Go Back   Steve's Digicams Forums > Digicam Help > What Camera Should I Buy?

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old Oct 13, 2008, 12:00 PM   #1
PTC
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 10
Default

I know that the Canon XSI/Nikon D80/Olympus e520 use different sizes and differnt types of sensors. I realize that all of these would be an improvement over the small sensor in my current camera (a Kodak P850), but I would like some discussion as to the differences and practical advantages between them and others. My budget won't allow me to invest in a full frame camera but I would like to get the best results and value for what I intend to spend. I formerly had used a 35mm SLR before going digital.
PTC is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Old Oct 13, 2008, 12:31 PM   #2
Administrator
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378
Default

Canon makes their own sensors and uses an APS-C size CMOS Sensor in the XSi. The Nikon D80 uses a Sony 10MP CCD Sensor (as do the Sony 10MP dSLR models like the A200 and A300, as well as the 10MP Pentax models). Other 10MP Nikon models like the D40x and D60 also use a Sony 10MP CCD Sensor.

With Nikon, Sony and Pentax models using a Sony APS-C size sensor, you need to multiply the focal length of a lens by 1.5x to see what focal length you'd need on a 35mm camera for the same angle of view. For example, if you used a 100mm lens on one of these cameras, you'd have the same angle of view you'd have using a 150mm lens on a 35mm camera (100mm x 1.5 = 150mm). Use 1.6x for Canon models like the XSi with an APS-C sensor (it's a sensor is a slightly smaller compared to the Sony APS-C size sensors).

The Olympus dSLR models use an even smaller sensor (which is why you have an even narrower angle of view for a given focal length with their 4/3 system cameras). The sensors in the current Olympus dSLR models including the E-520 you're looking at are made by Panasonic (Matsushita). Most older Olympus models (E-300, E330, etc.) used Kodak sensors. With an Olympus dSLR model, you have the same angle of view you'd have using a focal length twice as long on a 35mm camera (multiply the focal length of a lens by 2x to see how they compare). So, a 100mm lens on an Olympus model would give you the same angle of view you'd have using a 200mm lens on a camera using a 35mm size film or sensor (100mm x 2 = 200mm).

As a general full of thumb, all else being equal between sensors (and it rarely is), the sensor with the larger photosites for each pixel (which usually implies a larger sensor for the same quantity of pixels) will have lower noise and better dynamic range within a given market niche. A less dense sensor with larger photosites will also place lower demands on the lens quality needed to resolve detail.

But, because advances are being made in sensor design (more efficient microlens designs, etc.) and supporting chipset designs, you still need to take them on a case by case basis. Also, you'll find differences in image processing between camera models, even when they're using the same sensor.

Sensor size also impacts Depth of Field (you'll have a shallower depth of field for a given aperture and focus distance if the subject occupies the same percentage of the frame using a model with a larger sensor, since you'd use a longer focal length with a larger sensor for the same angle of view).

But, I'd compare output from the cameras you're interested in, versus looking at sensor size and type alone.

JimC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 13, 2008, 1:27 PM   #3
Senior Member
 
mtngal's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Frazier Park, CA
Posts: 16,052
Default

And as an addition to what JimC said, there's one Pentax camera (the K20) that uses a new 14 mp sensor made by Samsung (which Samsung also uses in their equivalent camera). It's the same APS-C size sensor as the 10 mp cameras, but has different characteristics.

And JimC is right - cameras made by different manufacturers but using the same sensor can have quite different output. Some will have more aggressive noise reduction at the expense of detail, for instance. Look at sample pictures posted with several different reviews to get a better idea of what the camera is capable of, and whether you like what it can produce.

Do you still have your 35mm equipment? I never got rid of my old Pentax stuff when I bought my first digital camera, and I was able to use all my old lenses - saving me quite a bit of money. Most other camera manufacturers have some backwards compatibility (some more than others). It's worth considering if you still have some lenses from your film days.
mtngal is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 13, 2008, 2:34 PM   #4
Administrator
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378
Default

mtngal wrote:
Quote:
And as an addition to what JimC said, there's one Pentax camera (the K20) that uses a new 14 mp sensor made by Samsung (which Samsung also uses in their equivalent camera). It's the same APS-C size sensor as the 10 mp cameras, but has different characteristics.
Speaking of the K20D, Pentax just lowered the price to $999. See Steve's Breaking News page:

http://www.steves-digicams.com/diginews.html#k20d_drop

JimC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 13, 2008, 2:59 PM   #5
PTC
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 10
Default

Thanks, I still have my old 35 mm SLR lenses, although they were not of the best quality. They use a Ricoh mount which I believe is the same as a Pentax k. I did previously own a Olympus p&s digital that gave me impressive results for rather low resolutuion camera (1.8 mp - D490Z?). Anyway I am considering the Olympus e520 or e510, but am concerned about the smaller sensor. They both seemed to have gotten fairly good reviews and would like some opinions from users of those cameras.
PTC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 13, 2008, 3:16 PM   #6
Moderator
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 8,529
Default

From an image quality standpoint I think you'll find the results from the two Oly cameras to be very, very good in most cases. Certainly, image quality is also dependent upon the lenses you pair with your camera. Pro grade lenses provide much better sharpness at the extremes (wide open apertures, minimum and maximum zoom) than kit lenses and other consumer grade glass. The Oly cameras also come with very good kit lenses.

I think the only real knocks on Oly compared to the competition are:

1. Noise levels at higher ISOs (800+) are worse than the competition

2. Focus system - especially tracking moving subjects and in low light is worse than the competition.

3. Depending on your point of view, the deeper Depth-of-field (DOF) for a given focal length is either a benefit or drawback. This again is a result of the smaller sensor size.

4. Lens selection / availability - It can be a little tougher to find lenses for this mount as compared to Canon / Nikon. To be sure they have enough of the common focal lengths covered it's not a huge concern. But Canon and Nikon especially have a larger selection of lenses available both from those companies as well as from third-party companies like Sigma and Tamron. The selection has gotten better in the last year though so it's moving in the right direction.

In general, if you're not photographing action and not using high ISO alot, the Oly cameras are a great solution - you get a lot of bang for your buck. And a look at the oly forum will show that when you stay within the limits of the gear (something you need to do with any camera/lens combo) the results are very competitive with other manufacturers.
JohnG is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 13, 2008, 3:35 PM   #7
Administrator
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378
Default

Dynamic Range (ability to capture a greater range of dark to bright) tends to be a bit lower from Olympus dSLR models. The newer E-520 appears to be a little better in this area from user reports compared to previous Olympus dSLR models, but it's highlight range is still significantly lower than the competing models if that's a big consideration.

From tests I've seen, the E-520 has almost a stop less Dynamic Range compared to some of the competing models with larger sensors. For example, some of the models using Sony sensors could still retain detail in areas roughly twice as bright as this Olympus model, given properly exposed mid tones. The Canon model you're looking at also has significantly better Dynamic Range compared to this Olympus model.

Everything tends to be a tradeoff (Dynamic Range, noise, detail captured, size, weight, etc.), with pros and cons to any of them.

I'd give members here more information on what types of subjects you want to shoot more often, and the conditions you plan on shooting in for better recommendations.

JimC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 13, 2008, 5:04 PM   #8
PTC
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 10
Default

I tend to shoot mostly nature photos; more landscapes than anything. It seems I would tend to want more detail in low light settings rather than to be concerned about overexposure.
PTC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 13, 2008, 5:25 PM   #9
Administrator
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378
Default

If you're not shooting in conditions that require the ability to capture a greater range of bright to dark (or don't mind deliberately underexposing shots a bit and increasing brightness as needed in some areas via an image editor later), the Olympus models are a good bet for landscapes.

They have more depth of field compared to other dSLR models for those types of photos, and very good lenses that can take advantage of it.

Frankly, for more versatility in a greater variety of conditions, I'd probably take a closer look at the other models you're considering though (as well as similar Sony and Pentax models). But, my opinion is probably a bit biased towards other solutions, since I shoot with a different model right now. Compare the output of these models using your own eyes, and make sure to try them out in a store to see what you're more comfortable with. Any of the newer dSLR models are capable of taking nice photos in the conditions you're referring to.


JimC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 13, 2008, 6:52 PM   #10
Senior Member
 
TCav's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Washington, DC, Metro Area, Maryland
Posts: 13,544
Default

I agree that an Olympus would be a good choice for what you want to do, if you don't mind the cost and the limited selectionof their top lenses. There aren't a lot of wide angle lenses for the Olympus, and the ones that are available can be expensive

But I'd like to point out a difference between the two models you mentioned. Both the E-510 and the E-520 have 'Live View' which lets you compose the shot with the LCD display, but the E-510 can't autofocus using 'Live View'. I consider this to be a significant shortcoming of the E-510, and would suggest that, of the two, you go with the E-520.
TCav is offline   Reply With Quote
 
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off



All times are GMT -5. The time now is 9:08 AM.