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

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old Feb 8, 2009, 8:38 PM   #1
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 41
Default

Hello everyone! I'm a bit lost and so I look to you for some help. About 3 years ago I got much advice here on what to get for very cheap, but decent pics. I was on a tight budget and needed something fairly quick. I ended up with a Kodak Z730 refurb for about $160 shipped and it has held up fine, but my wife and I really feel its limitations. That leads me to the point: I think it's time to step up to the dSLR world. I have zero firsthand experience with SLR cameras and there's only so much I can read without having one to use so I'm absolutely a beginner. My wife had an old "normal" SLR (read: used standard film) and many years ago had taken a photography class in college so she does get the basics and has explained some to me. So that, much reading and what little options there are on my little Kodak have at least shown me what I wish I could do, but can't without a better camera. I'm very tech-oriented (IT manager), love learning new things with new gadgets so I'm ready to dive in. I'm also strongly considering taking a digital photogrphy class along with whatever dSLR I end up with. I want to get the most out of this hobby. What we would shoot the most: * Wildlife - on the move as well as long shots with telephoto lens * Scenery - long landscape shots, clouds, sunsets, lakes, rivers, you name it * Action - hockey (both at pro games and our own rec games we play), moving pet shots, etc. * Indoor - friends, family, etc. Prefer available light when possible instead of "setting up" with flash.
* Low light - outside night shots, moon, cities at night, etc.

Hmm ok I realize that's a pretty broad spectrum of shooting conditions, but if I don't list everything I know I would shoot on a regular basis then I'd only be doing myself a disservice.

Budget: I'm not sure yet. I've started researching and have a general idea of what it costs to get started with a good entry level dSLR with lens(es) and memory cards. I'd rather go with a current model than something from a couple years ago and I plan on buying new with full warranty.

In my initial research I've starting considering these, but not limited to this list:
* Canon XSi - $641 with 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6 Image Stabilization lens
* Sony A200 - $730 with 18-70mm & 75-300mm telephoto lenses
* Nikon D60 - $689 with Nikon 18-55mm VR Lens & Nikon 55-200mm VR Lens

So it looks like my budget must be around $700 based on that list. I already know I need whichever body I decide on, at least 1 initial lens and preferably 2 lenses - 1 can be the general kit lens that's always an option with these things as well as a telephoto lens. I have a good tripod so VR or IS on a telephoto lens isn't entirely necessary, but would be a nice bonus. I like that the canon uses SD/SDHC cards since they are so cheap and I generally like Canon cameras, but have no problems with Sony or Nikon (or honestly Olympus, Pentax, etc.)

Ok long-winded post, I know. :sad: If you read it all I thank you for taking the time and hope I made sense here. Let me know what you think. What have I overlooked? Is there a particular camera that would be best suited for me or at this price point and shooting needs is it entirely a matter of personal preference?

Thanks everyone!

EDIT:
Oh I almost forgot! Is there such a thing as pre-focus lock? By that I mean focusing the camera, like holding down the button 1/2 way, and then locking that so that you wouldn't have to keep holding it down or go through it again for a series of shots at a fixed distance?
Shadowplay is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Old Feb 8, 2009, 8:50 PM   #2
Senior Member
 
TCav's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Washington, DC, Metro Area, Maryland
Posts: 13,572
Default

Of this group, the Canon XSI has the best autofocus system for sports/action/wildlife, and the Nikon D60 has the worst. Also, the Sony 75-300 isn't a very good lens, so if you pick the Sony, I think you should get another telephoto zoom lens. The Tamron 70-300 Di LD is better and less expensive, and it's available for the Canon too. The Sigma 70-300 APO is also good, but not for the Sony.

Image stabilization makes available light shooting easier, and the Sony has it in the body, so any lens will be stabilized. But Canon has a better selection of large aperture lenses, and it does better at higher ISO Settings.
TCav is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Feb 8, 2009, 9:54 PM   #3
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 41
Default

Sounds like the XSi is a pretty solid all around camera at this price point. Interesting that it's the one that really caught my eye, too.
Shadowplay is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Feb 8, 2009, 10:00 PM   #4
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 21
Default

If you're on a budget like I am, also consider looking at the XS
johncd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Feb 9, 2009, 1:31 AM   #5
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 41
Default

I'm already pretty enamored with the XSi unfortunately hehe. Now I'm starting to do a little more in-depth thinking about it.

Let's say I decide to get the Canon XSi. What should I do about my first lens or even first couple of lenses?

Should I start with the, well, starter kit lens? Should I only get the body and then get a better lens than the starter kit lens? If I already know I want a telephoto lens (ok maybe that's a lame term, I dunno...) should I just add that 2nd lens at the time of purchase? If so, what's a good one? I have no clue about specific lenses I gather that something like a 75-200mm would be a good all around lens for me to start with on the "zoom" front.

I started poking around in the lens section of these forums, but there's very little activity in there. :sad:

What are your thoughts on this? Odds are pretty good that I'm not likely to buy much after the initial purchase for quite a while so it's probably best I start out with a good set up hehe.

EDIT:
Read this (and similar things) elsewhere and wondered how much merit there is to what he says:
Quote:
Getting a F1.8 or less lens is almost a must. Many are available from Sigma or Canon in the 50mm range. The pop up flash ruins a lot of indoor pictures. This lens will allow you to take photos indoors and at night without a flash, and most of the time without a tripod. Colors will look natural in AV setting.
That's just a random review on another site, but I do wonder how key that would be to getting available light photos indoors.
Shadowplay is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Feb 9, 2009, 3:18 AM   #6
Senior Member
 
TCav's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Washington, DC, Metro Area, Maryland
Posts: 13,572
Default

First, the autofocus system in the XS isn't as good as the one in the XSi. If sports/action/wildlife is important to you, I think you should stick with the XSi.

Second, the Canon 18-55 IS kit lens is very good and it's stabilized, so it will serve you well in lower light when the shutter speeds get slow, plus the XSi also does well at higher ISO settings which also helps in lower light. Supplimenting it with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 (~$85) is also a good idea, and there are other good large aperture lenses avaialble from both Canon and Sigma, but they will be significantly more expensive.

Third, for inexpensive telephoto zoom lenses, Tamron's 70-300 Di LD (~$160)and Sigma's 70-300 APO (~$210)are good, though they are not stabilized. That doesn't matter much since, for sports/action/wildlife, you'll be using faster shutter speeds anyway. But for not a lot more money, Canon has a 55-250 IS (~$255)stabilized lens that is quite good.
TCav is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Feb 9, 2009, 3:44 AM   #7
Super Moderator
 
peripatetic's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 3,599
Default

Sports:
I recommend finding one of JohnG's threads on sports shooting.

Short version, a DSLR will do better than what you have now, but unless you are willing to spend a LOT of money on lenses you need to have modest expectations.

Wildlife:
Depends a lot on the kind of animal. Elephants and swallows are very different and place different demands on your equipment.

One place to start might be the EF-S 55-250mm IS. ($250)

Scenery:
The 18-55 IS kit lens will do you very well. You may wish to consider using a tripod.

Social/Portrait:
There are two schools; flash and non-flash. For non-flash you need to get a "fast normal" lens. For flash you can work with the on-camera flash, but most likely will want a bounce-able flash. Some people like a fast short-telephoto lens for tight portraits and the ability to throw the background out of focus. These sorts of lenses are often called "portrait lenses" though they are seldom used by professional portrait photographers and I personally find the results rather boring. If you want one then the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 is a good place to get your feet wet. ($90)

Decent flashguns can be had starting at around $170. (Sigma 530)
Decent low-light indoor lenses start at around $240.
(Canon EF 35mm f2)

Summary:
Start with the XSi and 18-55IS, if you think you can afford it start with the Canon 70-300 IS ($550) if not then go for the Canon EF-S 55-250 IS. ($250) Avoid anything else at this stage. Start by using the on-camera flash and the kit lens for indoor shots, but the next thing you should get is a external flash that you can bounce. Start with the Sigma 530 DG ST. ($170)

Realise that with the XSI + 18-55 IS + 55-250 IS + 530 DG ($700 + $250 + $170 = $1120) you will have the potential to get some very good results, but the DSLR learning curve is such that your pictures at first will probably be worse. If you put in the effort they will get better and potentially far better than what your current equipment allows.

Also realise that if you want to get "professional quality" results when shooting wildlife and sports then you will need to get professional quality equipment. This can be VERY expensive, so set yourself moderate expectations in those fields.
peripatetic is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Feb 9, 2009, 12:57 PM   #8
Moderator
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 8,529
Default

OK, time to set your expectations

Sports and wildlife shooting are two of the most demanding types of photography. They tend to require the more expensive equipment to have success.

Let's take wildlife - AS Peripatetic pointed out, the type of wildlife makes a huge difference. Taking a photo of a deer in your backyard might be easily done with a 200mm lens. Taking photos of small birds, 400, 500 and 600mm lenses become the requirement. They are actually some of the toughest things to photograph because they're so small. Birds in flight for larger birds (think hawks, eagles, herons) you can get started with 300-400mm lenses. And, focus performance of the lenses is important if you shoot moving subjects. And, of course, when shooting wildlife, 95% of the time you're using the lens at full zoom (and wishing you had more lens than you do). And, for budget and consumer grade lenses, that is very often where the lens performs it's worst at. So, what lenses you need depend on what you want to shoot and how serious you are about wildlife photography.

Sports shooting. First let's take professional hockey. The first issue you have to overcome is gear restrictions at the venue. Some venues will not allow DSLRs at all. Others will but will not allow you to use bigger lenses. And, of course, getting good shots depends on your seats. The point here is the odds are stacked significantly against you when it comes to shooting professional hockey. Consumer grade lenses will not give you fast enough shutter speeds. More serious lenses are very expensive ($1000+), may not be allowed in due to equipment restrictions and given your seats may not be long enough to get you good pictures anyway. So, if pro NHL photos are a requirement I would suggest you need to step up to something like the Canon 50d which will allow you to shoot at 3200 and 6400 ISO and allow you to use an f4 lens - AND you need to have very good seats. And oh yes you need to find out what the lens restrictions are for the venue. Find that out by looking on their website and if you can't find info there then call the venue.

For rec hockey you're going to have another problem. The XSi is a great entry level sports camera - the best entry level sports camera on the market. BUT it has a problem - it only has ISO 1600. In the canon and nikon systems, the widest aperture on a zoom lens is f2.8. Typically you want shutter speeds of 1/400 or better in a sport like hockey. Problem is - in most ameteur rinks you would need at least ISO 3200 to get those types of shutter speeds with an f2.8 lens. So, you either need to jump up to a mid-level camera like the 40d/50d OR you need to use fixed focal length lenses - like the 85mm 1.8, 100mm 2.0 and 135mm 2.0. The problem with those lenses is a lack of flexibility and reach. So, wanting to shoot hockey isn't as simple as buying a DSLR. No dslr with kit lens will let you do it. And getting fast enough shutter speeds to stop action requires you to make some tough decisions about higher end camera so you can use zoom (and by the way the cheapest zoom I'm thinking of is the $800 sigma 70-200 2.8).

For indoor shots and moving pets - available light vs. flash: On the moving pet front the reality is unless you have an enormous amount of light in your house you'll need a flash. It's just a reality. For the people shots it's more an issue of depth-of-field (DOF). Using wide aperture lenses allows you to get higher shutter speeds - which allows available light shots of a single individual. But if you want shots with multiple people in focus you simply can't use those wide apertures and have to be using f5.6 type apertures which is usually to narrow to get hand-holdable shots of a living subject (i.e. even with IS, the subject moves slightly so shots at 1/15 of a second turn out bad).
JohnG is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Feb 9, 2009, 12:59 PM   #9
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 41
Default

Wow great post, peripatetic! Thank you very much for all the info.

Can you or someone else here help me understand the differences between the two zoom lenses?

Specifically:
* Canon EF 70-300 IS ($550)
* Canon EF-S 55-250 IS. ($250)

I'm convinced I'd be fine with the less expensive lens there, but of course I can't help but look at the better one, too.
Shadowplay is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Feb 9, 2009, 1:15 PM   #10
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 41
Default

Woah, hefty reply there, JohnG and I like it. Let me quickly address my own expectations here which should make things much simpler as you'll soon see.

Wildlife:birds (still and in flight), deer, coyotes, etc. - this is high on the list for me. I know there are times when I'd want some crazy 600mm lens action, but that's far beyond what I have any need for at this time.
Landscape: 3 basic types occur to me for my general shots. Bright shots (mountains, snow in sunlight, trees, etc.), Cloud-centric shots (I have a thing for clouds), and dark shots such as sunset/sunrise or even "worse" night shots of stars, moon city lights, etc. - this is high on the priority list along with Wildlife
Sports (hockey): purely for fun and not a requirement. In other words, anything is likely better than what I have now!
Indoor: not much in the way of indoor "action" so still targets are expected. I understand where flash would be necessary if available light is just too low. Again, here I mainly want to improve over what I have now.

Kind of funny how portraits don't even make the list. I know I'd be shooting some of those, too, but I guess I'm less concerned about that and figure a decent dSLR with some skill will allow me to take better portraits than I can currently.

I don't for a second expect an entry level dSLR with only a couple of lenses to give me stunning shots in every situation. I think I have reasonable expectations. I'm coming from a very low end, several year old point & shoot camera with 5mp and 4x optical zoom. That's all I have to personally compare against and I'm trying not to be too swayed by photos from other people as they have different equipment and skills.

Hope that helps explain where I'm coming from and what I hope to accomplish.
Shadowplay 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 10:03 AM.