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Dilemma: keep Nikon D40 or change for Olympus E510?
I have been using a fully manual SLR camera for the past 20 years or so (Yashica FX-3), shooting photos for my magazine and newspaper articles as well as for personal pleasure. I use mostly a 50mm lens, and sometimes 28mm. I also have a 70-210 zoom I have rarely used..

I'm not new to photography, but I am TOTALLY new to digital cameras..

A few weeks ago I decided to get my first digital camera, a digital SLR. I narrowed my choice to the Nikon D40 ($549 CAD) or D40X ($699). I like the compact size and light weight, and went with the D40 (with 18-55 lens) as I could not justify the extra $150 for more pixels I didn't really need. Also, I thought, as my computer has limited storage space (an iBook G4 with only a 30 GB drive) the larger files from a 10MP would take up more space.

My thinking was also that for my first dSLR I should keep it simple, not spend too much, then, when I'm more comfortable with the technology, upgrade to something better..

Since purchasing the D40 I haven't had much time to experiment with it, but I am very pleased with the camera and photos so far..

Well, the other day I was back at the store and a salesperson told me I would be better off with an Olympus E510 ($680) since it has the Autofocus motor in the body (as opposed to the lens of the D40), plus additional features, among which Image Stabilisation..

He offered to refund the D40 if I want to buy the E510..

Now I don't know what to do.Is Image Stabilisation really that important?.

Thanks for any feedback...

Comments (25)

Before I get started.just thought I'd let you know that I am also a fulltime camera salesperson..

I also own the Olympus E-510 with 2-lens kit (see photo below)..

My advice is to go to the store and play with the E-510..

Hold it in your hands.play with it.how does it fit in your hands?.

Since the salesperson offered to do a full exchange, you should at least investigate the Oly..

It is a very nice camera and the in-body IS is a very nice feature to have..

And.the Oly kit lenses are better than any of the other kit lenses out there..

While I'm not saying it is a 'better' camera than the D40, it does have more bang for the buck, and is every bit as good of a camera as the D40!.

I sell cameras.was a fulltime photographer for over 20 years (newspaper and studio)..

And I chose the E-510!.

That all being said.be prepared for the onslaught of 'the 4/3rds sensor is too small!' posts..

It really isn't that much smaller.just different dimensions..

Or that lenses are too expensive.or that Oly doesn't have as many lenses available as the big boys on the block..

Their lens selection is smaller.but does cover the full spectrum!.

The E-510 will stand up along with any of the 10MP DSLR's in it's class out there in most shooting situations..

J. D.Colorful Colorado.

From my Oly E-510 w/40-150 kit lens zoomed out all the way (hand held):.

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Remember.always keep the box and everything that came in it!..

Comment #1

If you say you're pleased with the images and like the handling Why change?.

Just for IS? I don't know if that would convince me, though I need it badly (shaky hands).

Tell the salesperson you wanna try for a week so you maybe can find out and get the totak picture and "feel". The rest is up to you both are fine camera's..

I don't want to push you in either direction. I am just curious about the salespersons' motivation. Something strange is going on. If you didn't like the D40, you would have to have convincing arguments to change camera's. If the trade goes through, they will have sold 1 camera and have a second-hand camera to sell with a loss makes me wonder what is going on? Didn't you wonder?..

Comment #2

Thanks MusicDoctor..

I guess I'm still confused by all the bells and whistles that come on all these cameras. Ideally what I would have liked is a simple dSLR that looks and feels like my old SLR, with aperture ring on the lens, shutter speed dial, etc. I'm just not used to all these screen menus.And IS is just another feature to me, but do I really need it?.

That's an impressive photo by the way! I guess IS came in handy...?..

Comment #3

Yes, I did wonder.... I just went into the store to ask about longer lenses and the guy started saying "Why did you buy the D40? You would be better off buying a camera you can 'grow with'", etc. These salespeople are not on commission, so I don't know why he would try to "up sell" now unless it was for a good reason, I imagine....

He also suggested the Sony Alpha A100 ($750) but it seems bulkier and heavier than the others...

Comment #4

You can grow with the D40. Olympus has a narrower selection, but the D40 can't use to full effect all of the Nikon lenses, so it's more a case of figure out what you may want down the line with either system..

The Olympus has image stabilzation on the body, so you get it with the base system and any succeeding lenses that you buy regardless, and the D40 has not yet switched over to to the VR (vibration reduction - Nikon's term for image stabilization) for the basic kit lens. Olympus also is generally accredited with a very good kit lens, and a good price vs. feature list. On the down side is the 4/3 sensor, which is generally accredited to not be as good as Nikon's 1.5/1 sensor. It doesn't seem to have the dynamic range of the Nikon, and the base Nikon lens is felt to be good if not quite the very best..

As to image stabilization itself, if you're subject isn't moving, and you don't have a tripod that you can use, it can help on hand-held shots, usually more so at the telephoto end of things. For the Nikon, it would be nice to have VR on the basic lens, but where it is more important, it is available on the nice consumer set of telephoto lens that the Nikon has, the 55-200VR, 70-300VR, and 18-200VR..

Cameras are a personal choice in both the features, capabilities, limitations, and ergonomics, so I wouldn't say one is better than the other. If you are happy with the D40, my advice would be not to switch unless you are convinced that the 510 suits you better, but I don't think it would hurt at all to go try it. You may find you like the Olympus even more!.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #5

Image stabilization is increasingly important as the focal length increases. It also depends on the subject matter. Remember the old inverse-of-the-focal-length rule for handholding? I.e. a 300mm lens is handholdable at 1/300 of a second. You do need to figure the crop-factor in there, i.e. 200mm lens handholdable at 1/300 second (on 1.5-1.6x cameras)..

So, your present 55mm lens can (according to the rule) be handheld at about 1/80 second. Gain 2 stops with IS, and that's 1/20 second. But, human subjects generally move more quickly than that, so IS doesn't benefit shots of human subjects with lenses of that focal length very much. On the other hand, you could shoot a stationary subject (i.e. the inside of a church) at 1/8 second instead of 1/30 at 18mm..

Where I'm going with this is that longer lenses benefit much more from IS. Nikon makes a 55-200 lens with IS (they call it VR). This doesn't really answer your question of whether to exchange cameras, but you would be just fine with the non-stabilized D40 and 18-55 as long as any longer lenses you get have IS. Again, the caveat is that any focal length can benefit from IS with stationary subjects..

Other considerations: in-lens stabilization may be more effective, but in-body works with every lens you own. The E510 has more pixels, but the D40 has better dynamic range. The E510 has live view, but the D40 has a better viewfinder...

Comment #6

Thanks for weighing in..

"On the down side is the 4/3 sensor, which is generally accredited to not be as good as Nikon's 1.5/1 sensor.".

I'm not sure I understand this. What do these figures mean to me in practical terms? Is the Nikon sensor larger/more sensitive?..

Comment #7

Thanks, this is helpful in realising that with the type of lenses I most often shoot with, IS would not be a major consideration. And I can always get the 55-200VR if I need it..

Still, I'm going to go back to the store and have a closer look at the E510, just to be sure.....

Comment #8

If you routinely shoot from a moving platform, like a ship or car then image stabilization can be important. If not, it's mostly beneficial at longer focal lengths- since most of the time you're dealing with subject movement at lower shutter speeds anyway. In-lens stabilization tests out better than in-body for a lot of, but not all lenses- so if you need it that badly, you should look at the lenses you're going to shoot with and compare. For journalism though, you're rarely shooting static subjects, so the advantage is easily negated..

I own one lens with VR and several without, and I rarely shoot with the VR lens, but it depends on what you shoot and how good you are at hand holding as well as the quality of the lenses you're using..

You're not just buying a camera, you're buying a camera system. With Canon or Nikon, you'll generally have a larger choice of options, with Olympus, Pentax and Sony you'll get more features because that's how they compete with the market leaders- you have to decide if the choices in lighting, bodies to upgrade to, lenses, rental availability, etc. are important to you. Generally, once you choose a system, you'll be in that system for a long time, so the current body is really a short-sighted way to look at the choice, since you'll have a new body in a few years, but the same lenses and accessories..

The different sensor size, due to it's effect on depth of field or diffraction may or may not be important to your style of photography. That's one of the things you should look at though..

Because the sensor is your "film," you'll find yourself upgrading bodies more frequently with digital as the "film" evolves. Once you have a set of lenses, you'll be locked into whichever system you choose. If you're going to look at the Olympus, why not the Pentax? Why not the Sony? Why not the Canon? Then they'll all have new models out and you can go all around again! You can do that forever- but it's not going to materially affect your images unless there's something that you're specifically missing..

In my book, a faster lens generally beats VR if it's an either/or because that'll let you get the shutter speed you need to freeze the moving subject. Flash beats a faster lens for most human subjects..

If you rarely used a long lens with film, you'll likely find that you rarely use it with an APS-C crop factor body like the D40, where you're losing at the wide end- and in that case stabilization is even less important than if you were always shooting longer..

Paulhttp://PaulDRobertson.imagekind.com..

Comment #9

Cassette wrote:.

I have been using a fully manual SLR camera for the past 20 years orso (Yashica FX-3), shooting photos for my magazine and newspaperarticles as well as for personal pleasure. I use mostly a 50mm lens,and sometimes 28mm. I also have a 70-210 zoom I have rarely used..

I'm not new to photography, but I am TOTALLY new to digital cameras..

A few weeks ago I decided to get my first digital camera, a digitalSLR. I narrowed my choice to the Nikon D40 ($549 CAD) or D40X ($699).I like the compact size and light weight, and went with the D40 (with18-55 lens) as I could not justify the extra $150 for more pixels Ididn't really need. Also, I thought, as my computer has limitedstorage space (an iBook G4 with only a 30 GB drive) the larger filesfrom a 10MP would take up more space.

My thinking was also that for my first dSLR I should keep it simple,not spend too much, then, when I'm more comfortable with thetechnology, upgrade to something better..

Since purchasing the D40 I haven't had much time to experiment withit, but I am very pleased with the camera and photos so far..

Well, the other day I was back at the store and a salesperson told meI would be better off with an Olympus E510 ($680) since it has theAutofocus motor in the body (as opposed to the lens of the D40), plusadditional features, among which Image Stabilisation..

He offered to refund the D40 if I want to buy the E510..

Now I don't know what to do.Is Image Stabilisation really that important?.

Thanks for any feedback..

Some thoughts on what you said-.

-on file size. dismiss the idea. the file size is unimportant. the reason is that you should be putting your incoming pics on a storage medium anyway. you said you were new to digital. in film you ALWAYS HAVE ACCESS to the old pics, unless your house burns down with the negatives or slides inside you always have them.

If anything happens to your computer then you loose your image files too. therefore you should be thinking of external medium; like ext usb hrd drvs or dvd disks. the hard drvs are by far better in terms of accessability. I run 2 300gb ext hrd drvs one is the storage for the pics while the other is a image backup. if you buy hrd drvs do not underestimate the size of the drvs.

-image stabilization. with inbody you buy it once, with inlens you pay for it everytime you buy a lens with stabilization. they both work. but do not ewgt the idea the is/vr/sr is the great savior of shootin at extremely slow shutter speeds, it works but there are limits. it also depends on what you do with the slow hutter speed images. if youn put them on your monitor or make 4x6 or 5x7 pics then you can get away with more than you can if your intent in 20x30 enlargements..

Personally, I do not have stabilization on any camera I currently own, but I am also make prints to 36inches wide with a 6mp dslr with no problems. I use proper technique and switch to a tripod for any shutter speed slowwer than a 1/60sec. if I know I need critical sharpeness(for large enlargements) I go with a tripod period. if I ever get a camera with stabilization I would still go with a tropd for any critical sharpness shjots, you simply need the staediness. mind you the vr is going to work. but once you get to the big telephotos you are not going to be handholding anyway.

You did not ste wether you have any interest in big telephoto. I routinely shoot at zoos with lens equiv to 750mm..

-lenses. with the d40 or d40x you can only use from nikon the lens that have a "-S" in them. this does limit the user. but that is a long way from saying that nikon does not have lenses that will work. my strong suggestion is go to the nkon web page that has the lenses and check to see if the selection will meet your current and future needs. I looked just for the heck of it some time ago and there is more than enough lenses to satisfy me if went nikon..

- just playing devils advocate. have yopu thought of staying with nikon but going with another dslr? this gets out of the "-S" lens issue altogether. I would suggest the d80 or d200 or for more money the new d300. the d200 may be available at discount now or shortly with the d300 out..

-like others have said I am very suspicious of the salesman who now says switch to olympus. if he liked olympus that much why didn't he say that before..

- lastly. I have no axe to grind. I do not own nikon or olympus and do expect to do so in the future. I am a pentax dslr user. I have been shooting slr/dslr since 1970, that is 37yrs of experience..

Me. the way I would play it is keep the nikon(you already have lenses for it and accessories?). and maybe switch to another nikon dslr like the d80,200, or 300. this based on your current ownership of lenses and the fact you are pleased with the nikon pics. since the sales person already told you you can switch, you can do so but to another nikon..

Good luck. gary..

Comment #10

Thanks for your insightful comments..

As you point out, the D80 would certainly be a better choice, however at this point, at around 2.5 times the cost of the D40 (the D80 is around $1000 for the body only compared with $549 for the D40 and 18-55 lens) that is more than what I want to/can afford to spend right now (The D300 is around $1900 for just the body!) So, for now, price is the limiting factor here. My old faithful Yashica cost less than $200 way back when.... The plus side is that the D40 is lighter and more compact, which I do appreciate..

My hope is that these higher-end cameras will eventually come down in price and I will upgrade at that time. Maybe in a couple of years or so....

The fellow who encouraged me to reconsider my purchase is in fact not the same person I bought the D40 from (same store, different salesperson). And to be fair, I had pretty much decided on the D40 (after weeks of reading and looking around and talking to various salespeople) when I walked in and said I wanted that one..

But strangely, I don't recall every being shown the E510. That's why I'm doing a double take now....

I hadn't really considered the whole question of storage, other than downloading to my hard drive and transferring to disk. I see now I will need to adopt a better system. Not having the same "access" to my photos as before will take some getting used to!.

P.s. anyone know whether the Nikkor lenses with built-in autofocus can also be fitted on cameras with body-based autofocusing, i.e. will the autofocus work from the body or the lens? I'm wondering if I buy the 55-200 VR for the D40 and later upgrade to the D80, will the lens be compatible...

Comment #11

Thanks for your helpful reply..

I suppose I do not see much of a need for IS at this stage as most of my subjects are fairly stationary anyway..

I don't know if these extra features are worth the price difference, but I'm going to drop by the store later today to check out the E510...

Comment #12

You get more and pay less with the Olympus. Does it come with the lenses?If not, then look at lens prices.BTW, I would stay away from anything that doesnt use SD cards..

XD is being phased out by Fuji, and Olympus will be the only one, besides Sony, that still uses proprietary cards...

Comment #13

Cassette wrote:.

P.s. anyone know whether the Nikkor lenses with built-in autofocuscan also be fitted on cameras with body-based autofocusing, i.e. willthe autofocus work from the body or the lens? I'm wondering if I buythe 55-200 VR for the D40 and later upgrade to the D80, will the lensbe compatible..

It will be compatible. AF-S lenses use the lens' motor on all Nikon DSLR's. AF-S is generally faster and quieter than non-AF-S focusing. In some instances, it can be quite a bit more expensive. The 70-200/2.8 AF-S lens is nearly twice the price of the 80-200/2.8 AF...

Comment #14

Cassette wrote:.

Thanks for weighing in..

"On the down side is the 4/3 sensor, which is generally accredited tonot be as good as Nikon's 1.5/1 sensor.".

I'm not sure I understand this. What do these figures mean to me inpractical terms? Is the Nikon sensor larger/more sensitive?.

The 4/3 vs 3/2 (or boiled down to 1.5/1) is simply a reference to aspect ratio, or the proportions of it's length to width. Some people prefer one or the other - it's a matter of taste. If you want to print 4x6, that's a natural for the Nikon. If you want to print 8.5x11 full bleed (borderless), the Olympus' proportions require less cropping..

The actual sensor on the Nikon is larger - I forget the exact numbers, but you can look it up in the the reviews for the cameras here at DP Review. Generally speaking, bigger is better on actual sensor size, but it also means the camera physically has to be scaled up to match (bigger and heavier). At the same time, if the actual photo looks good to you, it doesn't matter a whole lot, and I've seen some gorgeous E510 photos here..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #15

Cassette wrote:.

Thanks for weighing in..

"On the down side is the 4/3 sensor, which is generally accredited tonot be as good as Nikon's 1.5/1 sensor.".

I'm not sure I understand this. What do these figures mean to me inpractical terms? Is the Nikon sensor larger/more sensitive?.

As I said.be prepared for the onslaught of the '4/3rds sensor is too small' posts..

It is not a true statement, usually made by those who have no experience with Oly or Panasonic DSLR's.J. D.Colorful Colorado.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Remember.always keep the box and everything that came in it!..

Comment #16

Romphotog wrote:.

You get more and pay less with the Olympus. Does it come with thelenses?.

Most likely the salesperson was offering either the one or two lens kit..

BTW, I would stay away from anything that doesnt use SD cards.xD is being phased out by Fuji, and Olympus will be the only one,besides Sony, that still uses proprietary cards..

I don't think that Fuji is phasing out xD cards.but are just offering a choice..

As for the Oly E-510, it holds both an xD and a compact flash card at the same time (ie.- dual memory card capability - can't do that with the Nikon), which means you can have a back up card already loaded so you don't have to switch memory cards on the fly!.

I keep a 2GB xD card in my E-510, but generally shoot with compact flash cards as they are much faster than the xD cards..

J. D.Colorful Colorado.

Another from my E-510:.

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Remember.always keep the box and everything that came in it!..

Comment #17

IS is significantly more useful for stationary subjects, than it is for moving ones in the latter case, it's mostly useless unless one is using a long exposure (relative to speed) for either panning with a ~rigid subject against a blurred background, or wants a motion-blurred subject against a sharp background...

Comment #18

Well, I went back to the store today and did a side-by-side comparison of the D40 and the E510, and in the end, the D40 just felt better in my hands. The weight seemed more balanced (IMO) and it just felt nicer to hold..

They also had a demo D50 left over which they offered to sell me at a reduced price, but it looked like it had been sitting there wide open gathering dust for quite a while...

I also stopped by the Sony Store to check out the Alpha A100 (and A700) and was quite impressed by the latter, but again, these models were just too bulky for me..

So, given I am still such a newbie at digital photography, I've decided to stick with my original choice, the D40, until I gain more experience and a better understanding of all the different features, and how digital cameras work..

Then, as I use it, I'll be able to better identify the features I want or need, so my second dSLR purchase will be a more selective one (and I'll probably feel more comfortable spending more)..

Thanks to everyone who replied. It has all been very helpful..

Best wishes to all...

Comment #19

You are saying, not in your OP but in a subsequent post that waht you "would have liked is a simple dSLR that looks and feels like my old SLR, with aperture ring on the lens, shutter speed dial, etc."That sentence inspired an idea: have a look at the Panasonic DMC-L1..

This is a now discontinued 7-megapixel DSLR which is special in that it has a shutter speed dial and some modern lenses that have an aperture ring. Quite a rarity. It used to be very expensive but now it sells for a low-ish price that includes a superb image stabilised Leica lens whose maximum aperture is f/2.8 at the wide end and f/3.5 at the telephoto end, and has an aperture ring. On top of that, the camera takes all FourThirds lenses, so all lenses the E-510 is compatible with (although only a few will allow the aperture to be set the traditional way, through an aperture ring).pbase Supporter..

Comment #20

That's interesting. I will definitely have to go take a look at that one..

Thanks!..

Comment #21

It's a big, bricklike affair, but it is the only DSLR with a shutter speed dial.pbase Supporter..

Comment #22

Cassette wrote:.

Thanks MusicDoctor.I guess I'm still confused by all the bells and whistles that come onall these cameras. Ideally what I would have liked is a simple dSLRthat looks and feels like my old SLR, with aperture ring on the lens,shutter speed dial, etc. I'm just not used to all these screen menus.And IS is just another feature to me, but do I really need it?.

IS is most useful if you want to shoot with telephoto lenses handheld. If you shoot everything with a tripod, then you won't need IS. If you should only with the normal lens, and shoot at least 1/100 then you won't need an E-510 (or Nikon with a VR lens, Canon with an IS lens, etc.). I find it useful, since I usually don't have enough light to shoot my 50-200mm at 1/400 second, but I can still take reasonable pictures at 1/125..

If you want an aperture ring, about the only DSLR camera that provides this is the Panosonic L1 with the 14-50mm lens...

Comment #23

Zoltan2 wrote:.

It's a big, bricklike affair, but it is the only DSLR with a shutterspeed dial..

Well other than the Leica version of the body that uses the same lens, if you felt you didn't pay enough money and need that red dot  However, as I understand it, the Leica version does have some advantages, like the ability to select different film modes in it's JPG processing, and a much longer warranty...

Comment #24

6 one way, half a dozen the other..

Since you have access to both, try them both out..hold them, look through the view finders, see if they will let you take a couple photos from the E510 and take them home and look at them. Look at the lenses and accessories you want...now and maybe in the future that are available and compatible with each system. Try the live view on the E510 and see if it is something you might want..

I love my Nikon (D50) but I think they got caught a little behind - in marketing if not totally in performance - in not having VR in all their consumer lenses as soon as the D40 was released in order to compete with the any body IS systems..

They seem to be rectifying that. An 18-55mm VR lens will soon be released. I have to figure the other kit lenses will get it too. They already have it where it is most needed - consumer telephotos - in the 55-200mm VR and 70-300mm VR and in the 18-200mm VR 'all in one' lens..

I have little doubt that each camera will perform fine. You just have to decide which is for you..

Stu - Camera User (see profile for gear)http://www.DigitalPhotoPeople.comhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/stujoe/.

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Comment #25

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