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Old Feb 27, 2007, 11:05 AM   #1
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I'm planning to buy a digital SLR. After the usual research and study, I'm considering:

- Nikon D40 + (eventually) the 18-200mm Zoom-Nikkor anti-shake lens
- Nikon D80 + basic lens only
- The Pentax K100D
- Or...?

I will be taking (hopefully) advanced-amateur photos, mostly of nature, including macro photography. I like to print out 8x10 copies, occasionally as large as 11x17 or so. I am technically savvy, and doing a lot of reading and experimenting with a point-and-shoot to improve my composition and understanding. I have prior experience with film SLRs, a Canon Rebel now long gone (with all the lenses).

Thanks to a medication I'm taking, anti-shake technology is now important to me. From what I read, the in-lens technology (the Nikon lens) is superior to the in-body (Pentax and new Sony), but I wonder: is it that much better for my needs?

My budget is around US$1200 give or take a bit. I am considering the D40, starting with the standard lens and adding in the VR lens later. On the other hand, I worry that I will outgrow the D40. There seems to be no problem outgrowing the D80, but then I can't afford the better lens, probably for a long time. I'm also considering the Pentax, but am unfamiliar with them, and their new in-body anti-shake. I liked my old Canon, but they don't seem to offer anything with anti-shake. Given the high rep for Nikon lenses, I keep coming back there.

Thanks in advance for any comments or suggestions.


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Old Feb 27, 2007, 11:19 AM   #2
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" Nikon D40 + (eventually) the 18-200mm Zoom-Nikkor anti-shake lens
- Nikon D80 + basic lens only
- The Pentax K100D
- Or...?"

The K100 is on the same level with the D40 sensor wise, but has SR built in so all lenses are SR lenses even older manual lenses.

The D80 is on the same level as the K10D sensor wise, but also has SR built into the body.

They are all good cameras and you will be happy with any of them.

I find the built in SR to be a fantastic feature with the Pentax cameras, since you never have to buy expesive VR lenses to get shake reduction. The VR lenses do a slightly better job of shake reduction, but the SR in the Pentax cameras does almost as good a job and works with all Pentax mount lenses.

With Pentax you only buy SR once, with Nikon you have to buy VR with each lens you feel you need the feature with.

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Old Feb 27, 2007, 12:22 PM   #3
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Here's my take on your situation:

1. Don't get hung up on the 18-200 VR. You can do much better for your needs. The 18-200 is a very good megazoom lens but you could spend that $1000 much better and get better results.

2. Here's the problem with the D40 - it only maintains autofocus with 7 out of the 40 nikon lenses and will not autofocus with the majority of 3rd party lenses (because it doesn't have a focus motor). So, by saving a couple hundred $ now you really limit yourself quite a bit for the future. In my opinion that is just too much of a limiting factor. In any other case I would say go with the entry level camera and get better lenses - but not in this case - the D40 is just too limiting.

I'd say your considerations are Nikon D80, Canon 400D, Canon 30D and Pentax 100

Each system has their pros and cons. In alphabetical order:

Canon - Largest lens selection (60 oem lenses plus plethora of third party lenses). Great IQ and best high ISO performance. Cons - the 400d is plastic and feels cheap and the kit lens is the poorest of all three systems.

Nikon - great ergonomics, top flash performance and rich feature set. But the lens prices are the highest of the three systems. Also has 40 oem lenses.

Pentax - low cost, good feature set and anti-shake built in. Has less OEM and third party lenses available than the other 2 systems and stock levels are usually lower so there is more backorder. But they can also use any pentax mount lens ever made (although these older lenses will be manual focus).

All the cameras above will meet your stated needs without a problem. What I would suggest doing is:

1. Go to a store and handle all of them - see which ones you like the feel of and which you don't.

2. When you have it narrowed down, price out your wish list of lenses for the next 3 years or so - just to be sure you have options in the various systems. You don't know what will be manufactured a year from now. But if Nikon or Canon or Pentax is misssing a type of lens you think you need to have and one of the other camps has such a lens that may be a point in favor of that other system. This will also allow you to price out what it would take to have a Nikon VR or Canon IS lens vs whatever lens you use in pentax system to see what the cost difference is, if any for the lenses you need. Price out the lenses - lens prices are fairly stable so you shouldn't see a dramatic change in price in the next 2 years for a given lens. This step gives you a general idea of whether the system will support your needs and how much that will cost. You may end up finding out that one choice that costs you $100 more for a camera body may save you $400 when you buy lenses over that time period. Or whatever.

Then when you've done all the above there should have 1 or 2 cameras that meet all requirements. If you're at 1 camera - buy it and don't look back. If it's 2 cameras, go with what your gut is telling you and again don't look back.

The good news is - there's no BAD choice in the above - especially not with your requirements. They all fit the bill. So choosing the camera that is most comfortable to you and the system whose lens availability/price is most palatable to you should make you a happy photographer.

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Old Feb 27, 2007, 6:31 PM   #4
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Thanks for the comments; they're very helpful.

The comment on the sensor size speaks right to my concern about outgrowing the D40. How important is it to get the larger sensor size? Given my goals, is the smaller sensor size enough?

Good point on not getting stuck on the Nikon VR lens. I don't know how important the limited lens availability is with the D40, however, given I'll be starting from scratch.

As to the Canons you mention, somehow I missed their IS lenses, thanks for pointing them out. Doing a quick google on them, however, there don't seem to be a lot available yet. Any comments on them, vs. the Nikon VR? If I do go with a Canon, what would be a good starter lens (with or without IR), assuming I buy a body only and not a kit?

As I reread my original post your responses, I realize that the anti-shake is very important to me: I won't be going off the medication that causes the shake anytime soon, probably never. It isn't a huge problem, at least until I try and take a photo at a slow speed, but it isn't going to get better. Gotta have the anti-shake.

Next step: drop by the local Ritz and try out different models.

Any other comments appreciated. And thanks again!


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Old Feb 27, 2007, 9:21 PM   #5
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A lot of it will come down to what your budget is. As Tom said, if you get the Pentax every lens you get will be stabilized, regardless of how old the lens might be - if your budget is a bit tight that might be something to think about.

Don't get too wrapped up in the idea that more megapixels are better. I have both the Pentax K10 (10 mp) and the K100 (6 mp). The basic image quality of the two cameras is very similar - I've posted two pictures taken by each camera, resized (not cropped) to fit here and you can't tell which one was taken by the 10 mp camera. The difference becomes apparent if you crop a picture extensively (useful for birders and other wildlife photographers) or are printing poster sized photos. Choose a camera that fits your hands and has the features you want. I wouldn't knock out a camera just based on how many mp it has.
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Old Feb 27, 2007, 9:36 PM   #6
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Mtngal, thanks for the reply. The Pentax is definitely moving up in my consideration. Do you have a link to the two photos you mention, from the K10 and K100? I'd like to take a look.

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Old Feb 28, 2007, 2:00 AM   #7
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The sensors on the cameras you are considering are all about the same size (though Olympus sensors are a bit smaller). So to get 10MP out of the same size sensor, they are using smaller pixels. This still can improve resolution, but also means more per pixel noise. So there isn't as much advantage as you might think. It allows for more cropping or enlargement of lower ISO shots. For higher ISO shots which will start to show more graininess if blown up too much, there isn't really much advantage. You could do just as well with enlarging the smaller cleaner image.

There are also other advantages on the newer more expensive cameras though like improved autofocus, and in some cases improved image processing, especially when shooting jpegs. Still, whatever body you buy, there will be better available for less in 3 years. The lenses will hold more of their value. Those you'll be less likely to outgrow if you get what you really need.

So take a good look at the lens lineups available.

The most extensive lineup, but also more subpar offerings out there. So be careful to research before buying. The strength here is the Canon "L" glass, which is nearly always superb. There is also a very nice collection of high quality fixed focal length (prime) lenses available, some quite reasonably priced. Most of the Canon zooms, however, in the under $1000 range, are mediocre. Many of these may be good enough for film, but not as good on digital. In some cases they may still be reasonable compromises for the money, if you can't afford better.

And there are enough Canon standouts to cover most of what you need, and enough good third party options to fill in any gaps. Also, Canon, like Nikon, has in-lens anti-shake (which they label IS), and quiet ("ultrasonic") in-lens autofocus motors (labeled USM). Some standout options:

Canon 17-40 f4L USM $680
Canon 70-200 f4L USM $580
Canon 17-55 f2.8 USM IS $1000
Canon 70-300 f4-5.6 USM IS $550
Too many good primes to list...

Nikon also has a pretty good collection of prime lenses. As for affordable zooms, their kit lenses are reasonable value for what they are, and a couple of the other mid-priced zooms are good, for when an f3.5-4.5 maximum apperture will do. On the top end, the glass is very good, though the value isn't always as good as with Canon. For example:

Canon 17-55 f2.8 USM IS $1100
Nikon 17-55 f2.8 AF-S $1180

Canon 24-70 f2.8L USM $1140
Nikon 28-70 f2.8 AF-S $1450

Canon 70-200 f2.8L USM IS $1665
Nikon 70-200 f2.8 AF-S VR $1570

Another strength is Nikon's long zooms. Longer zooms however do tend to trade off some quality for convenience. So be sure that is acceptable before buying. Here are some of the better lower priced Nikon zooms:

Nikon 12-24 f4 AF-S DX $900
Nikon 18-135 f3.5-5.6 AF-S DX $340
Nikon 28-105 f3.5-4.5 D AF $325
Nikon 35-70 f2.8 AF $480
Nikon 80-200 f2.8 AF $870
Nikon 70-300 f4.5-5.6 G AF-S VR $500


Olympus also has above average kit lenses, and top quality mid priced digital zooms. Since none are older film lenses, the entire Zuiko lineup is of recent design, designed for digital, and high quality. The drawback is the selection is very limited. Particularly lacking are sufficient prime lenses. You thus don't have the options Canon and Nikon offer in their prime lens lineups for affordable maximum appertures brighter than f2.8. And, you need a bit faster glass to begin with make up for the slightly smaller sensor. Still, when f2.8 is enough, the mid range lineup is tough to beat for the price. Also lacking, however, is quiet high speed in-lens autofocus comparable to USM or AF-S. The standouts:

Zuiko 11-22 f2.8-3.5 $620
Zuiko 14-54 f2.8-3.5 $380
Zuiko 50-200 f2.8-3.5 $770


Pentax's lens lineup is something of a negative image of Olympus. Terrific prime lenses; very limited selection of mid to high end zooms. The kit lenses are also good, but if you want to step up from there, in many cases you will have to look for third party offerings, which may or may not be available. Three new top quality zooms are on their way this year, however. And, there are still a few good ones already out there, particularly the DA lenses which are recent lenses designed for dSLR:

Pentax 12-24 f4 P-DA $740
Pentax 16-45 f4 P-DA $390
Pentax 28-105 f3.2-4.5 P-FA $210
Pentax 50-200 f4-5.6 P-DA $220
And any of the half dozen "Limited" primes.

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Old Feb 28, 2007, 2:47 AM   #8
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Just a small addendum on kenbalbari's post, keep in mind that if you are in the US, and bought a US model Nikon lens, they come with a 5-year warranty. I think most Canon's, even the high-end ones only comes with 1-yr warranty.

Oh yeah... if you buy online, be sure to read about all the scams out there. There are several threads about them around here.

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Old Feb 28, 2007, 2:00 PM   #9
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Take a look at the this thread: http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=80- I originally started it about two very similar lenses, but the pictures were taken the day after I got the K10. I don't mention at first which camera took which picture (they are boring shots - was really trying to decide something about the sharpness of the two lenses) but you can tell if you look at the 100% crops - the K10 covers less area. The two lenses used are old - one was a lens my (then) boyfriend gave me in 1980, along with my first ever SLR camera, and the other was purchased around the same timeframe by my father. Moral of that story is to buy good lenses - they will outlast the camera body you buy them for.
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Old Feb 28, 2007, 2:41 PM   #10
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This one is really helpful discussion also for me.. Everything lenses related. Just for a further consideration also for me.

Thank you for sharing!
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