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A Digital Dilemma - Prosumer Super-Zooms' or Entry-Level dSLRs?
[I apologize for the length of my post, if you can't be arsed to read it, just skip to the last paragraph].

Okay, before I state my case, heres the facts:1. I am in need of a new camera.2. I have aleast a month n a half before I can make the purchase..

Now keeping those in mind, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time here on these forums & following review pages across the web trying to pick the perfect camera for me. I had, in the start been considering a very basic upgrade of a P&S (Canon A720-IS) and I still consider that to be a startlingly good camera for the price tag it carries..

But, as my budgetary constraints loosened a little, I found myself enthralled by the prosumer range of super-zooms out there. After pitting it against the likes of the Olympus SP-570, Nikon P80 & the Sony H50, I found myself favoring the Panasonic FZ-18 above the rest..

Throughout this I had kept the rangefinder look-alikes of the Canon G9 & the upcoming Nikon P6000 in mind as possible substitutes but I dont find myself especially drawn to either&.

Now I am for the time being settled on the FZ-18 as my camera of choice, and I do truly think it is a wonderful piece of photographic equipment & I have weighed it against virtually every parameter I could think of&.

That was before I was asked a very simple question, in that, Dude, why dont you just go for an SLR?.

Now I have a lot of answers for this that I used to argue my case with, the small & light body, the ease-of-use, the not as tasking care & maintenance, the durability & lack of use of extra lenses (which would still be an option though)& But I found myself looping with what seemed more & more justifications than real reasons..

A lot of the entry level dSLRs out there come with a very affordable price-tag. Older models that were stars in their own time are also well within range& And a D60 (or even a D40x) is still a very good camera. Infact, should I wait till December, I could easily get the best of the entry-level dSLRs (the Canon 450D in my books& for now) but in doing so, I would be avoiding the real question of why dSLR?.

I have used the Nikon 80D & the Canon 450D very recently & truly love the former while having serious respect for the latter. I know the very basic superiority of SLRs in terms of manual usage & although Im not an expert by any stretch of (my own) imagination, I do know enough about photography to know for a fact that I would be completely at ease with the most complicated SLRs in a pair of weeks. (Itd inevitably take me longer to actually transform that academic knowledge into photography-skills, but I am confident that this would be done too)..

Having said that& I still dont have an answer to the question of why dSLR?..

I am not a photographer by profession, nor do I see myself becoming one anytime soon. I am not looking for large prints where even the tiniest bit of exposure or contrast anomalies would be abhorrent. I am not interested in getting the dynamic range just right or spending hours laboring over RAW files & hiding the tiniest loss of detail to noise or inherently inaccurate noise-reduction protocols&.

Should I even be considering a dSLR? Have I already made my case against it? Does it make sense to get an elaborate P&S with a ridiculous range for now & then spend thousands of dollars in getting dSLRs a year or two down the line?.

As photographers, both hobbyist & professional, would you recommend me to get a cheap dSLR or stick to my guns & get the FZ18 (or any other similarly exaggerated P&S)?..

Comments (12)

Any entry level dslr will have a larger _potential_ operational range than the best high end prosumer or point and shoot. The operational range involves the ability to selectively focus with a narrow depth of field, better high iso performance, better manual control, interchangeable lenses optimized for a specific need vs one size fits all..

It sounds to me like you don't need nor want an entry level slr. There's nothing wrong with that..

Working on your imagination and composition will make you a better a photographer with a prosumer/p&s than will a slr without that study..

PS: I don't even like my P&S due to it's size and controls, and I love my slr's for that reason...

Comment #1

Mrxdimension wrote:.

It sounds to me like you don't need nor want an entry level slr.There's nothing wrong with that..

Working on your imagination and composition will make you a better aphotographer with a prosumer/p&s than will a slr without that study..

I agree completely mate, I think that's the very point to my dilemma! I don't want to get a mediocre SLR when I know I can learn to use the very best of them & can probably afford a much better SLR a year from now..

I am not planning any major vacations or trips in the meantime that I would be loosing out on some serious photo-time & frankly, the first thing I know about photography is that you are not as good as your equipment, your equipment is as good as you are..

If I don't have the eye for photography then the best SLRs or the Leica M8 won't make a difference, and if I can develop any skill whatsoever, then I won't find myself too tied down with a prosumer-ish p&s..

Right?..

Comment #2

Yes for the most part. The qualification is a rangefinder such as the M8 (which most of us can't afford), or used film rangefinders is a different style of photography. You take a different style of photo when using a rangefinder. I learned a lot using an Argus C3 rangefinder with Kodachrome slide film then moved to film SLR's. This is all beside the point..

My ex had a sense of composition and timing with a disposable cardboard camera that put me to shame at least half the time using a film or digital slr. Work on your imagination, eye, and technique. You'll know when you need a slr..

She was also a wizard with photoshop and collages...

Comment #3

What I think you are asking is whether or not a good p&s can take the same shot as a 6mp dslr, and when printed at a 8x10inch how do they compare..

The answer is yes no and maybe. I can illustrate this by the following real story which I found to be interesting..

In the summer of 2006 a pro working for a website and photo magazine went on a trip to hawaii. he took his canon20d, a dslr, and a canon s3IS, a good p&s super zoom. his intent was to shoot as many identical shots as possible with the 2 cameras and compare the results when he got home. before he went he said that the dslr should win in a walk. if for no other reason that the dslr has more mps..

What happened was the following: in 80% of the shots it was difficult to impossible to tell which camera shot which pic. the 80% however all had something in common. they were pics of everyday scenes or people or landscapes. there was not any closeups, heavy telephoto, macro or any other specialized images. for everyday shooting the super zoom did extremely well. BUT, when the dslr was able to switch lenses for a special use or add other gear to get a more optimized photo gear setup; there was simply no comparison.

In the remaining 20% the p&s could not compete on a one for one quality image basis. the p&s beyond the builtin features could not adapt well enough in very difficulkt conditions, but the dslr could..

So therefore as long as the user stays inside of the limits that a good p&s super zoom has the pics will generally be very good. once you try to take images that are pushing the design limits then the super zoom simply has no way to change to get any more performance..

Please note that the above is talking about a max print size of 8x10inches. this was the comparison used. if you increase the print size to 11x14 or 16x20 or 20x30 THEN the p&s would not be able to compete in even more situations and would be doing this faster as the print size went up...

Comment #4

PS: If you think you might want to get a dslr or a rangefinder in the future get a camera with an optical viewfinder to acclimate yourself. The optical viewfinders of prosumer and p&s cameras are rather poor in comparison but they'll give you a feel for what you'll need to do if you take the step to a dslr..

Don't be mislead by dslr's that have live view. Their size, handling, and quality of live view are not going to be useful in general for a person used to a prosumer / p&s. Live view on a dslr has it's uses such as studio or macro work, but it's not suited for general shooting...

Comment #5

There is a way out of your predicament. Buy a camera which will not sit idle after your potential DSLR purchase. e.g. an Ultra- Compact or one with good movie mode or extreme tele or wide zoom. Some worthy considerations: Panasonic FX500, Canon SD series (you can experiment with CHDK firmware for enhancing their cpabilities), TX1, Panasonic FZ18 (for tele-zoom, wide angle and general purpose, family holidaying etc, where you won't like to carry your expensive DSLR on beaches, expose to water/dust)..

My pick: Panasonic FX500 (for manual controls, super wide angle) or TX1 (pocket superzoom, superb movie mode. you can later hand over it to your better half or kids). Panasonic LX2 will also be good with it's RAW mode, MF/AF lens but it is not exactly pocket sized..

Gaurav S wrote:.

Should I even be considering a dSLR? Have I already made my caseagainst it? Does it make sense to get an elaborate P&S with aridiculous range for now & then spend thousands of dollars in gettingdSLRs a year or two down the line?.

Best Wishes, Ajayhttp://picasaweb.google.com/ajay0612Thanks for your time...

Comment #6

IMHO I disagree with a very wide range zoom that covers super wide to super tele. Call me a fanatic but I think the approximate range of a G9 is about as much as I personally would tolerate before the optical quality of the lens bothered me. My issue with G9 and A series is they don't go quite wide enough for my taste. I'm probably in the minority..

My solution is to look for shots I can get with my A series and forget the what might have been if had my dslr. There's no such system that will cover all situations well, you'll spend tons of money and not find it the do everything system. Adapt and specialize...

Comment #7

Ask yourself the following questions:.

1) would I really use/need the long zoom? Check over your pics from the past few years and how many would you have wanted more zoom. For some, they love wildlife etc, for others they rarely go long..

If you do want long zoom, then an ultrazoom like the FZ18 or FZ50 would be a great choice. Going long with a DSLR requires serious cost and weight for that glass..

2) How much does size/weight bother you? If it's a serious consideration, then stay away from the DSLRS. If not, then consider them..

3) How much time do you spend composing and getting the pics right? Or are you on Auto most the time?.

Lastly, most the entry (or just above entry) DSLRs are just fine. There is not that much image difference between those and the higher ones for most people. The pricier ones have more controls, are faster, etc. But if you go the DSLR route, don't sweat the body, rather sweat the glass. Get good lenses and then when you get a new body in a few years you won't have to get new lenses...

Comment #8

Mrxdimension wrote:.

Yes for the most part. The qualification is a rangefinder such asthe M8 (which most of us can't afford), or used film rangefinders isa different style of photography. You take a different style ofphoto when using a rangefinder..

I know mate, I was referring to what I see as the ultimate progression in terms of photography (although I know i'll be bashed for this) from point & shoots to SLRs & finally to that most exquisite art of capturing moments known as rangefinders....

But then, like you said, the Leica (which is my ultimate camera goal) is well beyond my budget & is likely to remain well beyond my budget for a fair few years still....

Right now, I just need a basic camera for vacations with loved ones & the random walk in the park... (read: zoo, forts, ruins, gardens, nature-preserves, wildlife encampments, beaches etc...).

Mrxdimension wrote:.

PS: If you think you might want to get a dslr or a rangefinder inthe future get a camera with an optical viewfinder to acclimateyourself.Don't be mislead by dslr's that have live view....

Oh I agree 100%. I have no innate love for the live-view aspect of dSLR's & although I can appreciate that certain conditions would greatly benefit the live-view, my personal "feel" for the subject is to trust the viewfinder or judge the parameters without looking directly at the screen....

Live-view to me makes sense in the way that certain prosumer P&S cameras incorporate it (such as the tilt & swivel action of the S5 or the Sony range...) but it really doesn't feature too greatly on my list of priorities..

Mrxdimension wrote:.

My issue with G9 and A series is they don't go quite wide enough for my taste. > I'm probably in the minority..

I personally agree with you, although the high 20's that these super-zooms offer is better than the 35mm stock you find on most P&S's, i'd personally love it for one of them to aim a bit wider... I don't suppose that'll happen anytime soon, but a guy can hope...

Comment #9

GaryDeM wrote:.

In the summer of 2006 a pro working for a website and photo magazinewent on a trip to hawaii. he took his canon20d, a dslr, and a canons3IS, a good p&s super zoom. his intent was to shoot as manyidentical shots as possible with the 2 cameras and compare theresults when he got home.what happened was the following: in 80% of the shots it was difficultto impossible to tell which camera shot which pic. the 80% howeverall had something in common. they were pics of everyday scenes orpeople or landscapes. there was not any closeups, heavy telephoto,macro or any other specialized images.



Thanks for sharing that mate, I appreciate it & I see what you mean by it as well, and I suppose it would be futile to truly compare the imaging abilities of a proper dSLR against a P&S (no matter how many bells & whistles are added) but then again, as of now, I don't think I have the technical expertise, field experience or frankly the desire to go into what you describe as the "specialized images"..

I am sure i'll run into points where I feel let down by the scope of the P&S, but then that would probably be true even of the dSLR unless I have a half dozen lenses & accessories with me to cater to every possible scenario at all times..

I guess I'm just rationalizing that the P&S would mean lesser baggage which given my careless nature & the rather unkempt nature of my nation itself is a significant advantage over the uber-expensive "glass & mirror" combo of the dSLR...

Comment #10

Benedik wrote:.

Ask yourself the following questions:1) would I really use/need the long zoom?.

I am sure I'll find use for the 18x as well, a sturdy tripod & pollution-free environment is hard but not impossible to find even in India... but in all honesty, I don't think I would consider the long zoom as a "need" or even a "want"..

The 18x offered by the Panasonic or the 20x offered by the Olympus don't entice me. I'd be very satisfied with a 9x-12x option, but to match the rest of the features & components I am looking for, I found no other genre of cameras save the "super-zooms"..

2) How much does size/weight bother you? If it's a seriousconsideration, then stay away from the DSLRS. If not, then considerthem..

That quite frankly is one of my main considerations. Not so much the weight & dimensions, but the physical size & the sense of maintenance & care that would accompany it. I want to be able to have a camera that I can take with me through the jungles or beaches or rivers or parks without constantly worrying about it's dust filters committing suicide!.

3) How much time do you spend composing and getting the pics right?Or are you on Auto most the time?.

This is a very interesting part because although I love the manual abilities entrusted onto the photographer by the dSLR, I know I won't be setting up every shot manually. I can't look at a scene through the viewfinder & instantly judge the aperture width or shutter speed or ISO or DoF... I want to develop that skill for certain, but I know that for a large proportion of shots, I will be relying on the preset scene-selections or auto... In this, I find the super-zooms to be stellar as they allow me a significant degree of manual control without over-complicating the process for my considerably neewbie-ish mind (specially with regards to experience).

Lastly, most the entry (or just above entry) DSLRs are just fine.There is not that much image difference between those and the higherones for most people..

I'm not sure I buy that mate... I mean sure, the D60's & 450D's are great but then they aren't exactly "entry-level" & then they aren't exactly the same as their elder-brothers. Wouldn't you agree?.

If you go the DSLR route, don't sweat the body, rather sweat the glass..

That is very good advice indeed mate! I shall keep that in mind for whenever I do decide to invest in a dSLR + lenses.....

Comment #11

I would suggest fror any camera you buy that you get enough memory cards and get as least I extra battery. my dslr uses AA batteries and I have 4 sets including the set in the camera. I have a total of 28gb of memory cards. for you that is probably far too much. I would suggest 3 or 4 4gb memory cards. mak sure that you fast enough cards for whatever camera you buy.



Also, other possible extras are: lightweight tripod(the light kind if you get a super zoom p&s, heavy and better if you get a dslr), camera bag, cable release if your camera can use it, lens cleaner, battery chager for the camera bag(so you can leave the one that came with the camera camera home and not unplug it all the time), possible hot shoe mounted flash)if you camera can do that, also the onboard flash is not very powerfull abouit 10-12ft is all they will go)...

Comment #12

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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