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Old Dec 4, 2008, 11:27 AM   #1
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Hi everyone,
I just found this resource. Thanks in advance for your help.

I'm looking to buy my first DSLR after using P&S for years. My wants/needs are these:

1. Entry-level camera that I won't grow out of within a few months.
2. Smaller and lighter for hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor sports.
3. Good macro lens for food photography.
4. Related to #3, good low light capabilities (e.g. for dinner pics).
5. Good for all-around family shots, my kids.

If you look at my blog, you'll see that my trusty Canon SD850 IS elph can squeeze off decent macro shots when the natural light is right, but for indoors and low light it's not cutting it.

http://fat-of-the-land.blogspot.com/

I'd like to spend less than US $1200 on the camera kit and macro if possible.

Thanks so much for your input everyone!

Finny
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 12:25 PM   #2
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Finny-

First a bit of info. A DSLR camera does not have a button to switch to theMacro Mode. Instead a macro lens is utilized.

I just purchased a Pentax K-200 and have been happy with the results.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 12:31 PM   #3
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Hi Sarah,

Sorry if I was unclear. I'd like to know if there are recommended macro lenses to go with the camera body. How did you decide on the Pentax?

Thanks,
Finny
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 1:17 PM   #4
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Generally speaking, you should look at the selection of lenses available for each brand, look for the lenses you think you'll need, and buy the camera that can use the lenses you find.

You have some requirements that are, in effect, contraditory. For instance, you want "Smaller and lighter", but "outdoor sports". Olympus makes the smallest, lightest dSLRs available, but they're not very good for shooting sports, and typical lenses for shooting sports are bigger and heavier than average.

And if weight is important, the Pentax K200Dthat mtclimber recommended, is the heaviest entry level dSLR body. (Yes, sorry, a budget of $1,200 for a dSLR and lenses is entry level.)
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 1:34 PM   #5
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Hi TCav,

You're right. Let's amend my original statement about outdoor sports: When I'm outside I like to shoot macro shots of wildflowers, mushrooms, and other close-up nature stuff, as well as landscape shots, portraits, and the like. I won't be shooting a lot of, for instance, downhill skiing. But now that you mention it, I might try to capture my kid kicking a soccer ball.

I see your point about lenses. Let's say I want the following: a decent kit lens for all-around family/domestic shots; a macro for food and close-up nature stills; and someday in the future a telephoto for soccer games and birds. My most pressing needs are for food, nature close-ups (of non-moving plants/fungi), and family candids.

Sorry my OP wasn't clear enough!

Fin

p.s. I ruled out Oly b/c I don't want 4/3, or I don't think I want it. Should I reconsider? Also, I noticed the Canon XSi and Nikon D60 are about the same size/weight, but I wonder about the Nikon motor-in-the-lens issue...
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 1:45 PM   #6
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Finny-

You can buy a Promaster 100mm Macro lens for the Pentax for about $100.00. The body for the Pentax K200 is running at around $(US)470.00. So there are some ballpark figures for you.

I arrived at my decision on the K200 by going through the professional reviews.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 3:29 PM   #7
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Since you mentioned small and light, you might check out the Pentax K-M (or K2000). It's a new camera that's not much heavier/larger than the Oly, but shares the same sensor that the K200 has. The light weight comes from not offering the weather sealing that the K200 has (a disadvantage for snow sports). It's new, comes as a kit only that also includes a flash unit (nice to have). It's probably not the best "deal" out there since the prices on the K200 have dropped so much (it's been out for a year, I think, and its current pricing makes it an excellent deal), but might be more what you'd like.

The Pentax kit lens is pretty good - I still use mine. But I don't think it's any better than any of the other manufacturer kit lenses - since Canon improved their kit lens,they all seem very similar.

When it comes to macro, the Promaster 100mm lens has good optics and isn't very expensive. It's sold under a number of different names (I used to have the Phoenix, which is the same lens) and I think it's available in a number of different mounts. Just my experience (I take mostly macro and landscape) but I found auto focus can be a liability for macro, where your depth of field is so small. Pentax dSLR cameras can use any Pentax lens ever made (screw-mount lenses require an adaptor, but K-mount lenses don't need one), so you can often pick up excellent used manual focus lenses for quite a bit less than a new lens. My macro lens (a Vivitar Series One 105mm macro) cost $250 on ebay. I'd call itacult lens as it has a pretty big following, which has pushed its price up. And it's significantly heavier than the Phoenix, which is made of light-weight plastic and is easier to carry hiking.

Since you mentioned low light, you might want to think about getting a Pentax FA 50mm f1.4 lens, a very nice, fast lens and then adding an extension tube or an add-on close focusing dioper filter for macro. That would be more flexible - you can always add a true macro lens later on if you decide messing with extension tubes and dioper add-ons too much bother.
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 3:49 PM   #8
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Sorry about the misunderstanding.

Canon has a very good kit lens that will do most of what you want. And the lens mtclimber mentioned is good and inexpensive, two terms that don't often get used in the same sentance around here. It goes by several brands, including Cosina, Phoenix, Promaster, Soligor and Vivitar, and is available for most dSLRs. It has two problems:
  1. It looks and feels like junk, though it is quite good and quite durable. [/*]
  2. It makes a lot of noise when autofocusing, so it's good that you don't want to photograph insects.[/*]
There is a third problem, but it's not universal.

Canon and Nikon use optical image stabilization in certain lenses, and this lens isn't stabilized. Pentax and Sony use sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, so all lenses, including this one,are stabilized.

Stabilization is something I think you should strongly consider, since macrophotography without a tripod and image stabilization will be frustrating.

On the face of it, that narrows your selection down to Pentax and Sony, but there are different ways to do macro work. One is to use extension tubes, which are tubes that fit between the camera and the lens. These are quite good because they don't add any optical elements to an already complex system, but would require you to remove your lens quite often and for longer periods while on one of your treks, and that's probably not a good idea. The other is to use close-up lenses. These are less desireable because they add optical elements, thereby degrading image quality, and good ones can be expensive.

So, yes, the best choices for you would probably beeither Pentax or Sony.
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 5:16 PM   #9
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TCav, if I'm reading you correctly, the Pentax and Sony cams should rise to the top of the list b/c they have IS in the camera body, which allows for the purchase of better macro lenses. Does that mean that the IS macro lenses from Canon and Nikon are inferior?

Mtngal, I'm going to go read about some of those Pentax bodies and lenses right now...
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 5:52 PM   #10
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Well, the Pentax KM (2000) sounds like a *very* interesting camera. Wish there were more reports/reviews on it. There are web rumors of Pentax's demise to boot... I also like the Canon XSi despite its rather cheap-looking exterior. The Nikon D60 felt very good in my hand, but I'm concerned about the lens issues there and buying into a dead-end. It's never easy, is it?
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