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Old Feb 10, 2008, 1:55 AM   #1
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I've had a Canon Powershot A75 forever now and am wanting to really get my foot in the door and become much more profficient in the art of photo capturing. Another main reason for this is I'm going on my first big trip to California and will be going all over, so I want to take a ton of awesome pictures to show everyone back home.

I've been recommended the Nikon D40X and it has positive reviews from what I can take, but the main concern is the lack of autofocus on some lens options using the F mount. Is this even a big deal? I'm assuming the loss of it just means more manual adjusting which I should be using anyways?

The camera will be used pretty much 90% for landscape shots, I may want to use it for outdoor sports (in clear daylight), but that's not my primary intention. I want to take some great pictures of the West and it's beautiful landscapes. Mostly daytime shooting, but I'd love to not be limited when it comes to amazing sunset shots.

Not too picky yet, I'd just like to keep it under $1000.

Thanks in advance, everyone!
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Old Feb 10, 2008, 7:22 AM   #2
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First, since the impetus for this is your trip to California, you should not expect that purchasing a dSLR will automatically make you a better photographer. Whatever you buy, you should practice with it before you leave.Take as many shots like those you intend to take while you're in California, and critique them, figuring out what you could have done better. (The Post Your Photosforums can be a big help with that.)

Second, a big part of selecting a dSLR is how it feels to you. After narrowing down your selection based on features and specifications, you should go to a camera store and handle each of the finalists. You should feel as comfortable as possible holding the camera, manipulating the controls, and moving through the menus. If you can't change the settings in your camera without fumbling around, you might miss some once-in-a-lifetime shots, and that would be a shame.

Landscape shots means wide angle lenses, and most kit lenses should be adequate for that. And while the kit lenses aren't very bright (especially at the long end of their zoom range) they should work ok for sunsets.

There are a number of things that distinguish one brand of dSLR from another, and one model from another, and I think you should be aware of them as you narrow your selection.

Image stabilization (IS): Admittedly, this particular feature won't have much of an impact on landscape shots, but it will for the outdoor sports shots. There are two types of IS used in dSLRs. Sensor Shift IS shifts the image sensor such that the image sensor remains motionless even while the camera shakes. Pentax, Sony and some of the Olympus dSLRs use this form ofIS. Canon and Nikon, on the other hand, use Opital IS. This system places a moveable optical element in the lens that shifts to counteract the motion of the camera such that the image is projected onto the image sensor in the same place. Sensor Shift IS is in the camera body so you only pay for it once, while Optical IS is in the lens, so you have to pay for it for each lens you want to use it with, and it makes the lenses bigger, heavier, and more expensive. You may not always need IS, but if you've got it and you don't, you can turn it off; if you don't have it and you need it, you can't turn it on.

Lenses: Selecting a lens or lenses is at least as important as selecting the camera. Canon and Nikon have the largest selection of OEM and third party lenses and accessories, and that's a big part of their success. (The Nikon D40 and D40X don't fall into this category, however. The selection of lenses for the D40 and D40X is only about 1/3 that of other Nikon dSLRs, but your current requirements are not that demanding, so you very well might find exactly the lenses you need from within that narrow selection.) Sony and Pentax have fewer lenses to chose from than Canon or Nikon (except the D40/D40X), but Sony has a better selection of telephoto lenses while Pentax has a better selection of wide angle lenses. Sony's OEM lenses also tend to be more expensive.Olympus has some very fine lenses, but the selection isn't very broad, and they are also expensive.

Sensor Size: Most dSLRs in your price range use an image sensor that is about 2/3 the size of a 35mm film exposure. These areclassified asAPS-C size image sensors. Olympus uses a smaller sensor that is about 1/2 the size of a 35mm film exposure. This means that Olympus camera bodies and lenses are smaller and lighter than the equivalent bodies and lenses for the other brands.

AF Speed and Accuracy: In general, the number of autofocus points is a good indicator of how fast and accurate the autofocus will be. The Nikon D40 and D40X only have 3 autofocus points, while many of it's competitors have 9 or 11. In addition, some (like the Canon XTi and XSi) are particularly good at autofocus for action shots. For landscape shots, however, the autofocus doesn't come into play very often, since most shots will be focused at or near infinity, and the depth of field with wide angle lenses is quite large.

I thinkthese are the major things you should consider as you evaluate the choices available to you.
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Old Feb 10, 2008, 9:15 AM   #3
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The D40X will take excellent pictures (take a look around here at some of the samples). As you noted, there are a more limited number of lenses that will auto focus with it. So before you decide about the camera, decide what lenses you want (focal length and speed) first, then see if there are any that will AF with the d40x.

Most of my pictures are taken outdoors, lots of landscape and macros. However, I tend to look at the details of things, rather than the broad vistas. That meant that I was much more interested in telephoto lenses than I was with wide angle, so I immediately wanted something longer than the kit lens. If you think that wider is better, then you could easily be happy with just the kit lens, but if you like to bring distant things closer to you, you'd probably want to add a second telephoto zoom lens right away. Sunsets can be taken quite easily with just about any lens (though some types of scenes would require the use of a graduated neutral density filter).

Anti-shake is helpful with slower shutter speeds - it counteracts your slight hand movements when trying to hold a camera still for a while. If you always take pictures in bright sunlight, where you are using shutter speeds over 1/350 or something like that, it probably won't add much. However, if you are trying to capture pictures with slower shutter speeds, it will be really useful.

Since one of your primary uses for your new camera will be travel, I'd highly recommend that you go to a camera store and handle the cameras. Think about how heavy they are and whether you would be willing to drag it and a lens or two around with you all day. The d40 and the Oly E-510 are both pretty light, which might be an advantage for you. As TCAv pointed out, how a camera feels in your hand is going to extremely important.
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Old Feb 15, 2008, 10:47 PM   #4
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D40x might be out of commision soon... it's being replaced by the D60 http://www.digitalrev.com/en/article.php?article_id=340

i think the D40 is remaining isn't it?
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Old Feb 18, 2008, 8:05 AM   #5
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Spent the weekend taking shots with my A75.. sooo painful. Missed out on many good shots on a mountain trip and do not want that to happen when I go to California, so I will be spending the majority of my time researching the D60. If I can't make up my mind soon, I may end up just grabbing a P500 to hold me over a bit longer. :lol:

The E-510 and Canon XTi are getting rave reviews as well, choices choices :P
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Old Feb 18, 2008, 8:45 AM   #6
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Lollan wrote:
Quote:
The E-510 and Canon XTi are getting rave reviews as well, choices choices :P
The Olympus E-510 and the canon XTi are two very different cameras. Have you narrowed your choices down yet? Are there any features that you must have, want to have, or could do without?

You need to start your selection process somewhere.

A budget of $1000 eliminates several dSLRs from consideration, but not enough. For landscapes you'll need a good wide-angle lens, probably a zoom, and maybe the kit lens will do well for you. For outdoor sports you'll need a good telephoto zoom. How do you feel about IS? Memory card formats? Fast lenses? Available light photography? What did you read in the various reviews that impressed you, what surprised you, and what disappointed you?

Without a doubt, there are people here that will point you at their favorite camera, but what may be good for them may not be good for you. You need to help us out here.
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Old Feb 18, 2008, 8:54 AM   #7
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I seriously doubt I will be doing any sports photography, just landscapes/close up macro shots of nature. Image Stabilization, I'm assuming you're asking this regarding whether I'd prefer it in the camera or on the lens, I have no preference here. I understand AF-S lenses costs more as well, which is something that is putting me more towards an E-510. I would like one with a nice built in flash (if they do exist), I'd prefer to not be too incredibly limited by low lighting situation, but If I understand correctly, you can only do so much with an integrated flash and external lighting becomes almost necessary. I'm not sure how necessary a faster lens is, but for scenes with people moving/waves crashing, I would prefer to not have any blurring here.

Cliffnotes: I want to be able to walk around in the city/nature and take photos with minimal startup/capture delay. I want to be limited by lighting as little as possible and want to minimize on blurring with movement. Size/weight is not much of a concern as I'm used to carrying my Notebook with me wherever I go, but I do need to feel a few camera still unfortunately.

I will try to get to a Wolf Camera this afternoon and hopefully narrow my selection some after holding a few.


TCav wrote:
Quote:
Lollan wrote:
Quote:
The E-510 and Canon XTi are getting rave reviews as well, choices choices :P
The Olympus E-510 and the canon XTi are two very different cameras. Have you narrowed your choices down yet? Are there any features that you must have, want to have, or could do without?

You need to start your selection process somewhere.

A budget of $1000 eliminates several dSLRs from consideration, but not enough. For landscapes you'll need a good wide-angle lens, probably a zoom, and maybe the kit lens will do well for you. For outdoor sports you'll need a good telephoto zoom. How do you feel about IS? Memory card formats? Fast lenses? Available light photography?

Without a doubt, there are people here that will point you at their favorite camera, but what may be good for them may not be good for you. You need to help us out here.
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Old Feb 18, 2008, 9:40 AM   #8
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Lollan wrote:
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I seriously doubt I will be doing any sports photography, just landscapes/close up macro shots of nature. Image Stabilization, I'm assuming you're asking this regarding whether I'd prefer it in the camera or on the lens, I have no preference here. ...
Actually, no. What I was asking is if you want it or not. For wide angle lenses, IS doesn't help much. When you compare the amount of camera shake to the angle of view of the lens, there isn't much motion blur, so the benifits of IS are negligible.

But for other types of photography, it is quite useful. You say you "want to be able to walk around in the city/nature and take photos with minimal startup/capture delay." That's got 'dSLR' written all over it, but if you intend to do candids/environmental portraits, the focal length gets longer and IS becomes a bigger help. If, by 'nature' you mean 'wildlife', you'll need a longer lens, and that would definately benifit from IS, but if you mean a walk-around lens for hikes on wooded trails, you would see much very far away anyway, so a long lens won't help much.

Lollan wrote:
Quote:
... I understand AF-S lenses costs more as well, which is something that is putting me more towards an E-510....
AF-S lenses are Nikon's lenses that have the built-in motor that the D40/D40X/D60lack. it has nothing to do with IS.

Lollan wrote:
Quote:
I would like one with a nice built in flash (if they do exist), I'd prefer to not be too incredibly limited by low lighting situation, but If I understand correctly, you can only do so much with an integrated flash and external lighting becomes almost necessary. I'm not sure how necessary a faster lens is, but for scenes with people moving/waves crashing, I would prefer to not have any blurring here.
The built-in flashes generally are only good out to between 10 and 15 meters. For longerdistances, and for indirect flash, you'll need an external flash.

The term 'fast lens'means a lens with a larger maximum aperture that lets in more light, so you can take photos at faster shutter speeds. It also means that you can take photos without flash thatyou would not be able to tale with a slower (kit) lens. For instance, kit lenses generally have a maximum aperture of f/3.5 at theirshortest focal lengths (widest angle of view) andf/5.6 at their longest focal lengths (greatest magnification.) That means, atits shorter focal lengths the lenslets inmore than twice as much light as it does at its longer focal lengths. And atany focal length,they're pretty slow. A faster lens, like the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8,has a zoom range similar toa kit lens, but lest in twice as much light at the shorter focal length andmore than 4 times the light at the longer focal lengths. This not only means that you can takemore photos without flash, but you can also take photos at faster shutter speeds. (That's where the 'fast' comes from.)

Lollan wrote:
Quote:
I want to be able to walk around in the city/nature and take photos with minimal startup/capture delay.
Short lag time (from pressing the shutter button to taking the photo) plus autofocus speed.

Lollan wrote:
Quote:
I want to be limited by lighting as little as possible ...
Fast lens (as in, not the kit lens.)

Lollan wrote:
Quote:
... want to minimize on blurring with movement....
Image stabilization, whether in the lens or the body. (But you probably won't get a dSLR withIS in the lens for less than $1000.)

Lollan wrote:
Quote:
I will try to get to a Wolf Camera this afternoon and hopefully narrow my selection some after holding a few.
Excellent idea.
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Old Feb 18, 2008, 10:00 AM   #9
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TCav wrote:
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The built-in flashes generally are only good out to between 10 and 15 meters.
Don't confuse GN (Guide Number) with flash range.

Most DSLR models have a GN of between 10 and 15 meters at ISO 100. For example, the E-510 being discussed has a GN of 12 meters.

That does *not* mean the flash range is 12 meters (unless you happen to be using a custom f/1.0 lens).

To determine flash range, you need to divide the GN by the aperture setting being used.

For example, a flash with a GN of 12 Meters at ISO 100, shooting at f/5.6 (the widest available aperture with most "kit" lenses if you zoom in much), would have a flash range of approximately 2.1 meters (12 / 5.6 = 2.14 meters) at ISO 100.

Then, each time you double the ISO speed, the flash range increases by approximately 1.4x

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Old Feb 18, 2008, 10:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Image stabilization, whether in the lens or the body. (But you probably won't get a dSLR withIS in the lens for less than $1000.)
Actually you can. One example from Wolf

http://www.wolfcamera.com/product/SLR1173.htm

You could also likely switch the 18-55 for the 18-55 Vr for a few dollars more and have Vr on both lenses of the kit. Both Nikon and Canon arre beginning to release inexpensive VR lenses at the consumer level.



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