1. Most kit lenses on DSLRs are the equivalent of around 28mm on a 35mm SLR at the wide end whereas most P & S lenses are the equivalent of around 36-38mm. So you have plenty of wide angle for party shots (Nikon & Sony 18 x 1.5 = 27mm. Olympus 14 x 2 =28mm).
2. Both the Nikon 18-55 and the Olympus 14-42 are 3x zooms. The Sony 18-70mm is a 4x zoom..
3. Both the Nikon and Olympus lenses get good reviews on this (and other ) sites but the Sony lens is very weak..
4. If you are shooting parties and events you should be OK with just an 18-55mm. You can just take a step back or forward to fill the frame and get the same as an 18-70..
5. If you want to shoot wildlife you will need a much longer lens. A 55-200 (Nikon) or 40-150 (Olympus) will be fine for shooting e.g children horseriding but birds and other smaller creatures really require something like a Nikon 70-300 VR as a minimum focal length..
6. I strongly suggest you get to a camera store and look through the viewfinder of a few cameras to see not only the zoom parameter but also how clear and large the VF view is. You may feel that the Olympus VF is tunnel like which is a product of using a smaller sensor..
7. Be aware that you are buying into a system. Canon and Nikon are by far the biggest players in the market. In consequence they have by far the largest range of accessories including flashes and lenses and they are commonly available as used buys as well..
8. Olympus use a smaller sensor than Canon/Nikon/Sony etc. It is 29% smaller (Or the others are 40% bigger). The upside is that they can make their cameras a little smaller. The downside is that they do not perform so well at high ISO. I would say your realistic limit on an Olympus is ISO 800 compared with ISO 1600 on the Nikon.
That could make a big difference if you are taking lots of shots indoors without an external flash or it may not matter at all (but you do mention parties and events but not whether they are indoors)..
9. Of the three you mention Nikon is particularly strong on kit lenses:18-55 (Both VR & non VR)18-7018-13516-85 VR55-200 (Both VR & Non VR).
10. Do not get bewitched by VR. In most circumstances you can bump up ISO by one stop and get more or less the same result. Most people can hand hold without camera shake on a kit 18-55mm at 1/30th at the wide end going up to 1/80th at the telephoto end. If you are taking photos of people you really need a minimum of 1/60th anyway to freeze minor body movement. So much of the time it is no big deal but it is excellent in low light in e.g museums..
11. You will be fine with an 18-55 but what would I suggest you get if you have limited funds? I would start with the lens and work backwards. For an inexpensive one lens solution look at the Nikon 18-135. They are readily available used on Ebay and you may be able to pick up both the lens and a body for a good price there. See if you can find a D40x plus 18-135. That body is near identical to the D60 which has only two additional features worth mentioning.
You can easily read the shutter count on any Nikon from a recent photo displayed on your PC using a program like Opanda (free download). A shutter count of less than 10,000 should be perfectly OK..
Hope that helps you a little. But you MUST go to a store and try them out. that may tell you all you need to know..
*Nikon* D Eighty + Fifty - Other equipment in Profile.
Thanks so much for your info. I appreciate it. It's all very educational for me. I really appreciate your help! I am still undecided on whether to go for one or the other. I have held them all in the store and they all feel great to me. I guess for me it may just come down to which camera has the most bang for the buck.
It's just such a hard toss up between that and the Nikon d60 with the 18-55vr lens!!! AHHH!! So many choices!!! ..
Think about what you want to use the live-view function for. I can't come up with a single useful application for such a thing (since you can't tilt the display and therefore can't shoot from the hip or above the head).
Dust-removal isn't necessary when you have one lens (say the 18-55 VR).
When you want to shoot at parties, I would recommend the larger sensor (maybe Nikon or Canon) and you could look in the reviews here to check the low-light Auto Focus (I believe Nikon has got an AF light) and high-ISO noise levels..
In my opinion sensor size and low-light capabilities are much more critical than live-view and dust-removal...
18-55mm is an all purpose lens, kinda wide to kinda tele. Good place to start. Due to the smaller sensor of the Olympus 14-42 lens behaves like roughly the same focal length as the 18-55 does on a Nikon (multiply nikon/pentax/sony by 1.5 to get 35mm film equivalents, multiply Olympus by 2).
You should go to a store and try one out to get an idea of how wide and how tele the lens is, that would be better than any explaination I could give..
Comments on the other posts....
Image Stabilization (nikon calls it VR) is of limited uses on shorter focal lenths, yes, but with longer focal lenths (millimeters) it becomes more and more useful, like on a 55-200..
D60 has "dust reduction" (of what use that really adds to a camera I'll question)..
Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..
While I don't necessarily disagree with BA baracus with respect to dust reduction and stabilization I find a correlation between those that don't have them and the lack of need for them..
The value of those features may not be important to some and more important to others. Personally in body stabilization on short prime lenses is important to my photography. You won't find that feature on short Canon and Nikon primes..
You didn't ask, but since you mentioned the E510 .... live view is of limited use in it's current incarnation in a SLR unless you're doing studio work on a tripod, macro work on a tripod, and have a tilt and swivel rear LCD..
Don't start off you SLR experience by thinking of it as a larger, more expensive, compact point and shoot. It's not...