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Old Apr 21, 2011, 9:30 AM   #1
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Default DSLR for < $1000.

If 1 wants a DSLR camera for the first time, and the budget is $1000, and the choices r,

Nikon D5100,
Sony a580,
Canon 550D/600D,

which one to choose? for general around the house photography, new born pics,children playing, outdoors,hunting, wildlife,etc The recommendation pl b based ONLY on pic taking capabilities,low light performance, IQ, and speed etc REGARDLESS of video capabilities and lens selection.

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Old Apr 21, 2011, 2:21 PM   #2
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Eh? You do know that the camera isn't very useful without a lens or two?

Does your budget include lens(es)?
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Old Apr 21, 2011, 3:19 PM   #3
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I can only comment on the a580 but I think it'd suit you well. The a580+18-55mm kit should be well within budget. I've found it easy to use, and the new sensor is great for IQ and low-light performance.

Sony lens selection is more limited but there's still more than enough for most needs. Like you I'm not bothered about video - it's more than good enough though if you've forgotten your video camera. I can recommend the tamron 77-300 as an extra lens if you want more reach without too much cost.
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Old Apr 21, 2011, 3:56 PM   #4
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Yes the budget includes lens/es
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Old Apr 21, 2011, 5:42 PM   #5
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canon 550D or if you want to spend a bit more the 600D, go with the 18-55 and 55-250. The 550D would be just under 1000 dollars.
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Old Apr 21, 2011, 8:27 PM   #6
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Personally, I'd get the Sony A580 with a $1K budget. It's got pretty good "bang for the buck" for a camera with it's sensor. I shoot with a Sony A700. So, I'd probably lean towards Sony anyway, especially since I have a number of Minolta AF lenses I use. Also note that any Minolta AF lens ever made will work on a Sony dSLR (and they'd be stabilized, thanks to the in body stabilization system), and if you're good shopper, you can sometimes find some good bargains on them.

Compared to the Canon 600D, the Sony A580 has lower noise levels, better dynamic range, faster frame rate, in camera HDR, and a *much* better Live View system. Any lens you use on the Sony would also benefit from it's in body stabilization system (and the Sony can use any Minolta Autofocus lens ever made). The Sony also has a much larger internal buffer (22 RAW frames before a slowdown for the A580, versus only 6 frames for the Canon 600D/T3i).

Compared to the Nikon, IQ is going to be similar (as both the Nikon D5100 and Sony A580 use a Sony 16MP CMOS Sensor). Shooting RAW, you probably won't see any difference between them with the same raw converter. Shooting JPEG, the Sony's noise reduction is more aggressive at higher ISO speeds compared to the Nikon. There are pros and cons to both approaches, depending on the print/viewing sizes needed. Personally, I shoot RAW anyway for most photos (so in camera processing is taken out of the equation).

But, the Sony does have a faster frame rate, larger internal buffer and much better Live View system compared to the Nikon (the Sony can focus just as fast using Live View as it can using it's optical viewfinder, whereas other brands will have much slower AF using Live View).

Nikon has improved a lot in that area (AF speed with Live View), and is a lot better than Canon in that area (the Canon may take as long as several seconds to lock focus using Live View, which makes it unsuitable for anything other than stationary subjects). AF with newer Nikon models is roughly twice as Canon models using Live View (but, it's still not very usable for anything other than still subjects).

IOW, there's no contest (the Sony is going to focus much faster compared to any other dSLR brand if using Live View (using the LCD versus optical viewfinder for framing), since it can use Phase Detect AF while in Live View mode. But, you may prefer using the optical viewfinder instead (and if so, then the Sony's much faster AF in Live View mode would not matter when comparing them).

Note that one other drawback with the Nikon is lack of support for HSS (High Speed Sync), also known as FP (Focal Plane Shutter) Mode with an external flash. IOW, even if you use a flash that has that feature like the Nikon SB-600, SB-700, etc., the D5100 body won't allow you to use their FP mode features. So, you'd be limited to a fastest shutter speed of 1/200 second with an external flash, even if it supports High Speed Sync. In the Nikon lineup, you'd need to move up to the D7000 to get support for HSS (or the D90, if going with more dated model while still available).

Now, having said all of that, any of those cameras are going to be fine for most purposes, and your skill level is going to be the limiting factor, not minor differences in Image Quality, features, etc.

Camera manufacturers tend to "leap frog" each other. Right now, the best APS-C size sensor available happens to be the Sony 16MP CMOS Sensor (as used in the Sony A580, Nikon D5100, Nikon D7000, and Pentax K-5). It's got lower noise levels, better dynamic range and better color depth compared to any of the Canon APS-C size sensors. But, next year this time, it may be the latest Canon sensor. If so, that doesn't mean the Sony sensor will stop taking good photos. :-)

You're splitting hairs if you're just looking for a general purpose camera for typical family use, as things like frame rates, buffer sizes, noise levels, etc., are not going to make any difference for most types of photography at typical viewing/print sizes.

IOW, unless you're "pixel peeping" at 100% viewing size on screen, or measuring differences in a lab environment, those differences are probably not going be noticed at typical viewing/print sizes.

Your skill level as a photographer is going to be the limiting factor, not the camera. Any of them would work fine for most purposes.

Lenses can make a difference. But, there's not a lot of difference in IQ between any of the kit lenses that ship with cameras in your price range.

I'd go down to a store and try them in person and decide the model you're more comfortable with. Then, see if there are any features one has over another that you think you might really use.
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Old Apr 21, 2011, 8:35 PM   #7
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I just wish I could trust Sony as a company.
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Old Apr 21, 2011, 8:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterbj7 View Post
I just wish I could trust Sony as a company.
I'm curious as to why you don't trust Sony? I'm not a Sony user and really haven't kept up with their DSLR's, but I'm still curious.
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Old Apr 21, 2011, 9:23 PM   #9
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sony does allot of thing that makes their product not as user friendly at time, making you go with the more expensive sony options at time, not dslr in general, but other things they make. I have sony stuff, and they like to do that kind of things from time to time.
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Old Apr 21, 2011, 9:29 PM   #10
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I've never had a Sony DSLR, though in the past I've used Minolta SLRs and Konica compacts. But I and my family have had numerous other Sony products, including a Vaio computer, video camcorders, televisions, a professional DAT sound recorder, a professional compact cassette sound recorder, a portable CD writer, a VHS recorder, and probably other things I can't think of.

With one exception (the CD writer) every one of these started life performing superbly, but every one failed in use not long after the warranty expired. Even that isn't the point though. The point is that in every case Sony washed their hands of the product. I sent one item, a professional compact cassette recorder, to their service department in England as it was overall in good condition; it came back still not working but now utterly ruined. I had an uphill struggle with them lasting several months before they finally agreed to replace it with a new one (but with no warranty). That new one lasted about the same length of time before it too failed, and this time I didn't bother to try to get anything done about it.

The DAT machine, which had cost GBP1500, failed after a couple of years of light use - it started to show digital read errors. When I contacted Sony they simply said it was a consumable item that they didn't repair, and that I should buy another one! I subsequently found one repairer in the whole world who dealt with these machines, a company in Minnesota, and sent it to them. They explained that the machine was very shoddily built internally even though it looked impressive on the outside and bore a professional price tag. Even the tape guides, critical to a machine such as this, were simply screwed into a backplate and not locked in position in any way other than with Loctite. Clearly they were going to move.

The Vaio was their absolute top model and cost in the UK some GBP2500. My brother bought it, found it didn't work properly, and just put it on one side (being a very busy man with lots of computers in his business). I visited him some months later and saw this computer boxed up somewhere, and got the story from him. I also couldn't get it to run, and did some research on it. Seems that model was fitted with a defective motherboard, and Sony had issued a recall notice which my brother hadn't seen (they didn't bother to get their retailers to contact their customers). The machine was now 2 months outside its warranty of 12 months. I contacted Sony to take advantage of the recall, but they said that offer lapsed with the warranty. They offered to repair the machine for GBP2000 with a one month warranty, which was obviously absurd. The machine was thrown away as nothing could be done with it. My brother buys around 40 laptop computers a year for his business, and you can be sure that he has never since bought a Sony.

I find Sony a company that is leading edge and produces some very cute toys, but which doesn't stand behind them. I simply don't trust them and I only ever buy Sony now if there's no realistic alternative. It's a great shame, and I wonder whether the boss of Sony realises this goes on.

In cameras and any other products that both Sony and Canon make, I will buy Canon without any hesitation. My experiences with them are exactly the opposite - they will go out of their way to support their products, regardless of whether the warranty has expired. My 5D developed a fault 10 months outside warranty, a one-off not subject to any recall, so I contacted Canon expecting to have a pay-for repair. Instead they sent a returns label for me to send the camera to them, and they repaired it over a weekend and returned it to me by courier. At no charge. So I WILL buy Canon again.
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