I would prefer to start with a budget of about $1,500 including bodyand lens. I will primarily be photographing family and sports tobegin with..
For both of your interests, "fast" lenses (that can let in more light) are good to have. With family photos, this allows you to take more "natural light" portraits; with indoor sports (no flash allowed, low light, need for high shutter speeds for freezing action), you're practically sunk from the start without a "fast" lens..
Canons have a reputation as being somewhat better at taking high ISO photos and as having more choices of telephoto lenses. So even though I have a Nikon D80 and like it a lot, I would suggest you take a close look at the Canon "family" and in particular the Canon EOS 30D..
Why the 30D? It's cheaper now that the 40D is out ... and it has things that a Rebel XTi (400D) lacks (like a large viewfinder, and ISO 3200 capability; the ISO 3200 capability being something that might make a difference for indoor sports)..
Others can give advice on telephoto lenses. I think the main problem you'll find is that good, fast telephoto lenses are expensive..
For general family photos, you'll eventually want something better than the Canon 18-55mm kit lens. Maybe for the long term, something like a Tamron 17-50 mm constant f/2.8 lens or the Sigma equivalent. For the short term, a strategy might be to get the 18-55mm kit lens (if it's cheap), add a Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens (also cheap), and put the rest of your lens budget towards a decent indoor sports lens...
The Oly 510 is not a bad camera, but the 2 lens kit does not lend itself to low light shooting at all. Oly does have some good lenses for the work, but they aren't cheap! Even the mid-grade Oly lenses should be good, with maximum apertures in the 2.8-3.5 range..
I would second (or is it 3rd now) the Canon 20D/30D as a good choice for a budget sports camera. A 30D and 70-200 f/4L will just about fit in your budget, maybe just a little over. Good high-ISO performance and plenty of speed. Another option might be the Nikon D80 and the 70-300 ED, although the lens is a little slower. Outdoors in daylight, it won't be a problem. Indoors or at night, the lens is really too slow.
Also, don't take this wrong, but good action shots are just as much about the photographer as the camera and lens. You can switch cameras every week, but there is no "magic bullet" camera that will make you better. It requires practice, and an understanding of the gear. Having good gear makes it easier, but doesn't guarantee quality..
Good luck in your search..
Crime Scene PhotographyA small gallery of personal work: http://picasaweb.google.com/PID885..
As everyone else seems to want to fix the problems with expensive camera gear I'll give you another useful ( and cheap ) tool - noise reduction software..
There are three aspects to your problem, all related to the speed required and light available..
(1) Any DSLR will be a lot better in low light and at high ISO than any non-DSLR. A LOT better. Being able to raise ISO means being able to take good shots in lower light ( like indoors ) at a shutter speed high enough to stop blurring and freeze action..
(2) All camera sensors produce some noise. Sensors in DSLRs are large and produce very low noise. The FZ18 is especially noisy, I'm sorry to say. Noise reduction software helps both and may help with the FZ18 shots. On the FZ18 the camera itself is trying to clean up noise and, in the process removes detail and gives that unreal appearance. You can try shooting RAW with it and using noise reduction software.
However this may be too much to ask of even NeatImage or NoiseNinja. In addition shooting RAW slows down the camera - bigger files to write to the card. Worth a try and noise reduction software is a valuable tool for all cameras..
(3) Speed and continuous shooting. This requires a camera capable of writing a long sequence of JPEGs quickly to the card. The Nikon D40 and D40x and the Canon 400D would seem good choices here. The DSLR also benefits from a faster AF system and better metering. The more expensive 30D, D200 and so on are designed for faster shooting still with higher frame rates..
A good lens with a wide aperture helps ( e.g a 100mm f/2.8 ) but these are more expensive and, unless you need very high quality results the combination of a reasonable telephoto zoom, a basic DSLR and some noise reduction software can work out fine for you..
I've taken reasonably good shots of marathon runners in high-contrast lighting on public streets ( e.g runner in heavy shade, background very bright ) with RAW on a lowly Fuji S9600. I'm not saying it was easy or that the results were perfect - some shots required a lot of post processing to get a reasonable level of detail. However it does show you that good results are possible with modest enough equipment. I have to admit I wish I'd brought the K100D instead, but there ya go....
Pentax K100DFuji S5200Fuji E900PCLinuxOS..
Indoor sports action-what exactly do you mean? Sports too can mean many things. Bigger field sports require more reach. You'll likely have to make compromises. Indoor hockey pushes you one way. Soccer pushes you another. Candids....
I find that the skills required for sports serve me well for candids..
BTW, I personally use a 20d and usually I'm the limiting factor. And I strongly urge you to not spend all your money on the camera..
You'll need to understand that you need light gathering ability for indoor sports. Only a lens that lets in a lot of light, and a sensor that allows a decent high ISO, say 1600 will let you get the fast shutter speed you need for indoor sports. That means that zooms will likely not get you the speed you need for indoor sports unless your venue is exceptionally well lit..
I must preface this by saying that I am totally open to all adviceand opinions regarding a preference to one or another "Family". I amlooking to begin a hobby in photography and I would like to knowwhich "Family" would be best suited for my needs. However, I am notlimiting my choices to these two manufactorers, as I will be postingthis message on several forums..
I would prefer to start with a budget of about $1,500 including bodyand lens. I will primarily be photographing family and sports tobegin with. For me it has been confusing in talking to many expertson how to get started. Some say get a superzoom, because that is allthat I should need. And others suggest starting out with an entrylevel DSLR..
I am a semi-retired coach who is spending as much time as possiblewith his two young son's. I have owned an Olympus E-510 briefly andcurrently own a Panasonic FZ18 and a Casio Ex-V7 (for Disney etc..).I really did not get to realize the full capabilities of the 510 andits 2 lenses. I must admit that I was disappointed with it's indoorsports action capabilities and thus returned it for the Panny (whichwas recommended by my Ritz sales Rep). I have to say that the FZ18is performed better with action sports, but when comparing all photosin general, I did notice that there was a lot of detail missing incomparison to the OLY..
Finally, I say "Family" because I realize now how expensive andimportant quality lenses are. So I guess I am asking which familyyou all would recommend to somebody just starting out. One minordetail that I could live with is size. I do prefer the larger sizeIE.. d80/40d types, but it wouldn't be a deal breaker..
Looking Forward to your OpinionsThanks, Dan..
The choice has been narrowed because I recently found out that a freind has a great collection of Canon glass that he doesn't mind sharing. So now the choice really comes down to 400d vs, 40d for a novice like me. (didn't mean to make that rhyme)..
Thanks in advance for your thoughtsDan..
Given the fact that you are a noob, the 40D may be too much camera. I suggest that you start with a 400D, 20D, or 30D and, after you have mastered the basics of photography, you will be ready to move up (the 40D will have been replaced by the 50D by that time!). Enjoy your new hobby!.
Why 20d or 30d aren't they similar and almost same in price? Can now get a 40d @ CC for 1399 with lense...
Maybe you just answered your own question. If you can get the 40D...get it...you won't regret it. I bought the 30D about a month before the 40D came out. I struggled between the D80 and 30D until I did like most folks here said, go handle both. I knew the Canon was for me once I picked it up (I had no bias toward Nikon or Canon - and still don't, it just fits my hands better). I love the 30D but definitely would've bought the 40D if it had been out.
The starting budget of $1500 gets blown out of the water pretty quick though, once you decide what glass you need - unless your friend is really patient..
A quick check of prices revealed that you can get the 20D (body alone) for $813, the 30D for $990, and the 40D for $1250. If price is an issue, one of the lesser camera bodies would be great to learn with and probably would be more camera than you need for a few years. If money is not an issue, buy the 40D!.