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Old Aug 31, 2007, 2:08 AM   #1
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Just something to run by you all.

My 3 (and a half) year old has an interest in photography, she's been taking pictures with our P&S cameras for a year now! She's very careful and has never dropped one, but she's only little and there have been a couple of near-misses.

But in the last few weeks her interest really seems to have taken off, even with her toy camera (that doesn't take pictures) she sees things and wants to stop and take a picture of it.

Then suddenly she picked up my Canon 5D, put her eye to the eyepiece and started taking some pics. Nicely composed too!

But the 5D is a pretty heavy camera, certainly with any of the L lenses it weighs too much for her to hold properly. (I love the heft of it, it feels just right to me). But the optical viewfinder is really a revelation, she is so much more comfortable with it than using the LCD on the P&S. As with most of us who mainly use optical finders I certainly find the LCD to be a very poor substitute and much harder to hold the camera steady at arm's length than when pressed against my eye.

Now I know that many of the compacts have a tiny optical finder, but that's not the sort of thing I'm looking for. My wife has an IXUS/SD and the viewfinder is rubbish, it's better to use the LCD.

So now I'm looking for a camera with a good (big) optical finder. The ideal characteristics would be:
1. Digital - anything over 3-4Mp would be fine, so I don't mind used.
2. Good optical viewfinder.
3. Zoom lens not important, as long as it has a moderately wide angle lens, say 28mm or 35mm equivalent.
4. Cheaper is better.
5. Must have a full auto mode, she's too young to worry about anything except composition at the moment.

Two cameras spring to mind immediately:
1. Ricoh GR digital with the external viewfinder.
2. New Sigma DP-1 (but that's not available anywhere yet as far as I can tell, and will probably be quite expensive.)

But you folk have great knowledge of what else is out there, I wonder about the Canon G-series cameras, are their optical viewfinders better than their cheaper models?

Anything else with an optical viewfinder that approaches SLR quality? (The viewfinder not the final image).

I was even thinking possibly of a used Oly E300 or something. Which is very small and light compared to the 5D.

I know I'm probably being silly, but some of her photos are really quite good, and I absolutely love her perspective; the things she finds interesting and the fact that all the pictures are taken so close to the ground.
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Old Aug 31, 2007, 9:03 AM   #2
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Your child does not need all the info appearing on the viewfinder, she only needs to frame the picture, doen't she ?

So you may think I am totally out of my mind, but why not doing your own viewfinder with a simple 1 inch or (even 2 inches) plastic (or wire) frame"velcroed" on the top of the camera you want her to use ? That would be the fastest viewfinder ever, and your child's pics maybe even more spontaneous:-)


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Old Aug 31, 2007, 9:44 AM   #3
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I don't think you are being silly at all. It would be fun to see the world through the priorities of a 3 year old. And you might have an Ansella Adams.

I can't think of anything better than a small DSLR like the E300 if you can find one with a lens that is cheap enough. The Canon A series has a nice viewfinder and you could probably pick up an older one on Ebay inexpensively.

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Old Aug 31, 2007, 12:59 PM   #4
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As the mother of eight, I would suggest a more gradual approach. I think that the Oly E-300 might be a bit too heavy for a 3 1/2 year old to handle and sight safely. I just went and handled my E-300 with the 14-54mm lens.

Why not begin with a Canon A-710IS or an A-720IS or a Sony W-80? Those cameras would be a much match for her size hands. Then as she develops her skills, move onward to more complex cameras.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Aug 31, 2007, 6:01 PM   #5
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Sarah, I'm sure you're right.

And yet, here she is holding the Canon 5D (and the picture she took was fine).

The 5D must be double the size and weight of the E300.

The real thing I'm looking for is an excellent (big and bright) optical viewfinder for her. Because she really seems to get it much better than using the LCD.

Don't the cameras you recommended have a tiny (basically unusable) viewfinder?

I'm going to get her to try with the viewfinder on the IXUS, see if she can use it at all. We already have an IXUS and a Panasonic FX01.

She would rather use the 5D than either of the two small cameras, though perhaps that's just because it's daddy's camera.
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Old Aug 31, 2007, 7:08 PM   #6
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A 3.5 years-old can be pretty strong. How about a Canon Digital Rebel XT? Then you guys can shared Canon lens, flashes and accessories. :-)


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Old Aug 31, 2007, 7:21 PM   #7
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peripatetic-

If she can handle the Canon 5D, then well, perhaps the Oly E-300 is a workable contender. Dr. Spock's idea Canon 350D/XT is a nice one, but I use the XT and don't consider it especially bright. But then the XT is just about as bright as the E-300, I just checked. Size-wise the XT might be a better fit for her hands.

Head out to a shop and do some real life testing. That is the only way to be sure.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Sep 1, 2007, 12:01 PM   #8
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If she can handle a 5D, perhaps the Pentax K100D would be a decent choice. I personally would think it's still a bit on the big side (I'd guess roughly the size of the original Digital Rebel), but if she likes the way it handles then she'd really enjoy the big and bright viewfinder. Also, for someone her age I'd think the built-in stabilizer would be rather useful. You can get it with an 18-55 kit lens at beachcamera.com for $458 before the $50 mail-in rebate.


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Old Sep 1, 2007, 12:49 PM   #9
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How about the Olympus E-410? Perfectly sized for her small hands, and good (not like 5D, obviously) optical viewfinder. Great lightweight kit lenses.


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