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Old Mar 1, 2008, 12:58 PM   #1
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Hey all, im just starting out and want to make the switch from Digicam to a DSLR. I've narrowed it down to 3 cameras but have no idea which one to get. The Sony a200, Nikon D40X and the front runner, Canon EOS 400D. I was wondering if there are any things that i should know regarding these cameras and suggestions would be great. Thanks! (I will be using it mostly for architectural, sports and low lighting shots. not sure if this will effect the choice)
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Old Mar 1, 2008, 1:29 PM   #2
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What kind of sports and what kind of low light shots?

The Nikon D40x will not Autofocus with some of Nikon's brighter primes (like the 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8, 105mm f/2 and more). The same thing is true for a number of third party lenses.

That's because the D40x does not have a built in focus motor, so you'll need to buy lenses that do if you don't want to use manual focus. For example, you'd be limited to Nikon's AF-S (Silent Wave Focusing) or Sigma HSM (Hypersonic Motor Focusing) lenses if you want Autofocus with brighter primes right now, and nothing brighter than f/2.8 is available in some focal lengths. Nikon decided not to include a focus motor in some of their entry level bodies (D40, D40x, D60).

So, I'd give members more information on what kind of sports (daytime, night games, indoor sports, etc.) and low light shots you're referring to.

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Old Mar 1, 2008, 1:39 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply! For the sports, its kind of like cars in motion. not soccer matches or anything like that. as for low lighting, im a person who wont use flash unless i really have to. and i tend to take pictures at night with little light available. Oh and another thing, i was wondering about the compatibility of 3rd party lenses for the cameras. such as pricing and range of lenses that they offer.
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Old Mar 1, 2008, 2:20 PM   #4
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Lens choice won't be as critical for daytime use.

For the night shots, that depends on the lighting and what you're shooting and what you mean by "little light". You may need a tripod for best results (and that won't help with blur from subject movement) if you're talking about shooting cityscapes.

In a typical home interior at night with lights one, you may still need a very bright lens and higher ISO speeds to prevent most blur from subject movement (and even then, you may have to wait until your subjects are relatively still).

If you want Autofocus, the Canon and Sony models are likely going to have a lot more choices in third party lenses compared to the D40x right now (btw, the Sony uses Minolta AF mount lenses), because of Nikon's decision to drop the in body focus motor in the D40, D40x, and D60.

What's your budget? In a popular budget zoom for the car races, you could grab a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO Macro Autofocus Lens for about $219 right now in Canon or Sony/Minolta mount (but, with a Nikon D40x you'd need to use manual focus with this lens).

If budget permits, there are better choices (for example, higher optical quality, faster Autofocus).

So, I'd let members know what kind of budget you have and what you mean by low light at night (indoors, cityscapes, etc.). You may need a tripod or brighter prime, depending on what you're shooting.


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Old Mar 1, 2008, 2:47 PM   #5
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Owlpig wrote:
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Hey all, im just starting out and want to make the switch from Digicam to a DSLR. I've narrowed it down to 3 cameras but have no idea which one to get. The Sony a200, Nikon D40X and the front runner, Canon EOS 400D. I was wondering if there are any things that i should know regarding these cameras and suggestions would be great. Thanks! (I will be using it mostly for architectural, sports and low lighting shots. not sure if this will effect the choice)
First, Sony dSLRs use sensor shift image stabilization, while the Canon and Nikon use optical image stabilization. For architectural photography, image stabilization (IS)won't be very useful, but for sports and low light photography, it will be very useful. Since Sony's IS is in the camera bodies, all images will be stabilized (limited or no motion blur from camera shake), regardless of the lens used. Canon and Nikon, on the other hand, rely on special optical systems in certain lenses to stabilize the image. Those lenses are bigger, heavier and more expensive, and most of the fast lenses that you'll be interested in for low light photography, aren't available with IS.

Second, the Canon 400D has a much better selection of lenses than the other two you mentioned, including some very good lenses for low light and sports photography. Of course, Canon uses optical image stabilization, so the lenses for sports photography are available with stabilization, but the lenses for low light photography generally aren't stabilized.
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Old Mar 1, 2008, 3:56 PM   #6
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Just in case you haven't seen something like this already, here's some direct comparisons between the Nikon and Canon:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/NikonD40X/page20.asp

The next page or two has some more comparisons between the two, also.

Too bad that the Sony is so new that there is a far lesser body of knowledge about it than the other two. Although, the autofocus performance of the A200 is said to be 1.7 times faster than the A100 with better predictability. It would be nice to know how the high ISO performance of the A200 compares to the other two, since this will be a critical factor if you plan to do a lot of available light shooting.

According to a recent article in PC Photo, Nikon has 53 lenses in their line, plus many lenses from independent makers like Tamron and Sigma. Because the D40x lacks a built-in focusing motor though, not all the available lenses will autofocus with it.

Canon has 60 lenes in their line plus the lenses made by third parties.

Sony has 24 lenses under the Sony name, but the Sony bodies can take older lenses made for the defunct Minolta Maxxum line.

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Old Mar 1, 2008, 5:04 PM   #7
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granthagen wrote:
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Too bad that the Sony is so new that there is a far lesser body of knowledge about it than the other two. Although, the autofocus performance of the A200 is said to be 1.7 times faster than the A100 with better predictability. It would be nice to know how the high ISO performance of the A200 compares to the other two, since this will be a critical factor if you plan to do a lot of available light shooting.
Dave Etchells has some controlled conditions tests with the same subjects online now. I am curious why he used faster shutter speeds for the same apertures and ISO speeds with the Sony (implying that it may be more sensitive than rated if lighting was the same). These are the images with NR set to Normal. Click on the photo that comes up to see the full size original.

Sony DSLR-A200, ISO 1600, 1/250 second, f/8:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PROD...00hSLI1600.HTM

Nikon D40x, ISO 1600, 1/200 second, f/8:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PROD...0XhSLI1600.HTM

Canon Rebel XTi, ISO 1600, 1/125 second, f/8:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PROD...TIhSLI1600.HTM

Sony DSLR-A200, ISO 3200, 1/500 second, f/8:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PROD...00hSLI3200.HTM

Nikon D40x, ISO 3200, 1/400 second, f/8:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PROD...0XhSLI3200.HTM

The Canon XTi (a.k.a., EOS-400D) does not have an available ISO 3200 setting.

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According to a recent article in PC Photo, Nikon has 53 lenses in their line, plus many lenses from independent makers like Tamron and Sigma. Because the D40x lacks a built-in focusing motor though, not all the available lenses will autofocus with it.
That's the problem, depending on what you want to shoot and your available budget.

The vast majority of third party lenses (Tamron, Tokina and more) will not Autofocus with the D40, D40x, or D60. Most of the budget choices more suitable for daytime sports (for example, Sigma and Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lenses) are available for Canon, Nikon or Sony (Minolta Autofocus Mount).

But, these lower priced 70-300mm lenses won't Autofocus on the entry level Nikon bodies like the D40, D40x or D60. Someone buying an entry level camera on a tight budget may not want to pay close to $500 to get a Nikon lens that reaches out that far with AF-S (which they'll need if they want Autofocus). Nikon's budget choices with AF-S only reach to 200mm. After that, prices jump considerably compared to the budget third party lens offerings with 300mm available (that won't Autofocus on the entry level Nikon bodies).

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Sony has 24 lenses under the Sony name, but the Sony bodies can take older lenses made for the defunct Minolta Maxxum line
As well as a number of third party lenses made by Sigma, Tamron and others, and there are lots of Autofocus Lenses in Minolta AF mount on the used market, too.

At any given time, you can usually find more used Autofocus lenses in Minolta AF mount compared to used Autofocus lenses in Canon or Nikon mount at popular vendors like http://www.keh.com , http://www,adorama.com and http://www.bhphotovideo.com (although there is not a lot of difference in the number of AF lenses you can find in these mounts, and one mount may have more than another at a given dealer, with all 3 mounts giving you a lot of choices).

But, if you exclude AF lenses without focus motors built in, since a lens based focus motor is required to Autofocus with the D40, D40x, and D60, the choices available on the market for the entry level Nikon bodies diminish considerably.

The entry level Nikon bodies are well liked. But, you could end up paying more for a body/lens combination for some uses, compared to entry level models from other manufacturers, because of the lens restrictions, unless you're willing to give up Autofocus. If you're OK with the available choices that include a focus motor built into the lens, that's great. Nikon has some very good lenses with AF-S, as does Sigma with it's compatible HSM lens choices.

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Old Mar 1, 2008, 8:57 PM   #8
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Some random thoughts that came to mind when I was reading this thread.

First, I shoot a certain amount of architecture, both exteriors and interiors. While you don't particularly need image stabilization when taking exteriors in daylight, I find it very useful for interiors. I rarely have a tripod when I'm taking interior shots (I'm not a pro doing real estate interiors, who would be more likely to always have a tripod and not need image stabilization). The Sony would be very high on my list if I were down to your three choices (I shoot Pentax which also has in-camera stabilization and love having it!).

Second, from what I understand, the only shift lens that is still being currently produced is made by Canon. While I've learned how to adjust for the "falling" lines/keystone effect with software, it's sometimes a bigger pain than I like to get right. Someday I hope to be able to find a used Pentax shift lens (they used to make a very good one) but they don't come on the market very often. Also, Canon makes some outstanding (and expensive!) fast long tele lenses that you would find useful for motor sports, so from a lens point of view there's some good reasons for going Canon.

Finally, the biggest thing you should consider is how the cameras feel in your hands. You won't carry a camera that is too heavy/too small/frustrating to use (i.e., don't like the viewfinder). The best camera in the world can't take good pictures if it is sitting in your closet.
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Old Mar 2, 2008, 3:17 AM   #9
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Nikon does some shift lenses too, and are just about to add to the range.

Shift lenses are pretty expensive though and if the OP were thinking along those lines he'd most likely be looking at a higher-end set of cameras.

For architectural work - forget IS use a tripod. Also you will likely be wanting the highest resolution you can find. For sports IS is essentially pointless too - for normal sports shooting you need high shutter speeds. For general low-light IS is of course useful. Good high-ISO performance is important for the latter two categories.

Actually architecture and low-light sports are at the polar opposite ends of the spectrum as far as shooting conditions are concerned. Buildings don't move around much so a tripod and low ISO and small apertures are best, choose lenses that minimise distortion.

Very interesting links that Jim posted. Ignoring the D40x for all the reasons stated above and comparing the A200 to the XTi what do you see?

My interpretation is:
First point - using in-camera JPG for this sort of comparison is ridiculous. If you care about quality from high-ISO use RAW. Aside from that...

The Sony is certainly using a different NR algorithm than Canon.

1. Sony NR is much more aggressive and lots of detail is smeared away. Look at the cloth swatches for example - the Canon shots retain far more detail and are not obviously more noisy to my eye. Also have a look at the colour-chart bottom-right, the Sony has smeared away the edge detail without any particular advantage in the end result.
2. The Sony exhibits some pretty nasty colour-moire at certain frequencies that the Canon avoids. The AA filter on the Sony would be weaker because of the higher resolution in any event but I think they have gone further than Canon would at this resolution. Look at the words "Pure Brewed" on the lager bottle bottom-right.
3. In areas unaffected by NR the Sony seems to have a slight sharpness advantage. Look at the "proportional scale" wheel. It's very hard to tell for sure though, it may simply be that the Canon dials in slightly less USM than the Sony. At any rate the Sony picture seems a tiny bit sharper but there are definitely colour artifacts that the Canon picture is not showing. I would rather have the Canon image if I was going to post-process it, easier to sharpen more, impossible to remove those artifacts.

I haven't yet read the conclusions on imaging-resource, but my conclusion from 100% viewing is that the Canon image is marginally better.

What do these results really show? That Canon is better? I hardly think so. The tests were using different lenses for a start. Lenses matter to resolution and chromatic abberation. They are JPG results not RAW for another thing. You probably wouldn't see these differences at all in prints 8x12 or smaller. I really wouldn't let this result sway your choice one way or the other.


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Old Mar 2, 2008, 5:58 AM   #10
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Hi Jim, I own a Nikon D40x, wi the kit lens. I usually take indoor pictures of my son and I find it extremely frustrating because the pictures always turn out blurred (reason.. moving objects, low light) . I received suggestions to get a fast lens but Im not sure which one I should opt for. The 50mm f1/8 is good but it's manual focus which may not be handy especially Im taking spontaneous pictures which leaves me very little time to aim, m.focus & snap. Would you be able to advise something for me which comes with auto focus. Appreciate your advise. Cheers.
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