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Old Apr 23, 2007, 5:14 AM   #1
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This is going to be my first serious camera purchase. I am never going to be a pro, but I do want something that will still produce some excellent images. The primary use of this camera is for me to take overseas and take photos of architecture. So I need something relatively easy to use, can take a wide-angle lens, is good for night time shots as well as close ups of details in construction (about the size of a door handle). My brother has a fuji SLR (possibly finepix I think), which broke almost straight away (failed to turn on after one week of use) and I am a bit unsure of Canon as I have to deal with lots of problems from my Canon products. So I was thinking maybe Nikon, but really I have no idea about cameras so all help would be greatly appreciated. My budget is about 1200 US$.

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Old Apr 23, 2007, 8:19 AM   #2
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Just about any of the budget dSLRs will do well for travel photography - look at Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, or Sony. Each of them has different pros and cons (remember that all photography is a compromise).

If you first and primary purpose is architecture, I'd probably give an edge to the camera system that still makes a shift lens - I think (but am not sure) that Canon still makes one. Pentax used to make a good one, but it is getting harder and harder to find them on the used market. While shift lenses aren't as important as they used to be for architecture (you can always adjust your vertical lines through software, assuming you left enough extra to crop), they are nice.

If you aren't that concerned about vertical lines, then that opens up the field. The D40 takesexcellent pictures, but it doesn't have a lens focus motor in the body, so your choices of lenses will be less than say with the D50 or the D80. That might or might not be a factor - if considering the D40 you would need to decide which lenses you want, then see if they will work on the D40.

The Pentax K100 is easy to use and has image stabilization built into the camera body. I use Pentax cameras and really like my K100 - helps with slower shutter speeds or longer telephoto lenses. Pentax has a number of excellent prime lenses, but fewer fast zoom lenses. I happen to use the kit lens (one of the better ones) and the DA 50-200, which do most of what I want. They aren't the fastest lenses out there, but nice for landscapes, etc. (I also have a long tele prime, a macro lens and a25 year old fast prime lens that's a manual lens). It used to be that Pentax was a good way to go because you could pick up outstanding old lenses for not muchthat work on it (Pentax has the best backward compatibility) but the price of used Pentax lenses has gone through the roof - no longer an advantage.

The best advice I could give is to go to a camera store and handle all of the cameras. Ergonomics are a very personal thing and only you can decide which feels right to you. Think about how heavy or awkward the camera is for you to operate and think about dragging it all over Europe, then decide.
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Old Apr 23, 2007, 8:39 AM   #3
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Thanks for your help. I was just looking at the pentax range and was thinking the K100 seemed pretty good. Most of my photography will be of architecture and landscapes, so if there is another lens out there I should think about I would love to know. Is there a wide-angle lens you can recommend?
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Old Apr 23, 2007, 11:06 AM   #4
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Ideal would be a system that that has a shift/tilt lens but based on my web search only Canon currently has any in their line-up. With all other DSLRs you will have to use software solutions.
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Old Apr 23, 2007, 7:59 PM   #5
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From what I have read it looks like I can use photoshop to correct the verticle lines, so I am not sure if a tilt lens is that necessary.

Slightly off topic but does anyone know what professional architecture photographers use to get that nice "warm glow" out of night shots. You see it used it all the architecture magazines, it sort of brings out the "yellow" in the light sources or something. Anyhow my question is is this easy to achieve and what lens/filters etc will I need to do it?
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Old Apr 23, 2007, 10:12 PM   #6
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Usually that effect is just the natural color temprature of the lights. Of course with auto white balance the effect may be negated.
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Old Apr 23, 2007, 11:17 PM   #7
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I happen to find the kit lens fine for my needs, and it doesn't cost very much. They make other lenses, and there are third party (Sigma and Tamron mostly) lenses also available.

Pentax lenses, zooms: DA Fisheye 10mm-17mm f3.5-4.5 (very wide, some people love it, some think it's too much of a fisheye), DA 12-24 f4 (some people prefer this to the 10-17mm, it is supposed to have less barrelling), DA 16-45 f4 (often used as an upgrade to the kit lens - it is faster so better in low light. Overall has a good reputation). Don't know much about the third party wide angle lenses.

If you want a really good prime, there's the DA 21mm f3.2 Limited. Any Pentax lens designated as Limited is a top quality lens. There are a number of other wide angle primes, but I don't know anything about them. Finally, Pentax has announced a DA* 16-50mm 2.8 lens that is supposed to be out soon. They've always used the "*" indicator for their top-of-the-line lenses - the only lens I have with this designation is significantly better than any of my other lenses.

There are a number of ways to get your pictures to look warmer. Just my opinion, but I'd skip the various lens filters that can do this and use Photoshop to make the changes (shoot raw, changes are easier). By doing it in software, you can always go back to the original if you don't like it.
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Old Apr 28, 2007, 2:47 AM   #8
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Mtngal has provided excellent information on Pentax. With your $1200 budget I believe you can do a lot with it in the Pentax line. I have come across a couple of shift lens on ebay with Pentax K mounts. You have to look for them, however this has not been a real problem with the images I have taken so far - but not a lot of building images - yet.

The 16-45 is an excellent lens that eliminates the vignetting effects the 18-55 kit lens has at the very low end. I also have the 10-17 fisheye - but for buildings - especially the exteriors it may be a little too fisheye for what you may have in mind. That being said, for interiors it may be just what your looking for since you can get a full 180 degree short and the closer you are to the subject the better, thus able to get walls and ceilings together. The 12-24 is rectliniear - does not suffer from the fish eye effect, however is not as wide - thus not able to get the full 180 degree.

Unfortunately, I do travel on business a bit (more than I like too). This week I just had a last minute trip to DC with a half day notice. Too much to take my Pentax - just a bag and my computer case (I really could not check anything). Where I am going with this, and it might put you a bit over budget, but I find having a P&S - a small one like a Canon ELF (SD500 or something) is invaluable (I would get one that uses the same card memory as the dSLR you choose and that has image stablization). It is so small that there is no excuse to not take it (in what ever situation, dinner, etc.), and it takes great pictures too. In terms of wide angle - your also able to stitch them together via software. I find that the best combination is a dSLR and a P&S. The P&S goes in your shirt pocket and it is just there all the time.

That said - going to a museum etc, does I believe call for a dSLR. The Pentax is one of the best values around. Also for versility a good wide angle zoom is very handy.
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Old Apr 30, 2007, 2:30 PM   #9
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Many museums are actually fairly bright. I have taken many photos in the Hoover Library and Museum, the Truman Library, the Lincoln Library and the Springfield Armory Museum with an ancientKodak DC5000 which, I'm sure, does not have the low light capability of the current generation of P&S cameras. Gettysburg isn't a bright as those but I still managed some shots there.

I've been in galleries and museums in Europe as well but in the pre-digital age. Of those I believe the light would be sufficient in most art galleries (Alte Pinakotech, Neue Pinakotech, etc.) but museums (the RĂ–misch-Germanisches Museum in Koeln comes to mind) may be "iffy" for P&Ss.
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