Sooo Many Choices.....
I've been "dabbling" in general photography for quite a number of years, and I know just enough to know that I don't know anything! I've managed to take some pretty decent shots with whatever I've happened to have in my hands at the moment. Right now, I own a Canon SD750 P & S in addition to our older Canon G3, and we're looking to add an SLR for under $1000..

Our main purposes will be multiple and varied. Here they are:.

1. We're traveling West this Summer, with stops at Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, as well as a week up and down the PCH from LA to San Francisco. I'd like something that will serve us really well on this trip, including (perhaps) some time exposure night sky shots from the North Rim of the GC (if that's even possible)..

2. When we return from the trip, I'd like to be able to use the camera to capture shots of my daughter during her swim meets. Both the G3 and (especially) the SD750 were disasters in the low light, high distance, fast motion environment, and really weren't even worth trying. A friend has a Canon xti, and his shots were decent in those settings, although he still seemed to struggle with the low light conditions..

3. We also sell on eBay to finance those nice long vacations! Our other cameras do a fine job for that, and I'd probably continue to use them, but I thought I'd add it here just because we do take an absolute ton of photos for this purpose..

So my question is really a request for specific recommendations in the lower end SKR market. I've read reviews until I'm blue in the face, and I have to say that I'm just not technically savvy enough to make educated decisions based on the techie info. Each model has so many pros and cons that it's a bit overwhelming to really make a decision. I guess I'm partial to Canon. But as soon as I say that, I read a review that says Canon SLR's in the sub-$1000 price range have lousy build quality. I don't know.

I've also read with interest the reviews and comments on the Oly Evolt series. I have no real bias at this point!.

I'd very much appreciate any thoughts and advice that you may have, particularly given my varied needs on a National Park trip as well as indoor action shots at the swimming pool! Thanks so much!.


Comments (17)

It's a big step up for sure. Firstly, there really isn't such thing as a "bad" DSLR. Any of the ones out on the market today will be worlds ahead of your P&S's and will be able so satisfy most or all of your needs..

Some brands have larger catalogs of lenses and accessories than others, but for your needs any system available today has enough depth to cover all your bases. So that won't help narrow things down much..

For low light situations, you'll need to use high ISO's and if you are at a distance and shooting telephoto image stabilization comes into play. Each manufacturer deals with high ISO noise reduction in a different way, and by default some look better than others. In reality though, when you're talking normal viewing distances and reasonable enlargements, I personally don't feel there's a whole lot of difference. There are 3rd party apps out there that do a better job of handling noise than in camera anyway..

Image stabilization helps for long focal lengths or longer shutter speeds (for static objects). Canon and Nikon build it into some of their lenses, while others build it into their camera bodies. Either method is effective..

Olympus uses 4:3 aspect ratio (what you are used to with your P&S's), while all the others use the more traditional 3:2 ratio. Not a big deal, but just so you are informed...

Anywho. I highly recommend you go and handle a bunch of the camera's in your price range. Dive into their menu's, look through their viewfinders, operate all of their buttons/dials, etc. You will probably find a camera that feels more comfortable and easier to operate than others. That's the camera you should buy. Don't let sales people or anyone else talk you into/out of one camera over another.

Good luck and happy shooting!.

'I reject your reality and substitute my own' -Adam Savage

Comment #1

Dan: I'm a Nikon guy, but you could get a Rebel XTi w/18-55 kit lens at for $620. You will need a "fast" lens for the low light sports shots, maybe a Sigma 50-150/2.8, which would cost around $750. You will need two lenses, so keeping the cost under $1000 would be difficult..

The kit lens will give you a wide angle zoom, which will be useful on your trip. The Sigma lens will give you a longer reach and also handle lower light situations..

You could go for a Nikon system, but the problem is that the Sigma lens would not autofocus on the cheaper bodies such as the D40 or D60. You could buy a D80 body with an 18-55 kit lens for $830 from and add the Sigma 50-150..

If you'll consider used or refurbished equipment, you could spend less for the above camera bodies on Ebay and save a few bucks..

Happy shooting!..

Comment #2

First as USA said all the DSLRs available today are going to take good shots. So here is my 2c worth for the not lowest end..

NikonGood camera, good build, Lower End has more limited lens selection, good low light operation. IS Lenses are higher cost..

CanonGood Camera, not a great build, good lens selection. good low light operations. IS Lenses are higher cost..

Pentax.Good Camera, excellent build, good lens selection, weather sealed..

OlyGood camera, good build, good lens selection, built in IS (E510). Pro grade lenses are VERY expensive. Probably the best kit lenes. Below average low light performance. live View.

SonyGood camera, good build, ok lens selection, built in IS. (I really don't know a lot about Sony's new cameras..

Bottom line is that they are ALL good cameras, and it depends on what you are looking for in features and price. Frankly I just don't like the entry level Canon. I also think that IS is a must. I have had a DSLR without it and one with it. I suggest that you go and hold every camera WITH the kit lens. My camera has live view but I have seldom used it.

You have to make the choice of what is comfortable and usable for what you are going to do. I love my OLY but if I did a good deal of low light shots I would have looked elsewhere. I love the way the 510 fits my hand but I hated the 410. So the choice is really what you like. The camera is only 20% of taking good shots. The guy holding the camera is 80% so get what you are comfortable with and don't sweat what everyone else has (unless they have a whole bunch of really great lenses and will lend them to you!!!!)..


Olympus E-510 and a bunch of stuff to hang on it...

Comment #3

All the entry level DSLRs do about as well as each other. If you like using or holding one better than the other then that's what you need. That 'fit' factor is very important to how happy you using it, and that translates into your shots and your ability to learn to use it..

Shooting the kids at swimming events at long range translates into sports photography, kids or not. This is pretty much as difficult as it gets. As you have seen it's difficult with a DSLR. It really comes down to the lens, because the cameras are more-or-less equal at this task. Ideally you need a zoom with a wide constant aperture. But these are heavy and expensive.

Bare in mind that the DSLR will still be a considerable improvement in all areas and as long as you don't expect to start immediately shooting great front-page shots you'll be happy..

For that trip you'll need a tripod, monopod or something like a Gorillapod DSLR Zoom to make good long exposures at night. The in-built timer can do the rest..

I'd say that a DSLR, while it can be used as a P&S, they are, fundamentally, something you need to learn to use well. Read the manual and get a good book on general photography. You don't need to become an expert, but DSLRs reward you for learning, and it's surprising how quickly you can pick things up simply by trying things. Every extra piece of knowledge and technique you pick up will be useful..


Given your particular requirements I'd suggest any entry level Nikon with the 18-55 and the 55-200 VR kit. They are good cameras and the kit 55-200 VR will be very well suited to your needs while still being a relatively cheap option. I know you prefer the Canon, but I think the Nikon lens might be a better bet, as it is optically stabilized and a good performer..


Fuji S3 ProPentax K100DFuji S9600Fuji E900PCLinuxOS..

Comment #4

Thank you all for your thoughts! I've spent a little time today and from what I've been reading, I was considering the Pentax k200D kit with an additional 50-200 lens from Amazon..

Specifically, this one:.


But I hear loud and clear what the most important thing is at this point. I need to find a place where I can get these cameras in my hands before I decide!.

Thanks again, and please feel free to continue sharing opinions. I'm recognizing that the sports shots are going to be tough...

Comment #5

I think you said your swim meets were: low light, high distance, fast motion. The Pentax telephoto lens from Amazon you linked to won't do in those conditions. You'll need a 2.8 aperture telephoto lens. The K200 is a really nice camera...

Comment #6

Some good advice here, just one thing I'd disagree with. I have the Canon XT and I disagree that the build quality is poor. I read the same reviews that did state this, and I've seen it said elsewhere as well, but I have to disagree with tihs. When I think of poor build quality, this is what I think of: Pieces falling apart, not lasting long, poor precision with the pieces such as lenses not fitting very well, things misaligned, etc. I don't think this is the case at all with this camera..

That being said, sure it's not weather sealed and maybe it wouldn't hold up to the "abuse" that a pro might give his equipment through the course of a hard day of shooting and working. I think the main complaint is the amount of plastic. It feels pretty light too. But to me, it does feel solid, it doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart on me or anything like that. Maybe under a pro's use, the camera wouldn't last as long as the pro cams out there, but I disagree with saying the build quality is poor. To me, that has certain connotations that don't apply..

Just trying to learn.


Comment #7

What do people think about the Nikon D40 from Amazon for $454.88 plus this lens:.


There's a $100 rebate when purchased together, making it under $600 total..

Any thoughts?.

Thanks again.......

Comment #8

I've already said I think that's a good choice for you, assuming you really want the DSLR. The 55-200 VR has a very good reputation and is a good all round performer..

I would have to say that, as has been pointed out, this lens won't make long range action sports in low light conditions anything but marginal. A lens suitable for this task would be far heavier and far more expensive..

A lot depends on what you'll settle for and how much effort you put in, and ultimately you are learning that most of photography is a compromise between ideals and realities..

It's a good point to learn it. Many learn it after spending a lot of money chasing dreams..


Fuji S3 ProPentax K100DFuji S9600Fuji E900PCLinuxOS..

Comment #9

Thanks...I think I may pull the trigger on this deal, and then if things go well, I'll look to purchase a bigger and better lens down the road. Perhaps I can find a good used lens at a later date that won't break the bank!.

Thanks for the input!!.


Comment #10

I'm not sure about the "you need a really big 2.8 lens". I don't disagree that this would be the BEST choice but you can get fairly good shots in low light with a "regular" lens. It depends on how close you want to get and how much you are willing to crop the shot..

That being said I have never attempted to shoot a swim meet so I don't know the light levels. If it's outside then it is no different then being outside for any other event. Here are a couple of shots I took at the US Open last year from the stands, at night, under lights, kit lens. (40-150). I certainly would have liked a faster lens or a longer lens or in a perfect world both but I don't think it is absolutely necessary for the non-professional..


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

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

Olympus E-510 and a bunch of stuff to hang on it...

Comment #11

For your vacation you'll need a wide angle lens such as the Nikon 18-55. So basically you'll have to get 2 lenses..

Another possiblity, is to get the D40 with the 18-135. This will give you the wide angle and some telephoto. The 18-135 is a really good lens..


Comment #12

Better deal IMO.

Live view4 more mp will allow larger prints or tighter croppingdust reduction that worksgreat kit lenses that are compact and sharppixel mappingnewer camera.

In body IS(only have to buy it once rather than over and over again with nikon lenses at a not insignificant premium)2x focal length multiplier is going to be good for long shooting.


Only downside it gives a bit of high ISO shooting away to the d40..

I'd argue a better deal if it feels good in hand. it will certainly make a great travel kit..

Regardless you can't go wrong with either...

Comment #13

The E510 is a nice camera and, in many ways, technically superior to the Nikon D40..


The OP has said they like the D40 feel and the E510 is a smaller camera with a smaller body. My own biggest issue with the E410 and E510 is that they are too small and in particular the viewfinder is too small. ( for me )..

Certainly the E510 is worth checking out, but don't underestimate the importance of liking the feel of your camera when you hold it and look through the viewfinder..

Also bare in mind that in-body IS does not stabilize the image in the viewfinder. This is nt an issue for me, so I'm happy with my K100D's in-body IS, but I suspect it may be an issue for the OP..


Fuji S3 ProPentax K100DFuji S9600Fuji E900PCLinuxOS..

Comment #14

Sjgcit wrote:.

The E510 is a nice camera and, in many ways, technically superior tothe Nikon D40..


The OP has said they like the D40 feel and the E510 is a smallercamera with a smaller body. My own biggest issue with the E410 andE510 is that they are too small and in particular the viewfinder istoo small. ( for me )..

Where in ANY of the OP's post's did they express this preference of the d40 feel? quote that directly please..

Certainly the E510 is worth checking out, but don't underestimatethe importance of liking the feel of your camera when you hold it andlook through the viewfinder..

Why don't we let the OP come to their own conclusions regarding size, feel and viewfinder performance since it's their money they will be spending. my large hands get around my e510 quite nicely thank you..

Also bare in mind that in-body IS does not stabilize the image in theviewfinder. This is nt an issue for me, so I'm happy with my K100D'sin-body IS, but I suspect it may be an issue for the OP..

An what lead's you to think this as an issue for the OP. again not once is anything like that expressed anywhere in their posts..

You might want to spend a little less time projecting and interpreting OP's needs, wants, & desires as you seem to be more worried about your own agenda for whatever reason..

If you'll read the OP was on the right path with regards to handling any of these before buying as any of them will do the job. my biggest point was that a newer camera will keep the "body upgrade" desire at bay a bit longer than a d40 might having more features and mp available. But that's for the OP to decide, not you or I...

Comment #15

As always, thanks for everyone's input..

I've been able to get to the store to actually check out some of these models in person, and I think the Nikon D40 is the winner as far as actual feel in my hands. It's a little smaller, and I feel like I have better control, particularly when compared to some of the larger Canons..

As I continue to research things a bit, I'm finding that there are quite a few places to find reasonable prices on the D50 (also with a two lens kit). From my limited understanding-and please correct me if this is wrong-I guess you can use virtually the entire line of Nikon lenses with the D50, rather than a somewhat limited selection with the D40. Is that accurate? Does that mean that I'd be able to retain the auto-focus feature on all of those lenses?.

It seems like the price differentials are pretty minimal, and I'm wondering if there are any drawbacks to the D50 as opposed to the D40. Any thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks again...

Comment #16

Here is some lens compatibility info.

I have the D50 which I bought 3 years ago. The main drawback to me as compared to the d40 is the size. I'd prefer the smaller d40 but I don't intend to get the d40-60 because I like using prime lenses and the ones I use autofocus on the d50 and not the d40. I think the d40 may also have better white balance control...

Comment #17

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