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DSLR investment advice for a newcomer
Hi all, guess what kind of question is coming... A buying advice of course!.

I'm currently living in the US but will go back to Europe soon, and I've been contemplating buying a DSLR for quite some time. Considering those here would be 20% to 30% cheaper than what I would have to pay in Europe, I thoughtit would be a good time to actually take the plunge..

I currently own a Fuji F11 P&S, and frankly I am pretty happy with what I get with the overall quality of this littly buddy. The only thing that really bothers me about it is it's tendancy to overexposure on bright shots. I especially like that I can use ISO 400 or 800 at a push without thinking "okay, this one will look like cr*p"... I also owned a Panasonic Lumix FX9 for a week before this one, but ultimately sent it back because of the awful noise even at ISO 100..

Most of the time I'm shooting landscapes. I also like night shots, with the occasional long exposure ones. During parties and the like, I try not to bring my camera, or I'm just spending the whole time behind the viewfinder to get a nice portrait... I also have two marriages coming up in July (not mine, if you were wondering  ), this will be a good occasion to practice! I have a Flickr photo set right here if this can give you some idea of my "style" (most of those are tourist stuff though, sorry about that): http://www.flickr.com/photos/23740974@N06/sets/72157604026718532/.

I definitely want my SLR to give me decent shots at higher ISO, which would favor Canon or Nikon from what I've read. I also tend to find practical to have a live view as I do sometimes hover my camera on top of a crowd to take a shot, or likewise put the camera at waist level. This is not a must-have, but still strongly desired (Sony is doing well in this department). Finally, IS is nice (I'm shelling out close to $1000, I might as well have a few extra features), but not mandatory, as I've come to discover that even if the lens does not move, your subject will... I'm not exactly crazy about having a zillion MP sensor either, and the only camera I'm concerned about in this respect is the Nikon D40: I'm planning to occasionally print a few good shots, and fear that larger prints (A4 and up) might lack some details. My policy about lenses is to get used to the camera, find it's feats and faults, get some experience with the kit lens, and then buy a better one when I have found exactly what style I want to focus on..

I have been looking at many possibilities from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Olympus. Good choices include the Nikon D40, Nikon D60, Nikon D80, Rebel XTi and Rebel XSi. Taking all but the price into consideration however, I thought the (unsurprisingly most expensive) Rebel XSi might be the best choice for me. Good image quality (although at this point it is a common trait for all the candidates), good performance with high ISO, basic live view, and the added bonuses of IS and 12 MP sensor. It is however more expensive than what I had initially planned, but offers about any feature I could want. The D80 is also in the higher price range, but most notably does not have live view.

The XTi on the other hand hits the sweet spot in terms of cost, and could make a good alternative. Going down one more notch, we have the D40, at the dirt-cheap price of $475..

So at this point, I'm pretty much thinking a feature-packed, expensive XSi that I'll be keeping for quite some time, or a more reasonably-priced XTi, at the expense of one desired feature and a few extras. What do you guys think? Am I going in the right direction with my analysis? Or am I dead wrong, and should I consider one of the other options? Notably, would the D40 make for a more sensible choice?.

Thanks a lot for reading till there! Your help on this wallet-crunching decision would be much appreciated!..

Comments (15)

If the LCD screen is fixed to the back of the camera, are you sure you're going to be able to view it well when you're holding it above a crowd?..

Comment #1

Thanks for your input!.

Leejay Wu wrote:.

If the LCD screen is fixed to the back of the camera, are you sureyou're going to be able to view it well when you're holding it abovea crowd?.

That's one problem indeed, and there's no denying the Sony lineup is much better in this respect. However, I'm doing quite fine with my Fuji F11 for this kind of task, and the LCD vertical viewing angles on the F11 are I think comparable to the XSi's...

Comment #2

Cooldoud wrote:.

I also tend to findpractical to have a live view as I do sometimes hover my camera ontop of a crowd to take a shot, or likewise put the camera at waistlevel..

Live View by itself does not give you what you want here. Just as there are P&S cameras without tilt/swivel LCDs, there are Live View DSLRs without them. What you want to do calls for a tilt/swivel LCD...

Comment #3

Thanks for your answer! (I feel I'm gonna write this quite a few times  ).

Tom_N wrote:.

Live View by itself does not give you what you want here. Just asthere are P&S cameras without tilt/swivel LCDs, there are Live ViewDSLRs without them. What you want to do calls for a tilt/swivel LCD..

To elaborate on my previous post on this subject, my point is that a tilt LCD would indeed make things easier, however the only offering for this currently is the Sony Alpha's. I unfortunately have to compromise at some point, and the Sony's exhibit poorer performance in the high ISO department when compared to Canon/Nikon solutions. I'm willing to go for the less practical / more random fixed LCD solution in order to get low noise at high ISO, which is something I feel is more important that I will use more often..

'I'm not fit to be a noble. No matter how delicious the food is, if thepeasants who made it were starving, I can't enjoy the meal'..

Comment #4

To be useful for anything that moves..

The others are pretty much limited to static subjects and best used on a tripod with manual focus. For that LV is useful, otherwise IMO it's best just to skip it..

Gene..

Comment #5

I've been "camera shopping" ever since the D40 came out, and I've looked hard at all the cameras you mentioned (plus the D40x)..

PC shopping is a cinch, compared to this.  There was always something I didn't like. Generally, though, I began to distinguish the main contenders as follows:.

Canons: Great sensors. Great color. Great feature set (except for the missing AF illuminator). Great noise-reduction technology..

Nikons: Great ergonomics and usability. Excellent viewfinders (for mirrors). Pseudo ISO priority..

In looking at the RAW captures, it seems pretty obvious that the D40, D40x, D60, D80, XTi and XSi can all capture great detail with minimal noise. The question, then, is how difficult will it be to get good results from each?.

I like Canon output right out of the camera, and I think the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS is the most intriguing lens I've seen..

So why did I order the D40?.

1. Usability is paramount. I love Canon output, but I've never liked using their cameras, not even in the 35mm days. The Nikons (all of them) seem much more intuitive and less "in the way." I've got a co-worker who says the same thing about HIS D40..

2. I'll admit it: I found the price compelling.  I was leaning toward the D80 for the bracketing and DOF preview, but I decided to save my money for a lens upgrade..

3. Amazing sharpness through ISO 800. Even 1600 is very usable. I don't think a D40x/D60 can hang with a Rebel, but at 6 megapixels, Nikon got it right. (Love the D300, but that's a bit rich for my first digital SLR.).

4. Good lenses that I can afford (thanks to my inexpensive body). I chose the 16-85 VR. There's a 70-300 in my future. If Nikon comes out with a wide-open VR zoom with consistently strong image quality, I'll find the money..

Stephen..

Comment #6

Unfortunately in DSLRs Live View technology is still quite limited in it's functionality/usefulness - personally I think a tilt/twist LCD is essentail for Live View to be fully utilised for landscape shots - low perspectives etc..

Considering the above & your requirements regarding noise if at all possible I would discount Live View from your priorities, it really needs another 2/3 generations of development in DSLRs..

If you are budget conscious I would go for a cheaper body & spend additional cash on good glass - kit lenses are o.k but you'll soon find their limitations.

Just my thoughts.

Simon.

Http://www.landscapephotographyuk.com/.

North Wales photographs - Snowdonia & Anglesey..

Comment #7

R Valentino wrote:.

The others are pretty much limited to static subjects and best usedon a tripod with manual focus. For that LV is useful, otherwise IMOit's best just to skip it..

Okay, then I guess I should reconsider the LV thing. I've had a second look at the Sony, and although it's really not "that" bad, Canon/Nikon is still ahead in terms of NR. Thanks for your input!.

'I'm not fit to be a noble. No matter how delicious the food is, if thepeasants who made it were starving, I can't enjoy the meal'..

Comment #8

Sr383 wrote:.

I've been "camera shopping" ever since the D40 came out, and I'velooked hard at all the cameras you mentioned (plus the D40x)..

I've dropped the D40X altogether in favor of the D60 actually .

PC shopping is a cinch, compared to this. .

I'll give you that. This is a technology field where I feel much more comfortable..

There was alwayssomething I didn't like. Generally, though, I began to distinguishthe main contenders as follows:.

Canons: Great sensors. Great color. Great feature set (except for themissing AF illuminator). Great noise-reduction technology..

Nikons: Great ergonomics and usability. Excellent viewfinders (formirrors). Pseudo ISO priority..

Thanks, very helpful!.

So why did I order the D40?.

2. I'll admit it: I found the price compelling.  I was leaningtoward the D80 for the bracketing and DOF preview, but I decided tosave my money for a lens upgrade..

I'm actually very biased price-wise, as the current euro-dollar exchange rate will be paying a sizeable part of the item The only reason I'm considering the XSi, which in France would be wayyy out of my budget, is because I can get it for ~520 euros. MSRP is 849, and I couldn't find it any lower than 800. I am a sucker for 35% rebates .

'I'm not fit to be a noble. No matter how delicious the food is, if thepeasants who made it were starving, I can't enjoy the meal'..

Comment #9

Thanks for your help. I now "just" have to make up my mind. I'm still very tempted by the XSi to be honest. I'm a fashion victim in this respect. I could care less about $900 Hugo Boss suits, but man, $900 gadgets, I'd fall for it every time.....

Comment #10

Cooldoud wrote:.

Hi all, guess what kind of question is coming... A buying advice ofcourse!.

I'm currently living in the US but will go back to Europe soon, andI've been contemplating buying a DSLR for quite some time.Considering those here would be 20% to 30% cheaper than what I wouldhave to pay in Europe, I thoughtit would be a good time to actually take the plunge..

I currently own a Fuji F11 P&S, and frankly I am pretty happy withwhat I get with the overall quality of this littly buddy. The onlything that really bothers me about it is it's tendancy to overexposureon bright shots. I especially like that I can use ISO 400 or 800 at apush without thinking "okay, this one will look like cr*p"... I alsoowned a Panasonic Lumix FX9 for a week before this one, butultimately sent it back because of the awful noise even at ISO 100..

Most of the time I'm shooting landscapes. I also like night shots,with the occasional long exposure ones. During parties and the like,I try not to bring my camera, or I'm just spending the whole timebehind the viewfinder to get a nice portrait... I also have twomarriages coming up in July (not mine, if you were wondering  ),this will be a good occasion to practice! I have a Flickr photo setright here if this can give you some idea of my "style" (most ofthose are tourist stuff though, sorry about that):http://www.flickr.com/photos/23740974@N06/sets/72157604026718532/.

I definitely want my SLR to give me decent shots at higher ISO, whichwould favor Canon or Nikon from what I've read. I also tend to findpractical to have a live view as I do sometimes hover my camera ontop of a crowd to take a shot, or likewise put the camera at waistlevel. This is not a must-have, but still strongly desired (Sony isdoing well in this department). Finally, IS is nice (I'm shelling outclose to $1000, I might as well have a few extra features), but notmandatory, as I've come to discover that even if the lens does notmove, your subject will... I'm not exactly crazy about having azillion MP sensor either, and the only camera I'm concerned about inthis respect is the Nikon D40: I'm planning to occasionally print afew good shots, and fear that larger prints (A4 and up) might lacksome details. My policy about lenses is to get used to the camera,find it's feats and faults, get some experience with the kit lens, andthen buy a better one when I have found exactly what style I want tofocus on..

I have been looking at many possibilities from Canon, Nikon, Sony,Pentax and Olympus. Good choices include the Nikon D40, Nikon D60,Nikon D80, Rebel XTi and Rebel XSi. Taking all but the price intoconsideration however, I thought the (unsurprisingly most expensive)Rebel XSi might be the best choice for me. Good image quality(although at this point it is a common trait for all the candidates),good performance with high ISO, basic live view, and the addedbonuses of IS and 12 MP sensor. It is however more expensive thanwhat I had initially planned, but offers about any feature I couldwant. The D80 is also in the higher price range, but most notablydoes not have live view.

The XTi on the other hand hits thesweet spot in terms of cost, and could make a good alternative. Goingdown one more notch, we have the D40, at the dirt-cheap price of $475..

So at this point, I'm pretty much thinking a feature-packed,expensive XSi that I'll be keeping for quite some time, or a morereasonably-priced XTi, at the expense of one desired feature and afew extras. What do you guys think? Am I going in the right directionwith my analysis? Or am I dead wrong, and should I consider one ofthe other options? Notably, would the D40 make for a more sensiblechoice?.

Thanks a lot for reading till there! Your help on thiswallet-crunching decision would be much appreciated!.

Hi.

I would not rule out 6mp so the Nikon d40 would be a good choice. If you DO consider it then the Pentax K100d or K100d super would also be great..

You really should get a hold of as many dslrs as you can ...you might find one you like on paper is something you do not like to use..

As for live view, if you really like a camera that does not have it, you may be able to get a zigview for the camera...though they can be quite expensive I believe...I do not have one though sometimes I think it would be handy for bands when I am behind a mosh pit..

Http://www.zigview.co.uk/.

Neil..

Comment #11

The one piece of advice I would offer is in relation to ergonomics..

On the image quality front, you'll find that all of the cameras you are looking at are very comparable. High-ISO performance, in particular, will blow your P&S out of the water. So, my advice would be not to factor IQ into the equation at all, or very little. Make it the last of your considerations..

Ergonomics! Buy the camera that feels good in your hands. Buy the right one, and you'll become attached to it, like a child to it's teddy bear. You will look for opportunities to pull it out of the bag and use it whenever possible. Buy the wrong one, and you'll be much less likely to... well, develop a relationship with it, for lack of a better phrase. Remember, this is not a camera you're going to click on and start instantly shooting photos from the hip.



For me, this meant Nikon. I found the toggle wheels and four-way dials on the Canons to be unresponsive, and the body fit-and-finish a little too... plastic-y and slick. And I liked the Nikons, but the D40 was a tad too small for my mammoth hands. I picked up the D80, and my hands loved it... ran through the menu a few times, and was hooked..

As far as live view goes, I certainly understand wanting to have this on a DSLR. It's nice not to have to squint and peer through a tiny hole with a big hunk of plastic pressed against your face. But rest assured, if you buy a camera without it, after 2 weeks, you'll forget you ever had an LCD to compose your pictures. Viewfinder is king, if a little "old-fashioned". Remember, you're going to want to add lenses at some point, and you can't handhold a telephoto lens stably out away from your body like that, it just doesn't work..

So if I were you, I'd throw image quality out the window, and boil it down to model- and brand-unique features (like live view, if you just can't live without it) and most importantly, ergonomics.Eric..

Comment #12

A last thought: Viewfinders don't consume big battery power, they don't wash out in the sun, and they don't attract fingerprints and scratches. Admittedly, it would be useful to have an articulating live view LCD at times, for getting down really low, or shooting up high over crowds... but if you can't get one with an articulating screen, I really believe you're better off getting one without live view entirely...

Comment #13

Neil holmes wrote:.

You really should get a hold of as many dslrs as you can ...you mightfind one you like on paper is something you do not like to use..

God, I have no idea how I'll be fitting the hour and a half I'll need to go to Wolf Camera with my current schedule, but I guess I'll just have to find the time. I already tried a few of those models, but the new contenders you're throwing at me, I have no idea how they "feel" like.Again, Thanks a lots for your help!.

'I'm not fit to be a noble. No matter how delicious the food is, if thepeasants who made it were starving, I can't enjoy the meal'..

Comment #14

I really have to say that you guys offer invaluable advice for someone having few photograph friends like me. Thanks a lot for taking the time to share your knowledge!..

Comment #15

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