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Old Sep 13, 2008, 10:46 PM   #1
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I'm really confused by all the specifications and review I have read and don't know what to pick! Please help me out.

I have previously had Olympus C series UZ cameras (first broken, second stolen). I grew up using my mom's old Pentax SLR and miss having a focus ring since switching to digital. I had temporarily switched back to that camera when my digital was stolen, but the cost of film and developing and lack of in-field preview make me homesick for digital.

I would like to get my body and at least one lens (two would be better) in my first purchase between $500 and $1000. I would also like to get a water proof bag and tripod at the same time (not included in that price). Later I would like to spend more money on a really big lens and external flash(es).

My main focus is on bird photography. Speed is of essence, so is the ability to have a long lens. I'm not real strong and have a medical condition so the lighter, the better. I'll be beating the bushes or in a canoe. I few things that annoyed me about my previous digitals were the slow zoom motor and difficult autofocus which always wanted to focus on the weed infront of the bird and took forever to manually focus (by that time the bird was gone).

I'm also interested in macro photography (flowers and insects), aquarium photography (multiple external flashes work great for this), general photography (people and rabbits at rescue events, photos of jewelry for sale), and would like to get into landscape and night photography.
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Old Sep 13, 2008, 10:57 PM   #2
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Cillana wrote:
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I'm really confused by all the specifications and review I have read and don't know what to pick! Please help me out.

I have previously had Olympus C series UZ cameras (first broken, second stolen). I grew up using my mom's old Pentax SLR and miss having a focus ring since switching to digital. I had temporarily switched back to that camera when my digital was stolen, but the cost of film and developing and lack of in-field preview make me homesick for digital.

I would like to get my body and at least one lens (two would be better) in my first purchase between $500 and $1000. I would also like to get a water proof bag and tripod at the same time (not included in that price). Later I would like to spend more money on a really big lens and external flash(es).

My main focus is on bird photography. Speed is of essence, so is the ability to have a long lens. I'm not real strong and have a medical condition so the lighter, the better. I'll be beating the bushes or in a canoe. I few things that annoyed me about my previous digitals were the slow zoom motor and difficult autofocus which always wanted to focus on the weed infront of the bird and took forever to manually focus (by that time the bird was gone).

I'm also interested in macro photography (flowers and insects), aquarium photography (multiple external flashes work great for this), general photography (people and rabbits at rescue events, photos of jewelry for sale), and would like to get into landscape and night photography.
Since you need a lightweight DSLR, the Olympus E420 and E520 are the lightest. The E420 weighs 440 grams and the E520 weighs 490 grams, including their battery. They both have numerous features, including live view, and are excellent cameras. The E520 has optical image stabilization in the body, which the E420 lacks, so the E520 is probably a better choice for your purposes.
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Old Sep 13, 2008, 11:55 PM   #3
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I'm not a total wimp mind you, so I don't want to be limited to the lightest ones if you think another camera has better performance or price. How heavy are lenses? I usually carry my small field guide but will bring the big Sibley's if I'm dealing with difficult sandpipers or sparrows. I bring a lot of water as I'm on a diuretic and dehydrate easily. Also my awesome but kinda heavy binocs are always with me. I'll definitely need a lightweight tripod (or maybe I should go mono?). Any body ever have problems holding a camera with a light weight body and heavy lens? Seems like it might be unbalanced.
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Old Sep 14, 2008, 12:05 AM   #4
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As was pointed out, the Oly cameras are about as light as you'll find with dSLR cameras, and probably should be really high on your list.

After that, the Pentax K200 might work well for you, since you already have some Pentax lenses that will work on it. Also, the K200 is weather sealed (not weather proof - you'll still need a housing for underwater photography), which would probably be nice when you are outdoors. It probably should be fairly high on your list since you could save money initially by using your old lenses, and you gain the weather sealing.

You really need to temporarily forget about specs and go to a camera store that carries a good selection of dSLR cameras. Handle them a lot - are they too heavy? Can you reach the controls easily? How does it fit your hand? Can you see through the viewfinder clearly? All of the entrydSLR cameras are capable of taking outstanding pictures so ergonomics become very important.

P.S. I shoot Pentax and love them.

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Old Sep 14, 2008, 12:48 AM   #5
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Thanks for the tip about ergonomics. I hadn't thought of that.

BTW, I do NOT have Pentax lenses. That is my mom's camera. I was only borrowing it for a couple months. I have since returned it to her. She lives 5 hours away from me so I can't exactly go over and borrow her lenses when I want to.

I definitely want to get a waterproof case as I will be shooting from a canoe and want to protect it should I drop it or capsize. I think I'll rope it to me or the boat so I don't lose it in the murky depths (well shallow water but definitely a few feet of mud to get lost in).
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Old Sep 14, 2008, 6:22 AM   #6
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I presume that when you say "... but the cost of film and developing and lack of in-field preview make me homesick for digital", that, by "in-field preview", you mean being able to frame using the LCD display instead of the optical viewfinder. That is referred to as 'Live View', and is not common on dSLRs. Within your budget ("between $500 and $1000"), your choices are:
  • Canon XS (10MP) [/*]
  • Canon XSi (12MP) [/*]
  • Olympus E-420 (10MP) [/*]
  • Olympus E-510 (10MP) [/*]
  • Olympus E-520 (10MP) [/*]
  • Sony A300 (10MP) [/*]
  • Sony A350 (14MP)
[/*]
The Nikon D90 and Pentax K20D have 'Live View' and sell for just under$1,000, but don't include any lenses.

Canon has the best autofocus system for what you want to do. Canon has the largest selection of OEM and third party lenses and accessories. Canon uses optical image stabilization in some of its lenses, which makes them bigger, heavier, and more expensive.

The Olympus E-510 and E520 and both Sonys use sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, so any lens attached will be stabilized.The Olympus E-410 does not offer image stabilization.

Olympus has the smallest selection of OEM and third party lenses and accessories, and thay can be expensive. They alsohave the smallest andlightest camera bodies, and for equivalent angles of view, the smallest andlightest lenses as well. Within this group, Olympus has the least capable autofocus system for what you want to do. Also, the E-510 can't autofocus while using the 'Live View'

Sony has a better selection of new lenses and accessories than Olympus but not as good as Canon. But since Sony dSLRs can use Minolta autofocus lenses, Sony has the best selection of used lenses, which are available at prices that are more reasonable than some of Sony's new lenses. Sony's 'Live View' dSLRs are the only ones in this list that have articulating LCD displays which may come in handy for some of what you want to do.

When Olympus switched to digital, they went with a new lens mount, so none of their older film lenses will work with their new digital bodies.

All of these can do what you want, and they all have advantages and disadvantages. I suggest you look at the Wildlife Photosforum, and see what other people are using. I also suggest that you follow mtngal's advice and try them out for yourself to see how they fit.
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Old Sep 14, 2008, 7:44 AM   #7
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Cillana wrote:
Quote:
I definitely want to get a waterproof case as I will be shooting from a canoe and want to protect it should I drop it or capsize. I think I'll rope it to me or the boat so I don't lose it in the murky depths (well shallow water but definitely a few feet of mud to get lost in).
For some of what you want to do, you'll need a long lens, and fitting a dSLR with a long lens into a waterproof case might be tough.

There are plastic bags specifically for this purpose that are waterproof up to about 6 feet, and some even float. (See http://www.aquapac.net/usstore/erol.html#588X0)

But for this, you might be better off with a superzoom instead of a dSLR.



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Old Sep 14, 2008, 10:47 AM   #8
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TCav wrote:
Quote:
I presume that when you say "... but the cost of film and developing and lack of in-field preview make me homesick for digital", that, by "in-field preview", you mean being able to frame using the LCD display instead of the optical viewfinder. That is referred to as 'Live View', and is not common on dSLRs. Within your budget ("between $500 and $1000"), your choices are:
  • Canon XS (10MP) [/*]
  • Canon XSi (12MP) [/*]
  • Olympus E-420 (10MP) [/*]
  • Olympus E-510 (10MP) [/*]
  • Olympus E-520 (10MP) [/*]
  • Sony A300 (10MP) [/*]
  • Sony A350 (14MP)[/*]
The Nikon D90 and Pentax K20D have 'Live View' and sell for just under$1,000, but don't include any lenses.

Canon has the best autofocus system for what you want to do. Canon has the largest selection of OEM and third party lenses and accessories. Canon uses optical image stabilization in some of its lenses, which makes them bigger, heavier, and more expensive.

The Olympus E-510 and E520 and both Sonys use sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, so any lens attached will be stabilized.The Olympus E-410 does not offer image stabilization.

Olympus has the smallest selection of OEM and third party lenses and accessories, and thay can be expensive. They alsohave the smallest andlightest camera bodies, and for equivalent angles of view, the smallest andlightest lenses as well. Within this group, Olympus has the least capable autofocus system for what you want to do. Also, the E-510 can't autofocus while using the 'Live View'

Sony has a better selection of new lenses and accessories than Olympus but not as good as Canon. But since Sony dSLRs can use Minolta autofocus lenses, Sony has the best selection of used lenses, which are available at prices that are more reasonable than some of Sony's new lenses. Sony's 'Live View' dSLRs are the only ones in this list that have articulating LCD displays which may come in handy for some of what you want to do.

When Olympus switched to digital, they went with a new lens mount, so none of their older film lenses will work with their new digital bodies.

All of these can do what you want, and they all have advantages and disadvantages. I suggest you look at the Wildlife Photosforum, and see what other people are using. I also suggest that you follow mtngal's advice and try them out for yourself to see how they fit.
No no no... I guess I should have said "review" not "preview". I just meant that I can see whether I got the shot I wanted before I go home. Or if the settings I used worked right or if I need to adjust and take another.
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Old Sep 14, 2008, 11:14 AM   #9
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TCav wrote:
Quote:
Cillana wrote:
Quote:
I definitely want to get a waterproof case as I will be shooting from a canoe and want to protect it should I drop it or capsize. I think I'll rope it to me or the boat so I don't lose it in the murky depths (well shallow water but definitely a few feet of mud to get lost in).
For some of what you want to do, you'll need a long lens, and fitting a dSLR with a long lens into a waterproof case might be tough.

There are plastic bags specifically for this purpose that are waterproof up to about 6 feet, and some even float. (See http://www.aquapac.net/usstore/erol.html#588X0 )

But for this, you might be better off with a superzoom instead of a dSLR.


Yeah, I was looking at some bags too and realized that they don't really allow for manually adjusting zoom. I had been looking favorably at the Olympus SP-570. It does have some advantages over my old UZs like an external flash mount and image stabilization. And it's cheaper than a dSLR. I've thought of getting this camera then if I'm not satisfied with the reach or speed or light in some instances get a second camera (a dSLR) to use in those instances. The super zoom would be advantageous when I'm in the canoe also because it is less equipment to carry. Also it would be better in social situations where I would worry about damaging/losing/having stolen a more expensive camera and not beable to enjoy myself.
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Old Sep 14, 2008, 11:16 AM   #10
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Cillana wrote:
Quote:
No no no... I guess I should have said "review" not "preview". I just meant that I can see whether I got the shot I wanted before I go home. Or if the settings I used worked right or if I need to adjust and take another.
Ok, so add these to that list:
  • Canon XTi (10MP) [/*]
  • Nikon D40 (6MP) [/*]
  • Nikon D40X (10MP) [/*]
  • Nikon D60 (10MP) [/*]
  • Nikon D80 (10MP) [/*]
  • Pentax K200D (10MP) [/*]
  • Sony A200 (10MP)
Everything I said in my first message applies, with the following additions:
[/*]
  • Nikon's selection of OEM and third party lenses and accessories isn't as good as Canon's, but it's better than everybody else's. [/*]
  • Nikon uses optical image stabilization in some of its lenses, just like Canon. [/*]
  • Nikon's entry level dSLRs (D40/D40X/D60) don't have an internal autofocus motor, so the selection of OEM and third party lenses for these models is slightly better than for Olympus, but worse than any others. [/*]
  • Nikon's entry level dLSRs also have a poor autofocus system for what you want to do. [/*]
  • Pentax uses sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, just like Sony and most Olympus bodies. [/*]
  • Pentax' selection of lenses and accessories is about equal to Sony's, but it includes more large aperture primes and fewer telephoto lenses. Pentax lenses and accessories also tend to be less expensive than Sony's.[/*]
There are good quality third party lenses that will do what you want, are reasonably priced, and fit all these cameras.
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