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Old Feb 20, 2007, 1:20 AM   #1
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After spending literally 100's of hours over the last 2 months (ave. 6 hours a night !) pouring over reviews of many of the new dSLR's in this price range on the market (and a few oldies) trying to decide which to buy as I take the step up from my Oly 8080, these are some the summarised results (of factors important to me), maybe they will help someone else doing the same research and soul searching !

Model MP IS DR AF Points CCD/CMOS Lens X Shutter
Nikon D40 - 6 No No 3 23.7 x 15.6 1.5 1/4000
Nikon D80 - 10 No No 11 23.6 x 15.8 1.5 1/4000
Sony Alpha 100 - 10 Yes Yes 9 23.6 x 15.8 1.5 1/4000
Canon 400D (XTi) - 10 No Yes 9 22.2 x 14.8 1.6 1/4000
Pentax K10D - 10 Yes Yes 11 23.5 x 15.7 1.5 1/4000
Olympus Evolt 500 - 8 No Yes 3 18.0 x 13.5 2.0 1/4000
Olympus Evolt 400 - 10 No Yes 3 17.3 x 13.0 2.0 1/4000
Olympus SP550UZ - 7 Yes Not Req. ? 1/2.5" 5.6 1/2000
(Yes - I know :-))
Samsung Pro815 - 8 No Not Req. 9 2/3" ? 1/4000

Notes
IS - In body stabilisation
DR - Dust Removal System
K10D also has 72 dust seals
The choice of 2/H lenses was also an influencing factor as it will greatly reduce the cost involved in expanding the verasility and range of my system.
I found the Sony had the best continuous shooting (3.0 fps until card full) - of those that I tried hands-on, it definitely seemed to have more stamina although I didn't try the D80 and the K10D runs it close.

I actually bought the SP550UZ before returning it as you can get almost the same range (but much larger/better CCD/CMOS sensors in the dSLRs = better low light / quality photos) from some of the kit lenses - esp. Sony & Pentax. I have now decided on the Pentax K10D (there are some great 2 lens starter kits on Ebay for a fraction over my US$1,000 limit) now I just have to negotiate the same deal locally :P

Love to hear any advice / comments from more experienced users.

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Old Feb 20, 2007, 9:40 AM   #2
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frogfish-

I commend you! You have certainly done your research well, and laid it out very logically. However, there are also two subjective rather than objective elements in the selection process that also have to be taken into consideration.

(1) Does the camera selection match the kind of shooting and how you shoot rather closely? Let's face it, there is no perfect camera choice, but we do want to get as close as possible.

(2) How does the camera of choice feel in hand? If you have some nagging feelings about the grip or even the button layout. Those feelings will constantly plague you and perhaps you will not get the very most out of that camer choice.

MT/Sarah
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Old Feb 20, 2007, 10:46 AM   #3
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Thank you Sarah.

My photography covers such a wide scope :

Work - interiors, exteriors, landscapes, macro
Family - wife, daughter & dog !
Travel - landscapes, portraits
Hobby - interesting shapes, angles, people, architecture, B&W
Underwater - currently I am now using the Sanyo Xacti (for videos and good macro). I may not use the dSLR for this since an affordable housing may not be produced.

and other subjects I would love to try; lightening, nature (animals. flowers) .............. I wonder is there anything I have not covered :?

This is partly why my choice is currently the K10D - it has such a rich feature set that I feel it should cover most eventualities. That, and the availability of such a wide selection of affordable lenses, as exemplified by another thread on here with excellent examples of what can be achieved by picking up good 2/h lenses (AF or not) - (sorry can someone help me find it again - Moon / Robin pics etc. - if you've seen them you know which thread I mean).

I seemed to get away with some (not all) of this with the Oly 8080 - now I just want higher quality & sharper photos. I saw the portfolio of a friend of mine (and I admit he has poured a fortune into his Canon kit) but it was coffee table book quality. Maybe I am asking too much ? But I think the K10D a good start (and I'm sure the many lessons in the art of photography to follow will surely help further) - however does anyone think I would be better off with another camera given the extensive parameters above ?
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Old Feb 20, 2007, 10:53 AM   #4
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Sarah - I should also mention that they all feel good to me ! None of them feels 'wrong'.

Maybe I'm just easy to please in that respect but it seems that it is just a case of getting to know your camera and putting up with it's particular quirks. I'm sure that the perfect camera set-up doesn't exist and I'd rather the camera be capable of what I want from it than just comfortable. Evolution teaches us that human beings soon learn to adapt
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Old Feb 20, 2007, 11:10 AM   #5
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frogfish-

The Pentax K10 is a very good camera, offering in-body IS, weather sealing, and dust protection. You have done the research, and you know your needs. Enjoy the camera and post a few photos when you have a chance.

MT/Sarah
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Old Feb 20, 2007, 12:30 PM   #6
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One other point to add to your comparison - and this is a tougher one:

The camera system.Let's face it, the cost of a camera body is probably less than you will spend on lenses over the life of the body. So, in an ideal world, you would want to figure out what types of lenses you want to buy OVER THE LIFE OF YOUR CAMERA - not just out of the gate. This is a major difference between buying DSLRs and buying digicams. With a DSLR you are buying into a system. It isn't like buying a digicam or a car or washing machine. It's commiting yourself financially to a camera system. If, in 2 years, you find yourself wanting to switch systems because of camera features at that time or because your current system doesn't have the lenses your photography requires or because your manufacturer went out of business you'll take a huge WASH on the money you invested in lenses / flashes. Now, if the equipment is quality and in good condition you can recoup some of that loss by selling the gear.

So, for instance if you were to buy a Sony alpha - you are gambling on Sony being able to gain profitability in the DSLR market. They have a massive amount of capital and marketing behind them so they could very well do it - but you just don't know. So, there is some element of risk.

Likewise with Pentax and Olympus- they have a relatively limited offering of autofocus lenses compared to Nikon & Canon (although they both can use a number of older manual focus lenses). So while kit lenses seem nice for a start if you think in the next 5 years you will want to add lenses to your kit (and most people do) - you are assuming some risk that your photography will evolve to match a lens that system offers OR they will offer the lens at the time you require it.

As an example, one of the members on this forum used to shoot Konika Minolta - bet because the system did not have the lenses he wanted/required for his style of shooting he decided to switch to another manufacturer. I'm sure some money was recouped but probably not nearly the amount it cost to change systems.

The challenge is: this is very speculative. It requires a person new to DSLRs to:

a. Have some idea what areas there photography will evolve into. And that isn't always known and quite often changes.

b. Requires research be done into what lenses are required for those types of photography and kind of a 'wish list' of lenses you want to buy over the next 5 years.

Another aspect to this is: do you envision progresing up in camera bodies? And, does the system you're buying into offer any type of upgrade path if you choose it. Let's face it, some people are not satisfied with entry level gear and buy it only because they can't afford better. But because they enjoy their hobby they wish to eventually upgrade to mid level, semi-pro or pro level cameras. This may or may not apply to everyone. But, you should ask yourself this question before buying into a system. If you decide to upgrade do you have anywhere to go? Remember you may have invested in an additional lens or two in the 3 years before you decide to upgrade. Now, of course you have no idea what manufacturers will offer in 3 years time. But, manufacturers that currently have several tiers are likely to continue in that vein. Note: the higher tier you go up the more difficult it is for a company to gain market share. A pro level camera requires a system have a vast array of pro level lenses available as well as features critical to very knowledgable and discerning pro shooters: semi pro a little less, mid level even less still and entry level is available to just about anyone.

Again, some people may not have these answers - completely understandable. But it's worth asking yourself if you know some answers about where you want your photography to take you in the next 5 years and whether or not the system you are buying into supports that strategy well.

If you don't know, or don't take the time to consider the answers to the above,you assume a risk when they buy a DSLR based solely on the camera they are currently buying and the kit lens that comes with it.

I'll give an example that I'm familiar with but doesn't apply to you specifically: I'm a sports shooter. That requires certain characteristics of cameras and lenses. So, it's critical to me that a system I buy into support cameras and lenses that have those characteristics. Some of them are very advanced features. Now, Canon & Nikon own 99% of the pro sports shooter market. They both have pro level sports shooting cameras as well as semi-pro and entry level. They also both have a wide array of their own build high quality auto focus lenses for sports use as well as a wide offering of third party lenses. Right now, Olympus simply doesn't have the camera or lens selection to support serious sports shooting. So, even if their entry level camera were better than Nikon's or Canon's, that would be a poor system for a sports shooter to get into because there is no room to really grow as a sports shooter in that system.

Again, this type of anlysis might not apply in your situation, but it's still a step that should be included in the decision process. Even if the answer is: I don't know or No, it doesn't look like one system gives me a long term edge or is too limited.
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Old Feb 20, 2007, 2:26 PM   #7
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John. Firstly thank you very much for taking the time to write that. A lot of experience and common sense in your suggestions.

I have previously considered some of your key points and decided that if (as with a P&S) I didn't later continue with the system I chose then I would be prepared to take the hit and move onto something else.

This is basically because I feel that the camera body, starter kit and some 2/h lenses I can get off EBay or from dealers, will support me for the expected life of the camera (say 2-3 years) and will not cost me a fortune. At that time I will know if I have reached 'my level' or whether I know I will require more advanced equipment to feed my addiction !

BTW - I'm sure the information you have will come in very handy to another DSLR newbie, like myself, who will be as grateful as I am to the advice I am receiving, from people such as yourself and Sarah, so I would advise saving it to a free clipper like EverNote (wonderful little program - even saves all photos / graphics you can clip from anywhere) so that you can recall it for later use !

Many thanks again for your time & advice.
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Old Feb 20, 2007, 2:30 PM   #8
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JohnG-

You make an excellent point. For example: the survivability of Olympus, in my estimation, as a DSLR manufacturer will hinge in large part on the offerings they put forth at PMA. In addition, Sony seems to be hanging in there with the A-100, but just barely. Had Pentax not introduced the K10 and K-100, they would be in a world of hurt, market share-wise right now.



MT/Sarah
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Old Feb 20, 2007, 2:52 PM   #9
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Sarah - I agree. And, please understand, I hope all of them do well - competition benefits all of us. If the DSLR race were reduced to just Canon/Nikon all of us that own DSLRs would suffer. Sony, Olympus and Pentax doing well pushes Canon & Nikon to do better and release newer upgrades at a faster pace.

But, profit margins are slim on DSLRs - just like digicams. Most profit is on the lenses/accessories - not on the bodies. A good lens can remain around for 10-20 years. A camera body in today's age has a life span of no more than 3 years.

Right now I think there's a HUGE movement of people from digicam to DSLR. So there is a lot of potential for ALL manufacturers. But, I just can't imagine long term companies can keep a profitable DSLR division if people aren't buying lenses primarily and flashes secondary. The otther manufacturers will simply squeeze out the profits on bodies until the market is untennable for other players. Not unlike when WalMart moves in to an area - they cut prices until competition starves and then prices go back up. So, long term I think Sony, Olympus and Pentax will need to build more robust systems. They've got good momentum now because Pentax and Sony in particular knocked Canon and Nikon on their heels. You've alrerady seen Nikon fire back with the D40 to combat the affordability issue.

But I don't see how Pentax, Sony and Olympus are well positioned to provide systems to support the type of users DSLR manufacturers want - people that buy multiple specialized, high price lenses. So I think it will be an interesting next 2 years. Can those 3 develop systems to compete long term with the systems Canon and Nikon already have in place while still offering a competitive advantage in bodies they currently have over Canon/Nikon. I would not be surprised if one of the three abandoned DSLRs during that time or simply sold the division to a rival (like KM did to Sony).
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Old Feb 21, 2007, 7:43 AM   #10
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Just a follow up regarding systems. PC Photo just had an article about camera systems. Unfortunately like most articles in magazines it was incomplete and lacked information (for instance they mentioned how many lenses canon, nikon, pentax and olympus had but not Sony - although sony was one of the systems in the article).

Anyway, here is the breakdown of current lenses still beingoffered by the various system according to PC Photo:

Canon - 60

Nikon - 40

Pentax - 30 (including some that are manual focus but they only mentioned 1 lens specifically - that may be the only MF lens in the current lineup or there may be others)

Olympus - 16

Sony - ????

Also, not addressed were the availability of third party lenses with that particular lens mount. Again, IMO an important piece of information missing. Many people are buying third party lenses. So it would be nice to know how many lenses from the major third party manufacturers (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina) are being offered in each system.
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