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Old Nov 29, 2010, 7:59 PM   #1
KJC
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Default Entry-Levels: Sony a290 vs. Canon XSi

Unfortunately, I have a very low budget for the kind of DSLR camera I can afford. After days and days of research, I selected these two as the best candidates: the Sony Alpha a290 and the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi.

I know they're not very far up on the DSLR chain, even in entry-level, but they're the best value I could find for the best price. Nikon D3000 and Samsung NX10 were also nominees but they doesn't seem to feature much more than the Alpha a290 despite costing significantly more.

I am only, but regrettably, a photo enthusiast, so family/vacation/everyday photos and some novice photography on the side would be the main use. Although I personally would like to become more involved in photography, I don't have the time or experience to go professional quite yet, (college first! ugh) so any thoughts of buying additional lenses (other than the standard 18-55mm) will have to be put on hold for another few years.

Differences:
[Canon XSi] Live View, faster shooting, and family sensor BUT higher price
[Sony a290] Higher resolution, better overall image quality, lower price

Sony a290 seems to be the better choice if I'm looking for higher image quality but it's not a very popular DSLR, which leads me to think that it's too good to be true.

Canon XSi is significantly more expensive but more popular. Am I missing some kind of advantage it has other than the fact that it's a Canon camera? I know it's much smaller than the Sony a290 but honestly, size specification or weight isn't a big deal to me and the Live View can be dealt without if it comes with the extra cost of $100+.

*takes a breath* I apologize for the length of this post so far, but I do have a tendency to ramble.

If there are any other ideas for a decently, well-priced, basic DSLR that features high image quality and movie recording (not necessarily HD, just have the feature available), then please list them~!

- Aspiring-but-financially-restricted-photo-enthusiast
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Old Nov 29, 2010, 9:05 PM   #2
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I'd suggest you research people's experiences with Sony warranties and after-sales service. That may help you decide. There's no way I'd buy a Sony.

Have you considered buying used? Many people change their cameras when a new model comes along, or (in my case) when two models have been passed by. These older cameras may well offer most of what you want at a very low price.

You're restricting yourself in wanting video on your stills camera, as only recent cameras offer that. If you research you may also decide that the quality of video offered is so poor that you'd prefer to get a separate video camera. My Canon 5D doesn't have video, but the stills quality is better than almost everything else out there. You can pick those up now for 35-40% of the new price.
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Old Nov 29, 2010, 9:34 PM   #3
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Honestly in all of my research, I haven't heard a thing about complaints with Sony as a company. The only grumbles I heard were about individual camera model features (i.e. lack of video, live view, and weight/size).

Edit: My bad. Scratch what I said about the used - I had a really dumb moment. Used is the path I would take if I was to buy anything but the Sony. The Sony a290 I can get at a cheaper price for brand new than a used Canon XS/XSi. However, even used beautiful cameras like T1i and T2i doesn't bring the price down by much.

As for the video features request, my parents were hoping that I would decide on a camera that has it so they could make it a 'family camera' but it doesn't seem worth it if the stills quality makes up for it. In that case, video is no longer a sought after requirement in my book. Does that open up any doors?

Last edited by KJC; Nov 29, 2010 at 9:48 PM.
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Old Nov 29, 2010, 9:56 PM   #4
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I have had repeated problems with Sony over many years, with almost every type of consumer product that they sell. The problems are not so much with the product itself as with the company's attitude when it goes wrong. They don't want to know. Just two examples - a top model Vaio (which in Britain cost about $4k) failed just one month outside warranty, due to a faulty motherboard that Sony knew about. However, as it was out of warranty they refused to do anything about it. And a professional-level DAT sound recorder ($3000+) failed after about 2.5 years - Sony said "throw it away, we don't repair them". I have many other examples. It's interesting that EVERY Sony product I have bought, in total at least 10 of them and all high-end, has failed shortly after the warranty expired.

Compare that with Canon, who willingly repaired a compact camera 5 years old that I had bought used, when the sensor failed due to a known fault. My present 5D developed a fault with the LCD display panel, but as I live in a third world country i wasn't able to get it to them until 7 months after the warranty had expired, when I was on a visit to the USA. Made no difference - they replaced the panel, cleaned the sensor/focussing screen/prism, replaced the strap which they decided was looking a bit worn, then couriered it to my hotel in NYC. All without cost.

Ironically the sensor in the compact camera was manufactured by Sony and also fitted to their cameras, but they refused to repair any of their cameras with the fault once the warranty had expired.

So, I trust Canon and will buy their products. I don't trust Sony and won't buy theirs.
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Old Nov 29, 2010, 10:53 PM   #5
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Thanks for the input! That's strange, seeing as we have a $900+ Sony Vaio and a tv from them and both of them are performing exceptionally well as of right now, but I'll wait and see what happens as time goes on. However, I think the Canon XSi will be my choice. ^^

Also, just a general question. Would it be a good idea to purchase the body and lens separately? Generally purchased separately adds up to lower total cost than buying the kit in whole. (Body meaning everything included in the original box except the lens)
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Old Nov 30, 2010, 12:53 AM   #6
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In my experience buying body + lens as a kit is usually cheaper. But whatever is available at the time.
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Old Nov 30, 2010, 1:52 AM   #7
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Sony uses sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, while Canon uses optical image stabilization in some of its lenses. Image stabilization prevents (or at least lessens) motion blur due to camera shake. It is particularly useful when using long lenses and/or long shutter speeds.

Since Sony's image stabilization is in the body, any lens will be stabilized. While Canon has a larger selection of lenses than Sony, many of those lenses aren't stabilized, and the ones that are are bigger, heavier, and more expensive. Also, stabilized lenses are relatively new, so you won't find many on the used market, but the used market has quite a selection of lenses that will be stabilized on a Sony body, including 20+ year old Minolta autofocus lenses.

The Canon has 'Live View' that the Sony doesn't, but since dSLRs are bigger and heavier than P&S cameras, and of course, the lenses are bigger and heavier too, 'Live View' isn't as useful for dSLRs as it is for P&S cameras.

Consumer Reports rates the reliability of Sony's products in general as better than average, and customer satisfaction rating at about average. I think peterbj7 has either suffered a string of bad luck, or he encountered the same bad review posted in multiple locations.
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Old Nov 30, 2010, 9:03 AM   #8
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No, I'm speaking from personal experience. I'd love to learn that Sony's ex-Minolta range are quite different from their other products, but in most cases a leopard doesn't change its spots. Sony make some superb products, superb that is in terms of design, and I believe the quality of manufacture to be high in that they (mostly) all work very well from new. But they are badly let down by what happens after, and their corporate attitude stinks - they just don't want to know.

Remember that most "consumer reports" only consider products that are new or in their first year. I'm sure Sony will score highly here. But most people when they buy a product expect it to last and continue to give the same high performance well beyond the warranty period, and this is where my experience with Sony is so dire.

The professional DAT machine I referred to above became unusable due to digital errors after about 2.5 years of moderate use. Sony simply said they were "disposable". After some digging I found the only company in the world that does work on these is a US company based in Minnesota, so I contacted them. They told me some horror stories about the components Sony put inside the glossy case, components clearly designed to fail. For example, a DAT machine contains high-speed moving parts (rather like a video recorder) yet Sony don't fit lockscrews to any of the adjustment screws, but just rely on glue. They all work loose after a while and digital errors are the result. The Minnesota folks give a guarantee that once they have refurbished the unit, with many new and better-designed components, that its performance will exceed the new unit and it will work to spec for at least 5 years. I know this to have substance as I have spoken to people - studios - who have used them. Yet they charge a very modest fee for their work, only about 7% of Sony's original price. This is a very expensive piece of equipment that ostensibly appears to give full professional quality performance (and it does, initially), but in reality it is very cheaply made inside and worse, it is deliberately designed to fail.

The Vaio was the absolute top-of-the-range model, bought not by me but by my brother who has more money than sense. It was more than double the cost of a Dell with similar specification. Yet when it failed after 13 months - it simply refused to boot - we did some investigations and discovered there was a design fault on the motherboard that was well known in the industry and well documented. For such a high-end machine any other manufacturer would have issued a recall, but not Sony. Still worse, they cut off any support the instant they were no longer legally obliged to give it. Their charge for a new motherboard, to the revised design that they had been putting in new machines for a while, was 60% of the cost of the original computer (before fitting) and in itself more than the cost of a new equivalent Dell. Not only that, but they didn't fit it themselves but only sold it to third part workshops, with no guarantee that the end result would work properly. They didn't realise of course that my brother buys over 40 fairly high-end laptops a year for his business, and given this experience he was hardly ever going to buy another Sony. He buys Dell now, vastly cheaper and better built with a better (longer) warranty.

And what about the defective sensor fitted to compact cameras from so many manufacturers? The only company NOT to stand by their products and repair them at no cost to the customer is the company that made the defective part in the first place, Sony.

I think there's too much consistency here for this to be just "bad luck".

Beware that "image stabilisation" may not be all that it appears. I haven't come across an in-body system that comes close in performance to a good in-lens system, which presumably is why the two biggest camera manufacturers, Canon and Nikon, choose the in-lens system.
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Old Nov 30, 2010, 9:41 AM   #9
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It would help if the original poster indicated their budget range. Also, it would help if we knew what the main use would be - sports, landscapes, kids, travel, etc. There are quite a few older bodies, some of which are available as refurbished from the manufacturers that may be of interest.

Canon and Nikon developed their image stabilization while they were still using film, thus a lens based system design was their only real option. There are tradeoffs for every selection. I have read that yes, indeed lens based stabilization is better, but in body stabilization does a very respectable job. There are different benefits to both approaches.

The K20 was Pentax's top of the line body 2 years ago. Its currently available refurbished for $499 with the kit lens. It has been superceeded by the K7 and K5.
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Old Nov 30, 2010, 11:13 AM   #10
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1. When Sony developed the DAT system, the RIAA was up in arms as it was a consumer product that allowed digital recordings of records, permitting a consumer to make a master from which he or she could mass produce pirate copies, and actually had Congress pass legislation prohibiting the device. Soon after all that, Sony bought CBS Records and thereby became a member of the RIAA. When that happened, not supporting DAT was in Sony's best interest all the way around. That's when support for DAT died a quick but painful death. No surprise.

2. Anybody that buys a VAIO deserves exactly what they get: A Toy.

3. Sony also made rechargeable batteries that were sold to various laptop manufacturers, including Apple, Dell, and HP. Those batteries needed to be recalled, and Sony made arrangements with each of those manufacturers, so their products would be recalled, in turn, so that Sony's efforts could be staggered, but that everyone's customers would be serviced in a reasonable amount of time. I suspect that the issue with Sony's faulty image sensors was handled in a similar fashion.
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