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Old Oct 24, 2008, 6:04 PM   #1
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Well, these forums are a wealth of information, and I'm glad my search has led me here. I'm hoping you kind folks will share some wisdom.

The goal is to upgrade our Canon Powershot Pro S2is.

My original thought was to go Nikon D40 with a 18-200mm VR lens. Why? Because the Nikon felt sturdier in my hand than the Canon XSi. No strong feelings or opinions one way or another. I'm drawn to the lens because my research shows me that it is a good "walk around" lens. Truth is, I'm having trouble pinpointingexactlywhat kind of shots I take most.I like to photograph mykids and daily activities in our busy homeschool.We enjoy going to the nature park too. So...indoor shots of busy kids and outdoor shots of flowers, bugs, and trees. I don't take tons of sports photos at this time.My hope is that this lens would give decent shots in a rather wide spectrum of settings.

Nikon D40 seemed like a good "starter" camera from what I read, although I'm not seeing much mention of it inrecent forums here.My logic is to get an entry level body, but invest ingood lenses and flash over time,my thought being that the body could always be upgraded later if necessary.

So, my questions....

1. Nikon D40 with 18-200 VR. Good plan to start?

2. I realize D40 does not have auto-focus in body. How much of a concern is this?

3. I hope I can word this well............how "low do you go" on a decent starter camera? I recognize the need to sacrifice some features for the sake of budget. I'd like to spend total of around $1500. Is it better to get the D40 (or XSi) with good lens, or is money better spent on better body with fewer lenses/accessories? Anyone feel the need to say don't go lower than a D60? Or D80? Etc??

4. Lastly, (I know I'm asking a lot at once!) does one get any more/less flexibility in lens choiceswith D40 over a XSi??

Sure appreciate your time in response.
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Old Oct 24, 2008, 6:49 PM   #2
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I happen to like the 6 mp pixel sensor that's used in the D40 (but not the D40X, which has a 10 MP sensor). I still have my Pentax K100, which uses the same sensor, even though I had the opportunity to sell it when I upgraded to the K20. Unless you plan to print posters or crop heavily, it will be enough. It's pretty good at higher ISO levels (less noise than the 10 mp sensor, at least based on my experience with Pentax, which uses the same sensors).

Your idea of getting better lenses rather than a more feature-filled camera is also smart - a lens can last for a very long time (I'm still using ones that I bought in 1980). It doesn't sound like any of what you want to do would require a more advanced camera.

The lack of an AF motor in the camera will be a concern to some, but not to others. It depends on what lenses you are planning on getting, and whether you mind manual focus or not. Two of my favorite lenses are manual focus and it doesn't bother me in the least, but others would find it a deal breaker.

The xsi doesn't have the AF lens limitation, so it would definitely be more flexible for lens choices. On the other hand, if you are perfectly happy with the lens choices that are available for the Nikon, it wouldn't matter. Thebiggestlimitation with theNikonuntil recentlywas the lackof afast 50mm lens (something you would definitely like when shooting indoors), and they have now addressed that.

Plan also on buying a flash - the in-camera flashes aren't the best, no matter what camera you buy. You'll need it for the kids.
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Old Oct 24, 2008, 10:40 PM   #3
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As mtngal said, the D40 doesn't have an internal autofocus motor, which limits your selection of lenses. But I think the more important issue is that its autofocus system is poor for moving subjects, so you may have trouble with shots of busy kits. Unfortunately, that autofocus system is the same as the one in the other entry level NikondSLRs,the D40X and D60.

As for the 18-200 VR, it is one of the best lenses of its kind, but that's not saying much. Lenses of its kind aren't very sharp, and suffer from optical distortion at the wide end and chromatic aberation at the long end. They are also dim, requiring higher ISO settings, slower shutter speeds, or a flash (not the small, built-in one.) And dim lenses make the autofocus system even more unreliable. And they are more expensive than two lenses with less ambitious zoom ranges, that would provide better image quality.

I think you should figure out what range of focal lengths you use, and narrow down your lens selection accordingly.

For $1,500, you should be able to get a nice kit. But I don't think the entry level Nikons would be a good choice for what you want to do, and if you don't like how the Canon feels, I think you should try the Olympus, Pentax and Sony dSLRs.
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Old Oct 25, 2008, 9:08 AM   #4
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Thank you for the feedback. I'd like to follow up on a few things.

First, I read with interest your points about the 18-200 lens. Are the kit lenses good lenses? Perhaps I dimissed those too readily. What are the general uses for an 18-55 and a 55-200 lens? Given the objective of photographing kids indoors, is there a clear cut recommendation for a lens that will perform well?

Also, in your opinion(s), is the Canon XSi a better choice than an entry level Nikon?

Thanks again for the pointers.
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Old Oct 25, 2008, 11:10 AM   #5
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M. Bear wrote:
Quote:
First, I read with interest your points about the 18-200 lens. Are the kit lenses good lenses? Perhaps I dimissed those too readily.
In general, kit lenses are not great lenses, or even very good. But where their ranges overlap, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX Nikkor generally outperforms the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX VR Nikkor.

M. Bear wrote:
Quote:
What are the general uses for an 18-55 and a 55-200 lens?
I think the range of 18-55mm will cover what you described you wanted to shoot, though somethinga little wider and/or a little longer might be useful. For instance, for a Nikon dSLR, the Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor is a very good choice. In addition to covering an appropriate range of focal lengths, it outperforms the 18-55 and 18-200 in every respect, and it has optical image stabilization, but it costs ~$570 (though that is still within your budget.)

M. Bear wrote:
Quote:
Given the objective of photographing kids indoors, is there a clear cut recommendation for a lens that will perform well?
I pefer available light photography, so I'll tell you that a large aperture lens with a similar zoom range to the kit lens will work well. The Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II LD Aspherical IF SP AF is a good example, and is available for most dSLRs. But others will tell you to get a good external flash, and even the dimmest kit lens will be sufficient. I counter that a good large aperture lens will optically outperorm a kit lens, and the nuances of flash photography can make candid shots difficult. Plus flash recycle times limit your ability to take a sequence of photos. But large aperture lenses have very small depths of field, and that may not give you the results you'd like.

M. Bear wrote:
Quote:
Also, in your opinion(s), is the Canon XSi a better choice than an entry level Nikon?
In my opinion, how a camera feels to you has a significant impact on how you'll use it. If you can't comfortably hold it, if you can't find the controls when you need them, you're going to miss some shots, and possibly blame it on the camera (and, perhaps, rightfully so.) But, yes, for what you want to do, I think the Canon XSi is a better choice.

Another factor in favor of the XSI, perhaps something you haven't considered, is the 'Live View'. You can compose photos without lifting the camera to your eye, an advantage for candid photography, and in dim interior light, the LCD display might be easier to use than the optical viewfinder.

But, again, given the limitations of the entry level Nikons and your initial impression of the Canon, I suggest that you give the Olympus, Pentax and Sony models a try.
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Old Oct 25, 2008, 12:11 PM   #6
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Alright - here goes.

First I will agree with TCAV that how a camera feels to you is critical. If you don't like the feel then you won't use the camera. So handling a camera is very important to success.

I will also agre that superzooms aren't the best performers because they make a lot of compromises. HOWEVER, and this is key, they provide convenience. The question is which is more important TO YOU - convenience or quality. A superzoom like the Nikon will allow you to get all the shots you're talking about getting with a single lens. Without a doubt, a 2 lens solution will get you higher quality shots. Go to 3 or 4 lenses and you can get OUTSTANDING results. But that's a pain. You have to be willing to change lenses. Some people just don't like to do that - especially if you're switching back and forth between the types of shots you want to take.

So, it becomes a question of whether or not the superzoom produces GOOD ENOUGH quality for you.

As for indoors, TCAV and I are often in disagreement on this issue. I love available light photography. But it is best when your subject is relatively still AND you have a very well lit room. In those instances, shallow DOF available light photography is wonderful. BUT you need the right focal lengths for the style of shot you prefer. A 50mm lens on a 1.5 or 1.6 crop camera can be VERY tight - difficult to get full body shots in of older kids. And yet short for some portrait shots. So you have to do more work as a photographer. If you enjoy it that's great. But, available light photography is NOT a point and shoot thing.

I am a huge advocate that for kids indoors an external flash is essential. Precisely because you CANT always guarantee enough light and because they don't often sit still enough for 1/30 shutter speeds to work and because you often WANT more than one child in focus. It's great to be able to do BOTH but a flash is much, much more flexible than available light. But only if it's an external/bouncable flash.

Now, this is where the d40 presents an interesting choice: On the plus side, Nikon has arguably the best flash system on the market with a lot of flashes available. But as already mentioned there is only 1 prime lens that will autofocus and it's a 50mm one which is too tight for a lot of situations.

BUT I will also add - an external flash adds size/bulk to the camera. It goes back to the whole - if a camera isn't comfortable to you you won't use it. Some people find a flash too bulky so they don't want to carry it around. So it becomes a choice again - convenience vs. quality.

I personally think that if you aren't obsessed with quality that the d40 with 18-200 AND an external flash will suit your needs nicely. If at a later time you want to shoot more action you can upgrade (realize no camera with kit lens is going to do good at action photography) If you want better quality OR you want the current camera better positioned for action then things are tougher and you have to start making choices. But it sounds like you're just interested in a better point and shoot solution - which is exactly what the D40 18-200 was designed for.
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Old Oct 25, 2008, 2:02 PM   #7
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I welcome JohnG's contribution to this thread, and have a lot of respect for his skills and experience. Thank you John, for being the Counter Point to my Point. (... and hopefully I'm notflattering myself.)

To add to the 'Superzoom' discussion, I'd also like to point out that, not only do multiple lensesprovide better image quality thana superzoom lens, they also cost quite a bit less. The kit 18-55 and the 55-200 are better lenses, andcost less than half the 18-200 VR. Even the VR versions are better andrepresent a significant cost savings. That's a high price to pay for just convenience.

I don't understand why people, looking for better image quality and greater creative control, will go from a P&S digicam to a dSLR, and then tie one hand behind their back by only getting a superzoom lens. But that's just me.

But in the interest of producing a fair and balanced discussion, intended to lead the OP toward an informed decision, I concede all of JohnG's other points.

With a budget of $1,500, M. Bear could do a lot better than a D40 + flash +18-200 VR, though.
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Old Oct 26, 2008, 3:33 PM   #8
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You've already had some good advice but I'll add my limited input as a D40 user. I went from compact digicams to superzoom to D40 within 2 years. I don't take action photography so the D40 autofocus is fine - still much quicker to turn on and focus rapidly than my other cameras. My son used my D40 with external flash (just so easy to get natural looking indoor pictures) then bought a D80 and now D90. They feel too heavy for me, and at present I feel no need to upgrade after 18 months with the D40.

There are other entry DSLRs, but as JohnG said,your proposed combinationis a great first DSLR/lens combinationand the D40 is now at a very low price. My son has the 18-200VR lens - my walkaround is the 18-135mm which I bought second hand. I still use the superzoom with teleconvertor for bird photography but have a Fuji 30 with me a lot of the time. From your posted requirements, the combination of D40, 18-200mm lens and external flash will give great flexibility with value. If you do get into more ambitious photography, Nikon has a good body upgrade path.
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Old Oct 26, 2008, 6:17 PM   #9
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The Canon XSi is in a completely different league from the D40.

The XSi is a semi-professional camera being offered at the higher end of amateur affordability.

If you can afford the XSi, go for it.

The D40 is a nice entry level camera - nothing wrong with it at all.

Rather than an 18-200, try to get a zoom that starts at 17mm, like a 17-50 or a 17-70 or 17-85. You'll get better optical quality if you don't ask a lens to cover wide angle to telephoto.
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