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Old Dec 13, 2009, 2:36 PM   #1
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Default Superzoom or dSLR for me?

I would appreciate some help from this forum as to which camera to purchase. I am a novice photographer. The only cameras I have used in the past are point and shoots, almost all of which have been Canons. I am looking for a camera that provides better quality photos. I use my HD camcorder quite often. I have become somewhat proficient at changing the settings on a point and shoot and on the camcorder as the need arises. I am interested in learning more about photography, and anticipate purchasing some books on digital photography.

My main subjects are my wife and our 7-year-old and our 5-year old. We like to hike. I like to take pictures with the family in the foreground and mountains, streams, trees, etc. in the background. I will usually take several photos of the scenery. We are looking forward to a southern California vacation this spring, so I want something that I can take with me to Disneyland, etc. I also want to use the camera to take photos of indoor activities like birthday parties, piano recitals, etc.

I have spoken to some people at the local camera shop, but I get different advice. One salesperson, who seems knowledgeable, recommended either the Nikon P90 or the Cannon SX1. He advised that these models were easier to use than a dSLR, and that their size would make them easier to put in a backpack, and to carry on vacation. He indicated that I could use them to learn more about photography, and then purchase a dSLR if I thought I needed an upgrade in a year or two. He showed me some sample photos, and they looked good to me.

Another salesperson, who also seems very knowledgeable, recommended the Canon XSi, and advised against a superzoom. She said she had several reasons for her recommendation. First, she said the picture quality would be noticeably better than that of a superzoom. Second, she noted that the XSi does not cost much more than a superzoom and is more versatile insofar as I could purchase different lenses should the need arise. She thought it would last longer than superzoom. Third, she showed me that the XSi is really not much bigger than the superzooms. Finally, since I already have an HD camcorder, she thought it was a waste of money to purchase a camera with video, particularly since I doubt that I would ever use the video feature on the camera.

Since I am a novice, I cannot decide what to purchase. It sounds like both sides have merit. Thus, I would like to hear what the members of this forum think.
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Old Dec 13, 2009, 2:50 PM   #2
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Both opinions do hold merit.

One thing that one must keep in mind when deciding to purchase a dslr is that in order for it to produce images that will exceed what you will get from a p&s or superzoom, you have to put a little more into it. for example, you say you shoot alot of scenes of your family with mountains/etc in the background. a p&s has a very large depth of field, so almost always, both your family and the scene will be in focus. however, with a dslr, and the smaller depth of fields afforded by the larger sensors, you will have to "stop down" or make the aperture smaller in order for you to be able to get both your family and the scene all in focus. so you can see in this example, without knowing this, it is possible that your camera would have chosen a more open aperture, resulting in only your family being in focus, etc. which often frustrates new users. now this flexibility is a distinct advantage as well, as if later you are taking family shots and want to emphasize the family and let the background blur, you can choose an open aperture and do this on a dslr, something you simply cannot do with a p&s/superzoom.

also, after you have taken the shot. having at least a rudimentary knowledge of sharpening/contrast/saturation in post-processing is a real must for a dslr. the output of dslrs are less processed than p&s, leaving them softer and more flat compared to p&s. this is on purpose because it allows the user more latitude in post-processing.

so if this extra-effort is something you see yourself doing, and wanting to do. then yes, the dslr offers much much more flexibility in shooting and will give you better results once you are over this learning curve.

however if you just want to print/view photos straight out of the camera with little thought or effort, then a good superzoom would probably be the right choice.

it is something to think about, and pick which option is best for YOU. sorry i cannot give you a definite, "do this.... " type answer, as there really is not one.

we're happy to help you along in making this decision and subsequent purchasing decisions.
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Old Dec 13, 2009, 2:58 PM   #3
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Since you wnat to take photos indoors, you might benefit from selecting the Canon T1i instead of the XSI, since the T1i can shoot at higher ISO settings. It also can shoot video, but so what.

In fact, there are a number of dSLRs that can do what you want. The Sony A500 and A550 and the Pentax K-x can also shoot at those higher ISOs, and they include sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body. Canon (and Nikon, btw) relies on optical image stabilization in the lens, and only about half of the OEM lenses are stabilized, few third party lenses are stabilized and few used lenses are stabilized. By geting a camera with IS in the body, all OEM lenses, all third party lenses, and all used lenses are stabilized. For shooting indoors in low light, IS is a good idea.
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Old Dec 13, 2009, 3:08 PM   #4
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Here's are some questions that may make it easier for us to help you:

* Do you have a budget? If so, what is it and how strictly must you adhere to it? You answer will go a long way toward determining what the solution is. You can purchase DSLR lenses to fit any virtually any need, but because of the expense involved it's usually a long-term incremental proposition.

* Do you think you need the long zoom range offered by the superzooms? From what you tell us about how you use cameras (and plan to use them) it sounds like 500mm to 600mm at the long end would be nice - but not really necessary. Is the impression I'm getting correct?

* How critical are size and weight to you? As the one salesperson pointed out, some of the Canon Rebels aren't much larger than a superzoom (particularly Canon's own SX1 and SX20). Another smaller and lighter DSLR is Olympus's E-620 and E-520. I'm seeing two-lens deals for the Olympus units in the $500-$650 range right now. Excellent value. But superzooms like Panasonic's FZ35 are particularly small and light while offering good image quality... for their class.

Some other thoughts...

Understand that while photos from a superzoom, taken in good light, may look fine... selecting a DSLR is moving to an entirely different level of camera. No superzoom can compete with any DSLR in terms of low-light and high ISO performance. And since superzooms are pretty much point-and-shoot cameras with small sensors and big lenses, they still don't tend to respond to exposure, metering and shutter commands with the speed of a DSLR - nor give your images the kind of dynamic range that a DSLR can. This may not be important to people who just want to take snapshots. But it would be important to those specifically interested in photography.

Your stated desire to learn more about photography seems to indicate you may outgrow a superzoom before too long. Some superzooms do offer manual controls (which you'll need in order to take your photography to the next level). But it is true that many DSLR owners also own superzooms. There are times when such a camera can be a perfect solution - like on vacations. But many others - including myself - handle vacations by purchasing superzoom lenses for our DSLRs.

Also know that when one buys a DSLR (as I alluded to more than once when talking about lenses), it rarely stops with the camera purchase. If you're interested in taking it to the next level, you'll soon want an external flash unit, other lenses, filters, etc. You'll be buying into a system - with substantial investment over the long haul.

In the end, it'll be a matter of being honest with yourself about your wants, needs and budget. But answering some of the questions above will allow us to guide you better. And, oh yes, here's one suggested book (there are other good ones as well) for you to pick up: "The Basic Book of Photography":

http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Book-Pho...dp_ob_title_bk

Last edited by Biro; Dec 13, 2009 at 3:17 PM.
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Old Dec 13, 2009, 3:10 PM   #5
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h823putt-

Welcome to the Forum. We are pleased that you dropped by.

You are correct in stating that each camera solution has its own advantages. So let's take a look at the factors that play into your decision.

(1) What kind of budget has you planned for your new camera?
(2) How much zoom are you looking for?
(3) Is camera size or weight a priority?
(4) Is image stabilization a priority?
(5) Are there any special features you are looking for?

You could get excellent daytime image quality on a camera like the Canon SX-120 for $199.00 It has IS, 10X Optical Zoom, a good built-in flash unit and can easily capture good image quality right up to and including ISO 800, all in a small sleek, and pocketable package.The SX-200 cost more ($280) because it includes a HD video, which would not be particularly useful for you.

The Canon SX-20 has a much longer IS stabilized zoom (20X), but it is also a physically much larger and more weighty camera. It also has a nice hot shoe and it is a very usable camera.

On the other hand, while the Canon XSi is about the same size and weight as the SX-20, it does not have IS in the body. It relies on using IS equipped lenses. The Canon 18-55mm kit lens that comes with the Canon XSi is equivalent to 28mm to 88mm or a 3.1X zoom. Yes, it will provide better image quality in low light level photo environments, but the XSi's daytime photo at Disneyland will be almost the same as those produced on the Canon SX-120. A DSLR camera can produce better image quality in challenging photo environments, that is the real advantage of a DSLR camera. However, you will most probably opt for an additional lens if you want more zoom potential. The Canon 55-250mm lens would be an excellent choice for an additional lens (around $250) but that would add to your initial camera cost as well.

Bypassing the new P+S camera would save some money, but it also calls for an expanded budget and gives you more to carry in your backpack.

Have a great day and a Merry Christmas. I look forward to more of this discussion as you move toward your decision.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 13, 2009, 3:34 PM   #6
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You may also want to look at the olympus dslr the E620, is makes the pain of the learning curve learning less. There are allot of in camera setting and art filter that let you do what a point and shot does with the menus while you learn more about dslr photography. You can set it up to operate like a megazoom with the full auto programs built in. It is around the same price as the XSi. Also with these art filters it gives you the ablity to skip the post production editing. This is the smallest DSLR out there, and it is pretty much the same size as some megazoom aka bridge camera.

And a bit more expensive then the olympus, the Pentax K-X is very much like the olympus. It has a tone of art filter and menus that allow for easier transition. It is about the size of the XSi.

A megazoom is more convient and compact which is a major plus in hike and traveling, but they suffer at the long end. As all zoom lens suffer from the same issue. With dslr, the ablity of multi lenses allow you to off set this problem by switching lens before you reach the far end of the zoom.

Either way it will be a big jump up from just your standard point and shoot, with better image quality.
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Old Dec 13, 2009, 3:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shoturtle View Post
A megazoom is more convient and compact which is a major plus in hike and traveling, but they suffer at the long end. As all zoom lens suffer from the same issue. With dslr, the ablity of multi lenses allow you to off set this problem by switching lens before you reach the far end of the zoom.
This is a good advice. I bought a megazoom p&s but never use it at plus than 5x cause severe loss of sharpness and increased noise.
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Old Dec 13, 2009, 5:46 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the replies. I am glad I asked for opinions here. I will answer the questions that still remain in hopes for some more thoughts.

Budget: Before I started shopping, I figured I would be spending around $500. The shop I went to has a XSi package for $700, that includes that 18-55 mm and the 55-250 mm lenses for $700. If i decide to go the dSLR route, I will probably spring for that. I looked at the T1i, but since I am a novice I am not so sure I want to spend $750. I was also shown the Nikon D500, which may be an option as I think it was $700, albeit with one lens. If I go the dSLR route, I anticipate that there will be additional purchases down the road.

Zoom: I am not sure how much zoom I am looking for. I haven't used a camera with much optical zoom. My camcorder says it has "15x zoom," which is probably the most I have ever used (Part of the reason I am struggling with my decision is that I am not sure what I can expect with these cameras.) I am pretty sure I would most often use a wider angle.

Camera size and weight: This is somewhat of a priority, as i will need to put it in a backpack, or carry them around for a few hours while on vacation. When I held the superzooms and the XSi with the kit lens, I thought that they would be acceptable.

IS: I would like this, but it is not necessarily a priority. I have one of those tripods with rubberized, bendable legs for hiking/camping, and a regular tripod. However, I suspect that i will be holding the camera most of the time.

Special features: The only thing I can think of is that I would definitely want a timer, as I use this to take family photos. I was thinking that every camera would have this, but perhaps I should check.

As for post-processing, I currently use iPhoto to correct red eye, adjust contrast, etc. I understand that this is just the very basics. I was hoping that I could use this for the short-term, and then purchase PhotoShop Elements, or a similar program, if I felt I needed it.

I will take a look at the other camera suggestions in the thread, although I am probably going to purchase it at my local shop, as I feel somewhat obligated to do so.

Any other thoughts or suggestions? I am still very much on the fence.
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Old Dec 13, 2009, 6:28 PM   #9
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h823putt-

The Canon XSi package with both the kit lens (18-55mm) and the Canon 55-250mm len at $700 is a good deal. I would personally swap out the kit lens for something with more zoom or reach. Thatv way you would not have to carry the 55-250mm lens with you.

If you wanted to hold down your budget and still have a nice superzoom, take a look at the panasonic FZ-35. It is $325 for 18X zoom (28mm to 486mm) with ful IS, a HD video with stereo sound, an excellent built-in flash unit, a good self timer and the ability to shoot up to and including ISO 800 with good image quality. the images could be easily processed in I-Photo. It would be a lot lighter to carry all day long in a back pack.

The FZ-35 would have a much easier learning curve and it would be lighter and more convenient, allowing you to keep your same workflow, and shooting style.

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Old Dec 13, 2009, 6:40 PM   #10
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since size is a big one olympus e620 is the smallest and lightest of the dslr in you price range. The Sony A330 is close to your current budget of 500 with 2 lenses, as it goes around 580. Then next one up is the E620 form olympus with 2 lens , then new pentax K-X for about 700 with 2 lenses.

All the dslr have timer and ir remotes that allow you to set the shot and get into the photo.

If IS is helpful if you are chasing kids, you may want to consider the pentax and olympus and even the sony. They use in body IS vs canon and nikon that uses lens IS system. So you are limit to getting lens with IS if you do find that you want the feature.

The cameras I would read up on would be the canon t1i and xsi, nikon d5000 and d3000, pentax k-x, olympus e620 and e520, and sony a380 and a330. All these are in your ballpark. If you have a chance get out to a shop and try them out. See what features you like. Bestbuy has most of them that you can play with. And you can then go to you local shop to order it if they do not normally carry it.

Pretty much all very good camera. They all have two lens kits that is not to much of a stretch for your budget. Some a bit more of a stretch with the added performance like the D5000, T1i, E620 and the A380 as they are they higher lever on the product lines. Pentax only has one in this price range and it is very good also.

I am a mac user also, and I find Apple aperture very easy to use for post production editing. All the dslr have red eye reduction that works great. I have not had use aperture to do any red eye work from photo from t1i.

PS

If your wife is planning to use it, you both should try them together. There may be something about the ego or feature both or one of you like or dislike. That way you make a choice that works for both of you.

Last edited by shoturtle; Dec 13, 2009 at 6:55 PM. Reason: Post Script
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