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Old Oct 31, 2010, 3:37 PM   #1
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Default Shopping for Mom

My mom asked that I go camera shopping for her, and gave me a few requirements.

She wants something she can attach a wide angle lens to, and a detachable flash, or...to at least be able to do something with the flash, because with her current camera (some Kodak one, I'm not sure which) when she puts the wide angle lens on, she's unable to use the flash because the lens obscures it. She's a real estate agent, and uses the camera to take pictures on homes, both interior and exterior. She didn't give me a price range, but I'm guessing she's not going to want to spend over $1000.

Any help is appreciated, thanks.
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Old Oct 31, 2010, 4:37 PM   #2
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I am going to assume that your Mom is talking about a dSLR. There are wide angle lenses that can be put on some P&S but they are of dubious quality and usefulness. The flash requirement translates to what is called a "hot shoe".

So essentially you are looking for a dSLR, which generally all have hot shoes for the flash. The next item is the wide angle lens. Wide angle lens are not inexpensive commodities. You want something that has low distortion, and that will not break the bank.

The two I would suggest are made by Tokina. They are very high quality and equal anything that Canon, Nikon and Pentax produces.
So you might have noticed that I have not really said anything about the camera body. The lenses are the most important. With this selection you can then choose the camera body. For low light interior shots, high ISO speeds will be necessary.

One of the best high ISO cameras is the Pentax Kx and now superseded the Kr. Both are available new, either would be excellent. The Kx would be lower cost. The kicker is that the Pentax DA 12-24 lens would be at least $700 (Tokina does not sell lenses in Pentax mount, since they co-developed the lens). So the total will run around 480+700=1180 +/-.
Now, one of the main differences between Pentax and Sony as opposed to Canon and Nikon is image stabilization. Pentax and Sony has image stabilization in the camera body, so that any lens that is mounted is stabilized. Canon and Nikon on the other hand have it in the lens, so that if you want image stabilization you need to buy their more expensive image stabilized lenses. Also, in order to buy image stabilized lenses they need to make them in the focal lengths that you want or need. Neither Canon nor Nikon makes wide angle lenses that are image stabilized - I just looked but I might have missed one. So, in terms of stabilization - going with a Pentax or Sony body will help in that respect. None of the Tokina lenses are stabilized.

Canon and Nikon as indicated above have the Tokina lens support. Frankly I would go with the 11-16 lens since it is faster (operates in lower light), and runs $600. The 12-24 runs about $400 and it too is a VERY excellent lens. Either one will work very well. Camera bodies with high ISO - are several. Actually, the folks here would be better recommending a high ISO body in Nikon or Canon then me. But to give you a sample you can try the Canon T1i or T2i. Also the Nikon D3000 or D3100. Also, I am not knowledgeable in Sony bodies (but I will give it a flier - the A300 and A500 bodies).

I would also suggest a tripod. Even with a good lens and high ISO speeds, a good tripod would be in order.

Another thing I would recommend is to look in to HDR photography. This is where you set the camera up to take 3 to 5 bracketed shots, and then in your pc they are combined automatically. A regular shot with an underexposed and an overexposed shot are taken, then combined together. There by the lighting becomes much less critical in terms of getting good interior shots. A tripod should be used so that you get good alignment of the multiple shots.

Now, my suggestion would be for a Pentax K5 body and Pentax DA 12-24 lens. The new K5 body has extremely high ISO with very low noise. It would bust your budget since the body is going for $1500 with the $700 lens. But it would put all of these to shame. The K5 also has an in-camera HDR option such that it combines all 3 shots together and does very good alignment even for handheld shots. Pentax is really the only one that gives you the choice to be able to do it in-camera or out of camera for HDR. It is also a small light camera body (but all metal). My reasoning is that even though you can not get the Tokina 11-16/f2.8 lens, the K5's superior high ISO speed is so clean, that even with a slightly slower lens and coupled with image stabilization, you will come away with a much better higher quality image - and your Mom might just be able to do handheld with using the in camera processing. With this combination you may not need any flash (depending on the circumstances).

All of this boils down to time and convenience.

For flashes, all the cameras have hot shoes. Canon and Nikon have the best flash systems. Pentax the fewest. Again, I really do not use flashes, so others would be the best to advise here, based on the type of camera body you decide on.

So what does all of this mean. My opinion - and others certainly can disagree - the best bang for the buck -
  1. A very good wide angle lens - Pentax 12-24/f4 a bit slower than the Tokina 11-16/f2.8 but very good quality
  2. Pentax's Kx body - very good high ISO speeds will even out the lens speed and the lens will be stabilized that will help with the low light levels
  3. A tripod
  4. Light Room version 3 - has very good noise reduction that will help any camera that you purchase.
If your Mom has or is willing to spend a bit more, then swap the Pentax Kx for Kr (a newer version of the Kx with better ISO speeds). Or for the best you can get right now, the Pentax K5 - the best high ISO speeds you can get right now for the price, image stabilized with in camera HDR.

Regardless of what dSLR you Mom decides on, there is going to be a learning curve. It will not be overnight. She might say - its too complicated, that she wants everything in a Point and Shoot. Well each of these bodies has a "point and shoot" mode - where it is pretty much automatic. The HDR is going to take some practice if she decides to try it. The other choice is to punt on the camera and hire it done. I am just guessing but that would be an estimated $250 per house - 10 houses sales would be her break even point.

There is also a small set of cameras P&S that are "wide angle" but about half as wide as the above options. The Panasonic LX3 and LX5 are of this type and have a hot shoe for an external flash. They run about $400. The other wide angle P&S cameras do not have a hot shoe. The others would be something like Canon G12, S95, Nikon P7000, Samsung TL500.

There is a range - you and your Mom just have to figure out what you want to do and how to go about it...

Last edited by interested_observer; Oct 31, 2010 at 6:25 PM.
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Old Oct 31, 2010, 7:41 PM   #3
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Thanks for all the info, it was really helpful
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