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Old Feb 27, 2009, 2:41 PM   #1
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I currently have a Lumix FZ10. It has been a great camera (still is).

I previously used film SLRs enjoyed the full manual settings, with zoom and aperture set by hand.

I enjoy the big zoom on the FZ10, and thought it was what I wanted in my new camera. Having thought it through I have decided that what I really want is -

* Really great fully detailed crisp images at wide-angle through to about 6x zoom.
* At least 10mp, good enough for big prints at high definition.
* Hand operated zoom, focus and hopefully aperture.
* Brilliant images for landscapes, serious portraits and general carefully composed photos.
* Anti shake would be useful.

I am not worried about fast shooting speed or movies. I will use autofocus, but for serious work I will use all manual together with a separate light meter to measure incident as well as reflected light.

I want an DSLR, and would pay up to the cost of the Nikon D90 which I have heard good reports about. However, there may be a camera with fewer features which gives much better results for what I want.

Top image quality is essential.

Any advice on which cameras I should be looking at will be well appreciated.
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Old Feb 27, 2009, 4:00 PM   #2
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I'm sure you'll get other suggestions - and the Nikon D90 would be a great option if it comes down to that. But as a Pentaxian (and because it doesn't look like you're planning to shoot high-speed sports), I can recommend the Pentax K20D, which can be had with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom lens for about $800 these days. 14mp, great manual controls, big (and bright) pentaprism viewfinder and a sturdy, weather-proof body. If you buy before the end of March, Pentax will extend the warranty out to three years. Whenyou're ready, you can add Pentax's great DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 zoom lens and DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 zoom lens. These two lenses run in the $600-$700 range - each. Not cheap by any means but less money than comparable lenses from Nikon and Canon. Pentax also offers some wonderful and fast prime lenses for less money.
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Old Feb 27, 2009, 5:27 PM   #3
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Biro has provided some excellent information. However, the other option is to reduce the size of your camera kit and to not have to carry around a camera and a bag full of lenses, while getting a very clearly superior HD video capability with the new Canon SX-1 camera.

And by the way you would save anywhere between $500 to $1,000 depending on your lens choices.

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Old Feb 27, 2009, 5:36 PM   #4
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Well, here's the thing - IQ is your primary requirement. A full frame sensor would give you the best results but I'm guessing you don't want to go beyond the price point of the D90. Given the various APS-C cameras on the market, the critical success factor for your landscape and portrait work is going to be based more on your lens and accessory choice than the body.

For portrait work, how you spend your money depends on the type of portraits you want to take - if studio, the lighting setup is more important than anything else, followed by lens then camera.

For landscape work - if you're serious, a good tripod/head is critical followed by lens quality.

If IQ is the critical factor to you, you need to be looking at the lenses you want, not the body.

From a budget standpoint, Oly offers a LOT of bang for the buck at the low end. Oly probably has the best bang-for-the-buck lenses. Nikon, however, has fantastic flash system and a very good selection of lenses as well. Those would be the systems I would suggest. The difference is in prime lenses - if you're a prime lens user, you've got more options in Nikon than Oly. But I suggest you find the lenses you want in the various systems and let that drive your selection.

If you're willing to spend the money, of course the Canon 5dmkII and Nikon D700 are probably going to give you the best IQ - but if you want mid-to-entry level body then look at the lenses in Nikon and Oly. And if you're doing portrait work, factor in the cost of the light setup - it will have a much bigger impact than the camera body on your success.

And, for landscape - again, if quality is important, the tripod/head is a critical factor. You will not find a competent landscape photographer that will tell you IS is a replacement for a tripod. It isn't.
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Old Mar 1, 2009, 7:32 AM   #5
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Thanks for all the advice.
I think I'll go handle a few of the options and see what feels right.
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Old Mar 1, 2009, 3:29 PM   #6
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A gentleman on the Pentax dSLR forum, a while ago, went through the same/similiar analysis as you are going through. Robert Barnett - look for his posts, has posted stunning wide angle landscapes, with his Pentax K20D and a wide assortment of lenses. For a variety of reasons, he became frustrated with the K20 and vowed to sell it off and got him self a D90. He used it for I think a month, sold it, pulled his K20 out of storage and has gone forward.

Robert's thread is here, and he is very eloquent on the topic...


PS - You really have to read the entire thread to understand the outcome....
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Old Mar 1, 2009, 10:43 PM   #7
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Now that I have a bit more time, I though that I would add to my previous post. I can not disagree with JohnG one bit. However, I can provide a bit more amplifying information that may be useful - on your wide angle aspect only.

There are several items that come into play in the wide angle area of photography. Here are some items to keep in mind....

Sensor size - Olympus uses a 4:3 sensor, which has a crop factor of 2. The crop factor is a value used to convert the focal length to 35mm equivalent. APS-C sensors have a crop factor of 1.5 which includes the vast majority of manufactures - Sony, Pentax, Nikon. Canon uses a sensor with a crop factor of 1.6. Full Frame cameras have a crop factor of 1.0 (they are 35mm already - no conversion is necessary) - Canon, Sony and Nikon. The crop factor of the sensor helps on the telephoto end, however hinders on the wide angle end. Thus, you need to keep in mind the sensor size of the camera body, when comparing lenses across various camera makes. The reason why crop factors are an important consideration is to compare focal length and field of view of various lenses, especially wide angle. For instance:
  • Olympus has a 9 - 18mm wide angle lens which translates to 18-36mm (35mm equivalent). Its 11- 22mm wide angle lens has a 22-44mm 35mm equivalent view (multiply by 2.0).[/*]
  • Pentax has a 12-24 wide angle lens, which is a 18-36mm 35mm equivalent (multiply by 1.5)[/*]
Field of View - This is another way of looking at a lens, and is somewhat of a restatement of focal length. Field of view is espressed in degrees. For example:
  • Olympus 9 - 18mm wide angle lens has a FoV of 100 degrees to 62[/*]
  • Pentax 12-24mm lens has a FoV of 99 to 61 degrees[/*]
The story here is that just because one lens has a smaller focal length (9mm) which may seem wider, when adjusted for its 35mm equivalency may essentially be the same as a different focal length, based on the sensor size of the camera system being used.

Image Stabilization (anti shake) - There are two types of image stabilization systems - body based and lens based. There has been a great deal written as to which one is better - probably a slight bias to the lens based system. Nikon and Canon are lens based exclusively. Thus you need to purchase the stabilized lenses. Currently neither offers any wide angle lenses that are stabilized under about 18mm. Sony, Pentax, and Olympus offer body based image stabilization bodies, which will stabilize (reduce camera shake) for all lenses mounted - regardless of focal length or age (including third party lenses). Therefore if you desire to have wide angle lenses stabilized your limited to these vendor bodies.

Wide angle lenses tend to be somewhat slower, since they are used primary in day light. You will find a lot in the f4 range with a few faster down to around f2.8. Obviously Canon and Nikon have some extremely good lenses. However there are some third party lenses that can be their equals.

Tokina - Owned by Hoya (who owns Pentax) has 2 very good wide angle lenses.
  • 11-16/f2.8 - has been cited as one of the best w/a lenses available (available in Canon and Nikon mounts, with a possible Pentax offering)[/*]
  • 12-24/f4 - has been noted to be very good (available in Pentax, Canon and Nikon mounts)[/*]
  • Note - Pentax uses quite a few joint lens designs with Tokina, however uses different coatings that reduce flare and has a slightly different color characterists (some say better).
Sigma - Has a couple of very good wide angle lenses
  • 10-20/f4-5.6 - is very good (available in Pentax, Canon and Nikon mounts)[/*]
  • 12-24/f4-5.6 - if I remember correctly, this lens has not set the world on fire[/*]
Tameron - Has a number of wide angle lenses - however they did not come up in my review when I was looking for wide angle lenses
  • 11-18/f4-5.6 - [/*]
  • 10-24/f - [/*]
Here are some links that may be of interest (in no specific order)...I will say, that I use Pentax so I may be a bit biased. On the topic of wide angle landscapes you have a wider selection of lenses and bodies that you would have if you were shooting sports. The lens speed can be slower, along with the shutter speed and you can also use techniques such as stitching (digitally joining several images together into a panorama).

I will second JohnG's points on tripods and heads. As much as I hate to carry the stuff around, it is a necessary evil - especially in low ambient light situations (evening and night). I have done a lot during the day hand held, but if your doing critical work then you need something more than just your hands.

You have a number of choices across an assortment of vendors of both lenses and bodies. I would suggest starting out deciding on image stabilization for wide angle lenses - if it is critical (your limited to a set of bodies), then select your lenses. If image stabilization is just a nice to have, go for the lenses that appeal to you and then see what body mounts they support.

Good luck and good hunting.....

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