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Old May 4, 2007, 12:15 PM   #1
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I'm about to buy a new digital SLR camera, but I still haven't decided which one would be best for me.
Here are my needs:

* This is going to be my first SLR (I have a point-and-click), but I'm very motivated and eager to learn.
* I need a well rounded camera that delivers very good photos and that I'll be able to keep for years. I don't plan on upgrading in a couple of years for example.
* My budget is about $700, but I may go up to $800 if it's really worth it.
* I'm gonna be travelling for 4 months, so I'd rather have one single lens if it's possible.
* I'm gonna shoot mostly landscapes and body shots, but also some action scenes (surfing, windsurfing) and animals, therefore I'd need a lens that provides a wide angle as well as a descent zoom. Also a camera that provides good continous shooting would be great.
* I'd like a camera with a good battery life since I may not have access to an electricity source for one or two days.
* I'll probably want to make some large prints (around 36x24 in)
* I already have many SD cards: two 4GB 150x, two 1GB 60x, one 512MB and one 256MB (over 10GB total). Therefore I'd like to get a camera that uses SD cards. I won't be travelling with a laptop so I'll need to store all my photos on cards.

I've been considering the following cameras (prices courtesy of beachcamera.com).
I listed what I think are the goods and the bads, but any correction is welcome:

Nikon D40 Kit w/ 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor - $527
+ Price
+ Good kit lens
+ Uses SD cards
- 6MP (would need more for large prints)
- Only Auto Focus with AF-S and AF-I lenses
- No cleaning system
- No anti-shake system

Nikon D40 Kit w/ 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor - $729
+ same as above
++ great lens for my needs!
- same as above

Canon Rebel XTi with EF-S 18-55mm II Lens Kit - $748
+ 10MP
+ Great specs, seems very well-rounded
+ Cleaning system
- Uses CF cards
- Not very good kit lens
- No anti-shake system

Pentax K10D w/ 18-55mm Lens Kit - $835 after $50 rebate
+ 10MP
+ Cleaning system
+ Anti-shake system
+ Rugged (great body w/ joints, etc.)
+ Good kit lens
+ Uses SD cards
- Price (somewhat over my budget)
- Smaller lenses selection than Nikon/Canon

Pentax K100D w/ 18-55mm Lens Kit - $498
++ Price
+ Cleaning system
+ Anti-shake system
+ Good kit lens
+ Uses SD cards
- 6MP
- Continous shooting (max 12 jpeg)
- Smaller lenses selection than Nikon/Canon

There are a few things I wasn't able to find out online. For example, how do these cameras compare regarding the battery life?
I'm also wondering if the 18-55 lens would provide enough zoom or not for my needs (especially the surfing shoots).
Another thing is the anti-shake and cleaning system. I assume the anti-shake is useful in low light or when using the zoom. But does it make a big difference? Same thing with the cleaning system. If you're very careful with your gear, does it still prove useful or not? I'm asking because Nikon is quite lacking in this area.
Feature-wise, it seems the Pentax K10D is almost the best fit (besides the price of course).
The Nikon D40 and the Pentax K100D are very appealing because of their very low prices (although the K100D's continous shooting bothers me). What I like about the D40 is that it's the only kit in my price range I could afford with a 18-135 lens.

Am I missing other camera options?
I know my budget is quite low given my goal, but any opinion or suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
Florent Gluck
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Old May 4, 2007, 6:40 PM   #2
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Posts: 200

You have obviously indentified your immediate needs and done homework on options and prices, and should get good advice on this forum. Have you handled any of the options in a camera shop - they have to feel comfortable in your hands? WIth regard to battery life, the Dcresource.com site reviews give tables comparing different models, e.g.,

Battery life, 50% flash use
(CIPA standard)
Battery used

Canon Digital Rebel XT
400 shots

Canon Digital Rebel XTi
360 shots

Nikon D40
470 shots

Nikon D50
400 shots *

Nikon D80
600 shots *

Olympus EVOLT E-500
400 shots

Pentax K110D
300 shots
4 x 2500 mAh NiMH

Sony Alpha DSLR-A100
750 shots

* Not officially calculated using the CIPA standard, but same methodology used

Having purchased an entry level DSLR with kit lens of 17 - 55 mm, I sometimes miss the reach of my 12x superzoom,and a solution that gives a wide angle plus extended zoom should be attractive for your proposed use. With regard to choosing the solution, the kit lens offering will be very important for your immediate budget, but remember that then you have to live with that manufacturer( +third parties) for any future lenses, particularly if you don't want to upgrade the camera for many years.

Enjoy making your choice!

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Old May 4, 2007, 11:41 PM   #3
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Hi thxbb12 - I was in your position awhile ago and I see that you have done your due dilligence and homework. I have a Cannon SD500 ELF P&S that I have taken on a number of vacations and have a great collection of images. The camera is small, very handy, takes great shots. I also have a Pentax K100D. I have taken it on several trips also, and have taken great shots with it also. That said, I use both - for different reasons, and each is not the perfect camera

The one telling thing that I pulled out of your description, is that you really only want to use one lens. The dSLRs are really systems, a body and a family of lens. Each lens, so as to maintain their optical characterists are usually only able to span a 4x range. i.e a short telephoto lens spans 50mm to 200mm, while a good wide angle from 10mm to 40mm (actually wide angle lens usually span a shorter range usually about 2x). So it is pretty difficult to find a good lens that will span from say 18mm to 200mm (which is about 12x). there are some, however they are not as fast as what you may like - i.e., f4 or f5 rather than f2, may not be as sharp as you wish, and may not be as feather light or compact as you may want.

Another aspect that I picked up from your laundry list is that you would like great pictures - probably right out of the camera (you did not say that in so many words, but I took the liberty). Again SLRs usually provide both raw and Jpg formats. The JPG format images may not be as crisp, sharp, etc as your may like - again the RAW format affords you the capability to massage the image as much as you wish (post processing or pp) to get the desired results.

Now on a P&S you zoom from wide to telephoto, frame your shot and off your go. With a SLR you do the same - using possibly one, two or three lenses in your mind's eye depending on what you want - snapping on the lens, adjusting the shutter speed (maybe blurring the flow of a water fall), or adjusting the f stop for depth of field (to have only certain items in focus or a wide range of things in focus).

Any of the cameras you listed will do well. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. However you left out an entire class of camera - the superzoom Canon G3 or G7 and the rest. You get the single lens with a wide range - wide angle to telephoto, built in. However you also get some additional controls that are usually not available in a P&S. Not to add confusion to the mix, but that may be better aligned to your expressed wants and needs.

On the topic of the Pentax - Pentax has some of the best lens around bar none. There are over 35 years worth of lens out there that have been produced. Some of the older glass is vastly superior to anything produced today. Pentax may have somewhat of a limited offering, however look at what is on the used market also. The K100D continous shooting is 3 images, with the K10D being unlimited. The cleaning system is on the K10. Battery life (the CR3V) I have gotten about 500 shorts with (little or no flash). I also have a few lenses - a 10-17mm wide angle fish eye, 16 - 45 mm, 18 - 55 kit, 50 - 200 short telephoto. I have had excellernt experience with the system.

There are third part lenses available with alternative ranges to them for most of the cameras that you have listed, that you may want to consider.

Hope this helps....
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Old May 5, 2007, 3:30 AM   #4
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thxbb12 wrote:
* I'll probably want to make some large prints (around 36x24 in)
If that is the size you want to print, then I would only look at the 10MP camera's (maybe 8MP will be allright too)

There are a few things I wasn't able to find out online. For example, how do these cameras compare regarding the battery life?
If you are not able to charge batteries for two days when you're on a trip, then battery life will be an issue for each camera you are gonna buy. So make sure you have enough spare batteries with you.

I'm also wondering if the 18-55 lens would provide enough zoom or not for my needs (especially the surfing shoots).
If you are shooting wildlife an sports like surfing, a 18-55 won't do the job, even a 18-135 will be too short. If you really want a one lens solution, you probably need to buy the tamron/sigma 18-200 or even better (for zoom range) the Tamron 18-250.

But if you want to shoot birds with it, then 250 mm could be a bit short, but if you're gonna buy a 10MP camera, there are enough pixels to crop the pictures.
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Old May 7, 2007, 11:06 AM   #5
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Thank you guys, for your input.

I finally settled for the Pentax K10D with the kit lens 18-55mm for $829.
It's very slightly over my budget, but I think that's what I'll be most happy with in the long run.
The camera has the largest array of features among the camera I listed and I'm not too concerned about the smaller lens selection. I think the lenses from Pentax plus the ones from 3rd parties (Sigma, etc.) will more than cover my needs.
I should have mentioned in my original message that my father has several Pentax lenses and he would lend me the recently released 55-200mm for the length of my trip.
Although I'd have liked the convenience of not having to carry 2 lenses, this seems the best option by far.

The K10D seems the most versatile and powerful camera of the set and despites the price being slightly over my budget, I'm sure I won't regret it.

Thank you,
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Old May 7, 2007, 11:22 AM   #6
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the best decision to make is to actually buy one. i spent a few months chewing the cud, bought a canon recently and have loved using it since. sometimes we seem to put more effort into choosing than using. life is strange huh?!

enjoy your camera and your trip.

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