You will get the best picture quality and fastest performance from a DSLR. Generally, the more money you spend on a DSLR, the more you get ... and that goes double for the lenses..
You said you were considering the Canon S5. I'm a Panasonic fan, so I can't tell you about the S5. I can tell you that you might want to take a look at two Panasonic cameras that are similar to the S5:.
1. The Panasonic FZ50 (I have it's predecessor, the FZ30). It's got a great 35-420mm Leica zoom lens - very sharp. It's a fast performer with minimum shutter lag and with a burst mode..
2. The Panasonic FZ18 with an incredible 28-504mm lens. It's smaller (weights less than a pound), has less features (for example, no hot shoe for an extra flash unit), and is cheaper than the FZ50..
If most of your photos are in good light, I think you would be very happy with these cameras because they have relatively fast zoom lenses so you can use a faster shutter to stop action. In poor light, these cameras will perform acceptably, using a higher ISO, but typically will not match the DSLRs low light performance..
I don't see many dog racing photos on dpreviews panasonic forum, but I do see a lot of great Birds In Flight (called BIF) photos. Birds are very fast and usually much smaller than a dog and therefore harder to get focus lock. Go to the dpreview panasonic forum and do a search on BIF. I think you'll be impressed. Also, go to the Canon Talk forum and do the same. I'm sure there are some good shots there too..
Only an SLR will give you truly snappy performance. A fast superzoom camera like the FZ18 will be okay, but still seem sluggish compared to the SLR..
Go to a camera store if you can and try the two side by side. Only then will you know for sure if you can tolerate the shutter lag of an non-SLR camera..
An SLR has an extra advantage too, which is continuous shooting for multiple shots (this could be important for you so check out which cameras do best for this) and autofocusing as it goes, tracking moving objects. A superzoom wouldn't really be able to do this properly..
But you'd have to budget for a long lens if you bought an SLR. And having an SLR doesn't mean you can point it at a bunch of 40mph dogs and get great pictures. You'll have to develop your technique and probably throw a lot of photos away to start with..
I agree with the other guys about the need for a dSLR if your main subjects are racing dogs and birds in flight. A mid-range dSLR won't cost you a lot more than a top of the range superzoom P&S, but it'll give you virtually zero shutter lag, plus a more usable burst mode (even in RAW)..
You could also consider practicing your panning technique as in swinging the camera along the dogs' track, or the birds' flight path. This also has the added bonus of giving you a linearly blurred background, which (particularly with the doggies) can make 'em look like they're really moving..
Hope this helps ..
I'm glad I stumbled on this forum, you guys are a wealth of information, thank you..
So a dSLR it is. I have a feeling if I purchased a P&S, even a really nice one, I would "outgrow" it quickly and regret not getting the other. So I'm back on track with the Nikon D80 or something similar...
If you have decided on a DSLR like the Nikon you need to decide if you need lenses with image stabilization (IS). This is very useful at longer telephoto lengths and slower shutter speeds. Unless you use a tripod consistently in these types of situations, I think an IS system is a necessity..
There are essensially two types of IS systems for DSLRs:.
1. The IS is built into the lens (usually called optical image stabilization), not the camera body. Nikon labels their IS lenses "VR" for "vibration reduction". Canon labels theirs "IS". Typically, these lens are more expensive than the non-IS lenses..
2. Many other DSLR manufactures (Sony & Pentax, for example) build their IS system into the camera body and therefore all lenses that you mount on these cameras can be image stabilized via the camera body (sensor shift)..
I can't tell you which IS system provides the best performance..
One of the things that I like about the Panasonic non-DSLR FZ50 and FZ18 is that they come with Optical IS (labeled OIS) built into excellent zoom Leica lenses which are relatively fast..
Just one last note about IS, it will help avoid image blur due to camera movement, therefore reducing the need to carry/use a tripod. It doesn't help at all if the problem is subject movement..
Good luck with whatever camera you choose ....
The D80 is an excellent camera. You might want to look into what lenses you might need. For birds you are looking at something rather expensive possibly. You might be able to get away with a good 70-300 (like the nikon 70-300VR, don't forget if you compare that to a superzoom it would be 105-450mm in 35mm equivelant*), if you need more reach than that you are looking at more than a grand pretty much for the lens alone..
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I would suggest a slightly different tack. I think the low end DSLR's are the way to go. The difference in image quality between the entry level DSLR and the mid level ones are negligible. Its only until you get to the upper end full frame that there is a big difference. What you pay for is features, handling etc. Go to the store and handle them all, see what you like.
There is virtually no difference in image quality but it's importnat that you find one that feels good to you. Personally I think your best bang for the dollar is to get the lowest cost body and invest in a fine lens. You can get a D40 or other entry level for example for around $400-500, whereas the midlevel ones are generally $1000-1200. The D80 may be a little less now because it's an older model about to be replaced...
GREAT information. So which dSLR's are good entry levels like the D80 that are also fast that have the image stabilization built into them? Does having to purchase lenses with this feature greatly increase their price? I definitely want it (now that I know about it LOL) Also, I saw something about an auto focus motor drive that can either be built into the body, or if not then possibly having to purchase lenses that have that motor drive built into them? Does this greatly affect the price of a lense if you need that motor in them? I guess now I'm looking at cost-effective options to get BOTH the image stabilization and the auto focus motor. I'm not actually sure if the D80 has the auto focus motor in the body or not and haven't been able to find that information yet...
That's some good advice provided that you (the OP) are the kind of person who likes a challenge and is able to make do. Pentax would probably be the best way to go thanks to their enviable backwards compatibility with regards to lenses. You can see the latest Pentax DSLR review posted only recently on this site..
If on the other hand you want the best from the outset, then take plenty of advice and invest in either Canon or Nikon top-notch glass. (The expensive 'L' lenses from Canon)..
John.Please visit me at:http://www.pbase.com/johnfr/backtothebridgehttp://www.pbase.com/johnfr/digital_dartmoor..
I would just find the body you like best, there is really not that much difference between them. If you don't have IS on the body, you can always get an IS lens. Most likely you will end up with just a few lenses, like a wide to moderate zoom and then a serious telephoto zoom for your sports stuff (I don't know what range you need)..
Whatever money you spend on a lens is forever, you can get the latest and greatest new body in a few years if you need it (or got rich). But if you blow the bank on a body and get cheap lens, in 2 years you have nothing worth saving. Always buy the best lens you can for the job you need..
On the other hand, you may find that for your applications, the stock lenses that come are perfectly fine! It really depends on what you shoot, how you shoot, how you print etc...
GREAT information. So which dSLR's are good entry levels like theD80 that are also fast that have the image stabilization built intothem?.
Any of the Pentax and Sony ones will have this feature..
Does having to purchase lenses with this feature greatlyincrease their price?.
Yes and no. Generally, no..
I definitely want it (now that I know about itLOL).
The vast majority of my lenses are not IS. While it's a nifty feature, it's not the difference between mediocre and great pictures..
Also, I saw something about an auto focus motor drive that caneither be built into the body, or if not then possibly having topurchase lenses that have that motor drive built into them? Doesthis greatly affect the price of a lense if you need that motor inthem?.
This mainly applies to Nikon, and older Nikon lenses which depended on the AF motor mounted into the camera..
Canon EF lenses all have the motor in the lens...
Here is what I wrote earlier today:.
I'm wanting to move up from a P&S. The latest one that caught my eyewas the Nikon D80. My specific requirements are as fast as possible,as most of my pictures are of dogs, often times race dogs going atalmost 40 mph. Also, shutter lag is a problem when trying to get thatperfect photo of a show dog and nothing is more aggravating thanpressing the button and not having the shutter click until the doghas already moved. Another requirement is a good burst mode (ifthat's what it's called) to be able to catch just the right moment inthe action. And the last requirement is a megazoom for my birdphotography mostly.
NOW I'm not sure if I want a camera that I will want/need differentlenses for, so possibly a better P&S than what I have would be okayfor me. So...since I've been reading on cnet and consumer reportsall day, now I'm looking at the Canon PowerShot S5 IS. It stillseems reasonably fast for a P&S, and has pretty good zoom. I startedoff looking at at the Nikon D80, but the price with lenses and whatnot and simply having to have all of that what not I'm not sure Iwant. If it's something I really NEED for what I'm using it for thenI will still go with a SLR..
I'm off to bang my head against a wall now. .
I considered the same questions and ultimately made the decision to go with the Canon S5, great pics and video, manual controls, good zoom, super macro, and it's under $300Bonus: I found out about the CHDK programs.
Http://www.flickr.com/photos/w-photos/full resolution Canon S5 video http://www.filefactory.com/file/8e57cf..
Since you've identified yourself as a "total newbie" ... nothing wrong with that - we all start as beginners ... here's some info you should know about DSLR lenses. Most of this also applies to on fixed lens cameras. (I apologize if you know this information already.).
1. DSLR lenses are spec'd in terms of 35mm film focal lengths. The actual focal length that is achieved on your digital camera is typically greater than the labeled length. For example, if you put a 200mm lens on a Nikon D80 you will have a lens that shows you approximately the same size image as you would see by putting a 300mm lens on a 35mm film camera. For the Nikon D80 (and other similar Nikon DSLRs) you multiply by 1.5 ... so ...
Without getting into technical details, the D80 has a smaller than full frame sensor and therefore "appears" to magnify the image by 1.5..
2. Besides the focal length, the other major factor you need to look at is how "fast" the lens is. A lens that is spec'd at f/4.0 is twice as fast as one that is spec'd at f/5.6. "Twice as fast" simply means that the lens with the lower f/number lets in twice as much light at it's widest aperture. The reason this difference is referred to as speed is ... if lens A has twice the light gathering ability of lens B, then one can double the shutter speed (i.e., make it faster) of lens A and still get the same image/exposure one would get with lens B.
Here's some more info on aperture and f/stops:.
3. In photography, as in most endeavors in life, there is "no free lunch". If you want a fast lens, you pay for it. Some fast telephoto lenses (f/2.8, for example) can cost thousands of dollars. Yes ... it's time to compromise ...
Get out your wallet..
4. One of the things I like about my admittedly less than perfect Panasonic FZ30 is that it has a relatively fast Leica zoom lens. At 35mm it is f/2.8. At 420mm it is f/3.7 which is more than twice as fast as most DSLR kit lens with the same zoom capability. As I pointed out earlier, there is "no free lunch in photography". To get this fast zoom at a price that's hundreds less than many DSLR kits I gave up some other things but I still get some great pictures..
5. Unless you have a very thick wallet and want to carry a lot of camera gear, you have to decide what's important to you and what's not in a camera. The more you know the better decision you'll make..
I hope this info helps ....
Great post Simon, lightyears more informative than the usual "You $#@%! _____(insert famous brand) is better than ________(insert another famous brand)".
Oh, and also much better than the - not necessarily false, yet boring - "Pick them up and see how they feel in your hand". It's a camera for god's shake, not a diamond ring.
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Thanks for the compliment. Also ....
I took a quick look at your photo gallery ... you've got some great shots. I think I like the plant/flower shots the best..
Thanks, I appreciate it.
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(I apologize if you know this information already.).
Are you kidding me? I'm going to have to re-read this a dozen times before it all sinks into my brain. GREAT info and VERY much appreciated!..
On the other hand, you may find that for your applications, the stocklenses that come are perfectly fine! It really depends on what youshoot, how you shoot, how you print etc..
True. As a beginner you would probably be happy with, say, a Canon 450D (shoots at 3.5 frames per second which is slightly better than many) and the two IS lenses that sometimes come in a kit (18-55 and 55-250). That would cover pretty much every eventuality and not cost too much. The 450D has very good high ISO performance so you don't need to worry so much about using 'fast' lenses..