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Old Jun 11, 2009, 12:05 AM   #1
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Default In the market for a DSLR

Hello,

I have been lurking here reading about every post about DSLR cameras that I can so much so that maybe have myself more lost then before, I started if that is possible. I am looking a good DSLR camera. I plan to primarily shoot wildlife. I also want a camera that will allow me to take some low light photos and also shoot the occasional sports when my son starts them here in the near future. I would consider the following brands of camera Nikon, Canon or Pentax in no particular order. I do have concerns about the Pentax as the autofocus is not fast enough for sports? I would say that my purpose for the camera would be 70% wildlife, 20% family pics and 10% sports. I want to go above the entry level area in DSLR photography. Some models that I have considered are:

Canon 40d, Canon 50d, and the Canon XSI, Nikon D5000 and the Nikon D90 and in Pentax the K20. I would like not to go over the $1300 area. I was thinking around the lines of a kit lens, a 50mm lens for low light situations like school functions for the kids and 70-300 range for starting out with the wildlife and then down the road upgrade to a 500mm area.

Look forward to reading and getting some guidance on which way to go.

Thanks

Photographynut
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 2:41 AM   #2
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Both the Nikon 70-300 VR and Canon 70-300 IS are very nice lenses, and 300 is really the minimum focal length you need for typical portrait photographs.

See the lens tests at slrgear.com for details. Essentially too close to call between the two.

I think you should probably add the Sony A700 to your list too, for lens reasons primarily. The Sony 70-300 is optically also very good, possibly even better than the excellent Nikon and Canon 70-300 stabilised lenses.

And one trump card for the Sony is that there is a very reasonably priced 500mm mirror lens available - and the in-body stabilisation of the A700 will work with this lens too.

The big downside of the Sony is that there is no upgrade for the kind of photography that you are interested in, with Nikon and Canon of course the stuff you are looking at is their entry-level for action photography.

For the long haul though I would recommend you restrict your choice down to the 50D and D90, because if you do find this is a long term interest they will get you started very nicely and allow you to focus on your lens collection.
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 4:41 AM   #3
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Both the Nikon 70-300 VR and Canon 70-300 IS are very nice lenses, and 300 is really the minimum focal length you need for typical portrait photographs.
I'm thinking you probably mean 300 is the minimum for wildlife LOL.

Photographynut, if you are talking $1300 for everything then the 50D and D90 are out of your range as the 70-300 from both of these manufacturers will be about $500. The D5000 is not an option if you want to use the Nikon 50mm as like the D60 the D5000 doesn't have a focus motor in the body (someone please confirm that this is correct with the D5000 and that I've not made a mistake).

There are cheaper 70-300mm lenses rather than the Nikon G and Canon IS but they are not the same quality and as glass is a very key area for getting good photos I wouldn't skimp here.

As for going Sony, I honestly don't know enough so will rely on others to chip in if that is going to be a good plan.
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 5:03 AM   #4
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I'm thinking you probably mean 300 is the minimum for wildlife LOL.
Erm yes quite.

Actually I was getting at "wildlife-portrait" as opposed to "wildlife-landscape" which in my head are different approaches to wildlife shooting with the former being far more common, safer, easier, etc. But perhaps therefore somewhat less interesting to some people (me for example ) .

As to pricing I think Mark is correct. Really you are looking at a minimum of around $2000 for D90 or 50D.

I suppose you could drop down if you had to:
Canon T1 + 18-55IS kit ($900) + 70-300 IS ($550) => $1450.
Nikon D5000 + 18-105 kit ($1050)+ 70-300 VR ($590) => $1650

But I really wouldn't want to do anything less than that.

You should also very seriously be looking at a good flashgun + better beamer for wildlife portraits. Budget at least $300 for that.

Last edited by peripatetic; Jun 11, 2009 at 5:12 AM.
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 7:50 AM   #5
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If all we were talking about were the stabilized 70-300 telephoto zoom lenses from Canon and Nikon, I'd say that Canon's was superior. That range would serve you well for both wildlife and outdoor sports photography. And while both Canon and Nikon have good selections of large aperture medium telephoto lenses for use with indoor sports, Canon has the edge here. (I want to point out, though, that neither of them offers a stabilized large aperture medium telephoto lens.)

If you want to avoid flash for your family pictures, Canon and Nikon both have stabilized large aperture standard zoom lenses that are very good, though pricey.

If stabilization is an issue, Sony has image stabilization in the body, and Sony has the 70-300 'G' which is better than the stabilized lenses of the same range from either Canon or Nikon. Sony dSLRs can also use the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 which is as good or better than the stabilized large aperture standard zoom lenses from either Canon of Nikon, and it costs a whole lot less. Sony's selection of large aperture medium telephoto lenses for indoor sports isn't nearly as good as from Canon or Nikon, but the lenses they have are excellent (though expensive), and they'd be stabilized on a Sony dSLR body.
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 9:16 AM   #6
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If stabilization is an issue, Sony has image stabilization in the body, and Sony has the 70-300 'G' which is better than the stabilized lenses of the same range from either Canon or Nikon.
.
A700 + 16 - 105 kit ($1500) + 70-300 G ($850) => $2350, which is probably way too far over budget.

And that is the END of the line for wildlife/action photography with Sony.

Also don't forget to take the high-ISO performance into account. The D90 is a full stop better than the A700 and 50D over the 800-3200 range. That counts a lot under certain circumstances. The D5000 has a 1-stop advantage over the 500D too.

The OP will need flash for his wildlife photography, so gets it for "free" for indoor work with kids. TCav hates flash for kids, though even he will probably admit his loathing is rather eccentric.

For sports stabilisation is essentially irrelevant. Down the line if the OP wants to invest in expensive telephoto lenses - well Sony is not a significant player in that market.
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 9:58 AM   #7
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I thought I'd join the party - albeit a little late. I would agree with everything in peripatetic's post. BUT, I wanted to add this piece of advice:

The OP stated 70% of the use will be wildlife.

people have mentioned 300mm is the 'start' of wildlife lens reach. If the majority of your time will be wildlife shooting, I am going to caution you that you'll be VERY disappointed in what you get with only 300mm. For the occasional wildlife shooter 300mm might be OK. But when 70% of your shooting will be wildlife you really need to be looking at 400-500mm lenses. If you're not now, then you will be in 6 months - after you've invested $$$ in a 300mm lens that's too short for the majority of your shooting.

BUT, you say, there's no way to get 400-500mm AND a body for $1300. That is absolutely true. Sometimes what you WANT to do within a budget and what you CAN do within a budget don't mix. I don't say this to discourage you, but only to point out a reality. If wildlife shooting is going to be 70% of your shooting you should plan on needing a lens like the Bigma (sigma 50-500) @ $1100 fairly soon after buying the camera. 6 months of shooting wildlife with only 300mm will be very frustrating IMO. NONE of the 70-300 lenses under discussion are going to produce good results with a teleconverter on - and in all cases with the bodies under consideration, none of the lenses will autofocus with a dedicated TC. They might with a third-party TC that doesn't report aperture but performance will be close to useless and optical quality will be very poor.

When I shoot widlife i use a 400mm lens - and believe me, I'm very annoyed at how short 400mm really is.
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 10:15 AM   #8
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Echoing what John said I may be spoiling the party.

But with a modest-medium budget, I probably would not shoot wildlife with a stills camera.

Instead I would use a video camera. I know that this will not win you wildlife photographer of the year (and I do go to the natural history museum in London every year to see the winners) BUT for a modest-medium budget a video camera has a number of very important advantages.

1. You can get a much longer telephoto.
2. You can get 20+ frames a second.
3. With modern software you can uprez to get decent prints, because with telephoto lenses in the 450-500mm equivalent range (about 300 on APS-C) you will likely be cropping quite aggressively anyway.

Just a thought. :-)
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 10:20 AM   #9
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A700 + 16 - 105 kit ($1500) + 70-300 G ($850) => $2350, which is probably way too far over budget.
Yes, but so would the Canon 50D and the Nikon D90. I'm not comparing the A700 with the T1i or the D5000.

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And that is the END of the line for wildlife/action photography with Sony.
No. Sony also has a very good 70-400 'G' lens and a 500mm f/8 Reflex lens that's inexpensive, sharp, small, light, and autofocuses.

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The OP will need flash for his wildlife photography, ....


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TCav hates flash for kids, though even he will probably admit his loathing is rather eccentric.
You misunderstand me, and that's my fault. I prefer available light photography for everything. 'Kids' just falls into the category of 'Everything'. It's not loathing; it's a preference.

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For sports stabilisation is essentially irrelevant.
... but not so for wildlife. Remember that old rule of thumb that the shutter speed should be the invers of the focal length. That would make the minimum shutter speed 1/300 second at a 300mm focal length on a 35mm film and full frame digital SLR. On an APS-C dSLR, that would be 1/450-1/480 second. Take a look at the Wildlife Photos Forum and see what shutter speeds some of those photos are taken at. You may also come across some posts praising image stabilization in general.

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Down the line if the OP wants to invest in expensive telephoto lenses - well Sony is not a significant player in that market.
Uh, no. In fact, Sony has some of the most expensive telephoto lenses available. And the used market is flooded with very expensive Minolta telephoto lenses.

Last edited by TCav; Jun 11, 2009 at 10:23 AM.
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 12:56 PM   #10
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Is this the right room for an argument?

Canon T1 + 18-55IS kit ($900) + 70-300 IS ($550) => $1450.
Nikon D5000 + 18-105 kit ($1050)+ 70-300 VR ($590) => $1650
50D + 18-55 IS + 70-300 IS~ $1850
D90 + 18-105 VR + 70-300 VR ~ $1850
A700 + 16-105 + 70-300 ~$2350

At that price range I think it's a no-brainer. The D90 by a mile. You get a much better camera and sensor than the A700, video, and cash left over to get a decent flashgun at the price of the A700. If money is a real issue then drop down to the T1.

It's not that the Sony 300 f2.8 isn't expensive, it's that it is all alone. Canon has 10 prime lenses from 200 - 800mm suitable for action photography. Nikon has 6. Sony has 1. A 500mm f8 mirror lens doesn't cut it I'm afraid, let's be generous and say 2 though.

But they have no bodies with pro-grade AF systems. None. Nikon has 4 - D300, D700, D3, D3x. Canon has 2 - 1D, 1Ds.

How many of this year's "Wildlife photographer of the year" finalists were using Sony equipment? Zero. All of them used Nikon and Canon. And when it comes to sports?

http://www.lensextender.com/2009/04/...-or-canon.html

Tell me how many Sony cameras you see in there?

Don't get me wrong - I think the A700 and A900 (in particular) are very nice cameras. I just wouldn't recommend them for this particular purpose. For general, landscape, travel, portrait - sure they are great, and for wildlife/sports the A700 is okay - but it leaves you with no upgrade path.

I don't dislike image stabilisation. I think all lenses/cameras should have it. But for wildlife and action photography it is much less important. You are fairly hard-pressed to find modern telephoto lenses from Canon or Nikon without stabilisation any way.

I also prefer available light photography. But when the conditions are not amenable then "take hundreds of photos a few of them will be usable" is simply not a reasonable substitute for controlling the light using flash. Using flash well is difficult, but a bit of effort in learning the principles goes a long way to producing results without relying on a few random successes. That is equally true for wildlife photography, if you are doing wildlife photography without a high-powered flash and better beamer then you are dramatically reducing your chances of getting good shots.
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