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jvanwees Feb 18, 2009 9:12 AM


I have been researching dSLR cameras a bit on the internet to try & increase my knowledge for when I go to look at some this week. There is such a variance in prices and some of them are a few thousand dollars just for the body. How do you know how much to spend to get a good camera? What do the really expensive ones have that the others don't? And then on top of the camera I will have to decide on what the best lenses will be to buy. I plan to just buy a good versatile lens with the camera & purchase others later. I am totally overwhelmed wilth all the different models, prices, etc. I'm not sure how I will ever be able to make a decision.

TCav Feb 18, 2009 9:46 AM

There are lots of good reasons to select one dSLR over another. A good one is price. The more expensive ones have lots of features and capabilities that serious photographers need, but don't have some of the features and capabilities that newbies need.

Another good one is what you plan to do with it. For instance, if your interests are many and varied, Canon and Nikon have the largest selection of OEM and third party lenses and accessories, so you would be better able to fine things that will suit your particular purpose by selection a Canon or Nikon dSLR. But there are differences between them as well. For instance, the entry level Canon XSi has a better autofocus system for sports/action/wildlife, but Nikon has a stabilized Macro lens that Canon doesn't.But Nikon's entry level dSLRs have autofocus systems that are the least capable for sports/action/wildlife than most other dSLRs.

Stabilization is another factor that might affect your purchasing decision. Image stabilization reduces, if not eliminates, motion blur due to camera shake. Canon and Nikon use optical image stabilization in some of their lenses, which makes them bigger, heavier, and more expensive, and third party and used stabilized lenses are rare. Pentax, Sony and some Olympus dSLRs use sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, so any lens, OEM, third party, or used, will be stabilized.

And among Olympus, Pentax, and Sony, Pentax has a better selection of fast primes, Sony has a better selectionof telephoto zooms, and they both have better selection of OEM, third party, and used lenses that Olympus. Also, Olympus is't as good at higher ISO settings than the others, and it's autofous system isn't as good either. But Olympus dose make some of the smallest, lightest dSLRs available, and for equivalent angles of view, their lenses tend to be smaller and lighter too.

tjsnaps Feb 18, 2009 10:24 AM

Picking a camera can be difficult but here is a basic plan of action

1.) Eliminate any camera you cant afford, Dreaming will not get you better pictures.

2.) Consider what type of pictures you intend to take and decide what features you want or need. And eliminate any camera that does not fit the bill. Some camera make some features more prominent then others. For example my camera has 3 meter mode, but in order to change from one to the other I must go into the menu whereas with other models there is a button on the body to do this. So you must decide what is important to you. You should also consider the entire system (lens , flash and other accessories )

3.) Take some test drives. How a camera feels is very important they are not all the same. Do the controls feel comfortable and easy to use? Etc. Some cameras even of the same brand may have controls in a very different place.

Remember that the salesman at the camera store may know more about it than you but he/she is still a salesman. Don't take what they say as gospel. For that mater ( sorry guys ) the same goes for advice you get here. If in doubt do the research.

Don't get hung up on brand name. there are many good cameras out there from all the major manufacturers. The systems do very as TCav pointed out, but they all know how to make a camera

JohnG Feb 18, 2009 11:15 AM

Good advice so far. I might suggest in tjsnap's list that this forum can help you with number 2. As someone new to serious photography you might not know what features are really important for a type of photography you want to do. As you gain more experience, this step is easier because you have your own experience to draw on regarding what features are important. This step is really the important one in the process. This is the step where you identify the "need to have" requirements rather than let marketing departments tell you what you need. Case in point, some cameras have ISO 12800 capability. If your style of photography means 99% of the time you'll be shooting at ISO 400 or below don't let the marketing folks tell you you NEED that feature. Similarly with anti-shake. It's helpful for certain types of photography and not helpful in others. The key is determining whether it's helpful for the type of photography you will be doing. Now, you'll hear from people that will say "but if you have ISO 12800 you don't have to use it. It's better to have it for those times when you'll need it". The problem with that logic is EVERY DSLR on the market has pros and cons. When you select camera A over Camera B you're probably giving up some benefit Camera B and it's system provides. You really only want to do that because camera A has a feature YOU will use. Not a feature a marketing guy tells you is needed and just as importantly not a feature another camera user likes or uses but that person doesn't do the same type of photography you do.

Now, the challenge comes in if you really don't have a good answer for the question of "what do you want to shoot". But we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.

So, what types of photography are you interested in pursuing? Specify which areas you're serious about vs. ones you might just have a passing interest in. Tthat's good info for us to know as certain types of photography can require higher end gear or specialized lenses.

jvanwees Feb 18, 2009 12:33 PM

The main things I shoot right now are some family photos, alot of my pets, some travel & scenery. I live in a semi rural area with a very large, beautifully landscaped yard so wouldlike to try some macro photos of flowers etc. We do get wildlife such as deer in our yard once in a while so I may like to try to shoot that. There was an evening a while ago where the moon was shining through the trees in my back yard & I was trying to capture the shot. I am thinking I might like to try still life at some timeas well. I don't think action or sports photos are something I would shoot very often.

I think I woulduse atelephoto lens quite a bit and there are times when I want to shoot in low light situations such as with the moon in my backyard.I'm not sure if I should also have a wide angle lens for scenery & Imay use it for a groupshot of people once in a while. Should I also have a macro lens for taking flowers etc.? I don't plan to buy all the lenses all at once, I just want to choose a camera to start & will acquire the lenses gradually over time but I don't know if the type of lenses I want will have a bearing on which camera to get.

Do most cameras come with the same size & type of lens initially when you buy them? What is the best overall, most versatile lens to have?

If a camera has better stabilization does it mean you may not have to use a tripod as often?

I appreciate your comments. I am going to check out various camera stores in my city this afternoon so will likely have more questions when I return.

peripatetic Feb 18, 2009 1:47 PM

All of the advice above, plus...

Size and weight are very important. The more expensive cameras and lenses, though more durable, are often far heavier than you might want. A camera you leave at home because it is too big makes for some pretty poor pictures.

The kind of output you want is very important. Most particularly, do you need large prints?

Also be very careful, in general terms the more expensive the camera, the more skill required from the operator. In particular you may find that your pictures are much worse to start with than from a P&S camera. Expensive cameras are made for professional photographers and keen amateurs. Such skills usually take years to acquire. Spending a lot of money on equipment and finding your pictures are worse than ever isn't always fun. Of course the POTENTIAL from the professional cameras is much greater, but only with a skilled photographer. I don't mean to discourage you; if you stick with it you will learn, just don't expect instant results.

TCav Feb 18, 2009 1:49 PM

Most of what you want to do will be well served by the kit lens that is available from any manufacturer. And while some are better than others, they are all reasonably good.

All manufacturers have macro lenses, and while the selection varies from one to another, Canon has no stabilized macro lenses, Nikon has just one, by virtue of their image stabilization in the body, Pentax and Sony have several to choose from, and Olympus has two though they aren't as capable as most others. And, yes, stabilization means you can use slower shutter speeds handheld, so there is less need for a tripod.

JohnG Feb 18, 2009 2:13 PM

I agree with TCAV that any system will support your requirements. But I feel compelled to make this statement: for landscape and macro work, anti-shake is NOT the equivelent of a tripod. It is not. It is a convenient substitute in the same way a digicam is a convenient substitute for a DSLR. There are several reasons:

1. A good tripod will 100% of the time provide more stability.

2. Some exposures are too long even for anti shake

3. Repeatable framing. With a tripod you can take several shots (very beneficial for HDR or blended exposures). Even without, you can take shots, look at the results, make some changes to your settings and take the exact same framed shot again.

4. It helps you slow down and get out of the snapshot mentality.

5. For critical focus, still-life macro shooters will often use liveview or manual focus - that takes time - it is much easier to perform those techniques with a tripod - less strain on you.

6. Easier to get different angles and still keep stability - not so much with landscape but with macro.

This is not to say convenience may not be a big factor. But you'll find most landscape / macro photographers still use a tripod even when they have anti-shake. In general my advice to people is to think of anti-shake as a safety net rather than a highly used feature for the types of photography you're interested in. With or without stabilization you'll get much better photos employing a tripod for your work around the home. The anti-shake is really nice when you're out and about and don't happen to have your tripod with you.

The other thing I'll point out regarding macro work - there are really 2 aspects to a lens' macro capability - it's minimum focus distance (i.e. how close can you get to the subject and stll get focus) and it's magnification. A 'true' macro lens will have 1:1 magnification. That means you can fill the frame with a subject the same size as the sensor. This type of magnification is most beneficial for very small/detailed subjects like insects. For flowers, you don't really NEED this magnification to get some good results. You can often get good results with a mid-range zoom with a 'macro' designation (typically 1:4 or 1:3.5 but somewhat close focusing). So I wouldn't worry about the need to get the rather pricey 1:1 macros. I would suggest for the flower macros you simply start out with one of these mid-range zooms with 'macro' feature. If you really get into that style you can get a true macro lens down the road - and since those are prime (non zoom) lenses you'll have a better idea what focal length suits your style of photography.

And, peripatetic's question still stands - the size of prints you intend to make can drive the decision. If you're always going to be 8x10 or smaller (predominantly 4x6, 5x7)the field is still wide open. When you start getting into 11x14 or larger for a lot of your print work then you need to be a little pickier.

Biro Feb 18, 2009 7:04 PM

Since we're still looking for a bit more information from you, jvanwees, I'll toss this questionback into the ring: How much can you afford or are you willing to spend for your first DSLR kit? That is to say, camera body and at least two lenses and maybe a flash unit - because it sounds like you'llprobably need at least that. We can consider additional accessories like a tripod and more lenses separately. We're trying to get you started here without going crazy. Plus you'll have a much better ideaof what else you need and want as you gain experience.

jvanwees Feb 18, 2009 7:40 PM

I went looking at cameras today. The guy I talked to at a locally owned camera showed me the Canon Xti and Xsi but recommended the Pentax K200 over them for several reasons. He said although the Pentax is heavier, it is much more durable. It has a stablizing feature built into the camera so any lens on it will be stabilized whereas with Canon you have to buy stablilizing lenses which are far more expensive. The Pentax is also a bit cheaper than the Canons.

I also like the fact that the Pentax uses AA batteries rather than a proprietary battery. All 3 of the cameras come with an 18-55 lenses so the only other lenses I would need to buy would be a telephoto which he said I could use for macro as well as he said macro lenses are about $1000.00. I already have both a mini & regular tripod. He also recommended that I would need a flash unit eventually as well as the built it one is limiting. Overall the flash unit, camera & telephoto lenses for the Pentax would work out to be a lot cheaper even if I bought a non stablized lens for the Canon.

The person I talked to does not recommend Nikon, or Olmpus.

I don't think I am likely to make larger prints very often & certainly probably not larger than about 8X10.

Someone mentioned fast primes in their post. What are they?

Does anyone have any comments about the Pentax K200? Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it.

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