you think I might need for day 1?

- 1GB card
- another lens - any recommendations?
- anything else?

Thanks again for your help.

mtclimber Apr 16, 2006 2:15 PM

The average price for the KM 5D here in the USA is $(US) 700 to 750. So that price might be a bit high, but supply and demand often affect camera prices.

Regarding a second lens, I would certainly be looking to add the 50mm F 1.7 lens. You can often find them on E-Bay for a good price.

Perhaps I tend to download often, but I would prefer to have two 512mb CF cards rather than one 1gbCF card. Take time to learn theKM 5D. Often times I see students in too much of a hurry to see great results, who just start taking photos without ever opening the book. Then they becomes disappointed with their images and their interest in the camera ebbs.


E.T Apr 16, 2006 4:25 PM

In Dpreview forums there was some talks about Sony collecting KM DSLRs back from shops before Sony announces their own models and actually those really seem to be getting rare in Central Europe.
So I would recommend getting one if you can get it for good price...
I myself had to go through quite many shops before finding one with KM A2 because I waited to PMA2005 while production of camera had been discontinued before fall 2004 so I can tell that if you won't find camera easily it might take lot of work to find one.

As for how much storage you need that depends on how much you intend to take photos/how long you'll be there.
Manual states 512MB card is enough for ~50 RAWs and ~80 shots in best JPEG.

With current prices even 2GB would be very affordable.
Also if you have option for emptying memory card to CD-ROMs or laptop that's big advantage because you don't need to store whole trips photos in cards.

You can download English manual from here:

kezs Apr 16, 2006 5:30 PM

konica-minolta is moving out of the photography business soon. do you guys think this a big downside in the long run?

E.T Apr 16, 2006 5:38 PM

So is this media sexy SD card completely obsolete when it comes to future proofness but that doesn't seem to concern camera makers much... not to mention buyers.

Sony is going to continue using same lens mount, that's the whole reason why they bought KM, by introducing new own lens mount they wouldn't have had any hope for getting even worth of mentioning market share for long time but now they have existing base of millinos of compatible lenses.
(and existing cameras to whuch they can try to sell new lenses)

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