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Old Jan 13, 2011, 7:52 PM   #1
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Hi all. This post may be a bit long but I'm at my wits' end trying to find the correct solution to a complex camera question.

Background: I shot for 25+ years on film with a Nikon F2, an FM2 for backup and pretty-good AI-S glass. My results were reliable, sharp and more or less exposed well. I'm not a pro but have an OK eye. In 2005 my gear was stolen and I took the jump into the DSLR world with a D200. I haven't taken a good picture since.

There is simply too much to learn. I'm older, I have ham-hocks for hands, I need strong reading-glasses but have perfect far-vision. In my older gear I had a great needle exposure meter that worked for me. Put the needle in the middle and press the button. Voila. I don't wear my glasses when I'm out shooting so having 2000 pieces of miniscule information in the viewfinder is pointless.

I don't know how to use 99% of the gadgets and doodads on the D200, nor do I wish to learn them. I read the books and sometimes I think I "get it," but since I only use the camera 2 or 3 times a year, by the time I need to to take a quick picture, I've forgotten it all .

This year I'm going to Europe for what will probably be the last time in my life. I want to explore some great French villages, Swiss mountain towns and do some fun stuff in Germany. I do NOT want to spend all my spare time memorizing esoteric features and taking pictures of test-patterns just to take holiday snaps.

I don't mind spending money if the results will be razor-sharp images, but I am unable to achieve this result on my D200 with either the 18-200 or 12-24 lenses that I spent a freakin' fortune on 6 years ago. My wife's pocket camera takes sharper pictures for heaven's sake!

I've been told to fix it in "post." Nope. Don't wanna. Tried unsharping in Photoshop. Too fiddly, too time consuming and I'm just too darned old to get all this.

Is there a digital SLR equivalent of my beloved F2 and FM2? I'm not married to Nikon and will gladly look at other makers. Only result that counts is razor-sharp landscape images. I don't take pictures of people, just my cats and lots of mountains and places I don't want to forget.

Thank you all for reading this far. I will be very very grateful for well-thought-out recommendations but please don't tell me to just get with the program and learn all the fancy toys. Please give this ol' guy a recommendation that's right for me and not a wish-list for a 30-something computer programmer with perfect eyesight .

Many thanks in advance.
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Old Jan 13, 2011, 8:04 PM   #2
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Your razor sharp photo needs will come with high end lenses. For canon, you will have razor sharp photos with the high end canon L lenses. Nikon has pro lenses also. But the pro stuff is expensive. So it comes down to what you are looking to spend, and since you said you have large hands. The compact dslr bodies like the canon rebels or the nikon d5000 or d3100 will most likely not work for your hand size.

I would look at the next tier of camera, like the nikon d7000 or canon 60D. They have larger bodies so they should be easier for you to handle.
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Old Jan 13, 2011, 8:33 PM   #3
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Fair enough on the D7000 and 60D but my question is how complex are these cameras? That's the single biggest part of the equation. Glass is glass; spend more get sharper images. But the best glass on earth won't make a bit of difference if the body it's slapped onto is too complex for my ol' grey-matter to use!

Maybe I should put it another way: Is there any DSLR equivalent of my beloved F2 or FM2 film bodies? Suppose a once-in-a-lifetime shot possibility is happening right in front of my house. I want to grab my camera, turn it on, point and keep shooting until my 8GB CF card is full. I don't want to think about what menu-item 8, setting 2 and option 1 is. Right now, I have the camera refusing to shoot if it doesn't think it's focused (and it never really is, anyways), or if the light level is too high or too low, etc. Take the darned picture! I'd rather have a blurry picture of the Loch-Ness Monster battling a Sasquatch than no picture at all because my camera that didn't want to disappoint and take a less-than-perfect picture. OK, I'm being silly, but you get my drift, I hope ;-).

File it under Too Much Information or as Scotty said, "The more complicated the plumbing the easier it is to stop up the drain." I don't need to see which auto-focus sensors are doing their thing, what flash EV settings are or anything except whether I'm close to having a good exposure. I can't see all that info anyway! I really miss my ol' manual boat-anchors and I wish I could get the same uncomplicated but reliable functionality in a new digital body.

Last edited by PeterD; Jan 13, 2011 at 8:40 PM.
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Old Jan 13, 2011, 9:07 PM   #4
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I am no expert here, but I would suggest getting the very best ultra-zoom P &S camera you can find. Such a camera will not give a person equivalent results to a dslr, IF the user of the dslr is utilizing the camera to its best advantage. If what you're saying is you just cannot get a good shot out of your dslr and you can't learn to use it properly, then I'd get something you can pretty much put on "auto" and start shooting. And get in focus, sharp if not perfect, images. The result is what you're looking for, correct? Then you should use the means that will give you--you personally--the best results.

I can't recommend a particular camera--I'm partial to the Panasonic FZ series (Leica lens), but they are small. It took me, a woman with moderately sized hands, a while to get used to it. Coming from a larger P & S, it took some getting used to but I'm fine with it, as is my husband with his--and he has large hands. My old, heavy, big Olympus ultra zoom felt much more like a traditional 35 mm slr to me. I don't know what current camera would feel the best to you--you need to get to a store and handle some.

A great photo from a P & S will not beat a great one from a dslr, BUT a great shot from a great P & S is better any day than an out-of-focus, unsatisfactory shot from a great dslr. JMHO, of course. If you want to just grab and shoot, then a high-end P & S is the way to go, I think.
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Old Jan 13, 2011, 9:23 PM   #5
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I think you might get a canon s95 and be done with it.

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Old Jan 13, 2011, 9:27 PM   #6
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Hi, have you tought about the new mirrorless cameras?I have no personal experience but heard They are supposed to give better image quality than a point and shoot, and since a big share of their market is poin and shoot upgraders they are suppossed to be easier to use with great auto modes and i hear the olympus ones have a great jpeg engines so you can do without postprossesing. You still get interchangeable lenses if that is what you'd want.
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Old Jan 13, 2011, 11:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amc654 View Post
I am no expert here, but I would suggest getting the very best ultra-zoom P &S camera you can find. Such a camera will not give a person equivalent results to a dslr, IF the user of the dslr is utilizing the camera to its best advantage.
<snip>
A great photo from a P & S will not beat a great one from a dslr, BUT a great shot from a great P & S is better any day than an out-of-focus, unsatisfactory shot from a great dslr. JMHO, of course. If you want to just grab and shoot, then a high-end P & S is the way to go, I think.
I think this may be an acceptable Plan-B,and I fear that may be my only option in the long run, but Plan-A is still trying to find an SLR that gives awesome results without having to muck about with all the menus. I'm having difficulty in accepting that with all of today's fantastic technology, the geniuses at Nikon or Canon or wherever can't create a simple to use body that accepts ultra high-end glass. I don't mind forking over $1200-1500 for a lens that will yield razor-sharp images. Glass I understand. Mount it and use it. Bodies are different stories. Is there a Plan-B solution (high-end P&S) that has glass to die for and a sensor worthy of it?
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Old Jan 13, 2011, 11:58 PM   #8
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To add on to what Marubex said about Olympus's Pen Cameras I would agree for you. For a long time the E-P2 was the camera that I wanted and I spent months researching the Pen lineup. In my opinion the E-PL1 or E-PL2 is what I would choose for you. The commercials that they had to advertise these cameras were filmed using the cameras. These cameras are smaller than DSLRs because there is no mirror, that is they are like over sized point and shoot cameras, the buttons aren't smaller. In my opinion these cameras seem ideal for travel. If you wanted to you could put a pancake lens on the camera and then it should fit into one of your jacket pockets and then maybe a telephoto lens in the other. In addition, the operating systems on the E-PL1/2 are suppose to be extremely user friendly and the price is too. I would recommend that you utilize a camera rental website, rent the camera and a few lenses, and then take the camera out on a test run. You can't loose that way.


If you wanted to go point and shoot I would not go to a Canon S90 or S95. Those are very good cameras but with all the settings to play with may prove a little complicated and Ive heard some rumors that the cameras do "funny" things in auto mode wich you may not desire...
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Old Jan 14, 2011, 3:08 AM   #9
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I think possibly the thing that you are missing is on the processing side. Unless for some reason there is actually something wrong with your D200 you should be getting exceptionally sharp images with what you already have. A program like Lightroom or Aperture would probably solve all your problems, but they are not zero-effort, you do need to invest a little while in learning how to use them.

I guess my first question is what kind of output you need? Web only, viewing on an iPad, 4x6" prints, 8x12" prints, 20x30" prints?

My inclination is to say simply this:
Nikon D700 + 24-70mm f2.8 + Adobe Lightroom + Luminous Landscape Lightroom Tutorial Videos. Shoot RAW only in Program or Aperture mode with Auto-ISO and you will absolutely get what you are looking for.

(Add a 70-300mm VR zoom if you think you will need occasional telephoto shots. Keep your 12-24. Sell the D200 + 18-200.)

Working your way through the LR tutorials will take you 5-6 hours, but at the end of it you will have your software set up so that you don't need to think about it again. Output to Facebook is trivial. Output to online labs for prints is not quite trivial but certainly not hard. If you want to do your own printing then you will need to colour profile your monitor, but after that step it becomes very in easy in LR.

Two slightly off-the-wall options:

1. Get a Leica M9 and a couple of lenses. Manual focus only and rangefinder, but if you can live with that limitation a truly spectacular camera. For your purposes possibly ideal.

2. Go back to a film camera. Get your images processed and scanned at the same time. For the volumes that you shoot this is not going to be expensive, and may indeed end up being quite a lot cheaper. You could go for a Nikon F6 (new) or a used older Nikon. Keep your 12-24, and possibly add a couple of new or used lenses to suit. Once again the 24-70 f2.8 is a real cracker. Or of course a Leica M7 or MP would be fine too.

Get your film processed and scanned through these guys or similar: http://www.northcoastphoto.com/
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Old Jan 14, 2011, 3:43 AM   #10
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Maybe i'm obstinate, but I'd first want to see one of these "not so sharp" photos before proposing a solution. Just one.
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