Quasi-beginner looking to upgrade, any suggestions?
I'm a student and about four years ago I bought my current digital camera, an Olympus C-4000 Zoom, just after I finished an Intro B&W photography class. I eventually also purchased a telephoto add-on lens (I'm not sure of the model or anything, the lens just says 1.7x tele conversion lens) for this camera..

I have not been particularly satisfied with this camera for a couple of reasons. It is a bit too heavy and bulky for general use (where general use is defined as social events where pictures do not need to be particularly good and large cameras get in the way). It is also a bit too complicated to use the manual features becuase they're all hidden in menus instead of dials and rings on the lens. I've used the manual options occasionally, but for the most part I end up sticking to the "P" setting and the auto-focus. The complicated steps required and my general laziness have resulted in almost never using my manual features. I've also as a result forgotten most of the photography I used to know, as far as how to think about what aperture and shutterspeed and light and such you need to take good pictures..

I've decided that what I should do is to get 2 cameras. I'd like to get a simple-but-not-terribly-crappy point and shoot camera for general use, and I'd like to get a real camera that would allow me to continue to learn about photography. I'm open to either a dslr or a bridge camera, as long as the manual features are easy to access. Cost is definitely a factor, in all likelihood I will be compiling holiday money-gifts in order to purchase at least one camera this holiday season. I don't need suggestions on a good p/s unless someone feels inspired to give them, but help on a good real camera would be much appreciated..

Sorry for the long post..


Comments (20)

Fujifilm FinePix S9100Fujifilm FinePix S6000 fdCanon EOS 400D / Digital Rebel XTiCanon PowerShot S3 ISNikon D40XOlympus E-510Sony DSLR-A100.

All of those cameras are either dSLR or bridge. They're all less than a grand. They all got highly recommended or haven't been rated yet but their cousin camera got highly recommended..

If you want to do some research for yourself, check this out

Comment #1

For dSLRs I would suggest a Nikon D40/D40x. I think it's a very friendly dSLR to use and image quality is very nice!.

For dSLR-like cameras I'd go for a Panasonic FZ50 or Fuji S9100/9600, because they all have manual controls just like dSLR does (which means control dials and so on. You don't have to go through sub-menus to change shutter speed, apperture and so on)..

If you're on budget you could also look for an used Canon XT (Rebel 350D), Panasonic FZ30 or Fuji S9000/9500..

I wouldn't go for Canon S3/S5 or Sony H series. Because you have to go through menus to change shutter speed and apperture..

(not to mention you don't have focus by wire and have lever zoom. That's too much P&S'ish, IMHO).

Hope that helps...

Comment #2

For a learner dslr that you can grow with as you pick up the basics of photography, I suggest either the Canon 350D or 400D or the Nikon D40. I have been shooting the Canon 350D for a couple years, and I am perfectly satisfied with image quality and versitility..


Comment #3

For a dslr, olympus e-330 with 2 lens kit. cameta camera has them at just over $600 new, less for refurbs. by far the best deal for a dslr going today. but they won't be around forever, so you need to move on it soon..

For the p&s, my vote goes to the fuji finepix fz30 or fz20 if you can find one. the fz30 may be hard to find, the 20 really hard to find. but these are actually worth looking for. they had the best low light performance of all. as for the rest, go with lower MP's for better pix, not more 8 for sure, better 5-6. oly's got some waterproof ones that might be ok, but it's kind of a darts game, I think, on these smaller cameras now...

Comment #4

Thanks for all the suggestions so far! I just want to clarify that my budget is probably <= $550 since I will be using holiday money, and thats about how much i've been able to gather in other years..

The list of recommendations I have so far is as follows: (slrs) Canon 350D, 400D, Nikon 40, 40x, Olympus E-330, 510, Sony a100; (slr-like) fuji s9100, s6000 fd, panasonic fz50..

I guess my main question on the list so far, since I have a tendency to buy more than I need and spend more than I should, is for the pairs that are the same brand am I likely to notice the differences enough to make use of them and be worth spending more, or for learning purposes will the one that costs a little less be fine?.

Keep the suggestions coming, I am a fan of long decision-processes with lots of information gathering and sorting..


Comment #5

As a learner, you will see no difference between the Canon 350D and 400D..


Comment #6

Just looking at one source, what Amazon sells directly, there are at present several options for a DSLR with kit lens at under $550: Nikon D40, Canon Rebel XT, Olympus E410, Samsung GX-1S, and Pentax K100D Super (though this last one might go over budget after shipping and/or tax)..

I don't see any material advantages to the D40X over the D40 unless you need a few more megapixels. The Canon XTi offers enough improvements with it's dust removal system and greater range of image parameter settings (Picture Styles) that I would consider paying the extra money over the XT. I chose the Samsung GX-1S mostly on the strength of it's larger, brighter, clearer, pentaprism viewfinder, and I've also come to really like it's control interface...

Comment #7

Ok so here's my current list of options for the real camera:slr:Canon 350DCanon 400DNikon D40Nikon D40xOlympus E-330Olympus E-410Olympus E-510Samsung GX-1SSony A-100slr-like:Fuji S9100Fuji S6000 fdPanasonic FZ50.

It seems like if I can afford an slr over a bridge I should go for one, but that still leaves the problem of narrowing things down..

Clearly since I'm still learning, going for lots of shiny features that cost money is probably more fun than necessary. As a Computer Science major I have a tendency to try to buy really high end things with shiny features just because they're shiny and not because I'm necessarily ready for (or regularly going to use) those features. That being said, I don't mind shiny features as long as I can afford them..

Here's a list of questions I've come up with to help me make decisions. If these are the wrong questions to ask, that would also be valuable to know..

I notice (from the comare side-by-side page) that the Nikon D40, Pentax K100D super, and the Samsung GX-1S do not have ISO 100 - is that an issue I should be considering? I seem to recall shooting primarily in 100 when I took my intro photo class. Is it going to matter if it goes up to IS) 1600 or 3200?.

The 350d, d40 (depending on store), d40x, the oly's maybe, the samsung maybe seem to be closer to what I think my budget is. The sony seems way out and the 400d also seems to be a lot of money. Do any of these have significantly better kit lenses?.

Is dust reduction something I should pay attention to?.

I've seen posts on this forum that talk about how you don't need and shouldn't have more than a 6mp camera. Is it going to be bad to by a dslr with more? About half of the list seem to have around 10..

Also, another question I had - what is "focus by wire"? I own (and have used) a fully manual 35mm slr, but I don't recall that term..

Any other recommendations for cameras to add/subtract from the list or how to go about narrowing (other than going to a store and playing with them, that is already in the works) are welcome!.


Comment #8

I am new to photography, and I am certain there are plenty more people who can give better technical advice. A friend of mine got me interested in Cameras with his Panasonic FZ30 (previosu version to the FZ50). So I read up on things, tried various cameras, and got the Panasonic Lumix FZ50. I took it around some, but it left me feeling like I was missing out on something. For the money I spent, I felt like I should have gotten a DSLR. The Lumix is nice, but once you get that you are done, there is nothing to build on.

I have been happy with it so far. It's been easy to use, easy to take around, and has produced nice pictures (I mostly use it for travel photos). I like it because of the inexpensive but good Konica Minolta lenses I can get on ebay (like the 50mm 1.7f for around $60-70). The internal super steady shot the camera offers seems to be good for where I am at in terms of skills. It seems now that Sony is churning out more newer lenses, so I am confident that when my skills get better there will be more high end lenses for me to grow into..

I would recommend a DSLR over one of the near-DSLRs. I think in the long run you will be much happier with a DSLR, especially if you are thinking to grow into the hobby..

Good luck...

Comment #9


Both my K100d and IST*D do not have iso 100 but I have never missed it...but thats me. Iso 400 is excellent...and I get usable published pics (newspapers/websites etc)even at iso 3200 if exposed correctly..

The Nikon d40 uses the same sensor..

I can happily reccomend a K100d (and if you get the non super you would be in budget). I would NOT get it if you need to machine gun a lot of sports pics quickly..... but for a good, steady (and stabilised) entry level camera that can use almost any k mount or m42 mount lens EVER made...all stabilised and that is also as good as or even better than many higher spec cameras at higer isos it is excellent value. If you go the Nikon route for ME the D50 or D70s would be the choice over the D40..

Bottom line is try as many camreras as you can and get what is right for YOU..


Comment #10

It seems like if I can afford an slr over a bridge I should go forone,.


I notice (from the comare side-by-side page) that the Nikon D40,Pentax K100D super, and the Samsung GX-1S do not have ISO 100 - isthat an issue I should be considering?.

This depends a great deal on the type of shooting you do. some of us do most of our shooting at iso 100, some....

Is it going tomatter if it goes up to IS) 1600 or 3200?.

Among this group, none excel at 1600 or 3200. that said, the canon's are the best here. but really good 1600 and up performance belongs to cameras well outside your price range. is it important? again, that depends on you.

The 350d, d40 (depending on store), d40x, the oly's maybe, thesamsung maybe seem to be closer to what I think my budget is. Thesony seems way out and the 400d also seems to be a lot of money. Doany of these have significantly better kit lenses?.

The oly kit lenses are a steal for the money. the current e-330 + 2 lens kit deals from cameta CANNOT BE BEAT. after that, the nikon kits are ok. the canon kit lenses are well back from thatreally not so good..

Is dust reduction something I should pay attention to?.

Well, it's like this: if you have no problems, life is good. but if you do....uggghhhh. the oly dust reduction system is tried and true. it works..

I've seen posts on this forum that talk about how you don't need andshouldn't have more than a 6mp camera. Is it going to be bad to by adslr with more? About half of the list seem to have around 10..

Again a lot depends on what you plan to do print-wise. i'm getting superb results from an 8mp camera, pp'd with lightzone [not lightroom!], printed off an epson 3800you can scrutinize my 17x20+ prints with a 4x fuji loupe all day long and see no flaws. gorgeous prints, better than anything I got out of an EXCELLENT wet darkroom using mf and lf negs, shot with terrific lenses..

Also, another question I had - what is "focus by wire"? I own (andhave used) a fully manual 35mm slr, but I don't recall that term..

Electronic assist manual focus. only a very mild annoyance, if any at all..

Any other recommendations for cameras to add/subtract from the listor how to go about narrowing (other than going to a store and playingwith them, that is already in the works) are welcome!.

How it fits in your hands is a big deal. also, think about your photo style and look at the lens line-up. be aware that the canon and nikon lens line-ups have lots of pre digital stuff in them and some duplication, some spotty performers, and canon and nikon lenses are spread over several formats. but they have the primes if that is your interest. the oly lens line-up is much more limitedsome more lenses coming in now and over the next few months[and also several sigmas and now leica lenses]but all designed for their current format. there's a bunch of BS on these forums about oly lenses being too expensivethe top glass is high, but the mid range performs nearly as well as lenses in the top range of the other lines, and their pricing is very competitive..

I'm just not sure about sony and fuji. and it breaks my heart to say the same about pentaxi'm a pentax guy from way back [but now with oly]...

Comment #11

The news today is an upgrade to nikon's 18-55 kit lens [something like 28-85 equivdecent]. it now will include VR, and will be priced at $199. that's a good deal. don't know when it will be available and how that may work as a kit priceespecially with the cameras you're looking at. worth checking, though...

Comment #12

The new lens is interesting, and may give the Nikon's a couple points. Since I have to wait to see how much money I get for the holidays, I probably won't be purchasing for a month or two. I like to start my decision process early, for anything electronic, because it always takes me awhile..

I realized, after reading several threads on the forum and some other web resources, what I was missing on the MegaPixel issue. I guess the issue with p&s cameras is that the sensor is so small that after a certain point more mp are just not helpful and may be harmful because they have to make them smaller. However, I'm assuming that the sensor on a dslr is going to be a good bit bigger than on a compact camera, even on dslr's that are not full-body. So the higher number of mp isn't as much of an issue on the dslrs..

I guess my latest thoughts on my list are as follows, based on the responses I've seen so far:.

If the Olympus and Nikon kit lenses are better than the Canon ones, maybe it would be smarter to focus on those models. (Oly 330, 410, 510, Nikon D40, D40x). The Oly dust reduction also seem to give them bonus points..

The drawback to the Nikon's seems to be that it only takes certain lenses. Though if I stick with slr photography and eventually upgrade bodies, I assume the lenses that work on the d40/40x work on everything else, just everything else doesn't work on these 2..

The drawback to the canon seems to be the kit lens. As a learner I wonder if I would notice the issues with the Canon kit lens. On the other hand, since I have done some photo before maybe I would notice..

I'm definitely throwing the Sony out of the list, just because there's no way I'll have enough money for it. I think the slr-like's are also off the list..

The Pentax and Samsung are inexpensive, but don't seem to offer much thats unique amongst the whole list..

The issue of picking a system might be the most confusing part, because I feel like I don't want to pick the wrong one. For example, if I don't pick Canon because their kit lens isn't great I'm missing the chance to eventually buy better canon lenses. I don't know how often I'll be buying lenses at this point, since I don't know how quickly I will tire of the kit lens and also since more lenses cost more money..

It seems like the ISO 100 issue might matter, just because if I'm trying to learn/relearn exposure stuff it's probably worth playing with. The high ISO may not be so important, I don't recall using anything so high on my fslr..

Also, I don't really know what my shooting style is. My issues with my current camera have resulted in a withdrawal from photography because the flaws in the camera just make it not fun to use. What I remember most is that I was a fan of my zoom lens (I forget the range, I'm guessing 28-80. I'll dig it out this weekend just to see what it was), but my photography teacher didn't seem to think it was a good idea and complained that my focusing was usually not great. I also had a normal 50mm lens for that camera. I also don't remember what the camera was, but it's lying around somewhere..

As far as finding a camera that fits me, I definitely will go to a camera store this weekend..

Thanks so much! The input is very much appreciated. Again, feel free to bring other things to my attention...

Comment #13

Ok, so I'm going to go to a camera store tomorrow (probably a ritz somewhere in philly, so sad mid-city camera closed  ) and was curious if anyone had any suggestions about questions to ask or anything I should pay attention to as I start to play with cameras..

My full list of suggested cameras (slrs only, I eliminated slr-like options) is the following: canon 350d, 400d, nikon 40, 40x, oly 330, 410, 510, pentax k100d, k100d super, samsung gx-1s, sony a100..

The list that I can probably afford is 350d, both nikons, all 3 oly. the 400d and sony are definitely out of my ~$550 budget, and I'm not sure about pentax. I realize that they've been around forever and such, but still more drawn to the other systems..

I have seen recommendations to bring my own mem card, which I won't be able to do as I forgot to pack my little 16mb sd card that I got free with something for the weekend, unfortunately..

Any more suggestions, any advice on how to approach visiting a camera store to play with some or all of the cameras on the list would be much appreciated...

Comment #14


Tomorrow (if it's Black Friday) may be a bad day to actually have questions answered. IF they don't think you're going to buy, they may not be too receptive..

The Samsung and Pentax are basically the same camera so you don't need to see both. While in-store stock may differ, I didn't see the Pentax K100D or K100D super on the Ritz web site (they did have the more expensive K10D. You can get some amazing deals on the Oly 330 from Cameta Camera but I wouldn't buy it from Ritz..

It looks like they have the Nikon D40, Rebel XT and Olympus E410 in your price range w/a basic kit lens ($500 for the D40, $550 for the Rebel and $550 for the E410 though for a basic starter, the D40 w/2 lenses for $600 and E410 w/2 lenses for $650 are great bargains too..

Don't worry about not bringing your own memory card. The D40 takes SD cards, while the Rebel and E410 take CF cards so you couldn't capture images from all three on the same card anyway..

Start-up time, shutter lag and such you can research on this web site. I'd pay attention to how the camera feels in your hand (the D40 and E410 are smaller than the Rebel)..

Also pay attention to how you navigate through settings, ie change shutter speed, aperture, shutter speed and image quality..

Any of the cameras you've looked into will be fine. But the one you want to buy is the one you feel most comfortable operating (ie feels good in your hand, easy to master)..

Happy shopping..

'Nice pen, bet you write good stories with it.'..

Comment #15

Ok, so today I went to a ritz camera store, and then also to best buy. I played with the Nikon 40, 40x, and oly 410 and 500 (they didn't have the 510 or 330) at the Ritz store, and the 40, 40x and Canon XT/350D at best buy. I also spent much of the evening speaking to one of my uncles who has been doing photography much more since he retired and is at least fairly knowlegeable on stuff. The short version is I'm down to D40 vs D40x vs 350D, if you don't want to read how my camera-shopping day went skip to the "how do I pick between these 3" part, which is the last paragraph..

The person helping me at Ritz was amazingly helpful, and fun to talk to. The Oly 410 felt awkward and too light, the oly 500 too heavy, and I really liked the Nikons. I was prepared to just throw the whole rest of the list out..

Then came best buy. The guy at best buy confused me more than helped. Now, I don't expect the guys at best buy to know much - I'm sure they don't, but anyway....

First of all it's hard to play with cameras at best buy b/c they're hooked into the stands with the peg-things. I found that the canon and the 2 nikons felt pretty similar in my hands. The dude at best buy didn't know what I meant by "apparently canon has the worst kit lens of the entry dslr kit lenses" and felt that "they all have bad kit lenses, the connection ring is plastic, therefore they're bad". He felt that the canon was a better buy because it has a sturdier frame. He said the pop-up flashes on the display models of d40/d40x cameras in best buy stores all over the US have all broken such that they won't stay down anymore..

So basically the advantage of d40/d40x over canon is the better kit lens. The advantage of the Canon is the sturdier body and sturdier flash, assuming the best buy dude was right. Also, the Canon has ISO 100, which d40 doesn't. Both Nikon flashes in the store were stuck in the "up" position. The advantages of d40x over d40 are iso 100 and 10mp (although I pretty much never print stuff ever). also d40x is more mp than canon but that may not matter for my purposes.

How do I go about choosing at this point?.

Thanks so much! the more info I get, the better, so keep posting please!..

Comment #16

Please keep in mind that in the long run you will spend much more money on the glass than on the camera. My D200 cost less than my 18-200VR and 80-400VR. So in your search remember to consider which lenses you might need and at what cost. Good luck...Brent..

Comment #17

If you're going to go with a kit lens, get the D40 and don't worry about it. I've got two good friends with D40's and they're not having any pop-up flash issues. It's the cheaper path and if you get into photography, you're going to want another body and to keep the first one as a back-up. You'll get better pictures with the D40's kit lens than with the Canon, and it's all about the picture. Don't neglect printing them though, that's where you get to see that advantage. If you're just going to look at them on a screen, don't waste your money on a DSLR, you won't want to haul it around if you're not into photography, and you're generally not going to see much difference on a computer screen between a high-end P&S and a DSLR..

I'd only get the Canon if you thought you might want to do architecture where the tilt/shift lenses make a huge difference, or if you're going to do wildlife (especially birds) where the long lenses are significantly cheaper. (I shoot birds with a Nikon 400/2.8 and the difference in price between the old 400 AF-S II and the Canon is about a camera body- let alone the new version!).


Comment #18

I think I've decided on the D40. My next question is what accessories should I be looking to buy immediately?.

The person at Ritz said something like the following:Bag (I have one, for now)Memory cardsTripodFlashcombo pack of UV filter and polarizing filter.

How much of this, and/or other items or lenses should I be looking to buy immediately (on a $550 budget including body and kit lens), and how much can I wait on?

Comment #19

The camera/lens kit plus a memory card or two will likely burn up your expected budget of $550, and you really don't need anything else to start with:.

1. You have a bag..

2. Though I've never had a card fail, having two gives you more capacity and is nice "just in case" (and they're cheap these days)..

3. I find a tripod essential for camera/lens testing, copy or macro work, still lifes, and anytime long shutter speeds are needed or wanted, such as in night or pre-dawn scenery or for blurred motion effects (such as moving water). I also find that I just compose better images when I use a tripod as it slows me down, lets me comfortably study the entire screen, and lets me and the motionless camera wait for just the right cloud position or lighting conditions to break. That said, some people never use a tripod, and there are many lifetimes of photographic opportunities that don't require it's use. If at some point you decide you want one, it's worth buying a good one (something like the Tiltall at around $100 would be a reasonable budget choice)..

4. I use a bounce flash for indoor shots rather extensively with film cameras. With digital, the useable high ISO speeds and white balance options have led me to prefer just using whatever light sources, natural or artificial, are already present. I don't use outdoor fill-flash much, but the built-in flash of your D40 should be sufficient for this. There are some macro flash arrangements (ring flash, brackets for small, angled flash units) you might think about if this becomes a major photographic interest..

5. While I once used a variety of filters for film, most of these were for color correction that digital capture can actually do better and without filters. Neutral density filters are still useful for allowing slower shutter speeds for deliberate motion blur effects and graduated neutral density filters for balancing the lighting between sky and foreground, especially on those early morning shoots (the square filter/holder systems by Cokin or Lee make placing the transition line where you want it much easier). Again, you don't need filters to start with, and they should be chosen only after you've identified by experience just what applications you need them for...

Comment #20

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