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Old Jul 26, 2007, 1:22 PM   #1
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I am wanting to make the step up from a compact to a more creative propper camera. It will mainlay be used for family shots, to record the start of our family and general holiday snaps so will be a mix of indoor and outdoor shots.

At first I was mainly thinking about an entry level DSLR such as the Pentax K100D, Sony A100, Nikon D40 or Canon EOS 350D. I suspect we will be DSLR owners who rarely if ever change the lens as so the kit lens quality would matter and we will almost always shoot to jpeg and only occasionally sit down and post process more than the basics.

However based on our predicted usage of the camera whould we be better off getting somethine like the canon S3 IS, Sony DCS H2 or Kodak Z712 with image stabilisation, a 36-432 lens and a decent 60fps video mode. Is the huge zoom capability likely to be a bigger benefit than the loss at the wide angle and is the video mode on this kind of camera good enough to mean we can get away without a camcorder?

I like the idea of a manual zoom ring so are there any cameras with manual zoom and image stabilisation that cost less than the Panasonic FZ50?

cheers for your thoughts,
Jay-man
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Old Jul 26, 2007, 3:21 PM   #2
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The big advantage of a DSLR is it's high ISO performance which allows you to take photos in much darker situations without using a flash. If you plan on shooting indoors without using a flash or installing 150 watt lights in every corner of your house, you'll likely want a DSLR. Of course, budget may play a significant role.

In your position, I think the first camera on my list would be the Nikon D40 with the 18-135mm kit lens (that's about 27-200mm equivalent). It can be had for about $700, would pretty much cover all your bases (except video) and provide you with images you'll be very happy with. If you want quality video as well you should get a camcorder, but in my experience people tend to enjoy photos far more than videos.
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Old Jul 26, 2007, 3:59 PM   #3
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I have found that my Sony H5 has fulfilled my needs for outdoor family photos, holidays, and for short video clips. The quality of the video is comparable with my Sony Hi8 camcorder, so I only needed the one camera for a recent long holiday in Australia. I like to make DVDs combining video, stills, and appropriate music, so the H5 has been suberb. Its big zoom and Image Stabilisation has also been great for my interest in birds.

Unfortunately, it made me more ambitious and I bought the Nikon D40 with kit lens, and added the 18-135mm lens and SB600 flashlight. The combination is superb for indoor use, but it doesn't have the video capability of the H5!

There are several good superzooms and several good entry level DSLRs, but a superzoom is cheaper,easier to use and get good pictures, and provides video with the 10x zoom of a camcorder. The manual zoom of the D40 lenses is nice - the Fuji S6500 has this manual zoom plus good low light capability, but no IS.
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Old Jul 27, 2007, 8:56 AM   #4
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A big advantage of the DSLR over the others listed so far is the ability to use an external flash unit. Put a diffuser on it and you can get very good indoor shots without having to pose everyone. There are some non-DSLRs with a hot shoe but the choice is limited. The Fuji S9000 has one but it is too noisy to not have stabilization for that long a lens. And the Panasonic FZ 50 has a hot shoe, but it is pretty noisy even with stabilization.

I like the K100 for the price. It has an excellent viewfinder for an entry level DSLR and the image stabilization is a good feature. I see them online with a kit lens for under $500 delivered. http://cameras.pricegrabber.com/digi...24/search=k100 The kit lens doesn't have the range of the Nikon Corpsy mentioned, but there is cash left over to get whatever lens suits your needs once experience helps sort that out. And whatever lens you get will be stabilized. Or you could apply some of the extra toward a decent dedicated flash and diffuser.

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Old Jul 27, 2007, 9:05 AM   #5
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You may find thr newest cannon S5 IS to shoot your needs. You may also want to look into the Fuji S-9100... both have nice built in lenses. I got the Fuji S-9100 as I want a real good camera with a built in lens and after doing my research that is what it lrad me too although thr Cannon was a close second.

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Old Jul 27, 2007, 10:29 AM   #6
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I would recommend something like the S5-IS - a superzoom with external flash. I think that is the type of camera that will best fit your needs.

There are many reasons why a DSLR is a more capable camera, but for your stated needs, you'll be needing flash much too often. You'll find for family type shots a good flash is much more beneficial than high ISO performance alone. Don't get me wrong, I spend a good amount of time relying on my DSLRs ability to shoot at high ISOs (1600, 3200 and 6400). But for 95% of family shots I rely on lower ISOs and a good external flash. There are a number of technical reasons behind it I could go into, but the reality is: high iso performance by itself is going to give poor results for indoor family type shots. The ability to mount an external flash is the key to successful shooting for those types of shots. The s5 will allow you to use canon's excellent 430ex speedlight. It's not to say the s5 is the only camera to consider. Just that is the TYPE of camera you should consider - a superzoom with hotshoe for an external flash.
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Old Jul 27, 2007, 2:00 PM   #7
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First off, I own a K100D but didn't recommend it because for the usage described it just isn't ideal. The Nikon will take better JPGs at higher ISO, offers a much more versatile kit lens than the 18-55, and I think stabilization would only be marginally useful when shooting people at wider angles.

Secondly, I recommend using a DSLR without a flash over anything with a flash because from what I've seen flash photography just doesn't look that appealing unless done by a professional with a very expensive flash. Though they would rarely come out blurry, they tend to look less natural. The temperature of the flash usually doesn't match that of the room so you get a weird mixture of different colored lighting. When everything in the foreground is much brigther than everything in the background it also looks odd and pretty obvious as a flash shot. It's also distracting and less candid as it'll tend to make people react to the camera.

Despite all that I still try to take flash photos of friends and family now and then, but worse than any of the problems I mentioned is the fact that some of the people I shoot, for whatever reason, look plain awful when shot with a flash, whether it's the on-board flash or external. I don't know if it's the harshness of the light that just lights up their face in a bad way, or if it's something to do with reacting to the very bright light that makes them squint in pain, but no matter how much I try I've never gotten these people to look good using a flash.

Finally, if it's within your budget to get the DSLR I don't see any reason why you should step down to a P&S. If you buy a P&S and aren't happy with your indoor flash shots, you're pretty much out of luck with that camera because it'll be pretty useless without the flash. The DSLR will be much more capable, and even if it still isn't bright enough for the lighting in your house, you do have the option of getting brighter lenses if you wish.
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Old Jul 27, 2007, 2:32 PM   #8
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Corpsy wrote:
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Secondly, I recommend using a DSLR without a flash over anything with a flash because from what I've seen flash photography just doesn't look that appealing unless done by a professional with a very expensive flash.
Unfortunately, that just isn't practical or possible. Forget about portraits for a moment. Let's talk real life situations people want to capture. In real life situations, lighting isn't great, people are moving a little and there are often multiple subjects in a very deep depth of field. Bottom line in these real life situations is: a no flash solution won't get you usable results of any kind. Yes it's great for artistic shots with a single subject. Let's look at some examples of real-world shots inside a normal house. As someone who works extensively with fast primes and high ISOs I would challenge these types of shots would be impossible without flash. Sure, things are not as natural looking. But, for most people have a photo is better than not having one. If I relied on high iso / fast primes either the DOF would be too shallow, the noise would be too great or shutter speed would be too slow:















So - since you recommend against flash, Corpsy, perhaps you can show some in-house shots involving multiple subjects where you did not use a flash. Please include shutter speeds as well - especially if the shot is posed. Having people pose for a 1/15 exposure is fairly unrealistic.

Now, I like available light shots as well. This one was ISO 1600, 1/60 and 2.0:



but my subject wasn't moving at all (w/o flash 1/60 will show motion blur of hands / head) and having only a few inches of DOF wasn't a problem because it's a single subject).
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Old Jul 27, 2007, 4:08 PM   #9
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I agree that direct flash is harsh, but bounced flash gives more natural candid pictures. JohnG's pictures show that pictures with flash can look natural. I am not at all experienced with flash but recently used my new SB600 flash at a birthday party in a dark hall with a white ceiling. The lighting was a mixture of small wall lights and disco lighting. The flash was bounced off the ceiling and many of the shots were 30 feet away. An example is below (187mm at 35mm equivalent). I couldn't believe the range of the bounced flash, but realised later that the camera had been left on Auto ISO and virtually all the shots including the example were at ISO1600. They are noisy, but perfectly useable for on screen viewing or small prints. Without flash, the shutter speed would have been at least 10 times as long even with a fast prime, and the picture would have been blurred.
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Old Jul 27, 2007, 4:29 PM   #10
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I would like to post some examples but I've never posted photos of my friends and family specifically because they've told me they really wouldn't appreciate it. In particular I don't think they'd like me to show before and after shots to show just how bad the flash makes them look.

But since you're photos are supposed to illustrate how using a flash with a P&S is superior than using a DSLR, can you please tell me what P&S camera and flash you used? That information is missing from the EXIF data.

The OP wasn't really specific about the budget, only the usage. I'd like to know, if you're going to be doing flash photography, why would you choose a P&S over a DSLR? The DSLR will obviously have the advantage of higher dynamic range so that if the contrast ends up too high you can repair it, and if the falloff from the flash is too near you can turn up the ISO and shorten the exposure to make better use of the ambient light, both options that are much less practical on a P&S.

As 1eyedeer points out, if you're not happy with the look of direct flash you can use a bounced flash for more natural results, but he had to shoot at ISO 1600 for proper exposure. This is another very useful option that is simply not on the table for a typical P&S.
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