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Old May 23, 2010, 11:32 AM   #1
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Default First SLR Camera

I've been using, and delighted with, a digital point and shoot for years, but now want to upgrade to an SLR with a little more control. Any advice on a good starting camera for a serious-minded amature?
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Old May 23, 2010, 11:45 AM   #2
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What types of photographs? Every system out there has fine DSLRs - Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony all have fine cameras. Different systems have pros/cons that may or may not come into play depending on how you will use the gear (i.e. what types of photos and what situations).
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Old May 23, 2010, 10:06 PM   #3
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Ask yourself: What do I want to do that I can't do with what I have now? When I asked myself that a couple years ago, the answers were: ultrawide, ultralong, and low light. So first, I checked who made the lenses I wanted, that I could afford. Then I checked user ratings of cameras, closely reading the bitches, complaints, wishes to upgrade, etc. Then I checked prices.

I started shooting film long ago, and over the decades I've used Agfa, Canon, Fuji, Graflex, Kodak, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Yashica, Zeiss, others, but never Pentax. Even though I leaned towards Oly or Sony, my detailed research and bang-for-the-buck analysis led me to Pentax for my first dSLR.

But your answers may take you elsewhere. Remember, a camera is just a box to hang lenses on. Think about what pictures you want to take and make, and then about what lenses can get you those pictures. Let the lenses drive your analysis. Who makes the right lenses? Who makes the bodies to mount them on? How can you get the most satisfaction from your budget?

Good luck!
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Old May 24, 2010, 11:17 AM   #4
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I've had Nikon, Sony, Olympus and Pentax DSLRs. The Nikon was my worst experience but that's because I bought the D40, which did not handle highlights well at all. I also disliked the lack of IBIS and in camera AF motor, making the camera incompatible with older Nikon lenses. Since then, things have changed but I never bought another Nikon again. I liked the Pentax (K100D) but I got sensor dust and after it came back from cleaning, the camera never focused accurately again and Pentax refused to admit they caused the problem. So, I sold it. I really like the Sony's (I had the A300 and A200 with the two Olys in between). Great IQ, excellent DR and the A300 had the best implementation of live view at that time. The Olys (E510 and E520) were a mix. The E510 was sharp and produced real good images right out of the camera but it had a very very limited DR. Real hard to control highlight clipping. The E520 improved the DR but at the cost of overall IQ (way too soft for my taste). Then I decided to move on to m4/3 and I currently have the Pana G1 and Oly EP1. Both are fine cameras but the G1 is my favorite for its EVF, built-in flash and swivel LCD. I've been shooting a lot with MF lenses and I'm having a lot of fun.

However, I'm once again looking at the Pentax since I have many PK mount vintage lenses. The K-x is a bargain right now and it's being considered one of the best entry level DSLRs. It handles high ISO extremely well and IQ is excellent.
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Old May 24, 2010, 11:54 AM   #5
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What types of photographs? Every system out there has fine DSLRs - Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony all have fine cameras. Different systems have pros/cons that may or may not come into play depending on how you will use the gear (i.e. what types of photos and what situations).
Yeah. What he said.
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Old May 24, 2010, 12:40 PM   #6
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What types of photographs? Every system out there has fine DSLRs - Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony all have fine cameras. Different systems have pros/cons that may or may not come into play depending on how you will use the gear (i.e. what types of photos and what situations).
I read this question quite often and I'm not sure one must answer it before suggestions can be made. I take my photographic needs as an example. Until not too long ago, my favorite subjects (for lack of a better word) to photograph were landscape and architecture. However, that has changed over the past couple of years. Today, I enjoy macro, low light/night, portraits and wild life photography. People change. As they become more familiar with their photographic equipment, they tend to explore more and try new things. Today one may like to take night and/or indoor shots. Tomorrow they may develop a taste for shooting flowers and insects. My point here is, a particular camera may be a perfect fit for today's needs but not so much for tomorrow's and that's why I have problems targeting one's needs today.

So, I think Pentax has a great model (the K-x) going for a bargain ($500 with the kit lens). Will it be the "perfect" camera for every situation/condition? Most likely not but then again, no camera is. It will do most of what one's needs well. Great IQ, excellent high ISO performance (very low noise), IBIS, vintage lens compatibility, HD movie recording, light weight, etc.
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Old May 24, 2010, 12:54 PM   #7
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I read this question quite often and I'm not sure one must answer it before suggestions can be made. I take my photographic needs as an example. Until not too long ago, my favorite subjects (for lack of a better word) to photograph were landscape and architecture. ...
...
So, I think Pentax has a great model (the K-x) going for a bargain ($500 with the kit lens). Will it be the "perfect" camera for every situation/condition? Most likely not but then again, no camera is. It will do most of what one's needs well. Great IQ, excellent high ISO performance (very low noise), IBIS, vintage lens compatibility, HD movie recording, light weight, etc.
Again, not everyone will have needs that drive them towards or away. I agree, the K-X is a great camera. But let's explore some areas where the Pentax system might not be as good a choice.
First, let's say a photographer plans on doing quite a bit of flash photography. Nikon has a much better flash system. Sony and Canon are also better.

Let's say they are interested in sports or motion wildlife. Again, the pentax system as a whole lags behind Nikon or Canon in those areas for a variety of reasons.

Let's say that for the type of work the photographer wants to do, live view is important. Then Sony is a better fit than all the other brands.

Or, let's say they have an interest in large-print landscape or portrait work where full-frame option down the road is beneficial. Then Nikon, Canon and Sony become better choices because those systems offer full frame DSLRs and investments in flashes and lenses can migrate up to the body later on (which you couldn't do if you went from Pentax DSLR to medium format).

These are just some of the examples off the top of my head. I would guess that about 75% of people wouldn't necessarily benefit from one system over another but for the 25% there can be benefits to choosing one over the other.

As I've done sports shooting at youth events, I run into people all the time with DSLRs and I talk with them about equipment. Samee on forums on the internet. It's amazing how many of them made poor purchase decisions because they didn't match tools with requirements and instead thought any choice was just as good as another. In many cases that's true. But not always. And it's better to explore that notion BEFORE you spend your money than after IMO.
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Old May 24, 2010, 1:27 PM   #8
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...The E510 was sharp and produced real good images right out of the camera but it had a very very limited DR. Real hard to control highlight clipping.....
[snip]

...However, I'm once again looking at the Pentax since I have many PK mount vintage lenses. The K-x is a bargain right now and it's being considered one of the best entry level DSLRs. It handles high ISO extremely well and IQ is excellent.
Not to discourage you... But, given your past history of disliking blown highlights, one thing to consider is that even your Olympus EP-1 with it's smaller sensor has better highlight range compared to the K-x, given a properly exposed jpeg image

Although the K-x has pretty good Dynamic Range overall, it will tend to clip highlights earlier shooting jpeg from tests I've seen, given a properly exposed mid gray

Now, shooting raw and using curves to tweak the image could probably get around that issue (as total DR from deep shadows to highlights is very good). But, at most ISO speeds shooting jpeg, it's only going to have around 3 to 3.2 stops of highlight range above a properly exposed mid gray from tests I've seen, clipping highlights earlier than some of it's competitors.

For example, the Sony A550 has roughly one stop better highlight range (averaging around 4.2 stops above mid gray); and the Nikon D5000 has close to one stop better highlight range (averaging around 4 stops above a properly exposed mid gray). But, the K-x appears to "max out" it's highlight range at 3.2 stops above mid gray shooting at ISO 200; with lower highlight range at other ISO speeds (even though total DR is excellent, highlight range suffers given properly exposed mid tones).

See the K-x DR tests here:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/pentaxkx/page17.asp

Again, total DR is very good from it (better than most in the shadow areas). But, if you're concerned about blown highlights given properly exposed mid tones (which has been one thing I've seen you complain about from cameras you've used in the past), the K-x is trailing some of it's competitors in that area.
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Old May 24, 2010, 5:17 PM   #9
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Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax all make good cameras that meet wour needs, and the recommendations thus far have been for the next level above entry level. My suggestion is to go into the stores and play with them. Each will feel difference. Which is most comfortable to you? Are the controls laid out in a manner that is logical to you?

Thankfully, most cities have multiple big box stores, such as Best Buy. That way you don't have to be a 'pest' as you can spread it out by going to different stores and concentrate on questions and issues you had after the first session. If you are fortunate to have independent camera stores that cater to the local pros as I have two, save them for last. They will have the most knowlegable personnel that live and breath photography - and many times prices will be at or close to mail order.
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Old May 24, 2010, 7:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnG View Post
...
First, let's say a photographer plans on doing quite a bit of flash photography. Nikon has a much better flash system. Sony and Canon are also better.

Let's say they are interested in sports or motion wildlife. Again, the pentax system as a whole lags behind Nikon or Canon in those areas for a variety of reasons.

Let's say that for the type of work the photographer wants to do, live view is important. Then Sony is a better fit than all the other brands....
This is exactly what I was trying to say, John. One's interest today may not be the same tomorrow. So, one may be interested in wild life photography today, buy the Canon and then tomorrow start doing indoor photography and fall short on the flash range (which would not be a problem if one had bought the Nikon, for instance). So, IMO, we should look at the overall qualities of the cameras within our price range rather then fine tune to our immediate needs because tomorrow our needs might be very different.
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