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Old Apr 10, 2007, 1:33 PM   #1
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Hi all,

I'm a long time lurker, first time poster, and I could use some advice on how to spend money.

As far a digital cameras go, I've got a Cookpix950, and a Canon A540.Both have been good cameras for what they are, but I miss using an SLR.

When I was in school, and fora while afterwards, I used a Minolta Maxim 7000. This was the camera thatgot me into photography. I usuallyjust used a fast 50mm, and later got a couple of decent zoom lenses.Ino longer have any of this equipment today. I liked the ease of use with the Maxium. I could put it in full auto,and go to town, orsetup exactly what I want. I also rather liked the feel of it in my hand, which I didn't realize as much until trying the P&S digital cameras.

As for the feel of the camera, I tried out a digital rebel in a store a while back. It seemed nice, but was just too small to be comfortable in my hand. I'm not sure how the other cameras compare in size.

Since I don't have any current equipment, I'm married to a specific brand. From what I've been reading the Pentax K10D looks pretty nice, but I'm wondering if I should be worried about the sharpness thing. I plan on using the RAW format for most stuff, butI don't know how much more space that is going to take up.

As far as subject matter, I'll be doing a bit of everything. I expect to do a lot of indoor shots with ambiant light. I figured a fast lense will be the way to go, but I'm worried about the high iso noise. On the P&S cameras noise at the higher end is terrible. I'll also be using it outdoors, on vacations, travel, walkaround, etc.

I'm hoping to put together a decent setup for around $1500, but I could stretch to $2000 if it makes a big difference.

Thanks

-Jeff
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Old Apr 10, 2007, 3:04 PM   #2
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The K10D is definitely a nice camera. It's quite a bit larger than the Rebel so that shouldn't be a problem. If you're shooting RAW I don't think you need to worry about the sharpness.

As far as RAW files, I think they're about 15MB each. That should hardly be a major concern as the price of memory and storage has gotten so cheap and is getting cheaper. If you use Photoshop, you might even save space because with a RAW file you can adjust the brightness, contrast, curves, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, cropping and straightening all on a tiny XMP file and can tweak the settings at any time. With JPG you'd have to save new files, likely PSDs which would be very large.

For indoor shooting the K10D is pretty good. It's stabilization definitely helps. The K100D is a bit better though because of it's higher ISO performance. With the K100D you can expect decent quality photos at ISO 1600, assuming you don't underexpose. ISO 3200 is available if you need it. On the K10D, I think ISO 1200 is comparable in noise levels to 1600 on the K100D.

For your situation, a more ideal camera would probably be a 6MP version of the K10D, but since that's not an option you'll have to weigh the pros and cons of each against what you think you'll need.

With your budget, I wouldn't dismiss Canon and Nikon. Built-in stabilization is nice, but stabilized lenses are supposed to be better and you should be able to get a body and one or two stabilized lenses from either company for that amount. I would probably dismiss Olympus and Sony though for their less than steller high ISO performance.
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Old Apr 10, 2007, 4:23 PM   #3
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I believe the sharpness issue with the K10D is entirely a matter of in camera jpeg processing. If you are doing postprocessing, it really won't matter, and if you are shooting in RAW it shouldn't be a factor at all.

If you are planning on shooting many moving subjects, action or sports, then there may be some advantages to Nikon or Canon. But as long as the ambient light shots you are talking about aren't something like high school basketball, but morelike weddings, plays, parties, nightclubs, etc., Pentax may be a good bet because of the combination of IS, good high ISO performance, and some very good prime lenses available.

Olympus is likely not the best choice due to a combination of lesser high ISO performance form the smaller sensor, not very good low light autofocus, and less options for low light prime lenses. But I wouldn't entirely rule out the new E-510 model which will be available in June, which has in body IS. One early report (DPNow) suggests some notable improvement at higher ISO, but not too much improvement in low light autofocus. I don't expect it will ever be the best choice for ambient light, but a couple stops of IS and an added stop of ISO performance might at least make it capable. And other factors like a low sytem weight for travel, and some good quality, affordable, relatively fast zoom lenses might make it worth a look overall. But these are small cameras as well, though ergonomics may be a bit better than Canon.

Given your budget, and preference for a larger body, though, the K10D and Nikon D80 are likley your best options. Nikon also has a nice collection of low ligh prime lenses available. They also have more to chose from than Pentax on the zoom side of things. Pentax is currently lacking some in high end zoom lenses to match the K10D. Though they have a number of promising new offerings on the way. And what they do have on the budget end generally offers good quality for the price.

You might want to start looking at lenses in both systems and consider what is most likely to suit both present and future needs.

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Old Apr 10, 2007, 8:24 PM   #4
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If you are asking us what camera, you ARE NOT ready to buy a DSLR. You in all likelyhood will get people extoling the virtues of their system of choice. That is a good thing for them, as they choose it for them. That is not necessarly a good thing for you. Because of this, I am not going to mention the system I choose even though I love it. It is right for me.

First, decide what features you need/want. This will most likely be determined by what it is you want to shoot. Do some research on the different cameras you might be interested in. Then compare the cameras on you list. Here is a good place to do so.

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sidebyside.asp.

Then do some researh on the lenses, accessories etc for that camera. Do some research into the kind of equipment you want/need for the types of photography you plan to shoot.

Once you have narrowed down your choices then go to a good photography store and try out the cameras you are interested in. Hold them, get a feel for the controls, examine the potential lenses and accessories that you will want/need. Shoot some pictures with the cameras you decide you like. A good photography store will let you do so. Take some media cars with you that will fit the cameras. They don't have to be fast or big. Shoot the same shots at different ISO's, apetures etc. Then go home and review the results.

The one we have here even has a computer and monitor set up to allow you to review the photos right then and there. Once you decide on what you want, then look for the best deal.

Keep in mind, with a DSLR you are not buying a camera, you are buying a system. The camera body is just one small, although important part, of the system. I currently have over $5000 tied up in lenses alone for a $1200 camera body and am getting close to spending another $6500 for a single lens. Remember, Good glass, taken care of, will last a lifetime. DSLR bodies will come and go. If you follow this advise you should end up with the system that is right for you. If it is right for you, you will be happy with it and a happy photogrpher is one that loves to and does go out and shoot.


Good luck.
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Old Apr 10, 2007, 11:24 PM   #5
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gryphonslair99, I disagree with your comment, that if I'm asking, then I'm not ready. Having come from the film SLR world, though it has been a while, I'm very familiar with the concept of buying into a system. I had been a Minolta man for about a decade. While I didn't acquire a large quantity of lenses, I had enough to do the stuff I wanted.

I'm asking on here because, while I'm looking around at the various websites, a lot of cameras seem to have many of the features that I want. However, since I'm fairly new to the DSLR buying game, I'm not as familiar with their flaws and strengths.

In my first post, I mentioned that the K10D caught my eye, and seemed to pretty much fit the bill. But from some of the follow-up posts, it sounds like it might be questionable in lower light situations. It sounded as if the K100D might be better, but would sacrifice some of the K10D features. This is the kind of stuff that I'm looking for. Info that may not really come out in a review, but from personal experience.

While I've been reading about the Pentax lately, I haven't really followed the Nikon and Canon lineups. I'm not sure what would be a good comparable choice in those families. What are peoples experiences with high ISO with some of these cameras?

While I plan to shoot a lot of different things, parties, gatherings, and various indoor situations will be probably about 1/3 - 1/2 of what I'm using it for. I'd also like to do this without a flash. I realize that a fast prime lense will be optimal, and that's cool. That's what I'm used to from my film days.

Getting an idea of which family of cameras excel in the area I'm looking for is my main goal with this question. I just hope to benefit from the experience of the other members of the forum.

-Jeff
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 1:10 AM   #6
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I respect the fact that you have a lot of experience in the film world. It wasn't all that long ago I switched from 30+ years of film to digital. In deference to you experience I will retract the first half of my post however I still stand by the second half of my post. You have some cameras that interest you. Go check them out. My experiences, and the experiences of others may not be yours. Generally these posts seem to start a debate of what people experiences happen to be and they often conflict.

In my earlier post I declined mention my system. Well after 30 years of shooting Nikon F2's and a Pentax 67 I went digital. I love my Nikons to the point that I would not buy an F3 when they came out. I hated it. The Nikon was and to me still is the ultimate 35 SLR and their glass is outstanding. If you can't tell I am a real Nikon fan for film.

One of the things I knew I was going to do when I switched was to shoot sports for a local university. So a couple of my requirements included a high number fps and low noise at high ISO. When I tested the Nikon, Canon and Pentax the Pentax fell out immediately. Just didn't like it, although I did shoot and was very impressed with their old LX film system. The digital however just did not suit me.

The D200 felt like a Nikon. It was good, real good. The Canon 30D felt good as well and improved with the addition of a batter pack. I followed the advice I gave and shot both cameras with the lenses that interested me. MY results were that the Canon had less noise at high ISO than the Nikon. I ended up going to Canon for my digital.

I will guarentee that someone will pop in here and claim that the Nikon, or the Pentax or the Sony is just as good at high ISOas is the Canon. Are they wrong? From my tests yes. But that does not make them wrong. Their tests may reveal something different to them from their point of view. That is why I suggest that you check it out for yourself and don't rely on our opinions too much. Again, good luck.
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Old Apr 11, 2007, 8:18 PM   #7
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Thanks gryphonslair99, I appreciate your input. Your post is helping me narrow down the main things I want in a camera. Low noise at high ISO is going to be key.

I spent a good amount of time over at dpreview looking at the comparison shots, images at various ISOs, and it has only added to the confusion. I friend at work just picked up a 30D and I got to play with it for a little while. While it's nice, I'm not in love with the button positions, but it felt much better in my hand than the digital rebel. I'm not sure if it was the lense he had on, or the camera, but it was a heavy sucker, nice and solid. Made me realize that I missed SLR stuff more than I realized.

Another thing I forgot to ask in my original post is this. Do all or most DSLRs have an option for auto-bracketing? I'd like to play with HDR, but if I can program the camera to take say 3-5 exposure at a range of settings with one press of the shutter button (or release cable) that would be fantastic.

Thanks again to all for your help and suggestions.

-Jeff
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 2:11 AM   #8
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JeffS wrote:
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Another thing I forgot to ask in my original post is this. Do all or most DSLRs have an option for auto-bracketing? I'd like to play with HDR, but if I can program the camera to take say 3-5 exposure at a range of settings with one press of the shutter button (or release cable) that would be fantastic.
As far as I know, every DSLR out there has this features except the Nikon D40.

Most DSLRs also have good performance at high ISO, but generally the cameras with larger sensors and lower megapixel are best. The worst ones out there are probably the Olympus cameras and the Sony.
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 2:17 AM   #9
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In general, noise at high ISO settings is going to be less on a 6mp camera than one of 10mp, so don't get oversold on megapixels. The in-camera noise reduction on some models may lower detail resolution, so look for the ability to turn it off.

One major difference between film and digital SLRs is that, with film, the camera body had very little to do with image quality - it was the glass, since you could change film, and processing was done at a lab. With digital, glass is also a big issue, but the body does quite a bit of the processing, and the sensor doesn't change.

AFAIK, all DSLRs will autobracket, but some are quite limited in the range they can bracket. 1/3 stop, plus or minus is not going to be enough for HDR. I have found that 2 full stops over and under are the minimum needed for HDR, and I don't know of a camera that will do that automatically. I use manual setting, and find it quite quick and simple with my camera.

brian
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 7:20 AM   #10
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Seems like your stated shootoing needs are pretty basic. From what I gather, the 2 most important features for you are:
  • Low light performance[/*]
  • Ergonomics
[/*]
Image quality in good light is pretty much a given with every current DSLR.

Now, let's see if we can narrow things down a bit. You've tried 2 canon cameras (XT and 30D) and didn't like the ergonomics. And given your price point, the 5d is out of the picture. So let's set Canon asside. That leaves Nikon, Oly, Pentax and Sony. Of those 4, Sony and Oly have worse high ISO performance than Nikon & Pentax (and yes Oly's new camera might be better but by the few blurbs I've read it still isn't on par with the others quite yet ). So, let's take a look at Nikon and Pentax.

In the Pentax camp you have the K10D and K100D. As has already been mentioned, the K10 (while a better overal camera) has worse high ISO performance than the K100. So, the k100 may be a better fit for your stated needs.

In the Nikon camp you have the D80, D50 (if you can still find one) and D40. IMO, the D40 is a poor choice because of the stripped down features (stripped down AF, no focus motor and less accessable controls). The best camera is definitely the D80, without doubt. But if that's too pricey I would suggest buying a D50 instead of a D40. The D50 has a richer feature set and it doesn't limit you to AF lenses with their own focus drive so you have more lens options down the road.

Since it sounds like ergonomics are important to you I would suggest going to a local store and handling the Nikon D80, D50 and the Pentax K100D and see if either of the 3 is a clear cut winner in the ergonomics department.
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