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Old Jul 29, 2007, 1:52 PM   #1
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The girlfriend says its got to be a dSLR. So we are interested in a entry level dSLR with kit lens but there seems to be a fair range of suitable cameras at that price point (£3-400ish). I'm looking at the Pentax K100D, Sony A100, Nikon D40 or Canon EOS 350D.

These have all had good reviews but my question is which of their differnces will actually matter to us as dSLR beginers. It will mainly 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 and more often that now we will be looking for straight out of the camera jpeg shots with a bit of basic touching up.

Some of them have image stabilisation which seems a great thing but how often will it be of benefit?
The Sony has a 18-70mm kit lens as opposed to the 18-55mm on the others, but in real world situations will that be any more useful?
Others factors are that they vary between 3,9 or 11 focus points, some are more lightweight than others, some have better burst shooting etc but which will we notice or be of most benefit to us?

Most importantly i guess is are there any differences in the quality of the kit lens?

I am aware the Nikon D40 will only autofocus with a few of the Nikon lenses as it doesn't have a inbuilt motor. Do all the others have this? Olympus also seem well regarded and the E400 is now in our price range but I am put off by their different sensor size and the resulting narrow range of the kit lense. Is that daft?

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Old Jul 29, 2007, 3:09 PM   #2
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All of the cameras are capable of taking excellent pictures, so you can be happy with any of them.

As far as features go - there are no right or wrong answers. Some people will appreciate one feature while another person would never use it. I, personally, find the SR on the Pentax to be very important (not as steady as I used to be). 20 years ago it wouldn't have mattered much at all. Burst shooting doesn't mean anything to me - I rarely use it with the type of photography I do (I shoot stuff where I can take my time with things), but other people will find that critical.

I know that the Pentax kit lens is quite nice (I have the PentaxK100), I'm still using mine even though I have one or two other options available. The reviewers seem to think that the Canon's kit lens is not quite as good as the others, but I have no direct knowledge of that.

Focal length is another personal choice/decision. The nice thing about dSLR cameras is that if you find the lens you have too short/long etc. you can always buy another one. Personally, I prefer using a longer lens because that's the way I "see" things. Others will prefer wider angle. I'm planning on adding a 50-135 mm lens as my "walk-around" lens to go with the kit lens (for when I want something wider). Just my opinion, but I wouldn't choose a camera based on their kit lens - look at what other lenses are offered and if there's something specific that you want (far more important). In your case, I'd buy the camera with whatever kit lens comes with it (except for maybe the Canon where I'd probably upgrade the lens). Use it for a while and decide what (if anything) you would like in addition to what you have. In my case, I knew I wanted something longer than the kit lens, so bought the DA 50-200 not long after getting the camera.

The biggest, most important thing for choosing a camera is how it feels in your hands. Is it too light, too small, too big, too heavy? Can you easily reach the controls? The best camera in the world won't do you any good if its sitting at home in a closet because you hate using it. I can tell you that I'll never own a full-frame Canon camera - I have a friend who does and it's way too heavy and big for me to handle comfortably (I'd never be able to hold it still enough to get a sharp picture). On the other hand, there are those who find the D40 too small for their hands. Before you make any decision, go to a camera store and handle your four choices. I think that's more important than how many focus points they have (focus points may or may not mean anything to you - I'm too used to a manual film SLR so tend to always use the center point, focus, then recompose to take the picture).
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Old Jul 29, 2007, 6:28 PM   #3
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I agree completely with mtngal. There are no bad dSLRs. The most important feature of a dLSR is whether or notyou like to use it. If you don't like how it feels in your hand, if you can't understand the menus, if it's to hard to carry around, then you won't use it, and it will have been a waste of money and a disappointment.

There are some broad generalities that I want to point out, before I go on.

Olympus has the smallest and lightest dSLRs and lenses (when taking into account the angle of view.) This is because of the smaller image sensor the Olympus dSLRs use. While it is larger than the image sensors available in P&S digicams, it is smaller than the image sensors used by other dSLRs. The result (aside from the lighter camera bodies and lenses)is that the Olympus can't get a very shallow depth-of-field, as other brand dSLRs can,for situations where you might want it, but it will do better than P&S digicams.

Canon and Nikon (except the D40/D40x) have the broadest selection of lenses, especially lenses for indoor/low light situations, in both wide angle and telephoto focal lengths. Pentax has a good selection of indoor/low lightwide angle lenses, but not telephoto lenses.

Canon and Nikon (except the D40/D40x) are better supported by third party lenses and accessories.

Canon and Nikon have image stabilization in some of their lenses, while Pentax and Sony have it in the body, as does the Olympus E-510. (The Olympus E-410 has image stabilization, but uses a fairly old and less effective technology to implement it.)

Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus have some REALLY good lenses, but at premium prices (>$2000).

The general consensus is that the Canon 18-55 kit lens is the least desirable of the kit lenses in the group, and the Sony 18-70 is the most desirable, but the differences are minor. For a bit more money, the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 is sharper and brighter than any of them, but is only available for Canon, Nikon and Sony, and won't autofocus on the Nikon D40 or D40x.

From what you say about how you will be using a new camera, I think the choice of bright wide angle lenses is important for indoor/low-light situations that I presume will make up a lot of your shots. That means that Canon, Nikon and Pentax should be at the top of your list. Most important, however, is that none of the kit lenses are well suited to indoor/low-light situations unless you want to use the flash a lot.
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Old Jul 29, 2007, 9:40 PM   #4
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In your other topic I suggested the Nikon D40 with an 18-135mm lens which you said would be ideal but was hard to find. I do believe that that would be the best setup for you if you can find it.

If you can't get that lens, then I'd still say stick with the D40 and just get the 18-55. I think it's the best of the 18-55 lenses (I know the Pentax one is good, but there's noticeable vignetting at full wide). I'm not sure how serious a problem the smaller lens selection and 3 focus points will be for you. You mentioned before that you didn't want to do a lot of lens switching, but if you get an SLR with an 18-55 I think it's inevitable that you will in the future. Before deciding on the Nikon in that case, I would make sure the lenses available would cover any future needs. In particular, a fast prime for indoor shooting can be very helpful. Also, when shooting people you tend to only need one focus point so I don't think that's a huge problem either.

After that would be the Pentax K100d. The stabilization is nice, but I think for shooting people indoors it's usefulness is marginal. The problem I feel is that the Pentax has very weak in-camera processing compared to the Nikon and the Canon so it's JPGs will tend to look a bit noisy over ISO 400. If you shoot RAW or use a noise reduction program like Noise Ninja you can get good quality shots at ISO 1600, but it sounds like you'd rather not go through the bother.

Last in line is the Canon. It's a very feature rich camera that does take nice photos, but it's overall build quality is the problem. For many people (including myself) it just feels crappy. The lens doesn't seem very good, the body is small and doesn't afford a nice grip, and worst it's viewfinder is tiny and dim. When taking photos indoors, a dim viewfinder can make taking photos a real eye-strain.

I wouldn't consider the Sony myself. I think it's at a disadvantage shooting indoors because of it's poor high ISO performance.
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Old Jul 30, 2007, 2:14 AM   #5
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Corpsy wrote:
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If you can't get that lens, then I'd still say stick with the D40 and just get the 18-55. I think it's the best of the 18-55 lenses (I know the Pentax one is good, but there's noticeable vignetting at full wide).
Yes, Pentax DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 vignetting is a bit larger however overall I wouldn't call Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 better lens. Pentax DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is better built, has dedicated focussing ring with quick-shift system (you can adjust focus manually without switching to manual focus, just turn focussing ring), front element doesn't rotate while focussing, so you can use petal shaped lens hood (comes with lens) and polarising filter usage is much more convenient.

You can look at review of these lenses here:
http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/len...6_II/index.htm
http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/len...3556/index.htm

Corpsy wrote:
Quote:
After that would be the Pentax K100d. The stabilization is nice, but I think for shooting people indoors it's usefulness is marginal. The problem I feel is that the Pentax has very weak in-camera processing compared to the Nikon and the Canon so it's JPGs will tend to look a bit noisy over ISO 400.
I don't know where your feeling came from, but in my opinion it is just wrong. Pentax K100D jpegs are nothing short of excellent and it is one of the best performing cameras in the noise department. K100D jpegs are on the level with D40. Not less.

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Old Jul 30, 2007, 11:08 AM   #6
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You don't have to take the kit lens :-) being offered.

If you go in to the stores you can get the body and lens you want seperatly.
Or the sales people might offer to include a different lens with the body for a slightly larger price tag.

IMHO: My own view is the pentax has a lot going for it, followed by Canon or any Nikon except the d40.
Just my opinion, others will differ of course:-)
but I feel the d40 is more like a fattened up P&S in a dslr caseing rather than a DSLR with cut down features. The camera just dosn't feel right to me somehow. :-)
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Old Jul 30, 2007, 2:50 PM   #7
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Edvinas, I'll have to take your word about the kit lenses. I've done some research on them, but since the Nikon wasn't on my shopping list for very long I didn't look too closely. It seemed pretty safe to assume though that with the reputation of Nikkor lenses, and knowing that it doesn't have the vignetting of the Pentax lens, it would produce somewhat better images.

The advantages of the Pentax lens that you listed are things I have never really made much use of, and I doubt anyone would really need to in a typical indoor shooting situation. For landscape shots taken with a polarizer and at 24mm or longer though, I guess the Pentax lens does have a quality advantage.

The main reason I suggested the D40 in the first place was because of the 18-135 lens. I think it's probably the most versatile kit lens available that doesn't sacrifice a lot in quality while still being affordable. For the Pentax though, I know there are 24-135 lenses available from Tamron and Sigma that may do the job. The Sigma one in particular is a decently bright lens (2.8-4.5), though one or two personal reviews have said it was too soft. Both lenses can be had for $250, though the Tamron is after a $100 rebate.


Edvinas wrote:
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Corpsy wrote:
Quote:
After that would be the Pentax K100d. The stabilization is nice, but I think for shooting people indoors it's usefulness is marginal. The problem I feel is that the Pentax has very weak in-camera processing compared to the Nikon and the Canon so it's JPGs will tend to look a bit noisy over ISO 400.
I don't know where your feeling came from, but in my opinion it is just wrong. Pentax K100D jpegs are nothing short of excellent and it is one of the best performing cameras in the noise department. K100D jpegs are on the level with D40. Not less.
Firstly, my opinion in this regard is pretty much based on every review I've read. If you compare reviews of both cameras on sites like DCresource.com, Ephotozine.com, Imaging-resource.com and Steves-digicams.com, you'll generally see more favorable reviews of the D40 at ISO 800 and 1600 than of the K100D, though perhaps not by a huge margin.

In my opinion, the two cameras probably produce about the same noise levels when shooting with noise reduction off or in RAW. I don't think the K100D actually can do any noise reduction of it's own except on very long exposures. To demonstrate this, here's a 100% crop of a photo I took with noise reduction on at ISO 800:






Here's a photo of the same thing after turning noise reduction off:






As you can see, the noise levels remain the same. Here's another sample shot taken recently at ISO 800:






Here's a 100% crop:






At ISO 800, that's pretty noticeable noise. However, if I had run these JPGs through a decent noise reduction program like Noise Ninja, or if I had shot them RAW and processed them through Adobe Camera RAW with only a tiny amount of NR, they would look perfectly clean. In fact, a RAW processed through ACR that was taken at ISO 1600 would have less noise than a JPG at 800.

The noise levels at ISO 800 on a jpg would have been a concern to me if it wasn't for the fact that I take most of my photos in RAW, and have no qualms about doing some additional processing when called for. If I needed my JPGS to look as good as possible right out of the camera, then I would have taken a much harder look at the Nikon and Canon cameras.
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Old Jul 30, 2007, 3:34 PM   #8
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I bought an entry level DSLR in addition to compacts and a superzoom because indoor performance on the latter cameras was disappointing in low light. I didn't like the harshness of an on board camera flash and pictures at ISO 200 and 400 didn't look too nice. The DSLR was so much better with and without flash in low light, but the revelation was an add on flash with bounce light, e.g., off the celing indooors, or fill flash outdoors. From my limited experience, and reading many threads and articles on difficult areas such as wedding photos, this use of flash will generally give much better results than just using fast lenses with limited light availability. My point is that a good add on flash should be an essential part of the buying factor for family indoor and outdoor shots.

Your photos will be good without the add-on flash, suberb with it whatever the DSLR.
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