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First Time dSLR Buyer Needs Advice
To get right to the point, I am interested in moving up from my Sony DSC-P200 P&S to a dSLR. I would appreciate any and all advice/opinions on what make/model each of you would recommend given the following specifics (apologies if it seems a bit disjointed):.

BUDGET: < or = $1000, Total (body and lens[es]).

USAGE: appx. 50% Landscapes, 30% Cityscapes, 10% Macro, 9% Candid (including some "action" shots), and 1% Posed/Portrait.

INT/EXT USAGE: 5-10% Interior / 90-95% Exterior.

LIGHTING: All types, but primarily natural/outdoor. I will be shooting a fair amount at night, primarily landscapes/cityscapes, but nothing that, IMHO, would require a flash.

DURABILITY: I'd like to be able to shoot in a variety of climates, given that I travel extensively (e.g. anything from the desert to the arctic to rain forests).

LENSES: I currently own no lenses, thus there is no need to remain make/brand specific.

AF vs MF: I could use some help here; should I stay away from makes/models (e.g. Nikon D40x) that only allow autofocus of specific lenses? Also, based on my criteria, how important is manual focus? I honestly have no idea when/if/where I'll need it..

FORMAT(?): I would like to be able to save my pictures in RAW, as well as jpg if that is financially feasible..

USE OF PICTURES: solely for PC or Framing purposes; strictly non-commercial.

CAMERA/PHOTOGRAPHY KNOWLEDGE: Little, but enough to know I'm ready to move up due to frustrations with the limitations of my P&S.

FUTURE EXPECTATIONS: I have a tentative African photo-safari planned in '08, and would like a camera that gives me the capability to take good action shots. I don't anticipate this becoming anything more than a hobby (famous last words, right?)..

Here's a bit more in the way of general info ....

- I have PhotoShop Elements 6 for my Windows Vista PC. Do any of you know how well (if at all) this will handle converting RAW files?.

- I would like the capability to shoot prolonged exposure, possibly even timelapse..

- IS would be nice, although I'm not totally sure how much I'll need it. My Sony DSC-P200 drives me crazy sometimes because, especially in low-light and macro settings, my images are always coming out blurry. I certainly don't have surgeon-steady hands, but I'm hoping that simply by virtue of moving up to a dSLR that this will be somewhat, if not mostly, alleviated..

- How much do I need to be concerned about dust? I guess Dust Reduction technology would be a plus to have..

- I read through every term in the glossary, and these are additional features which seem benefit-worthy to me, although I don't know how much I NEED them:.

A) Auto-Bracketing - seems like a pretty cool feature.

B) Anti-Blooming - I imagine in this day and age this is a feature to be found on any new dSLR?.

C)Mirror Lock-Up - seems like a cool feature to have, although I'm hoping that any new dSLR will have at least good mirror damping, right?.

I know this is long, and I appreciate those of you who've managed to read this far. I simply wanted to provide those of you who are so much more knowledgeable than I all the information I could think of to aid in your recommendation..

Thank you so much for your help, and I eagerly await your responses!..

Comments (10)

Work..

You really need to get to a store that has as many as you can find. Handle them all, see which one you like best for fit, feel etc....

Then see if that particular brand(s) if more than one has the lenses you may need for your safari and whether it all fits into your budget..

That said:.

DRiv wrote:.

BUDGET: < or = $1000, Total (body and lens[es]).

Olympus E510 dual lens kit would be my first recommendation at this price- 2 kit lenses that are likely a little better than the other's kit lenses. Covers 28-300mm field of view (FOV) in 35mm terms. Actual lenses arr 14-42 and 40-150. The Oly's have a 2x " FOV factor..

The others have a 1.5-1.6 FOV factor- so you take the listed focal length of the lens and multiply it by this factor to get a FOV equilant to a lens of that length on a 35mm frame size camera..

USAGE: appx. 50% Landscapes, 30% Cityscapes, 10% Macro, 9% Candid(including some "action" shots), and 1% Posed/Portrait.

DURABILITY: I'd like to be able to shoot in a variety of climates,given that I travel extensively (e.g. anything from the desert to thearctic to rain forests).

Pentax K10 is the only one in this price range that is sealed. But the weather sealed lenses put it way over your budget..

LENSES: I currently own no lenses, thus there is no need to remainmake/brand specific.

AF vs MF: I could use some help here; should I stay away frommakes/models (e.g. Nikon D40x) that only allow autofocus of specificlenses? Also, based on my criteria, how important is manual focus? Ihonestly have no idea when/if/where I'll need it..

I think this is a big problem with the D40 and D40X as it eliminates a lot of good third party lenses from auto focusing..

You're paying for AF, might as well get a lens that does..

FORMAT(?): I would like to be able to save my pictures in RAW, aswell as jpg if that is financially feasible..

All shoot RAW and jpeg simultaneously if desired..

- I have PhotoShop Elements 6 for my Windows Vista PC. Do any of youknow how well (if at all) this will handle converting RAW files?.

It will work well. It uses a slightly reduced feature set of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)..

- I would like the capability to shoot prolonged exposure, possiblyeven timelapse..

Can't answer about time lapse..

- IS would be nice, although I'm not totally sure how much I'll needit. My Sony DSC-P200 drives me crazy sometimes because, especially inlow-light and macro settings, my images are always coming out blurry.I certainly don't have surgeon-steady hands, but I'm hoping thatsimply by virtue of moving up to a dSLR that this will be somewhat,if not mostly, alleviated..

Sony A100, Pentax K100, K10 and Oly E-510 all have inbody IS..

Nikon and Canon offer reasonably priced VR/IS lenses in this range..

Canon just anounced an 18-55IS and 55-250IS lenses and Nikon has a 50-200VR..

Canon seemingly only offers the new IS lenses in kits or otherwise at this time anwhere but the US..

Sigma makes an 18-200 OS (like IS).

- How much do I need to be concerned about dust? I guess DustReduction technology would be a plus to have..

The Oly has the best method of elimination dust- or at least keeping it from showing on your photos..

A) Auto-Bracketing - seems like a pretty cool feature.

Nice if you want to make HDR images. Requires a tripod for best results..

C)Mirror Lock-Up - seems like a cool feature to have, although I'mhoping that any new dSLR will have at least good mirror damping,right?.

I don't use it, but it's nice to have. Nikon entry level cams don't have it..

K10 has the best, most rugged body and is the only one in your price range that is sealed. It can be had with the 2 lens kit for about $1000. These lenses are not weather sealed though..

The E510 kit is less than $900..

A100, I think is about the same..

All the above are 10mp cameras.

The Pentax K100 super is 6mp and the 2 lens kit is about $700 or so..

Other options without inbody IS.

Nikon d80- about $950 with just the 18-55..

Nikon D40 and d40x 6mp, 10mp) d40 with 18-55 and 55-200vr about $700, d40x about $875..

Canon Xti about $650 with the 18-55. The Is versions are not available yet- at least in the US- as far as I can tell..

Gene..

Comment #1

USAGE: appx. 50% Landscapes, 30% Cityscapes, 10% Macro, 9% Candid(including some "action" shots), and 1% Posed/Portrait.

So, primarily wide-angle, with some use for a normal. On the macro photography, might be useful to specify whether it's of things you can normally get close to (so really small minimum focusing distances are useful) or of such things that won't let you (such as many insects, for which telephoto macros are useful)..

*snip*.

LIGHTING: All types, but primarily natural/outdoor. I will beshooting a fair amount at night, primarily landscapes/cityscapes, butnothing that, IMHO, would require a flash.

Already have a tripod, or are you needing to budget for that as well? Image stabilization has it's limits, and if you're shooting skylights at night, you might be well beyond 'em..

DURABILITY: I'd like to be able to shoot in a variety of climates,given that I travel extensively (e.g. anything from the desert to thearctic to rain forests).

Caution even with a weather-sealed body (and a proper weather-sealed body paired with weather-sealed lenses is rather unusual within your budget), you'll also to budget for additional batteries for the cold, and a way to keep 'em warm..

If you look carefully, for instance, even the Canon 40D (which is a bit above your budget, even body-only) does not promise full weather sealing, even if you pair it with sealed lenses. The Pentax K10D and their DA* lenses are sealed, but again, the body itself might approach your budget. The Olympus E-1 is sealed, but it's cheaper (if you can get one) because it's rather dated (and the E-3 body to be released is well above your budget, body-only), and at least some landscapers would want more resolution and again, the bottom-tier lenses for it aren't sealed. This might be an issue if you're likely to be caught in rain..

Alternatively bring a water-resistant container and budget and act accordingly. I haven't priced any of these..

AF vs MF: I could use some help here; should I stay away frommakes/models (e.g. Nikon D40x) that only allow autofocus of specificlenses? Also, based on my criteria, how important is manual focus? Ihonestly have no idea when/if/where I'll need it..

Well, given your uses, I don't see you *needing* autofocus all that often, so long as manual focus is feasible. AF is handy if you can't take the time to manually focus (manually focus-tracking a moving subject is difficult unless it's keeping a nearly constant distance from you...), or if the viewfinder / focusing screen et al won't let you MF accurately..

MF is particularly useful in cases where AF simply fails for instance, if you're shooting through a chain-link fence or vegetation, and the AF system keeps locking on the intervening objects. It's also useful if you want to very finely place focus ex. focusing on a person's eyes, particularly if you don't have an AF point located where the eyes would be and don't want to do focus/recompose. Note that the stock focusing screens in DSLRs tend to be optimized for brightness, rather than focusing 'snap', and don't come with focusing aids. The live-view DSLRs make this a bit easier, as they can zoom the live-view for helping MF..

With landscapes, I'd expect you'd be shooting pretty stopped-down anyway for high DOF..

FORMAT(?): I would like to be able to save my pictures in RAW, aswell as jpg if that is financially feasible..

Think every DSLR for quite some time offers a (proprietary) raw format. Almost every one (the only exceptions that come to mind at the moment is the Sigma SD9) offers out-of-camera JPEGs. People will argue endlessly over in-camera processing..

USE OF PICTURES: solely for PC or Framing purposes; strictlynon-commercial.

Unless your prints are expected to be rather large and detailed, modern DSLRs ain't bad, resolution-wise..

*snip*.

- I would like the capability to shoot prolonged exposure, possiblyeven timelapse..

One note while some limit the shutter speed value to something like 30s, there are cameras which offer a connection for a cable release. A cable release with a locking shutter button lets you hold the shutter open for rather long times, although you might not like the resulting noise..

- IS would be nice, although I'm not totally sure how much I'll needit. My Sony DSC-P200 drives me crazy sometimes because, especially inlow-light and macro settings, my images are always coming out blurry.I certainly don't have surgeon-steady hands, but I'm hoping thatsimply by virtue of moving up to a dSLR that this will be somewhat,if not mostly, alleviated..

Merely using a DSLR likely won't, if you keep the same exposure values; you either need to keep the camera stable and have near-stationary subjects during the exposure, or you change the exposure parameters. The larger sensor in a DSLR does offer you the possibility of increasing ISO and using a shorter shutter speed, which would reduce the time the camera shakes and the subjects move..

IS either in lens or in body will help with camera motion, but not subject motion..

- How much do I need to be concerned about dust? I guess DustReduction technology would be a plus to have..

Depends where you go (if you're going in dusty, dirty environments a lot), how often you change lenses there, whether the body and lens are well-sealed, whether or not you shoot where the dust would be visible (blue skies in a stopped-down landscape are a candidate...) and how squeamish you are about cleaning the sensor/filter package. Not too many people have ruined their cameras cleaning them, I think, but it has occasionally happened..

*snip*..

Comment #2

Hi DRiv, I'm in the same dilemma but you seemed to have put your expectations/needs for a camera more succinctly than I could so do you mind if I 'offside' on your answers on the forum? I've only recently discovered this site and hope it can enlighten me a bit on the camera jargon and performance so I'm not conned by some of these sellers into purchasing something that won't fit my needs. I've borrowed my daughter's Kodak P&S and it's very limited for my needs, otherwise my only experience is my 35mm SLR film camera that I've had for 30 years to compare with....and there's so many digitals!?.

Rob..

Comment #3

Look at these as suggested.....Go to a store that has all 3.The one that thinks like you, (Control layout that comes natural for you).

The K10 is the best pick because IT IS weather sealed for LIGHT RAIN...BUT a PRO Pentax lens is needed also. That means the lens is also weather sealed. You'd need both to shoot in LIGHT RAIN..

1st Pickagreed.

K10 has the best, most rugged body and is the only one in your pricerange that is sealed. It can be had with the 2 lens kit for about$1000. These lenses are not weather sealed though..

2nd PicksAlso Good.

The E510 kit is less than $900.A100, I think is about the same..

All the above are 10mp cameras.

The Pentax K100 super is 6mp and the 2 lens kit is about $700 or so..

Peter .

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

Enjoy your photography images, even if your wife doesn't ! ;-(http://laurence-photography.com/http://www.pbase.com/peterarbib/Cameras in profile...

Comment #4

Thank you all for your suggestions. Just thought I would clarify on a few points..

With respect to shooting Macro, in the past the majority of the time I've been shooting subjects which I can easily approach and to whom I can get close (e.g. flower blossoms). That's not to say there won't be occassions where I'm shooting insects or what have you, but for the most part I don't anticipate needing a tele-macro lens..

With regards to dust/outdoors, lest you guys think I'm Edmund Hillary or some other such explorer ... well, I'm certainly not. But I do enjoy travel; to give you an idea, in the past year I've gone from the steamy rice-fields of Indonesia to the wintery cobblestone streets of Prague to the arid deserts of the southwest US to the windy trails of Patagonia. So I am looking for a camera that will allow me to take the pictures I "see" but thus far have not been able to create (I'm sure the reason for this is probably half on me and half on my P&S), but not something that's either a) over my head, or b) way beyond my price-point. If you guys tell me that the absolute vast majority of new dSLRs will perform quite nicely in these types of locales, then that's great. I don't plan on shooting in dust/snow/rainstorms, although having the capability to shoot in much lighter versions of each would definitely be nice..

Something else ... last night I ran by Best Buy (it was after 9pm, so I couldn't make it to a camera/photography shop) just to look over whatever models they had. The pickings were slim; I might forget one, but it seemed like it was pretty much the Nikons (D80, D40, D40x), and a Canon or two (definitely the Rebel xTi). After playing with them, I found that out of all of them, the D80 is the one that fits best in my hands. The D40(x) and xTi seemed too small, and I really didn't like the ergonomics/layout of the Canon at all. Of course, these are just extremely limited first impressions, so I plan on hitting a Ritz today just to look over all the different models..

The point of the previous paragraph, however, was that if I need to go up to $1150 - $1200, I'm willing to do so, but certainly no higher. I know that will impact the bodies/lenses you recommend, so I thought I'd mention it in the interests of giving you as much information as I can think of..

Thanks for all of your help, and I'm looking forward to reading even more of the members' opinions...

Comment #5

DRiv wrote:.

Any help?.

Pentax K10, it's nice to hold, great value, weather sealed. Get a weather sealed lens too (DA* 16-50 mm F2.8 ED AL [IF]), you won't regret not ruining your equipment by investing a few more dollars. Surely you are not out of money if you travel so much....

You can also get the samsung version of the pentax of course, same for lenses, probably a bit cheaper...

Comment #6

I appreciate your input..

I went to a nearby Ritz this weekend, and again looked at the D40x, D80, xTi, and K10D..

The D80 still seems to be captivating me the most, but I will say that the K10D seems like a great deal..

I'd love a camera where I can continue shooting in a drizzle or a very light flurry of snow. I'm guessing the Pentax is for sure one that can do that (certainly in conjunction with a sealed lens, right?), but would I have to be worried about ruining the D80 if I used it in those types of circumstances?.

I feel like I want to like Canon, but their ergonomics and aesthetics are very off-putting to me for some reason..

^.

(Not meant to be a slam on Canon or Canon owners, just a personal observation/preference)..

Comment #7

Another vote for the K10D. Been very happy with mine...

Comment #8

DRiv wrote:.

I'd love a camera where I can continue shooting in a drizzle or avery light flurry of snow. I'm guessing the Pentax is for sure onethat can do that (certainly in conjunction with a sealed lens,right?), but would I have to be worried about ruining the D80 if Iused it in those types of circumstances?.

If moisture did get in, you'd bear the full repair cost, I'd suspect. It's certainly not the case that 'non-weather-sealed camera used in bad weather == dead camera', and quite a few people have taken the risk (perhaps reducing it by wrapping most of the camera to keep off snow/rain), but the risk is there..

Note even with proper weather sealing, cold is still an issue. Specifically, there's the condensation that results when you bring a cold camera into a warm place. Usual recommendation is to turn off the camera, put it in a sealed ziploc bag, and then bring it in and don't power it up before it's had a chance to warm up slowly. For more paranoia, you might as well remove the battery..

I feel like I want to like Canon, but their ergonomics and aestheticsare very off-putting to me for some reason..

In that case, you probably shouldn't get one so long as more comfortable tools are satisfactory..

^(Not meant to be a slam on Canon or Canon owners, just a personalobservation/preference).

Ergonomics are quite personal, so people really shouldn't be bothered. You're not saying that it's clearly a silly design that nobody should use, after all just that you don't seem to like it as much as the others...

Comment #9

I'd have to put in another vote for the K10D after looking at all your very specific notes (sure makes it a hell of a lot easier than "newby here, help me pick a camera!"). I have one as well and it works great for my needs. I got it when I moved to DSLR cause I could afford it, it had the best feature set, and I knew I could grow with it. As you get used to it, you will understand how to manipulate the controls for the best image; i.e. using manual on night scenes and then over-exposing 1/3 to 1/2 stop according to the camera metering to get a well exposed shot. It has a 2s timer with mirror lockup so that those long exposure shots won't be blurred from the mirror moving.

For time lapse shots, you can use a cable release to go for longer than 30 sec. I personally haven't had to make use of the weather-sealing yet but i'm sure i'll get my chance. I've heard of others using it in heavy rain with the kit lens and not having any problems at all. The water just rolls off the lens and the seals of the K10D keep it dry..

For you just starting with it, I'd suggest getting it with the Kit lens and the DA 50-200. It's a good combination and when your ready, you can sell them and upgrade to better lenses or keep them as backups. Also, there are rebates for the K10D kit and da 50-200 combo. Just to keep in mind..

Most important though is to get the camera you like best, since it sounds like you'll be getting lots of use out of it...

Comment #10

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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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